Favorite NYC Concerts of 2011

Continuing my year-end listing, here are some of my favorite NYC concerts of 2011. I go to quite a few concerts, and through all the massive and minuscule venues, these are the shows that stand out in my mind at the end of the year.

[See also: Theatre Highlights of 2011]

LCD Soundsystem | Madison Square Garden | 04.02.11

LCD Soundsystem’s final concert was a breathtaking farewell to one of the best bands of the past 10 years. The thousands of people packed into Madison Square Garden reverberated the band’s energy the whole three hours and the set sprawled through their meticulous discography. And when James Murphy transformed the line in “All My Friends” from “to tell the truth, this could be the last time,” to “this will be the last time,” the crowd reached some sort of peak of emotional urgency that I don’t think I’ve felt at another concert, and maybe won’t feel again. This could always be the last time. [Blog Recap]

Jeff Mangum | Town Hall | 10.29.11

Most surreal moment of the year goes to the night of October 29, when I was walking through Times Square in freakishly early snow, people in Halloween costumes all around, and I was going to see Jeff Mangam. Mangam, of Neutral Milk Hotel, has been something of a notorious recluse, releasing a couple of insanely brilliant albums then disappearing for a decade. Then suddenly there he was, playing his old songs with just as much vigor and vulnerability as on Aeroplane Over the Sea. Stranger still, he is now going on tour, and somehow I’m seeing him again in January, when I never thought I would be lucky enough to see him once. [Blog Recap]

The Mountain Goats | Bowery Ballroom | 03.29.11

Spoiler alert: the Mountain Goats’ 2011 album, All Eternals Deck, will without a doubt be making it to my top music list of the year. It’s no secret that I’ve loved the Mountain Goat’s music for a long time, and while the days of seeing John Darnielle in tiny venues with an reverentially silent crowd are probably over, I’m really into their new rock band persona. I would have once worried that a venue like Bowery Ballroom would be too huge for their intimate sound, but the new album was the perfect mix of sonic power while maintaining their obsession-worthy emotional intensity. Can’t wait to see them again. [Blog Recap]

Carissa’s Wierd | NYU | 10.10.11

Here is a band I never thought I’d get to see live. Carissa’s Wierd broke up in 2003, and being that I graduated from high school in Oklahoma that year, I never had a chance to make it up Northeast to see them live. Luckily, they left behind a gorgeous, heartbreaking discography that is haunting and resonates long after the songs end. Their small show at NYU was everyone I could have wanted, with a crowd that seemed to hold its breath for the entire set of their old songs. I can only hope that this won’t be the last reunion. [Blog Recap]

The Weakerthans | Bowery Ballroom | 12.10.11

I actually haven’t had time to do a blog recap, but I have to include the Weakerthan’s amazing concert that I saw last Saturday. The band was headlining four nights at the Bowery Ballroom, each night playing a different album in its entirety. I went on the Reunion Tour night, and it was my first time to see the band live, although I’ve been listening to their music for a long time. While it’s not my favorite album of theirs, the performance was incredible. And yes, I did cry during “Virtute the Cat Explains Her Departure,” just like I do every time I listen to that song. Such is the power of the Weakerthans.

Deer Tick | Pier 54 | 08.11.11

Free concerts, you make summer in New York bearable. My favorite this year was Deer Tick on Pier 54, a slightly unhinged raucous ramble of a show that fit the sort of unruly atmosphere that often characterizes anything that’s free. It was my first time to see Deer Tick play their own music live (see below), and my only complaint was that I wish I’d had some whiskey to go with it. [Blog Recap]

Deervana | Brooklyn Bowl | 06.19.11

Earlier in the year I saw Deer Tick play as Deervana, their Nirvana cover band, at the Northside Festival. The show was the craziest I went to all year, and also the only one with a serious mosh pit, and the only one where the set ended with the band destroying their instruments with bowling balls (Brooklyn Bowl doubles as a bowling alley). It was terrifying fun. [Blog Recap]

Beirut | Northside Festival | 06.17.11

The other highlight for me of the Northside Festival in Williamsburg was Beirut’s outdoor performance. Perhaps I suffered a bit of Stendhal Syndrome seeing Zach Condon play live, but I’m sure I’m not the first. He and the band are really talented and make from-the-past sounding music that’s convincing, yet somehow still contemporary. [Blog Recap]

The Antlers | Ace Hotel | 08.05.11

This was far from an ideal concert viewing experience, what with a crowd mostly at the “secret” free show for the free drinks and free Patron popsicles. Add to that the fact that the Antlers are a band of ethereal, delicate sound and it could have been a disaster. Somehow it wasn’t, at least to me. I also had a few Patron popsicles, of course. Even if it was a little noisy in the Ace Hotel basement, I still really enjoyed the show and the Antlers were fully committed to every song. Plus, their new album, Burst Apart, cannot be listened to enough. [Blog Recap]

The Decemberists | Prospect Park | 06.14.11

The rain was persistent, but the Decemberists made standing in a soggy Prospect Park enjoyable. It was first time I’d seen them since college and I’d actually not really listened to their new music. It was all great, and I’m currently enjoying their new album, The King is Dead. Also, who knew Colin Meloy had it in him to jump that far in the air? Awesome. [Blog Recap]

Patrick Wolf | le Poisson Rouge | 09.17.11

After seeing Patrick Wolf play at le Poisson Rouge, I wished he’d recorded his whole new album, Lupercalia, acoustic. Songs like “Together” were absolutely gorgeous stripped down, and the small venue was perfect for a show with just Wolf accompanied by piano. And the seemingly endless number of instruments he himself played. It was the first time I’d been able to see Wolf and I wasn’t sure if he’d be able to pull off his brilliant vocals live, but he did not at all disappoint. As a bonus, opener Justin Vivian Bond was fantastic. [Blog Recap]

3 thoughts on “Favorite NYC Concerts of 2011

  1. […] [See also: Favorite NYC Concerts of 2011] […]

  2. […] I’m going to be a little less ambitious than last year, when I did a list of my 40 favorite songs of 2010, and just do my 15 favorite songs of 2011. I’ve paired them all with Flickr Commons images (click the photos to find out more about each), and have a couple of legal downloads where available. Enjoy! [See also: Favorite NYC Concerts of 2011] […]

  3. […] they made it onto my favorite NYC concerts of 2011 list, I haven’t had a chance to give the Weakerthans’ December 10 show at the Bowery […]

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