In the early days of 2010, I compiled a list of the best concerts I attended in 2009. After years of obsessing over such lists, it seemed natural that I’d make one of my own. I hadn’t made lists for 2010, 2011, and 2012 until this summer. Lists such as these are incredibly subjective, and I like to wonder about what would have remained similar if I would have made these lists shortly after year’s end. That said, making this kind of list from memories would be impossible if I didn't keep track of this stuff is such detail. Like many people, I am drawn toward experiences I find cathartic and exhilarating. I ordered these lists primarily based on the excitement and fulfillment I remember having at these events.
Here are my favorite concerts of 2010, as ranked through the lens of summer 2013 and as commented on through the lens of November 2013-January 2014:
All Tiny Creatures w/ Sunglasses, Red Electric Rainbow, Jivas - The Project Lodge, 10/20
Caribou - Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 7/12
The Chemical Brothers - North Coast Music Festival, 9/3
Grandchildren w/ Dinosaur Feathers, Arto - Der Rathskeller, 10/15
The Hold Steady - Riverside Theater, 12/31
Los Campesinos! w/ Cymbals Eat Guitars - Majestic Theater, 4/29
Phantogram - Strictly Discs, 10/23
School of Seven Bells w/ Active Child - Majestic Theater, 9/18
These United States w/ Juniper Tar, Strand of Oaks - The Terrace, 6/11
Yeasayer w/ Sleigh Bells - Majestic Theater, 4/28
25. Liars – High Noon Saloon, 7/14
I absolutely love it when I find a band to be scary. I think this is often one of the highest compliments a person can give a creative entity. Liars are one of those perpetually unsettling acts. It takes a career of dedication to keep this aura going—one slip up could easily strip away that appearance. When Liars played outdoors midday at Pitchfork the next day, the heat and sunlight proved a disappointing accompaniment to their set. In the dark and chilly High Noon, Liars were powerful in their element.
24. Nite Jewel w/ Rory Kane – Lothlorien Co-op, 5/13
A few days after finishing finals, this show was a great start to summer. Nite Jewel was enjoyable (although the thing I remember most from their set was a guy playing obnoxiously with a flashing light the whole time) but Rory Kane absolutely stole the show. I want him to play my wedding.
23. of Montreal w/ Janelle Monae – Pabst Theater, 9/24
Here’s another show-stealing early act. I’m a huge of Montreal fan, but Janelle Monae did a terrific job working the crowd while of Montreal was a little less solid. Still, they played a blast of a set. This was one of my favorite co-headlining bills of the year.
22. Deerhunter – Chicago, 9/25
The day after show #23, Urban Outfitters threw a *corporate gig* under an overpass in Chicago. The performance was crazy no-frills (I don’t remember there being Urban Outfitters signs on the stage or anything to that effect, though I could be forgetting them). With no opener and in the middle of the afternoon, Deerhunter played a lot from Halcyon Digest, which came out three days after the show.
21. Moby DJ Set w/ Boys Noize, Future Rock, Daedelus, Laidback Luke - North Coast Music Festival, 9/4
These dance music festivals can get kind of cheesy (and this day was no exception) but the smaller stage in the corner of Union Park (Pitchfork’s blue/connector stage) hosted a non-stop flow of “eclectic” (well, for DJs at North Coast) acts. I expected Boys Noize to be the highlight of the day, but Moby turned out to be better than I would have ever expected. His set was big, loud, and relentless. We did not get to hear “otherside”. Maybe next time!
20. The New Pornographers w/ The Dodos – The Orpheum, 8/4
One of my very first indie love affairs was with the one I had with The New Pornographers. At this point in my life, I take them for granted until I’m listening to them. As soon as I hear THOSE HOOKS and THOSE VOICES it’s all new to me again and I’m 15 and getting a ride home from seeing Phantom Planet at Summerfest, you dig? I also had not payed The Dodos much attention until seeing them here, which was a really enjoyable surprise.
