Here is our annual compilation of the 25 best “moments” of the entire year from our site to you. Its been another banner year at NYCTaper. We’ve managed to record and post nearly one show per day for the entire year and sometimes even more than one. Its a level of consistency for which we’ve striven for years and as the NYCTaper “team” has grown so has our ability to reach our goals. All of this would not be possible were it not for the bands — hundreds of amazingly talented artists who not only perform superb concerts but allow us to bring recordings of them to you, their fans. Thanks also of course to the venues who allow us to come into their locations and do what we do, the labels, managers, PR persons, photographers, fellow bloggers and countless other people whose assistance and cooperation help make this “NYCTaper” thing happen. Here’s to many more great years!
acidjack: For me, the most thrilling, moving concert moment came early in the year, and in another city, no less. Mike Taylor of Hiss Golden Messenger guested with Magnolia Electric Co. on four special tribute shows around the country, including this one, but it was in Chicago that the majority of Molina’s former bands and supporters coalesced into an evolving unit that traded and vocalists and instrumentalists by the song. As I put it then:
The crowd’s largest response came to perhaps Molina’s best-known song (and inarguably one of his best), “Farewell Transmission”. In that song, Molina sings that the real truth about it is that no one gets it right, but we’re all supposed to try. Well, if Jason could have heard his former bandmates and friends on this night, I think he would agree that they got it right. And they proved another piece of truth from that great song, that he will be gone, but not forever. Because the real truth about it is, a great artist like Jason Molina doesn’t die, he just changes shape. In our hearts and minds, he is forever.
nyctaper: Lisa Walker’s voice is one of the most compelling in all of contemporary americana music in large part because as a person she’s real and unpretentious. Its a voice that can capture the longing and heartache of a beautifully sad song such as Lisa’s penned “Motorcycle”. The experience of watching the performance of that song from about ten feet away in a private house concert was moving and is undoubtedly my single “moment” of this year.
acidjack: Mike Taylor, aka Hiss Golden Messenger, broke in a big way in 2014, one of the most deserving artists in all the land to do so. In early 2014 Mike still toured alone, able to afford to do little more than sling a guitar over his back. By the time he hit Rough Trade in September, he had a record out on Durham, NC stalwart Merge, and a backing band replete with new and old collaborators. Not long after that, he and his new band were on Letterman. These two shows pretty much tell the story in miniature, of a band transformed, but an artist whose honesty and craft remain steadfast.
acidjack: We’ll probably have similar takes on this show, so I won’t waste words, but suffice it to say that Lost In the Dream was the album of the year, and this show, complete with a cover of John Lennon’s “Mind Games”, showed any doubters that the album’s greatness wasn’t just in the painstaking production.
nyctaper: At the time it was released, I called “Eyes To The Wind” a perfect song and I still believe that nearly a year later. It was the highlight of this show for me and will be a track to which I return for years.
nyctaper: 2014 was also a year to say goodbye to some places that meant a lot to NYCTaper over the years. Death By Audio was one of those venues and our last show at the venue was a special one. We’ve attended many Woods shows, and invariably the song that is often the centerpiece of the night is “Bend Beyond” — a terrific song that also offers the band a chance to stretch out and improvise. At this DBA show, Woods was reunited for one night with former member G. Lucas Crane whose preceding set transitioned into a Woods jam that evolved into this song. It was a fairly dramatic moment and was musically right there. A definitely highlight of the year.
acidjack: Ryley Walker seems poised for a similar trajectory to Hiss Golden Messenger — he’s an incinerating songwriter whose ability to make an emotional connection should bring him to many larger places. In a bit of a reverse of this year’s HGM experience, I saw Walker for the first time at Hopscotch Music Festival, backed by a full band on the broad stage of the Fletcher Opera Theater. A little over a month later, he was back on the road in his natural state, a man with his guitar (with upright bassist in tow for a few songs before he left for another gig). In my book, this “Summer Dress” from Rough Trade during CMJ blows away the full-band version — and that’s saying something.
