Although some of my most thrilling live experiences happened out of town this year — Odd Future in Austin, Arcade Fire and The National in Indianapolis, Kanye West and Jay-Z in Detroit — there was plenty of glorious noise in Columbus, too.
10. Dam-Funk at Double Happiness, Oct. 15
Funk was in the air. Possibly other substances.
9. Skrillex at LC Pavilion, Nov. 9
I was a little sour because I was supposed to see Drake that night (rescheduled for Feb. 18!), but Skrillex lifted my countenance, pairing his wobbly bass blasts with the most outrageous light show I’ve ever seen. The appeal extended beyond bros competing to fist-pump the hardest.
8. Sundown at Independents’ Day, Sept. 17
While one of the best new bands in Columbus sent tattered psych-rock echoing through Lynn Alley, I judged a debate about whether they sound like Dinosaur Jr. (They do, among other things.)
7. Lady Gaga at Schottenstein Center, March 10
I expected a spectacle that doubled as a pep rally for Gaga’s pet causes. That’s what I got. And while the whole “little monsters” thing makes me want to vomit, her drag-queen disco shenanigans reigned supreme on this night.
6. Mount Carmel and Nick Tolford & Company at Nelsonville Music Festival, May 13
It happened approximately 60 miles from town, but it was two local bands. They bashed through back-to-back sets of old-fashioned rock ’n’ roll, Tolford repping for Motown and Mount Carmel blazing through blues rock as it was meant to be played. I’ve sworn by the former since day one; I once shrugged at the latter, but this was enough to make me a believer.
5. Wavves/F---ed Up at Skully’s, Sept. 28
These bands are strange bedfellows, because Wavves’ slacker rock trades on not caring about anything while F---ed Up’s prog-inspired hardcore seems to stem from caring way too much. But they both set Skully’s ablaze.
4. Way Yes at ComFest, June 26
In a year bereft of ComFest highlights, there was release in the joyous dance party that broke out under the tent at Offramp Stage.
3. Neon Indian at Outland, June 9
Neon Indian’s initial recordings sounded hazy and distant, like half-remembered dreams or decades-old AM radio transmissions. This show was immediate and in-your-face, highlighted by Alan Palomo’s badass theremin solos.
2. Taylor Swift at Nationwide Arena, June 7
For her encore the country-pop princess soared around the room in a flying balcony. There was good music, too.
1. Twenty One Pilots at Alive Summer Music Tour, Aug. 6
Twenty One Pilots sold out the Newport this fall, and they can easily draw a few hundred people just about anywhere in Ohio. So it wouldn’t be shocking to see them half-ass their way through a gig at tiny North Campus hangout Kobo (official capacity: 78). But they’re so popular because they never half-ass anything, including their appearance at Alive’s summer music showcase. Watching Tyler Joseph rap, sing, contort, play piano and sprint across the bar top was my most thrilling moment of live music in 2011.