this post contains never-before-released MP3s and pics, and a bunch of links. enjoy.

word count
amazing: 5
excellent: 3
show: 42
concert: 3

A list of the "best shows of 2004" is obviously a very personal, subjective, and somewhat random thing. I go to a lot of concerts, but still probably only saw less than .001% of all the live music events held in NYC in 2004.

Even among the shows I'm interested in, I probably only hit a small number. I attended three of Central Village's nine favorites, one on Melody Nelson's list of nine, none of the NY equivalents of the twelve Torr posted, and only four of One Louder's fifteen.

Everyone at a show leaves with a different experience. You could be at "the greatest show of the year," but if you're stuck in the back corner directly behind a basketball player, after not having slept the night before, you would probably be happier at home in bed. Mood plays such an important part of show enjoyment. blah blah blah.

Here's a list of the shows (that I remember I went to) that I most enjoyed in 2004.

Sufjan Stevens @ South Street Seaport
Sufjan Stevens @ South Street Seaport

1) Any Sufjan Stevens show.

Most notable:

Sufjan & Baby, Knitting Factory, January 22nd - this CMJ sponsored show was the first time I saw Sufjan, and Craig Wedren from Shudder To Thinks's new band Baby

Sufjan, South Street Seaport, July 1st - this free outdoor show held on Canada day brought Canada banter into Sufjan's Michigan routine, and included a surreal experience where Sufjan debuted his own version of The Star Spangled Banner against the backdrop of the ships in the Sea Port while the crowd and band all held up flags handed out by Sufjan.

Sufjan Stevens, and band, covered The Star Spangled Banner at their South Street Seaport show.
DownloadDOWNLOAD: The Star Spangled Banner live @ South Street Seaport (mp3, right click, save as)

2) Any Decemberists show. Like Sufjan, I actually got Decemberists overload and started not going to the shows they played toward the end of the year. (pics)

Most notable:

Decemberists & Clearlake two nights in a row, March 25 & 26, Mercury Lounge & Bowery Ballroom - Clearlake is an amazing band that came out with one of my favorite albums of 2003. Decemberists never play a bad show.

Decemberists & The Long Winters, June 17, Echo Lounge, Atlanta, GA - I saw this same show in NYC (twice), and just so happened to be working in Atlanta when the tour made it there. Seeing one of my favorite bands in a foreign place makes this one special. This tour also made me a fan of the Long Winters, who put on an excellent live show.

The Decemberists played The Sporting Life, from their upcoming album, at the show in Atlanta.
DownloadDOWNLOAD: The Sporting Life live @ The Echo Lounge (mp3, right click, save as)
(as seen previously on this site)

3) TV on the Radio, April 8, Mercury Lounge - TVOTR shows often get mixed reviews. They proved why they deserve all the hype at this small venue show.

4) Scissor Sisters, Morningwood & Special Guests, May 23, Bowery Ballroom - I can't say enough good things about Scissor Sisters and Bowery Ballroom as a venue. The mix was magical at this LAMDA benefit show that included the always amazing live band, Morningwood. Special guests Fred Schneider from the B52s & half of Kiki & Herb made the show that much more exciting.

Fred Schneider sang Monster (in my pants) with the Scissor Sisters.
DownloadDOWNLOAD: Monster live @ Bowery Ballroom (mp3, right click, save as)

5) They Might Be Giants, David Cross, Todd Barry, and Sarah Vowell, June 4th, Southpaw - A benefit for 826NY, it was great to see TMBG in a small venue in their home of Brooklyn, NY. David Cross and Todd Barry, the biggest comedians on the NY indie rock circuit, cracked me up as usual. Todd actually stole the show, and convinced those with blogs to include the term "jewforever" on their blogs the next day. It worked.

Joanna Newsom @ The Drag City Christmas Party
Joanna Newsom playing the Drag City Christmas Party

6) Every Devendra Banhart and Joanna Newsom show (Devendra pics)

Most Notable:

Devendra, Joanna, Antony, and Vetiver, June 21st, Bowery Ballroom - I'm not listing my shows in particular order, but this one would definitely be in the top three. Devendra puts on such an amazing live show, I leave every show not believing what I just witnessed. Add Joanna Newsom as an opener. It what was the first time I saw her live, and I had prepared all week by listening to the Milk Eyed Mender non-stop. Add Antony, another amazing artist, who I was seeing for the first time. Add Vetiver, a group of musicians who play with Devendra and have their own group. so, so, so, so, good.

