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It’s the End of the Year as We Know It

December 22nd, 2010

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As 2010 comes to a close, The House List’s writers and photographers take a look back at the year that was. Check back on Friday for our year-end photo gallery.

My Top 5 Favorite Shows at NYC’s New CBGB: Mercury Lounge

Besides having great sound despite its intimate size, Mercury Lounge has been on Houston Street since the early ’90s, no small feat in a city that demands international-brand flagship stores and overpriced coffee houses on every corner. So with the iconic CBGB gone and smaller venues that support emerging artists headed to the new East Village—Williamsburg—the Merc remains a symbol of an era when unknown bands could’ve potentially shared the same stage as the Strokes or Animal Collective, bands that once looked for a venue to perform on a random Tuesday night.

1. Ariel Pink, May 4
Why Mercury is still great: Superstars like Ariel play here on tour, so it’s a chance to get up close and personal with the band, no matter where you stand.

2. Bob Log III, July 18
Anywhere Bob plays is great, and here his half stand-up, half blues dinner-theater act is perfect. You’re in his living room, buying drinks for you … and Bob.

3. Lou Barlow, September 1
See Ariel Pink.

4. This Will Destroy You, June 9
Their sound is way too massive for Mercury Lounge, but every once in a while it’s fun to try to stand up against a hailing windstorm.

5. Japanther, March 4
Even if your trips here have left you without any hearing, Japanther puts on the most consistently insane, fun show that’s as old as the venue itself. —Jason Dean

My Top 5 Favorite Frontmen I Enjoyed Seeing Play Solo

1. Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), Mercury Lounge, November 27
I’m really in love with Matt Skiba’s solo release, Demos, right now, and although I’d have enjoyed hearing much more of the material live, the Alkaline Trio frontman played a stellar set at Mercury Lounge that consisted of mostly Trio stuff, including favorites “Good Fucking Bye,” “Blue in the Face,” “Warbrain” and “Radio.”

2. Brian Fallon (the Gaslight Anthem), The Bowery Ballroom, January 15
Fallon played to a sold-out Bowery Ballroom crowd surely hoping to hear new material from the band’s lyricist. Instead he did selections from Gaslight’s debut full-length, The ’59 Sound, and some covers, including “Have You Ever Seen the Rain” by Creedence Clearwater Revival and his show-closing take on Social Distortion’s “Ball and Chain,” my favorite song of the night.

3. Chris Conley (Saves the Day), Music Hall of Williamsburg, December 12
Saves the Day was the soundtrack for many. Listening to the band’s earlier material now brings back memories of breakups, make-outs, house parties and the like. Conley is the only original member currently in the lineup, and to hear him play so many of these songs (“Rocks Tonic Juice Magic,” “Cars and Calories”) in such a stripped-down manner surely brought back forgotten emotions and memories for more than just myself.

4. Brendan Kelly (The Lawrence Arms), Mercury Lounge, November 27
Kelly was so drunk when he played Mercury Lounge that it wasn’t until he hit the stage that he realized he was in no shape to tune his own guitar. I don’t even remember what he played, but I had tears in my eyes from laughing. More recently, I downloaded Wasted Potential, a split record he did with Smoke or Fire frontman Joe McMahon, and it’s been in constant rotation since.

5. Anthony Raneri (Bayside), Music Hall of Williamsburg, December 12
Raneri led off the recent Where’s The Band? tour stop and immediately grabbed the audience’s attention with his opening cover of “Good Fucking Bye.” He rounded out his set with two other rad covers: “Sorrow” (Bad Religion) and “You Vandal” (Saves the Day). Raneri also played a handful of Bayside songs and cracked jokes intermittently, culminating in an all-around great set. —Kirsten Housel

My Top Favorite Five Shows of the Year

1. Arcade Fire, Madison Square Garden, August 5
In the physical and symbolic center of New York City entertainment, Arcade Fire delivered a performance that reached to the back of the bleachers and beyond, with fans streaming the live broadcast on Youtube. Everything about the show felt instantly legendary, from Win Butler traveling into the crowd to the entire arena joining along on the chorus of “Wake Up.” I imagine that this is the definitive concert of my generation, the show I will tell my kids about.

2. LCD Soundsystem, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 8
Before the release of LCD Soundsystem’s alleged final album, This Is Happening, Music Hall of Williamsburg hosted the band’s dress rehearsal for their summer tour. However, with a set including the recent single “Drunk Girls” alongside the Sound of Silver classic “Us v Them,” the show felt more like a victory lap than an audition.

3. El Guincho, Mercury Lounge, September 28
Mercury Lounge is capable of both quiet intimacy and a complete suspension of personal space. During El Guincho’s sample-based tropical rave, I gladly accepted the latter over the former.

4. Four Tet, Webster Hall, October 22
Four Tet’s meditative There Is Love in You is one of my favorite albums of 2010. Fittingly, his performance during CMJ displayed the patience and care, conscientiously extending samples with an awareness of the crowd, which makes There Is Love in You such a triumph.

