Catherine Lewis of ShowlistDC recently posted that she listed 11,568 shows in the DC area for 2013. I went to 158 of them along with three out of town shows. So always keep this extraordinary small sample size in mind when you see this or anyone's list. This alludes to one of my personal pet peeves, those Top 50 Album lists. I listen to at least 250 new records every year (more often 300+) Yet, when major site lists come out, I find that they list about 45-49 records I have not heard on their Top 50. I am quite confident they did not compare their choices to hardly any of the 300 records I may have heard. Instead, they follow the buzzy records and the major releases with a few cool local choices.
One more thing to keep in mind. As I was going through the shows, I realized I saw a local band three separate times, yet I can't hear their sound in my head or remember what they look like. What's more, I wrote that they were pretty good. So quantity can create a problem in the memory. That said, I hope to see everyone out there in clubland for more shows in 2014. I believe I am energized enough to have another busy year. I know the choices will be plentiful in DC.
And with that, from 10th best to my favorite show, here is the Best of 2013.
10. Rolling Stones - Verizon Center - June 2013: The old men showed how music can keep you young as this was far better than I had expected.
9. Garnet Rogers - Jammin Java - April 2013: I was harshly proven how far I had underrated this excellent folk singer-songwriter. His banter was almost Robyn Hitchcock good and his songs, voice and guitar were exquisite.
Retribution Gospel Choir - DC9 - February 2013: Always a favorite of mine, this Duluth trio (where I was born) let it fully rip tonight with some blazing drones added to their heavy songs--the perfect antidote to the death of my cat earlier in the day. I really needed this show and somehow they managed to crank it up a notch for me.
7. Iceage - Rock'n'Roll Hotel - June 2013: These really young Danes managed to combine pure punk and postpunk in a swirl of intense noisy riffs with some tricky songwriting in there--wise beyond their years.
6. Temples - DC9 - November 2013: popsike is becoming one of my favorite genres and these English newcomers have leaped over the wannabes and are delivering lush, fabulous music, as they showed DC.
Goblin - 9:30 Club - December 2013: Every year, there is a show I never ever expected to happen. This year it was a DC date from this classic Italian progressive rock band's first US tour. I am not a monster fan and thought it would be nice and pleasant. Instead, they knocked my socks off and reminded me what a great progressive band can do when they have the power.
4. Jacco Gardner - Black Cat - October 2013: This Dutch band/songwriter is the pinnacle of the new psychedelic pop scene to my ears. I saw them twice this past year and they were great both times. I loved their recent album and really hope they find a huge audience.
3. Graveyard - Black Cat - January 2013: The only repeat from last year's list (sorry Spiritualized, you didn't quite blow me away this year). This Swedish quartet has fully mastered heavy rock with plenty of blues and a power that starts from the garage but could fill arenas if it had to. They can even write songs that will stick in your head.
2. Man or Astroman - Black Cat - June 2013: Holy gobsmack! There are times I like to be proven an idiot and this was one of those times as I could not believe I had waited decades to see the brilliance of this hyper-twanged garage band. They were brilliant and the crowd was with me on this during this raucous yet melodic set.
Woven Hand - DC9 - April 2013: One of my favorite bands cut back to a power trio and fully engaged in David Eugene Edwards further evolvement into drone-psyche with still enough of his psyche-folk moves. His songs are brilliant and they were delivered with his brand of frightening passion that night.
1A. Comus - Shirley Collins - Islington Assembly Hall - September 2013: OK, the list goes to eleven as I had to include the one non-DC show that was as great as anything I saw this year. From seeing Dame Shirley Collins do anything to my second jaw dropping experience with Comus, this was pure magic. No one, but no one is capable of sounding like Comus.
And please enjoy this video from their comeback show on a boat near Stockholm a few years back (eagled eyed spotters may find me in the crowd)