NYCTaper Top 25 Concert Moments of 2011: MP3 Downloads and Streaming Songs

December 23, 2011
By

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Live music in 2011 saw several newer bands consolidate their hold on greatness, while well-established acts from the 90s brought out crowds for reunion shows and, sadly, farewells. For those of us at the site, we were inspired by crowds of people who were, in a lot of cases, younger than we were checking out bands like Archers of Loaf live for the first time, or finally gaining appreciation for the work of artists like Cass McCombs and Bill Callahan. At the same time, favorite new or new-er bands like Widowspeak, The War on Drugs, White Fence and Mr. Dream, each of whom we saw multiple times, saw their fanbases grow quickly. If you heard their music for the first time on this site, and liked it enough to give them a look for yourself, well, we are all the more honored and grateful.

With four tapers contributing recordings to the site on a regular basis, picking the “best” 25 moments of an entire year is practically impossible. Looking back on another great year for the site, though, each of these particular moments from a show we recorded stands out in some particular way (though they are in particular order). A complete seamless mix is available for download below, plus streaming selections of each. We hope you enjoy our picks, and look forward to sharing more great artist-approved recordings in 2012.

Want the first word about recordings in 2012 (including in-show updates)? Follow nyctaper and acidjack on Twitter, and like NYCTaper on Facebook.

DOWNLOAD A FULL SET OF ALL 31 SONGS IN MP3 FORMAT [HERE]

1. Sonic Youth – “Inhuman” (Williamsburg Waterfront, August 12)

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Well-publicized changes in the personal lives of Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon, the reigning king and queen of indie rock for the past two decades, may mean that Sonic Youth‘s performance at the Williamsburg Waterfront in August was their last NYC show. We hope that’s not the case. But if it is, wow, this band went out in as massive a style as possible, delivering a set full of rarities with the energy of 18-year-old punks instead of “elder” statesmen. The night closed with the apocalyptic noise squall of “Inhuman”, an at-times brutal piece of music that highlighted Sonic Youth’s roots as an art-punk noise band. While it is probably the worst quality recording of anything in this top 25, this blowout show closer, with its blasts of feedback, was easily one of the most memorable. Maybe there was something even more personal in those screams and feedback than we realized at the time.

Full post of this show [HERE]

2. The War on Drugs – “Arms Like Boulders” ( Bowery Ballroom, January 8 )

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The War on Drugs were a band we unabashedly fell in love with this year. An act that we first saw as an opening band, and who we saw in a huge range of venues this year (from Cameo Gallery to Webster Hall), these guys have earned their acclaim the old-fashioned way. First, their 2011 album Slave Ambient was an instant classic, a Dylanesque masterpiece. Second, they played a flat-out great live show, and they just kept getting better as the year went on. We chose this recording from the Bowery Ballroom because, well, it’s Bowery, and that place always sounds amazing.

Full post of this show [HERE]

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3. Deerhunter – “Flourescent Grey” (Webster Hall, August 23).

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Although Deerhunter and Atlas Sound had appeared on this site several times, I (not speaking for the others from the site) counted myself as a Bradford Cox skeptic. That is, until Bradford and the band led off this show at Webster Hall with this song. The band’s sound became a living alien beast, breathing and hissing as the stage was bathed in an eerie green glow. The effect was aurally and visually arresting, and the show didn’t slow down a bit from there. I count myself a believer now.

Full post of this show [HERE]

4. Cass McCombs – “County Line” (Bowery Ballroom, May 12)

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The American songwriter Cass McCombs is a critical darling, and has been since his first releases early last decade. Humor Risk, his new release on Domino Records, seems like the record that will make Cass a favorite with fans as well as critics. We know for sure that he sold out this show at Bowery quite handily, and Wit’s End has made an appearance on many a year-end list. This song, in particular, is a highlight, and this beautiful recording is a nearly flawless capture of Cass at his best.

Full post of this show [HERE]

5. The Psychic Paramount – “Ddb” (Union Pool, July 26)

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The Psychic Paramount provided me with one of those classic moments where an opening band completely overshadows the headliner, and wins a ton of new fans in the process. I caught the band this summer at Union Pool after reading some positive notice for their latest record, II. The album is an excellent work of psychedelic instrumental rock, but the live show – with the band shrouded in a stream of thick smoke, shredding on their guitars – took the experience to the next level.

Full post of this show [HERE]

6. The Smashing Pumpkins – “Muzzle” (Terminal 5, October 18)

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The latest addition to our team, hi and lo, is a longtime Smashing Pumpkins taper who has crisscrossed the country covering the band. This was another act that I admittedly had somewhat given up on after their late-90s release Machina failed to ignite. Once again I was more than happy to be proven wrong, and reminded of the original greatness of this band. hi and lo invited the entire crew to this show, and it was one of the best we saw this year – a powerfully delivered, rocking performance that rivaled this band at their stadium rock peak in the mid-90s. The Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness track “Muzzle” – slightly lesser known but one of that album’s best – was a highlight in a show that was filled with them.

