Jessica’s Favorite Performances of 2015

2015 was not an easy year which means that UBL took a backseat. I reviewed a lot less albums and attended half as many shows as last year. While I missed some concerts that I would have loved to see, I did get to see a lot of bands that have been on my concert bucket list for some time. I have a few shows in 2016 that I’m already thrilled about but before I jump the gun and start thinking about those shows, it’s time to remember my favorite shows of 2015.

15. Dreamers
I became infatuated with the Brooklyn duo as soon as I heard their single, “Wolves,” just over a year ago and waited on the edge of my seat for the announcement of a full length LP, tour for months. I was ecstatic to see the band on the lineup for this year’s Mo Pop Fest even if I’d only be getting a short set rather than a full length. The great thing about Dreamers is that even with the limited time slot they got, they managed to pack it full of energy and music to sate me, at least for now. With the announcement of a new album at their performance, I find myself not so patiently waiting to get it in my greedy little hands and for the guys to tour again in support of it.

14. Yellowcard
There was a time in my life when the Jacksonville fivesome was coming through my headphones non-stop and have, therefore, been on my concert wishlist for some time now. To finally get to see the guys live took me back to some great times in my life. The wait was well worth it as the night was filled with a lot of energy from all the bands involved as well as the fans that packed Saint Andrew’s that night and there’s little that can make a concert experience better than a night filled with a few favorite songs and a lot of nostalgia.

13. New Found Glory
If you would have told me that New Found Glory would be the highlight of my show that night back in November I’m not sure I would have believed you. It’s not that Yellowcard wasn’t everything I hoped they could be, NFG was just one hell of an opening act. Like the headliner that night, New Found Glory was a band that was constantly coming through my headphones at one point in my life. I have fond memories of blasting their music as me and some friends gallivanted around town getting into whatever trouble we could find. I’ve seen NFG live before but never like this. The guys had never-ending energy that seeped to every corner of Saint Andrew’s Hall that night. I struggled to find one person that was not singing along and completely throwing themselves into it. It’s a concert experience that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

12. Copeland
How I made it this long without seeing Copeland in concert is a mystery, though it has been five years since they’ve been to the mitten so that’s partially to blame. This was a show that I desperately needed at the time that I saw it when my motivation to leave my cozy apartment for anything was at an all time low. It was a lovely, intimate show that had a crowd that truly appreciated each minute more than the one before. I had a hard time getting out to concerts this year and it was nights like this one that reminded me of why I love going to them. It was a low key show that was filled with anecdotes from Aaron Marsh that added a lovely, personal touch to the evening and the impressively packed setlist that night. Even in a sold out show, Copeland made you feel like they were playing all your favorite songs just for you.

11. Eisley
Eisley is one of the few bands that I’ve actually wanted to listen to this year. It was easy to take a few moments and lose myself in the vast soundscapes they create and completely forget about everything else going on in my life. It’s been a few years since I’ve been able to catch the band live which, added with my want to see Copeland, made their show a show that I couldn’t miss out on. The band’s lineup was adjusted a little to allow members to stay home for various reasons but that didn’t affect the quality of Eisley’s live show at all. Not only did they sound great, but Sherri DuPree-Bemis seemed elated to be back on the road again and there’s few things that can make a show better than an artist who is happy to be performing for their fans. Rumor is that the band will be back in the studio come spring time for a new album which hopefully means another tour coming our way shortly.

10. JR JR
2015 was a huge year for the Detroit duo. The guys released a fantastic album on top of embarking on a pretty epic tour. I was lucky enough to catch JR JR twice year, once at Chill on the Hill and again when they headlined the Royal Oak Music Theatre. While getting to see the guys perform at Chill on the Hill for tons of (hopefully) new fans was great, their set just wasn’t long enough to sate me. Thankfully I got a night filled to the brim with JR JR goodness. The duo never disappoint in their live show, filling the packed venue that night with energy and danceable tunes that made it easy to forget anything else going on in my life at that moment and just get lost in the music.

9. Motion City Soundtrack
As one of my favorite bands, it’s basically a given that if I get to see them live, it’ll be one of my favorite shows of the year. Add that to the fact that they played one of my favorite albums, Commit This to Memory, from front to back and there was no way they weren’t making this list. I’ve seen MCS live a few times now and the guys always bring their A game to the stage. They sound amazing, have tons of energy, and I can’t help but enjoy all of Justin Pierre’s anecdotes and facts about their songs. I always think that my love for Motion City Soundtrack is about as high as it can get until I get to see them in concert again where they can somehow make me fall for their music even more.

8: Andy Hull
It’s safe to say that Andy Hull is near the top of my list of favorite musicians of all time. He has yet to be in a project or put out something that I am disappointed with and always puts on an amazing live show. That’s why going to his acoustic set was a no brainer and getting the opportunity to hear him play some tunes from his solo project, Right Away, Great Captain, was something I just couldn’t miss out on. The event took place at The Loving Touch which is probably one of the most intimate venues we have in the area. It was a sold out crowd that night but you couldn’t help but feel that Hull and the rest of the performers were there just for you. While he didn’t play my all time favorite Right Away, Great Captain track, he did play a strong set of other favorite tracks. Seeing Hull perform with any of his bands his always a treat but I have to admit that seeing Hull play a solo acoustic set might just be my favorite live show from him.

