Ranking the Year in Concerts - 2017
By Robbie Repass
I love live music and 2017 was an awesome year of shows. Here's how I ranked those I was able to attend;
#1 - Radiohead @ The Greek Theatre - UC Berkeley 4/17/2017
Radiohead are my second favorite band, and I own the vinyl for each of their nine albums. I've seen them perform at Austin City Limits Music Festival in 2016, and at the American Airlines Center in Dallas in 2012. They are one of the biggest active rock bands on the planet and sell out arenas around the world. They released their ninth studio album, A Moon Shaped Pool, in mid-2016 and played a handful of North American shows, including the aforementioned ACL sets. They later announced another 11 US dates for early 2017, mostly arena shows and a couple Coachella weekends to end the run. No Texas shows. But a few of those dates caught my eye; they were going to play the Santa Barbara Bowl (capacity: 4,562) for a night and the Greek Theatre at UC Berkeley (capacity: 8,500) for two. It would be a total long shot to get tickets to any of those three shows, but I figured why not try. Somehow, someway, I got through and bought a pair of tickets to the first night at Berkeley. I was even more pumped because this venue has been on my bucket list of concert venues around the world. It's historic, built in 1903 on the gorgeous campus of Cal Berkeley. So I planned a weekend in the Bay Area around the show and the weather was absolutely beautiful all weekend until Monday arrived. And it rained all day. And the entire venue is GA for Radiohead. So I hafta give props to my wife Emma who stood there in line with me in the cold and rain. Even with the weather and getting there early, the line already stretched a few blocks away and we stood outside California Memorial Stadium (home to Cal football) for two hours before doors so we could secure a great sightline. Once we settled in I wandered around and took in the venue. It's beautiful and I'd encourage anyone to go see a show there. Not a bad seat in the house. The rain slowed down and eventually stopped just as Radiohead took the stage and the band delivered maybe the best live performance I've ever seen. Their catalogue is so deep and they're known for changing the setlist almost entirely from concert to concert. In the back-to-back Berkeley shows, for example, they played 25-song sets and only six songs were played on both nights. That's insane! All things considered, this was the most unforgettable concert experience and will be hard to top in my lifetime.
#2 - PVRIS + Thirty Seconds to Mars + MUSE @ Red Rocks Amphitheater 9/18/2017
I'm a big fan of Muse. This was the third time I've seen them. They are so polished and sound so freaking good live, and their stage design is always really cool as well. But this was less about seeing Muse than it was finally seeing a show at the world-renowned Red Rocks Amphitheater. I had been monitoring for (what I believed to be) a worthy show for the past couple years to build a trip to Denver around it. When the triple-bill of PVRIS, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Muse was announced, I knew this was the time. I got some reserved seats, planned the trip, and off we went. This was also my first time in Denver, which was amazing, but I'll spare those details. This is about the music. Even with our reserved seats, we got to the venue early so that I could soak it all in and walk all the way to the top to get the full experience. The air was thin and I was sucking wind, but it was worth the views, seeing the city out in the distance and the stage down below. Then it was time for the show. PVRIS are pretty new to the scene, an electropop rock band who released their second full-length in 2017, and they were a fun start to the evening. Then Thirty Seconds to Mars took the stage. Not everyone takes this band seriously, but their anthemic rock sound is fun and perfect for concerts. Jared Leto may be super weird and alittle too "hey look at me", but those characteristics suit him well as the frontman of a rock band. Say what you will, I like Thirty Seconds to Mars. Their music was the soundtrack to some of my more memorable college moments. Once their set finished, the anticipation began to build for Muse. Fans of the band traveled from all over the world to see this show. The atmosphere was surreal as the giant rocks on either side of the stage were lit and the stars shined overhead. The band came out and put on one hell of a show. Personal favorites like "Plug In Baby" and "Stockholm Syndrome" were included in the setlist which made me a very happy fan. It's a night I'll never forget. And props to my wife for making it through the long show despite feeling unwell. Can't wait to go back to Red Rocks.
#3 - The War on Drugs @ The Bomb Factory 9/28/2017
As much as I'd like to act like I had heard of these guys before anyone else, I can't. I didn't get on board until their third album in 2014, Lost in the Dream. It's so damn good. "Red Eyes", "Under the Pressure", "An Ocean in Between the Waves" and so on. I bought the vinyl for that album before I even had a record player. It's a masterpiece. The War on Drugs quickly became one of my top 5 favorite bands. Somehow, the band topped it with their fourth album, released in 2017, A Deeper Understanding. Top to bottom this album is fantastic, and it's nominated for Best Rock Album at the 2018 Grammy Awards. I was so stoked when this show was announced and got tickets immediately. My friends Michael and Reid got in line super early and held a spot for the rest of us front and center which we were able to fill before the crowd got out of hand. The performance was everything I hoped it would be and more. Any other year this is hands-down the #1 show of the year, and it is the best show I saw in Dallas in 2017. Seeing Adam Granduciel shred on guitar from only feet away was like seeing Jesus walk on water. Maybe better.
