Music News & Reviews

What a year it was

It was a year of relocations, of new voices in familiar spaces. It showed us the way to Texas, Burma and Brazil and gave us the means to party in October with a pack of Decemberists.

On this initial weekend of 2010, let's glance back at the sounds that rocked Lexington in the year gone by and the changes that helped set their stages.

The Dame bows out: Although hearty crowds turned out for marquee acts like Drive-By Truckers and J.J. Grey and Mofro, numerous shows at The Dame's relaunched East Main digs — including a killer April evening of vintage pop, country and Latino soul by Raul Malo — played to mere handfuls of fans. By mid-August, The Dame made its second and final bow and closed for good.

Buster's reborn: The Dame's former West Main neighbor, Buster's, became one of the first high-profile tenants in the Distillery District on Manchester Street. It re-opened on Labor Day weekend as a music club huge enough to accommodate more than 1,000 revelers. Since then, Matisyahu, Silversun Pickups and The Derek Trucks Band have played there. Ani DiFranco and Henry Rollins are on deck for 2010.

The birth of Boomslang: One of Buster's biggest housewarming duties was serving as the principal headquarters for WRFL-88.1 FM's inaugural Boomslang festival in October. Numerous other downtown locales helped out, but Boomslang sent its headliners to Buster's, from the veteran krautrock ensemble Faust to a surprisingly revitalized Mission of Burma to the storied Brazilian tropicalia brigade Os Mutantes.

The Decemberists at Singletary: In a year that saw expert outings by Bettye LaVette, The Blue Note 7 and Jean-Luc Ponty, the Singletary hit an October homer with a Lexington debut concert by The Decemberists that included a complete performance of its fanciful album The Hazards of Love. What other show could so equally embrace the joys of Kentucky bourbon and forest witches?

Lone Star Opera House: The Opera House teamed twice with the Troubadour Concert Series and took a pair of capacity audiences to Texas via acoustic concerts by Steve Earle in August and Robert Earl Keen in November. The Earle performance was devoted largely to the stark romantic songs of Lone Star mentor Townes Van Zandt, and Keen brought along pals Todd Snider and Bruce Robison for a bit of bar-stool company.

Lovett loves Danville: The Long Tall Texan himself, Lyle Lovett, offered two markedly different concerts at Danville's Norton Center for the Arts within eight months of each other. The first was a sublime evening of unaccompanied acoustic duets with another master songsmith, John Hiatt. The second marked the return of the soul, country, gospel and folkish fervor that makes up Lovett's Large Band.

Jammin' with Charlie: In September, The Fishtank on Euclid Avenue moved across the street to the old Woodland Avenue location of Lynagh's Music Club. Since then, the vibe has broadened to pepper a hearty menu of local groove acts with shows by national headliners including Garaj Mahal and the Dirty Dozen Brass Band.

The big Bistro: Few existing venues increased their visibility the way Natasha's Bistro and Bar did in 2009. Having doubled its performance and seating capacity the previous year, the café began beefing up its performance calendar. In recent months, it has hosted Over the Rhine, Sara Watkins, David Wilcox, Michelle Shocked and The Punch Brothers.

Rock at Rupp: Rock returned to Rupp Arena in 2009. Shifting country briefly aside, Rupp pulled in a feverish crowd of 17,000 for a late-February performance by Nickelback. Smaller shows by Buckcherry and Slipknot kept the kilowatts burning. But the real rock prize was an October blast of electric Southern soul by Kings of Leon.