Further musings on 2013’s musical offerings

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Kurt Vile’s Walkin’ on a Pretty Daze landed in the top 10 on many critic’s lists in 2013. He played cuts from the album at the Jefferson on July 18.
Image:Tom Daly/Jefferson Theater Kurt Vile’s Walkin’ on a Pretty Daze landed in the top 10 on many critic’s lists in 2013. He played cuts from the album at the Jefferson on July 18. Image:Tom Daly/Jefferson Theater

The default opening act for many of 2013’s concerts was the local duo Grand Banks, which sprang back to life in 2013 after several years of infrequent shows. While keyboardist/singer Tyler Magill’s other project Mss. went on hiatus, he and Davis Salisbury rekindled their improvisational ambient noise duo. Where Grand Banks’ material was once abrasive and theatrical, its recent performances—along with Salisbury’s solo appearances under the name Dais Queue—became increasingly restrained, thoughtful, and unpredictable.

Kurt Vile made one of the 2013’s most acclaimed and popular records, but the real highlight at his July 18 concert at the Jefferson was his touring partners, The Swirlies. The Boston-based group is one of several early ’90s American acts, like The Lilys, that sprang up in the wake of the ’80s shoegaze movement. The group’s explosive musical energy, both dreamy and aggressive, made for one of the best sets I’ve ever heard on the Jefferson’s stage.

Andrew Cedermark (former local musician and a previous author of this column) returned to town on July 20 and was joined by new wave group Weird Mob and folker Erik the Red. Cedermark is now based in New York City, and he assembled a touring band to support his latest album, Home Life. Whereas his concerts once gained vitality from their ramshackle unpredictability, the new Cedermark Revue is thoroughly professional and competent, delivering new material with a road-tested synchronicity, and sacrificing little of the shambling energy that defines him as a performer.

Fellow New Yorkers Woods are a beloved indie institution, but their July 23 concert disintegrated into a forgettable, formless jam, unaided by the late hour of the set (the band got stuck in traffic en route). Still the evening was a success, as opening act Parquet Courts stole the show and delivered a charming, enthusiastic performance that captured the best aspects of its sly, witty album Light Up Gold.

Left & Right relocated from Charlottesville to Philadelphia this autumn, and made the most of its farewell by playing in town nearly twice a month in the summer. Drummer Zak Krone got to fulfill a personal musical fantasy on August 3 by sitting in for one song with Roanoke’s excellent Eternal Summers—it was a perk for helping to fund the band’s Kickstarter campaign. And though he wasn’t listed on the bill, Real Estate’s Matt Mondanile made a surprise appearance that night with his side project Ducktails, making it a memorable evening at the Tea Bazaar.

I was sad to miss Magik Markers’ September 5 appearance here, but I did catch two shows elsewhere on the same tour. The group’s wild, sprawling rock songs, descended from Sonic Youth and Royal Trux, were perfectly conceived and barely held together.

Former Charlottesville resident Matthew Clark has lived in California for several years, but in September he appeared in town with the heavy psychedelic act Residual Echoes. The audience was surprised by Maxx Katz, who joined the band on guitar and flute, before her band Miami Nights performed at the Main Street Annex later that same night.

Ian Svenonius is the brainy, stylish provocateur behind Nation of Ulysses, the Make-Up, and Weird War, and I had the pleasure of interviewing him and seeing his new act Chain and the Gang perform in August. Distilling decades of rock decadence into pure, groovy pseudo-stupidity, Chain and the Gang are not to be missed.

Though Charlottesville has no shortage of weekly and monthly dance nights, the Grits & Gravy Soul and Funk Revue remains the finest, and this year it finally settled into a permanent residency at the R2 Club behind Rapture. DJs Rum Cove and Brother Breakdown have the finest selection of classic 45s one could imagine, and their dance nights are invariably fun, as groovy cuts from yesteryear fill the floor with enthusiastic dancers. They continue to spin on the third Friday of every month.

Godspeed You Black Emperor’s October appearance at the Jefferson was spectacular, and as great as the one I’d seen exactly 13 years before. The band’s new material is even better suited to live performances, and the epic, droning, instrumental soundscapes were perfectly accompanied by a live 16mm film projection.

I’m not a concert promoter, but once in a while I’ll hear through the grapevine that a friend of a friend is looking for a show, and I’ll help grease the wheels to make something happen. This was the case with Suicide Magnets, a Providence-based group that came through town on September 19. Wendy Hyatt and drummer Chris Urany (aka “Jesus Crust”) lived in Charlottesville briefly in the late ’90s, and I took a chance and set up a gig for them at the Tea Bazaar.

Thankfully, the risk paid off. Opening with an Eno-esque ambient solo set by Tyler Magill, and transitioning seamlessly into an epic jam from a seven-piece ensemble line-up of Great Dads was a hard act to follow, but Suicide Magnets topped that effortlessly with a brief, focused set of jangly, fucked-up, damaged, garage punk tunes. Its short, simple songs were more aggressive in intent than in style, sounding more like Dead Moon or Hell-Kite than any thrashing hardcore act. The band played a half dozen songs in under 15 minutes, then politely but firmly declined requests for an encore and were probably the best thing I heard all year.

Prior to its recent Charlottesville show, I’d caught only half of a song by Baltimore’s Horse Lords, but that was enough to make me a fan. On November 1, I finally heard a full set and it was spectacular. The band plays groovy, instrumental math-rock that is thoughtful and visceral.

I ended the year on a heavy note, with back-to-back concerts by Guardian Alien, Great Dads, and newcomer Gnatcatcher at the Tea Bazaar, and Horsefang, Miami Nights, and Company Corvette at the Main Street Annex.

Part one of Feedback’s favorite concerts of 2013 can be found here.

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