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Lists: David Malitz's top 237 shows of 2009

Jay-ZJay-Z's Inauguration Eve show at the Warner Theatre was historic.

This is my favorite year-end list to make because I feel it's the most definitive. I made sure to wait until the very end so I could have a full report. The 2009 tally was 237 shows and 428 bands. Not a bad total. For the record, I counted each time I went to a different venue as a different show. There were plenty of marathon days (Virgin Festival, Siren Festival, each night of XX Merge, etc.) that only counted once, so I figure it evened out the days at SXSW when I saw 10 "shows." Top 15 are blurbed with a (mostly) complete list of rankings after the jump. (Yes, I keep a spreadsheet with scores.) Lots of the bands were locals/friends, so no need to include all of those.

1. Jay-Z, Warner Theatre (Jan. 19)
Inauguration Eve seems so long ago. Then, Jay-Z and Obama were almost completely infallible. Now? Not so much. But that entire week was a celebration for the ages and Jay-Z took it upon himself to throw the best party of all. (With tickets costing up to $500, he better have.) There were guests galore -- Mary J. Blige, Young Jeezy, Beyonce, an audience packed with celebrities -- but there was no question who the star of the evening was. Hova was breathing fire all night, backed by a brassy big band, a set that was mega-hit after mega-hit. Pure euphoria.
Original Review

2. Lambchop, Cat's Cradle (July 24, Chapel Hill, N.C.)
No wonder Arcade Fire or Neutral Milk Hotel didn't make an unannounced appearance at the end of Merge's 20th anniversary celebration. How could they possibly want the task of performing after the festival-stealing set by the Kurt Wagner-led Nashville collective that turned its alt-country/soul/chamber-rock/gospel hybrid into a life-affirming experience? This set was all people were talking about for the rest of the week; a recently released CD of the concert confirms that it was indeed a career-defining performance. Right before the band launches into "Up With People" a woman can be heard shrieking uncontrollably while another repeatedly shouts, "So good! So good!" They were both right.
Original Review

3. Future of the Left, Radio Room (March 20 - Austin, Tex.)
It was like a perfect hit job by professional assassins. Violent, brutally efficient, and done right in the middle of the day, to boot. Each song was like another precise bullet. It was the best of the five times I saw them play this year but be assured that every other show was its own show-no-mercy slugfest.
Original Review

(Another 400, after the jump.)

Paul McCartneyMcCartney could do no wrong at FedEx Field in August. (By Tracy A. Woodward -- The Washington Post)

4. Paul McCartney, FedEx Field (Aug. 1)
If the feeling at the Jay-Z show was euphoria, McCartney presided over a more simple pure joy. Not even the nightmare that is FedEx Field could wipe the smiles from the faces of 50,000 fans, spanning multiple generations, waving their arms and singing along to some of the greatest pop songs every written. No special effects were needed and none provided. Who needs those when you can encore with "Day Tripper," "I Saw Her Standing There," "Get Back" and "The End"?
Original Review

5. Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Birchmere (May 23)
Will Oldham and his band looked like they crawled out of a commune that has been tucked away for centuries in some nook in the Appalachians. And the music they played sounded the same -- sweeping doom folk highlighted by Oldham's calmly delivered lyrics packed with themes of dread.
Original Review

6. Juana Molina, Iota (Feb. 28)
Absolutely entrancing. The Argentinian former sitcom star was alone on stage, just her voice and an array or samplers and synths surrounding her. As she triggered layer upon layer of electronic rhythms her voice kept ascending to another level, creating a swirling sensation.

7. Destroyer, Black Cat (July 28)
A rare treat -- the decade's best songwriter (that's right) taking the stage with nothing but an acoustic guitar, his iconoclastic, idiosyncratic songs maintaining all their quirks as he chirped and cooed his way through impenetrable lyric after impenetrable lyric.

8. Bob Mould Band, 9:30 club (Oct. 10)
This year I read approximately 49,329 show reviews that used the word "killed" when describing a band's set. That word should really be reserved for performances such as this one, in which the alt-rock lifer led his crack band through a supercharged set that featured highlights from each phase of his career. Mould never eased off the gas pedal the entire evening -- full acceleration throughout.

