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Music, Year in Review 2015

Year in Review: The Best Concerts of 2015

best concerts of 2015

We invited our team of contributors to share some of their favourite concerts of 2015. Many identify with their top picks on a personal level where a concert was the highlight of their summer. For some, their list represents a culmination of 2015’s hard work; and others select clear stand-outs amidst the transforming process of discovering new music.

Every one of these lists is vital to what we do, and represents the various ways in which our contributors interact with the global music community on behalf of Aesthetic Magazine. Our contributors come from different backgrounds, but our passion for music brings us together to inform, engage, grow, learn from each other, and to share our experiences with our readers.

Thank you for reading Aesthetic Magazine, and see you all in 2016!

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Artist: BadBadNotGood & Ghostface Killah
Venue/City: The Opera House, Toronto 
Date: Feb. 19th

Ghostface Killah performing in Toronto as part of Converse Rubber Tracks. (Photo: Julian Avram/Aesthetic Magazine)

Ghostface Killah performing in Toronto as part of Converse Rubber Tracks. (Photo: Julian Avram/Aesthetic Magazine)

While Sour Soul was one of 2015’s most revered albums, there was no supporting tour for it. February 19th was among the only instances where Wu-Tang Clan alum Ghostface Killah and Toronto jazz/hip-hop trio BadBadNotGood performed together.

What’s clear on Sour Soul is that each party draws tremendous energy from one another, and this was even clearer live. Ghostface sounded like he’d stepped straight out of 1993, while BadBadNotGood looked like they were actively repressing the disbelief of playing a show with an idol in favour of fucking killing it.

The show was a cross section of Ghostface and Wu Tang’s most revered hits, given new definition with the added live instrumentation. While we all hope there’s a follow-up to Sour Soul (and hopefully a tour this time), it was pretty clear that this was a one-time affair, and that we were very lucky for having been in attendance.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Artist: Prince
Venue/City: Sony Centre, Toronto 
Date: May 19th

Prince and 3rdeyegirl performing at Sony Centre in Toronto, ON on May 19, 2015. (Photo: Cindy Ord/NPG Records)

Prince and 3rdeyegirl performing at Sony Centre in Toronto, ON on May 19, 2015. (Photo: Cindy Ord/NPG Records)

Maybe he was just bored. To kick off a tour playing much-too-small-for-Prince venues, Prince and Thirdeyegirl (his fierce-AF backup band) laid waste to Toronto’s Sony Centre.

With no new material to play, this was just a solid hits package, mostly focused on his 80’s heyday. This of course was the payoff for the October 2014 Massey Hall incident, where Toronto lost its collective shit at the news that Prince would be playing the legendary venue, and then learned it was pure fiction. It was like watching every child on earth find out their parents are actually Santa in unison.

The best part of a Prince show is the end bars of “Purple Rain”, which Prince will always extend by several minutes. The ooooOOOOOOooooo part. It’s the best conflict you could ever find yourself in.

On one hand, you’re sad this colossal show has come to an end (This was the second-last song on the setlist), but on the other hand, you’re revelling in the what you’ve just witnessed.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Artist: WayHome Arts & Music Festival
Venue/City: Burl’s Creek, Oro Medonte, ON 
Date: July 21-23

Neil Young performing at Wayhome Festival on July 24, 2015. (Photo: Rick Clifford/Aesthetic Magazine)

Neil Young performing at Wayhome Festival on July 24, 2015. (Photo: Rick Clifford/Aesthetic Magazine)

We finally got our very own 3-day music festival. Wayhome isn’t Bonnaroo and it isn’t Coachella. It isn’t even Osheaga. Yet.

WayHome was the gentle easing of the (mostly) Toronto crowd into the festival world. There were just enough people (around 30,000) and just enough music to bring that blockbuster feel, without being overwhelming.

The weekend featured a three-hour set by Neil Young and Promise of the Real, a surprise set from local heroes Broken Social Scene (replacing Passion Pit), a hero’s welcome for July Talk (future headliners methinks), a Timber Timbre set in the middle of the woods and a now-the-stuff-of-legend set by Kendrick Lamar.

