When it comes to end of year lists, you tend to just see half of the music world covered: recorded music. But many more people are interested in live music, and in turn want to know who are the acts I should be spending my hard-earned dollars to go see. That’s what we try to accomplish each year with our favorite live acts list. While certainly not comprehensive, these are the 10 acts we saw that we would say are definitely worth it.
10. Sturgill Simpson
Austin saw country outlaw Sturgill Simpson at Off Broadway in St. Louis in August and thought his promising debut album really came alive on stage.
9. Run the Jewels
We saw Run the Jewels live three times this past year (Bonnaroo, Pitchfork Fest, and Reaction NYE) and the rap super group really have a special bond onstage, playing off each other like two people meant to be together.
Brooklyn world music masters Antibalas were my biggest surprise of the year, putting on a huge summer dance party in Millennium Park in Chicago this summer.
7. Jason Isbell
While spending plenty of years rocking with the Drive-By Truckers, after the masterful solo release Southeastern in 2013, Isbell has been an absolute folk sensation since, especially on stage putting on intimate and beautiful performances.
After scrapping an album in 2014 in favor of the excellent 2015 Art Angels, Grimes’ live show is as great as ever, with her creating, singing, and dancing her way through the night.
Pure and utter domination, Sleater-Kinney crushed it in their headlining set at Pitchfork this year. The reunited all-female trio is now among the best live acts I’ve seen.
4. Kamasi Washington
Jazz is rarely covered on LxL, but Kamasi’s live show made Todd and I want to make LxL a full-on jazz blog. It would be super fun to follow Kamasi and his band of life-long friends throughout their entire tour, seeing how the shows transform each night.
3. Jenny Lewis
Jenny Lewis is now an indie music veteran having spent her time in Rilo Kiley and a handful of years as a solo artist, and it shows. Austin saw Jenny Lewis at the Ready Room in St. Louis, and it stood as his favorite live show all-year long.
2. Death Grips
Back from the grips of death (or at least after already announcing they were done as a band), Death Grips put on the craziest show Todd attended all year at the Metro in June.
1. Courtney Barnett
Our favorite new artist of the past two years, Courtney Barnett and her two bandmates thrash all around the stage, echoing the spirit of Nirvana but with Courtney’s own unique sound and spirit.
Wes – Chance the Rapper
2015 was a huge year for Chance the Rapper: playing a big part in Donnie Trumpet and the Social Experiment’s Surf, headlining Pitchfork Fest, debuting a new song on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, performing on Saturday Night Live, and really just showing up everywhere. 2016 could be even bigger for the talented, young Chicago rapper, as he’s set to release his first studio album.
Todd – TV on the Radio
Any year TV on the Radio performs, they deserve to be on our list. Their show returning to one of their old Chicago stomping grounds in the Metro was one of Todd’s favorite of the year.
Austin – Brad Paisley
The country superstar played the Verizon Amphitheater in St. Louis, and it made Mr. Austin mighty happy.