The Shows of the Summer ’11

This morning Nick Lucchesi of Westword posted an article entitled Labor Day: Let’s recap the ten best concerts of the summer.  After browsing an extremely diverse list of shows (shows I agree with, shows I disagree with, shows I hadn’t even heard of and shows I couldn’t help but laugh at), I decided I needed to take an inventory of my summer and put together a response to the Westword list.

What I noticed while walking through these past few months of music is that my list might even be more diverse than the list I am responding to, and what constitutes a ‘great’ show depends on personal experience just as much as show quality.  I also noticed I tend to dedicate my summer to Red Rocks.  Still being relatively new to Colorado and living so close to the famous amphitheatre in Morrison has me attending shows I wouldn’t normally attend, just for the chance to spend another night in the open air overlooking the city I have come to love.  These shows at the Rocks have made it so I have a very hard time enjoying concerts at soulless venues with corporate names…so you won’t find the words Comfort Dental, Pepsi or 1st Bank on my list.

Well, that’s enough about me, let’s get on with the shows.

10. Willie Nelson & Jamey Johnson @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 06/24/11

Willie Nelson represents the golden age of country music and Jamey Johnson represents hope in a genre filled with bubblegum pop stars.  Along with some of their closest friends, they gave the audience at Red Rocks a full night of country music entertainment.

09. Sleigh Bells w/Neon Indian @ Ogden Theatre, 06/04/11

While Neon Indian were a little anticlimactic this time around, Derek and Alexis proved once again that they can cram a full set into 45 minutes without the audience feeling ripped off.  The energy at a Sleigh Bells show is hard to beat!

08. YOB w/ Dark Castle @ Larimer Lounge, 07/05/11

YOB and Dark Castle at Larimer Lounge represent everything that is right in the world of modern metal!  Soul crushing doom at skull crushing volumes, even with technical difficulties this was an easy pick for a Top Ten list.

07. Soundgarden w/The Mars Volta @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 07/18/11

A long-haired, goateed Chris Cornell made it clear from the beginning that this wasn’t some 401K Tour. Soundgarden brought it to Red Rocks like it was 1994 and left any doubts about this reunion in the dust.

06. Stevie Nicks @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 08/09/11

Sure, tickets were ridiculously priced (we only went because they were comped) and sure, she performed quite a bit of new material, but I think there is an argument to be made that Stevie Nicks sounded better than she did when she graced this stage 25 years ago.  This turned out to be more than just a revisit of my very first concert, it was an amazing show by a legendary artist.

05. Deafheaven @ Blast-O-Mat, 06/25/11

San Francisco’s ‘black metal meets shoegaze’ Deafheaven played to a small, but appreciative crowd at Blast-O-Mat on a hot night in June.  After 30 minutes in the garage with George’s demons, we were drenched in sweat, deaf and the night air felt like winter.

04. Iceage @ Rhinoceropolis, 08/02/11

In a summer of short sets, Iceage take the gold at 25 minutes.  Any longer would have been too much.  These kids from Denmark brought a punk rock energy I have not witnessed in over a decade.  Not being a huge fan of their album, this show made me a believer.

03. The UMS @ South Broadway, 07/21/11

One of the best weekends in Denver every year (the other being Westword Music Showcase), The UMS really stepped it up this year.  Highlights for me included Sage Francis, Old Canes, Snake Rattle Rattle Snake and Tin Horn Prayer.

02. My Morning Jacket @ Red Rocks Amphitheatre. 08/04/11

My Morning Jacket have been touted one of the best live bands working today, and coming from someone who is not a huge fan or their recorded work, I can honestly say they earned that title at Red Rock in August.

01. Okkervil River w/Titus Andronicus & Julianna Barkwick @ Bluebird Theater, 06/15/11

What had to have been the most stacked line-up this year, Okkervil River were supported by the always amazing Titus Andronicus and sound artist Julianna Barkwick.  The sound could have been better at the Bluebird (as always), but every performance was worthy of this list.