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.
Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy with Emmett Kelly perform at the Lincoln Theatre on March 7, 2020. (Photo by David LaMason)
When I think of Will Oldham, whether it’s by his stage name, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, or the number of other names he’s recorded under (Palace Brothers, Palace Music), I think of a musical force that I’ve known for years but always seems to be around. What’s distinct about Will’s music is in the poetry of his words; the pastoral tones of his music; and that distinctive voice that sounds much older than its owner.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy (Photo courtesy The Billions Corporation)
Will Oldham, aka Bonnie “Prince” Billy, released I Made a Place, his latest studio album, last November via Drag City. He made the album with his wife while they were artists in residence in Hawaii, and the results are engrossing but also amazingly tranquil.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy performs with Jonathan Richman at the Lincoln Theatre on Saturday, March 7. Prior to the show, Parklife DC’s Mickey McCarter chatted with Will about making the record and touring with Jonathan.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy performs at Union Chapel in London on July 27, 2017. (Photo by Jon Southcasting)
I wasn’t sure what to expect from Bonnie “Prince” Billy. Will Oldham, who has also released music under the Palace moniker (Palace Brothers, Palace Music, and Palace Songs), is something of a cult figure. He also has a varied acting career, with appearances in films ranging from Jackass 3D to 2006’s Junebug to last year’s A Ghost Story. On Tuesday, he made an appearance at The Birchmere, and I was there to figure him out.