While nobody knows what exactly to expect for 2016, it’s safe to say that 2015 provided the all-around success WayHome needed to come back bigger, better and (eventually) become one of the big boys during summer festival season.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Artist: Faith No More
Venue/City: Ricoh Coliseum, Toronto 
Date: Aug. 7th

Faith No More performing at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo: Julian Avram/Aesthetic Magazine)

Faith No More performing at Ricoh Coliseum in Toronto on Aug. 7, 2015. (Photo: Julian Avram/Aesthetic Magazine)

I wish you could feel my pain, when I would talk about my love for Angel Dust (the 1992 album, not the amphetamine) to people significantly younger than me and just get blank stares.

To have to describe Faith No More as “those guys who have that one song in Guitar Hero” (which also quickly became outdated) could only be alleviated by a long-overdue reunion. And so it was.

After 18 years, Faith No More dropped Sol Invictus, one of the year’s most fantastically weird albums, and hit Toronto for two shows that were only three months apart. We got a run-through of the band’s blistering career; songs I thought like “Everything’s Ruined” and “The Gentle Art of Making Enemies” in addition to the Guitar Hero one (Epic). We also got covers of Drake’s “Started from the Bottom” and a mashup of “Midlife Crisis” and “Jump” by Van Halen (who were playing across the street).

It was Faith no More the way I remember them, but better. Every bit as acidic, and somehow still relevant.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Artist: July Talk
Venue/City: Air Canada Centre, Toronto
Date: Sept. 23rd

July Talk performing at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON on Sept. 23, 2015. (Photo: Rick Clifford/Aesthetic Magazine)

July Talk performing at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, ON on Sept. 23, 2015. (Photo: Rick Clifford/Aesthetic Magazine)

Under any other circumstances, July Talk’s 40-minute opening slot would force any crowd to forget whoever was headlining that night.

July Talk have the same reputation today that The Tragically Hip did in their heyday. If you like what you hear on the radio, you need to see them live to get the whole picture.

For what little time we had with them, we watched the otherworldly chemistry between singers Leah Fay and Peter Dreimanis. We watched them chug through their hit-laden, self-titled record, and we got a preview of what’s next (spoiler: it’s really good). It’s obvious that July Talk love the living shit out of what they do.

It’s also obvious that they’re destined for even bigger things down the line.

– Daniel Gerichter

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Artist: Andrew McMahon
Venue/City: House of Blues, Chicago
Date: Nov. 11th

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness performing at The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on November 15, 2015. (Photo: Kelsey Giesbrecht/Aesthetic Magazine)

Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness performing at The Danforth Music Hall in Toronto on November 15, 2015. (Photo: Kelsey Giesbrecht/Aesthetic Magazine)

Andrew McMahon is easily my favorite artist, no matter what project he’s with (Something Corporate, Jack’s Mannequin, solo). So I was excited when he decided to hold his yearly benefit show for the Dear Jack Foundation (for young adult cancer) in Chicago.

He played his classic record Everything in Transit front to back to honour its ten year anniversary, and it was truly special to see that with friends I’ve made from around the US through his music. I also got to hear my favorite song “There There Katie” for the first time live, a fact that is shocking considering it was my 33rd time seeing him live!

– Katie Kuropas

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Artist: The Academy Is
Venue/City: Double Door, Chicago
Date: Sept. 10th

The Academy Is performing at Riot Fest Chicago in Chicago, IL on Sept. 12, 2015. (Photo: Katie Kuropas/Aesthetic Magazine)

The Academy Is performing at Riot Fest Chicago in Chicago, IL on Sept. 12, 2015. (Photo: Katie Kuropas/Aesthetic Magazine)

When I was 15, I was in love with The Academy Is, but never got a chance to see them live before they broke up in 2011. It was like a dream to see them reunite in their hometown, and it was truly something else to see William Beckett come out and sing “Attention! Attention! May I have all your eyes and ears to the front of the room if only, if only for one second.”

The crowd went wild as they played Almost Here in it’s entirety for the ten year anniversary and it was honestly one of the most fun shows I’ve attended this year.

