My 15 favorite live shows of 2022
This was the most concert-filled year of my life: 45(ish) shows, which is basically one per week, and over 150 artists. So many concerts. I saw shows at venues only five minutes from my apartment; shows across the nation, shows in a different country. Shows in parks, with laptops and giga-sized speakers powered by generators, shows in a Polish community center, shows where it felt so good to be in a warm sweaty dance pit because a blizzard was brewing outside, shows in a converted bicycle cafe along the LA river, shows in random Williamsburg lofts, shows that sucked, shows where I met new friends and felt deliriously carefree.
Whenever non-New Yorkers ask me why this city is so great, or what I do all the time, my answer is often live music. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve lost track of tickets or missed something awesome precisely because there is so much going on everywhere all at once. Any random Friday evening you could leap from a hyperpop show in Bushwick to a noise rock set in Ridgewood and then finish at an obscure footwork night in Greenpoint, by the end feeling dizzy with hunger but sonically sated. There are so many IYKYK events advertised by <1000 follower Instagram accounts and influential local organizers like lusthillprogramming that are basically unknown to people outside the five boroughs. The border between previously partitioned “internet music” and IRL parties has pretty much collapsed, everything feels part of the same underground city scene.
As a tribute, here are my 15 favorite shows this year.
15. RP Boo, livwutang (dweller) @ Mood Ring. All I can remember is the endless train of drunk twentysomethings shuffling between the dance room, the bathrooms, the bar, and the chilly outside, and the relentless footwork rhythms of RP Boo. The only pic I have from the night is of my coat check ticket (so I wouldn’t forget the number). The thin white rectangle is engulfed in a deep red light, the classic Mood Ring hue…
14. Kate @ Chaos Computer. This wasn’t music, per se—my dancer roommate Kate Williams performed a show at Chaos Computer, and it was as exciting and audiovisually intense as any music concert. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe precisely why her movements were so hypnotic, but I loved the way she skittered across the floor, hurling her limbs in sync with the music and playing with visual tension. Before then, I had only been to Chaos Computer for DJs (footwork, techno) and it was cool seeing the loft space transformed into a color-strobing dance stage.
13. DJ Re:Code, RYL0, tobre & more @ Living Gallery. The Living Gallery is one of my favorite spaces—its anyone-can-rent ethos means a lot of shows with obscure internet artists seem to happen there that wouldn’t really happen anywhere else (at one especially fried rap show I got into a discussion with some dude about Reptilian Club Boyz and Yabujin). The only downside is it’s not really a proper concert hall, with not much infrastructure—aka it can be extremely hot. That evening it was hot as hell, but it was fitting for this music’s sweaty hyperpop intensity.
12. Xaviersobased & more @ Sovereign. I always seem to miss the wildest internet rap/NYC crossover shows, but was thrilled to catch xaviersobased, kasper gem, and Exodus1900 in the industrial end of East Williamsburg this year. Sovereign was a funny setting—its performing area is this canopy-covered patio with hanging garlands, astroturf and picnic tables, the vibes more like a D-tier LA brunch spot than your typical murky, claustrophobic SoundCloud rap bass pit. It feels like there should be a bunch of Instagram influencers here but it’s just teens with $500 cardigans and demonic accessories. When I first began writing about new internet scenes during the pandemic, I often wondered how the music—especially the weirder, distorted styles—would translate to IRL shows. I’ve seen some terrible shows in that vein, but “crisp dubs” sounded sick out of the speakers; Xavier’s mixes are already cavernous and swampy, the layers tripping over each other, so his music hits even harder when you add in spatial sound dynamics, the unintentional dustiness of speakers and the imperfections of a live performance.
11. Dazegxd, Dirty Bird, and Swami Sound @ random Williamsburg roof. I don’t know what brought us here or how we found out about it, but somehow my friend Jameson and I ended up on a tiny rooftop in Williamsburg. It was a cold day in early April, so windy you couldn’t light a joint, and the nondescript roof was packed with people. Behind a small table setup, three DJs (Dazegxd, Dirty Bird, and I believe Swami Sound, the Eldia NYC trio) ping-ponged to and fro playing garage and house. Past them, our vision was flooded by the Manhattan skyline, the tower tops a glistening neon in the dusk. There was something lovely about the night; everyone seemed to know one another, circles of friends drifting in and out of each other. Even with the external chill I felt very warm.
10. Evilgiane @ Some FiDi bar. This was the only show I’ve ever been to in Manhattan’s financial district, a dreary and flavorless neighborhood that goes full cemetery mode after 8pm, devoid of humans save for a few straggling tourists or the stray Halal cart. You wouldn’t expect a show near City Hall and the business bigwigs to go this hard. We showed up semi-wasted, perfectly timed at the start of evilgiane’s set. It was like 90% Chief Keef and it slapped. All I remember is belting out “bang” over and over again and feeling immortal.
9. Eldia Summit @ Mi Sabor Cafe. By now I’ve seen Dazegxd perform in a real hodgepodge of places—in someone’s apartment, on a rooftop, an empty gallery space in Soho, a vacant, high-ceiling loft in Williamsburg, a random bar in Bed-Stuy, legit venues from Rash to Heaven. I gotta say, though, Mi Sabor Cafe might be my favorite. It’s a Dominican restaurant that warps into a nightclub sometimes—the best in the Myrtle/Broadway cinematic universe, sorry Market Hotel—with a weirdly elevated stage. The platform is so high you can barely see the DJs in the shadows, which has the effect of making them sort of magisterial, unleashing crazy beats from on high. I didn’t stay for the entire Eldia Summit, but I remember feeling completely at ease throughout Daze’s set, losing myself in the crush of people nodding and dancing along to the four-on-the-floors.
