We are quickly approaching the end of 2010 and that can only mean one thing: End-of-year lists!!
I’ve always been a big fan of list-making. Every year I put together a list of the top albums and top movies, sometimes top TV shows. Last year Kari and I even put together our Best of the Decade film list (Mulholland Drive for me). It’s a fun way to think about the great experiences you’ve had over the year, and a great conversation starter with fellow music and movie enthusiasts.
One of the best parts of writing for a site like Chicago Tunes is the ability to get in to a lot of shows for free. Access to some of the artists is nice, too.
A live performance of music is one of my absolute favorite things. It’s right up there with winning a round of Call of Duty and watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. If I could, I would be out every night seeing shows. Alas, that isn’t the case. And since I’ve started working more, I’ve had to be even more selective with the shows I go to.
Luckily, for all of us but me most of all, I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of great shows over the past few months. I don’t think there will be too many surprises here based on my reviews of most of the shows. Only one of the shows on the list was a show I did not cover for Chicago Tunes. So without further interruption, I present the best of 2010.
5. Josh Ritter and The Royal City Band @ The Majestic Theatre on November 13 (review)
Put Josh Ritter on a stage flipping through an Oxford Dictionary and I’m completely captivated. The guy is a performer of immense talent, aided by an awesome band that guarantees you’re having fun by having fun themselves. They will be back in Chicago in February to play a show at The Vic. I request, nay, I DEMAND that all of you buy tickets and have a blast!
4. Titus Andronicus @ Subterranean on July 16
My first concert in Chicago. It was hot and sweaty, loud, the crowd got a bit physical, and I had a great time. One of my favorite bands playing a set consisting of all of my favorite songs (granted they only have two records out). Opener “Hallelujah the Hills” didn’t hurt things, either. I preferred this show to the one at Metro, but that may be because I had to sit through 40 minutes of Best Coast at Metro. Titus played Pitchfork the next day and killed from what I’ve heard. I know for a fact though that it couldn’t have been nearly as epic as this night at SubT.
3. The Rural Alberta Advantage @ Schubas on August 28 (review)
At the end of 2008 or maybe early 2009 I read a little piece about this band on NME.com. I decided to check them out, and whaddya know?, I instantly loved it! Getting to sit down with the three members of this band was easily one of the greatest highlights of the year for me; but that’s a story for another time. This show was amazing. Packed with great moments from end to end. My only regret is standing so close to Paul Banwatt‘s drum set. It was great fun live, but the videos didn’t turn out the best. Screaming along with songs like “Don’t Haunt This Place,” and “Drain the Blood” brought me great amounts of satisfaction. Look for the second release from The Rural Alberta Advantage to hit shelves in the spring.
2. The Airborne Toxic Event @ Park West on September 15 (review)
Now talking to these guys was not nearly as much fun as Rural. It was a hectic day as the plan for the interview wasn’t set until the night before (mostly my fault). We were actually sitting at the Ain’t It Cool screening of Howl when I got the go ahead from the band’s PR guy, which made the movie all the more enthralling for me. The interview itself was kind of a train wreck as far as I’m concerned. Many people have been reassuring me that it’s fine, but I consider it the low point of my interviewing career. I blame the nerves. However, the show that they put on afterward was nothing short of epic. Watching ATE perform with a string quartet adds so much depth to a show that could have very easily been just another rock show. It was actually getting a bit monotonous toward the middle, but they did away with the strings and launched into a ridiculously cool medley of their own song “Missy,” Springsteen’s “Fire,” and “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash. Talk about seven minutes of heaven!! The second half of the concert was more rock-specific, and a whole helluva lot of fun. By the time they got to “Sometime Around Midnight” I was sold on Airborne being one of the best live acts in the country. They also have an album coming out early next year. Should be a good one.
1. Neutral Uke Hotel @ Empty Bottle on August 19 (review)
When is a cover band the absolute best act a person could hope to see all year? When that band is playing one of the greatest albums of all-time straight through on ukuleles!! I had signed up to check out this show for Warm Ones, and when I found out that there was going to be an opener playing In the Aeroplane Over the Sea in its entirety, I thought my head was going to explode! The actual show was even better than I could have imagined! There’s something about being in a room, singing along to music that is deeply personal to everyone in attendance that makes the experience transcend the usual concert-going status quo. It was an embarrassment of riches that night, as everyone who performed was good. Angel Olsen was a nice opener, and Warm Ones live set was a smack in the face (in a good way). But it didn’t matter. Hearing a group of guys from Massachussetts who spend 95 percent of their time in other bands playing music that they all felt sincerely about was as close to perfect as it could get. I could have spent the rest of the night listening to Best Coast or John Mayer and been perfectly happy. This was a one-off tour, so I don’t think they’ll be coming around again. You can check out YouTube clips of them performing at Empty Bottle (you’re welcome!) and a lot of other places. I suggest doing so.
And that’s it. The year that was in rock concerts for me. I saw a lot of other shows, but none nearly as good as the top 5. Avi Buffalo and The Joy Formidable probably came the closest. As did Chaperone!, who put on my favorite show by a Chicago band this year.
I’m seriously looking forward to 2011. I already know February will be good, with shows from The Decemberists and Josh Ritter already on the agenda. If you know of anything else awesome on the horizon, let us know!