What a year! There were some truly fantastic shows in 2013, and I’m so glad I got to see nearly 200 of them. Thanks to everyone I saw at a show, who let me crash at their place, who got me into shows, who got me into bands to get me into shows… the whole deal. You know who you are!
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Taylor Swift, Machina Genova, The Stooges, OFF!, Hunx and His Punx, Urthboy, Jen Cloher, Austin Lucas, Hot Chip, Weezer, Norah Jones, The 5,6,7,8s, Buke and Gase, Tomahawk, Black Sabbath, Frightened Rabbit, The Gaslight Anthem, Tame Impala, City and Colour, Something for Kate, Custard…
50. Justin Bieber @ Allphones Arena, 29 and 30/11
That’s not a typo – across a two-night stand in Sydney, JB brought a full-production arena spectacular with a stellar band and plenty of show-stopping hits. The criticism flew in thick and fast because… well, it’s Justin Bieber. He might be a reckless brat, but the Believe tour made him heir apparent to the pop throne.
49. Lorde @ Metro Theatre, 17/10
The hype artist of 2013 had a substantial amount to live up to, and she made this completely-sold-out tour count. Despite a bout of food poisoning the night before, Miss Yellich-O’Connor was on form throughout; whipping about her Brave hair and doing her now-famous “dinosaur dance” while recreating most of Pure Heroine note-for-note. Impressive.
48. Foals @ Enmore Theatre, 29/9
Okay, so we didn’t get that mezzanine dive from the first show – security were now wise to it and prevented Yannis from his borderline-suicidal leap. What we did get, however, was a solid mix of the band’s three albums delivered with seemingly endless hip-shaking. Who needs a dive when you’ve got “Olympic Airways”?
47. The Beards @ Metro Theatre, 29/6
A show that made it completely impossible not to smile the entire way through. On the very last night of their world tour, the hirsute Adelaide gentlemen brought a home-stretch energy to a crowd that was willing to reciprocate it tenfold. Never has an hour-plus set of songs entirely about one subject been such a triumph.
46. StereoTomic 2013 @ Black Wire Records, 22/6
From the acoustic joy of Pinch Hitter and Wil Wagner to the blistering intensity of Making and Stockades and everything in-between, StereoTomic was a long, sweaty, exhausting and truly fantastic look at everything that Australia’s independent music community is doing 110% right. You couldn’t have asked for much more. Fingers crossed for a 2014 return.
45. Converge @ Manning Bar, 16/2
Anyone who was at this show will attest to at least a portion of their face still being slightly melted off from the utter chaos that ensued this fateful evening. A boisterous, unforgiving onslaught of big riffs, blastbeats and the irrepressible frontman stylings of Sir Jacob Bannon. Bombclaws all ’round.
44. Cloud Control @ Wollongong Uni Bar, 10/9
The Cloudies have always had a Gong following, and their first show there in three years made for a celebratory evening of singalongs old and new. Maybe the smaller shows have less of a weight on them, but something about this show felt truly blissful and relaxed. Hell, Alister didn’t even put shoes on.
43. Dinosaur Jr. @ The Hi-Fi, 16/3
An insane triple bill of the almighty Dinosaur Jr., the immortal Redd Kross and the soon-to-be-legendary Royal Headache. Perfect sound, loud guitars, gigantic amps, long hair thrashing about like crazy. Even those too cool to rock out normally were losing their shit. A fucking stellar night for all involved. Rock will never go extinct.
42. The Wonder Years @ Annandale Hotel, 25/2
A band with a very all-ages crowd doing an 18+ show was admittedly a risk. In a way, however, it was kind of genius – in the sweaty surrounds of the ‘Dale, 200 or so adults got to act like big kids for roughly an hour. A night of being old enough to know better and young enough to not care.
41. Lianne La Havas @ The Famous Spiegeltent and Salon Perdu Spiegeltent, 19 and 23/1
The divine miss La Havas made her maiden voyage to Australia count, providing an early highlight to the year with two Sydney Festival shows that hung up Sold Out signs long before doors opened. Heart-wrenching soul blended with some faultless groove from a top-notch backing band – these shows were nothing short of world class.
40. Dyson, Stringer and Cloher @ Brass Monkey and Heritage Hotel, 5 and 9/11
Simultaneously three of Australia’s most well-respected and severely underrated singer-songwriters went all out on a national tour that quite literally took them across the entire nation. For these two relatively-regional NSW stops, the trio swapped songs, stories and sweet, sweet harmonies. A match made in heaven; and one that will hopefully ride again someday, further on up the road.
39. Newton Faulkner @ Metro Theatre, 9/4
Yes, he still rocks whiteboy dreadlocks when even John Butler’s given them up; and his music is cheesier than Bega at times. With that said: Faulkner gives his absolute all, drumming up as much noise and energy that one can muster as a solo performer. Plus, that cover of “Bohemian Rhapsody” is NEVER going to get old.
