A year in the live

Highlights from the spotlights

as Much as we tried, we couldn’t be everywhere this year. But we did see some terrific local shows. These are our critics’ picks for the best of them (for our critics’ favorite national touring acts, see atlanta. creativeloafing.com):
Drive-By Truckers (Star Bar, March 23) — For the debut of the band’s grand rock opera, Betamax Guillotine, the sound was muddy and many lyrics unintelligible, but the feeling was 100 percent authentic. Patterson Hood’s opening narration securely placed the setting of this redneck saga in the ’70s, with details only a survivor of that era would remember. (GN)
Glenn Phillips (Red Light Café, March 25) — Atlanta’s gunslinger guitarist celebrated his 50th birthday by performing all the songs from the legendary cult album, Music to Eat, by his first band, the Hampton Grease Band. Jeff Calder of the Swimming Pool Q’s filled in for vocalist Bruce Hampton at the sold-out show. (GN)
Heinous Bienfang (Krog Street Art Party, April 30) — Forever known as the Wonder Bread show: An endless stream of white bread loaves came from nowhere and everywhere until the entire place reeked, while well-oiled kids balled it up and pegged the band. Heinous had bags of unknown liquids taped to his semi-naked hulking form ready for a pop-n-mix. The band fed off the juice from the crowd and played their asses off. (MF)
KTO, Ultrababyfat, Dropsonic (Music Midtown, May 7) — The reunited Kathleen Turner Overdrive, along with Ultrababyfat and Dropsonic, proved that even on the small Locals Only stage, they’re far more entertaining than most major acts on the big stages. (LS)
Corndogorama (The Earl, July 1) — Sixteen local rock bands and hand-dipped corn dogs, all for five bucks. No extra charge: incredibly loud, aggressive and downright superb sets by Ocelot, Black Mollies, Some Soviet Station and Dropsonic. (JA)
Swimming Pool Q’s (Star Bar, June 5) — The original lineup of the historic Atlanta band celebrated its 20th anniversary with a very well-executed and well-received performance. How many local bands will still be around even two years from now? (LS)
Woggles (Echo Lounge, June 16) — It was business as usual for the prolific, internationally touring band. Crackling like a scratchy old 45 single, Manfred and boys had the laminate-wearing ChangeMusic crowd dancing and smiling. (LS)
Young Antiques (Star Bar, Sept. 1) — A career-defining set from the trio, celebrating the release of Wardrobe for a Jet Weekend. Totally on and playing to a full house, YA were tight, polished and professional without the slickness normally associated with those traits. (LS)
Pineal Ventana (The Earl, Sept. 9) — There was concern that having two new players would detract from PV’s notoriously visceral sound, but for their Axes to Ice release party they pulled out all the stops: films, samples, Sonic Youth-like riffs, guest horn players, fire and a whole mess of toilet paper. (JA)
The Rock*A*Teens (The Earl, Oct. 7) — The Rock*A*Teens displayed a more optimistic, pop-oriented direction on the new CD, but when Lopez and co. lit into older tunes from Cry and Golden Time, the crowd knew this was Atlanta’s best rock band in peak form. (JA)
The Penetrators (Star Bar, Oct. 14) — Nearly two years late, the Penetrators’ Locked and Loaded CD had its release party, though by show time the band had neither the CDs nor their rhythm guitarist, Spanky Twangler. A few songs into the set, though, Twangler burst into the club and, with a parachute dragging behind him, triumphantly hoisted up a carton of the long-awaited discs. (GN)
Kingsized (Variety Playhouse, Oct. 18) — They don’t play out much these days, but when Big Mike and company took the stage to a smattering of wandering fans and ended with the dance floor packed and cheering, it proved that even when they’re rough around the edges, no one can touch Kingsized as Atlanta’s best and most diverse party band. (HH)
Moto-Litas, Telepathics, Sound Device (Star Bar, Oct. 25) — The Moto-Litas concluded their Star Bar residency with a varied bill featuring the Telepathics, Shonali and Michelle’s ultra-enjoyable alter-ego Ultrababyfat side project, and the jagged Husker Du/Minutemen-inspired Sound Device, featuring Dropsonic’s Dave Chase. (LS)
Liars Club (The Earl, Nov. 25) — With a vital upward swing, the Club purged their debut disc and put on their best performance to date. Down to a four-piece (one adding loops from off-stage), this sub-grub retro blaster rock unit not only emptied its pockets of keeper tracks like “Motor Inn 666,” but also tore through Sabbath and Hawkwind covers just in case you still hadn’t gotten a bead on the heavy psyche vibe. (MF)
Yule Log (Star Bar, Dec. 15) — Jim Stacy’s latest theatrical experience as “Shitty Claus” is an elaborate reminder that he is one of the finest pop-culture satirists performing today. (LS)
Critics: Jeremy Arieh, Mitchell Foy, Hal Horowitz, Gregory Nicoll and Lee Smith

