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Summer of Concerts, In Review

It's no secret that I have outdated taste in music. This summer, I indulged it.

I often check out Pollstar to see if anyone I'm interested in will be coming to town.

When I first started planning how to leave my job and take another long trip, I did the same thing in some of the first cities. I can't remember which concert I found first, but pretty soon one became a dozen. As I started looking up cities and some of my favorite artists' summer tours, things quickly snowballed. I decided that I would use concerts and music festivals to help draw my path east across Europe, to where I would finish in Finland. Since the beginning of this year, I have seen at least thirty bands perform.

I thought I'd make up some arbitrary awards for the shows I've seen. The full list of shows is at the bottom.

I've also created a playlist on Spotify out of most of the concert setlists, when I could find them, with quite a bit of editorializing on my part.

Arbitrary Awards

  • Best Evocation of a Bygone Era: Cavern Club
  • Best Festival Art: Flow Festival. The festival site is an industrial area, and there's a collaboration with Aalto University.
  • Best Festival Setting: Musilac. Lakeside in the French Alps.
  • Best Fit of Band and Venue: The Vapors. They were loud and high-energy, in a small, dark, standing-only venue.
  • Best Food: Flow Festival. Emphasis on fresh vegetables and world cuisine, no hot dogs, and not overpriced relative to the rest of Helsinki.
  • Best Idea, Third Place: Several festivals, for handing out free earplugs and making it clear that small children could not stay near the stage. They were much more concerned about hearing loss than I've seen US festivals be.
  • Best Idea, Runner-Up: Flow Festival, self-contained bottle deposit system. They charged one euro for every bottle or can, which you could only get back at the site. This dramatically reduced litter.
  • Best Idea: Musilac. They put two main stages next to each other and alternated bands, so that the festival constantly had headliners performing and the audience never had to miss anything.
  • Best Museum That is Also a Toilet: The Icelandic Punk Museum
  • Best Musical Regions: Scotland and the North of England
  • Best Performance Art, Runner-Up: David Byrne. All musicians onstage were completely wireless and able to constantly move around.
  • Best Performance Art: St. Vincent
  • Best Performance after Horse Racing: Deacon Blue. Also runner-up for most joyful.
  • Best Show to See Middle-Aged Scots Dancing Around: Big Country
  • Best Show to See on Your Last Day of Work: Jackson Browne. His music is the past, present, and future. As I grow older, I feel that I understand more and more of his work.
  • Best The Jam show without Paul Weller: From the Jam
  • Best Thing to Do instead of the Flow Festival: Otakon
  • Best Video: Depeche Mode
  • Coolest: ABC. Martin Fry has kept the band in top form and continued to write quality new albums. He was one of the few musicians at Let's Rock to play music released just a year or two ago, instead of decades ago. He also continues to use a full band, including a string section.
  • Coolest Drummer: Cherisse Osei, Simple Minds
  • Most Bras Tossed at Stage: Tony Hadley. Also most perfect voice.
  • Most Disappointing: Steve Winwood. Just a difference in taste; I was hoping for his more pop-oriented solo work, but he mostly played long jams from the 60s and 70s.
  • Most Distant Draw: Roger Waters. I met someone who had come from Indonesia to see the show.
  • Most Joy: Simple Minds
  • Most Missed: Bosley. Baltimore powerhouse and old acquaintance Bosley went MIA in Europe last year to search for the next step of his life and finish up his last album. I couldn't find him, but I hope he performs again someday. Go listen to him on Spotify.
  • Most Musical Cafe: The Bluebird, Edinburgh. Tiny cafe with wonderful food, whose owner seems to know everyone in Tennessee.
  • Most Powerful: Future Islands. The chest-pounding, shadow-boxing Samuel T. Herring continues to throw his whole self into his performances.
  • Most Seen: Future Islands. Fourth time I've seen them.
  • Most Sublime: Bill Murray, Jan Vogler, and Friends
  • Most Unfamiliar, Runner-Up: Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott. I originally booked this concert because Elvis Costello was co-headlining, but he had to drop out due to illness.
  • Most Unfamiliar: Flow Festival. I'm a fan of St. Vincent, but other than her, I went to be exposed to musicians I don't know or don't typically listen to.
  • Most in Need of Longer Sets: Let's Rock Scotland (especially ABC and Tony Hadley). Sets were only about forty minutes, followed by long delays as the next band got ready.
  • Best: Pass

Full list of shows