In a year of what felt like total chaos, live music felt like a mental escape from the madness of real life. These were the shows that helped me break away from polarizing political moments and be overtaken by the positivity of the masses joined together by songs.
20. NINE INCH NAILS | PANORAMA MUSIC FESTIVAL
15. DAVE CHAPPELLE + CHANCE THE RAPPER | RADIO CITY MUSIC HALL
Saturday of Panorama concluded with Tame Impala playing to their largest ever U.S. crowd (Kevin Parker's words, not mine) and taking another step forward in their role as one of the biggest bands in indie rock. The band was on fire, pushing their tunes to the max and executing with pristine precision. Their sound was huge and carried across the open field with true passion and pleasure. The crowd ate up everything sent their way and each visual somehow seemed to top the one prior. Tame Impala are a psych-rock band and have owned that style from day 1. As they move to festival headliner status, they go for broke with their stage performance and really own what they do. Their set was heavy into Currents, but the Lonerism tracks have held up just as well. When the band rocked into "Elephant" a frenzy of lasers beamed across the crowd for an emotional peak that would never come down. It was an electric set and really showcased the band and their talent at recreating cosmic, vintage psych music. "Mind Mischief" echoed some of Cream's best drum rills and "Let It Happen" felt like deep, heady trance that embraced the night in a warm fashion. For the encore, they sparked-up "Feels Like We Only Go Backwards" and "New Person, Same Old Mistakes" for one final kaleidoscopic journey.
Panorama was Frank Ocean's first New York show in half a decade. In what was perhaps the most anticipated set of the weekend, Frank unleashed powerful, raw, and stirring emotions and confirmed that he could match his hype. In the middle of the crowd, he built a DIY set-up that felt intimate and inviting. It was clear that despite its raw appearance, there was a method to Frank's ways. He popped in a cassette and donned giant headphones over his aqua-marine hair. He invited us all into the inner workings of his world and broke down his process for the world to see. He paced the stage followed around by a Spike Jonez directed camera and gave the masses a glimpse into his magic. Playing almost exclusively new material, he had everyone awaiting his every move with baited breathe. A sparse "Solo" put the show into gear and experiencing such a large group of people echo "there's a bull and a matador dueling in the sky" was surreal. Ocean's music feels most at home in the confines of your bedroom or at the very least your own headphones, but live took everything to a new level. When he did his lone Channel Orange track of the night, "Thinkin' Bout You," it was a cathartic moment to remember. Not once was the song-a-long ever overpowering as everyone let Frank go to work. When his band came onstage, it was another peak into his elusive creativity. Sitting amongst musicians he acted as one of the group and displayed a true sense of artistry. It was clear that Frank still doesn't feel at home on a stage, but he bared his soul and allowed his fans to welcome him with open arms.