Thank God. The end of 2016 has arrived. Yet, what a brilliant year we had in music. Brilliant doesn’t even do the year justice in terms of music – it was ecstatic, galaxy-imploding, historic. The line-up of Denver concerts was a beautiful thing in 2016. As music writers we came up with our top 16 concerts for you to reflect back on, sigh for the wonderful memory and then move on to find the next best show. Quite the cycle. Why do we spend hundreds of dollars on tickets for just one night (sometimes more) of music? It seems ridiculous right?

Wrong. So, so wrong. Here are our reasons below.

LCD Soundsystem @ Red Rocks, August 2-3

Photo by Ryan Good

LCD Soundsystem was easily my favorite show of 2016. Not only because I’m a huge fan and this was a big reunion for music, but also because the feeling of community that surged through the crowd. And of course, the stellar performance by James Murphy and crew. They played all of the hits (including “You Wanted a Hit”) and lit up Red Rocks with an enormous disco ball along with intense, colorful strobes. Murphy and Nancy Whang nailed their vocals and the crowd sang along in unison. Not only did we, a unified audience, come together for an unforgettable hour and half at Red Rocks – we created once-in-a-lifetime memories together and made some friends in the process. We laughed, we cried… we danced ourselves clean. – Tyler Harvey

Read our full review here

Chance the Rapper @ The Fillmore, Sept. 20

Photo by Will Sheehan.

Photo by Will Sheehan.

On September 20, Denver was graced with a stop by Chance the Rapper in support of his newest album Coloring Book. The show rose above all expectations from such an artist, including larger than life puppets singing along and a light show for the ages. Opening with “All We Got,” the night revved up to a perfect level that served each member of the crowd. A beautiful rendition of “Same Drugs” with Chance on the piano pushed the performance over the necessary amount of soul for one night. The track listing wasn’t all new songs, with “Coco Butter Kisses” bringing it back for the older fans. The night was made even more special with the with the unveiling that Chance recorded his a video for “How Great” backstage at the Fillmore before the show, an event that was covered exclusively by 303 Magazine. – Denby Gardiner

Read our full review here and our behind-the-scenes look at his filming of “How Great” at The Fillmore here. Go here to check out our full gallery by Will Sheehan. 

Deer Tick @ The Bluebird Theater, April 11

Photo by Kenneth Coles

Deer Tick performed at The Bluebird in April of this year, but this was no ordinary set. The Providence, RI group played an entirely acoustic show with a standing orchestral bass, multiple acoustic guitars, an organ and even a flute. Vanessa Carlton, singer/songwriter and wife of frontman John McCauley, even made a surprise appearance performing a charming duet with McCauley (fun fact – Stevie Nicks officiated their ceremony). In an impressively long performance, the group played approximately 25 songs including favorites like “Ashamed” and “Twenty Miles.” At points they were hilarious, sometimes breathtaking and sometimes downright heartbreaking. McCauley’s grungy yet soulful voice was accentuated allowing the audience to feel the emotion in his words whether it be rage, passion or regret. Deer Tick showed us the various facets of their music all while spotlighting their talent for acoustic instrumentation in this unforgettable Denver performance. – Tyler Harvey

Read our full review here

STRFKR @ The Gothic, Nov. 17

Drag, astronauts crowd-surfing and flashing lights – STRFKR was an example of live entertainment at its finest. Shining bright with a unique and upbeat stage presence, they also played some damn great music. Featuring songs from their new album Being No One, Going Nowhere as well as a diverse arrangement of tracks from their previous albums, their Gothic performance hit the spot for fans and newcomers alike. Joshua Hodges sported drag for the entire show–a blue sequins dress, black wig and circular shades. A few dancing astronauts grooved around the stage with the band members, joined the crowd at points and even stage-dived onto an inflatable boat held up by the audience. The band truly entranced the audience into dancing the night away. Adding an intimate touch, and in the usual STRFKR fashion, they stuck around after the show to meet fans and sign merch–Hodges still in drag. – Tyler Harvey

Read our full review here as well as our Q&A with STRFKR here.

Sufjan Stevens @ Red Rocks, July 18

Photo by Meg O'Neill

Photo by Meg O’Neill

Mystical, mysterious and a little bit religious, Sufjan Stevens took a dreary night in Morrison during July and turned it into his own lyrical prophecy. While hipsters lamented as Stevens gave only a handful of his acoustic hits, the rest of the crowd enjoyed the raucous energy he created – and the journey through his vast discography. He played songs from Carrie and Lowell, a melancholic yet beautiful album dedicated to his deceased mother, interesting mixes from the eclectic Age of Adz and of course, theatrical riffs from the infamous The Avalanche. Stevens fit incredibly well into the Red Rocks vibe, and gave us a convergence of both the spiritual and electronic lush we love. It made one of my top concerts because it stroked my former hipster feathers and satisified my obsession of those who mastered both the art of performance and instruments. – Taylor Heussner

