The 10 best concerts in and around DC for 2005

Time for my best concerts in and around DC of 2005 list. You remember the rules right? This list is based on individual sets by bands rather than total concert bills. This is the top 10 out of about 50 or so bands that I saw this year.

10. Slint @ the 930 Club: In a surprise reunion tour early in 2005, Slint proved that they were the ultimate nexus of noise-rock and post-rock by building up a tense atmosphere of precision guitar picking and then blowing it apart with their insane guitar squall abilities.

9. Muse @ University of Maryland’s Cole Field House: Of the 5 times I’ve seen them this was by far the best set I’ve seen Muse play since they’ve come to the United States, these brit-rockers treated the tiny Field House like it was a major arena and rocked out accordingly. Their sound is always huge but in this venue they sounded gigantic.

8. Ceremony @ Central Station : By far the highlight of the Wall of Sound Festival was Ceremony’s set near the end of the night. These favorite sons of Fredricksburg combined simple dance beats and complex shoegaze guitars to create some of the best new sounds in the whole damn country let alone DC. Their ripping set dominated the crowd particularly their bad-ass cover of Depeche Mode’s “Enjoy the Silence” and the guest shots by Jake from DC’s own Alcian Blue.

7. Kraftwerk (night 2) @ the 930 Club: Having attended both nights of their show at the 930 Club, I feel safe in declaring their second night the best electronic show in DC of 2005. Everything clicked perfectly the second night and I’ve never heard the 930’s system sound soooo good. Kraftwerk transformed the 930 Club making the audience feel like little neutrons and electrons zipping around in their digital wonderland.

6. Gang of Four @ SONAR: I felt extremely honored to finally see Gang of Four at the 930 Club in May of 2005, they are one of my favorites and that show was fan-friggin-tastic. So imagine my pleasant surprise when I got to see them again up in Baltimore in October and they topped themselves. Gang of Four’s Baltimore show was a sweaty, dancy, herky-jerky, spastic freak-out of a show. From Jon King’s gyrating to Andy Gill’s git-box grinding it was like the band somehow took us all back in time to their “Entertainment” heyday for one night. It was spectacular.

5. Helmet @ the Recher Theater: There is probably no band I have seen in concert more than Helmet. That said, the new line-up Page Hamilton threw together for his Fall mini-tour put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen under the Helmet moniker. Once again the Recher Theater in Towson proved to be a great sounding concert hall and Page Hamilton and his crew took full advantage of the space. Helmet grinded through fan favorites off of most of their discography treating the 40 or so people to a good-old fashioned Helmet throw-down. I haven’t heard Helmet sound this good since “Meantime”.

4. Jello Biafra and the Melvins @ the Black Cat: Jello Biafra and Dave Gahan tie for best stage presence of 2005. Biafra’s return to DC couldn’t have come at a better time than now. The political atmosphere in DC is electric and Biafra was totally plugged into it, giving a rousing performance of Dead Kennedy’s classics, new songs he wrote with the Melvins, and the special treat of “Forkboy” which he wrote with Lard. There was an old SNL skit called “Happy Fun Ball” about this dangerous rubber toy ball being dropped over Iraq. If ever the “Happy Fun Ball” had a human equivalent it was Jello Biafra at this show.

3. Depeche Mode @ the Patriot Center: Closing out the American leg of their world tour, Depeche Mode treated the DC area to a longer set-list than anywhere else in the country. Their dazzling stage presence hit on the majority of their singles from “Music for the Masses” to “Songs of Faith and Devotion” and also featured all the good tunes off of their new album “Playing the Angel.” From what I’ve read about other dates on the tour, Dave Gahan has been somewhat subdued on stage, but not at this show. Gahan was in full rock-god glory all night as much as little guy Martin Gore was playing the reluctant shy “sensitive” one. The addition of a live drummer really kicked up the old numbers and Andrew Fletcher’s keyboards never sounded better than on the new tracks.The crowd loved every minute of the show, and there really is nothing better than seeing Depeche Mode with a good crowd, especially during the encores when Gahan interacts with them like the master performer that he is.

2. M83 @ the Black Cat: A performance so good it required me to invent a new word, one that I hope wil mark my place in the lexicon of international music criticism and that l shall re-introduce here. M83 were shimmattering. (Shimmering + Shattering, in other words the unholy combination of music’s best yet disparate qualities in a way that seems sonically impossible and utterly mind-blowing to mere mortal concert-goers like myself). Seriously, if you missed this performance I pity you.

1. Mono @ the Talking Head Club: When I got home from this show in October, I fully intended to review it on this site. But when I sat down at my keyboard to type, my hands were frozen over the keys. My ears were still ringing and if I closed my eyes I could see and hear Mono (from Japan) creating their beautiful maelstrom of sound all over again. I sat there in the dark, in front of my PC for about a half-hour just enjoying the ride. Of all the sets I saw in 2005 none left a more lasting impression on me than seeing Mono play at the tiny, but underrated Talking Head Club. I picked Black Rebel Motorcycle Club as my #1 set of 2004 because their show that year put me in a state of pure music nirvana. Since that was my first official year-end list I have decided that it shall be the judging criteria for every list to follow. A criteria Mono surely matches. From the first quiet strum of Mono’s guitars to their final 15 minute extended tidal wave of sound I was in music nirvana the entire time at this show. Standing in that cramped, dirty, little club I had one of those transcendent music moments that I live for. Mono definitely put on the best performance I saw in 2005.

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