A lot of people choose to release these end-of-year lists in November, but I waited until 2017 was fully in the bag before putting out mine. Below is my 25 favorite concerts I saw in 2017, part of my Best of Music 2017 series. You can click here to find my playlist of my 100 favorite songs of 2017!
25. Jimmy Eat World at iHeartRadio Theater (January 13)
I remember buying Jimmy Eat World’s Bleed American album at the Warehouse (R.I.P.) in middle school and immediately falling in love with the record that is chock full of anthemic tunes. I finally got to see them for the first time at the awesome iHeartRadio Theater in Burbank, one of the best sounding venues in the area. The moment they kicked off their set with “Sweetness” I was all in and singing along to every word.
24. Miguel at Annenberg Space for Photography (July 15)
Likely Coachella 2018 performer Miguel is a fucking rock star, and he proved it with a capacity crowd at one of KCRW’s free Sound in Focus shows this summer. It was easily the best bill put there this year, and Miguel shined brightly with his alt R&B jams. Here’s hoping that KCRW continues to bring shows of this caliber to LA for free — I think at this point we can count on it.
23. MØ, Tei Shi at The Novo (March 23)
One of the better double bills of the year, Tei Shi’s opening set was a nice slowed-tempo contrast to MØ’s more upbeat bangers. Tei Shi’s sultry alt R&B meets neo soul grooves had the crowd swaying, then MØ came up and had them jumping up and down. Tei Shi put out one of 2017’s most underrated records with her debut full-length Crawl Space and MØ is gearing up for a big 2018.
22. Lisa Hannigan, Heather Woods Broderick at Teragram Ballroom (February 15)
Few shows put me in my feels as much as the one-two combination of Lisa Hannigan and Heather Woods Broderick at the Teragram the day after Valentine’s Day. You may know Broderick from her time as part of the awesome Sharon Van Etten’s band as a keyboardist and backup vocalist, but she proved she can shine on her own with her ethereal atmospheric sounding stuff. Hannigan was also first known as a support to another act, singer Damien Rice, but over the last decade has stood on her own.
21. Slowdive, Cherry Glazerr at The Wiltern (October 29)
What I loved most about this show is the stark contrast that these two bands and their followings represented. First up was Cherry Glazerr, the young garage rockers from LA with a cult-like following among young kids in the area. I remember seeing them at FYF Fest and thinking I was surrounded by high schoolers. Slowdive is a band who released their first album in two decades and have a much older following with their atmospheric shoegaze, and the two complemented each other wonderfully. I also got to watch this in the pit and the visuals were pretty amazing.
20. Phoebe Bridgers at Lodge Room (December 16)
Few musicians had bigger 2017s than LA’s own Phoebe Bridgers, who released her debut album Stranger in the Alps to mass critical acclaim. She closed her year out with a hometown album-release gig at the new Highland Park venue the Lodge Room, and even brought out friend and collaborator Conor Oberst to sing on a couple of songs. It’s been wonderful tracking her the last year-plus after first seeing her open for Julien Baker last year at the El Rey, and I think we are witnessing the beginning of a stellar career.
19. Sylvan Esso at Hollywood Palladium (August 25)
A few years ago, I would’ve had my doubts that a duo consisting of a singer and a guy turning knobs could put together a show worthy of the size of the Palladium, but boy did I turn out to be wrong. Amelia Meath and Nick Sanborn have so much swag, and their stage production and lights complemented their minimal electro-folk sound magically. It doesn’t hurt that their sophomore album What Now was a step forward from their stellar self-titled debut a couple years ago, and hearing the new songs in a big room filled my heart with pure joy.
18. Gary Clark Jr. at Fonda Theatre (March 26)
Gary Clark Jr. was set to open for Eric Clapton at The Forum early in 2017, but Clapton got sick and cancelled his show. Clark handled it by booking a last-minute underplay at the Fonda, which quickly sold out. Shout out to my friend since sixth grade Sydney Fong who does the marketing for that venue for bringing me along. I still haven’t found my face as Clark melted it clean off with a two-hour set where he shredded. He’s probably the best guitarist under 40 years old.
