Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Live Music Events

I promise we’ll get to my Top 15 Albums of 2016 in a minute! But since I am my own editor, I think this is the perfect place to talk about my top live music events of the year.

Obviously, I love recorded music and the magic that comes with listening to your favorite album or hearing a new artist for the first time. However, music is most impactful when experienced live. There’s nothing in the world like hearing your favorite artists play your favorite songs and experiencing how their live performance differs from what you’ve heard on record, especially when you can share that moment with a friend or two or 100,000. Let’s do this!

10. The Stooges Brass Band, Double Door Inn This ended up being my final show at the Double Door, but this was one of the most fun shows I got to see all year. It gave me a warm and rich feeling seeing true New Orleans Jazz in one of the most history rich venues in town. Too bad it didn’t last.

9. Lake Street DriveThe Fillmore Lake Street Drive is just a damn good band. Fun and pop friendly, their style is effortless and infectious. This show was also bouncy and effervescent as the quartet brought lots of energy to the Fillmore stage, and the crowd responded with plenty of warmth. While I’m not a huge fan of their latest album, Side Pony (just a bit heavy on the pop angle for me), their music translates well to live shows. It’s also crazy to think that just a few years ago they were booked at places like The Evening Muse.

8. PhantogramThe Fillmore Phantogram came to town for the first time in a while in October. Touring in support of their new album Three, the duo of Sarah Barthel and Josh Carter came out strong, despite a few technical glitches with their projection system. I interviewed Sarah for CLTure prior to this show, which you can read here.

7. Deep Six Division Album Release Party – The Station As Charlotte continues to axe small live music venues, homegrown artists continue to have to find new places to play. The Station is small as a nickel, but sometimes that’s where the best music happens. On this night, the energy was tangible as RBTS WIN, Elevator Jay, Jr. Astronomers and Deep Six Division (Rapper Shane and Mike Astrea) absolutely threw down on a stage that wasn’t so much a stage as it was the corner of the bar. Despite the size limitations, I had more fun at this show than I had in a long time.

6. ScarfaceThe Fillmore This was part of the Arts, Beats + Lyrics mini festival sponsored by Jack Daniels Honey I believe. Sponsorship isn’t ideal, but in reality, that’s what makes awesome events like this one possible. This event combined some really cool art stations, a kind of traveling tour of artists’ work. Scarface, one of the true OGs in hip hop, far from disappointed as he stepped on stage with authority and supreme control. He was also looking fit and trim, a welcome sight for someone who’s battled health issues and depression.

5. KING – Neighborhood Theatre This neo-soul trio from Minnesota (by way of Los Angeles) released their debut LP, We Are KING, in January of 2016 after much anticipation. Counting the one and only Prince as a mentor, these three ladies’ sound is much more mature than their experience would lead you to believe.

They played on the “intimate” stage of the Neighborhood Theatre next to the bar in the front foyer, which actually worked well for the acoustics of the show.  It was a small, but dedicated crowd which added lots of energy to the show. Vocalists Amber Strother and Anita Bias’ effortless harmonies weaved in and out of each other over Paris Strother’s (Amber’s sister) hypnotic electro-pop instrumentals. This was an excellent show, and hopefully the next time KING plays Charlotte, their name recognition will warrant a bigger stage.

Read my interview with Paris Strother of KING in CLTure here.

4. Mobb Deep – Amos’ Southend Probably my last show ever at Amos’, but it was an absolute banger. The Infamous Mobb is just as grimey as ever and they showed it at the soon-to-be defunct music venue. Like most all hip hop shows, they made the crowd wait for what seemed like forever, leaving the hapless hype men out there to a chorus of boos and chants of “We want Mobb Deep!”


So apparently it’s not that easy to get a photo that accurately depicts the show you’re seeing with just a cell phone camera. It’s almost as if you should just put the phone away and enjoy the show. Or nah.

Then, out of nowhere, Prodigy and Havoc appeared and immediately went into a ground shaking set that included all of their classics. The crowd went absolutely ballistic for songs like “Survival of the Fittest”, “Hell on Earth”, “Quiet Storm” and of course “Shook Ones, Pt. II”. The most impressive part for me was how P and Hav traded lines and stanzas seamlessly. The Queensbridge duo have been through a lot and have seen it all, and throughout the show you got the sense that shows like this had become almost second nature. If this was my last show at Amos’, then it was a hell of a way to send it out.

