GRUESOME GREG’S TOP 10 CONCERTS OF 2011

New Year’s Eve, it’s that time of year again where I bust out my old ticket stubs and figure out what the best shows I saw over the last 12 months were.  This year’s list includes entries from four cities spanning two states and two Canadian provinces–with the bulk of the gigs being in Toronto, of course.  If anything, it seems that I did less traveling to outta-town concerts this year, but the ones I did take off to go see were all quite memorable.

So, with no further ado, let’s get the ball rolling, eh?

10. Blizaro/Blood Ceremony/Castle @ Smiling Buddha, Toronto, August 7th

The best local underground gig I caught this year is worthy of a spot on this list, as it paired two stellar doom bands from the States with our local flute-doom legends.  Not too shabby for a Sunday night…

CHOICE WORDS: “John Gallo and co. mesmerized with their haunting horror doom, as The Professor channeled the voice of Bobby Liebling and the vocals/guitars/keys of Paul Chain for an eerie, epic set of crushing riffs and blistering changes.  If anything, the keys were a little underutilized in the main set, but John made up for it with a 20-minute Moog solo of a second encore.  An awesome way to end the evening!” (THTGIR (RIP) review.)

9. Weedeater/Saviours/Bison B.C./Fight Amp @ Lee’s Palace, Toronto, September 13th

This was the second time Weedeater came through my neck of the woods in 2011 (Lee’s is within walking distance for me, as is the Wreckroom), and while they didn’t bring anybody across the border with ‘em the first time around, they came back in September with arguably the best multi-band touring package to hit Toronto this year.

CHOICE WORDS: “Since I was so close to the stage, I couldn’t squeeze Keko and Dixie into one shot without zooming out quite a bit, thus there are a couple pictures where the latter’s face is obscured by a cymbal.  Man, I must say, though, if there’s anybody who can make red eye look good, it’s Dixie!  (Reason Number 12, if you’re keeping track at home…)” – Amateur Concert Photgraphy Hour: WEEDEATER, Saviours, Bison B.C.

8. Fu Manchu/Honky/The Shrine @ Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto, November 11th

Man, it was pretty cool to see the Kings of the Road back in town again, playing In Search Of… in its entirety.  While there’s a lotta mileage on ‘er, the Fu’s still a well-oiled machine.  And hats off to Honky for being one of the most amusingly entertaining bands I’ve seen in a while.  I was definitely laughing with them, not at them, that evening.

CHOICE WORDS: “I gotta say, it was pretty cool to hear tunes like “Regal Beagle,” “Solid Hex” and “The Falcon Has Landed,” which they probably haven’t done live in a little while.  I mean, this record’s so old that it had Ruben Romano and Eddie Glass on it, and a kid born the day it came out would be taking their driver’s license test in a coupla months.  But still, some tunes are timeless, y’know?” – Fu Manchu – Still Kings of the Road! (Hellbound.ca)

Psst…  More pics here!

7. Judas Priest/Black Label Society/Thin Lizzy @ ACC, Toronto, November 22nd

This was supposed to be Priest’s farewell tour, though I think they’ve since softened their stance.  In any case, we were treated to at least one song from every Halford-era album, along with a solid stage show, complete with lasers!  The supporting acts were nothing to sneeze at, either, although the putative Thin Liz took the stage bright and early at 6 pm, meaning most people missed ‘em.

CHOICE WORDS: “The stage setup was equally immaculate, a chain-adorned platform with props like tridents and disco balls, and a video screen showing past album covers as well as some specific animated backdrops for certain tunes, such as an evil eyeball on “Electric Eye”.  Most impressive was the laser show, seemingly on loan from The Pink Floyd Experience.  Not many bands use lasers anymore–but they should, cuz laser beams are freakin’ sweet!” – Farewell to Judas Priest! – Epitaph tour @ the ACC

6. YOB/Dark Castle/Sons of OTIS @ The Courthouse, Toronto, July 15th

Oddly enough, the best local doom gig of 2011 was held at an upscale downtown dance club, though The Courthouse, with its high ceilings and medieval motif, only added to the ambiance of the evening.  YOB were pretty rad when I saw ‘em open for Sleep in Portland last September, but they excelled in a more intimate setting–and OTIS opening was the sticky-sweet cherry on top!

CHOICE WORDS: “YOB was simply crushing.  I’m almost at a loss for words.  Yes, this isn’t the YOB of old, Mike Scheidt was obviously stoned on something–and the dude’s a dead ringer for Jim Gustafson of 70′s rockers Poobah nowadays–but so what?” – YOB, Dark Castle and OTIS–Oh my! (Hellbound.ca)

5. Pentagram @ Montage Music Hall, Rochester, NY, August 20th

I’d seen Bobby and the Pentagrams about a year and a half beforehand, but having Victor Griffin back in the band gave this gig an added air of authenticity that their prior performance had lacked.  However, I do hafta give their Cleveland 2010 concert the edge when it comes to opening acts: Argus, Keelhaul, Midnight and The Gates of Slumber, to be precise.  Local doom titans Orodruin opened the Rochester show, but it was all downhill from there–until the screams came, that is. ;)

