Top 20 Atlanta Concerts of 2017 - Will Call Photography

This article was published in Open Ears Music December 27, 2017.

Top 20 Atlanta Concerts of 2017

Fellow Atlantans and ATLiens needed a year of good live music. After all, this was the year of a massive highway bridge collapse and an unforgettable Super Bowl loss. Lucky for us, this did not discourage great artists to stop by their favorite city in the Southeast for a good round of rock and roll.

I certainly did not go to all concerts in Atlanta this year, but I was fortunate enough to go to more than fifty. Here is my list of the best Atlanta concerts of 2017.

#20 Beach Slang @ The Masquerade - Oct 24, 2017

I am not sure what made this concert so special for me. Maybe it was the energetic angst in James Alex’s vocals; maybe learning that The Replacements are infinitely superior to The Cure (at least among ‘Slang fans), or maybe the sweet opening guitars of “Smooth” originally by Santana featuring Rob Thomas. Anyways, a great debut for Beach Slang at the new Masquerade location.

Fun fact: James Alex’s solo project, Quiet Slang, included their live version of “Where Is My Mind?” (recorded live at the old Masquerade in 2016) in their latest exclusive 7 inch single release. Glad to hear they have Atlanta on their mind.

Beach Slang

#19 Starbenders @ Under The Couch - Jul 15, 2017

A hot Atlanta Summer night is best spent… under the couch? Why not? Georgia Tech’s student-run venue brought in several local heavy-hitters including The Pellys, The Callous Daoboys, and rising garage rockers, Starbenders. I’m sure their explosive performance inspired plenty of Tech students to start their own bands that night.

Fun Fact: The first time I saw the Starbenders they played at the Roller Derby halftime show. A few months later, they played in other strange places like an old movie theater and even someone’s mom’s house. My guess is that the next Starbenders gig will be at 2Chainz’ pink trap house.


#18 CJ Ramone @ The EARL - Apr 17, 2017

Ramones fans in Atlanta got a chance to see punk rock royalty live at The EARL. CJ is not only one of the last remaining Ramones, but also the most active right now when it comes to new music. His new album “American Beauty” is great and he proved it with live renditions of catchy tunes such as “Let’s Go” and “Run Around”.

Fun Fact: Punk veteran, Joe Queer (of The Queers), made an appearance near the end of the show to sing some classic Ramones songs with CJ. A few months later, The Queers played in the same stage. Now the question is who played the best version of “The KKK Took My Baby Away”?

CJ Ramone

#17 Gringo Star @ Star Bar - Jan 21, 2017

This may have been the tenth year anniversary of Atlanta’s own Gringo Star, but they music still sounds as fresh as year one. Conveniently hosted by the Star Bar, this special show brought in crowd favorites, The Sh-booms and The Wooly Bushmen to Little 5 Points. Add some of Gringo’s melodic rock riffs and your favorite beer and you got your perfect ATL night.

Fun Fact: It didn’t take long for Gringo Star to gather an impressive resume. With four critically-acclaimed albums in their catalog, Gringo is one of Atlanta’s bands to watch.

#16 Kolars & The Sh-Booms @ Vinyl - Jun 13, 2017

This was an interesting mix for a co-headlining show, but it definitely worked. The Sh-booms killed it with their high-energy garage/soul/rock with jammy horns while Kolars’ catchy rockabilly punk got the crowd dancing in no time. Even Atlanta’s own Sash The Bash shredded with her double-neck guitar. What else do you need?

Fun Fact: Kolars’ tap dancing drumming technique is something that you don’t want to miss. Trust me.


#15 The Orwells @ Terminal West - Jun 7, 2017

The Orwells may be “Terrible Human Beings”, but their performance at Terminal West was anything but terrible. Their high energy punk rock had the audience crowdsurfing from the first song to the very end. Mario Cuomo’s Jim Morrison-esque antics added an intense stage presence, while the chaotic instrumental at the end of the show was unforgettable.

Fun Fact: The Orwells are heavily influenced by The Pixies. Not only did they went on tour with them earlier this year but they also released a song titled “Black Francis”.

#14 Priests @ The Drunken Unicorn - Mar 4, 2017

Shortly after their stop in Atlanta, Priests became one of the hottest punk bands around, bringing their politically-charged post-punk energy across the globe in a large international tour including one of the best performances at Pitchfork Music Festival. The gig at the Drunken Unicorn was more intimate but with the same level of energy.

Fun Fact: Priests’ debut LP was highly appraised by critics and fans. It’s been added to multiple “Best of 2017” lists including #3 by Stereogum and #6 by The AV Club. Great success!

#13 Redd Kross @ The EARL (Atlanta Mess-Around) - Apr 29, 2017

The EARL’s capacity was put to the test during the Atlanta Mess-Around this year. California rock icons, Redd Kross headlined the ultra packed punk festival which also brought in great bands like The Gories, Terry & Louie, and The Cowboys. The McDonald brothers had the crowd going from the first note in their much anticipated return to Atlanta.

Fun Fact: Redd Kross’ latest reissue of “Teen Babes From Monstanto” sold out within hours of being put on sale.

Redd Kross

#12 Pixies @ Shaky Knees Music Festival - May 12, 2017

The Pixies’ second appearance at Shaky Knees in only three years was one of the highlights of the Atlanta rock festival. Alternative rock veterans are no strangers to the big stage and gave us a great mix of classic tunes, such as “Where is my mind?” and “Monkey Gone To Heaven”, and newer tracks like “Classic Masher” and “All The Saints”. Bonus: no Pixies concerts are complete without Joey Santiago’s guitar magic during “Vamos”. How does he do it?

Fun Fact: There is no written down setlist before the Pixies’ shows. The band’s frontman, Black Francis, signals the following song to the band members just a few seconds before each song. Tight!

