2015 is officially coming to a close, and that means it is a time to look back and reflect on what I was fortunate enough to experience this year. It was a phenomenal year for live music, which makes it exceptionally difficult to narrow down 5 indie concerts that stood above all others. From incredible performances at festivals like Solid Sound, Ottawa CityFolk, Osheaga, Ottawa Jazz Festival, and Magnaball, to all the individual shows that blew my mind, there is no denying the talent and passion being displayed by today’s musicians. For this list I have instituted one rule: a band can only appear once in the top 5.
5. Everyone Orchestra, 9/19/2015, Ottawa CityFolk
Everyone Orchestra was a fundamentally unique experience, and that is why it merits a place on this list. It is rare to witness the spontaneous collaboration of professional musicians in a live setting, and Matt Butler has found a way to invite audiences into that creative world. Seeing members of Patrick Watson, the Barr Brothers, SoulJazz Orchestra, and others get together for some conducted improvisation was something I will not forget any time soon.
4. Plants and Animals, 12/4/2015, The Black Sheep Inn
Plants and Animals is the type of band that plays shows for their true fanbase. They go into deep exploration of their songs, they will play any song from their repertoire, and they do so with great power and delicacy. In the close quarters of the Black Sheep Inn, we got the first taste of many songs that will appear on their much-anticipated fourth album, and I was completely hooked from start to finish.
3. Hey Rosetta!, 11/22/2015, Southam Hall
A lot of the other shows on this list appear largely in intimate settings with musicians that play raw and organic shows. Hey Rosetta!’s performance at the NAC is top-notch in the opposite direction. In a gorgeous concert hall with crystalline sound, this band played a flawless, tight show in which every detail was executed perfectly.
2. Wilco, 6/27/2015, Solid Sound Festival
What a surprise, Wilco puts on a mind-blowing performance in the headlining slot of a festival which they organize and host. At Solid Sound, Wilco know’s that they are playing a show for their biggest fans, and they delivered a 2.5-hour celebration of their music. Add in the surreal surroundings of Mass MOCA and delicious craft beers and this show easily takes the #2 spot on the list.
1. Patrick Watson, 4/1/2015, The Black Sheep Inn
Being at the first playing of the entirety of Love Songs for Robots (which had not yet been released) at a venue as cozy as the Black Sheep Inn was one of the greatest concert experiences I have ever had. I could not ask for a better way to be introduced to such an exquisite collection of music. That band plays every note with intention and emotion, and they know exactly how to bring music to life. For an unforgettable show, Patrick Watson takes #1.
Phish 8/22/2015, Magnaball – Although Phish is technically an indie band, I left them out of consideration because they used to be on a major record label and regularly sell out stadiums. The reality is, this was the greatest show I have ever seen.
The Barr Brothers, 9/19/2015, Ottawa CityFolk – This show was beautiful and surprising, but just barely did not make the cut.
DJ Freeworm and Franky Selector, 8/23/2015, Magnaball – While I feel that purely electronic music cannot quite get to the level of musicians playing instruments live, their set to close Magnaball was a blast.