What’s up, loyal blog readers! It’s your friendly WUD Music leadership team here. We’re a music blog, and everyone knows that in order to keep your official music blog certification, you’re required by law to publish at least one “Best-of” list every year. So we’re being overachievers, and having our whole team make a best-of list of their very own. We’ll be publishing a new one each day, so keep checking back!
Tori Dexter (Director): Top 10 Concerts of 2014
This is a total cop out of a list. In addition to bending the rules in order to include 12 shows in my list of 10 (hey look at me, I’m the Big 10 Conference!), I added a whole bunch of honorable mentions. But hey, I’m in charge, I do what I want.
Jack White w/ Benjamin Booker (The Rave, Milwaukee WI)
Pretty standard explanation here – Jack White was amazing and this was a great introduction to Benjamin Booker but The Rave is just the worst. Bad sound quality, and about 6,000 degrees with 900% humidity. I looked like I’d just hopped out of a bathtub when we finally got out of there.
Outkast (Lollapalooza, Chicago IL)
Seeing Outkast live, while fireworks exploded overhead, on what was probably their last tour ever made a ticket to Lolla worth it even if I hadn’t watched a single other show. This show would be higher on the list, but the stage was so packed that I was almost half a mile from the stage (and I’m only barely exaggerating). However, I could have been on the other side of the park and would have still mentioned Outkast on the list- c’mon, they’re living legends!
Revelry Music and Arts Festival (Langdon Street and Memorial Union, Madison WI)
Revelry was AMAZING, but I was working it for so long that I hardly got to see any of the artists. However, I managed to find a free half hour to watch Dillon Francis from backstage, and the experience of watching a crowd go nuts in front of a stage that you watched appear out of the back of a truck 12 hours earlier is an experience that 100% deserves a mention. Long live Revelry.
WRECKFAST (Somewhere on Charter Street, Madison WI)
The CATCH WRECK label in Madison put on a house show where $5 got you CRASHprez, Lord of the Fly, Kiazma, *hitmayng, whoever else played before I got there, AND unlimited beer, bacon, and pancakes. I have yet to go to a single rap show that couldn’t have been improved by the addition of bacon and pancakes. Everyone else should be taking notes.
Sumo Cyco and Tartar Control (The Bovine Sex Club – NXNE, Toronto ON)
This was possibly the single strangest night of my life. Have you ever seen one of those dogs that’s so ugly it’s cute? It probably had something to do with all the Vodka Redbulls or the fact that I’d only slept once in 3 days, but this show was so weird, it was good
Now, on to the list! Drumroll please…
10. The Mowgli’s w/ Misterwives (High Noon Saloon, Madison WI)
The Mowgli’s also did a show at the Sett that was SO much fun, which would have made this list over the High Noon show, EXCEPT for the addition of Misterwives at the High Noon. The Mowgli’s are such professionals and they put on a happy, dopamine soaked set every time I see them, but I fell newly in love with Misterwives that night, and at the same time as this show went rocketing into the top ten, their EP went rocketing into my “most played” on iTunes.
9. St Vincent (Yonge-Dundas Square – NXNE, Toronto ON)
I didn’t quite know what to expect going in to this one. I’d had her most recent album on repeat for months and she was one of the artists I was most excited to see at this festival, but her recorded stuff was just so perfectly weird that I couldn’t imagine how it would carry that over to a live show. Suffice it to say, I’m a convert, and I completely stand by the statement that a love of St. Vincent isn’t even complete until you’ve seen her live. She comes out blazing with metallic outfits and teased purple hair, dances robotically, falls off of set piece in slow motion, and does all this while continuing to be one of the best guitarists I’ve ever seen. We dipped out early to catch LE1F and Danny Brown (a show that also deserves a shout), but I’m so ready to see her again and stick around for the long haul this time. Check out this video of her set at Pitchfork Paris for a taste.
8. Volcano Choir w/ Sylvan Esso (Turner Hall Ballroom, Milwaukee WI) / Astronautalis w/ Steve Roggenbuck (The Sett, Madison WI)
Could NOT choose between these two, so I’m cheating and including them both. Volcano Choir is a collaboration between Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon and members of Collections of Colonies of Bees, and this show was the last stop on their tour/maybe their last show together? Ya never know with Justin. Anyway, they had one of the most phenomenal stage and lighting setups I’ve ever seen and my GOD that music is beautiful. Justin Vernon’s voice just breaks my heart every time I hear it. Plus, Sylvan Esso was the un-announced opener, which was one of the more pleasant surprises I’ve ever experienced.
