Yesterday, I posted our favorite albums of 2012; but that was just the precursor to today’s feature; our top shows of 2012. We’re an events site first, so it goes without saying that we all go to tons of shows; enough so that we each had little trouble naming our ten favorites and I’m sure several of us could have dropped twenty-five or so.
What follows is each of our contributor’s ten best from the past year; covering the spectrum of the New York City concert-going experience, from all ages loft shows to gigantic festivals.
10) The Men at Music Hall of Williamsburg
I missed their show earlier in the year at 285 Kent, so I absolutely had to make it out to this show where The Men directly supported Red Kross. I jetted after The Men assaulted the crowd with their hybrid blend of punk, metal and country. They exited the stage with a poignant takedown of the joke of a festival that was CBGB 2012, “Thank you, CBGB, LLC.”
9) Excepter, Guardian Alien, Diamond Terrifier and Hex Breaker at 285 Kent
This one was all over the place. The crowd began seated with the tonal sound experiments of Hex Breaker and the chaotic free jazz experimentation of Diamond Terrifier. We rose to our feet and stood in awe at Greg Fox murdering his drum kit during Guardian Alien’s set. We danced, confused and enamored by Excepter, one of the best experimental acts in New York this past decade.
8) Black Pus at Death By Audio
I missed Lightning Bolt at 285 Kent this year so this was the next best thing; the side project of drummer Brian Chippendale, which ends up sounding pretty damned similar to the real deal and produced the same chaotic anarchy at one of my favorite all-ages venues.
7) Laurel Halo, Lucky Dragons and Hiro Kone at Secret Project Robot
My favorite show of Secret Project Robot’s “YOU ARE HERE” series; Halo performed her amazing live set inside of a maze. I got to do lights during her set, the maze serving as a participatory experience that challenges audiences’ conceptions of concerts.
6) Thieves Like Us, Teen Daze, Delicate Steve, Dent May, Mac Demarco, Heavenly Beat, Bleeding Rainbow, The Young Evils and Grand Resort at Marlin Room
It felt like My Social List had arrived when we booked this one; our official CMJ showcase at the 500 capacity Marlin Room at Webster Hall. And that’s before I get to the performances; my highlights being the ultra-buzzed Mac Demarco making out with fans, mid set, the intense garage punk assault of Bleeding Rainbow and the smooth dance grooves of Teen Daze.
5) Flying Lotus, Death Grips and Buke and Gase at (le) Poisson Rouge
FINALLY, I got to see FlyLo. I’ve been a fan of Steve Ellison for years but missed seeing him every time he came to New York until he headlined this media-heavy CMJ showcase with Death Grips; something of an awkward pairing. Death Grips felt a little out of place as the crowd watched attentively, but with folded arms. That didn’t detract too much from their performance which was as violent and confrontational as their LPs. FlyLo killed it; his set heavy on Until the Quiet Comes and Cosmogramma, but with a few surprises mixed in, namely Kill Your Co-Workers off the Pattern+Grid World EP.
4) Total Slacker, Indian Jewelry, Black Marble, Plastic Flowers; DJ sets from Pictureplane, Creep, The Death Set, Le Sphinxx, Heavenly Beat and Heavenly Beat at Public Assembly
This one was an all-out rager; My Social List and Kristina Tequila’s huge September blowout of a party at Public Assembly that we called Permanent Sound. Indian Jewelry’s strobe-heavy, seizure-enducing performance was my personal highlight, along with Pictureplane’s DJ set which was accompanied by an open-bar. Sadly, this ended up being Total Slacker’s final show without their drummer Terence Connor, who was tragically taken from us this year in a freak accident.
3) King Tuff, METZ and Devin at Music Hall of Williamsburg
I had to amend this list today because this shitstorm was just last night. It was absolutely out of control; fights broke out, sandwiches were thrown into the crowd and some kid moonwalked in the pit for the duration of the show. METZ released my favorite album of the year; and this was the second time I had seen them. I thought this performance bested their set earlier in the year at Knitting Factory, ending the set with an extended violent attack of a jam session. Oh, and King Tuff pretty much owned it as well, playing for over an hour and proving that rock and fucking roll will never die.
2) Thurston Moore and Rhyton at Maxwell’s
Take one of my heroes and put him on a small stage not too far from where I grew up and you have my number two show of the year. Maxwell’s has long been one of my favorite venues, and for my money, is right up there with any venue New York City has to offer; it’s an intimate room with amazing sound and boatloads of history, which Moore recounted at great length in between his songs. His anecdotes about Kurt Cobain and Mike Watt were worth the price of admission alone.
