It was a five-way tie for best concert of the year 2014 for this hombre for the longest time. I savored for months after attending each of the following: Santana at the LC Pavilion; the Blasters at the Rumba Cafe; Big Sandy at Natalie's; the Pixies at the LC Pavilion; and Dr. John at the Park Street Tavern. So who kicked it the best, who took my soul, my sacred booty, my mind (or what's left of it) and changed me, rearranged me and made me a better methane-breathing earthling? Ginger Baker drum roll, puh-lease, maestro... Dr. John, the New Orleans voodoo-dispensing, night-tripping, Columbus-musician-employing roots genius of geniuses. I've seen him at least once every decade since the '70s and this, this was the time and place and with a band nearly entirely permanently populated by Columbus musicians that was the best ever. Ach, mein gott, I felt like I was on a Mississip riverboat cruising the shoals from Mobile, Alabama, to the Crescent City to Terrabonne Bay as it transformed the Park Street Tavern into a sweaty brothel within loaded with more moist and sensually good-dancin' white girls than I've ever seen in one place in this hoary old white-bread town. Leave it to the rhymes of the ancient doctor and his cracked-croak of a bayou frog voice to transcend land-locked Midwest culture and move us not only from the waist down but from the heart up, too. And did not Carlos Santana almost exactly fit the same profile outside at the LC? He too I have seen every decade since Belkin's World Series of Rock at Cleveland's Public Stadium with The Band and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young back in 1974 when I was first exposed to Latin melodic rhythm. Oh, conga drums, I love you so. And did not Santana, who was playing an unbelievably tight and expansive and deeply musical set comprising a career retrospective, also transform three thousands souls into dancers exchanging their American passports for new hips from another culture? If nothing else, Santana's show was the best dance concert of the year. With a tremendously crack band backing him up. Now, the Blasters are special. When I heard Border Radio that supremely humid night when the bar mirrors were sauna-fied I thought my every tie to this world had become emancipated. As the loping, chugging Impala-engined song put me back in the saddle of the borrowed Rice Paddy motorcycle that took me from Nuevo Laredo to Juarez a few years ago and changed my life, I relived my trip standing at the bar dancing with myself: the 108-degree heat; the cacti big enough to impale you; the zero road traffic; the mortal threat of human coyotes killing you for your ride. Big sky adventure is yours, you too can become a mobile Apache Indian in our magnificent southwest. All it takes is some balls, a motorcycle, Border Radio and the rare ability to happily misread a road map. Broken lines on a map mean the road is not paved. And thus Border Radio played constantly in my head as the Border Patrol checked in on me every 20 miles of the most treacherous roads in Texas. Shadowing the Rio Grande from the Gulf of Mexico to Arizona is a great way to see the world and realize what songs really matter. So when the age-less, aging Blasters launched into Border Radio, I was in invisible rhythmic embrace with one of my true soul partners--a song. The way I sang the Isley Brothers version of "Summer Breeze" as I once cruised the freezing Swiss Alps in August, glove-less, sock-less and with a heart full of music. Needless to say, I was too drunk to drive home from the Rumba. Thanks for the lift, Boo. The Pixies? Phantasmagorically intense. The band hasn't aged a day since the '80s and still possess one thousand edges. Black Francis' lone smile at the end of the show will rate as one of the most genuine expressions of artistic satisfaction of a hard night's good work and return of the audience's prodigious love I've ever experienced. The Pixies were fantastic. Big Sandy at Natalie's Coal-Fire Pizza was one of the most beautiful displays of old-school Americana roots values going in this NPR world: charm, charm, charm; adorable songs with sweet-hearted innards; a guitarist supremo in Ashley Kingsman and the rest of the band as good as anything to ever headline the Louisiana Hayride. Big Sandy, a true gentleman. Hugely honorable mentions: the amazing Bombino at the Wex; a former punk band given to its Mexican roots and impulses, at the A & R Bar, Mariachi El Bronx. Helluva night, that. Helluva year, musically, anyway. ___________________________________________________________________________________ He was like a sun-baked conch shell which if you held up to your ear, you'd hear the history of jazz, from his days with Charlie Parker and Miles Davis helping invent The Birth of the Cool through the post-war evolution