Concerts I went to:
Parquet Courts with Mdou Moctar 03.05, The Pageant: This was a fun and wildly energetic show. I think people had been cooped up for too long and were ready to explode and it showed in the audience. It helps that both bands were on fire. Never heard of Mdou Moctar before this and had no clue what to expect. Moctar is from Niger and is a Tuareg musician and songwriter. He plays the unique assouf style, that is more known as “desert blues.” Just an electric set that you didn’t need to understand what he was saying as you felt it. For me, his set was enhanced by the full band wearing traditional robes and headwear. It added an air of mystery, especially if you weren’t familiar with the act. Rarely does an unknown opener blow me away, but he stole the show. Not to discredit Parquet Courts, who were great.
Ty Segall 03.06, Off Broadway: The gods of fuzz shined down on us this night. This was Ty by himself, no band but with backing tracks. The amount of fuzz he employed was almost illegal and he is a frenetic madman on stage, just perpetually in motion. Ty, along with the OSees/Thee Oh Sees/OhSees and King Giz, are known for just a prolific rate of releases. The set was mostly a career-spanning list of songs and him playing without a full band didn’t diminish the intensity of his performance in any way. Absolute highlight was his cover of Harry Nilsson’s “Jump into the Fire” which is from an EP of Nilsson covers he did that I was totally unaware of. I didn’t realize what he was playing at first and I leaned over to my wife and said I would love to see him take that song on…and then it hit me what he was doing. It was just an incredible version, as is the EP version.
Flaming Lips with Heartless Bastards 04.05, The Pageant: This was at least the 15th time I have seen them live. I say that as I sort of lost count so it may be 16 or 17 times, immaterial at this point as they are by far my most-seen band.
Wolf Alice 04.12, Delmar Hall: Fun little show from a great English-indie-bordering-on-shoegaze band. Surprisingly one of the louder shows this year and it was great to see so many people for a band that outside of KDHX wouldn’t get any kind of airplay here.
War on Drugs 06.06, The Pageant: Just an incredible show, which is what you should come to expect from WODs. Good mix of songs from the last three albums, however I do wish they would play more—or any—from their first few albums.
Tears For Fears with Garbage 06.17, Rouff Home Mortgage Music Center, Indianapolis: My wife and I saw this with fellow contributor Mike Rengel. Garbage sounded great and put on a heck of set. I’ve never seen them before as they weren’t a band I was invested in, however my wife has seen them many times and assured me they were always this good. Seeing them made me pay attention and look back through their back catalog. Tears For Fears were just stellar. I didn’t have any expectations going into this, but they certainly blew everything out of the water. They were a tight unit, rocked surprisingly hard, and gave us a fantastic greatest hits set. The interplay between Roland and Curt hasn’t faded through the years as they wove their vocals and instrumentations around each other effortlessly. Getting out of the venue however proved to be a giant headache, only to be bested by another amphitheater parking situation; see below.
Neko Case 06.24, The Sheldon: I can’t think of a more perfect venue for Neko and her soul shattering voice. She really is a force of nature live and in this lush of a venue was a site to behold. Having seen her in theaters, clubs, festivals, and now The Sheldon, I never want to see her anywhere else but The Sheldon.
Courtney Barnett with Lucy Dacus 08.09, The Factory: Starting out by saying not a fan of this venue. It’s cavernous and extremely impersonal. For me, it feels like it is what someone who has never been to a rock venue thinks a rock venue should be like. It just seemed like the wrong venue for this show. It was nice to see Lucy live. Love her albums and really wasn’t sure how the songs would translate to a live setting but enjoyed it immensely. Courtney is such a joy to see perform and I cannot recommend seeing her enough. Songs from the new album fit in well with her previous work. She played with a high level of energy and confidence. Great setlist, too.