9. Times New Viking, Talking Head (Nov. 14, Baltimore)
One of my very favorite bands, but I had never seen them play a truly great set. That changed this time, when 35 or so lucky fans got to see the best band of the entire lo-fi crop prove that its their songs, not their fidelity (or lack thereof) that makes them so special.

10. Spoon, George Washington University - Mount Vernon Campus (April 25)
No great band is more hit-and-miss in concert than Spoon. Maybe they were excited because of the circumstances -- outdoor show, absolutely perfect spring afternoon, countless coeds in sundresses. Maybe they were inspired because of the wealth of new material that was performed. Whatever it was, there was plenty of deserved swagger and every single song was immaculately constructed and with an unparalleled sense of dynamics.
Original Review

11. Primal Scream, 9:30 club (March 27)
Watching this performance it became completely apparent how this band once headlined 80,000-person festivals. The Scottish band has a massive sound. There have been so many failed marriages of electronic music and rock that it's jarring -- and awesome -- to hear the genres mingle so well together. Of course, that says nothing of Primal Scream's excellent takes on bluesy riff rock and surging garage rock.
Original Review

12. Kurt Vile, Velvet Lounge (April 25)
I could almost make a top 10 list of Kurt Vile gigs I saw this year (finished with 7). This was the only one of the bunch that was entirely solo acoustic and it's my favorite mostly because of one moment. After he played a seven-song set of dreamy, meditative, fingerpicked folk, he announced his set was done. The crowd clamored for more, he wondered out loud if he had any other songs he could play, then said, "Oh yeah, I got one!" smirked, and played a stunning, stop-you-in-your-tracks version of "He's Alright," a standout from his "Childish Prodigy" album.

13. TV on the Radio, 9:30 club (June 8)
There was still a bit too much art-rock dabbling, but even those songs served a purpose. Because there was simply no way to maintain the tornado-like intensity of songs such as "The Wrong Way" and "Wolf Like Me," which achieved an electro-soul-rock bliss.
Original Review

14. Waco Brothers, Iota (Sept. 5)
Yet another afternoon show. Jon Langford and crew literally parked the van in front of the club, loaded the equipment on stage, plugged in and ripped through 90 minutes of punk-informed, bar-band, fist-pumping anthems.

15. TV Ghost, Velvet Lounge (Oct. 11)
We're inundated with safe bands these days, ones that you can take home to mom and dad, or at least feel comfortable with talking to after the show. TV Ghost is not one of those bands. They played a short set of fierce post-punk that was all slashing guitars and nervous energy vocals -- dangerous.

The Rest
These are straight rankings based on assigned scores.

Future of the Left
Future of the Left
Future of the Left
Future of the Left
Kurt Vile + Violators
The Homosexuals
Thee Oh Sees
The War on Drugs
Gentleman Jesse and His Men
Echo and the Bunnymen
Animal Collective
The Jesus Lizard
The Homosexuals
Mi Ami
Let's Wrestle
Kurt Vile
Imperial Teen
Free Energy
Thee Oh Sees
Matt Suggs
Love Is All
Kurt Vile + Violators
Franz Ferdinand
The Pixies
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Hold Steady
The Breeders
Surf City
Built to Spill
Bill Callahan
Animal Collective

Yo La Tengo
The Ropers
The Points
The Clientele
Ted Leo/Pharmacists
Richard Buckner
Real Estate
Pierced Arrows
Micachu and the Shapes
Male Bonding
Male Bonding
Gentleman Jesse and His Men
Eat Skull
Comet Gain
Carsick Cars
Title Tracks
The Shirks
Public Enemy
Fountains of Wayne
Flaming Lips
Double Dagger
Dinosaur Jr.
Deleted Scenes
Built to Spill
Abe Vigoda
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Two Cow Garage
The Thermals
The Coathangers
Sonic Youth
Kurt Vile + the Violators
Kurt Vile
Jay Reatard
Ty Segall
Todd Snider
The Magnetic Fields
The Intelligence
The Axemen
Suns of Guns
Real Estate
Real Estate
Major Stars
Los Campesinos!
Ida Maria
Harlem Shakes
Blank Dogs
Wreckless Eric & Amy Rigby
White Rabbits
Title Tracks
The Pretenders
Sonic Youth
P.K. 14
Kleenex Girl Wonder
Double Dagger
Crystal Stilts