Full post of this show [HERE]

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7. Low – “Witches” (Bowery Ballroom, April 27)

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Low are a longstanding band who recently proved that they may yet hit their critical peak. Their 2011 release, C’mon, was outstanding – an artistic triumph, and one of their best since their inception in 1993. This show, as I put it then, demonstrated the value of speaking softly, as the band delivered a set of understated grace and majesty. The song “Witches”, with its somber guitar riff, is one of my favorite on the new record, and was one of the highlights of the night.

Full post of this show [HERE]

8. Screaming Females – “Lights Out” (285 Kent, November 5)

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Screaming Females come at you like a bomb going off. After our founder recorded and posted this set, I couldn’t believe how sorry I was that I’d missed it. This has everything you want in a recording of a ToddP DIY show – the guitars loud as hell in the mix, nice and raw, the band absolutely blowing the eardrums of the crowd with volume, the vocals sneering. At the time, our founder called it “perhaps the best show I have seen all year” and I could believe it. A nice long instrumental run-up to this song shows off their playing abilities before it morphs into a searing punk number, with some absolutely insane guitar work.

Full post of this show [HERE]

9. Lucero – “Across the River” (Mercury Lounge, July 23)

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Johnny Fried Chicken Boy went to see “Nobody’s Darlings” booked as the late show at Mercury Lounge knowing full well that who this mystery band would be. Taking a pause from their stint on the Warped Tour, Lucero rocked an appreciative and typically rowdy weekend Mercury crowd with a 100-minute, free-ranging set. This is the kind of band that defines live rock n’ roll – great players who sound natural, relaxed and like they’re having as good a time as you are. Since first seeing this band as an opener for The Black Keys back in 2009, we have watched their star continue to rise. With a headlining show coming up the day before New Year’s Eve at Brooklyn Bowl, you can be sure Lucero has plenty left in the tank for this year.

Full post of this show [HERE]

10. Godspeed You Black Emperor! – “World Police and Friendly Fire” (Brooklyn Masonic Temple, March 16)

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I wrote what I thought was my best review that year on my iPhone during the first run-through of this song I heard the night before – so inspired by what I was seeing and hearing I had to capture my thoughts that instant. Of the show, I said in part: “GYBE are an unabashedly political band, and their music, as well as the intense visuals that their live performances soundtrack, are political in a mostly-abstract way. The visuals are mash-ups that evoke the world’s extremes; majesty and beauty in the midst of nascent dread. Here you see the fires of smoldering factories soundtracked by a plaintive surge of sound, where the sound of even the lowly triangle can take on menace. But there is beauty there, as there is in an unmolested glen; in a snippet of a nostalgic ramble that is both endearing and creepy. During the two and a half hour opus that was this phenomenal return to Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Masonic Temple … we were reminded that out of each paroxysm of suffering and bout of anxiety, there remains the zeal and fervor of hope.”

Full post of this show [HERE]

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11. Yo La Tengo feat. David Byrne – “Thank You For Sending Me An Angel [Talking Heads]” (Maxwell’s, March 23)

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Our original goal for this post was not to repeat any bands that made the list last year, but Yo La Tengo deliver something so special at every show, it was impossible to ignore this once-in-a-lifetime happening. Musicians across New York and the United States were moved to help their brethren in Japan after the terrible damage wrought by the tsunami and subsequent nuclear reactor meltdowns. Yo La Tengo did their part by throwing this very special benefit show at their homebase venue of Maxwell’s, with all proceeds going to Peace Winds Japan. David Byrne appeared with the band and performed a special rendition of this Talking Heads classic. A direct donation to Peace Winds Japan was required to be able to download this set, and through those donations, we have raised over $5,000 for the organization to date.

Full post of this show [HERE]  donation to Peace Winds Japan is required to download the show.

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12. Destroyer “Kaputt” (Webster Hall, April 3)

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Pitchfork may have ultimately handed the #1 spot on their year-end best-of to Bon Iver, but I called it back in April that Destroyer’s Kaputt would be close. A weird, wonderful album that resurrected the saxophone for new generation of rock fans, as I put it back then, “…Bejar’s music is almost radically foreign to what else is going on in American music today. Which is to say, Kaputtisn’t really dance music, nor can it be considered “rock” of most common varieties, and neither is it some fist-pumping, amped-up hybrid of the two. Bejar’s edges are soft, his choruses delivered on a silky train of trumpet and sax trills in a moderate, almost diffident tone. If the common mode for today’s bands is a marriage of post-punk and hard dance music, 2011’s Destroyer could be, well, “indie rock and smooth jazz…” This live show at Webster Hall was a hotly anticipated one this year, and Bejar nailed it.

