MIKE'S TOP TEN OF 2012In the past 18 months I packed up and moved out to Southern California for grad school. I spent most of the last 12 years or so living in small towns where I could bike to anything of interest in 20 minutes or less. Now I split my time between the canyons at the edge of the high desert, suburban hell, and the gigantic parking lot that is Los Angeles. I like it so far, but I am still adjusting. One of the biggest changes is not being a part of a tight-knit DIY music scene on a day-to-day basis, so most of my top things from 2012 will reflect that.
TOPS for 2012
(In no particular order)
1. THE WILDNESS by Wu Tsang
This was one of my favorite movies I saw in 2012, and probably the hardest to describe. I will say that its essential viewing for anyone interested in how punks/artists/freaky people can navigate working with and within different communities, and how to take responsibility and follow through when things don't work out exactly as planned. It's totally whacked out in a great way too, with a hallucinatory neon sign that narrates much of the film, wild performance art, the filmmaker helping start a legal clinic for undocumented trans people, and really good music.
2. Standup Comedy (?!?!)
When I first got to an L.A. I saw a friend from Providence. I asked her what bands she was into out here because I was itching to go to a show. She told me "I don't really go see music here, I'm into standup comedy now." I was a little surprised but I trusted her judgement so I decided to go check out some for myself. Of course like any entertainment ("punk" music included) there are all kinds of lame trappings that go along with standup. So much comedy seems to be about starting a career in the entertainment industry, boring dudes working out their issues by discussing "shocking" topics, etc etc. I was lucky enough to have a few people show me the scrappier standup shows in town, free nights where comedians are working out their material, usually in the back of a restaurant or a tiny little room, where there's just a donation can near the entrance and a cooler full of beer for the taking (sound familiar?). The good comedians are the ones that talk about real shit, class issues, gender, race, sexuality, and make everyone laugh the whole time. Some of the best I got to see this year were: Kate Berlant, Ron Funches, The Lucas Brothers, Aparna Nancherla, Kyle Kinane, etc etc. Best comedy night: POWERVIOLENCE happens every Sunday at 9:30pm, $5 donation
3. El Velador (The Night Watchman) by Natalia Almada
Natalia Almada grew up in Sinaloa, Mexico and returns to the area to film the crypts and tombs of fallen drug cartel lords. On the surface this is a portrait of a fancy graveyard, where not much happens other than workers making sure the grounds are tended to, but she manages to transform these images into an allegory of how Mexico has changed in the last decade or so and how we are all complicit in the violence there.
4. Space Shuttle Endeavor in LA
Okay, it's fucked up that they had to remove hundreds of trees to move the space shuttle along Crenshaw Boulevard, and in general the space shuttle is a sort of weird mascot for the war machine, but it was also really crazy and cool to hang out on the street all day waiting for this thing that had been TO OUTER FUCKING SPACE AND BACK to roll down the road. Los Angeles is a huge city with a ton of people in it, but since I have lived here there haven't been many opportunities to gather outdoors for long periods of time. The space shuttle ran 5 hours later than expected, which meant I hung out in the parking lot of M&M Soul Food with a big ass movie camera. Across the street kids from the Lulu Washington Dance Theater did a wild choreography show with space suits and flying bodies on wires. Everyone was enjoying the sunshine, chatting up their neighbors and no one seemed to notice that the main event was behind schedule. When the sun was setting the shuttle finally rolled through and it was hard to believe it even fit down the street, it was so big it felt unreal.
5. SACCHARINE TRUST / MIKE WATT AND THE MISSING MEN
A beautiful L.A. day. Walk down the street and get some tacos, meet up with a couple of friends, get on the gold line metro, walk through a sprawling free downtown arts festival to the "old guys" stage and watch SACCHARINE TRUST tear through a set in the middle of the day. Really great to see Raul on drums for Mike Watt too, who knew their rock opera would be so good?
6. WOODEN KIMONO 7"
This is the solo project of Lauren Likely. She was a winter roommate at a house I lived in a few years back in Providence, where she taught me how to exercise without being a jock or a gym psycho. A year later she came back for another winter and we made a movie together. She's a great visual artist, you can see her inky drawings in the pages of NUTS! as well as numerous album covers of Olympia bands. I hadn't seen her in a while so when I got this record I was excited, though not sure what to expect. The four songs here are dark loner jams, beautiful singing accompanied by only a metronome and psychedelic scraping guitar.
7. BAADER BRAINS LP
RIP Sarah Kirsch. You are missed by many. I have to admit I hadn't really followed Kirsch's bands lately, The records were either hard to get ahold of or just weren't my thing musically. I am so happy I ordered this record when it came out though, its a perfect mix of recorded skits and driving punk rock, totally inspiring, and a great object all around. I especially love the Procyon Proclamation that comes in the sleeve: "We will leave behind the Nostalgia Industry's cold crippling of our imaginations. Let them wade in the rubble as we establish a new home where can begin anew. Let us shatter the overly precious images of ourselves whose reflections lull us into passivity. Let us leave it all behind, in a torrent of vitriol and fire. Leave the vultures and self-anointed cultural coroners to circle frozen corpses."
I'm going to jam the song "Sensations Fix" off of this record now
8. Michael Yonkers live
I had no idea if this would be good or not, the Michael Yonkers record I jam most often is nearly 40 years old. I was expecting some sort of dad-rock but instead Yonkers got onstage wearing a t-shirt with his own name on it, and belted out a crazy set on his handmade fucked up guitar, which he ran through a bunch of digital puke filters, and belted out his songs at top volume. He even played "Microminiature Love"!
This is basically a compilation film of all the videos produced by Russian performance art group, Voina. Cop cars getting flipped, impromptu punk performances in court rooms, penis graffiti on drawbridges, etc etc. A good flick!
10. BROWN SUGAR "Sings of Birds and Racism" LP / XYX "Teatro Negro" lp / GRASS WIDOW "Internal Logic LP / THE LOOM OF RUIN by Sam Mcpheeters / SCAM #9 by Erick Lyle.
These are all good things that came out this year that I enjoyed a lot. Check 'em out!