Live Band Rankings 2015! Part Two: 19 – 1!

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Tame Impala at Massey Hall – where could they possibly rank?!

All right, this is it. The final countdown! (Sorry if that song is now stuck in your head).

Reminder – if you want to listen to any of the bands mentioned, and maybe find a new favourite artist – give my Spotify playlist a listen! It features all 40 artists! (Well… except Taylor Swift. She’s the lone hold out).

And if you missed Part One – it’s here!

19. Future Islands (Day Three Osheaga, August 2015)

I loved these guys! They were so much fun onstage! They’re such an odd mix of a band, but their music is so melodic and catchy. I don’t care that “Seasons” was “a 2014 song”, it felt awesome listening to it on a hot summer day in August!

18. The Rural Alberta Advantage (Day Two Osheaga, August 2015)

Another Top 10 bands from last year, bumped down again due to stiff competition. But make no mistake, The RAA are one of THE best live bands in Canada. Their energy is outstanding, and they are so talented. Please check them out if you ever get the chance.

17. Stars (Danforth Music Hall, February 2014 & Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

I was lucky enough to see them twice this year – both very different shows. Their show in February was in support of their new album “No One Is Lost” (which is fantastic BTW, and one of their best in a long time). That show alone would have garnered them this position. They played with a fantastic energy and passion. The second show was their Osheaga performance where they played their album “Set Yourself on Fire” in its entirety in honour of the album’s 10 year anniversary. In true Stars tradition, they had many guests come out to help perform. It was so awesome getting to hear non-traditional setlist songs, and of course “Your Ex Lover Is Dead” is one of the all-time greats.

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Stars at the Danforth Music Hall

16. The Decemberists (Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

I’ve never really fallen in love with this band, but always appreciated them. Seeing them live took it to a whole new level. Really outstanding set, and I still have “O Valencia” stuck in my head after hearing it live!

15. The Darkness (The Phoenix, October 2015)

Yes these guys are still around, and YES they are still putting out throwback rock & roll! Sean, John, Val, and Dan all speak highly of this band live, and I’ve heard endless stories of crazy on stage antics. While I am told this show was a “toned down” affair, it was still a blast. I’ve never fist pumped so much in my life! Check out their latest album if you need a fix of modern “classic” rock.

14. Interpol (Danforth Music Hall, July 2015 & Osheaga Day Two, August 2015)

Due to the snowstorm in Buffalo last year, I ended up getting to see Interpol twice in the span of two weeks. Which could have either been a bad thing, or a good things. Thankfully – it was the latter! I may even give the slight edge to the Osheaga show, since after all I was able to let loose, danced in the rain to their set, and let out my inner festival-hipster. These guys are highly underrated, and one of the best live bands going (IMO).

13. Mumford & Sons (Butler’s Barracks, June 2015)

OK. There’s a lot of backstory behind this concert. Mainly involving the ridiculous amount of time it took us to get out of the parking lot after the show, and onto the QEW so we could drive from Niagara back to Toronto. (I got into my bed at 4am… the show ended just before 11pm…) BUT, I still loved the actual concert. I fell in love with M&S after seeing them in concert, so I knew this was going to be good. The new album is also the perfect live record – and a nice departure from their earlier work. We did still get to hear some banjo, and they played a great mix of their older songs. Just next time…. don’t play in the middle of nowhere with only one road out of town…

12. Of Monsters & Men (Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

I’m still not 100% sold on them being a festival group, as I feel they are best enjoyed in a more intimate setting. But their songs did suit the Friday night sunset quite well, and they did a great job. For me, the best part of their shows is always the harmonies, and listening to their Icelandic accents. You also can’t beat the energy of their upbeat tunes, and getting to sing along with them. I guess in the end, they were a pretty perfect summertime show.

11. Matthew Good (Hamilton Place, December 2015)

I have seen Matt Good about 10x in concert, and I can honestly say amongst that group is only one show where I felt he was “mailing it in”. And this was not one of those shows. It was a unique experience for me in that I was coming off of my LEEP procedure, and couldn’t jump around, dance, or do any of the things I like to do during shows – especially MG shows. However, he didn’t disappoint with his usual snarky banter (ranting about social media, and getting the crowd to stand up), and a great mash-up of Load Me Up & Carmelina. And anytime I get to hear “Advertising on Police Cars” live is a wonderful experience. If only he’d play “The Boy Come Home” live and then I’d be in heaven.

