1. The Arcade Fire
Nothing can be said to overemphasize the absolute showmanship of this clan of rambunctious Canadians who invaded Solar Culture. Watching a band that seems as personally invested in their music as their fans is a rare and wondrous sight to see. As emotional as they are talented, The Arcade Fire put on the best live show currently traversing the globe. Seriously.
2. Modest Mouse
These true veterans of the indie scene proved themselves well deserving of their recent accolades and expanding fanbase at Mesa Amphitheatre. Isaac Brock is as versatile and entertaining a frontman as any in music history and watching him lead his troops through dark country dirges and jittery disco jams is something to behold.
3. Bright Eyes
Connor dusted off his alt-country blues for a spin (literally. around Celebrity Theatre, and it was a drunken sight to behold. Yes, he tripped and fell off the drums. Yes, he smashed his guitar at the finale (a la The Who, a la Nirvana, a la cliché). Yes, girls went nuts and everyone was happy to be wide-awake and watching.
4. Kings of Leon
Not sold on Kings of Leon? Neither was I before I watched them rip the floor out from under my feet at City Limits. Caleb Followill, his brothers and cousin wailed through a ferocious and fun set of their brand of Southern garage rock. The banter was priceless, drunken hilarity, and the tunes were like a shot of unfiltered moonshine: raw and thrilling.
5. The Futureheads
Smart, fun and sharp-as-knives post-punk was the order when U.K.'s The Futureheads came to The Clubhouse in Tempe. The witty and sharply dressed boys from across the pond brought the noise and the funk. Never a sagging moment, this was easily one of the highest energy shows of the year.
6. Magnolia Electric Co.
Jason Molina and gang rolled into Plush to lay down some blue-collar rock that was amplified, heartbreaking and honest. Always the live band, Magnolia Electric Co. offered nice reworkings of classics and incorporated fan favorites.
7. The Blood Brothers
Seattle's finest hardcore group tore up Club Congress with hardly a break in the fury. Dual singers Jordan Blilie and Johnny Whitney tested their vocal limits, screaming and howling as the band perfectly backed them with their brand of thrashing, funky and strange apocalyptic noise.
8. The Sights
This Detroit three-piece performed their amalgamation of garage rock and Motown slide during a particularly inspired performance at Plush. They bounced through their rollicking and booty-shakeable songs with all the reckless abandon the young band showed in their (ahem. chemical intake.
9. Har Mar Superstar
The fat, balding, sweaty Har Mar packed in more laughing men and excited women than headliner Ben Lee at Plush. He and bandmates propelled through their set of slimy and vulgar R&B songs with him stripped down to his pants by the set's end. Disturbing? Sure. Fun? You bet.
10. The Deludes
I actually saw these guys as an opening act (Kings of Leon, Longview, The Sights. three times this semester and each time found myself impressed. This local garage-surf-rock band performs with enough energy to push the limits of any headliners. Equipped with songs (other opening acts take note. that sound remarkably different from one another, The Deludes provide some of Tucson's finest rawk (yes, spelled like that).