OK, I think I’m done with my 2009 lists. It’s good to take a look back at the year, realize what was good (a lot), and what wasn’t (surprisingly little!). But these are just my opinion- so I wanted to include lists from my fellow music blogger and photographer friends. Sometimes there’s crossover, and sometimes there’s not. This just shows you how much an experience can vary from person to person at the same show, because several of the people below and I were at a lot of the same shows this year!
Dan with Bay Area Metal Scene is a great source for who’s putting out the loudest albums in the Bay Area. Since I focus a lot of my attention on touring acts, I turn to Dan’s site to get the scoop on what’s happening in my neighborhood.
Top Bay Area Metal Shows of 2009:
Lamb of God / Children of Bodom / Suicidal Tendencies / Municipal Waste / God Forbid @ San Jose State
Opeth @ Grand Conjuration Ballroom Regency Center Spectacular Whatever This Place Is Called
Gojira @ Slim’s
Testament / Unearth / Lazarus A.D. @ The Fillmore
“Cannabis Corpse” @ El Rio. (click for his interview)
By rough estimate, Umlaut and I were at about 30 of the same shows this year. You can often take our reviews and read them one after the other and it would seem like we were at two entirely different shows spare a few of the details! But there are times when we do agree, as you’ll see below.
Umlaut’s Top 10 Shows (out of 84) of 2009 (in chronological order)
Click for reviews.
Photo Ray can be seen in almost every photo pit at the shows I go to, even when there’s not a photo pit per se and he has to deflect moshers with one arm while taking pictures with the other. He catches the moments that I can’t properly describe in my write ups.
Photo Ray’s Top 10 Shows of 2009 (in no particular order)
Click for photos.
Pink / HP Pavillion / 9.17.09 YES,PINK!!
Alan, when not in the photo pit, can be seen working at several of the venues I often frequent- which means that he’s an excellent source of ‘insider’ info….I’ll often get an email from Alan after I post a review saying, “well that happened because _____”. Alan also has an extensive guitar pick collection- like REALLY extensive.
My Top 15 list is probably a little different than the usual.
I listen to METAL, but most bands that you would expect to see on my Top 10 shows of 2009 list are not. For example — In Flames, Shadows Fall, Hatebreed, The Black Dahlia Murder, Motorhead, God Forbid, Megadeth, All That Remains, 3 Inches of Blood, Avenged Sevenfold, Death Angel, Testament, Forbidden, Judas Priest, Lamb of God, Unearth, Killswitch Engage. I’ve seen them all countless times and it’s simply too difficult to choose one over the other.
Having attended 219 shows in 2009 in some manner (venue work, concert photography, or even just as a customer), I’ve seen a lot of music in a lot of different genres, ranging from metal, pop, rap, blues, jazz, rock, indie, acoustic guitar player singer songwriter types, etc, etc. So for my list, I take more into consideration the overall show, the production value of a show, and/or the specialness of a show over whether the musicianship of the guitar player who shreds on the solo of that one song is worthy of their band making the list. Finally, having seen so many concerts in 2009 (the good, the bad, the ugly), my all-time favorite determination of what makes a top show for me is seeing an arena-level band in a small venue… this almost automatically ensures a spot on my list!
15. Heaven and Hell
The Warfield, San Francisco, August 10, 2009
Black Sabbath (sans Ozzy) plays for 1,300 people! My past 3 times seeing Heaven and Hell have been at arenas or amphitheaters. Big band, small venue! Just what I like….
Fox Theater, Oakland, November 4, 2009
A “project” by Maynard James Keenan of Tool. I know absolutely nothing about Puscifer, I know only that Maynard is a very odd and interesting guy. Read show review here and here (both were completely different shows, but I did not see the Nov 5 show)
13. Kylie Minogue
Fox Theater, Oakland, September 30, 2009
Forgettable pop music with a huge arena-size stage production on a theater stage! She descended onto the stage from the stage rafters standing on a giant skull… she had more than a few floor-to-ceiling movable LED walls, coupled with 3 non-moving, hanging, LED screens… she even had lasers! Did I mention that she descended onto the stage standing on a giant skull… and all of this, supposedly actually singing! Read show review here.
12. Britney Spears
Oracle Arena, Oakland, April 22, 2009
Forgettable pop music meets Cirque du Soleil. This was all about the show —
acrobats, clowns, contortionists, magicians, and an amazing huge stage with 360-degree video screen that took 150 people hours to put together (or so I heard). Britney herself was the least interesting part as she seemed to make little effort to lip-sync along to her mediocre songs.
Oracle Arena, Oakland, November 22, 2009
KISS spare no expense on their show, but as amazing as it may be, anyone who has seen them before is not seeing anything new… this is the most predictable stage production on Earth!
10. Goran Bregovic and the Wedding & Funeral Orchestra
Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, San Francisco, 6/21/2009
Read show review here. Not knowing a thing about this music (and not being Yugoslavian), I found this show to really be as good as the reviewer writes in the linked review.