10. The Arkells (Day Two Osheaga, August 2015)

Speaking of Hamilton, WOW, The Arkells really blew the socks off of most performers at Osheaga this year. I’ve heard for years that these guys are incredible live, and so I was so happy to finally see it for myself. It almost makes me sad that it’s taken me this long to experience it. If you love live rock & roll, and just want to party with a bunch of your buds – this is the live band for you. Oh, and their latest album is spectacular.

9. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals (Day Two Osheaga, August 2015)

There was such a great mood leading into Ben Harper – over the horizon the rain clouds were creeping in, and led to an amazing sunset halfway through this set. He started out simple – just him, on stage with a lap steel guitar. We weren’t sure what to think. Then BAM the entire band joins him onstage and Ben Harper showed the youngins’ how it’s done. He is an incredible performer, whose passion really shines through on stage. Consider me a huge fan now.

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Osheaga on Friday – Day One

8. Father John Misty (Day Three Osheaga, August 2015)

You either love this guy, or hate him. His onstage persona is quickly becoming legendary for his sass, sarcasm, and just general “give no f***s” attitude. And he didn’t disappoint. My favourite part of the set was watching grown men sit on each other’s shoulders to get a better look. He is truly the King of the Hipsters. But really, aside from the schtick – it’s his voice that earns him #8 on the list.

7. The Avett Brothers (Day One Osheaga, July 2015)

My “come out of nowhere” winner for 2015 is these guys. WOW. Their set was beyond awesome. They opened with a song that grabbed you, and kicked your ass all at the same time. Everything about their performance was stellar – the vocals, their musicianship – especially their violinist. I wasn’t a big fan of theirs going in, but they are now on my “must see” list anytime they roll into Toronto. One of those bands that really shines live and makes you see their albums in a whole new light.

6. CHVRCHES (Danforth Music Hall, October 2015)

One of my favourite albums of the year is from this group, and my celebrity BFF (in my head of course) is CHVRCHES lead singer Lauren Mayberry. They are just so.much.fun! You can’t help but dance, shake, and jump around when they’re on stage. (In fact, I even jumped onto Sean’s foot by mistake). Even though so much of their music is generated from synths, you still truly feel like you’re getting a live experience from this band, and not “karaoke”. Plus – their Scottish accents are beyond cool.

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CHVRCHES at the Danforth

5. Alt-J (Day Three Osheaga, August 2015)

I still get goosebumps thinking about their set. Their music is moody, often slow, and has a lot of intricacies when you listen to it at home, so I was worried how it would come across live. But they nailed it. The sun set, the lights came on, and away they went. Plus – their drummer is 80% deaf which makes his skills live all the more impressive. It took my appreciation for this band up to a new level seeing them in person. If you have the chance to see them in a smaller venue, jump on it. You won’t be disappointed.

4. Noel Gallagher (The Sony Centre, May 2015)

I’ve been an Oasis fan since 1995. I’ve loved Noel’s music, lyrics, and voice for all of those years. And I still love his solo work. Seeing him live was truly a “bucket list” moment, and he did not let me down. I can’t complain about not hearing much Oasis, because as mentioned, I find his solo work is miles better than the last few Oasis albums. However – nothing beats singing along with an entire crowd to “Don’t Look Back in Anger”. I am amazed I didn’t cry.

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The one and only, your #3 artist…

3. Sam Roberts Band (Metropolis, March 2015)

This show set the bar high for 2015 right out of the gate. For my money, anytime I have Sam Roberts tickets he automatically becomes the one to beat. His show has everything – singing along, dancing, rocking out, fist pumping, bearded men, you name it. (He even has his own beer! COME ON HE IS SO COOL). Also, this show in Montreal was a blast. The crowd was responsive, and I wasn’t alone in dancing like a maniac. He played a well balanced set list as well, hearing many old favourite alongside his fantastic new album. I could go a Sam Roberts show every year and never get bored.

