9. Tim Webb and Friends, The Press Room in Portsmouth - This January show was quite possibly my first show of 2009 and still lingers with me. I wrote a blog entry about the show here. The line-up of Tim, Titus Abbott, Matt Langley, Mike Effenberger and Mike Walsh (with guests Chris Klaxton and Jim Clark) was stellar - many of the area's top jazz players. There isn't enough free jazz being done around here. Unfortunately it is under appreciated in this neck of the woods.
7. Bryan Killough and the Hot Club of Portland, The Portsmouth Gaslight Company - Not enough restaurants in town have live music. And those that do sometimes don't offer the top local talent. But for a several month run in 2009, you could catch Bryan Killough and his Hot Club of Portland every Friday night while enjoying a meal at the Portsmouth Gaslight Company. Unfortunately, that run came to an end in the late summer or early fall, but luckily Katie and I got the chance to catch their show several times this year. The line-up changed, depending on musician availability from week to week, but the music never failed to inspire. Whether it was Joyce Anderson on jazz violin and vocals or Charlie Jennison on soprano sax, the music was always joyous, capturing the spark of genius that Django Reinhardt left to the world. If the people at the Gaslight are reading this, please bring them back in 2010. I haven't been back since they left and I'm longing for a great dinner with their beautiful soundtrack.
6. Green Day, Boston's Banknorth Garden - This was it. The big, national, touring, spectacular that our two sons chose for their 2009 major concert outing. In 2008 we began this tradition with a trip to Manchester to see Rush. This year it was Green Day in Boston. It was a classic rock show, with the obligatory obscenities, t-shirt cannon, audience singing competitions, confetti, explosions, and more. We definitely got our money's worth, and Katie and I got to relive our youth with a concert that lived up to all the expectations of 1980s spectacles. Billy Joe Armstrong and the gang gave it their all and the kids have a golden memory that will most likely last a lifetime. I can't wait to find out what show they want to see in 2010!
5. Charlie Kohlhase and The Explorers' Club with Eric Hoffbauer, West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth As I said, there is not enough free jazz in Portsmouth. And on a cold, wintery night in early 2009, Charlie and his free-thinking cohorts were determined to do something about that. I wish more people attended this show. It was a small audience, and the music deserved to be heard. A CD release show for the Explorers Club's latest effort, the wonderful musicians in Charlie's band were ON. Free jazz at its finest. Eric Hoffbauer, who is the Explorers Club guitarist, also opened the show with many of his originals. I hope I have more notice the next time these guys come to town. I'll beat the drum and get people out. They are definitely worth it.
4. Clara's Dream, The Music Hall in Portsmouth - As wintery as it was, there was nothing cold about this hot show of jazz and tap. It was the second time I've seen Clara's Dream and though I remember the show as being amazing in 2004, everyone I was with said this run was much better. I don't care to compare the two, but I will say that this year's production was fantastic, one of the best shows of the year. Even though it is a dance show, the live band on stage gave one of the best jazz performances I've heard all year and are deserving of high honors on this list. I'm glad the Music Hall let Drika Overton bring this gem back, and hope this wasn't its last hurrah. My Christmas wish is that this show should have a long life for many more seasons.
3. Spinal Tarp, The Barley Pub in Dover - O.M.G. It was tough deciding not to make this the #1 show of the year. If you missed it, I'm sorry. You missed something very, very special. In my opinion, it is nearly impossible to pull of a good parody of a parody, but somehow these guys managed to do just that. I have never, ever had so much fun at a Halloween concert. My full blog report is here. This was one for the books. Can they top this for 2010? If they come close, I'll be floored. Wow.
2. Amanda Palmer with Nervous Cabaret, the Portland Music Hall - This was a great show - and adding Nevous Cabaret really changed up the mix of Amanda's music in a great way. Now I'm looking forward to her New Year's Eve show with the Boston Pops. I decided not to wait and got this list out now, but I have a feeling that the final show of 2009 might give the top of this list a run for its money. (the picture is of me and Amanda right after the November 2009 show)
1. The Dirty Projectors, the Somerville Theatre - The Dirty Projectors are, without a doubt, one of the most creative, unique bands of today. The vocal work is complex and startling - in the best of ways. The arrangements are unexpected and clever. And the music is truly original. Katie and I were thrilled to catch them in June and are eagerly hoping to see them again (we missed their last trek through Boston due to a scheduling conflict). This show was the gem of the year. If you don't know their music, go buy their CDs immediately. I can't guarantee that you'll love, or even like them. But they deserve a listen.
And with that I come to the end of another list and another year. Let me know what your favorite show of 2009 was. You just might convince me to go see your favorite band in 2010.