Year-In-Review: Top concerts of 2014

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

It's possible the most discussed Columbus concert of 2014 was one that never actually took place (those honors go to R. Kelly's cancelled Fashion Meets Music Festival appearance). Here, in chronological order, are eight shows that stood out from the last year.

Action Bronson, A&R Music Bar, Jan. 23

Bronsolino didn't come out with half a face and a cape (as he promised in an interview prior to the show), but the performance was no less theatrical. The only thing more on point than Action was the crowd, which belted out verses, pausing perfectly during breaks and going all in when the beat dropped, with the precision of the Queens rapper himself. That's especially laudable given how high everyone was - either on their own accord or from a contact high. -JustinMcIntosh

Califone, The Basement, Jan. 29

On a winter night early in '14, Califone's Tim Rutili and Co. transformed the Basement into a rickety old house, easing through a smattering of atmospheric tracks laced with mysterious creaks, groans and thumps. While the knottier tunes were constructed like birds' nests, built of mud, sticks and spit, there were several moments of beauty where the fog lifted and the coastline stretched on for miles. This was particularly true of "Moses," an introspective wonder where Rutili opined on childhood innocence, singing, "I knew how to love so much better when I was five." -AndyDowning

Lydia Loveless, Rumba Café, March 1

With a great new album (Somewhere Else, which is popping up on its share of year-end lists) and another round of "alt-country spitfire" adulation from the music press, Loveless started the year with her most successful U.S. tour to date, culminating in a killer homecoming show at Rumba. Loveless and her band had road-tested the new material to perfection, and a warm reception from an audience heavy with friends and family just poured fuel on the (spit)fire. That night, I didn't want to be anywhere else. -BradKeefe

Miley Cyrus, Schottenstein Center, April 13

The pop starlet embraced spectacle in an audacious appearance that came on like an internet listicle sprung to life, complete with videos of singing cats ("We Can't Stop") and song titles disguised as Twitter trending topics ("#GetItRight"). If ever there was a concert designed to be broken down into a series of GIFs, this was it (here's Miley cavorting with dancers dressed in fuzzy animal costumes, and now here she is mounting a giant hot dog and riding it out of the arena), and it was a thrill to take in. -AD

Nelsonville Music Festival, May 29-June 1

The increasingly trendier festival of mostly folk-leaning acts didn't take quite as monumental leap as it had in previous years, but that's OK. Like a teenager growing in confidence, NMF settled into its strengths, tweaked things here and there, and stood a little taller knowing it had arrived as one of the best mid-size festivals in the country. This finally felt like the year much of Columbus this figured out. -JM

Parquet Courts/Protomartyr/Psychedelic Horseshit, Double Happiness, June 6

Hands down the best concert I attended this year. Parquet Courts, performing just days after the release of its much-anticipated third album Sunbathing Animal, played to a packed (and I mean packed) house, bashing through jittery, raw-nerve tunes like "Black and White" with an urgency belying the "slacker" label so often applied to the New York-by-way-of-Texas four-piece. The fact the crew was paired with Protomartyr (see: No. 2 on my top 20 albums of 2014) and killer locals Psychedelic Horseshit only added to the overall awesomeness of the evening. -AD

Cloud Nothings, Double Happiness, Oct. 3

The best smallest venue in Columbus was as packed with sweaty dudes as it could be, and as seriously icky as that was, no one really cared. The tight Cleveland band blew through its set with such ferocity and force, I half-expected Emmett "Doc" Brown to emerge from the stage afterwards, announcing that we had been transported back two decades to grunge's heyday. -JM

Sharon Van Etten, Wexner Center for the Arts, Oct. 9

"This song is about therapy, and people who should go but don't," the Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter said introducing one mournful number. Judging by the subject matter that dominated the hourlong set, Van Etten's concerts could serve as a welcome alternative. Songs touched on intimate topics like heartache, self-loathing, regret, empowerment, depression, revenge, co-dependency and confusion, and a team of therapists could easily spend hours unpacking the layers of meaning in her shattered confessions. But while Van Etten's words typically projected an unnerving fragility - "He can break me with one hand," she cooed on one disquieting song - the music itself moved with earned confidence. -AD