Top Live Shows in Austin in 2012

Our year end coverage begins with the three chiefs over at the ATH offices reveling in what was an incredible year in Austin, musically speaking.  Tons of rad bands blew us away with their live sets, and, well, there were just tons of bands.  I think we did more show coverage this year than in previous years, but as always, the great thing about our site is diversity.  We’re also linking back to our full reviews and photos of some of these nights, so you can get more of a feel of our thoughts, not to mention, checking out Brian’s great photographic 2012. Read on for thoughts on live acts from the three main contributors.
Nathan.Lankford – Personally, I like all sorts of music, but for me, 2012 took a particular turn towards the more rocking sentiment of my personal repertoire. I covered tons of shows in person, and I think the three below are those that stick out the most to me.

4. Terry Malts – It was a jam packed April, and my month started off with a bang.  At this point in the year, I couldn’t play Killing Time enough, and I still can’t, so my expectations were extremely high for TM.  They came on, drank a few beers and just blasted threw an entire set in under thirty minutes, but I still felt enthralled.  They gave me the hits, but they gave me hope that more bands and just go through a set with no frills, balls-to-the-wall rock n’ roll.  If they had played for two hours, I might have gotten bored, but thirty minutes of furious Ramones influenced pop was just what the doctor ordered.

3. Royal Headache – These Aussies had the hard time of setting up shop after Daughn Gibson and before The Clean…a hard spot if you ask me, but their music alone would have sealed the deal.  But, with Shogun at the helm, stalking the stage, he worked the crowd into a supreme frenzy with hipsters and punks alike sweating and throwing beer all over the place.  I’m pretty sure I might have even slam danced while screaming along to my favorite hits from their self-titled record. They established themselves as an act I would willingly watch again and again.

2. Hunx/Natural Child/Grape Street - By far my favorite bill of the year.  Grape Street continued to impress me with their swagger, allowing me to bounce along the entire time.  Natural Child just kicked me in the ass. I hadn’t really heard too much from these guys at this point, but their blues-drenched solos and crowd participation made them one of my favorite live acts…and their recorded material isn’t too bad either.  And what else can I say about Hunx?  He’s entertaining.  His backing band is solid.  For him, there’s a performance factor to the live show, but the songs also have great substance, which will eternally win him awards in my book.

1. Real Estate/Twerps – I remember this night in particular, as B. Gray was working his tail off. Spoon and Bowerbirds were playing in different places across town, but the Mohawk was still jam-packed with eager fans.  Musically, both these bands are spot on.  I can’t honestly say that I can think up a bad track between the two acts, so it’s clear that their live set was going to give me lots to think about.  Twerps are absolutely charming, and Marty is so personable, on stage and in conversation, that it’s hard not to like anything the guy is a part of.  I will also say that I caught the band four times within that month, and never felt let down.  And Real Estate. Is there anything substantial left to say about these New Jersey dudes?  They have songs that inspire crowds to sing, yet they have songs that beg you to just be quiet and take it in.  They’re more energetic than you’d expect, and they execute the finer details of their songwriting with precision.  For me, this was my personal show of the year. I could die a happy man had this been the only show I’d ever seen.

B. Gray – I’m the show guy. I take the pictures. I have to separate the best pics of the year from the best shows, and that is actually pretty hard to do because I watch shows through a viewfinder (not my phone). To help me deal with that, I’ll have another post later for best pics of the year. I have tons of honorable mentions that I’ll probably dive into in the pics post, but these ones stick out as giving me the “I’d rather not be anywhere else” moments.

4. Twin Shadow – Two nights that were back to back sold out. Deservedly so. George ran the joint. Prince theatrics, nailed down vocal, they even played with the lights a bit. While it was a jam-packed Mohawk, the crowd was happy, dancing and singing. George’s band sounded better than the last time for sure, showing a level of polish. Add to that, it was terribly photogenic. They ripped through the shadowy classics and killed the new jams. Prince-like guitar solos split the song in early thirds and the last measured dose of chorus. Throw in a little Orthy night cap, call it.

