Following up with the second part of the rundown of the first half of the great ¡El Ocho!:
1. Tom Waits - El Paso, Plaza Theatre, June 20
I thought my best opportunity to see Waits melted when two shows in Phoenix sold out in a matter of minutes. But then came the only redemption that El Paso, Texas will likely ever inject into my life. The man is a performer extraordinaire and just owned my being completely for two plus hours. We're talking about possibly the top show ever, and the more live music I see the rarer those declarations become.
2. Fleet Foxes - Solar Culture, June 30
This is why you never decide to sit it out for a while after catching a show so awesome that it can't possibly be topped for quite some time... If I'd have let that Tom Waits high ride as long as it could've, I would have robbed myself of the swirling and soaring magic of the Fleet Foxes, a band that is more advanced and more captivating vocally than any I have ever seen.
I put together a short preview, but haven't properly reviewed the show, so I'll just say that Robin Pecknold is an amazing talent and the Fleet Foxes are a uniquely transfixing combo that will never play a room as small as Solar Culture again.
3. Arlo Guthrie - Fox Theatre, April 26
The Solo Reunion Tour had Arlo playing alone for the first time in ages, a format that let his storytelling take center stage. Arlo's versatility also stood out, as he played blues songs and ragtime piano and Hawaiian guitar... And I got to meet him afterward, a moment that I'll always treasure.
4. Kathleen Edwards - Club Congress/The Independent, May 13 & 20
Probably my newest favorite performer, Kathleen Edwards is a Canadian singer in the mold of Lucinda Williams, skilled enough go from rough-and-tumble to heartbreaking within a chord change.
5. Chango Malo (acoustic) - Club Congress, June 1
The Bad Monkey Blokes sent Mr. Jennings off in style, and brought the house down with a show that put heart and passion on the line to resounding success. Check out their cover of Sam Cooke's "A Change Is Gonna Come":
6. Dean & Britta - Club Congress, Feb. 20.
7. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Plush, April 24.
8. Suicide Kings - Hollywood Alley, March 14.
9. X - Rialto Theatre, June 7.
10. The Swim / Fourkiller Flats - various shows, but especially the Che's Lounge performances.
They're my two favorite bands to see in Tucson's best watering hole.
Best albums of 2008 (so far):
1. The Helio Sequence - Keep Your Eyes Ahead
2. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
3. Kathleen Edwards - Asking For Flowers
4. Portishead - 3
5. Fleet Foxes - Fleet Foxes / Sun Giant
6. The Swim - Random Walk
7. James - Hey Ma
8. The Hold Steady - Stay Positive
9. Stephen Malkmus & The Jicks - Real Emotional Trash
10. The Suicide Kings - The Suicide Kings
(Acknowledging of course that there is plenty more to hear this year, including a great many records already out that I have yet to catch up to.)
Best new-to-me music so far in 2008:
1. Eric Bachmann - To The Races
2. Avett Brothers - Emotionalism
3. The Capstan Shafts - Euridice Proudhon
4. Tracy Shedd - Louder Than You Can Hear
5. Otis Redding - Otis Blue (why I stuck to just the greatest hits for so long I'll never know)
Tom Waits - Way Down in the Hole (live, El Paso)
Fleet Foxes - White Winter Hymnal (live)
Arlo Guthrie - In Times Like These (live)
Kathleen Edwards - I Make the Dough, You Get the Glory (live)
Dean & Britta - Night Nurse (live)