The Best Band in the World: The 2010s
In this very special guest feature Nate Garrett (Spirit Adrift, Gatecreeper) is taking you on a year-by-year journey through the greatest live performances of each year over the last four decades. We’re continuing our trip with the decade in which you currently live, the 2010s. Take it away, Nate.
Welcome the the ’10’s. Is that right? I don’t really know what to call the decade we’re living in currently. The teens? Whatever. Now is the moment this piece, which is nothing more than an opinion piece anyway, becomes REALLY opinionated. I’ve seen a lot of great bands and come to know a lot of extraordinary musicians these last eight or nine years, and it’s all still fresh in my mind. So here we go. The most subjective, personally biased entry, in a highly subjective, personally biased series. Look elsewhere for journalistic integrity!
Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers
These guys are the glaring standout here, the only old-guard band that makes the list this decade. I’m comfortable declaring Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers the best band in the world for any year they were active, but I chose 2010 because of the personal bias I warned you about in the intro. That was the year I saw them. I can tell you beyond any reasonable doubt there was not a better band playing music that year. In fact, 1980’s title holder ZZ Top opened the show, and they paled in comparison. ZZ Top is one of my favorite live bands, but they got blown off the stage that night when Petty went on. For a long time, I forgot they even opened. That’s not a knock on ZZ Top at all, that’s just how good The Heartbreakers were. I tried to find some footage from that tour where the crowd isn’t overpowering the band, and there’s none out there. When I saw him, it was the most people I’ve ever heard singing at one time, and from the looks of it, the entire tour was the same way. That is a testament in and of itself to the uplifting, unifying force that is Tom Petty.
Like Annihilation Time before them, Kvelertak found a new and exciting way to write music inspired by classic hard rock and metal from the glory years, and inject it with the attitude of hardcore. To make matters even more interesting, the band incorporated elements of their home country’s native black metal bands, and dare I say, even some Turbonegro influence. Their eponymous debut was the freshest and most exciting record of 2010, and by 2011 the band was picking up some serious steam, hitting festival circuits and touring all over the world. I was lucky enough to see them that year and it was stunning. Here they are at SXSW.
Harmonicraft is my favorite Torche album, and that’s saying something. I think they’re all great, but on Harmonicraft the songwriting was especially refined, nailing a pinpoint balance between catchy and heavy. Oh and their GUITAR HARMONIES were at their most majestic, and y’all know by now how I feel about guitar harmonies. Call it turbo pop, bubblegum sludge, or anything else you want. Bottom line, Torche is a magnificent band, and 2012 was a great year for them. Check out the onslaught at the break, and be amazed at the Ramones-style lack of pauses between tracks.
Vocalist/synth player Daron Beck and drummer Jon Teague have created something in Pinkish Black that is one of a kind, compelling, and heavy in a totally standalone way. Beck sings haunting vocal lines over swirling, hallucinatory soundscapes. Steadily driving through this madness, Teague hammers with the immeasurably heavy foot of Bonham and the unpredictable explosiveness of Ward. It’s difficult to describe the unseen energy that makes them so transcendental in the live setting, so I’ll just share an anecdote. I saw them with Goblin around this time, and not too long after they started playing I got so dizzy I had to sit down. I talked to other people there and I wasn’t the only one affected in this way. Pinkish Black were so psychotic sounding and bizarrely heavy I had to sit the fuck down. Go see them live any chance you get. Here they are at Southwest Terror Fest (RIP).
Anyone who witnessed YOB performing in 2014, especially the song “Marrow,” requires zero explanation for this entry. If you weren’t lucky enough to see it in person, check it out at the link. The whole show is phenomenal, but if you’re lazy, the song in question begins at about the 55 minute mark.
Hot take(s): Slaves Beyond Death was the best album of 2015, and Black Breath was the best band of 2015. Though they started off with plenty of hardcore overlap, by this time they were a no-frills, pissed off, vicious death metal band. This is probably due in part to the fact that Jamie Byrum, the band’s drummer and driving force, was hit by a car in 2014. Instead of letting that deter him, he seems to have channeled his torment and anger into the band’s music, resulting in their best album and most astounding live performances by the next year. Again, we return to the theme that is so prevalent throughout this piece. Bad life experiences can result in great art.
These days, nobody does romper-stomper, old-school, disgusting death metal better than Vastum. Their excellent Hole Below LP was released in 2016, and their live performances reflected the album’s raw savagery. Plus, new guy Shelby Lermo finally had the riffs memorized after being in the band for three years. Behold the might of Vastum at the link.
I watched Inter Arma many, many times in 2017. It’s no secret this is one of my favorite bands from any era of music. Inter Arma take risks, play off of each other and the vibe in the room, and are never predictable. They encapsulate that which has made rock and roll such a beautiful thing since the very beginning, and they use this fearlessness to break new ground artistically.
Pallbearer continue to improve. It’s like that scene in Office Space when the actor whose name you can never remember says his life gets worse every day, so if you see him on any given day, that’s the worst day of his life. Reverse that, and apply it to quality of music instead of quality of life. That is what’s going on with Pallbearer. The chemistry between these four guys only gets stronger with each passing moment, and the experience they’re racking up outweighs that of most bands who have been around for twice as long. The year is not quite over, but I can pretty much guarantee Pallbearer are the best band of 2018. Here they are stealing the show with their newest song “Dropout,” at the Decibel Metal & Beer Fest earlier this year.
So there you have it. My hopelessly bias-driven attempt to trace the riff in its purest and most potent form, from 1970 until present day. I’m touring off and on for pretty much the rest of the year, so feel free to yell at me about how wrong I am if you see me in person.
Check out some of Nate’s upcoming tour dates with Spirit Adrift. He is surely, positively coming to a venue near you.
June 29 – Denver, CO @ Electric Funeral Fest
July 25 Blueberry Hill Duck Room – Saint Louis, MO
July 26 Indiana City Brewing Company – Indianapolis, IN
July 27 Ace Of Cups – Columbus, OH
July 28 Mr. Smalls Theatre – Pittsburgh, PA @ Migration Fest
July 29 Metro Gallery – Baltimore, MD
July 30 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
July 31 Union Pool – New York, NY
August 2 Great Scott – Boston, MA
August 3 3S Artspace – Portsmouth, NH
August 4 Bar Le Ritz – Montréal, QC
August 6 House Of Targ – Ottawa, ON
August 7 Hard Luck – Toronto, ON
August 8 Lager House – Detroit, MI
August 9 Empty Bottle – Chicago, IL
August 11 Lee’s Liquor Lounge – Minneapolis, MN
August 12 Riot Room – Kansas City, MO
August 15 Urban Lounge – Salt Lake City, UT
August 18 Psycho Las Vegas – Las Vegas, NV
August 21 Brick By Brick – San Diego, CA
Check out the previous editions of this series here: