I saw a lot of good shows this year - many with my 5 year old and one with both children (Against Me!), which brings about a new set of problems and a new appreciation for certain bands. For most of these I was flying solo. Here are the ones that stand out the most.
Lionel Richie at PNC Music Pavilion - My sons and I had already watched Richie's streaming Bonnaroo set, so we knew what to expect which was a wicked sense of humor and a sweat-soaked, hit-filled performance. I'm not the only one that hopes he'll be back next year as he promised.
Phantogram at The Fillmore - The light show alone was a feat and light years beyond what the Brooklyn duo pulled off in Asheville a few years ago. It looked and felt like what I imagined club shows would be when I was growing up and unlike in Asheville, I didn't feel like the oldest person in the room.
Damon Albarn at Lincoln Theatre in Raleigh - My husband and I drove our 5 year old three hours to see one of his musical heroes and although he didn't play any of Blur's hits, it was still an amazing show. His varied work makes him an accomplished role model, but it was also his humbleness, his musicianship and his ability as a band leader that made me glad we brought the kid.
Outkast at Funkfest - After waiting out the storm, the reunited duo finally took the stage. The rain that did pour couldn't dampen the excitement of finally seeing the hip-hop greats whose performance and charisma was the complete opposite of its awkward Coachella set earlier this year.
Nostalghia at The Fillmore - Opening for Chino Moreno's +++s, this gothic industrial/chamber rock trio completely won over the crowd thanks mostly to its astoundingly charismatic and quirky frontwoman Ciscandra Nostalghia and its powerful songs.
DJ Shadow and Cut Chemist at The Fillmore - Paying tribute to Afrika Bambaataa by employing the rap pioneer's record collection and a digital collage of visual art and video, these two created a historical lesson in the evolution of hip-hop and electronic music that was both educational, moving, and a party.
Antiseen's Return at Tremont - After the loss of founding guitarist Joe Young to a heart attack in May, the Charlotte punk legends ended the year on an up note introducing new guitarist Russ Ward to a warm, enthusiastic crowd that seemed relieved that Jeff Clayton decided to rock another day.
Andy the Doorbum's Alien Native Movement album release show at Charles Holloman Productions - This show was cloaked in mystery. No one knew what to expect from the eccentric freak folk musician (and beloved door bum). What we got was performance art that you couldn't take your eyes off of.
Lee Fields & the Expressions at Tremont - There's so much warmth in the room when this NC-native and should-be soul legend returns. Now in his `60s he sounds great, moves great, and remains a gracious frontman for a crack backing band of accomplished if much younger musicians.
Valient Thorr at Chop Shop - It was the Carolina-bred metal band's first show with a new bassist and its first Charlotte show since the mid-2013 release of its last album "Our Own Masters." Even though it was at the tail end of a five band, five hour show, the delight it brought to the stage made that tiresome wait worth it. This is one of a handful of bands I want to go see once a month.