3. Wild Nothing – Their previous visit to town was a severely cold night. I remember ice on the ground, sweaters, temps in the teens when we walked out afterwards. The small stage at Red7 could no longer contain the band that had garnered plenty of buzz with the latest release, Nocturne. Sometimes the openers build anticipation. This was not one of those nights. One was an odd fit, the other, just a mess. It didn’t matter. Jack Tatum recorded the new album as Anand and it shoed in the live setting. It was a full on experience, no wondering where that extra guitar was coming from, no oddly precise elements. Wild Nothing is a live band now people. Go see them.

2. OBN IIIs – this one was actually in 2011 but just barely. It was the second to last night of the original Emo’s. The lineup was a sick mash of ATH favorites with Video in the middle slot after Wiccans opened it up. Anytime a show has a bit of extra weight because of an ending, everyone wants to make a memory. Well, it was a good pit, Orville spending time in the middle of it, so I did, too, to get the shots that document those memories. Beers thrown, pictures taken. I loved to hate Emo’s, but I still miss it so.

1. Willis Earl Beal – Oh, Nathan, you should have been there. Randy Cremean and I were the only two photos during the mid-day BMI stage set at ACL from Mr. Beal. It is not often that a man singing in front of a recording can elicit that dumbstruck, this is amazing feeling. The sun was setting. It was my birthday. I had no expectations, no idea what was going to go down. Songs of defiance and faith, or lack thereof. It blew me away. You ever see a band and then not want listen to an album because it might disappoint? It was like that. There is no way any thing that has been recorded could beat that.

RayRay – I’ll be honest, I don’t make it out to near as many shows as B.Gray and Nathan do, especially during the week.  I’m just the kind of guy that values plenty of me time and tries to get enough sleep, so I only tend to make it out for the very best shows.  I do of course check out at least one show on the weekend, so I’ve seen tons of stuff over the course of this year.  As Nathan already mentioned, everyone here at ATH has our own tastes and opinions, and that’s what make us great.

4. Active Child – I had some difficulty figuring out who would sneak into my top 4 here with a lot of bands coming to mind.  I’m going with Active Child simply due to the shear anticipation for the show and the delivery on the hype.  He was great at Fun Fest 2011 and this show at Mohawk earlier in the year was somehow even better.  Great live performance complete with energy, smoke machines and some sweet lasers.

3. The Tallest Man On Earth – It’s rare that you attend a show and have everyone talking about how in complete awe they are of an artist.  This is what happened after the Tallest Man Show at the Paramount.  You’re skeptical when the guy comes out performing completely solo, but then you are totally amazed by the performance going on before your eyes.  Truly amazing musician who will be talked about for years to come.

2. The Men – I’ve probably never rocked so hard in my entire life as I did when I saw the Men play at Beauty Bar during SXSW.  This was really their coming out party for everyone in Austin.  They had just put out an incredible album that was as hyped up as it gets, and you could tell that everyone in the bar was eagerly awaiting to see if the band could recreate the sound live.  From the first guitar riff, the band blew everyone away and the entire place erupted into one huge mosh pit.  Welcome to the big time boys.

1. Dirty Projectors/Wye Oak – I wrote about this show in my recap of Marfa, TX back in July.  This is really one of those once in a lifetime type of shows that will be close to impossible to recreate.  You’ve got two amazing indie bands playing in the middle of nowhere Texas, in a tiny “story tellers” type venue, and the ultimate concert experience is born.  Moments like this are why we made this website.  Music is pretty cool.

You can check the linked pages for further review details and Brian Gray’s rad photos from 2012.  These were just our individual favorite shows of the year?  What was the best show you made it out to? Let us know…you can even tell us your favorite venue if you like. We’re all about crowd participation.

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