3. Frédéric YonnetJazz at the Bechtler Quick aside, the Jazz at the Bechtler shows have been truly influential for me in the past year. Held the first Friday of every month, the performances feature the Ziad Jazz Quartet, led by Ziad Rabie, playing a different theme, style or artist each month. These guys play together all the time all over the place in various iterations so they are razor sharp wherever they play.

This particular show, however… whoa. Frédéric Yonnet is a harmonica player who’s played with Prince and Stevie Wonder (he toured with Wonder for the Songs in the Key of Life tour), as well as playing the opening ceremony of the Smithsonian National African American Museum of History and Culture, officially making him the most badass harmonica player in the world.

Yonnet’s energy was absolutely infectious and impossible to ignore. He’s the only guest musician to be so remarkable that he absolutely overshadowed the rest of the quartet. Yonnet’s talent with the harmonica was mind bending, making sounds and melodies that I truly couldn’t believe I was hearing. Neither could the crowd, as they gave a standing ovation after every single song. I asked one of our frequent attendees of the Jazz at the Bechtler series, Loyd Dillon (who’s seen 65-ish of the 70-ish shows held in total over six years) to rate it, and he said “Top three” without hesitation.


Frédéric Yonnet’s performance was pure, concentrated energy.

If you ever see the name Frédéric Yonnet on a bill anywhere you are, drop what you’re doing and get a ticket to that show because I promise you won’t regret it.

2. Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra – Knight Theater With jazz being such an influential force in my personal auditory world in 2016, this was a real treat. The Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, headed by Wynton Marsalis, are clearly some straight jazz OGs. On the final night of the Charlotte Jazz Festival, Marsalis led the orchestra in recreating the vibrant big band sounds of Duke Ellington and George Gershwin.

I went to this concert by myself, a bit socially burnt out but also wanting to experience the mastery of the musicians in complete focus (I’m kinda weird like that). My efforts were rewarded as I could simply sit and take in the way the musicians played off of one another, communicating with no words, only their instruments.

Big band is a style of jazz that has plenty of action, as there were probably 13 or so musicians on stage at once. Despite the big bouquet of sounds, Marsalis was the ever-present maestro, controlling the group at his will, but letting them improvise when needed. He also served as a narrator for the audience, telling stories about the music and how it came to be.

It goes without saying that I’m already anticipating what this year’s Charlotte Jazz Festival will bring to Uptown.

1. Music Midtown – Piedmont Park, Atlanta Granted, this isn’t a single concert, and it was the only true musical festival I attended this year, but oooh lawdy it was a good one. While getting to see acts like Big Boi, Logic, Lil’ Wayne and 2 Chainz, Twenty One Pilots, Alabama Shakes, Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats, The Killers and more was nice, the best part of the weekend came outside festival grounds.

One of the things that struck me, as someone who doesn’t go to music festivals all that often, was the sheer number of people that were there. I’ve been to a Bonnaroo or two, but those are held in farms in the middle of nowhere. Music Midtown featured 100,000 strong in the heart of Atlanta. The park, while still sprawling, is a relatively confined space in comparison, making the number of people there seem endless. This was most palpable when one set would end and another would begin as enormous waves of people would shift from one side of the park to the other, moving in a sort of chaotic unison, like a school of fish in the sea. There were times where this would happen, and I wasn’t going anywhere, where if I had got knocked over, I probably would have been trampled.

Despite the massive crowds, I still had an almost ideal (and ultimately unforgettable) experience in Atlanta. The mood of the weekend was one of unison and unabashed ecstasy. It’s exactly the reason why music is so powerful. Tens of thousands of strangers came together to experience something that binded them together no matter the distance travelled, color of their skin or content of their bank accounts. It was absolutely beautiful and was probably my favorite moment of the year, musical or otherwise.


To be fair, I took this photo of Killer Mike, Big Boi and the Dungeon Family with my cell phone.

Two things before I wrap this post.

One, I’ve got to thank my homie Cameron Lee at CLTure for helping me get into and being a part of several of these shows. Cam does tremendous work and his contributions to the local music scene are far underrated in my opinion. CLTure is exactly the type of grassroots organization this city needs, driven by someone so passionate that they won’t be denied by anything. If Charlotte is ever going to be a truly world-class city like we hope it will be one day, we need more Cameron Lee’s and more CLTure (no pun intended).

Second, I’ve got to get to more live music in 2017. This is non negotiable. Especially when it comes to local acts, I’m embarrassingly deficient when it comes to the quantity of shows I’ve seen, at least for my standards.

When you spend money on a ticket to these shows (or the requisite transportation, lodging, food etc.), you don’t leave with something tangible that you can hold on to or an investment that generates future returns.

