Live Music Blog’s Best of 2012: Concerts, Albums, Artists and More (PART ONE)

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While there’s still plenty of live music magic yet to be made, the end is near and 2012 will be in the rear view in five short weeks. Furthermore, December is generally a skinny month for studio releases (although Big Boi’s Vicious Lies & Dangerous Rumors drops on 12/11) so we figured now is a good time (before we/you get sick of reading these) to pool together our contributors’ choices for their best live shows, albums, standout artists and moments from 2012 that will still stick in the memory bank years down the road.

A notably popular choice for Album of the Year is the psychedelic disillusionment symphony that is Tame Impala’s Lonerism, a masterpiece on both a musical and lyrical front and favorite for many of folks who make this train run. Also, Jack White’s Blunderbuss and Alt-J’s Mercury Prize-winning breakthrough Awesome Wave appeared more than once. Various nights from Radiohead’s King of Limbs tour, Sigur Ros’ Valtari run and Phish’s bust out-laced 2012 landed on many lists for Shows of the Year and J. Tillman’s new Father John Misty gig is a favorite among artists appearing out of nowhere this year. Continue below for the look back on the first eleven months of 2012 and come back for more on this multi-part feature.

Wesley Hodges | Co-Editor | NOLA > Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2012:

Dr. John – Locked Down
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Anders Osborne – Black Eye Galaxy
Monster Rally – Beyond the Sea

Honorable Mention: Grizzly Bear Shields, Alabama Shakes Boys and Girls, Kid Koala 12-bit Blues, Dr. Dog Be The Void, Neil Young & Crazy Horse Psychedelic Pill and Moon Taxi Cabaret.

Top 5 Shows of 2012:

My Morning Jacket @ The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA (9/11/12 & 9/13/12)
The Meters @ The Howlin’ Wolf, New Orleans, LA (5/5/12)
Galactic @ Tipitina’s Uptown, New Orleans, LA (Lundi Gras 2012 – ‘til sunrise on Mardi Gras Day)
R. Scully’s Rough 7 @ Checkpoint Charlie’s, New Orleans, LA (5/25/12)
Bombino @ The Mint, Los Angeles, CA (9/18/12)

Honorable Mentions: Funky Meters @ Tipitina’s Uptown NOLA (2/18/12), Dumpstaphunk @ The Howlin’ Wolf NOLA (2/20/12)

Live Artist of the Year: Sigur Rós
Favorite New Artist: Father John Misty

Festivals Attended: Foburg Fest, BUKU Music & Art Project, Big Dance Concert Series on New Orleans Riverfront, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, Outside Lands & Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival, Petty Fest West

Top 3 Festival Sets:

Bomba Estereo @ Outside Lands Music Festival
Anders Osborne @ Joshua Tree Roots Music Festival
Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s 50th Anniversary Celebration with Special Guests @ New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival

Live Music Moments of the Year:

Fog + Mist + Golden Gate Park + Sigur Ros opening with “I Gaer” (personal favorite) at Outside Lands on Saturday night. Couldn’t have scripted it any better. Special band in a special place.

Also, seeing Alabama Shakes in a French Quarter club (One Eyed Jacks) that holds less than 800 people in January and then seeing them in front of 25,000 or so only seven months later at Outside Lands. Apparently the good word about them traveled fast. That band is somewhat of a godsend. Here’s hoping they keep it real in 2013 and beyond.

Looking Forward to in 2013: (1) Waking up and dusting off in NOLA on 1/1/13 after seeing Galactic on NYE; (2) Evangelistas debut EP and Jim James’ debut LP; (3) Hopefully knocking one of the following off my festival bucket list: Telluride Bluegrass, Sasquatch or High Sierra.

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Aaron Fortin | Co-Editor | Warren, MA > Los Angeles, CA

Top 5 Albums of 2012:

Tame Impala – Lonerism
Django DjangoDjango Django
Alabama Shakes – Boys & Girls
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Michael Kiwanuka – Home Again

Honorable Mention: Marco BeneventoTigerface

Top 5 Shows of 2012:

Frisell, Chamberlain, Brion @ The Mint, Los Angeles, CA (5/30/12)
Sigur Rós @ Hollywood Forever Cemetery, Los Angeles, CA (8/12/12)
Phish @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA (8/19/12)
Phish @ Dicks Sporting Goods Park, Denver, CO (8/31/12)
My Morning Jacket @ The Wiltern, Los Angeles, CA (9/11/12)

Honorable Mentions: Wilco @ Wiltern Theatre, Los Angeles, CA (1/25/12), Trey Anastasio with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Walt Disney Music Hall (3/10/12)
Phish @ Dicks Sporting Goods Park, Denver, CO (9/1/12)

Live Artist of the Year: Phish. In August and September, they proved to most they’re still able to churn out all-star performances that would put most bands to shame.

