I saw 133 shows so far this year, with two left in 2011, but these are the unquestionable top ten. Now with photos. (Josh Ritter in Charlotte above.)
1. Josh Ritter, solo acoustic, at the McGlohon Theatre, Charlotte, 11/2011. I didn’t go to another show this year where I barely breathed from start to finish for the sheer magic of it.
2. Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, at the Haw River Ballroom, Saxapahaw, 10/2011. For an old guy, Stephen Malkmus still looks great, and I would still bang him like a screen door in a hurricane just for his guitar playing, but the sexiness is a nice bonus, and this show was completely jaw-dropping for how magnetic and simultaneously bashful he is on stage. This is the show where I talked to two underage hipsters about how I would totally hit it with Kim Gordon except Thurston Moore scared me, and then they broke up! So I can now hit it with Kim Gordon without guilt. I would also totally hit it with both Deal sisters. Now you know, y’all.
3. Josh Ritter & the Royal City Band, at the Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, 7/2011. There is a reason that Josh Ritter is my favorite live performer, and that is because he is utterly unrestrainedly joyous when he performs, and that is why he is on this list twice.
4. Bowerbirds & Mount Moriah, at Motorco Music Hall, Durham, 06/2011. Everything about this show gave me chills, and it was the first time I saw Mount Moriah live.
5. Beirut, at Cat’s Cradle, Carrboro, NC, 12/2011. I cannot convey the depth of my feelings about this show in words. If you came over, I might be able to do an interpretive dance. It could probably be summed up as me lying on the floor and flapping my hands at you.
6. American Aquarium w/ Shovels & Rope and Kenny Roby, at the Pour House, 12/2011. I have a soft spot for American Aquarium’s early December Pour House show, but thanks to Shovels & Rope’s absolutely electrifying middle set that amped the crowd up even further, this is the best of the five I’ve seen.
7. Townes Van Zandt/Hank Williams tribute show, at the Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC, 01/2011. The show of my heart in 2011 for a single reason that either you know, or is none of your business. But it was amazing.
8. the Head & the Heart w/ Thao & the Get Down Stay Down and the Devil Whale, at the Lincoln, Raleigh, NC, 09/2011. At a point where I was spending a lot of time weeping at shows, I went to this one and wept like a bitch and had my heart healed at the same time.
9. Centro-matic at the Local 506 AND the Roadside Graves at the Nightlight, Chapel Hill, NC, 06/2011. The same night, so they can go in the same number; Will Johnson opened that show with “Love You Just The Same” and the Graves didn’t play “West Coast” but they wrote it once and that’s what matters.
10. Wild Flag, at the Cat’s Cradle, Chapel Hill, NC, 10/2011. Yes.
So there you go! My ten, sort of, favorite shows of 2011. What were yours, here or elsewhere?