December is finally upon us and we all know what that means – list season. I’ve decided to kick things off with my Best Gigs of 2017. I’m a sentimental hoarder and I keep every ticket for every gig I’ve been to since about 2010 – even the really cringe ones from my emo phase – and after counting this year’s paper pile I found out that I’d gone to 33 gigs this year. Now I obviously can’t talk about them all, so I’ve chosen my 15 absolute favourites to gush about below. Here’s my favourite gigs of 2017, enjoy! x
15. Drake @ The SSE Hydro 23/03
EASILY my most expensive gig of 2017, and, unless Kanye tours anytime soon, probably the most I will ever spend on a single gig for as long as I live. I love Drake, and whilst I don’t think his set quite made up for the price of his tickets, his lighting and stage set up really was sensational. Those tickets were very much a ‘once in a lifetime, treat yo’self’ kinda thing, and I have zero regrets. Love u long time, lemon drizzy cake x
14. Fickle Friends @ Gorilla 24/10
This was the second time I’d seen Brighton five-piece Fickle Friends, the first time being at The Mash House in Edinburgh last October – a venue three times smaller than Manchester’s Gorilla. This time the substantially larger stage was adorned with palm trees, and Fickle Friends bounced their way through an impressive back catalogue, each one proving to be a crowd pleaser. They also gave us a little glimpse of the new material from their upcoming debut album, which they confirmed would be released in March next year. If the new tracks were anything to go by, it’ll be an LP brimming with that familiar infectious, unadulterated pop that Fickle Friends are loved for. They certainly know how to throw a party, that’s for sure.
13. Indigo Velvet @ The Electric Circus 24/03
I couldn’t not include the Electric Circus closing party in my Best Gigs of 2017 list. Back in March, it was announced that popular Edinburgh music venue Electric Circus was to close by the end of the month so that the Fruitmarket Gallery could expand. It was one of the city’s remaining few medium-sized venues, so the closing of the Electric Circus was understandably a massive loss for the local live music scene. The night before they closed their doors forever, Indigo Velvet (who had played the venue on numerous occasions over the last few years), threw a confetti-filled tropical pop party with the help of Dancing on Tables and Model Aeroplanes, and gave the venue the send-off it well and truly deserved. Def looking forward to a repeat of this at their EP launch this Friday.
12. Cigarettes After Sex @ The O2 Ritz 19/11
Cigarettes After Sex took to the stage at the O2 Ritz last month and played a catalogue of modern love songs set to downbeat dream pop. Their gigs are a little different to other gigs – there’s no singing along, no jumping about, and it’s mostly full of loved up couples swaying together as if they’re the only people in the room. It’s sickeningly sweet. This was a much larger venue compared to the last couple of times I’d seen them live – first at King Tut’s last November, and then at The Caves earlier this year, so it was clear to see that the release of their self-titled debut this year had done them some favours in that respect. Frontman Greg Gonzalez used to manage an arthouse cinema, and this influence lingered in the minimal lighting, and the moody backdrops of falling snow, and voyeuristically slow-motion closeups of arty women, both of which were new additions to the set. They still haven’t lost their magic, and I’m still just as mesmerised by their performance, which is nothing short of ethereal. (You can read my full review here x)
11. Oh Wonder @ Manchester Academy
Oh Wonder‘s lighting alone at this gig was enough to earn themselves a spot on my Best Gigs of the year list. Their onstage charisma was radiant and infectious, and they captured the attention (and hearts) of a room of 2000 with ease. Again, this was a venue substantially larger than the first one I’d ever seen Oh Wonder in (King Tut’s in 2015), there were no more than 200 people there and you could tell that the business of gigs was still alien territory for the duo. Flash-forward two years and they’re dominating rooms ten times the size with their shiny synth-pop and charm. Best Halloween ever. (Full review here x)
10. British Sound Project @ Victoria Warehouse – Deaf Havana & Twin Atlantic 29/09
For my 21st birthday I received VIP tickets to the British Sound Project to see the two bands from my teenage years that I’ve still never really quite grown out of, Deaf Havana, and headliners Twin Atlantic, and I truly loved every minute of it. Deaf Havana‘s setlist was (understandably) mostly made up of newer material from their fourth LP All These Countless Nights released earlier this year, but the only real complaint I had about it was that they didn’t play 22. That’s it. Other than that it was the nostalgic fun-fest I absolutely needed. Twin Atlantic‘s set also reignited my love for them, I hadn’t really enjoyed their last two albums and as a result hadn’t been to a proper Twin gig since about 2015, and boy have I missed them. Manchester crowds aren’t as good as the crowds back home though, obviously.
