Over the past year, I’ve seen hundreds of bands play dozens of venues at, well, I-don’t-know-how-many concerts. The following are 10 of the most memorable experiences I had at concerts both in Omaha and elsewhere.
They are presented here in chronological order.
South By Southwest music festival — March 12-16 in Austin, Texas
I saw so many good shows during this weeklong festival that it’s hard to pick favorites, but I will. Dave Grohl’s Sound City Players played the band’s final show at Stubb’s, and it featured appearances by Stevie Nicks, John Fogerty, Krist Novoselic, Rick Nielsen and others. Before everyone else in the country, I danced to Icona Pop with a small crowd at Austin’s Lustre Pearl. I was transfixed. Finally, The Black Lips played, if not my favorite, the most memorable set of 2013 at the Cedar Street Courtyard. After conflicts between security and fans, the whole place nearly erupted into a riot that ended when over-aggressive security guards started throwing punches at members of the band. Madness.
Frightened Rabbit — March 19 at the Bourbon Theatre in Lincoln
I saw these guys in three different cities this year, and the Lincoln show was the best. Aside from a couple acoustic songs, the band turned up the guitars and made its sad songs really rock.
FIDLAR — March 28 at The Waiting Room Lounge
These California garage punks stole the show from headlining band Wavves. Whether they sang about the difficulty of addiction or poppy odes to getting the girl, these guys did no wrong.
Johnny Marr — April 22 at The Waiting Room Lounge
The legendary Smiths guitarist brought out songs from his solo album, “The Messenger,” as well as his other bands. But when he sang Smith’s songs, including “There Is a Light That Never Goes Out” and “How Soon is Now,” better than Morrissey ever did, I was quite surprised. That’s not to mention his guitar playing, which is even more impressive in person.
Ice Cube and Public Enemy — May 31 at Stir Cove
De La Soul and LL Cool J delivered decent sets that night, but they had nothing on hip-hop legends Ice Cube and Public Enemy. Chuck D, Flavor Flav and DJ Lord slammed through songs such as “Fight the Power” before Ice Cube rocked “Natural Born Killers,” “Today Was a Good Day” and “Straight Outta Compton.” They all hit harder than any time you’ve pumped the song through your own stereo.
Lollapalooza — Aug. 2-4 in Chicago
I saw at least a couple dozen artists, but my favorites were slamming British punks The Vaccines, Southern-rocking Band of Horses, a reunited The Postal Service, which played its final gig, an aging The Cure, who still play with heart, and a finger-picked set from Ben Howard.
Phoenix — Aug. 6 at the Omaha Music Hall
When something went awry on stage, Phoenix didn’t stop the show. Singer Thomas Mars simply left the stage, stood on some seats in the third row and continued the show from there. Add in the band’s fantastic pop catalog and an arresting light show and you have a nearly perfect concert experience.
Maha Music Festival — Aug. 17 at Stinson Park
It was another fantastic day of indie rock music, but Matt and Kim’s set was the most fun I’ve ever had at an indie rock festival. The Flaming Lips finished the night with a batch of its droning weirdo rock, but it was Matt and Kim that brought the music festival vibe with balloons, beach balls and a few hip-hop covers.
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis — Oct. 29 at CenturyLink Center Omaha
The biggest dance party ever to hit an Omaha arena came from not one, but two performances of the rapper/producer duo’s “Can’t Hold Us.” Macklemore was determined to make it a party atmosphere, and he did it with the help of some confetti, guest appearances from other artists and hit rap tunes that just didn’t quit.
Jay Z — Dec. 2 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln
Despite a 40-minute outage in the middle of the show, Jay Z delivered a hip-hop seminar during which any aspiring rapper should take notes. Like many other rappers, he claims to be the best alive. Unlike others, he just might be right.
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