December 20th, 2011 by Rami

Last month, we ran down the year's highlights for the label. Here, the Bloodshot staff runs down its personal favorite moments, places and things of 2011:


Nan's 2011 highlights and discoveries:

Nearly New Bikes is a great scrappy bike repair shop at 3826 N. Broadway in Wrigleyville (neighborhood in Chicago). It ain't pretty but it's wonderful—the mechanics are great and they keep the prices down. The fancy and expensive bike shop a block south made fun of my old beater cruiser 15 years ago, but now they think it's cool—they still don't deserve my business.

The Occupy protests and the waking up of the American populous.

Le Grotte Lambrusco Dell'Emilia Bianco. I've become allergic to many wines, but thankfully I'm not allergic to my favorite cheap ($4.50 at Trader Joe's!) white. The Lambrusco is slightly bubbly and on the sweet side, but not as sweet as a Riesling and much lighter.

I discovered a great old school neighborhood shoe repair place, Said's Quality Luggage and Shoe Repair at 3416 W. Irving Park, just a few blocks down the street from the office. The owner is happy to see you and provides affordable craftsmanship.

The repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell.

Koval Distillery. The first distillery in Chicago since prohibition.  Attended an very cool tour and tasting as a fund raiser for Rock For Kids. Koval makes great organic (& kosher) whiskies.

Best Shows:
Scott Biram at The Hideout
JC Brooks & The Uptown Sound at Double Door
Jon Langford & the Burlington Welsh Male Choir at the Hideout Block Party
Bright Eyes at Lolla


Justin Townes Earle's triumphant return to performing on the Letterman Show after a very difficult struggle with personal demons.  Watching him knock "Harlem River Blues" out of the park on a TV at Delilah's with a dozen or so other folks was a tremendous moment.

BEST NON BLOODSHOT SHOW:  Mavis Staples at the Hideout Block Party. A genuinely transporting evening. Joyous. Communal. And that groove … It didn't hurt that I was chatting with a pretty woman I've had a crush on for a dozen years. (Side note on that day: Booker T playing "Green Onions" was pretty mind blowing too.)

JD McPhersonSigns and Signifiers [HiStyle Records]
Produced by longtime Chicago cool guy (and damn, so nice too…) Jimmy Sutton(who also produced JC Brooks & the Uptown Sound album. How a guy from OK can so effectively and convincingly channel Don & Dewey, Tarhell Slim, Little Richard and wrap it up with the groove of Jerome Green on maracas-era Bo Diddley and still sound so fresh and urgent is well beyond me. Eleven of the 12 songs are fucking great. The other one merely excellent.

Well, all of them of course.

Strangest opportunity my nebulous position of notoriety dropped in my lap: "Celebrity" judge at the Jambalaya Cook Off at Fitzgerald's. Check this out, they GAVE me all the likker I could drink and told me to eat bowl after bowl of delicious jambalaya. If I were unsure of a judgment on a particular chef, I could ask for another bowl! SCORE!

Return drive from SXSW. Co-Pilot Janet Bean (Freakwater, Eleveneth Dream Day) brought the books on CD version of Moby Dick. Something like 18 CDs.  After the unceasing aural assault of Austin (oooh, alliteration …), it was a sheer delight to wallow in Melville's watery world of woe … As a bonus, it also drove our publicist Josh, who was in the backseat, quite insane.

The Grafton Pub in Lincoln Square, Chicago after our grand blizzard in February.  They have beer and a fireplace.  We trudged through the 2 and a half feet of snow and were welcomed with a great sense on community and survivor's joy.

Gorging myself on the boxed set of Six Feet Under. Quite possibly the best last episode ever.

BEST FICTION READ (not counting re-readings, such as "Catch 22"):
"Lust for Life," Irving Stone
Followed VERY closely by "A Solider of the Great War," Mark Helperin

"The Coldest Winter," David Halberstam

1. Canoe mishap on the Platte River, Northern MI.  Several bruised ribs
2. Bike collision with fixed gear maniac, Wilson Ave, Chicago. Right knee that size of a 16" softball
3. Zigging when I should have been zagging at 12,500 feet on Mt Princeton, Colorado.   Left ankle wrecked, three torn ligaments, blown Achilles, grade three sprain.  Twenty-one weeks and counting of re-hab and physical therapy.  Budding career as foot model put on hold.