Amadou & Mariam
Wye Oak
Wye Oak
Title Tracks
The Duke & the King
Mika Miko
King Khan and the Shrines
King Khan and the Shrines
Jay Reatard
Harlem Shakes
Graham Smith
Fiery Furnaces
Bruce Springsteen
Titus Andronicus
The xx
The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
The Entrance Band
The Coathangers
Let's Wrestle
Hope Sandoval and the Warm Inventions
Garotas Suecas
Dan Deacon
Crystal Stilts
Brendan Benson
Wye Oak
The Sonics
The New Flesh
The Drones
Tenement Halls
Starlight Mints
Oakley Hall
Kurt Vile + the Violators
Jay Reatard
Holly Golightly
Echo and the Bunnymen
Deleted Scenes
Christmas Island
Camera Obscura
Box Elders
Tokyo Police Club
Sick Weapons
Radar Bros.
Psychedelic Horse[expletive]
Psychedelic Horse[expletive]
P.K. 14
Grand Duchy
Golden Triangle
Bob Dylan
Blues Control
Wye Oak
Tom Jones
[Expletive] Buttons
Christmas Island

These United States
The Rosebuds
St. Vincent
Scarcity of Tanks
Laughing Man
Junior Boys
Hunx and His Punx
Cut Copy
Cass McCombs
Blues Control
Thee Lexington Arrows
The Broken West
Surfer Blood
Radar Bros.
Psychedelic Horse[expletive]
More Humans
Lo Moda
Lightning Dust
Hands and Knees
Guinea Worms
Gringo Star
Chain and the Gang
Austin Lucas
Atlas Sound
The Hold Steady
Terrible Twos
St. Vincent
Oakley Hall
Ladybug Transistor
Harlem Shakes
Get Him Eat Him
Dark Meat
Casper Bangs
Box Elders
American Music Club
Tiny Vipers
The Love Language
Taylor Swift
Slow Jerks
Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson
Hank IV
Fleet Foxes
Drug Rug
Daniel Johnston
Chain and the Gang
Cause Co-Motion
Andrew Bird
Americans in France
A Place to Bury Strangers
The Van Pelt
The Beets
St. Vincent
Max Tundra
Jimmy Eat World
James Husband
Hue Blanc's Joyless Ones
Benjy Ferree
Bear Hands
Alec Ounsworth

White Rabbits
Taylor Swift
Screen Vinyl Image
Psychedelic Horse[expletive]
M. Ward
I Was A King
Fred Yonnet
Frankie Rose and the Outs
Erectus Monotone
Crystal Antlers
Air Waves
The Raveonettes
The Hive Dwellers
Food For Animals
Samantha Crain
Ra Ra Riot
Los Lobos
Ladybug Transistor
Human Eyes
Grand Duchy
Eternal Summers
An Horse
The xx
The Subjects
The Gossip
Ringo Deathstarr
Little Gold
The Rapture
U.S. Royalty
The Essex Green
Dustin Wong
Donny Hue and the Colors
Adam Arcuragi
(The Sounds of) Kaleidoscope
Dead Meadow

Fake Male Voice
Dirty Projectors
Cymbals Eat Guitars
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
Conor Oberst and the Mystic Valley Band
Antony and the Johnson
The Cave Singers
Skygreen Leopards
Passion Pit
Passion Pit
Old Calf
Girl Talk
Former Ghosts
Child Ballads
Bell X1
The Van Pelt
The Safes
Green Day
Wooden Birds
True Womanhood
Middle Distance Runner
Juliette and the New Romantiques
Bat For Lashes
Cotton Jones
The Very Best
Lil Wayne
Blues Control
Lady Gaga
Poison Arrows
Gary War
Des Ark
Bear Hands
Lou Barlow w/Imaad Wasif
Bear In Heaven

