Every year that goes by I cross a few more must-sees off my list and 2015 was no different. I finally got to see longtime favourites Bad Religion and the Headstones. I saw the Dave Matthews Band (again) with the only other person I know who likes the Dave Matthews Band. I pulled people out of their house to go shows, even though they never leave their houses for such things. But for my ears and eyes, these were the five best shows I saw in 2015:
The Roots – Vancouver, BC @ The Orpheum Theatre, June 30, 2015
Few bands have proved more elusive to me over my years of concert-going than The Roots. This band made me truly love hip-hop and helps me keep my faith in the genre when it starts to wane. I’ve had shows sell out within minutes before I could get tickets and had a festival cancelled at the last minute by a freak summer storm as I stood against the front fence. When they took the stage in Vancouver this summer, and me being an unrelenting fanboy, my heart tried to jump out of my chest and my eyes got all stingy and watery. I was feet from one of the defining bands of my lifetime and it was hard to contain the emotion swelling inside me. It was harder to stay still as I spent the entire two-plus-hour show (all The Roots, no opener) on my feet, dancing and being generally captivated.
Fort Knox Five w/ Qdup – Salmo, BC @ Shambhala Music Festival, August 8, 2015
Shortly before Fort Knox Five’s tenth appearance at Shambhala Music Festival, that bastion of EDM goodness in Salmo, British Columbia, their fearless leader and afro-enthusiast Jon Horvath fell ill, and he died shortly after the festival. Much of the talk amongst Shambhala-ites in the lead-up to the festival was about how Fort Knox Five’s set would be handled. Instead of our worst fears being realized in the form on a cancellation, FKF’s Steve Raskin called up fellow Washington, DC funkster Qdup and the duo, with a four-deck setup, dropped one of the most fun, diverse breaks sets of the year. The packed crowd danced their asses off under the watchful gaze of Jon H.’s visage, being displayed on the many screens in Fractal Forest. I don’t often use the terms “powerful” or “moving” to describe electronic music, but both apply in equal parts to the best dance party of the year.
3. St. Paul and the Broken Bones – Vancouver, BC @ the Rickshaw Theatre, February 19, 2015
There weren’t many bands who blew up like St. Paul and the Broken Bones in 2015, and in a few years I’ll be able to say I saw them before they were famous. At the Rickshaw Theatre, buried in the heart of East Vancouver, the band was on fire from the moment they took the stage. Ripping through songs from their debut, Half the City, and a wonderfully curated selection of covers (including David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and Radiohead’s seminal classic “Creep”), the set affirmed the band’s abilities as one of the tightest bands in soul music and frontperson Paul Janeway’s place as the most entertaining lead in music right now.
Ryan Adams – Victoria, BC @ Royal Theatre, May 26, 2015
Ryan Adams might have my favourite voice in music. Like many people my age, Adams’ music has defined the lovesick despair of life for years, and seeing him in a solo setting, just him and his guitar, was affecting on another level. With his face hidden under his glorious mop of hair and battling through a broken rib, Adams played a set that touched on every stage of his vast catalogue, with a surprisingly hefty dose of tracks from his all-time sad-bastard classic, Heartbreaker. I also came out of the show with this wonderful piece of advice: If you’re going to go watch Ryan Adams, make sure you are sitting next to your ex-girlfriend, that you used to listen to a lot of Ryan Adams with. I promise it’s super comfortable and not weird at all.
Father John Misty – Langford, BC @ Rock the Shores Festival, July 19, 2015
This was a hard choice because it was at a festival and not a headlining spot, so his set was under an hour in total, but, good lord, Father John Misty is just so damned captivating. The year that brought the release of his instant classic, I Love You, Honeybear, was the perfect time to have experienced him live for the first time. I was so impressed with the way the man slinks around the stage, making subdued love to the crowd as he croons. His stage banter was witty and on point. “What the fuck happened? I used to be in Fleet Foxes.” The soulful nihilism that defines the man’s records is shockingly even more powerful and all-encompassing in the live setting. It has me eagerly anticipating getting my eyes and ears on a proper Father John Misty headline show next year.