By the time this year closes out, I will have attended 42 live shows in 2018. That’s a record for me, and one that I’m immensely proud of. Like most of you, I’m a music guy, and there’s just something about seeing those performers on stage, and hearing those songs come to life in a live environment. 42 times this year I was able to experience that magical moment when the house music abruptly stops and the lights go down. There’s nothing quite like it, and I doubt there ever will be for me.
I joined the Americana Highways team back in May of this year. Although I had written some music pieces on various Facebook fan group pages, I had never written anything ‘professionally.’ I’ve always taken photos at shows, going back to my teenage years when I was sneaking in cheap cameras. Again, I’d never done it ‘professionally.’ Americana Highways, and Melissa Clarke in particular, gave me these opportunities. They’re opportunities that I’m very grateful for, as it’s been overwhelmingly rewarding to find something that maybe, just maybe is your calling.
Funny story….early on I requested to cover three different shows that were three consecutive nights. I remember Melissa’s questioning tone…. “Really? All three? In a row? Are you sure?”
I have no doubt she was worried I’d bail on at least one of them and make her look bad to the management/label folks. Well, I covered each one as promised, and as they say, the rest is history. She never questions me anymore, though I do picture her shaking her head.
So without further adieu, here’s my year-end list of the Top 10 shows I attended this year:
10. Patty Griffin & AHI 05/02/18 Blue Door – A warm up show for Patty’s spring tour. Patty was amazing, but the opening set from AHI was sublime. One of my favorite music discoveries of 2018.
9. Ramblin’ Jack Elliott 12/06/18 Blue Door – An opportunity to see Ramblin’ Jack could not, and should not be passed up.
8. Fantastic Negrito 07/03/18 Opolis – Likely the most powerful show of the year for me.
7. John Paul White 10/16/18 Blue Door – Another tour warm up show at the Blue Door. Jealous yet? C’mon down….I’ll save you a seat.
6. Alejandro Escovedo & Don Antonio 09/22/18 Tower Theatre – The crowd was sparse, but Escovedo and band played with all their heart and soul. These songs are fierce.
5. Justin Townes Earle/Lydia Loveless 06/04/18 Tower Theatre – Back to back brilliant and stripped down performances from a pair of tremendous songwriters.
4. Tyler Childers 12/15/18 Tower Theatre – Finally saw this young man after a few years of hoping too. On my birthday no less.
3. Gillian Welch & David Rawlings 08/24/18 Tower Theatre – Words just don’t do it justice. A special night with some really special musicians.
2. American Aquarium – 05/25/18 Tower Theatre – Where it all started. My first review for Americana Highways. They were a band I had little knowledge of at the time. Boy, did I learn quickly.
1. Little Steven Van Zandt & The Disciples of Soul 11/26/18 Tower Theatre – A legend, a Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Famer and a member of the Mighty E Street Band. A stunning show, and a wonderful cause supporting our educators.
So there you go. I had a really hard time thinning that list. I revised and substituted several times before settling on those ten. Heck, it might change tomorrow or sooner, so I’d better send it in before I change it again.
I only do an occasional album review for AH, but I’d be remiss in my duties as a music nerd if I didn’t at least announce a few of my favorite album releases of the year. I’m especially proud of the fact that two Oklahoma songwriters made my list. I’m telling ya’ll, the next wave of great songwriters is coming from Oklahoma. Start with these two, and feel free to check back with me for more recommendation
5. Negrito – “Please Don’t Be Dead”
4. John Calvin Abney – “Coyote”
3.Alejandro Escovedo – “The Crossing”
2.American Aquarium – “Things Change”
1.Carter Sampson – “Lucky”