It is that time of the year again! Time to summarize the 365 days of 2015 into a single post of the “bests” the year had to offer. When writing last year’s Best Of list, we noted how it was “crazy we’d been to more than 60 shows” in 2014…well that number was easily doubled in 2015. We’ve added a few categories this year, as to include as many shows as possible slash we experienced some rad stuff throughout the year that deserves to be recognized.
Best We Actually Paid For These Tickets
A: Sufjan Stevens has been on my bucket list for a while and when he announced a show in Louisville, I bought us some primo seats. It was so worth it as I sat at the edge of my seat, grinning the entire time. The uncommon man left me desiring more than the nearly 2 hour show provided.
B: We had possibly the highest possible seats for Fleetwood Mac that you could have for a show at the Yum! Center, but it was by far one of the best we’ve seen there. Christine was back on tour with the band, Lindsey Buckingham & Mick Fleetwood were flawless, as usual, and no one can beat Stevie Nicks. The woman is a goddess.
Best WFPK Waterfront/Winter Wednesday
A: The opening Waterfront Wednesday set with Shakey Graves takes the cake for me, probably simply because I was so excited for the beginning of the WW season.
B: Aubrey was out of town for the June edition and she missed my favorite of the year. Legends Bela Fleck and Abigail Washburn had the whole crowd sitting and listening in awe. They’re also an adorable couple and their on-stage banter cracked everyone up. It didn’t hurt that Louisville favorite Pokey LaFarge played the middle set. It was the perfect way to kick-start ROMP, which immediately followed.
Best Picture Taking Show
A: The ladies and gents of Lake Street Dive are certainly movers and shakers, but their soulful serenading made for awesome photos at Headliners.
B: Houndmouth at The Brown. It was one of the first shows we actually shot so that was pretty exhilarating. And it didn’t hurt being up close with one of our personal favorites.
Best Forecastle Set
A: Houndmouth‘s set was unreal. That Friday as a whole was pretty amazing, only to be cut short by the infamous pop-up storm, but the New Albany crew shut down the Boom Stage in magnificent fashion. We slithered up pretty close to the front under the guise of taking pictures, and most definitely enjoyed the rest of their set from the prime location.
B: The WFPK Port Stage definitely rocked the entire festival. I guess it was earlier that month that Twin Peaks was doing a Lolla SnapChat takeover and their Snap stories had us laughing hysterically. Their Forecastle set was unsurprisingly fun and full of energy, as well, despite the oppressive heat that day.
Best Single Day Festival
A: There were several good’uns this year – my favorites were Boomtown and Seven Sense. Each day pulled in some great local talent and also took advantage of the proximity to Nashville to include some fresh stuff out of the Music City.
B: We headed over to Lexington for MoonTower on a sweltering August afternoon. It was a fairly low key day just wandering around the park where the various stages were set, but the evening brought a rowdy time with The Apache Relay, The Weeks, J. Roddy, and Moon Taxi.
A: It is hard for me to not say Forecastle here, but Shaky Knees down in Atlanta was again a freaking blast. Shaky Knees was purely a “pleasure” trip for us, so we fully enjoyed our short early May vacation in Atlanta.
B: I have yet to find a festival that I didn’t like. That being said, Lou Fest was probably the most fun for me this year, largely due to our pit access. Seth Avett right in front me? Yes, please.
Best Out of Town Show
A: I’ve visited Indianapolis several times to hang with high school friends, and when I spotted a lineup including alt-J, Best Coast, and San Fermin, I quickly purchased tickets for our crew to make the trip up 65. I loved alt-J’s first album and saw them while touring in support of it (in Indy as well), somehow missing their stop at Headliners. In the two and a half years after these initially encounters, alt-J has gained massive popularity. I certainly can understand why, as I consistently find myself bewitched during their live performances.
B: The Ryman is a beautiful, historic venue and Punch Brothers was the perfect band to see for our first time there. There’s a reason its nickname is Mother Church – the sound was top notch, especially when the gents played acoustically around a single mic.
Best New Louisville Find
A: Howell Dawdy has taken over Louisville this past year with bangerz like “Fire Extinguisher” and “Summer Creams,” among others. Alex Smith’s LMA nomination and LEO Weekly recognition as a Twitter handle to follow have been big for the local artist. We saw Howell Dawdy at least 10 times this year and cracked up each time. I also casually become obsessed with Discount Guns – two dudes who just go for it.
