Friday, December 18, 2009

my top 20 favorite shows of the year, kc and elsewhere

Some people go to Florida for vacation. Some people go to Chiefs games. Some people are in book clubs. Well, I hate Florida, the Chiefs are disastrous and I’m not much of a book reader, i like audio books. What I’m getting at is, while they are out doing those things, I’m at a show.

This year opened some new doors for me. I made my first trip to SXSW in Austin and will go every year going forward (several of my fave shows were in Austin). I also went to Pitchfork Music Fest in Chicago, yeah, but won’t be going back to that one. My out of town shows were only a fraction of the shows I took in.

Yeah, so lots of bands were seen, heard and felt. The year should end with a tally of about 275 bands seen, here’s a list of my favorite 20 favorite shows.

20. Lisa Hannigan 3-20 at B.D. Riley’s Austin, TX – SXSW Day Showcase
19. Katie Herzig 10-10 at Crosstown Station, KC
18. Glasvegas 3-19 at The Mohawk Austin, TX – SXSW Day Showcase
17. ACBs with Ces Cru 2-14 at The Record Bar, KC
16. An Horse 4-25 at The Record Bar, KC
15. Green Day 8-12 at Spring Center, KC
14. Flyleaf 8-9 at The Beaumont Club, KC
13. Over the Rhine 8-18 at Crosstown Station, KC
12. Swell Season 11-30 at The Uptown, KC
11. Brandi Carlile 9-14 at The Beaumont Club, KC

10. Passion Pit 9-1 at The Lied Center, Lawrence, KS

I know this band will never come back to KC after the stage incident, but I really dug their show on KU's campus. Seeing all the 18 year old freshmen discover their new found freedoms a few days before the semester began made the show even more memorable.

9. Bela Fleck’s Africa Project 4-2 at The Uptown, KC

I’ve been a fan of African music since I first heard Paul Simon’s “Graceland”. Bela is a huge fan and traveled around Africa building a band of merry musicians and brought them to America to play for us. Thanks for doing that Bela.

8. The Hold Steady 3-20 at The Mohawk Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

If you haven’t seen The Hold Steady it’s like spending the night at a friend’s house in high school and waking up on Sunday morning and going to church, and realizing their church is nothing like the church you’ve grown numb too. Preacher Finn, preach on.

7. The Rural Alberta Adventure 3-19 at Central Presbyterian Church Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

The coolest venue in the coolest town at the coolest fest, these 3 kids had no idea what was in store for them. If you pull the spot in front of Grizzly Bear you’ll get a full house. And if you’re a good band, particularly playing in a church as it was, these fans will go forth and spread thy word. Then you’ll get signed to Saddle Creek records.

6. This Will Destroy You 3-18 at SOHO Austin, TX – SXSW Showcase

To quote The Matrix, “I’ve never seen anyone move like that”, when I watch TWDY’s drummer I always remember that line. Wooden shards were flying above his head in this crowded, upstairs bar on Sixth Street. All music fans should see this band.

5. Manchester Orchestra 5-11 at The Record Bar, KC

This was a radio promo show and most of those are lame. Here’s a glaring exception. Andy Hull, MO’s frontman destroyed that room last night with his crazy range and with two full drum sets rattling the windows of the Record Bar for almost 2 hours.
Photo by Brittney Bush

4. Frightened Rabbit 7-19 at The Bottom Lounge, Chicago

In 3 years they’ll be at the Sprint Center (although I hope I’m wrong), so see them sooner than later. It’s a timid name for this Scottish indie rock outfit. Their lyrics will crush you. They’ll be back in the US this spring at SXSW and then a tour.

photo by Euan Anderson

3. Phoenix 6-24 at The Record Bar, KC

This was a Myspace (not-so) Secret Show. The line was the length of the shopping center at The Record Bar. It was about 92 that day and I waited 3 hours to get my bracelet to get in. It would have been worth a 10-hour wait.


My favorite moment of the year came in this Phoenix show. I got to see a band that I really like, in a bar that I love, in the smallest venue on their tour all less than 400 steps from my home. Really. The entire show had built up to this fever pitch that would explode during the song “1901.” Every refrain, as the crowd shouted back at the band, “Fallen, fallen, fallen”, well it was amazing. I know that sounds silly right now, but some of you get it and some of you were there. They stretched out the middle for a few extra chords as they teased us, anticipating the last verse of the song. Somewhere in that moment if felt like the roof was about to rip off the building. Everyone was hot, we’d been waiting all day/night and this was one of the songs the crowd came to see. The studio version of the song is awesome, but this live version was something else.

Photo by Todd Zimmer

2. The National 7-16 at First Ave Minneapolis, MN

I hadn’t been this excited to see a band for the 1st time in a long while and they didn’t disappoint. I can’t believe they’re not a household name yet. That night front man Matt Berninger took us all on a crazy trip with his deep baritone voice guiding us. Please come back to KC.

1. Leonard Cohen 11-9 at The Midland Theater, KC

After the first song ended I said to my buddy that “it’s so good it feels fake.” I had no idea how good this show would be. The dude’s 75 but as spry as any indie band kid skipping on and off stage. The production and musicianship on stage was remarkable and the crowd hung on every word. Thanks Mr. Cohen.

“Don’t know if we’ll pass this way again but it is our intention to give you everything we got tonight.” - Leonard Cohen


  1. I didn't see a single show on your list. I guess I'll just have to catch more live music in 2010. The Decemberists show at the Uptown must have been #21 on your list. That was a good show. You can't deny it.


  2. The presence of Flyleaf is delightful.

  3. that Flyleaf show was great. i really wanted to like the 2009 album, but i couldn't get into it, like their previous.

  4. love that Leonard Cohen tops this list...that guy has never written a bad song.