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Fell In Love At The Rock Show: Our Favorite Concert Experiences Of All-Time

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A couple weeks ago, the Uproxx Music staff recounted our worst concert experiences. It happens; go to enough shows and you’re going to get some not-great ones. But we’re all about being music fans here. We like to focus on the positives, on what makes us love music and all the good things it makes us feel. So, we thought it’d only be fair if we came back and recounted our favorite concerts ever. Keep in mind, this isn’t a list of the best concerts ever. There are plenty of iconic shows in modern music’s history that have been revered and discussed appropriately. This just a small sampling of the concerts we’ve been to that have left an impression, for whatever reason, on us. Wave your lighter in the air as you read along, and share your favorite concert memories in the comments.

Broken Social Scene

Central Park Summerstage; New York

You’d think “best concert ever” would have something grandiose to it – a greatest hits marathon, some special guests, multiple encores, etc. At least some fireworks? But my favorite concert ever – and I’ve been to a lot of them, including more than a few that featured the above elements – was a pretty straightforward affair. So, why was it my favorite? It was just a perfect confluence of elements. My favorite band (when they were still an active, touring entity, anyway) usually had to pare down its live shows because it would be impossible to bring all the collaborators and instrumentalists that fleshed out their albums on the road. But on this night, almost the entire Broken Social Scene collective was on hand, and they just sounded great, both in terms of technical ability and sound quality. A group that included backup singers, horns and a mini orchestra navigated through the band’s diverse history beautifully. It was also a gorgeous late summer night under the Central Park stars, and I’m a complete sucker for outdoor shows. So, yeah, sorry. That was pretty anticlimactic to read from your end, I know. But five years later, memories of the show still make me smile, so whatever. – Tom Mantzouranis

Phish

Big Cypress; Everglades, Fla.

The turn of the millennium was a big deal. Huge! And what you were going to do to celebrate was serious business, if only because there was the looming threat of civilization crumbling in the minutes following the clock striking midnight. We trekked down to Florida to celebrate with 85,000 of our closest friends to see Phish. A lot of Phish; they played a now-legendary seven-hour set that started around 11:45 p.m., as the band rode a hot dog through the crowd, and ended sometime around sunrise with George Harrison’s “Here Comes the Sun” playing over the PA. And while I’ve seen better concerts, concerts that easily trumped the Phish show musically, the Phish midnight set was the best concert experience I’ve ever been a part of. Hands down. I might not be able to remember specifics of the set, but I remember the feeling – awe, amazement, enjoyment and finally flat-out exhaustion. And bonus, the world was still there when it was over. Can’t ask for much more. – Ryan O’Connell

Jack White

Roseland Ballroom, New York

Jack White is my favorite musician of all-time, hands down. I’d seen him perform with all of his bands, but this was my first time seeing Jack’s solo show. I had no idea what to expect, but the setlist was perfect. White opened with “Sixteen Saltines,” and played a lot of his solo debut Blunderbuss and a good mix of his other band’s songs, even performing his song from Rome, “Two Against One.” He ended the set with “Ball and Biscuit,” which I figured was the end of the show, no encore. I’d have been happy with just that. But then, out of nowhere, I heard the loud distorted guitars of “Black Math.” To the right of the audience was the old Roseland stage where the VIP were sitting, and as soon as “Black Math” started, security grabbed everyone on that side stage and rushed them away. The curtains drew, and there was Jack and his band going nuts. The audience quickly rushed to the side of the stage to get a good view of the madness as White played a four-song encore consisting of three White Stripes songs and The Dead Weather’s “Cut Like A Buffalo.” I’ll never forget the feeling I had when I left that show, disbelief of the incredible performance I had just witnessed. – James Sullivan

Arcade Fire

Walter’s on Washington; Houston

I’ve been to plenty of concerts where a band or artist I’ve liked absolutely topped my expectations, but the most memorable shows I’ve attended have gone a little differently. What really sticks with me is when a band I have no idea about absolutely blows me away.

Flashback to a decade ago: I was in Houston in a dark dive bar excited to see The Unicorns and Fiery Furnaces, two critically acclaimed bands I was already big on. But I was nowhere near prepared for the band that would absolutely tear down the house and become one of the most seminal rock groups of all-time in Arcade Fire.

Playing second, they didn’t even have an album out yet, but they still had the entire club in a frenzy. By the time they played “No Cars Go,” a song which later appeared on their second album, Neon Bible, everyone was eating out of the palms of their hands. I’d never seen anything like it before for an opening act, and it truly felt like a special, once-in-a-lifetime performance. A homecoming of sorts for the then-unknown band (Win and Will Butler grew up in the suburbs of the city), it would become one of those legendary shows that everyone lies about being at – when Arcade Fire first took the stage and blew our city away. But I was there! – Michael Depland

Red Hot Chili Peppers

Continental Airlines Arena; East Rutherford, N.J.

Yes, this is the concert in which the video for “Snow” was filmed (which I was unaware of until the video dropped months later). It wasn’t just how Red Hot Chili Peppers hit their singles out of the park that made this show great; how hard the Chili Peppers rocked out to their deeper cuts was most impressive. They played a 10-minute rendition of “Throw Away Your Television” that changed the way I looked at their music. Each song also had fresh new guitar solos from John Frusciante at his peak. He and Flea played off each other all night on opposite ends of the stage (with Flea in his classic psychedelic onesie). The sheer size of the crowd took away some of the intimacy, but the Chili Peppers were too on-point to hold that against them.– Ryan Alfieri

Up in Smoke Tour

Palace of Auburn Hills; Auburn Hills, Mich.

