At this time of year, it’s customary to reflect on what makes us grateful. As someone who is seldom happier than when I see live music, I am incredibly grateful for living near a city that boasts incredible opportunities for live music, week-in, week-out. Here are sixteen concerts already on the books for 2016 that I’m pretty excited about. This takes us through the spring, basically. But there is enough great music in the first few months to last the whole year.
I’ve stayed away from the bigger venues, even though they have some great shows lined up for 2016. So even though I am counting the days until Jason Isbell / Shovels & Rope, they’re not on the list below because I assume if you don’t know about it already, you live in a depressing cave, literally or figuratively, and probably don’t go see live music anyway. Adele isn’t here either (shut up, you know you want to go) and though I’d love to see James Taylor at Fenway, that’s not what this list is about.
I won’t make all of these shows, but will be there in spirit each and every time. Hope you make some in person.
January 6, 13, 20: Julie Rhodes. Atwood’s. Encouraged by Dan Blakeslee and Jonah Tolchin to start making music, Julie Rhodes is making waves with her powerful voice and dedication to singing the blues. She’s in residency at Atwood’s every Wednesday in January. With a voice like this, it’s tempting to go every damn time. Here she is singing In Your Garden.
January 7: Suitcase Junket. Passim. I got to see Matt Lorenz open for Charlie Parr in 2014 and have wanted to get back to see him ever since. Honestly, his soundcheck was totally intoxicating–throatsinging’ll do that. The guy has so much musical talent and geniously combines genres to create a sound all his own. Check out the video for Earth Apple here.
January 9: Sarah Borges. Atwood’s. What the hell are you doing on a Sunday afternoon at 4:00 that is better than listening to Sarah Borges? Nothing. Oh, and it’s free. So go to Atwood’s, eat some awesome fries and listen to great music.
January 15: Muddy Ruckus. TOAD. This duo from Maine has been on my wish-list for a while, as they combine folk, blues, and gypsy jazz for really driving, compelling songs. There are faint echoes of Brown Bird for me when I hear these two.
January 22: Palehound. Great Scott. With one of the best daytrotter sessions of 2015, Palehound made me sit up and take notice. Their sound is ominous and slow-burning with lyrics that tend to linger with you.
January 27: Smooth Hound Smith. Atwood’s. This duo that turns out raw rhythm and blues with pitch-perfect harmony has an album coming out in January. They turn up at Atwood’s about a week after it drops and I can’t wait to see them. They were on a bill last spring at Cafe 939 that I couldn’t make so I’m happy they’re back so soon.
February 6: Rayland Baxter / Margaret Glaspy. Brighton Music Hall. Rayland Baxter had one of the best albums of 2015 with Imaginary Man. His lyrics are often wry and walk a fine line between narrative and imagery and his voice has incredible range. I just heard Glaspy the other day, on these Paste sessions and can’t wait to hear more. This will be a great chance to hear these two in a small venue.
February 20: Red Line Roots 3-year Anniversary. The Burren. You better be there. Meadows Brothers, Honeysuckle, Ian Fitzgerald, and Hailey Magee. Not only are we so very lucky to see all these folks in one night, we couldn’t ask for a better spot. This one is circled and starred on the calendar.
February 25: Joe Pug / Mandolin Orange. The Sinclair. Joe Pug has been a favorite for a long time and was a pioneer in the belief that if you get your music out to people, the people will respond. He still offers selections of his music for free. For about a year, my younger brother was bugging me to listen to Mandolin Orange. I finally did a few weeks ago and he was right: they’re really good. Here is their awesome cover of “Boots of Spanish Leather.” Their new album, Such Jubilee, is aptly named.
March 10: Patty Griffin, Anais Mitchell, Sara Watkins. Sanders Theatre. This is just going to be a special night. Watkins has been involved in some of the best collaborations recently, including The Watkins Family Hour and I’m With Her. Griffin’s album Servant of Love was on many best-of lists for 2015. And everything I’ve heard about Anais Mitchell live has been incredible. Each of these women are such special performers. It’s kind of too much to think about how they’ll play together.
March 11: Larry Campbell and Teresa Williams. Passim. Larry Campbell was the number one reason (in my humble opinion) that Bob Dylan’s band was so good in the 1990s and early 2000s. He produced Levon Helm’s albums, produced the raucous Ramble at The Ryman and is one of the most understated and dynamic guitarists I’ve ever seen (not to mention his fiddle playing on “Tears of Rage” one night that I still reminisce about–couldn’t find that one on the youtube, but here’s one with Elvis Costello. You’re welcome.). Teresa Williams, Campbell’s wife, is one of the great singers in American roots music today. Here is their incredible cover of Attics of My Life–it’ll give you shivers.
March 18: Sam Amidon + Glenn Kotche. Stave Sessions. Another great collaboration. Kotche is a brilliant, brilliant percussionist and it will be fun to see his interplay with Amidon, an accomplished multi-instrumentalist and songwriter, the way he’s done so well with Tweedy and Stirrat as the backbone of Wilco since Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
April 8: Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors / Jill Andrews. Sinclair. This is one of those situations where I’m more excited about the opener than the headliner. To be fair, I don’t know Drew Holcomb’s stuff well yet (what I’ve heard sounds great). But Jill Andrews’s sessions on daytrotter are worth putting on repeat all day (here, here and here). And her collaboration with Seth Avett is one of the best things to come across my twitter feed this year.
April 12: Thao and The Get Down Stay Down. Sinclair. When you see a video of this band playing live, you know you’re not getting it–the energy, the feeling that video just can’t capture. It’s been a while since they’ve been east, and I’m really glad they’ll be back.
April 14: Esme Patterson. Paradise Rock Club. Everything Esme Patterson does is gold. When she was singing with Paper Bird, when she performs with Shakey Graves, and her own solo work–it is all textured with her ability to be light and grave; powerful and understated. She’s opening this show for San Fermin.
There are so many shows not on this list. I’ve missed many that should be on our collective radar. Who are you excited to see in 2016?