31 December 2013

2013: Favorite Shows of the Year

In my decades of seeing live music, no calendar year matches the quality and quantity of shows I saw in 2013. I think the correct term for the amount of music I saw is "shit ton" and nearly every one of them was fantastic.

The stats:
144 different bands seen (74 for the first time)
113 shows total (after tonight's NYE show)
97 nights out
46 different venues (in 11 different cities, 2 different countries)

Here were my favorite 10+ shows in 2013:

1.a Phish (various nights and locations)
21 years of Phish and in 2013 they blew me away more than ever. This band is operating at an incredibly high level right now. Saw them 9 times this year and all were consistently great if not better than great (well, excluding that lackluster rainy first set we endured at Jones Beach before leaving). If I had to choose, 11/1 and 12/29 were my favorites, but every night had something to love... and one more show before the calendar turns! 

1.b Joe Russo's Almost Dead, 1/26 Brooklyn Bowl + 12/27 Capitol Theater//The Bustle Quartet 8/31 Brooklyn Bowl
Almost as much as I loved Phish this year, I f'in loved seeing Joe Russo (@neddyo fave artists of the year), Scott Metzger, Dave Dreiwitz, Tom Hamilton and Marco Benevento own the Grateful Dead this year as JRAD. The Freaks Ball in January was easily my favorite of them all between the mind-blowing music, who was on stage making it and who was around me on the floor. Amazingly, the Cap show (reviewed here) was nearly quite as good. Perfect bookends to a perfect year of live music. The Bustle-plays-other-shit show right before Labor Day was kind of a sneaky little gem. There weren't a ton of people there, but those in attendance got their brains rearranged when Russo stormed the quartet through a set of Sabbath like few can. The second set was a goldmine of jams that can best be described as "sick!" If you haven't heard the Beatles>Michael Jackson>Allmans>Grateful Dead stretch, please do yourself a favor. One of my favorite things. My review

2. Portugal. The Man, 5/20 Irving Plaza + 9/27 Terminal 5
Hey, I love these guys! They killed it both times, elevating their live show and the production. The new songs/album is amazing. Seeing them play in a hotel lobby on 9/27 was pretty special as well. May every year have opportunities to see PtM. Terminal 5 review here.

3. Masada Marathon, 9/15, Skirball Center
John Zorn turned 60 this year and although I only caught one of his celebration shows, I made it count. Over the course of this long night I saw the most beautiful, the loudest, the quietest, the most awe-inspiring and, honestly, the best music you could ever imagine.Over 12 bands playing at the highest level possible.

4. The Bad Plus, 1/3, Village Vanguard (early/late)
Sensing a theme here? Another one of my favorite groups at the top of their game. I saw TBP a couple times this year, but this one stands out. I have an annual tradition of seeing these guys as my first show of the year -- a great way to clear the slate and get things started right. Looking forward to the next one.

5. Goat, 4/23, Music Hall of Williamsburg
Goat's album "World Music" was a late-year discovery for me in 2012, so I jumped at the chance to see them when they were in town. Their live show was an intense psychedelic masterpiece, a non-stop onslaught of brain-trip music. This was one of those shows that made you go "whoa!" My review

6. Yo La Tengo, 2/16 Town Hall + 12/15 The Bell House
Another band I caught multiple times at opposite ends of the calendar was Yo La Tengo who were out and about touting their new album. The shows were a split affair, one set nominally acoustic, the other electric. I prefer to call them the "quiet set" and the "loud set." The amazing thing is how expert these live vets are at doing both. The quiet sets were as perfect and gorgeous as you could imagine and the second sets were bombastic, jammed-out shredders. With a full year of touring between the shows, the December gig was definitely the better of the two, but they were both awesome.