Certain shows are a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and Up in Smoke definitely fits that category for me. The tour following Chronic 2001 featured Dr Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, D12, Warren G, Nate Dogg, MC Ren, Kurupt, Xzibit, Ice Cube, Mack 10, WC, TQ, Devin the Dude, Tha Eastsidaz and more. Considering that lineup of legends now features billionaires, movies stars, rivals, and fallen soldiers, getting everyone on the same page again is literally impossible.

We must have understood the magnitude of the moment, because my four friends and I were living out that night to the fullest, reveling in the bounce from artists we grew up on. Even though we weren’t old enough to drive there on our own, we knew all the words to the majority of those West Coast and Detroit staples, soaking in the overall production value and wilding out with the best of ‘em, from our birds eye view. We probably looked ridiculous – trying way too hard to fit in – but I’ll be damned if we weren’t dead-ass serious and having the time of our adolescent lives. – BEWARE

Toro Y Moi

Lovejoys; Austin

For months, I had been listening to Toro Y Moi’s Causers of This, and went to see him play an SXSW day party at a tiny bar with a makeshift stage and crappy sound system. It was still sunny out, and the bar was almost empty when the shy, South Carolina native began quietly setting up a laptop and a small APC on top of a foldout table. I distinctly remember him taking the time to put a screen-printed scarf over the table, no doubt an early version of the now elaborate visuals that accompany his shows.

He pressed “play” on his laptop, and “Blessa” started playing. He fiddled with the knobs as a crowd of about 12 people swayed to the beat. He kept his eyes to the ground, bobbing back and forth vigorously, singing slightly out of key. He was kind of terrible. He didn’t sound much like the songs I had heard online at all. I was confused, but strangely fascinated. He closed his four-song set with “Talamak,” the single that had put him on the indie map. As the song started, the crowd suddenly woke up and watched intently as the one-man-show tried to do so much more with very little. He finally looked up and smiled as he sang the closing words, “Think of you and me.”

That’s when I got that feeling. “This guy is going to be huge,” I thought. “He just needs practice,” I said to myself. As it turns out, it was one of his very first shows. It wasn’t his best show, and it probably wasn’t his worst show. It was just the beginning. Being able to be a part of that special moment is something I will never forget. – Andriana Albert

Swear and Shake

Planet Sarbez!; St. Augustine, Fla.

Music writers can hem and haw all they want about a show’s energy and aspects of the performance, but, at the end of the day, what elevates a concert from merely good to all-time great is your mood and the meaning you bring to the event.

Swear and Shake are a decent folk-pop band with one insanely catchy single. But what made the show great wasn’t them. It was the events that brought them to St. Augustine.

The tiny beach town where I’m from has had a considerable homegrown scene for a while, but struggled to bring in outside indie acts. A noted venue a short walk from the ocean spent a few years in the ‘00s trying to make the city cool, but the venue owners sold and progress halted. The interceding years had been dark. The city had one solid punk club, and we all had to watch as the indie acts who’d played on the beach got big and came back with $60 ticket prices at a county-owned venue.

Planet Sarbez! had yet to open when it hosted Swear and Shake. The concert was a BYOB costume party (it was close-ish to Halloween; it was October, in any case) with a pay-what-you-can donation jar at the door to help finish building the venue.

In any city, it’s nice to see a large group of people come out to support a new venue. But in a town as small and conservative as St. Augustine, a town that had been openly hostile to new bars and venues like Sarbez!, a town that had tried and failed several times to host a decent indie venue, spending a night dancing with crusties who were drunk off trunk beers and dressed as Mrs. Nesbitt felt better than “nice.” It felt like a coup. – Alex Galbraith

GHE20 G0THIK

Brooklyn Night Bazaar; Brooklyn, N.Y.

The first time I heard about GHE20 G0THIK, that now infamous subculture created by turn-up queen Venus X, was in 2012. I read the DJ’s profile from the New York Times, and immediately loved everything GHE20 G0THIK stood for. Plus, that name… a name that, for some strange reason, reminded me of the opening scene from Blade. I made a promise to myself that whenever I was in New York, I was going to attend a GHE20 G0THIK event and lose my mind.

That moment came three years later, when GHE20 G0THIK returned for a large party in collaboration with the Red Bull Music Academy. Prior to the event, I purchased two 24 Oz. cans of Coors Lite, one of which I chugged while walking to the venue. I stuffed the other one in my tight pants (a decision I would regret as the night progressed).

From the moment I stepped in, I was overwhelmed. Pretty boys and girls looking like something out of a dystopian manga or movie, and a roster of DJs providing the soundtrack to what would be an incredible night. Venus X and Nguzunguzu’s playlist of great female rap and Jersey club remixes; Mike Q’s ballroom house; and, of course, New Orleans bounce rapper Sissy Nobby – each performance was a workout, an endurance test that I didn’t want to end. Connected to the DJ booth was a catwalk-like pillar where people would slowly walk to a stage in the center of the venue. Each dance was different, but the best parts were the voguers. They commanded our attention, falling to the floor as if their had been punctured by the music that accompanied them, only to be revived by a booming bass. Did I jump and contribute? Of course. I channeled my inner Ilana Glazer and did what came to me, and, at that moment, nothing mattered. I dropped to the floor, I swung my hips and I looked into the eyes of the crowd before me.

I can count on one hand the shows that I’ve been to that felt blissful, and that made me cry tears of joy. GHE20 G0THIK was one of them. – Elijah Watson

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