It was another fine year of live music. The local scene continues to produce high quality bands that play frequently with or without the many touring bands that somehow endure the expenses to make their way around the country. Well, if you're Robert Plant... Anyway, with apologies to many of my local favorites along with perennial worldly greats like Wire or Opeth, only ten can make the cut. So without further adieu...
10. Bobb Trimble/Kuschty Rye Ergot/Pablonius Bill, Velvet Lounge, June. Kudos to the openers for getting things rolling on a high note and the enigmatic headliner followed up nicely. Trimble is a cult act all the way, but he has such a pleasant psychedelic rock/folk style, he could have easily been a bigger name. He put together a strong band and supplied his lovely music with grace and energy.
9. The Damned, Black Cat, October. They sound better with age. I caught them in their prime once and it was pretty disappointing. But they had it working this night and laid down both their punk fury and their psyche-pop tunes with more precision than usual. Fun and absolutely scary to think that they have been around for 35 years now.
8. Swirlies, Rock'n'Roll Hotel, July. This was another cult act that deserved better these last 20 years. They were from Boston, but are now scattered around the US and Sweden. Thankfully they included DC for just a couple of shows they did this year. They showcased their unique brand of intense shoegaze styled rock. Still, at tough act to describe, but highly rewarding.
7. Savage Republic/Tone, Black Cat, September. Tone is one of the best in DC and almost made this list as a headliner in April. But pair them with a surprise showing of an early dark industrial punk band that I had not heard from in decades, then you have a winning formula. The headliners were so much better than I expected--Hope they do it again some time.
6. Bill Callahan/Ed Askew, Rock'n'Roll Hotel, July. I had heard about Callahan for years but finally took the opportunity to see him. Rarely can someone control this room with slower tempos and relatively quiet music, but Callahan managed that and then some this night. He had command of his songs and the crowd and created a hypnotic environment that stayed with me for some time.
5. Helmet/St. Vitus/Crowbar/Kylesa/Red Fang +2, Jaxx, March. I thought I would enjoy Helmet and I did even more than I expected. I was not so sure about the rest of the night aside from Kylesa, but the top five bands all delivered excellent sets. And Kylesa's ferocious brand of psychedelic metal is becoming one of the best sounds in the metal and near metal environment. They are now on my must see list.
4. Robert Plant, DAR, February. Plant continues to amaze me with the way he puts together gutsy and unique bands. This one surprised me a bit as I thought it would be a bit too old school blues-Americana. The rhythm section quickly killed that notion with it's fascinating psyche beats. The guitars went wild and Plant still delivers the vocals with the best of them.
3. The Sadies/Jesse Sykes, Iota, November. This was a co-headline tour with two bands delivering sets that I would easily pay twice the ticket price to see separately. Sykes was amazing with her cool psyche-rock/folk songs. The band was quite creative and handled volume dynamics so very well. The Sadies were also loud and creative and raised their already fine songs into greater heights. Excellent bands that wowed the crowd that night.
2. Boris/Asobi Sekov/Liturgy, Black Cat, October. Liturgy did their usual fascinating set and the Asobi Sekov also delivered a fine set. Then Boris blew the roof off which although not exactly surprising, still had my eyebrows up and jaw dropped. Their recent records showed some of their finest work and their live show is just as powerful and brilliant as ever (with the important addition of Michio Kurihara (Ghost) on guitar).This band is nothing short of stunning.
1. The Joy Formidable, Black Cat, March. I had heard the buzz, but was not prepared for the roar. How three people can lay out this much sound is amazing even with looping and other technologies. But the songs are the real brilliance in the way they can deliver the pop hooks with such a ferocious rocking approach. The band is a perfect blend of punk, pop, and shoegaze. I am glad I caught them before they take off as they have already since played the Verizon Center with Foo Fighters and Social Distortion. I am not often this surprised at a show where I am expecting it to be good.
And kudos to the Black Cat for providing four of these shows!