– Katie Kuropas

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Artist: Death Cab For Cutie
Venue/City: The Pageant, St. Louis
Date: May 13th

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie performing at Life Is Beautiful Festival on Sept. 26, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Jeff Kravtiz/FilmMagic)

Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie performing at Life Is Beautiful Festival on Sept. 26, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo: Jeff Kravtiz/FilmMagic)

I love Death Cab for Cutie a whole lot, and saw them four times in 2015, but the one show that stood out was at the Pageant in St. Louis. It was the recipe for a perfect show, I was front row center with one of my good friends as they played some of my favorite songs to hear live, like “Photobooth”, “No Sunlight”, “The New Year”, and “Marching Bands of Manhattan”.

It was all together a great time, and well worth the four hour drive to get there.

– Katie Kuropas

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Artist: Jukebox The Ghost
Venue/City: The Metro, Chicago
Date: Jan. 17th

Jukebox the Ghost. (Photo: Katie Kuropas/Aesthetic Magazine)

Jukebox The Ghost. (Photo: Katie Kuropas/Aesthetic Magazine)

Jukebox The Ghost is one of my favorite bands to see live, and it was great to start my year off with seeing them in January, at one of my favorite venues. They are so high energy and you can’t not be in a good mood when you see them.

The setlist included all their hits and many songs off their newest release, Jukebox The Ghost. In true Jukebox the Ghost fashion, they covered both “Don’t Stop Me Know” by Queen and “Walk Like an Egyptian” by the Bangles. The show also included them throwing a stuffed dog out to crowd to crowd surf, because why not?

– Katie Kuropas

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Artist: The Front Bottoms
Venue/City: Bottom Lounge, Chicago
Date: Oct. 31st

The Front Bottoms performing at The Mod Club in Toronto on October 21, 2015. (Photo: Jon Wishart/Aesthetic Magazine)

The Front Bottoms performing at The Mod Club in Toronto on October 21, 2015. (Photo: Jon Wishart/Aesthetic Magazine)

Who better to spend Halloween with than The Front Bottoms? The band came out dressed as different desserts and chugged champagne throughout the show, and that pretty much set the mood for the night.

They played a good mix of older songs plus many from their new album Back on Top, and the crowd was really feeling it with people crowd surfing and stage diving constantly.

– Katie Kuropas

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Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Venue/City: Parc Jean-Drapeau, Montreal
Date: July 31st

Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots performing at the 2015 Life Is Beautiful Festival on Sept. 25, 2015 in Las Vegas. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Tyler Joseph of Twenty One Pilots performing at the 2015 Life Is Beautiful Festival on Sept. 25, 2015 in Las Vegas. (Photo: Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic)

Twenty One Pilots had been at the top of my list of bands to see for years before I finally got the chance to see them at Osheaga. After seeing live videos of some of their other big festival performances this summer, I knew I couldn’t miss out on this one.

From getting an entire drum set into the crowd, to everyone’s shoulders being stacked with both friends and strangers, the energy of both the band and the crowd was something I’ve rarely seen before. They belted out the lyrics to a crowd that would often drown out his vocals in volume.

– Morgan Hotston

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Artist: Misterwives
Venue/City: The Mod Club, Toronto
Date: Sept. 24th

Misterwives performing at First Avenue in Minneapolis on October 27, 2015. (Photo: Eric Osborn/Aesthetic Magazine)

Misterwives performing at First Avenue in Minneapolis on October 27, 2015. (Photo: Eric Osborn/Aesthetic Magazine)

After hearing the sheer vibrance of Misterwives’ breakthrough album Our Own House, I was so excited to see how their sound would translate live. They’ve got their stage dynamic down pat, with every band member showing their own eccentric quality.

Lead vocalist Mandy Lee is the powerhouse of the band, constantly on the move dominating the stage. Their stage design fit the colourful music perfectly, creating a fun and atmospheric quality to the performance that has the crowd dancing the entire time.

Almost every song included an orchestrated solo or structural change that kept even the biggest of fans guessing what would come next. Although still fairly new to touring and making music, I can’t wait to see what they’ve got in store for 2016.

