Music has always been a staple in my life, so seeing my favorite bands perform live is extremely cathartic and fun as hell. While there are still so many great touring musicians that are unchecked on my must-see list, there are also quite a few that I have been lucky enough to enjoy alongside a crowd of equally-enthusiastic fans. These are the 10 bands whose rock shows have impressed me the most.
10. Taking Back Sunday
If I had one word to describe a Taking Back Sunday show, it would be nostalgic. These Long Island-bred emo rockers mix throwbacks and new tunes in their sets to create an emotional connection with fans. Whether it was at Warped 2012 or their 2015 headliner, lead singer Adam Lazarra let loose with old favorites like “MakeDamnSure,” “Cute Without the E,” and “Number Five with a Bullet,” and being in the crowd for those is a blast. This makes it all the more meaningful when the band pulls back on a more serious note with newer songs like “Better Homes and Gardens.”
9. The Fray
No one can deny their love for classic Fray hits like “You Found Me” and “How To Save a Life,” and the band delivers these with a sense of pride and unity. They seem to bring a whole stadium together through music in an overall heart-warming experience. When I saw them in 2012, they energized a packed Nikon Jones Beach Theater, one of my favorite venues closest to my hometown.
This band hits audiences with light-hearted fun, beach balls included. They have so many popular jams that they had to compose a five-song medley, including songs like “Hashpipe” and “Keep Fishin,” on their 2016 summer tour with Panic! At the Disco. It’s downright impossible to not sing along.
7. Four Year Strong
These guys are wild, bearded beasts on stage, but do not be intimidated. They’re just looking for everyone to have a good time. The energy between all four members resonates as they pound through songs like “Go Down in History” and “Gravity” and send stage divers flying into the crowd.
6. Panic! at the Disco
A shirtless Brendon Urie does backflips and belts “Bohemian Rhapsody.” What more could you ask for?
5. Motion City Soundtrack
I am biased, as this is my favorite band of all-time. They recently completed their “So Long, Farewell” tour, commencing a 19-year career. They are true fathers in the pop-punk world and will be missed. All I can say is that their shows reflected who they were as a band: not just talented, but dedicated as all get-out. During their last show at Irving Plaza, lead singer and guitarist Justin Pierre stumbled through “Antonia,” a song none of us really remember all the lyrics to but love anyway, all because a fan requested it earlier during their acoustic session.
4. Brand New
On the flip side, Brand New is a band I only began listening to recently (a real loss, I know). Their headlining performance this past fall blew me away, even if I wasn’t familiar with much of the set. The dynamic nature of their songs, many off their 10-year-old album “The Devil and God are Raging Inside Me,” made for really powerful moments, intensified by some awesome stage-lighting.
3. Reel Big Fish
I swear no one knows how to have a blast onstage like Reel Big Fish does. Even in the hot air of a Warped Tour date in mid-July, this ska-punk band stayed hyped, spinning in circles while keeping perfect tune of their saxophones, trumpets and trombones. Lead singer Aaron Barrett cracked jokes and the band had the crowd dancing for their hits “All I Want is More” and “Sell Out.”
Whether it was with Tom Delonge or Matt Skiiba, you better believe Blink brought it. In summer 2011, they shredded through the classics, with Delonge and Mark Hoppus bantering between songs. In 2016, nothing felt different despite the line-up change, aside from a slew of new songs from their newest album “California” that gave their punk-rock show more of a stadium-vibe. One thing is for certain: Travis Barker always amazes and is a drummer you need to see live to believe his talent.
I have still yet to see a band who has played a more passionate show than Fun. in July 2013. Opening with “Some Nights: Intro,” closing with “Stars,” and playing most of their two-album collection in between, the band didn’t miss a beat–every song was its own performance. Lead singer Nate Ruess melded his wide-ranging vocal chops with energized synth that screamed, well, pure fun. So here is my plea: return to us, Fun. We need you back and I need to take all my friends to your next gig.