Top 20 Concerts: From Kanye to Brahms, with tons of locals in between 

J.D. Swerzenski

San Antonio Symphony • Brahms Fest • Feb 15 • Majestic Theater
Two minutes into the opening swells of Brahms’ Concerto for Violin and Cello, violinist Vadim Gluzman strode to front center stage, clearly deep in some sort of trance. The orchestra subsided, and on cue Gluzman unleashed a breathtaking 15-minutes of soloing, both pyrotechnic and passionate. The classical world needs more rock stars like this guy.

Lonely Horse - My Desert Son EP Release Party • March 22 • Hi Tones
Primal is the cliché word I always seem to land on when trying to describe Lonely Horse, and I think this show may be to blame. A perfect storm of place, crowd and artist, it was a transfixing experience watching one of SA’s most powerful acts so completely in its element.

Brent Watkins Trio • Sound of the Trio • June 11 • Empire Theater
Showmanship is a sorely lacking trait in jazz shows, particularly in a genre that sometimes needs a bit of context and flair to connect beyond a diehard audience. Watkins’ “Sound of the Trio” tribute performance to pianist Oscar Peterson was as fine a case of jazz showmanship and top-level musicianship as I’ve seen this year.

Fishermen • June 15 • The Ten Eleven
The Fishermen project has been a long time in the works for singer/guitarist Edwin J. Stephens. This year is when everything seemed to coalesce, specifically at this incredible set. The undisputed highlight was when the band debuted the incredible “Fall,” which Stephens apparently scribbled out on his notepad earlier that day.

Marcus Rubio and the Slomo Drags • July 3 • 502 Bar
A double homecoming show of sorts, this bill featured the new project from long-time Cartographers leader Jackson Albracht, the Slomo Drags, along with a rare performance by now-LA resident Marcus Rubio, debuting a handful of new songs. Both acts brought it on home with fantastic showings.

Third Root • ‘Mind Elevation’ Mixtape Release and MLK Kickoff • Jan 20 • Limelight Music + Drinks
It’s not many acts that could throw an MLK party with grace. But then no musical act in town is better suited to carry Dr. King’s message forward than Third Root. Armed with the new mixtape Mind Elevation, Easy Lee and Mex Step delivered a stone-cold classic set, packed with plenty of guest appearances and some of their most lucid rhymes to date.

Christian McBride • Feb 9 • Jo Long Theater
Between Kenny Barron, Ronnie Laws and Terri Hendrix, the Carver did a helluva job bringing some great jazz to town this year. But they topped themselves with Christian McBride, who brought along his Inside Straight Quintet for this massively swinging show. Incredible as McBride and the band were, the real star turned out to be young vibraphonist Warren Wolf, who dominated the stage with his forceful, melodic presence.

Gary Clark Jr. • Maverick Music Festival • March 23 • Maverick Plaza
It’s about time SA got a festival that had its act together, and from the logistics, lineup, sound and venue, Maverick nailed it. It also featured a bona fide star in Gary Clark Jr. The blues wonder took no time in spellbinding the sold-out crowd, channeling equal parts Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jimi Hendrix and Shuggie Otis throughout his blazing set.

The J. Wesley Haynes Trio performing Radiohead’s ‘Kid A’ • March 27 • 502 Bar
The trio has been polishing their rendition of Kid A for well over a year now, meaning their performance at 502 for Indie Jazz Night was a thing of high precision. It also proved a fascinating deconstruction of the classic album, with the trio accentuating little touches like the polyrhythmic shuffle of “Morning Bell” and nimble bass work on “In Limbo” for maximum effect.

Tony Romero and the Spiders 5 • June 7 • Hi Tones
Compared to the typical stodginess of most jazz shows, the Spiders’ set at Hi-Tones was a complete shit-show (I mean that in the best possible way). The crowd sloshed Lone Stars on stage and egged on each soloist, the band responding in kind, playing their guts out for three solid hours. If only more jazz could be this punk rock.

James Woodard

Marriage • Oct 26 • Hays Street Bridge
Marriage is an Austin-based “drum ensemble” that recently played as part of the Resonant Interval concert series. The band placed contact mics on the bridge itself and used its beams as percussive instruments, along with many stand-alone drums, a drum kit and the usual guitar/bass/keys setup. It was raw and electrifying.

Michael Sharp • Nov 29 • The Ten Eleven
Mike hits the stage alone, sitting on a drum stool in front of a small wall of amplifiers, with his Telecaster and a few effects. From the first note, the room swells and expands with a rhythmic soft chopping of tremolo and delay. Every few measures, the loop repeats, and Sharp skillfully dances along the fretboard, adding layers upon layers of his kraut, psych and folk-infused guitar madness.

Vetter Kids • Anytime • Anywhere
Since the introduction of bassist Richard Garcia (formerly of Yes, Inferno), this band has become a well-oiled engine of hot rock. The trio is tight, energetic, infectious and incredibly fun. They smile the entire time they play, ham it up with the crowd and crank out masterfully arranged songs that are just as catchy and poppy as they are heavy. Absolutely one of the best bands San Antonio has to offer.

Ghost Police • Anytime • Anywhere
Ghosts Police is another SA band that keep one-upping itself with incredible energy, killer punk/hardcore songwriting and a confrontational, in-your-face stage presence. Frontman Steven Remigio plows through the crowd (usually half-naked) screaming about who-knows-what and the rhythm section bangs out incredibly tight blasts of fury and anger, all while guitarist Cameron Taylor noodles away at discordant and dissonant melodies and chords.

Deer Vibes • Mario and Michelle Trejo’s wedding • May 4
There are few bands that are appropriate to play at a wedding without being utter cheese. Deer Vibes is one of them. Being both jovial and somber, romantic and introspective, DV was the perfect band to play at the wedding of my dear friend (and bandmate) Mario and his wonderful bride Michelle. Besides the occasion, Deer Vibes is an incredible live band whose compositions are astonishingly lush and filled with energy and emotion. Go buy the Ventura EP. Now. –

Matt Stieb

Kanye West • Dec 8 • AT&T Center
Twelve nekkid-looking dancers, four masks, one white Jesus and one ice mountain that shoots fireworks! Much like the album, the Yeezus Tour was one of the strangest, most excellent and perfectly executed combinations of high and low art I’ve ever experienced.

Catholic Spray • Sept 18 • Collective
Parisian scuzz-punks Catholic Spray rocked the collective eardrums of Collective, stripped of its vintage merch, with Eets Feats and PBLC repping South Texas.

Chelsea Light Moving • March 12 • The Korova
If anything, it’s an affirmation of life to see Thurston Moore continuing to do what he loves, touring with Chelsea Light Moving after the (sad) divorce from bandmate Kim Gordon and dissolution (hopefully temporary) of Sonic Youth. That Chelsea Light Moving can wail is icing on the rock royalty cake.

Holy Wave, Flower Jesus Quintet, Creatura • Nov 23 • Limelight Music + Drinks
Austin psych-homies and staunch members of the Black Angels’ Reverberation Appreciation Society, Holy Wave brought their vibrations to the Strip to spar with our own psych scene.

Falloween • Oct 31 • Hi Tones
Need a lineup of the freshest bands this side of ATX in 2013? Look no further than Falloween at Hi Tones: Lonely Horse, Creatura, Deer Vibes, Last Nighters, Saakred and the list goes on.

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