(Except it was seven times, in the past two months.)
Anyone who's spent more than a few minutes talking with me will quickly pick up how obsessed I am with music. Increasingly, I suspect that music is the true love of my life and everything else I do is a dalliance in comparison. I love living in New York because odds are high that if a band is going to tour in the US at all, they'll have a show in Manhattan or Brooklyn.
The longer I've lived here, the more addicted I've become to concerts. Music transforms when it's played live - I hear things that production glosses or smooths over, and I get to watch the mechanics of how the sound is created. To see people coming together and producing something so extraordinarily layered and beautiful is nothing short of a magic show for me, and that energy is something that has become essential to my well-being and happiness.
This fall, I lucked out and have gotten to see some truly extraordinary concerts. I've also been on a streak for the past year or two of having really great opening acts - one of my current new favorite bands, Milagres, opened for a James Iha performance at the Mercury Lounge last year, and I couldn't believe my good luck to stumble upon something so damn good.
It started at the end of August. I was lamenting the paucity of exciting summer concerts this year, so I was really ready for a great show.
Bat for Lashes at Webster Hall, August 30
The opening act was a terrific San Diego group called Barbarian. Sometimes on the day of concerts, I look up the opening act and listen to whatever I can find online. When I searched for Barbarian on Spotify, I found the album fitting the description of a band that "hits your ears with warm surf pop fuzz, '80 post punk and goth pop, and a hint of '60s garage rock," but I also found a not so lovely metal band with the same name.
I was quite happy to get the warm and fuzzy slightly psychedelic band full of adorable guys instead. My friend Penelope and I literally couldn't decide which one we'd most want to be our boyfriend.
One of them even turned into Pacific Rock Jesus when he put his tambourine on his head.
Delighted and thoroughly charmed by such a strong opener, I got all excited because I've been wanting to see Bat for Lashes live since 2008. I actually had the chance to see her for one of those $15 Brooklyn shows, but I wasn't sure if the coworkers who would eventually become some of my best friends would be up for a concert with me. I'd been kicking myself since then, but I was also kind of chuckling at the irony that Penelope went from a girl I was too nervous to ask to a concert in case she thought my music taste was insipid, to my most frequent concert buddy.
And wow, it was everything I imagined it would be and then some. Natasha Khan (who has such a pretty real name that I don't really understand why she goes by Bat for Lashes) has one of those voices that is full of clarity and subtlety. Listening to recordings, I knew I wanted to hear the breathy touches and flowing warmth in person.
What I didn't realize was what a charming, engaging performer she was too. Everyone around me had a big smile and gushy expression on, full of that summery lightness and pure joy. Not a small feat for a Manhattan crowd, but that's the kind of radiance and exuberance she evokes.
I got obsessed with her brightly-colored psychedelic jumpsuit, which was also modeled by Shanali on Australia's Next Top Model (don't judge). I tracked it down and learned it was designed by Romance Was Born as part of a collection that strikes me as Peter Max by way of Lisa Frank (in a good way), thanks to a collaboration with Tanya Shultz.
We also stood by a woman wearing a flared macrame maxi dress, with long wavy hair and lots of stringy bits hanging off her. She had the look of the type of person who would open her arms to the sides and take up a lot of space hippie dancing (she was), so everyone gave her a wide berth, I think sharing my fear of accidentally getting tangled up in some of her woven parts. Penelope and I amused ourselves with Macrame's antics for the whole concert and noted the efficacy of claiming space by dancing enthusiastically.
Passion Pit at Hudson River Park, September 7
I can't possibly count the amount of times I listen to Passion Pit albums when I'm walking around places. Before the Black Keys album "Brothers," it was basically the soundtrack to my art history thesis, and I listened to "Manners" nearly every day while walking through Penn Station on my way to the lab I worked at then. Marching in time to "Sleepyhead" is a surprisingly entertaining way to navigate the city. They just keep getting better, so I was dying for a chance to see them live and dance my face off.
Our opener was Best Coast, who were solid if a bit repetitive. I've never fully understood the hype, but at least I heard a lot more in them live than I had in their recordings.
The real opener was Mother Nature, with a spectacularly lovely and unseasonably windy day. After such a hot and sweaty summer, temperatures in the 70s were absolutely perfect for an outdoor concert surrounded by 20-year-olds (I mean, actual NYU freshmen, seriously).
We adopted the Macrame strategy of space-consumption in the midst of a tightly-packed crowd by what a sour-faced girl behind me called "that girl's erratic dancing" right at the moment when I was wondering why she couldn't get her fist out of my backside.