"Rio Bravo"
John Wayne in one of his best. A boozy Deano, a dreamy Ricky Nelson (oh, the gymnastics the writers had to do in order to provide a couple of occasions for them to duet ...), Claude Akins (BJ and the Bear!) as the baddie and a very young and very huzza huzza Angie Dickinson (Police Woman!). Bonus for Walter Brennan as Stumpy---with his authentic Western gibberish. Massively entertaining.

How could I NOT watch this? Playing the role of James Caan, the housebound and wounded prisoner: ME;  Playing the role of Kathy Bates, the insane and diabolical tormenter: my brain!

"Cool Hand Luke"
A no brainer, one of the best movies ever. George Kennedy appearance as the obsequious Dragline (“my boy can eat fitty eggs…”). Newman at the height of his powers and a hunka hunka burnin’ love to boot (I am comfortable with my man crush on him.) The prison metaphors to my life at this point need little explaining.

Honorable mentions: "Pee Wee's Big Adventure," Kubrick's "Paths of Glory,"  "Bladerunner," "Wall-E."


"The Matrix"
The nifty special effects are not a strong enough gargling agent to rid my mouth of the taste of all the mystical, quasi religious horseshit; give me Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure any day.

"A Few Good Men"
Eh. Can’t recall ever liking Tom Cruise in anything. He even annoyed me in The Outsiders before he was anyone.  A crime/courtroom procedural that failed to hold much interest for me.  Made me yearn for a good old-fashioned Russell Crowe blood feast like Gladiators. It’s a lot to endure just to get to Nicholson’s oft-quoted freak out at the end.

"New Jack City"
New Crap Movie.  Judd Nelson as a bad guy?  “Drugs, they aren’t a black thing, they aren’t a white thing, they’re a death thing.” Check, please.

Honorable mention:
"Woodstock:" Tried to watch this for a while but its interminable sanctimony made me want to retch and the music made me want to put a nail in my head.



Best (non-BS) Song: M83, "Midnight City" (I could drive around the city for hours listening to this song, if I could drive)
Best TV Show: Shameless (US), Walking Dead (redeemed itself in the last eps), True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Homeland
Best Movie: Martha Marcy May Marlene
Best Cult Movie: Troll Hunter
Best Gross Out Movie: The Human Centipede II
Best Documentary: The Interrupters
Best Ryan Gosling: Ryan Gosling
Best Ryan Gosling Movie of 2011: Drive
Best Ryan Gosling Backup: Tom Hardy
Best Ryan Gosling Meme: Typographer Gosling
Best Whiskey: Sheep Dip (specifically, it's a scotch)
Best Brewery Visit: Eagle Rock Brewery (Los Angeles, CA)
Best Meal: Tom's Steak House—eating steak, drinking red wine and martinis in this old-school steakhouse in Melrose Park with some of my favorite gal pals, while being outdrank by another group of gal pals in their 70s sitting next to us. We all wished it would be us in 40 years.
Best Favorite New Restaurant: Smashburger of the Chicagoland-area
Best Cocktail: RumChata on the rocks
Best Book: "The Snowman," Jo Nesbø


Best new release by an old dude: Tom Waits, Bad As Me
Best new show on TV: Bob’s Burgers
Best bar within a half block of the office: Lizard's
Best new food-truck/restaurant in the hood: Homage
Best Wings: Great Seas
Best incorrect Chicago prediction: Worst winter in recorded history [Ed note: Dude, it's only December …]
Best new flavor-of-the-moment on the internet: Spotify
Best Twitter feed: @QuothRob
Best Twitter Collective: @witstreamdotcom
Best internet thing I don’t use: Twitter


Favorite newfound old band and release: Brimstone Howl, Big Deal, What’s He Done Lately (Originally released in 2009, first heard by moi, in 2011 ... thanks Pete!)

Favorite new release: Tom Waits, Bad As Me

Favorite Book: “Life” by Keith Richards (I know, it came out in 2010, but I didn’t start it until after Xmas, last year). Don’t bother reading this cover to cover, as the storytelling follows anything but a straight line—just pick it up for 10 minutes before you go to bed, open it anywhere, and enjoy a few laughs.

