Photographer Paige K. Parsons is one of the most recognizable faces at concert venues throughout the Bay Area. Other photographers frequently remark about her skill of capturing the best possible shot while staying out of everyone else’s line of sight. And RIFF is lucky to count her among our staff. Parsons attends countless shows each year, and these were her personal favorite in 2016.
Ty Segall at the Fillmore — Jan. 18
Ty Segall was pure theatrics, phenomenal music, punk attitude and crowd surfing at a historic venue. What more could you want from a show? How about looking out for all us photogs out front when he went crowd surfing. A true performer and gentleman, with a band tight AF.
DIIV at the Brick and Mortar Music Hall — Feb. 27
What a treat to see these guys at the tiny Brick and Mortar. They were having some equipment problems, but it only added to the raw nature of the show. It probably didn’t hurt that DIIV dedicated a song to me for taping down the set list that continually flew through the air as they spun and twirled like whirling dervishes.
Joanna Newsom and Robin Pecknold at the Henry Miller Memorial Library — April 6
Joanna Newsom never disappoints live. Seeing any show at the intimate, beautiful and remote Henry Miller Memorial Library is also a treat. This was extra-special as Robin Pecknold of Fleet Foxes, who had not performed live in several years, opened and later performed several duets with Newsom. Did I mention it was also his birthday, and the last night of the tour? Such a memorable night.
Dead and Company at the Fillmore — May 23
I suppose if there was a general “trick” to getting on this list, it would be “talented band plays small, special show.” If that’s the case, here’s the grand prize winner. I even got to sit in the coveted private box seat for the second half of the show. Of course the music was great, but the fans really made this one extra special. Nary an iPhone out for the whole night. Smiles, dancing, happiness—a good time was had by all.
The Cure at Shoreline Amphitheatre — May 26
I didn’t realize how special and unique this show was until I saw their Sasquatch set a few days later. Night and day in terms of setlist and fans. At Shoreline, we were treated to the most upbeat, danceable, hopeful version of the Cure I’ve seen, and I’ve seen them many times over the past 30 years. Think “The Love Cats,” “The Caterpillar,” “In Between Days.” The crowd loved it, and it was clear to the band. They treated us to multiple encores, Robert Smith dancing and smiling, and a night I won’t soon forget.
Protomyor at Sasquatch in Quincy, Wash. — May 28
So raw, so punk, so good.
Sufjan Stevens at Sasquatch in Quincy, Wash. — May 30
This was a joyful performance with a capital “P.” Sufjan Stevens has changed his live act, and really focuses on performance in addition to music. It’s not an “either/or” choice —it’s both. The theatricality adds more dimensions to the songs and brings the audience together and along on a rollercoaster of emotions, from euphoric highs to deep dark lows and back again. I felt so human and fragile after experiencing his show. One of the unexpected joys of 2016.
Twenty One Pilots at the Greek Theatre – July 21
Like Sufjan, these boys know how to put on a performance. I was so impressed at how they hooked us all in, got us up and moving, arms in unison. The Greek is such a powerful venue for harnessing crowd energy, and Twenty One Pilots took full advantage. Watching their mini show-within-a-show at arms length from the performers also burned this show in as one of the most memorable in years.
Heron Oblivion at Outside Lands – Aug. 7
Heron Oblivion was the first band to perform on the final day of Outside Lands. They performed to a small, intimate crowd at the start of the set, but several hardcore fans grooved out to their psychedelic rock, making this special. I love that they are a local band, fronted by a powerful female vocalist on drums. All of these performers are past their 20s but you would never know it from the energy they bring to their performance. So unexpectedly good.
— And the worst concert of 2016: Kanye West at SAP Center — Nov. 17
All the other performers on this list are here because they left a positive memorable impression in my brain. Not so with Kanye. The evening started with his team misplacing the photographer credential list and rude, disrespectful media handlers. West was an hour late with taking the stage, giving the “bros” in the audience a chance to get too drunk. And to top it off, Kanye West forgot to perform his songs. Instead, Kanye started his 40-minute-long Trump tirade that broke the Internet. My mama taught me if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. So clearly, I should stop here.