It was exactly the stress-relieving, sweaty, high-energy release I needed and it was even more fun than I imagined it would be.
Michael Angelakos reminds me of Wayne Coyne with the way he mesmerizes and energizes a crowd. It's truly infectious energy, and I love it.
Washed Out at Terminal 5, September 18
Next was a random Wednesday night show at a venue I'd previously sworn off. The trick with Terminal 5 is that you have to get there early enough to get a spot in the first few rows back from the stage. Any deeper, and you spend the entire time getting jostled by people trying to move forward or back, getting hit by backpacks, or having actual teenagers shout over the music about which of their friends has the Molly. Going up to the second or third floor reveals just how terrible the acoustics are, so for me, being one of those super-early front folk is the way to be.
The opening act was HAERTS, a tremendous Brooklyn electropop band that Penelope and I both fell for immediately.
I have such a deep love for chillwave and ambient electronic music, but I wasn't sure how it would translate to a concert. Some of the hauntingly beautiful tones and reverberations might not fly in a huge club full of sweaty people at the end of summer. I was so glad to be so wrong - they keyed it up with extra beats and more dance-friendly instrumentation, while keeping the profoundly lovely atmosphere and complexity that I so loved.
The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Ernest Greene is a real musical genius, and Washed Out is making the incredibly smart, viscerally exciting kind of music that I wish I could. There are so many great videos online from that show, but I'm partial to this one of "Amor Fati" because I actually remember the moment during this song when my mind blew open and I realized I was completely at peace with the world and lost inside the music. Swoon.
The xx, Radio City Music Hall, September 23
This year's birthday concert for Penelope was The xx, whom we'd seen together a few summers ago in Central Park. Our seats were a ways back, so my photos from this concert suck, but they went from basic stage lights to something closer to a laser show, which was fantastically entertaining in Radio City.
The opening act was once again great, Poliça, but I haven't loved their recorded music anywhere near as much as I loved them live.
The xx were spectacular. They are another band that I listen to so much when I'm walking around the city that their music is as familiar as my heartbeat. Since the last time we saw them, they've expanded their sound and pushed what they're so good at. They play like a group that was flat-out born to play together, and hearing Jamie Smith mixing live was incredible.
(Sean Hayes, le poisson rouge, September 25)
This show admittedly isn't counting in my favorite bands list because I barely knew Sean Hayes's music going into the show. I did, however, fall in love with it while I was there, and I'm delighted to have had such a tremendous time. I'm glad he's included in one of the best months of concerts of my life.
Atoms for Peace, Barclays Center, September 27
Later in the same week that I saw the xx and Sean Hayes, I saw perhaps my favorite living musician, Thom Yorke, with Atoms for Peace at Barclays Center.
James Holden opened and was as terrific as you might expect. He had some ace projections going and an overall high level of artistry and sensitivity in his music. I dug it.
My photos are again garbage, but how can you even begin to describe what it's like to hear Thom Yorke live? I saw him a few years back with Atoms for Peace at Roseland, and it felt like we made eye contact while he was playing piano. But at that show I couldn't really hear what the band was doing. Say what you will about stadium concerts, but the sound at Barclays has its moments.
I saw the interview that Flea and Thom Yorke gave on The Daily Show a few days later, and I thought one of the great points was that Thom sought Flea out because he played the bass like it was a lead instrument (or I guess, he made it a lead instrument). I think they've changed from being Thom Yorke's live band to a real artistic collaboration, and I love it.
Of course, my head nearly exploded when they played the U.N.K.L.E. song "Rabbit In Your Headlights." If you've spent as many years obsessing about Thom Yorke as I have, you'll see right away why this was such an exciting setlist.
And at one point, the lights changed to darting red pulses behind watery blue shimmers, and my mind flashed to this painting and a bunch of stuff about light on water, and I felt some deep connection with the universe. Like, Thom Yorke's voice hovered at the same pitch as languid late afternoon sunlight, then the intensity of so much percussion sparkled it away into a cosmic instant of crazy fleeting perfection dancing off water. I was in some kind of heaven.
I can't believe that's only through September. I'm going to split this baby into two parts so the October shows don't get rushed and half-assed way down here in infinite-scroll land. Until then, I invite you to obsessively search YouTube for live footage from each of these shows as I will be doing. I'm sure you'll see straight away why I've been having one of the best concert seasons ever.