The 10 best concerts in and around DC for 2004

This list is based on individual sets by bands rather than total concert bills. There were a lot of great bands to come through the area in 2004 and it was tough to narrow down a top 10 out of the 40 or so that I went out to see this year. That said, here’s the list.

10. Einsturzende Neubauten @ the 930 Club: In what was probably their final tour of America those whacky Kraut noise-mongers put a sold-out 930 Club through the ringer with a set spanning their 20 year career.

9. PJ Harvey @ the 930 Club: At a recent show in France, Ms.Harvey announced that she will never be playing live again. Maybe that’s why her set this year was so stupendously passionate. She delivered a fiery farwell to a crowd that didn’t even know she was singing goodbye.

8. Alcian Blue @ the Warehouse Next Door: Why these guys aren’t local heroes is beyond me. Scratch that, why they aren’t national indie heroes is beyond me. Their show at the Warehouse Next Door put them in company with bands like Sonic Youth and My Bloody Valentine for sheer gutsy handling of unbridled guitar power. The one plus of their undiscovered local status though is that we’ll probably see them playing in DC 3 or 4 times in 2005.

7. The Cure @ Merriweather Post Pavilion: The Cure headlined a festival of their own design this year and treated each city it visited to some of the best Cure inspired acts of today. The line-up was great, but as good as it was no act on it could compare to the majesty that is The Cure. I caught this tour twice and the DC area show was wonderful. In fact it was their only set in the country to feature the songs it did. The Cure treated the DC fans to 2 1/2 hours featuring almost every single of their career.

6. Tackhead @ the Black Cat: In what was probably the most unexpected reunion tour of the year, Tackhead played to a crowd of 20 to 30 fans during the hurricane scare and the Black Cat rocked harder than it did all year.

5. Buckethead @ the 930 Club: Watching the man in the mask grind that axe was simply stunning. If this list was based on sheer power of an individual performer, Buckethead would take number 1 hands down.

4. Acid Mother’s Temple @ the Ottobar: A rare visit from these Japanese guitar gods. This performance was truly spectacular. A display of precision playing masked as a swirling maelstrom of chaotic noise. Watching Acid Mother’s Temple is like watching Hendrix, Buckethead and Kevin Shields in a great guitar throwdown in the sky. This show was so powerful you could feel the Ottobar shaking.

3. Slayer @ Nation: Of all the “hard rock” bands I’ve seen in my life, the set by Slayer this year takes the cake. Dave Lombardo’s drum set was so damn big you couldn’t even see the guy but you sure could feel that double-bass kick in your gut. Talk about pure evil vocals meeting soul crunching drums with machinegun guitars. Slayer’s set at Nation proved they are the best metal band ever, period.

2. Isis @ the Black Cat: The Isis show at the Black Cat was such a perfect combination of musical elements that I look for in a show that it is difficult to rank them as number 2, but alas that’s where I’ve got to put them. Isis are technically a metal band but really are so much more. The 6 man band is a unit of extremely serious musicians that play with such focus and passion that I’ve rarely seen an act that match their presence. Their music is a combination of power and beauty rendered like no one I’ve ever heard. To call them the “Mogwai of metal” is not entirely accurate but it comes close to giving an impression of how damn good they are. This show was strength, beauty and passion captured in sound. Nobody else this year could touch them except…

1. Black Rebel Motorcycle Club @ the Recher Theater: The theater was drenched in red light projected from the back of the stage, putting the band in dramatic silhouette for the entire two hours that they submerged the audience in aural bliss. Technically a “warm-up” show to prepare for the Coachella Festival, this performace was the first time the band had played after a brief hiatus. What they called a “warm-up” I’m declaring best concert of the year. The packed theater seemed to be awe-struck at the wall of sound these 3 guys were able to produce. Everyone just kind of swayed with their eyes closed as the BRMC enveloped us with a sonic display rarely achieved. This show is the best of the year because for all the power, passion and precision on display in our area this year, it was this show that blended it all into a perfect concert that took the crowd out of themselves, out of the theater and raised us all to pure music nirvana.

God I love music. I can’t wait for the shows of 2005.

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