8. Jane Remover & Anamanaguchi @ Williamsburg Music Hall. Frailty was one of my fave albums last year, so it was probably inevitable the live show could never live up to the surround-sound experience of listening with headphones. But Jane killed it—and watching people mosh to “homeswitcher” was a thrill. I already sort of knew I would enjoy their set no matter what, but what I didn’t expect was the main act of the night, Anamanaguchi, going so fucking hard. The chiptune rock band basically played one ultra-long song—its 45-minute soundtrack to the Scott Pilgrim game—and then a smattering of smaller tunes, like covers of Undertale and “Black Sheep,” for which they brought out Michelle Zauner. The visuals were so full-throttle it was almost unbearable. The venue turned into a real-life juddering video game.
7. Dry Cleaning album @ Rockefeller Skating Rink. This wasn’t really a concert, it was a listening party for Dry Cleaning’s Stumpwork, which I reviewed in Pitchfork. So I was technically roller skating on assignment, fishing for anecdotes, but also it was free and fuck it why not I like skating. More artists need to do this because it was fantastic. I loved nearly crashing into wobbly kids and moms to the tune of the band’s energizing thumps and Florence Shaw’s absurd asides.
6. AceMo @ Nowadays. First show of 2022. The end of January during a blizzard. It was a Friday night, I was exhausted from work, and all I wanted to do was spin around with my friends in a nebula of color beams and theatrical smoke. The night had many mini-moments of joy and unhinged excitement: a rat scurrying across my friend’s shoe, throwing a little snowball fight, dancing to some great electronic music, and getting lost in the haze of purple and black lights.
5. NYE Bash (Umru, Underscores & more) @ Rash. I don’t recall much from the night—lots of drinks, fog obfuscating the dancefloor, many friends—but it was hype. I think the event was originally supposed to happen on NYE 2021, but it got delayed, so there was a NYE simulation at midnight where we all pretended the calendar turned over, with champagne and everything. What I remember most were the mixes—stacked with killer tracks from SOPHIE to Drain Gang to Crazy Frog to Jane Remover’s jersey club remix of “Obsessed.” Some people were making out, some were inhaling poppers, and some were just in thrall to the tunes, gliding like they were in hyperpop heaven…
4. Doss @ Paragon. It was Halloween and I had no costume, but I was wearing a cute oversized cardigan and bright yellow sneakers, so I kept telling people I was dressed as an adjunct English professor about to give a lecture after having just gone on a run around campus. The night was crazy for me because I brought two of my friends from my high school who were visiting town. They both like music but hadn’t gone to many concerts before. So I vicariously lived through them as they experienced for the first time the stuttering rainbow lights and the low-visibility fog and the swollen clumps of people slamming bodies against bodies. When we all stumbled exhausted back into their airbnb later in the night and I could see my friends’ faces clearly under the light, they looked like they had just returned from Mars.
3. Show Me The Body (+ZelooperZ, WifiGawd etc) @ Knockdown Center. It was a great show because every Show Me The Body concert is great, the moshpits so menacing and aggressive it’s like you’re running an XC race while inside them. This one was particularly funny because I had come to the venue from working at a cafe and I was carrying a tote bag with a bulky laptop in it, and they didn’t have any bag check. But I couldn’t resist the tantalizing urge to spring into the pit and unleash, so my very kind friends Mano and Jameson offered to take turns sheltering the tote bag from harm. We did that for a bit, but eventually I gave up and started moshing while clutching the bag tightly against myself—I didn’t want the laptop to break but I also didn’t want to bash anyone with it. In the end, no one was injured and the computer was fine.
2. Drain Gang @ Knockdown Center. Drain Gang after the pandemic was destined to be some hotly anticipated, heavily attended, borderline religious ceremony. Something about it felt so ironic because I had seen Drain Gang and Bladee live multiple times before, but I never understood the appeal and was always more of a Yung Lean fan. Yet here in this line curling outside the Knockdown Center were hundreds of earnestly committed-to-the-cause drainers. The show itself was great, maybe slightly underwhelming since it was cathartic but not totally transcendental, though of course the outcome could never match the buildup. I marveled at the wide spectrum of people in attendance—I recognized zoomer internet musicians, music journos from my timeline, even ran into a friend from college whom I hadn’t spoken to in ages. In a moment of weird meteorological poetry, a shower came down immediately after the show. The rain washed all the sweat off our scalps and shoulders as we dazedly walked home.
1. Ecco2k @ Elsewhere. This was one of the best start-to-finish sets I’ve ever seen; every song was a banger and I felt such unbridled euphoria swimming in that sea of drainers and diehard stans. They seemed to know every word and ad-lib and fragile sigh in Ecco’s songs. My friends and I started off in the back; we slowly snaked our way to the front until I was only a few feet from the barrier. At one point, when the crowd was clearing for a moshpit, someone pointed a camera at me and I think I howled “Drain Gang fuck yeah” or something feverishly incoherent like that. My only complaint is that the set was too short. Thirty minutes of sound-body bliss.
Lucki @ Webster Hall
DJ Re:Code, Fraxiom, Umru & more @ random Williamsburg complex
Two Shell *fakes*(?) @ Nowadays
Daxegxd and others @ random Brooklyn loft
Autumn!, Jaydes, Rich Amiri @ Gramercy Theater
Uffie, Alice Longyu Gao & more @ H0L0
Pi’erre Bourne & Sosshouse @ Irving Plaza
Worst show: Shrek rave