2013 Year In Review: Top 10 Live Shows

Mayer Hawthorne


One of my favorite things about doing this Shady Groove thing, living in the Philadelphia area, and being friends with the Keswick Theatre, is that I get to go see a ton of live music. Here’s my favorite concerts of the year:


10. Cyndi Lauper @ The Keswick Theatre – November 15

A Sellout crowd poured in for the 30th anniversary of “She’s So Unusual”. Cyndi talked at length about the origin and making of each of the songs off of the huge album from 1981. Radio songs of my youth. It was great to hear her speak about pop music and its roots. This album actually originated in the Philly area, with the Hooters playing the music and them jamming in a warehouse in Manayunk, PA. Cool stuff.

9. Zappa Plays Zappa @ The Keswick Theatre – October 16

Dweezil and friends killed it as they recreated dad Frank’s “Roxy and Elsewhere” album.

8. Michael McDonald @ The Keswick Theatre – December 7

Iconic songs and soulful sounds bellowed from the stage at this show. Love Michael McDonald. It was worth it to see every 40 something adult stand and sing all of the lyrics to “What A Fool Believes”.

7. Colin Meloy @ The Keswick Theatre – November 2

The Decemberists front man played an intimate solo show at the Keswick and rocked the house.

6. Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band @ Philly Folk Fest – August 18

Funny because the band consists of just 3 members. But the sound is big. Rev Peyton rips the slide guitar and Ben “bird dog” Bussell keeps the rhythm driving. It makes for some highly danceable music.

5. Richard Thompson @ Philly Folk Fest – August 17

His mind-blowing guitar and thoughtful lyrics are always on display when you see Richard Thompson. This show was no exception.

4. Avett Brothers and Trombone Shorty @ The Mann Center – September 14

Gotta love a double bill like this. Trombone Shorty never disappoints. And as much as I complain about the Avett Brothers new stuff, its really pretty good. Plus their live presence is unmistakable.

3. Mayer Hawthorne @ Union Transfer – September 7

Mayer brought his brand of new-age motown/hip hop/soul to the Union Transfer and rocked the house down. Great show.

2. Spirit Family Reunion @ Philly Folk Fest – August 16

This band blew me away at the Folk Fest this year. My favorite new (to me) band of the year.

1. Jimmy Cliff @ The Keswick Theatre – September 29

An absolutely amazing performance. A sublime experience. I waited all year and my whole life to see this show. Jimmy lost not a beat over the years. I originally thought this show would be mainly promoting his 2012 grammy-winning album, Rebirth. And he did play a couple of tunes off of that album. But he played the hits and he played them well. And it wasn’t just his hits but hits from reggae as a musical genre. This show was a chronology of the songs and ideas that made reggae popular, played narrated by one of its founding fathers.



Honorable Mention:

– Billy Bragg @ The Keswick Theatre – April 20

Perennial folk hero played us some awesome tunes at the Keswick.

– Joe Pug @ Johnny Brenda’s – May 1

Always a treat to hear one of my favorite new (ish) folk writers. Plus I love Johnny Brenda’s.

– Hogmaw and Dom Flemons @ Philly Folk Fest – August 17

I had the pleasure of helping run the Culture Tent at this years Folk Fest and this was one of the highlights. Dom (of the Carolina Chocolate Drops) produced Hogmaw’s new album. So the band and Dom were on the Culture Tent stage playing and explaining the though process behind the album.



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