As a way of wrapping up The Music Pill's first full year of blogging about all things music, I decided to release three "best of 2011" blogs to summarize what turned out to be a great year in music. The first two blogs focused on albums released in 2011, with the intention of sharing some great music that readers may have either missed or underestimated when it originally came out. These two blogs are available using the links below.
This final "best of" blog for 2011 focuses on my true passion, and the reason I started this blog: To share the things that bands do when they perform live that transforms music into an experience. In my opinion, there's just nothing better than seeing great music performed live by great musicians. With this in mind, The Music Pill is excited to present the 2011 Music Pill Concert Awards.
Click Here to see the 2011 Music Pill Awards - Top 10 Albums
Click Here to see the 2011 Music Pill Awards - Category Awards
2011 was a fantastic year for concerts. The Music Pill (and friends) got to see huge festivals at amphitheaters, intimate shows in venues that could barely fit 1000 people, and pretty much everything in between. While most shows were pretty good, only a handful had all the variables in place to make it a true top-tier show. This blog is meant to recognize those shows that really stood out among the best for one reason or another - to give props for the tireless effort that these musicians put in to transform their music into a live experience.
When looking at these awards, keep in mind that I am really trying to award the best "shows" and not "my favorite bands that I got to see live." While I certainly understand enjoying a live performance simply because you really like the band, that defeats my purpose and so I will try to remain as unbiased as possible. What I try to focus on are shows that change my opinion of a band because of their abilities on stage. I certainly can't remain completely unbiased, because I'm human, but my goal is to recognize shows that really make me want to listen to that band at home, and not the other way around.
So, here we go. Here's the best of the best in live music from last year: The Music Pill's 2011 Concert Awards. Enjoy!!
Best Live Band You Don't Know
Don't feel bad, I didn't know them either, but this performance was all I needed to become a big fan.
2Cents @ Rock On The Range (Columbus Crew Stadium)
This band was anything but a rookie as they rocked out on the Jager stage at Rock on the Range. Rather than tone down their show because of the small space, they used it to their advantage to pack in fans so tight that it felt more like an indoor show. They played 7 or 8 songs of solid, in-your-face metal, and kept up their intensity at a very high level throughout. In addition, there was a ton of crowd participation thanks to hilarious digs by the lead singer towards people he didn't feel were having enough fun. Overall, really really good show for an unknown band, and one that immediately comes to the top of my head when I think of smaller shows in 2011. (click here for the original blog)
Egypt Central @ JJO Band Camp (Alliance Energy Center)
Egypt Central went from a no-name to a musical fad in 2011 thanks to a huge single that made its way onto the NFL network. Their show on the side stage at JJO Bandcamp in Wisconsin more than overcame their relatively thin song library, and they poured out so much energy that you felt like a slacker if you didn't rock out with them. The lead singer was wearing a very David Draiman-esque straight-jacket- vest, but that couldn't hold back his powerful voice and creepy eyes from enthralling and entertaining the audience. For the most part, the crowd at Bandcamp was mediocre, but EC got a HUGE ovation after finishing a short-but-sweet show topped off by their ever-catchy White Rabbit. As this band continues to grow, the question is, can they sustain this amount of energy for longer than 7 songs? (click here for the original blog)
Biggest Surprise Show
Even though I figured these shows would be pretty good, I grossly underestimated them.
Mastodon @ The Egyptian Room (Old National Center)
Mastodon is a very successful Metal band, and 2011 saw the release of The Hunter, which some say is their best album to-date. I was able to catch this show at the Old National Center in the cultural district of Indianapolis, and I was just incredibly shocked at how good it was. Brent Hinds has an incredible voice, and overall, Mastodon was able to take extremely difficult "sludge" metal and bring it to life on stage in near flawless fashion. Mastodon has nearly achieved the impossible by crawling itself out of the metal basement and into mainstream music - a feat they could not have done without an incredible live show to showcase the musical risks that have become their signature style.
Halestorm @ X103's Mayday (Klipsch Music Center)
I'll just come out and say it. Lzzy Hale was born to be on stage. I've never seen a crowd go from silently captivated to raucous applause more instantaneously than they did when Lzzy finished the song Familiar Taste of Poison at X103's Mayday at Verizon Wireless Music Center. (which has since been renamed to Klipsch Music Center) Paired with her brother Arejay doing some unique things on the drums, and some additional creative elements (like a drumline segment), Lzzy has been able to carry Halestorm much further than their music would have on its own. Bottom line: Their music may not be anything special, but their live show definately is. (click here for original blog)
These shows were really elevated by crowd participation and involvement - something every band dreams about.
A Day to Remember @ Rock on the Range (Columbus Crew Stadium)
As much as I love them, there's no doubt that ADtR struggles to keep up with their vocals live. HOWEVER, their show on the new (and much bigger) second stage at Rock on the Range last year was INCREDIBLY fun, and the fans had a huge part in that. Between beach balls and toilet paper going everywhere, 10,000 people jumping at the same time, and one of the biggest circle pits I've ever seen, this show proved that ADtR has a very passionate fan base that really enjoys their music. Vocals is usually something that's critical for me to enjoy a show, but I couldn't help but have a great time at this show, because the crowds energy was addictive. If they continue to improve and grow as a band, and continue to have crowds like this, they could really blow up. (click here for original blog)
Five Finger Death Punch @ Piere's
Piere's is a tiny venue in Ft. Wayne, IN with a great reputation for bringing big shows through. However, with a 2000 person capacity, it simply doesn't have the room to stand around. If you're there, you better be moving, especially with a band like FFDP. This show, on their Share the Welt tour, was PACKED full of fans with high energy, and really ended up being pretty brutal. (In the good way....). The Death Punch guys were obviously fun to watch on stage, but what really makes this show stand out was the crowd. Props to the fans for taking care of each other, and making this show really incredible. (click here for original blog)
Most Improved Show
These bands have taken drastic steps to improve their live performances, and their hard work has paid off.
