Frontier Psychiatrist

The 13 Best Concerts of 2011

Posted on: December 27, 2011

Live Music_FP_13

As we’ve reported over the last few weeks, 2011 saw the release of plenty of great music. Luckily, in a year with so many great releases, we also had the opportunity to see plenty of great shows. From arena blow outs to dive bar ragers, the following are the 13 best live performances I saw over the last 12 months.

1/15: Punch Brothers @ Bowery Ballroom (NYC)

Punch Brothers are arguably the most talented touring band today, and their mid-January Bowery Ballroom performance did not dissapoint. Billed as one of their famed “P-Bingo” Nights, Punch Brothers ripped through the high points of their two albums (three, if you count How to Grow a Woman from the Ground) and tackled over 10 pristine (and at times raucus) covers from “Paperback Writer” to Sufjan Stevens’ “Concerning the UFO Sighting” and The Strokes’ “Heart In a Cage.” This show also held my number one music moment of the year, when Chris Thile solo-performed an unplugged Bach concierto on mandolin for an awestruck Lower East Side.

1/23: The Dismemberment Plan @ 9:30 Club (DC)

The most remarkable thing about The Dismemberment Plan reunion during the first half of 2011 was the overwhelming support this idyosyncratic DC emo band recieved for never experiencing too much success while they were active. With three sell out DC shows, a highly successful mini-tour, an appearance on Jimmy Fallon and a performance at The Roots Picnic in Philadelphia, The Dismemberment Plan artfully (and most enjoyably) reigned supreme in a year chock full of reunions and reimaginings. Check out this video of “The Ice of Boston”. It’s never going to be this fun being certifiably crazy again. That is, until their next reunion.

2/4: Girl Talk @ The Electric Factory (Philly)

While I still don’t understand how people can sit and listen to a Girl Talk album on their own time without developing ADHD or a brain tumor, Greg Gillis throws one hell of a party. Despite a criminally short set, Girl Talk blazed through the best party playlist ever, complete with UGK, Fugazi, Ludacris and Smashing Pumpkins, warming Philly to its grimy core on an otherwise frigid February Friday night.

2/17: Kings Go Forth @ Rock and Roll Hotel (DC)

Kings Go Forth aren’t as much a 11-piece soul outfit from Milwaukee and more a traveling, funky time machine. See this band, I implore you. Your core, feet and smiling girlfriend will thank you.

3/27: The Mars Volta @ 9:30 Club (DC)

What was billed as an Omar Rodriguez-Lopez Group show on a sleepy spring Sunday ended up being an insanely intimate night with (still) the most progressive rock band in the business today. Shredding through their unnamed and as-of-yet unconfirmed sixth album, frontman Cedric Bixler-Zavala and composer/guitarist Omar melted faces and challenged visitors with some of their most complex, rocking jams in years.

4/27: Titus Andronicus @ Black Cat (DC)

I love Titus Andronicus. Do you love American History? Literature? Punk rock? Self-loathing? Springsteen? Then you should love Titus Andronicus too.

5/8: James Blake @ Rock and Roll Hotel (DC)

James Blake self-titled debut release won the coveted FP album of the year, how could he not be on this list? On his first US tour, James Blake won the west with soul-rattling bass at his intimate sets in major markets. The Rock and Roll Hotel show was an event worth covering, for sure. Take a listen to our bootleg, make your own decision.

5/18: OFWGKTA @ Rock and Roll Hotel (DC)

Underneath all the hypebeasting, photographer assaulting and faux-suiciding, OFWGKTA are still just teenagers looking to have a good time pissing people off. Their coming out party at Rock and Roll Hotel was probably closer to a punk rock show than any hip-hop event, complete with stage diving and swollen vocal cords. The most remarkable thing about their hour and a half set is the depth of talent, featuring excellent mini-sets from Tyler, MellowHype, Frank Ocean and MikeG. Contrary to much of their presence now, nothing about this OFWGKTA was pretentious; it was just a time for some kids to get together and rage. And rage we did.

6/10: Justin Townes Earle/The Sword/The Decemberists/My Morning Jacket/Arcade Fire/Bassnectar @ Bonnaroo (Manchester, TN)

This may have been the most excellent, ecclectic and enjoyable day of music in my life. The Bonnaroo 2011 lineup was far from perfect, but Friday of the big gig was absolutely flawless. Covering folk, stoner metal, arena rock, indie rock and dubstep in 12 hours, Friday’s lineup is proof that great things can happen at festivals if you do it right.

7/23: Bon Iver @ Riverside Theatre (Milwaukee)

While I may be the only person on the FP staff who has not yet drank to Kool-Aid on Bon Iver, Bon Iver, his opening night show in Milwaukee had me a believer, if even just for the night. Sure, having good beer and better friends around certainly helped my experience, but Justin Vernon’s tractor beam shot straight into my heart, opening my mind to the possibility of enjoying the excessive tackiness of his most recent effort. I put it better in my original review, trust me.

8/18: Joan of Arc @ Subterranean (Chicago)

Tim Kinsella is a monster of emo. His prolific exploits are documented in projects like Cap’n Jazz, Make Believe and Owls to mixed results, but his most steady and consistent outfit is still Joan of Arc, pioneers of the Chicago experimental sound. When I ran into him in front of the Subterranean that hot August night, he persuaded my roommate and I to watch the show, and I don’t regret it in the least. While their music would be far more effective if they were instrumental, Joan of Arc are a band that thrives on their own odd energy, making them an extremely exciting band to watch.

10/1: Ty Segall @ The Empty Bottle (Chicago)

Ty Segall is the clear frontrunner in the new punk of the west coast, as evidenced by his two excellent LPs Melted (2010) and Goodbye Bread (2011). While 2011 found Ty sharpening his songwriting and recording craft, his live shows are still testament to the awesome power of live rock and roll. Keep an eye out in 2012, Ty is poised to take us all by storm.

12/1: Jay-Z and Kanye West @ United Center (Chicago)

They played “Niggas In Paris” NINE TIMES. That is all.


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