I end up going to a lot of shows, but these were my 10 favorite of this year. The Hold Steady, Pavement and The Extra Lens/John Vanderslice link to bootlegs of the shows. If you have recordings of any of the others, I’d love to hear them.
10. The Hold Steady with The Oranges Band – Westcott Theater – Syracuse, NY – April 10
The Hold Steady is always a great show. The speakers blare as singer Craig Finn drags his microphone stand back and forth across the sing. The crowd is always into it, and Syracuse was no exception, singing anthems like “Constructive Summer” and “Stevie Nix” at the top of their lungs. The 24-song set is available for download at The Hold Steady Taped Show Archive.
9. Vampire Weekend with Beach House and Dum Dum Girls – Main Street Armory – Rochester, NY – September 10
The last time Vampire Weekend played in Rochester, they opened for Dirty Projectors and Yacht at the Bug Jar, which has a capacity of about 200. This year, they played Main Street Armory – which boasts a capacity of 6,500. I don’t think it sold out, but it was close. They put on a great, energetic show, but for my money, Beach House stole the show.
8. Pavement – Central Park Summerstage – New York, NY – September 23
Going to see the reunited Pavement in Central Park was a last-minute decision. My friend Zack had been mulling it over for a while, patrolling Craigslist for cheap tickets. He found some that, when you factor in overnighting them from Chicago, ended up being less than face value. Zack and I piled into his car with our friend Sam and made the six-hour drive to New York. We ended up being the first ones in the gate – front row, center. I left Central Park with a drum stick from drummer Steve West and “Gold Soundz” in my head for a week. You can download the show at nyctaper.
7. Gayngs with Glasser – Alfred University – Alfred, NY – October 1
Gayngs only played about 10 shows – ever. They played all the big cities – New York, Chicago, Boston… and Alfred, N.Y. Alfred was about a 20-minute drive from school, so I couldn’t pass up the chance to see Gayngs. The whole band dressed in white, played their whole album (plus a Sade cover) and did the strangest encore I’ve ever seen. After their last song, the band kept jamming, with members slowly trickling off stage, but a few even came back. I listened to “Relayted” nonstop for about a week after.
6. Titus Andronicus and Free Energy with Tropical Punk – Castaways – Ithaca, NY – August 25
This was the second time I saw Free Energy over the summer of 2010 – the first was with Mates of State. They were the real draw for me – catchy anthems like “Free Energy” and “Hope Child” – but I couldn’t help but get into Titus Andronicus after seeing their show. They played a blistering live set, starting with “A More Perfect Union.” Even though their songs are all pretty long, they never lost any steam.
5. The Extra Lens with John Vanderslice and Dan Mangan – Mercury Lounge – New York, NY – October 21
John Darnielle is both one of my favorite songwriters and one of my favorite performers for mostly the same reason – his gift with words. He tells the best stories – in song and on stage. If you listen to the recorded show, a good chunk of it is devoted to his musings between songs. His musical performance with Franklin Bruno as the Extra Lens was great, and his banter is some of the funniest I’ve ever heard.
4. The Avett Brothers with The Low Anthem – State Theatre – Ithaca, NY – February 26
To get to this show, my girlfriend and I had to drive through a blizzard. In the two-and-a-half hour drive to Ithaca, we saw a car go off the road – and not much else besides snow. Even more stressful, the show was already sold out. I had requested tickets on the guest list (the perks of working as a music director) and was told they would be there – but that’s never a guarantee. But we made it and the tickets were there. Both the Avett Brothers and the Low Anthem put on a great show. I’m already making plans to see the Avett Brothers when they play the Smith Opera House this February.
3. My Morning Jacket and The New Pornographers – CMAC – Canandaigua, NY – August 28
Usually there aren’t many concerts close to where I live, but luckily CMAC in Canandaigua, N.Y. partnered with Bowery Presents to bring in some great shows. My Morning Jacket was one of the last shows of the summer concert season – I moved back to school a day late to see it. The New Pornographers (sans Neko Case, unfortunately) opened to a lukewarm crowd while the sun set. It was a good performance but seemed like the wrong setting. My Morning Jacket melted faces, though. The set was heavy, blurring the lines of psychedelic and folk rock. Even through the jams and extended guitar solos, the band was completely mesmerizing.
2. Of Montreal and Janelle Monae – Town Ballroom – Buffalo, NY – September 19
This show was the second in a two-day stint the weekend before my twenty-first birthday – I had gone to see Ra Ra Riot in Geneva the night before. I was completely unprepared for this show, though. First, Janelle Monae delivered a fantastic performance – covering ground in funk, soul, pop and hip-hop. Then, Of Montreal completely floored me. They played most of the songs from their latest, False Priest, and a few old ones like “She’s a Rejector” and “The Party’s Crashing Us.” Their performance was filled with dancing, actors dressed as animals, monsters or any number of things, and a giant feather explosion at the end. They ended the party with an encore of Michael Jackson covers.
1. The Flaming Lips and the Black Keys – CMAC – Canandaigua, NY – July 23
This was an easy choice for my favorite concert of the year. If you’ve ever seen the Flaming Lips perform, you’ll know why. The band starts their performance with singer Wayne Coyne rolling over the crowd in a giant space bubble, and it only gets better from there. They couple their performance with psychedelic lights, confetti explosions, dancing monsters and bears, and giant balloons that explode with more confetti. The Black Keys were an outstanding opener too. The show was unforgettable and easily ranks among my favorite concerts of all time.