- Shows attended (not including Pitchfork) - 46
- Sets witnessed (including Pitchfork) - ~90
- Lincoln Hall - 15
- Schuba's - 8
- Metro - 8
- Empty Bottle - 4
- Bottom Lounge - 3
- Riviera - 2
- Vic - 2
- Logan Square Auditorium - 1
- Reggie's Rock Club - 1
- Double Door - 1
- Subterranean - 1
- Free Energy - 5
- Titus Andronicus - 4
- Surfer Blood - 4 (if you include both sets at Lincoln Hall on 10/7)
- The Drums - 2 (see the Surfer Blood note)
- New Pornographers - 2
- Generationals - 2
- Blue Giant - 2
- Local Natives - 2
- Avi Buffalo - 2
- Teenage Fanclub - 2
- Cymbals Eat Guitars - 2
- October - 15 shows
- April - 8 shows
- August - 5 shows
- No shows in January for some reason
Tie between the Pitchfork sets for Sleigh Bells and Girls. Of bands I hadn't seen before, those were the two sets I was most looking forward to. Girls played a daytime set in some pretty intense heat, but the crowd was fairly large. They just didn't deliver. They found a way to play almost all down-tempo songs, and for some reason, they felt the need to play them slower than they play them on the album. Sleigh Bells set was short, but that wasn't unanticipated. They have one album, and it's not very long. The problem with their set is that it was way too quiet. To sound good, Sleigh Bells need to be ear-splittingly loud. My friend and I had a normal volume conversation during their set. That shouldn't happen.
Biggest surprise of the year:
A few come to mind, such as the Pitchfork set by LCD Soundsystem. Never really listened to them before that show, but they really delivered. The 1900s show at the Empty Bottle just this past Saturday ranks pretty highly here as well. Their new album doesn't come off as a real rocker, but they really cranked up the energy during the show. The Drums shows at Lincoln Hall in October were pretty great, too. Everyone I was with went to those shows to see Surfer Blood. Everyone left much more impressed with the Drums.
But for me personally, the best surprise was when Miles Kurosky to the stage at Schuba's backed by two former members of Beulah. With roughly half of the last formation of Beulah in attendance, I was able to get a few autographs on my setlist from their final shows in Chicago in 2004. The show itself was pretty great, too. Definitely worth missing Spoon.
Best single night of music - Non-festival:
April 30th. Cymbals Eat Guitars & Los Campesinos! at the Metro, followed by Generationals and the Apples in Stereo at Lincoln Hall. Perfectly timed so that I could see all four sets. The first time I had hit two different shows at two different venues in the same night (though I did it about three more times later in the year).
A close second goes to October 13th. I was invited to see New Pornographers play a small club set at lunch, which was recorded by WXRT. I followed that show up with a double bill of Surfer Blood and the Drums at Lincoln Hall. It was a night on which they were playing both an early show and a late show. I had a ticket for the early show, which I was told at the door would also be valid for the late show. I had some friends at the early show, and a friend at the late show, so I stuck around for both.
Best single day of music - Festival:
The Saturday of Pitchfork was the second best day of the festival on paper, but turned out to be the best day in terms of the quality of the sets. It started with Free Energy kicking off the day in 90+ degree heat at 1:00. Titus Andronicus followed that up at 3:00. Wolf Parade played a pretty solid set at about 7:00, and LCD Soundsystem ended the night in front of a huge crowd at 8:30 or so.
Top Five shows of the year:
HM) Brian Jonestown Massacre @ the Metro - 5/30: The last time I saw them, it was ridiculous. A two hour show with 10 songs, either ending with overly long and patience trying ragas, or extended rants from Anton Newcombe. This time? A near original lineup including Joel Gion and Matt Hollywood. Two hours, about 20 songs, and all of their best stuff from the Give it Back/Strung Out in Heaven period. Really impressive.
5) The Walkmen @ Double Door - 8/6: This was their Lollapalooza aftershow. And quite frankly, anytime the Walkmen play, there's a chance that their show will be in my top five of the year. They're America's finest touring rock band in my opinion, and the band most worthy of my entertainment dollar. They played a selection of material from their not-yet-released album Lisbon (since released), and now I can't wait to see them again having listened to the album lord knows how many times. I missed their follow up show in Chicago because I had tickets for Guided By Voices on the same night. I considered driving to Madison the next night for their show (a Thursday), but that was the same day as the Drums/Surfer Blood show.
4) Foreign Born/Free Energy @ the Empty Bottle - 3/5: I'd seen Foreign Born, who's Person to Person was one of my favorite albums of 2009, a few months earlier at the end of 2009 while I was in Los Angeles. They put on a great show, and they're perfect for a small venue. This was also the first time I saw Free Energy at the suggestion of an acquaintance who writes for Chicagoist. They were pretty great live. Good enough to see about four more times in 2010.
3) Deerhunter @ the Metro - 10/14: These guys were on my radar for a while, but I started listening to Halcyon Digest a few weeks before this show. I fell in love with it and snagged a ticket when I saw they were coming. The show lived up to the excitement generated by the album. They're now a can't miss band for me when they come to town.
2) Titus Andronicus @ Subterranean - 7/16: This was a Friday night show after the first evening of Pitchfork, which featured Broken Social Scene and Modest Mouse. T/A played a tiny club in sweltering heat, at least a good 10 hotter inside than outside on arguably the hottest weekend of the year. But they were incredible in that setting. Just feeding off the heat and energy from the packed crowed. I probably lost about 3 pounds in sweat during their set. It was the best of the four sets I saw them play this year.
1) The Fiery Furnaces @ the Empty Bottle - 6/18: A Friday night show while my family was in town for the Angels/Cubs series at Wrigley Field. I went to this show with my brother, a real trooper. He arrived in Chicago at about 7:00 am on the red-eye from Anchorage. He sat through a baseball game at 1:00 pm, went to dinner with our parents at 7:00 pm, and after a brief nap, was ready for this show around 11:00 pm.
As for the show itself, it was an hour of pure brilliance. I've never seen anything like it. They played for an hour straight, and I when I say straight, I mean straight. No breaks. Not even for applause between songs. It was like an hour long 25 song medley. And they were impressively tight. Not one missed beat or note all night long. I can't even describe how incredible that is based on what they played. Time signatures and keys jumped around like a kangaroo on meth. It was pure perfection. And to top the night off, while chatting with Eleanor Friedberger at the merch table after the show, she commented on my Super Furry Animals t-shirt. It was a really great night.
Tomorrow: Albums of the year - Honorable Mentions