No, what you get out of these experiences is much more valuable. What you get is something that speaks directly to your soul, something that unifies you with the performers and those around you, like Jedi and the force. The electricity and atmosphere aren’t things that can be recreated in any recording or social media post. What you get from live music is an experience that shapes you as a person, filling your world with color and character that stays with you, leaves an impression in you and makes you a different person than you would have been otherwise.

These memories and moments are priceless, and in the long run, we as people are only what our memories and moments make us. I’m sure I could have taken the money I spent on that Music Midtown ticket and invested it or bought a swanky new overcoat. But I know that when I’m nearing my final breath in this life, I’ll have had a more rich and wonderful experience in this world because of the trip I chose to make and the lasting memories I made with my friends. That will never change. Damn an investment and damn a piece of clothing because you damn sure can’t take that with you to the other side.

2017, like David Bowie said, let’s dance.

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Jazz Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Vinyls
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Garbage Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Honorable Mentions
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Best Local Projects
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (15-8)
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (7-1)

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Vinyls

In 2016, I finally sucked it up and bought a record player, a Technics SL-0350 specifically, and named her Apollonia. I’ve also built up a very respectable record collection from somewhat meager beginnings, and my attachment to the medium grows every day. So here are my top seven eight nine vinyls that I bought or bartered for in 2016, and after that we may or may not get to actual 2016 music.

Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night

9. Tom Waits – The Heart of Saturday Night Found at Tip Top Daily Market, via Premium Sound. I’m not an expert in Tom Waits, but I’m learning. This smokey waltz through the hope and anticipation but ultimately lonesome cycle of being in the scene is an excellent starting point.

8. War – Why Can’t We Be Friends? Found on Amazon. An incredibly tight and concise but freely funky latin jazz album that is probably mostly famous for having the single “Lowrider” on it. “Lowrider” is a perfectly awesome song, but please don’t think War is a one hit wonder. Give this album a listen front to back (a trim 44:04).

Steely Dan – Aja

7. Steely Dan – Aja Found at Sleepy Poet Antique Mall. This is an album that you can find pretty regularly in record shops, but it’s a must have in my opinion. Not only my top Steely Dan album (though Gaucho isn’t far behind), but this album is so sonically perfect, it’s used by audiophiles to measure a sound system’s fidelity.

6. Ahmad Jamal – Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 1985 Found at The Wax Museum on Monroe Rd (fucking love that website, btw). I referenced this album in my previous post, but it bears repeating, it’s a hell of an album. Jamal, along with only bass, drums and a percussionist, composes a relentlessly sophisticated set that is deep and emotive.

Kamasi Washington – The Epic

5. Kamasi Washington – The Epic Found at Lunchbox Records. This album (which lives up to its name at three discs) represents a kind of new generation of jazz. Washington, along with Terrace Martin, Thundercat and Robert Glasper are masters and innovators in their art, and have also embodied the natural relationship between hip hop and jazz. You won’t find anything like Washington’s collaborations with Kendrick Lamar on this journey, but it’s a rich and intricate listen. Seriously, just look at that album cover, the fact he named it The Epic, the fact that it’s his debut album, and tell me Kamasi doesn’t mean business.

4. Frank Ocean – Blond Found at LunchBox Records. Frank Ocean’s long awaited second album saw him make an undeniably unique album that explores his own demons and consciousness in a way that is both figuratively and literally a fuck you to pop music. I liked this album when I was listening to it on Spotify, but absolutely fell in love with it when I got the vinyl. The special clear vinyl edition is also pretty impressive.

3. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service Pre-ordered from the ATCQ website. I’ll dive into this album a bit more in depth later in this series, but I’m pretty sure this is the first album I’ve ever pre-ordered. As soon as it became available, I knew I had to own it, now I’ve got it and I’m in loooooove with it and no, you can’t listen unless you can tell me who Georgie Porgie is.

2. Phish – Hoist Found on Amazon. You may or may not enjoy Phish, but I’m guessing that if you don’t, you haven’t dug into some of their seminal albums of the mid nineties. Never a band known for their studio efforts, Hoist is the exception. An album that features more traditional songwriting than most Phish projects, Hoist represents an ideal intersection of free-form

Phish – Hoist

improvisation and pop friendly structure. Guest appearances from Allison Krauss and Bela Fleck give the album a bit of a bluegrass feel as well. Super nerdy note: Jonathan Frakes, who played Commander Riker on Star Trek: The Next Generation contributes a little trombone.