#4 - LCD Soundsystem @ The Bomb Factory 10/30/2017
LCD Soundsystem retired in 2011. Chuck Klosterman even did a documentary about it. I missed my chance to see them. That was it. Except that it wasn't. They came back for a reunion in 2016 and played several dates, including a headline set at Austin City Limits. I was there for that and had a pretty damn good spot. Unforgettable set. Crowd losing their collective mind for "Dance Yrself Clean". It was perfect. But then they announced there would be a new record in 2017. And then a tour to support that record. And one of the dates was going to be at a venue across the street from my building. The show was on a Monday night but thankfully I had some friends who stood in line early and let me jump in before doors once I got home from the office. The early arrivals were treated to a pretty fun appetizer of New Orleans bounce from Big Freedia as the room slowly filled to the brim for the main event. LCD took the stage and we were front and center for a spectacular show. These guys are just so, so great live. And again, towards the end of the set, the crowd lost its collective mind during "Dance Yrself Clean". LCD is still at the height of their powers, the new record may be their best, and they seem to be having the time of their life performing. If you have a chance, go see this band!!
#5 - Tripping Daisy @ Club Dada 5/11/2017
This psychedelic rock band from Dallas is a bit of a local legend. Developing a rabid fanbase, they achieved commercial success in the mid-90s receiving heavy airplay on MTV and even appearing on Beavis and Butthead. Sadly, in October 1999 everything came to an abrupt halt when lead guitarist Wes Berggren was found dead of a drug overdose. Following this unfortunate event, they disbanded and a few members later went on to form The Polyphonic Spree. Whispers of a possible reunion came and went across the years without coming to fruition. But all hope was not lost; in early 2017 it was announced that the band would reunite to headline the Homegrown Festival in Dallas' Main Street Garden Park. As the show approached, a special warm-up show was announced a few nights before the big reunion. My buddy Collin snagged a couple tickets and we waited in a line that stretched down the street to get in. Can't quite explain the feeling in the air as everyone crowded into the backyard of Club Dada to witness this epic event. The band took the stage and there was so much joy all around, as the diehard fans filling the audience shouted the words to every song, some with tears streaming down their face. We even saw some Facetiming loved ones or holding up their phones to share the experience with those that couldn't be there in person. Just really, really cool vibe. Not to mention the band sounded great and were having such a good time that once they finished their planned set they returned to the stage and played for another hour! Even taking several requests from the crowd!! This was an unforgettable night.
#6 - Grizzly Bear @ Canton Hall 11/11/2017
Grizzly Bear had been on hiatus since January 2014 and returned in 2017 with their fifth studio album, Painted Ruins, which may be their best work to date. It had been even longer since they made a tour stop in Dallas, and the buzz was somehow higher because they'd be opening a brand new venue in Deep Ellum called Canton Hall. The new spot is right next door to The Bomb Factory in the former location of famed venue Deep Ellum Live (also conveniently located across the street from my building). The band was incredible and acknowledged both the enthusiasm of the sold-out crowd and how cool it was to open the new venue, even showering praise on Texas audiences after the show on Twitter. Definitely a highlight of the year.
#7 - Courtney Barnett + Kurt Vile + The Sea Lice @ SMU McFarlin Auditorium 11/10/2017
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile, individually, are two of my favorite singer-songwriters. They have fun, quirky lyrics and can both groove on the guitar with the best of them. When it was announced that they were collaborating on an album I knew it would be magic. That album, Lotta Sea Lice, came out in 2017 and was a really fun and melodious listen. Dallas had the good fortune of being on the list of tour dates for these two performing together in support of that album, and at a really cool venue at that - McFarlin Auditorium on the campus of Southern Methodist University, right in the heart of the city. The performance was terrific, playing songs from the collaborative album as well as trading off some of their individual hits.
#8 - Alvvays @ Trees 10/18/2017
This Canadian indie pop outfit is relatively new on the scene, releasing their second full-length album Antisocialites in 2017. Vocalist Molly Rankin is a great songwriter and I was stoked to see them live after becoming a big fan over the past couple years. They played just about every song they've released including my current favorite of theirs, "Plimsoll Punks". If you haven't heard of this band I highly recommend seeking them out next time you're looking for something new on Spotify.
