Think Outside the Boom Box: The concerts of my freshman year

Music columnist Patrick McKenna discusses his first year of live music in Columbia.

For any music fanatic like myself, the only thing that beats the headphones experience is the experience of seeing and hearing what you love most right in front of your face.

That may be a long-winded way of saying “I love concerts more than my grandma” (guys… I’m kidding… my Grammy is the bomb), but I don’t care. I’m taking advantage of the fact that I can use words to describe these live music moments now because, well, I consistently struggle with articulating how I feel about a great live performance when asked about it minutes after its over.

The overwhelming happiness and shock I have after a show performed right is a crucial reason for why my passion for music is so intense. Nothing may ever compare to seeing The Rolling Stones in Newark in 2012. One of my fondest memories from high school came from seeing a show in a basement with 75-inch ceilings (FYI, I’m about 73 inches tall).

Whatever mysterious component it is that makes live music so magical was carried on strongly during my freshman year in Columbia. I went to a music fest. I saw fiddle and guitar outfits play outdoors. I got sweaty at punk shows indoors. I saw huge acts, and I saw up-and-comers that only a good 100 people know exist.

Above all, I saw some great live music, and now I’m going to tell you about it. Below reads a list of my five favorite Columbia shows of the year, and why they kicked so much ass:

  1. Chance the Rapper Even with a balcony seat restricting my dance moves (if you were there, you know Chance made up for my lack of dancing), I was able to thoroughly enjoy Chance the Rapper’s performance at Jesse Auditorium in December. Surrounded by fellow MU hip-hop lovers, nearly everyone sang along to Chance’s call-and-response, funk-filled anthems (“Juice”), gospel-status love ballad beauties (“Interlude - That’s Love”) and, of course, the brilliantly performed “Cocoa Butter Kisses” and “Chain Smoker.” This show was well received by yours truly, to say the least.

  2. War on Drugs Lead singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel proved to hold one of the best combinations I’ve ever seen live: he was not only intricately forceful with his exquisite guitar work, but he was also warm and silly, discussing how his pug’s face is on all of his guitar picks. The comfort I felt watching this band work their magic was enormous, and the sounds created were equally amazing.

  3. Jimmy Cliff If someone had told me last year that I would have the opportunity to see a genre-innovating musical legend for free in Columbia, I would have called them insane. Witnessing the king of reggae, Jimmy Cliff, sing timeless tracks and speak about his life experiences at this year’s Roots N Blues N BBQ Festival was a phenomenal experience.

  4. Arctic Monkeys A front row viewing of Alex Turner in all his glory was an experience I never thought would come from a Blue Note appearance. Launching into “Brianstorm” within minutes of the show starting, the Monkeys had the crowd erupting into a danceable-punk frenzy, and the night only went on to get wilder with each song. As the band’s set closed with “505,” I couldn’t help but thank my lucky stars that I was witnessing such brilliant rock ‘n’ roll, front and center.

  5. FIDLAR/The Orwells This one beat out Arctic Monkeys for a few reasons, but one element was the dominant detail: intensity. Between the opener, The Orwells, and the main performers of FIDLAR, there was enough energy to fuel a punk-rock rocket. This was a special show for many reasons — I did my first stage dive, I saw one of the most lively bands around and The Orwells happen to be a group of kids I went to high school with. Amid the tossed beer, the inviting mosh pit and the drenched t-shirt I left wearing, there was just too much about this show to love.

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