The 20 Best Live Sets I Saw in 2018

I saw around 90 live sets this year and played several as well, and that seems low for me, but here’s the best of what I saw. (Next year I feel like I should try harder to see some record number of shows. I’ll work on that.)

Angel Olsen (Music Box): I’m not crazy about the venue, and there were sound issues early on (poor Priests—who were otherwise great, and super nice!), but Angel’s music just puts me in a wonderful trance.

Bambara (Teragram, LA): Opening for Idles is a big task. Bambara were more than up to it.

Bill Callahan (Ship Fest): Bill could have played anything and it would have been great, but his setlist was chock full of jams.

Boygenius (Observatory): Dacus, Baker and Bridgers are all great on their own, but together they sound heavenly. Like sad Voltron or something.

Converge (Brick by Brick): I saw Converge twice this year and both times were great, though their Brick by Brick set featured “Last Light,” so it wins.

Emma Ruth Rundle (Echo, LA): Emma Ruth Rundle’s released two of my favorite albums from the past couple years, and I honestly think she doesn’t get the level of attention her music warrants. Awesome show, great songs, I even drove to LA by myself so I wouldn’t miss it.

Exploded View (Whistle Stop): I’m actually surprised at how well this band translated to a live act. Really dynamic, captivating group.

Hot Snakes (Casbah): They’re the fucking Hot Snakes. Of course this is here.

Iceage (Casbah): Beyondless was my album of the year, but I was pleasantly surprised to see how much the band has grown as a live act. Less punk chaos, more rock ‘n’ roll swagger.

Idles (Teragram, LA): THE best show I saw in 2018. Easily. So loud, rowdy, but fun, life-affirming, positive, and the kind of atmosphere where I felt welcome. At home, even.

Jaye Jayle (Echo, LA): Only a couple shows I saw this year had back to back amazing headliners and openers. This was one of them. Like a swampier Nick Cave with more sax.

Judas Priest (Whatever Amphitheatre): Yeah, it’s not their classic lineup or whatever, but it was Judas Priest, and it was awesome.

Kendrick Lamar (Whatever Amphitheatre): Despite a wack venue, expensive lawn tix where we couldn’t see shit and more basic people than I like to be around, Kenny killed it.

Oxbow (Soda Bar): Yeah, we opened for them, but still. Fucking amazing. Plus Eugene was gradually losing clothes throughout the show.

Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever (Soda Bar): I don’t have a lot of high hopes for indie rock shows these days, but Rolling Blackouts put on a great show. Plus those tunes are catchy af.

Shabazz Palaces (Ship Fest): For a hip-hop group that doesn’t really do conventional singles or whatever, this set was pretty lit.

Shame (SPACE): I kind of love how upset people get about Shame, because they’re just a young rock band having fun. People should have more fun and stop being so offended by the idea of it.

Sumac (Brick by Brick): I’ve liked Sumac for quite a few years, but this was the first where I can say I LOVED them. They played “Attis’ Blade” at this show well before their new album came out and I immediately new they were on to something special.

Superchunk (Casbah): Superchunk are legends, and I’ve wanted to see them for like 18 years and finally did, and they didn’t disappoint.

Thou (Che Cafe): Unpredictable setlist, songs played different than on the albums, Alice In Chains cover, three quiet songs—that’s why they’re the GOATs.

Here’s the full list of live sets I saw in 2018… that I can remember.

