I returned to live music in a big way in 2022. I witnessed 109 different performances by 105 different artists, as opposed to last year where I saw 44 performances by 43 artists (granted shows really didn’t start back up until July). Seeing a favorite musician or group perform live is still one of my biggest inspirations: the feeling you get when you hear a song you’ve obsessed over on your own for days, weeks, months or years live for the first time is unmatched.
There were shows here that I had tickets to see back in 2020. There are artists here who I’d been trying to see since 2009. There were both brand new and old artists performing their first-ever NYC shows. There was a surplus of overwhelming magical moments, moments where I would breathe in deeply to somehow capture all the special energy whirling around me. The miraculous part was that I only caught covid for the first time later in the year, and it’s debatable that I even caught it at a show. I did happen to get sick two other times this year, definitely putting a damper on a few of my plans, but nevertheless – some good numbers after essentially taking a forced hiatus from shows since 2019.
If you’re reading this and you’re a fan of the blog, I want to hear about your favorite live moments of 2022. Artists toured like crazy this year, so I know there had to have been more magical moments around NYC and outside of it. I love a gig, y’all! And also with that sentiment, if any touring artists happen to check this post out, I really want to say thank you for putting up some with utter BS this year from the music industry and world at large – you made a ton of people just like me very happy, and I can’t wait to see you live again.
TOP 10 FAVORITE SHOWS OF 2022 (sorted alphabetically):
Animal Collective & L’Rain @ Brooklyn Steel
It didn’t feel right to leave off opener L’Rain in this section, because I went for them just as much as I went to see Animal Collective for the first time. This was my fourth time seeing L’Rain and god damn, they’re rock stars. Hearing them continue to deepen the instrumentation and arrangements of songs off their incredible 2021 album Fatigue was great to hear, plus it just feels like people in the audience are finally paying adequate attention to them. How can you not love this band?? The video above is from when they opened for Parquet Courts later in 2022, but it’s the same venue soooo let’s just say it’s fine.
Onto Animal Collective – this was a moment in the works for over ten years. I’ve been a fan since 2009 but never had the chance to catch them live. I thought their new album Time Skiffs was pretty solid, so this would be the perfect time to see them. Jokes on me though, because they played as many unreleased songs live as they did old/new songs. Thankfully for me and the rest of the audience, the unreleased tracks were all pretty darn good, especially the longform “Defeat (Not A Suite)”. Other old highlights included “In The Flowers”, “Chores”, “Applesauce” and “No More Runnin”. They ended with “For Reverend Green”, one of my favorite songs in high school, and I got to release ten years of built up energy around this track. I even took my glasses off to headbang / wildly shake my head around. All the dudes around me were going nuts. I was going nuts. At long last. Animal Collective live.
Ata Kak @ le Poisson Rouge
I was supposed to see Ata Kak in April 2020. We all know what happened. Then I was going to see him in November of 2021. That show got cancelled. Over two years later, I finally got to witness his joyous music in the flesh, as well as his overflowing positive personality. He played his whole album Obaa Sima (which if you haven’t heard yet – please do yourself a favor and check it out), and it warmed my heart so much to be part of a crowd that was going absolutely bananas to his music. All the band members were smiling and having a good time too, but Ata Kak was the party leader, reveling in this adoration. For good reason, too. Hearing “Obaa Sima” live was an unforgettable moment.
caroline @ le Poisson Rouge
I give a shout out to opener Claire Rousay in the section below, but this caroline show in the round at LPR was a magic experience. I’ve been living in their debut LP all year, so hearing those tracks in such an intimate setting was breathtaking. The in the round setting allowed the audience members to focus on different members of the band instead of viewing them all together as one unit. I personally was situated by the violin players (as a violin player myself) and was enamored by their playing. I could tell they played in fiddle ensembles by the way they got down. The sync between players was incredible to watch too, as their vast, complex songs required utmost patience and concentration. Just a stellar show all around.
Charlotte Adigéry & Bolis Pupul @ Bowery Ballroom
Talk about performers commanding a venue. Charlotte & Bolis had Bowery Ballroom on fire, with the whole main floor dancing and singing along, matching the performers charisma and excitement. It was definitely a scenario where C+B came out with high energy, the audience responded with higher energy, which then C+B amped up their onstage rapport. A never-ending ramp up in intensity and excitement. I left feeling like I was bigger than the world and that C+B are the best duo in the biz.
Cindy Lee @ Bowery Ballroom
I had been wanting to see Cindy Lee live for a minute, but after her 2020 album unquestionably ranked as my favorite of the year, I HAD to see her show. It was pretty much everything I could have hoped for, with Cindy utilizing punishing noise elements with wall of sound 60s pop. She even had cardboard cutouts of famous pinups behind her to emphasize the aesthetic. Also notable that Lee totally shreds on guitar. I was there with a friend and we just absolutely nerded out over the Cindy Lee concept and execution afterwards. Totally obnoxious, but totally warranted.
