Top Gigs of 2012: Editor’s Picks

By on Friday, 21st December 2012 at 11:00 am

Another year, and another top 5 gigs by bands that should not be missed live. How odd that three of them came one after another, but that’s the cool thing about Washington DC. Except for December through the beginning of February (the dead of winter) and June through August (festival season), there is always a reasonably good selection of bands coming through here. But that hasn’t always been the case.

I am often asked on my travels why I became a music blogger, and the simple answer has always been this: when I started covering shows in March 2009, I was getting increasingly upset about how many bands (American or international) would skip Washington entirely, either in favour of going to Philadelphia instead or would only consider New York, or maybe Boston, as the only cities worthy on the East Coast for a tour stop. I have had the opportunity to meet so many bands in the last 3+ years that Washington DC has now become considered on the list of cities bands sincerely wish to play in – or on the list that bands say they will definitely pass through on their next headline tours of North America. To know that I have been involved in making this paradigm shift a reality means so much. It means that I have done something for the city I’ve called home all these years and more importantly, have exposed thousands of music fans from varying walks of life who either work, go to school, or pass through our fine city to incredible music.

All five bands whose gigs landed them in my top 5 gigs of 2012 are worth every red cent you can put forward to go see them, either in their own gig or at a festival in 2013. Here’s the list…

5. Ash‘s 20th anniversary tour at DC9 (Thursday 15th November 2012) – what a surreal experience, finally seeing Ash live, in one of the smallest places to see bands in Washington. Even more surreal was after, when I actually got to talk to all of them and Tim Wheeler said I was a more appropriate panelist for Steve Lamacq’s Roundtable than he was. (This made me smile.) The set itself was brilliantly hard rocky, much more so than I ever would have imagined.

4. TGTF’s stage at Liverpool Sound City 2012, starring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera and Dear Prudence Liverpool Academy of Arts (Friday 18th May 2012) – maybe this is cheating, choosing our own stage at Liverpool. But this night couldn’t have been any better, starring our friends since I took over as Editor of this Web site, the Temper Trap, our new friends from SXSW, Clock Opera, and a band from Brighton destined to bigger things, Dear Prudence. All we can say is THANK YOU to all the bands for making it such a memorable night and THANK YOU Sound City for letting us host this amazing stage.

3. Husky at Red Palace (Friday 17th November 2012) – it’s a sad day in Washington, as Red Palace, similar in intimate size to DC9, will be closing its doors at the end of 2012. But before then, I managed to catch the Melbourne band we befriended at this year’s Great Escape. Just check out this video from the show of the band performing an a capella version of Leonard Cohen’s ‘Lover Lover Lover’ and you’ll understand why they’re so good live.


2. the Joy Formidable at St. Stephen’s Church (Saturday 10th November 2012) – the Welsh band have consistently placed in my top 5 gigs of the last 2 years; last year they were at #4 and in 2010, they were at #2. What made the difference and put them higher up this year? Seriously, how often do you see such a power house band in a space as small as a church’s rec room? (Well, it was a little bigger than that…but still.) Absolutely fabulous. And their new album ‘Wolf’s Law’ will be huge next year; just check out this live version of first single ‘Cholla’.


1. Two Door Cinema Club at 9:30 Club (Tuesday 2nd October 2012) – I was having serious reservations about Two Door’s live show, or rather some of their less than nice fans, after seeing them in Baltimore in June and getting shoved – hard – out of our positions down the front. I almost swore I’d never see them again. But I’m glad I changed my mind.

What was the first date on the autumn 2012 North American tour to sell out? Washington DC, of course. There is still some confusion on whether or not Barack Obama is a fan, but one thing is clear: of all the bands that I’ve known and loved, I did right by Two Door Cinema Club – and helped them become the superstars that they’ve dreamt of being since they started as kids in grammar school. I used to be able to see them after shows and hang out with them, but even as those days are over, they’ve never forgotten me. They are true gents.

Honourable mentions:

St. Etienne at U Street Music Hall (Thursday 25th October 2012) – there’s something to be said for Sarah Cracknall, who may be over 40 but still rocks it out every night as if she was in her 20s.

Divine Fits at 9:30 Club (Thursday 18th October 2012) – it always feels incredibly validating when you see a ‘new’ band who hasn’t been touring much…and they turn out to be absolutely fantastic.

Keane with Mystery Jets at Strathmore Hall (Thursday 14th June 2012) – it’s effin’ Keane, for god’s sakes. And with Mystery Jets, who never tour in America! Win-win, really.

