Top 10 music performances of 2014 shot by Mat Hayward

December 20, 2014

You want just one word to describe my experience with live music in 2014? That’s easy…“insane.” I was fortunate to be armed with cameras and memory cards for shows all around Washington State. I witnessed hundreds of bands in standalone shows and festivals throughout the yea r. The range of music was extraordinarily diverse. Many genres were covered this year.  Artists such as Judas Priest, George Strait, Elton John, Cher, Pharrell Williams, even a band called “I Pissed My Pants” featuring Will Ferrell, Chad Smith of RHCP, Brandi Carlile and Mike McCrea dy traveled to the Northwest to perform and I was given the privilege of photographing most of those show. Needless to say, I got to see some amazing performances this year. You can see many more photos on my website as well as my Facebook page
 I’ve given all of the performances I covered in 2014 some thought and have narrowed down my top 10 favorites. They are as follows….

#10: Austin Jenckes during the Watershed Music Festival at the Gorge Amphitheater August 2, 2014. Believe it or not, Watershed is my favorite festival to cover. I’m not a big country music guy but the vibe of Watershed is over-the-top fun. Aus tin Jenckes from Duvall, WA sat on a stool on the Whiskey Dick's stage and blew my mind. His voice is powerful, rich and beautiful. His engaging smile had a way of making you feel like you were in a living room just listening to him jam even though there were hundreds, if not thousands of people crowded around him. It was the biggest crowd I had seen on the smaller festival stage. I hope to see him on the main stage sometime soon.

#9: The Melvins and Le Butcherettes at Showbox Market October 19, 2014. Le Butcherettes singer Teri “Gender Bender” is known for going completely bat shit crazy out of her mind on stage. Every time I’ve seen her perform she exceeds that reputation in my mind. A couple of years ago I saw her perform with her other band Bosnian Rainbows at the Triple Door and ever since I’ve been borderline obsessed. When I saw that Le Butcherrettes were opening for the Melvins I couldn’t submit my request for credentials fast enough. As luck would have it I was given some time before the show to snap some “Behind The Window” portraits with Teri and also with Buzz from the Melvins. It was a genuine thrill for me as both were incredibly kind and equally photogenic :)
This was my first time seeing Le Butcherrettes perform and also the first time I had seen the Melvins on stage. Both performances were better than I could have imagined. The level of intensity was through the roof and the music was insanely good. I found myself dropping my camera intermittently and just taking in the show. It was a smart match between opener and headliner and I did not want either performance to end.

#8: Beck at Marymoor Park August 20, 2014. Beck has been one of my favorite artists for a very long time. This was the first time I had the opportunity to see him live and the show was everything I hoped it would be and more. He is truly amazing. 

#7:  Cage The Elephant rooftop EndSession August 27, 2014. There is nobody out there like Cage the Elephant. I’ve photographed them performing quite a few times over the past few years including shows this year during Sasquatch! Music Festival, headlining at Showbox Sodo and of course during Deck The Hall Ball. Every time I see them perform no matter how tired I am I find my energy soaring and get filled with the urge to jump and throw my fists in the air. I absolutely, 100% love every song they have produced. My friend GregR hooked me up with a great record player this year and the first album I went and bought was Melophobia. I listen to it constantly and not just because it’s the only record I own :)

 Because I have seen them on stage so many times and witnessed the intense stage dives, crowd surfing and all around thrashing that takes place on stage I was really impressed with how the intensity could be dialed back about 10 notches. The EndSession this year was so totally different than the Cage The Elephant performances I had seen before and since. Matt Shultz, Matthan Minster and Nick Bockrath visited the station on August 27. Myself and about 6 other people joined them on the rooftop deck where they performed a completely unplugged version of their new single Cigarette Daydreams. No mic, no amps, just two acoustic guitars, 3 stools and a strong voice. It gave me goosebumps. I know this wasn’t a traditional concert per se but as far as live music performances go for me, it was one of my favorites ever.

#6 The Kills were on fire at the Neptune Theater October 28, 2014. They are always great but this seemed to be at a whole different level. The show was sexy, rowdy, haunting, fun and damn near perfect in every way. The show was streaming live on Yahoo. You can watch it here:

#5: Deck The Hall Ball at KeyArena December 9, 2014: Any of the individual performances during Deck could easily be on my top 10 for the year but that would take the fun out of it right? Royal Blood, Vance Joy, Kongos, TV On The Radio, Young The Giant, Cage the Elephant, Weezer, Imagine Dragons. Are you kidding me? The lineup was unbelievable and every band was incredible. All day I was running back and forth from portraits and meet n greets to the main stage to catch what I could of the shows. It was non-stop action and once again proved to be one of my favorite days of the year. I'm already excited to shoot it again next year!

#4 Foo Fighters at Showbox November 29, 2014. This one is a no brainer. Foo Fighters at Showbox. What else is there to say? How often do you get to see a show like this at a club that size? They will be at the Gorge Amphitheater this year, it will be great but I don’t see how this experience gets topped.

#3: Chris Cornell and Tom Morello at El Corazon September 26, 2014. A benefit show in support of 15 Now. The club was about 100 times too small for the show. It was hot, it was sweaty, it was amazing. The chemistry between Cornell and Morello was great fun to watch and it was very obvious that they were having fun up there. No inhibitions, not trying to be cool, just pure rock.

#2: Super Geek League at Sasquatch! Music Festival May 23-25, 2014. This band is so badass they didn’t just play a show at Sasquatch! They commanded an entire stage all for themselves for the entire weekend and played nearly 30 times! I can’t tell you how much I love Super Geek League. You don’t “watch” a Super Geek League concert, it’s an interactive event. The band, fronted by the amazing Vy Agra is amazing and by themselves would be worth the price of admission to Sasquatch. But SGL isn’t just a band, there are so many things happening both on and off the stage during the show. Resident performers include stilt walkers, fire performers, acrobats, dancers, spin artists, and many other specialty acts and magical oddities. The challenge is to figure out where to look at any given time. There is so much going on it’s impossible to take it all in at once. Probably my favorite live music moment of the year was when bassist Pword Kelly jumped off the stage and ran up to me in the middle of the set shouting “Play My Bass!” I didn’t think he was serious at first but it quickly became obvious he was. I strummed the E string and Pword was off making memories for more fans.

Go see Super Geek League the next opportunity you have. You won’t regret it. Well, unless you are scared of clowns and/or pillow fights. Then you might. Something tells me these clowns will help you get over your phobia though. They are just different. Trust me.

#1: St. Vincent at the Moore Theatre March 26, 2014 was my favorite concert of the year. In my life I’ve never ever seen a human being play the guitar like Annie Clark. Her stage presence is intimidating yet mesmerizing at the same time which created a real conflict of emotions while watching her perform from just 3 feet away. I was scared, I was transfixed, I wanted to run away, I couldn’t look away. I laughed, I cried, I shed a single tear. Maybe some of that is true, maybe none of it. What is truth is that St. Vincent is an extraordinary artist. I hope she comes through town again and again and that she approves me for a photo pass every time. If you don’t have her self-titled album you should buy it. I’ve listened to it more than any other this year as I simply cannot get enough of her.

Happy New Year everyone! I'm looking forward to seeing you at some shows in 2015!

Mat Hayward
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