Fleet Foxes @ Forest Hills Stadium
This was just a show that was in the making for so long. Despite being a fan since 2009, I had never seen Fleet Foxes until this year, just like Animal Collective. This show felt doubly special since I got to experience it with my partner, a fellow Fleet Foxes fan. I’m definitely more of a fan of Helplessness Blues compared to their other releases, but it was great to hear tracks across their discography. Robin also played a cover of Julee Sill’s “The Kiss” solo, which was a lovely surprise. Getting to hear songs like “Helplessness Blues”, “Montezuma”, “Can I Believe You”, “The Shrine/An Argument” and more. By the time they did the encore, a big, nearly-full moon was hanging just over the top of the stage.
Grouper @ The Opera House
Fun fact about me: if I see Grouper live that year, that performance will be in my favorites in my wrap-up. This was my third time seeing her and it’s still as magic as ever. Lots of smeared guitar, beautiful tape loops and hazy projected visuals behind her. The big thing though was that I finally heard my favorite song of her’s, “Headache” live. I definitely cried. “Alien Observer” also got me in tears. Striking, beautiful music. I feel so lucky to have seen her this year.
Indigo Sparke @ Union Pool
Sometimes shows can be magic since you’re hearing songs you really know and love live, but sometimes the magic comes from the synergies from the band and the individual performances. This show was an example of the latter. Indigo Sparke played most of her new album Hysteria, which of course has tracks I’m greatly familiar with and like, but I wouldn’t consider myself an expert. This show cemented my favor towards the project as a whole, while also illuminating what they’d sound like if they were much more heavily rock oriented. Shahzad Ismaily was sitting in and was doing his usual guitar noise wizardry, plus the drummer and other guitarist were gelling perfectly. Additionally the two backup singers were mixing well with Sparke’s voice. Likewise Sparke’s own voice sounded incredible live, full of power despite being incredibly jet lagged. If you have the chance to see Indigo Sparke live, take that chance. It’s hard to beat a tapped-in Union Pool show. See: my Coco experience from last year.
Jessie Ware @ Brooklyn Steel
Jessie Ware made one of my favorite albums of this decade so far with What’s Your Pleasure, so once she announced limited US tour dates (I think two shows for New York and Los Angeles each), I knew I had to get a ticket. After some shenanigans, I was able to secure one. The catch was that it was the night I came back from a west coast trip and I’d be dead tired. No matter – I went and it was amazing. Ware was a stellar performer and the crowd was singing and dancing along. It also revealed to me how many Jessie Ware tracks I knew outside of her 2020 album. The lightshow was great, the band was doing it, her dancers were in sync – not much more I can say except for I was glowing. One other funny observation I can add is that this show was the same night of one of the massive Turnstile shows, so when the crowd from Jessie Ware mixed with the folks coming from the Turnstile show (that was outdoors in the rain, I might add) it was a wild combination of energies.
Vanishing Twin @ Baby’s All Right
The second of my shows that I had a ticket for in 2020 and finally happened in 2022, Vanishing Twin put out a full new album in the meantime between promised show dates. It definitely felt like a moment that had been waited for for a long time, with the band churning through their highly psychedelic catalog with ease. I also want to give shine to their drummer, Valentina Magaletti, who I wasn’t aware of before but now I’m certain I could watch her perform solo all night. Not only was she absolutely shredding, but she brought a ton of personality to the stage, amping up the other band members, interacting with the audience and just plain letting it all out on those drums. So damn sick.
MORE MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES IN ALPHABETICAL ORDER:
- The delight I’d feel when I’d realize that when seeing an international performer, at least half of the venue is from or related to the country from where they came from. It felt like the whole of Music Hall of Williamsburg was singing along to Altin Gün’s reimagined traditional Turkish folk songs, the Brazilians were out in force to support Tim Bernardes + Sessa and the French were dancing and chanting “Ooo-Ooo” like Ray-Man at Myd. Obviously this is less “exotic” but hearing a ton of people in the venue reciting the Hanukkah prayer at Yo La Tengo’s Hanukkah show (although it was led by David Cross as the character of “Ira Kaplan’s rabbi from his Bar Mitzvah”, Alvin Sugarman) was awesome to see as well. I love to see stuff like that, and it helps me appreciate living in NYC even more than just seeing another show. Their audiences are HERE.
- Hearing Beth Orton’s “Central Reservation” for the first time and being instantly spellbound. Admittedly I only knew her 2022 album and was definitely locked in as a fan by the end. Also Shahzad Islmaily was in the band, and you know from the Indigo Sparke anecdote from above how much I love him.
