20 30 in 07: Concerts

Was 2007 the best concert-going year of my life? Quite possibly. There might not have been any Sigur Ros or Radiohead shows (which are still my #2 and #1 favorite shows, respectively), but there were more than enough mindblowing performances to fill up my year. It’s only after compiling this list (which I just had to stretch to the top 30) that I realize what a great year this was for me. Here’s hoping 2008 manages to somehow top all this!

#30 Busdriver @ The Dame

[Original Post] Busdriver made the Dame feel like the hippest place in the world for just one night. His dual-mic antics were inspiring and hilarious. My only real concert regret in 2007 is that I missed his tour with Deerhoof.

#29: Elekibass @ The Icehouse

[Original Post] English is not the first language of Elekibass. No, rather these Japanese guys speak pop music as their primary mode of communication. Apparently the first thing their lead singer ever said to their tour partner Jason of Casper and the Cookies was “I want to be Ray Davies.” That about sums it up. That and roley-poley stage shows that made me laugh as much as I clapped.

#28: Bishop Allen @ The Mohawk [SXSW]

[Original Post] Even though this show didn’t top the list, it’ll always hold a special place in my heart as the first time I drank. Additionally, Bishop Allen tore it up two days in a row at the Mohawk — first for the Secretly Canadian/Jagjaguwar/Dead Oceans showcase and then for Hot Freaks! Plus, the ever feisty Justin Rice dedicated “Click, Click, Click” to me after I took dozens of photos of the band performing. Har har and thanks.

#27: Okkervil River @ The Mohawk [SXSW]

[Original Post] I had a friend tell me that Okkervil River was no good live. I now wouldn’t take that friend’s advice on which brand of toothpaste to buy. The show was great and made me SO ready to hear their new record.

#26: Regina Spektor @ Bonnaroo

[Original Post] Regina Spektor is possibly the cutest, sweetest, most gifted girl singer out there. My only regret about this show is that I had to miss most of her set to go shoot other bands. One day I’ll get to see her play “Fidelity” and it’ll break my ha-a-a-a. heart.

#25: Bloc Party @ Madison Theater

[Original Post] I was so pissed that I arrived too late to catch Deerhoof (and Smooch!) on one of the most stacked tour bills of the year. Even though I arrived disheartened, I left elated at the show I’d just witnessed. Bloc Party made a fan out of me that night.

#24: GZA @ Pitchfork

[Original Post] I was thrilled to get to throw up my W to a Wu-Tang member for the second time in my life. But while I skipped out on Ghostface after two songs last year (biggest concert mistake of my life? Probably.) I was fairly well prepared for GZA at Pitchfork. Next up: catch the Wu together in concert and makeup for that error with another Ghostface solo performance!

#23: Smashing Pumpkins @ Voodoo

[Original Post] Yeah, Billy looked like he fell out of a weird, gay Willie Wonka closet, but it was OK. Even more than I never thought I’d get to hear “Hummer” live, I never thought I’d hear “Set the Ray to Jerry.” Unfortunately I ducked out before the encore and missed covers of The Arrows’ “I Love Rock and Roll” and CCR’s “Born on the Bayou.” Oh well.

#22: Girl Talk @ Pitchfork

Talk about converting someone. I’d never been a fan of Girl Talk’s studio stuff (I downloaded it and deleted it before it came out) but HOLY HELL was I won over by his Pitchfork performance. Plus the live vocals by Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear didn’t hurt either.

#21: The Police @ Bonnaroo

[Original Post] I’m sort of cheating with this one. I caught only the first two songs of the Police’s performance due to photo pit restrictions and my rush to get to the Flaming Lips’ stage. Still, those two songs were sah-weeeet!

#20: Stephen Malkmus @ Pitchfork

[Original Post] I had fairly low expectations going into this one. I’d been assured that when he plays solo, Malkmus often does Pavement songs. Big whoop, I though. I want to hear some solo stuff rocked out with a full band. You know, like his Bonnaroo performance that blew my face off. About five minutes in I was convinced that this would be one of the most memorable shows of the festival. Once Bob Nastanovich came out for a halfway Pavement reunion I knew it would be something worth telling my grandkids about. OK, well at least telling the occasional customer at the record store.

