Miami's Best Live Music of 2008

From GWAR to Torche, the acts that rocked the Magic City.

The year's 10 best shows of the year? I'm sick of that shit. The top 10 albums? Tired. Finest songs? Forget about it. Here are my faves in the categories that music nerds probably won't list this season. With a bonus: They were all onstage.

Best Virgin Live Appearance: Tie between Jose Gonzalez at the Manuel Artime Theater February 29 and No Age and Panda Bear at Karu & Y December 5. The former was an acoustic affair in one of Miami's most beautiful venues. The latter was an exclusive-ish Art Basel event full of both pared-down punk rock and lush experimental weirdness at one of the city's most incongruously located posh clubs. Both featured artists who perform relatively rarely (Panda Bear, not No Age) and are unlikely to return soon.

Best Performance by the Dillinger Escape Plan: At the band's truncated Warped Tour show July 12 at Bicentennial Park, apeshit frontman Greg Puciato's scaffold-climbing antics and obscenely tight pants gave the audience plenty to stare at. But DEP's gig at the Fillmore Miami Beach, alongside Every Time I Die and Killswitch Engage, January 14, gave the band a longer set and more room for Puciato to run around, bashing his head with the mike and his own hand. So the latter wins by default.

And similarly, Best Performance by Pelican: At Culture Room, with Kayo Dot, November 15, not the band's show at Revolution April 29, opening for Circa Survive and Thrice. The former boasted an older, more appreciative crowd; more experimental opening acts; and a superior sound mix in a more intimate venue.

And on a related note, Best Performance by Yelle, of the Group's Two Miami Gigs in Two Months: At the Polish American Club October 10, not the free Art Basel-sponsored Art Loves Music concert December 3. The band's debut appearance, the venue's pitifully run bar notwithstanding, boasted a more dance-friendly, clubby atmosphere for kids who had paid to attend and thus were truly eager to get down.

And finally in this vein, Best Torche Show: At Churchill's, with Mehkago NT, September 8. But really, any of the shows this past year, because guitarist Juan Montoya was still in the band. Yes, I said it, and the vast majority of the band's legions of fans agrees. It's not really Torche without Montoya's shredding!

Best Concert by a Band More than 20 Years Old: Duran Duran at Mizner Park Amphitheatre May 19. A sort of dark-horse contender, Duran Duran's performance in support of its Timbaland-buoyed recent album, The Red Carpet Massacre, was a flashy, flawless review of showstopper after showstopper. But beyond the glitzy hits, the band revisited its clubby roots with an unexpected, synth-driven set that aurally cemented its influence on any number of electro-acts-come-lately. Oh, and vocalist Simon Le Bon's moves still, apparently, entice grown women to throw panties.

Coolest Teenage Female Performer, Hands-Down: Jemima Pearl of Be Your Own Pet, who performed with Switches, the Virgins, and She Wants Revenge at Revolution May 21. The pintsize bleached-blonde from Tennessee unapologetically sported pale legs pockmarked with gnarly bruises. She spit, she swore, she did a sort of deranged pony dance, all while looking cute and sounding kick-ass. Hundreds of girls and boys alike in attendance instantly wanted to best-friend her.

Best More-or-Less-Live Performance During Winter Music Conference: Simian Mobile Disco at the now-defunct Studio A March 29. The stadium lights behind the band were so bright that one needed sunglasses indoors just to look at the stage. The bass was so loud that earplugs were being sold for a buck at the bar. But the jams were so relentless from "go" that I'm pretty sure this party alone boosted local sales of hearing aids over the following week.

Best Big-Budget Hip-Hop Tour That Wasn't Lil Wayne: Jay Z and Mary J. Blige's Heart of the City tour kickoff at the American Airlines Arena March 22. Let's see: Two of hip-hop and R&B's most legendary talents, ever. A bright-lights, big-city-theme stage show that featured a full backing band with a brassy swing. A number of megawatt guest appearances, including one by The Great Kanye himself. In short, un-fuck-with-able.

Best Show Heavily Attended by Moshing Dads: Mudhoney at Churchill's June 13. The setting was perfect for a proudly loud, sloppy band. The crowd was perfect — slavishly appreciative, highly responsive. The set was perfect — a respectful dig into the best of the band's catalogue, from its debut to now. Something spewed into the air that night that created a rare band-audience synergy of raw-power psychic call-and-response.

Best Source of Sublimely Goth Moments: Peter Murphy at Revolution July 5. The erstwhile Bauhaus frontman is still delicately pretty and the owner of a jarringly deep, ghostly singing voice. The evening was, in a word, transcendent. That sounds hyperbolic, but watching Murphy perform, even in 2008, was like being hypnotized by a charismatic shaman. I'm sure every single one of his other black-swaddled minions in attendance that night would agree. And someone near me was actually softly crying, instantly winning 5,000 goth points.

Best Out-of-Town Tribute Band: 3 One G at The Vagabond August 8. Hailing from Winter Haven, 3 One G is likely Florida's only true Joy Division tribute act, and Aaron Branch, the group's faux Ian Curtis, is creepily dead on. So is the rest of the backing music. The fact that the real Curtis offed himself when he was around Branch's current age, and that most of the audience was born well after this occurred, creates a strange philosophical wrinkle in the universe. But the reproduction of the late band's music is so accurate it's chilling.

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