My Favourite Gigs Of The Year

So yeah, I really like my best of lists.

I’ve been lucky enough to go to some truly remarkable shows and festivals this year. When 2010 began, I could have never in my wildest dreams imagine that throughout the year I would go to a grand total of 47 gigs, ranging from the best weekend of my life in Splendour In The Grass to some utterly unique and special moments at random $10 gigs.

Melbourne really does have an amazing music scene and this was demonstrated perfectly by this year. Of my ten favourite shows this year, one was free, and three were less than $20. And although I’ve certainly seen some huge international acts this year, I usually find it is the smaller gigs that stick with me for the longest and create the most memorable moments.

Obviously, even more so than with other end of year lists, this is completely subjective. I didn’t go to every gig in Melbourne this year (although I certainly tried), and every individual is going to have a radically different experience at each show. I do this list in part just to reminisce, but also in the hope of perhaps sparking a few good memories for you guys and getting people discussing their own personal favourite shows.

#10: The Good China @ Pure Pop Records

This, my second show at the ultra-hipster Pure Pop Records courtyard, was quite simply amazing, especially considering that the band was missing a member at the time. Even so, they spilled off on all sides of the stage, with one bassist even just sitting down amongst the crowd whilst playing.

It was such a chilled atmosphere in the courtyard, with everyone sitting around respectfully and genuinely enjoying the music. The Good China put on a great show all round, but my favourite moment was easily the magical We Found Three Whistles, a nostalgic track that had the packed courtyard utterly entranced.

#9: Jonathan Boulet @ The East Brunswick Club

I’ve seen Jonathan live five times this year, but yet for some strange reason this last show ended up easily being the most memorable of them all, even including his great set at Splendour. The music was great, but what was even better was somehow spending pretty much the entire show dancing in the front row with five strangers and one mate, completely oblivious to the rest of the crowd.

Oh, and A Community Service Announcement.

#8: White Rabbits @ The Corner Hotel

My first gig of the year was also one of my favourites. I saw White Rabbits live at Falls last year, and I was so impressed by their live show that I knew I had to catch this sideshow a few days after arriving back in Melbourne.

I wasn’t disappointed- the band put on a brilliant show, demonstrating that they really are one of the best live international bands going around at the moment that you can still see in venues as small as the Corner Hotel. The way they continuously swapped instruments (including up to four percussionists) made for a thrilling, powerful, and unique show.

#7: Phoenix @ Festival Hall

I don’t have much else to add about Phoenix that hasn’t already been said. They are the epitome of musical cool, and their live show at Festival Hall was so very slick that it almost seemed unbecoming when they clapped their hands in an effort to get the crowd started.

Not that the crowd needed much encouragement anyway- I was at the barrier for this gig, and even there the energy was intense, as band members routinely jumped down from the stage and ran along the barrier. Phoenix played pretty much the entirety of ‘Wolfgang Amadeus Phoenix’, which was a very welcome choice, and 1901 in particular was an epic closer.

I loved every minute of singing along to every word, jumping up and down with both arms outstretched to the ridiculous light effects on stage.

#6: Laneway

Laneway was the most idyllic day festival imaginable. The lineup was stellar, including Mumford And Sons, The XX, and The Middle East, but more than this it was one of those rare days where every decision my mate and I made turned to gold, whether it was somehow managing to get a barrier spot for Mumford or opting to leave Florence for The Middle East, who put on one of the most magical sets I have ever seen, with the rising moon as a backdrop and gentle lighting along the side of the river.

Looking back most of the acts I really enjoyed were bands I have seen plenty of times since, but what really stuck with me was the venue, the awesome and chilled crowd, and the amazing atmosphere. Bring on Laneway 2011.