The Black Hollies
Cat Power
Jonas Brothers
Endless Boogie
She & Him
Mon Non Plus
Chris Cornell
Wu-Tang Clan
The Dead
Radio 4
Lou Barlow
Champagne Champagne

Jamie Foxx
Reni Lane
George Clinton & P-Funk All-Stars
The Kills
Mary Gauthier
Freelance Whales
The Paper Chase
Neon Indian
Yes Giantess
The XYZ Affair

By David Malitz  |  December 31, 2009; 3:44 PM ET
Categories:  Lists  | Tags: Bob Mould, Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Destroyer, Future of the Left, Jay-Z, Juana Molina, Kurt Vile, Lambchop, Paul McCartney, Primal Scream, Spoon, TV Ghost, TV on the Radio, Times New Viking, Waco Brothers  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Lists: Music editor Joe Heim's top albums of 2009
Next: Coda: ?uestlove's D.C. faves, the story of "Psychic City," 237 concerts


104 shows and 245 bands for me, but it's just a hobby.

#1 for me was Paul McCartney, but with Ringo in NYC, anticipation high all night as no one would confirm they would play together.

Posted by: Hemisphire | December 31, 2009 4:53 PM | Report abuse

poor Girls. Can't even do better than Jamie Foxx.

Posted by: josh18 | December 31, 2009 9:03 PM | Report abuse

Damn. I only ended up with a meager 209. Surprised you'd have moe. ahead of anything. Yeah Girls aren't anything to write home about but putting them ahead of that wankfest is questionable. Ratatat are, in fact, pure garbage, though.

Posted by: azaghal1981 | January 1, 2010 7:59 AM | Report abuse

That should say putting them behind that wankfest*

Posted by: azaghal1981 | January 1, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

@Hemisphere -- 104/245 certainly ain't too shabby and McCartney is certainly a worthy #1.

@Josh18 -- Girls actually did do better than Foxx. And also worse. Saw them twice, the first time (opening for Los Campesinos! in August) was simply medicore/bad, not numbingly awful.

@azaghal1981 -- the moe. set was at that Earth Day thing on the Mall, it was relatively short and painless. Ratatat I mostly remember for being shockingly loud. It was hard to even review because it was just pure bass.

Posted by: DavidMalitz | January 1, 2010 6:38 PM | Report abuse

And I thought I was the only person who kept a spreadsheet with scores... None of the National shows from Memorial Day weekend at 9:30? I've got one of those kid things now but still made 40 shows and that was definitely #1. Still upset I missed Bob Mould this time and reading this didn't help. Why the hate for Glasvegas and Ida Maria? Assuming these were both the March Black Cat shows, that was a solid night in my opinion.

Posted by: bobwombat | January 4, 2010 10:54 AM | Report abuse

I agree on the quality of the Juana Molina show. I'm curious on your the ranking of the FOTL shows, I think the RnR Hotel one in the fall was almost as good as mclusky back in the day a good mix of hilarious banter and song choices.

And I really do need to see Destroyer one of these days.

And the ____ Buttons show was damn near trancendant. It was just about the best 60 minutes of music I saw/heard all year.

Posted by: M__N | January 4, 2010 11:19 AM | Report abuse

@bobwombat -- didn't see either of those National shows, can't say I'm a huge fan. Ida Maria had a respectable placement on the list, somewhere in the upper-middle. But I definitely did not enjoy Glasvegas, just found them so boringly competent and nothing else.

@M__N -- my rankings of the other FOTL shows were: rock hotel --> dc9 --> 2nd SXSW set, --> sirenfest. a real shame more people weren't at that hotel show. I did enjoy the Buttons show, maybe should have been higher, I think at 35-40 minutes would have been perfect.

Posted by: DavidMalitz | January 4, 2010 7:30 PM | Report abuse

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