9. Metallica, Machine Head
HP Pavilion, San Jose, 12/12/2009
After already seeing the Death Magnetic tour for 3 times in 2008 (Cow Palace rehearsal, Fresno, Oakland), I can easily say that I am no longer a fan of their huge ‘in-the-round’ stage (otherwise this would probably be higher on this list). That being said… the music still sounded great (it is Metallica after all!), and the show production was still top-notch (lasers, pyro, flying coffins, fire), even if it was predictable. This show was also better than most of what I saw in 2009 and so there is no way I could leave it off of the list… I just am not a fan of their ‘in-the-round’ stage!
8. Gogol Bordello
Fox Theater, Oakland, 10/15/2009
Amazing energy every time I see this band! Read show review here.
The Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, 10/21/2009
Arena rock band in a 1,400 capacity venue… can’t really ever go wrong with that! I really only know Weezer from their songs from the radio, but they do put on a fun live show. This being the 2nd time seeing them live in a 37-day time frame, I kind of knew what to expect, but this show wasn’t entirely for me… I had forfeited going to see Alice Cooper on this same night… but for a very good reason. It was a special birthday that night and the birthday recipient had no idea we were going to Weezer, not until a full minute after walking into the front door of the venue… SURPRISE! (she would not have liked Alice Cooper anyway)
DISCLAIMER: Alice Cooper would easily have ranked higher than #7 on this list… had I went!
Slim’s, San Francisco, 2/10/2009
Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, 2/11/2009
The Fillmore, San Francisco, 2/13/2009
Slim’s, San Francisco, 2/15/2009
Pier 30/32, San Francisco, 6/27/2009
Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View, 8/20/2009
Slim’s, San Francisco, 12/3/2009
Photos here, here, and here.
I saw NOFX a total of 7 times in 2009. While the individual members of NOFX are not great musicians and each show was generally the same — with the one exception of their 25th Anniversary show, where former members of NOFX played some songs from their era of the band — there is something extremely fun to watch about a band that (1) openly admits that they do copious amounts of drugs before hitting the stage, (2) says they are going to suck live, (3) jokes about Jews and Mexicans (Fat Mike is Jewish, El Hefe is Mexican), (4) tells dirty jokes to the 7-year-old kids in the crowd, and (5) openly berates their audience. I may not be singing the words of most of their songs (after 7 shows, I do actually know some of the words by now!), NOFX is definitely a fun time indeed!
The Regency Ballroom, San Francisco, 11/24/2009
How can you NOT enjoy a GWAR show?? They dress up like creatures from Antarctica (because, um, if you haven’t heard, this is where they are from), they behead Obama, they dismember Michael Jackson who is touching a disfigured baby inappropriately, and they cut open and disfigure other Inter-galactic creatures, all the while spraying down their yearning audience with a colorful array of fake blood and other similar liquids!
4. Green Day
HP Pavilion, San Jose, 8/18/2009
Please read #3 and #2 first, then come back… this was the “real” 21st Century Breakdown show: the stage production, the lights, the pyro… it was exactly what you would expect from an arena show, yet Green Day still made it spontaneous and fun by having audience members on stage, singing, playing guitar, jumping around, or even just for a quick stagedive off the catwalk.
3. Green Day
The Independent, San Francisco, 4/7/2009
2. Green Day
DNA Lounge, San Francisco, 4/9/2009
This band sells out arenas and stadiums worldwide… how cool is it to see them in two little venues that holds 600 people each?! They played their new album “21st Century Breakdown” in it’s entirety, followed by over an hour of their ‘hits’. A $20 membership to the Green Day fanclub was all it took to get in… seriously! Will you ever see Green Day in-your-face like this for only $20? Yeah right… when Green Day came back 5 months later on their arena tour, Ticketmaster’s service charge on their tickets was probably $20!
Marin Veterans’ Memorial Auditorium, San Rafael, 9/11/2009
Big bands in little venues… well, they don’t get any bigger than this band! This was definitely the best show of 2009 for me, even if this ticket cost me $120. Metallica played a benefit show in their backyard (figuratively speaking) at a venue that seats 1,960 people. Yes, I said ‘seats’… not that anyone was actually using them! (no room for any mosh pits though). Each member of the band even drove their own car to the gig. When was the last time you saw all the members of Metallica drive their own car to their own show, park in the same parking lot as their fans, and walk past these same fans to get into the venue’s backstage door?!
You may have read from #9 about my dislike of their ‘in-the-round’ stage from their “real” Death Magnetic shows… well, this show was a stripped-down, bare-bones, end-stage show… no flying coffins, no fire, no pyro, just Metallica doing better than what they do best… and the greatest thing about it was that all 4 members of Metallica were facing the same way for the entire show (and not off on some distant part of their huge Death Magnetic stage)!
Links to other noteworthy End of Year lists:
Rafi and I occasionally end up at the same show- but generally he covers all things indie rock.
Julia and Elise represent for us metal chicks over on the East Coast.
The guys over at Metal Sucks dish out all the metal news in their own charming way.
Metal Mark has news, reviews, and interviews for all metal that comes through the South.