My Year in Concerts

51 shows, 5 festivals, 85 bands & DJs—the music that filled 2015’s crevices

I notched a third straight year of going to concerts with a fervor I didn’t even have in my 20s. With two kids and a job, this is no small feat (pats back), but somehow I found the energy to make it happen. Music is my passion, and live music is a kind of meditation for me.

If I think about my year in concerts, my top shows didn’t just have great tunes, they were experiential affairs accompanied by fascinating art, cool lights, natural beauty (sometimes), secret settings (OK, once), good people and even a revelation or two.

Musically, I witnessed a creativity I didn’t think was possible anymore in dance music, and I couldn’t believe that (wo)man and machine had any new sounds to forge together. Artists like Nicolas Jaar, Jamie XX, FKA Twigs, and Four Tet pushed sound forward—and up and out into other realms. I never heard music with such texture and three dimensionality before. These artists conjured up thrilling new spaces that could be filled with dreams, quests or just good ol’ body moving.

Nicolas Jaar at Symbiosis Festival.

But my No. 1 live music experience of 2015 was surely Freq Nasty and Claire Thompson’s Yoga of Bass at the Symbiosis Gathering (one of the country’s most underrated festivals, if you ask me). This was no mere concert. First, it was a lecture about bringing the transformational power of music to your everyday life. (Oh yes please.) The audience was asked how it felt when listening to live music: “Alive!” “Present!” “Powerful!” were some of the answers. I immediately saw that my experience was a universal one. (Here’s an example of the same question being asked at Lightning in a Bottle at 2011:)

The talk went on to explore how to get closer to the flow you feel at a festival in a normal day. It called for reducing stress by reducing resistance and quieting the voices in your head. How? With a core mission for your life. Freq shared his:

“To create music on the dancefloor that will help others have sacred experiences.”

With a mission defined, all choices become a lot clearer and life’s excesses fall away, leaving more room for other people and the kind of unexpected magic that happens at festivals. We took a moment to think about and write down our own life’s mission—a true gift during what I thought was just going to be a good time with my friends. The talk framed the rest of my festival experience that weekend, and I felt blessed to have received this gift along with dear friends.

Yoga of Bass lecture, Symbiosis 2015.

The next morning, the lecture was followed by a yoga class with Freq Nasty on the decks playing a custom set of deep, downtempo bass of frequencies I’d always flirted with but never heard in such crystalline circumstances. The music absorbed into the ground and entered the body as a force unto itself. The soundwaves were physical; they actually applied pressure to the skin and massaged organs as we took the deepest stretches of our lives. At one point, we got all loose-y goose-y and moved off our mats, staring briefly but deeply into the eyes of strangers as we passed them by. Electric. Child’s pose was also incredibly powerful: with the music’s vibrations rattling the earth, the ground literally felt concave, heart-beating, embracing back. I hugged Mother Earth. It was amazing. Afterwards, I felt reset and the calmest I’ve ever felt in my whole life. The feeling lasted for 36 hours.

It’s hard to follow that up but there is one more musical experience that had a huge impact on me this year: Grimes. Of course you’ve heard by now that she’s a musical genius, but what really struck me during her show was how innit she was. I saw the Power of Creation in Grimes. She lost herself entirely to the moment and it looked like pure aliveness. I know how much I enjoy music, but watching her I could see how creating the music that people love so much is definitely Next Level. I’m taking this to heart in 2016. I plan to see fewer shows in order to re-direct my energy into my own creative expression. I’m not sure where it will lead or if I can do it. But I’m going to try, starting today.

