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The Best Concerts I've Ever Been To So Far

One thing I'm happy to admit is that I spend a lot of money on music. This is often a Herculean struggle for me internally - as much as I absolutely love the experience of live music, I hate crowds, and I hate the absurd wait times some artists inflict on their audiences. I went to a lottttttt of shows in 2017, cut back some in 2018, and this year looks like it'll be modest but worth it. 

I'm not seeking to hit an exact # here - I've been to somewhere between 30 - 50 shows at this point, and probably hundreds of smaller, lesser known bands. I chose 13 for now because that just seems like the fair way to do things. 

Is this the best use of money?! For me, YES. I rather collect experiences than things, and look forward to purging myself of some of the junk that I've accumulated the last several years (it does not bring me joy!) 

I invite you to comment about any specifically memorable shows you've been to, and what makes them so grand in retrospect. 

Honorable mentions to Muse, Beach House, Satellite Stories, Fiona Apple. Cut Copy, Oh Land, Feist, and Chromeo. 

Starting From The Bottom And Going Up

13.) The Xx
This was one of my favorite concert experiences ever. This night was beyond perfect for what it was. And the Xx - another band I'd been meaning to see for ages - played to a huge crowd at the Mesa Amphitheater, a hidden gem of a venue. I don't really think of this evening now very much, approximately two years later, but at the time it was purely amazing. 

Highlights me for me of this show included "Loud Places" and "Lips," two of the best cuts in their canon.

CHVRCHES remains the only band I've seen leave the stage early and reschedule a concert. Lauren was sick with something when I originally caught her in April 2016 - I forget what - so my buddy Neal and I had to go see the band on their make-up date, which was in October.

But when they came back, boy, did they come back! They sounded nearly identical to what they sounded recorded, and the band's chemistry that night was on fire.

11.) Depeche Mode
I saw Depeche Mode in fall of 2017 with a group of co-workers - and I have to say, they had so much energy! They also threw us for a loop by not playing simply their greatest hits - they chose a set list of lesser-known songs, which I respected. The pinnacle of the evening for me was when they covered "Heroes" by David Bowie - not really my favorite cover of the song honestly, but amazing to hear live.

10.) Lana Del Ray 
I've heard mixed reviews about Lana live, but I have to tell you that my personal experience was awesome for several reasons:

- I won free tickets
- I won free tickets in a BOSS location
- I had just quit my job, and I seriously won tickets to this my last day at work!
Plus her theatrics were just ... fantastic. It was the "Ultraviolence" era, so you know my basic bitch self ate this up. "Ultraviolence" was my s-h-i-t in 2014. 

I'm not sure I'd ever buy a ticket to see Lana - her last few albums have been a bit meh for me. But I mean, her last few songs were pretty stunning, so who knows.

9.) Foster the People/Mayer Hawthorne

Foster the People are a great pop-rock band; they really do not get as much credit as they deserve. They're so much damn fun to see live, and Mayer Hawthorne?! He was the perfect opener. Kimbra also played, but I've never been a fan (except for her work with Miami Horror) so meh on that.

I had just moved to Phoenix at the time, and this was a ticket I bought for a friend since she had been gracious enough to let me stay with her. It was a really fun night if I remember correctly.

8.) Joanna Newsom

Joanna Newsom isn't an all-time favorite for me, but I do think she's insanely talented and I enjoyed "Have One On Me" immensely. That being said, seeing her play live in Columbus in 2010 was nearly a religious experience. I will never forget how the stage became quiet and everything focused just on her and her piano as she kicked off with "Easy."

7.) The National 
I saw The National AFTER YEARS OF WAITING in October of 2017. Now in retrospect, if I had done this differently, I would have actually taken time off and really tried to maximize my time in Los Angeles. But I did not this time around, so lesson learned. 

Now you may be surprised by the fact I didn't place The National higher on this list, but honestly I had a hard time with Hollywood Bowl. I was up pretty high, and I didn't feel like this venue afforded me the ability to see The National in all their glory. So this is a slight against the venue and not the band, who were amazing as I expected. Hollywood Bowl is very historic, which is cool, but I feel like I want to experience The National in a far more intimate setting (such as Comerica Theater, where they will finally play this coming September in Phoenix!)

6.) Interpol 
I was very impressed and maybe a bit surprised with how Interpol was when I saw them way back when in January 2011 all the way in Portland, Oregon. It was just an electrified show - even if you're a casual fan, I'd suggest seeing them if they ever wind up in your area. 

Special shoutout to School of Seven Bells for opening, and RIP School of Seven Bells :( 

5.) Pink Martini
This might seem like an out-of-left-field choice, but Pink Martini is the most fun to see live. They are constantly touring, and for good reason - I think there is a high enough demand for their performances. I saw them for free at Central Park in 2011, and man - that is one of my favorite nights from my time there. I've never seen them live since, although I had the chance several times. 

DEFINITELY see them if the chance comes your way, too! Even if you don't think you like their music - it's worth it for the performance.

4.) Metric 
I've seen Metric the most of any band - and it's because they are such a high-energy, professional, amazingly take-you-away good band. This Canadian group never gets as much credit as its due, and it's really a shame. They've put a polished collection of albums (with some missteps here and there, as you can expect) and managed to gain a lot of momentum - but they'll never fill a stadium in America. And it's cool that they are something of a not-so-quiet secret, but they damn well have the star power to fill a stadium. 


3.) No Doubt
Let's go back in time when No Doubt was still fun and Gwen Stefani wasn't batshit crazy yet. Shall we turn back the hands of the clock to this glorious, innocent, special time? In 2009, I saw No Doubt, my childhood favorite band, outside of Pittsburgh with support from The Sounds and Paramore. 

Then, in 2012, my friend surprised me tickets to No Doubt's residency in Los Angeles! Oh my god, say what you will about No Doubt's music, but Gwen Stefani is one of the best frontmen we've ever had. And that's right I used the word FRONTMEN. I know she's doing her Vegas residency right now - but I rather spend my money on The National, CHVRCHES, and seeing Europe again. Maybe someday, Gwen.

2.) Phantogram and Tycho
I tried to see Phantogram for four years before I finally was successful. In May 2018, my friend Rebecca and I went to see them at the Van Buren, which is arguably my favorite music venue in DT Phoenix. 

Phantogram defied my expectations, holy shit. I expected them to be good, but in the same way Beach House was good. And Beach House is great to see live (especially in their earlier days) but they don't command my attention live as much as the acts I've listed here. Phantogram is at the top of their game, and I would see them again in a heartbeat. They relied on little in the way of theatrics and mostly their performance, their showmanship, and the songs themselves. Even songs I wasn't intimately familiar with exploded to life. 

I am not a huge Tycho fan, but I can't deny they were talented, too. It was a really perfect tour, and a perfect night, too. 

1.) Andrew Bird and St. Vincent
I've seen St. Vincent since this wonderful evening in 2009, but nothing has quite matched this night. Her and Andrew Bird were made for each other - the absolute best touring partners you could imagine. I can't really think of a better match, sans maybe her and Sufjan Stevens (or Dua Lipa, huhuhu). Andrew Bird's set was gentle and awe-inspiring - that man can play a violin! St. Vincent's set - you could tell she was becoming the full-fledged rock star we currently recognize her as. 

When these two joined forces, though, the night became pure magic. And if I remember correctly, they shared a gorgeous duet of Bob Dylan's "Oh Sister," which I shall now try to find.


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