As I sit here pondering whether the gaping hole in my finances has been inflicted by buying inordinate amounts of stuff containing more sugar that the sane mind can conceive, or perhaps gifts that I am not sure the targeted individual will like, or maybe just maybe, concert tickets, I must finally conclude that, as much as I want to blame Christmas, it must be the concerts. A careful what you wish for moment, then, as just a couple of years back I was moaning about the lack of exciting offerings in Budapest- well, 2017 came at me with a vengeance, and 2018 seems to up the stakes. Truly, I always preferred even years, as they mean footballing tournaments, and me collecting Panini stickers and you know, bankruptcy reloaded.
But let us not stray away too much from the main topic, here comes a totally subjective (but unmistakably expert) list of the best concerts of 2017.
The Surprise Package. Out of the three shows I attended in February, Astronautalis was the one I picked basically on a whim, because I liked the poster, which poster had a ginger man on it and I said yes well, this should be a blast. And it was, also introducing me to the more intimate setting of Dürer’s room 041, which fits lesser known artists better and allows their die-hard fans to create an atmosphere which might be elusive on the larger stage. Also, this was the year when Dürer really gave A38 a run for its money in terms of intriguing concert programming.
The Totally Timely Club Concert. Another often voiced complaint is how big acts never make it to Budapest at their most relevant- Lord deliver us from the umpteenth Queen+Adam Lambert, and much as I love them, the umpteenth Depeche Mode. But this summer we got Cigarettes After Sex right in the wake of the much-awaited debut album, which these days consistently lands on best of lists, and it was duly sold out, atmospheric and super cool in the middle of the long hot summer. Incidentally, I want both things back, the concert, and summer.
The Almost Jam Session. Every now and then going to a concert becomes almost a hassle: got to get there on time, queue at the wardrobe, try to secure a good spot, soldier through the opening act, bravely battle the crowd for a pint, have the pint spilled on you, stand too close to the loudspeakers and go temporarily deaf or stand too far and hear frankly nothing. Thomas Dybdhal’s A38 terrace bar gig was the perfect antidote to all that- you just showed up at the boat, listened to a very pleasant man very pleasantly play a guitar, pleasantly had some wine in the pleasant breeze and then pleasantly walked home on the pleasant Danube promenade.
The Away Game. Could be the best Arena show as well, though Budapest doesn’t excel at that category, at least in the genres which interest me, and that’s probably why the title must absolutely go to Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds who played in Belgrade’s Kombank Arena. I won’t mince words here, it was a thing of sheer beauty, both uplifting and heartbreakingly sad, the kind of concert which functions as some sort of holy mass for those who don’t, can’t, won’t fully believe in an interventionist God. No pictures, sadly, because Arena environments are mean to photographers (everyone is these days, so I got myself a place on the terrace for Queens of the Stone Age, lest I veer to close to Josh Homme’s boot) and because I am still not convinced by phone photos, much as Nick and the gang tried to promote them, creating another online shitstorm.
The Safe Bet. Good bands play good concerts, except when they don’t, but even then, their concerts are better than average. So I’ll say it without thinking twice: I assumed that the The Horrors would be the year’s best club concert right from the moment the gig was announced, had to wait until the end of November for it, and then got proven right. Triggerfinger were up in the running, but this time, perhaps due to Ruben Block’s mighty battle with the sniffles, somehow fell short of a real blast. The Horrors also brought along the best opening act of the year in Mueran Humanos, which made he night doubly worth the wait.
+1 The Most Disappointing Concert. For there must be one, and this year it was definitely Agnes Obel, who just somehow could not get into the flow in Akvárium, or we did not get into hers- suffice to say, this was the one show I expected much more of, but failed to deliver.