Thursday, December 22, 2011
North Texas’ top four live shows of 2011
Plus two "Big Money and Bling Shows" we had to mention.
Goosebumps. That's what we get when we're at a show, swallowed by the lyrics, the music, and the atmosphere. There's nothing like it.
Without further ado:
4. Lights All Night featuring Ghostland Observatory at Plaza of the Americas in Dallas (December 31/January 1): We didn’t have to wait long for our No. 4 concert of 2011. In fact, we didn’t have to wait at all. By the time the clock struck midnight to ring in the New Year, Lights All Night was already buzzing. The first-year event featured Austin’s Ghostland Observatory and stood out as the biggest and most exciting New Year’s Eve party in DFW. But they're back for another round in 2012, and it has morphed into a full blown, two-day festival of epic proportions.
St. Vincent at The Kessler Theater in Dallas (October 22)
3. St. Vincent at the Kessler Theater in Oak Cliff (October 22): Annie Clark received more than a warm welcome for her first performance back since her Strange Mercy release by selling out not one but two back-to-back shows at the Kessler Theater. Clark’s entrancing nature onstage captivated crowds. We were relieved, because the repetitive style that dominates her album would be challenging to replicate live without all of the layered recordings and playbacks. But she was magnificent. And her stories behind the lyrics were a welcome addition.
2. Novaak at Andy’s Basement in Denton during 35 Conferette (March 11): The 35 Conferette boasted plenty of local, national, and international acts, but it was local band Novaak that we remembered most fondly. The show wasn't without issues, as the keyboardist’s piano actually fell off its stand during the show, but it didn’t hinder the band’s impressive performance. Singer Jessi James’ powerful vocals mixed with dreamy melodies were hypnotizing, making it difficult to take our eyes off of her. With a tiny, Twiggy-like frame, it was surprising that such a mature and strong voice would be able to burst forth from her. The band didn't last past its debut album, I Am, You Are, however, perhaps making their great show even that much more bittersweet.
1. HomeGrown Fest at Main Street Garden in Dallas (May 14): This was the second annual run for the downtown Dallas show, and 2011's gig boasted a powerful lineup that included Neon Indian, The O’s, Ishi, Astronautalis, and more. It was one of the best local lineups we've seen for a day fest because there was something for every kind of music lover: The beautiful weather catered to a laid-back vibe, perfect for folk darlings Seryn. Local nerd rappers GalleryCat stepped out from the shadows with an interactive act that got listeners on their feet, hands clapping. Astronautalis performed a sick freestyle rap. And dance band Ishi had its last show with band members Taylor Rea and Rob Bastien -- and it was a good one. We can't wait until next year's HomeGrown Fest, which was just set for May 26, 2012.
Two more concerts belong on the best live shows list, but these gigs were of another ilk. They fall into what we're calling Big Money and Bling Shows, and they're from two of the most popular musicians alive right now. We bow to thee:
Lady Gaga's Monster Ball at the American Airlines Center in Dallas (March 14): Love her or hate her, Lady Gaga has made a huge impact on pop music. During the Mother Monster’s visit to Dallas as she took faithful fans on her journey to the Monster Ball, she put pop icons that came before her to shame. She belted out her hits without the help of auto tune and danced in the highest of heels. Standing at 5’1”, the petite powerhouse put on a show that included several elaborate sets, costume changes, a flaming piano, and a fountain of blood that she bathed herself in. This woman doesn’t just put on a show, she is the show.
Jay-Z and Kanye West at SXSW in Austin (March 19): This show was so good that we decided to include it even though it contained no local musicians and didn't even take place in Dallas-Fort Worth. Jay-Z and Kanye West's SXSW show was one of those "secret" shows that was over-hyped and had potential to be underwhelming. We waited hours, and it was worth every aching muscle. When the show began, no one knew whom West would bring on stage -- except that it better be good. Then out came Kid Cudi, John Legend, Mos Def, Big Sean, and the one and only Jay-Z, and the show went on until 3 a.m. Each rapper had his own designated set time -- except Jay-Z, who stepped out on one of many of West’s encores -- and gave the SXSW hipster crowd one of the most extravagant shows of their lives.