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A Top Five Look Back at 2013

January 10th, 2014


Ten days into the New Year, The House List looks back at 2013 with some Top Five lists.

My Top Five Favorite Shows
1.
The Postal Service, Barclay Center, June 14
My decade-belated live date with the Postal Service finally culminated at Barclays Center, where rabid fans, like myself, roared as Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello hit the stage. As if acting out lyrics from “Nothing Better,” Gibbard and Jenny Lewis shimmied close for the duet. Old friends reunited onstage never felt so good.

2. Haim, Webster Hall, September 3
I was late to this bandwagon, as fellow House List contributor Alex Kapelman shortlisted Haim last year for his Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year. I knew I was in for a good one when I could barely find a spot in the rafters to catch the three sisters, who charmed with their onstage banter and wicked musicianship

3. Jessie Ware, The Bowery Ballroom, January 17
Straight off her Jimmy Fallon taping backed by the Roots, the British songstress elated the crowd with her effortless, down-to-earth stage demeanor. Her star quickly rose with American audiences, as she sold out shows at Webster Hall, Music Hall of Williamsburg and Irving Plaza throughout the year. I was glad to have caught her earlier in the more intimate venue.

4. Basia Bulat, Bowery Ballroom, November 23
I’ve been a fan of Basia Bulat since I heard her cover Sam Cooke’s “Touch the Hem of His Garment.” This show on a cold night wasn’t sold out, which made me a little sad since she’s quite the talent. But those who were there were enraptured by her prowess on autoharp to the point that you could hear a pin drop during her solos.

5. Daughter, Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Somehow Elena Tonra manages to disguise heartbreak behind soulful lyrics and melody. She has a knack for turning happy dance songs into somber endeavors. The band mashed-up Bon Iver and Hot Chip’s “Perth/Ready for the Floor” that evening. Check out Tonra’s somber retake of Daft Punk’s hit “Get Lucky” for further proof. —Sharlene Chiu

My Top Five Shows I Never Thought I Would See
1. Desaparecidos, Webster Hall, February 26

Desaparecidos (and really any Conor Oberst project) were my bread and butter back in the early aughts, and for a while they seemed to be a one-off, a politically minded side project firmly planted in the past. Fortunately (and unfortunately) the global state of affairs remains messed up enough for the band to regroup to write protest songs for a new decade. It was a nostalgic, sweaty and inspired performance.

2. Shuggie Otis, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 19
Shuggie Otis began putting out music in the mid-’70s, followed by a long period of laying low. Content to groove along to songs like “Ice Cold Daydream” at home, I never really thought about the possibility of a Shuggie Otis tour in 2013. But when I found out, I was there. And “Ice Cold Daydream” is even better in person.

3. The Flamin’ Groovies, The Bowery Ballroom, July 6
Instead of discovering the Flamin’ Groovies in a smoky San Fran club in the ’60s, I was introduced to their catchy psychedelia on a Nuggets compilation more than 30 years later. Who’d have thought they’d still be going strong in 2013 and that I’d be dancing right alongside some old school fans at this fun summer show.

4.  John Prine, Beacon Theatre, September 26
John Prine has been active since the early ’70s, but unlike Shuggie Otis, he never really went away, writing and recording songs at a steady pace throughout the years. But I still always thought of him as an artist too legendary for me to see in person—or that tickets would be too out of reach. But John Prine put on an amazing show, highlighting his singular skills as a songwriter and storyteller.

5. The Julie Ruin, Music Hall of Williamsburg, October 25
I was late to the party for the original riot-grrl movement, but I became an admirer of Bikini Kill frontwoman Kathleen Hanna during her time in Le Tigre. She’s dealt with some debilitating health issues in the past few years, but I had no doubt she’d continue to make art and music. So I was happy to learn of her latest project, the Julie Ruin, and her energetic show did not disappoint. —Alena Kastin

My Top Five Shows
1. Yo La Tengo, Town Hall, February 16

I don’t like to pick a favorite, but my last.fm account tells me I’ve listened to Yo La Tengo more than any other band since 2007. At Town Hall, they performed an acoustic set and an electronic one, doing two versions of “Ohm,” my favorite song of the year. And then I ran into Tim Heidecker from Tim & Eric’s Awesome Show, Great Job! Had the Red Sox not won the World Series, this would’ve been my favorite night of the year.

