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Best of 2010: Jordan Lawrence

Today’s top 10 comes from Churchkey publicist Jordan Lawrence. Here are his top 10 live sets from 2010:

These are all hometown shows because I didn’t really stray out of the Triangle to hit up a concert this year. (Side note: what a bummer, need to schedule some road trips in 2011) Also, this list is dominated by this year’s Hopscotch and Troika music festivals, two of the most satisfying festivals to hit the Triangle in the five years I’ve been living here.

1. Fucked Up – Berkley Cafe, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Damien “Pink Eyes” Abraham is one of the most transfixing frontmen I’ve ever seen. He owns his band’s monolithic hardcore riffs with the inescapable gravitas of the best televangelists. The audience at Berkley was only sad he couldn’t preach forever.
  • Signature moment: Abraham accidentally dumping a cooler full of ice and water over his head and the audience and then jumping into the mosh pit to direct a make-shift Slip ‘n Slide.

2. Megafaun and Fight the Big Bull – Hayti Heritage Center, “Sounds of the South” – Durham, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: This amazing set, the last of a three-night stand that will be a live album next year, not only featured entrancing arrangements and performances by the experimentalist folkies of Megafaun and the ultra-talented jazz ensemble of Fight the Big Bull, but was also lifted by breathtaking vocal performance by Sharon Van Etten and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon.
  • Signature moment: Both bands’ friends and families rushing to the stage to close out the event with a rousing chorus of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.” Sounds of the South indeed.

3. Harvey Milk – Berkley Cafe, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Harvey Milk’s Hopscotch set was a tour-de-force, balancing the band’s cement-truck grade sludge with agile blues riffs. The effect was like a heavyweight fighter who can move with the ease of a featherweight.
  • Signature moment: Harvey Milk closed its set with a searing, more-than-10-minute blues jam that balanced arresting emotionality with punishing metal heft.

4. Public Enemy – City Plaza, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Seeing probably the best living hip-hop band use downtown Raleigh as the scene for one of the most fun spectacles I’ve ever seen is something I won’t ever forget.
  • Signature moment: Flavor Flav’s ridiculous, near-30-minute rant at the end of the set, touching on everything from his public image to his upcoming fried chicken chain. N.C.’s capitol becoming a real-life version of VH1: priceless.

5. Collections of Colonies of Bees – Pour House, Friend Island Day Party – Raleigh, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Emotive and technically impressive in a way that most post-rock bands can only dream of,  COCOB’s run-through of it’s upcoming album Giving at this Hopscotch day party was devastating. Prediction: the band will be making an appearance on my album list for 2011.
  • Signature moment: The guy next to me in the audience at this noon performance who leaned over and said, “Man, this is fantastic! I just came for the free coffee.”

6. Titus Andronicus – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: The rambling punk/Boss anthems of the band’s fantastic 2010 record The Monitor were even more explosive in person. Singer Patrick Stickles shouts vitriol as good as any singer around.
  • Signature moment: Spider Bags’ Dan McGee joining the band to reprise their Monitor duet “Theme from ‘Cheers'”, a hilarious and hard-hitting drinking jam.

7. Black Congo NC – Deep South, Hopscotch Music Festival – Raleigh, N.C.

  • BCNC’s afro-jazz-rock fusion started out my Hopscotch on one of its brightest notes. Bold, adventurous melodies from guitar, keys and saxophone created a tangled jungle of pristine sound.
  • Signature moment: The band’s impassioned performance of luxurious ballad “Seagull” resounded with technical brilliance and amazing feeling. Possibly the single best song I heard at the festival.

8. Mount Moriah – Fullsteam Brewery, Troika Music Festival – Durham, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Heather McEntire’s insightful gems of love and loss and embattled spirituality cut to the quick, especially in the context of the band’s lush country rock. At Troika the band owned its songs with help from Megafaun’s Phil and Brad Cook, on keys and bass respectively. Brilliant.
  • Signature moment: The band’s gut-wrenching take on Bellafea’s “Telling the Hour”. Break-up songs rarely come this cathartic and satisfying.

9. Spider Bags – Local 506, Dive Party IV – Chapel Hill, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: The barely controlled, but always thrilling shambles of Spider Bags’ garage-y barroom rock is always a treat, but this was the best set I’ve ever seen from them. Tight and powerful, but still rough around the edges, the band owned the stage like the veterans they are. Churchkey artist or not, that’s something I couldn’t resist if I tried.
  • Signature moment: McGee dealing with two assholes in the front row by beating them at their own game — lying on his back, accepting the beer they poured in his mouth and then spitting it in the air back at them, all while nailing his electrifying guitar lines.

10. Frank Fairfield – The Pinhook – Durham, N.C.

  • Why it was so good: Fairfield, a California singer who embodies the role of pre-Seger folk in full era dress, fiddles and banjos his way through traditional songs with gritty nuance. It fully transports you back to the past they represent.
  • Signature moment: Fairfield’s take on “Boll Weevil”, which oozed with so much rustic charm it might as well have been crackling off of a vintage field recording.