1. Sonic Youth at Williamsburg Waterfront on Aug. 12
In what could be Sonic Youth’s final U.S. show, Thurston, Kim and company brought the house down with my favorite setlist out of my four Sonic Youth shows. It was the perfect mix of young and old, highlighted by “Brave Men Run,” “Kill Yr Idols,” “Starfield Road,” “Sugar Kane” and Thurston’s “Psychic Hearts.” While it pains me to think of Thurston and Kim moving on and Sonic Youth coming to an end, this show will always remain with me as the best I saw in 2011 and one of the best ever.
2. LCD Soundsystem at Terminal 5 on March 31
This one really, really does give Sonic Youth’s a run for its money, but it really doesn’t need an explanation. Saying goodbye to James Murphy was an utter necessity. And though I missed out on the Madison Square Garden finale, I was able to cop tickets for the Thursday night show at Terminal 5. It was a treat. From “Dance Yrself Clean” through “New York, I Love You, But You’re Bringing Me Down,” I danced and said goodbye to a band that has made its presence felt in nearly all areas of my life.
3. Beach House at 9:30 Club on Feb. 26
Sure, Teen Dream had been released 13 months before this show and I’d been listening the hell out of that album 15 months before, but my first time seeing Beach House left an indelible mark on my year. While getting to 9:30 Club was a hassle, it was totally worth it. I was crying three songs into the set when Alex Scally launched into the lead guitar part during the chorus of “Walk In The Park.” It was also one of the most visually pleasing concerts of the year as well, as 9:30 Club looked better than I had ever seen it.
4. The Strokes at Merriweather Post Pavilion on May 1
As you can tell from this list, I really did a number on knocking out “big” bands on this list. The Strokes were no different, as I stumbled into a pair of free tickets to Sweetlife Festival at Merriweather and used the opportunity to see Lupe Fiasco, Girl Talk from a distance, and, finally, The Strokes. The set, while lasting just under an hour, had everything I could have ever wanted. Everyone talks about how tight of a live band the group is, and I got to see it firsthand.
5. Thurston Moore at Music Hall of Williamsburg on May 20
This birthday present to myself also included a show later on this list. It took me a decent amount of time to get into Demolished Thoughts, mostly because it wasn’t Trees Outside The Academy (one of my all-time most meaningful albums). But I eventually got into it, and this show helped so much. Thurston remains one of the best showmen in the game today, and a tight performance only helps matters. Not to mention my first(!) “Psychic Hearts” encore of the year.
6. Atlas Sound at St. Cecilia’s on June 16
Hands down, this was the most heartbreaking performance I had ever seen and felt in my life. Every note Bradford Cox played inside that Brooklyn church resonated with so much emotion and depression that to led to multiple people having existential crises. This was one performance that I left not knowing how to feel. The only thing I knew was that I had seen an amazing performance.
7. Real Estate at Maxwell’s on May 21
I saw Real Estate four times in 2011, but this show, which also had Julian Lynch (the great), Big Troubles and Family Portrait on the bill was fantastic. The songs from Days were starting to get more and more play and the Jersey location made it feel like a reunion of sorts for them. It was simply fun.
8. Panda Bear at Webster Hall on Oct. 1
I was a little hard on Panda Bear this year, as Tomboy didn’t really click with me. Getting tickets to this show was the result of me being in New York this weekend and no good shows besides this one being announced at the time of the trip planning. So I forked over the $25 and trudged into Manhattan to take in an extremely cool set. Noah Lennox’s vocals were more crisp and clear than I ever could have imagined, and Sonic Boom’s addition really let the organic nature of the songs shine through. This was my most surprisingly good show of the year.
9. Wild Flag at Black Cat on Oct. 20
I entered a free ticket draw to this sold out show on a whim and came up with tickets. So why not. I had caught the supergroup open for Sonic Youth in August and to see them in D.C. would be a cool experience. What ended up happening was seeing one of those shows that you immediately know is a great show. Carrie Brownstein and Mary Timony are amazing live musicians and brought the album to life. Plus, they covered The Ramones and Television. Not too shabby.
10. Animal Collective at Prospect Park on July 12
This show came as my second time seeing AnCo in four days as I also went to the July 9 show where the quartet played songs from Merriweather Post Pavilion at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The songs were good the first time by, but the second time through, everything clicked and it felt like the band was on top of their game for the Brooklyn crowd.
11. Wye Oak at Black Cat on March 11
On a personal note, this show is probably where everything started clicking for me on a personal basis at college. But besides, that Jenn Wasner can shred so hard. The songs from Civilian were so tight and the two piece filled all corners of the venue with noise.
12. Yo La Tengo at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sept. 6
YLT was opening for The National here, and it’s also where I saw my future self as an alt dad: Sitting in the pavilion, watching chill jams and sipping coffee on a dreary and chilly night. It was great. Plus, “And The Glitter Is Gone” into “Autumn Sweater” just blew my mind.
13. Beirut at McCarren Park on June 17
I had never really listened to Beirut before this show, but I became an instant fan. Zach Condon was swoon worthy and the new songs from The Rip Tide that were performed popped.
14. Guided By Voices at McCarren Park on June 18
2011 could definitely have been considered the legends tour, and what legends wouldn’t be complete without drunken lo-fi jams? That’s where Guided By Voices came in.
15. Gang of Four at 9:30 Club on Feb. 9
This is the show that kicked off the legends tour. And while only half the original band remains, they still put on a killer show that included some of my personal favs from Entertainment! It was just pure fun.
Honorable Mention (alphabetical)
Cloud Nothings at Black Cat on Nov. 10
Family Portrait/Twerps at Rock and Roll Hotel on March 27
Virgin Mobile FreeFest at Merriweather Post Pavilion on Sept. 10
Woods/Ducktails/White Fence/Widowspeak at Bowery Ballroom on Aug. 13
Youth Lagoon at Red Palace on Nov. 13
Full list of 2011 shows coming soon.