Stage Dive

The best shows of 2010…

Wrapping up the music year in review, here is my list of the best shows of the 100 or so I attended in 2010. Yeah, I know there are a few missing (Where's the Pixies? Where's Justin Bieber?), but I can't attend all of them. Help fill in the blanks by listing your favorites in the comment section of this story. Jan. 22-23, The Waiting Room (TWR) re-grand opening: After gutting the interior and literally "raising the roof" (or at least the ceiling), the centerpiece Benson club celebrated with two nights of shows -- a local gig featuring Little Brazil, Little Black Stereo, Ground Tyrants and Kyle Harvey, and a national show featuring afro-beat band NOMO. The verdict, Omaha had another world-class club to compete with Slowdown. Jan. 29, Haiti Relief Concert at Slowdown: What more could you ask for than Conor Oberst singing "Lua" backed by Nate Walcott on flugelhorn? The Bright Eyes reunion was one of the highlights of a sold-out show benefiting the earthquake-torn country; it also included performances by Tilly and The Wall, It's True, Simon Joyner, The Mynabirds, Bear Country, McCarthy Trenching and Brad Hoshaw. March 15, Digital Leather at O'Leaver's: With a full beard, frontman Shawn Foree resembled an indie version of Jim Morrison circa Morrison Hotel. And with an extra keyboard player, he was free to get more involved on stage and with the crowd on such moving anthems as "Studs in Love." April 5, Beach House at TWR: Visually, a boring show. Sonically, nothing less than amazing. Every note of their chamber pop echoed and glowed as they played all the songs from breakthrough album Teen Dream. Between numbers, they talked about Malcolm X, the Omaha Beef and 311, dedicating songs to each of them. May 2, So-So Sailors at Slowdown Jr.: I came to see Jeremy Messersmith, the crowd came to see The Mynabirds, but it was So-So Sailors that everyone was talking about after the show. May 22, Criteria at TWR: You couldn't tell this band hadn't been on a stage in almost two years. Everything was tight, including Stephen Pedersen's high-flyin' vocals that still had that pop. They were having the time of their lives, and so was an audience that greeted old favorites with raised fists. June 13, The Mountain Goats at Slowdown: Balladeer John Darnielle did a Storytellers shtick, with bits about life on the road or what inspired the next rousing anthem or stirring ballad, delivered in the rapid-fire style of a well-seasoned stand-up comic or monologist. June 28, Deerhoof at TWR: As a live band, Deerhoof eclipsed its restrained, measured recordings with sheer ferocity, transforming from an art band into something that more closely resembled punk. June 30, It's True at Slowdown Jr.: "This is our third to last show," said inebriated frontman Adam Hawkins without giving an explanation. The performance had the charm of a drunken wake, with Hawkins taking double shots between songs. Despite proclaiming that he was "wasted," he still put on one helluva show. July 9, Lincoln Invasion in Benson: Twenty bands from Lincoln descended on Benson for one night, but it was Mercy Rule that made the best argument for Star City's superiority. July 24, MAHA Music Festival: We all had a favorite performance. Some said Spoon, others Ben Kweller and The Faint. For me it was conquering heroes Superchunk playing for their first time in Nebraska. July 31, Concert for Equality in Benson: For one day, 2,000 people crowded the streets of Benson to celebrate freedom, or the lack of it. While host Conor Oberst shined with Bright Eyes, it was the reunion of his other band, Desaparecidos, along with Lullaby for the Working Class, that made the day historic. Aug. 27, Slowdown Block Party: With his stringy hair and big, crazy graying beard, Built to Spill's Doug Martsch looked like he just walked out of a survivalist compound. And though his Neil Young-meets-Kermit the Frog voice couldn't hit the high notes, he could still shred on guitar like few others in the indie world. Sept. 16, Titus Andronicus at TWR: I wouldn't say it was "epic" as much as an attempt at being epic. Every one of Titus' tuneful anthem punk songs started small before exploding into pounding riffs, sing-along lyrics and the occasional Celtic-flavored melody. Sept. 24, Serena-Maneesh at TWR: Slowdive. Ride. My Bloody Valentine. I never saw any of them perform live on stage. And after this show, I get the feeling that Serena-Maneesh will be the closest I'll ever get. Oct. 22, Bad Luck Charm at The 49'r: The headliner was BLC, but the real star was the bar itself, which was celebrating its second-to-last show before closing its doors forever. Nov. 19, Tim Kasher at TWR: Backed by a solid band, an unusually reserved Kasher was all business, serenading the crush mob with solo ballads, Good Life covers and a tip o' the hat to David Bowie. Nov. 29, Mark Mallman at TWR: Ever the professional showman, Mallman played as if he were in front of a sold out Carnegie Hall instead of a virtually empty room. He deserved better. Were we saving the best for last? An early press cycle kept me from including the Dec. 23 reunion of Slowdown Virginia and Polecat, and the Dec. 29 return of Mousetrap to The Waiting Room. I guess I'll just have to include them on next year's list.

posted at 09:28 am
on Wednesday, December 29th, 2010

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