Best in Show

Local shows that took our breath away this year

Rapper Macklemore gets up close and personal with his microphone during the sold-out Oct. 23 show at the Spokane Arena. - CHRIS BOVEY
Chris Bovey
Rapper Macklemore gets up close and personal with his microphone during the sold-out Oct. 23 show at the Spokane Arena.

Scott Kelly and the Road Home

Mootsy's | March 7

At the end of a heart-wrenching acoustic show by Neurosis frontman Scott Kelly and his side band, The Road Home, Kelly stepped up to the mic, looked at every single one of the two dozen or so patrons surrounding him and said, "I'd like to dedicate this song to you and your families, whatever that means to you. Whoever those people are to you. The people you look out for." The words were so real, so genuine, there was many a teary eye in the house as he launched into his gorgeous "We Burn Through the Night." And then, oddly, everyone ate birthday cake. (LEAH SOTTILE)

Tyler, the Creator & Earl Sweatshirt

Knitting Factory | May 8

Before the Tyler the Creator show practically upended the Knitting Factory last spring, I watched as a pair of parents scouted the place from their car with binoculars, looking for their young teenager who snuck of out of the house to go to the show (I know, because I asked them what the hell they were doing). Their fear might have been justified: Tyler and his cohorts squeezed every last drop of youthful optimism, energy and pure rage from that crowd. For young people, it was invigorating and inspiring — a wild, unhinged night that they alone owned. For their parents? Yeah, that would've been a scary sight. (LS)

Cathedral Pearls

Saranac rooftop | May 11

It was a night of all things local and creative — not just music, but film and spoken word performances, too. On a balmy May night at the public screening of films entered into the annual 50 Hour Slam competition, arts community movers and shakers filled the seats of the Magic Lantern Theater and spilled out onto the rooftop patio of the Saranac. The sky was black when charming indie quartet Cathedral Pearls took the stage, illuminated by glowing string lights and paper lanterns. As the band played its soulful music, the intimate crowd sang along and swayed in unison. A pair of maracas passed from hand to hand during the final song of the night, the infectious "Tin Can Phone." (CHEY SCOTT)

Haunted Horses

Mootsy's | May 31

The best show I saw in Spokane this year was one of the greatest live experiences I've ever had: Seattle noise rock trio Haunted Horses at Mootsy's. The true surprise gem of the Volume Music Festival, Haunted Horses were unlike anything else that night delivered — a deafening fury of calculated feedback locked into intoxicating grooves by chains of loop pedals. These dudes have as much control of their instruments as Eddie Van Halen, and they know how to work a crowd, too. An audible astonishment came as guitarist/vocalist Colin Dawson dropped his instrument and fell to his knees, pounding on his loopers with his bare hands. (JORDAN SATTERFIELD)

Terrible Buttons

Pig Out in the Park | Aug. 29

Terrible Buttons have a tendency to play to your ribcage. Their sound just feels alive. At their Pig Out in the Park performance, the resounding echoes of a heart pounding in time to a deafening trumpet solo gave me goose bumps. I clenched the grass in my fingers and wished I could cement the end of summer, the chill already bleeding into my fuzzy coat, in this moment. Singers Kent Ueland and Sara Berentson played a mixture of gothic folk, weaving stories that left the whole audience swaying. It was a seamless blend of new and old as they performed hits off their latest album and earlier EPs. At the end they thanked us; in return, we blared their tunes all the way home. (EMERA RILEY)

The Strangers

Luxe Ballroom | Aug. 31

For the under-21 scene, The Strangers, a jazzy rock band, were everything. Playing small cafes, art galleries and Volume, the group tested their abilities in 2013 and gained something of a cult following in the process. On the last night of August, The Strangers — Eric Kegley, John Haven, Isaac Grubb and Char Smith — played their final show in their hometown. Their last chance to give back to Spokane before leaving for Seattle, the boys gave their fans and friends a lasting memory full of dancing, singing and laughing. When the group gave their last "Bones!" to the crowd, everyone in the room echoed it back in unison. (KARA STERMER)

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis

Spokane Arena | Oct. 23

Homecomings are always a mixed bag. There's the excitement of getting to see everyone again. But there's the dread that it won't be like the old days. When producer Ryan Lewis showed up in his hometown with his better-known partner in crime, it absolutely wasn't like old times. Instead of a smaller venue like the Knitting Factory, where the duo played last year, they sold out the Arena. That night, among all those thrift store-attired teenagers and their mothers, I experienced a party of the highest order. Flexible dancers, Sonics jerseys, confetti, trombones — all there. My surprise at how well they pulled it off was genuine. Most likely, this was the best show the duo did on tour — other than the three in Seattle, of course. (LAURA JOHNSON)

Pony Time and Chastity Belt

Baby Bar | Nov. 4

Pony Time has made the trip here from Seattle at least four times in the least two years, but their show this fall at the Baby Bar was especially noteworthy. The noisy pop duo was on fire that night, blazing through more a dozen of their quick and scuzzy earworms with an impressive confidence. The fantastic Chastity Belt followed up with the grace of a band that's been playing shows for decades, churning out nearly every track from their lovely debut LP No Regerts (sic), with which I am now obsessed. (JS)

Nine Inch Nails

Spokane Arena | Nov. 19

There might be a time in your life when you might give up on music — think there's nothing left to hear, nothing more to add. And then you might go see Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails and get slapped across the face for thinking such ridiculous things. Reznor gave Spokane the gift of two dozen perfect songs spanning his 20-plus-year career and a brilliant, otherworldly light show to boot. It wasn't a concert: more like a resuscitation, and a reminder that sound and music can still be incredibly powerful. (LS)

Meat Puppets

The Hop! | Nov. 23

The young and old gathered to hear the Meat Puppets play their first show in Spokane in years. The mid-sized space of The Hop! was the perfect setting for a group that's rocked together since the early '80s, adding an intimate feel to the rambunctious set. The well-known songs were all there, but the deeper cuts easily kept everyone's interest. Curt Kirkwood was especially incredible; he's seriously one of rock's most underrated guitarists. The show was just magic. (LJ)

Pearl Jam

Spokane Arena | Nov. 30

You're probably getting tired of listening to me discuss Pearl Jam — how they should come to Spokane, why they're the great American rock band, how amazing their show turned out, etc.. But one last time — Pearl Jam's appearance at the Spokane Arena was the sort of thing that can revive one's faith in rock and roll. Eddie Vedder, drinking mightily from a massive bottle of wine from Spokane's own Townshend Cellar, brought the goods to a city more than 20 years removed from their last show. Native son Steve Gleason, battling ALS, put together the set list. It proved to be one of the best of the band's entire tour, replete with classics from Ten, rarities from Yield and even a couple of Van Halen tunes. When guitarist Mike McCready climbed into the stands to play the final notes of the show-closing "Yellow Ledbetter" right next to Gleason's wheelchair, it became impossible not to recognize that something special had happened here. (MIKE BOOKEY) ♦