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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Best of 2011 by Erick Lyle


1. Occupy Wall Street (SF, Oakland, Olympia, etc...)
Face it, this shit ruled! I was lucky enough to be around this in different places -- the Oakland General Strike, the inception of Oly's Occupy, the scene at Zucotti... Very cool. Finally a movement that so simply captured the public imagination that even my MOM got it! Zucotti was very special -- so organized and ambitious. The People's Library, the daily feedings, really the whole bit. I loved how people were talking to each other. It was this island of respect and tolerance in downtown NYC. It reminded me of Orwell's accounts of anarchist-controlled Barcelona. People were walking a little taller here all over town, for sure. And still are, if recent hand to hand battles with NYPD in the streets are any indication. Its not over yet!

2. Exene Cervenka/Black Rainbow/Younger Lovers/Displeasure/Alibastair Choad at Serra Bowl in Colma, CA 7/16/11
Did I ever tell you how Exene opened for my band in a bowling alley in the suburbs of SF? Just another in a long series of "Anything is possible"moments in the Bay Area! SF and Oakland punks descended on a real live bowling alley full of Filipino families bowling and teens hanging in the parking lot on a Saturday night. Gangs sized each other up outside and old men drank in the old man bar while the pins fell all around. A spirited parallel show was said to take place at the karaoke bar while this raging punk show took place in the arcade (we just had to leave $100 deposit and move the air hockey tables to make room for the bands). Displeasure are raw, noisy, chaotic, tough. Alibastair Choad were their usual compelling cult-like selves. Exene sang three songs a cappella and spoke a little between songs. She was brilliant, really spot on politically but understated and modest. "The World's a Mess Its In My Kiss" gave me chills. Brontez closed out the show with the usual hilarious jokes interrupted every so often by dancy pop punk.

3. Do You Hear We? Fest Chattanooga, TN June 2011
This is my yearly family reunion, now in its 4th year. It has been so inspiring to see The Region calmly grow through love and calm determination into an actual punk destination. In 1995, none of us could have imagined that punks FROM OTHER CITIES would ever flock to Chattanooga to hear what we were doing! This 4-day blowout really shone on the last two days with back to back full days of The Rock at the new Sluggo's North. Hidden Spots, ADDC/Twat Sauce/Shell Shag/Landlord/RVIVR/Street Legal/Dark Rides/Future Virgins/countless others ruled it for days of non stop dancing and friendship.

4. Mike Watt and The Missing Men @ Mercury Lounge New York City 4/1/11
So good to see Watt back in action with a blazing hot band. I stood pressed against the stage as close as possible and let Watt and drummer, Raul, blow me away for an hour as they played their entire new LP start to finish and a bunch of Minutemen covers for an encore. Watt is a force of nature and he just keeps going, getting better and better, on his lifelong Econo mission. So inspiring!

5. Son Skull in the pouring rain at Nuts Zine release party 10/8/11 Olympia, WA
From behind the band, the view was classic -- a soaked, wildly dancing and stage diving crowd lit up by stage lights as sheets of freezing rain poured down and Son Skull killed it. I heard a rumor it was to be their last show. I hope not!

6. Broken Water/Sewn Leather/Russian noise band/Knife in The Eye at Dumpster Values Olympia, WA 10/15/11
First show with my new band turned out to be kind of a perfect night. The thrift store was turned into a tent by sheets Kanako strung up overhead and bands played in there. The Russian noise band generously wore goofy masks that had been made out of black foamy noodle pool toys! Broken Water were heavy and hypnotic and Sewn Leather was snotty and hilarious, a crusty with a heart of gold! Bikini Bill was unofficial MC of course-- in the show and on the streets! Diverse crew of Oly oldtimers and young punks coming together for a pretty warm feeling night. Made me feel like I'd been welcomed into the family up there.

7. Hysterix punk house West Oakland, CA 7/11
This show was perfect! I arrived just as Hysterix were about to play. The living room was aleready completely packed, with lots of friends on hand, and everyone danced like hell in the tiny space. So great! Across town the Zero Boys were playing a much heralded reunion show at a big rock club and most of my friends went to that. As much as I love the Zero Boys, I know that whatever spark they once must have had was really on display in this tiny hardcore show with 50 kids jammed in this living room. This was what the "old days" were really like!

8. Interference Archive opening night Brooklyn, NY 12/16/11
The new venture from longtime activist artists Josh Macphee and Dara Greenwald is Interference Archive, a public archive of their collected library and ephemera in Gowanus, Brooklyn. The couple has filed their collection of political art and pamphlets, posters, flyers, etc. and made it available to everyone in this public office space. The opening was very sweet as lefty artists from all over the Eastern seaboard showed up to pay their respects and check it out. As a researcher, I'm excited by non-institutional archives. As a friend, I am once again reminded of how Josh and Dara really embody their collective politics and always bring people together so wonderfully.

9. Raymond Pettibon at David Zwirner NYC 1/11
Ray remains my last living art hero. The two enormous rooms at Zwirner were filled with uncompromising new work, featuring Ray's edgy and twisted humor. What other artist makes work that is still so resolutely anti-authority? Duke Riley? Certainly none operating at Pettibon's level of art world success. The last show of his I saw at Zwirner (opening on 9/11/07) had many pieces about Bush and Co. Ray took on Obama in this new show. Formally, Pettibon has comfortably moved into full color and the results are mind blowing. This show made me feel -- as did many of these other shows - proud to be a lifelong member of the underground criminal scumbag community!