7. Jim James, 2/19, Music Hall of Williamsburg
Before Jim James went out touring his solo album proper, he made a special appearance at the MHOW, and special it was. I don't know what it was, but something in the air this night really brought out some deep dark energy from James and his band and the crowd there to see them. The set proper was excellent and exploratory, but the encore of My Morning Jacket songs pushed the night over the top. When James returned in April, the show was plenty good, but nothing like this one. My review

8. Follakzoid & Holydrug Couple, 3/21, Mercury Lounge
Did you know that two of the sweetest psych-rock bands on the planet are from Chile? This double bill packed a double wallop of psychedelica with long, drony jams and a sweet old school liquid light show. The Merc is my favorite room in the city and this show was perfectly fit for the room. My review.

9. Chris Thile & Brad Mehldau, 4/9, Bowery Ballroom
It's not obvious that pairing together two top-flight musical geniuses is going to produce something worth listening to, but in this case... wow! Next level two-man interplay and improvisation on mandolin and piano. I think my IQ went up about 10 points during this set, but supremely beautiful and moving all the same. My review.

10. The Heartless Bastards, 7/10, Music Hall of Williamsburg
One of my favorite rock and roll bands just rocked and f'in rolled in Brooklyn this night. Just a perfect hair-raising set of music. I also note this show as one of my favorite pre-show meal/show pairings, as The Big Squeeze and I dined at Delaney's Briskettown beforehand. A scrumptious night all around.

Honorable Mention:
6/11 Marc Ribot/Nels Cline/Bill Frisell @ Le Poisson Rouge
1/20 Umphrey's McGee @ Brooklyn Bowl
7/26 My Morning Jacket, Wilco, Bob Dylan @ Pier A, Hoboken
10/16 White Denim et al @ Mercury Lounge + 9/10 @ Bowery Ballroom + 6/22 Brooklyn Bowl (Houndmouth opening)
7/22 Phil Lesh & Friends @ Capitol Theater, Port Chester
12/14 Anders Osborne @ Brooklyn Bowl
6/13 Junip @ Highline Ballroom
9/23 Chris Thile solo @ Rockwood Music Hall 2
11/17 Widespread Panic @ Theater at MSG
10/12 My Morning Jacket in Times Square
11/15 Todd Sickafoose's Tiny Resistors @ 55 Bar
2/28 Unknown Mortal Orchestra/Foxygen @ Bowery Ballrom; 10/11 UMO @ MHOW
5/8 Bill Frisell's Beautiful Dreamers @ Village Vanguard
1/23 Trey Anastasio @ Capitol Theater, Port Chester
9/11 Mountains, Date Palms, Plankton Wat @ Union Pool
3/7 Django Django @ MHOW
4/27 Oneida @ Mercury Lounge
5/13 Matthew E. White @ Bowery Ballroom
5/19 Milk Carton Kids @ Bowery Ballroom
9/3 Dawn of Midi @ Le Poisson Rouge

30 December 2013

2013: Favorite Artist of the Year

Continuing through my year-end shenanigans, I'm continuing the fun-for-me tradition of the past few years and awarding an artist or band the "of the year" honors. Typically this goes to a musical act that's captured my attention over the course of the year more than any other (emphasis on my, your opinion my vary).

Past winners:
2000's decade run-down
2008 = Apollo Sunshine
2009 = Portugal. The Man
2010 = Jim James
2011 = Medeski, Martin & Wood
2012 = Tame Impala/Kevin Parker

Again, there were some good candidates. Phish consistently blew me away and cemented their bestevah status in 2013, but that'd be a boring pick. Yo La Tengo is on the list, their album Fade was one of my favorites and the really impressed the two times I saw them at the start and end of the year. My runner up is Chris Thile who I was lucky to see play multiple superlative sets in different combinations, including a special, intimate set at Rockwood Music Hall and a high-level night of improvisation in duo form with the jazz pianist Brad Mehldau (reviewed here). I'll actually be seeing Thile's "regular" band, The Punch Brothers tonight. I also strongly urge you to check out Thile's album of solo Bach sonatas. It's better than you think it is. 

