Since Four Letter Nerd’s conception, Stephen Andrew and I have been eagerly awaiting for the site to include music reviews, and that day has finally arrived. With the new year, 4LN has decided we are going to go in a new direction, and one of the new features will be focusing more on music. For me, music has always been something that I’ve been super nerdy about. When I get into a new band, I pretty much completely get into that band. I learn about the members, I completely dive into their discography, and I love learning about their writing process.
This previous year, I really dove into some awesome music, and along with diving into music, I saw some really awesome live performances. I saw everything from country music legend Willie Nelson to the black metal/crust punk band Young And In The Way, and I saw everything in between them as well. I can honestly say I saw close to 50 different musical acts this year, some were phenomenal, and others were fairly forgettable. This list will consist of the 10 best bands I saw in 2015, but in no particular order. I should say that, while I am heavily into punk, hardcore and metal, this list will not consist of just those types of bands. So, without further adieu, I give you the best live performances of 2015, according to Bill Clark.
1) Ryan Adams
I have been waiting since I was a sophomore in high school to see Ryan Adams (six years for anyone wondering). I first heard about Ryan Adams from a hipster girl I knew, and she gave me a copy of Gold and Easy Tiger and his music blew me away. Each time Ryan has toured and come through Nashville, I’ve missed his show. In April he announced two shows at The Ryman Auditorium, and I knew I had to see him. I got tickets to his first show of the two dates and it was incredible. The Ryman stage was set up like a 1980’s arcade and included giant pinball machines and wild taxidermy animals. Ryan mostly played songs of his self titled album, and unfortunately this show was before the announcement of his Taylor Swift cover album, 1989, so I didn’t get to see any of those songs live. To make an awesome show even better, Ryan brought out Jason Isbell and Natalie Prass and all together played Come Pick Me Up and Jacksonville Skyline. Unfortunately, on the second night (which I was not at) Ryan finally performed the Bryan Adams song Summer of ’69.
2) Willie Nelson
I saw Willie Nelson also at The Ryman Auditorium in March of 2015. It might have been one of the coolest shows I’ve ever seen. I went with a fellow punk rocker, Clint Daniel, and we had to be the two youngest people at the show. Clint’s in his late 20’s and I am in my early 20’s. So, what was funny about this show was, it was over by 9:30, and I was home in bed before 11. I say it was funny because one of the Nashville based venues I frequent often, The End, typically doesn’t have the show headliner start until 10 or after. Being able to tell people I saw Willie Nelson is one of the coolest parts of seeing Willie. At the age of 82, Willie is still kicking some serious ass and played for at least and hour and a half, and never once forgot a single lyric. It was great to see a living legend who could out preformed any new popular act.
3) Young And In The Way
Young and In The Way (YAITW) was possibly the single most terrifying musical experience of my life. For readers who are not familiar with YAITW, they are a black metal crust punk band from North Carolina, known for their satanic imagery, and cult like presence. Stephen Andrew and I saw them play to an audience for maybe 100 people. One by one the band came on stage covered in blood (for added effect, the guitarist played in a leather bondage sex mask, eyes zip shut) and when they began to play, the house lights turned off and the band played in darkness with flashing lights. With songs such as Be My Blood and F**k This Life, the negativity in the room was overpowering, and for the first 3 songs Stephen and I were not sure if we would make it out of the venue without being involved in a cult murder/suicide. During the song F**k This Life, Kable Lyall (vocalist) pointed directly at me, while covered in blood, and yelled “F**K THIS LIFE”… while looking at me. I was 99% sure I was marked for death by the group with “Cult of Rot” backpatches. If anyone is a fan of horror and/or metal, seeing YAITW live must be added to your bucket list.
4) Jeff Rosenstock
Where can I even begin with Jeff Rosenstock? I honestly think this was the single best show I saw in 2015. I saw him at the Nashville venue, The End, and I bet there were no more than 200 people at the show. But, during Jeff’s set there had to only be 125 people tops. He toured with Dan Andriano (of Alkaline Trio. No. The OTHER guy from Alkaline Trio. No. NOT MATT SKIBA.) Dan played before Jeff, and after his set a large amount of the crowd left, which really surprised me. For those of you not familiar with Jeff Rosenstock, he originally started playing music with Bomb the Music Industry! and has since made a name for himself in the folk punk/pop punk community. Jeff blends elements of folk and pop punk into one truly unique sound. And his live performances, are also truly unique. Jeff is in his 30’s but has more energy then almost any other performer I saw this year. What amazed me about the guy was he played an entire set on rhythm guitar for Dan Andriano and then did an entire other set immediately after, with Death Rosenstock. While on stage Jeff was jumping all over the place, and at one time jumped on a table in the bar, shredded a little, then jumped into the crowd. Later during the set, he handed his guitar to some random kid and stage dived for a while. The Jeff Rosenstock show was non stop chaos, but beautifully executed.
