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LIVE: 3 Shows That I’ll Recall Fondly

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2008 was a pretty decent year between me and my favorite music. I liked a handful of albums, but hardly loved any. (Tim Goldsworthy’s production with Cut Copy and Hercules and Love Affair was probably the one thing that impressed me more than any specific record.)

(left: Kraftwerk, “I couldn’t hold their inaction against them.)

I went to a lot shows and enjoyed many, but rarely walked away dragging my jaw on the ground from amazement. And isn’t that the point of going to shows? To feel like there’s nowhere else you’d rather be during that hour, or so?

The band that made my favorite album of the year couldn’t wow me live. However, bands with albums I was very lukewarm on made me want to spend the rest of my life at their shows. And the many acts I saw multiple times, with the exceptions of Constantines and Jamie Lidell, were noticeably better one time. So it wasn’t quite great, but there’s plenty I’ll remember, especially the three below. They’re not necessarily the best (only so many times I can write “transcendent” about seeing Mavis Staples, plus she’s not exactly indie), but they hold some tremendous memories for me. In chronological order, three shows that I’ll recall fondly:

Magnetic Fields
I didn’t really care for Distortion. It’s a pretty good album with some great songs, but the theme is what dragged it down. After seeing Magnetic Fields perform at the exquisite-sounding Old Town School of Folk Music, there was no way I could ever hear those songs in their recorded form without pining for their undistorted versions. With Stephin Merritt in typical form (read: cranky), Claudia Gonson filled up the time between songs with inane diatribes, but when they actually played music, the band sounded pristine. New songs like “California Girls” and “Zombie Boy” sans distortion fell right in with their old songs such as “I Don’t Believe in You” and “Papa Was a Rodeo.” And in the intimate Old Town School music hall, quiet enough to hear a phone vibrating two rows away, the humor and wit that Magnetic Fields have always honed on stood out just as much as the top-notch musicianship. It was an incredible evening.

I’m pretty lucky to live in a city (Chicago) that thousands of bands tour through every year. Unfortunately, not everyone gets to my town. And when a legendary band is touring within a day’s drive, I get jealous of that city’s music fans and typically decide to go. So, in April, I trekked to Minneapolis for a weekend centered on seeing Kraftwerk. How often does the most influential electronic music group ever tour the Midwest? Not often. Even without founding member Florian Schneider along for the 4-date US tour, the modified quartet didn’t take long to wow the audience with their updated versions of classic songs like “Man Machine”, “Radioactivity” and “Tour de France.” The visually-stunning 100-minute set was highlighted by some added depth and updated arrangements to songs that didn’t need any help but got it anyway for the sake of entertainment. I’m a big fan of performers who are animated, but when a band has spent their entire career personifying mechanics, I couldn’t hold their inaction against them.

You know what’s risky but often carries great rewards? Going to a show by a band that you’ve never heard before, especially one that you have no good reason for never hearing. It’s not like M83 has been hiding under a rock for the last few years. They’re pretty popular, yet I’ve just never listened to them outside of a Pontiac commercial. So when the opportunity presented itself to see them in May, I jumped at it based on past raves of their live show. And, oh, I was not disappointed at all. I can’t name one song that they played that night, but that electronic shoegaze sound thumped through me and put one of those ridiculous “Why haven’t I listened to this before?!” looks on my face. Whether held together by guitars or synthesizers, every song’s numerous layers floored me as my head broke them down. It’s a powerful show that makes you go out and buy a band’s entire discography.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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