Top 10 Shows of 2015

  1. Yoga of Bass, Symbiosis, 9/19
  2. Grimes, Fillmore, 11/1
  3. Jamie XX, Fox, 10/9
  4. Derrick Carter, Secret Location, 1/9
  5. Hot Chip, Fox, 10/29
  6. The Decembrists, Greek, 5/1
  7. Jesus and Mary Chain, Warfield, 5/16
  8. Rudimental, Mezzanine, 10/8
  9. Stanton Warriors, Mighty, 3/13
  10. Psychemagik, Monarch, 8/22

Three-peat: Claude von Stroke

Claude Von Stroke, Armory, 7/30

The Full List

  1. Derrick Carter, Secret Location, 1/9
  2. RL Grime, Fox, 1/30
  3. Blondish, Public Works, 1/31
  4. Bassment Jaxx, Public Works, 2/14
  5. Krafty Kuts, Monarch, 2/27
  6. Caribou, Fillmore, 3/1
  7. Worthy & Stanton Warriors, Mighty, 3/13
  8. Tweedy, Fillmore, 3/18
  9. Bakermat, Independent, 3/19
  10. Lee Burridge, Public Works, 3/21
  11. Belle & Sebastian, Greek, 4/12
  12. Ride, Warfield, 4/13
  13. Alt-J & Jungle, Greek, 4/16
  14. Sylvan Esso, Fillmore, 4/22
  15. The Polish Ambassador, Fox, 4/24
  16. Jose Gonzalez, Bimbo’s, 4/27
  17. The Decembrists, Greek, 5/1
  18. GriZ, Mezzanine, 5/2
  19. Jesus and Mary Chain, Warfield, 5/16
  20. Lee Burridge / Sunset Island, TI, 5/17
  21. Lightning in a Bottle, 5/30: Thomas Jack, Panda Bear, Aluna George, Made in Heights, Odesza, Tycho
  22. Sufjan Stevens, Fox, 6/5
  23. Silent Frisco, Ocean Beach, 6/6
  24. Purity Ring, Fox, 6/19
  25. A-Trak, 1015, 6/19
  26. Psychemagik, Phoenix Hotel, 7/12
  27. Willie Nelson & Alison Krauss, Greek, 7/23
  28. Spank Rock & Boyz Noize, Mezzanine, 7/24
  29. Chemical Brothers & Claude Von Stroke, Armory, 7/30
  30. Outside Lands 8/7–8/9: Elton John, D’Angelo, Sam Smith, Green Velvet/Claude von Stroke, Porter Robinson, Billy Idol, Kendrick Lamar, Caribou, Hot Chip
  31. Dirtybird Quarterly: JPhlip, Worthy, Mezzanine, 8/14
  32. Psychemagik, Monarch, 8/22
  33. Bassment Jaxx, Disco Knights, Burning Man 9/3
  34. Crystal Method, Public Works, 9/11
  35. Dirtybird BBQ (Justin Martin, Claude Von Stroke), 9/13
  36. Symbiosis 9/18–20: The Acid, Nicolas Jaar, Four Tet, Yoga of Bass, Dub Kirtan, Sorne, Sylvan Esso, The Polish Ambassador
  37. Rudimental, Mezzanine, 10/8
  38. Jamie XX, Fox, 10/9
  39. Decompression 10/11
  40. Treasure Island 10/17–18: Gorgon City, Shamir, Cashmere Cat, Hudson Mohawke, Deerhunter, The Chvrches
  41. DMak & Chris Lake, Warfield, 10/29
  42. Hot Chip, Fox, 10/29
  43. Carl Cox, Public Works, 10/29
  44. Groove Armada, The Midway, 10/31
  45. Grimes, Fillmore, 11/1
  46. Dirtybird Quarterly: JPhlip, Worthy, Christian Martin, Mezzanine, 11/6
  47. Yo La Tengo Acoustic, Masonic, 11/14
  48. Charlatans UK, Regency, 11/16
  49. Sturgill Simpson, Fox, 11/18
  50. Giorgio Moroder, 1015, 12/4
  51. Beach House, Fillmore, 12/19

May your 2016 be filled with magic moments and music’s warm embrace. xoxo

Lightning in a Bottle