Joanna Newsom, June 22nd, Mercury Lounge - an early show added at the last minute while Joanna was in town with Devendra. A chance to see her two nights in a row. With no advanced tickets, I was already standiong on line around 6:00 for the 7:00 show. (pic)

Drag City Christmas Party, December 18 & 19, Bowery Ballroom - Two more nights in a row of Joanna with Smog and Weird War. Joanna proves she's a ticket selling force, arguably being the reason this show sold out two nights in a row at the 550 capacity Bowery Ballroom. (pics, pic)

Joanna Newsom sang This Side of the Blue with her friend Stacy at the Mercury Lounge show
DownloadDOWNLOAD: This Side of the Blue live @ Mercury Lounge (mp3, right click, save as)

7) The Secret Machines & Calla (solo, acoustic), July 13, Sin-e - shortly after being signed to a major label, and blowing up to the point being noticed by David Bowie & landing the opening spot on Interpol's tour, The Secret Machines played this intense benefit show in a small Lower East Side venue.

8) Franz Ferdinand, The Delays, The Futureheads, September 9, Roseland - Best lineup of UK it-bands. Well worth the inflated Roseland large-venue-inflated-ticket-price. (pics, pics)

Bright Eyes @ North Six
Bright Eyes @ North Six

9) Bright Eyes featuring Craig Wedren, Kevin Devine, September 23, Northsix - Yet another big band, small venue, benefit show. This one was for the legal defense fund of the protesters arrested at the RNC. Craig Wedren surprised me by a) being part of the Bright Eyes band, and b) performing two Shudder to Think songs. Kevin Devine, although I'm not a huge fan, was a great opener. (pics)

Fiery Furnaces @ Bowery Ballroom
The Fiery Furnaces @ Bowery Ballroom

10) Fiery Furnaces, September 25th, Bowery Ballroom - After catching their disappointing performance earlier in the year at The Siren Festival, it was extremely refreshing to see The Fiery Furnaces at their best. Tight, magical show. (pics, pics) (fluxblog review)

Bloc Party @ Knitting Factory
Bloc Party @ Knitting Factory

11) Both Bloc Party shows in NYC

Bloc Party, September 30th, Knitting Factory - hype-living-up-to amazing U.S. debut by one of the most exciting bands playing music today. (pics)

Bloc Party, October 2nd, Tribeca Grand - details of how Tribeca Grand (the promoters) treated their customers aside, an excellent NYC encore performance in a night club setting. (pics)

Gratitude @ Downtime
Gratitude @ Downtime for CMJ

12) Gratitude, The Features, October 12, pre-CMJ party @ Downtime - the NYC debut of Jonah Matranga's new band, Gratitude was especially exciting for me. Jonah, previously of Far, New End Original, and Onelinedrawing, is one of my favorite musicians. Plus, this was free. (pic, pics)

13) CMJ Day 1, October 13 - possibly one of the most surreal days in my personal indie-rock-concert-going history. In one day, in four small venues including a radio studio and the "legendary" CBGB, I saw Ted Leo, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, The Arcade Fire, Gratitude, Magneta Lane, and David Kilgour. (pics)

Ted Leo, Sufjan Stevens, The Decemberists, Museum of TV & Radio, KEXP studio - Three of my favorite artists in a row in a room the size of my bedroom, live on the radio. (pics)

Magneta Lane, CBs Downstairs Lounge - These young Canadian girls caught my attention earlier in the year, so I made it a point to check out their U.S. debut during CMJ. (pics)

Gratitude, CBGB - after seeing Magneta Lane downstairs, I went to the main stage of CBGB upstairs to catch the second night in a row of Gratitude.

