The greatest album, and the greatest recorded song will never be able to trump the truly live musical experience where music is shared in real time with both the artist and listeners. It is in this spirit that each year I assemble a list of the Best Live Performances to reinforce that as technology and the busying of life incrementally encroach upon us, we must remember that the live music show deserves its own attention and reverence.
If you’re looking for an act that is still virtually unknown, one that is buried deep in the underground and that embodies the raw energy of the roots movement and not just a commercially-viable watered-down derivative, one whose active ingredient still works on even the most hardened of roots addicts, then Jayke Orvis and The Broken Band might be your drug.
.357 String Band, Alabama Shakes, Bless This Mess, Bob Wayne, Farmageddon Records, Hank Williams, Hellbound Glory, James Hunnicutt, Jared McGovern, Jayke Orvis, Jayke Orvis & The Broken Band, Jello Biafra, Joe Perreze, Liz Sloan, Punch Brothers, Ralph Stanley, Shovels & Rope, Sturgill Simpson, Weary Boys
File My Graveyard Jaw and their album Coming Winds under “Pleasant Surprises of 2012.” Sort of like a poor man’s Punch Brothers, this acoustical string band that features guitar, banjo, violin (not fiddle), cello, and upright bass catches you completely off guard with their progressive approach, excellent songs, and ear for composition.
If your looking for that one bluegrass ensemble that is defining our generation’s take on the discipline, it’s hard to argue against the Punch Brothers. Though Punch Brothers talk usually trends toward the talent of mandolin maestro Chris Thile, the troupe boasts overarching, rabidly accomplished skill across the front line, and a far superior instrumental adeptness that is undeniable.