1) DIIV, Total Slacker and Night Manager at Cheap Storage
A real goddamn Brooklyn show deserves to be number one. This was early in the year, when DIIV was still Dive and they still played pretty much every night. The sight lines at Cheap Storage are terrible (though they’ve improved now that they’ve built a stage of sorts), and the sound isn’t great, but these sorts of experiences are why we all live here. Friendly neighborhood vibes, amazing music and cheap drinks. One to remember.
10. Thieves Like Us, Mac Demarco, Bleeding Rainbow, Heavenly Beat, Dent May at Webster Hall
Part nepotism, part awesome show, My Social List’s CMJ Showcase had little a bit of everything (noise punk, singer/slacker, dream pop, and Eddie Vedder’s nephew or something) for thankfully not quite everyone (no moms, ravers, or “look at me!” stage-divers). Hosted in the 500-capacity Marlin Room, on the heels DeMarco’s P-fork BNM and featuring a killer set from recent Brooklyn Night Bazaar alums Bleeding Rainbow, this set—despite my allegiances—truly paid its top ten dues.
9. Craig Finn at Music Hall of Williamsburg
OK, I’ll be honest, this one was a date, so there is a chance my opinion has been retroactively altered by romantic PBR-aided endorphins and plain, old nostalgia. This doesn’t mean, however, that Craig Finn isn’t a terrific storyteller (he is to an almost literary degree), a charming stage presence (maybe it’s the librarian glasses?), and an actual, in-the-wool Brooklynite (Greenpoint represent!); all of which combined to create the most intimate and attentive set of the year.
8. Matt & Kim, Oberhofer at Terminal 5
Going in my girlfriend labeled this one a “white-kid dance party”, which, as it turned out, was an accurate assessment. With Oberhofer’s three-axed, indie Iron Maiden attack setting the bright-eyed mood, the show would have been almost nauseatingly optimistic if I weren’t too busy having a lot of f’n fun watching some dude crowd-surf a Bud-heavy from the back bar to Kim and listening to the duo mess around with 90s hip hop staples in between songs. Oh, and this show also boasts the only crowd walk I saw this year (by Kim herself). Needless to say M&K are more punk than Danzig at this point.
7. Titus Andronicus, Love as Laughter, Joyce Manor at House of Vans
In a total rookie movie, I neglected to print out the RSVP for this free free-Heineken soaked sweat-fest, thinking that my newly acquired iPhone and its on-the-go ability to both buy Starbucks and pick vital emails out of the God damn sky (said RSVP included) would more than satisfy the waffle grip HQ’s entry requirements. Fast forward five minutes and I’m pulling up Greenpoint Public Library on Google Maps (ahh, good old iOS 5) while at a chambray and desert boot-addled dead-sprint to print my ticket and beat the clock and/or snaking, multi-block-line. They say one can’t truly appreciate something unless they worked for it, which is maybe why, in addition to the crushing Joyce Manor and Titus sets, this one makes the list.
6. The Wombats, The Static Jacks at Webster Hall
In terms of pure note-for-note accuracy, The Wombats’ Webster Hall show was relative perfection. Buoyant and booming, the set entered the confetti spectrum of 2012’s Show Fun-o-Meter midway through the first pop punked verse and never looked back. The Webster Hall floor did that sag thing it does when everybody is off their feet as much as on them, a red balloon clung to frontman Matthew Murphy’s electric-shock fro like a drunken halo, and the band, even while perched atop drum risers and running gym teacher-approved suicides across the stage, never missed a beat. Needless to say, this one made a lot of people’s Instagrams very happy indeed.
5. Japandroids at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Depending on the pop-culture pundits you were listening to in late June, Japandroids arrived at Music Hall of Williamsburg with the intent to save rock n’ roll. It’s a ridiculous expectation (especially for a band whose 2009 breakthrough, Post-Nothing, was more distress flare than punk-rock resurrection) and the monochromatic duo made that apparent, slamming their set close with “For the Love Ivy” before sparing everyone a bloated Bon Jovian encore. Did they save rock n’ roll? Probably not. Then again, who the hell cares?