But even better than Thile in 2013 was Joe Russo. I bought my Joe Russo stock very early and have been happy to watch its value rise in the ensuing 14 or 15 years. I remember seeing him play at the old Wetlands when they'd have "superjams" that would stretch deep into the night with improvisation and dozens of musicians. These were "strut your stuff" sessions, many cooks, only one pot, tough to stand out. Sir Joe stood out and I made it a point to see him as much as I could, which lead several years later to my hanging out in a mostly-empty Tap Bar while Joe played crazy duets with his where-did-this-guy-come-from school friend, Marco Benevento. From there, the story is well known, with one thing over the past decade or so staying constant: Russo standing out for his excellence regardless of the situation or musicians playing in front of him... but not standing out too much.

All this came to a head in 2013. Freaks Ball. Joe Russo's Almost Dead. Is it strange to think that Joe Russo is now the flag bearer for the Grateful Dead song book? It is to me, but doesn't make it any less true. Between his playing in Further and Phil & Friends this year and the two JRAD gigs bookending the calendar, Joe is playing and invigorating the Dead equally as much as Phil Lesh. In addition to the Dead stuff, Joe was all over the place in 2013. Personally, I only saw a tiny sample of his output this year, but it was enough to bestow. The Bustle "plays other shit" show (i.e. The Bustle Quartet) at Brooklyn Bowl featured my favorite jam of the year when the band went from the Beatles to Michael Jackson to the Allman Brothers to the Grateful Dead in awe-inspiring fashion. The rest of the show was no slouch with Joe spearheading a full-album Black Sabbath cover set to start out the night... one of my favorite concerts of the year.

That thing about "sticking out" really made an impression for me this past fall when within a month I saw Russo play drums behind Todd Sickafoose and Cass McCombs within a month of each other. (he also contributed to tracks on McCombs' excellent new album this year). These were a free-wheeling "jazz" band and an alt-folkie indie band respectively and Joe's drumming was a major force in each instance. This wasn't showy, look-at-my-drum-solo stuff, this was elevating the music and transcending the genre with talent and graciousness. There wasn't any other musician who hit so many of my sweet spots in the last 12 months, not even close... and I probably missed most of his greatest moments, I mean, there's this for one:

So, there you have it, my personal favorite artist of 2013: Joe Russo.

Shows I saw with audio and review links. (Thanks as always to the tapers!):
  • Joe Russo's Almost Dead, Freaks Ball XIII, Brooklyn Bowl, 1/26
    • audio
    • fulls show video below
  • Phil Lesh & Friends, Capitol Theater, 7/22
  • The Bustle Quartet, Brooklyn Bowl, 8/31
  • Todd Sickafoose's Tiny Resistors, 55 Bar, 11/15
  • Cass McCombs, Bowery Ballroom, 12/13
  • Joe Russo's Almost Dead, Capitol Theater, 12/27

Joe Russo's Almost Dead:

26 December 2013

2013 Year End -- maximixes

It's been a while since I've posted anything, but going to be putting up my year-end stuff here and over at Tumblr.

First up are my year end "maxi" mixes which are always fun to do. Every year I do 4 mixes and try to come up with some theme to tie them together. Last year the theme was morning, afternoon, night and after-hours, in 2011 the theme was fall folk, winter women, psych spring, and sunburn summer.

This year's theme is local, national, international and intergalactic. I'm posting all 4 mixes at once since I'm a bit behind. Enjoy!

2013 Year End Mix #1: Local (musicians from the NYC area)

01 Charles Bradley – Strictly Reserved for You
02 Vampire Weekend – Diane Young
03 Lady Lamb the Beekeeper – Regarding Ascending the Stairs
04 Marnie Stern – You Don't Turn Down
05 Eleanor Friedberger – You'll Never Know Me
06 Widowspeak – Smoke and Mirrors
07 Christopher Paul Stelling – Homesick Tributaries
08 Glenn Jones – My Garden State
09 Yellowbirds – Stop Tonight
10 The Black Hollies – Lunatic Influenza Pt Ii: Take Me as I Am
11 Akron/Family – Until the Morning
12 Parquet Courts – He's Seeing Paths
13 Ducktails – Jazz
14 Alex Bleeker & The Freaks – Don't Look Down
15 Yo La Tengo – Ohm (live)

