If you’re lucky, when you go out around town to see live music, you’ll be treated to some enjoyable tunes, some slightly funny stage banter – or a corny, leather-clad lead singer inquiring’, "What’s up, San Diego!?!" – and a good time. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Well, every once in a while when we go to shows, we’re not just having some fun times with friends or looking for an excuse to let loose with $3 PBR tall boys. Nope, every so often -- if we’re in the right place at the right time -- we may just find ourselves at one of those shows that just blow our friggin’ minds. You know: One of those rare instances where we actually stop looking at our phones or talking to buddies, and think to ourselves, "This is incredible." You look around, and more often than not, you’ll see someone else having the exact same moment at the same time. It’s a bewildering thing. It’s magical, really.
In honor of these unicorn shows (as we like to call ‘em), we’ve put together a list of the six of the most unforgettable live acts in San Diego. As always, these are just a few of our favorites -- there are many, many others we didn’t name here -- and we'd love it if you'd share in a comment below who you would like to see on the list.
- Author & Punisher: This one-man act wears a wired, metal mask that almost looks like the thing that Bane wore in The Dark Knight Rises" and plugs it into all sorts of homemade electronics and contraptions that make crazy noises. Then he puts his arm into a metal, bionic-arm thing that’s wired to make percussive explosion sounds when he moves it back and forth. This guy's music is frightening. We literally felt like we were hearing the musical equivalent of Event Horizon, the scariest movie of all time.
- Boy King: This trio, who garnered a 2012 San Diego Music Award nomination for its debut album, 1, is fronted by one of the most charismatic lead singers you’ll see in San Diego. Megan Liscomb prowls, crawls, kneels, paces and nearly flings herself off the stage during their shows. Regardless of the music or anything else going on around her, she’s absolutely mesmerizing onstage. [Full disclosure: SoundDiego associate editor is a member of Boy King. -- Ed. ]
- The Burning of Rome: The 2013 SDMA winners for Album of the Year are a force to be reckoned with in a live context. If you don’t remember their elastic, human-pogo stick, daredevil guitarist, Joe Aguilar, you’ve obviously never seen them live. The entire group is so much fun -- and make some of the most unique, compelling music around -- but the way Aguilar performs seemingly without any regard for his bodily well-being is something we’ll never forget.
- The Howls: Their 2012 album, Rocky Ground, is an excellent piece of Americana-influenced indie rock. Their live shows, however, take their music to the top rung. Guitarist/singer John Cooper bellows, erupts and stomps about the stage in a forceful display of musical passion. Broken strings, bloody hands and destroyed equipment are common for these guys.
- Schitzophonics: This trio is the prime example why a list like this is made. For all the guitar players we’ve ever seen in our long, cherished live-show -going history, we’ve never seen anyone manhandle the instrument like Pat Beers. Often hanging onto his guitar with one hand while playing every note or chord with the same hand and singing, he'll swing it around while playing, like some tortured guitar contortionist. There’s just nothing like it -- it's actually kind of difficult to explain. Right before the first time we saw them, someone told us, “Dude, no one’s played the guitar like this since Hendrix.” Well said.
- The Silent Comedy: We don’t like featuring the same bands on our lists very often, but we are literally prohibited from leaving these guys off this one. Every Silent Comedy show is a religious experience -- or, as the band likes to describe it, a whiskey-soaked tent revival. Look around during one of their shows and you’ll see 99 percent of the crowd entranced and having one of the best nights of their show-going lives. That other 1 percent? They’re just mad they’re not the guys onstage.
Of course, these aren’t the only notable players in the San Diego music game. Hit us up on Facebook with your favorite local live acts.