2. Killer Mike/El-P, Webster Hall, August 14
I don’t care what anyone says: The best two rap albums of 2012 came from Killer Mike and El-P. And in 2013 they topped them, coming together as one entity, Run the Jewels. The night included a set from El-P, a set from Killer Mike and a combined set with both. El-P’s ingenious production plus Killer “I bleed charisma” Mike equals one concert I will never forget.

3. Foxygen, The Bowery Ballroom, October 21
With Foxygen it occasionally feels like shit could fall apart at any moment. And sometimes it does. But when their shows don’t come unhinged they deliver that sweet thrill of relief, like narrowly avoiding a car crash. And on this Halloween-themed night, the band made a weird show even weirder with homemade costumes and pseudo spooky vibes.

4. Steve Earle, Music Hall of Williamsburg, May 8
You can just tell some people are genuine, and Steve Earle is certainly one of them. Forever wearing his heart on his sleeve, that same energy bleeds right into his music, which he played alongside what he’s calling “the best band he’s ever had.”

5. Meat Puppets, Mercury Lounge, April 4
Not only are the Meat Puppets still kicking (after living through some serious shit), but also they’re thriving. And as much as I respect their legacy, seeing them play for more than two hours with the intensity you’d expect of a band 20 years their junior makes me respect them that much more. Long live the puppets of meat! —Dan Rickershauser

My Top Five Shows
1. Dessa, Union Hall, May 5

There are few performers I feel can move mountains with their vocal chords, and Dessa is one of them. This performance was an eruption of defiant lyrics and bold beats. A sizable crowd of young girls knew all of her lyrics, giving the show a chant-like feel. The only female member of Minnesota’s Doomtree collective practically vibrates with energy, and it’s completely contagious.

2. Kishi Bashi, Irving Plaza, September 12
Kishi Bashi sounds even better live than he does recorded. And he delivered a dazzling set with profuse vocal looping and an excellent backing band. Kauro Ishibashi has a supercharged, effusive aura, and his music embodies that persona. This set took a rowdy turn that involved crowd surfing, strobe lights and an outright jam session.

3. Panama Wedding, CMJ Music Marathon
I happened upon newcomers Panama Wedding three different times during CMJ: Initially, opening for NONONO at Mercury Lounge on the first night. Since the band had only released one song, “All of the People,” I was eager to see what would unfold onstage. Their set was so tight that I caught the fantastical pop group the following night at Pianos and then again at a showcase at Santos Party House.

4. You Won’t, Rockwood Music Hall, October 30
The live iteration of You Won’t is a spectacle to behold. I watched eagerly as Josh Arnoudse and Raky Sastri wielded a slew of instruments with ease, quickly fascinating the audience. The duo took their jaunty music into the audience a couple of times to break the barrier and enlisted some extra vocal support by encouraging us to all to sing along.

5. James Blake, Terminal 5, November 6
In this spellbinding live performance, complete with plenty of vocal looping and haunting electronica, James Blake made a cavernous room filled with people feel intimate. And that he’s such a dapper-looking fellow only helps boost his appeal. I’m still transfixed by this performance nearly two months later. James Blake’s music has some serious lasting effects. —Schuyler Rooth

My Top Five Shows with Regard to Lights, Visuals and Production
1. Umphrey’s McGee, Brooklyn Bowl, January 20

Kick-ass creative lighting
and Brooklyn Bowl don’t usually go hand in hand, but Umphrey’s McGee lighting guru Jefferson Waful turned the room into a thing of beauty.

2. Föllakzoid/Holydrug Couple, Mercury Lounge, March 21
What better way to enjoy some old school psychedelic music than with some old school liquid projections courtesy of Drippy Eye.

3. Plaza: Portugal. The Man, Irving Plaza, May 20
Freakin’ lasers!

4. The Flaming Lips/Tame Impala, Terminal 5, October 1
It was almost as fascinating to watch the Lips’ spectacle getting set up as it was to see it in action—confetti, strobes, LEDs and, well, pretty much everything. And Tame Impala’s projections were no slouch either.

