Best of 2007: Top Thirteen Live Shows of 2007

Ah, 2007. The year that I realized I could get into shows for free, simply by asking. And by writing a blog. And by taking a shit-ton of photos. To say that I went to “a lot” of shows this year would be an understatement. By my count, I took photos at 68 shows this year, including house parties with live bands and in-store appearances (and already off the top of my head I can think of two shows where I didn’t upload photos to Flickr, thus bringing the total to a cool 70). And that’s not counting all the shows I didn’t take photos at, which were quite a few. [Note to self – next year, keep track of every damn show, just for curiosity’s sake. And maybe keep track of how much I spend on them, or would spend, if not for the hook-ups.]

So with all that concert-going, you’d think it would be hard for me to narrow it down to a list of the best shows. But actually, it was fairly easy – I have a tendency to remember things that give me the chills like good music does. And really good live shows have a way of giving me the chills forevermore when I listen to the music that was played at them. So it gets pretty hard to forget these things. So without further ado, presented here in reverse order, with photos, video, and links to reviews where appropriate, are my favorite concerts of 2007:

13. The Polyphonic Spree @ Canes
My first time seeing the Spree, and I was lucky enough to have a photo pass. It was an amazing show that managed to erase some misgivings I had about Canes as a venue. It was also the Spree’s first time playing San Diego, and they were very emphatic about their plans to return – which they did, later in the year.

The Polyphonic Spree @ Canes, 7/20/2007
The Polyphonic Spree @ Canes, shot by Natalie Kardos

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12. Arcade Fire w/LCD Soundsystem @ Hollywood Bowl
I’m probably violating music blogger rule #1 by not putting this show higher on my list, but my seats weren’t that great (understatement of the century) and the sound seemed off. I was hoping this show would really bring Neon Bible home to me, and it did for certain songs, but it wasn’t like the legendary shows that I’d heard about. Regardless, it was still a great show by a very talented band, and LCD Soundsystem fricking killed it as opener. I would like to have James Murphy’s babies, please.

11. The New Pornographers @ House of Blues, San Diego
It just happened to be AC Newman’s birthday, and the full band was on tour. Neko Case sounded amazing, and the whole band was in full force. I quite liked Challengers, and this show made me appreciate it even more.

10. Two Gallants w/Blitzen Trapper @ Casbah
Blitzen Trapper played a really tight set, even tighter than when they impressed me opening for The Hold Steady. Two Gallants made a hell of a lot of noise for just two people and stunned me with their ability to be completely in synch through multiple rhythmic stops and starts. I was also impressed with the number of dudes at the show singing every single word to every single song at the top of their lungs.

Two Gallants @ Casbah, 10/17/2007
Two Gallants @ Casbah, shot by Natalie Kardos

Two Gallants @ Casbah, 10/17/2007
Two Gallants @ Casbah, shot by Natalie Kardos

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9. Quasi w/Frightened Rabbit and Swim Party @ Casbah
I went to this show merely to see locals Swim Party again. I’m almost ashamed to admit that I hadn’t heard of Quasi before this show (although I was quite familiar with the name Janet Weiss). All the bands on this bill blew me away in rapid succession. They all had a similar sound that complemented each other nicely, without seeming to overlap and make the night boring. All the members of all the bands are extraordinarily talented, and churn out beautiful indie pop music. It was one of those rare shows where you don’t go with any expectations, and it ends up being better than most of the shows you’ve seen that year.

Swim Party @ Casbah, 10/29/2007
Swim Party @ Casbah, shot by Natalie Kardos

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8. Explosions in the Sky @ Epicenter
I’m not really sure what can be said about Explosions in the Sky here. This show was quite the remedy for not being at Coachella that weekend. Lots of interwoven melodies and emotional catharsis, plus candy at the end. It really can’t be explained – you need to experience it for yourself. I get a little breathless just thinking back on it.

Explosions in the Sky @ Epicenter, 4/27/2007
Explosions in the Sky @ Epicenter, shot by Natalie Kardos

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7. Menomena @ Casbah
British Joe barely managed to get a ticket to this show, but he was glad he did. Me, I was glad I bought mine ahead of time. Menomena’s music defies genre definition, and I noted in my review that they remind me more of free-form jazz-type music. Free-form indie rock? Mayhap. Their drummer was ridiculous.