9. Will Joseph Cook @ The Mash House 22/10
You have absolutely no idea how much Will Joseph Cook has flourished this year. He released his (very impressive) debut album Sweet Dreamer in April this year (review here x) and a few weeks later I went to see him at Stereo in Glasgow. The room was a little sparse, energy was low, and whilst the gig was still good it had been a little lacklustre in parts. I love Will Joseph Cook, and I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t left that night ever so slightly disappointed.
Sixth months later however, I was stood in a packed room at The Mash House in Edinburgh, and it was quite literally shaking from the excitement bubbling within it. Will Joseph Cook and his band burst onto the stage with a new found confidence that had been missing at Stereo, and treated us all to a setlist that featured oldies like Daisy Chains, album favourites like Girls Like Me, and some weirder ones from his latest EP like I Wanna Be A Fish. The eager crowd sang along to every single word, and bounced their way through the entire set. Will is a genuinely a fantastic songwriter, he’s got his singular cocktail of catchy pop hooks, richly characteristic lyrics, and idiosyncratic inventiveness absolutely nailed, and he’s just one of the loveliest guys ever too. He’s someone to keep an eye on in 2018.
8. Parklife – Stormzy, Frank Ocean, Mura Masa, Two Door Cinema Club, and The 1975 10/06 – 11/06
Now, if you’ve read my post about Parklife, you’re probably shocked to see this on here at all. And whilst I did complain the entire time about hating it and wanting to come home, I can’t deny that the sets I saw that weekend were sensational, and ultimately that’s what it’s all about – the music innit. The only reason I’d even bought a Parklife ticket in the first place was for Frank Ocean, although The 1975 headlining on the Saturday certainly helped. Mura Masa‘s set on the Sunday exceeded my expectations – it wasn’t something I’d planned to see this weekend but I am SO glad that I did, and Stormzy was so good that I was late to Frank Ocean on the main stage… not that it mattered, because he was 45 minutes late anyway. But I honestly didn’t even mind – Frank Ocean could break my actual legs and I’d probably say thank you. Two Door Cinema Club‘s set on the Saturday evening was a personal highlight too, and reignited my love for the Irish indie three-piece. (full Parklife post here)
7. Marsicans @ Neighbourhood Festival 07/10
I’d been dying to see Marsicans for about a year by the time Neighbourhood Festival came round and I wasn’t missing it for anything. Their set was the bounciest, sweatiest gig of the day and the four-piece from Leeds had brought with them an unbeatable level of energy that had been largely absent (lol) in any of the other sets I’d seen that day. Armed with a catalogue of gig-ready anthemic crowd pleasers, each as exciting and refreshing as the last, they took to the stage at Factory251 and played one of the most insane sets I’d seen in a while. If they aren’t already, Marsicans will be one of your favourite live acts next year, and rightly so. They’re also the nicest bunch of guys ever, which is always a bonus.
6. TRNSMT Festival – Two Door Cinema Club, and The 1975 09/07
Having seen Irish trio Two Door Cinema Club once already by this point, I knew this was a set that wouldn’t disappoint. They opened with Cigarettes In The Theatre, the first track from their 2010 debut album Tourist History, followed by crowd favourite Undercover Martyn. As the familiar trademark Scottish chant of ‘here were fucking go’ roared from thousands of Two Door fans between Next Year and Something Good Can Work, bassist Kevin Baird said that it was ‘great to be back in Scotland to hear that beautiful song’, and likewise, it was great to have them back. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now, Two Door Cinema Club always put on an absolutely stellar show and if you’ve never experienced one for yourself then you’re only doing yourself a massive misdeed.
The 1975 were on next and their set at TRNSMT was the last time I’d see them for the rest of the year, and the last time I’d see them until their third studio album Music For Cars, which is set for release at some point next year. As the familiar pink glow lit up the stage, the ever flamboyant and not-so-humble frontman Matty Healy grabbed a camera and told the audience to ‘welcome their favourite band The 1975’, before flailing about to the funky intro of Love Me. In place of the usual mosh pit you’d find at a festival, a circle opened for a ‘ballroom dancing pit’ for She’s American, with people grabbing the hands of the closest stranger and just dancing together and having a really GOOD time. It was the closure I needed for the I like it when you sleep… era, and definitely one of my most favourite gigs of 2017.