Full post of this show [HERE]

13. The Antlers – “Putting the Dog To Sleep” ( Knitting Factory, May 8 )

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The Antlers continued their rise in the ranks of local bands this year with the release of their new album, Burst Apart. We were fortunate enough to catch a very special secret show at The Knitting Factory sponsored by BrooklynVegan, at which the band played the entire new album for a group of hardcore fans. This was the first time we had heard a number of these songs live, and it was evident from the start that Burst Apart was a huge creative leap forward for the band.

Full post of this show [HERE]

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14. Wye Oak – “The Alter” (Rock Shop, January 27)

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It was absolutely freezing out when I went to see Wye Oak, performing a special invite-only show after opening for The Decemberists the night before. The band was on the cusp of releasing Civilian, an album destined for many best-of lists, and they were surrounded by friends and family to debut many of its songs live. The intimate jewel box of Rock Shop was the perfect place to do it, feeling like our personal living room as we watched the duo play. After going through the experience of being an opening act at the Beacon Theatre the night before, I’m sure it felt like a sort of homecoming for the Baltimore natives.

Full post of this show [HERE]

15. White Fence – “Baxter Corner” (Bowery Ballroom, August 13)

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Our first exposure to White Fence came as they opened for Woods at Bowery Ballroom, on a night when the NYCTaper crew decided to team up and use a combination of our finest equipment. Not only is our capture one of our best recordings of the year, but this new “band” (basically the solo artist Tim Presley, with members of Woods and drummer Nick Murray as his backing band) blew us away with its catchy garage-psych tunes.

Full post of this show [HERE]

16. Family Band – “Again” (Backyard Brunch Sessions, July 23)

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Our friends at the Backyard Brunch Sessions held another successful summer season of intimate outdoor shows. Not only did they give the NYCTaper team the chance to show off what we can do recording-wise, but they introduced us to some fantastic new talent. Of all the acts hosted at the BBS this summer, Family Band was probably my single favorite. Lead by the husband and wife team of Jonny Olsin and Kim Krans, the band played a mesmerizing set on this sweltering midsummer afternoon. They call their music “death prom,” and indeed, it is downbeat, but its pastoral quality is one of its greatest strengths, well earned in the band’s upstate Catskills recording location.

Full post of this show [HERE]

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17. Blitzen Trapper – “Good Times Bad Times [Led Zeppein]” (Maxwell’s, December 9)

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Blitzen Trapper were out east from Portland for a live appearance on Letterman, and decided to grace their big fans with a Maxwell’s show while they were at it. The tight, energetic and totally fired-up crowd lapped up the 25-song set, which culminated with a ripping cover of “Good Times Bad Times” by the mighty Led Zeppelin.

Full post of this show [HERE]

18. Bill Callahan – “Say Valley Maker” (Bowery Ballroom, July 12)

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Bill Callahan is an uncanny musician – with songwriting chops, unique phrasing and a distinctly American style that is both timeless and timely. His new record Apocalypse is but one of a long run of critical and fan favorites from the songwriter, who recorded during most of the 90s under the moniker Smog.  This show found Callahan combining a set heavy on new material with some of his earlier favorites.  Callahan and his band performed a rich set that found some numbers stretching into lengthy instrumental meditations, and none so much as this nearly 10-minute rendition of “Say Valley Maker” from his 2010 effort, Rough Travel for a Rare Thing.

Full post of this show [HERE]

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19. The Hold Steady – “How A Resurrection Really Feels” (Beekman Beer Garden, September 17)

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Four years to the day that the site first covered The Hold Steady, we caught them again at an outdoor show that took full advantage of Craig Finn’s barroom-friendly tunes. We saw the Hold Steady twice this year, and both times the band continued to capture the magic they’ve had since their inception. Finn slows no sign of slowing down – or selling out.

Full post of this show [HERE]

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20. Fucked Up – “Running On Nothing” (Warsaw, November 15)

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In some ways, it’s appropriate that Fucked Up would follow The Hold Steady on this list – both are known for raucous, exceptionally fun live shows. Fucked Up is my one repeat choice from last year, and the reason I chose them again is simple: Once again, they have transcended the confines of their ostensibly “punk” roots to deliver an album of exceptional complexity and bravado. This show at Warsaw was a complete run-through of that album, David Comes to Life, and this song, with its dueling guitars, was one of the highlights.

Full post of this show [HERE]

21. Tristen – “Doomsday” (NYCTaper CMJ Day Party at Cake Shop, October 21)

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For the last several years, NYCTaper has thrown an unofficial “day party” during the CMJ Music Festival – an opportunity for us to get drunk throw a concert for artists we appreciate and make some damn fine recordings, too. Tristen released a new record this year, earned lots of good reviews, but hadn’t really hit the NYC scene very hard, despite the immediate accessibility of her country-tinged indie-folk. Several people thanked us for urging them not to miss her set at our show at Cake Shop. But if you did, here’s a second chance – don’t miss Tristen.