Favorite New Artist: Michael Kiwanuka. Watch him perform “Home Again.”

Festivals Attended: 22nd Annual High Sierra Music Festival, Quincy, CA.

Live Music Moments of the Year:

Phil Lesh & @Phortin 9/14/12
Two memorable experiences stand out in 2012. The first came during Phish’s show in Long Beach, CA on a Wednesday night in August. It was the first time I had the opportunity to shoot my favorite band from the photographer’s pit. I was as close as Pete Carini used to be. I’ve had the opportunity to shoot some top tier bands in the past but 8/15/12 will always stand-out as a defining moment where two worlds collided in all the right ways. Not only did Phish stretch “Rock and Roll” to twenty-five minutes, but the entire day felt like a giant reward for blogging about a topic I love and honestly couldn’t live without. The second moment of ’12 happened a few weeks later on my 30th birthday in San Rafeal, CA. Celebrating with my girlfriend and friends at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael, CA, I bumped into Phil Lesh and was able to snap a photo together, then thank him for his contribution to our music scene. I won’t soon forget it.

Looking Forward to in 2013:

There are a few album release dates and concerts I’ve already circled on the calender. Thom Yorke’s Atoms For Peace and Pearl Jam’s tenth studio album are both slated to drop sometime in ’13. It will also be interesting to see how Jim James’ solo album sounds and if he decides to go out on tour in support. What would his backing band be? Both Trey Anastasio and Page McConnell of Phish have promised the band’s 12th album. Rumors that it may contain more free-form improv than normal have risen to the surface. This will also be Phish’s 30th anniversary year and if the rumblings prove right, it’ll be a big touring year. No, not fifty tour dates but a Halloween and a 12/2/13 Anniversary show seem safe bets at this point. I’m also eager to see if Jonathan Wilson (@SongsOfJW) has anything in store for fans this year. His Gentle Sprit album was released two years ago and I’m itching for some new material.
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Oliver Walker | Photographer | Los Angeles, CA

HARD Day of the Dead 2012 || Photo by Oliver Walker

Top 5 Albums of 2012

Spiritualized – Sweet Heart, Sweet Light
UFOMAMMUT – ORO: Opus Alter
Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Allelujah! Don’t Bend! Ascend!
Mewithoutyou – Ten Stories
Animal Collective – Centipede Hz

Top 5 Shows of 2012

HEALTH at The Echo, Los Angeles, CA (8/30/12)
Cursive at The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA(2/24/12)
Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra at The Troubadour, West Hollywood, CA(2/8/12)
Black Lips and King Tuff at The Observatory, Los Angeles, CA (8/6/12)
Meshuggah, Baroness and Decapitated at House of Blues, Anaheim, CA (5/4/12)

Live Artist of the Year: Spiritualized
Favorite New Artist: Dry The River

Festivals Attended: Coachella, Sasquatch, Outside Lands, FYF Fest, Cultures Collide, Eagle Rock Music Festival, Make Music Pasadena,

Top 3 Festival Sets:

Spiritualized @ Sasquatch, The Gorge, WA
Godspeed You! Black Emperor @ Coachella, Indio, CA
Sigur Rós at Outside Lands, San Francisco, CA

Live Music Moment of the Year: Getting spit on by Yolandi Vi$$er at SONAR North American Tour at Shrine Expo Center.

Most Anticipated Projected Album of 2013: Nick Cave and The Bad Seeds 15th Studio Album.

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Michael Wren | Contributor | NOLA

Alt-J

Top 5 Albums of 2012

∆Alt-J – An Awesome Wave (won Mercury Prize)
Miike Snow – Happy to You
The Lumineers – The Lumineers (damn close runner-up for favorite newbies)
Two Door Cinema Club – Beacon
Jack White – Blunderbuss

Top 5 Shows of 2012

Radiohead @ Toyota Center, Houston, TX (3/3/12)
Instruments A Comin’ Benefit Concert w/ Galactic, Trombone Shorty & Orleans Ave., Big Sam’s Funky
Nation, Anders Osborne, BIGI, Dirty Dozen BB, and many many more of Nola’s FINEST @ Tipitina’s
Uptown, New Orleans, LA (4/30/12)
Dragon Smoke @ One Eyed Jacks, New Orleans, LA (5/1/12)
Fess House Party New Orleans Style: Dr. John, Ellis Marsalis, John Cleary, Ed Volker w/ George Porter, Jr. & the Tipitina’s Allstars @ Tipitina’s Uptown, New Orleans, LA (9/29/12)
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros w/ Clap Your Hands Say Yeah @ Mahalia Jackson Theater, New Orleans, LA (10/3/12)

Live Artist of the Year: Radiohead (King of Limbs Tour)
Favorite New Artist: ∆Alt-J

