Music Snob's Top 10 Local Concerts Of 2007

1a. Lucero, Catfish Haven
April 6 at The Black Cat
Rarely has a two-hour set gone by so fast, and rarely has such a sad collection of songs sounded so happy. Lucero's punk- and pop-tinged country is a backdrop for a host of tear in your beer songs, but the band played with such energy, it revved up the crowd. Their blue collar style gives them an everyman vibe that every man can identify with. And Ben Nichols' gruff, throaty vocals were even more impressive when seen coming out of his scrawny trailer trash package. Catfish Haven was a perfect choice to open, as they come from the same sort of Americana angle, but their music leaned more toward pop and wasn't quite so edgy. It was definitely soulful, but add a Fender Strat instead of an acoustic guitar and you might have something more to sink your teeth into. 1b. Boris with Michio Kurihara, Damon & Naomi with Kurihara
October 26 at The Black Cat
This was my first chance to see sludge metal heroes Boris, and the set blew me away and stayed with me for weeks. This longtime Japanese cult favorite has recently added a shoegaze element to their music, and it was an inspired direction. This set featured a fourth member, guitarist Michio Kurihara of pysch rock legends Ghost, but despite his brilliance, drummer Atsuo stole the show, both with his playing and his crowd-baiting antics (I think it's the first time I've seen a drummer crowd surf). The set developed slowly, with the band playing long, droney songs with lots of crescendo, but the middle of the set was balls-to-the-wall cock rock and thrash. Michio also played with opened Damon & Naomi. Their dream pop/slowcore was a stark contrast to Boris, but such odd pairings intrigue me, though most Boris fans came late and most Damon & Naomi fans only stuck around for three Boris songs. 3. Mastodon, Converge, Priestess
Feb. 17 at 9:30 Club
These three bands on one bill makes this top-show worthy alone. For metal fans, you can't do any better. However, sandwiched between a pair of the best bands of the heavy metal revival was old hardcore stalwarts Converge, and while I enjoy the music, I can't take the unintelligible screaming and screeching vocals for too long. Priestess, on the other hand, only sucked because their set was too short. Their sound is like Wolfmother, only more unique, more metal and more better. It was perfect Camaro music, and I look forward to seeing them headline 9:30 Club rather than play in support. But really it was a Mastodon show, and that band is doing some of the most creative things with metal since the Melvins hit their peak in the early '90s. Arena rock and prog rock influence the band, which made the show acceptable to hipsters and heshers alike. The band played mostly from their third record, "Blood Mountain," though they did reach back for some of the best stuff off of their first two albums. 4. Grizzly Bear, Papercuts, Beach House
March 4 at the Black Cat
Grizzly Bear is one of the best band's around right now with their unique mix of folk, pop, rock and experimentation. Add tender, heartfelt vocals and you've got the most romantic sound around, even when the songs aren't about relationships. It was a set made for a date (and had I not been alone, I may be ranking this as the best set of the year).Unusual but impressive sonics and instrumentation highlighted this set, which demonstrated that the strength of their two LPs is no illusion. In fact it sounds like this band's best is still ahead of them. The openers fit well with Grizzly Bear. Papercuts sounded like mid-'60s, California pop rock, but it traveled in dark, lovelorn territory. And Beach House is fast becoming a favorite among other artists -- including Grizzly Bear, which plays with Beach House a lot -- for its sleepy, atmospheric and old-timey sound. 5. Dinosaur Jr.
November 27 at The Black Cat
Of the three times I've seen Dinosaur Jr. play since the original trio reunited, this ranks as the second-best performance, but even the third-best performance would make this list. And while the first two of those three were dedicated to the original trio's three albums together, this one featured a couple MTV-era songs -- including "Feel the Pain," the band's one legitimate hit -- as well as a host of songs from the group's album "Beyond," released earlier this year. Each member is an ace, which is why this show was so good. J. Mascis is a guitar god, and with bassist Lou Barlow being as rock and roll as anyone on the planet, Mascis could stretch out and noodle a little bit without songs losing focus. Behind the kit, Murph was a god himself, only a quiet god, as the drums were too low in the mix. And though the sound at the Black Cat wasn't as clean and strong as the sound at Dinosaur Jr.'s 9:30 Club gigs the past couple of years, seeing this legendary and highly influential band play such a small room made this set that much more impressionable. 6. The Thermals
March 2 at the Black Cat
The energy and sincerity of The Thermals helped make this set great. As well as the fact that they left the politics in the songs, opting not to soapbox. This is a highly political band, often singing against war and the Christian right, but in between songs, they felt no need to embellish those messages, talking instead about their appreciation for their friends and fans. And the music was terrific, too. So much adrenaline in their aggressive yet catchy take on punk, the crowd -- and D.C. crowds are notorious for ambivalence -- was worked into a frenzy. It was one of those sets that leaves you feeling like a kid again. 7. The National, Shapes And Sizes, Talkdemonic
June 20 at The 9:30 Club
The National is a band on the rise, fast. This sold out show is proof to the fact and an example why. The band only has a few real rock songs to get the crowd moving, but they excel at beautiful, intricate compositions. Their chamber pop meets post punk sound was executed perfectly with this set. The band was tight, the sound was great, and it showed why The National's name will soon be known nationwide. Shapes and Sizes seemed an odd choice for this bill, but their set was terrific, something akin to mid-'90s college rock offset with quirky, experimental song structures and goofball timing. Talkdemonic's mood fit better with the headliner. Its blend of hip hop, folk and electronica was darker than Shapes and Sizes -- though almost as quirky -- and moody and hypnotic. 8. Immortal Technique, Diabolic, Akir
July 31 at The 9:30 Club
The best area hip-hop show was delivered by its best MC, Immortal Technique. He's got great voice and style, but his lyrics are the key. His words are fueled by politics and colored with anger and filth. But no matter how vulgar his rhymes, an underlying message and humor makes any obscenity forgivable. Such imagery enraptured the crowd, and he spread his message like a preacher. Opener Akir showed he is a rising star if he wants to be. He had the sound, the style, the voice and the looks of a multimillionaire rapper, and his mind is just as socio-political minded as Tech's. In between, Diabolic offered an engaging set himself, but he was better as supporting rapper. 9. Man Man
April 15 at The Rock And Roll Hotel
The Rock & Roll Hotel really isn't the right venue for this band. Their wild, adrenaline-fueled stage show needs more room to grow. R&R simply doesn't provide the guys with enough room to jump around and goof off. The music was uncompromised, though. This band is reminiscent of all band's f'd up, from Captain Beefheart and Frank Zappa to Tom Waits and The Residents. Somewhat junky in sound, what holds it all together is a common R&B thread and frontman Honus Honus's terrific, gruff vocals and classic piano playing. And with all the props and instruments the group uses, it's kinda like a bunch of insane yet genius carnival workers got together to play a show. 10. Deerhoof
Feb. 11 at the Black Cat
Rounding out the Top 10 is another wild and experimental show. Deerhoof's set was the stuff of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. The set touched on everything from prog rock to dance pop to avant garde jazz to hard rock to '60s garage rock, but they never followed one path for too long, and no style they touched was ever the same again after they touched it. But no matter how intriguing their experimentation was, they were at their best when they simply rocked out.

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