As 2014 winds down, it is the time of the year to reflect on some of the music I saw live this year. These were my favorite 25 sets out of ones that I saw this year (I will be finishing this year at around 50 shows/festivals attended, almost one per week, and I am not sure how many total sets I saw (and I am not going back to count that). Anyways, here are my 25 favorite sets of 2014 with a short reason why I dug them so much and a picture taken from my Instagram account for each. They are more or less in chronological order. Most were in Baltimore or DC, unless otherwise noted. All pictures are by me.
Pixies, Electric Factory in Philly, January 2014
This was a cold night. We braved the cold and drove the two hours to the show, barely making it in time to catch all of Pixies set. It was crowded, a heater was blasting me while a draft on the wall was also freezing me, but it was a great time. I finally saw Pixies live, and with someone who was also a huge fan (my fiance). Plus it counted as a celebration for my birthday for this year. Even leaving the city heading the wrong way and having an hour added to our commute home cant tarnish the memory of their set, seeing all of these classics live with an enthusiastic crowd of fans.
Weekends, Ottobar in Baltimore, January 2014
I am a big fan of Weekends. Too bad they are going on a break, with one member moving away. The music these two can make sounds as big as a four piece band. Plus I love it when people switch instruments during a set. I am glad I get to see them at least one more time, at the upcoming Friends Records Anniversary party at the Ottobar.
Multicult, Stem Graphics in HarCo, February 2014
This whole night was pretty memorable. From the fist fight during Roomrunner’s set, to excellent offerings from One Watt Sun and Two Inch Astronaut, it was an all around good night of music. Multicult were no different, ripping through a set of precise and chugging riffs. This was also only one of a few times I saw them this year. Each was great. They do not disappoint. RIYL Shellac.
Priests, Barclay House in Baltimore, April 2014
I am a casual fan of Priests. I saw them a long time ago at the Black Cat in DC (with at least one less member I think). And then I saw them at a house show. And they were pretty rocking. Singer Katie is one hell of a front person, yelping and singing her way through politically charged ditties. The band played their surf punk rock and we had a blast in a basement. One day they will be huge and I will be able to think back on seeing them in a basement. With a pentagram on the wall.
Wolf Eyes, Current Space lot in Baltimore, April 2014
April. An outside show. What could go wrong? How about the coldest show that I ever experienced? It was freezing but the jams these trip metal masters brought were warm. This was my second live Wolf Eyes experience, and it was just as brutal as the first.
Cloud Cult, Sixth and I in DC, April 2014
Cloud Cult are one of my favorite bands. Their music helped me get through some tough times. Sixth and I is usually one of my least favorite places to see a show. But for some reason, this time it was just right. Cloud Cult did two sets, one acoustic and one electric. The reworkings of the tracks into acoustic songs was a nice touch to old favorites, and they brought their normal energy. I almost had to skip it because I was sick, but I sucked it up and ventured out and am glad I did.
Swans, Black Cat in DC, May 2014
Swans are one of the best bands I have ever seen live. This set was similar to the first one that I saw. Crushing riffs, 30 minute songs… Two hours long… But at least this time the no Air Conditioning rule was not in effect, as it was the first time I saw them. I am looking forward to seeing them next year at a different venue, in Baltimore.
The Skull Defekts, the Gold Bar in Baltimore, May 2o14
Sadly, this set was sans Daniel Higgs. But, they still rocked. They played what they call Street Metal, and I rocked to the percussive big muffed tunes.
Matmos, Fifth Dimension in Baltimore, May 2014
This was at a fundraiser for High Zero. There were not that many people there at the warehouse space. Matmos were very friendly and Drew let me and my friend sit on the stage during their set. It was a mix of video and electronics, and was but one part of an incredible night that also featured a synth piece by Dan Deacon and a killer set by Horse Lords.
Microkingdom, the Crown, May 2014
What happens in Baltimore? Not only will you get a great set by jazz weirdos Microkingdom, but you will also get Sam from Future Islands to join them for a cover. Which they set up on the spot.
Wildhoney, the Crown in Baltimore May 2014
Wildhoney get better and better. Their shoegaze really sounds great live. I have been a fan for a long time, and am really enjoying experiencing their evolution.
Wing Dam, Ottobar in Baltimore, June 2014
Wing Dam are one of my favorites. They are super nice people who play some chilled out fuzzed out rock and roll. I have seen them a few times, and this one was as rad as never.
Guerilla Toss, Metro Gallery in Baltimore, June 2014
I did not know what to expect from Guerilla Toss. What I did experience was a short, intense set of rock and roll with a memorable jumping around like a wild person, front woman.
Dark Blue, Metro Gallery, July 2014
I finally saw a Sharkey band. I was actually at a show for another of his projects, Puerto Rico Flowers, but sadly I left early. This band, while way different, still allowed me a chance to see Mr Sharkey and company rock out. This Philly band should be seen by all rock fans.
