January 9, 2013

Flagpole's Five Most Memorable Concerts of 2012

Relive the glory of five of our most favorite shows of last year, in chronological order.

In this week's paper, we revealed our writers' Top 10 local albums of 2012. But the fun doesn't stop there, y'all. Below, follow along as we relive five of our favorite concert experiences of last year, from ecstatic AthFest crowds to misty Mangum memories to transformative azz-shakin' glory and beyond.

And with this, the last of our year-end coverage, let us move forward. Enough of these remember-whens. Here's to 2013, which will surely blow all previous years out of the water with untold awesomeness. (Hear that, 2013? Blow that shit up. Or else.)

Big Freedia
Farm 255, Feb. 3
“There were a whole bunch of girls there, bouncin’ ass.” This is how a friend described Big Freedia’s February appearance at Farm. And it may be crass, but damned if it wasn’t true. A transgender bounce artist from New Orleans with otherworldly booty-shaking skills, Freedia is never without an entourage of girls in daisy dukes, twerkin’ it in all kinds of acrobatic ways. By the end of her show, practically every Athens woman was onstage with her, shaking what their mamas gave them. The music was clunky and without much artistry, yet Freedia’s sheer enthusiasm and absurdity made this one of the best shows of the year. The bouncin’ asses didn’t hurt, either. [Rachel Bailey]

Jeff Mangum
40 Watt Club, Feb. 10
The fear was that it would become an indie-rock singalong, some sort of mawkish communal get-together full of tearful eyes, some sort of elevation of dude with acoustic guitar to something… higher. And it was, but y'know, that was OK. Surprisingly so. Jeff Mangum returned to perform solo at the 40 Watt, 14 years after the release of In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, and over the years his absence from the public eye let the enigma sell—and, sometimes, overflow. It was the quickest-selling-out show in the 40 Watt's history (take that, Snoop Dogg). The opening tune, "Oh Comely," set the tone of the show, and at eight minutes or so, let people mellow into what was a straightforward but still powerful presentation of Neutral Milk Hotel tunes. Selfish audience members who felt compelled to shout along to every single word—buddies, we all waited years for this, not just you—were thankfully eventually shushed or drowned out by the power of Mangum's own voice. That voice, too, full of compassion and emotion and more than a little danger on songs like "Holland, 1945" and "Little Birds"… that's what was best about that night. And Mangum generously invited the crowd to sing with him near the end. It was simple. It was worth the wait. It was a great show. [Chris Hassiotis]

Pulaski Street Stage, June 22
Somewhere in the early months of this waning year, Reptar became the biggest band going in our fair little town. It was a stealthy changing of the guard, and whom exactly they displaced is an open question, but it happened, and nowhere was it more vivid than on the Athfest main stage. Taking the closing, “headlining” slot despite Atlas Sound’s presence on the bill (an early portent of their meteoric rise), Reptar's performance saw Washington Street flood with people like the parted Red Sea collapsing back in on itself, as an ecstatic crowd, stretching nearly three blocks, sang every word along with the band. A naysayer in the past, this show convinced me that Reptar’s best music is still ahead of them. [David Fitzgerald]

40 Watt Club, June 23
I was already sweating alongside everyone else while Grass Giraffes bounced around onstage at the 40 Watt. It was a particularly steamy Saturday night, as AthFest raged on. And just when it couldn’t get any hotter, feathered men took the stage. Futurebirds first joined in with Grass Giraffes but ultimately usurped the show. The Giraffes exited, allowing the 'Birds to continue with the welcome surprise. True to form, the band moved in perfect sync and played the Hampton’s Lullaby favorites. By the time the group played “Ski Chalet,” there was no choice but to spout beers into the air and onto everyone else. Pure elation took the form of a sticky crowd during one of my favorite shows of the year. [Jodi Murphy]

40 Watt Club, Nov. 10
Few bands elicit such unfailing and unabashed joy from their audiences as Deerhoof, and with good reason. The Bay Area collective has had its creative ups and downs over the years, but the peaks have far outweighed the valleys (and not everyone agrees on where those points fall; I, for one, enjoyed last year's Breakup Song more than most). During the band's 40 Watt show a few months ago, one thing was abundantly clear: live, Deerhoof is at the top of its got-damn game. Churning frantically through a sea of fractured fan favorites and new-ish dance numbers, the group's manic music was a half-split atom perched on the edge of chaos, seeming always to fall recklessly apart and then gather itself at the very last minute. For a band that has made a career out of being unendingly unique, Deerhoof continues to remind us that it has pretty much mastered the art of pop, too. [Gabe Vodicka]