7. Born Ruffians
While I didn’t immediately become obsessed with Birthmarks when it dropped back in 2013, the album has become a staple of my listening in the last couple of years. It just seems to make me light up with happiness whenever I hear it, which may be one of the reasons why it’s been on repeat a lot this year when I definitely needed some happiness. I snatched up a ticket to their show as soon as they went on sale and waited oh so patiently for the day to finally come. While I didn’t particularly want to leave my warm apartment on that cold night, I’m so happy that I did. Everything about the show was amazing. The crowd was filled with people that were as excited, if not more so than I was to see the guys. The opener, Young Rival, put on a great set that managed to pump us up even more for Born Ruffians. The Canadian foursome put on a set that exceeded all of my expectations and packed it with so many favorite tracks of mine that it’s hard to name one as number one any more. I hadn’t listened to their new album, Ruff, more than a few times before the show but I’ve listened to that and the rest of Born Ruffians’ discography countless times since. I can’t wait until they tour again, you can bet I’ll be standing front row center when they come back to the D.

6. Panic! At the Disco
I’ve seen Panic! a few times now and while I’ve always enjoyed their live show, there was just something about the performance they gave on day one of Chill on the Hill this year that just pulled me even further under their spell. Even veteran band, Weezer, made a comment about it, saying that they had to tour with the guys again. Brendon Urie was a blur across the stage all night, keeping the packed crowd that night up and moving. Admittedly, I haven’t love as much of Panic’s new stuff as their old stuff but hearing these songs played live made me go back and reassess. Now I find myself counting down the days until their new album, Death of a Bachelor drops and for a new tour to be announced.

5. Weezer
Here’s another band that I can’t seem to comprehend as to why I haven’t seen them live yet. The energy filling the arena that night at Chill on the Hill was electric and contagious. Unlike last year when the auditorium emptied before The Offspring’s set, I did not see one person leave their seat before Weezer took the stage. There’s a reason the guys have been going strong for over two decades. To say their set was epic would be an understatement as they blazed through their greatest hits from their expansive discography. I don’t think there was one song on my wishlist that they skipped over and I have to say that finally getting to hear them played live was a bit surreal. Barring something unavoidable, I can’t see myself missing Weezer live again.

4. Father John Misty
I went to this concert at a time when I just couldn’t find the time to get some UBL stuff done. It was a great night as I got to meet one of the writers from Bearded Gentlemen and make a new concert buddy. Even better that she was probably more excited to see Father John Misty than I was. His new album, I Love You, Honeybear, was one of my favorite albums of the year and I had heard nothing but great things about his live show. His voice filled the Royal Oak Music Theatre and, at a time when I struggled to find the time or motivation to listen to new music let alone write about it, made me remember why I love putting a lot of time and effort into the blog. Sometimes you go through rough patches where you need to do nothing for a while and sometimes you need to suck it up and go out when you don’t want to because you never know when you’ll get the kick in the ass that you need to motivate you to keep working on the things you love.

3. Cage the Elephant
I had heard only amazing things about Cage the Elephant’s live show and, aside from Weezer, they were the big selling point of going to this year’s Chill on the Hill. The buzz that filled the air that night was deafening, exploding when the band took the stage. Singer, Matthew Shultz, streaked across the stage and into the crowd time after time sending the packed pit into a frenzy. I almost felt bad for the guy that was tasked with wrangling Shultz’s microphone cable as he continued to dive from the stage into the hands of the awaiting crowd. It’s been a while since I’ve had Thank You, Happy Birthday on regular rotation but after seeing the band live I find myself not wanting to listen to much else. I can honestly say that it will take a lot to keep me going to every Cage the Elephant show I can in my lifetime.

2. First Aid Kit
I’ve been waiting patiently since I first heard the Söderberg sisters’ newest album, Stay Gold, to hear it live. I was pretty excited to see that the girls were coming to town and even more so when I saw that they’d be here on my birthday. The night was everything I could have hoped for. Even in the packed crowd, First Aid Kit managed to make the evening feel extremely intimate like they were just playing for me on my birthday. Klara and Johanna have a lot of stage presence and it was overflowing from the stage that night. We were treated to an evening filled with so many great First Aid Kit tunes and even a rocking cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs.” The night made for quite a memorable birthday.

1. The Decemberists
I’ve tinkered with this list a bunch since starting it but the one constant has been my favorite perfromance. Like many bands I got to see live this year, I’ve waited some time to see them live especially recently as I’ve rediscovered my love for the Portland fivesome and spent a good portion of the last year listening to nothing but The Hazards of Love. To say that The Decemberists are showmans would be an understatement. Colin Meloy regales the crowd with stories and jokes, they pack the stage with as many instruments and backup singers as possible to ensure an amazing live performance and they even bring out a giant whale for “The Mariner’s Revenge Song” which, if you’re a fan of the band or live performances in general, you should hear live at least once in your lifetime.