I have many fond memories of the year 2011, and to be honest, a lot of them have to do with the 27 concerts that I attended during the year. Even though that number is down from the 29 concerts I attended last year, it was without a doubt a great year of music that I enjoyed thoroughly.
Right from the start of the new year I attended a Glassjaw concert at Best Buy Theater on January 1. That’s how I wanted to roll in the new year, with a BANG! Glassjaw kicked off their show with two of their most aggressive songs that immediately got my blood flowing (You Think You’re John Fucking Lennon, Tip Your Bartender). But here’s the thing with Glassjaw, they’ve seemingly been around forever, yet they only have two studio albums released and haven’t recorded an LP since 2002. What I’m saying is, even though I love those guys and they put on one hell of a rock show, I grew tired of them this past year. I’m sure I’ll see them sometime down the line, but for the time being I’ve decided to suspend all future Glassjaw concerts until they release their new album, which apparently has been in the works for a decade (so it better be freaking good!).
Moving on, there were two music festivals that I attended this year: Bamboozle and Governors Ball. I still would love to attend the bigger and better music festivals like Bonnaroo, Coachella, or Austin City Limits one day, but for now the festivals close to home will suffice. Even though Bamboozle is a three-day event, I only attended the Saturday, April 30th date because frankly I wasn’t much of a fan for the other headliners. The great thing about music festivals is all the amazing music being played non-stop. The bad thing is that you can’t see them all since many of the bands overlap with each other. Here were the bands that I caught during Bamboozle: RX Bandits, River City Extension, Streetlight Manifesto, Thrice, The Movielife, Alkaline Trio, DJ Chance, New Found Glory, The Gaslight Anthem, Taking Back Sunday, and Super Mash Brothers. Highlights included seeing Alkaline Trio for the first time, dubstep at Bamboozle with DJ Chance, New Found Glory keeping the title as one of my favorite bands to see live, rocking out to The Gaslight Anthem without the restraints of seats, and Taking Back Sunday playing “Tell All Your Friends” in its entirety.
Then there was Governors Ball, which took place on Saturday, June 18 at Governors Island in New York. That was a day of complete mayhem and quite possibly the most fun I had all year long. For a complete recap of my experience, check out my post here. Governors Ball featured a variety of artists of the dance and electronic genre, featuring two very big names in Pretty Lights and the mash-up master, Girl Talk. Both performances were off the hook and let me just say that my feet and legs were dead tired after hours of dancing. In addition, I caught the up-and-coming rapper Mac Miller and the very weird rock-synth band Empire of the Sun. This music festival full of dancing, lights, volleyball, booze, and friends easily made this a day to remember.
Continuing the summer season that I spent, there is one genre of music with concerts that scatter around summer and that is Country music. As an avid Country music fan, I looked forward to seeing the biggest names in the genre visit the venues around the North Jersey area. Lucky for me, two of my favorite artists toured this summer and coincidentally, on consecutive day to make up my Country music weekend. First I traveled to Prudential Center in Newark, NJ for the arena show of Keith Urban and Jake Owen. I’ve seen Urban a handful of times and he never ceases to give a truly entertaining performance. His two-hour long set with a state-of-the-art LCD screen in the background made every seat in the arena a great seat, especially when he played a small acoustic set in the middle of the crowd on a rotating platform.
Keith Urban was the perfect concert to prepare me for another one of Country’s mega-stars in Brad Paisley, with Blake Shelton opening. This concert was held at the PNC Bank Arts Center, so that meant it was time to tail-gate! My seats right alongside the stage gave the already incredible concert an additional boost to the best Paisley show I’ve ever attended. Just like Urban, Paisley always plays his hits and has a smile on his face throughout his two-hour long set. Aside from this, Paisley showed off his creative and fun side by transforming the PNC Bank Arts Center into a water theme park full of slip-and-slides and other water-themed games.
In 2011, there were only two bands that I saw three times: The Get Up Kids and The Naked and Famous. I’ll always have a place in my heart for The Get Up Kids, whom I became a fan when I was in high school, so their reunion tour was special for me. But in all honesty, they’ve lost a few steps and have been experimenting in a different sound from the emo-rockers that produced some personal favorite albums of mine like “Something to Write Home About” and “On a Wire.” But I guess even The Get Up Kids have to grow up from teenage heart-break, right?
As for The Naked and Famous, I was introduced to this band by my good buddy Jazz, who caught them on the radio one night. Ever since the release of their only album, “Passive Me, Aggressive You” TNAF have been touring in the States non-stop. I saw them first open up a show at Terminal 5 for Foals and Freelance Whales, and since we weren’t satisfied by their twenty minute set, we followed them later that same night to Piano’s, where they played at midnight. A few months later, we caught another post-midnight performance at the Brooklyn Bowl. While I absolutely love about half of their songs, the other half aren’t that good, which makes up a very uneven live performance. I most likely won’t see them again until they release their second album.