Full post of this show [HERE]

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22. Jessica Lea Mayfield – “Run Myself Into the Ground” (Glasslands, November 17)

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Glasslands was my most common haunt this year for a couple of obvious reasons – the semi-DIY Williamsburg venue and its partnership with PopGun Booking continue to bring in some of the best up-and-coming talent in this city in an artful, relaxed environment – and it sounds great most nights, thanks to current house engineer Josh Thiel. As to Jessica Lea Mayfield, we’ve caught her in fancier environs like Bowery, but this intimate, packed and sold-out show was the best of hers that we’ve seen. It was hard to pick a single favorite of the many revelatory shows I saw at Glasslands, but this one is certainly in my top few.

Full post of this show [HERE]

23. Archers of Loaf – “Dead Red Eyes” (Music Hall of Williamsburg, June 25)

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Archers of Loaf had been gone long enough at this point that some original fans had forgotten to even miss them. Well, that’s OK – there were plenty of new ones to take their place at this show at Music Hall of Williamsburg. Screaming out for songs they’d never heard live, singing along with lyrics, plenty of new fans showed up for this gig. Plenty of veterans did, too – after reliving this band’s greatness on records like Vee Vee and Icky Mettle. Frontman Eric Bachmann hasn’t stopped making music (he’s Crooked Fingers more often these days), and it showed in his instant poise once back together with his old bandmates. This slow burner was one of many memorable moments of a night that made us hope Archers of Loaf would stick around awhile.

Full post of this show [HERE]

24. Guided by Voices – “Don’t Stop Now” (McCarren Park, June 18)

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The NYCTaper crew contributed this recording as an official release that is for sale on the Guided by Voices website. In case you were wondering, we weren’t paid for doing it – our goal was only to make the definitive recording of this legendary band. “Definitive” or not, I think this one is very good – and a perfect representation of the highlight show of this year’s Northside Festival.

This show for sale at gbvdigital.com [HERE]

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25. Mountain Goats – “This Year [with Craig Finn]” (Bowery Ballroom, March 28)

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Appropriately, our year-end compilation ends with John Darnielle and guest Craig Finn singing the perfect sendoff to 2011. “I am gonna make it through this year if it kills me” could mean a lot of things, but for us, we’re fortunate that we were able to continue to do what we love doing as a hobby, without financial support, and to – yeah – be able to continue to treat this thing that we do as a hobby rather than a job. Bands like the Mountain Goats, and their consistently surprising, fan-friendly performances are a big part of what makes this site worth doing. The other part is of course you, our readers. Happy New Year!

Full post of this show [HERE]

HONORABLE MENTIONS:

Lemonheads – “My Drug Buddy” (Bowery Ballroom, October 10)

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Sebadoh – “Willing to Wait” (Maxwell’s, November 11)

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Deer Tick – “Bastards of Young [The Replacements]” (Webster Hall, November 20)

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Hoop Dreams – “Home Alone” (Glasslands, August 2)

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Sharon Van Etten – “Love More [w/ Peter Silberman]” ( Bowery Ballroom, January 8 )

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Melvins – “Second Coming>The Ballad of Dwight Frye” (Music Hall of Williamsburg, June 6)

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Special thanks to all of the artists, management, labels, photographers and other music sites that have supported NYCTaper this year. And of course, a huge thank you to our readers, who we hope to continue to provide with high-quality, artist-sanctioned recordings, reviews and photos throughout 2012. Happy New Year!

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3 Responses to NYCTaper Top 25 Concert Moments of 2011: MP3 Downloads and Streaming Songs

  1. JFCB
    December 23, 2011 at 3:12 pm

    My hat’s off to you not only for taking on the Herculean task of paring a year full of great shows down to a short list, but the fact that the concerts you chose were truly outstanding. Superb top 25, acidjack, and well done!

  2. December 23, 2011 at 5:17 pm

    deer tick not in your top 25 is a mistake…thank you for what you do tho….i mean cmon you know deer tick should be way higher…also didnt you record a bon iver concert?…clearly a mistake there as well

  3. December 24, 2011 at 2:59 am

    Well, to be very precise, this is not a “best concerts” list, since that would be impossible to compile among the four different tapers on the site.
    This is a “best concert moments”. I voted for Deer Tick’s Bastards Of Young performance, but it made the honorable mention list. We spent a lot of time working on the decisions about what songs to list and it was a difficult task narrowing it down. There are many choices that are not even listed at all that could be there, but its our best estimate about the top special moments we saw and captured.
    And no, we have not recorded Bon Iver since 2008.

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