B: Quiet Hollers has had quite the year, and we’ve been lucky enough to see them in a handful of different venues. Seeing Shadwick Wilde alone at Living Room Series was super intimate and quiet, then later they took The New Vintage by storm during Seven Sense, and then we watched the dudes don masks for their masquerade album release show at Headliners. It’s been fun watching them grow in popularity this year and listening to their new stuff.
Best Venue for a Live Show
A: Hard not to say Headliners – we’ve mastered navigating the venue and are tight with the wonderful people who work there. We most definitely made good use out of our Frequent Flyer Passes this year and plan to do the same next year.
B: It’s tough to disagree with Aubrey on this one. But I feel like we need to give a Zbar shout out as well. I’m sure this was mentioned in last year’s post, but we do love the intimacy that Zbar offers – and when they’re brining in some great acts, it’s nice to be able to easily chat with the band afterward.
Best Takes Me Back Show
A: This has to go out to Yellowcard and New Found Glory. Both bands were definitely mainstays on 14 year old me’s “Dell-Pod” (yes, the Dell version of the iPod) and it was amusing seeing these two bands live all these years later.
B: OAR brings me straight back to high school – by that point in their career, they had several albums out, including the Live at Madison Square Garden one that I would crank during any sort of road trip. And when you grow up in New Hampshire, it takes forever to get anywhere, so there were lots of those. I’m not sure Churchill Downs would have been my pick of venue, but we had a good time anyway.
Best Solo Show
A: Britt was off galivanting through Europe while I stayed in Louisville to hold some softball practices. The mundane week however was made a lot more vibrant with The Suffers at Zanzabar. When Kam and crew returned to Louisville this past October they admitted to being a bit frustrated with the April crowd’s size, but all I can honestly remember was being completely blown away by the group. Three encounters later and it is easy for me to admit that I’m thrilled they’ll be returning for Forecastle.
B: I was selected for the Lake Street Dive members only show – Aubrey must have been coaching or something. I hadn’t yet been to one and it was an incredible introduction. Rachel Price. Goddamn.
A: I’m pretty sure Glass Animals was my best vibe show from last year as well, but this year was equally no joke. The mood and temperature inside of Headliners was appropriately steamy, which made for a carnal evening. We also had a wonderful time at Citizen Cope jamming with a bunch of dudes to one of our 2000’s favorite.
B: Just wanted to give another shout out to Steve Fowler for putting on a fantastic birthday party at Zbar back in February. The night was all about the vibes with Frederick the Younger (and a 1200 appearance), Spirit Animal, and Kaleidico.
Best Small Crowd
A: The Scott Moore, Ben Sollee and Teddy Abrams collaboration at Bermuda Highway was a one of a kind experience that I’m glad we caught. The three now local music juggernauts formed a one-time-only band that covered tunes originated by each of the individual artists. Too cool.
B: While there certainly were other shows with small crowds, I 100% agree with Aubrey here. I’m so happy we made that snowy trek to Market Street for this one of a kind show because it’s not every day that these über talented musicians play together for us.
Best Unexpectedly Awesome Show
A: I knew José González was gonna be good, but I don’t think I was prepared for how much I’d love seeing his music performed live. Headliners was silent throughout the set, myself included, which is an incredible feat for both of us.
B: I know people were heated about him headlining at Forecastle and I know the show was cut short by the freak storm, but Sam Smith got to me. He really is such a talented singer.
Best Overall Show
A: Witnessing Ben Folds perform with the Louisville Orchestra at the Kentucky Center for the Arts definitely started off 2015 in an amazing way. Hearing Folds’ classics performed with the full orchestra, as well as hearing his own creation: “Concerto For Piano and Orchestra.” Not that he wasn’t great at The Palace in November, but this performance was something special. Watching him “Rock This Bitch,” pulling together the elements of an entire orchestra into an on-the-spot piece was unlike anything I’ve ever seen and maybe ever will.
B: Ditto. I don’t know that we will ever see another show to top this one. It just goes to show how incredible the Louisville Orchestra musicians are, and how much of a jedi master Ben Folds is. Yup, I went there. It’s been fun, 2015, but we’re pretty stoked to see what this next year is about to deliver to our little city.