nyctaper: She put out one of the best records of the year, Slow Phaser, and by the time she and her new band returned to NYC, Nicole Atkins had found her live groove. This show at Madison Square Park was a strange one, with families on blankets, roaming kids, and what seemed like a never ending parade of police sirens. But for this one magical song, “Its Only Chemistry”, Nicole Atkins was the brightest light in this huge city park.
acidjack: Despite that SXSW has outstayed both its literal and cultural welcome, this day show, put on by our friend Steve, hearkened back to what it ought to be about. The bill had huge range, free tacos and beer were to be had, and people were there for music, not scenemaking. Boots Riley and his crew of left-leaning, hard-swinging, hip-shaking funk geniuses stormed the joint and never looked back.
nyctaper: A Smashing Pumpkins concert at a venue the size of Webster Hall is a special event in and of itself. But this year has been a productive one for Billy Corgan and his band. Their new album is Monuments to an Elegy is really quite excellent and the new touring band is a superb collection of pros. But the most memorable moment from this show for me was the finale — “Burnt Orange-Black” a powerful dirge that will appear on next year’s album. Its already a stunner and one of the best new songs we heard all year.
nyctaper: This show was fairly epic at two hours and it included nearly thirty distinct songs. But the highlight was the truly surreal mid-show appearance of two huge Chinese New Year’s styled dragons and a drum parade that entered through the back of the Bowery and worked through the packed crowd to the stage. The parade drumming transitioned into the titled track from The Growlers excellent new album Chinese Fountain, in what was an odd but very memorable moment.
nyctaper: A band with a ten year old prodigy that plays fiddle like a man five times his age would have to be a yearly highlight, but really Marah is much more than that. This show at Bowery Electric was a revelation and this performance of an old Marah song (when it was a completely different band) was one of the best things we saw all year particularly the sweet fiddle solo by Gus Tritsch and that moment when band leader David Bielanko realized in his mid-song monologue just exactly how special this band has become.
acidjack: This was one of those end-of-an-era shows in two ways — both the last by a beloved band, and in the final month of a venue where I spent a lot of time, Glasslands. We were sorry to see Yellow Ostrich go, but we’re glad they didn’t overstay their welcome. Alex Schaaf and his band exited at the top of their game, and we were honored to be part of it.
nyctaper: We’ve chronicled the solo career of Steve Wynn pretty regularly on this site, but I had personally not seen The Dream Syndicate in more than thirty years. The band’s reunion finally made it to NYC this Fall and it was certainly worth the wait. The last time I saw them, Dream Syndicate opened with “Tell Me When Its Over” and this past month it was the second song of the set and just as sweet.
acidjack: I had minimal hopes for this father-son band; nothing about nepotism tends to go well. But the Tweedy team proved doubters totally wrong, with a record that, if anything, exceeded Wilco’s recent output. The “band” debuted their entire new album for us on the Mountain Jam stage. Even if everyone wasn’t paying attention during that mid-afternoon set, the ones that mattered were.
nyctaper: When I hear music scene veterans claim that there’s just nothing new that exciting, I happily point to bands like King Gizzard. The band came all the way from Australia to perform some shows this Summer, and we caught one of those shows, but it wasn’t until this night at Baby’s All Right that the lure of the Gizz fully clicked for us. A youthful and energetic take on neo-psych, this band’s new album is extraordinarily good and for this night at Baby’s they opened the show with the five-song segue that opens the album — after which there was a lot of affirmative head-shaking in the crowd. The Gizz had arrived and we can’t wait until they grace our shores again.
acidjack: I might as well just put this on my list for every year — this showcase, jointly produced by Three Lobed Recordings and the Durham, NC radio station WXDU, produces the most consistently incredible lineup of challenging music that I see. This year’s lineup boasted The Little Black Egg Big Band (featuring Steve Gunn, William Tyler and members of Yo La Tengo), MV & EE, Rose Cross North Carolina, Sunburned Hand of the Man, Thurston Moore/Mary Lattimore/Ryan Sawyer, and Daniel Bachman/Nathaniel Bowles. Beyond the quality of the music, the show always brings its own special crowd, the die-hards and the heads whose lack of strength is numbers is more than made up for in passion.