10. Max Rameau at University of Miami Library Miami, FL 2/11
I was honored to be able to speak with Take Back The Land's founder at the dedication of our archives at the University of Miami Library this past winter. Rameau's work with the Umoja Village and the squatting efforts of TBTL for the last few years has pushed the conversation far enough to the left to have helped make Occupy Wall Street not just possible but inevitable.

This was one of about 60 simultaneous art exhibitions related to SoCal art history that opened this fall across LA as part of the Pacific Standard Time series. It is easy to be cynical about the PST shows and LA civic leaders' efforts to subsume all of this countercultural art into LA's new myth of itself, giving the city a new backstory of authenticity while providing the institutional interest that will make a whole lot of obscure work suddenly highly collectable. And, its true, this exhibit from curator, Paul Schimmel of Helter Skelter show fame (1992) was also somewhat uneven, overstocked, muddy. Nonetheless, it turned me onto a whole bunch of freaky, out there, LA art. Cool work from Bas Jan Ader, Chris Burden, Robert Heinecken, Nina Segalove, Allen Ruppersberg, Ruscha (of course) and about a thousand others...


1. Landlord "Beneath The Wheel" LP
flawless stony jams from Bloomington wizards! Listen to the drum tracks with head phones on, it'll close your mind!

2. Off! collection of singles on LP
Dude! Keith has still got it! Wings over Inglewood! Total rager from start to finish!

Now in their 11th year, this is the most ambitious effort yet from this group of long time Region Rockers. Influences are all over the place here, cohering somehow into an overall sound that is the band's very own. You can hear the band members' lifelong friendship at work here. The tightness, the integrity, the love. Great great stuff. Would be #1 probably if I hadn't already heard the recording so much in 2010.

4. Grass Widow LP
Think this came out last December? Lets put it in! I listened to it a ton this year anyway.

5. The Endemics
Not sure if or how this came out. Sonia just emailed me the recording! I have like 11 songs and they all rule. Lil B's time machine East Bay Ray git licks and Mason's rock steady beats lock in step with Sarah Beth's dreamy soulful vocals over the top. Music that sounds old in the best way, like timeless.

7. Broken Water EP
Trademark hypnotic and dreamy waves of sound here with a little more snarly edge than last time. I wish I was around to hear the Grass Widow and Broken Water tour discussions!

8. Future Virgins LP
Flawless pop, Mike Pack recorded, and Ashley from Sexy all grown up here. No more pissing the couch, but plenty of great hooks and two guitar interplay laid out to total satisfaction. Region Rock advances into a stately and determined middle age! As Pack would say, "Lets get there."

8. Light Brigade demo
Holy shit! Sounds like OLD Portland in the best way. Like the Neo Boys or some band that opened for The Wipers on a rainy Tuesday in 1979 and never played again and you spend the rest of your life haunted by their songs. So good!

9. Twat Sauce demo
The Black Flag of 2012! The band poses the question, "What if Riot Grrl had been born not in Olympia in 1991 but in Ft. Oglethorpe, GA in 2021?!?" Unfuckwithable, as Lance used to say.

10. Sewn Leather LP
Crusty dance noir, includes best song about a Greyhound bus ever!


1. The Art of Cruelty by Maggie Nelson
2. Believing is Seeing; Observations on the Mysteries of Photography by Errol Morris
3. Savage Messiah by Laura Oldfield Ford
4. The Gentrification of The Mind: Witness to a Lost Imagination by Sarah Schulman
5. Where Art Belongs by Chris Kraus
6. Blossoms of Greenpoint by David Kennedy Cutler
7. Decoded by Jay Z
8. King King Theory by Virginie Despentes
9. Speaker Receiver by Moyra Davey
10. (tie) Retromania by Simon Reynolds/ Otherwise Known as The Human Condition by Geoff Dyer


1. Mother's News
A monthly treat, its understated New England charm belies the paper's towering ambition: nothing less that to produce a vital and consistently readable newspaper that pays for itself every single month in an era when we are told the newspaper is dead. Jake's seemingly ad-libbed observations on the months of the year and various quotidian facets of life resonate with surprising profundity, sometimes sticking in my head all month. Always warm and hilarious, but never below the belt, Mother's News, like all great newspapers, builds community.

2. Baitlines
See above. The SF queer Utopian Free classified ad paper/art project rolls into its 4th year, still as great as ever.

3. Loitering is Good
In latest issue, Joey celebrates the lonely spaces of our moribund urban areas, waxes poetic on the passing of the working man, and details enthusiastically how his impulse to do graffiti has morphed into an addiction to planting trees in the abandoned no zones where he once obsessively tagged. Moving, sincere, lyrical, and tender but not self-consciously so, this was as from the heart as any zine I've seen in years.

4. Suspect Device
Josh Bayer and Co skewer Nancy in a zine-length display of Situationist delight. Sluggo, too!

Flyers, too. Dark times for the scene related ephemera these days, no?

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