Year in Review | Top Live Shows

Flying Lotus photo | Nick Schrunk

Year in Review | Top Live Shows

by Joshua P. Ferguson

What would a year of musical praise be without laying down our best moments spent sweating it out on a dance floor, screaming alongside 50,000 fans in Union Park or raving the day away in Detroit? Well, we did all that and then some this year. Between DEMF, Lollapalooza, North Coast Music Festival, Pitchfork and every other DJ and band we saw this year, we've been to more than 35 shows. Of them, here are our best.

Soundsystem Bring Me Up: Top Electronic Live Shows

5) Flying Lotus + Kode9 @ the Double Door Chicago
When it comes to having its finger on the pulse and pulling out all the stops for a show, no entity does it better than Red Bull. This year the energy drink behemoth sponsored stages at North Coast Music Festival, DEMF and the Chicago edition of Sonar. But it was its Red Bull Music Academy: On the Floor event with L.A.'s FlyLo and Hyperdub's Kode9 that takes the #5 slot this year. Of Flying Lotus' set, our review had this to say, "FlyLo isn't shy about his infatuation with the intense hallucinogen DMT, often talking in interviews and on his blog about his experiments in reaching a higher consciousness. His music, with its washes of atmospherics, jittery off-kilter rhythms and meditative tempos, is a clear extension of his mind-expanding endeavors."

4) Radio Slave DJ set @ Spy Bar Chicago
They say a picture can communicate a thousand words, but when it comes to Radio Slave's DJ set at Spy Bar back in March, we hope some of you readers out there got to witness it first hand. Stepping into the booth just past 2am, the auburn-haired Englishman took us on a musical journey encompassing the deepness of Detroit masters like Moodymann, the emotive techno of the Kompakt label stable and the signature house sounds that have made his Rekids label such a hit. Packing energy alongside understatement and putting the life into techno's often too cold soul, it is with the utmost confidence that we declare Matt Edwards' set one of the best of 2010.

Moritz Von Oswald Trio photo | Dave Walker

3) Moritz Von Oswald Trio @ DEMF
This performance at the tenth anniversary of Detroit's Electronic Music Festival was truly one of a kind. The group, which was joined by Motor City legend Carl Craig, makes epic atmospheric techno soundscapes, delved into one song after another, strung together as one long tapestry of sound. The melodies and rhythms grew and built as texture upon texture were added to one another, working up a hypnotizing groove that had everyone in the audience completely mesmerized. Unfortunately, a power chord gave out, cutting sound and setting back the performance’s momentum. But prior to that point, this was one of the most magical displays of electronic music we've ever seen. Read our full review of DEMF.

James Murphy photo |

2) LCD Soundsystem @ Metro Chicago
Though we lucked into seeing electronic music's best live band three times this year, it is the troupe's intimate set at Metro that rises to the top. Set back a mere ten feet from the stage, we couldn't help but pick up on every nuance of the performance. Our favorite (from our TOC review): "A telling moment that speaks volumes about Murphy's as an artist and studio whiz was when he nonchalantly walked back towards the bass player to readjust the instrument's tuning to compensate for an out of key synth. No one in the band missed a beat. If this is LCD's farewell tour, I hope Murphy's got something else planned so we can get more music that's as heady and entertaining as what we heard tonight."

1) The Chemical Brothers live @ North Coast Music Festival
This actually became a surreal experience for me, but even if it hadn't, this would still be the coolest electronic show I've ever seen. Shortly after being passed a smokey party favor, two girls from the crowd insisted that I be their dancing partner for the entirety of the show. I became the meat to their girlie sandwich and danced in that position for almost the entire length of show. Life has been worse... Escapades aside, here's an excerpt from my praise of the duo's show:  "As a haze of pot smoke wafted past me and the Chems set ratcheted up into hyper speed, I was stunned to nothing but a little grin and an overwhelming urge to get my hands up where everybody else already had theirs. With a massive visual backdrop that flashed bombs, bouncing (and exploding) paintballs, dancing silhouettes and god knows what else at us, [The Chems kept] all of our senses wrapped up in what is truly one of the best electronic music performances I have ever seen, and quite possibly will ever see."



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