The 10 Best Live Television Performances of 2016
As we get deep into Mariah-singing-“Let It Snow” territory, do not forget that for every banal and vomitory performance, there are also several ones worth noting. 2016 was chock full of 'em, from the way-too-chipper-for-the-morning shows to the more conventional late night appearances, and we’ve compiled some of the best. Check it out below.
A word of advice to local news stations: When Ty Segall and his band come a’ knocking, you better answer the door. Back in March, on an otherwise humdrum weekday morning, the axeman — rocking a rubber baby mask — and his cohorts stopped by the WGN Morning News studio in Chicago for a riotous rendition of his Emotional Mugger track “Squealer.” By song’s end, Segall was thrashing about on the floor, screaming “CHICAGO!” over and over again. (Perhaps he was struck by a premonition of the Cubs’ historic World Series win later that year?) Anchor Robin Baumgarten’s baffled reaction at the 2:55 mark says it all: Segall’s performance easily stands as the most batshit TV performance of 2016.
Shortly before dropping their fantastic A Corpse Wired for Sound LP, Merchandise toured their home state of Florida. The band’s stop-off in Tampa included an appearance on the area morning show Tampa Bay’s Morning Blend — their first time on TV! — in which they chatted about the record and performed its standout single, “Lonesome Sound.” For an outfit whose primary niche encompasses basements and crowded clubs, rather than local TV sets, Merchandise came across as naturals. What’s more, guitarist D. Vassalotti donned a super-cool cowboy hat. Just another morning in the Sunshine State.
Sleater-Kinney’s victory lap behind 2015’s lauded No Cities to Love LP continued this year with a killer appearance on Austin City Limits. In addition to cuts from their most recent album, the diverse seven-song set list included numerous nods to their fiercely loyal fanbase, including oldies-but-goodies like “Dig Me Out” and “Modern Girl,” rendering the performance an S-K acolyte’s dream. But the real magic played out between the women themselves: Carrie Brownstein’s Pete Townshend-style shredding, Corin Tucker’s struts and kicks, Janet Weiss’ explosive drumming and the obvious psychic connection kept all the madness in check.
Sheer Mag as as punk as they come, but 2016’s performances of “Nobody’s Baby” on Late Night With Seth Meyers and an appearance at Coachella prove that the band is ready for the big time. No longer able to hide behind the incredible instrumentation, Tina Halladay’s vocals are up front and impressive, showing just how incredibly deep the Philadelphia team is. The rest of the band? We don’t need to tell you that they rip. With three EPs in the can, all beloved, we can only imagine where Sheer Mag will take this next.
The Lemon Twigs are proof that musical genius is genetic. The duo of Brian and Michael D’Addario conjure the sexiest glam in their live clip from Conan, feeling like an outtake from Ziggy Stardust and nailing it live, falsetto and all. It’s enough to remind you of the genius of the Thin White Duke and his influence, how far that influence reaches, and what a couple of kids from Long Island can do to make something timeless in the modern era.
They are Dinosaur Jr. They are legends. Here they are performing one of their latest singles which — shocker — is incredible.
Parquet Courts’ ascension from Death by Audio favorite to top of the goddamn heap has been coming for a while now, but 2016’s release of Human Performance, its subsequent nod from the Grammy committee (art direction, but STILL) and this clip from The Late Show With Stephen Colbert just confirms it all. The four-piece doubled in size for the Colbert appearance, and even enlisted the King of the Third Coast, Bun B, to lock down a verse. And just like Bun B’s closing statement at the end of the video, it all seems so “trill.”
Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether or not an artist has crossed over. For all the time and attention we spend praising the talents of somebody like Angel Olsen, it’s unclear if the praise is like shouting into the void or if other people actually care. But seeing her play on Colbert was a really wild moment. Her backing band and chorus of singers were complemented by a series of videos, a huge and cool setup for a killer song. A nice moment of the underground breaching the mainstream.
Will Toledo of Car Seat Headrest is a big cutie. When you see him play, there’s a kind of energy you might not expect that is incredibly contagious. See, for example, his appearance on Colbert, playing "Fill in the Blank" off of Teens of Denial. You can see how much he focuses on his performance, the quiet and cool confidence in his voice. This is the next generation of rock frontmen.
After Jamie xx’s incredibly successful 2015, it was hard to tell what the future of the xx would be — or if there would even be a future at all. Thankfully, we had an answer to that when they released new song "On Hold" not too long ago, and then appeared on Saturday Night Live. The performance is a lot more fun and weird than a lot of bands will let themselves get, both Romy Madley Croft and Oliver Sim dancing around during moments of no bass or guitar.