2018 is almost over and these lists are kind of inane and asinine but really they’re just helpful for sorting through the massive amount of shit. These are some bands our editors and writers liked seeing this year! (P.S. This is by no means a complete list)
THE NUDE PARTY
Originally from Boone, NC, these newly-settled New Yorkers have had a very big year. With the release of their debut self-titled album, opening for the Arctic Monkeys and a quick tour with Jack White, The Nude Party is on fire. And for good reason—their insanely catchy sound isn’t their only addictive quality. Every live performance is the party of a lifetime. You keep thinking, “well, it can’t get any better than that,” and then they hire a magician or somehow fit almost the entire audience on stage to sing along with them. There’s none stop dancing, crowd surfing, shot-taking and chaos with these six rockers. Though they don’t play completely nude as much as they used to, it’s no surprise to see people ripping off an article of clothing here or there.
THE BLACK LIPS
Watching the Black Lips live is akin to attending a close friend’s wild birthday party – there is a palpable celebratory feel that they sustain from the first song to the last. The pure joy they exude is just as infectious as it is magnetic, which casts an entrancing state of delight across the crowd in a broad, supersonic stroke. Fun cannot help but take on a life of its own when the Black Lips perform, and each and every time they take the stage – whether it be in London or North Carolina – that is exactly what manifests.
Ron Gallo’s integration of inventiveness into his live performances makes each one feel effortlessly joyous and refreshing. His witty rhetoric wins over the crowd, and his creative manner in which he engages with onstage space creates an added layer of excitement as well. To state it simply, Ron Gallo is so fun to watch onstage because it is clear that he himself is having fun. His infectious stage presence and ability to integrate personality into his performances make them nothing short of memorable. When you see Ron Gallo, you don’t necessarily know what you’re going to get, but it’s absolutely going to be something good – and that can always be relied upon.
One of the most surreal moments of a live music experience – and this by no means happens often – is when you just know a band that you’re seeing and hearing for the first time is about to do something really special from the moment they walk onstage. It’s the most peculiar of sensation; as they double check their tuning, tighten the cymbals, and adjust the mic stands, you’re left with an inkling that you’re about to witness something that will stay with you long after the house lights come up at the end of the night. This is precisely the effect Sick Joy creates. The UK -based rock trio delivers live performances as raw and riveting as their music – an algorithm for seamless audience captivation that they nailed down to a fine science. What is so intriguing about watching Sick Joy, though, is that this effect manifests in such an organic way. This is because they do not sacrifice musicianship for showmanship. Instead, they exist in perfect equilibrium. Sick Joy has a way of naturally matching their performance quality with the unthreatened magnitude of their sound, thus creating an undeniable sense of allure that makes their performances inherently memorable.
There’s a kind of energy—all-encompassing, full-bodied, contagious— that cannot be recorded, photographed, or even filmed. It’s an energy that’s present at every THICK show, filling the room no matter its size or capacity, and it has only increased since the release of their EP this spring, Would You Rather? The live entrance of the guitar break on “Be Myself” is to me what I imagine the beat drop at an EDM show to be to festival-goers. The frequent set closer, “Hot Bod,” is satisfyingly chaotic, and chanting along to period anthem “Bleeding” (“Don’t touch me! I’m bleeding!”) is the catharsis I never knew I needed. Standing at the front of the stage during pop punk shows never felt like an option for me growing up, but THICK, who are extremely vocal fans of blink-182 and Green Day, have created music where the tunes, the lyrics, and, most importantly, the live show, feel like they were made for people like me in mind.
There will be bottles of wine onstage, guest appearances by Chicago mainstays like Knox Fortune and Twin Peaks’ Cadien Lake James, and the audience will inevitably storm the stage or make it disappear all together. Grapetooth shows are a blast not only because Clay Frankle and Chris Bailoni (Homesick) are flailing, yelling, athleisure-wearing hype men, but because their music is inevitably party music. Grapetooth shows are for dancing, passing the bottle, and leaving drenched in other people’s sweat.
— Lauren Khalfayan
The musicians of boygenius–Julien Baker, Lucy Dacus, and Phoebe Bridgers–are each terrific live on their own. Dacus can oscillate between sharp, spiraling guitar solos and sweet, soft melodies within one song, Bridgers takes on her own songs and a Gillian Welch cover with equally tender care to every note and word, and Julien Baker hypnotizes the crowd until we’re all left vulnerable and raw. But these sets only serve as the precursors to the boygenius tour’s main event, during which each member’s strength unfolds in front of the crowd as the trio plays through their 6-song EP. It is a live show that brings to life the community-oriented, supportive atmosphere that formed this supergroup in the first place, as what felt like the entirety of Brooklyn Steel sang along to “Me & My Dog”’s last verse, and Bridgers and Dacus sank to their hands and knees to bow down to Julien Baker as she performed a guitar solo on “Salt in the Wound.”
