Since my epiphany to finally start prioritizing live shows, I’ve had some amazing experiences. These include finding some of the coolest and grungiest local venues with local artists to match, seeing my favorite bands from my youth reunite for another tour of my favorite album, and even flying across the country to catch a show. I certainly have come a long way from my only concerts being those at the rodeo or some mega church. In the past couple years of my concert carousal, I’ve come to realize the parts of a show that make it the most memorable: general skill as an entertainer, crowd interaction, and fandom. Taking all that into consideration, below is a review of my top five favorite shows.
5 – Marianas Trench
I can’t really blame you if you haven’t heard of this band, but I do feel sorry for you. The Canadian pop punk quartet features Josh Ramsay, Matt Webb, Mike Ayley, and Ian Casselman. They may not have landed American radio spots (yet), but they’re already filling up stadiums across Canada with their progressive punk ballads of love and heartache alike.
Josh is a natural performer. He absolutely belongs on the stage, and that’s probably the reason why his music career is what freed him from his drug addiction. The band has some truly heartbreaking songs like “One Love,” but Josh’s stage presence is anything but melancholy. He, along with the band, has truly mastered the art of stage banter. His cheekiness is incomparable, so keep that in mind when trying to grab his attention between songs. It takes the rest of the band’s sweet and relatively calm nature to balance out just his sass alone. The fans are also some of the most diverse group of individuals I’ve seen. They include teenage girls dressed in 80’s inspired pastels and even some hardcore metal goths who I shared some other musical interests with. Everyone at each show is incredibly outgoing. I’ve seen them at least three times now, and each show has been better than the last. I went ahead and attached one of my favorite clips from their last show in Austin, Texas, but I promise it’s just a small glimpse into how amazing they are live. I also recommend checking out their acoustic cover of The Beach Boys’ “Good Vibrations.”
4 – The Lumineers
As a fan of predominantly indie rock bands, The Lumineers show is one of the biggest shows I’ve been to yet. In fact, their concert was a first for me in many ways: first outdoor venue (rain complications included), first ticket over $30, and first artist I saw that was actually still on the radio. Because of the rain, the show was delayed by maybe an hour or so, but it was definitely worth the wait. They were absolutely phenomenal, and the songs translated beautifully live. I was glad to be towards the back because the view was great and there was plenty of room for me to stretch out my arms and twirl around on my bare feet. Their songs have this sense of simplicity that makes you want to take off your shoes and just frolic in the grass, all the while forgetting about the rest of the world for a bit.
As for crowd interaction, I’m not sure it could have gotten much better in such a massive venue. I don’t remember too much of their banter because they didn’t need it. The songs spoke for themselves. The fact alone that the band left the stage to perform on the lawn with its audience was already the best gesture they could have given their fans. Speaking of them they were one integral part of making the show so great. It was like their music infected the entire audience with overwhelming generosity. The show’s vibe was what I would expect from some sort of neighborhood farming community. Everyone wanted to help each other enjoy the concert, and as someone who barely reaches 5 feet, I was thankful for their consideration. As I was going through my videos from the concert, I began to mentally kick myself for not getting more footage. Then I remembered they actually asked us not to so that the show would remain more intimate. Below is the last song they performed before asking us to put our phones away. I wish I could have caught more, but I guess this will just have to do.
Lacey Sturm, former lead singer of the amazing rock and borderline metal band Flyleaf, is the only female role model I have ever had. She’s even shorter than me but still has one of the loudest voices and sickest screams I’ve ever heard. The confidence she exudes on stage contrasted by her gentle nature before and after shows is incomparable. Most importantly, the boldness of her faith and beliefs is truly the most inspiring thing I have ever witnessed. To be able to take part in worship with her on a Sunday night is and always will be one of the coolest things I have ever done.
I was heartbroken when she left Flyleaf, but fortunately that ache healed when she began her solo career and started touring with her husband, Josh. Despite her small stature, her presence filled the entire venue. She shared amazing stories behind the songs we were all belting out together and got transparent when it came to the struggles between her and Josh. I’ve been to three of her shows, and each one has been a little bit different than the last. She does an amazing job of keeping up with her fans over social media so that she’s always able to tweak the set list a little bit when a specific song from her Flyleaf days is requested. Also, don’t be afraid to stick around after the show because she almost always comes out to say hi to everyone and sign some books if you have a copy. Below is her performance of “Impossible” off her solo album, Life Screams.
2 – Ingrid Michaelson
I know this is predominantly a rock blog, but I try not to discriminate genres. Her show was just that good. I know, I was surprised too. I’ve been to a couple other pop concerts before (at my cousin’s request), and although they were never horrible, I did get a little bored towards the end. Ingrid Michaelson kept the energy up the entire time. Plus, she’s the reason I know about AJR (check out my review of their latest album here).
Ingrid may have some of the sweetest songs about love and joy, but she is definitely full of sass. She’s even got enough of it to call out some members of the crowd who insist on talking loudly during an acoustic performance. Fortunately, her sass doesn’t stop there. The entire show is filled with attitude and little hi jinks between her and her band. Even without knowing her discography, you’d still find yourself entertained the entire time. The fact that she only had one opener also allowed her to extend her set so that the first half was filled with some of the greatest hits throughout her career while the second was solely dedicated to her latest album It Doesn’t Have To Make Sense. Complete with a backdrop change, she was a master at transitioning from a cute folksy performance into her more dramatic and slightly darker album. I only added one video from her show that night, but there’s a lot more where that came from.
The Rocket Summer, Bryce Avery’s solo project, was a dream come true for me. He came just days before my birthday, and it was the best present I could have received that year. I first fell in love with him a decade ago when a friend showed me “Do You Feel.” To this day, it remains as one of my favorite jams and one of the hardest songs to get out of my head. His show gave me the much needed excuse to check out the rest of his discography, and I was not disappointed. He not only produces every song but also plays every instrument heard on the tracks himself. It’s no surprise he did such a great job live. His show was in the most amazing warehouse venue that made it perfect for the type of intimate rock show you would want . It was easy to talk with the crowd and hear what they wanted him to play. By far the most amazing thing he did was actually leave the stage and jump into the middle of the audience to truly sing along with everyone. He did this not once but twice. He’ll actually be going on tour in the next couple weeks to celebrate his 10 year anniversary of the album Do You Feel. He’s promised to also play some new stuff while on this tour, so I couldn’t be more excited. It will be at a bigger and more regulated venue this year, so I’m excited to see how this alters his stage presence. It will be interesting to see how he tops this performance of “Roses.”