1/23 Charly Bliss @ Observatory North Park
1/26 Forest Grove @ Bar Pink *
1/26 Hours @ Bar Pink *
1/27 Converge @ Brick by Brick
1/27 Sumac @ Brick by Brick
1/31 Quali @ Soda Bar
2/5 Phoebe Bridgers @ Soda Bar
2/21 Bat Fangs @ Casbah
2/21 Superchunk @ Casbah
3/2 Well Well Well @ San Diego Content Partners *
3/2 Byrne Bridges @ San Diego Content Partners *
3/2 Masterkey @ San Diego Content Partners *
3/7 Hot Snakes @ Casbah
3/7 Widows @ Casbah
3/8 Miss New Buddha @ SPACE
3/8 Shame @ SPACE
3/8 Protomartyr @ SPACE
3/16 Dani Bell and the Tarantist @ Casbah
3/16 Heavy Guilt @ Casbah
3/16 Midnight Pine @ Casbah
3/16 Havnauts @ Casbah
3/21 Lucy Dacus @ Casbah
3/24 Bell Tower Bats @ SPACE *
3/24 Skeletal Family @ SPACE *
3/31 Tetsuya Nakatani @ Liberty Station Chapel
3/31 Codex Confiteor @ Liberty Station Chapel
3/31 Bill Orcutt @ Liberty Station Chapel
4/12 Angel Olsen @ Music Box
4/12 Priests @ Music Box
4/18 Frankie Rose @ Music Box
4/18 Alvvays @ Music Box
5/10 Geese @ Whistle Stop *
5/10 Bosswitch @ Whistle Stop *
5/13 Schoolboy Q @ Whatever Amphitheatre
5/13 SZA @ Whatever Amphitheatre
5/13 Kendrick Lamar @ Whatever Amphitheatre
5/25 Forest Grove @ San Diego Content Partners
5/26 Therapy @ SPACE
5/27 Bit Maps @ Helmuth Projects
5/27 Nicely @ Helmuth Projects
5/27 Exasperation @ Helmuth Projects
5/27 Gloomsday @ Helmuth Projects
6/2 Algiers @ Casbah
6/2 Curtis Harding @ Casbah
6/5 Iceage @ Casbah
6/5 Mary Lattimore @ Casbah
6/16 No Age @ Ship Fest
6/16 Shabazz Palaces @ Ship Fest
6/16 Lonnie Holley @ Ship Fest
6/17 Bill Callahan @ Ship Fest
7/14 Converge @ Observatory
7/14 Neurosis @ Observatory
8/9 Forest Grove @ Casbah
8/9 Gloomsday @ Casbah
8/9 Low and Be Told @ Casbah
8/9 Hours @ Casbah
8/12 Strawberry Moons @ Bar Pink
8/17 Melvus @ Til Two Club *
8/17 Le Saboteur @ Til Two Club *
8/20 Elder @ Brick by Brick
8/20 Dvne @ Brick by Brick
8/25 Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever @ Soda Bar
8/25 Jo Passed @ Soda Bar
9/1 Slothrust @ Casbah *
9/1 Exasperation @ Casbah *
9/1 Hocus @ Casbah *
9/16 Oxbow @ Soda Bar
9/26 Judas Priest @ Whatever Amphitheatre
10/3 Russian Circles @ Music Box
10/3 Chelsea Wolfe @ Music Box
10/10 Idles @ Teragram Ballroom
10/10 Bambara @ Teragram Ballroom
10/24 EXEK @ Whistle Stop
10/24 Exploded View @ Whistle Stop
10/26 Chavez Ravine @ Black Cat Bar
10/26 Forest Grove @ Black Cat Bar
10/26 Strange Ages @ Black Cat Bar
10/31 Heavy Hawaii @ Whistle Stop
10/31 Pall Jenkins @ Whistle Stop
10/31 Nick Cave covers @ Whistle Stop *
11/3 Gloomsday @ Teros Gallery *
11/3 D Wrex @ Teros Gallery *
11/3 Trax Vexler @ Teros Gallery *
11/18 Therapy @ Whistle Stop
11/18 Karbonite @ Whistle Stop
11/18 All Beat Up @ Whistle Stop
11/29 Boygenius @ Observatory
11/29 Phoebe Bridgers @ Observatory
11/29 Julien Baker @ Observatory
12/9 Emma Ruth Rundle @ Echo
12/9 Jaye Jayle @ Echo
12/9 Black Mare @ Echo
12/13 MJ Guider @ Che Cafe
12/13 Thou @ Che Cafe

*=shows I participated in, in some way

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