All that Remains @ Rock on the Range (Columbus Crew Stadium)
I have struggled for years with All that Remains' live show. It seemed like AtR had all the pieces, but just never could put them all together in one sitting. Bolstered with great new material off of their latest album (For We are Many), they played on the main stage at Rock on the Range early in the day to a tired crowd, and they absolutely killed it. Phil sounded better than he ever has, and their timing was much better as well. I started the show excited but a bit skeptical, but ended the show with a big smile on my face, thinking "FINALLY!". Congrats to the AtR guys, who have worked hard for a long time, as this show was a turning point for you in my mind. (click here for original blog)
Asking Alexandria @ Vans Warped Tour (Klipsch Music Center)
Asking Alexandria is a British metalcore band that really blew up in 2011. I first saw them at Rock on the Range in May, and their show was solid, but plagued with technical difficulties and inconsistency. Two months later, on Warped Tour, they seemed to have pulled everything together, and their show had vastly improved in almost every aspect. The electronics were blended instead of overbearing, the vocal screams were well mixed and sounded great, and the band was beaming with confidence as they tore this set up. When I first saw this band, I borderline wrote them off. The second time was a complete game changer.
From mind-blowingly powerful to completely absurd, if you would have only been there...
Korn @ Rock on the Range (Columbus Crew Stadium)
This wasn't even a contest. In all my years of going to concerts, I have absolutely never seen anything like the Korn show at Rock on the Range in 2011. During this show, in which the enormous general admission crowd at ROTR is pushing forward to get as close as possible, there were multiple time periods where both of my feet were off the ground as I clawed to stay upright. The crowd was one giant, massive, dynamic mosh pit and I could barely keep up. I kept thinking that relief had to be close, but the show was insane from beginning to end. Korn always puts on a high energy show, but with the production that this show had, along with the incredible atmosphere that only Rock on the Range can boast, this show is one of the funnest and most miserable memories of my life. It's nearly a year later and the song Falling Away From Me still makes me shudder. (click here for original blog)
Foxy Shazam @ Vans Warped Tour (Klipsch Music Center)
Foxy is a band that I have known about for a while. While it took me a while to fall in love with their music, I had NO trouble falling in love with their live show. There's little doubt it's one of the craziest, funnest, and most wildly entertaining shows out there today. This specific show at Warped Tour was on a tiny stage in the very corner, but there was a decent crowd packed in to see them perform, and those fans were NOT disappointed. Shrieks and screams, somersaults and bear crawls, acrobatic keyboardists and pelvic thrusting horns players, this show had everything you never thought a show needed, in addition to incredibly well written music. My recommendation? Go see a show as soon as possible.
Overall Best Performance
Men among boys at bringing all the elements together to create a fantastic, unforgettable show for their fans. These are the two best performances I saw in 2011.
Avenged Sevenfold @ U.S. Bank Arena
Maybe it was because of the giant release of the Nightmare album, or maybe it was because after a decade of great music, it was finally time for them to pull out all the stops, but A7X was a band not to be missed in 2011. A7X finally had the funds, support, and marketing to put together a GIANT set of shows (on three separate headlining tours) that were just really impressive. I had the pleasure of seeing them three times last year, and the show at U.S. Bank Arena, on the tour that first launched the Nightmare show, was a show I won't soon forget. The show had tremendous production in some parts, and had other parts where the fire and lights simply got out of the way to let M. Shadows and crew do what they do best. It was an emotional show, with piano solos that celebrated the life and contributions of the late James Sullivan, but it also had plenty of huge guitar breakdowns and powerful drum solos that left the crowd blown away at the end. All in all, the guys in Avenged Sevenfold get the EXTREMELY coveted 2011 Concert of the Year Award from the Music Pill. Those that saw this show know that it is very well deserved. Rock on guys!! (click here for original blog)
Clutch @ JJO Bandcamp (Alliance Energy Center)
Somehow, Clutch continues to amaze me over and over. As I said previously, Clutch is one of the best live shows around, and their set at JJO Bandcamp in Madison Wisconsin was another show to remember. In contrast to the extremely high production value that A7X brought to their show, Clutch, as always, used a much simpler, focused approach to mesmerize fans. No wild acrobatics or crazy light shows, just great musicians lost in their own songs, all brought to life by Neil's raspy and incredibly deep vocals. This show reminded me what makes Clutch so great on stage - they are comfortable in their own skin, and they have cohesiveness that only a 15 year veteran band like Clutch can have. It's certainly not flashy, but for my money - you can't beat Mob Goes Wild live at a Clutch show: It was the highlight of the day on Willow Island that day, and one of the great moments in live music for me last year. The Runner Up Concert of the Year for 2011 goes to Clutch for their great work at JJO Bandcamp. (click here for original blog)
Based on my counts, I saw just over 50 bands play last year. All in all, a lot of great shows, and I can't wait to see what 2012 brings to the table!! Cheers to all!!
"This is now your life. Strike you from the light. This is now your life. Die, Buried Alive"
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"Metal confronts what we'd rather ignore. It celebrates what we often deny. It indulges what we fear most, and thats why Metal will always be a culture of outsiders." - The History of Metal on Palladia
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