So, the year comes to a close: A year of road trips and friends and bands and alcohol. Among the many other things I’ve done this year was see a ton of shows. So many that I can’t remember most of them, because I have a bad memory and a year is a long time… like 300-something days, I think. That said, here are the best live experiences I saw in 2015:
Honorable mention: A Wilhelm Scream – Albany, NY @ The Low Beat, December 14, 2015
I really hesitated putting this one on this list at all, so I made it an honourable mention. The reason is I booked this show. I don’t book shows very often because… well, it’s a pain in the ass. That said, I put this together and it came out pretty well, considering I started the process all of two weeks before it happened. Perhaps I’m vibing on the show more out of a sense of accomplishment than the show itself. That said, I’ve never seen A Wilhelm Scream put on a less-than-stellar show and this one, at a sardines-in-a-can bar, was no exception. Tight spaces, loud noises, circle pits. That’s really what it’s all about, right?
5. The Bouncing Souls/Beach Slang – Albany, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall, October 16, 2015
It’s rare a good show comes to my town. It’s even rarer a show with a lineup with more than one great band comes to my town. To see the Bouncing Souls play my town alone would have made me giddy. To be able to see them with punk rock wunderkinds Beach Slang was surreal. Tons of friends that I don’t get to see often made it out (including one who just had vocal surgery, because: punx) the night just blurred together wonderfully and for once punk was alive and well in my hometown.
4. Teenage Bottlerocket – Providence, RI @ Firehouse 13, September 22, 2015
I went out to this show somewhat last minute if I recall correctly. I think it was to solve a Fest conflict I had with Teenage Bottlerocket’s set time. There was a great lineup in a town I liked, in a venue I had yet to go to. What more convincing did I need? I made the trip out and am super glad I did. It was one of my favourite TBR performances, though I’ve been privileged to many. A great balance of old and new (including my favourite tune off their latest record: “I Wanna Die”) a powerful energy and, best of all, good sound. The vocals were crystal clear. This was a great show, all-around. Unfortunately, this show would also hold a somber significance later: this was the last time I saw TBR drummer Brandon Carlisle play music before his unexpected death last month. Rest in peace, Brandon.
3. Bad Religion – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club, June 15 and 16, 2015
I’ve seen Bad Religion a few times but this time was very special. It was special, not just because they did two nights, one playing pre-00s stuff, and one night doing their more recent albums, but because, for some unknown reason, they played the Paradise in Boston. Normally accustomed to seeing them in a massive venue like House of Blues Boston, this was an incredible treat. While HOB Boston has a max capacity of 2,500, Paradise has a comparatively paltry 933, which feels like a 500-person venue. It was an intoxicating atmosphere and I enjoyed every second of it.
2. War On Women – Fest 14, Gainesville, FL @ High Dive, October 31, 2015
I wrote about this set for my Fest write-up and, frankly, I don’t care. I’ve seen this band in a lot of small places and while they’ve grown and made a name for themselves recently, they aren’t exactly a household name, or whatever the punk equivalent is. So to gather in a room with people of all races and genders and nationalities, and scream our fucking hearts out to every last word, was an incredibly cathartic and satisfying experience. It certainly helped make up for the times I felt I was the only person in the room who knew who War on Women were.
1. A Wilhelm Scream – Burlington, VT @ Monkey House, March 23, 2015
I’ve seen this band more than… well, more than you: over 50 (53, to be exact) times as of the writing of this article. You can say I’m a fanboy. You’re right, and there’s good reason. While I’ve never seen A Wilhelm Scream not kill it live, I don’t always get a great vibe from the crowd, for differing reasons. However, this show was perfect in that sense. The crowd was rowdy and energetic and there to have a great time, and no one had so much energy that they became blind to the rest of the room, and hurt whoever got in their way in the name of fun. The show had mic-grabbing, singing along and a general sense of in-it-togetherness that drew me to punk in the first place. I’m pretty sure I was tasting blood by night’s end. Hands down the show of the year.