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Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 20 Best San Francisco Concerts of 2012, According to Us

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Bassnectar fans at Bill Graham Civic in October. - KAHLEY AVALON EMERSON

Whether you preferred the dancefloor at Mighty, the plush environs of Bimbo's 365 Club, or the dewy late-night fields of Outside Lands, there were plenty of great concerts in San Francisco and the Bay Area in 2012. We reviewed many of them, from "secret" shows at semi-legal clubs to sprawling, three-hour sets by all-time greats like Stevie Wonder. But even we couldn't catch everything. So first, check out our list of the 20 best local concerts in 2012. Then, in the comments, tell us what we missed. Here's to another great year of show-going in 2013.

  • Kahley Avalon Emerson

20. DJ Harvey at Public Works, Nov. 2

"Some girls jiggled around infront of him on an elevated platfrom as the loop zapped the crowd like some primitive form of techno. He turned his back and began flipping through his bag looking at records."

  • Christopher Victorio

19. Conor Oberst at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Oct. 5

"It was the unexpected Bright Eyes stuff that had us grinning, in particular the yearning 'Soul Singer in a Session Band', and an exhilarating run through 'Method Acting.'"

  • Andrew Lopez

18. El-P and Killer Mike at the Regency Ballroom, June 29

At the Regency Ballroom, El-P concluded what had been a night of solid live hip-hop with a pummeling hour of rapping that seemed to exceed even the furious energy of his latest, lauded album, Cancer For Cure, and left him seemingly towering over everyone else on Friday's four-name bill.

  • Christopher Victorio

17. Grimes at Treasure Island, Oct. 13

Boucher slowly assembled a skeletal beat, shifting tempos and moods with only the slightest additions. She layered ethereal wisps of vocals on her rhythms from there, high-pitched snatches of lyrics that couldn't quite be made out into words. It was of course singles "Oblivion" and "Genesis" that got the biggest enthusiasm (read: almost-dancing) from the crowd, but they had close competition in Boucher's chatty, bubbly stage presence.

  • Christopher Victorio

16. Bassnectar at Bill Graham Civic, Oct. 20

Inside San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the atmosphere is bass.


15. Swans at Regency Ballroom, Sept. 10

You should know one thing in advance: A Swans show is not designed for your passive entertainment. In fact, it's less a concert than it is an endurance rally.


14. Sonny Smith at The Lost Church, January 14

Between issuing unadorned pop-rock with his band, Sonny & the Sunsets, assigning himself sprawling art projects, and putting out low-key comic books, San Francisco artist Sonny Smith is known for funneling his dark, humorously perceptive vision through many types of media. In January, he tried another kind of project: a one-hour live monologue accompanied by a skeleton of a rock 'n' roll band.


13. Chuck Prophet's bus tour/secret show at Catacombs, Feb. 7

To commemorate yesterday's release of his new album, Temple Beautiful, S.F. singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet and Yep Roc Records treated about 40 fans to a guided bus tour of San Francisco.

  • Christopher Victorio

12. David Byrne and St. Vincent at the Orpheum Theatre, Oct. 15

By enlisting the help of an eight-piece brass band while crafting their recent collaborative album, Love This Giant, the two seem to have etched a pact of sorts: if neither party is entirely comfortable, perhaps the uncharted middle ground will yield something transcendent.

  • Christopher Victorio

11. The Flaming Lips at Bimbo's 365 Club/Noise Pop, Feb. 21

"Last night's show never got better than those first few minutes of raining colored paper, balloons bouncing overhead, and the thundering optimism of The Soft Bulletin's first track. But it stayed great."

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