From The Desk Of Kleenex Girl Wonder: Liv Tyler In Chicago 1999

Kleenex Girl Wonder just released 13th LP The Comedy Album. Graham Smith, who’s been making pan-genre pop rock in bedrooms, studios, forests and everywhere in between under the KGW name with various people since 1994, joins MAGNET as guest editor this week. Climb inside his skull as he figures out what it’s all about, whatever “it” may be.


Smith: Obviously, as a professional musician, I have seen a lot of live music over the years. Well, that is actually not true (though it may indeed be obvious). Up until relatively recently (the past couple of years), I didn’t see very much live music at all. Even after I moved to New York, it took a lot to get me out of my house. I always wanted to hear the artists I like play either: a) the exact list of songs I really liked, or b) new songs I hadn’t heard yet. These things happened incredibly rarely in my experience, so I tended not to go to many shows.

I think part of the shift was that I started to enjoy playing live music more. Since live music represents a big chunk of income for most “living wage” bands nowadays, it’s also of some interest to me to figure out how to provide the most interesting (for both me and the crowd) live show I can. So as a result, I end up seeing more live music. But it’s not all grunt work; I also really have a good time seeing both bands I know well and bands I’m just learning to love onstage in a dark, dank environment. Or, you know, beneath the stars or whatever.

I’ve learned a lot about what makes live music so energizing to people, although I can’t claim to have applied it all to KGW’s approach to playing live. While I still would like to play new, unreleased, exciting songs (just as I would like to hear them from other bands), I understand that it’s important to play songs that people already like, or at least could go and listen to on record immediately after the concert. I think that there’s value to theatricality, but it can overwhelm the primitive experience of x people playing and y people listening intently and/or dancing. Backing tracks are interesting to me as a way to add variety to the sound palette in a live environment, and I hope we can expand that palette in KGW shows in the near future—especially since folks don’t seem to mind if there are some canned sounds in a live show, as long as there are compelling uncanned performances.

But hey, maybe what I think of as “a lot of live music” is not that much to you? Let’s see. Here’s a list of all the bands I can recall seeing from November 2015 to October 2016, in alphabetical order, de-duped. Note: Some of the bands, particularly ones I saw at festivals, I didn’t necessarily see full sets. But I even left out some I did see full sets of that I didn’t intentionally see, and I’m sure I forgot some I can’t find in my records, too.

Damn. It was a very good year.

Action Bronson
Anamanaguchi (x2)
Angel Olsen
Animal Collective
araabMUZIK (x2)
Band Of Horses
Basia Bulat
Beanie Sigel
Brian Wilson (performing Pet Sounds)
Chairlift (x2)
Dawn Of Midi (x2)
Deerhoof (x2)
Drive Like Jehu
Empress Of (x2)
Eureka California (x2)
Even As We Speak
Field Music
Frankie Cosmos (performing songs from Exile In Guyville)
Fucked Up
Guerilla Toss
Guided By Voices
Hatsune Miku
His Name is Alive
Hop Along
Jenny Hval (x2)
Jessy Lanza
Joanna Newsom (x2)
John Carpenter
Just Blaze
Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith
Mbwongana Star
PJ Harvey
Pusha T
Quinn Walker
Rocket From The Crypt
Secret Shine
Shilpa Ray
Talib Kweli
Tame Impala
The Avalanches
The Hood Internet (x2)
The Moles
The Oh Sees
The Railway Children
Thunder & Lightning
Titus Andronicus (x2)
Tom 7
Watching Waves
Ween (x4)
Young Fathers