of be-bop and its subsequent near-suffocation of by the onslaught of even more modernity. Alto saxist Lee Konitz, who's been blowing since Moses wore short pants, played a gig at the Wex last month. Of the many exquisitely mid-century urban jazz truths that he expressed through his horn the biggest, hugest, most delicate yet eternal one was this: nobody but nobody ends a song the way he and his band does. He takes Horace Silver's sense of time-and-space phrasing, of going out on a melodic limb and then floating like a South American tree lizard to the next part of the jazz rain forest before picking up the ending coda again, reshaping it and then gently faking the song's death yet again before letting his talented piano player do the same thing. Round and round they went, slowly easing the song to the finish line. Nearly every time. It left you a little breathless and panting for more. Jazz beauty will do that to ya. ___________________________________________________________________________________ Last but certainly not least, let us not forget Joe Peppercorn and his lovely expanding band at the Bluestone the Saturday after Christmas doing their 12-hour Beatles marathon, playing every Beatles song in the order it was released. It was his fifth time doing it and he (and they) just keep getting better and better and better. You think it's easy to play Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, the Magical Mystery Tour, then Yellow Submarine, then The White Album and do it virtually note-for-note and play it with feeling? I am in awe of this young man and his fantastic band. I listen, I smile, I sing along, I dance, I cry, I love...the beautiful Beatles, the time they were of, Joe's performance, his band's performance, the moment, the Bluestone, the people who come and share and sing. There is literally nothing like it. Good Jesus God, I did not know I was going to say this til right now, but thanks to writing this year-end column, I realize I love living in Columbus. Jesus Christ. Goddam. God bless you all, motherfuckers. ___________________________________________________________________________________ Three more things before I go, kids: 1) A really funky, lovely moment from the summer of '14 happened to me in the men's room of Dick's Den. No, I didn't meet that truck driver who changed my life nor did I read anything really terrible graffiti about the late, great, misunderstood Lee Brown on the wall. No, I was drunk as a hoot owl putting some of Dick's booze back into the earth's recirculation system when I realized Chief Johnny Lonesome was singing a marvelous version of a Dr. John song. Happy as a clam and feeling, once again, like I was back in New Orleans, I came staggering out only to find out it was the mighty Jimmy Castoe, drummer to the stars and those with the money to hire quality, who was doing the singing, while he was playing. He was nailing it like a motherfucker! I stood in drunken drooling awe as I watched the Greek-faced (I always thought he facially looked like some noble Athenian warrior statue) as he rather effortlessly (or so it looked) sang the song with no amount of forced feeling but with plenty of natural feeling while he slapped out a Crescent City funk groove as at ease as if he were brushing his cat's hair. Totally knocked me out. Not to take away from John Householder (keyboardist, singer), but Jimmy, whom I've always regarded with awe from a distance, literally made my week. Such a wonderful discovery. I have seen the future of New Orleans retro-roots and it's a dude we've all known for so long. On stand-up bass was Cliff Starbuck, sounding good as always. 2) At some now-forgotten goofball young people's music show at the Shrunken Head, club owner Andreas Kleinert served me the most amazing Cuban pulled pork sandwich I've ever eaten in my life. OK, ok, so it was the only Cuban such sandwich I've ever eaten but it was as big as a house and tasted like Cuban heaven which I didn't know of before-hand and now I do. Good ol' Andreas, from Germany, and direct descendent of the Kaiser, I am told. 3) By chance I've been given a coupla boxes of the Burners' 1987 album, Mesmerization, its dozen rockin' roots-a-billy-r'n'b'rock'n'roll jumping out of the grooves the way guitarist/singer/bandleader Mickey Bletz used to jump around the stage while chording and soloing (he once did a move I've never seen before or after at Stache's I'll never forget, sort of a two-legged forward bunny-hop while he was slicking through some double-stringed Chuck Berry riffs--electrifying to see and hear). They're still sealed and the friend of the band told me to give 'em away, so if you want one, come get one down at the Johnny Go's House O' Music, baby. We're still here.

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