Living

On the Scene: The best shows of 2009 (+ videos)

The calendar has turned. Happy New Year.

While we're looking forward to what we hope is a prosperous year, I'd like to look back at 2009 for one final glimpse. Here are the best shows I saw last year.

I can only hope for better live music in 2010.

- Andy Friedman and the Other Failures, Jan. 24 at UU Coffeehouse: Friedman, a singing poet who presents songs like paintings, using gritty folk and country as colors, played three shows in Columbia in 2009. The last two at Hunter-Gatherer were special, but the first, at the UU, was the best. The lap steel was wonderfully entrancing.

- Ryan Adams, March 12 at The Township: It was a concise rock performance, the last show I saw at the venue before the renovations. Adams didn't blabber (it was the week after his wedding to Mandy Moore). He just played music. Thank you.

- Vandermark/Ab Baars Trio, April 16 at 701 Center for Contemporary Art: Aural and dissonant, the show, especially when multi-reedists Ken Vandermark and Ab Baars dueled, made me feel like there was a theremin in my head.

- Runaway Runway, April 24 at 701 Center for Contemporary Art: Complaints, at least from me, from 2008 were plenty, not the least of which was that organizers should screen more of the designers. I don't know if that happened, but the outfits were more appealing and wearable in 2009. Bohumila Augustinova is a design star.

- Larry's Family Reunion, June 12 at Fox Theater, the future home of the Nickelodeon Theatre: Larry Hembree, the Nick's executive director, should have his own variety TV show. At the very least, he should get his family together once a year. Hilarious.

- Lama Sabachthani, From the Land and ...For Science!, June 12 at Hunter-Gatherer: Lama Sabachthani's electro-based music was stunning, From the Land's post-rock instrumentation was precise and the metallic tendencies of ...For Science! were brutal. Hugs all around.

- Old Idea at Columbia Museum of Art, June 30: Cornetist Josh Berman, who has been a sideman for Chicago jazz groups that have played this town, took a turn as leader. The jazz music - experimental, aggressive, smart - was scintillating. Good idea to lead a band, Josh.

- LFO at NBT, July 10: This isn't an editor's addition. I don't like girls who wear Abercrombie & Fitch, but I enjoyed myself at this show.

- Vox Arcana at Columbia Museum of Art, July 24: Tim Daisy, a Chicago-based percussionist, debuted "Gray Scale," a piece inspired by the abstract expressionist painter Cleve Gray. Thomas Crouch painted a live piece inspired in part by Gray. The museum had just installed the exhibition "Cleve Gray: Man and Nature." This show illustrated that there is synergy between Columbia's music and art scenes.

- Haley Dreis, Aug. 20 at The Gap: Dreis, a luminous and talented folk-pop singer, won the clothing retailer's "Born to Play" competition. The live simultaneous acoustic event was held in Gap stores across the country to celebrate 40 years of the brand's jeans. Her song "I Believe in Love" is one of the year's best. And her cover of "Single Ladies" will give you greater appreciation of the song.

- "Plowboys and Indians: Visions of Black Elk," Aug. 21 at the Columbia Museum of Art: Hall's ambitious opera - which included a silent film to accompany the music that was based on a book given to him for Father's Day - debuted to a sold-out auditorium. I spent time with Hall and the cast during the filming and rehearsals, and I am still fascinated at how he pulled it all together. Tom Hall: He's the kind of guy who keeps you shaking your head.

- "Maya's Wonderland," Aug. 27 at 701 Center for Contemporary Art: The carnival and music performance that was billed as "Alice in Wonderland in a vinyl bustier" was Lorrie Rivers' goodbye to Columbia: She left town to attend the Central School of Speech and Drama in London. The carnival had games, a kissing booth and tarot readings. But the centerpiece was the performance by Rivers' electro-jazz band, Maya's Big Vermillion, which featured songs accompanied by videos. And oh, yeah, there was also a pie-eating contest. Does anyone remember who dominated that?

- "Maple Leaf Rag" and "Catharsis," Sept. 17 at Koger Center: The South Carolina Contemporary Dance Company, led by Miriam Barbosa, is a dance group that should be watched. Barbosa's choreography - the sensual movements, the expression in form - are incredible, breathtaking. I hope to see more pieces by her.

- Real Quiet, Oct. 2 at USC School of Music Recital Hall: The first concert of this season's Southern Exposure New Music Series exemplified what organizers are attempting to present: challenging music that isn't so hard you don't understand it. The three-piece - cello, percussion and piano - were fine players. But they were better showmen.

- Bela Fleck & The Flecktones with the South Carolina Philharmonic, Dec. 1 at the Koger Center: Bela Fleck and his band members - Victor Lemonte Wooten, Future Man and Jeff Coffin - were relaxed, yet the music was intense. The band's renditions of Christmas songs were warm and inviting - and fun, especially the rousing "12 Days of Christmas," which was played in 12 different keys and time signatures. Wooten's solo performance of "The Christmas Song" should get as much radio play at Nat King Cole's version. The orchestra was rendered insignificant for much of the performance (it was a sound issue, I was told by a string player), but it rebounded after intermission.

- Rempis/Rosaly, Dec. 9 at 701 Center for Contemporary Art: The duo of multi-reedist Dave Rempis and percussionist Frank Rosaly, one half of The Rempis Percussion Quartet, performed a stirring show. The music on "Cyrillic," the duo's debut CD, is ecstatic. Live, though, the music reached epic levels. The songs were 20-minute explorations of what it is to be a jazz musician.

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