Posted by: pop-break | January 9, 2013

Best of 2012: Top Live Shows

the staff looks at their favorite live events from the past year …


Who doesn’t love lists?

We here at Pop-Break were raised on lists. We love them like we love bears, cookies and all things pop culture.

So as we do every year, we present to you our personal favorites in film, music (albums and songs) and television.

This year we’re also debuting a new category: Pop-Break Live, our live performance we were a part of.

And this year we’re excited by the fact we’ve added a whole new slew of writers plus we’ll have two special contributors: Maria Mar of 95.9 WRAT’s Jersey Rock and Popblerd! Editor-in-Chief Mike Heyliger.

Here’s Who is Contributing to this Year’s List:

Bill Bodkin – Editor-in-Chief, Trailer Tuesday Columnist, Singles Party Columnist
Sue-Ann Bodkin – Contributor
Brent Johnson – Managing Editor, Lost Songs Columnist, Singles Party Columnist
Jonathan Elliott – Marketing Coordinator, Staff Writer
Jason Kundrath – Senior Editor, Indie Music Editor, Singles Party Columnist
Joe Zorzi – Senior Editor, Music Content Coordinator, Singles Party Columnist
Maxwell Barna – Senior Editor, Photography Editor
Logan J. Fowler – Senior Editor, Trailer Tuesday Columnist, Link to the Past Columnist
Jason Stives – Senior Editor, Music & Film Content Coordinator, Dr. Who Columnist
Lauren Stern – Assignment Editor, Senior Writer, Singles Party Columnist
Daniel Cohen – Film Editor
Ann Hale – Staff Writer, Horror Editor, Film Content Coordinator
Michael Dworkis – Staff Writer, Wrestling Columnist
Lisa Pikaard – Staff Writer, Music Content Coordinator
Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs – Staff Writer, Featured Columnist
Luke Kalamar – Staff Writer, Walking Dead Columnist
Kelly Gonsalves – Staff Writer, Singles Party Columnist
Erica Batchelor – Staff Writer
Brendan Williams – Contributor
Nick Porcaro – Contributor, Web Designer
Joel Wosk – Contributor
Brendan Hourican – Contributor
John Lawrence – Contributor, UFC Columnist

Kelly Gonsalves
Marianas Trench — Face The Music Tour, Oct. 12, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

2012’s tour to be remembered of was, without a doubt, Marianas Trench’s Face The Music Tour. When the theatricality of a Cirque du Soleil production meets the raw energy of a punk-rock show, only good things can come out of it. The show I attended in Hamilton on Oct. 12 was mind-blowing, particularly seeing lead singer Josh Ramsay fly onto the stage from the sky, watching the boys dance around in their underwear, and hearing Ramsay’s heart-breaking cover of The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows.” And it goes without saying that there’s nothing quite as surreal as watching a singer tear up on stage mid-song, which happened both during “Porcelain” and “Skin and Bones.” The latter was played on the piano for the first time ever that night — he improvised the song completely while on stage. Marianas Trench never disappoints live, but this performance just went above and beyond.

Kimberlee Rossi-Fuchs
Louis CK — Oct. 25, New York City Center


Thankfully for comedy fans, basking in the glow of recent critical accolades and public adoration hasn’t rendered Louis CK’s disposition any sunnier and his most recent tour proved that his acerbic, often pitch-black wit continues to hit astoundingly brilliant notes of both darkness and hilarity. I was lucky enough to catch CK’s current tour stop (the material from which will compromise his upcoming HBO special) at the New York City Center in October and see his soon-to-be-classic “of course, but maybe” bit in its infancy. The show also introduced me to CK’s opening act, the very funny John Mulaney, whose album New In Town I can’t recommend enough.

Brent Johnson
Morrissey — Oct. 13, Terminal 5, New York

You won’t get a massive light display. You won’t see any costumes. But Morrissey shows are among the most exhilarating experiences you can have in music. They’re living, breathing things. Not only will you be treated to some of the best alt-rock of the last three decades. But you will also be swept up in a see of rabid fans who pack together, moving as a sea of excited limbs and torsos, shouting along to the lyrics, and trying — sometimes successfully — to jump on stage to steal a hug or a handshake from the former Smiths frontman. At the end of this particular show, Moz even carried a young boy triumphantly in his arms as he barreled through the underrated classic ‘Still Ill.’

Maxwell Barna
The Hub City Stompers — December, Asbury Park, N.J.