Throughout the year I found myself categorizing certain concerts with one-another. I attended “old” concerts, “reunion” concerts, and “new” concerts. Beginning with the “old,” I saw bands like The Starting Line and Bright Eyes, which I’ve been listening to since I was in my teens. It was great to see them both again, especially Bright Eyes because Conor Oberst has been away from that project for the past few years, but like most “old” shows I attend, there is a magic that is missing. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with my favorite “old” shows of the year, which was seeing Motion City Soundtrack. On September 9 and 10 at Irving Plaza, MCS played all four of their albums in its entirety, a rare treat for fans so of course I had to jump at the opportunity. Needless to say, MCS rocked the stage and strangely, I don’t think I ever need to see MCS live again (in a good way).
There is also another “old” band that I saw plenty of during 2011, but I don’t want to put them in the “old” category because they just released a new album this year and it is great! This band is a New Jersey favorite of mine, Saves the Day. It seems like I’ve been growing up with them throughout my entire life and it’s sort of a wonder that they’re even still around. Anyway, with the release of their seventh studio album, Daybreak, these pop-rockers have established themselves as a living icon in the underground music scene. Never gaining popularity larger than “Freakish,” Saves the Day simply continues to make good music to maintain their steady fan-base. Kudos to them and let’s hope they can’t slow down.
Now we get to the “reunion” shows. I already mentioned The Get Up Kids reunion shows I attended. In addition to them, I saw Folly, Jeff Mangum, and The Early November play “reunion” shows in 2011. Folly announced a handful of shows in tiny venues and I was fortunate enough to attend one of them. These local, hardcore-ska rockers tore the stage apart with their intense screaming and energetic live show. Well, just check out the video and see for yourself.
In November, I saw Jeff Mangum play an amazing set at the Loew’s Theater in Jersey City of his songs from when he was apart of Neutral Milk Hotel. Though the performance was a bit limited due to the acoustic nature, it was still a very memorable concert from the year. Then in late November, I caught The Early November play a reunion show at Starland Ballroom. I grew up with these guys and have seen them enough to admit I’m a big fan. During the concert they announced that they’re going to be recording one more album, which means they’ll be back on the road soon enough.
And then there was the “new,” which included bands that I’ve recently started to listen to or have recently hit the music scene. These shows consisted of seeing The Drums, Sleigh Bells, and Girls. I first caught The Drums last year when they played a co-headlining show at Webster Hall with Surfer Blood and have been hooked onto their music ever since. The same thing happened with Sleigh Bells, who I first saw open up for Yeasayer at Webster Hall. Since then, Sleigh Bells have made quite a name for themselves as a noise-pop duo from Brooklyn. Trust me when I say that Sleigh Bells will be one of the loudest shows you will ever attend. With just two members, they definitely crank their volume up to 15. Finally, Girls have been an absolute favorite of mine the past two years. This year they played the intimate Bowery Ballroom and played an outstanding set. These California rockers have been compared to the legendary acts of the Beach Boys and Elvis Costello, so yes I highly recommend them.
The year of 2011 was a great one for me, but if I were to pinpoint the music that impacted me the most during the year, it would be the new genre that I found myself wrapped around: electronic. Starting with the mash-up artist with the stage name of Girl Talk, I was able to catch this very sought-out artist twice within the year, once at the Wellmont Theater and the other at Governors Ball. Gregg Gillis samples tracks from hundreds of songs and mashes them together to make it his own. While it’s debatable how legal this is, it is nonetheless a great achievement and one that plenty of people have caught onto and loved. I can admit that I have never had as much fun during any concert than a Girl Talk show.
And finally, the artist of the year in my book goes to the new face in electronic and dubstep music, Skrillex. I give this DJ an edge because he was once the lead singer of From First to Last, but now he’s a worldwide icon in electronica. Funny how one year can absolutely turn your world around, and this is the case with Skrillex. First, I saw him during a Girls & Boys club night at Webster Hall where he headlined a show with Tommy Lee and DJ Aero, and after getting a taste of his insane hooks and bass drops, I knew that I had to catch him again. Later on in the year Skrillex went on a nationwide tour titled The Mothership Tour and stopped at Starland Ballroom, where I attended an eye-popping, fist-pumping performance by Skrillex. Oh, and on top of that, he has been nominated for five Grammy awards, including Best New Artist. Not too shabby for some DJ, right?
So overall, I had a lot of fun at concerts in 2011. The only show I haven’t mentioned in this post is a show that I have yet to attend, the New Years Eve concert at the House of Blues in Atlantic City featuring Brand New. This definitely has a shot at being the best show of the entire year since Brand New will be playing “Your Favorite Weapon” in its entirety, plus an acoustic set and fan favorites. I can’t think a better way to ring in the new year!