19. Ariel Pink & Haunted Graffiti w/ Puro Instinct, Magic Kids– Lincoln Hall, 7/20
I remember this as one of the weirdest shows I’ve attended. This show went pretty late, and after going from Madison (Liars) to Chicago (for Neon Indian and 3 days of Pitchfork) to Madison (for Bear in Heaven) back to Chicago in 7 days, I was exhausted. The lineup was stellar and Ariel Pink played for what seemed like 2 hours. I could be wrong, but I seem to remember him playing “For Kate I Wait” (the song I was waiting to hear through the entire show) last, and that was a thrilling way to wrap things up.
I should note that, though the show didn’t place in this list, Thursday’s Neon Indian + Dam Funk show had one of the most thrilling encore song selections I’ve experienced: a live version of Vega’s “No Reasons”… Hoooo!
18. Deadmau5 – Soldier Field, 7/2
This was the first time I’d ever seen real guidos!!! Set just outside of Soldier Field, this show was basically a small music festival. This was prime 'Moar Ghosts' era Deadmau5, in all his top-billing glory. I think this is the only time I've seen him, and it was definitely the place and time to do that.
17. Beach House – Pabst Theater, 4/3
On the day after seeing Joanna Newsom in the same theater, I was well-primed to fall in love. This was my first time seeing Beach House, and on the Teen Dream tour… gaaaahhhhh. Simply amazing show. It’s a lazy comparison to make, but I felt similar to the soft awe I felt when seeing Grizzly Bear tour in support of Veckatimest the year prior. That guitar slide!!
16. Julian Lynch w/ Austin Hays, Yellow Ostrich, Cedarwell – Gates of Heaven, 5/17
I loved shows in this place. It’s a total destination venue—-one for arriving early and combining with a trip to James Madison Park. As I recall, this was my first time seeing Julian Lynch play with a large(r) ensemble (I could be wrong about that), with drums and the like. Like many other Wisconsinites, I easily became enamored with Yellow Ostrich. I remember excitedly playing Youtube videos of his live performances to friends and family members for quite a while after the show. Bring back Gates of Heaven! There’s probably a reason people aren’t having shows there these days. Maybe I’m just not hearing about them. Hmm.
15. Zola Jesus w/ Julian Lynch + Sonmi – Project Lodge, 3/6
Coming up in Madison at the same time as Zola Jesus started to rise in profile was a unique experience. As a freshman/sophomore in college, it was my first opportunity to see a very regular person in real life who started to have a bigger and bigger celebrity presence online. I have always felt like ZJ cut the hipsters of Madison a raw deal by not cultivating more of a hometown presence, but I guess sometimes that isn’t a big priority. I believe this was the first time I saw both Zola Jesus and Julian Lynch perform.
14. Dawes – Der Rathskeller, 2/13
For a brief period, every Dawes show was less of a concert and more of a reunion with friends. The band name became more of an meme than a moniker and each show was more of a social event than an opportunity to watch a fledgling band that had an inappropriately enthusiastic fan base among my social network. This Rathskeller show was probably my DAWES peak. By the time they started releasing new songs, I sort of fell off the last train to Dawesville. Continuing to follow their career became sort of beside the point--their debut (and the memory of those shows) was what really mattered to me.
13. Phoenix – Lollapalooza, 8/7
I could track my geospatial love of this band, bounded by my table on the third floor of College Library where my scrobbles for the leak of Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix first hit last.fm and the Lollapalooza field where I took in their tremendous headlining set. This Lollapalooza was my first solo trip to a music festival, and while it can get lonely, there’s much to be said about the experience of taking in a show of this magnitude as an individual alone in a massive crowd.
12. Pavement - Pitchfork, 7/18
Having only listened to 'Slanted and Enchanted' before the news of Pavement’s reunion, I had a lot of homework to do before this show. It was a great opportunity to have an incentive to quickly fall in love with their albums, which was not a difficult thing to do. One of the best parts of this show was being part of a crowd that was filled with so many happy and nostalgic adults.