– Morgan Hotston

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Artist: Die Antwoord
Venue/City: Future Music Festival, Melbourne, AU
Date: March 8th

Die Antwoord. (Photo: Katie Kuropas/Aesthetic Magazine)

Die Antwoord. (Photo: Katie Kuropas/Aesthetic Magazine)

Experiencing Die Antwoord live is crazy enough. Experiencing Die Antwoord from about 10 rows back under a tent stage with no escaping while taking shelter from the scorching Australian summer sun is on a different level.

I’ve seen Die Antwoord a few times before this, but the crowd in Australia was extra rowdy and rambunctious. Being somewhere in between fainting and extremely alive is an interesting feeling to have, and we all held on until the end. Australian festival circuits, or even the influx of international artists is a lot less than we’re used to in North America, and it definitely shows in the atmosphere and crowd reaction.

– Morgan Hotston

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Artist: The Lone Bellow
Venue/City: The Opera House, Toronto
Date: Nov. 8th

The Lone Bellow performing at The Opera House in Toronto on November 8, 2015. (Photo: Morgan Hotston/Aesthetic Magazine)

The Lone Bellow performing at The Opera House in Toronto on November 8, 2015. (Photo: Morgan Hotston/Aesthetic Magazine)

The first time I saw The Lone Bellow was in 2013 at Mavericks in Ottawa, just following the release of their debut self titled album. Playing to a crowd of only about 30 people, they showed just as much devotion and gratitude to their fans then as they did to a full house at The Opera House two years later.

With a second studio album to back them up, they played a full two-hour set jammed packed with chemistry and bursting with energy. Their harmonies are very rare in popular music today, and it feels like a privilege to be standing in the same room as them.

The trio really give it their all show after show, and show their honest love for what they do (so much that the lead singer, Zach Williams, ripped his pants mid song).

– Morgan Hotston

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Artist: Noah Gundersen
Venue/City: The Opera House, Toronto
Date: Nov. 8th

Noah Gundersen performing at The Opera House in Toronto on Sept. 29, 2015. (Photo: Kelsey Giesbrecht/Aesthetic Magazine)

Noah Gundersen performing at The Opera House in Toronto on Sept. 29, 2015. (Photo: Kelsey Giesbrecht/Aesthetic Magazine)

Noah Gundersen should be on everyone’s list of artists to see live, and repeatedly see time and time again. Similar to The Lone Bellow, his growth in the past few years has been amazing to see unfold.

From The Horseshoe Tavern to The Opera House, every release earns him more members into an honest fan base. The Gundersen family is seen onstage with Noah as well, with his sister and brother on the road with him constantly.

This is the kind of concert you want to be completely silent for the entire time to really take in the power, intensity and emotion coming out from in front of you.

– Morgan Hotston

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Artist: Pierce The Veil & Sleeping With Sirens
Venue/City: Stage AE, Pittsburgh
Date: Feb. 11th-12th

Sleeping With Sirens performing at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 24, 2015. (Photo: Saidy Lopez/Aesthetic Magazine)

Sleeping With Sirens performing at Madison Square Garden in New York City on November 24, 2015. (Photo: Saidy Lopez/Aesthetic Magazine)

This is a city that rarely gets a band or artist playing two nights in a row. There was a lot of hype about this tour and it definitely lived up to it. Both nights all of the artists brought their A game with them to put on an incredible two shows. I’ll never be able to describe the atmosphere or how it felt to t experience these two nights.

– Emily Kovacic

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Artist: AC/DC
Venue/City: Downsview Park, Toronto
Date: Sept. 10th

AC/DC performing at BC Place in Vancouver on Sept. 22, 2015. (Photo: Steven Shepherd/Aesthetic Magazine)

AC/DC performing at BC Place in Vancouver on Sept. 22, 2015. (Photo: Steven Shepherd/Aesthetic Magazine)

Seeing Angus do his thing during “Let There Be Rock” was worth the ticket price alone so all other songs during the concert were icing on the cake.

