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The Spec’s 2011 Favorites: Concerts

This year, The Spec ladies have each seen more than 75 bands perform live. Shows can make you fall deeply in love with artists, or leave you questioning your adoration of a band that “sucks live.”

Sometimes, the openers are better than the headliner, or the sound is horrible, or you get stuck next to the annoying fan, or there’s a last minute cancellation.

Other times, all of the bands on the bill are amazing, and you find out about a new band, and you have the opportunity to chat up your favorite musician, and you realize how powerful good music can be.

Check out the musicians we’ve seen live this year and hear about our top five concerts…

ALEXIS

Non-local bands I’ve seen this year: Arcade Fire, Astronautalis, Balam Acab, Bear Hands, Big Troubles, Bison B.C., The Black Keys, Blink 182, Bon Iver, Cage the Elephant, The Chain Gang of 1974, Chateau Marmont, Coles Whalen, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, EMA, Fight Amp, Fleet Foxes, Flogging Molly, Future Islands, Gardens & Villa, Generationals, Iceage, Jimmy Eat World, Local Natives, Man Man, Matt & Kim, Miniature Tigers, Mumford and Sons, The Naked and Famous, Phantogram, Rare Monk, Real Estate, Revolver, Royal Bangs, Saviours, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, Shiny Toy Guns, The Stone Foxes, Tennis, The Thermals, Tiffany, Uh Huh Her, The Walkmen, Washed Out, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Weedeater, White Arrows, Young Magic, Youth Lagoon

Local bands I’ve seen this year: Black Carl, Born Loser and The Hangers On, Boys and Frogs, Captain Squeegee, Charlie Rae, Colorstore, D. Russ, Dust Jacket, Factories, Gospel Claws, Grace Bolyard, Halocene, Hello the Mind Control, Huckleberry, The ISTO, KONGOS, Matthias The War, Mergence, No Coast, Peachcake, ROAR, Ryan Rousseau & His Desert Children, Rhymes4Thrillz, Saddles, Sassy and the Sneak Attacks, Shining Soul, Super Stereo, The Technicolors, TOAD, YUS

Top five concerts:

1. Arcade Fire, Local Natives at Comerica Theatre (4/13)
Both bands were so good it made me dread the inevitable bathroom break. Simply put, this was one of those shows where I stood in awe, thinking ‘this is what it’s all about.’

2. Astronautalis at Venue 104 (10/13)
I interviewed Andy Bothwell over the phone about a week before the concert and so began my fascination with Astronautalis. The love he has for his fans is undeniable. I felt it over the phone, and he proved it in concert. He talked to the audience, jumped off stage and into the middle of the crowd at one point and stuck around after the show to sign autographs and talk with every single person who wanted to chat. I left the venue around midnight with so much energy I felt like I could run a marathon.

3. Man Man at The Clubhouse (5/10)
I became an instant fan of Man Man during this performance. The flamboyant antics of Honus Honus, face paint and costume changes, won me over. The mosh pits, crowd surfing and bad air conditioning left me sweaty and exhausted.

4. Bon Iver, Fleet Foxes, The Walkmen at Comerica Theatre (9/15)
In Justin Vernon‘s words, the night was “like fucking birthday cake” and I couldn’t agree more. Fleet Foxes sound freakishly like they do on record and played a glorious hour-long set. I was expecting Bon Iver to perform with only his voice and a guitar and boy, was I wrong. He shared the stage with six others and an array of instruments. I was a happy girl.

5. Future Islands, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat at Rhythm Room (11/20)
I had never listened to either of the these bands before attending the show and I left a big fan of both. Ed Schrader’s Music Beat completely took me by surprise. I was outside when they began to play and I remember saying “what is that?” as I was drawn inside. I stood speechless throughout their set.
I can only describe the performance of Future Islands’ lead singer Samuel Herring as a combination of someone who got his start in a punk band and took a ton of drama throughout high school and college. He followed and grabbed imaginary objects from the air, made eye contact with everyone in the front row and jumped around stage so much so that it began to split apart during the performance. After the show, I told everyone I knew to listen to Future Islands.