17. Anderson .Paak at Tower Records (February 10)
GRAMMY week in Los Angeles always brings out some awesome shows and this year, MasterCard put together a show at the old Tower Records (recreating the outside of it for the show) to showcase their MasterPass. They had a VinylMePlease setup where you could purchase records from the subscription service for $10 each (I ended up walking out with 10 records) and a show headlined by LA’s rising star Anderson Paak. Though the show came in under an hour in length, Paak gave his all in a performance that highlighted just how talented he is and why he will be headlining major festivals in the next few years.
16. Kate Tempest at Echoplex (March 21)
One of my favorite things is discovering new artists at festivals, and at Sasquatch 2015, British rapper-poet Kate Tempest wowed me more than anyone. She started her set with a modest-sized crowd that multiplied as she gave us all goosebumps, and that feeling was magnified when I saw her lone LA gig at the Echoplex this March. She knows how to touch you right in her soul with her politically-charged rhymes, all while not looking like your typical rapper.
15. Hundred Waters at El Rey Theatre (December 1)
I got to interview Hundred Waters for a feature in LA Weekly before the paper was bought by Orange County conservative ass clowns, and their album Communicating from this year was among my favorites. It’s one of the best breakup albums in recent memory and the band went to great lengths to match the intensity with a new stage production. Singer Nicole Miglis’ voice is so haunting and the layered synths that sit behind her vocals are perfect. I’m looking forward to seeing them conquer the 2018 festival circuit and can’t wait to see them at Coachella 2018.
14. Portugal. The Man at Hollywood Palladium (July 30)
Another band that has soared to new heights in 2017 was this indie rock juggernaut that will likely be on the second line of most festival bills they are featured on in 2018. Their show has grown in scale to match their live performing chops, with a light show that would make any DJ full of envy. Few bands jam as hard as these guys and they put together a nearly two-hour gig that was nonstop music from beginning to end.
13. James Blake at Immanuel Presbyterian (December 9)
I had seen James Blake perform at a couple of festivals in the past but this was my first time seeing him play his own show, and it was the first series of shows he’s ever played that featured other musicians backing him up. The new full-band arrangements of his most popular songs added depth and texture that elevated my enjoyment of them, and he also included new tracks and covers of Don McLean and Bill Withers. His voice is like a ghost and seeing him in a church is the kind of thing that you don’t get to experience every day.
12. Jungle at El Rey Theatre (December 7)
It’s been a little too long since we heard anything new out of this British funk and soul band known for delivering high-energy live shows. This was a massive underplay by the band as they tried out some new material in front of a live crowd to go with the stuff from their stellar debut record several years ago. I remember seeing them on the rail at Bonnaroo 2015 and am convinced they will be on many major festival bills in 2018 with a new album on the way. This is a band who will make you dance non stop and there were no complaints from me.
11. HAIM at Greek Theatre (October 19)
HAIM is a band I’ve seen about a dozen times live, mostly at festivals but occasionally at their own shows. Even at their own shows, they were usually walking off stage after playing just an hour, and with two albums under their belt I sometimes wondered why they didn’t do more. But their hometown sold-out show at the Greek was a special one, and one in which they played 90 to 100 minutes, with the show being filmed by new friend Paul Thomas Anderson (hopefully we see the full thing in 2018). They really upped their game and this was a show where I got to see a favorite band of mine take a big step forward in their careers.
10. The Shins at El Rey Theatre (March 10)
I had never seen The Shins before, and seeing them play this small venue gig for their album release was pretty special. This was a band I really loved discovering when I saw Garden State like everyone else I know in my age group, one of the first bands to widen my taste beyond that of my older brothers. I was pretty close to the front and surrounded by die hards for what was an action-packed rollercoaster of a gig. They still got it.
9. John Mayer (with Dave Chappelle) at Hotel Cafe (January 3)
I started off 2017 right with a random John Mayer gig at the tiny Hotel Cafe in Hollywood. I saw a tweet announcing the show from the venue’s Twitter, immediately hit up some friends and about 10 of us snagged tickets to the show for like $15 each. Mayer played a dope set featuring some new material and old favorites, but things went up a notch when friend Dave Chappelle walked onto stage and told some jokes, riffing with Mayer about a whole bunch of shit. This was the precursor to the two closing out 2017 with some special shows together, and it was cool to see it happen for the first time in person.