4. Cloud Nothings, DIIV at 285 Kent
Though the universe laid a sinus infection on top of a chubby stage diver to the face, on top of a girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend sighting on top of an abbreviated Cloud Nothing’s set—exercising revenge for my very existence—this show was never not going to make my top five. As you know by now, Dylan Baldi and co.’s Attack on Memory was one of favorite albums of the year; a fact that, after later finding myself in the “Doused” video DIIV filmed during their set, made this trial-by-fire totally worth it.
3. The Gaslight Anthem at Music Hall of Williamsburg
This one sold out in about the time it takes two-pump chump Ticketmaster to overwhelm its sensory inputs (read: servers) in the face of about 2,000 really pissed tri-staters. Thankfully eBay still exists for basement-dwelling populaces who would prefer to buy things like rare swords without human interaction and thus I was granted (by way of a giddy-inducing birthday gift) to an absolutely relentless set of jersey punk n’ roll in a venue that, for a band with Gaslight’s growing ubiquity, can be best described as perfectly way too small.
2. Titus Andronicus, Ceremony, Lemuria at Webster Hall
The second Titus set on the list, and the third within the calendar year for this lucky fuck (they should make a Boy Scout badge), proved to be another Webster Hall floor bender. Ceremony played the best opening set I saw in 2012, sonically channeling a Desert Storm Deuce-era Dead Kennedys before turning it over to the Local Business owners for a tour-ending riot that had Stickles crowd surfing mid-solo and playing some lesser heard numbers like “To Old Friends…and New”, which seemed like a totally fitting thank and fuck you to everyone in attendance.
1. METZ, Hunters at Mercury Lounge
If you remember our little METZ comparo from just before Thanksgiving then you may also remember that I spent a significant portion of it pissing and bemoaning the well-mannered crowd (likening it to “junior prom-night in Amish country”). One thing I couldn’t complain about, however, was the Toronto trio’s 35-minute noise-punk jackhammer of a set that left me stumbling whip-lashed out of Mercury Lounge with both my sneakers hanging half off. A tornado-blended product of good friends, great music, and perfect timing—I was in dire need of a pre-holiday season emotional-purging—this show, amidst a lot of truly amazing 2012 decibel porn, stands out as the best of the year.
10. Los Campesinos! @ Le Poisson Rouge
Not the best Los Camp! show I’ve ever seen, but they always put on a good, heartfelt live set. And the last show I’ll see with Ellen; sweet dreams, sweet cheeks.
9. Animal Collective @ Terminal 5
Craziest stage setup I’ve seen this year. They’re great live–neo-jamming. The crowd took a little to get into it but when they did, everyone was dancing as one. And they started the encore with Also Frightened.
8. Grimes @ Glasslands
First time seeing Grimes and we were right up front. An awesome small venue to see her at.
7. David Byrne & St. Vincent @ Williamsburg Park
Will never forget seeing David Byrne and his amazing dance moves. And with the added group choreography and horn section, playing outside, it was a great experience. It also helped that a friend got into a hilarious dance fight with a neighboring fan.
6. Crystal Castles, Health @ Roseland Ballroom
I won tickets to this and I’m so glad I did because otherwise I probably wouldn’t have made it. So much energy! Alice Glass is one of a kind.
5. Hot Chip @ Prospect Park
Dance, dance, dance. Dance, dance, dance.
4. Fiona Apple @ the Wellmont Theatre
First time seeing a show in New Jersey and I loved this venue (like a slightly more spacious Music Hall of Williamsburg). If people weren’t so piffed about us lighting a J this might be higher. Lots of hugging and sing-along’s.
3. Taking Back Sunday @ Terminal 5
What can I say about this show? It was a long time coming. 10 years later and I still knew every word — me and every other person there.
2. Beach House @ Central Park
A gorgeous summer thunderstorm interrupted, but they didn’t stop. It was perfect.
1. Frank Ocean @ Terminal 5, followed by a late set by Eternal Summers @ Mercury Lounge
Frank is an emotional dude, and so was this show. Really lovely. Only wish we’d been closer. And running downtown to catch Eternal Summers afterward was very much worth it. Even if it was a weekday.
10) Polica/Gardens & Villa at Webster Hall
Both bands were great. I saw Gardens & Villa a few years back and was pleasantly surprised to see that they had really grown in style and performance over the years. Great way to start the show. Newcomers from Minneapolis, Polica definitely improved the clarity and sound quality of their performance since I last saw them and lead singer, Channy, is mesmerizing on stage. It’s clear that she loves what she does. The double drummers are a great touch, and definitely add a full bodied and complex sound to the music.