The Smashing Pumpkins (Tabernacle, May 9) — After an incendiary concert that pulled from not only every album but soundtrack and compilations as well, Billy Corgan left the Atlanta stage for the last time, bowing and beaming, and rock ‘n’ roll’s alternative nation bowed out as well. (Tony Ware)
The Cure (Roxy, Feb. 23; Lakewood Amphitheatre, May 18) — Thinking, “I would die to see that show,” I schlepped to the Roxy with a 100+ fever, not about to miss the Cure in such an intimate setting. But thinking, “I would just die if they played that song,” I had my transcendental Cure moment at Lakewood, a much, much bigger show. I didn’t die, and my life’s better for it. (TW)
Bruce Springsteen (Philips Arena, June 3) — After years of live indie rock aloofness, crowds of hipsters standing with arms across their chests, it was revelatory to witness an entire arena on the same wavelength. Baby, I was born to run. (TW)
Electronica: Amnesty International (Candler Park, June 17) — An event that almost wasn’t because of rain and generator problems, Electronica: Amnesty International featured Seattle’s I.Q.U., Chicago’s Sam Prekop & Archer Prewitt and local acts including Scott Herren (Savath + Savalas) and Aerial. For a handful of people, it showed that future music was here and now. (TW)
Peter Brotzmann Chicago 10tet + 2 (Variety Playhouse, June 28) — Even with the cancellation of bassist William Parker, the 10tet + 1 — featuring a colossal collection of free-jazz notables — managed to astound. Brotzmann, Mars Williams, Ken Vandermark and Mats Gustafsson huffed, puffed and blew the house down. The group was tighter than anyone expected, spotlighting individual talents but also working together. (Omar Khalid)
Shelby Lynne (Variety Playhouse, July 10) — A slight but sexy dynamo with a voice to die for, Lynne spent some time in exile from Music City, wrote a bunch of songs about life and put together a rocking band that could match her vocal power. A perfect night of Deep South soul and charisma. (James Kelly)
Patti Smith (Variety Playhouse, July 23) — Smith did the unthinkable at the Variety: she topped her previous show there. She’s still sexy, still rocking and still capable of creating a palpable moment in time, connecting securely with the overwhelmed crowd. (MF)
Robert Johnson and the Browns (The Earl, July 29) — Care of a guy from US Maple and some other nuts, the trap kit served as a stuttering nemesis to the guitar bleeding across the floor. The finale: The guitarist, cloaked with enough axes for three bands and capped with a motorcycle helmet, became the target of rubber balls hummed by audience members. The din that issued forth was self-perpetuating: the more sound that came out, the more excited the audience got at having produced it through such childish indulgence. (MF)
Brian Wilson With the ASO (Chastain Park, July 30) — Brian Wilson live? What’s next, Syd Barrett? Roky Erickson? Even more bizarre was Wilson’s set-opening song: Barenaked Ladies’ “Brian Wilson.” But this surreality was topped by the promoter, Peter Conlon, who appeared on talk radio a few mornings earlier and declared that, “Pet Sounds inspired the Beatles to write Dr. Pepper sic.” (GN)
Futurefest (Henderson’s Arena, Aug. 19) — What was planned as the largest electronic music gathering ever in Georgia turned into the biggest electronic music disaster around 4 a.m., exceeding no one’s expectations except journalists, who had a field day with tales of missing headliners and crooked cops, leading Atlanta’s party scene to re-evaluate itself. (TW)
Emmylou Harris (Variety Playhouse, Oct. 24) — A spiritual experience: Opener Buddy Miller nailed his blue-eyed country soul, then Harris presented music from her Red Dirt Girl CD and reworked the classics. (JK)
Prince (Tabernacle/eleven50, Nov. 22) — “Purple Rain.” (TW)