Lee Ranaldo kicks off a year of great music at the Rock and Roll Hotel on Jan. 20, 2017. (Photo by David LaMason)
The year 2017 has been full of contradictions. For many, myself included, it was a year filled with uncertainty and frustration, but to a certain degree it also woke people up. And the music that was created was some of the best in years.
I’ve had the privilege of seeing over 70 shows this year, and there were so many amazing performances filled with passion and love for the craft of performing live music that it’s hard to boil them down to 10 of the best. There were shows where I was one of just a handful in attendance, screaming to myself that this performance I was witnessing demanded so much more attention. And there were performances so heart-stopping that I continued to relive them days after the last notes had faded into the evening. All this to say that what follows is a list of 10 (or more) of the shows that happen to stick out in my mind when I close my eyes. So, presented in no particular order are the most memorable shows of 2017.
[Editor’s Note: Where available, click on the slugline for a full review of the show. And David sees more shows in Baltimore than other Parklife DC staff!]
1 – Lee Ranaldo, Steve Gunn, & Meg Baird @ Rock and Roll Hotel — 1/20/17
On the eve of the Women’s March, Lee Ranaldo, Steve Gunn and Meg Baird (Heron Oblivion) spearheaded a show focused on resistance from the policies of the incoming administration. Special guests included Rick Brown and Sue Garner of Run On, Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth, and Georgia Hubley of Yo La Tengo.
2 – A Giant Dog @ DC9 — 9/3/17
Going on what I had heard on their last two LPs, I was completely floored by the sheer amazing performance A Giant Dog displayed at DC9. A perfect combination of great songwriting and a live show I’ll never forget.
3 – Future Islands @ Ottobar — 4/10/17
Just before their world tour in support of The Far Field, local heroes Future Islands played a four-night residency at Baltimore’s Ottobar in the Spring. I caught the second performance and knew it was something special! Full of heart and dripping with sweat, frontman Sam Herring was face to face with fans in this intimate setting.
4 – Of Montreal @ Ottobar — 4/29/17
As part of the Ottobar’s 20th anniversary, the club put on a slew of shows by big name performers. I remember seeing Of Montreal back at the Ottobar shortly before the release of The Gay Parade. It was great to see them back here and with a brilliant stage show.
5 – Algiers @ Black Cat — 7/24/17
Algiers is a force, and the passion behind their live show is nothing short of cathartic. I have the great fortune to see them play the Rock and Roll Hotel a couple of years back and knew I had to catch them again. Their music is powerful but their live show is something that has to be witnessed.
6 – Guided by Voices @ Ottobar — 8/31/17
Guided by Voices has been going strong for decades. It’s a combination of unforgettable songs and marathon live shows that hit all the right notes that make them one of the best bands ever. And at the Ottbar, Bob Pollard and company shook the place for nearly three hours!
7 – Priests @ Ottobar — 7/22/17
Priests play the kind of punk that makes audiences believers. July’s performance at the Ottobar in Baltimore was powerful and one of the best performances I had witnessed so far.
8 – Japandroids @ Rams Head Live — 10/30/17
I have to confess, this was the first time seeing Japandroids (having just missed their tour with Craig Finn months before) and I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect. I’d heard their shows were a raucous affair but had to be experienced. I was absolutely blown away by the sheer force emitted by Brian King and David Prowse. Definitely one of the best bands around!
9 – Rainer Maria @ Rock and Roll Hotel — 9/28/17
Rainer Maria put out one of the best records this past year. Their self-titled LP is brilliant, but it’s the live show that had me smiling all night. It was really pure joy to hear this band again after so many years.
10 – Beach Slang @ Black Cat — 11/28/17
If I’m measuring concerts by the craft and spectacle of the live performance Beach Slang’s kick-in-your-pants show in November at the Black Cat is one of the best!
Charly Bliss @ Black Cat — 10/22/17
Charly Bliss made an outstanding record (one of my top ten) in 2017, so I was eager to see how they would be live. Energetic bordering manic and so much fun to see, they became one of the bands I’ve got on my list to see again as soon as they come through town again!
Wolf Alice – Rock and Roll Hotel — 7/7/17
I have never seen a packed house like the night I saw Wolf Alice play the Rock and Roll Hotel. Having gotten there two hours before the doors opened, there was already a line formed to the next shop on the block, and by the time the doors did open the line stretched farther than I could see. An loud, fun, and dizzying show.
Sylvan Esso – Rams Head Live — 5/16/17
Having missed them several times in the past, the duo created some of my favorite music of 2017. It was a thing of wonder to see Amelia dance and croon over that tapestry of beats created by Nick. Can’t wait to see what’s in store next year!
Craig Finn – Club 603 — 1/21/17
I’ve had the great fortune to see Craig Finn play three times over the past year. He played with Titus Andronicus at the Ottobar just before the new year. He played in Baltimore at a festival sponsored by local station WTMD, and he played one of my most favorite shows in a house in Baltimore during his Living Room tour. It was full of his trademark storytelling but in a setting that brought us inside each song.