5. Phish, Atlantic City Boardwalk, October 31, November 2
Phish’s fall tour found lighting director Chris Kuroda playing the Willy Wonka of eye candy all over the East Coast. —A. Stein

My Top Five Albums
1. Phosphorescent, Muchacho
I’d only seen Phosphorescent once before listening to Muchacho for the first time. And while much of Matthew Houck’s previous work is country-tinged (not that there’s anything wrong with that), this album, ostensibly about a breakup, covers more territory, from the meditative sounds of “Sun, Arise (An Invocation, an Introduction)” and “Sun’s Arising (A Koan, an Exit)” to the jammy, driving “Ride On/Right On” to softer fare, like “Muchacho’s Tune,” all centered on Houck’s evocative voice. I still can’t stop listening to it.

2. Foxygen, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
Foxygen’s third full-length, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, comes off as a loving mash note to ’70s rock. You’ll hear bits of the Rolling Stones, Velvet Underground and David Bowie, but the album expertly manages to sound like something whole and new rather than something derivative.

3. White Denim, Corsicana Lemonade
Upon the first couple of listens, I found White Denim’s latest, Corsicana Lemonade, to be too singer-songwriter-y, but I continued to give it a chance, and it opened up to something much bigger, with genre-hopping songs like “Let It Feel Good (My Eagles)” and “Pretty Green”—not to mention some searing guitar parts—grabbing me by the throat.

4. Futurebirds, Baba Yaga
Admittedly, I didn’t know anything about Futurebirds, out of Athens, Ga., before writing a preview of their late-May show at The Bowery Ballroom. But while listening to their second LP, Baba Yaga, as I wrote, I became totally enamored of the album—half twangy Southern rock and half spacey reverb.

 5. Kurt Vile, Wakin on a Pretty Daze
I love Kurt Vile’s Wakin on a Pretty Daze so much, that I can’t believe it’s only No. 5. Labeling it stoner rock, as many have done, is lazy. Although I supposed me calling it laid-back rock isn’t any better. But the fact of the matter is there might not ever be a better album to listen to while walking the streets of New York City with headphones in your ears. —R. Zizmor

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

January 2nd, 2013

As 2012 has ended and the warmth of the holiday season makes way for the cold, harsh reality of winter, The House List looks back at the year that was.

My Top Five Shows of the Year
1. Lianne La Havas, The Bowery Ballroom, September 11
Fittingly, La Havas paused to remember the events of the day New Yorkers would never forget. Along with her grace, this gal is the real deal, and I was privileged to have seen her before she blows up. This performance reminded me of seeing Adele at the Highline Ballroom before all the hoopla and Grammys.

2. Patrick Watson, The Bowery Ballroom, September 7
There are few artists who can command silence even to the edges of the back bar at The Bowery Ballroom and Mr. Watson is one of them. With humor and honesty, he delighted the crowd and even ended the night atop stools serenading “Man Under the Sea.”

3. Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, Mercury Lounge, October 23
There are some bands that stay with you even through artistic reimaginings. I’d heard Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s had shifted from their chamber-pop beginnings to a purer rock sound, so I was a little apprehensive seeing them in this new formation. The girl-and-boy harmonies were missing, but Richard Edwards really is Margot through and through. Even for this old school fan, I was completely enthralled.

4. Tycho, Webster Hall, July 14
Scott Hansen has a day job as an amazing graphic designer, and he produces music under the moniker Tycho on the side. Needless to say this kid isn’t touring a ton, but when he does one should NOT miss the opportunity. This was by far my favorite summer show (and it was indoors) with amazing visuals splashed behind the perfect chillwave soundtrack.

5. Conor Oberst, Carnegie Hall, November 21
Oberst made a guest appearance earlier in the spring at M. Ward’s Webster Hall gig, which only whet my appetite for his performance last month. The combination of the regal venue and one mature wunderkind was the perfect appetizer to Thanksgiving. —Sharlene Chiu

My Top Five Bowery Presents Shows of the Year
1.
Haim, Music Hall of Williamsburg, December 15
This was the best show I went to all year, bar none. I struggled to get under my minimum world requirement for these beyond-words talented sisters. If you have the opportunity to go check these guys out, do it immediately, because at some point next year, they’ll be playing massive venues as one of the hottest tickets around. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

2. Of Montreal, Webster Hall, December 11
After years of catching grief from friends, I finally got to see of Montreal, and boy was I happy that I did. Kevin Barnes is a mad genius with his deranged stage show, which included dancers in spandex, trippy projections and never-ending balloon tubes. Oh yeah—the music was pretty solid too.

