31. Airborne Toxic Event – Riviera: I was on the fence last time they came through town and missed out when they sold out two shows at Metro. I was still on the fence for this one (Riviera, capacity 2400), but Jam made it easy for me by putting me on the guest list. The music was strong and the band seemed genuinely appreciative of the audience and the support. It wasn’t, “Thank you, Chicago, we’ll call you!” It was more like, “Hey, I dig you guys. I had a blast, so let’s go to Chuck E. Cheese tomorrow and play some Skee-Ball. I’ll pick y’all up in our bus at, say, 4:30 p.m.” I’m off the fence and on their lawn now.
32. Chris Robinson Brotherhood – Lincoln Hall: I’m a Black Crowes fan. I recognize Robinson as one of the great rock vocalists, so I’m not sure why I passed on this show and watched it sell out before my eyes. Sometimes you do get second chances in life, so when they release some extra tickets, I grabbed them. These guys are good. Way good. But I have a feeling it would have moved way up on my list if I had been properly prepared with some Scooby snacks and a little more background in jam band material.
33. U2/Interpol – Soldier Field: It’s an impressive production, like I said two years ago the first time it came through town. And U2 are some fine boys, but Soldier Field is really for football and not music. They make the list just on the strength of their catalog and that giant Lego spider they build for the show. You know it’s a good year for music when the biggest concert event of the year ends up as #33 on your list.
34. Imelda May – Park West: An Irish rockabilly lass should rank much higher on this list, but I got spoiled by seeing her in a small bar last year. And I was also annoyed by the douchebags talking through the whole show. Seriously, if you want to talk, I can lead you by the fucking ear to countless bars around the corner where you won’t have to pay a $25 cover to yap away, Slappy. But I still love you, Imelda.
35. Corin Tucker Band/Mecca Normal – Media Club, Vancouver, BC: I was at a mind-numbingly boring work conference last spring and ready to throw myself down the Winter Olympics luge run just to put myself out of my misery when I decided to check out the music listings in town. Corin Tucker Band… hey, isn’t she 1/3 of Sleater-Kinny, I asked myself. Yes, she is, I answered. So I told my colleagues to go fuck themselves for the evening while I went to rock out for a bit. Okay, so I didn’t exactly say that, but I felt it. It was a sparsely attended weekday show (which is really no excuse), so I got to hang out with the opening act for a bit and had a nice convo with Corin after the show. Thanks, Canada. Eh.
36. Acoustic Africa (Oliver Mtukudzi, Habib Koité, and Afel Bocoum) – Old Town School: Three of the top African guitarists, all with a slightly different sound and from different regions. Individually any one of them could have put on a decent show, but having the contrasting styles and personalities kept it fresh and gave it a slight competitive feel. I even sensed a little nationalistic pride, so I guess this could have been considered the Olympics of African guitar. But I don’t want anyone’s feelings to get hurt so I’ll take a lesson from little league and give them all a gold medal. Ah, screw that: Gold – Habib, Silver – Oliver, Bronze – Afel.
Watch Acoustic Africa
37. Architecture in Helsinki – Metro: Another one I was on the fence about until Metro put me on the guest list, and I’ll gladly pay for the next one. Pretend the B-52’s were born in Australia about 20 years later, and came to the scene with just a little less camp but still retaining the fun. Then you might have AIH. I feel that description cheapens their music and is off, but it’s the first thing that comes to mind. The same way that a bag of chocolate chips is the first thing that comes to mind for breakfast every day.
38. Death From Above 1979 – Metro: I confess, I missed DFA the first time around but checked them out when I saw all the hype around their Lolla reunion. I grabbed two tix to their aftershow and was blown away by the noise from just two dudes on drums and tripped out bass. Sometimes you just need a good dose of raw and primitive music to cleanse all that other crap that didn’t get properly filtered throughout the year. DFA is the colon cleanse of the music world. I mean that in a good way.
39. Devotchka – House of Blues: First caught this band opening for Gogol Bordello and made a point to catch them headline. Kind of soundtracky at times, which is probably why they’ve been featured on some soundtracks, but it’s a band you need to hear live. Violin and tuba solos. Accordian. Upright bass. Just chill out and enjoy.
40. Rocco Deluca – Villain’s: Remember that episode of 24 when Jack Bauer gets suspended and uses his idle time to start a record label and signs that guy who plays slide guitar and sings about rainbows or something, and then everyone gets annoyed by that song totally getting overplayed, so then Jack bails on him and then goes back to save the world from total destruction? That guy turned up at a neighborhood tavern this summer playing for tips, and I have to admit it was pretty damn good. Never doubt Jack Bauer.