#9 - Red Hot Chili Peppers @ American Airlines Center 1/8/2017
This was my first time seeing this iconic California band. The Rock and Roll Hall of Famers were in top form touring in support of their latest release, The Getaway, and the fans in Dallas were treated to a setlist that dipped into many of the hits as well. While the AAC isn't exactly my favorite place to see live music, these guys are so polished that the sound was still incredible. They also had a really chill lighting design which enhanced the show.
#10 - Foster the People @ House of Blues Dallas 5/30/2017
This indie pop band has become one of my favorites over the past several years. They just have so many great songs across their first two albums, and at this show in May they had just released a three-song teaser of their forthcoming third studio album which included the songs "Pay the Man", "Doing It for the Money" and perhaps my favorite Foster song yet, "SHC". Founder and vocalist Mark Foster is a very talented musician and killer performer full of swagger onstage. Another cool part of seeing a band on tour leading up to an album release is the opportunity to hear some songs that aren't even released yet; ones that you leave the show wondering, "what was that one song called again??" For me, a song named "Sit Next to Me" really stood out, and now that the album is out it's one of my favorites and is currently getting massive buzz on satellite radio. Check it out!
#11 - Foster the People @ House of Blues Dallas 10/14/2017
Yes, this was my second time seeing Foster The People this year at the same venue from virtually the same exact spot in the room. And it was just as much fun as the first time. This band is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Between a couple festival sets and these two shows this year I've now seen them a handful of times and you are doing yourself a disservice the longer you wait to experience a Foster concert. The stage design was slightly different this time around, with the name of their third album Sacred Hearts Club (released in 2017) in technicolor LED script lettering overhead behind the band. The May show edged this one out, however, based solely on the fact the band did not play my favorite song from the new album, the title track "SHC", at this show.
#12 - Avenged Sevenfold + Metallica @ AT&T Stadium 6/16/2017
This was my second time seeing the heavy metal rock gods Metallica in person, the last one during my freshman year of college in 2005. It was a long time between opportunities and as one of my all-time favorites it was a must-see show, even if at this gargantuan venue that is known for sound issues. The stadium that is home to the Dallas Cowboys is massive and there were around 45,000 fans in attendance, most of them in Metallica t-shirts. The stage was big and the sound was even bigger; these guys can still play LOUD after all these years. My ears rang for two days following this concert. Touring in support of their 10th studio album, Hardwired... to Self-Destruct (which is one of the best they've put out in awhile), the band played for nearly two hours and played a terrific, hit-heavy set.
#13 - Spoon @ House of Blues Dallas 10/12/2017
Hard to believe this indie rock band formed in Austin, TX nearly 25 years ago! Britt Daniel and the guys put out their ninth album, Hot Thoughts, in March 2017 and then toured in support of it throughout the year. They stopped in Dallas between ACL Fest weekends and the setlist included several great new songs from the new record as well as many of the big hits they've had over the years. They are polished, veteran performers at this stage of their career and are must-see if you have the opportunity.
#14 - Future Islands @ The Bomb Factory 9/13/2017
This synthpop outfit has been around since the mid-2000s but they really broke out in 2014 thanks to a much buzzed about set at Coachella and a viral video of their performance on The Late Show with David Letterman. They came through that year and played a sold-out show at Three Links, which I missed, so I've been monitoring their tour dates for years. Finally, three years later, they returned to Deep Ellum to play a much larger venue. It was worth the wait - the band sounded incredible and it was a religious experience watching frontman Samuel T. Herring's stage performance.
#15 - Coast Modern @ The Cambridge Room at House of Blues Dallas 10/4/2017
My buddy Logan and I discovered this indie pop duo opening for The Temper Trap at Granada Theater in 2016 and had the chance to speak with the band afterward at the merch table. Ever since they've been in heavy rotation for us and we were sure to go see them when they came back through this year. They put out their debut full-length in July and knocked out renditions of most of those songs in this highly entertaining set. These guys get a lot of play on SiriusXM's Alt Nation channel and are destined for big things.
*setlist from Downstairs at White Oak Music Hall in Houston, TX - setlist from Dallas show not available
#16 - Bush @ Gas Monkey Live 5/4/2017
Gavin Rossdale still sounds great and plays with high energy for a 52-year old (he looks about 20 years younger than that)! This was my second time seeing Bush, an alt rock favorite of mine growing up, and it was a nostalgic blast. This time around I got to see "Swallowed" live which was really cool, among many other big hits from Sixteen Stone and Razorblade Suitcase ("Greedy Fly" is unreal live), and even some new songs. This was my first time at the Gas Monkey Live venue, which yes, is affiliated with Richard Rawlings' Gas Monkey Garage from the Discovery Channel show Fast N' Loud. It's about what you'd expect.
