Hi, I hope you’ve had a good Christmas. I’ve told you my favourite albums of 2013, but to me live music is just as important as recorded music, so here are my top ten gigs of 2013 too. Like with albums, there are probably great gigs of 2013, that I missed. I wasn’t able to make it to Leeds Festival this year, but if I had done I assume some bands that played that would’ve been in this list (i.e. Deftones, Biffy Clyro, Nine Inch Nails). But out of all the gigs I did go to this year, these are the ten best.
P.S. I know all but one of these were in Leeds. I live in Leeds. Cut me some slack.
10. LostAlone-The Cockpit, Leeds, 20/02/13.
LostAlone’s huge classic rock influenced sound is capable of satisfying arena crowds, so playing the Cockpit’s living room sized smallest room was a walk in the park for them. Songs like ‘Do You Get What You Pray For’ and ‘Blood Is Sharp’ will make anyone move, while songs like ‘Love Will Eat You Alive’ can ignite extremely strong sing-alongs for a small crowd. But the highlight of the gig was when singer/guitarist Steven Battelle sat in in the middle of the room with the audience for an acoustic version of ‘We Are the Archaeology of the Futures Past’.
9. Itch-The Cockpit, Leeds, 18/11/2013.
I had high hopes for this. I’d seen Itch’s old band The King Blues three times and they were always amazing, so I expected greatness at a solo gig, and greatness was accomplished. His new rap direction had the crowd going rowdy, but that didn’t stop him going into the crowd during ‘Deep End’ before climbing on the Cockpit’s bar. There was obviously differences to a King Blues show, but at the heart of this show there was the same energy, passion and determination to make an impact that he’d always had.
8. Savages-Vox Warehouse, Leeds, 11/11/2013.
It was intense. Bloody hell it was intense. I’ve been afraid at gigs before, but for reasons like been in a violent mosh pit or because the band’s singer jumped over my head, not because someone was staring into my soul with a moody look on their face. That’s what Savages’ frontwoman Jehnny Beth did to me at this show, as I’m sure she did to everyone she laid eyes upon. But like with horror movies people still had fun. It was hard not to move to Gemma Thompson‘s scratchy riffs and Ayse Hassan‘s thick basslines.
7. Blacklisters-British Wildlife Festival-Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 01/03/2013.
I got a day ticket for the Friday of this festival where I got to see Hawk Eyes who were excellent with their speed of light riffs, and Mucky Sailor (dressed up as sailors) who weren’t as great, but alright with their synth-noise. I had to leave before headliners, That Fucking Tank unfortunately, but before that I got to see Blacklisters, who were excellent. Playing songs off their almost self-titled album, BLKLSTRS, as well as treating us to some excellent sounding new songs (that I’m still dying to hear recorded). This show was simply about having a bloody good time to a bloody noisy racket (except for the slow burning Ask Yourself The Question If The Answer Is Go Fuck Yourself). Vocalist Billy had a madman persona through the night, best shown during final song ‘Trickfuck’ where he slowly strode around the room screaming at everyone and giving out a funky (not in a good way) looking black sludgy drink to people at the front of the stage.
6. Retox-Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 17/07/2013.
They didn’t even acknowledge the stage. They just they set up on the floor and went crazy there. It was short (it was bound to be, their first album lasts around 10 minutes and their second lasts around 20), but it was sweet. That’s if your definition of sweet is loud, political punk. Frontman Justin Pearson was gnarly, constantly jumping off the drums, and going through the crowd yelling in people’s faces as was guitarist Michael Crain who had no problem playing up against bystanders.
5. Chelsea Light Moving-Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 18/06/2013.
Chelsea Light Moving features my favourite guitarist Thurston Moore, formally of Sonic Youth, and this show was the perfect demonstration of why I think he’s the best at his instrument. It was LOUD. The feedback Thurston could create felt like walls of noise closing in on you, like the garbage room scene in Star Wars: A New Hope. At one point he was merely taping the back of his guitar neck, and even that sounded cool. He doesn’t play the guitar so much as the guitar is an organ he breathes through. He breathes wonderfully. Even when a string broke and the show was paralyzed (something I’ve seen send lesser bands into a total panic), Thurston took it as an opportunity to quiz crowd members on bands that were on their band t-shirts, as well as just joking about playing the guitar lead instead. And despite most people probably being Sonic Youth fans just here to see Thurston, other members stuck out. John Moloney was a fine sticksman who increased the band’s loudness, and bassist Samara Lubelski even treated us to some beautiful violin. I don’t think anyone, Chelsea Light Moving fan or not, left not spellbound.
