20 Best Concerts of 2012

Radical Discharge – Photo M. Spiro

Going back through my Google Calendar and my events list on Facebook caused so many concert memories to come rushing back from 2012. It looks as though I attended well over 60 music-related events this year—from large multi-day festivals to little bar shows. I even left the country for one show, something I have never done before. For another one, I took off from work in the middle of the week. Random.

Defining what qualifies as the “best” shows was difficult. Sometimes best meant that the show itself was great. Sometimes best meant that the venue or company I kept at the show was great. There were a few shows that were actually kind of bad for one reason but good for another. I tried to only list the ones that were both great musical events and also good times. I left out some very good ones, though.

Primitive Weapons – Photo by M. Spiro

Venue-wise I saw my first shows at Golden West and Rams Head OnStage and one of the last shows at Sonar before it imploded in upon itself. I spent the majority of my concert cash at shows at The Ottobar and Sonar. Hopefully the season pass I purchased to The Ottobar will be worth it. I also pray something decent is resurrected on the site of the old Sonar location. The Sidebar has added new lighting and I believe is in the process of upgrading their sound system, which together makes shows there more pleasurable. Some venues I did not visit at all this year. I did not see any shows at The Recher, Charm City Art Space, The Rock and Roll Hotel, The Howard Theatre or the 9:30 Club. Usually I go to the 9:30 Club a few times a year, but I was surprised to realize that I didn’t see a single show there in 2012! I hope to check out some new venues in 2013.

Here we go:

1. January 15 – Graveyard, Radio Moscow and Daniel Davies at Golden West, Baltimore. First show that I had seen at this restaurant that turns into a venue after 10 p.m. While the opener was nothing special, Radio Moscow and Graveyard were stellar. Also made some great new friends from the band Witch Hazel. Read previous write up here.

2. March 28 – Alcest, Deafheaven and Arbouretum at Golden West, Baltimore. Another great show at Golden West. Seeing Alcest was like witnessing some kind of black metal fairy tale unfold. More details on this show here.

Martyrdöd – Photo by M. Spiro

3. May 5 – Behemoth, Watain, The Devil’s Blood, In Solitude and Evoken at Rams Head Live, Baltimore. Every single one of these bands is amazing. Plus, I had a photo pass so was able to get up close for each band. Happy birthday to me.

Nergal (Behemoth) – Photo by M. Spiro

4. May 12 – All That Is Heavy 2 Fest at Mavericks Ottawa, Ontario, Canada with Blood Ceremony, Iron Man, Blizaro, Monobrow, Loviatar and Revelation. Since my husband is the drummer in Iron Man, it was kind of required that I tag along for this one. Hosted by Jennifer and Derek Bradshaw of the show Crossing Boredom on Ottawa’s radio station CKCU, this fest featured some of the best in Canadian and American doom. I fell in love with Blood Ceremony and Loviatar especially and I got to see some friends who live in the area who actually came out to the show! All around wonderful, it was a great time.

Young And In The Way – Photo by M. Spiro

5. May 22 – Meshuggah, Baroness and Decapitated at The Fillmore, Silver Spring. Meshuggah is always a life-changing experience. Pre-bus accident Baroness and Decapitated made me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

6. May 24 to 27 – Maryland Deathfest X at Sonar, Baltimore. Highlights from this endurance festival of heavy metal included Agalloch, Absu, Negura Bunget, Hellbastard, the Devil’s Blood, Dragged Into Sunlight, Tsjuder, YOB, Demonical, Godflesh, Church of Misery and Ulcerate. What made this fest even more interesting was the fact that Hellbastard stayed with me for five days. FIVE DAYS! Friends for life.

7. June 2 – Marduk, 1349, Withered, Weapon and others at Sonar. There were a bunch of bands playing but I was most happy to see the ones I’ve listed here. Withered was a wonderful discovery, and I have never seen an entire room turn into mosh pit. Nowhere to run! Someone stomped on my foot and an attractive young man bought me a beer. Win!

The Temper Trap – Photo by M. Spiro

8. June 5 – The Temper Trap at Terminal 5 in New York City. This show was more for my daughter who loves this band but overall it remains one of my favorite concert memories of 2012. The Temper Trap are an intelligent pop band with great skills and a lot of energy. Opening bands were kind of funny and unmemorable but The Temper Trap erased all thoughts of them. Terminal 5 is a cool, spacious venue and you can see from everywhere, although we were right in the front. We had no problem walking back to our super cheap hotel on Times Square at 1 a.m. (about 1.3 miles) stopping halfway to eat a late meal at a diner. NYC is a pain in the ass to get to (we took the Megabus), but once you are there, it would be very VERY easy to never, ever leave.