Festivals Attended: New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival; Hangout Music Fest; Bonnaroo; Austin City
Limits Festival
; Voodoo Music + Art Experience

Top 3 Festival Sets

Radiohead @ Bonnaroo (Friday night)
Steve Winwood @ Hangout Music Fest (Sunday afternoon)
M83 @ Austin City Limits Festival (Friday night)

Live Music Moment of the Year: Had just finished talking with ∆Alt-J in the Media area at ACL Sunday afternoon – resting in the shade, enjoying a drink – when I heard music come on behind me and thought, “Who just turned up Two Door Cinema Club?” Upon turning around, I realized, “Holy shit! That’s TDCC playing unplugged 20 feet behind me…”; they played two stripped down singles “What You Know” & “Sleep Alone” – a perfect combo of old and new (a microcosm of the entire weekend).

Most Anticipated Projected Album of 2013: Local Natives – Hummingbird (1/29/13)
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Shane Colman | Contributor | Alabama > NOLA

Jack White @ Voodoo 2012 || Photo by John Stephens

Top 5 Albums of 2012

Jack White – Blunderbuss
Beach House – Bloom
Frank Ocean – Channel Orange
Tame Impala – Lonerism
Menomena – Moms

Top 5 Shows of 2012

Radiohead @ Bonnaroo, Manchester, TN (6/8/12)
Beach House @ The Bottletree Cafe, Birmingham, AL (5/11/12)
Dr. Dog @ Tipitina’s, New Orleans, LA (11/13/12)
Alabama Shakes @ The Alabama Theatre, Tuscaloosa, AL (3/23/12)
Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes @ Mahalia Jackson Theatre, New Orleans, LA (10/3/12)

Live Artist of the Year: Radiohead
Favorite New Artist: Alabama Shakes

Festivals Attended: Bonnaroo, Sun and Sand Music and Film Festival, Foburg Festival

Top 3 Festival Sets

Radiohead @ Bonnaroo
Dr. Dog @ Sun and Sand Music Festival
Dale Earnhardt Jr. Jr. @ Bonnaroo

Live Music Moment of the Year

Radiohead’s headlining set at Bonnaroo was one of the most incredible musical events I have ever witnessed. The shape shifting stage was unlike anything ever attempted at that level, and the band was on fire for the crowd of 60,000+ people gathered for the show. Unforgettable.

2013 Releases I’m Pumped for

Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God
Local Natives – Hummingbird
Atoms for Peace
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Jason Kinnard | Contributor | Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2012

Tenacious D – Rise of the Fenix
Between the Buried and Me – The Parallax II: Future Sequence
The Mars Volta – Noctourniquet
Father John Misty – Fear Fun
Further Seems Forever – Penny Black

Top 5 Shows of 2012

Tool @ Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, NV (1/15/12)
Phish @ Long Beach Arena (8/15/12)
Tenacious D @ Santa Barbara Bowl (5/23/12)
Gotye @ Santa Barbara Bowl (9/8/12)
Snarky Puppy @ The Mint LA (9/28/12)

Live Artist of the Year: Phish
Favorite New Artist: Frank Ocean

Festivals Attended: Coachella, Gathering of the Vibes, FYF

Top 3 Festival Sets

Refused @ Coachella, Indio, CA (4/20/12) – punk as fuck!
STS9 @ Gathering of the Vibes, Bridgeport, CT (7/21/12)
M83 @ FYF Fest, Los Angeles, CA (9/1/12)

Live Music Moment of the Year

Scheduled my annual trip back to Connecticut to coincide with Gathering of the Vibes, which happens to take place about 30 minutes from where I grew up. An old friend hooked me up with pit passes for Primus, and I proceeded to have my face melted from about 5 feet away by Les Claypool. Afterwards, I danced until 2 AM with family and friends to an amazing old school STS9 set with no laptops. Doesn’t get any better than that.

Most Anticipated Projected Album of 2013: TOOL
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Ryan Smelley | Contributor | Baton Rouge > NOLA

Grizzly Bear Shields

Top 5 Albums of 2012

Miike Snow – Happy to You
Grizzly Bear – Shields
Purity Ring – Shrines
Art vs. Science – Art vs Science
Dirty Projectors – Swing Lo Magellan

Top 5 Shows of 2012:

Calvin Harris @ Mansion Miami, FL (3/22/12)
Beach House @ Tipitina’s NOLA (9/18/12)
M83 @ House of Blues, NOLA (10/9/12)
Yeasayer @ Republic, NOLA (9/7/12)
Animal Collective @ House of Blues, NOLA (9/29/12)

Live Artist of the Year: Radiohead
Favorite New Artist: Art vs. Science

Festivals Attended:
New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, Voodoo Experience, Free Press Summer Fest, Bonnaroo, Ultra Music Festival, DeLuna Fest

Top 3 Festival Sets:

St. Vincent @ Bonnaroo
Justice @ Ultra Music Festival
The Joy Formidable @ DeLuna Fest

Live Music Moment of the Year

Pearl Jam was nearing the end of their set at DeLuna Fest on the Beach as a Marine with an american flag comes running out of the ocean straight into the crowd queuing Mike McCready to find his inner Jimi Hendrix and wail a powerful Star Spangled Banner. A scene that makes festivals truly amazing spectacles.