Kowloon Walled City, Metro Gallery, July 2014
These guys rock. They are heavy, heavy, heavy. This whole bill was stacked, but this set was really special since I don’t have the ability to see Kowloon Walled City that often.
Neutral Milk Hotel, Merriweather Post Pavilion, July 2014
This was my third experience seeing NMH live. I saw them at 2640 Space for their return show in 2o13. I also saw them at DAR in DC earlier this year. But this set was my favorite. The set was about the same, but it was the night before I went on vacation with my fiance and her family, and the day before I proposed to her. It was us and her sister and her sister’s boyfriend, and we had a great time listening to great music on a summer night, while I was still on a high from telling her parents my intentions to marry her, immediately before the show. (also, another no picture NMH show so I snapped this crap one just because).
Charanjit Singh, Tropicalia in DC, August 2014
I heard of Charanjit Singh from a friend, and went to a Kennedy Center show that was cut way short due to a transportation issue. But he was also playing that night at a nightclub, so all was not lost. He rocked his 1980s seminal album and had the DC crowd dancing.
Joanna Gruesome, the Rock and Roll Hotel in DC, August 2o14
I saw these Welsh musicians with a stacked bill – which included Potty Mouth and Perfect Pussy. They did not let me down. They had an infectious energy that did not let up their whole set.
Horse Lords, Fields Festival, August 2014
I have seen Horse Lords hypnotic krautrock several times, but this set was my favorite. Usually they play two long songs, for about 20 to 30 minutes. This night under the stars in the woods with a lot of the Baltimore arts community for 45 minutes, it was true bliss.
clipping, Metro Gallery, September 2014
Clipping make noise. Clipping make raps that make you think. Both are delivered with a technical precession, both live and on album. I cant stress enough how noise and hip hop heads need to check them out.
Placebo, Fillmore Silver Spring, October 2014
This was a dream come true. I first heard Placebo in 1998, and really got into them in 2001 while living in South Korea and have been a huge fan ever since. The only chance I had to see them was about five years ago in Baltimore, but that show was cancelled due to illness. This was worth the wait. The Fillmore’s sound system rocked that night, and they played a set of old and new tunes.
Roomrunner, Metro Gallery, October 2014.
Roomrunner is one my favorite bands. Favorite locals bands. Favorite live bands. Just the best. Their 90s grunge throwback sound has been updated a bit, and their more melodic side was shining through this night. It was a release show for their excellent J Robbins produced Separate EP, and the hometown crowd of friends and fans went nuts.
Slowdive, 930 Club in DC, October 2014
I was never a huge Slowdive fan, but went to the show with a friend who had an extra to spare. And I am glad I did. I love shoegaze and they did not disappoint. They were loud, but not overbearingly loud. The sound was perfect. So clean, with every element of the music, every guitar texture and vocal, clear and beautiful as can be. I do not go to the 930 Club that often now, but used to go quite a bit; and I think this set stacks up with almost anything I had seen there.
Riff Raff, Baltimore Soundstage, October 2014
This was my second time seeing Riff Raff. It almost could have been the worst thing of the year. Riff Raff’s plane was late, causing the openers to have to stay on for three hours (the crowd was booing, they were restless). He played a short set (30 or so minutes) but he put a lot of energy into it, and it seemed like he was actually rapping more of his lyrics than he did the first time I saw him. It was a party for sure, but his set was almost a warm up for the party that was Waka Flocka. Whatever it was, I had a lot of fun; possibly due to the fact that his album has been out for a while and I am a fan of all of the songs that he rapped.
Yusuf, Tiny Desk Concert, October 2014
I finally got to see Cat Stevens aka Yusuf live. He played four songs, two old and two new. I was able to say hi to him afterwards, shake his hand, and get my CD signed by him. It was a day of pure elation.
December – snow, playoffs, fireplaces, Christmas… And end of the year lists. This is the first of three that I will be posting. Each will be 10 releases, LPs or EPs, grouped together in a particular way. The first list is my favorite (not best of, I hate that term) releases from Baltimore artists in 2014. In addition, I made a mix that can be heard on Mixcloud, featuring one track from each release:
WIldhoney – Seventeen Forever: First up is the newest EP from shoegazers Wildhoney. Three slabs of walls of sound, mastered by Jake Reid of Screen Vinyl Image fame.
Wye Oak – Shriek: Wye Oak changed it all up. No longer did guitars rule this duo. The old formula was vocals plus guitar plus drummer who is also playing bass parts as he drums. The new formula was singer playing bass with a drummer who is also playing lead parts on synth. This new synthpop sound really works for them, and I spent an excellent evening at the 930 Club this year watching them do their new thing.
