When looking back at shows of 2014, there was a lot to enjoy. There were the usual suspects like Yo La Tengo (Town Hall, December 3rd). I saw Bob Mould twice and watched Interpol play at the Temple of Dandor. There was the WFMU Monty Hall grand opening show 2 blocks from my apartment in Jersey City. Slint played Spiderland loud at Bowery Ballroom. To a large extent, this year in shows (like in albums) may be remembered as a year of reunions and anniversaries.
Before I jump into my Top 5 Shows of 2014, I would like to take a moment to honor all the shows that never took place. 2014 was another year where I did not succeed in crossing Pixies off my bucket list. I had tickets to their January 21st show at NJ PAC. When a snowstorm hit the area, the show was rescheduled to January 28th which happened to be the same day as the Neutral Milk Hotel show at Webster Hall.
This year in “This didn’t surprise anyone,” my attempt to see Morrissey for the first time was thwarted by a postponement that lead to eventual cancellation. Never again will I get my hopes up (until next year, probably).
Unlike my best albums of the year list, Top 5 Shows of 2014 is in chronological order with no particular ranking in mind.
Neutral Milk Hotel
Webster Hall, January 28th
I had seen Jeff Mangum solo at the Paramount Theater in Asbury Park, NJ in 2011. That show was pretty life changing. But when I saw the full Neutral Milk Hotel, my life changed in a different way. The set-list for the two shows was pretty similar but standing among super-fans at Webster Hall experience very special. The crowd was attentive. Everyone knew the words to all of the songs and missed no opportunity to sing along. It was a prime example a show where people enjoyed themselves and gave thanks to this seminal band.
Chris Gethard’s My Comedy Album record release party
The Knitting Factory, April 22nd
When I bought tickets to this show, I didn’t know to expect. I had never been to a comedy album release party before but I figured if it was related to Gethard, it would be something fun. I became a fan of Chris after attending his 100th episode of The Chris Gethard Show with some fans of his. This led to me read his book, muster up the nerve to interview him for this site, buy the record, watch old episodes of TCGS, and so on.
The event was billed as “a night of music and comedy” and it definitely lived up to the description’s vagueness. There were performances by Mikey Erg, Shellshag and more. Comedic acts included Mike Birbiglia Eugene Mirman, Hannibal Buress, as well as Michael Che (who is the new host of SNL’s Weekend Update). Gethard and Joe Steinhardt (co-founder of Don Giovanni Records) MC-ed the event.
This show was so enjoyable because everyone was enjoying themselves. There is obviously a huge community around Gethard and TCGS. It can be weird at times. But it is always fun and inclusive to all. Just ask anyone.
Guided by Voices
Irving Plaza, July 11
This was my third time seeing Guided By Voices. And I finally got it. I’m not saying that I didn’t enjoy my previous 2 GBV shows but one was outdoors and the other one was on a weeknight so I wasn’t able to full let go and enjoy it like a hardcore fan (which I never claim to be).
But for this time the stars aligned and everything was perfect. The show took place on a Friday night. With nothing to do the next day, everyone went wild. Even though GBV had played a show at Bowery Ballroom a couple of months before the Irving date, the place was packed. There was the usual leaps and kicks across the stage, swinging the mic, and chain smoking. The band played for over 2 hours and barreled through dozens and dozens of songs from their huge discography.
In typical GBV fashion, it was a manic whirlwind. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. It had to end sometime. If that has to be my last GBV show ever, I am content (although who wouldn’t want another comeback when the time is right?).
Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails
PNC Bank Arts Center, August 2nd
2014 was a year of throwbacks. Many bands celebrated seminal album anniversaries by touring and playing those albums in full.
This year marked the 20th anniversary of Soundgarden’s Superunknown and NIN’s The Downward Spiral (both released on March 8, 1994). One of the most memorable of the year was Soundgarden and Nine Inch Nails at PNC. Both bands were great as they played both hits and newer songs.
The interesting thing about this show was the crowd. PNC Bank Arts Center is in Central New Jersey. There is an exit on the Parkway specifically for entry to the venue. The location draws people from the city and the suburbs. This is one of the reasons for the variety of concert patrons.
Another reason might just be due to the concert bill. There were metal kids in black t-shirts and long hair who never gave up on the scene. There were older bro-types who came specifically for nostalgia sake. There were couples, pregnant ladies, teenagers, parents, and even a child (probably).
It proved that there are certain moments in music that bridge expected archetypes. I’ve become more of a NIN fan since seeing them about 3 times in the last 2 years, I never really listened to Soundgarden but was familiar with songs like “Black Hole Sun” and “Spoonman.” The music held up great and the crowd enjoyed every moment of it. Those songs will always be remembered.
Forest Hills Tennis Center, September 19th
There isn’t much I can say about this show that I didn’t already say in my 500+ word review of the event published a few days after the show. The Replacements are an influential and seminal band. The show could have gone terribly wrong but it did not and the show lived up to all my expectations. The band sounded tight. The set list was basically a greatest hits with some rare and early tracks. The crowd sang along and cheered. Cynicism be dammed!
If you haven’t listened to The Replacements yet, it may be time as all the bands you love were influenced by The Replacements in some way. (Check out the playlist at the bottom of my September review)