#19: M.I.A. @ Voodoo

[Original Post]
Man, my whole trip to New Orleans was one of my year’s personal highlights. Should it be any surprise, then, that the dance queen of 2007 put on one hell of a show?

#18: Man Man @ The Southgate House (2x) / Dame

[Original Post & Original Post] I’m not going to pick a favorite Man Man show that I saw this year, but I will say that there’s really no bad way to experience the band. I took friends who’d never heard Man Man before and they came out of the show begging to accompany me to the one in two days. Likewise, I was even more indoctrinated into the cult of Man Man by going from diligent photographer in Newport to drunk off bourbon and UK’s victory over LSU in Lexington. Not to play favorites, but drunk and in the front row is definitely a better way to see the band which I frequently liken to Where the Wild Things Are.

#17: Rage Against the Machine @ Voodoo

[Original Post] Reunited and it feels so good! Rage were a ton of fun, then a lot of guilt (is it OK to dance to a song about oppression?), then back to fun. They’ve lost none of the anger and power, even if I’ve long forgotten what they were angry about.

#16: Wilco @ Voodoo / Louisville Slugger Field / Bonnaroo

[Original Post & Original Post] Man, Wilco blew me away so much in 2007. Voodoo barely takes the cake with the encore-closing, guitar-dueling version of “Hoodoo Voodoo,” but Louisville had the neverending setlist and a beautiful take on “California Stars” and “Casino Queen.”

#15: Spoon @ Bonnaroo

[Original Post] I had to leave Spoon’s set halfway through to snap a few photos of someone else. I ran back to the tent just in time to catch “Jonathan Fisk,” one of my favorite songs of theirs.

#14: Vampire Weekend @ The Old Tar Distillery

[Original Post] Some kids from up north put on one of the best shows I saw all year and they did it in a remodled old warehouse. Not to kill my point, but bands like Vampire Weekend rarely ever come through the Bluegrass, let alone for a free, all-ages show in my hometown. It was a pleasure to help put on the show, and an even greater joy to witness it.

#13: Andrew Bird @ The Brown Theater / Southgate House

[Original Post &
Original Post] Andrew Bird surprise #1 this year came when I found out he was touring with a bassist. It sounded good, so I went with it. Super surprise #2 came when I found out that his show at the Brown Theater was a solo gig! I’ve seen him many more times that I can fit on one hand, but he’s always had a drummer with him (Dosh or the fellow before him). Not to slight any of his collegues, but this show was the best I’ve ever seen him put on. We got covers, endearing stories and the joy of watching him craft each song through layers of sound.

#12: Grizzly Bear @ ACL / Pitchfork

[Original Post (ACL) &
Original Post (P4K)] If I were in a band, I’d want to shoot a live DVD under the conditions which Grizzly Bear played their ACL party show. The band played in front of a rocky outcropping which had the most wonderful and simplistic visuals I’ve seen. Colored smoke twirled behind and around the band members, a perfect contrast to their winding songs.

#11: Menomena @ The Mohawk [SXSW – Hot Freaks!]

[Original Post]
I had no idea what to expect from the men who crafted Friend and Foe. How would they pull that off live and with only three people? Well the answer is with lots of multi-tasking and skill. I wish I’d gotten to catch them playing with the huge choir, but that letdown is only slight.

#10: Daft Punk @ Lollapalooza

How weird was it to watch LCD Soundsystem sing “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” while the French robotic duo was setting up across the field? Very. Robot rock saved my soul that night.

#9: Clipse @ Pitchfork

[Original Post]
Hip hop duos are a deadly thing at Pitchfork. Last year it was Aesop Rock and Mr. Lif, this year it was Clipse. I left the show with a significantly increased interest in dealing coke and buying a pager.

