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  • Writer's pictureCamilla Vaitaitis

Top 10 Concerts of 2023

This year was packed with seeing amazing live music not only at home in Denver, but in places all the way from Calgary to Rio de Janeiro. I tried to keep a list of every show I saw this year, and it came out to 31 in total - but that's only counting national/international artists and doesn't include the amazing friends who I regularly get to see perform or nearly all of the bands I saw parts of at festivals.


I've narrowed the list down to my favorite 10 concerts of 2023. If you have the opportunity to catch any of these acts live, I highly recommend you do.

 

10 - King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, June 7 - Red Rocks


I've been hearing from friends for years how great King Gizz shows are, and I finally got to experience it for myself for the first time at Red Rocks in June. This prolific band played music from many different eras of their catalogue. I was delighted to hear favorites from metal-leaning 2019 album Infest the Rat's Nest alongside contrasting songs like my personal favorite, "Sense," from Paper Mâché Dream Balloon. This concert was high-energy and engaging the entire set, which must have been at least 2 hours long. While I've been a fan of their discography for a while, I now totally understand the hype surrounding this band's live sets and I'm looking forward to catching them again at Red Rocks in Sep. 2024.




9 - Spoon, Aug. 28 - Fiddler's Green Amphitheatre


Ever since hearing the band's hit "The Way We Get By" when I was first discovering my individual taste in music, I've been a fan of Spoon. After years of listening to the band's iconic albums, it was a treat to finally be able to see them live. At this particular show, they played before Weezer (another bucket-list band), and played an amazing set encompassing all of my favorite Spoon songs like "Jonathan Fisk" and "Inside Out." The highlight of this performance for me was an electric cover of John Lennon's "Isolation."


My band Barbara has recently had the honor of recording a single co-produced by Spoon drummer Jim Eno & Briana Harris (of The Burroughs) as part of Project Traction. It's been a serious privilege to learn from Jim. More details about this to come, but we are incredibly excited to say the least!




8 - Sessa, June 22 - Sled Island Music Festival


Estrela Acesa was in my top 5 albums of 2022, and I always dreamed of seeing the beautiful songs performed live. Sessa hails from São Paulo, and while I would have expected to see him during my 6-week trip to Brazil this fall, it ended up being in Calgary, AB of all places. Barbara was accepted to play at the 2023 Sled Island Music Festival and we were thrilled to see that Sessa was among the other artists performing.


We got to see Sessa up close at a bar called Modern Love. The venue quickly filled up once this intimate set began. On the album, the songs from Estrela Acesa are highly orchestrated and filled out with additional vocals and textures. Seeing the same songs performed by a trio was a beautiful, quite meaningful experience. The rhythmic pocket created by the intricate drum patterns, basslines, and bossa-like guitar created a perfect environment for Sessa's delicate vocals to float on top of.




7 - Dumbo Gets Mad, March 21 - Hi-Dive


Hi-Dive is one of my favorite venues in Denver to see live music, and Italian psych-pop band Dumbo Gets Mad put on one of the best shows I saw in 2023. When I think of this concert, what I truly remember is having so much fun. The stage presence of the band, especially Carlotta Menozzi, was energizing and engaging to watch. I spent the entire time dancing to favorites like "Tahiti Hungry Jungle" and "Misanthropulsar."




6 - Melody's Echo Chamber, Oct. 14 - Fox Performing Arts Center


The influence Melody Prochet has had on me as a musician can't be understated. To finally see this band perform live, on the eve of my 29th birthday, was a dream come true. This concert was presented as part of Daze in the City - a pivot from the cancelled Desert Daze music festival.


Upon entering the Fox Performing Arts Center, I was shocked to realize that the entire event was seated and the venue seemed more equipped for musical theater or classical music performances. While my friends and I assumed people would stand once the band began, no one did. So we took it upon ourselves to stand up and move to enjoy the music that we love so much. It felt odd to be part of the only section of audience members standing, and overall, the seated nature of this show made it less enjoyable.


However, the music that Melody's Echo Chamber delivered was so great that it alone propelled this concert to number six on my list. The drum fills on "Quand Les Larmes D'un Ange Font Danser La Neige" were everything I hoped for and more, classic songs from her first self-titled album made me cry, and they even played my favorite song of 2023 - "Le Temple Volant," which was released as a collaboration with Crumb. Overall, I couldn't be happier that this concert was how I rang in my 29th birthday.




