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Top 20 Atlanta Concerts of 2018

The city of Atlanta did not have a shortage of good concerts in 2018. There was a little bit of everything for all kinds of music fans. From large epic shows for the arena rock fans (Foo Fighters at Georgia State Stadium, Weezer at Lakewood), to more intimate shows for music geeks (like me) that enjoy getting close and personal with band members (Tommy Stinson at 529, Lou Barlow at Nine Mile). All these along with plenty of excellent new album releases by local and global acts added up to an excellent year in music. If you live in Atlanta there was really no excuse to go out and check out some great live music.

Before getting started with my top 20 Atlanta concerts of 2018, here are some shows that did not make my list but are still worth noting.

Honorable Mentions:

Brian Fallon @ Terminal West

Liz Phair @ Variety Playhouse

Foo Fighters @ Georgia State Stadium

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds @ The Tabernacle

Diet Cig @ The Masquerade

All great shows on their own, but as you will see, there were plenty of amazing shows in the ATL this year. Let’s get started with my top 20.

#20 Dashboard Confessional w/Beach Slang @ Buckhead Theatre - Mar 23, 2018

As Chris Carrabba said during this show, this will be remembered as Dashboard’s “tour with Beach Slang”. Dashboard Confessional hit us with their melodic emotional rock that brought us back to the early 2000's, while Beach Slang gave a larger than life punk rock statement.

A fantastic contrast of styles that can only be done by this unique combo. It is unlikely that these bands will tour together again but it was fun while it lasted.

#19 Midnight Larks @ The EARL - Mar 31, 2018

Atlanta’s favorite local underground supergroup summoned rock demons in an intense record release show in East Atlanta. The garage rock trio unveiled most songs from their highly regarded debut self-titled album. The EARL’s stage did not stand a chance at the end of this raucous gig.

#18 Richie Ramone @ Star Bar - Oct 12, 2018

Old school punk fans got their fix of live Ramones music at this show. Arguably the Ramone’s fastest drummer, “Uncle Rich” banged on his drum kit like somebody put something in his drink. Proving that age has no limit in punk rock, Richie effortlessly drummed and sang classic Ramones and original tunes. Showing that he is also the Ramones drummer with the best stage presence, he left the drums near the end of the show to take over as frontman along with Joe Queer (of The Queers). An unforgettable night for any punk rock fan.

#17 Lunar Vacation @ Candler Park Fall Fest - Sep 21, 2018

Atlanta’s dream pop darlings had an amazing 2018. In less than twelve months, they released two successful EPs, sold out the Drunken Unicorn a couple of times, and won the Creative Loafing’s award for Best New Band. No surprises here since ‘Lunar’ has been one of Atlanta’s most promising bands in the last couple of years. Their first festival show at Fall Fest might have been at Candler Park but it certainly felt like Lollapalooza.

#16 Superchunk @ Terminal West - Apr 26, 2018

What a time to be alive, indeed. The veteran indie rockers show no sign of slowing down with the release of another great new album and a high paced concert at Terminal West. This rare Superchunk appearance featured many classic songs as well as new tunes from their highly acclaimed 2018 album What A Time To Be Alive, which is already showing up in many best of 2018 lists.

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#15 The Queers @ Star Bar - Jan 27, 2018

Say what you like about The Queers, but these guys can still rock a killer punk rock show. This gig was an explosion of non-stop loud, fast, and melodic punk songs. Just what these guys have been doing for over 25 years and seem to be getting only better with time. The Star Bar was the perfect location for this wild hometown show that got people moshing from start to finish.

#14 Queens of the Stone Age @ Shaky Knees Festival - May 5, 2018

One of the most powerful performances at Atlanta’s premier rock festival. No question about it, Josh Homme and company came in with an anger and intensity that may have shaken every window in at least a 10 mile radius.

Sidenote: Josh Homme’s recent controversy involving kicking a concert photographer during a past performance may have helped them drop a few spots in this list but not enough to make it out of my top 20.

#13 Speedy Ortiz @ The Masquerade - May 9, 2018

Speedy Ortiz is one of the greatest things to happen in the indie-rock world. May sound like a strong statement but it only takes witnessing one of their live shows to realize it is true. ‘Speedy’ returned to Atlanta with their classic guitar driven melodies and mysterious lyrics that seem to be the key to perfection for the Massachusetts band. This headlining tour was followed by a successful tour opening for Liz Phair that I’m sure gained them plenty of new fans. Check out their newest album Twerp Verse, one of the best of 2018.

#12 Cursive @ The Masquerade - Oct 30, 2018

If you are into epic rock shows with deep concept songs and multiple instruments, this was your show of the year. In a rare nationwide tour, Cursive made a stop at the Masquerade to play a variety of songs from their newest album, Vitriola, as well as classic tunes from their already packed discography. With a 19-song set, the Omaha band had plenty to give to old and new fans.

#11 Gringo Star @ The EARL - Sep 8, 2018

Atlanta locals will always welcome new Gringo Star music with open arms and a great turnout. The indie rockers hit it off at the East Atlanta Village to debut some songs from their newly released album, Back To The City. The band continues to innovate with their music by experimenting with new instruments and sounds that quickly got the crowd dancing at The EARL. The ‘Gringos’ brought one of their best performances during this show, which was also recorded for a future release. Watch out for that.

