Archive for January, 2011

Favorite concerts of 2010.

Saturday, January 1st, 2011

Entries from previous years: 2000-2009 | 2009

In 2010, I went to 77 concerts at 28 venues in 6 states and saw a total of 195 bands. Here are some of the most memorable, in no particular order:

1. the Pitchfork Music Festival (16-18 July 2010, Union Park, Chicago, IL)
Yes, the P4k festival makes my list every year, and it’s partly because of the experience of catching up with old friends and partly because of the bands themselves: seeing killer sets by Robyn and by LCD Soundsystem, finally getting to see the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion (I know, I know– where was I during the 1990s?!), talking politics and religion with a good friend during Pavement‘s fairly boring set, shooting photos of Sleigh Bells from the foot of the stage, running into a friend I hadn’t seen in 10 years during Beach House‘s sunny afternoon set, and seeing Lightning Bolt spit out its noisy attack from an actual stage. Not to mention the best chai tea latte on the planet, a gigantic slumber party in the P4k HQ, debates about Can-Neu!-Faust-Cluster, and learning how to keep up our perpetual groove. More, please!

2. Joanna Newsom (22 March 2010, the 6th & I Historic Synagogue, Washington, DC)
Newsom’s Have One On Me is one of my favorite albums of 2010, but it wasn’t just the strength of her songs that made this show (my review for Express is published here) so fantastic: it was her presence and the hushed silence of the venue that heightened the intensity of this show.

3. Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan (15 October 2010, the Rock & Roll Hotel, Washington, DC)
Lanegan has made my list two years in a row– his show with Soulsavers was on my favorite concerts of 2009 list last year. His three albums with Isobel Campbell are hit-or-miss, but his voice is absolutely breathtaking, and his presence live– barely cracking a smile, barely making eye contact with the audience, tattoos on every phalanx of every finger– heightens the pain in his seductively gravelly voice.

4. Isis and the Melvins (16 June 2010, the 9:30 Club, Washington, DC)
Despite being a huge Isis fan, I’d never seen them live, but their final tour ever seemed like a good enough time to break that streak. This show was great– I can’t even begin to capture the details here, but our friend Chris over at has a nice review posted here. The band was poorly-lit, but listening to the show in the darkness, I realized that it sounded as though Isis was playing with Travis Beans (i.e., my favorite guitars of all time). Once the lights went up, I saw that they were in fact EGCs, but hey, close enough– don’t know why I’ve been so out of the loop about Isis’s gear, but it just goes to show that these aluminum-necked beasts have one heck of a distinctive sound.

5. Arcade Fire and Spoon (6 August 2010, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD)
This concert remains memorable for me not so much because of the music (which was great, don’t get me wrong– my review for Express is posted here) but because of the experience. It was the first time in my concert-going career where I had a roadtrip/tailgate at a concert with a big group of friends. They all had seats up on the lawn, but they passed around my extra close-up ticket, so every 3-4 songs, I had a different friend standing next to me. It was such an incredible experience, watching everyone’s different reactions to the view and sound from close up, and it was pretty incredible to experience sharing music with other people when my concert-going ventures are usually solitary.

6. Swans (29 September 2010, the Black Cat, Washington, DC)
There’s so much I could say about this show; I said a lot of it in my review for Express, which is posted here. It’s almost impossible, though, to capture in words the experience of seeing live a band that I’d been waiting to see for 15 years, that I never thought I’d get to see. (see also: seeing the Jesus Lizard in 2009).

7. Jay-Z (3 March 2010, the Verizon Center, Washington, DC)
It’s no secret that I’m not really a huge hip-hop fan. I like some of it, sure, but it’s not what i seek out on a regular basis. Still, even I could appreciate how much Jay-Z absolutely killed it at his Verizon Center show in March (my original review, for Express, is posted here). After having just seen the Black-Eyed Peas phone it in at the same venue a few weeks earlier, it was refreshing and energizing to see a performer so invested in his live show.

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