38. Limp Wrist @ Annandale Hotel, 4/1
For many, the first gig of the year was spent watching a bald, fat American in cut-off denim scream at them about a range of queer topics and issues – and they wouldn’t have had it any other way. Even the legendary Hard-Ons couldn’t compete with this man-on-man fury. Punk rock sucks dick – and that’s why it rules.
37. Totally Unicorn vs. Robotosaurus @ The Standard, 7/6
Boasting an impeccable run of supports (Snakes Get Bad Press, Lo!, Safe Hands), the Unicorns and the Robots teamed up for a night of sweaty, boozy antics. There was partial nudity, a beer waterslide, dog piles and even some table-top dancing for good measure. The poor Standard is probably still cleaning up the mess they left.
36. The Whitlams and the Sydney Symphony @ Sydney Opera House, 15/8
After a few years away, a Whitlams show in 2013 felt like a homecoming of sorts – especially doing a hometown show with the bloody Symphony Orchestra. A truly classy performance that dipped into their entire discography and brought out both the tenderness in songs like “Charlie #2” and the pizzazz in songs like “Gough.” Top shelf.
35. Rodriguez and The Break @ Enmore Theatre, 25/3
So, a sugar man, three guys from Midnight Oil and a Violent Femme walk into a theatre… no, seriously. The man they call Rodriguez made a exultant return to Sydney with some truly wondrous recreations of his classics. Backed up by The Break, the set was delivered with the kind of joy and exuberance that normally doesn’t come from a man in his seventies. Unforgettable.
34. Billy Bragg @ Factory Theatre, 13/9
Excitement was already palpable as the Bard of Barking dropped a one-off solo performance in-between various media appearances. He could barely make it through “Sexuality” for all the enthusiastic backing vocalists in the audience, while even new songs got some respect. Encoring with Life’s a Riot in full was the icing on an already delicious cake.
33. The Breeders @ Enmore Theatre, 28/10
The former Pixie’s “other” band got its classic line-up together to celebrate 20 years of Last Splash. It was a record worth celebrating – its peaks and valleys, its wig-outs and its country departures, its “Cannonball”s and its “Hag”s. But what’s better than playing one album? Playing two: Pod, in its entirety, was the encore. What luck!
32. Passenger @ Enmore Theatre, 6/4
In the middle of a remarkable year, the expat troubadour captivated a completely packed Enmore all on his own. He performed unplugged at one point to a pin-drop silent audience, completely enthralled by his room-filling voice. Oh, and he also played that song. Few deserved success in 2013 quite the way he did.
31. ET15 @ Corner Hotel and Northcote Social Club, 22 and 23/11
Elefant Traks had a remarkable year: Urthboy graduated to being one of the most important people in Australian music, Horrorshow became chart-toppers and Hermitude morphed into flat-out festival killers. What better way to celebrate 15 years of original, innovative and exciting Australian music than a 2-night stand with the whole roster on showcase? You beauty.
30. Kvelertak @ Manning Bar, 15/9
New ticket price for any Kvelertak show: Worth It + booking fee. The fearless Norweigans delivered a rock show for the ages, firing off on all cylinders with their triple guitar attack, multiple stage-dives and relentless energy. Anyone who didn’t end up a sweaty, voiceless mess by the night’s end simply could not have been at the right show. Meir!
29. Gay Paris @ Town Hall Hotel, 6/7
To celebrate the end of tour, the fancyboys of Gay Paris decided to throw themselves an inner-west party to end all inner-west parties. Packing out the Townie, the evening won’t be forgotten anytime soon. Things got decidedly loose and wildly fun – much like your average Saturday night at the Townie; only much, much louder.
28. Glory Days @ Black Wire Records, 10/1
Four men, from four different parts of Australia, with four guitars and endless tales of their hometowns, their heartbreak and their heroes. The clan – Wil Wagner, Lincoln Le Fevre, Isaac Graham and Ben David – formed an unbreakable bond on this wonderful tour, singing well into the night and jamming on each other’s songs. Glorious, indeed.
27. Japandroids @ Manning Bar, 31/8
It felt like barely a month passed between Japandroids destroying Laneway and returning for seconds later, but a lot of touring happened elsewhere: They returned exhausted and delirious, and this drove the show’s energy more than anything else. The love was definitely in the air that night – particularly when an arm-in-arm pit circle formed during “Continuous Thunder.” Rest up, boys.
26. The Bronx @ Annandale Hotel, 25/4
Nearly a decade after a legendary show there, The Bronx finally returned to the ‘Dale. The songs flew past in a flurry of buzzsaw guitar and extended cries of “YEAHHHHHHHHHHH!” The lyrics were shouted back at a volume that rivalled the microphone’s. Bodies and booze flew about. It was exactly what you’d expect from a Bronx show, a rock show and an Annandale show.