#10 David Byrne @ Shaky Knees - May 4, 2018

At 66 years old and more than 40 years in the music industry, David Byrne still finds ways to keep his audience at awe. I would try to describe this show but I would fail miserably. Part choreographed dance/vocal performance, part pop art theatrical event, part psychological thriller? I don’t know, but one thing I know for sure is that this performance was one to remember and easily got the Shaky Knees Festival crowd dancing all the way to the next stage.

Old school Byrne fans know this. This is David Byrne after all; you never know what to expect at his shows and keeps you wanting more. Fortunately, Byrne brought back his show to Atlanta a few months after Shaky Knees with an additional light show. Hope you got your Byrne fix this year.

#9 Tommy Stinson’s Cowboys in the Campfire @ 529 - May 10, 2018

Tommy Stinson may be known for his loud and explosive performances with The Replacements and Guns n’ Roses, but this time we got to see a more mellow side of the veteran rocker. Stinson put briefly aside his most recent side project, Bash & Pop, for an acoustic, intimate, and interactive gig at the old 529 stage.

#8 Mattiel @ 529 - Jan 19, 2018

Mattiel makes it look too easy. A great rock and roll show flowed so naturally at this gig. I guess that’s what you get when you combine an incredibly talented singer with great personality and stage presence with a kick ass band. All the pieces fell on its right place at this show at 529. Famously, Mattiel followed this concert with another headlining show, this time at Terminal West, and a tour opening for Jack White. I think we will hear from her again next year.

#7 Ron Gallo @ The EARL - Nov 16, 2018

If you think last year’s Ron Gallo show at Park Tavern was good, you would have loved this one. At The EARL, we witnessed the same quirkiness and explosive, high energy rock that Ron does so well. Plus the keyboard was a nice addition. This was a night of great rock and roll, good vibes, and redeemed crowd surfing.

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#6 Screaming Females @ The Masquerade - Apr 16, 2018

After releasing their newest album, All At Once, Screaming Females stopped in Atlanta for a round of their epic and always memorable rock shows. Marissa Paternoster made a great case of being one of the greatest guitar players in punk rock right now. Quickly blasting through a 13 song set from their already packed album catalog, the New Jersey band left the Masquerade crowd with ears ringing and wanting more.

#5 Idles @ The Masquerade - Sep 27, 2018

This one was my surprise show of the year. Even with two critically-acclaimed albums out, Idles is still a relatively underground band in America. Nevertheless, they had no trouble selling out the Purgatory stage at The Masquerade. I could try to describe this gig in words but it would all end up being an understatement. The power, intensity, and devilish fierceness of the English hardcore band was something you must witness to understand. For now, you have the photos. If you missed this show, don’t worry. They will be back in 2019 at Shaky Knees. A late night show from them would be epic.

#4 Quiet Slang @ The EARL - @ Jul 6, 2018

Beach Slang may be know for their over the top, larger than life, fast and loud punk rock. But James Alex’ acoustic side project, Quiet Slang, is everything but that… in a good way. Intimate, sweet, warm, and emotional. It was like seeing your best friend play a house show along more of your friends. Good music, good vibes, and tons of cheap beer.

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#3 The Coathangers @ The EARL - Dec 31, 2017

I know that this show was officially in 2017, but it lasted all the way to January so I’m going to count it as a 2018 show. Either way, The Coathangers are scheduled to play another New Year’s Eve show in December 2018 so I’m sure that concert would have made my list as well. Not much to say here but The Coathangers did what they always do. They rocked out so hard that made everyone lose track of time. So much that they even forgot to do the countdown at midnight. But who really cares about that when you are at a Coathangers show?

Local favorites, Mattiel, The Gartrells (featuring members from the Black Lips and the Legendary Shack Shakers), and Skin Jobs opened the gig. Can’t think of a better way to end the year.

#2 Japandroids @ The Masquerade (Shaky Knees Late Night show) - May 5, 2018

I have been to a lot of concerts but I don’t think I’ve seen so much crowd surfing in such a small period of time before. There was moshing, crowd surfing, and everything in between from start to finish. Interestingly, it was something to be expected at this late-night show. The Japandroids performance at Shaky’s festival stage was great, but not nearly as intimate as the one at the Masquerade’s Hell stage.

#1 Weezer and Pixies @ Lakewood - Jul 27, 2018

This was an easy choice. With this lineup, it was hard to beat as the best concert of the year. One could argue that both bands may be past their prime, but you cannot say that they can’t put a phenomenal show; specially with both bands sharing the stage.

Variety was a key factor here. Even if Pixies are known to be a big influence on Weezer, their lyrics could not be further apart and their music is essentially performed in a completely different way. Pixies are notoriously low-profile and with few stage antics. Their music is dark and about monsters and murder; themes that match their powerful blasts of alternative rock. On the other hand, Weezer’s music is performed as a theatrical arena show with massive pyrotechnics, comedy skits, and wardrobe and stage changes. Their songs are about Dungeons & Dragons and falling in love while their music seems to keep leaning into the pop spectrum. All this diversity played a part at this tour, and surprisingly, it worked really well.

There was a bit of everything for everybody, and this is what made this show so great. People that came for Pixies stayed for Weezer. Old school Weezer fans danced along their “Africa” cover. Younger Weezer fans that weren’t even born when Doolittle came out rocked out to “Where is My Mind?” At the end, everybody won.

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