During their residency at Elsewhere earlier this year, I saw The Voidz play three out of the four weeks with varying levels of booze in me, from none to…a lot, and from up front to the very back by the bar with room to dance. Whether I was absorbed in the crazy talent and charisma on stage or feeding off of the energy, I left feeling really hyped up. With Julian Casablancas joking his way around technical difficulties and unnecessarily but charmingly apologizing for an unnoticeable blunder on a song they’d never before performed live, it felt almost casual – but in a way that gave it a high-key hang-out vibe combined with the raging rock show atmosphere you get from songs like “Pyramid of Bones.” They played a perfect blend of old and new material, but the crown jewel of each performance, to me, was “QYURRYUS.” I like to describe it as a blend of Werewolf Bar Mitzvah (from 30 Rock) and Kanye autotune, and I say it with the highest regards. Hearing the guys play it live takes you to a different, crazier place.
— Grace Eire
At 19 years old, Mikaela Straus, better known as King Princess, has compiled an EP of perfect pop that paints a sapphic world of love and heartbreak. Although “1950” was a debut single so infectious that even Harry Styles tweeted its lyrics, each of Make My Bed’s six tracks stands on its own to tell its own tale, whether it is Straus falling for a poor little rich girl (“Upper West Side”), or her drinking enough to see a former fling in her dreams (“Talia”). On “Holy,” Straus uses religious imagery to describe an encounter with a fellow female lover, making demands as a ruling figure such as, “Honey, on your knees when you look at me/ I’m dressed like a fucking queen / And you’re begging, ‘please.’” Young audiences have spent years listening to R&B-infused pop tracks by men dictating narratives and demanding from women, so it is refreshing to hear King Princess’s own sensual celebrations, using the same 808s and falsettos that artists like Justin Timberlake and Usher used to sell sex, only on Make My Bed, women are the givers and the receivers, the objectified and the objectifiers. King Princess finds irony in many areas of her life, and that includes discovering how well revolution fits into a pop song.
Onstage, Estrons is a real live wire. They generate an almost tangible sense of electricity, with the effortless sense of cool they exude intermingling seamlessly with the power and scope behind their sound. What results is a layered, nuanced performance wherein there is no shortage of awe. A part of what makes watching Estrons such a rich experience is that one can visibly see the band lose themselves in the music while onstage, and that makes their performances feel like an incredible secret phenomenon that has been opened up to the world to see. That, to state it simply, is pretty special.
“I don’t really care about the headliner, I’m just here for Gnarcissists,” is a direct quote I overheard at a gig. I totally get where they’re coming from because Gnarcissists have more or less ruined all other punk shows for me — they’re just not the same. I’m pretty sure every Gnarcissists show I’ve been to has ended in someone bleeding. Eyes will roll back into heads, there will be writhing on the floor, crowd surfing, stage storming, guitar smashing, and pandemonium en mass.
I truly believe that Shame is going to be looked back on and revered as one of the best bands of the 2010s. Their debut record is insane, but the band is a whole other level live. Pink cowboy hat wearing, nipple rubbing Charlie Steen literally CLIMBS through the crowd as they briefly cease their moshing so they can support him high above on their outstretched arms. You can barely catch Josh Finerty racing around the stage, jumping higher than you thought was humanly possible and shaking and shimmying with schoolboy irreverence. Seeing them live feels like a total release — a post-punk baptism and rebirth.
— Lauren Khalfayan
FIDLAR is one of the only bands that can get me giddy about going to Terminal 5, the expensive trashcan of music venues that’s super inconveniently located. But they’ll take any space and do their worst. It’s been a minute since the band’s come out with a new album, and with the release of a few very different singles, their fans are extra eager to get their grimy hands on new music. So you can probably imagine what their live crowd was like. I haven’t left a concert covered in other people’s sweat, bruised, and with lost keys since I was ~much~ younger, but FIDLAR’s show and the crowd brought it out in my old bones. Their sound pretty much begs to be played live, preferably in a shitty basement or rooftop somewhere. But they take the bigger, more distant stage of T5 and make it work, with Zac in his scrubs wisecracking between songs and making his way into the crowd for “Cocaine,” and getting totally swallowed up for the last chorus. These guys are super tight, and what you hear on their records only gets wilder and more fun when you’re in a room with drunk and stoned kids and kids-at-heart pushing each other around. I loved FIDLAR so much before but after this show topping my list of most memorable live acts ever, they just cannot do any wrong.
The first time I saw Native Sun I was under an unbeknownst to me fever haze in a backyard in Bushwick. I was about to peace the fuck out cause I felt like shit, but then the band took the stage and for the next 30 minutes or so I forgot about the chills and aches and got swept away in a rush of adrenaline, silly string, and champagne showers. Since that night, I’ve been able to catch the band a few other times and I’ve always left beer stained and smiling. Frontman, Danny Gomez, is Brooklyn’s own modern rock icon. Everything from his style to his movement to his impassioned performance is visceral and electric. That energy permeates through the rest of the band and into the crowd as they overflow makeshift stage spaces, climb benches, fences, and whatever else they can before the cops come and bust it up.
NATION OF A LANGUAGE