2011 was an insanely good year for me seeing live music. The quantity was a bit ridiculous, having clocked in at over 100 shows... not bad for an old man with two kids and an average hour trip into the city. But still, don't mean a thing if it ain't got that swing, and the quality of the music I saw was what really made it a "best ever" year for me seeing music. Got to cross a bunch of live music experiences off my bucket list (e.g. Prince, Midnight Ramble with Levon Helm, Yo La Tengo Hanukkah show, Radiohead in a club...), saw a bunch of brand new (or brand new to me) music that really inspired and saw pretty much every band on my "favorite/gotta see" list at least once and in many cases multiple times. It was a very good year, I consider myself blessed.
170 bands seen
84 nights(or days) out
43 different venues
Here are my favorite shows of the year using some sort of inexplicable ranking system, although I had a blast at pretty much 90% of the shows I saw, literally.
Thanks to all those that helped make my year in live music possible:
- Masada Marathon @ NYC Opera 3/30/2011: It's hard to explain really what Masada is, but if you wanted to find out, going to this show would have done the trick. Twelve different groups playing music from essentially the same songbook over the widest range of genres & styles imaginable. Nearly every ensemble was great and the result was a very special evening of music in a very special room.
- LCD Soundsystem @ Madison Square Garden 4/2/2011: I saw a lot of "epic proprtions" kind of shows this year, but this was the epic-est of them all. I've heard of going out in style, but this was ridiculous and ridiculously fun. Midway through this night I tweeted "I love live music! I love live music! I love live music!" It was that kind of night. Luckily snagged a ticket during presale on my mobile while sitting in a doctor's office waiting room. It was that kind of year. So glad I was there. (funny how this was just a few days after show #1).
- Phish @ Superball IX Watkins Glen 7/3/2011: There was a definite "go big" theme to my year and Phish's "go big" festival event is always a treat. Wasn't even planning on hitting this one until things fell into place and I had low-to-no expectations going in. Thankfully they delivered with a show that spanned their repertoire new and old, featured killer jams and seemed to go on and on and on, as my smile grew bigger and bigger and bigger. Can't believe how much I still love this band.
- Portugal. The Man @ TLA Philly 10/23; Terminal 5 10/20; Westcott Theater 5/28; Studio @ Webster Hall 6/6 et al: I saw Portugal. The Man six (6) times this year and they pretty much blew me away each and every time. All the shows had their own distinct feel to them and each one was special to me. P.tM had a very special 2011 and I'm overjoyed I got to share it with them. Their live show is an intense, singular experience and I'm itching at the chance to put another show on my calendar in 2012... can't come soon enough. Terminal 5 review.
- My Morning Jacket @ Madison Square Garden 12/14/2011: Speaking of epic, MMJ knows how to rise to the occasion and the show they put on at MSG a couple weeks ago is still ringing in the ears of my soul. Easily the best My Morning Jacket show I've seen in 8+ years of seeing them. My review is here.
- Radiohead @ Roseland Ballroom 9/29/2011: Through some I'm-an-idiot circumstances, my wife and I missed a Radiohead MSG show on our anniversary last time they were in town. Again, through some amazing Ticketmaster luck, I was able to rectify my mistake and, babysitting secured, treat the two of us to a spectacular show. There really are few bands better.
- The Bad Plus @ Village Vanguard 1/1/2011: It was the first day of the year, the first show of the year and 364 days later, few sets of music I saw were better. I've seen the Bad Plus more times than even I can believe, but this was one of their best. Shaking off the cobwebs of the NYE show the night before, they were in fine, free-flowing form. These three rarely disappoint & almost always inspire, but this night was a step above.
- Gillian Welch/David Rawlings @ Beacon Theater 10/22/2011: A big stage, completely barren save for a man and wife, a couple microphones and a guitar each. From this simple set-up, some of the tastiest, most soul-enriching music you could ever imagine was spun. When it comes to Americana, the conversation for me begins and ends with these two and they outdid themselves on this night, two sets of magic spent with some of my favorite people in the world.
- Anders Osborne @ Sullivan Hall 1/1/2011: Technically, this show happened in this year, a late night, face melting rage. Sometimes you're just in the mood to watch a guitar get abused by someone with complete mastery over his instrument and Anders was in an otherworldly zone the entire set.
- Newport Folk Festival @ Fort Adams State Park, Newport, RI 7/30 & 31/2011, : A year of live music just ain't complete without a good, old fashioned binge of music at a festival and you could do a lot worse than Newport. New discoveries, old favorites, Gillian Welch, great weather and an unbeatable vibe. Already pretty sure I'll be missing this in 2012 and already pretty bummed about it.
- Broken Social Scene Terminal 5, 1/18/2011: If my 12 BSS show was my last, so be it, they were amazing once again.
- Gary Clark Jr @ Mercury Lounge, 12/13/2011: Shows at Mercury Lounge are almost always a treat -- you always just get the feel of something real of rock and roll happening the way it was intended. And every once in a while there's a little magic and you get to see the music before it's the music. That was definitely the feeling in the Merc for this show as Gary Clark Jr announced his arrival with a blistering set of music that shook my musical world for certainly several years to come. My review.
- Freak's Ball XI @ Brooklyn Bowl, 2/2/2011: C'mon, you knew this was gonna be on the list, right? Easily the most fun of my year every year. Personal faves El Ten Eleven, gobs of Scott F'in Metzger, a room full of friendly faces and, oh, what a beautiful buzz!
- Levon Helm Band/Steven Bernstein's MTO @ Midnight Ramble, Woodstock, NY 12/10/2011: Sometimes you get to go to a show and it doesn't really matter how good the music is. This was one of those nights. A very special experience and a nice juicy line through another item on the bucket list... also the music was pretty good, especially that opening set. Made me feel lucky to see music in NYC even though it wasn't in the city.
- White Denim @ Bowery Ballroom 6/25/2011: White Denim went from a band I really, really loved to a band on "the list." An amazing album to top their previous amazing album and a live show that was even better than the last time they blew me away. The White Denim train is leaving the station and believe me, it's gonna be as good a time as you can imagine, don't get caught without a seat. One of the best damn live bands out there. My review.