11. Bear In Heaven w/ Twin Sister, Mountain Man – High Noon Saloon, 7/19
One of my favorite High Noon shows of all time! This was one of those small shows that just happened to get everything right. A gorgeous package from start to finish. Summer 2010 was the perfect time to be at this show. Mountain Man (whatever happened to them?) performed to a small huddle of people sitting on the floor, and Twin Sister played the best set I’ve ever seen them perform. Finally, Bear In Heaven put on a big, smoky, and well-lit show that capped off this thing in the best way possible.
10 Big Boi - Pitchfork, 7/18
Bros, there is little more to say than that Big Boi is terrific live. Big Boi sprinted through classics from all pockets of his career, and there was no dead time at all. There were a ton of people on stage, but even that aspect seemed more constructive than a lot of clique-driven rap live shows. There were kids breakdancing!! It was a really wonderful penultimate festival set.
9. The Arcade Fire – Lollapalooza, 8/8
I am a shameless strategist when it comes to getting to the front of crowds, and MGMT’s prior set at the same stage cleared out a ton of people, which helped me get very close for this show. This show was predictably enormous, and really a total thrill. If you picture the best an Arcade Fire headlining slot at an outdoor festival could be, it’s probably pretty similar to what this ended up being.
Ready to Start
Neighborhood #2 (Laika)
No Cars Go
Crown of Love
Neighborhood #1 (Tunnels)
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)
We Used to Wait
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Month of May
Keep the Car Running
8. Titus Andronicus – Project Lodge, 4/6
One of my favorite Project Lodge shows of all time (duh). Peter Truby brought one of my favorite bands to the smallest of all viable Madison locations. (Watch the throne, Madison DIY!) Technically, this show was a pretty decent mess, but Titus are troopers and put on a sweatfest for the ages. BEST BAND EVER.
7. Weezer – Verge (Summerfest Grounds), 6/5
This should have been miserable, but it was perfect. To set the scene: this show was the headlining set of a completely scrambled-together lineup of pop/rock and assorted others (AFI played the preceding slot, lol). It was at the Summerfest grounds. There were nowhere near enough attendees to warrant another year. The weather was disastrous-—super cold and raining. We waited in the large indoor bathroom complex for what seemed like (and probably was ) an hour once it got dark and colder outside. We ate tepid Saz's samplers.
Fast forward to Weezer’s set! Rivers was in total rockstar mode, and it was amazing to watch. Though this concert was far from one, it made me realize that I don’t get out to enough arena shows. This guy put on a face and ran with it for the whole set. There were props, moments he’d run across the stage and climb on rigging, a double encore, and even a rousing “Can’t Stop Partying.” The guy totally rocked my expectations.
Undone - The Sweater Song
Surf Wax America
Trippin' Down the Freeway
Dope Nose (Scott Shriner on lead vocals)
Say It Ain't So
Can't Stop Partying
Why Bother? (Brian Bell on lead vocals)
(If You're Wondering If I Want You To) I Want You To
My Name Is Jonas
Pork and Beans (with "Hot for Teacher" intro)
Kids / Poker Face
Island in the Sun
6. Joanna Newsom – Pabst Theater, 4/2
Gaah, I love Joanna so much and it was amazing finally being able to see her play. What I didn’t expect was the value of her live band. The accompaniments were intricate and executed perfectly and musically. It was wonderful being able to see her play solo this summer at Pitchfork, but, unsatiated, I am holding out until I have the opportunity to see her play a long set of new and old songs with her ensemble.
Soft as Chalk
The Book of Right-On
Have One on Me
Good Intentions Paving Co.
Monkey & Bear
Peach, Plum, Pear
5. The Flaming Lips – Riverside Theater, 4/21
Towards the end of my sophomore year of college, Todd and I took the bus to Milwaukee to see The Flaming Lips. This was the loudest, most abrasive show I’ve ever seen from these guys. We were very close and this show did not disappoint. I might note that every time I’ve seen The Flaming Lips has been been less magical than the last, and though I don’t mean that as a slam to them, it’s fine to keep in mind here that I’d only seen them once before—the magic was still there (which is to say that I still sobbed uncontrollably during 'Do You Realize??').