#17 - Joywave + Cold War Kids + Young the Giant @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory 9/29/2017
This is a brand new venue out toward the suburbs that is part of a larger entertainment complex. It opened it's doors behind schedule and the surrounding entertainment complex is still under construction, so there are definitely some growing pains taking place and it's a very corporate environment, but this triple bill including some of the best bands going in alt rock right now was the best show I saw there in 2017. Joywave is new on the scene but I really dig their sound, and Cold War Kids and Young the Giant are titans in this genre at the moment. I was very impressed with Young the Giant's set, I'd always heard they are fantastic live and they did not disappoint.
#18 - The Joy Formidable @ Club Dada 6/14/2017
These Welsh rockers have been on my list of acts to see for years and I finally got my chance on a hot summer night in a dark club on Elm Street. Lead vocalist and guitar player Ritzy remarked about the heat many times throughout the set, and bassist Rhydian could be seen with sweat literally pouring off of him all night, but despite the uncomfortable temperature the band and fans fed off of one another to power through an inspired collection of songs new and old.
*setlist from The Parish in Austin, TX - setlist from Dallas show not available
#19 - Cloud Nothings + Japandroids @ Club Dada 11/13/2017
An awesome double-bill with two LOUD and acclaimed acts. I'd recently discovered Cloud Nothings so that was a cherry on top, but getting the chance to see Japandroids in such a small room surrounded by fans who were losing it song after song was unforgettable. The pace of the set was frenetic, firing off hits and only stopping for a few minutes to superglue guitarist and vocalist Brian King's finger back together - a result of playing nearly 100 shows in alittle over a years time. This was the second-to-last show of the tour but the audience brought lots of energy and it powered the band to bring their best.
#20 - KISS @ The Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory 9/27/2017
Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons are in their 60s but they can still put on an entertaining show and it was awesome to hear all the big hits like "Detroit Rock City", "Rock and Roll All Nite", and "Love Gun" live. These guys were in their heyday when my dad was in high school and he was a huge fan, so I grew up listening to them and it was a cool experience to take him to his first KISS show as a birthday gift.
#21 - Crystal Castles @ House of Blues Dallas 10/7/2017
I was told that this show would be intense and it certainly was. Known for their high energy and chaotic live shows, this Canadian electronic band brought it in a big way. Edith Frances replaced original vocalist Alice Glass in 2015 and her performance demanded your attention at all times. This would honestly be higher on the list if not for the news of allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct against founding member Ethan Katz from the former member Glass, which broke mere days after seeing the show and resulted in the immediate cancellation of the remaining tour dates.
#22 - Atlas Genius @ House of Blues Dallas 4/28/2017
I really enjoy this alt rock band from Australia, formed by the Jeffery brothers. These guys are fun and energetic in concert, and they always sound great. I saw them in 2016 as well, at the Granada Theater in Dallas, and that venue is superior to the HOB in my opinion so that contributed to their placement - hey someone had to be at the bottom of the list.
HONORABLE MENTION - Soundgarden @ The Bomb Factory 5/26/2017
Sadly this show never took place, as Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell took his own life on 5/18/2017 following a show in Detroit. Fans of the band gathered outside the venue in Dallas for a candlelight vigil in memory of the man with one of the greatest rock and roll voices in history. I've known someone who has left the world this way and mental health is an important subject to me, I encourage you to click the AFSP link below and see how we all can help raise awareness for suicide prevention.
HONORABLE MENTION - Ray Johnston Band @ Sundown at Granada 11/17/2017
This guy has an incredible story, look him up. Former member of the Dallas Mavericks summer league squad and two-time cancer survivor. Also maybe the nicest guy I know and a worthy adversary on the sand volleyball courts at Sandbar in Deep Ellum. He's the frontman of a country music act playing tons of shows all over Texas, the US and even Mexico. This was my first opportunity to see him live and he put on quite the performance at this hometown show. I even got a shout-out late in the set! It didn't feel right ranking a friend, so this one landed in the Honorable Mentions, but if you get a chance to see the Ray Johnson Band you won't be disappointed.
HONORABLE MENTION - Sigur Rós @ The Bomb Factory 6/7/2017
An unfortunate miscommunication regarding a ticket transfer from a friend who couldn't make it led to my missing a large portion of the show. Big wasted opportunity - this Icelandic experimental rock band don't come around often.