by Matthew Thompson
I went to my first concert when I was in the fourth grade. My parents took my brother and I to go see Aerosmith. Ever since it feels like going to see bands play live has been a part of my life. Even so, I think my love of them had waned a bit in recent years. As I age, I don’t quite love being on my feet or standing in crowds for such long periods. This year kind of rekindled my love for the live show though. And now I’m going to run down my five favorites from this past year. Here it goes!
Firefly Music Festival
If I had to pick a favorite concert from 2016, I’d have to go with Firefly. I have been to quite a few local radio station festivals and things like Warped Tour, but Firefly was on a whole other level. I knew it was big before going, but I don’t think I had a grasp for the scope of it until I was there. It is a massive four-day festival in my neighboring state of Delaware that rivals some of the more famous ones from around the country. Even though I only went for a single day, it was quite the experience.
Of course, it wouldn’t be so memorable if there weren’t bands I was into there and Firefly definitely delivered from that standpoint as well. The highlight and the reason I went was to see my favorite band Chvrches play. They were awesome as always. Death Cab for Cutie followed them. They were my favorite back in my college days and help define that era of my life when I think back on it. I had never seen them perform live, so that was a real treat. And then in a truly surreal moment, Lauren Mayberry, the lead singer of Chvrches, came out and did a song with Death Cab. It was like a melding of two musical eras of my life. It was insane. I got to see a bunch of other great bands too like Florence + the Machine, M83, Atlus Genius and Pvris.
Finally, I think I will always remember this show as the one that made me addicted to getting close to the stage. I’m not the hugest fan of being crammed into big crowds of people, but when I saw the opportunity to get close before Chvrches came on, me and my buddy decided to jump on it. We managed to get within about 8-10 rows of center stage and it made the experience that much more special.
Radio 104.5 Summer Block Party w/ Chvrches and Miike Snow
My favorite local radio station puts on these free shows every month during the summer each year and in what felt like a wonderful birthday present to me Chvrches was playing the week before mine in mid-September. Despite being free, you have to download the tickets during certain times and I was able to score four. My best friend, my brother and his girlfriend went with me. Seeing Chvrches again was just fantastic. I’ve never enjoyed seeing a band live as much as I do them. This was post-Firefly, so I once again fought to get upfront and managed to get into the third row by the end. I was kind of freaking out. I also had my new phone at this point as you can tell from the improved picture quality. Miike Snow who I have enjoyed for years played as well and it was cool to see them too.
Tegan and Sara
This ticked all the boxes for a great show. I love the band. They put on a stellar performance, a long set with fun banter in between songs. I actually knew and enjoyed the opening act, Torres. I think what impressed me about this concert was that Tegan and Sara really delved into the depth of their catalog. Many tours put a large focus on the new album which is understandable, but it sometimes comes at the expense of those wanting to hear older tunes. This was my first time seeing Tegan and Sara, so I was definitely hoping to hear some of my old favorites and they delivered playing my two favorite songs of theirs “Nineteen” and “The Con.” I feel like they delivered a terrific mix of songs from throughout all eight of their albums which was an impressive feat.
Jukebox the Ghost
I’m not quite as passionate about Jukebox the Ghost’s music as Chvrches, Tegan and Sara or Phantogram. I like it, but don’t love it I guess. But I don’t think I have ever seen a band live with better stage presence. It made the whole thing feel like so much more than just hearing some of their songs live. Like they brought out a wheel to spin that included songs they don’t usually play and did a few from that including a song they wrote for a cartoon and a normal hit of theirs where the band swapped instruments (which sounded surprisingly good!). They also covered my favorite classic rock song “Under Pressure” by Queen and David Bowie and threw in an extra song for the encore since this was the last stop on their tour. Some of this might sound gimmicky, but I think the fact that they weren’t playing the same setlist as every other concert made it feel a bit more special. My friend and I also got to meet the band after the show and talk with them for a bit. I didn’t get any good pictures from the concert itself, but above you can see a shot of us with lead singer Ben Thornewill (I am the one on the right in the hat for those that don’t know).
In truth, this concert wasn’t on the same level as the rest on this list. There were some weird quirks about the show that I didn’t like. For instance, they put a net down in front of the stage to bounce video/lights off for part of it. It probably looked cool from further back, but just felt like a hindrance for those of us closer to the stage. But there were a bunch of other things that made the experience more memorable to me. I like to try to see a live show for my favorite album of the year if there is a tour around. So I got to do that here. But by the time I listened to this, their stop in Philly was super close, so I decided to buy a ticket the night before and go. Spur of the moment things like this aren’t really me. And as ridiculous as this sounds, I had never driven to Philly on my own. I had this sort of near-accident on the way there when I was young as a passenger and had this somewhat irrational fear of driving there. So as many times as I’ve been to Philly, I always ride along with someone else or take the train. So along with a seeing a cool band at a new venue I’d never been to, I was able to tackle a fear/anxiety issue as well. I realize it sounds a little silly, but it made the whole thing cooler for me. The concert itself was fun too, just not on the level of the four I talked about above.
That will do it for my look back at my concert-going experiences from 2016. Did you attend any this year? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments below. I would love to hear about them. Next week I will move onto talking about the best TV shows of 2016, so be on the lookout for that. As always, thanks for reading!