3. Trombone Shorty, Terminal 5, December 8
This dude absolutely knows how to put on a show. He’s pure New Orleans in every possible way, blending funk, jazz and pop with and incredible musicianship to throw one hell of a party. My only regret was that I couldn’t find anyone to dance with when he played “Slow Motion.”

4. Marina and the Diamonds, Terminal 5, December 6
I was in pure pop heaven for this show. In addition to being absolutely beautiful, Marina Diamandis’s voice bursts with raw power. While I’m bewildered that Electra Heart didn’t gain the attention in the United States that it deserved, I’ll probably continue listening to “Primadonna” nonstop in 2013.

5. Foxygen, Mercury Lounge, October 16
I had no idea what I was getting myself into at this CMJ show. Even though they were about to blow up (they opened for of Montreal at Webster Hall only a few weeks later), I walked into a musical ambush and I loved it. This supremely weird group has a reputation for sounding like the Rolling Stones, but I hear a lot more flower-power acid rock in the mix. —Alex Kapelman

My Top Five Surprising Shows of the Year
1.
The Head and the Heart, Terminal 5, March 18
You’ll very quickly learn that I’m using surprising loosely for this list, starting with this show. Quite literally minutes before it started I got offered a +1 to see one of my favorite new bands of the last few years play their first major headlining show in New York City. The surprises doubled when the sweet and folky Seattle band finally reached past the 10(-ish) songs they’d been playing since they began touring and flexed their rock muscles in an excellent display of what’s to come.

2. Trombone Shorty, Terminal 5, December 8
I went into this show readily expecting to love the set. But I wasn’t prepared to have my hair stand on edge the entire night, or for Shorty himself to have such a magnetic stage presence, nor was I expecting a jazzy, funky version of Nirvana’s “In Bloom” (or the epic three-minute baritone saxophone solo that capped it).

 3. All Get Out, The Bowery Ballroom, April 30
Of all the Southern-tinged heavier rock bands to emerge recently, these guys might be the most powerfully raw. Lead singer Nate Hussey bleeds emotion onstage in the way he stretches and drawls the oh-so-personal lyrics of his songs. But the surprise here wasn’t in the loud moments, it was in the moment that he silenced the entire Bowery Ballroom by leaning out over the crowd, his voice breaking as he sang and clutched his guitar like it was a child he was afraid to lose.

4. Grouplove, Terminal 5, November 2
I went into Grouplove’s show expecting a decent crowd and some catchy choruses, but the show they put on was one of the best of the year. Every member kept moving, smiling and laughing throughout the set, and the sonic diversity of the tracks on their album was even more apparent as they rang through the halls of Terminal 5.

5. J. Roddy Walston and the Business > Lucero > Portugal. The Man > Greyboy Allstars, Webster Hall > Music Hall of Williamsburg > Brooklyn Bowl, April 20
There are a lot of things people will tell you that you have to do in New York City when it comes to live music, but seeing multiple bands in multiple venues in one night isn’t always atop the list. But it should be. Pick any show-laden night, line up your schedule and plan a route. It’s like when the CMJ schedule gets announced and everyone scrambles to put together the best puzzle of a lineup, only without all the pressure. Stretch it over a couple venues and boroughs, leave some time in there for drinks, bathroom breaks and inevitable waits for the L train, and have a ball. —Sean O’Kane

My Top Five Shows of the Year
1.
Santigold, Music Hall of Williamsburg, January 17
Like most Santigold fans, I caught on to her greatness too late. But when she put out more music and went on tour in 2012, I was fortunate enough to catch one of her first dates. With all the things that made this show so spectacular—amazing dance moves, wonderfully bizarre wardrobes, special guests and that I unknowingly walked past David Byrne in the stairwell—nothing could steal this show from the beautiful and talented Santigold.

2. Jonathan Richman, June 14, The Bowery Ballroom
I decided to go to a Jonathan Richman show on a whim, with no real expectations. And I was totally blindsided by the casual brilliance of his wonder-filled simple songs played with just an acoustic guitar and hushed drums. He didn’t play a single song I knew, but it didn’t matter at all.