Interpol and Spoon 09.09, Stifel Theatre: First time seeing Spoon and was greatly impressed with them live. They are one of those bands I love on album but never really sought out live. They are highly recommended to see. I do wish they could have played longer. I’ve seen Interpol many times and this was the shortest set I’ve seen from them. They sounded great and the new songs translated well to a live setting and fit in with everything else, it was just short. This was a co-headline tour but the sets just seemed shorter.
The National 09.17, Saint Louis Music Park: This has been the first time I’ve been able to see The National since their incredible show at the Pageant in 2010. Every other time they’ve been here it’s been as an opener or at a fest, and travelling to see them wasn’t much of an option for me through a lot of the 2010s. It did my heart good to see them live as they were firing on all cylinders and even brought out a few new tracks which I greatly enjoyed. I got to hear most of the songs I wanted to hear so I have zero complaints about the set. We were also right in front of Matt when the fan tripped and more or less tackled him during “Mr. November” as he walked through the audience. It was just incredible to see—thankfully I got a great video of it—but also offers a nice cautionary tale to know when to say when, kids.
Nine Inch Nails with Nitzer Ebb and Ministry 09.24, Blossom Music Center, Cleveland: When this show was announced, my wife and I knew we couldn’t miss this, look at that lineup! This was the only stop on NIN’s tour that included both Nitzer and Ministry, and in my wife’s hometown. I was most excited to see Nitzer as I never thought I would see them live, and good grief, they did not disappoint. Their breed of dance music meets industrial was briefly my jam at one point in the ‘90s when I was in college. I haven’t seen Ministry or NIN since the mid-‘90s. Ministry was fun to see even if I didn’t know a fair amount of their songs, as I stopped paying them attention after the ‘90s. The NIN set was epic to say the least. Everything they played was with a certain fire. The end saw multiple former members joining them for the last few songs, including Filter’s Richard Patrick who played “Hey Man Nice Shot.” This is my show of the year and easily in top 10 of best shows ever. The parking situation, on the other hand, was a disaster, which is par for the course with this venue, so I’m told. It was at least a two-hour wait to get out if not longer (I was delirious with exhaustion at this point, so time held no meaning). Why is every amphitheater ill-equipped to deal with everyone leaving? It’s not like you don’t know how many are there and can’t request police assistance ahead of time to keep the traffic moving?
Cassandra Jenkins 10.11, Off Broadway: Cassandra was the opener for Kevin Morby, who I know nothing about other than multiple friends love him. My wife turned me onto Cassandra and she was so great and such a joy to see perform. Her album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature was my wife’s AOTY for 2021. “Hard Drive” was the highlight of her set, which is fitting as it’s the best track on the album. Met her afterwards and she was just such a wonderful person.
Suede and Manic Street Preachers 11.16, Auditorium Theatre, Chicago: This is the last show of the year for me and if I hadn’t already had the NIN show, this would easily have been my show of the year. I’ve been lucky enough to see the Manics one other time and they are just an incredible band all-around, though not well known here in the States, which is a shame. After the one time I was able to see them live in 2014, I never thought I would get to see them again as they do not come to the US very often and they’ve hinted at stopping touring a few times. Thankfully they haven’t because they are so great live. They acted as the opener here even though it was a co-headline tour, so they got almost equal time. I would gladly watch MSPs play for hours. I was shocked when I heard the news of this tour, and this was the first time Suede has been to the US in 25 years. I went in with a certainly high expectation and they blew it away. They absolutely ripped live and blasted through a set that featured several songs from their latest album Autofiction (which is great, and you should check it out) but a lot of songs from their Britpop-era heyday. This is another band I never thought I would get to see live since their music really doesn’t appeal to the American sensibility, especially their first two albums. They were energetic, bordering on ruckus on stage showing how much passion they had for their songs.
