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December 12, 2012 Slideshows » Music

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20 Best San Francisco Concerts of 2012 

Curated by SF Weekly music editor Ian S. Port.
Kahley Avalon Emerson
20. DJ Harvey at Public Works, November 2
"Some girls jiggled around in front of him on an elevated platfrom as the loop zapped the crowd like some primitive form of techno. He turned his back and began flipping through his bag looking at records."
Christopher Victorio
19. Conor Oberst at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, October 5
"It was the unexpected Bright Eyes stuff that had us grinning, in particular the yearning 'Soul Singer in a Session Band', and an exhilarating run through 'Method Acting.'"
Andrew Lopez
18. El-P and Killer Mike at the Regency Ballroom, June 29
At the Regency Ballroom, El-P concluded what had been a night of solid live hip-hop with a pummeling hour of rapping that seemed to exceed even the furious energy of his latest, lauded album, Cancer For Cure, and left him seemingly towering over everyone else on Friday's four-name bill.
Christopher Victorio
17. Grimes at Treasure Island, February 22
. "During a very bright and hot midafternoon set, Boucher came out in a freaky black hood and sunglasses, backed by two female musicians with their faces hidden in multicolored veils."
Christopher Victorio
16. Bassnectar at Bill Graham Civic, October 20
Inside San Francisco's Bill Graham Civic Auditorium, the atmosphere is bass.
15. Swans at Regency Ballroom, September 10
You should know one thing in advance: A Swans show is not designed for your passive entertainment. In fact, it's less a concert than it is an endurance rally.
14. Sonny Smith at The Lost Church, January 14
Between issuing unadorned pop-rock with his band, Sonny & the Sunsets, assigning himself sprawling art projects, and putting out low-key comic books, San Francisco artist Sonny Smith is known for funneling his dark, humorously perceptive vision through many types of media. In January, he tried another kind of project: a one-hour live monologue accompanied by a skeleton of a rock 'n' roll band.
13. Chuck Prophet's bus tour/secret show at Catacombs, February 7
To commemorate yesterday's release of his new album, Temple Beautiful, S.F. singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet and Yep Roc Records treated about 40 fans to a guided bus tour of San Francisco
Christopher Victorio
12. David Byrne and St. Vincent at the Orpheum Theatre, October 15
By enlisting the help of an eight-piece brass band while crafting their recent collaborative album, Love This Giant, the two seem to have etched a pact of sorts: if neither party is entirely comfortable, perhaps the uncharted middle ground will yield something transcendent.
Christopher Victorio
11. The Flaming Lips at Bimbo's 365 Club/Noise Pop, February 21
"Last night's show never got better than those first few minutes of raining colored paper, balloons bouncing overhead, and the thundering optimism of The Soft Bulletin's first track. But it stayed great."
Christopher Victorio
10. Radiohead at HP Pavilion, April 11
"Onstage in San Jose last night, Yorke stopped his jigging, bouncing, and limb-shaking only when seated behind a keyboard or saddled with a guitar. The rest of the time, his jester-like figure -- curt ponytail, scraggly beginnings of a beard, comical skinny red pants, plain vest -- fluttered around like a bird that had just eaten a jumping bean."
Christopher Victorio
9. Fiona Apple at the Fox Theater, July 28
"Apple reached reached up into that damaged growl for "On the Bound," only the second song of her sold-out show at the Fox Theater on Saturday. It had us worried: Could she really push her voice that hard for a whole show?"
8. Real Estate and Thee Oh Sees (and everyone else) at the Woodsist Festival in Big Sur, August 4-5
An hour south of Carmel along the serpentine path of Highway 1, there's a bend in the road and a fence, behind which lies a lawn of the size that'd fit behind a standard suburban house, and a cozy wooden building surrounded by a deck. This is the Henry Miller Memorial Library. For one weekend each August, this is also the site of possibly the coolest hipster convention in the world, the Woodsist Festival.
7. Frank Ocean at the Regency Ballroom, July 16
"The digital version of Ocean's official debut album Channel Orange also just came out last week, but between the big pockets of the sold-out audience who already knew every word of the new songs and Ocean's unflappable poise, it already felt like a well-loved classic."
Christopher Victorio
6. Public Enemy at Treasure Island, October 13
"The crew started hyping up the crowd long before the set even really started, so by the time Chuck D began pounding pounding through 'Public Enemy No. 1', people were bouncing like nuts."
Joseph Schell
5. Wilco at the Warfield, January 29
"It felt like a solemn celebration, a bracing reminder of the magic that can happen when a songwriter, a rock band, and a relatively small audience come together in just the right way. The songs themselves may have expressed misery, but the grace and energy given to them imparted a kind of a buzzing, heartworn elation."
Kahley Avalon Emerson
4. Body and SOUL at Mighty, October 10
"The focal point wasn't the booth, but instead the physical and mental space in the room, both of which seemed to disperse the message of Body & SOUL to every corner from the bathroom on out."
Christopher Victorio
3. Stevie Wonder at Outside Lands, August 12
"Less than three minutes after Stevie Wonder takes the main stage on the final night of San Francisco's Outside Lands festival, keytar in hand and that beaming, always-loving smile of his worn proudly, he decides that it's time for the first singalong of the night."
2. Pulp at the Warfield, April 17
So, last night, on the 29th anniversary of the release of their first record, svelte glammy/chatty Britpop heroes Pulp stormed the Warfield, where they played the shit out of their best singles and album tracks, stuck around for two encores after closing the main set with "Common People," and were either a touch longwinded or a revelation of the power of theatrical dork-sex rock and roll, all depending on your eagerness to take in songs from the six Pulp albums not called Different Class.
Christopher Victorio
1. Metallica at Outside Lands, August 11
Metallica, headlining Saturday night of the Outside Lands festival in San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, proved just about as huge and satisfying and powerful as Metallica can be in 2012.
1/20
Kahley Avalon Emerson
20. DJ Harvey at Public Works, November 2
"Some girls jiggled around in front of him on an elevated platfrom as the loop zapped the crowd like some primitive form of techno. He turned his back and began flipping through his bag looking at records."
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