Best Live Shows Of 2008

December 7, 2008 by · 2 Comments
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Black Mountain at Johnny Brenda's 2.20.08

Black Mountain at Johnny Brenda's

Some of the numbers from a busy concert year here at Bag Of Songs, in the ensuing months since last year’s best shows of the year recap I’ve been to 90 shows in 21 different venues adding up to 240 sets of music by 195 bands.  Johnny Brenda’s once again topped the venue list with 24 shows followed closely by The M Room(16),The Khyber(13) and World Cafe Live(10). 25 bands logged more than one appearance, with the always amazing Cheers Elephant topping the list at 9 times, followed closely by Creeping Weeds and The Swimmers at 5 each. So without further ado and in chronological order here’s the best shows I saw in 2008.

DEC Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings @ TLA WXPN Free At Noon
In a year that saw funk and soul continuing to make a strong resurgence, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings were at the forefront. Coming onstage to a packed TLA in the middle of the day, they packed the energy of a full set into a condensed 45 minute sweat soaked funk workout.

JAN Drink Up Buttercup,Cheers Elephant,The New Motels @ The Khyber
Three of Philly’s finest on the same night, part of a Drink Up Buttercup / Cheers Elephant residency that was a precursor to the serious momentum both bands would build up during 2008.

FEB Black Mountain,Bon Iver @ Johnny Brendas
A study in brilliant contrasts, Bon Iver’s live show far exceeds their recorded work and is a study in the power of silence and hushed intensity while Black Mountain is the total opposite psychedelic thunderous and rhythmic.

MAR Roky Erickson @ Maxwells
In a special small venue appearance, Roky Erickson, well back on the path to some sense of normalcy, aided by his scorching backup band The Explosions, blazed through a set of his classics that showed why he is the legend he is.

MAR Holy Fuck,A Place To Bury Strangers @ Johnny Brenda’s
My original review of this show described A Place To Bury Strangers like this:
Taking the stage in total darkness, coming on like the bastard children of Jesus And Mary Chain and Sonic Youth, they proceeded to tear into a mind numbing aural assault of what can best be described as melodic white noise. Fueled by powerhouse drumming with guitar and bass turned up well past the distortion point, it was as mesmerizing as it was loud. Holy Fuck then came on and pushed it all a notch even higher and turned the place into a dancing frenzy. Incredible.

JUN James Hunter @ World Cafe Live Free At Noon
James Hunter also did his part to help give a kick to the old soul revival. James is the ultimate showman and pured 110% onto his stage show. A must see if you haven’t had a chance to catch him yet

JUN REM,The National @ Mann Music Center
I’d seen REM a number of times early on, and they were always a good but not great live band. They obviously had worked at it in the near twenty years since I’d seen them last as they tore it up in a way I’d never seen them do before. Bonus points for having Eddie Vedder come out and join them for a song during the encore. I was not really a big National fan going onto this show but their live set was impressive.

JUN The Ting Tings Dan Deacon @ Popped Festival Drexel
When the Ting Tings were booked to open this show a few months before it happened, they were still relatively unknown, by the time June rolled around the buzz behind them could have fueled a headlining slot. They kicked it all off with one of the best sets of the 2 day festival and set the bar high. In a set I can only describe as mix of Romper Room and a Rave, Dan Deacon set up in the middle of crowd and pushed the energy level through the roof as they obeyed his every command. One of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen.

JUN Gildon Works @ Popped World Cafe
Gildon Works played the main stage of World Cafe and deliverd set of shoegazey pop that sounded massive enough to fill a stadium. The undisputed best set I saw on day two of the Popped Festival.

JUN Mission Of Burma @ First Unitarian Church
Playing Signals,Calls and Marches in it’s entirety as well as many other songs from that era, Loud, fast and furious,Mission OF Burma made it undeniably clear why they are legends.

AUG Creeping Weeds,BOAT,Drink Up Buttercup,Greyhounds @ Johnny Brenda’s
Creeping Weeds are one of Philadelphia’s best bands and their show with BOAT’s at Johnny Brendas to kick off their summer tour together was outstanding. All four bands delivered top notch sets that night, and made me realize that I need to see Greyhounds more often.

AUG Sonic Youth,The Hold Steady @ TLA
The Hold Steady are easily one of the best American bands going today and their opening set for this show was a bit short, but never let off the pedal for a second, Sonic Youth has obvious ly sold their soul to the devil because I don’t think any of them have aged in the past twenty years. They played a set heavy on Daydrem Nation songs that made even the most skeptical in the audience believers.

SEP The Major Labels,Hypernova @ M Room
The Major Labels Aquavia is one fo the best power pop records of the year and the live show matched or exceeded it every aspect.
Hypernova is a rock band from Iran the comes on like a hyped up version of Franz Ferdinand, watch for them in 2009.