2013 Year End Mix #2: National (music from the rest of the USA)

01 Kurt Vile (Philadelphia) – Wakin On A Pretty Day
02 White Denim (Austin) – At Night in Dreams
03 J Roddy Walston And The Business (Baltimore) – Take It As It Comes
04 Thee Oh Sees (San Francisco) – Toe Cutter - Thumb Buster
05 Portugal. The Man (Portland) – Modern Jesus
06 Unknown Mortal Orchestra (Portland) – Swim and Sleep [Like a Shark]
07 Blitzen Trapper (Portland) – Shine On
08 Rose Windows (Seattle) – Native Dreams
09 Neko Case (Chicago) – Night Still Comes
10 Valerie June (Memphis) – Wanna Be On Your Mind
11 Kingsley Flood (Boston) – Waiting On the River to Rise
12 Frontier Ruckus (Detroit) – Dealerships
13 Jonathan Wilson (Los Angeles) – Dear Friend
14 The Shouting Matches (Eau Claire) – Gallup, NM
15 The Growlers (California) – One Million Lovers

2013 Year End Mix #3: International (music from the rest of the world)

01 Juana Molina (Argentina) – Eras
02 Jagwar Ma (Australia) – Come Save Me
03 Junip (Sweden) – Line of Fire
04 Brendan Canning (Canada) – However Long
05 The Limiñanas (France) – My Black Sabbath
06 Moodoid (France) – Je sais ce que tu es
07 Bombino (Niger) – Amidinine
08 Bassekou Kouyate + Ngoni ba (Mali) – Ne Me Fatigue Pas
09 Vieux Farka Touré (Mali) – Doni Doni
10 Jacco Gardner (Netherlands) – Chameleon
11 Cate le Bon (Wales) – Wild
12 Courtney Barnett (Australia) – History Eraser
13 Pond (Australia) – Giant Tortoise
14 Schnauser (England) – Pigeons
15 Neils Children (England) – The Way the Web Was Woven

2013 Year End Mix #4: Intergalactic (music to help you leave the planet)

01 Dawn of Midi – lo
02 Date Palms – Yuba Source Part I
03 Lumerians – Dogon Genesis
04 Kiki Pau – Astronauttija
05 Our Solar System – Merkurius
06 Holydrug Couple – Out of Sight
07 Causa Sui – Homage
08 Hookworms – Away / Towards
09 Plankton Wat – Toward the Golden City
10 Mountains – Circular C
11 Dustin Wong – (A) shows (B) his analysis and (C) looked over
12 Earthless – Equus October
13 Föllakzoid – 99
14 Montibus Communitas – Hanan Pacha
15 Earthling Society – The Elevator Does Not Stop at This Floor

08 March 2013

minimix: Ladies2013.1


01 D.I.Y. -- Bettie Serveert
02 Bird Balloon -- Lady Lamb the Beekeeper
03 Automechanic -- Jenny O
04 Do Me Right -- Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside
05 The Dark Age -- Widowspeak
06 We Don't Call -- Thao & the Get Down Stay Down

Neddy's 2013 faves playlist (updated monthly)
RecommNeds 2013 playlist (updated weekly)

01 March 2013

minimix: Folk2013.1

Easy listening for your weekend.


01 Southern Colorado Song -- Wooden Wand
02 Gold -- Wake Owl
03 A Poet's Tune -- Y La Bamba
04 Up Against the Wall -- Fiction Family
05 You Found Another Lover -- Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite
06 Dealerships -- Frontier Ruckus

Weekly Recommneds playlist (updated weekly)
2013 Favorites playlist (updated monthly)

22 February 2013

minimix: Psych2013.1


01 Counting Sailboats -- Holydrug Couple
02 One Million Lovers -- The Growlers
03 Coldpoint -- Speck Mountain
04 Swim and Sleep -- Unknown Mortal Orchestra
05 Take Up Thy Stethoscope And Walk -- Ty Segall/Mikal Cronin
06 9 -- Follakzoid

Weekly RecommNeds 2013 playlist
All the minimixes that ever were

15 February 2013

minimix: Groovy2013.1

Sexy slow grooves for your post-Valentine's weekend.