DEE

Non-local bands I’ve seen this year: Abe Vigoda, Arcade Fire, Astronautalis, Balam Acab, Bear Hands, Big Troubles, Bison BC, The Black Keys, Black Lips, Blaire, Bon Iver, Broken Social Scene, Cage the Elephant, Cerebral Ballzy, Chateau Marmont, Crystal Antlers, Death From Above 1979, The Drums, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, EMA, Fight Amp, Fleet Foxes, Future Islands, Gardens & Villa, Generationals, Girls, Iceage, Io Echo, Local Natives, Man Man, Menomena, Miniature Tigers, Purity Ring, Rare Monk, Real Estate, Revolver, Royal Bangs, Saviours, Say Hi, Shilpa Ray and Her Happy Hookers, Smith Westerns, The Strange Boys, Tennis, Ty Segall, The Walkmen, Washed Out, Weedeater, We Were Promised Jetpacks, Wild Nothing, Yellow Ostrich, Young Magic, Youth Lagoon, Yuck

Local bands I’ve seen this year: Black Carl, Boys & Frogs, Captain Squeegee, Charlie Rae, The Cold Desert, Colorstore, Come On Die Young, Dead Flowers, D. Russ, Dust Jacket, Factories, Gospel Claws, Hello the Mind Control, Huckleberry, The ISTO, KONGOS, Man-Cat, Matthias the War, Mergence, Mitch Freedom’s Phantasmagoria, No Coast, Peachcake, ROAR, Ryan Rousseau & His Desert Children, Rhymes4Thrillz, Sassy and the Sneak Attacks, Snake! Snake! Snakes!, Shining Soul, The Technicolors, TOAD, Tobie Milford, The Veragroove, YUS

Top five concerts:

1. Arcade Fire, Local Natives at Comerica Theatre (4/13)
I’d dreamt of seeing Arcade Fire live, and to be honest, the real thing exceeded even my best of dreams. Sans the man holding his phone in front of his face and my view, it was an amazing experience. To echo what Alexis said, this show had me awestruck, a feeling that most concertgoers hope for when seeing a favorite band live.

2. Black Lips at Rhythm Room (6/22)
This show was mad, in the best of ways. Crowd surfing. Fog machines. A performance of The King Khan & BBQ Show‘s “Bow Down and Die.” Fans getting on the stage during “Bad Kids.” A kiss on the cheek (for me) from Ian St. Pe. The morning after, I wrote this about the gig: “Pros outweighed cons. Positives canceled out negatives. Good overcame bad. My sensual reminders of the night: clothes that smell like sweat, smoke and booze; bruised knees; muffled hearing; ringing ears; and a lingering kiss.”

3. Smith Westerns, Yuck at Rhythm Room (2/11)
I saw Smith Westerns two times this year, but of course, I preferred their intimate performance at Rhythm Room to their massive gig at FYF Fest. Dye It Blonde, released in January, ruled my speakers during the summer. The bill included London-based Yuck, a band I knew nothing about before this performance. They won me over. An odd-looking, yet charming bunch. Solid performances by both bands.

4. FYF Fest in Los Angeles State Historic Park (9/3)
I suppose the theme of my concertgoing this year was seeing bands I’d never imagined I would. FYF Fest was my first music festival. And how foolish it would be for me to complain about the dust and sunburn when I was able to see, among many other bands, Broken Social Scene and Death From Above 1979. I was certain I’d never see DFA1979 live, especially after their 2006 breakup.

5. Astronautalis at Venue 104 (10/13)
I’d seen Astronautalis perform before at the Trunk Space, but I must admit I was more taken with him the second time around. I’ve never met (in the literal sense) an artist so humbled by his success, appreciative of his fans and dedicated to his craft. Perhaps the passion that is lost in so many musicians of today, especially on a mainstream level, is found in Andy Bothwell. Brilliant, to say the least.

*We missed some of the most talked about shows this year because they sold out before we got tickets. In 2012, we will not wait last minute. We hope to be ticketholders to the best sold-out gigs around town.

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