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.
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.)