01 Rose Quartz -- Toro Y Moi
02 Honey & Queen -- American Royalty
03 You & I -- Local Natives
04 We the Common -- Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
05 State of the Art - A.E.I.O.U -- Jim James
06 All the Time -- Eddie Roberts' West Coast Sounds

Weekly RecommNeds playlist

08 February 2013

minimix: Leftovers2012

The minimix is back! Before I dig into the already-great new music of 2013, going to clean up some really sweet stuff I never got around to from last year.

Really sweet stuff in here, highly recommended. Perfect for zoning out on a stormy Friday afternoon and beyond.

01 The Garden -- Stealing Sheep
02 Quand Vas Tu Rentrer -- Melody's Echo Chamber
03 Blue Meanies -- Opossom
04 Goat Foot -- Belbury Poly
05 Panic in Babylon -- The Brian Jonestown Massacre
06 Det som aldrig forandras/Diarabi -- Goat

04 February 2013

02 January 2013

2012:: Favorite Albums

Our musical tastes are like fingerprints -- we've each got our own little curlicues and whorls to guide us. Out of the almost 500 albums I listened to in 2012, these may or may not have been the best (whatever that means), but they were my favorites, though I probably liked yours too, so don't fret too much about it.

These are grouped together with alphabetical listings in each group... everything subject to change at any time!

The Top Ten (in alphabetical order)

The Bad Plus -- Made Possible
Did you know that I loved The Bad Plus? Until they release a clunker, there's a place on this list reserved for these guys. The first two tracks on Made Possible are pure magic and the rest of it is as good as The Bad Plus gets. The feeling of "your favorite band keeps getting better" is a powerful one.
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG

Beachwood Sparks -- The Tarnished Gold
Here's what I wrote for Hidden Track earlier this year: "Crunchy, psychedelic country music from a gone-but-not-forgotten era – right down to the band and album name and cover art — sounds right at home here and now: Haight-Asbury’d acoustic, electric and steel guitars meet lush Laurel-Canyon’d harmonies to smile-inducing effect. This is the musical equivalent of putting some West coast sunshine in a jar and saving it for a cold, dark mid-February New England. Of course, you can enjoy it any day… and should!"
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG

Andrew Bird -- Break It Yourself
Here's what I wrote for Hidden Tracks top 25 entry for this album: "Sometimes a great athlete is described by the phrase “the laws of physics do not apply.” The same words describe Andrew Bird’s newest album: the music floats as if unencumbered by gravity; the songs stretch and contract, ignoring time’s steady tick. The last couple of years have found Bird dabbling in instrumental music more and more and this mindset shines through on the album, in little minute-long blurbs between songs and within the compositions themselves. I read a review that declared this album to be “perfect” and who am I to argue?"
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG

Dr. John - Locked Down
If you pinned me down and made me choose, this would be my favorite album of the year. So perfectly realized, so perfectly funky/rocking/greasy/dark/dirty/awesome. This is music of another time and place injected full-form into the here and now. As I wrote for HT, it sounds like Dan Auerbach as Marty McFly, Dr John as Marvin Berry; a time-traveling Delorean and one funky-as-hell Enchantment Under the Sea dance."
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG

Grizzly Bear -- Shields
Sometimes a band hits that sweet middle -- the Goldilocks Effect where everything is neither too hot nor too cold, but just right. That's where Grizzly Bear is with this one, hitting just the right level of orchestral big, soft folk-y little, buzzing psychedelic and pulsing rock. If one album could somehow sum up the sound of all the other albums in my top 100, this would be the best representative sound. Also, the songs are bleeping great.
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG

Heartless Bastards -- Arrow
I've written about this album twice already for HT, that's how much it moved (and continues to move) me. Here's what I wrote earlier this month for the top 25 column: "To be a truly great rock band, at some point you need to stop sounding like the great rock bands of the past and chart your own path. With 2009’s The Mountain and even more so with this year’s Arrow, The Heartless Bastards have proven their greatness, staked out a path and delivered some truly kick ass rock and roll. As I wrote earlier this year, Arrow features “superlative songs with patient, build-to-climax construction and some of the most soulful female vocals to sing them.” Erika Wennerstrom has a special from-the-soul passion – when she sings here of life, longing, love, you wish she was singing about you. Listen again and again and you might just convince yourself she is.
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG

Pond -- Beards, Wives, Denim
When I started my weekly album picks column for Hidden Track, my first "you've gotta hear this!" pick was this Pond album because... you've gotta hear this! It came out of nowhere and kicked me in the brain, sounding like an album a bunch of Aussies made specifically for me. Deeply psychedelic with fuzzy distortion and extended prog jams, perfectly executed. This was one of my favorite discoveries of the year, and discovering new favorites is my favorite pastime.
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG

Tame Impala -- Lonerism
It's fun to watch a band have their big "sophomore moment" and, with all eyes on them, just nail it the way Tame Impala did in 2012. This album is a masterpiece, a whole-is-greater-than-its-parts assemblage. Best-in-genre psych-rock, yes, but so much more once the surface is scratched as penetrating grooves and gee-whiz songwriting are revealed.
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG 

Jack White -- Blunderbuss
Of all the albums on this list, this is the one I'm guessing most people have already heard. I'm not sure there are any other artists of his generation making music that satisfies the mainstream and yet has enough teeth and creativity for the bunkered-down music snobs as well. Apparently, rock and roll is the universal language and no one is speaking it better than White.
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG 

Woods -- Bend Beyond
Woods seems to travel along two separate paths -- earnest poppy folk on one branch and jammy psychedelic on the other -- and over time those two have been inching closer, like some sort of inverse Beatles or something. With Bend Beyond, they all but converge (does that make it Woods' Revolver?) in joyous fashion.
Listen on Spotify
Listen on MOG

Just one notch below... (11-25 in alphabetical order)

The Amazing -- Gentle Stream
Cat Power -- Sun
Jason Collett -- Reckon
Conduits -- Conduits
Django Django -- Django Django
Dr. Dog -- Be the Void
Floratone -- Floratone II
Hospitality -- Hospitality
Will Johnson -- Scorpion
Little Barrie -- King of the Waves
Brad Mehldau Trio -- Ode/Where Do You Start
Mmoss -- Only Children
Plants and Animals -- The End of That
Matthew E. White -- Big Inner
Zeus -- Busting Visions

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order)

Air -- Le Voyage Dans La Lune
Amadou and Mariam -- Folila
The Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound -- Manzanita
Chicha Libre -- Canibalismo
Erik Deutsch -- Demonio Teclado
Diiv -- Oshin
First Aid Kit -- The Lion’s Roar
Get the Blessing -- OC DC
Goat -- World Music
Here We Go Magic -- A Different Ship
Michael Kiwanuka -- Home Again
Lambchop -- Mr. M
Cate Le Bon -- Cyrk
Jay Farrar/Jim James/Anders Parker/Will Johnson -- New Multitudes
The Pines -- Dark So Gold
Quantic w/ Alice Russell -- Look Around the Corner
Prince Rupert’s Drops -- Run Slow
Frankie Rose -- Interstellar
Royal Baths -- Better Luck Next Life
School of Seven Bells -- Ghostory
The Sheepdogs -- The Sheepdogs
Christopher Paul Stelling -- Songs of Praise & Scorn
Tennis -- Young and Old
Toure-Raichel Collective -- The Tel Aviv Session
Dustin Wong -- Dreams Say, View, Create, Shadow Leads

Finally, my 10 favorite EP's of 2012 (in alphabetical order):

Andrew Bird -- Hands of Glory
Deer Tick -- Tim
Chris Forsyth -- Kenzo Deluxe
f’ed up -- Year of the Tiger
Hopewell -- Another Music
Oneida - A List of the Burning Mountains
Punch Brothers -- Ahoy!
Robbers on High Street -- Anything Could Happen
Jonathan Wilson -- Pity Trials and Tomorrow’s Children

2012:: Favorite Live Shows

Once again a wonderful year of seeing live music. Got close to 100 shows, but didn't quite crack it like last year (a shortcoming I owe to multiple bouts of the flu & a hurricane).

