Me Stage-diving at The Fever 333 performance at The Webster Underground, which did not make my list. Photo credits to Brandon Antoniak.
Well, here we are again. After another 365 days, we’ve come to the new year! 2018 might not have been so great for some things, but the music was as solid as ever. We got some stellar new music and a ton of phenomenal concerts. Being the first year without The Dillinger Escape Plan in the picture, this opened the top spot on the list up to virtually anyone this time around, but I have to say that narrowing this list down to ten performances from 200+ I’ve seen this year was fucking hard. I think it is fair to just run off a few honorable mentions:
10. Lorde at Barclays Center: April 4th
As you may recall, Melodrama was my Album of 2017. It was everything I wanted in a pop record. Fast forward nearly a year since its release, and I finally got to see the young pop icon perform all but one track off this record, as well as a few off her debut project. This show was extravagant, and Lorde herself is such a natural live performer. I danced and screamed my heart out to easily the best arena show I’ve seen this year.
09. Scarlxrd at Baby’s All Right: July 30th
Since the first time I saw this UK rapper’s video for “Heart Attack” late last year, I knew he was an act I had to catch live. When he announced his first-ever New York performance in the summer, I jumped on tickets right away and was treated to one of the most intense live sets I’ve seen yet, and probably the most intense hip-hop show isn’t Death Grips. The crowd acted as if they were at a hardcore show, moshing and stage-diving all through his roughly hour-and-fifteen minute set. Not for a second did the energy stop or slow down. If anything, it got more intense as it progressed, with groups of people stage diving simultaneously by the end of it. An unforgettable night.
08. Kero Kero Bonito at Elsewhere: October 17th
Kero Kero Bonito is the best artist I discovered this year. I fell in love with TOTEP instantly, as I did with Time ‘n‘ Place. I was so worried I wasn’t going to be able to witness their performance this year after it sold out, but I was able to snatch some tickets for list price and attend the show. Being a fuller band now, the group did some different renditions of older tracks, most notably the incredible metal version of their hit “Trampoline.” The entire was magic. The band gave an incredible performance, feeding off the energy of the crowd, which was also not shy about moshing and crowd-surfing.
07. Meek is Murder at Brooklyn Bazaar’s Cellar: April 14th
I wrote a review for their performance that you can view here, but to summarize, picture your favorite local band performing their final show ever in the cellar of a moderately-sized venue with two other amazing local acts (Wreath of Tongues and Mary Todd, the latter of which also disbanded this year). This night was bound to be bloody, sweaty, and a little teary. Even with a broken leg, Mike Keller managed to perform for what was easily the best local show I’ve ever attended, and I don’t think that’s is something that will change for a very long time. I am sad that Meek is Murder is no more, but I could not think of a better way to send them off.
06. Daughters at Brooklyn Bazaar: November 3rd
This show was unreasonably tight--figuratively, as it featured the incredible duo Street Sects, but also literally, given that the entire audience pushed onto the stage as Daughters played a career-spanning set, from Hell Songs up till their latest work of genius, all performed with the perfect balance of hectic energy and elegance you expect of Daughters. Seeing these guys perform at the final Dillinger shows, while great, did not do them justice. They work best in an intimate space and without a barricade to stop them from interacting with their audience. Seeing them play “Daughters Spelled Wrong” in this environment is something dreams are made of. This is certainly a show that will stick with me for a long time, and also made me love their new record even more than I already did.
05. Cult Leader at Saint Vitus Bar: December 8th
I saw Cult Leader twice, back-to-back this year. With God Mother and Primitive Weapons on the bill, I figured I had to. I saw them at Boston’s Great Scott on the 7th, then came back down to New York for the Vitus show on the 8th. Truthfully, both of these performances were incredible, but the one at St. Vitus is that teensy bit better, thanks to the audience participation. I guess that’s par for a sold-out show, but the energy in the room as soon as “I Am Healed” started in New York was off the charts. Don’t even get me started on “Mongrel,” which had the audience pressed against the stage, frothing every word. Having the chance to stage-dive to “Great I Am” was a personal highlight. I hope I get to see this amazing band again sooner rather than later.
04. American Nightmare at Market Hotel: February 17th
I am lucky to say that I have seen both of Wes Eisold’s projects this year. If this list was longer, I would also include his performance with Cold Cave. While I think Cold Cave is better musically, American Nightmare is more memorable live. The music and shows were very different, but this was one of those crazy, exhilarating hardcore shows that stays fun all the way through, without fear of getting knocked out. This was another shows that I lucked out on getting tickets, and I am so glad I spent the night partying hard to classics like “AM//PM” and “Love American,” as well as some of their new self-titled record. It was all the best of hardcore.
We’re down to my top three live performance of the year. As mentioned, this list was hard to make, but I knew from the getgo that these three had to be on it. All video credits to Frank Huang of Max Volume Silence.
BRONZE. Hivesmasher at Brookyln Bazaar: August 18th
When Hivesmasher broke up in 2015, I thought I had blown my chances to ever seen them. But in July, Hivesmasher announced that they would be reuniting to open for underground grindcore legends Enemy Soil. I bought my ticket instantly. This was the grindcore equivalent of the Meek is Murder show for one of the most underrated grindcore bands in the business; and after this glorious preview of Hivesmasher’s strength, I know for certain is that 2019 is going to be the year they raise hell in the scene again. Your extreme metal band should be worried.
SILVER. Wormrot at Saint Vitus Bar: May 24th
I’ve been a fan of Wormrot since Dirge dropped in 2011. At 15 years old, I could not believe its raw aggression, and it inspired me to dive headfirst into underground metal, as well as to form my own grindcore band (shameless self promotion). After all these years, I finally got to see Wormrot perform. It was worth the wait and then some, a 40-minute blast of pent-up aggression that became a work of art all its own. The audience could not contain itself, and I was all for it. It was like meeting that online friend in real life for the first time, and realizing that you are a perfect match. Hopefully, it doesn’t take another seven years for this grindcore trio to return to the States.
There is only one band that could possibly top at this point. I’ve seen them six times in 2018, first as openers for Harms Way, then upgrading to Code Orange. They headlined Amityville Music Hall and came back to Brooklyn to open for Ghostemane. I saw them open one last time for Every Time I Die before this fateful night:
GOLD/PERFORMANCE OF THE YEAR. Vein at Saint Vitus Bar: December 22nd
Even after six shows, I wasn’t prepared to see them go from opening a half-sold show at St. Vitus to headlining a completely sold-out concert with Planning for Burial. In a half-hour, Vein tore Vitus to shreds. I scored a black eye and wouldn’t want it any other way. The endless stage dives, the frantic moshing, the lyrics screamed at the top of a room full of lungs was absolute perfection. Honestly, in a world where The Dillinger Escape Plan no longer exists, we need more bands and audiences with this kind of energy. No other show this year came close to the passion with which Vein play songs like “Doomtech” and “Errorzone” live. Without question, Vein put on my favorite performance of the year.
Concerts have always been the highlights of my year. I go to as many as I can and always have them to look forward to. I cannot wait to see what 2019 has to offer--in fact, I’ve already secured tickets to Ulver’s first-ever set in the United States. Here’s to the new year!
- Alex Brown