1. The Avett Brothers (August 29-31, Brooklyn Bowl) Three nights of foot-stomping bluegrass with hardly any repeats and tons of surprises.
2. ††† (March 28, Hard Rock Live) If the Deftones were Borg-style assimilated by a self-aware android DJ, it would be this impressive Chino Moreno side project.
3. Animals as Leaders (March 29, Extreme Thing) These instrumental prog-rockers are unlike any other band in the hardcore metal scene, and that’s a very good thing.
4. Tycho (October 25, Life Is Beautiful) The instrumental electronic act’s live show is mellower than a nap in a cloud, which is exactly as it should be.
5. Mercy Music (January 25, Double Down Saloon) The Las Vegans’ first performance as a full band was the highlight of a SquidHat Records showcase that helped land them a distribution deal with the local label.
1. Jimmy Cliff (July 22, Brooklyn Bowl) The boundlessly energetic reggae legend gave us a mesmerizing set that spanned the history of the Jamaican genre.
2. Lauryn Hill (May 14, Brooklyn Bowl) She started late, of course, but when she got going it was fire—solo hits and Fugees classics delivered in powerful voice.
3. The Drums (October 12, Bunkhouse Saloon) Jonny Pierce & Co.’s communal indie dance party is always one of the most fun nights on the concert calendar.
4. The Roots (October 25, Life Is Beautiful) The standout performance at a fest that also featured strong showings from J. Roddy Walston and the Business, Lionel Richie and St. Paul & The Broken Bones.
5. John Fogerty (October 17, the Pearl) So many hits played so well with so much gusto. Rock ’n’ roll will never die.
1. Kraftwerk (July 28, the Chelsea) The electronic godfathers served up a history lesson with a twist—3D visuals that infused the seminal material with fresh energy.
2. Deafheaven (March 29, LVCS) A show that could have easily skipped Vegas didn’t, and as waves of intense, metallic sound washed over me, I thanked the universe.
3. DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist (September 29, Brooklyn Bowl) True, it wasn’t a “live” set in the traditional sense, but I simply can’t leave this tribute to hip-hop icon Afrika Bambaataa—featuring his own record collection and a killer video companion show—off my list.
4. Bob Mould (September 30, Bunkhouse Saloon) No matter what happens with the Bunkhouse from here, we’ll always have Bob, and his Hüsker-heavy setlist.
5. Tame Impala (November 13, Brooklyn Bowl) It’s fitting that Brooklyn Bowl takes two of my five spots this year, considering how much time I spent at its Linq location for clutch bookings like these Aussie psych-rockers.
1. Phish (October 31, MGM Grand Garden Arena) Three sets (and an encore) of transportive and masterfully executed improvisational rock—including an otherworldly update of an old Disney Halloween album—that dropped jaws, moved hips and no doubt changed concert-brag lists for nearly every lucky attendee.
2. Spoon (June 26, Brooklyn Bowl) It’s hard to imagine the Austin rock band being more on point, more swinging, more versatile—or more enthusiastic to be playing in Las Vegas—than during the first of its three-night stand at Brooklyn Bowl.
3. Tycho (October 25, Life Is Beautiful) If the San Francisco act’s rhythmic, instrumental post-rock wasn’t gorgeous enough, it was enhanced by a crystal-clear PA system—a festival rarity—and a well-timed sunset.
4. Deafheaven (March 29, LVCS) Another group known for its (albeit unconventionally) beautiful music made by the Bay, Deaf-heaven swept its tiny audience up in its clamorous and emotionally dynamic deluge.
5. Man Man (February 21, Backstage Bar & Billiards) If Deafheaven’s racket was a clamorous one, the tireless members of Philadelphia’s Man Man created a lively and joyful reverie in theirs.
1. The Breeders (September 15, Bunkhouse Saloon) Kim and Kelley Deal, oh, how I love you. Unmistakable harmonies, understated grunge-pop guitar licks, a “Happiness Is a Warm Gun” cover and “Doe” (my all-time favorite)? I’ll never forget this show.
2. Jenny Lewis (October 24, Life Is Beautiful) With a mix of new cuts, older solo gems and Rilo Kiley classics, Lewis’ set was strong, earthy and gritty enough to make me fall in love all over again.
3. Violent Femmes (October 11, Wine Amplified) Gordon Gano’s voice sounds like it did more than 20 years ago, and the rest of the guys are right there with him—wily, spontaneous and energetic as ever.
4. Kitze + The CPUs (September 25, Bunkhouse Saloon) Kid Meets Cougar fans miss Las Vegas’ make-you-feel-good dance duo, but Brett Bolton’s solo debut, equipped with his homemade visuals, brought us back to that happy place.
5. Love Pentagon (July 5, Backstage Bar & Billiards) The last time this Vegas quintet reunited was the night I found out who they were. Four years later, there’s no doubt these women set the bar.