Glory Pro Wrestling 04.24, The Pageant: Glory Pro is a local indie federation that normally runs out of South Broadway Athletic Club. However, for their April event they ran at The Pageant! This was incredibly fun and such a unique setting for a wrestling event. The show features Glory Pro workers as well as several guests from AEW and New Japan, see below about AEW. I was draw to this because of the unique venue and because on the undercard Japanese hardman legend Minoru Suzuki was there. His résumé is longer than the traffic backup onto Brentwood Blvd off 64 on a Saturday. He is affectionately known on the internet as Murder Grandpa given that he is in his mid-50s, which is significantly older than most wrestlers. This show proved such a success that they are running the Pageant again (and may have one other time since). Very fun shows to attend to see some young talent as well as veterans and some current stars from TV in a smaller setting.
AEW 06.15, Chaifitz Arena: I have been a fan of AEW since its inception. I had given up on wrestling in 2003 after being a lifelong fan and a huge fan of ‘90s era All Japan, ECW, and the boom period of WWF and WCW in the late ‘90s. By 2003, things had soured for me and life changes prevented me from being able to keep up with the scene in Japan. Cut to 2018 and I get a random article in my Google news feeds about wrestling journalist Dave Meltzer’s 7 Star review of a match from Japan (it was Omega/Okada IV). I read up on it and immediately looked for it online, thank you Daily Motion. I was blown away by this over 60-minute match that was just pure action and drama for almost the whole time, and from that point on I was hooked and started blitzing through a ton of stuff from New Japan and reading up on what I’ve missed over the 15 years and then the news came out about AEW forming, with Kenny Omega in it. I was sold and have been with them since day 1 and haven’t missed a TV show or a pay-per-view. I’ve been to one other AEW TV event live, it was like their third or fourth show, and it was fun. I unfortunately missed the last time they held an event in St. Louis as I was out of town. But this one, wow, this one was an outstanding show. It was just an absolute blast to see several genuinely incredible matches and have a crowd that was way into everything. My wife, who is not a wrestling fan, went and had fun. Can’t wait to see more events live and hope to catch a PPV someday. They frequently hit Chicago as that is their home and normally run at least one PPV a year there.
Concerts I missed:
Modest Mouse with The Cribs 05.25, Saint Louis Music Park: Out of all the shows I ended up missing this year, this was the one that I regret missing the most and it was more because I LOVE The Cribs. Modest Mouse is great and I’ve seen them many times, but this was probably my only chance to see The Cribs and my schedule just wouldn’t allow for it. [Editor’s note: Your illustrious Editor-in-Chief filled in for Michael to review the show—and it was great!—but he also missed The Cribs. –Ed.]
Outlandia Festival 08.12-13 The National and Wilco headliners, Omaha: I bought two-day passes for this fest *BEFORE* The National announced their latest tour. We’ve missed out on seeing them as traveling to shows wasn’t an option for most of the 2010s for me and they haven’t been here in a while. The undercard for this fest looked great as well with several lower-level bands that are great acts. This is a new fest and at a park I never heard of (I grew up in Omaha). Given our incredibly hectic September, that I had already been back home three times this year, and that we were going to have to drive up again for a delayed funeral over Labor Day weekend, we made the expensive decision to not attend. Sadly, the rules for this fest were pretty strict and no resales allowed, which was a total bummer. I do hope the event was a success and they run it again in 2023 with another great line up as this would be a nice Midwest alternative to the more famous and ungodly large fests that run every summer.
The Beths 08.18, Duck Room: See Outlandia for some of the reasons I missed this show. At this point, I was getting exhausted from shows, especially mid-week ones. I hadn’t bought tickets yet, but really wanted to see this. The Beths are a super fun band from New Zealand and their latest album Expert in a Dying Field may be my album of the year. I was bummed to miss this show at such an intimate venue.
Craig Finn 10.22, Off Broadway: Not much I can say here, the show ended up being cancelled as members of Craig’s tour got the dreaded CRUD. No make-up date was announced and there was a full refund (phew).
Godspeed You! Black Emperor 11.03, Delmar Hall: Super-crushed I had to bail on this one, I did have a ticket purchased. They haven’t been here in over 20 years and this would have been incredible to see. At this point I was just done with shows after all that we did this year and I had one more after this that I needed to be emotionally prepared for. | Michael Koehler