Astronautalis was part of LitFest at UW Madison, and was one of the WUD Music shows I most enjoy bragging about. For as much as I’d talked about him and obsessively listened to his albums, I’d actually never seen him live, so I was looking forward to this for a long time. Steve Roggenbuck, a spoken word artist, was a really interesting opener, but Astronautalis was the main attraction and he did NOT disappoint. After a great set in a packed room, he went on a glorious rant about getting what you want in life right before he left the stage, and then I got to take a picture with him and he complimented my shirt. It was a good day.
7. Dessa w/ Caroline Smith (The Majestic, Madison WI)
I know, I know, Tori put a Dessa show in her top 10, what a surprise. I don’t even need the sass from ya’ll right now. Dessa and her band regularly put on a great show, but the addition of the goddess that is Caroline Smith and Dessa’s glorious whiskey-soaked rant at the end of the show about how we live in a wonderful and unique place and should appreciate that made this show even better than any of the other 15 Dessa sets I’ve stalked.
6. The Naked and Famous (The Majestic, Madison WI)
Holy guacamole TNAF puts on a great live show. It was sold out, which is always fun in the Majestic, and the lighting was gorgeous. Everyone in the band just radiated energy and passion, and my ears were ringing for hours. I was not upset about it. I honestly don’t have much more to say, this show just filled me with so much joy and every time I listen to their album, it brings me right back.
5. Chance the Rapper (Lollapalooza, Chicago IL)
I’ve seen Chance a few times and it was honestly an amazing experience going from seeing him in The Sett with maybe 200 other people, to watching him headline one of the biggest music festivals in the world. Chance the Rapper is a natural performer – he’s goofy and charming and it was written all over his face how happy he was to be up on that stage. I really can’t say enough good things about this kid. But what really took this show from good to insane was the fact that R. FREAKING. KELLY showed up and they did “Ignition” together. Add that to the list of things I never in a million years thought I’d see. Also, shoutout to his surprise appearance during Vic Mensa’s set earlier that day – you can really tell how much those two genuinely enjoy performing together in the place they both call home.
4. Sylvan Esso (Majestic, Madison WI) / Lizzo (Some random streetcar – NXNE, Toronto ON)
Cheating again. Sylvan Esso is the coolest. With the notable exception of the topless chick gyrating all over her boyfriend directly in front of us, I loved everything that happened this night. Their album is great, but their live show blows it out of the water.
Lizzo bounced and twerked and rapped her face off on a moving train car as it careened around the city of Toronto. I have rarely seen someone tear it up as hard as she and Sophia Eris did, much less while standing on a seat or hanging off a handrail. The single bad thing about this set was that it didn’t go on for longer.
3. Doomtree Blowout (First Avenue, Minneapolis MN)
The Doomtree Blowout is an annual banger at First Ave, and it’s been going on for 10 years now. However, the Minneapolis rap collective decided that doing this for an 11th year sounded sad (I’d beg to differ, but nobody asked me), meaning that this year was the #LastBlowoutEver. Because it was the last one, they did a show every day of the week from Sunday to the following Saturday, and we drove 5 hours up for the Thursday one. If I hadn’t known, there’s no way I’d have guessed that we were watching their 5th show in 5 days because they tore it up like they hadn’t performed together in months. I’ve been to Blowout before, but there was an energy, an urgency to this one that was completely new. Add to that the fact that P.O.S. is finally healthy and performing again after a 2 year long health scare and the killer intermission set from a bunch of local performers (including the inimitable Har Mar Superstar), and you have a near-perfect way to spend a December night in Minneapolis while skipping your last two days of fall semester.
2. Run The Jewels (Lollapalooza, Chicago IL)
Killer Mike’s dancing. That is all. On top of that, the banter between him and El-P always makes you feel like you’re kicking it in your living room with a couple of friends, if your friends happened to be some of the best rappers in the game. A lot of their material came from RTJ1, they played almost every song on the album, but the best part was that they also drew HEAVILY from RTJ2, which was still 2 or 3 months away from being released at that point. It really says something about what a devoted audience they’ve created that the crowd went nuts for every single track, old and new. Even though Run The Jewels performed at a small stage in the middle of the afternoon, they turned up like they were headliners and made the whole audience believe that they should have been.
1. Betty Who w/ DJ Nick Nice (The Terrace, Madison WI)
I’m almost certainly biased because I booked this one, but this was THE MOST FUN show. It was a gorgeous June night, the sun was setting, I got to hang out with Betty Who’s parents for a while, I danced a lot, Betty’s set was great, tons of people showed up for it, and I witnessed Nick Pjevach (the Director in 2012-13) pluck a mayfly out of a cup of beer and eat it whole. If I remember right, we even went to Plaza (the world’s best bar, for the uninitiated) after the show was over. It was as close as I’ve come in all of my 21 years to a perfect night.