Is it just us, or was the caliber and diversity of shows in 2017 raised to a new bar? From massive concerts at the Alamodome to cozier spots like Limelight, it seemed like Alamo City saw a range of genre and crowd sizes for live music this year, and we were stoked to be able to see a good chunk of it. Now, this by no means is an all-encompassing list of the shit we saw, but rather some of the highlights of more memorable shows we were able to soak in. If 2018 is going to be looking anything like how this year went in the live music department, we're pretty stoked for what's in store.
Inquisition took to the Alamo City Music Hall stage earlier this year and the crowd erupted in joyful chaos, throwing up the classic “horns” hand sign and head-banging to the onslaught of distortion. If you closed your eyes, you couldn’t tell that the band had just two members — a single guitar player/vocalist and a drummer. Their music was loud as fuck, and with intervals of creeping, waltzy breaks between the bone shattering drum hits, Inquisition forged a delightfully dark offering of technical black metal perfect for a seance in the middle of a dark forest. Next up was Mayhem — one of the most revered bands in the genre and hailing from the black metal capital of the world: Olso, Norway. Soaking the audience in blast-beats and shrieking as candles on stage flickered behind them, Mayhem played De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas from start to finish, an album that is revered as a classic in the extreme and macabre genre. Head-banging and moshing ensued as the Norwegian five-piece shredded through their 46-minute magnum opus before bringing the evening to its eldritch consummation.
Explosions in The Sky
Friday, April 6
Remember the Care Bears? Remember how, whenever they would go up against some sort of villain or evil-doer, they would lock arms and beams of light would shoot from their ‘lil Care Bear bellies, a super-move called the Care Bear stare? Well, if there were music to somehow accompany the Care Bear stare, it would most likely be the crescendoing peak of an Explosions in the Sky song. Accompanied by a thunderous roar from the excited audience, Explosions took to the stage opening with “Yasmin The Light," the second track off their 2001 release Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell The Truth Shall Live Forever. Punctuating their set with some of their newer shit (which is not as awesome as their old stuff, to be sure, but definitely not bad), the band pulled the audience through songs from pretty much their entire catalog (except for their first album) as colorful lights and fog encapsulated the band like they were some sort of gate keepers to a magical cloud paradise (you know, like the Care Bears).
Wednesday, April 20
No one was ready for the onslaught of hyper-energetic displays of crazy Japanese punk rock as the four piece (now Austin-based group) took the Limelight stage in April. The band encouraged the audience to join in singing as bassist Peelander Pink held up the lyrics to the songs which were usually between two to four words, and made things pretty easy for us to follow. The thing with this band was, while, they’re obviously a band, the music wasn’t necessarily the point. The point was the show, the audience participation and the energy exchange between Peelander Yellow, Pink, Green and Purple and the crowd.
At The Drive In
Friday, June 9
Almost two decades after releasing any new music, and amid a crescendo of excited screams from the audience, ATDI burst onto the Aztec Theatre stage, kicking things off with “No Wolf Like The Present," the first track off of the band's new album. The band then pivoted to "Pattern Against User," the lead track from 2000's Relationship of Command, a song that got the crowd roaring. The band blended new stuff with old favorites, like "Napoleon Solo" off In/Casino/Out and "198d" from Vaya. And singer Cedric Bixler-Zavala once again proved himself one of the more entertaining rock-and-roll frontmen, leaping from guitar amplifiers, jumping off the drum kit and dancing across the stage like James Brown as the sound of guitarist Omar Rodriguez-Lopez’s signature spasmodic shredding bounced off the walls.
Wednesday, June 14
Long before you could hear Metallica songs echoing through aisles at H-E-B during your Sunday afternoon shopping, metal was a socially disruptive and noisy genre that signified rebellion, a challenge to the status quo. The genre still carries a similar spirit today, but Metallica were one of those pivotal early metal bands that pushed the genre into the mainstream and carved a path for other bands that would emerge with a similar sound. The band reminded us of their stay in pop culture by pummeling the Alamodome with quakes of lightning fast guitar riffs, literal explosions, and vocal melodies that we’ve kept close to our heart since the first time we heard James Hetfield sing them.
Sunday, November 5
Armed with choreography for days and a light show that would definitely cause seizures for folks with epilepsy, Lizzo and friends made their way through tracks from all of the singer’s records, including “Coconut Oil,” “En Love” and newer tracks like “Water Me” and “Truth Hurts.” It's one thing to just watch a performer do their thing, but with Lizzo, she made sure the audience was a part of the experience, bringing on a couple of people from the crowd to dance and putting on a shirt that was designed for her (thrown on stage in a package which Lizzo opened). “If you don’t leave with anything today, I hope you leave with self-love,” Lizzo told the audience towards the end of her set. And you know, I think that’s why so many people are drawn to her; Lizzo’s themes of self-love and self-care are attractive and speak to us who may struggle with those things like size, color, gender or sexual orientation. And instead of feeling ashamed about it, this queen is just like, “fuck that, be you, and love yourself, 'cause no one can love you more than you.”