Arcade Fire, David Kilgour, Mercury Lounge - I actually saw David earlier in the night, and went back to Mercury Lounge after Gratitude to catch the most anticipated of all CMJ shows, The Arcade Fire. They lived up to Funeral, and then some (pics, pics)

The Arcade Fire @ KEXP
The Arcade Fire playing for KEXP

14) CMJ Day 2, October 14 - as if the previous day wasn't enough, I finished off my two day CMJ run with a second day of Arcade Fire, then Baby & Har Mar Superstar, and a final late-night Jonah Matranga (sans Gratitude) show. (pics)

Arcade Fire, Museum of TV & Radio, KEXP studio - KEXP let about 50 lucky fans watch the Arcade Fire perform in a room that barely fit all members of the band, let along a studio audience. (pic)

Har Mar Superstar & Baby, Coral Room - Craig Wedren (Baby) officially made appearances at four of my favorite concerts of the year. This was another one. Har Mar Superstar surprised me as one of the most fun performers I saw in 2004. (pics, pics)

Jonah Matranga solo, CB's Gallery - After two nights of Gratitude, I got to see Jonah perform an intimate Onelinedrawing style show.

My guess is that most people don't know Jonah's music. Here's a studio version of one of his most popular songs.
DownloadDOWNLOAD: Letter by Onelinedrawing (mp3, right click, save as)

15) Arcade Fire, Hidden Cameras, Dirty on Purpose, November 11, Bowery Ballroom - a month after their much buzzed CMJ performances, Arcade Fire came back for one of the most in-demand tickets of the year. The Hidden Cameras put on an exhilarating opening show, and local faves Dirty on Purpose were thrown in for good measure. (pics, pics)

16) Pixies, November 26, CEPSUM Stadium, Montreal - My first time ever seeing the Pixies. Lots of energy. Huge venue, but comfortable and great crowd, Montreal. (recap)

17) Calexico, December 7th, Bowery Ballroom - excellent group, excellent venue. my reviews are getting shorter. (pics)

18) Broken Social Scene three nights in a row, once with the Pixies - a BSS rollercoaster with a sprinkling of Pixie dust. (pics, recap, pics, pics)

19) U2 under the Brooklyn Bridge, November 22nd - huge band, beautiful setting, crazy antics, a spectacle. (pics, pics)

Wilco @ Tinkle
Wilco playing Tinkle

20) Tinkle with Wilco, David Cross, Todd Barry & Eugene Mirman, December 30th, Pianos - a great way to end the year, with a special guest that left me star-struck.(pics, pics)

Honorable Mentions

Eagles of Death Metal & Minibosses @ Mercury Lounge
The Unicorns @ Knitting Factory
any Onelinedrawing show
The Wearkerthans @ Bowery Ballroom (pics)
Destroyer & Frog Eyes @ Mercury Lounge
The Zutons @ Mercury Lounge (pics)
Rilo Kiley @ Bowery Ballroom (pics, pics, pics)
Mountain Goats & John Vanderslice @ Knitting Factory (pics)
Chin Up Chin Up @ The Delancey (pics)
From Autumn To Ashes @ Knitting Factory
Morningwood, Dogs Die in Hot Cars & Baby @ Mercury Lounge
Murphy's Law @ Rocks Off Cruise (pics)
Sonic Youth @ Webster Hall (pics)
Movable Hype (recap)

Shows I Wish I Saw

Franz Ferdinand @ Bowery Ballroom (offsite pics)
Keane @ Knitting Factory (offsite pics)
The Delays @ Mercury Lounge (offsite review)
Courtney Love @ Bowery Ballroom & Plaid (offsite pics)
Rilo Kiley @ Knitting Factory (offsite pics)
AC Newman @ Bowery Ballroom
Libertines @ Bowery Ballroom
Vincent Gallo @ Rothko (I had to sell my tickets) (offsite review)
Futureheads @ Rothko (I got a refund when it was over capacity) (offsite review)
Secret Machines @ Rothko
All Kimya Dawson shows
Wilco & Fiery Furnaces @ Radio City (I ended up selling my tickets outside...long story)
Junior Boys @ Bowery Ballroom, Other Music, & Joes Pub
American Music Club @ KF (they went on too early!)
Arcade Fire @ Mercury Lounge (pre-Funeral) (offsite review)

Most Disappointing Cancellation Due to Rain

Joanna Newsom @ South Street seaport

Too Profitable to Pass Up Scalping Moments (so I didn't go)

Franz Ferdinand @ Webster Hall
Keane @ Irving Plaza

Concert Tragedy of 2004

Most Blogged About Concert Reunion Tour

More Shows I Posted Pictures Of