– Julian Avram

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Artist: Slipknot & Korn
Venue/City: Manchester Arena, Manchester, UK
Date: Jan. 20th

Slipknot performing at Hellfest 2015 in Clisson, Fr. (Photo: Raymond Ahner/Aesthetic Magazine)

Slipknot performing at Hellfest 2015 in Clisson, Fr. (Photo: Raymond Ahner/Aesthetic Magazine)

Having been such a huge fan of Korn for years, it was amazing to catch both Slipknot and Korn all on one stage. It was extra special as I was shooting from the pit on the night. It was super special as I saw Korn for the first time so many years ago for the very first time at the same venue.

The pyro during Slipknot’s set was absolutely incredible and the energy from both bands was something I won’t forget in a hurry.

The fans went to so much effort to dress up in costume and it was just such an amazing vibe both on stage plus in the crowd. Incredible performance by the bands too and you can see why they are still touring after so many years in the industry and pulling in such a huge crowd.

– Priti Shikotra

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Artist: Twenty One Pilots
Venue/City: Hammerstein Ballroom, NYC & Bonnaroo 2015, Manchester, TN
Date: Sept. 16th, June 14th

Twenty One Pilots performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN on June 14, 2015. (Photo: Erik Voake)

Twenty One Pilots performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN on June 14, 2015. (Photo: Erik Voake)

Being the die-hard Twenty One Pilots fan that I am, I’ve seen eight times live. Some people might be thinking: why do I need to see the same band so many times? My answer is this: they always put on the best shows, no matter what venue or location.

At Bonnaroo 2015, they played the first main stage show of the last day of the festival. Fans lined up at the gates hours before they went on, and all hell broke loose when the gates were opened. The band came on twenty one minutes late (ironic, but was it planned?). The crowd was absolutely packed, and the band put on a great show.

Their second night at the Hammerstein Ballroom in NYC on their fall tour was one for the books. Right before they played “We Don’t Believe What’s On TV,” the band brought out friends such as Halsey, Misterwives, Matt and Kim, Walk the Moon, and Hoodie Allen, much to the surprise of the crowd. As they always do, the band left me wanting yet another show.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Artist: Walk The Moon
Venue/City: Terminal 5, NYC
Date: Apr. 15th

Walk The Moon performing at Wayhome Festival on July 26, 2015. (Photo: Rick Clifford/Aesthetic Magazine)

Walk The Moon performing at Wayhome Festival on July 26, 2015. (Photo: Rick Clifford/Aesthetic Magazine)

I caught Walk the Moon at a show at the Bowery Ballroom, a modest venue that lacked a barricade, in November of 2014. Fast forward a few months and they’d sold out Terminal 5, a multi-level venue in Manhattan that bands like The 1975 and even Miley Cyrus have played at.

They played with their usual upbeat energy, with frontman Nick Petricca’s dancing inspiring the crowd on the floor to bust some moves of their own.

They played hits from their self-tilted album, as well as some from their newest album, Talking is Hard. If you haven’t seen this band live yet, you’ve missing out.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Artist: Misterwives
Venue/City: Music Hall of Williamsburg, NYC
Date: Apr. 17th

Misterwives. (Photo: Francesca Graham/Aesthetic Magazine)

Misterwives. (Photo: Francesca Graham/Aesthetic Magazine)

One of the best moments of this show happened to be before the band even went on. The venue played “Mr. Brightside” by The Killers, and the crowd participated in a sing-along. This amped up the excitement for Misterwives, a band who hails from New York City.

Frontwoman Mandy Leed was all smiles as she is at every show Misterwives put on, and I left the Music Hall of Williamsburg with a smile equally as bright.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Artist: Bleachers
Venue/City: Bonnaroo 2015, Manchester, TN
Date: June 13th

Bleachers performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN on June 13, 2015. (Photo: Pooneh Ghana)

Bleachers performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN on June 13, 2015. (Photo: Pooneh Ghana)

One of my favorite sets at Bonnaroo was put on by Bleachers, an alternative band fronted by Jack Antanoff of Fun, and Steel Train. The band went on around sunset, and the picturesque scenery on the farm was complemented by Antanoff’s vibrant performance.