This year was a busy year for me, so I didn’t make it out to as many shows as I would have liked. Replace “busy” with “drunk,” and the, “didn’t make it out to as many shows as I would have liked” part with, “don’t remember anything — at all.” The Aggrolites at the Wonder Bar definitely came close. It was great to see a band who, on one of their only days off from playing big stadiums full of crazy crowds, took some time to hang out and play for a small, intimate bar on the Jersey Shore. But I’d say my most memorable live experience (that I can remember, anyway) happened last week, when I, along with many of my childhood friends, said goodbye to a band that had perhaps the biggest influence on my teenage years — Hub City Stompers. After 10 long years of touring, drinking, and playing a song or two in between, they decided to call it quits. But it’s alright, seeing as they’re resurrecting Inspecter 7 from its drunken, incoherent slumber, in order to pursue the project full-time. 

Joel Wosk
The Presets — Oct. 19, Terminal 5, New York

This was the second time I was lucky enough to see the Australian Electronic Duo perform, and they were absolutely amazing. Playing extended versions of older favorites while seamlessly integrating the newer material into the set list, they turned the West Side venue into a massive dance party. If you ever have the chance to see them, don’t even hesitate. Bring your friends, and they will thank you.

John Lawrence
UFC 145 — April 21, Phillips Arena, Atlanta/strong>
It was one of the most awesome weekends I’ve ever had. Friday we attended the weigh ins, which was pretty fun. Then we went straight to a meet and greet that featured Tapout founders Punkass and Skrape, Ryan Bader, Gray Maynard, and TJ Lavin. Saturday morning, while in line to meet Dan Henderson, we met a really cool brother and sister named Brian and Traci Jones. After talking to them for a while, they insisted we take their extra tickets so we could attend the actual fight. (We are still friends with them to this day, and they are truly great people.) Then throughout Saturday, there were chances to meet Forrest Griffin, Chael Sonnen, Benson Henderson, Clay Guida, and Josh Barnett. They had booths setup for games, contests, vendors, etc. It was a blast. Then finally, after all of that, there was a good night of cagefights. Sure Rashad lost, but it was still an incredible few days.

Lisa Pikaard
UPROAR Festival — August, PNC Bank Arts Center, Holmdel, N.J.

This was, hands down, amazing. It’s not every day that you get to see so many talented musicians take the same stage. I had the opportunity to discover new bands like Mindset Evolution and Deuce, hear some of my favorite up and coming bands like Adelitas Way and Candlelight Red, and classic rockers like Godsmack and POD all in the same night. If only Papa Roach didn’t have to leave the tour due to vocal issues! This tour brought together dance, rap, rock, and metal, all under the guise of rock and roll. It was a truly talent packed show that I was so fortunate to have gotten to see.

Erica Batchelor
Anthony Green — December, Encore Events Center, Freehold, N.J.

I’ve seen Anthony Green solo several times, but this show seemed the most personal. He played a mix of new and old songs and truly thanked his fans for supporting his music over the years. It was heartwarming to feel so close to a musician I’ve idolized for years.

Luke Kalamar
The Shins with Chairlift — April 30, Terminal 5, New York

This concert was special to me for a many reasons. First and foremost, The Shins is one of my favorite bands of all time. My sister first introduced me to them when their first album, Oh, Inverted World, came out in 2001. I have been hooked ever since. Second, it was the first time I’ve ever been in the front row of a concert. I was literally 5 feet away from James Mercer, and I even got his guitar pick after the show. I still carry it around in my wallet. The third, and definitely much more significant reason, was that this concert marked my one year anniversary with my girlfriend. We didn’t know what to do to commemorate such a momentous occasion, but then she came across this concert. It was the perfect choice on all counts, and I will never forget it.

Brendan Hourican
Taking Back Sunday — November Pine Belt Arena, Toms River, N.J.

As the end of 2012 is approaching, I have noticed there are not as many used concert ticket stubs lying around my room as I would like, but I have always said it’s about quality not quantity. I’m convinced that even if I went to 100 shows this year, Taking Back Sunday’s mega-show at the Toms River Pine Belt Arena would still hold its spot at No. 1. After two sold-out shows at Starland Ballroom were combined and displaced to Toms River by Hurricane Sandy, it had promise from the start. I knew the place would be packed and kids would be ready to go. It was also the last show of the tour, so the bands (Taking Back Sunday, Bayside, The Menzingers) were expected to give it their all and they did. The show was as loud as I could ask for it to be, and the crowd was as crazy as I could imagine. I didn’t even mind how many times I got kicked in the head by a crowd surfer.

Brendan Williams
Foo Fighters — September, Global Citizen Festival, New York

Dave Grohl has been my idol as a musician for a long time, and seeing the Foo Fighters in Central Park with The Black Keys and Band Of Horses as opening acts for them made it all that much more memorable. To say this show was amazing doesn’t even come close to describing it. You could tell Dave and the guys were excited to play in Central Park, especially since it may be the last Foo Fighters set they play for a while. They played everything from “Monkey Wrench” to “Everlong” and did not disappoint. But then again who could be disappointed with the Foo Fighters?

