The Best Live Acts Of 2014

Whether you’re at an outdoor festival, a loaded stadium, an intimate club, or a rowdy house show, few experiences are more cathartic and life-affirming than seeing your favourite band live. We asked our Demo contributors to share their favourite concert experiences.

Basia Bulat at Massey Hall

Photo via NOW

Photo via NOW

Ever since I experienced my first concert there as a thirteen year old, I’ve known that there is something special about Massey Hall. Whether it be because of the stained glass windows, the unbeatable acoustics or just the unique atmosphere, Massey has since been my favourite venue. Basia Bulat, the lovely and talented Toronto-based folk singer, played there in July as part of the Live at Massey Hall concert series. For her encore, Basia decided to try something different; she played the sparsely beautiful “It Can’t Be You” with just her charango and no microphone. Her stunning voice echoed through the hall with no difficulty, which was when I truly realized just how magical the historic Toronto venue really is. – Carey Roach

Boris at Lee’s Palace

Photo via Live in Limbo

Photo via Live in Limbo

I’ve been waiting to see the Japanese metal trio Boris since I was 14. The first time they came to Canada, they skipped Toronto to play Hamilton. The next time, I was just a few months shy of 19. And the time after that, their North American tour included Mexico, but not Canada. So needless to say, their show at Lee’s Palace this summer was a long time coming for me. Even with earplugs, their riffs were so loud I felt them in my bones. Wata is probably the most skilled guitarist I’ve witnessed live, and Takeshi, with his hybrid guitar/bass contraption, is a sight to behold. But Atsuo, the drummer, stole the show in the encore, smashing the gong behind him, before standing on his drum kit and activating an effect pedal (which can only be described as “Merzbow in a box”) and diving into the crowd. – James Li

Broken Social Scene at Fort York

Photo via Angelo Mateo

Photo via Angelo Mateo

Taking photos with the members of Broken Social Scene at Field Trip Festival 2014 and getting flipped off in a photo by Brendan Canning, just before seeing the band reunite and play another show. – Angelo Mateo

Childish Gambino at the Sound Academy

Photo via BlogTO

Photo via BlogTO

I don’t think that this was just the best concert experience of this year, but maybe one of the best ones I will have ever. It wasn’t just watching some dude rap in front of you for a couple hours; it was a complete sensory experience. There was the app that got you to interact with the visuals and content of the concert, but oddly enough I think was also structured so that you wouldn’t be on the phone the whole time. That had a lot of potential and was really cool; it was just disappointing to see that so many people just drew dicks and swastikas. There was this tweet-type thing where you could send a message to display on the screen. I sent “i skipped my goldman sachs interview for this”. The pre-show was wild with Chance the Rapper’s DJ. Then when Childish was about to start the whole CGI room thing happened, 99% of people were high out of their minds so everyone was blown away. Oh and there was this metaphysical electronic lady voice that was a blob that spoke at the beginning and at times in between some songs, that was reminiscent of the Yeezus tour for me. Still very cool.

So he started, he sat in the middle of the stage playing the piano with his mic off, singing and yelling. Then it went dark and all of a sudden he was up there, rapping Crawl. I was so close to the front and he stood there and stared into my eyes and made this crazy face and his head was tilted back and I half-excepted his eyes to roll back into his head but he just rapped while staring into my eyes it was such a beautiful moment I grabbed my head and for a full ten seconds Donald Glover and I were interlocked in this moment and it was beautiful. The show continued, there was a CGI threesome sex scene at the beginning of “the worst guys”; crowd went wild. All of Gambino’s friends and friends’ groupies sat on couches behind the band. They served a purpose too, they weren’t just there to keep smoking copious amounts of weed and chill out. At the end of “the party”, to go along with the lyrics Childish kicks them all off stage. “Flight of the navigator” was so damn beautiful. There was CGI rain falling and Childish was serenading everyone. I got lost in the roughly six minutes of this song. I was just staring at this “rain” falling on his silhouette and I thought I was floating in the air. I wanted to be in that moment – not forever, but something close to it. “Urn” was beautiful also. The show continued, he finished doing the album. He did some oldies; the crowd went wild. There was appropriate CGI fire, his brother Steve G came out to rap too.

All in all, this concert was wild. It forced you to do more than just stare and listen to some dude rap. This’ll sound stupid but it got you to feel too. It forced you to understand the point of the album, the point of everything that he was doing at the time, and is doing now. It made you think, feel, and make sense of his art and message and it left you in this euphoric state that was hard to shake until you opened your eyes the next morning. But even then it still lingered. – Sayem Khan

Mac DeMarco at the Danforth Music Hall

Photo via Live in Limbo

Photo via Live in Limbo

Mac DeMarco is infamous for putting on a wild, sloppy show, and his stint at the Danforth was no exception. From his extended crowd surfing and climbing up onto the balcony of the venue, to his covers of Kelis’ “Milkshake” and the Top Gun theme song, Mac stoked the audience into a frenzy and delivered a raucous, high-energy performance with a gap-toothed grin that never faltered. Oh, and the music was great too. – Maria Sokulsky-Dolnycky

Temples at the Horseshoe Tavern

Coming out of England, I saw them for the first time at the Horseshoe. I haven’t seen anything quite so magnificent, I believe the right word for what I witnessed was “glamorous”. They looked like a bunch of dudes from the disco era with glitter on their faces and huge afro-styled hair, covering their eyes. The music compelled you to beautifully sway side to side with closed eyes and a lost mind. When I talked to them, their accent was intoxicating, their passion for music apparent, and their view on drugs predictable. I’d suggest checking them out before the cover for their show sky-rockets. – Kalina Nedelcheva

Titus Andronicus at the Garrison

Photo via Live in Limbo

Photo via Live in Limbo

A group of friends and I descended upon the Garrison to see Titus Andronicus at a show presented by Red Bull. The beer was cheap, the cover was a mere $3, and Titus played until 1:30 AM, spawning an incredible mosh pit for most of the night. Unfortunately, my beloved Converse — previously held together by duct tape — were ripped to shreds in the mosh pit while they were still on my feet. When I left the venue with entirely destroyed shoes, a couple of bruises, and my sweaty friends, I was leaving the best show I had ever witnessed. – Emily Scherzinger

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