5) City and Colour
City and Colour was actually the last show I saw in 2015, and it was also Dallas Green’s last show of the year. I went with my girlfriend and her sister to see City and Colour at War Memorial Auditorium in Nashville, and it was a phenomenal show. I have never really been a City and Colour fan. I checked him out when he first released “Sometimes”, but I never really dived into anything after that. I had heard great things about his project with Pink! (You+Me) and his latest album, “If I Should Go Before You”, so I checked out both of those the week before the show, and they really impressed me. I wasn’t sure what to expect with his live show, but I went in with an open mind. Half way during the show, I remember texting Stephen, “Dude. City and Colour is f**king flawless.” That’s really the only way I know how to describe the show. Dallas Green had a fantastic light show along with his music, which really added something unique to the concert. The only real thing I didn’t enjoy was Dallas Green’s lack of stage banter. He was very quiet and didn’t interact with the crowd. It was very much like listening to a recording, but I mean that in the best way possible.
6-8) New Found Glory, Turnstile and Turnover
This one is a bit more of a stretch, because this might have been the best concert I went too. It was just a stacked fucking line up, and what’s great about this line up, each band was different compared to the other. New Found Glory were headlining the show, and they are the reigning kings of Pop Punk. Like, every other band falls in comparison to them. Descendents are the grandparents of pop punk, New Found Glory are the parents, and every current pop punk band is a little middle-schooler trying to be edgy and cool. The NFG show was a major surprise for me, most of the crowd was the “old guys” crew. People in their late 20’s and early 30’s who aren’t at every show anymore, and most have kids and a family and a raging comic book addiction *cough* Stephen *cough* so they don’t get out to many shows anymore. (Editor’s Note: F*** you, you snot-nosed little s***.) During the opening bands, Turnover and Turnstile, the crowd wasn’t very energetic. Turnover is a slower more post-pop punk/emo band so it made sense with the crowd not moving during their set, and they killed it that night. Turnstile was incredibly energetic and had a strong Positive Mental Attitude (PMA) message, and they got the crowd moving pretty good. Definitely the heaviest band on the bill, younger people were moshing and really getting into the band. But, the entire atmosphere changed when New Found Glory hit the stage, the crowd exploded with energy and the level of excitement flooded over the room. I don’t think I have ever been at a show that had so many stage dives and crowd surfers. It was just a sea of bodies crashing over each other, wave after wave. When it comes to punk and all its subgenres, New Found Glory takes the cake when it comes to live shows.
9) Death Cab for Cutie
I have seen Death Cab at least five times, and every time I see them, they get better and better. I saw them at The Ryman Auditorium to a sold out crowd, and it was honestly one of the best times I’ve seen them. If you are ever in Nashville, please do yourself a favor and see a band at The Ryman. It’s easily one of the best venues in the world, and as an added bonus, it’s also the mother church of country music, and the birthplace of bluegrass. Death Cab is one of those bands that the longer they are together, the better they become. They honestly have it all. Great crowd interactions, perfect sound, and a flawless set list. I think one of the special things about Death Cab is, during their live performances they cater to both fan bases: fairly new fans, and veteran fans. Death Cab does a wonderful job interacting with the crowd, telling stories, and even joking around. Ben Gibbard (the vocalist) asked if anyone knew Garth Brooks, and if they did, ask him to please cover I Will Follow You Into The Dark so that he and the rest of the band, can send their kids to college (though, I don’t think he’ll have a problem doing that without aid from Garth). Even if you only know a couple Death Cab songs, you really need to go see them live, it will be 100% worth it.
10) Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Where to even begin? This was more of a life experience opposed to a concert. Stephen and I had been planning on going to this show since it was announced, and goddamn am I glad I went. It was truly one of the most beautiful experiences of my life. I was buzzing pretty good on PBR during their set, and that honestly made it all the more powerful. For those of you not familiar with GSY!BE, they are a canadian post-rock instrumental/experimental band. GSY!BE is an eight piece band that has a full time projectionist that travels with them, and he ran 3 different projectors that played over the music, for a truly unique experience. I visually remember one 8 minute song just consisting of just two deer eating grass and staring at you. If you were high during their set, it would have been unbelievable. Words can not describe how great they are, but it is important to mention, if you see them, they will be LOUD. This was easily the loudest concert I have ever seen in my life. I can go on and on about describing them, but I think Stephen found the perfect words for Godspeed You! Black Emperor…
2015 was one hell of a year for live music, from bloody black metal, to experimental instrumental music I saw a little bit of everything this year. We would love to hear your feedback, and/or comment below with a couple of the best bands you saw this previous year. Keep checking back with Four Letter Nerd for more music related articles!