This piece was all mapped out. A Molotov cocktail was going to be thrown into the face of 2015 to kick-start a diatribe in which I would methodically lay out all the negative things that happened to me during the last 12 months. The intent being to bury the past so intensely that I would have no choice but to believe that 2016 would be a catalyst for reinvigorating my sense of purpose as both a writer and person.
Faithful readers of this column, if there are any, have already read that story, though, because each of the last two year-end pieces have indulged in a very similar crisis of confidence. I was disconsolate over a series of unfortunate events that left me wondering why I even bother trying to make sense of it all. I had reached a point in my 27 years of living where I was ready to throw up my hands and stand at the edge of Lake Erie yelling, “Smite me, O Mighty Smiter,” but then everything changed. My son was born on Nov. 22, 2015, and, although the pessimism of that period will never be forgotten, it does seem less significant now. He doesn’t need that in his life and I’m finally beginning to realize that I don’t need it in mine.
It’s been said that writers tend to soften with age or the commencement of a major lifestyle change, but don’t expect that to happen anytime soon. There’s already too much slapdash journalism out there to go around and I owe it to my son to rage against that every step of the way. If anything, my work will only get sharper and more focused on elevating the collective standard, because I can’t trust anyone but myself to educate my son on the importance of quality pop culture.
Both he and our society at-large deserve as much.
The total number of shows was smaller than in past years, but the impact made by each one never wavered. With that, here’s a six-pack of concerts that stood out in 2015:
My Morning Jacket
This blazing set along the Niagara Gorge was as close to Bonnaroo as most western New Yorkers would get in 2015. Jim James and Co. made sure to leave it all on the stage.
Arkells, Robert DeLong, Milo Greene
The first Canalside show of the year was an immaculate blend of energy, diversity, and audience participation that illustrated just how far Buffalo has come in its quest for revitalization. Hamilton’s own Arkells never disappoint, but it was DeLong’s spirited effort that sent this evening over the top.
Slipknot, Lamb of God, Bullet For My Valentine
I’ve never been overly fond of package tours, but this one was special all around. Corey Taylor electrified the crowd with his all-or-nothing dedication to the cause while Lamb of God reasserted itself as one of the finest American metal bands on the scene today.
Pixies, John Grant
I couldn’t wait to cross the Pixies off my concert bucket list and the show was everything fans of the Boston indie legends could’ve hoped for.
Dead & Company
The best shows are those that make you feel as if you’re a better person for having experienced them and The Dead fit that bill. John Mayer’s seamless transition into the Dead universe was a revelation.
Straight No Chaser
It was Christmas in July when the Indiana University A cappella sensations made their way to Shea’s for a stunning vocal performance from all involved, but, unfortunately, every A cappella show from this point forward must live up to that standard.