2. Tame Impala (Massey Hall, May 2015)

This is how tough 2015 was for these rankings – sitting front row at Massey Hall was not enough to get you the #1 spot.  If it weren’t for the #1 artist, this would be miles and away the best show of the year. Not only was it incredible being front row at Massey Hall, but Tame Impala put on a helluva show. Kevin’s voice was perfect, the psychedelic light show set the tone, and the sound was excellent. You really couldn’t ask for more. And PS – their latest album was definitely Album of the Year for me, so go buy it. It’ll knock your socks off. And then catch them in concert next time they’re in town.

…. DRUM ROLL PLEASE…..

1. Florence + The Machine (Day One Osheaga, July 2015).

What can I say? As I’ve detailed in a previous blog post, Florence is how I wish I could be in my everyday life. On stage, she is carefree, energetic, happy, and her voice just soars above everything else. You really can’t truly appreciate her talent until you hear it live. She is a true vocalist, and I hope she takes care of those pipes so she can continue singing for decades to come. One of my heroes, and one of the people whose music always touches my soul. Thank you for a magical night Florence!

That’s it! 2015 is a wrap for me in music!! And guess what, I’ve already started buying tickets for 2016! Get out there and enjoy live music any way you can. Just remember to pack your ear plugs.

Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and have a wonderful New Year everyone.

See you in 2016. 

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Finding Myself in a Crowd

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This past weekend I attended my first “big time” music festival. I’ve attended ones on a smaller scale, but this year experiencing Osheaga was unlike anything else I’d ever been to. First off, the sheer number of people was something I’d never really experienced before. It was also the thrill of getting to see so many bands, many of them new to my ears. And it was a chance to be part of something big, something “cool”.

I never considered myself a festival goer. I had a million excuses. “Too many people, I won’t see anything, the food lines will take too long, everything will be so expensive, I don’t know most of the bands”. But so much of my life has changed. For starters, and as I’ve written about here, music has become much more important to me. After a couple of breakups I began to fully embrace the indie music scene, especially here in Canada. I started looking for my own sound, my own bands to find, and everything in between. I had become lazy in finding new music prior to then. But now I constantly scour for new tunes, and news on my favourite artists. It’s given me a drive outside of work, and quite frankly, something to occupy my mind. Music is also therapeutic beyond being like a hobby.

Case in point, one of the headliners of Osheaga was Florence + The Machine. Her album “Ceremonials” came out during a key turning point in my life. I played that album endlessly. It spoke to me. It helped me get through some difficult moments and helped me move forward. I identify with so many songs on that album. And even though that album helped lift me out of some darkness, I still love that album and hold it dear to me as a sign of strength. I powered through my life like Florence Welch sings. (I know, a lame sentiment but I couldn’t help it). So now with her latest album, I was ridiculously excited to finally see her in the flesh. If I could trade places with any lead singer, it would be her. She is me onstage. She runs, twirls, dances, you name it she does it. She’s so free onstage. It was inspiring to see in person. Her persona onstage is truly how I feel when I listen to her. She inspires me to continue fighting my inner battles, and keep getting freer.

That was just day one! But the thing I realized as the weekend went on, is that I’ve come so far in my life. I have gone from the girl who complained about festivals to the girl who embraced it. I danced. I sang. I jumped around. I found exhilaration in a rainstorm during Interpol. I had so much fun. There I was, little old me in this big crowd. Sometimes I did worry. Was my outfit OK with my Converse shoes? (That was Sunday), do I look stupid wandering around on my own (Friday)? and a few other thoughts that really shouldn’t have been there. But I let them go. I didn’t let them stop me from having fun.

Too often in my life I’ve let my negative thoughts get in the way of having fun, of letting go and truly enjoying myself. This past weekend was a big leap for me. I planned for Osheaga for months. I listened to every single band on the bill. I ranked them from high to low on who I wanted to see. I talked endlessly to Sean about which bands we should see. I couldn’t wait to experience the weekend with Sean. I set a schedule. I was incredibly excited. And the weekend didn’t let me down one bit.