Silver Trembling Hands
The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song (With All Your Power)
The Sparrow Looks Up at the Machine
In the Morning of the Magicians
She Don't Use Jelly
I Can Be a Frog
Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1
See the Leaves
Pompeii Am Götterdämmerung
Taps (Daniel Butterfield cover)
Convinced of the Hex
Brain Damage (Pink Floyd cover)
Eclipse (Pink Floyd cover)
Do You Realize??
4. My Morning Jacket – Northerly Island, 8/17
MY MORNING JACKEEETTTTTTT. Obviously this was amazing, so all I'm going to do is qualify the #4 slot instead of a higher one. As this was my first chance to see them, this was pretty hotly anticipated. I don’t know how much I could claim to have been swept off my feet, but I was definitely blown away. The outdoor, parking lot-y venue was pretty OK, but that just made my first indoor MMJ show feel that much more explosive.
Rollin Back (Instrumental)
The Way That He Sings
Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 1
Tonite I Want to Celebrate With You
Carried Away (Carl Broemel song)
Easy Morning Rebel
Smokin From Shootin
Run Thru (Second half, from the jam through the end)
Touch Me I'm Going to Scream Pt. 2
Lay Low (Just the solo)
Off the Record
One Big Holiday
3. Voxtrot – Lincoln Hall 1/14, Lincoln Hall 5/21, Lawrence University, 5/22
I had the opportunity to see one of my favorite bands of all time for the first time ever--as well as the last time, barring a reunion--in a string of three shows in just over four months. The opportunity to experience this band's live show so many times in such a brief burst of nostalgic bliss was pretty singular. The three shows had fairly similar setlists (each sadly lacking 'Trouble' but including almost all other favorites) and allowed what I feel was a fitting experience to 'see off' the band. I miss you, Voxtrot!!
[setlist from 5/21]
Rise up in the Dirt
Mothers, Sisters, Daughters + Wives
Your Biggest Fan
Raised By Wolves
Soft and Warm
Berlin, Without Return
The Start of Something
Whiskey and Water
2. The Strokes – Lollapalooza, 8/6
Very few of the concerts I've ever attended have afforded me ecstatic catharsis like seeing The Strokes for the first time. Like 2009's exposure to The Flaming Lips' live show, being able to see The Strokes (alone in a vast expanse of similarly thrilled young adults) was an experience 9 years in the making. Look at this set list!!! Picture an entirely overwhelmed 20-year old me being drowned in complete happiness. As nostalgic as my relationship is with The Strokes, this was the kind of show that allowed for no time for thinking about anything other than the now.
New York City Cops
The Modern Age
Hard to Explain
What Ever Happened?
You Only Live Once
Is This It
Vision of Division
I Can't Win
Heart in a Cage
Take It or Leave It
1. LCD Soundsystem w/ Hot Chip – Eagles Ballroom, 10/22
Eleven days prior to seeing LCD Soundsystem play with Hot Chip at the Rave, the two titans played a show at London's Alexandra Palace, which was recorded in an instantly released bootleg. This has turned into a unique souvenir from this tour. I don't deal with bootlegs often, but this probably would have been my top pick of a 2010 show to be able to hear again (and again--which I have, many times).
Catching these DFA kingpins playing back to back (no openers to mess around with) was a blissful experience. Both acts had catalogs established enough that the night was entirely saturated with hits. Wisconsin's least favorite rock venue couldn't even hamper this performance! It was loud and the venue was packed with dancing kids--that's all I could care about. After all, I cried when I saw "Shut Up and Play The Hits". All LCD Soundsystem need to do was slay, and they slayed.
Boy From School
One Pure Thought
Thieves In The Night
One Life Stand
Over And Over
Hand Me Down Your Love
Take It In
Shake A Fist
We Have Love
I Feel Better
Ready For The Floor
Dance Yrself Clean
Daft Punk Is Playing At My House
Yr City's a Sucker
You Wanted A Hit
I Can Change
All My Friends
Losing My Edge