- billy woods and Preservation bringing up E L U C I D, Quelle Chris, Breeze Brewin, Fielded, Fatboi Sharif and even DESPOT as guests. Never in my life, especially not in 2022, did I think I would see a live Despot feature.
- Black Country, New Road’s set of all unreleased music cementing the band as one of the most exciting and creative groups out right now. It didn’t sound exactly like their prior material with Isaac Wood as the singer, but it still undoubtedly sounded like Black Country, New Road.
- Finally seeing Cassandra Jenkins live after living with her still-incredible 2021 album An Overview on Phenomenal Nature for a year and a half was as amazing as I wanted it to be, and then when I introduced myself she knew about Warm Visions already. Shout out to you, Cassandra!
- This is probably something she does at most shows, but Claire Rousay getting into the audience, recording random people’s responses to prompts she gave them on her phone, and incorporating them into her set was pretty special. Never seen that before.
- The Destroyer bassist living his goddamn best life.
- One of the members of Disq taping a vape to a mic stand that they would hit in between songs.
- Ghanian music legend Ebo Taylor’s first-ever US performance, after making influential music in since the 1950s. Taylor, 86, was given the royal treatment, with his band making sure that the crowd responded in kind to him being there. Although I’m not super familiar with all of his songs, the high-energy highlife music was infectious to say the least, and it was easy to dance along.
- Totally vibing out to Erika de Casier on the Elsewhere Rooftop, but before that, explaining to a security guard what her music sounded like with a crowd of people that were around me. We settled on “Sade with Timbaland beats”. He was instantly sold.
- I appreciate Horsegirl’s knack for bringing the openers up on stage with them to perform songs together, giving most of them various percussion instruments and letting them just walk around on stage without any kind of agenda.
- Hanging out backstage with Jo Schornikow and her baby at Brooklyn Made after she opened for Marlon Williams. This was before the headliners went on, and Williams’ + band enter the vestibule-like room we were sitting in sidestage and all immediately ogle and delightfully babble at Schornikow’s baby, which was capped off by Williams giving the baby a fist bump before hitting the stage. Touring is hard. I’m sure having a relatively newborn baby to revive you is priceless.
- My partner guessing “MUSIC” on her first Wordle line and getting all grays in-between Lunar Vacation and The Beths sets. Hearing Lunar + new Beths songs live was also kickass. Remember Wordle?
- The sheer volume of the screams that seemed to shake the plaster holding Radio City Music Hall together whenever Mitski (or frankly, anyone on stage associated with her act) did ANYTHING. I’ve never been to a major popstar show, but this felt like I was witnessing The Beatles in the 60s solely based off the audience reactions.
- Sudan Archives busting out “Swallowtail Jig”, one of the first songs I learned in middle school fiddle club, in the middle of her set. A full circle moment for sure. Sudan if you’re reading this, I will gladly start a fiddle club with you.
- They Hate Change knowing who I was when I introduced myself – shout out to y’all! Also they are absolute monsters on stage. Go see them if you get the chance.
- Tirzah performing a beatless version of “Holding On” and leaving the audience of unreasonably horny adults truly holding on for some kind of beat drop that never came. The first, or at least one of several other moves I’m sure frustrated an audience of folks that had been waiting to see her in NYC for the last nine years (shout out to Coby Sey playing the sheet of tin foil on one song). I’d also like to add that throughout the show, I was flanked on all sides by couples voraciously making out. When I say voracious, I mean leaning back and forth, bumping in to me. I mean I could hear their exasperated breath at times. At one point someone from the couple in front of me raised their phone up in the air to record Tirzah performing while continuing to make out. Not only that, I had a couple behind me that talked nearly the entire show until a duo of friends behind them asked if they could move in front of them, since they weren’t looking at the stage at all and loudly gabbing. The gabbers sounded deeply offended. What is going on, folk? These people are out here acting up y’all, and it is unacceptable. Please practice proper show etiquette when you can, please.
- Again, Yo La Tengo. My sixth time seeing them and fourth time going to one of their Hanukkah shows. I had gotten decent guests in the past, but this time Lee Ranaldo joined them for nearly their entire set, and Lucy Dacus was their special encore guest. But the most confounding thing was that the band played multiple tracks off of their albums I know the least, May I Sing With Me, Popular Songs and Genius+Love=Yo La Tengo. I thought they just played a surplus of covers, but I just didn’t know most of the songs.