Read our full review here. Go here to check out our full gallery by Meg O’Neill

Seu Jorge @ The Gothic, Nov. 18

Photo by Ryan Good

Seu Jorge’s supremely intimate show at the Gothic was less of a concert than a visit with an estranged friend. Between crooning David Bowie tracks, adapted to Portuguese for Wes Anderson’s famed The Life Aquatic, the Brazilian musician interweaved tales of how he ended up playing the character of Pelé dos Santos in the film, alongside the likes of Bill Murray, Jeff Goldblum and Owen Wilson. Seo Jorge was outfitted in full Team Zissou regalia—red beanie and all—as he sat perched on a stool with his guitar, strumming along to the melodies of Life On Mars, Rebel Rebel, Space Oddity and other favorites, tempting the audience to sing along in his native tongue. We stood rapt and attentive, hanging on each soulful chord. The songs were stripped of their Wes Anderson whimsy there on stage that night, which was the first time they’d ever been performed live in front of an audience. – Allison Cohn

Read our full review here. Go here to check out our full gallery by Ryan Good.

Machine Gun Kelly @ Summit Music Hall, Oct. 3

Hands down the best show I went to in 2016 was Machine Gun Kelly and Mod Sun at the Summit Music Hall on October 3. There’s a reason I went and saw MGK twice last year and plan on making it to his show again next month. He is an amazing live performer and puts his all into every performance. His fan base is always ready to party so the energy in the crowd was through the roof. His latest album performed very well, managing to send him on multiple different promo tours throughout last year. The show was amazing and the energy level was insane as MGK performed his latest turn up tracks like “Young Man” and even performed a brand new remix of a Sublime song, released on the same day of the Denver show. Mod Sun and MGK put on a show to remember that night and the building got very hazy as the known stoners blazed up with the rest of Denver’s stoner community. At this point, MGK could probably come to Colorado four different times next year and I’ll be there at every opportunity. – Josh Cowden

Read our full review here. Go here to check out our full gallery by Jackie Collins

Death From Above 1979 @ The Ogden Theater, Oct. 17

Any good music fan always has a running list of “dream shows” they want to see in their lifetime. It often is filled with big names, iconic bands and performers that are either hard to track down or impossible to get tickets to see. This list changes frequently—if not daily for some of us. But no matter the changes, if you have an opportunity to see a “dream show” past or present you go. This is what happened to me earlier this year when I found out Death From Above 1979 was coming to town. I immediately bought tickets, cancelled my plans and saw the show that same night. And while this band was definitely on my high school version of “dream shows” circa 2006, I still loved their music and was stoked to see them (especially because they’d broke up during the peak of my fan girl phase). With such high expectations and so much time since I’d first heard their music, I figured there was a high possibility I’d be disappointed. Luckily, I was not. The band put on a flawless show and churned out their neck breaking “death metal goes pop” tracks with absolute precision. What was more impressive though, was how the two-person band was able to create such big, almost oppressive, sounds between the two of them. By the end of the night, not only had I seen one of the best shows that year, I’d felt like a little piece of teenage me was actualized. – Brittany Werges

RÜFÜS DU SOL @ The Gothic, Nov. 19-20

Photo by Will Sheehan

RÜFÜS DU SOL was as much as a journey as it was a concert. Weaving in and out of their breakthrough album Bloom, RÜFÜS DU SOL led the crowd in unified search for something deeper than the sound. There is something to be said for the beauty in how RÜFÜS  candidly interacted with each other inviting the audience to do the same. Over plush grooves and intoxicating beats, the show was less about seeing and more about feeling. Thus, when the journey concluded, what we found was a sense of comfort and respect in a room full of strangers, and it was a truly powerful thing.  – Kori Hazel

Read our full review here as well as our Q&A with RÜFÜS DU SOL here. Go here to check out our full gallery by Kiddest Metaferia

Ty Segall and The Muggers @ The Gothic, March 13

Photo courtesy of Danielle Webster

Sometimes you just need a head bangin’, mosh pittin’, stage divin’ night at the Gothic. And sometimes, it happens with Ty Segall rocking out on stage. He came to Denver last spring and fed the garage rockers of 303 with his album Emotional Mugger. He let out his creepy baby-faced alter ego “Sloppo” and acted out a theatrical performance with his band. A carnival ride dripping in punk vibes and dirty rock, the crowd roared with the ripping guitars and ear-splitting drums as tequila was sloshed back. It was a grimy, grungy night – and I loved it. Segall was expressive and adored his fans as he jumped out into the crowd; he gave us Denverites the hope that grunge rock will never, ever be squashed out from the tides of music. – Taylor Heussner

Read our full review here

Die Antwoord @ The Fillmore, Sept. 26

Photo by Meg O’Neill

Beyond the incredibly entertaining show, this concert was a special moment for Denver and Die Antwoord. Not only was it the South African group’s final tour as Die Antwoord and potentially their last Denver performance, it was also Ninja’s birthday. And boy, did they celebrate. Yolandi even sang “Happy Birthday” with the crowd at one point. She spent the rest of the show going through costume changes, slapping her ass and dancing around the stage. DJ G.O.D, or sometimes called DJ Hi-Tek, had the opportunity to drop a few beats and mix some party hits in between the Die Antwoord singles and other favorites. Ninja couldn’t stand still, constantly hyping up the crowd whether by headbanging, humping the air or jumping into the crowd. This sold-out show at the Fillmore was one for the books. – Tyler Harvey

