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Best Concerts of 2016

Music staff writers pick their favorite concerts of 2016.

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From fine dining with Robyn Hitchcock to melting faces with the Melvins, here are our favorite concerts of 2016. — Chris Shaw

Crazy Spirit at Murphy's, January 12th.

Memphis finally got a taste of the "Nuke York" punk scene this year, first with Crazy Spirit at Murphy's and then with Hank Wood and the Hammerheads at the Hi-Tone in May. Mixing the best elements of early '80s Midwest hardcore with the sounds of NYC hardcore luminaries Urban Waste, Crazy Spirit left ears ringing for months. — CS

Reigning Sound at the Harbor Town Amphitheater Saturday, May 14th.

We've been fans of the River Series over here at the Flyer for quite some time, but the outdoor concert series outdid itself once again when the original lineup of the Reigning Sound was tapped to play the Harbor Town Amphitheater. The weather was great, the music was perfect, and $1 hot dogs didn't hurt the vibe either. — CS

Bluff City Vice, Chalk, the Margins at Murphy's, Tuesday, November 15th.

Bluff City Vice was easily the weirdest band I saw this year, and I like to think I specialize in weird. This was their second show, and I wasn't the only music critic in the house to witness their extremely strange, sometimes awkward, and always charming renditions of their own songs, as well as a cover of the classic Ramone's song "Slug." If their brand new "Christmas Album" is any indication of what's to come, expect Bluff City Vice to get even weirder in 2017. — CS

Tommy Wright III, Chickasaw Mound, Broke, Reserving Dirtnaps at the Hi-Tone, Thursday, December 8th.

A legendary underground Memphis rapper teamed up with local hardcore bands and a garage-rock super group to deliver one of the best shows of the year. Every band delivered, and seeing so many different music fans coexisting in the same room was awesome. — CS

Carcass, Friday, July 29th at the New Daisy.

Carcass' flawless fourth album, 1993's Heartwork, is one of the first and definitely best utilizations of melody and hooks in death metal. It also might be this writer's favorite metal album of all time. Keeping that in mind, Carcass' first Memphis show created a mix of anticipation and anxiety. As the set opened, it seemed lacking in the requisite amount of intensity and decibels, though this was remedied when a sweet spot was found down toward the front and center, something made possible by Carcass' decidedly pit-unfriendly song structures. — Andrew Earles

Helms Alee, Melvins, Friday, September 12th at the Hi-Tone

The smaller the room, the better when it comes to a band that has perfected a visceral and powerful live show over three decades of nonstop touring, and the Hi-Tone's big room is about as intimate as one can hope when that band is the Melvins.

Highlights include early-career opener "Eye Flys" and live staple "Night Goat" as the properly pummeling, unofficial set-closer (before a silly version of "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"). Extra-special kudos to openers Helms Alee and their power-trio approach to the much heavier days of indie-rock past. — AE

Allison Crutchfield and Hartle Road, Sunday, October 23rd at Murphy's.

Hartle Road is a trio from nearby middle-of-nowhere Columbus, Mississippi, that succeeds effortlessly where many other contemporary underground bands fail spectacularly. Specifically by letting the clear influence of top-drawer Krautrock (especially Can and Neu!), outlier post-punk like This Heat and The Pop Group, and instrumental late-'90s post-rock dominate over a less-noticeable underpinning of garage punk.

Beat Happening/K Records ringleader Calvin Johnson is enough of a fan that he enlisted the trio as the backing band for his latest project, Selector Dub Narcotic.

The headliner for this Autumn show, Allison Crutchfield, is best known for leading the band Swearin' (formed in 2011) as well as playing in a couple of projects with her twin sister Katie of Waxahatchee fame. In her current solo incarnation, Crutchfield is backed by a crack rhythm section that helps her strong and memorable indie-pop come across live like it should: very loud and very dynamic. — AE

Reagers' Picks

Call me a party snob or a curmudgeon if you must, but these days I just can't get into the bar scene. Late nights, pricey drinks, crowds — the whole thing just isn't for me. And I'm not into big arena shows either. By far, my favorite live shows of 2016 have taken place at unconventional venues — studios, art spaces, private homes, etc. — and two definitely stand out.

The Posies, Friday, May 6th at Ardent Studio A.

In early May, one of my all-time favorite bands, Seattle, Washington, alt-rock stalwarts and Memphis Music Hall-of-Famers (because of founding members Ken Stringfellow and Jon Auer's time in the latter day incarnation of Big Star) the Posies, played a semi-secret show in Ardent Studios' legendary Studio A.

The band, now featuring newcomer and absolute powerhouse drummer Frankie Siragusa, blazed through a dynamic set of new and old material before closing the night out with an extra-special encore. Original Big Star drummer Jody Stephens joined Stringfellow and Auer for the encore of Big Star tunes, including the classic "Thirteen." It was the perfect ending to a truly special night. — J D Reager

Robyn Hitchcock, Saturday, July 29th, at private residence.

Even more off-the-grid was an appearance in town by power-pop/punk pioneer Robyn Hitchcock in July. The former frontman of the influential groups the Soft Boys and the Egyptians appeared as the special surprise guest of touring singer-songwriters Holly Muñoz and Emma Swift at a house-show in East Memphis that was also accompanied by a four-course meal by Colorado chef Dustin Brandt. There is nothing quite like watching one of your heroes perform in an intimate environment paired with delicious food and gracious hosts. — JDR.


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