SEP Robert Pollard’s Boston Spaceships,The High Strung @ Johnny Brenda’s A three hour marathon of non stop excellent songs and excessive drinking, This show also contained some of the scariest moments I saw all year when near the end of the set people started throwing pint beer glasses around like they were plastic cups. I saw a more than a few shatter on the balcony and spray broken glass into the crowd below.

OCT Swift Technique @ World Cafe Live Upstairs
NOV Swift Technique @ M Room BOS Night
My biggest holy shit live moment of the year when I just happened to be at World Cafe Live where Swift Technique was playing a showcase set. Absolutely amazing, They blew me away with what’s best described as a horn infused blend of funk and hip hop. One of the tightest bands I have ever seen. Their set at the November Bag Of Songs night was equally as impressive and left quite a few more believers in it’s wake. Watch for these guys to explode in 2009 as the word spreads.

NOV King Khan BBQ Show,Vivian Girls,Jacuzzi Boys,Love City @ Johnny Brendas
A excellent garage rock blowout all around, see my recent recap here.

Those are some of the highlights but so as not to leave anyone out here’s the whole list in alphabetical order:
A Place To Bury Strangers, Action Set, Adam & Daves Bloodline, Aderbat, After Dark Band, An American Chinese, Anthony Lattanze Band, Apples In Stereo, Ar Duvall, Arc In Round, Aspiga, Bc Camplight, Beach House, Bears, Beaten By Them, Ben Purcell, Bitter Bitter Weeks, Black Angels, Black Joe Lewis, Black Mountain, Blitzen Trapper, BOAT, Bon Iver, Bright Lights, Broken Trees, Brother JT, Brothers And Sisters, Bryan Scary & The Shredding Tears, Canadian Invasion, Carbon/Silicon, Cary Ann Hearst, Cass Mccombs, Cassavettes, Caterpillar, Cedarwell, Chairlift, Cheers Elephant, Colour Reporter, Creaky Boards, Creeping Weeds, Dan Deacon, Dan Malloy, David Copa, Dear Althea, DeJesus, Devon Williams, Drink Up Buttercup, Duke Spirit, East Hundred, Eastern Conference Champions, Elf Power, Eli Paperboy Reed and The True Loves, Except After Sea, Extra Golden, Fang Island, Fleet Foxes, Future Tips, Ghosty, Gildon Works, Gogol Bordello, Grammar Debate, Greyhounds, Ham 1, Holy Fuck, Hoots and Hellmouth, Hymns, East Hundred, Hypernova, I Am The Heat, Illinois, Impossible Hair, Intergalactic Incense Burners, It’s A King Thing, Jacuzzi Boys, James Hunter, Jealous Girlfriends, Jen, Johnny Action Figure, Jonah Delso, Jotto, JP05, Jukebox The Ghost, Jukebox Zeroes, Kate Nash, Kevin Devine, Kimya Dawson, King of Siam, Langhorne Slim, Levee Drivers, Los Campesinos, Love City, Mahogany, Map Of The World At Night, Matt Pond PA, Minor White, Missing Palmer West, Mission Of Burma, Mitch Hood, Modest Mouse, Mr Lif, Mural And The Mint, Murder Mystery, National Eye, Nervous Rex, New Motels, No Hate Train, Panda Riot, Papertrees, Pattern Is Movement, Peasant, Pete Best Band, Phonograph, Photon Band, Pico Vs Island Trees, Poison Control Center, Ports Of Call, Public Record, PWRFL Power, Randall Of Nazareth, Rarebirds, Ravens and Vultures, REM, Rick DiFonzo, Rio Vouga, Robert Pollard’s Boston Spaceships, Rogue Thief, Roky Erickson, Roomtone, Rosewood Thieves, Ruder Than You, Run Runner, Scary Monster, Sea Wolf, Secret Life Of Sofia, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Shawn Fogel, Six Organs Of Admittance, Sky Drops, Slot Cars, Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin, Sonic Liberation Front, Sonic Youth, Sparky’s Flaw, Squaaks, Stone Thrown, Successful Failures All Star Cover Band, Superdrag, Surefire Broadcast, Swift Technique, Takka Takka, The 500s, The Annuals, The Brakes, The Bye Byes, The Capitol Years, The Chimeras, The Colorfield Theory, The Donkeys, The Figgs, The Friggs, The High Strung, The Hold Steady, The King Khan & BBQ Show, The Major Labels, The National, The New Motels, The Novenas, The Percocettes, The Ribeye Brothers, The Shaky HAnds, The Shots, The Smithereens, The Sparklers, The Spinto Band, The Squaaks, The Swimmers, The Thirteen, The Ting Tings, The Vandelles, Thee Minks, Thinking Machines, Throw Me the Statue, Tickley Feather, Tullycraft, Upsincefriday, Versus, Via Audio, Vivian Girls, Warlocks, XYZ Affair, Yeasayer, You, You, Me And T Rex, Young Knives, Zolof The Rock And Roll Destroyer