Mt Royal – Mt Royal EP: Anything Katrina Ford is on is excellent. Mt Royal’s debut is not any different. I had patiently waited for this for a long time after seeing them perform a few times.
Future Islands – Singles: This could almost be called the year of Future Islands. They went from local darlings to one of the biggest indie bands in the planet. Their Letterman appearance shouldn’t need to be mentioned – their music does the speaking for them. This release followed their trajectory of pushing their envelopes with lyrical composition, vocal styling, soundscapes and other synth goodness, and their ever steady bass anchoring it all together.
Silk Rhodes – Silk Rhodes: This release is pure funk. Disco, funk, soul… It all exists in the same realm for these two Baltimore artists. This is extremely danceable. I have not had the pleasure of catching them live (versus every other artist on this list, at least once, if not several times) but hope to remedy that in 2015.
Wing Dam – Shifter: Wing Dam followed up their last classic with another classic. I had already heard a lot of these songs live, and instantly dug it. I was fortunate to be allowed to sit in the producer booth while they recorded a couple of these, and for that I am eternally grateful. It was quite the experience and it was a lot of fun to hear the finished product, and see some of the recording process first-hand. They are one of the funnest bands to catch live, and some of the nicest people around.
Hive Bent – dyatlov: Two piece that crush. Heavy heavy heavy. I don’t have much more to say other than I love Hive Bent. Go grab their newest EP, you wont regret it.
Multicult – Variable Impulse: Multicult are another great band on record and live. The on one hand look to Shellac for inspiration and on the other surpass them in terms of energy.
Roomrunner – Seperate: Roomrunner’s newest EP is a bit of a departure for them sonically. This time around they recorded with J Robbins, who helped the record catch a slightly different groove than their previous (and excellent) releases. They still look towards the 1990s, but this time you can feel a variety of influences creep in.
Horse Lords – Hidden Cities: One of the most intriguing bands to see live. Their rythum cant be beat. I have been mesmerized in a trance every time I have seen them. This record does a good job of captuing their vibe, but if you haven’t seen them live, do yourself a favor and check them out.
I decided to do a couple of things with my blog this year. One is write more. The other is write more about the shows that I go to. I used to do this quite a bit on an old blog, and decided I needed to get back in the habit. I haven’t decided if this will be the format every time, but at least for now I am going to write about the bands in the order they played, with pictures intermingled of each band.
The first show that I attended in 2014 was at the Metro Gallery in Baltimore (one of my personal favorites in the DC/Baltimore area) on January 8. The bill was loaded with noise-rock, noise-punk, punk… Big guitars, loud drums, distortion… Exactly what I usually look for in seeing live music. I hung out for a little bit waiting for the music to start and then with a cold one in my hand, I proceeded to take a spot near the stage to catch some music.
Hive Bent were up first. They were the only band on the bill that I had already seen, and this time was as enjoyable as the last. After a couple of equipment issues at the beginning to the set (guitar string breaking and a bass pedal swap out), they played their brand of loud, heavy, and noisy rock and roll. The around 30 minute set length was indicative of the rest of the night, where even the headliner played a short set. I personally was excited to hear Rick and Tomgirl, two of my favorites from the U Neutral EP.
Second up was Multicult, a local three-piece who have been on my radar for a while, but I had yet to see live. Their seven song set included both tracks off of their excellent single from last year. I would describe their music as crushing, precise, and mathematical. The bass and guitar riffs were fast and so much was going on in each track. I decided to grab their Spaces Tangled vinyl and look forward to listening to that soon.
The third band was Big Mouth. I didn’t know anything about them before the show, but was excited due to how excited Stph of Hive Bent was on stage earlier that they were opening for them. The band (who hadn’t played in three months I overheard them say) was pretty on point. Riff-heavy punk rock with a frontwoman who spent most of the set in the crowd bumping into people and singing into their faces. It was a lot of fun, and I would definitely like to see them again. One note, the guitarist had a broken foot, and she tried her hardest to rock, playing some songs sitting and some with her foot propped in a seat.
And lastly, the headliners took the stage. Perfect Pussy are Dragged to Hell alums (their EP was on my Favorite Releases of 2013 list and I also featured a short writeup (one of the first rock based ones for this site, but definitely not the last) of the EP). Meredith and company weren’t just noisy punks on record, they were also some noisy punks on stage. She led the boys through a few sonic blasts of noise with a boundless energy. I think the buzz they have received lately is well warranted, and I hope they are around for a lot longer. I also look forward to hearing what is the next step in their sound. Will they continue their sonic annihilation? Their punk/noise combination is one I recommend for anyone that likes their music noisy. Perfect Pussy’s set was also the shortest of the night, clocking in around fifteen minutes. And while I would have liked a little more time, I left the show fully satiated, as their set was extremely intense. All in all, it was a great way to start off my live music attendance for 2014.
(all pictures are taken by me and from my Instagram account)