Best of the Year: Top 10 Concerts of 2021 by Mickey

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CHVRCHES delivered a top show of the year at The Anthem. (Photo by Katherine Gaines)

Parklife DC invites our staff to list their Top 10 concerts of every year. Although this was a different kind of year, our love of music remained strong, and we definitely caught our share of shows once pandemic lockdowns eased. Some homegrown shows began popping up indoors around May, and events really made a remarkable return by August. Although we live with additional requirements, such as vaccinations, to attend live shows, we happily rise to the moment to do what we love to do — experience live music.

Here are my Top 10 concerts of 2021.

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Best of the Year: Top 10 Musical Moments of 2021 by Mark C.

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The Allman Betts Band performs at The Birchmere in June. (Photo by Mark Caicedo)

2021 saw a gradual return to live music as venues and musicians did their best to return to “normalcy” and keep everybody safe. Things didn’t always go according to plan: People still got sick, tours were canceled or postponed, and attendance to indoor shows still sometimes lagged.

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Live Review: Bill Kirchen’s Honky-Tonk Holiday Revue @ The Birchmere — 12/12/21

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Bill Kirchen (Photo courtesy the artist)

Known as “The King of Dieselbilly” and “The Titan of the Telecaster,” Bill Kirchen has a distinctive, powerful style as a guitarist. There’s twang, but it rocks hard, and it grooves. When he plays “Hot Rod Lincoln,” the top-10 hit he had as a member of Commander Cody and His Lost Planet Airmen in the ’70s, Bill shows off the range of his influences as a player. He spent several minutes playing a few bars in the style of many different artists during a set at The Birchmere recently.

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Live Review: Dar Williams w/ Emily Scott Robinson @ The Birchmere, 12/5/21

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Dar Williams (Photo by Ebru Yildiz)

Dar Williams returned to The Birchmere, where she’s been playing since 1994, on Sunday evening. As she told the audience during her set, she first played the esteemed venue when she opened for singer-songwriter Bill Morrissey. She also mentioned that she has an interview in a new book that explores the history of the concert hall, All Roads Lead to The Birchmere. She’s currently touring behind I’ll Meet You There, her first album in six years.

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Live Review: Brandy Clark @ The Birchmere — 11/10/21

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Brandy Clark (Photo by Chris Phelps)

As a songwriter and a performer, Brandy Clark straddles the division between contemporary country and Americana music. Touring behind last year’s Your Life Is a Record, she appeared recently at The Birchmere with her band, where she treated the audience to some of the finest songs being made today.

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Live Review: Suzy Bogguss, Terri Clark, and Pam Tillis @ The Birchmere — 11/3/21

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Terri Clark, Pam Tillis, and Suzy Bogguss (Photo courtesy Eventbrite)

Packaged as “Chicks With Hits,” country singer-songwriters Suzy Bogguss, Terri Clark, and Pam Tillis took the stage together at The Birchmere on Wednesday evening.

Throughout the evening, the women sang harmony for each other. There was a relaxed, laidback atmosphere of close friends sharing great songs. The Birchmere was packed, but the evening had an intimate feel. With just acoustic accompaniment, all three ladies really showed off their chops as superb vocalists. The evening was a great reminder of how, in many ways, the ’90s, for all that was wrong with them, were a real high-water mark for women in country music (and in the music business more broadly).

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Live Review: Hayes Carll @ The Birchmere — 10/30/21

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Hayes Carll (Photo by David McClister)

Over the course of more than 20 years, singer-songwriter Hayes Carll has gradually built his career to the point that he has become of the central figures in the Americana genre. After releasing his first album, Flowers & Liquor, in 2002, he was voted “Best New Act” by the Houston Press. His second album, 2004’s Little Rock, became the first self-released album to reach number 1 on the Americana chart. In 2010, he won the Americana Music Association’s Emerging Artist of the Year. The next two years, he was nominated for Artist of the Year. He’s currently touring behind his eighth album, You Get It All, and he headlined at The Birchmere on Saturday evening.

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Live Review: Tab Benoit @ The Birchmere — 10/21/21

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Tab Benoit (Photo by Jerry Moran)

“I consider myself a live artist, not a recording artist,” the Louisiana blues guitarist told the audience at The Birchmere last week. A native of Baton Rouge currently residing outside of New Orleans, Benoit’s playing has earned well-deserved comparisons to iconic virtuosos like Albert King and Albert Collins. A member of his home state’s Cajun community, Benoit is one the foremost exponents of the style known as “swamp blues.”

To understand what I mean by “swamp blues,” I want to take a step back for a moment and talk about the blues more generally. If you’re not particularly familiar with this kind of music, you may have the misconception that the blues is monolithic, which couldn’t be further from the truth. The genre’s history stretches further back than we have recorded music, to a time when the only music people would hear is the music that they heard played live. The music that people heard live was determined by where they lived; music was distinctly regional in that era.

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Live Review: Patty Griffin and Gregory Alan Isakov @ The Birchmere — 10/11/21

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Patty Griffin (Photo by Michael Wilson)

Alexandria’s Birchmere has long been known as a hub in this area for roots music. It recently welcomed back a frequent visitor in Patty Griffin, as well as a musician new to the venue, Gregory Alan Isakov. The two celebrated folk artists, each accompanied by a sideman, played a split set, then joined each other onstage for an encore.

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