There were a couple of defining moments for me in 2002, but the one that stands out is the night Spoon played Graceland. I'd listened to Spoon records and been unimpressed, but I decided to go because I kept reading about how people loved them and crap like that. I stayed for 20 minutes of their set and was bored out of my head. It was an example of the worst kind of indie rock show--tame, neat, and tiring.

So I left, headed down to Industrial Coffee, and watched the Spits play a fucking rock show.

The Spits were dressed in matching Nikki Sixx wigs, and they sped through their punk set like truckers on a bucket of No-Doz. In the corner, Vas from the Girls was jumping in and out of a shopping cart as the rest of the crowd tried to pogo without falling on their neighbors.

Although it might sound like it, that night wasn't about being drunk. It was just about this really excited, kid-on your-birthday kind of vibe that comes out every time the Spits play. A costumed band (the costumes vary) that plays catchy, clipped, old-school punk is just the kind of band I want to see on a Saturday night, because for me, music is 99.9 percent about the live Saturday-night (or even Friday-night) show. It's the feeling of release from everyday constrained society--when you can rock out with a high-energy band--that really gets me off.

That's been a point for me ever since I was in high school in Portland, checking out punk shows at the X-Ray Cafe and the Pine Street Theater, excited that the barrier between me and whatever band I'd paid five bucks to see was temporarily smaller. So yeah, I was one of those dumb girls who'd try to jump up on stage, but more often I was jumping off the stage, feeling the ecstatic, controlled riot come together to pass me and some shoeless, sweaty dude over their heads.

I love watching bands that embody that berserk live feeling whenever they play. The singers who swing from the rafters on the stage, the frontpeople who roll around on the ground, the characters who leave the barriers between you (the fan) and them (the artists) in tatters like a 50-cent guitar. It's a chance to be part of something bigger and greater than another goddamn night out at another goddamn show at another goddamn club.

One of my favorite musicians in my recent hometown of San Francisco is John Dwyer. As the "Pink" in the no-wave spaz-rock duo Pink & Brown (RIP), he was always fucking things up in the best way. He once shoved a guitar through the ceiling at some dive bar, and he could always be counted on to jump up on tables, crash into Brown's drum kit, and collect nasty-looking bruises at his shows. Not that music should be about violence, but I love it when it's about insanity, risk, and excitement. (Dwyer's now in the Coachwhips and Zeigenbock Kopf.)

This year's Oops! tour was also pretty fucking amazing. The way Lightning Bolt just started their noise-metal set on the back of the previous band's song, or the intensity of the Blood Brothers (who are pure genius) stealing the whole show, or the ferocity of the Locust's Justin Pearson, who baited the audience until some guy threw a sack of white powder at his head. The lineup had a charge that only a cocktail of Red Bull and testosterone could match.

And yeah, I've heard all the "it's been done before," arms-crossed, jaded-person-on-the-street criticism. So what if dressing up, smashing your guitars, and playing great punk/rock/garage/noise isn't so brand spanking new? I don't care. I'd rather be out on a Saturday night next to crazy shopping-cart dancers or young screaming punk bands busting a lung than sitting home bitching about how much better things used to be. In the words of the pop-metal messiah Andrew W. K., "The word 'party' in music means nothing more than the acceptance of everything in the world and the excitement that it's possible." Rock on, and happy New Year.

The Spits play at the Crocodile Sat Dec 21.

Top 11 Times I Was Happy to Be There in 2002 (In No Particular Order):Pink & Brown at a kissing-booth party in San Francisco

The Spits at Industrial Coffee/Sit & Spin

The Gloryholes and the Ones at the Comet

Andrew W. K. at Graceland (twice)

Queens of the Stone Age w/the Dillinger Escape Plan and the Icarus Line at the Showbox

...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead at Graceland

The Graceland summer prom

The Whip at a Halloween house party in the U-District

The Catheters and Mudhoney at the Electric Ballroom in London

Pho Bang almost any time

The Oops! show at Graceland

jennifer@thestranger.com

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