Despite being released in March of 1994, this album was not pressed on vinyl until Record Store Day 2016 (April 16), making a 12″ copy of this album a pretty rare find in the collection. Fortunately, Amazon is a tremendous resource for hard to find records like this.

1. Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life Found in the dollar bin at Lunchbox Records. Finding this album in the dollar bin was a true hidden gem moment. The album cover certainly had some water damage, but the vinyls inside were close to perfect. Getting this groundbreaking album (which goes for $40+ on Amazon, eBay etc.) for two dollars because of a rough-ish cover was the easiest decision I made all year. I mean, what other album has a whole tour anchored around playing it in its entirety?

Stevie Wonder – Songs in the Key of Life

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Jazz Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Live Music Events
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Garbage Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Honorable Mentions
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Best Local Projects
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (15-8)
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (7-1)

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Jazz Albums

Like a lot of other wannabe music critics, I sat down to write a Top Albums of 2016 list that would let me weigh in on what I thought the best new albums of a wild year in music were. As I got to reflecting on the past twelve months in music, I found that the new releases only represented a portion of my musical experience. How could I talk about my favorite new artists without mentioning the ones I had discovered (or rediscovered) in 2016?

A major influence on my listening habits developed this year when I finally built up a respectable record collection, after years of exclusively downloading and streaming music. This development alone represented a bulk of my musical appetite, having found a new appreciation for classics that were made for the medium of vinyl in the first place. I couldn’t possibly talk about new music without at least mentioning some of my 12” favorites.

2016 was also the year that I got serious about digging into jazz, an art form that had largely escaped me for most of my life, despite my affinity for hip hop and basketball covertly grooming me for an appreciation of the improvisational nature of the genre. It also helped that I got to see some of the best live jazz in Charlotte in person each month through Jazz at the Bechtler.

That’s where I choose to start this comprehensive, multi-part post detailing my year in music. I’ll start with jazz, go on to my favorite vinyls that I acquired in 2016, detail some of my least favorite albums of the year, shout out some of my favorites that didn’t make the Top 15 cut, show some love to the best local projects of the year, and finish with my Top 15 Albums of the year.

2016 was a year that probably won’t fade into obscurity any time soon, especially for music fans. It only makes sense that I document what the year in music meant to me, as it was probably one of the most significant years in my life in terms of musical development.

Buckle up, readers. We’re about to depart on one hell of a sonic journey.

Top Jazz Albums

In 2016, I listened to far more jazz than any other genre in total and 99% percent of those albums were certainly not made in 2016. Up until this past year, I hadn’t given the genre enough run despite being casually primed into jazz via years of hip-hop. I’ve also been lucky enough to be present for a year’s worth of #BechtlerJazz shows which let me experience the genre in its purest form. So to make a list talking about my favorite music of 2016, I’d be remiss to not at least include my top, let’s say seven jazz albums I’ve discovered in 2016. Also, for my friends that know jazz, hit me up and let me know what else I should be checking out.


7. Getz/Gilberto: This is definitely one of the most fun listens you can have. Who doesn’t feel swanky when at a dinner party with “Girl from Ipanema” playing in the background?

6. Cannonball Adderley – Somethin’ Else: A true core collection type of album, it features Adderley, Miles Davis, Sam and Hank Jones and Art Blakey making seriously smooth sounds.

5. Wes Montgomery – Impressions: It’s really too bad that “guitar music” is seen as old and frumpy these days because Montgomery plays licks on this record that are still scorching the earth to this day.

4. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme: I’ve listened to this record prior to 2016, but I picked up a vinyl copy this year, dug into it more, and yet – still feel like I have a long way to go with discovering this album.

Grover Washington Jr. – Soul Box

3. Grover Washington Jr. – Soul Box: The B side to this record has a 30-plus minute recording of “Trouble Man” that will literally take you out of this world.

2. Ahmad Jamal – Live at the Montreal Jazz Festival 1985: This is an incredibly clean, clear and crisp recording of one of fiercest jazz piano performances I’ve ever heard.

1. Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters: OK, so I’ve listened to this album way before 2016, but this year I got the vinyl and was able to listen to it properly, so perhaps that adds an asterisk to the top spot but hey – it’s my list. I have to shout out this record as being one of the funkiest and most mind bending albums out there, and Herbie Hancock as being such a master of the genre that he really becomes his own sub-style of jazz that absolutely no one has sounded like before or since.

Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters

Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Vinyls
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top Live Music Events
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Garbage Albums
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Honorable Mentions
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Best Local Projects
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (15-8)
Andy Goh’s 2016 Music Year in Review: Top 15 Albums (7-1)