4. Rolo Tomassi-Brudenell Social Club, Leeds, 12/05/2013.
Rolo Tomassi themselves were excellent, but the support acts helped make this gig extra special, as each band on the bill stood out with something unique to bring to the table. First was Super Luxury with their extremely loud, extremely energetic noise rock; then Dirty Beaches with their ambient electronica, accompanied by a light show that made you feel like you were in the future; Bastions who couldn’t stop jumping all over the place to their pissed off hardcore punk and then of course Rolo Tomassi themselves. Their math/death metal with elements of dreamy synth pop is always impressive, but the way it’s delivered live, with front woman Eva Spence gracefully/joyfully dancing as if she was in the ballet rather than an extremely heavy band, impossibly adds to their diversity. Their sound obviously prompted many a crowd member to dance themselves, and some to even invade the stage in order to hijack the mics during ‘Party Wounds’. They were so good, that I was kicking myself for not seeing them before.
3. Letlive.-The Cockpit, Leeds, 06/10/2013.
If there’s any band that I think are going to be looked back on as legendary for their actions in 2013, I think it’s Letlive., and that’s due to what they’re like live as much as it is their excellent album The Blackest Beautiful. Frontman Jason Aalon Butler arguably the most hyperactive man you will ever see, spending the vast majority of the show spinning rapidly, swinging his arms rapidly, swinging his legs rapidly, stage diving, crowd surfing, you name it. He even played keepy uppy with a huge amp and climbed The Cockpit’s rafters, breaking a lamp in the process. The gig ended with him and guitarist Jeff Sahyoun crowd surfing together, each of them (along with the fans) trying to play the guitar. Bands this wild and destructive don’t tend to go on for a long time, so see Letlive. while they’re still around, or you’ll regret it forever.
2. Pure Love-The Duchess, York, 09/02/2013.
A lot of bands try to make everyone at their shows have just as good a time as each other, but Pure Love are the only band I’ve ever seen where you can honestly say the people at the front have had just as thrilling a time as people at the back. That’s due to Pure Love’s frontman Frank Carter and guitarist Jim Caroll spending about 5% of the gig onstage and 95% running around on the floor or crowdsurfing as they perform, getting all over the place and in every single persons face (and hands) at least once. Anyone who saw Carter with his old band Gallows, will be aware that any gig he’s performing at is bound to get hectic, but this impossibly possibly surpassed the madness of any time I saw Frank with Gallows. The show ended with the whole band playing in the middle of a circle pit. It’d be the highlight of nearly any other gig, but it was icing on the cake at this one.
1. The Dillinger Escape Plan-The Cockpit, Leeds, 02/11/2013.
Like with the Rolo Tomassi gig, the supports for this one helped made it incredible. MaybeSheWill and Three Trapped Tigers were mesmerising instrumental bands, that served as the most breath taking calm before the most thunderous storm. That said though if Dillinger had some crazy heavy bands supporting them, those bands would probably be calm in comparison, as The Dillinger Escape Plan are by far the most mental band I’ve ever seen. Not just my favourite gig of 2013, but as I said in my review of it, my favourite gig ever. I’d been to enough gigs prior to this to think I’d seen everything, but I’d never seen anyone playing guitar while hanging upside down from the ceiling. I’d never seen a frontman run on people’s heads and shoulders. I’d never seen such a high and consistent level of energy that any second of this gig could single headedly be more impressive than most full gigs I’d been to. I’d never seen The Dillinger Escape Plan before. I knew of their reputation and had seen much footage, but actually being at one of their gigs felt like discovering a new world, because I felt like there was everything to discover about this band and gig going in general as there was a genuine sense that absolutely anything could happen at any second.
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