nyctaper: I traveled to Philly to catch my only Yo La Tengo show this year, and of course it was infinitely worth it. But what separated this show from the “standard” YLT show was the ferocious and simply awe-inspiring version of “Story” that closed the set. The guitar-crushing noise jam that concludes the song stretched the entire number to twenty-two minutes and elevated this to epic proportions. The was the band’s last show of their 30th anniversary tour and they ended it in very appropriate fashion.
acidjack: Steve Gunn’s name always comes up among the biggest names in current American guitar music. What he accomplished with this year’s “Wildwood” took him beyond those confines, as the wider world began to view him as equal in his songwriting to what he had been recognized for on the guitar. This show at Rough Trade put that all on display, as Gunn and his band didn’t let a grueling slog up the East Coast keep them from giving a signature performance.
nyctaper: There are very few times when I can confess to literally gasping at a live performance. The Kickback came to town for the New Music Festival and Jeff from the Syndicate recommended that I check them out. The band was quite good but it was the last number of their set that took this show to entire other level. Billy Yost’s intensity during “Rob Our House” was as breathtaking as it was simply pure rock excellence. Based on this show we invited the band to play our CMJ show where they again played one of the best sets we saw all year.
acidjack: Tim Showalter is one of those almost comically earnest musicians, a man whose heart is as big as his sound. Strand of Oaks isn’t a new band, but it might as well be, given how meteoric Showalter’s rise has been this year. He started the year at Mercury Lounge and ended it at Bowery Ballroom, and the ceiling is far from there. Strand of Oaks has that mainstream approachability and big tent emotion that serves rock colossuses like U2 so well, but Showalter actually believes what’s coming out of his mouth.
nyctaper: A long time ago, I was suspended for a week from the college radio station where I worked for playing the Dead Kennedys’ “Too Drunk To Fuck” on the air. Given the times and my position, it was a fair cop. I’m happy to still be around when the song is now a quaint old punk novelty and can be played by a band with a sense of humor and a sense of history with no repercussions whatsoever. PUP’s performance gave me a big smile to cap off an excellent night.
acidjack: Two of our favorite Philly bands formed an impromptu whole to replace someone I’ve already forgotten about on the end of this bill. While Mark Kozelek was being a dick over in the Lincoln Theatre on this night, those in the know caught this juggernaut (joined, just for good measure, by Steve Gunn and Mary Lattimore on the last song) playing real rock n’ roll that no crowd noise could keep down.
nyctaper: acidjack and I went down to Camden for the Saturday of XPonential Fest and it was one of the best days we had all year. Its a great event and we’re hoping to do multiple days of XPN’s Fest in 2015. One of the reasons we made the trip was to see NYCTaper faves Hurray For The Riff Raff. The band continues to grow in stature and its fun to follow their ascent. “The Body Electric” is a song Alynda wrote as an “anti” murder ballad — the shaming of the idea that in traditional folk songs the protagonist is always the man killing a woman. The song was particularly poignant in a year when domestic violence was in the forefront of the news. The song’s powerful message earned it significant media attention including year end awards from the likes of NPR.
acidjack: I had no idea who Herbcraft even were when I arrived at this show, and barely got my recording equipment set up in time. They weren’t even the headliner. But what came next was no afterthought — this Woodsist band owned the stage, proving the real power of live music to expose you to new music in a way that clicking around on Spotify will never be able to top. Perhaps most notably, this post got several comments from people who felt the same way — that they couldn’t believe this band had slipped underneath their radar.
nyctaper: I attended this concert on the recommendation of Adam from Northern Spy and I’ll admit that I had no idea what to expect. At the end of the event, I was thanking Adam for inviting me because Dva is an amazing act and their live show has to be seen to be truly experienced. “Mulatu” was the first single from this Czech duo’s first US release and it encapsulates everything that’s great and interesting about Dva.