8. Tash Sultana at The Echo (February 21)
Easily my favorite discovery of 2017, I had no idea what I was getting into when I saw the Aussie multi-instrumentalist perform a super sold-out gig at The Echo in February. I quickly realized I was watching a virtuoso with immense talent on a variety of instruments — I mean, she brought out a fucking pan flute at one point. She layers all her stuff live so seamlessly, and her voice is powerful and rendered the whole crowd speechless.
7. Spoon at Apogee Studios (March 7)
I always dug Spoon but never considered myself a mega fan, but seeing them tape an episode of KCRW’s Morning Becomes Eclectic at the tiny Santa Monica studio was really what connected me. They were playing songs from their then-unreleased 2017 record Hot Thoughts, and I remember instantly falling in love with album cut “I Ain’t the One” the moment I heard the opening of it. There were no good versions of the song online yet and I had to wait until the album dropped, but damn if I didn’t listen to that episode over and over until it did.
6. Warpaint, Wild Belle at Santa Monica Pier (August 17)
Though they would later go on to play some life-changing gigs opening for Depeche Mode at the Hollywood Bowl, LA favorites Warpaint played their last hometown headline gig of the year at the Santa Monica Pier, a perfect match for their ethereal moody brand of rock. I had seen the band over half a dozen times on the festival circuit earlier that year, including taking my 7-year-old niece to see them at Outside Lands just a few days earlier. This show closed out the Twilight Concert Series on the pier this year and it was a perfect way to say goodbye. Seeing them perform old favorite “Stars” for one of the few times in many years underneath the stars while the wind blew was a highlight of my year. My only regret was not taking psychedelics like I had intended to.
5. Wolf Alice at The Echo (July 26)
In preparation for their sophomore album Visions of a Life dropping later on, these UK rockers booked a series of shows in tiny venues across the U.S. that included a stop at The Echo. I snatched up a ticket and quickly saw the prices on secondary markets go to $100 or more, it was a crazy in demand gig. At this point, only a couple of singles had dropped from the record and they ended up playing about a half-dozen new songs, and it was awesome to see a fun and heavy mosh go all show long. The album ended up being my favorite of 2017 and hearing some of the songs for the first time in this setting was a real treat.
4. Interpol at El Rey Theatre (September 28)
Interpol played their mesmerizing hit record Turn On The Bright Lights in its entirety at this one-off show at the El Rey just a few days before they would do the same at the much bigger LA Historic Park, and it was fantastic. There were a lot of dope people in this crowd — Phantogram bought tickets and raged in the GA with the rest of us for instance. Paul Banks has one of the most unique voices in rock music today and hearing those songs in such a tiny room was a real treat.
3. Creeper Lagoon at Bottom of the Hill (February 26)
One of my favorite bands I discovered when I was in middle school was SF indie rock band Creeper Lagoon, through the shitty Jack Black film Orange County. The core lineup had already broken up but I posted on their message board regularly, striking up a friendship with band founder Sharky Laguana. The day that they announced their first shows in 16 years was ironically the same day that a vinyl copy of their Watering Ghost Garden EP I ordered showed up at my house. I immediately bought tickets and got to see them play two shows in one day as part of Noisepop and I was blown away by how together they were. I met people I had only met on their message board and had a blast FINALLY seeing these songs performed live, and later got to see them do it again at The Echo a week later. A sentimental and amazingly nostalgic moment.
2. Yeah Yeah Yeahs at Fonda Theatre (October 25)
I got to see the Yeah Yeah Yeahs perform their first full gig together in nearly full years as they celebrating the re-release of their iconic game-changing record Fever To Tell. This was probably the hottest show to take place in LA in 2017 and the excitement in the Fonda was beyond palpable. They opened by playing “Modern Romance” for the first time since 2010 and kicked the show into high gear with “Rich” right after. It was further proof why Karen O is a fucking rock and roll superstar.
1. Prophets of Rage Anti-Inauguration Ball (with Audioslave) at Teragram Ballroom (January 20)
One of the few good things to come out of this horrible Cheeto becoming president, was it was enough to lure Tom Morello to bring back Audioslave for a one-night anti-inauguration ball in Los Angeles. Though the band only played three songs, it was the first time they played together since 2015 and my face hurt from all the smiling I did when they kicked into “Cochise” and I jumped into the front of the pit to experience it. About 12 or so of us got tickets and it was one of the most fun group rage fests I’ve been to. Chris Cornell was like a god to me and his death this year hit me really hard, I’m glad I got to see him one last time before he went.