FULL LIST OF SHOWS + STATS:
- 1010 Benja SL @ Elsewhere Zone One
- Acid Dad @ Le Poisson Rouge
- Alex G @ Brooklyn Steel
- Allison Russell @ World Cafe Live
- Altin Gün @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
- Alvvays @ King’s Theatre
- Animal Collective @ Brooklyn Steel
- Armand Hammer @ Warsaw
- Ata Kak @ Le Poisson Rouge
- Automatic @ Market Hotel
- Belle & Sebastian @ Central Park Summerstage
- Benee @ Baby’s All Right
- Beth Orton @ Bowery Ballroom
- billy woods w/ Preservation @ Elsewhere Rooftop
- Black Country, New Road @ Bowery Ballroom
- Blondshell @ Mercury Lounge
- Bonobo @ Avant Gardner
- Brush @ Trans Pecos
- Burnt Sugar Arkestra @ Bowery Ballroom
- caroline @ Le Poisson Rouge
- Cassandra Jenkins @ Baby’s All Right
- Charley Crockett @ World Cafe Live
- Charlotte Adigery & Bolis Pupul @ Bowery Ballroom
- Christian Scott aTunde Adjuah @ Blue Note
- Cindy Lee @ Bowery Ballroom
- Claire Rousay @ Le Poisson Rouge
- Contour @ Elsewhere Rooftop
- Craig Finn @ World Cafe Live
- Destroyer @ Brooklyn Steel
- Disq @ Baby’s All Right
- Dry Cleaning @ Webster Hall
- Dummy @ Bowery Ballroom
- Ebo Taylor @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
- Erika de Casier @ Elsewhere Rooftop
- Eyedress @ Elsewhere
- Fleet Foxes @ Forest Hills Stadium
- Floating Points @ Forest Hills Stadium
- Fly Anakin @ Elsewhere
- FlySiifu’s @ Elsewhere
- Fontaines D.C. @ Brooklyn Steel
- Fout Tet @ Forest Hills Stadium
- Geese (x2) @ Bowery Ballroom + World Cafe Live
- Grouper @ The Opera House
- Hannah Jadagu @ Bowery Ballroom
- Hatchie @ Brooklyn Steel
- Hiatus Kaiyote @ Brooklyn Steel
- Horsegirl (x2) @ Bowery Ballroom
- Indigo De Souza @ World Cafe Live
- Indigo Sparke @ Union Pool
- Injury Reserve @ Warsaw
- Jake Blount @ Jalopy Theatre
- Jamie xx @ Forest Hills Stadium
- Jefre Cantu-Ledesma + Julie Byrne @ The Opera House
- Jessie Ware @ Brooklyn Steel
- Jo Schornikow @ Brooklyn Made
- Jordan Rakei @ Avant Gardner
- Julia Blair @ Trans Pecos
- Just Mustard (x2) @ Union Pool & Brooklyn Steel
- Katie Von Schleicher @ Union Pool
- L’Rain @ Brooklyn Steel
- Lifeguard @ Bowery Ballroom
- Los Bitchos @ Central Park Summerstage
- Low @ Webster Hall
- Lunar Vacation @ Webster Hall
- Maia Friedman @ Brooklyn Made
- Marlon Williams @ Brooklyn Made
- Mary Lattimore @ Indieplaza Rockefeller Center
- Metronomy @ Bowery Ballroom
- Miss Grit @ Union Pool
- Mitski @ Radio City Music Hall
- Myd @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
- Nikki Lane @ World Cafe Live
- NoSo @ Mercury Lounge
- Ouri @ Brooklyn Steel
- Preoccupations @ Bowery Ballroom
- Psychedelic Porn Crumpets @ Le Poisson Rouge
- Rosali @ Brooklyn Steel
- Sasha and the Valentines @ Purgatory
- Sessa (x2) @ Music Hall of Williamsburg & Brooklyn Made
- Sharon Van Etten @ World Cafe Live
- Shygirl @ Elsewhere
- Sofie Royer @ Indieplaza Rockefeller Center
- Softee @ The Sultan Room
- Sudan Archives @ Elsewhere
- The A’s @ Beacon Theatre
- The Beths @ Webster Hall
- The Black Angels @ Brooklyn Steel
- The Vacant Lots @ Brooklyn Steel
- The Weather Station @ Radio City Music Hall
- They Hate Change (x2) @ Baby’s All Right + Indieplaza Rockefeller Center
- Thus Love @ Le Poisson Rouge
- Tilden @ Baby’s All Right
- Tim Bernardes @ Public Records
- Tirzah @ Brooklyn Steel
- Twisting @ Purgatory
- V.V. Lightbody @ Baby’s All Right
- Vanishing Twin @ Baby’s All Right
- Water From Your Eyes @ Bowery Ballroom
- Weval @ Elsewhere Zone One
- Wild Nothing @ Le Poisson Rouge
- Winter @ Baby’s All Right
- Yaya Bey @ Indieplaza Rockefeller Center
- Yo La Tengo @ Bowery Ballroom
- Youbet @ Purgatory