Favorite concerts of 2009.

In 2009, I went to 44 different concerts at 18 different venues in 4 different states and saw a total of 127 different bands. Here are some of my favorites, in no particular order:

1. Big Shoulders Inauguration Ball presented by the Hideout Chicago & Interchange (20 January 2009, the Black Cat, Washington, DC)
‘Twas the night before the inauguration, and I fell into a friend’s +1 for this great show, full of fantastic Chicago bands. It was a marathon, but there were so many great performances: Tortoise (who are always great, and their performance of “Along the Banks of Rivers” this night totally slayed), Ken Vandermark, John Herndon, and Jeff Parker (performing the songs of Sun Ra), Freakwater, Eleventh Dream Day, and the Waco Brothers. It also reminded me how much has changed just in 4 years; I know that’s such a cliché, but four years ago (20 January 2005) at the same venue was a very different kind of pre-inauguration show; it was called Noise Against Fascism and featured Mirror/Dash (Kim Gordon & Thurston Moore), Chris Corsano & Paul Flaherty, Magik Markers, and To Live and Shave in L.A. It was a great, great noise show, which I photographed for the Wire), but it was a totally different energy from this one– and even the people I go to shows with (and see at shows!) has changed dramatically since 2005.

2. Mastodon (12 May 2009 at the 9:30 club, Washington, DC, and 31 October 2009 at the Patriot Center, Fairfax, VA)
Things have changed a lot for Mastodon since I first fell in love with them, and I never thought I’d see them in a big basketball arena. on Halloween. with hundreds of people singing along. Both of these shows were great; I think the 9:30 club was probably better musically, but the Halloween show had such a great energy with the people there in costume (one was even dressed as the undead Rasputin, from Crack the Skye!). Both shows had such a great personal energy as well; stood outside the 9:30 talking to Chris until about 2 AM after the first show (thereby missing all of the deadlines I had for him the next day), and spent the round-trip drive to and from the Patriot Center nerding out about music and metal with Brandon (who totally reminded me how great that Orthrelm album is).

3. the Pitchfork Music Festival (17-19 July, Union Park, Chicago, IL)
It’s probably cheating for me to list this, but I do every year. It’s always a great time personally (this year, it was a weekend-long slumber party, turning the P4k HQ into a 9-person group house for those three days), seeing tons of old friends that I only get to see once a year. And, of course, a bazillion fantastic bands. Personal highlight this year was, of course, the Jesus Lizard, whom I’ve wanted to see ever since Goat came out in 1991. And ooh boy, it was worth the wait: within 1 second of starting the set, David Yow sailed right over me in the photo pit and began crowdsurfing. I lost one of my favorite earrings in the melée, but it was totally worth it. Other highlights: Bowerbirds, Lindstrom, the Very Best, Dianogah (with Rebecca Gates), and lengthy discussions of donk.

4. Soulsavers (20 September, the Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington, DC)
I rushed over to this show right after rehearsal and missed their first few songs (and Red Ghost’s entire opening set), but the addition of Mark Lanegan to this band just totally kills. That voice, that voice….

5. Neil Halstead (25 March, the Talking Head, Baltimore, MD)
I used to road-trip up to Baltimore to see shows all the time, but I went up for only two this year– this one and Jucifer/Mount Vicious at the Ottobar. There’s something about Neil Halstead’s hushed serenity that taks me to a calmer place, and even though his solo music hasn’t been loved by most critics, I just can’t get enough of it. And he played Slowdive’s “Alison”.

6. Future of the Left (29 October, the Rock N Roll Hotel, Washington, DC)
Rare is the rock show that entertains with words as much as with music– I wish I could remember all the hilarious things these guys said and did.

7. Lady Gaga (29 September, DAR Constitution Hall, Washington, DC)
I don’t go to as many big-name, mainstream concerts since I lost my primary concert review outlet, but this show reminded me why I enjoy them so much: these types of shows are just such a great spectacle. There were so many girls and boys dressed up like Gaga (in other words: wearing barely more than their underwear), making for some of the best peoplewatching around. Oh, and of course, Ms. Gaga herself is always so enchanting to watch. She doesn’t have an amazing voice, but she knows how to use what she’s got in a way that’s hard to look away. It wasn’t about big stage sets (her props were fairly minimal) or legions of backup dancers (there were 3)– it was all about HER. And from the skimpy costumes to a tender hope that her dad would make it through heart surgery, you never quite know what she’s going to say or do next.

The full list of bands I saw (alphabetically) is after the jump. Bands I saw more than once are listed in bold.

The Autumnshades.com 2009 concert attendance roster, listed alphabetically by band.

A Cappella Showcase Chorus
Andrew Bird
the Antlers
Author Thomas Frank
Ball in the House
Big Business
Bill Callahan
Blitzen Trapper
the Black Lips
the Blackjacks
Blue Jupiter (x2)
Bob Malone
the Bobs
Built to Spill
Camera Obscura
Cartoon Johnny (x3)
the Chromatics
Cymbals Eat Guitars
David “Honeyboy” Edwards
Death By Sexy
Double Shot!
the Dutchess and the Duke
Fiction Family
the Field
Final Fantasy
the Flaming Lips
Frightened Rabbit
Fucked Up
Future of the Left
Greg Laswell
Grizzly Bear
the Handsome Family
Handsome Furs
High on Fire
Icy Demons
InChant (Ohio State University at Marion)
Jennifer O’Connor
Jenny Owen Youngs
the Jesus Lizard
Jon Langford & Sally Timms
Jucifer (x2)
Judson Claiborne
Kate Voegele
Ken Vandermark w/ John Herndon & Jeff Parker (performing the songs of Sun Ra)
Keri Noble
Killer Whales
Kismet (hey, it counts!)
Lady Gaga
Lymbyc System
the Mae Shi
Marissa Nadler
Mastodon (x2)
Matt & Kim
the Meat Puppets
Michael Columbia
Miss Derringer
Mount Vicious
the National
Neil Halstead
Neko Case
Nico Vega
Passing Notes (William & Mary)
the Pains of Being Pure at Heart
Pharoahe Monch
PJ Harvey / John Parish
Plants and Animals
Pop Parker
Rachael Sage
Red No. 5
Retribution Gospel Choir
Samantha Crain & the Midnight Shivers
Sian Alice Group
South Lakes HS Men’s A Cappella
South Lakes HS Women’s A Cappella
South Lakes Singers
Surprise, Arizona!
Ted Leo
the Thermals
TJ Madrigals
TJ Sr Quintet (aka “Sons of Pitches”)
Tonic & Gin (x2)
Tortoise (x2)
Uncle Kracker
Uninhabitable Mansions
the Very Best
Vienna Falls Chorus
Violet Says 5
Vivian Girls
Vocal Line
Vocal Line (female)
Vocal Line (male)
the Von Bondies
Waco Brothers
the Walkmen
Will Scheff
the Wooden Birds
Yo La Tengo

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