Best live shows of 2009: Grand Lake, Why?, Tall Grass, Vetiver

I’ve been an East Bay (mostly Oakland and Berkeley) resident for the better part of the last five years but really did not become a member of the music scene until 2009. I also must say that I really don’t make it out of the East Bay too often to see music, so the highlights of my year are obviously going to be slanted in favor of the Oakland/East Bay scene. Nothing against San Francisco, but the East Bay is my home and home to an amazing amount of talented people who make great music. If you are a big follower of the SF scene, then I will probably leave out some bands you think should be on my list but hopefully we can at least agree on a few things!

My Favorite Shows of 2009:

1. WHY? at Great American Music Hall, SF
I am a self-admitted WHY? fan boy and it was amazing to see them play their songs live. I can see how some people might think that WHY? is a band that would be better on record, seeing as much of their appeal can be attributed to the creative production found on their albums, but the bottom line is that they write amazing songs and are great musicians. Diehard fans of WHY? and newcomers alike were not let down and my fondness for this band has only grown since.

2. Any show where Grand Lake and Man/Miracle play together!
Is there a better pairing of bands in the East Bay than Grand Lake and Man/Miracle? I doubt it. Two completely different sounding bands that are great for different reasons but always bring more energy and intensity to their sets than most Oakland bands could even dream of. The best example of this was at the Ghost Town Gallery in November, both bands had us dancing in a drunken frenzy!

3. Tall Grass at Fort Gallery, Oakland
The now, unfortunately, defunct Fort Gallery was one of my favorite venues for the short time it was open and no show exemplifies what made that place so cool as Tall Grass’ CD release show. With about 30 to 40 of us sitting on the floor with cold beers from the nearby liquor store in hand, Tall Grass’s acoustic guitar, fiddle, and simple drums eased us into a state of awe, interrupted occasionally by bursts of laughter and giggling. A wonderful reminder of what makes Oakland such a beautiful place to witness live music.

4. Peter Stanley, Waste Band, and Silian Rail at Book Zoo, Oakland
On a cold winter night, three bands played an entirely acoustic show at a small bookstore on the edge of North Oakland and Berkeley. Rarely do you get to see bands play completely acoustic (no microphones, no amplifiers) and be blown away. Peter Stanley (of Winter’s Fall) began the evening with his twangy voice and acoustic guitar, followed by Waste Band’s guitar, baritone ukulele, and beautiful harmonizing voices. To cap off the night, math rock duo Silian Rail played an acoustic set with both members playing guitar (usually a guitar and drums duo). To hear their songs in the intimacy of a bookstore and the simpleness of two acoustic guitars showed the versatility and strength of their songwriting.

5. Vetiver at Treasure Island Music Festival
Vetiver had the tall task of playing in between Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Grizzly Bear on the cold and damp afternoon that was the second day of the Treasure Island Music Festival and they completely delivered. I was not very well versed in their recorded material prior to the performance so I wasn’t sure what to expect and was overwhelmed by the song writing and clear talent of the musicians playing. Definitely one of the better sounding bands at the festival, despite the wind and rain the band sounded clear and full and the songs were interesting and easily enjoyed.

-Glenn Jackson