5 - Boogarins, Nov. 4 - SESC Bom Retiro


I had the great privilege of traveling to Brazil for 6 weeks this fall. One of the main goals of this trip was to see performances from Brazilian artists I have been obsessing over for quite some time. On the last morning of our work-stay in Monterio Lobato building a geodesic dome, I saw that Boogarins was playing that night in São Paulo - which is where we were headed next. I then found out the show was long sold-out, but we decided to head to SESC Bom Retiro as soon as we got to São Paulo to see if there was anything we could do to get in.


After pleading in broken Portuguese and Google Translate to a really kind woman, we were handed 2 tickets to see Boogarins perform their takes on songs from Milton Nascimento's classic album Clube da Esquina. Having spent all day traveling and not knowing if we would get in, this show felt very surreal. It was incredible to see a band I love so much playing their interpretations of iconic Brazilian songs I love so much. Their musicianship and energy was inspiring and immersive.


Boogarins will be in Denver on March 7, 2024 at the Marquis. Make sure you make it out to see them: https://www.livenation.com/event/G5vzZ9zjTHgbJ/boogarins-levitation-room




4 - Tangolo Mangos, Vovô Bebê, Tori, Fabio Aricawa, Oct. 21 - Escritório


One big dream heading into my trip to Brazil was to see a show at Escritório in Rio de Janeiro. This is a small venue where the band Oruã regularly performs and has recorded their albums. What I realized upon visiting is that this venue is at the heart of the indie music scene in Rio. This night was one of the best parts of my entire experience in Brazil. Everyone packed into the space was engaged with the music, friendly and warm when I introduced myself, and the music was top quality.


What I enjoyed about the structure of this show was that Tori and Fabio Aricawa were integrated in with the co-headlining band's sets. I expected to see 4 separate acts one after the other, but really preferred the way it was presented. I find that with most 4-band bills, it's difficult to stay and engaged for that many different artists. Instead, at this show, the environment was much more collaborative. For example, Tori performed her song "Dies irae" with Tangolo Mangos as the backing band. It felt really special to see everyone performing together, having learned each other's songs. While I can't speak to whether this structure is normal in Brazil after only seeing one show, it was highly effective and engaging as an audience member.


This show was so much fun and packed with incredible musicianship. Seeing this concert only confirmed for me how special Brazilian music is. I hope to be able to return someday soon and also see these artists gain more popularity in the US. Check out Tangolo Mangos' and Tori's albums from 2023.




3 - Deeper, May 11 - The Coast


Deeper's album Auto-Pain has been on repeat for me since I first saw the band open for SPIRIT OF THE BEEHIVE in March 2022. When they announced this headlining show in Fort Collins, I knew it would be well worth the drive.


The energy of Deeper's set is the main reason why it's number 3 on my list. I had so much fun at this show. It's impossible not to dance & move along to the infectious grooves, meticulously played with incredible musicianship. I loved hearing my favorites from Auto-Pain, newer songs from their 2023 release Careful! and even a couple from their older catalogue. Deeper is the kind of band that keeps me engaged and enjoying the whole set - it feels like it just breezes by while I'm completely immersed.




2 - Crumb, July 30 - Underground Music Showcase


If you know me, it's no secret that Crumb is one of my all-time favorite bands. They're a huge inspiration to me as a musician and I am deeply familiar with their entire discography. Previously to their set at this year's Underground Music Showcase in Denver, I had seem Crumb on three other occasions, and they just keep getting better and better.


The band performed on the main stage of UMS on the last day of the festival. Crumb has an ability to hypnotize the audience in the dreamy vibes of their unique songwriting, but never without the energy and intensity of heavy, drawn out jams that you can't help but move along with. After a crazy few days performing with two bands - Barbara & The Beach People - seeing my favorite band play my favorite songs was the perfect way to wrap up my favorite weekend of the year.




1 - Caroline Rose, April 25 - Gothic Theater


Caroline Rose is the artist on this list who I knew the least about going in to seeing them perform live. I remember expecting to have a good time, having skimmed some of their songs beforehand, but I never anticipated that this would be my favorite concert of 2023. Upon walking in, I saw the minimal stage set up - a screen, behind which were shadows of the musicians performing in their band. Rose was centered in front of the screen, with a simple color-blocking lighting set up of a spotlight and background color. This simple concept was highly effective as an audience member and perfectly complemented the music throughout.


Rose performed their 2023 album, The Art of Forgetting, from beginning to end. This is the first time I've seen an artist perform an album in its entirety and I loved it. I was completely sucked into the emotion of it, the reflectiveness, the vulnerability. I was charmed by Rose as a performer and found myself relating so deeply to everything they were singing about. At some point in the night, I realized I had been sobbing the entire show. Something about the combination of the lighting, the stage banter, and the captivating music touched me at a real emotional level. This concert showed me how effective it can be to think through every component of a live music event - it was magic.







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