Not So Silent Night 2006

Not So Silent Night, the Live 105 annual holiday season concert, has been one of the major live music events of the Bay Area for a number of years now. This year’s show sold out within three minutes of the start of ticket sales, but I was lucky enough to have a hot date who had the ticket hook-up. And though there’s been some controversy over the years about the show , last night’s concert stood out as one of the area’s most memorable live performances of 2006. The concert’s labels have been as broad as “rock” and as specific as “modern indie / new rock”. In the past, Not So Silent Night has been host to bands including Cake, Linkin Park, Rancid, System of a Down, Hole, Death Cab for Cutie and Taking Back Sunday. This year’s line-up included The Shins, The Raconteurs, Modest Mouse and The Killers. Modest Mouse and The Killers both played as opening acts for the event in 2004, returning this year to close out the end of an amazing show.

Local bands Cold-Hot-Crash and Silversun Pickups opened the event followed by an average performance by The Shins. But the venue really started moving when The Raconteurs played an extended cover of “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down”). A preview of the song can be heard here, but their radio / album sound does nothing to hint at the stunning quality of the band’s live performance. The stage vibrated. The crowd gyrated. And the performance had that rare quality of being able to hold you right there in the moment of the music while simultaneously transporting you to other worlds where dimensions are made up of sound waves.

Modest Mouse continued this other-worldly aural exploration with a show which revealed the true talent of their musical range. The band is in the midst of a tour; having just come from London and headed next to Australia, they are honing their sounds with influences from modern bands across the world and the Not So Silent Night crowd was privy to an up-close-and-personal experience of this development. The night closed with The Killers. The band may be nominated for two Grammy awards (again!) in the upcoming year but their live performance was evidence of the fact that their music ignores industry norms and continues to emanate from their own creative hearts. Despite the fact that his voice was giving out (does anyone not have this awful cold that’s been going around?!) Brandon gave his fans his soul in every song, and the crowd responded wildly. And while they didn’t manage to entirely take my mind off of the lingering hands of the hot date who’d taken me to see them, the band held most of my excited attention throughout their set.

The venue was the Bill Graham Civic Center Auditorium, a place large enough to host the good-sized crowd but small enough to allow the illusion of intimacy with the bands. The event was one of the first all ages events I’ve attended in the city which was truly all ages. And while that did mean that I had to endure standing next to the creepy old guy and sharing space with eight-year-old kids, it also meant that the crowd reflected some of San Francisco’s diversity. The holidays are a time for reminiscing about the days of old while simultaneously ushering in the new, and the Not So Silent Night concert did just that, bringing together holiday concert traditions with relatively new performers for the enjoyment of those of us both new and old to the Bay Area.

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