Live music is better than ever. I've see a lot of it, so I can attest. So far this year I've seen 263 bands (at this point last year I'd seen 228, a 15-percent increase!), and I've got a ton of favorites. But none of the shows I've seen in 2013 top Colin Stetson's monster bass saxophone performance at The Bitter End during this year's Winter Jazzfest in New York City back in January.
What I want most from a concert is to be transported beyond the everyday. Beyond songs about boyfriends or girlfriends, guitar riff-rock, dance music or flashy entertainment. Those kinds of shows are fine but generally aren't memorable and don't chart higher than a "three" on a scale of one to five. My top five favorite shows this year all were transforming, whether it was The Music Tapes Traveling Imaginary, which turned the Rock and Roll Hotel in Washington, D.C., into a magic circus tent, the unexpected performance art from the rock band People Get Ready, or Ballake' Sissoko and Vincent Segal mixing the African kora with cello.
So here are my top five shows of the year (so far):
- Colin Stetson at The Bitter End (NYC), on Jan. 12, 2013
- The Music Tapes at Rock and Roll Hotel (D.C.), on Jan. 31, 2013
- Ballake' Sissoko and Vincent Segal at the Atlas Performing Arts Center (DC), on Mar. 1, 2013
- Sigur Ros at The Patriot Center (VA), on Mar. 24, 2013
- People Get Ready at Atlas Performing Arts Center (D.C.), on Apr. 19, 2013
So what are your top five concerts so far this year? And what do you want to happen when you go to a show? Are you a shut-up-and-play-the-hits kind of person? Or do you want the unexpected? There's no right or wrong answer here. One person's brilliant sax player is another person's migraine.