So now, here I am in full swing withdrawal. Thankfully, summer is far from over and there’s much more to look forward to. Aka, many more things to keep me feeling happy, healthy, and full of life. Sorry anxiety. Ain’t nobody got time for you.

Osheaga Rankings

Curious to know who I saw and who I loved? I crammed a lot of music into all three days. Here’s my day by day rankings:

DAY ONE – Friday July 31st

10. Catfish and the Bottlemen (Song you might know: “Kathleen“)
These guys weren’t bad so it’s tough to put them at the end of the list. Great energy to start the day and full of catchy rock hooks.

9. Guster (Song you might know: “Simple Machine“)
Val & John speak highly of this band, so I wandered over to the Tree Stage to check them out. Awesome set, and look forward to checking out more of their stuff.

8. Grace Potter (Song you might know: “Stars“)
Grace and her band rock. Period. She has a very classic sound to her voice. Check her out if you dig Fleetwood Mac, Janis Joplin, and need a great sound for summer.

7. Iron & Wine with Ben Bridwell (Song you might know: “Such Great Heights“, a cover featured on the Garden State soundtrack)
Sounded awesome, and suited the summer weather perfectly. Great set.

6. George Ezra (Song you know: “Budapest” but please listen to “Blame It On Me” since it’s way better)
George Ezra is so much more than his huge hit “Budapest”. His album is one of my faves this year, and his voice was perfect. He’s also adorable and will make you swoon in the summer heat. But seriously, his album is awesome. So great to hear him live! One of my favourites of the whole weekend.

5. Stars + Friends (Song you know: “Your Ex Lover is Dead“)
They performed their 2005 album “Set Yourself on Fire” in its entirety and it was incredible. The best part of anniversary shows is getting to hear songs you never thought you’d hear live, and SYOF didn’t disappoint. Also, click the link if you don’t know the song. One of my favourite music videos and such a beautiful song.

4. The Decemberists (Song you might know “O Valencia“)
It was hard to chose between them and Stars but The Decemberists were a highlight of the weekend. I’m a casual fan of theirs, but their live act completely won me over and has left me with a burning desire to rediscover their music.

3. Of Monsters and Men (Song you know: “Crystals“)
It’s tough to put them at number three because they’re such a great live band. They are so much fun to sing along to, and dance to, so it made for a perfect Friday night.

2. The Avett Brothers (Song you might know “Morning Song“)
Both Sean’s cousin Will & I were absolutely blown away by these guys. They came out swinging to their song “Satan Pulls The Strings” and didn’t let up. Their violinist basically did her own version of a mic drop with her insane talent. They were my shock of the weekend. Truly a convert.

1. Florence + The Machine (Song I want to you to know: “Queen of Peace” from their latest album)
I think I said it all already.

DAY TWO – Saturday August 1

9. Milky Chance (Song everyone loves, but I hate: “Stolen Dance“)
I can’t stand that song above (I know I am in the minority on this, and was clearly the only person at Osheaga that hates this song), and their live set didn’t do anything to change that. I found every beat in their songs the same. Ugh.

8. Young the Giant (Song You Know: “My Body“)
They’re an odd band. Their non-single songs don’t really sound like the songs that were overplayed a couple years in a row. They’re not a bad live band, I think they just need to figure themselves out a little, and it really showed this weekend.

7. Weezer (Everyone knows their singles.)
Weezer aren’t bad, but they aren’t AMAZING either. But they are a lot of fun to see live since their catalogue spans such a long time period, that you inevitably end up travelling through time and memories. Plus, it’s fun to sing along.

6. St. Vincent (Song you know: “Digital Witness“)
Sean walked away with a small crush on St. Vincent. I walked away really impressed with her, and willing to give her album another shot. So win/win?

5. The Rural Alberta Advantage (Song you might know: “Terrified“)
God I love this band live. Please check them out if you ever get the chance. So much passion and energy from three people. And I guarantee you will forget it’s only an acoustic guitar onstage.

4. Interpol (Song you might know: “Slow Hands“)
Even though I had just seen these guys about a week before Osheaga, I still found them to be one of my faves from the weekend. It also doesn’t hurt that it poured rain during their set, enabling me to dance like a maniac in the mud and rock out.

