The Best Live Bands I’ve Seen

Articles | Jan 20th, 2007

I’ve been going to concerts steadily since my junior year of high school. I did see a few concerts before my junior year, but I didn’t start to go to ska and punk shows until 1996. My first concert was in 2nd grade (or 4th grade?), and that was Aerosmith and Guns N Roses.

Of course I was there to see GNR, and it was right after Appetite for Destruction was released. That was an awesome show to see! But it wasn’t until my very first ska show (Let’s Go Bowling, Sgt Scagnetti, Chris Murray, Lettuce Boy @ The Chance) that got me hooked to the ska and punk scene. I would go to concerts twice a week sometimes, and seen many shows across the Northeast. Now in my older age, I don’t get to see as many concerts because of money, time and that pesky thing called a job. Throughout my concert-going experience, there have always been a bunch of bands that I put at the top of the list for having the best live show. This article I’ll try to explain which bands you NEED to see. Though some of the bands don’t tour in America that much or aren’t together anymore. But here’s the list:

AquabatsThe Aquabats:
Who would have thought seeing a bunch of grown men dressed up as superheroes would be so amusing. The Aquabats started out as a ska band and ended up turning into a nerd rock band. One of the best moments of ANY concert that I saw would have to be seeing The Bat Commander doing back flips on top of the trailer stage at the Vans Warped Tour. And then JUMPING off of it into the crowd. I was just shocked that he didn’t crack his head open, but he is a superhero after all. I think they do fire stunts as well but I haven’t seen that yet. The Aquabats put on one of the funniest concerts I’ve seen!

Flogging MollyFlogging Molly:
The first few times I saw Flogging Molly, I was simply blown away. The band just went ape shit for each song, and each member gave it their best all the time. There’s just so many people in the band; it’s hard to watch just one person. Dave King’s vocals are really distinctive, and just the whole band is a bunch of top notch musicians. Depending on whether or not you like their music, Flogging Molly will make you either dance your brains out, or want to punch someone….or both. Check them out before they get EVEN more popular.

Gogol BordelloGogol Bordello:
Gogol is one of my new favorite bands and they are known for their amazing live shows and they certainly get the place moving. Frontman Eugene Hutz is eccentric and very lively the entire show. The guy shows no signs of ever slowing down and just keeps going & going. I think I’d drop dead after the second song the way he plays his guitar and sings. Every other song, two cute gypsy girls come out and do acrobatics, and fling stuff into the crowd. They also play a bass drum and the cymbals, as well as sing. The last song of the evening, Eugene and one of the girls in the band put the big bass drum on the crowd. The members get up there and perform on the drum, while everyone in the crowd is holding them up. Doesn’t get much more entertaining than that!

GwarGwar:
If you want to experience a live show where you may get pissed on, vomited on or maybe get a bunch of flying poo flung your way, then a Gwar show is something you need to check out. Oh but there is more! They bring out characters and usually chop them up and cut their fake arms and heads off with swords. Maybe Oderus (the singer) might skull fuck the Pope or kill other famous people. I never witness the killer hymen but I hear it’s quite the hilarious sight. Besides the extremely entertaining live show, I actually do like their music. I don’t like them as much as I used, but they certainly know how to rock out! And be sure to get up front and wear some of your nicest clothes too!

LevellersThe Levellers:
Yes, they may be my favorite band, but they also know how to put on a show! Just hearing the fiddle, along with the rest of the band is awesome. Then they bring out a dijeredoo player, who’s covered in body paint, and is quite colorful might I add. Just hearing that instrument alone gives me goosebumps. The band has been almost together for 20 years now and still jump all over the place and get the crowd moving. They also happen to have one of the strongest fan bases in the world, and one of the nicest as well. If you go to a Levellers concert, you know you’re going to have a great time and dance along to the music.

Mighty Mighty BosstonesMighty Mighty Bosstones:
The first time I saw the Bosstones, it was Halloween time in New York City and they performed the first few songs in skeleton costumes. That’s pretty freakin’ cool, but the band has always been great with their fashion. Of course you know they are (or were) bad in plaid! Dicky Barrett’s groggily voice, the sharp horn section, and Ben the Bosstone made the show very enjoyable. Who would have thought seeing a band member just dancing on stage the entire time would be so fun to watch. The Bosstones aren’t officially broken up but the outlook doesn’t look that hot right now for a reunion. Maybe one day they’ll get back together when they aren’t doing their own things anymore.

PilfersPilfers:
Sadly the Pilfers aren’t together anymore and it still saddens me. I don’t know how many shows I saw of the Pilfers but it definitely was in the double digits. Each show was great because the Pilfers was another band with so much energy. They were one of the few bands that knew how to work a crowd. Coolie Ranx was a fantastic showman, and the tag team singing style between Coolie and Vinny was the best in ska and punk music. Pilfer shows were one of the few shows I would go all the way up front to sing. I never do that but, for some reason, I had to do it for the Pilfers because I knew they did that so much during their sets. When they have their reunion show last year in November, I felt like a kid again. Singing along to their songs, getting smushed in the front, getting my head cracked open by Vinny’s trombone. Besides the Bosstones, this is another band I wish got back together.

PoguesThe Pogues:
Can’t have a ‘best live act’ article without mentioning another fave of mine, The Pogues. Shane MacGowan & company are playing more and more shows lately, and I managed to see the band 3 times in less than a year. Obviously the group was more energetic in their younger days, but that doesn’t stop me from mentioning how great they sound live. Shane MacGowan seems to be in rare (top) form as well, and as long as the lead singer shows up to the concerts, their massive following will too. Hearing the fun celtic rock music in person is fantastic, and seeing the whole crowd going crazy is another sight to see as well. Do yourself a favor and check out the Pogues live before they stop playing music. You have to treat each concert as it being their last.

*Honorable Mentions*:
Less Than Jake always put on a great show, and each time, they seemed like they played different songs. Plus, they always seemed to have people throwing out Pez, and other wacky things like yo-yo masters. I saw Madness back in the 90s, and I was really impressed with their show, just from seeing them one time. As soon as “One Step Beyond” came on, it was a wonderful sight to see the entire floor skankin’ to the song. Now, I know i’ve listed a lot of ska bands, but that’s because I felt those bands put on the best overall show. There are still a number of great punk bands I saw over the years that put on great concerts like The Bouncing Souls, Ignite, Subhumans, Pennywise and the Dropkick Murphys. There’s just something different about a ska, folk, or celtic band that makes them stand out in my mind.

I’ve seen a lot of shitty bands over the years, and I’ve seen a lot of good bands that put on a shitty set. But I’ll write about that some other time. But back to the list above, I’m sure everyone won’t agree with me on the choices I picked. I don’t know what to say except it’s my list and my opinions, and if you don’t like, tough!

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