The Best Concerts Of 2014

1. September. Paris. Unknown trio in a bar somewhere on the Rue de Oberkampf.

Its members boasted various Central and South American heritages; its sound borrowed from every kind of Latin and Hispanic music you’ve ever heard of. Flutes and congas and accordions and guitars and more guitars and shakers and between two songs one of the two members taking to vocal duties spoke into the microphone that “This is a song from my beautiful Cuba, and this is a song for my beautiful Cuba.” The bar had Havana Club rum on hand and this moment of endearing patriotism drove me to order a glass. Rocks, please.

“No mixer?” the bartender asked.

I shook my head no. He shrugged and handed me the drink which turned out, to put it gently, vile and disgusting. As a cocktail, it was poisonous. As a political statement, it was delicious.

2. May. Chicago. Black Breath at Reggie’s.

Loud. Heavy. Brutal. Occasionally nonsensical. Masterful, in that heavy metal kind of way.


3. September. Munich. Konnexion Balkan in the Marienplatz.

They’re a six-piece, by turns musicianly and goofy with not one but three great front men. It was late in the evening and from down an alley I could hear something that sounded like a violin, followed by the hearty laughter of a crowd, and the sound led to a corner in the city’s central plaza where these fellows are apparently known to hold court. They play like a band that’s been playing together for a long time, and against a crowd of shoppers and tourists and general passersby they were able to strike that odd, delicate balance between corny and endearing: not afraid to ham it up with their antics, and not afraid to go after the cheesy jokes. A duel of Rachmaninoff etudes, perhaps. Or maybe that Gotye song from a few years ago. Whatever works, right?

“If you like us, buy four copies of our CD: one for you, and one copy for three people you like. If you don’t like us . . . also buy four copies of our CD: one for you to throw away, and one copy for three people you don’t like.”


Sometimes the show doesn’t have to be confrontational or righteous or call back to a time and place cut off by the world. Sometimes inviting people to have fun is enough.

AMR
Chicago, IL / January 4, 2015

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Observed Signs In Downtown Lansing, Michigan, One Weekend In The Autumn Of 2014

Super SundayHappy Hour 4-7 every day

PRIME REDEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITY: Build your business/restaurant/coffee shop/art studio here!

Downtown Loft-Style Living In The Heart Of The City

Grand Opening August 2010

Michigan’s best pizza since 1956!

Good beer + good food + good times!

CLOSED

DARTS

PRIVATE PROPERTY

PRIVATE PROPERTY STAY OUT

DANGER

DANGER STAY OUT

STAY OUT

Ask about our catering specials!

NO TRESPASSING

Open late!

Cheapest cigarettes in the state HERE!

Live music 2nite!

STAY OUT

This city, like most cities, could be any city at all.

AMR
November 1, 2014

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Important Information For Visiting Fort Wayne, Indiana

There’s an unassuming sign on Main Street at Fulton for Henry’s Restaurant, and if you happen to open the door you will find inside perhaps the best bar in America.

There’s a light that shines over the city at night from the gigantic manufacturing complex on Broadway, a kind of beacon of industry flexing its might, and if you don’t look too closely you won’t notice the building atop which it rests has sat more or less vacant since the early part of the last decade.

There’s an old fort worth checking out, the aptly-named and titular Old Fort Wayne, because once upon a time a place this big surrounding by so much else that is so small just had to have been front line of something, or perhaps an outpost of something else.

There’s an art museum downtown that stays open later than you would expect.

There’s a surprising abundance of beautiful old buildings downtown, so many left intact rather than so callously demolished the way they do in other places, as though enough people here recognized that there could be value to history or utility to preservation.

There’s a railroad platform along Superior Street, even though the trains don’t stop there anymore.

There’s a certain familiar rhythm to all these streets and landmarks, all having names like Main and Henry’s and Broadway and Fort and Fulton, and Superior because there are countless others just like them, and because there are countless other cities like this one, each using the same parts to tell their own version of the universal American story. To go to Fort Wayne is to go everywhere.

AMR
Fort Wayne, IN / June 29, 2014

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