These acts performed with heart and soul. If you weren’t there, you might not know how badly you missed out, but I would strongly advise not making the same mistake twice.
(in chronological order)
Old Time Relijun @ FOAM | May 13
I didn’t attend a ton of shows at the now-shuttered FOAM, but it almost had a speakeasy feel, like a back room show you had to know people to know about, and every act I saw there was a rare treasure of a booking. Old Time Relijun was frenetic, electric, and channeling visions from another reality. I feel lucky we had the right venue to host them.
Caustic Casanova @ The Sink Hole | August 14
Must. Bring. Earplugs. The epic sound of this three-piece from DC ricocheted off the cement-lined space surrounding the floor-stage, burning holes into ear drums and quaking sternums throughout the room. New material nodded humbly to Black Sabbath and King Crimson, two of the most holy and defining sounds still influencing music today.
Jenny Lewis @ The Pageant | August 17
While I’m partial to Acid Tongue-era Lewis, she is a captivating performer no matter what mantle she’s currently wearing. She glided across the stage in a shimmering, sewed-on, sequined dress and hanged on her color-coordinated props for a seamlessly passionate performance of most of her newest album.
Brant Bjork @ The Ready Room | September 12
I came for the legend. I stayed for the psychedelic riffs. I enjoyed this show so much more than I expected. Opening acts Killing Fever, Ecstatic Vision, and Spacetrucker aptly set the tone for a much trippier set than Bjork’s many solo albums would suggest.
Tropical Fuck Storm @ Duck Room | September 13
This show wins the prize for most charming audience. Also youngest audience I rubbed elbows with this year. The band seemed equally smitten with their “moshing” and pogo-ing fan club. Touring on the heels of a new album, the band’s live dynamic added even more personality to their piercing distortion and unforgiving lyrics. If you didn’t get chills from Gareth or Fiona’s stares, you weren’t paying attention.
Mdou Moctar @ The Duck Room | September 25
So many firsts and superlatives to describe this show: First time seeing live Tuareg guitar. Most entrancing solos, for sure. Perhaps the most joyful band I’ve seen perform. First time a friend encouraged me to hug a band after a show. And definitely the highest quality handmade jewelry I’ve seen at a merch table (all proceeds go to a school Mdou building in Niger).
Kishi Bashi @ Delmar Hall | October 26
This was a such a special show. The new album is one of my favorites of the year, and the full band (including live flautist, Pip the Pansy) played most all the tracks as well as a few favorite classics. We also had our 16-year old nephew in tow for one of his first real concerts and serendipitously found ourselves in the middle of an acoustic performance on the floor after quiet hours went into effect.
Alex Cameron @ The Ready Room | November 7
With his eyeliner smudged and his metallic dress shirt fetchingly unbuttoned, Cameron delivered an intense invective on toxic masculinity, narcissism, consumerism, and pettiness—from the opening “Bad for the Boys” to the closing “Marlon Brando”—with all the swagger of Tom Jones plus the bounce of Hall & Oates. It was a much larger and more dedicated crowd than I had expected, gleefully singing along word for word. Banter highlights included the fan shouting “Eating YOUR ass like an oyster!” during “Miami Memory,” prompting another fan’s retort, “You wish!” Opening act Holiday Sidewinder was a real leopard-print-bodysuit-wearing-sex-crazed pop treat.
Big Freedia @ Delmar Hall | November 9
I’ve seen Big Freedia several times, but the energy from the dancers was outstanding this go-round. Though I missed Tootie’s spunk and creativity, the new crew was relentless and kept on wiggling long after the house lights came on. Low Cut Connie jumping off the upright piano in the opening set was only a harbinger of the vibrancy to come.
Black Mountain @ The Duck Room | November 26
One of those shows where there’s so much talent on stage you cannot decide where to look. For my part, the octopus arms of new-addition drummer, Adam Bulgasem, won a slightly larger part of the pie. That, and the pool of mysterious water slowly creeping across the floor… Tipped the bar staff extra that night for pulling double duty behind the rail as well as the mop bucket. | Courtney Dowdall