3. Beach House, SummerStage, July 24
This show almost never happened, as a big-ass thunderstorm did what it could to cancel the concert. Beach House’s music was the perfect soundtrack for the mystical moods of a midsummer storm. The night felt like a dream, complete with the dream pop.

4. Hot Chip, Terminal 5, July 23
The music scene is changing. Want proof? How about the fact that one of the bands writing the catchiest electro-pop music on the planet right now is a group of Londoners that look like they came out of your company’s IT department. They also put on a really fun show.

5. Leftöver Crack, Music Hall of Williamsburg, January 1
Is there a better way to kick off the New Year than with a hardcore punk show hosted by none other than the legendary Leftöver Crack? And there’s nothing more punk rock than nursing a New Year’s Day hangover while getting hit in the face by fans somersaulting off the stage, over and over again.—Dan Rickershauser

My Top Five Shows I Saw on a Monday in 2012 (aka Monday Is the New Friday)
1.
Andrew Bird, Riverside Church, December 10
2. White Denim, Brooklyn Bowl, August 13
3. Fruit Bats/Yellowbirds, Knitting Factory, July 2
4. The Sea and Cake, Le Poisson Rouge, October 22
5. Old Crow Medicine Show, The Bowery Ballroom, August 6  —A. Stein

My Top Five Shows of the Year
1.
Love for Levon, Izod Center, October 3
It was an amazing celebration of the life of Levon Helm. And my personal highlights included Ray LaMontagne and John Mayer doing “Tears of Rage,” My Morning Jacket’s cover of “Ophelia” before tackling “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down” with Roger Waters, and the star-studded “The Weight” finale.

2. Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Carnegie Hall, January 7
To commemorate their 50th anniversary, Preservation Hall Jazz Band played with special guests like Allen Toussaint, Steve Earle, Mos Def and My Morning Jacket. It was absolutely amazing. And even at the time, I remember thinking, “Is the first week of January too early for the show of the year.”

3. J. Roddy Walston and the Business > Lucero > Portugal. The Man > the Greyboy Allstars, Webster Hall > Music Hall of Williamsburg > Brooklyn Bowl, April 20
It was four bands, three venues, two boroughs and one hell of a night.

4. Newport Folk Fest – Newport, R.I. – July 28
I caught bits of Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Alabama Shakes, Sharon Van Etten and Dawes before My Morning Jacket took the stage and the wind and torrential rains began. By the time the set was halted due to the weather not too long after MMJ did “It Makes No Difference” with horns and Brittany Howard, I was quite possibly the wettest I’d ever been. But no matter. And when Middle Brother finished a mini set in the middle of a Deer Tick show later that night, I was already swearing I’d be back in 2013.

5. Jonathan Wilson – Mercury Lounge – May 18
Anytime you find yourself surrounded by all of the Bowery Presents talent buyers in the back of Mercury Lounge at 7:30 on a Friday night, you’re probably in for a great show. So I shouldn’t have been so surprised by Wilson’s music—psychedelic-folk tunes at once mellow and rollicking that sound even better live—but I was. —R. Zizmor

My Top Five Albums of the Year
1. Jack White, Blunderbuss

Because even first thing in the morning, from the opening notes of “Missing Pieces,” you want to crank up the volume and open the windows.

2. Tame Impala, Lonerism
Kevin Parker’s entire second Tame Impala LP seems to have emerged from the trippy center of “Tomorrow Never Knows.”

3. Lucero, Women & Work
Want evocative lyrics, whiskey-soaked vocals, bits of punk, country and boogie all laid over Stax-style horns? Yes please. All day.

4. Hacienda, Shakedown
On this Dan Auerbach–produced album, the San Antonio, Texas, quartet’s sound effectively moves away from Soutwestern surf rock and toward bluesy garage rock in a totally listenable way.

5. Howlin’ Rain, The Russian Winds
Because it sounds like Chris Cornell leading the Black Crowes, which is badass. —R.Z.

(Check out our look back at the year in photos.)

 

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A Brief Look Back at 2011

January 2nd, 2012

My Top Five Favorite Shows of the Year

1. Jeff Mangum, Town Hall, October 29
I never imagined I’d get to see Jeff Mangum in concert. Neutral Milk Hotel, his iconic pysch-folk band, shut it down years ago and he disappeared with them. But this year, Mangum performed a few shows across the country and his Town Hall date was my favorite show of 2011. From the boisterous sing-along of “The King of Carrot Flowers” to the reverent silence that followed each song, it was both memorable and chilling.