The stats:
135+ bands seen (64 for the first time)
94 total shows
76 nights (or days) out
37 different venues

While I loved most of the concerts I made it to this year, several stood out above the rest. Here's are my favorite 10+ 2012 shows in some semblance of an order:

1. Freaks Ball XII @ Brooklyn Bowl 1/21 & 1/22 + Portugal. The Man 1/17 @ Bowery Ballroom
two nights of great music, including @neddyo faves Portugal. The Man one night (who I was lucky to see a few days earlier at the Bowery Ballroom (review here) as well, making it one long Freak week for me) and one of the better superjams I've ever seen the next. The Ball always makes my list, but this one was special.

2. Phish @ Jones Beach 7/3 + @ Madison Square Garden 12/30
I probably saw fewer PH shows in 2012 than in any other year in the past 20 (discounting years they were "off", of course), but they were still great. These two NYC shows were the tops of the ones I saw. Band is in fine form, hopefully they make it easy for me to see 'em in 2013.

3. The Heartless Bastards @ Webster Hall 2/24 + @ Irving Plaza 10/27
Best rock band going right now. The Bastards felt like they were in permanent rotation for me in 2012 and these two shows kind of book-ended the meat of the year. Great, great shows.

4. Newport Folk Festival 7/28 & 29 + Wilco/Blitzen Trapper/Megafaun 7/27 @ Fort Adams, Newport, RI
For me right now, the Folk Fest is the perfect festival: always a mix of bands I already love, bands I want to finally check out and new bands to discover and fall in love with. On those terms, the 2012 version was probably my favorite. Add in the pre-show party at the Fort, which would stand on its own as a top show of the year for me, and you have an amazing weekend of music.

5. Medeski, Cline, Martin & Wood @ Blue Note 12/12
Wow! On paper, the highest caliber of talent you can imagine. In reality, a set of straight improv of the highest degree. This was the jamming that all jambands wish they had in them, full four-man without-a-net interplay that was some of the best music I've seen in a while.

6. White Denim @ Bowery Ballroom 4/13 + Brooklyn Bowl 8/13
As I tweeted sometime during one of these bands: at the current trajectory, White Denim is on course to be the best band ever by the middle of 2013. These two shows were blistering sets from a band at the top of their game. The Bowery show reviewed here.

7. Fruit Bats + Yellowbirds @ Knitting Factory 7/2
Two of my favorite bands, a little bit too off-the-radar, in my opinion, playing together in the underutilized Knitting Factory in Brooklyn on one of those "off nights" right before the summer holiday weekend. Apparently a recipe for some fantastic music. I love both of these bands and haven't seen either of them play better than they did on this night.

8. Tame Impala @ Music Hall of Williamsburg 8/7 + @ Webster Hall 11/10
Tame Impala were my favorite musical thing about 2012, in no small part due to these two amazing shows reviewed here and here.

9. Bright Light Social Hour @ Bowery Ballroom 8/8 
Nine entries into this list and I'm trying to figure out some creative ways of saying "favorite" and "best." Let's put it this way, I don't think there's a more fun rock show than the one these guys put on. But beyond that, they rock their asses off and, on this night they proved they've got the makings of some seriously heady jams in them as well. Don't miss these guys!

10. Andrew Bird @ Riverside Church 12/10
Big rock shows are awesome. Quiet special ones like this can be even better. Reviewed here.