Most Anticipated Projected Album of 2013: Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God
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Eric Tsurumoto | Contributor | Philly & NYC

Jim James and Brittany Howard @ Newport Folk Festival 2012 || Photo by Eric Tsurumoto

Top 5 Albums of 2012

Jack White – Blunderbuss
Benjamin Gibbard – Former Lives
Alabama Shakes – Boys and Girls
Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
St. Vincent and David Byrne – Love this Giant

Top 5 Shows of 2012

Ben Gibbard @ The Town Hall NYC (11/5/12)
St. Vincent and David Byrne @ The Beacon Theatre NYC (11/5/12)
Best Coast @ Union Transfer Philly 7/16/12
Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeroes @ The Tower Theatre (5/11/12)
Of Monsters and Men @ The TLA (4/3/12)

Live Artist of the Year: My Morning Jacket
Favorite New Artist: Alt- J

Festivals Attended: The Roots Picnic, Governors Ball and Newport Folk Festival

Top 3 Festival Sets

Charles Bradley @ Newport Folk Festival ’12
Beck @ Governors Ball New York City ’12
Wilco @ Newport Folk Festival ’12

Live Music Moment of the Year: The most memorable moment for me, didn’t come during any performance, but backstage shortly before Jackson Brown’s performance at Newport Folk. During a brisk walk between the press area and the main stage, I ran into Charles Bradley. Bradley, who earlier in the day had hands down one of the most moving performances of probably the entire weekend. His performance was electric, with clear flares of James Brown, but with a heartbreakingly humble tone that brought even the cold blooded critics to tears. In a moment of sheer excitement, I decided to introduce myself. I yelled out “hey Charles!!”. After a moment of confusion, the 64 year old caught my line of sight. He replied with a simple “yes son”. I then proceeded to tell him, he killed it earlier and he had one of the most impressive sets at the festival. I expected, if anything a simple handshake and thank you in return. But what I received, was a hug from a now teary eyed Bradley. This, what I later learned, was a typical interaction from “The Screaming Eagle of Soul”. But none the less it demonstrated someone who truely was grateful for every moment that he had on stage and every person he influences.

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Katie Davies | Contributor | San Francisco, CA

Patrick Watson @ Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, CA – 11/19/12 || Photo by Katie Davies

Top 5 Albums of 2012

Alt-J – An Awesome Wave
Patrick Watson – Adventures in your own Backyard
Andrew Bird – Break it Yourself
Jack White – Blunderbluss
Tame Impala – Lonerism

Top 5 Shows of 2012

Alabama Shakes @ The Independent SF (1/26/12)
Jay Farrar, Will Johnson, Anders Parker, Yim Yames @ The Fillmore Auditorium SF (covering Woodie Guthrie)
GIVERS @ Slim’s SF (4/15/12)
My Morning Jacket @ The Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA (9/15/12)
David Byrne & St. Vincent @ The Orpheum (10/15/12)

Live Artist of the Year: Alabama Shakes
Favorite New Artist: Half Moon Run
Festivals Attended: Outside Lands, High Sierra, Bridge School Benefit

Top 3 Festival Sets

Stevie Wonder @ Outside Lands Music & Art Festival
Jack White @ Bridge School Benefit
Levon Helm’s Ramble Gramble @ High Sierra

Live Music Moment of the Year: Stevie Wonder’s closing set at Outside Lands was like a huge, collective hug for the whole crowd. So much love and such as befitting way to close out one of the best music weekends of the year. As often as I’m seeing music in clubs, and as frustratingly huge as festivals have become, Outside Lands really shines in my memory as an incredible weekend of musical experiences. Jack White’s pop up set in the forest was magical. Big Boi’s Outkast extravaganza set made up for the canceled mess from the previous year. White Denim kicked ass and drew a sizeable crowd considering their early time slot. The lineup, food, booze, scenery and crowd make OSL one of the best fests I’ve experienced. It’s gotten better each year; Can’t wait for 2013!

Most Anticipated Releases for 2013: Local Natives

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PART TWO: BEST OF 2012

Crowd at Outside Lands 2012

Post-Script: In case you missed it, check out our monster photo gallery from Outside Lands 2012, a good example of how much the LMB family has grown this year.