For me, 2012 may be just as memorable for its live shows than for the music itself. Then again, that’s the way it should be, right? Music is about the experience — physical, mental, and emotional — and that experience can be multiplied tenfold in a live setting — if the artist is good enough, that is. So, as a way to remember these good times, I’ve tracked my top live music moments of 2012. Enjoy the show!
1. Fiona Apple at SXSW, Austin, Tex. – March 14 (Stubb’s), March 15 (Central Presbyterian Church)
Fiona was always near the top of my bucket list of artists I wanted/needed to see live. She’s been a favorite of mine since I spun her debut album nearly a trillion times as a teenager. Well, I got to see her twice in two days. The first time, at Stubb’s, the second at the intimate setting of the Central Presbyterian Church. She even debuted a few new songs off her excellent The Idler Wheel… The passion this woman puts into a song, a lyric, a single note, is like nothing I’ve ever heard or felt before. This is a true artist. I couldn’t believe she still had a voice after the first night.
2. New Order at The Fox Theater, Oakland, Calif. – October 5
See Julian’s recap! We may have been in the very back row, but it was still fun as hell. And, hey, the people way in the back can see the lasers better anyway, right?!
3. Pulp at The Warfield, San Francisco, Calif. – April 17
Jarvis Cocker is a hoot! One of the most flamboyant, funny, entertaining, and smart frontmen I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. The band sounded so tight and fresh, you’d never guess some of these songs were decades old.
4. The Drums acoustic performance for Rhapsody, Austin, Tex. – March 15
We at Rhapsody got The Drums to perform a few tracks down by the river in Austin, Texas, during SXSW, for our “Stripped Down by the River” series. They not only sounded great, they were the nicest of guys. Check out “Money” here!
5. Spiritualized at The Fillmore, San Francisco, Calif. – May 23
Jason Pierce never sang to the audience, always to the side of the stage, and somehow that made this performance even more poignant. Even the near-20-minute “Cop Shoot Cop” closer was mesmerizing. The band’s 2012 release, Sweet Heart Sweet Light, was one of my faves of the year. Check out “Hey Jane” and “I Am What I Am.”
6. Radiohead at HP Pavilion, San Jose, Calif. – April 11
Instead of trekking down to Indio to see these guys at Coachella, I plopped down way too much money to see them down in San Jose. And even though I was near the back of the arena, well, it was still Radiohead I was seeing. These guys have so many hits and classics and just plain great tunes, there wasn’t a dud in the bunch. And I even think their newer stuff sounds better live than their earlier material. I also enjoyed seeing Thom do his spastic squirm dance and Jonny G. effortlessly moving between myriad instruments.
7. Cloud Nothings/The Men/Titus Andronicus/Mikal Cronin/Bleached/The Henry Clay People at The Beauty Bar, Austin, Texas – March 14
This was the Consequence of Sound party at SXSW. The loudest, most roaring and rambunctious show I saw the whole week there. It really encapsulated a year that saw a great rise in noise-rock and punk music. All of these groups were loud and tight and the music went so perfectly with all the free Shiner Bock.
8. Divine Fits at the Treasure Island Music Festival, San Francisco, Calif. – October 14
Spoon’s Britt Daniel and Wolf Parade’s Dan Boeckner come together for some truly great guitar pop laced in synth-rock shivers. The indie rock vets made it all look and sound so effortless. They even pulled off an excellent Tom Petty cover. The San Francisco Bay as their background certainly didn’t hurt the experience.
9. Alt-J at Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco, Calif. – December 11
The Brits’ debut album, An Awesome Wave, kind of passed me by at first, but eventually became one of my favorite releases of 2012. I was able to snag a spot on the guest list for their early show (they played two shows that night). They looked surprisingly relaxed for such a new band, and sounded great. They even had a whole row of teenaged female admirers at the front of the stage. Their sound is subtle, but eclectic, with highlights in “Fitzpleasure,” Taro,” and “Tessellate.”
10. Metallica at Outside Lands Festival, San Francisco, Calif. – August 11
I must admit I was a Metallica fan mostly in high school, and I forgot how many fantastic songs these guys have churned out. I got to hear them play pretty much all of my favorites in the great backyard of San Francisco. For the fans, they played mostly the older stuff, and it was a great nostalgia trip for me. The great big fire blasts were a bit cheesy, but at least they helped warm me up.
11. Grimes at Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle, Wash. – July 21
12. Youth Lagoon at Capitol Hill Block Party, Seattle, Wash. – July 20
13. The Babies at Bottom of the Hill (with a surprise Brandon Flowers sighting!) – December 6
14. Paul Banks at Slim’s – December 1
*Check out my interview with Mr. Banks here!
15. Housse de Racket and Citizens! at Rickshaw Stop – October 12
16. Sleigh Bells at The Regency Ballroom – February 23
17. Refused at The Fox Theater – August 31