Menomena @ Casbah, 6/14/2007
Menomena @ Casbah, shot by Natalie Kardos

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6. Snowden @ Casbah
No review link for this show, because I saw Snowden before I started writing an official blog. Actually, this was the first show I was put on the list for. And my mom was visiting, so she came out with me. To the Casbah. My mom is awesome. We actually talked to Jordan before and after the show, and he was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met – even remembering my mom’s name at the end of the night. Oh yeah, and they played fantastically. Anti-Anti was one of my favorite records of 2006, and it still gets plenty of play in my stereo.

Snowden @ Casbah, shot by Natalie Kardos

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5. The Thermals @ Casbah
Also seen before I started my blog. The intensity of this band and their super-charged politically inspired indie pop-punk just floored me. I had no idea three people (guitarist Joel was absent from this show) could make such noise, or such statements. Hutch sweated and steamed his way through a fast-paced set including songs off of all their releases. During “A Pillar of Salt,” I thought Hutch was going to have an aneurysm from switching between the rhythm and lead guitar lines, but he handled them both quite deftly.

The Thermals @ The Casbah, 4/5/2007
The Thermals @ Casbah, shot by Natalie Kardos

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4. The Hold Steady w/Illinois and Blitzen Trapper @ Canes & The Hold Steady w/Art Brut @ Canes
Entry number four is a tie between the two Hold Steady shows I saw this year. It’s hard to match the glee and energy I felt after being front and center for the first time I saw them (not including an in-store performance last year), but seeing them in conjunction with Art Brut did so. During the former show, Craig Finn splashed beer on my camera. During the second, Eddie Argos put his hand on my head and told me to start a band. I’ve officially been baptized into the Church of Indie Rock.

Art Brut @ Canes, 11/8/2007
Art Brut @ Canes, shot by Natalie Kardos

The Hold Steady @ Canes, 11/8/2007
The Hold Steady @ Canes, shot by Natalie Kardos

The Hold Steady @ Canes, 6/1/2007
The Hold Steady @ Canes, shot by Natalie Kardos

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3. The Flaming Lips @ The Southern Comfort Music Experience
This show gets the third place, not necessarily because of the quality of the show, but for my experience of being in the photo pit for the first three songs. For being close enough to touch Wayne Coyne in his bubble. For getting covered in confetti and streamers, and seeing the reaction of the Flaming Lips faithful who had been standing in front of the stage for about 7 hours straight. For having a huge ass grin on my face and butterflies in my stomach the whole rest of the night. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only photographer in most photo pits who can’t help dancing to the music in between taking shots. But I think this time, the joy was pretty fucking infectious.

The Flaming Lips @ SoCo Music Experience
The Flaming Lips @ SoCo Music Experience, shot by Natalie Kardos

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2. The National @ Casbah
After being denied a show in June (one of the band members had a family emergency), I finally got my chance to see The National in 2007 in September. Considering their 2006 show at the Casbah places in my top 5 concert experiences ever, I had high hopes for this show, and the band definitely did not disappoint. Kind of like when I had high hopes for Boxer, but was almost afraid to listen to it for fear that it wouldn’t be as good as Alligator. It was, although this show helped bring it home for me. I will never hear the lines “So worry not/All things are well/We’ll be alright/We have our looks and perfume on,” without getting chills. I’ll never listen to “Fake Empire” without remembering all the people quietly singing along, without any prompting from the band. So delicate, so beautiful, so fucking powerful.

The National @ Casbah, 9/27/2007
The National @ Casbah, shot by Natalie Kardos

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1. The Decemberists w/the LA Philharmonic and Andrew Bird @ Hollywood Bowl
Yeah, this is about the only show that could top The National’s show in my book. All Decemberists’ songs were meant to be played with many more instruments than they could afford, and seeing/hearing them fulfill the potential of their songs, courtesy of the LA Philharmonic Orchestra, was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Colin Meloy is an amazing singer and songwriter, and he absolutely owned the stage that night, in a way that not even The Arcade Fire could top (of course, they didn’t have the help of the LA Phil). I must have listened to “I Was Meant for the Stage” about a hundred times after this show. Andrew Bird was incredible as well, with his not-a-single-second-wasted instrument looping and sheer skill at the violin.