Don’s Top Five Punk & Rock Shows of 2009
Published 12-31-2009 (originally on The SunBreak).

My New Year's resolution was to see 50 shows in 2009. I thought this was reasonable for a person with a job that requires me to get up at 6 a.m. Yet, like most people, I did not fulfill my New Year's resolution. I got 39 nights of rock and roll in with 122 bands. Not too shabby, but I'll try to do better in 2010. My five favorites are recounted for you below.

#5. Classics of Love, Mike Park, Dateless, The Damage Done - The Grn Strp House - 3/14/09

As someone who discovered punk rock in the early nineties, it makes sense that Operation Ivy is one of my favorite bands. The Bay Area ska/punk band was an influence to a whole decade of punks and made Lookout Records famous well before Green Day came around. When singer Jesse Michaels disappeared after their first record, punk rock hearts were crushed everywhere. He had a short comeback with Big Rig and then got back into the swing of things with reggae/punk band Common Rider. His new project Classics of Love wanders back into straight punk songs.

I got to see them with Skankin' Pickle and Asian Man Records mastermind Mike Park as well as two local groups in a small punk house near the freeway. There is absolutely no better situation than a hundred and fifty or so people crammed into the living room, their breath condensing on the walls, waiting for their hero to take the stage so they can rock the hell out. When Park started playing "The Crowd" by Op IV and Michaels joined him on vocals, it was like it was 1989 all over again and we were ready to take on the world. When Classics of Love played, we did, in fact, rock the hell out.

#4. Cumulus Festival - Chop Suey/King Cobra/Vera Project - 1/23/09 to 1/25/09

The second I heard about the Cumulus Festival, I bought a three-day pass. While three days of (mostly) instrumental music might not be everyone's cup of tea, I was super excited. Seattle is the perfect place to foster this genre of music. With extraordinarily talented musicians and long, dreary winters, we are primed to create a musical revolution. The wide variety of bands at the show underscores the depth of talent we have here and the wide variation that is prevalent in the instrumental music genre.

I spent several hours that weekend riding on emotional crescendos and decrescendos, shaking my head at ridiculous musicianship, basking in various light shows, and no small amount of rocking out. I discovered a ton of new and awesome bands. I shared a unique experience with a couple hundred like-minded people. I am very much looking forward to Cumulus Festival 2010.

#3. Grand Hallway + Seattle Rock Orchestra, The Maldives - Fremont Abbey - 9/17/09

There are bands that simply break your heart with their beauty. Grand Hallway and The Maldives are two of those bands and they played together on the same night. The Fremont Abbey has amazing acoustics for orchestral pop and alt-country ballads. I wallowed around in the sorrow and beauty and reverb and melodies. I'm man enough to admit I cried a little bit during "Sirens," the saddest Grand Hallway song ever. It was a particularly emotional night for me anyways, but two beautifully melancholy bands put it over the edge. I'll remember this show for quite some time.

#2. Sunny Day Real Estate, The Jealous Sound - Paramount - 10/16/09

Though I discovered punk in the early nineties, I had started to grow up and get all emo by about 1995. It was fortunate, then, that Sunny Day Real Estate released their first record the year before. I played that record so much that I even memorized the gaps between the songs. When the second record came out, I did the same and made up my own lyrics since the liner notes didn't include them. When I went away to college, however, Sunny Day Real Estate and I went on separate paths.

At the Paramount, hundreds of people got to share in the heartfelt reunion of an influential Seattle band. Sunny Day sounded amazing. Their songs were tightened up on a month of touring and they were just as emotional and real as ever. No giant light shows or ridiculous theatrics, just them and us in a huge concert venue. It was a great finale. Meanwhile, the new song they debuted made us think that their story might not be over yet. We'll see what 2010 brings.

#1. Sunny Day Real Estate, Glimpse, Basic Radio - Hell's Kitchen - 9/16/09

When my friend phoned up and informed me about the Sunny Day Real Estate secret show in Tacoma, I knew where I had to be. To see SDRE for $5 in a small venue would make up for my sheltered childhood and all the early shows I missed. After waiting through the opening bands, Sunny Day took the stage. The show was amazing. The sound was perfect. The songs were just rough enough to remind us the band is human. I was singing along so loud and playing drums on the monitor in front of me so hard that I bruised my hands and ruined my voice a little bit. It was a religious experience. It was life-changing. I wish you could have been there. Here's a little taste of what you missed:

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Keywords: shows, 2009, review, sunbreak, sunny day real estate, grand hallway, cumulus festival, classics of love, mike park

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