The end is near… Of 2015! And my top 30 favorite sets of 2015. Here are the last 10.
This show is on the list for a few reasons. This was probably my 14th or 15th time seeing this Baltimore group since their formation several years ago, and this was to be my (and everyone’s) last time to see them. Their UN Fest (an excellent festival in Baltimore) set was advertised as their last, and I was able to experience the loudness and wild crowd, one last time.
The second set on this list was Pleasure Leftists opening for Chameleons VOX, at Metro Gallery. I have been a fan of this Midwest post-punk group for a while, and it was nice to finally see them live. I loved the singer’s dance moves.
The next one was something random for me, Sun Ra Arkestra at the Ottobar. I was hooked on their weirdo jazz, and loved every minute. The pissed off looking dude was my favorite performer of their raucous set.
This was one of the Wildhoney sets I saw. This noisy group gets better and better. This was their first set with a new guitar player.
Expert Alterations are some nice dudes and local indie pop heroes. This was their debut album release show. I made it there just in time to see them (performing with a member of Wildhoney as a quartet) give an inspired and impassioned performance.
I saw the Polyphonic Spree for a third time. This time I had a front table seat at a sit down venue. The Spree tore it up for two sets; one being their first album in it’s entirety, the second a greatest hits and covers and rarities set. I love the Spree and this performance further cemented my love.
I have seen Wolf Eyes a few times now. This was the weirdest of all of the sets. Which is saying a lot for the mavens of Trip Metal. This was almost a jazz set, and I think it was mostly improv. I could be wrong, but it didn’t sound like their new LP.
Wing Dam is one of my favorite bands. They always rock. They played Cocoon which is my favorite song by them and one I think they had not played the last couple times I saw them. They also had the best shirts (Miley Cyrus ones that can be seen in the picture below) and I added one to my collection.
At number 9 is DC band Paint Branch. This show was in a library basement. They are another band I have been into for a few years and finally saw. I think they are the new America (the band) with their harmonies and interplay (guitar and vocals).
The last of my favorite sets was actually tonight. And no I am not just throwing them on here. I felt like i might really dig it so I saved a slot, just in case. Good thing I did because the unseasonable heat and a packed basement in DC with one of my favorite singers belting out her old and new songs was too excellent. I had heard they were gonna break up, now it seems like they wont. Good, I want to see them again…
Until 2016 (and the one last show I have this year, or maybe two) my friends!
All images in all show pictures by me
Baltimore again proved to be a treasure trove of amazing art. A few of the albums I loved. I also had more that were included on my other lists, like the amazing Noisem or Black Sheep DZ…
Romantic States – Romantic States
Sweepstakes – Tongues Out
Holy Ghost Party – Bayou Music
Blacksage – Basement Vows
Expert Alterations – You Can’t Always Be Liked
Natural Velvet – She Is Me
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It
Thrushes – Exposing Seas
War on Women – War On Women
Dope Body – Kunk
Romantic States – Broken Clothes
Sweepstakes – Hands In The Air
Holy Ghost Party – Squiq
Blacksage – Casualty
Expert Alterations – Well Good For You
Natural Velvet – Perfect Roleplay
Wildhoney – Sleep Through It
Thrushes – Joan Of Arc
War on Women – Meathead
Dope Body – Goon Line
photo of wildhoney by me
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.