(video of the year, maybe?)
We recap a bulk of the year in arts in this week's Gambit, but there are bound to be omissions (and after more recapping, more omissions). I enjoyed many, many performances, at festivals and in closet-sized spaces. I don't like lists, so I'll go month-by-month: here is a very incomplete recap of some pretty great shows that made 2011 stand out as generally pretty great but you may have missed among all the other pretty great stuff happening simultaneously.
Firstly, special recognition rightfully should go to the St. Claude Avenue venue Siberia. In its first "real" year of operation, it booked a steady stream of touring metal, punk and everything-in-between acts, with a strong local artist presence backing each night — it's proved a haven for both black and doom metal warlords, crusty bohemia, and alternative ephemera not seen anywhere else in the city on as consistent a basis. It closed out the year with, among other events, album releases for Spickle and the 9th Ward Marching Band, Colombian black metal from Inquisition, Georgia's Black Tusk, bone-crushing doom from The Body, and this lil' video.
More honors, also, to homegrown DIY label Community Records, which put out nine physical releases, also available for free download, one of which raised funds for Gulf restoration following the oil disaster. The label also put on the 2011 Block Party, its annual all-day music festival on Clio Street in and outside the Big Top Gallery, and released a documentary DVD chronicling the making of the label, the event, and the performances. That's 20 physical releases within four years from a network of bands all anchored in New Orleans, performing nationally on tour and seemingly weekly in New Orleans (at home base Hey! Cafe, in houses and elsewhere, and mostly all ages and only $5 or less).
Its sister label, Chinquapin Records, which popped up at the tail-end of 2010, produced some gorgeous releases by a very young roster of experimenting, progressive artists throughout 2011 — also available for free, mostly.
So, the calendar — note: not to overshadow the many brilliant local performers I also saw, I'm fascinated by the increasing touring artists making a point to play here, something that's been growing over the past few years outside the circle of smaller, more obscure shows.
In January, Los Angeles duo No Age closed out a very loud, very cold evening at the Mudlark Public Theatre with Rene Hell, Small Bones and Baby Boy. The night's stunning finish came courtesy of New Orleans Police Department officers calmly approaching the band mid-set to pull the plugs, please, and for everyone to go home. At Tipitina's, Yo La Tengo proved gameshows totally work as a rock gimmick, as the band sold its Wheel of Fortune schtick to a packed house (highlight: "Moby Octopad").
Elephant 6 alumnae took their road show to One Eyed Jacks in February, and in March the Foburg music festival held down a successful second year in the Frenchmen Street corridor with dozens of touring and local acts intercepted on their way to and from Austin's South by Southwest festival. (The 2012 Foburg is March 11-13.) Euclid Records upped the ante of its in-store performances with a dark daytime set with Des Ark, Pygmy Lush and Thou. March also saw the return of local punk outfit The Ghostwood, and a dizzying late-night set from San Francisco psychedelic rock duo Moon Duo at The Saint, hosted by WTUL, which had another breakout year in its programming.
The springtime concert calendar filled with flavor-of-the-month indie acts and critic darlings from Cut Copy and Crystal Castles to Titus Andronicus and Acid Mother's Temple. But of course the hallmark event, The 2011 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, went fabulously, and Gambit will tell you all about it. (My favorites: John Legend & The Roots on "Compared to What," watching The Strokes anger thousands of heat-stroking fest-goers, Hurray for the Riff Raff turning heads on the Lagniappe Stage.)
July's Essence Fest brought Kanye West for part one of his tour de New Orleans (his second venture: with Jay-Z in December). Meanwhile, pop music philosopher-composer John Maus brought a terrifyingly intimate and beautiful performance to Howlin' Wolf's The Den.
The fall music calendar exploded in September: Western-doom-conjurers Earth, Mt. Eerie, Meat Puppets, Ty Segall, and the new institution, the 10th annual Ponderosa Stomp — that weekend paid tribute to the legendary Cosimo Matassa and Stax Records, Allen Toussaint and dozens other unsung heroes. And that touring artist calendar extended through November, with the 2011 Voodoo Experience (more on that here — highlights: the return of both X and Soundgarden, and a particularly headline-y set from Odd Future). Paul Simon performed the same night as Japan's Boris with True Widow and Asobi Seksu, followed the next night by a reunited and reissued Sebadoh, and later that month, anticipated EP release parties from Big History and Whom Do You Work For? (below).
Women artists dominated October: first, Tune-Yards at both One Eyed Jacks and an intimate in-store performance at Domino Sound Record Shack, which she raved about to Pitchfork. But the triumvirate of St. Vincent, Wild Flag and Zola Jesus, all performing the same night at three different venues, gave New Orleans a good problem to have. (Of course Wild Flag clearly is the winner here.)
In November, New Orleans' Kindest Lines had another grand homecoming following solid touring, with Baltimore's Future Islands. FALSE squeezed in another visceral 2011 visit in New Orleans with Thou at Mudlark Theatre in December.
And here are (some of) the local releases I liked in 2011, with links to free downloads or streams:
Trombone Shorty & Orleans Avenue — For True
Rebirth Brass Band — Rebirth of New Orleans
Thou — To the Chaos Wizard Youth and The Archer & the Owle
Whom Do You Work For? — EP
Halfys — Half
Caddywhompus — Remainder, The Weight, Applethauth
The Rooks — I Can't, I Won't Give Up
Giant Cloud — Bloom & Decay
Belong — Common Era
Big History — All At Once
Sun Hotel — Gifts
Heat Dust — EP
Glish — Blast Off
Kindest Lines — Covered In Dust
King Louie's Missing Monuments — Painted White
Dee-1 — I Hope They Hear Me Vol. 2
Hurray for the Riff Raff — s/t
Quintron — Sucre du Sauvage
Koan — Chronicles of a Dying Breed
Michael White — Adventures in New Orleans Jazz Vol. 1
Curren$y — pretty much all this dude's stuff from 2011: Return to the Winner's Circle, Verde Terrace, Weekend at Burnie's and Covert Coup, for starters
Fiend — again, so many mixtapes: let's go with Tennis Shoes & Tuxedos
Barghest — Untitled
... and really any decent bounce mix released this year. To those producers I say "Thank you."