Favorite pizza: LaPane, by Bloodshot. Received a perfectly sculpted pepperoni pizza, for lunch recently ... picture perfect, didn’t even want to eat it, it was so purty.

Favorite beer: A single frosty pint of Genesee Cream Ale, that was served up as a dessert of sorts, at Delilah’s, by proprietor Mike Miller. It had been a great late night of conversation with Mike and Pravda Records owner Kenn Goodman, after Kenn had just returned from his Euro tour with Andre Williams. I was about to leave and Mike swayed me to stay with the perfect nightcap. Delish!


Here are the things (there’s a podcast in there, too) that I’ve been listening to the most throughout the year. I didn’t include Bloodshot releases because I’ve told people about those enough already.

Crooked Fingers, Break in the Armor
Chad VanGaalen, Diaper Island [Ed note: Also gets nod for Worst Album Name of 2011]
JD McPherson, Signs and Signifiers
WTF Podcast with Marc Maron
Active Child, You Are All I See
Cloudkicker, Beacons
Eddie Vedder, Ukulele Songs – I know, I know…
The Ex, Catch My Shoe
Hayes Carll, KMAG YOYO
Obits, Moody Standard and Poor
The Dodos, No Color


In 2011 ...

I enjoyed old records I never figured I'd see newly reissued, like YMA SUMAC "Miracles" (Omni), JIM FORD "Harlan County" (A Light in The Attic), and Ed "Big Daddy" Roth's MR. GASSER & the WEIRDOS, as well as new records like JIM JONES REVIEW "Burning Your House Down," JACK OBLIVIAN "Rat City," KID CONGO POWERS "Gorilla Rose," HAYES CARLL "KMAG YOYO" and our own bountiful slate of Bloodshot and Misra Releases.

The best show I experienced was an all-day extravaganza at the fabulous Starlight Six Drive-In in Atlanta, the Drive Invasion. After an overcast afternoon drinking Yeunglings out of the trunk, we saw JACK OBLIVIAN tear it up in the pouring rain and we were sure his speakers were going to blow up. Then, the DEX ROMWEBER DUO played like mad for fans all huddled up close under a tent next to the snack shop. The rain finally cleared out, and the inimitable ROKY ERICKSON played "Night of the Vampire" just as it was getting dark and the drive in was lighting up & coming to life.

I had one of the best drinks I have ever had in my life at the unbelievable Mai Kai in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. All of their drinks are fantastic, but the Black Magic took the prize. Knocking back a few of those while watching a great exotica trio from New York who brought their own contortionist was memorable, even through the rum-haze, and set me off on an ongoing wild goose chase to try and reproduce it at home. I've come mighty close, even if I'm not drinking it watching a fake rainstorm in a sunken pirate ship bar in Florida.

The Mai Kai visit also led me to my favorite book of the year, "....And a Bottle of Rum: A History of the New World in Ten Cocktails" by Wayne Curtis.

This book has furthered a borderline unhealthy rum and Polynesian cocktail obsession that is not only continuing unabated going into 2012, but growing exponentially ...

... which leads me to my favorite local booze discovery of 2011, finding out Binny's Beverage Depot now stocks Lemonhart 151 Proof Rum. With that came finding out that you can really only have about two drinks with the magically delicious stuff before you don't remember who you are or what you were doing before drinking it.

The best thing I ate this year (and I ate it several times) was the braised beef short ribs and bacon mac & cheese at Magnolia Cafe on Wilson & Magnolia, right down the street from the homestead. There aren't words to describe the deliciousness. Backed by a couple of well prepared Rusty Nails (with brandied black cherries), this is what I imagine angels eat in heaven every day (and they are no doubt angels now due to too much bacon mac & cheese and scotch during their time on earth...)

Other high points include the live mermaid show at The Wreck Bar in  the Ft. Lauderdale Sheraton, stumbling on Dante's Down the Hatch in Atlanta, probably world's only pirate ship themed romantic fondue restaurant with live alligators and a torch song jazz combo, and realizing, yet again, just how great it is to escape to Milwaukee for a couple of days, have a Zombie at The Foundation, a perfectly prepared steak at the Jackson Grill, and a night cap at Bryant's Cocktail Lounge.


Snow photo via The Chicago Tribune.