"Oh, it’s totally perverse." -Hannah Epperson on competition in music. It is with this in mind that I have decided to forgo the traditional "Best Of" list to end the year. Instead I will bring an ongoing series of updates on the most memorable musical experiences of the year, be they concerts, records or even just songs. Today I bring you California psychedelic dudes and Stones Throw artists, the Stepkids.
Have you listened to the Troubadour, the latest record from The Stepkids? No!? You're blowing it. Seriously. The album is liquid gold, oozing through the nooks and crannies of your mind, or the "Desert of Your Mind" as the 'Kids would say. I mean, fuck, just listen to this! (Song of the Year 2013 candidate)
Being an obsessive music fan, as soon as I booked my flight to Europe to go adventuring I began scouring concert listings in Amsterdam and saw that during my short stay, the Stepkids were playing as part of ADE (the Amsterdam Dance Event). I didn't know anything about them but I knew that they were on Stones Throw Records so I knew they would be quality. I started to research and loved everything I heard. The trio has the deep sense of groove I am constantly on the look out for and combined it with a druggy-spaciness that I also dig - winning combination. And they were scheduled to play at the Paradiso! Tickets bought. This is what I wrote shortly after one of my favourite concert experiences of 2013.
I finally got to see a show at the Paradiso, It wasn't in the main room and so maybe it doesn't count, but fuck it. I SAW A SHOW AT THE GODDAMNED PARADISO. It was part of the Amsterdam Dance Event which I didn't realize until I got here to the city. Huge dropping of the ball right there. I saw the Stepkids, a band I only discovered shortly before this trip. They're on Stones Throw records, the same label that houses favourites like Homeboy Sandman and Dâm-Funk. Just more proof that the discovery of a solid label is the equivalent of finding a gold mine.
It might have well been the poorest attended show in Paradiso history but the luckily the Stepkids are pros and played it like a packed house. Drummer Tim Walsh, who bares a startling resemblance to Black Keys drum champion Patrick Carney, played the other two onto the stage. They came sprinting out onto the stage adorned with a large "SK" on the back. Supreme badassery. I did have to question guitarist/singer Jeff Gitelman's choice of sunglasses. I understand the rock n' roll-ocity of it all but with the highly physical nature of his performance he was constantly having to push them back up to the bridge of his nose. Seems like extra work, to me. Is it worth the reward? Also of note was his mightily impressive rock 'n' roll scarf. Bass player Dan Edinberg, who kicked serious funky ass by the way, looked like Dimitri Martin - if Dimitri Martin drank a big bottle of "Cool Juice."
The band funked it up like no one's business, though the hip Amsterdam crowd danced even less than a crowd of Victoria hipsters - An impressive feat to be sure. (What up with that?!) All that said, at one point the Stepkids implored the crowd to dance along with them (The crowd acquiesced), simple side-to-side stuff, but effective and awesome none the less. Apparently it was the first time they'd attempted such a bit of audience participation, inspired by a few coffeeshop visits shortly before the show. Success!
The only real misstep came during the encore. They brought the energy down a little too low with a cover (Which song it is escapes me) that seemed to lay in the same lands as Spinal Tap's "Free-Form Jazz Odyssey." It seemed to lose the crowd and it was hard to come back from. In my "expert" opinion, because we all know I'm a worldwide performing superstar, they should have taken the hard-rocking last track, complete with the fake stage-leaving bit and made that the encore. One song, lots of time and energy throughout. Or maybe the should have just saved that incredibly "Moving Pictures" to the end of the show. Ah well, it's a very minor complaint about a show that left a gigantic smile plastered across my stoned, dumb face.