Paula and Karol at 93 Feet East in London (Tuesday 15th May 2012) – what do you do between music festivals? Go to a gig, of course. And at this one, I felt welcomed by the entire Polish population of London. What atmosphere.

First Aid Kit at Black Cat (Friday 30th March 2012) – this show was so spirited, the elder Soderberg lost her top right before the encore. Hardcore.

After the cut: the full list of all the gigs, in reverse chronological order, that I’ve been to in 2012 so you can have some idea how difficult my job was to choose favourites for the top 5 list. The runner-up gigs are also marked.

* Simian Mobile Disco (Taxlo [DJs] and JDH and Dave P [DJs] supporting) – 08.12.12 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington, DC

* the 26th ARIAs – 29.11.12 – Sydney Entertainment Centre, Sydney, Australia
* MGM / SPA Australia ARIA Week showcase featuring Lime Cordiale, Battleships. The Falls, and Oceanics – 28.11.12 – Upstairs Beresford, Sydney, Australia
* triple j unearthed ARIA Week showcase featuring The Rubens, YesYou. and Asta – 27.11.12 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, Australia
* Universal Music Australia ARIA Week showcase featuring Bertie Blackman, The Art of Sleeping. The Preatures, and Harts – 26.11.12 – Oxford Art Factory, Sydney, Australia
* Husky – 16.11.12 – Red Palace, Washington, DC
* Ash 20th anniversary tour (Dot Dash and Reputante supporting) – 15.11.12 – DC9, Washington, DC
* The Joy Formidable (More Humans supporting) – 10.11.12 – St. Stephen’s Church, Washington, DC
* the Script (Tristan Prettyman supporting – 07.11.12 – Constitution Hall, Washington, DC my interview with Glen Power of the Script

* Wolf Gang (The Royal Concept and Atlas Genius supporting) – 27.10.12 – U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC
* St. Etienne (Volta Bureau supporting) – 25.10.12 – U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC – honourable mention
* Savoir Adore (Santah and Royal Canoe supporting) – 20.10.12 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington, DC
* Divine Fits (Cane and the Sticks supporting) – 18.10.12 – 9:30 Club, Washington, DC – honourable mention
* the Temper Trap (the Neighbourhood supporting) – 13.10.12 – Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD
* Two Door Cinema Club (Guards and Friends supporting) – 02.10.12 – 9:30 Club, Washington, DC

* Ladyhawke (Outputmessage and Computer Magic supporting) – 10.9.12 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington, DC
* Teitur (Zia Hassan supporting) – 01.09.12 – the Hamilton, Washington, DC

* the Gaslight Anthem (Dave Hause supporting) – 20.07.12 – U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC

* the Hundred in the Hands (Vorhees and Dance for the Dying supporting) – 19.06.12 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington, DC
* Keane (Mystery Jets supporting) – 14.06.12 – Strathmore Hall, Bethesda, MD – honourable mention
* Two Door Cinema Club (Bad Veins and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah supporting) – 12.06.12 – Ram’s Head Live, Baltimore, MD

* TGTF Sound City stage at Liverpool Academy of Arts starring the Temper Trap, Clock Opera, and Dear Prudence
* Liverpool Sound City – 17-19.05.12 – Liverpool, England
* Paula and Karol – 15.05.12 – 93 Feet East, London, England – honourable mention
* the Great Escape – 10-12.05.12 – Brighton, England

* the Wombats (Flagship and the Static Jacks supporting) – 23.04.12 – 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
* the Drums (Dot Dash and Part Time supporting) – 21.04.12 – Black Cat, Washington, DC

* the Temper Trap (Penguin Prison supporting) – 31.03.12 – 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
* First Aid Kit (Peggy Sue supporting) – 30.03.12 – Black Cat, Washington, DC – honourable mention
* Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (Mona supporting) – 28.03.12 – Warner Theatre, Washington, DC
* Band of Skulls (We Are Augustines supporting) – 24.03.12 – 9:30 Club, Washington, DC
* the Postelles (Fort Lean supporting) – 23.03.12 – U Street Music Hall, Washington, DC
* South by Southwest – 13-18.03.12 – Austin, TX
* Bombay Bicycle Club (Lucy Rose and the Darcys) – 07.03.12 – 9:30 Club, Washington, DC

* Teitur (Marit Larsen supporting) – 24.02.12 – Jammin’ Java, Vienna, VA
* Mona (the Silver Liners and the Rassle supporting) – 18.02.12 – Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington, DC
* Slow Club (Air Waves and Young Rapids supporting) – 14.02.12 – DC9, Washington, DC

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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