Bob Mould’s return to 9:30 Club in September ranked among David LaMason’s Best Shows of 2021. (Photo by David LaMason)
If you would have told me around this time last year that I would have had the opportunity to see concerts again, let alone in indoor venues -– some that I hadn’t stepped foot inside in over a year and half –- I would have thought you were crazy. But not only did I have that opportunity –- in large part to vaccines, mask mandates, and the venues and artists who did everything in their power to make sure it was safe to experience live music again –- but I saw some of the best shows I’ve seen in years!
Circle Jerks perform at Baltimore Soundstage on Dec. 10, 2021. (Photos by Jason Nicholson; Text adapted from a press release by Bailey Sattler/ Grand Stand Media)
Legendary punks Circle Jerks hit the road in their first North American tour in over 15 years. They appeared at Baltimore Soundstage recently with openers Municipal Waste and Negative Approach to celebrate 40 years of their landmark record Group Sex.
“You and I travel to the beat of a different drum,” the opening line of the Michael Nesmith-penned “Different Drum” goes. And so can be said for Evan Dando, the creative force behind The Lemonheads. From the punk leanings of The Lemonheads’ Hate Your Friends to the pop masterpieces on It’s a Shame About Ray and Car Button Cloth, Dando’s musical trajectory has never been beholden to anything other than Dando himself.
Bon Harris of Nitzer Ebb performs at Baltimore Soundstage on Nov. 20, 2021. (Photo by Jason Nicholson)
“The tour must go on”…
Nitzer Ebb lead singer and cofounder Doug McCarthy was “being admitted to hospital [the previous night in Florida] and is now stable and undergoing continued treatment and observation suffering from complications from a pre-existing, non-Covid medical condition,” according to a press release.
“Doug expressed his wish that the tour continue with Bon [Harris] stepping in to perform lead vocals,” said the release — and that Bon did! Despite Doug’s absence, Nitzer Ebb amazed at Baltimore Soundstage recently.
Nitzer Ebb (left to right: David Gooday, Simon Granger, Bon Harris, and Douglas McCarthy) (Photo courtesy the band)
Bon Harris and Douglas McCarthy brought back industrial outfit Nitzer Ebb for a well-received tour in 2019. Now that bands can tour once again post lockdown, Nitzer Ebb have returned! The group hits the road again with a show at Baltimore Soundstage on Saturday, Nov. 20.
What a night! What started out as a cold, windy, rainy evening ended Friday night in a sweaty, sold-out Baltimore Soundstage filled with cowboy hats and masks (both the Covid-19 kind and the Orville Peck kind). But I’m getting ahead of myself now, so I’ll back up a bit.
Orville Peck, the enigmatically masked cowboy originally from Canada whose music is steeped in that old Country of Tanya Tucker, George Jones, and Loretta Lynn. The last time I saw Orville Peck was a couple of years ago at the Union Stage (see a review of that show here) and his stature has grown exponentially since then.
What can be said for a year that began with so much promise but ends, well, like we are all feeling stuck in an alternate dimension. Looking back on my calendar which went so off the rails after two and a half months in, it really does look like a glimpse into a world that should have been but one that’s now alternate history.
But even in this bizarro world of COVID-19 there was some great music created at homes, online, socially distanced, and even on the streets! There is nothing that can beat the feel of a crowded show, the thrill of being there, and the joyous exhaustion that follows, but this past year we saw people pulling together – giving what they could – to keep live music alive despite every roadblock tossed in its way.
Since these lists are often limited by “best of” or Top 10, I want to include, well, all of those performances I caught this past year. There weren’t many, but each one I relive when I hear a song from a brilliant artist I’ve seen or go through photos from the past year. Here are my Top 12 Musical Moments of 2020 in chronological order.