CHOICE WORDS: “From where I stood, Turley’s double Laney attack made my knees shake, whereas Griffin, on the other stage of the stage, was a little low in the mix.  I also got up close and personal with Bobby Liebling, whose wild-man antics are the stuff of legend.  The man is truly a unique talent!” – Amateur Concert Photograpy Hour: PENTAGRAM, Valiant Thorr, Orodruin

4. Accept @ Mod Club, Toronto, 4/20!

Coincidentally, I also caught Accept for the first time in Cleveland, on the first leg of their North American tour last October.  At the time, I didn’t know that they’d be adding any Canadian dates, so I was pretty stoked when I first heard about this gig.  They really couldn’t have picked a better day, either… ;)

CHOICE WORDS: “The nineteen-song set had a couple more new tunes than the last time around, but they also dusted off a few deep cuts that I didn’t hear in Cleveland (“Losers and Winners,” “Aiming High,” “Burning”) to go with all the title tracks (“Breaker,” “Restless and Wild,” “Balls to the Wall,” “Metal Heart”) and other anthems like “Son of a Bitch,” “Fast as a Shark” and “Princess of the Dawn”.  My only complaint was that I didn’t procure one of those Accept picks that were flying around, despite being directly in front of the stage.” – Accept: Just as good the second time around (if not better)! (Hellbound.ca)

3. Metalliance Tour (feat. Saint Vitus, Crowbar, Kylesa) @ Peabody’s, Cleveland, OH, March 26th

Ah Cleveland, The Mistake by the Lake.  Home of the Cavs, the Browns, the Agora, the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame and Rocket from the Tombs (look ‘em up!).  I’ve seen a few great gigs in this city, which is often the closest stop on many US-only tours–like Metalliance, which featured the one-two punch of Saint Vitus and Crowbar with solid support from Kylesa, Red Fang and The Atlas Moth, to name a few.  Sure, Helmet was headlining, but I didn’t bother to stick around.  There was only one bus outta town on Sunday that would get me back to Toronto before dusk, and it left some time around 8 am…

CHOICE WORDS: “Vocals were too low, I was almost singing as loud as Wino–but that mighta had as much to do with him as it did with the sound guy. He looked pretty hammered. Dave Chandler was really great to see live, stole the show IMO. He even went into the crowd during “Born Too Late” and rubbed his guitar’s neck against other people’s heads, haha.” (a post I made on the Hellride Music Forum)

I actually took a few pics at this gig, although my camera ran out of batteries, or memory, or something.  Anyways, here are a coupla shots that I haven’t posted anywhere yet:

2. Sleep/The Sword/Buzzcocks/Bison B.C. @ Olympic Plaza, Calgary, AB, June 24th

When I heard that Sleep was only playing three gigs this year–and one of them was in Calgary!–I immediately purchased a plane ticket back to the old country.  This Sled Island festival was a pretty sweet setup.  I had lunch at a pub where I saw Dead Meadow play in the middle of the afternoon, then moseyed on down to Olympic Plaza where they’d assembled a decent supporting lineup for the Weedians’ performance.  One thing they didn’t do, however, was purchase a powerful-enough PA system, as we couldn’t hear Al Cisneros’ vocals for shit.  That said, it was still quite the weekend.  (I caught The Sword, Red Fang and a coupla cool Canadian bands in a club the following evening…)

CHOICE WORDS: “It probably didn’t help that I was standing right in front of Matt Pike–and his twin Marshall stacks–on the opposite side of the stage.  Pike’s approach to both this, and last year’s reunion gigs, is the same as he takes to High On Fire, where he’s the stalking, menacing centre of attention–Cisneros is much calmer and Zen-like by comparison.  And since I couldn’t hear the vocals at all, it was great to be able to see the fingering that Matt uses on those classic riffs.” – Just got back from Calgary–and boy, is my wallet tired! (Hellbound.ca)

1. Kyuss Lives! @ Sound Academy, Toronto, September 16th

Sure, the Sound Academy’s a shitty place to see a show.  It’s a ways outta the way, down on the waterfront–and for a place with “Sound” in its name, you’d think they could get a better live mix.  Nevertheless, this was still the best gig of the year, in my books.  Had you told me I’d see Kyuss live–twice–in 2011 some five, ten years ago, Ida asked ya for a hit offa yer Green Machine.  Even without Josh Homme, the new (old) lineup still shines–especially with Scott “Hurricane” Reeder on bass for the Canadian dates.  And yes, I paid my 200 bucks to see ‘em again tonite.  Better make that 1 and 1A…

CHOICE WORDS: “Suits me just fine, since Sky Valley is my favourite Kyuss record.  I think it branches out into psychedelic territory more than their other releases–and the band took full advantage of that, playing some longer, drawn-out versions of a few tunes.  Man, I would probably pay just to watch these guys jam for an hour, it’s really that good.” – Kyuss Lives! Long Live Kyuss! (Hellbound.ca)

And there you have it.  I gotta say, I’ve got no idea which gigs will be in my Top 10 for 2012, as there haven’t been a lotta exciting tour announcements made to date.  Looking back, though, I think this past year will be pretty hard to beat.  See ya in the pit!

P.S.: I’ll be putting out my list of Top 10 albums tomorrow.  There may or may not be a radio tie-in with Gruesome Tunes, as well.  Okay fine, there will be.  Stay tuned…

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