Ben Braunstein’s year in live music

Check out CL music contributor Ben Braunstein’s list of favorite performances from 2015.

2015 was my sixth proper year going out to see live music. Although I always try to keep some sort of live music log, I’m still muddy on the actual number of shows I saw this year. Certain months were more dry than others, while other months were packed with three and four+ shows a week — I probably went to somewhere between 35 and 40 shows? A little down from previous years, which is intuitive; after a while of doing the same thing over and over, it’s easy to get bored and simply derive less enjoyment from it. And this comes from the guy who, in 12th grade, answered a writing prompt that asked “What is your safe place?” with “Concerts.” (Ah, privilege.)
? I’d like to say I was more selective about the shows I went to this year, but that would ignore the fact that I missed out on a lot of good shows. But the following nine are performances that really stood out to me, and will live on in my memory for years to come. Presented in rough order from least-best to best: 
? Invisible Things @ 529 (with To Live And Shave in L.A., Holly Hunt, and Dubb Normal) | May 23
? (live at the Spring Water Supper Club in Nashville)
? This experimental duo featuring Mark Shippy from U.S. Maple is interesting enough on record, but on the stage, they’re something else. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. Their drummer was maddening to watch!
? Null @ 529 (with MTN ISL, Muuy Bien, and Bataille) | April 22
? (live at Seasick Records in Birmingham)
? I first saw Null at 529 on a show with Jaye Jayle, the Liverhearts, and Illegal Drugs, and was absolutely blown away. Two months later, I saw them again at the same venue, and was no less blown away — if not more so. Which is exceedingly rare for me, given my knack for building up expectations. They don’t have music up online, save for a poorly-sounding demo, but a split with Self Defense Family should be released early next year — sit tight for that.
? Cinemechanica @ the EARL (with Big Jesus and the Powder Room) | February 28
? (live at the Caledonia Lounge in Athens)
? I remember my old friend Spencer told me about Cinemechanica in 7th grade. At the time, they hadn’t really blown up yet, if I recall? I don’t know if I ever listened to them then, but if we’re being honest, I probably wouldn’t have liked them anyway. That year was all about Slipknot. Now that I’m into math rock, however, I recognize Cinemechanica’s greatness, and I was excited to see them live. And, cliché time, they were so fucking great. I remember being more than a bit angry I had missed them so many times prior, but I won’t make that mistake again.
? Spray Paint @ the EARL (with Sluggas and Vincas) | October 20
? (live at Varholmsgatan 7 in Göteborg)
? I need to remind myself to watch drummers more often. This guy was absolutely brilliant! And the whole band sounded fantastic. Seriously, Spray Paint may well be my favorite discovery of the year. They’re coming back Feb. 15 to play 529, too. Save the date.
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? Yautja @ 529 (with Inter Arma, Rapturous Grief, and Dernier Combat) | April 16
? (live at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn)
? Tons of people rave about Yautja live, and for good reason. The last performance I saw from them, opening for Cult Leader at the EARL, was impressive enough, but this ... This, my friends, was phenomenal. And their drummer is just bonkers.
? YOB @ the EARL (with Witch Mountain and Strategic Warheads) | March 28 
? (live at Saint Vitus in Brooklyn)
? They played “Burning The Altar.” That is all.
? But yes, I did leave halfway through Swans to see them. I don’t want to think about it. It was the right decision, okay?
? Nate Hall @ 529 (with Order of the Owl, Sons of Toniatuh, and Canopy) | March 17
? (live at the Hi-Tone in Memphis)
? Perhaps it’s because I had just listened to the solo record from Dorthia Cottrell (who sings in the stoner/doom metal band Windhand), but I was expecting some kind of singer-songwriter to take the stage. Nope. The main dude from U.S. Christmas, led a fantastic psychedelic group called the Poison Snake. Only Hall’s name was listed on the bill, for some reason. The music was simply entrancing, and gave me trippy recollections of another psych-rock band I saw at the same venue a year ago, Dead Meadow.
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? Godflesh @ Terminal West (with Prurient) | September 11
? (live at Warsaw in Brooklyn)
? Save for Mourning Cloak, who played at the tiny, tiny 529, I’ve never seen a heavier band live. Godflesh well exceeded my expectations. Prurient, my favorite current noise artist, was brilliant, too.
? Swans @ Terminal West (with Little Annie) | March 28 ?

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Photo credit: Greg Cristman
This was my second time seeing Swans, and yes, everything you’ve heard is true. Seeing Swans live is an experience. My life is better off for having seen Swans, and I don’t say that about many bands. ?? ?? ?? ?
? Self Defense Family/Alex G @ the Masquerade (Creative Adult and Elvis Depressedly were also great)
? The Soft Moon @ The Mammal Gallery
? Thantifaxath @ the EARL
? Primitive Man @ 529
? Balcony View @ Eyedrum
? Pinkish Black @ 529
? Wovenhand @ Aisle 5 (Chelsea Wolfe was great on this show, too, as always)
? Neurosis @ the Masquerade
? TTNG @ the Masquerade
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? Rin Larping
? hoka no na
? Illegal Drugs
? Big Jesus
? Hawks (house show!!!)
? Dead Register
? Crawl
? Pallow
? Space Orphan (they covered “Dramamine” and that made me so happy)
? Motherfucker*
? The Powder Room*
? *Athens, technically, but they play here enough to qualify as a local band.
? Ben Braunstein is a freelance writer and former CL music intern. He’s also the former host of the WRAS/Album 88 shows “Manic Compression” and “Into the Void.” He recently graduated from GSU with a BA in Sociology.