#11 Japandroids @ Variety Playhouse - Mar 3, 2017

Japandroids much overdue visit to Atlanta was worth the wait. The Canadian power duo proved why they are known for their explosive live performances.

Fun Fact: “Near to the Wild Heart of Life”, Japandroids first album in 5 years, charted in the US, Canada, Germany, and the UK. North, East, South, West… get it?

#10 Dinosaur Jr. @ Project Pabst Festival - Oct 7, 2017

I’m sure many windows in East Atlanta Village shook hard during the loudest show of the night at Project Pabst. You can’t go wrong with Dino Jr.’s old songs or new songs, for that matter. They are all great and even better at an outdoor festival. Crank it up!

Fun Fact: This was the third time that J Mascis and company played in Atlanta in less than 2 years. They previously stopped by at last year’s Wrecking Ball and earlier this year at the Variety Playhouse. Let’s hope for some more Dino Jr. Atlanta shows in 2018.

Dinosaur Jr.

#9 Diet Cig @ The Masquerade - Apr 21, 2017

I challenge anyone to find an artist that looks like is having as much fun as Alex Luciano when she plays live with Diet Cig. Like a grasshopper with a guitar, no space in the stage is left unstepped. Killer performance by the rising band with lots of songs out of the fantastic new album “Swear I’m Good at This”.

Fun Fact: Diet Cig has graduated from the Purgatory stage in The Masquerade and will be playing at the Hell stage next year. I think they are pretty good at this.

Diet Cig

#8 Ryan Adams @ Shaky Knees Music Festival - May 14, 2017

Ryan Adams really felt at home during his visit to Atlanta. The California singer-songwriter gave the Shaky Knees crowd a performance of a lifetime with a killer guitar skills, melodic vocals, and a witty stage presence. Bonus: those guitar licks at the end of “Magnolia Mountain” were to die for.

Fun Fact: Ryan Adams newest album Prisoner is his sixteenth studio album. With over thirty releases in his solo and side project’s catalog, he is one of the most prolific artists of the 2000’s.

Ryan Adams

#7 The Coathangers @ Project Pabst Festival - Oct 7, 2017

The last show in the Coathangers’ tour was at Project Pabst festival, opening for Iggy Pop and Dinosaur Jr. No pressure. The ATL punk band gave us a good reason to show up early and grab a good spot in the East Atlanta grounds. This was a powerful set that drove us through songs from their already packed album catalog and concluding with fan favorite, “Squeeki Tiki”.

Fun Fact: The design in the matching jumpsuits that the band members wore at this show were created by Atlanta artist Dr. Dax and spell “404” in the backs of the suits.

The Coathangers

#6 Ron Gallo @ Park Tavern - Sep 24, 2017

Ron Gallo may have started the show by reading through the Park Tavern’s dinner menu, but he really did serve us a three-course musical dinner of well-crafted rock and roll. A highly energetic set closed by one of the biggest hits of the year “Young Lady, You’re Scaring Me”.

Fun Fact: Ron’s new 7 inch single for “Temporary Slave” includes a killer cover of “Am I Demon?”, originally by Danzig. Check that out!

Ron Gallo

#5 Radiohead @ Philips Arena - Apr 1, 2017

Not much to say here, Radiohead keeps blowing our minds with amazing performances. This time it was a roller coaster of feelings, with deeply emotional tracks like “Daydreaming”, fast rock anthems like “Paranoid Android”, and a goosebump-inducing performance with “Karma Police”. Also, how can anyone not like Thom Yorke getting a bit political?

Fun Fact: Radiohead did not make it to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. But, who cares right?

#4 Descendents @ The Masquerade - Oct 21, 2017

It’s been over thirty years since “Milo Goes To College” but the Descendents haven’t changed much. And that’s a good thing when it comes to one of the most influential punk bands ever. Sure, the punk rock lifestyle pays its toll on the body after three decades, but the music is still fast, loud, and gritty. Don’t blink or you might miss “All”.

Fun Fact: The Descendents have their own brand of beer called “Feel This Coffee IPA”.

#3 Bash & Pop @ The EARL - May 23, 2017

The newly-reformed project of Tommy Stinson, formerly of The Replacements, released what many people are calling the best album of the year. The EARL turned out to be the perfect place to listen to the best music Stinson has made since the ‘Mats.

Fun Fact: This new version of Bash & Pop could be considered a supergroup. It features members of The Hold Steady, The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, and Screeching Weasel.

Bash & Pop

#2 Iggy Pop @ Project Pabst Festival - Oct 7, 2017

The legendary Iggy Pop may be seventy, but he can still move like he is twenty. The main headliner at Project Pabst was everything you expected and more. A high energy performance and lots of crowd interaction featuring Iggy’s classic hits and new songs from his excellent recent album “Post Pop Depression”.

Fun Fact: Mr. Pop is not unfamiliar with music festivals. Just this year, he also headlined at SOS Fest and Desert Daze.

Iggy Pop

#1 Arcade Fire @ Infinite Energy Center - Sep 21, 2017

This was simply a spectacular concert. Production-wise it was visually stunning. From the colorful lighting effects, to the boxing match theme, it was all incredibly detailed and well executed. The music and overall theme of the show matched the visual effects perfectly with a subtle satirical criticism to technology and social media. Win Butler and company gave a performance that proves they have become an arena rock band. The show at Infinite Energy Center drove us through their biggest hits in their catalog and the dancier tunes from their new album “Everything Now”.

Fun Fact: Arcade Fire members are multi-instrumentalists. They all exchanged instruments throughout the show. Wow!

That’s my list for this killer year in music. What were some of your favorite Atlanta concerts this year? Feel free to share in the comments.

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