3. Kendrick Lamar (Song every white girl at Osheaga seemed to know: “Bitch Don’t Kill My Vibe“)
I have famously ranted about disliking rappers in person because their concerts are generally the performer rapping over piped in music. But Kendrick Lamar was a lot more than that, and even this hipster white girl was entertained.

2. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals (Song you should know: “Ground on Down” live version)
Sean convinced me to stay and see Ben Harper over some other bands, and I am so glad we stayed. Ben Harper & The Innocent Criminals delivered a fantastic performance, one of the best of Osheaga. Not only is Harper an incredible talent, but his entire band performed at a top level. It was also great to hear some blues/rock/country mashed together as the sun set, and the clouds rolled in.

1. The Arkells (Song you know: “Come to Light“)
I know. I am shocked I am putting these guys ahead of some of the bands from Saturday. But they nailed it. There was such an infectious energy coming from them. Afterwards, it left me wondering they weren’t given a higher spot on the bill, considering there were only the third act up on the main stages Saturday afternoon.

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DAY THREE – Sunday August 2

8. X Ambassadors (Song everyone knows from the Jeep commercial: “Renegades“)
This band is probably the most “mainstream” rock group that I will listen to. Radio friendly tunes made for a big start to the day as the first band up. I just hope they can become more than a one-hit wonder and find a more diverse sound.

7. James Bay (Song you know: “Hold Back The River“)
The pretty boy of folk rock, he drew a huge crowd as we watched from the hill. I am unsure if I like him past his big single, but he did sound fantastic live. I am curious to see how his career will unfold.

6. Ryn Weaver (Song you may know from Songza: “Octahate“)
This girl is still getting her feet wet, but she’s well on her way to being a big stage presence. She has a truly unique voice, and I love her synth-pop sound. I hope to see her expand her live set and see what she does as she matures.

5. Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros (Song you know: “Home“)
This was a real roller coaster for me. When they first came out I honestly thought it sounded terrible and was going to be a total disaster. But slowly this group won me over with their charm, especially after encouraging a fan confined to a wheelchair to crowdsurf to the front and join the band on stage. I give the band full credit for doing that. It was also fun to sing “Home” campfire style with about 40,000 or so people.

4. The War on Drugs (Song you might know: “Red Eyes“)
Sean & Will might disagree with me, but I really enjoyed hearing this band live. While they lacked the charisma that Edward Sharp and the Magnetic Zeros had, I found their sound and overall performance of a higher quality. It also hurt doesn’t that I am in love with their last album.

3. Father John Misty (Song you might know: “Ideal Husband“)
You either love this onstage persona, or hate it. I loved every second of it. He’s snarky, arrogant, but also hilarious brings out teenaged girl-like devotion in grown men. I don’t know many acts that can get MEN on the shoulders of OTHER MEN. I was just disappointed he didn’t play the above song, since it’s my fave off his latest album.

2. Future Islands (Song everyone knows from last summer: “Seasons (Waiting on You)“)
I linked to the infamous David Letterman appearance by this band because it really sums up how much fun these guys are to watch. The dancing, the assortment of the most random men in such a dance-rock-80sesque band is unlike anything else out there right now. Something did seem to go wrong with lead singer Samuel T. Herring’s mic after the first song, but it didn’t deter his energy. It also didn’t stop me from dancing my face off and nearly getting heat stroke.

1. Alt – J (Song you know: “Left Hand Free” but I want you to listen to “The Gospel of John Hurt” and “FItzpleasure“, oh and “Every Other Freckle” too)
I’d probably put this performance as Top 3 in the entire weekend. I really regret not seeing them on their last tour here in Toronto last year. Their sound is so unique, and watching them perform these synth-rock-electronic songs as the sun set on the final day was just perfect. This performance brought up my respect and love for this band and I would now place them as one of my favourite bands of today. Please give them a listen (even if you’re sick of “Left Hand Free”, I promise you will get some incredible music to listen to).

My end of the year rankings are really going to be difficult this year. 2015 is shaping up to be an truly outstanding year of music.

As always thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter for other random thoughts, rants, etc.