5. Vistas @ The Mash House 17/02
I’ve seen Edinburgh four-piece Vistas a fair few times throughout 2017, but I’ve chosen their headline set at The Mash House at the start of the year as one of my favourites, simply because it was it was very very apparent just how much they’d flourished since I’d first seen them at their first gig at Bannerman’s the previous year. The band have quickly established themselves as one of the most exciting young bands in Scotland this year, gaining a reputation for their catchy, crowd-ready singles such as Hold Me, or Strong Swimmer, and earning spots on festival bills like TRNSMT and Bestival. That gig in February was genuinely astounding, and I’ve never seen The Mash House so packed and so bouncy. It’s quite clear that Vistas have stolen the hearts of their hometown crowd and have absolutely zero intentions of giving them back. Please please please get yourself to a Vistas gig next year, they’re not to be missed.
4. Prides @ The Liquid Rooms 12/05
In the run up to the release of their second album A Mind Like The Tide pt. 1 (released in October), Prides returned to the capital for a headline show at The Liquid Rooms, and it was one I’d been looking forward to for months. Their 2015 debut LP is still one of my most favourite albums, and their high-energy performances and stage presence is infectious and very hard to beat. They brilliantly showcased their talent, and treated an eager audience to sing-along favourites like Messiah, and Out of the Blue, whilst testing the waters with new material from their sophomore album. I’m so excited to see them again, and I’ll be patiently waiting for that 2018 tour announcement.
3. The 1975 @ Tufnell Park Dome 21/02
Back in January, The 1975 frontman Matty Healy tweeted that they would be playing an intimate London show in the run up to the BRIT Awards, it was part of ‘BRITs Week’ which gave fans the opportunity to see the biggest names in music in small venues across London, all whilst raising money for children whose lives had been torn apart by war. This was such a special gig for me, it had been a very long time since I’d seen The 1975 in a venue this intimate, the time before this had been at The Hydro in Glasgow with 12,999 other people – The Tufnell Park dome had a capacity of 500. So small in fact, that the rectangles that they’d become so synonymous with were absent from the stage for the first time in about 3 years.
Admittedly it wasn’t a polished set, but it made sense in a venue as small as this. It felt like a celebration of where The 1975 had come from, as if we were back in the time before they’d achieved success. The familiar debut album white lighting flashed over them during Sex and for three minutes it felt I was watching the little band I saw for the first time in 2012, still very much on the rise playing any one of many dingy little UK venues, full of possibility, potential and excitement.
2. Lewis Capaldi @ The Mash House 14/04
Lewis Capaldi is the boy to be blamed for my emotional instability and broken heart. It’s been an incredible year for the singer-songwriter from Bathgate, quickly becoming a massive name on the Scottish music scene, selling out venues across the UK, and bagging the Breakthrough Artist Award at the Scottish Music Awards earlier this month. This gig sits so highly on this list not just because Lewis Capaldi is a sensational songwriter with the most unbelievable vocals to match, but because of how far he’d come since the last time I’d seen him.
Rewind to December last year, Lewis Capaldi was supporting Lewis Watson at The Electric Circus – the room was barely paying attention, and I remember tweeting about how annoyed I was that people had done nothing but talk throughout his entire set. Four months later following the release of his debut single Bruises, he performed a sold-out gig at The Mash House – nothing will ever compare to sound, and the look on his face, when a room of 200 BELTED his own lyrics back to him. What a boy. 2018 is going to be massive for Lewis Capaldi, and I urge you to try and get a ticket to his tour in February, it’ll be the best decision you make all year.
1. Glass Animals @ The Liquid Rooms 08/03
The top spot on my Best Gigs of 2017 list without a doubt belongs to Glass Animals, a decision I think I made when I walked into the The Liquid Rooms to see a lone pineapple sat on the stage under a spotlight. Their energy and enthusiasm was unparalleled, with frontman David Bayley showing us his best bad dance moves. His sheer delight at being onstage was infectious – he’s a little bit like a boisterous puppy. The encore featured a cover of Kanye’s Love Lockdown (again, an instant winner for me), before Bayley climbed into the crowd for finale Pork Soda, the song to blame for the number of pineapples being held in the air by fans dotted across the room. I think I was singing ‘pineapples are in my heaaaaaaad’ for about six months after that night. I wish that was an exaggeration, but it almost definitely isn’t.
And that’s that! Those were my 15 Best Gigs of 2017 – shoutout to every artist I’ve seen this year, not just the ones that made this list, for making my year that little bit noisier, thank you. x