2. Sharon Van Etten, Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 16
It was a rainy April night and I had little motivation to trek to Williamsburg. Luckily, I sucked it up and went. Sharon Van Etten stunned me like few other performers have this year. Her melancholy love songs, devastatingly beautiful, permanently impacted the audience. Or, at least this humble observer.

3. Deerhoof, Music Hall of Williamsburg, September 20
Deerhoof left me speechless. I struggled to write my review, because, hours afterward, adrenaline still coursed through my veins. Greg Saunier, the band’s drummer and founder, is a show within a show. His dynamic logic-defying drum play is easily worth the price of admission. I’m still trying to twist my mind around this concert.

4. Flying Lotus, The Bowery Ballroom, June 20
This year I was most excited to see Brainfeeder’s showcase at the Bowery Ballroom. The label, started by innovative producer Flying Lotus, houses some of my favorite artists, including Teebs, Thundercat and Flying Lotus himself. For his set, Flying Lotus was accompanied by Thundercat, the bass phenom whose 2011 album, The Golden Age of Apocalypse, is one not to sleep on, and jazz-keyboard prodigy Austin Peralta. The whole night was a pleasure and I look forward to Brainfeeder’s output in 2012.

5. Levon Helm Band, SummerStage, July 18
In the pouring rain, I sang “The Weight” with Levon Helm. How can you top that? —Jared Levy

My Top Five Shows When the Crowd Really Clicked with the Band

Every once in a while an audience seems to be especially dialed in a little bit extra, elevating the show.
1.
Middle Brothers/Dawes/Deer Tick/Matt Vasquez, The Bowery Ballroom, March 6
2. LCD Soundsystem, Madison Square Garden, April 2
3. John Vanderslice, Mercury Lounge, May 12
4. Black Taxi and Bright Light Social Hour, Mercury Lounge, October 1
5. J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Mercury Lounge, December 1 —A. Stein

My Top Five Shows of the Year

1. Levon Helm’s Midnight Ramble with Dawes and Jimmy Vivino, December 3
With a great cast of characters onstage and in the audience, this has got to be the No. 1 night of the 365—from Dawes and Jackson Browne’s version of “Take It Easy” to Jimmy Vivino and Garth Hudson leading a Band set to Donald Fagen and Danny Louis spearheading the funkiest “Shakedown Street” I’ve ever heard. Plus, Levon Helm!

2. Middle Brother/Deer Tick/ Dawes/Matt Vasquez, Music Hall, March 5
Understandably, the frontmen from three bands don’t often team up to put out an album, but still, why don’t more bands tour like this? It couldn’t possibly have been more fun.

3. My Morning Jacket, VH1 Storytellers Taping, February 24
My friend and I had just said how happy we were to be safely seated in the second row, away from the cameras, when two women from production bounced two guys in the front row and put us in their spot, three feet from Jim James. While it was amazing to see MMJ in such an intimate space, at one point when I opened my eyes to find a camera pointed right at my face, just inches away, I became totally self-conscience, like Jack Donaghy trying to figure out how to hold a coffee cup. But eventually everything faded away, and on the beautiful “Wonderful (How I Feel)” all I could hear was James’s foot softly keeping the beat.

4. Portugal. The Man, Terminal 5, October 20
I first saw these guys play a tent at Bonnaroo several years ago, and each time since, they seem to have gained something, whether it’s an improved stage presence or another fantastic album. But it all came together during this packed CMJ show, complete with spacey jams and stellar covers.

5. Rosehill Drive, Mercury Lounge, April 23
I love loud guitar rock, so I was pretty disappointed when power-rock trio Rosehill Drive just disappeared. I hadn’t seen them in nearly two years when they just as suddenly reappeared, this time as a four-piece, but no less ready to rock. —R. Zizmor

My Top Five Favorite Bands I Saw for the First Time This Year

1. Gary Clark Jr., Mercury Lounge, December 13
2. Alabama Shakes, The Bowery Ballroom, October 20
3. The Head and the Heart, Mercury Lounge, May 17
4. Punch Brothers, The Bowery Ballroom, January 15
5. Young the Giant, IFC Crossroads House, March 17 —R.Z.

