In total, I managed to see Young Widows and Earthless the most at four shows each. I also caught Brutal Truth and Bang Camaro three times apiece. Not sure what that say about me, exactly. But without further ado, here are my favorite shows of 2009, plus two newer artists I was really impressed by.
The Jesus Lizard @ Irving Plaza - By far, the most impressive show of the year. I found myself wondering what life would have been like if I started listening to Goat instead of Metallica's Black Album as a teenager. [Set list above.]
Devo @ Austin Music Hall - Watching Devo perform in the last year of the ought decade, all I kept thinking about was how avant-garde they seemed here and now, much less during their early '80s heyday. Astounding visual show.
Nine Inch Nails @ Terminal 5 - I'd almost forgotten the love I had for NIN for over half my life until I saw Trent & co. destroy this warehouse of a venue; the Peter Murphy cameo was just gravy. Thank you for waving goodbye in high style.
Ratt @ Nokia Theatre - It was almost worth the 25-year wait to see my beloved childhood icons perform their debut album, Out Of The Cellar, in its entirety.
St. Vitus @ Europa - Truly, this was a bucket list moment for any true stoner rock fan. America's most revered (yet underrated) doom icons put on a better show at Europa than they did at this year's Roadburn festival. Guitarist Dave Chandler and Wino have never sounded better.
Gallows @ Latitude 30 - Led by lithe angry ginger Frank Carter, the Gallows is the most volatile, dynamic hardcore band around today. They're probably the only group I'm willing to see knowing I risk getting kicked in the head by one of its members.
Mastodon @ Irving Plaza - With a perch near the sound board, I had the perfect vantage point to see my Atl buddies perform their latest opus, Crack The Skye, in all its symphonic glory. The visual show, combining CGI and early Russian art films, further enhanced the experience.
Tom Jones @ Ruth Eckerd Hall - Half of what made this show so amazing was the fact that I saw it amongst nearly every geriatric and post-menopausal woman in Tampa Bay, FL. And those bitches went crazy each of the many times Tom girated his pelvis! Panties of all sizes went flying during "What's New, Pussycat?"
Cursive @ Bowery Ballroom - On the eve of Mama, I'm Swollen's release, I caught this intimate show from Tim Kasher and co. and left feeling a cathartic release. With healthy helpings of tracks from the last three albums, the performance was utterly sublime.
Pat Benatar @ Asser Levy Park - This free show at the Coney Island beach-adjacent park was a hilarious summer experience. Sitting on blankets and sipping booze out of Snapple bottles amongst south Brooklyn locals, hipsters and oldsters while listening to Benatar belt out hits like "Invinsible" and "Promises in the Dark" was incredible.
Hank III @ Music Hall of Williamsburg - Folks get their money's worth when they attend a Hank III show. Not only does the country scion put on a honky tonk set, he also includes a hellbilly review and closes things off with a metal set not recommended for the faint of heart (or at the very least, those who are squeamish about seeing vocalist Gary Lindsay bleed from the head). A birthday shout-out at the stroke of midnight before III launched into "Life of Sin" was an amazing gift.
The Sword/Year Long Disaster @ Bowery Ballroom - The Sword have come to be synonomous with my late friend, Erlene Zierke. We were all set to see them play at Lenny's in Atlanta the night we found out she was gone, and in her spirit all tearily attended the show. Then their turn in NYC this past January coincided with her birthday. Seeing them, and my old friends in Year Long Disaster was nostalgic, but in the the warmest way.
Young Widows @ Emo's - The combination of a good venue, fantastic lineup (it was a Brooklyn Vegan/SxSW event) and an energetic crowd—not to mention the Widows' tight, cogent sound—made this my favorite set of theirs of the many I'd witnessed in 2009.
Earthless + J Mascis @ Habana Calle 6 Annex - Earthless are pretty goddamn dope on their own. Add Dinosaur Jr.'s J Mascis into the equation, and you've got a psychedelic, head-nodding experience made even better with a belly full of Iron Works BBQ. Bonus: watching Mario Rubalcaba play drums.
These Arms Are Snakes @ Shea Stadium - Arty, loud, noisy, visual, layered. These words barely begin to describe the evocative, glorious noise that came out of this half-assed art gallery's sound system during TAAS' tumultuous set.
Krallice @ The Studio at Webster Hall - They absolutely blew headliners Wolves in the Throne Room off the stage with their Voivod-inspired metal sound.
Orphan @ Union Pool - This duo remind me more of a garage-rock Black Cobra than they do De Stijl-era White Stripes. The shit was gully.
For visual records of these shows plus a ton more, check out my Live Shows Flickr set. Jesus Lizard set list photo stolen from Brooklyn Vegan.