Local Natives at Le National (Montreal, QC, Canada)

Local Natives were one of those bands that I had always wanted to see live, yet they successfully managed to elude visiting St. Louis for most of their short career. Through a moment of divine providence, their tour date for Montreal landed on the same day that I was in the city for school visits. A huge part of Local Natives’s meteoric rise had to do with their live show and they made it abundantly clear what a powerhouse they were on stage in Montreal; even songs from the newly released Hummingbird had the entire crowd singing every word. I think the energy in the room surprised the band and they ramped up the intensity, playing a blistering, sweat-soaked show. After the stunning one-two punch of “World News” and “Airplanes” the crowd was cheering so loudly that the band was forced to stand and grin for the next five minutes. The show hit its peak with “Sun Hands.” During the song’s breakdown, the entire audience feverishly shouted “And when I can’t feel with my sun hands / I promise not to lose her again” in unison with the band. I glanced over and my dad was FIST BUMPING like his life depended on it. I’m still considering that my top highlight of 2013. That’s part of what made the show so special, everybody in the room that night let their guard down and embraced the music. – Justin

Kendrick Lamar at Wake Forest University (Winston-Salem, N.C.)

I caught Kendrick Lamar when he was in the midst of his customary “I’m-blowing-up-and-going-to-perform-at-every-college-in-America” tour, but K-Dot still managed to put on a phenomenal show. Kendrick came on joined just by his DJ/engineer Ali and ripped through his entire catalogue, including material from as far back as The Kendrick Lamar EP and as fresh as the then-recently released good kid, m.A.A.D. city. He also murdered cuts from Section.80 and Overly Dedicated. His stage banter was a little generic, but Lamar’s flow was as sharp as ever and his energy on “Backseat Freestyle” and “Money Trees” had the whole crowd of hammered college kids absolutely raucous. The set was a brief 45 minutes, but given that the opener, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, elected to leave after three songs it was certainly an improvement. Kendrick also wrapped things up with a surprise rendition of “I Am,” proving that his phenomenal technical skills and breath control are not merely a product of the studio. – Grant


Animal Collective // photo by justin enoch 

Animal Collective at Riviera Theatre (Chicago, IL)

It was clearly going to be a show to remember when we met Avey Tare, one of Animal Collective’s lead singers, before the show. Our group got there about an hour before the doors opened, and as we passed by the venue, Avey and a roadie walked by. Getting to snap a photo with him was one of the highlights of my concert-going year. Of course, the music lived up to that early excitement. Despite a seemingly short setlist for such a prolific band – 12 songs – the show stretched over nearly two hours, with the group jamming frequently between songs. Anco’s frenzied, propulsive tracks were well matched by the stage setup, which had several screens for some thoroughly disorienting videos. While my favorite Centipede Hz track wasn’t played, “Applesauce,” almost every other highlight was hit; especially the Meriwether Post Pavilion gems “My Girls, “Lion In A Coma,” and Brothersport.” No other act I saw this year perfectly matched their sound with a distinct stage setup quite as well, nor did any other group play as well. – Tanner

Chance the Rapper at Europa (Brooklyn, N.Y.)

It was Chance the Rapper’s first show in New York, and it could not have been a more perfect setting: a small, smoky venue filled with 250 or so people who knew nearly every line from 10 Day and Acid Rap. With nothing but a microphone and a DJ spinning instrumentals Chance was absolutely mesmerizing, a whirring ball of energy who effectively served as his own hype man. Chano’s dynamic with the crowd was impressive for such a young artist; he seemed genuinely excited to be in Brooklyn and the audience fed off of that until the room was just a blur of people jumping up and down, screaming the words to “Brain Cells.” Chance skipped some surprising tracks from Acid Rap, but absolutely slaughtered “Favorite Song” and “Good Ass Intro.” He may be a little green as a performer given his age, but Chance’s youthful exuberance and sheer energy make any shortcomings irrelevant. Also, I watched a girl in front of me download Vine, make a Vine account and start posting videos of Chance to no one in particular, which was just hilarious. – Grant


Wilco // photo by justin enoch

Wilco at Loufest (St. Louis, MO)

I’d always been a huge skeptic of Wilco. One of my best friends absolutely adores their music, but I never really connected. I think that really changed this year with the discovery of Summerteeth and a reevaluation of YHF and The Whole Love. Coming into Loufest, I was psyched for Wilco’s headlining slot. Jeff Tweedy’s brother had just died the week before and he was there to play the pain away. They burned through the hits and dipped into their deep cuts, dedicating a song to recently deceased St. Louisian, Bob Reuter. For a show mired by so much loss, Tweedy was surprisingly buoyant, cracking a smile during “Heavy Metal Drummer.” Though several twangy detours slowed the initial section of the show, Wilco quickly changed gear and entered into “Art of Almost.” Easily one of my favorite songs ever, I teared up as Glenn Kotche bashed through the songs opening measures. A few minute later, to the crowd’s surprise, members of the National joined Tweedy and Co on stage for a raucous version of “I’m the Man Who Loves You.” Wilco’s show was a celebration and it capped off my last few days in St. Louis in a powerful way. – Justin

of Montreal at Lincoln Hall (Chicago, IL)

of Montreal was the first band I ever bought a new LP from. It was 2010’s False Priest, and I loved its funky, hypersexual sound. I was pumped to see them live, and I discovered that they were playing around Halloween that year in Denver. I was set to go, until I discovered that it was a 16+ show, easily the weirdest cutoff I’ve ever seen at a venue. (What did they want, only people who could drive themselves to the show?) Of course, I turned 16 two weeks later, the first of many disappointments when it came to shows I was too young for. In any case, while the group’s recorded output has been significantly more uneven since that record, I was still pumped to see them at Lincoln Hall the night before Halloween. The show was a bizarre spectacle, to say the least. At times, lead singer Kevin Barnes donned wings and rode around on the shoulders of a crew member. At other moments, he sported a leopard-skin suit, doing his best white guy Prince dance to match the freaky music. Throughout the 19-song set, there was not a dull moment, even when the group played new songs the crowd was largely unfamiliar with. While I’m sure my 15-year old self would have had a lot more fun at that first show, I’m glad that I finally got to see of Montreal live. – Tanner