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

December 22nd, 2010

2010-roth-ira-conversion-rules-limits
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

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

December 22nd, 2009

2009, Bitches!
As 2009 comes to a close, The House List’s writers and photographers (and editor) take a look back at the year that was. Check back tomorrow for our year-end photo gallery.

My Top Five 7″ Tour Singles

I’ve always loved that for the price of a drink, bands sometimes go the extra distance for their tour and press 7″ vinyl that you really can’t get anywhere else but at the merch table.

1. Times New Viking/Axemen, Tour Single
I love Times New Viking’s no-fi melodic messiness, and they save the great experimental stuff for their B-sides. I got this at their Mercury Lounge show. That it was a split with New Zealand legends the Axemen was even better. Only later did I find out each band covered the other’s songs and they hand-colored every copy! It’s that combination of paying homage to this influential band and introducing people through their reinterpretations that makes this an easy No. 1.

2. Jeff Novak, “Home Sweet Home” Single
I recognized Stephen Braren of Cheap Time behind the table after the Jay Reatard show at Music Hall of Williamsburg, and I got Jeff Novak’s long sold-out single from Reatard’s Shattered Records. I actually ended up contacting Novak after this and talked with him for my own blog.

3. Black Dice, “Chocolate Cherry” Tour Single
Black Dice have just a handful of singles from quite a few years ago, so when I saw them at The Bowery Ballroom, I was just looking out of habit. But this unlabeled single ended up being from Catsup Plate, which put out the insane Animal Collective LP box set this year. Both unreleased tracks were a departure—almost funk and with recognizable vocal samples! Truly weird.

4. Make a Mess Records, “Brilliant Colors” Single
I went to see Nodzzz and Wavves at the Underground Lounge on the Upper West Side. I managed to talk to Eric Butterworth from Nodzzz, who had just pressed a single on his label, Make a Mess Records. This ended up being one of my favorites of the year. Simple, stripped-down female-fronted No Wave punk pop.

5. The Balkans, C++ Tour Single
I caught the Balkans at a new space in Brooklyn called Little Field. Woody Shortridge had pressed a single-sided 7″ at home, and I had to see it for myself. He pours them in his apartment and you get a really crazy-looking handmade single with the lowest of low-fi sound. And it helps that the track is great too. —Jason Dean, writer

My Top Five Bowery Presents Shows

1. Jimmy Eat World (playing Clarity in full), Terminal 5, February 23
2. Thursday (playing Full Collapse in full), The Bowery Ballroom, October 25
3. Fake Problems, Mercury Lounge, July 1
4. the Gaslight Anthem, Terminal 5, October 15
5. Head Automatica, Music Hall of Williamsburg, January 8 —Kirsten Housel, writer

My Top Five Favorite Shows

1. Justice, Webster Hall, October 29
There is a clear divide between Justice’s show and every other concert I saw this year. I was immediately overcome by the energy of the crowd. Scantily clad women grinded with masked men, and sweat poured from all in attendance. The French DJ duo seamlessly navigated through their own songs as well as classics like War’s “Why Can’t We Be Friends.” I eagerly await a concert with the force and spirit that Justice created.

2. All Tomorrow’s Parties, Kutsher’s in Monticello, N.Y., September 11-13
The Flaming Lips performed brilliantly and selected an impressive list of artists: Sufjan Stevens, Caribou, Marshall Allen, of the Sun Ra Arkestra, and Deerhunter (their last show before declaring an indefinite hiatus). Artists mingled with fans in a sleepy relic of the Borscht Belt.

3. Warp20, Terminal 5, September 4
The 20th anniversary celebration for Warp Records was as unique as it was spectacular. As the only North American Warp20 event, it featured the U.S. debut of Pivot, Battles’ first North American date in 2009, Flying Lotus and Battles. And I even got to meet David Byrne.

4. Siren Music Festival, Coney Island, July 18
Just a couple of days into living in New York City, I learned about this festival. During the dog days of summer, Coney Island hosts a free music festival full of established artists and exciting new acts under the shadow of the Cyclone. Built to Spill headlined. I had never seen or heard them before that, but I have been hooked ever since.