Honorable mention:

1/28 Rubblebucket/Superhuman Happiness @ Bowery Ballroom
1/1 + 4/29 The Bad Plus @ Village Vanguard + Blue Note
3/14 New Multitudes @ Webster Hall
7/25 Wilco @ Terminal 5
3/28 First Aid Kit @ Webster Hall
4/20 Portugal. The Man @ MHOW
2/8 Karl Denson's Tiny Universe + Anders Osborne (play Sticky Fingers) @ Webster Hall
2/23 + 8/3 Zeus @ Mercury Lounge
10/23 El Ten Eleven @ Bowery Ballroom
6/22 Anders Osborne @ Brooklyn Bowl
10/22 The Sea and Cake @ Le Poisson Rouge
9/20 Gosta Berlings Saga @ Hornstrung Strand, Stockholm, Sweden
7/24 Howlin Rain/Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound @ Studio at Webster Hall
12/29 The Punch Brothers @ Bowery Ballroom
10/17 Matthew E. White @ Union Pool
8/3 Shanir Blumenkranz's Abraxas @ The Stone
5/12 Oneida et al @ 285 Kent Ave
6/28 Marc Ribot Trio @ Village Vanguard

2012:: Music writing

For my own benefit, mostly, here are the reviews I wrote in 2012 in chronological order. Thanks for Bowery Presents for the opportunity to write about some great music in 2012;

1/14 Girls @ Terminal 5
1/17 Portugal. The Man @ Bowery Ballroom
1/28 Rubblebucket/Superhuman Happiness @ Bowery Ballroom
2/2 Alex Bleeker & The Freaks/La Big Vic @ Mercury Lounge
2/8 Karl Denson + Anders Osborne play Sticky Fingers @ Webster Hall
2/10 Tea Leaf Green @ Bowery Ballroom
2/23 Zeus @ Mercury Lounge
3/2 Matthew Dear @ Bowery Ballroom
3/14 New Multitudes @ Webster Hall
3/18 The Head and the Heart @ Terminal 5
3/20 The Wood Brothers @ Bowery Ballroom
3/27 Gotye @ Webster Hall
3/28 First Aid Kit @ Webster Hall
4/8 War on Drugs @ Bowery Ballroom
4/13 White Denim @ Bowery Ballroom
4/18 Plants & Animals @ Mercury Lounge
4/20 Portugal. The Man @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
5/1 Acid Mothers Temple/Phantom Family Halo @ Mercury Lounge
5/12 Spirit Family Reunion/Dirt Daubers @ Mercury Lounge
5/16 Ty Segall/White Fence @ Webster Hall
6/11 Widowspeak/2:54 @ Mercury Lounge
6/12 Grouplove @ Webster Hall
6/15 Spirit Family Reunion @ Mercury Lounge
6/19 Ani Difranco @ Bowery Ballroom
6/21 Anders Osborne @ Brooklyn Bowl
6/27 The Young @ Mercury Lounge
7/17 Delta Rae @ Bowery Ballroom
7/18 Yonder Mountain String Band @ Brooklyn Bowl
7/25 Wilco @ Terminal 5
8/3 Zeus @ Mercury Lounge
8/6 Old Crow Medicine Show @ Central Park Summerstage
8/7 Tame Impala @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
8/8 Bright Light Social Hour @ Bowery Ballroom
8/23 Yellowbirds/Shovels & Rope/Christopher Paul Stelling @ Mercury Lounge
9/10 Jaill @ Mercury Lounge
10/8 Jens Lekman @ Terminal 5
10/15 Mountain Goats/Matthew E. White @ Bowery Ballroom
10/23 El Ten Eleven @ Bowery Ballroom
11/10 Tame Impala @ Webster Hall
11/30 David Wax Museum @ Mercury Lounge
12/3 Anais Mitchell @ Bowery Ballroom
12/10 Andrew Bird @ Riverside Church
12/17 My Morning Jacket/Deer Tick @ Capitol Theater
12/29 The Punch Brothers @ Bowery Ballroom
12/29 Alex Bleecker/Prince Rupert's Drops @ Mercury Lounge