Ann Hale
The B-52’s — Koka Booth Ampitheater, Cary, N.C.

Cosmic Thing is one of the first cassette tapes and CDs that I ever owned. It will forever be one of my favorite albums of all time. So, this year for my birthday, my mom and my wife, Jenny took me to see them — something that was on my “bucket list.” We had amazing seats, and they still rocked it. It was an amazing birthday present.

Maria Mar
Incubus — Bamboozle Festival, Asbury Park, N,J.; and Philadelphia
They are my 100 percent absolute most favorite band on the planet. I got to see them at Bamboozle and in Philadelphia before they went on their hiatus. They never disappoint me, no matter what people say about their change in style and music, they will also be the kings to me.

Lauren Stern
Gotye — Sept. 27, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

This may become a bit of a surprise given the amount of shows I went to this year, but Gotye blew my freakin’ mind that night and forever turned me into a long-time fan. His music (all with the inclusion of “Somebody that I Used to Know”) is phenomenal and his live shows are like works of art. I highly recommend checking out a live performance from him in the future. Trust me, it’s well worth it.

Nick Porcaro
Andrew W.K. — Theatre Of The Living Arts, Philadelphia

As much as Coldplay blew my mind with their audience-generated light show, I have to give this one to Andrew W.K. His 10th anniversary tour for I Get Wet rocked Philadelphia with life-affirming fervor and united an unruly audience in bliss. I walked out of the TLA that night with a headache and a hoarse voice. Now that’s Brotherly Love.

Joe Zorzi
Umphrey’s McGee — Bonnaroo Music & Arts Festival, Manchester, Tenn.

Okay, so here’s the story. I’m on my way to Bonnaroo and my friend is like, “Yo Joe, you gotta check out this band”. He put them on during the ride and I was like, “Oh, this is kind of cool”. Their set at the Roo started at 2am after Major Lazer and I really had no idea what to expect but people were pumped. It turned out to be one of the craziest shows I’ve ever seen. The lights, the music, the vibes, the people … everything was epic. At around 4am, Big Gigantic came out and took over the show for about 45 minutes and then Umphrey’s took the stage again until 6 in the morning. My friends and I left about halfway through Big Gigantic’s mini-set, but only because we could barely stand up anymore (plus we had three more days of music). But talk about putting on a show.

Jason Stives
Pulp — April, Madison Square Garden, New York

I believe Pop-Break co-founder Brent Johnson would agree with me: One of the best performances this year was the reunited Pulp performing a sold-out show at Radio City Music Hall. It was the band’s first stateside appearance in 14 years, and it didn’t disappoint by any means even finding its way very quickly into my top 10 favorite concerts of all time. That is no easy feat to achieve in such a short timespan, but the band was fresh and full of energy. Lead singer Jarvis Cocker — at 49 years of age — was an enigmatic figure to behold and approached every song with boundless energy. Ripping through a string of their most noted songs, including “Common People,” the 6,000 in attendance couldn’t keep still, dancing and jumping and singing as loudly as the bellow coming from Cocker himself. Thankfully, it came at the tail end of a series of concerts I attended, and it was truly worth the wait for a fan like myself.

Mike Heyliger
Bad Rabbits (for talent) — Brighton Music Hall, Boston

Pure energy. You don’t get to see a lot of funk/soul live band shows in Boston, and this rowdy band delivers every time. It was the perfect Friday night release.

Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald and Donald Fagen (for memories) — Wang Theater, Boston
Three blue-eyed soul legends-many of whom performed on one anothers’ records anyway. A total nostalgia trip, but the three performers totally sold it, with master of ceremonies Fagen making me even more of a Steely Dan fan than I already was (and I was a pretty big one already).

Bill Bodkin
Metallica — Orion Music + More Festival, Bader Airfield, Atlantic City

It was a two-day festival that will never be topped in my eyes. The reason … METALLICA. Sure, tons of food, beers, cool exhibits and performances by The Gaslight Anthem, Beach House, Sepultura and tons of other bands were awesome, but no one touched Metallica. Their live performance showed, that even in their 50s, these dudes can bring all the heavy metal godliness to the masses. On Night 1 of the festival, the band slayed with the thrash metal classics from Ride The Lightning, while Night 2 they performed their seminal Black Album. The shredding, wild guitar solos and amazing stage show blew me away. Can’t ask for a better night out than the cool sea air coming in on your back, your favorite lady by your side and hundreds of thousands of metalheads screaming “CREEEEPING DEATH!!!!!!”


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