Familiar songs like “Rollercoaster” and “I Wanna Get Better” were highlights of the set, which kept attracting the attention of the passers-by who walked by wanting to know who was the crazy guy laying onstage with a guitar.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Artist: Childish Gambino
Venue/City: Bonnaroo 2015, Manchester, TN
Date: June 13th

Childish Gambino performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN on June 13, 2015. (Photo: Erik Voake)

Childish Gambino performing at the Bonnaroo Music Festival in Manchester, TN on June 13, 2015. (Photo: Erik Voake)

Donald Glover, aka Childish Gambino, took the stage in the evening of the second night of Bonnaroo, a four day festival on a farm in Manchester, TN. This was my second time attending Bonnaroo, and the festival did not disappoint.

A huge crowd showed up to watch the rapper bust through hits like “Worldstar” and “Sweatpants.” Gambino was full of energy and stage presence, and it was so easy to jam along to his set.

– Sam Lichtenstein

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Artist: Wilco
Venue/City: Pitchfork Music Festival, Chicago
Date: July 17th

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco performing at CityFolk Festival 2015 at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, ON on Sept. 20, 2015. (Photo: Mark Horton)

Jeff Tweedy of Wilco performing at CityFolk Festival 2015 at Lansdowne Park in Ottawa, ON on Sept. 20, 2015. (Photo: Mark Horton)

After seeing Wilco a dozen times or so, I found myself a bit jaded. I even left a show the weekend previous to this after about eight songs. But on this night Wilco unleashed their fuzzed-out, and loud new album Star Wars, and it was amazing!

Nels Cline ripped off solos and Jeff Tweedy gave lines the kind of angsty delivery we haven’t heard since A Ghost Is Born. It was magical to see a band 20 years into their career play with so much vigor.

– Josh Terzino

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Artist: Josh Ritter with the Boulder Philharmonic
Venue/City: Macky Auditorium, Boulder, CO
Date: Oct. 10th

Josh Ritter of Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band performing at the Outside Lands Music and Art Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 14, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty)

Josh Ritter of Josh Ritter and the Royal City Band performing at the Outside Lands Music and Art Festival at Golden Gate Park on August 14, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Tim Mosenfelder/Getty)

Part of the reason this show was so great was the magnificent philharmonic. Another part was that we got to hear a few songs off Sermon On The Rocks essentially the same day the album came out.

Josh Ritter seemed more excited than the crowd to be playing with a big symphony orchestra (something he’s done a few times), but everyone in the audience was thrilled with the results.

– Josh Terzino

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Artist: Ezra Furman
Venue/City: Subterranean, Chicago
Date: Apr. 8th

Ezra Furman

It’s nice to see someone as brilliant and interesting as Ezra Furman lay everything out on the stage. I’ve seen him perform a handful of times, but this was easily the best show.

Between the frantic energy of Furman constantly moving on stage to Tim Sandusky blowing the hell out of his sax, I was actually sad that the show had to end.

– Josh Terzino

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Artist: Gloom Balloon
Venue/City: Fizz, Chicago
Date: May 13th

gloom balloon

Gloom Balloon doesn’t tour much. This was the second show in Chicago (the first was a show I put together at The Empty Bottle), and the venue was kind of weird. Fizz is a bar and grill on Lincoln Avenue that happens to have a large empty space above.

At some point someone said “Hey we could put on shows up there!” and history was made. Gloom Balloon (Patrick Tape-Fleming and Christopher Ford) put on a hugely fun, interactive show.

– Josh Terzino

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Artist: D’Angelo and The Vanguard
Venue/City: Royal Oak Theatre, Detroit 
Date: June 26th

D'Angelo

For his first big tour across North American to support his comeback album, Black Messiah, D’Angelo surrounded himself with some of the most talented musicians he could find. A lot of people have said that the show feels like going to church, and I agree in that the audience is handing themselves over to a higher power.

Spirits are lifted, the mind and body are soothed, and you go home feeling a new respect for the power of music.

– Josh Terzino

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