#8: Of Montreal @ Pitchfork/The Southgate House

[Original Post & Original Post] Pitchfork was possibly the best Of Montreal performance that I’ve seen. They’re one of my favorite live bands ever and Kevin and the gang really know how to please a crowd. They brought out every treat imaginable, from on-the-spot artwork by David Barnes to a cover of the Kinks.

#7: Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy @ Headliners

[Original Post] I feel more complete now — I’m a Kentuckian who has seen Will Oldham in concert. The show was beautiful and full of surprises (Matt Sweeney? David Pajo?!). Yeah, it felt a little weird to see Blowfly afterwards (kind of like watching porn after taking a walk through the forest), but it didn’t take away from the beauty.

#6: LCD Soundsystem @ Waterfront Park / Lollapalooza

Original Post
[Original Post] LCD Soundsystem’s performance in Louisville was just perfect. Really just perfect. The visuals were amazing, complete with disco ball reflections to dance through the smoke. James Murphy was in top form at the Waterfront, alternating between passionate rock star and self-deprecating, lovable human being. Win Butler joined them for “North American Scum” and they closed with “New York, I Love You But You’re Bringing Me Down.” On the ride up I said that was one of my favorite songs of the year and I figured they’d never play it. I’ve never been so glad to be wrong.

#5: Polyphonic Spree @ The Vogue / City Hall / Hot Freaks

[Original Post] This was the first year I’ve seen the Polyphonic Spree. I saw them for the first time in Austin, TX at our SXSW day party. I’ve now seen them five times and can’t wait for number six. Seeing the Spree is more than just a concert. I’ve caught them when I’ve been depressed and worn down, I’ve seen them when happy and with friends; it’s always the same — a great show that lifts my spirits. I cannot suggest that you see this band enough. Also I have to note that their covers of Nirvana’s “Lithium” and David Bowie’s “Memory of a Free Festival” were probably the best live covers I experienced this year.

#4: The White Stripes @ Bonnaroo

[Original Post] When I’m bored at the record store, I’m most likely thinking about how times have changed musically. The White Stripes are, I feel, the last connection we have with the early years of rock and roll. Jack White is Johnny Cash, Bob Dylan, Jimmy Page and Gene Clark rolled up into one. Their show at Bonnaroo was an epic performance that left me questioning why it’s so hard for bands to create what seems to flow effortlessly from Jack and Meg. It’s two people in red on stage and they put on one of the best shows I’ll likely ever see in my life.

#3: Sufjan Stevens @ Memorial Hall

[Original Post] When I saw Sufjan touring behing Illinois, I was frankly quite disappointed. I heard from some other people that their Kentucky show was supposedly the worst of the tour. Well, far be it for me to write off one of our generation’s best songwriters after one reasonably enjoyable show. Sufjan’s show at Memorial Hall in Cincinnati as part of the Music Now! festival was the stuff of music nerd dreams. The show was deathly silent and almost religious (fitting, as it was Easter eve). When Sufjan shyly came out in sock feet for a solo encore of “To Be Alone With You,” I nearly cried.

#2: The Arcade Fire @ Austin City Limits Taping / Waterfront Park

[Original Post] The studio where they tape Austin City Limits performances is possibly the greatest place you could see a band play. Sitting a dozen or so feet from the Arcade Fire, watching them play the songs by which our generation will hopefully be remembered (yeah, right), I couldn’t help but feel more connected to music in a live setting than I’d been in a long time. It was beautiful, powerful and moving.

#1: The Flaming Lips @ Bonnaroo

[Original Post] Going into the Flaming Lips’ show at Bonnaroo, I couldn’t help but worry that I’d set myself up for a fall. After all, this wasn’t like being blindsided like a life-changing performance (Sigur Ros), I had already built their show up to be the best thing I could experience in my terrestrial life. Luckily Wayne and Co. have proven that no matter how high you set the bar, enough armloads of confetti, lazer pointers and balloons will turn great music into the greatest time of your life. Thank goodness they released the live Zoo performance DVD this year so I can relive the magic any time I want.

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