Best of 2016: Audio & Live Performance


by Andrew Osborne

There were many things to hate about 2016 (including some of the events referenced on this very list)…but here are the performances, live and otherwise, that helped me to get through the drama of this accursed Year of the Monkey.

2016 Theme Song:  Opening Up (Sara Bareilles)

Album of the Year:  Blackstar (David Bowie)

David Bowie’s death is certainly among the Top 10 reasons why 2016 sucked, although his final album was also one of the best parts of the year:  a brave, haunting rumination on mortality as the iconic changeling stared directly into the darkness of his final transformation.

Live Music

1. Last Dance at Johnny D’s (Somerville, MA)elvez

Another shitty part of 2016?  Losing Johnny D’s, one of the last great dive bars/affordable live music venues in the greater Boston area (and a long-time cultural anchor of my own Davis Square neighborhood).  The only silver lining was that it made the final few shows I saw there extra special, from the El Vez Christmas spectacular of last December to After Fab (a cover band specializing in the post-Beatles work of John, Paul, George & Ringo), as well as a Billy Joel tribute sextet with the genius name Heart Attack Ack Ack Ack Ack Ack, whose achingly nostalgic take on “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” left me all misty-eyed as I stared around the doomed, beloved club…but you can never go back there again, oh-whoa, oh-whoa, oh-whoa-oh-whoa-oh!

2. Porchfest & Honk! (Somerville, MA)porchfest

On the plus side, new good things do occasionally rise up to replace the ones that fade away…like the fifth annual Somerville Porchfest, a breathtakingly fun event showcasing dozens of bands in nearly every nook, cranny, porch,  driveway, front yard, and backyard of the city during a weekend-long celebration of music, community, and the joys of hanging out — much like the marching band chaos of Honk! (another annual Somerville tradition which got rained on this year, though its rowdy spirit remained stubbornly undampened).

3. Flight of the Conchords (Boston, MA)

Some friends wanted to see the the comic New Zealand musical duo Flight of the Conchords and I tagged along, since I’d enjoyed the  band’s 2007-2009 HBO series (though I wasn’t really expecting much from the concert).  But, gadzooks:  to my surprise, Bret McKenzie and Jemaine Clement had thousands of passionate fans screaming for them at Boston’s Blue Hills Bank Pavilion — and after enjoying every second of their groovy, witty, thoroughly toe-tappin’ nerdcore live show, I’d be happy to check out their brand of Foux du Fafa again any old Business Time.


1. DoubleToasted:  Austin entertainers Korey Coleman, Martin Thomas, and their rowdy crew of rotating regulars continue to provide the best pop culture and current events commentary on the internet from a hilarious, diverse, and distinctive viewpoint that’s more essential than ever in our chaotic post-Trump world.

2. WTF:  Marc Maron’s deep dish interviews with everyone from stand-up comics and musicians to film directors and authors (like Boston’s own Peter Bebergal) are an ongoing chronicle of the host’s neurotic state of mind and a tribute to creative minds in general.

3. Tom & Lorenzo’s Pop Style Opinionfest is about 50% annoying plugs and advertisements, but it’s (usually) worth it for their bitchy pop culture, fashion, and Project Runway commentary during the other 50% of the show.



Wait…did I really, actually see nothing in a theater this year besides Norm MacDonald’s stand-up concert at the Wilbur in Boston?  I mean, sure, I needed all the laughs I could get in 2016 (and Norm provided plenty)…but maybe the reason this year sucked as hard as it did is ’cause I offended Dionysus, so I hereby vow to see way more plays, musicals, stand-up, improv, performance art, and whatnot in 2017.

Up Next:  My Favorite Books of 2016 – Coming Soon!


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