5. Animal Collective, Prospect Park Bandshell, August 15
It is fitting that the first show I reviewed for The House List was Animal Collective. Though I may have been relatively late to the party, I am consistently blown away by their ability to channel noises and samples into catchy and beautiful songs. They have established themselves through their live shows, and this late-summer concert was Animal Collective at their finest. —Jared Levy, writer

My Top Five “Whoa! Glad I Got Here Early!” Opening-Band Surprises

1. Janelle Monáe (opening for Of Montreal), Music Hall of Williamsburg, April 15
2. Yacouba Sissoko (opening for the Bad Plus), The Bowery Ballroom, February 17
3. Brazos (opening for White Denim, Music Hall of Williamsburg), November 12
4. Hymns (opening for Jason Lytle), The Bowery Ballroom, July 11
5. Vandaveer (opening for These United States), Union Hall, August 28 —A. Stein, writer

My Top Five Favorite Bands I Saw for the First Time This Year

1. Deer Tick I’m not ashamed to admit that I love this band to the legal limit of the New York state marriage laws. Their songs are raw and real and come alive onstage. (Note: Dear Tick loves the sauce, so you might be better off checking them out earlier in the night.)

2. Dawes Young bands’ live stuff too often sounds exactly like their recorded versions, but not with Dawes. Although they only have one disc, they seem like they’ve been around for years. Just try to get their soaring anthem “When My Time Comes” out of your head after seeing them.

3. Alberta Cross The first band I intended to review for The House List was a dud, but the opener, Alberta Cross, blew me away. Their sound comes from the ’70s (think Neil Young and Crazy Horse) but they come off as totally and completely of the moment.

4. Portugal. The Man Their sounda mix of soul, blues, folk and prog rock, plus a healthy dose of guitaris as intriguing as their name. Add John Gourley’s appealing falsetto voice to that mix, and these guys are a can’t-miss band. I saw them four times and was never disappointed.

5. Blitzen Trapper I knew about Blitzen Trapper before I’d ever seen them. I almost caught them early in the year, but a stomach virus derailed my attendance. So when they returned to The Bowery Ballroom on a Sunday night, I didn’t let the fact that I felt like shit deter me. Good thing too, ’cause they cured my hangover. —R. Zizmor, editor

My Top Five Favorite Covers of the Year

1. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” (Velvet Underground), Black Crowes, Summer Stage, September 2
This was my happiest musical moment of the year. “Oh! Sweet Nuthin’” is my favorite song on one of my all-time favorite albums (Loaded). I’d seen others cover it, but not as well as the Crowes. Rich Robinson, singing lead, sounded confident and strong. His brother, Chris, joined in on a third guitar, and Luther Dickinson’s searing solos completed it. Ten minutes of bliss.

2. “Crown of Thorns” (Mudhoney), Pearl Jam, the Spectrum, Philadelphia, October 31
This was the last-ever show at the Spectrum. And at the same time, game three of the World Series was going on, like, a thousand feet away. Just two songs after playing Devo’s “Whip It,” Pearl Jam launched into one-half of Mudhoney’s haunting “Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns.” The original came out in 1989, but I didn’t hear it ’til it made the Singles soundtrack in 1992. All these years later, I finally heard it live. I just closed my eyes and took it in. (Afterward, we were like smiling, squinty salmon swimming upstream through a parade of sad, dejected Phillies fans.)

3. “Bring It on Home to Me” (Sam Cooke), Dawes, Mercury Lounge, October 16
We shotgunned beers in the basement and then headed upstairs for a slew of covers—Springsteen, Petty, CCR and the Beatles. But Sam Cooke’s tale of infidelity was the highlight. It’s one of the finest soul songs in the history of the genre, and these four white boys did it supreme justice.

4. “The Real Me” (the Who), Pearl Jam, Outside Lands, San Francisco
The second song on Quadrophenia is about a young schizophrenic trying to find “the real me” amidst his four distinct personalities. It’s loud and angry and embodies rock and roll. And from the gritty opening notes, Pearl Jam—especially Eddie Vedder’s voice—killed it.

5. “Under Pressure” (Queen and David Bowie), Ben Harper and Relentless7, May 8
Granted, this tune isn’t for everyone. But it’s an upbeat, slow-building song about, well, dealing with pressure, and it makes me happy. So to see it done live, as the encore of a surprisingly good show, made a Friday night that much sweeter. —R.Z.