#5: Franz Ferdinand @ The Forum

Of the many moshes I have been a part of this year, Franz Ferdinand’s was probably the most intense. It was simply mental, especially for tracks like Take Me Out, Dark Of The Matinee, and This Fire. Franz Ferdinand played pretty much the perfect setlist, and their flawless stage presence was matched with frantic energy from those at the front, which was maintained for the entire show.

Extremely high quality support acts in Yves Klein Blue and The Philly Jays certainly didn’t hurt the gig, and my paper plate setlist that Michael threw to me is still one of my most prize possessions, especially considering it somehow survived the mental Franz Ferdinand mosh. Once again, jumping up and down while singing every word at these shows never really gets old.

#4: Muse @ Rod Laver Arena

This show is impossible to summarise in a few sentences. It was pure insanity, from the giant three towers that formed an integral part of the show, to Matt Bellamy’s outfit, to the outrageous crowd energy that met Muse’s more intense songs, to the giant inflatable eyeballs that floated from the ceiling, to so so much else.

Underpinning all the madness was some great music however, with Starlight and Map Of The Problematique being my personal favourite tracks. Every song offered something however, even if it was just a chance to gaze in wonder at Muse’s stageshow. These guys are the undisputed masters of stadium rock, and it was a thrill to witness them in their prime, even if I’m still a bit sore from the awesome mosh.

#3: The Jezabels @ The Toff

I had goosebumps for this entire show. The Jezabels were that good. And they still are that good of course, as was demonstrated when I saw them again later in the year, but I will always have fond memories of this show, because I went in without much of an idea of what to expect.

And I was simply blown away. The band were flawless, charismatic, talented, the whole package. Plus The Toff really is a great venue for live music, and the crowd were the perfect mix between respectful and amped. The whole show can be summed up by when Hayley held the microphone out to the crowd for the chorus of Hurt Me, saying softly “I’ve never done this before… but I’m going to do it anyway”.

#2: Yves Klein Blue @ The Corner Hotel

Yves Klein Blue are my favourite Australian band (or perhaps I should say ‘were’, because there are heaps of rumours circulating about them breaking up). And this show was my favourite single gig of the year. There were heaps of factors that contributed to this, including top notch support acts in Last Dinosaurs and Cloud Control, a somewhat ferocious and infectious energy in the crowd, and meeting the band after the show.

However the most memorable part of the show was getting up on stage with the band and twenty-or-so other punters for the one and only Getting Wise (my favourite song of theirs), and even singing the chorus into the mic with my arm around Michael, in front of a sold out crowd of hundreds of people, with one of my best mates, while jumping and dance and doing all kinds of ridiculous things. I can honestly say that I will never forget it, and now whenever I hear Getting Wise my mind immediately jumps to this moment and I can’t help but smile.

#1: Splendour In The Grass

But yet, there could only be one choice for my all-round favourite music experience of the year. Splendour In The Grass was the perfect music festival for me. The lineup was out of this world: The Strokes, Jonsi, LCD Soundsystem, and Two Door Cinema Club, not to mention the myriad of quality Australian acts. I honestly believe it is the best festival lineup Australia has ever seen.

In addition the atmosphere was just incredible, the festival grounds were sizeable, the crowd was so very cool, the food was amazing, the weather was perfect, the extra activities and bars were unique and entertaining, the campgrounds were fine, and the stages were diverse and set up perfectly. The music throughout the weekend was just impeccable, with any one day easily containing more great music than any other Australian festival does in its entirity.

I had the time of my life with some really good friends, and could not possibly imagine this trip being any better. Hell, I’m still wearing the wristband.

2 Responses to “My Favourite Gigs Of The Year”

  1. I agree with the smaller gigs being more memorable. They’re more intimate and you really notice what’s been said and the mannerisms of the band.

    Thanks for your music recs this year – you write so well and encourage me to see the smaller gigs.

    Lots of people have been googling for Jonathan Boulet and reached my blog – I didn’t think I’d ever heard of him, let alone mentioned him, then I realised your blog with the review of his show was on my blogroll!

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