In the Garage

Top 5 Concerts of 2019

December 08, 2019 | 8 Minute Read

For anyone who has met me or knows me at all, you’ll know that music plays a massive role in my life. Last year, I wrote about my top five albums of 2018. Although I bought a lot of records this year (as I do), I realized that many of them weren’t actually released in 2019; I think the reason for this is because I bought a lot of albums from artists and bands whose music I didn’t own previously for various reasons.

But I digress. This year, I went to 24 concerts across seven cities and four countries, which is the most I’ve been to in a calendar year. Instead of promoting my favorite albums and songs, I’ve ranked my five favorite live shows.

5. Mad Caddies, Buster Shuffle

Live Music Hall, Cologne, DE

26 February 2019

The number five spot was a close call between this Mad Caddies show and Buster Shuffle’s own headliner show in October. I discovered Buster Shuffle initially when they opened for Flogging Molly, saw them again with the Mad Caddies, and then at two of their own headlining shows in Essen and in Cologne. They’re honestly one of my favorite discoveries in 2019 because they’re just so damn fun. You can’t not dance with their brand of ska, and combined with the Mad Caddies as the main act, this show was just irresistible and ranks as my fifth favorite concert.

But this isn’t about Buster Shuffle (who you should check out), this is about the Mad Caddies. This was their so-called “Sunshine on Snow Tour” and it was indeed a bright spot in the middle of the winter. The crowd was really into it and everyone was having a good time. I’ve been a fan of the Mad Caddies since around high school and going to shows only leaves me in a good mood.

Mad Caddies February 2019

4. Stray Cats

Palladium, Cologne, DE

4 July 2019

I remember the Brian Setzer Orchestra having a massive hit in 1998 with “Jump Jive an’ Wail,” but back then, I didn’t realize that Brian Setzer’s previous band was the Stray Cats. I’m not even sure I knew who the Stray Cats were at the time. Regardless, I’ve come to realize and appreciate their influence on the ska, rockabilly, and punk genres, which is why I was so pumped to see them back together.

Stray Cats July 2019 But a funny story here: Weezer announced summer European dates at the end of last year and I immediately bought a ticket for their show in Utrecht (see below). It was originally scheduled for 4 July 2019. Then the Stray Cats announced a string of European dates in January and their local date in Cologne was also scheduled for 4 July. Wanting to see both bands but not knowing which show I would actually attend, I bought a ticket for the Stray Cats too. I did it knowing fully well that I would never be able to make two shows on the same day in cities that are 230 kilometers apart. I told myself that at least I had tickets for both shows and could decide later which show I would actually go to.

Then lo and behold, Weezer had to reschedule their Utrecht date and moved it up three days earlier. My dilemma was solved and I was able to see both Weezer and then the Stray Cats. That alone made this particular concert memorable.

3. PUP, Sløtface

Luxor, Cologne, DE

7 November 2019

PUP’s third record Morbid Stuff is definitely one of my favorite releases of 2019, but I didn’t listen to it much before seeing them in April. Their April show was so much fun that as soon as I got home, I bought a ticket for this November date.

Between April and November, I listened to Morbid Stuff and their previous two albums on repeat. When the November date rolled around, I knew it was going to be one of my highlights of the year because PUP puts on such an energetic show. They interact with the crowd, go crowd-surfing, banter, and the crowd just goes wild.

PUP November 2019

I admire PUP because at their headline shows, they tell everyone, “We’re not an encore band. Encores are bullshit. We’re just going to play two more songs, and then you’re going to leave. You can chant, ‘No more songs! No more songs!’ Because encores are bullshit.” And they stick to it, ending with “If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will” with a direct segue into “DVP.” It’s perfect.

2. Weezer

Tivoli Vredenburg, Utrecht, NL

1 July 2019

In addition to having the memorable story above (see the Stray Cats), this Weezer show brought the story of getting my German driver’s license full circle. Basically when I saw them in the Netherlands in October 2017, my pen pal Linda and I almost got stranded because the train had problems. I had resolved to get my license so I could go to shows more easily and be more flexible.

Weezer July 2019

And that’s why the Utrecht show was so special. It’s the first show where I took advantage of having a license—I left work a little early, rented a (manual!) car, and drove with another Weezer Fan Club member and friend Martin the two hours to Utrecht. There was traffic and some detours that caused us to miss the opening bands, but our Fan Club friends saved us spots at the rail. Generally, Weezer shows are magical with other fan club members because everyone is just so stoked.

After the show, I drove back to Düsseldorf with Martin and worked the next day. And this is exactly the reason why I got my license—so I could do crazy stuff like this.

1. Lost Evenings III, Day 3

House of Blues, Boston, USA

21 May 2019

I may or may not have planned my annual trip to the US around the fact that Frank Turner’s festival Lost Evenings III was in Boston. The first night was a solo acoustic night, but the remaining three nights were Frank headlining with his band The Sleeping Souls. Throughout each day, there are panels and events, and other bands perform on two different stages. This year, the lineup included Loudon Wainwright III, The Hold Steady, John K. Samson, Against Me!, and many other fantastic bands.

The third evening was the World Tour set, which essentially had all the songs that I had seen last year on the Be More Kind tour. But there was something special about being in a room full of diehard Frank Turner fans and seeing the same set again. Clearly, the majority of fans had already seen it and were pumped to hear it again. Everyone danced and sang along and it just felt very in the moment.

Frank Turner May 2019

Don’t get me wrong, the fourth evening was also stellar (as was every night, to be fair). But by the last night, I was just so tired from the previous three that I remember standing there and thinking to myself, “How am I going to muster the energy for tonight?” Of course, I did, but I definitely had more energy for the World Tour set. Maybe I was just so spent after it that the Greatest Hits night didn’t seem like it could beat it.

The fourth night was also memorable since Frank made the announcement that Lost Evenings IV will be taking place in Berlin. Of course I’ve already got tickets and really looking forward to it.

Honorable Mentions

  • Metallica - RheinEnergie Stadion, Cologne, DE - 13 June 2019
  • Laura Jane Grace & The Devouring Mothers - Club Volta, Cologne, DE - 04 September 2019
  • Lizzo - Palladium, Cologne, DE - 13 November 2019

As the year draws to a close, I’ve realized that I already have 18 concerts booked for 2020, including some of my favorites and I can’t wait: Frank Turner, Paul McCartney, Weezer. And yes, I’ve seen them all multiple times already, but that’s the fun in seeing artists multiple times. Every time is different.