9) Regina Spektor at (le) poisson rouge
Regina always puts on a good show. Not only is she talented she’s so humble and so very likable. I’m always so impressed with how she can take ordinary noises like the sound of finger tapping or buzzing and turn it into art. She uses different languages, accents and pitches to turn a single verse into a story. Not to mention, I sure do love LPR.
8) Die Antwoord at Lollapalooza
Proving that they aren’t just a one-trick pony the zef style rappers from South Africa killed their midday performance at Lollapalooza. As soon as they “dropped the mother fucking beat” the energy of the crowd instantly picked up, and so did the hip thrusting. I’d have to say that out of everyone, they were one of my favorite shows at Lolla.
7) Deathrow Tull at The Studio at Webster Hall
Although Deathrow Tull wasn’t the headliner for this show, they definitely outperformed the band that was. You can tell a lot about a band by how they get an audience to interact with them, and interact we did. At one point they did an incredible free style song by asking audience members questions and incorporating their answers throughout the song. All I can say is, bravo.
6) Night Moves/Lord Huron at Mercury Lounge
A personal MN favorite of mine, Night Moves brings you into a whole different era. They take you on a journey from the 70’s to the 80’s and back again. Lord Huron’s melodies, harmonies, and percussion are all outstanding. The two groups together were a perfect bill, they take you from an indie-psych jam session to a folk-pop dance party. Overall, fantastic and I’d see both bands live again.
5) The Neighbourhood at Glasslands Gallery
These guys are my favorite. They have this cool mix of R&B and rock and I mean, leader singer Jesse Rutherford is kind of a babe on stage. I’m just saying. Rutherford definitely knows how to seduce an audience and these boys from Cali consistently put on a good show.
4) Milo Greene and Kat Edmonson at Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
What a great venue, first and foremost. Housing Works is a non profit and proceeds from all of their shows go to aiding the homeless and those suffering AIDS/HIV. Kat Edmonson had to have been plucked straight out of the 40’s, her voice is the most delicate mix of sultry jazz and modern quirk. She started the show off beautifully and seemed genuinely happy to be there. Milo Greene followed soon after and they sound as good on a huge stage as they do in a tiny book store. They were quirky and fun and interacted with the audience throughout their entire performance and stayed after to chat with the attendees after the show.
3) St. Lucia at Music Hall of Williamsburg
Jean-Philip Glober takes his one man act and transforms it into a full fledged band on stage. He is joined by his girlfriend on vocals, a drummer and a keyboardist. St. Lucia transforms his sound from album to stage effortlessly and since his single “All Eyes On You” was featured on a Vicky’s Secret commercial, I predict really really great things and a lot more shows from this guy next year.
2) Miike Snow at Terminal 5
Although Terminal 5 isn’t the most intimate of venues, Miike Snow definitely managed to keep everyone engaged. They played a lot of favorites and mixed in a few new tracks from their latest album. The on stage energy was hypnotic and they got everyone dancing, sweating, and singing from the first track to the last.
1) Haim at Music Hall of Williamsburg
By FAR one of the best shows of the year for me. Maybe it was because they were fresh off a UK tour and glad to be back home and maybe because it was Alana’s birthday, but the energy on stage was unreal. They are truly talented on stage performers, oh and it was pretty amazing that for the encore they brought their parents on stage to perform a killer rendition of “Mustang Sally”.
Tame Impala – Reference my top albums list.
Future Islands – Have seen Future Islands in the past in larger venues but seeing them at Death By Audio was a completely different experience.
DIIV – They made my last simply because how many times they played NY this year. This has to be some kind of record.
Lotus Plaza – Always love seeing psychedelic, shoegaze music live.
Chromatics – Was bummed when their show was moved from the Fulton Market to MHOW but they still put on an amazing live show.
Sharon Van Etten – Has such a lovely voice live.
Sigur Ros – Have been listening to this band for years but have not seen them live so I was so excited when their show at Prospect Park was announced and they did not disappoint.
Young Magic – This is my most surprising show of the year. I enjoyed the album they released so I decided to catch them at Cameo and was completely surprised how good of a show they put on.
Real Estate at K&K Super Buffet – Saw Real Estate a few times this year and they always put on a good show but I wanted to include the K&K Super Buffet show that also include The Babies because it was a very interesting and odd experience.
Chairlift – They played a ton of shows in NY this year but I kept missing them but was finally able to see them at one of the Vans concerts and they put on a great show.