This past year was a fun one for me, musically speaking. I was able to see a lot of shows! I had the opportunity to meet some friends while they were on the road and make some new ones. I saw bands perform that I hadn’t seen in 30 years and saw many bands for the first time. I even went to shows where I didn’t know any of the bands on the bill!
Narrowing all the performances down to ten is a difficult endeavor but one I have placed upon myself. I don’t HAVE to do this, but for some reason I find the challenge as entertaining as it is frustrating! I know I’m going to leave a band or artist out that I think deserves to be in the list. The entire process is a two part equation. The first part is the most obvious: going through every concert I saw this year and choosing who I thought was best. Each artist or band has the same opportunity, regardless of notoriety, venue, or crowd size.
The other half of this equation is picking a photograph that encapsulates the show and why I chose it in my Top 10. So, in no specific order, my ten favorite performances of 2023
Teen Mortgage was the middle act between Thee Deluxe and The Bobby Lees. I hadn’t heard Teen Mortgage before so when the duo came onstage and ripped it apart, sonically, I was impressed. They even had their own intermission where drummer Ed Barkauskas and singer/guitarist James Guile met center stage for a bottle of water between songs.
The complete other side of the spectrum is Bush at The Anthem. Bush is a globally recognized group that sells out wherever they play. The band put on an incredible show complete with Gavin Rossdale jumping into the crowd and running right in between me and my son. I loved this show for the quality of the musicians, the great setlist, and the atmosphere.
I have wanted to see Quicksand for a long time. Back when their debut, Slip, came out, I wasn’t able to see the band perform. Thirty years later, I had the opportunity to see the band play the album in its entirety and it was everything I had hoped for and more. The band was obviously having a great time on stage, playing awesome music, and making memories for more than just me, for sure!
Heartless Bastards are another band I’ve wanted to see for a long time but, for one reason or another, never made it to a show. They are one of those bands that puts out great albums but the live show takes things up to a whole different level. I had a smile on my face from start to finish.
(The) Melvins…what else do I have to say? What surprised me was that they WEREN’T the headliner! They played in between Mr. Phylzzz and Boris. This may have been the loudest show of the year for me. It was glorious! Dale Crover needed emergency back surgery just days before the tour kicked off. But Coady Willis stepped in and didn’t miss a beat.
I was only familiar with a few early songs from The Backseat Lovers. But my kids kept playing their music so I decided to go. And man was that the right decision. The opener was a 10 minute jam! Part of what made this show so special was the audience. They were SO into it. And you could tell the band felt it. If you haven’t heard these guys, do yourself a favor and give them a shot.
Similar to The Backseat Lovers, I was only marginally familiar with Winchester, England’s This Is The Kit. I wanted to see the show for the opener, Super Furry Animals’ Gruff Rhys. So I listened to the albums and I liked it. But when I saw them live, the music sounded much different. It was more raw, there was more emotion, and I immediately knew this was going to be one of my favorite shows of the year. And by the way, Gruff was awesome, too!
I’ve been a fan of Holy Fawn since 2018’s Death Spells. They are a pretty heavy, atmospheric band; kind of like a cross between Deafheaven and Band Of Horses. It sounds like a tough sound to pull off live. And it probably is, but they do it. The atmosphere of the music permeates into the live show. The lighting is just as dark and mysterious. Mt fandom has only increased after seeing the live show
Spotlights have been around for a few years but I only discovered them earlier this year. And as luck would have it, a couple of months later, they were playing in Baltimore. They are another band whose music is so dense, I had to see if they could pull it off live. Did they ever! The term “power trio” can’t describe the ferocity of their show. If you’re a fan of Tool, Failure, and bands that are skilled in the use of light and shade in their music, see Spotlights next time they come around.
Ugly Kid Joe @ Tally Ho Theater — 5/28/23
This one was a surprise. I remember when UKJ popped onto the scene in the early 90’s. The song Everything About You and their cover of Harry Chapin’s Cat’s In The Cradle were omnipresent. With sporadic releases since then, I did not realize how big the legion of UKJ fans was. I heard about the tour to support the new album from my friend, who had been tapped to play bass for them. I went, thinking it’ll be nice to catch up with Mike. When the band came on stage, the crowd at Tally Ho lost their minds! And after they began playing, I understood. Whitfield Crane is a born frontman and entertainer. It’s one thing to get the crowd involved. It’s something else to find one guy in the crowd, screaming his head off and toss him the mic and let him sing. The Tally Ho is a great venue to witness magical moments like that.