9. July 4 – Black Breath, Martyrdöd, Enabler, Heaviness of the Load and others at Sonar. This show constituted my bachelorette party. (I got married July 7). I am aware that this is a very nontraditional event for a bachelorette party, but it was exactly what I wanted to do. I only had had two other official party members with me, but hearing the four bands I have listed above made for a perfect night. Someone even bought me a beer. Imagine that.

Dick Dale – Photo by M. Spiro

10. July 26 – Dick Dale at Rams Head on Stage, Annapolis, MD. Aside from the MDF four-day pass, this show was my most expensive. Why? I don’t know, because it was surf guitar legend Dick Dale and he might die soon? Maybe. He’s a wonderful performer, a bit of an egomaniac and definitely cranky when it gets past his bedtime, but I am glad I made the trip midweek to see him. I went alone (as I so often do) and sat at a table with strangers. Rams Head On Stage is an odd venue like that; they expect you to buy dinner, which I did. But I won’t regret seeing the man who perfected the tremolo guitar picking sound purloined by so many black metallers.

11. August 5 – Pilgrim, Primitive Weapons, Mares of Thrace at Ottobar (upstairs). Seeing bands upstairs at The Ottobar is a little weird. There is no stage and the bands are essentially in front of your face. But that just made the intensity of these three groups all the more visceral. Good times.

12. August 11–Ringworm, The Infamous … Gehenna, Young And In the Way, Oathbreaker ILSA and Eddie Brock at The Ottobar. No year is complete without a significant hardcore show. I had only previously seen YAITW (in Raleigh NC at the DIVE bar in January), but I had listened to them all. Hardcore is so much better live and on recording.

Tyr – Photo by M. Spiro

13. September 21 – Korpiklaani, Tyr, Moonsorrow, Metsatöll and others at Empire. I hate traveling to Northern Virginia for a show but gladly did so for this line up. I even took off from work. Just an amazing collection of Viking folk metal and superior musicianship. Good friends in tow were icing on the cake.

14. Sept 22 – Iron Man, Wrath of Typhon, Witch Hazel and Jason Barker at Wilcoms Inn, Ijamsville, MD. Wilcoms Inn is like a roadhouse. It’s a little honkytonk. But the chemistry between these bands performing live together is undeniable. Pure energy and heavy metal love fest.

15. October 19 – Pig Destroyer, Ilsa, Necropsy, Royal Thunder and Wargames at The Ottobar. Royal Thunder was an odd addition to this show, but I fell in love with them. Ilsa sounded better than I’d ever heard them before and Pig Destroyer’s performance featured lots of interesting guest appearances. My heart was warmed.

16. October 20 – Sus Domesticus, Sloth Herder and Horde of the Eclipse at Fat Cat Tattoo, Chambersburg, PA. Would you care for some black metal in the cold, unheated basement of a tattoo studio in south central Pennsylvania? Yes, please.

Sus Domesticus – Photo M.Spiro

17. November 6 – Deicide, Strong Intention, Extermination Angel, Existentium (Alhazred), Visceral Violation, March to Victory, and True Unholy Death at The Ottobar. I could think of no better way to spend my night of avoiding election results. And I developed a wee crush on Steve Asheim. Drummers: why do I love them so much?

18. November 14 – Torche, Radical Discharge, Iron Man, and Passage Between at The Ottobar, Baltimore. People warned me that Torche put on a great live show. It was so great, in fact, that I had the wind knocked out of me as I was thrown to the ground in the mosh pit. But it’s all good, all very, very good.

Steve Asheim (Deicide) – Photo by M. Spiro

19. November 20 – Atriarch, Wolfnuke, Night Sins and Ophidian at The Sidebar, Baltimore. I am not sure what Night Sins was doing but the other three groups on this bill were speaking my language. I loved Wolfnuke already, was just getting into Atriarch and am looking forward to hearing more from Ophidian in the future.

20. December 15 – Satan’s Unholy Abomination Fest at El Oasis, Baltimore. This was a great way to end 2012. See my full review of this show here.

Black Witchery and me. Happy New Year. Photo by some friendly guy who was standing there! 

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