2012 was a very good year. It was a very good year, in general, and a very good year for music, specifically. Picking any Best Of’s will be tough, but here it goes.
Best Show at Wolf Trap
Brandi Carlile, Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, and The Lumineers. I am drawn to music with strong, heartfelt lyrics and performers who balance their musical prowess with genuine sincerity. Quite simply, these three performers do this better than most.
Brandi Carlile has previously performed as a special guest at the Filene Center. In her headlining debut, she owned the stage and filled the house with her powerful voice. She played everything I and the audience wanted to hear: "The Story," "Turpentine," "That Wasn’t Me," "Dying Day," and more. Josh Ritter, in his Wolf Trap debut, similarly rocked the stage with a set that included some of my favorites, "Change of Time," "Girl in the War," "To the Dogs or Whoever." If some in the audience didn't know him before that night, they left here a fan.
And finally, the special guest of the evening, The Lumineers….. I know I don’t need to tell you who they are now given that every radio station from DC101 to Hot 99.5 is playing “Hey Ho” on repeat. But June 28, that single hadn’t become a hit yet, and the audience was treated to a performance by a band that was truly on the cusp of something spectacular.
This show sold very well, although it wasn't a sell-out. To all of those who could have bought a ticket, man, you really missed out. I doubt that we’ll get this configuration on that perfect a summer night ever again. But I was there, and I won’t ever forget it.
Best Show Somewhere Other Than Wolf Trap
I saw many, many shows this year at many, many venues. Here’s a sampling. Artists: Ryan Adams, Cowboy Mouth, Augustana, Toad the Wet Sprocket, The Black Keys, Artic Monkeys, Florence and the Machine, Lady Antebellum, Darius Rucker, Band of Skulls, Snow Patrol, Ed Shereen, Needtobreathe, Dawes, Stephen Kellogg & The Sixers, Bloc Party, Metric, Bell X1, The Walkmen, Beach House, Gaslight Anthem, Luke Brindley, Super Diamond, Live’s Ed Kowalczyk, Ray LaMontagne, Matthew Sweet, and MarchFourth Marching Band. I hit several venues in town: 9:30 Club, Jammin Java, U Street Music Hall, The Hamilton, Strathmore Music Hall, Kennedy Center, Verizon Center, Merriweather Post Pavilion, Constitution Hall and Artisphere.
I saw some superb dance: Mark Morris Dance Group, New York City Ballet and Ballet Preljocaj. I even hit Wooly Mammoth one Friday night for The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity. It was so good I went back and saw it again on Sunday night!
Some of these acts I saw for the first time ever and a number of acts for the 12th time. A few on this list I even saw two or three times in 2012.
The best is hard to choose, but here it is: Metric at The Music Hall at Strathmore.
I saw so many truly phenomenal concerts; many of which I would relive in a heartbeat. When I measure the musicianship, the songs, the energy of the crowd, the stage presence of the band, Metric stood above the rest this year. That’s no small thing to say when you look at the other acts on my list.
Best Recording/Release of the Year
Best Release of the year: Blunderbuss, the solo debut album by my future husband (he doesn’t yet know this) Jack White. I admittedly idolize White, an easy task given how absolutely ridiculously talented he is. Consider this: he wrote every original song on this album in one sitting. This approach yielded the purest and most personal songwriting of his career. “I want love to roll me over slowly, stick a knife inside me, and twist it all around” ("Love Interruption"). The only previously recorded song on the album, Rudy Toomb’s “I’m Shakin’” is phenomenal. I dare you to sit still while this plays. I listen to this album over and over and I turn it up to 11. I suggest you do the same.
What I'm Looking Forward to in 2013
I have no idea. I have no idea what I’m looking forward to, but I know this, if 2013 comes close to 2012 in terms of incredible shows at Wolf Trap and beyond, it is going to be a very, very good year.