5. Delta Spirit, The Bowery Ballroom, June 30
I’ve never seen a group of people more excited about a band I knew so little about. With a large sampling of songs from their most recent album, History From Below, Delta Spirit tore through a raucous sing-along set with an encore featuring covers of Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here” and “Shout” by the Isley Brothers. —Jared Levy

My Top Favorite Five Shows of the Year

1. Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, Webster Hall, June 12
Nothing beats stage presence and Grace Potter has loads of it. From the first note to the second encore, Potter sported the biggest grin Webster Hall saw this year, and what a difference it made. Her magnetic personality and incredible pipes (and her legs) made for the best show of the year.

2. Eminem, The Bowery Ballroom, June 21
Well before Kanye took over The Bowery Ballroom for his own album-publicity show, Marshall Mathers did the same. The potential that Eminem might be performing following the Red Bull Emsee contest made it worth the wait. He finally took the stage after midnight once the contest concluded, and although he only stuck around for a few songs, it was incredible to see such a giant star in such a small room.

3. Ok Go, Terminal 5, October 29
I first saw these guys at Bamboozle this year, and aside from their singles we all know (thanks to their viral videos), the show was pretty bland. What a difference your own show makes. Not only did they pump out more confetti than a Flaming Lips tour’s worth of shows, but each song saw something different happening onstage, including everything from lasers to light-up suits and even a 3-D video on the big screen behind them.

4. Josh Ritter, The Beach at Governors Island, August 8
Consider this show a placeholder for ALL of the shows at this venue. Each one of them had something wildly different to offer, but every one was a must-see. Watching great acts a stone’s throw from the southern tip of Manhattan had an exhilarating and unique feel to it, something hard to come by in this city.

5. Major Lazer, Terminal 5, April 3
If you haven’t seen a Major Lazer show, use your Google powers and find out when the next one is near you. Diplo’s beats and Skerrit Bwoy’s presence are unforgettable, but so are the strange, messy and unexplainable things that happen onstage (think 10-foot ladders and lots and lots of grinding dancers). Consider yourself warned. —Sean O’Kane

My Top Five Favorite Covers of the Year

If I had my way, every band would play at least one cover each time they took the stage. I saw plenty of good ones—and it’s hard to say which were best, but here are five of my favorite covers I saw this year in no particular order:

1. “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking” (Rolling Stones), Galactic with members of Tea Leaf Green, Terminal 5, February 5
2. “Drain You” (Nirvana)
, Horse Feathers, The Bowery Ballroom, November 13
3. “Warning Sign” (Talking Heads)
, Local Natives, The Bowery Ballroom, May 6
4. Waiting for Columbus (Little Feat)
in its entirety, Phish, A.C. Boardwalk Hall, October 31
5. Amongst many, many others, “A Quick One While He’s Away” (the Who)
, My Morning Jacket, Terminal 5, October 22 —A. Stein

My Top Five Favorite Musical Moments of the Year

1. Levon Helm Band with Jim James, “It Makes No Difference,” Woodstock, October 16
I love the Band like no other band, and this is my favorite song of theirs. So when My Morning Jacket opened this Midnight Ramble at Levon Helm’s barn, I made it clear to everyone I went with that if Jim James sat in on “It Makes No Difference,” there was a pretty good chance I’d need to wear a condom so as not to embarrass myself in public. He did but, thankfully, I didn’t.

2. Pearl Jam with Ben Bridwell, “Hunger Strike,” Madison Square Garden, May 22
It was one of the best arena shows I’ve ever seen. And it peaked when Eddie Vedder summoned Ben Bridwell, frontman for the opening Band of Horses, to the stage to reprise Chris Cornell’s role. Watch the video and you’ll realize it was one of Bridwell’s top moments of the year, too.

3. My Morning Jacket, the encore, Terminal 5, October 21
MMJ followed their terrific It Still Moves set with an encore that was incendiary. Incendiary. After Dylan’s “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here with You” and two B-side tunes, the quintet lit into the Velvet Underground’s “Head Held High” and then “It Makes No Difference.” Before closing with Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long,” I turned to the person next to me and said, “I need a hug.”

4. Dawes, “When My Time Comes” with the lights on, The Bowery Ballroom, February 19
Dawes’ first headlining show at The Bowery Ballroom was a sold-out affair on a cold, snowy night. And by the time they played their anthem, it was hard to tell if the band or the audience, lustily singing along, was having more fun.

5. Multiple bands and multiple venues, November 22
One of the best things about living in New York City is the huge variety of music that comes our way. And if you want to catch a lot of it, you’ve got to keep moving, which I did on the Saturday after Thanksgiving when I saw a living legend, Dave Brubeck, at the Blue Note before making it to the Beacon Theatre in time to catch Bettye LaVette sit in with Levon Helm (another living legend) on “The Weight,” after which I headed to Terminal 5 to check out Flying Lotus as a part of Hard NYC. —R. Zizmor