Read our full review here. Go here to check out our full gallery by Meg O’Neill

Bonobo DJ Set @ Beta Nightclub, Oct. 6

2016 has been a year full of great live music in the Denver area. Choosing a favorite show is not easy, but when I think along the lines of seeing a world-class act in a very intimate venue, Bonobo shoots to the top of my list. Bonobo is an UK musician, producer and DJ with a very innovative and signature sound, and his appearance at Beta’s “Future Thursday’s” exemplified how progressive of an artist he is. The show was complimented by the high-class funktion one speakers home to Beta, and showcased Bonobo’s ability to bring listeners on a roller-coaster ride of live music. Bonobo played a lot of his renowned songs, like “Cirrus” and “Kiara,” but brought listeners into unchartered territory as his DJ set began to mix songs I had never heard played before. The evening was a journey into a different kind of house, something my friends and I deemed to be jungle house. The crowd fed off the immense energy this musician brought to Denver, and it truly resonated with me as one of the best sets of the year. The exposure to new music, mixed within the old tracks, was a beautiful marriage of sound, and for that reason, Bonobo takes the prize on the best DJ set.  – Mike Nickels

Read our full review here.  

Sigur Rós @ Ellie Caulkins Opera House, Sept. 27

Photo by Andrew Duffy

I fall in love with music that is able to make emotions tangible, and the band Sigur Rós has mastered translating emotions into sound. Hailing from Iceland, their lyrics are foreign, sometimes consisting of made up words, but their sound is accessible. Sitting in the plush seat at the Opera House, I found myself utterly transfixed to their light show and instruments, forgetting about the outside world for a couple hours. They played songs from Valtari, Kveikur, Takk and (Untitled) but even typing out the names seem wrong. It is an experience that is meant to be heard, not read. Lead singer Jónsi Birgisson played his guitar with a cello bow, while the other members coordinated the electronics, guitar, drum and piano. Nostalgic, disruptive and peaceful – all these emotions from just one night at the Opera House. It’ll be a musical memory that I can always re-enter and enjoy. – Taylor Heussner

Read our full review here. Go here to check out our full gallery of the first night by Andrew Duffy.

Dead & Company @ Folsom Field, June 3-4

There are always ways in and around Denver to get your Grateful Dead on. Between the four remaining members of the band and their numerous side projects, official tribute bands, or just a “special evening featuring the music of,” there’s never a shortage of Deadhead-ed music. What made Dead & Company’s two-night run this past Fourth of July weekend was the location. CU-Boulder’s Folsom Field hasn’t hosted anything but football since the late ’70s, when Jerry Garcia was still among us and led the band at the stadium. These are some of the most infamous events in Grateful Dead history, and the re-creation of those days long ago were insurmountable in every way. These July concerts were the love-child of Nostalgia and rock ‘n’ roll. – Emma Polachek

Drake @ The Pepsi Center, Oct. 1-2

Photo by Glenn Ross

Have you ever had a moment in your life when you took a step back and thought: wow – I’m a bad bitch, I’ve made it. Yeah, I’ve had like two of those moments. One was when I won a pokemon gym back when that was booming this past summer and gleefully shamed the little kids in my neighborhood. The second was when Drake took the stage and I was there to see him kill it in all his hip-hop Canadian glory. He performed a menagerie of hits, cutting pieces of songs from all his albums, like Views, Take Care, If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late, Thank Me Later and all the other goodies. The crowd was energetic, the lights – and fire, there was flaming balls of fire, people – took over and Drake crooned the night way. I get it, he attracts a female audience. But there’s a reason he’s a millionaire, there’s a reason people stream his music. And it’s because he’s a damn good performer. – Taylor Heussner

Read our full review here. Go here to check out our full gallery of the first night by Sina Ghozati and here for the second night by Glenn Ross.

Lindsey Stirling @ Red Rocks, Oct. 5

Photo by Meg O’Neill

The best show I saw all year was Lindsey Stirling at Red Rocks on October 5. Not only was the music deep and emotionally moving, but the choreographed and interpretive dancing with her fellow violinists gave the feel of a play or theatrical performance. This show epitomized what live music should be at its very core – inspirational. There was a heartfelt speech Stirling gave towards the end of her performance about losing her best friend Gavi to cancer and how she found inspiration through his spirit and used music to overcome sorrow. Also noted were her criticisms on the show America’s Got Talent, which was something she put behind her and overcame. During a soft point in the show, Stirling and her two musical counterparts played tiny children’s instruments while sitting down together in a mini-triangle.  There was even a comedic interlude when she went back stage for a few minutes and a pre-recorded skit was shown on a large screen. In it, it forecast everything that could go wrong during her brief intermission doing exactly that. She also performed two incredible magic tricks, one of which saw her appear in an empty box that was very briefly veiled by fabric. Even her chihuahua came out on stage to perform a trick. Stirling redefined what a concert is and can be by fundamentally approaching her craft with an open heart and a limitless repertoire of talents.  – Kevin Glenn

Go here to check out our full gallery by Meg O’Neill.

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