Top Ten Performances Of 2015: Jackson May’s Picks



Honorable Mention #1


05/31 – Riot Room in Kansas City, MO

These guys are so awesome. A really great, young atmospheric black metal group – like Agalloch but way cooler. I saw them at the amazing KC Blackdeath Fest​ and knew I needed to see them again ASAP, and luckily they played on the outside stage at the Riot Room…ON MY BIRTHDAY! Best present ever.


Honorable Mention #2


10/05 – Liberty Hall in Lawrence, KS

Ever the entertaining band, Ghost outdid their phenomenal show at the Granada last year. Papa Emeritus is a fantastic showman and there was even a fantastic acoustic rendition of Jigolo Har Megiddo, which is the only way I can listen to it now.


Honorable Mention #3


05/24 – Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore, MD

This band rules. A lot heavier and more technical than I’d expect them to be in a live setting. It also helps that I thought I’d never get to see them live. Real heavy!




09/19 – in Blue Springs, MO

You may have not known about this show – sucks to be you. It will forever be the most unique, intimate experience I’ve ever had with a band in an unforgettable setting. Zemial was near the top of a list of bands I thought I’d never get the pleasure of seeing, but the fact I got to see them in Blue Springs?! Amazing.



05/23 – at Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore, MD

Demoncy was one of the first metal bands I was ever exposed to. The fact that they’re still playing some of the most aggressive, unrelenting black metal over 25 years since their inception is incredible. Totally blew my mind at MDF – and they even played long after the lights came on and their PA was cut!



03/17 – at The Granada in Lawrence, KS

New Found Glory is one of my favorite bands of all time (shut it) so I was stoked to see them headline at The Granada on St. Patrick’s Day, but I had recently gotten extremely into Turnstile and their amazing new album prior to this show. The two bands prior to Turnstile were Turnover, a lo-fi shoegaze-y rock band, and This Wild Life, a completely acoustic duo. The transition from that to the unmitigated insanity that is a Turnstile performance was one of the best feelings I’ve ever experienced at a show. There were nonstop stagedives, unexpecting frat boys getting stomped on and tons of singing along into the microphone. Easily the most entertaining hardcore band around today.

Also that’s me singing into the microphone at 0:54



06/20 – at Riot Room in Kansas City, MO

I can’t believe I almost didn’t go to this show. Disentomb, plus the other bands, reignited my love for slow, crunchy, ball-bustingly heavy slam death metal. I got into the pit at this show – I NEVER get into the pit. It was that good. Honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever had more fun at a show than right here. Stomping around in a circle really slowly is my new favorite activity.



04/25 – at Middle Of the Map Fest in Kansas City, MO

Joy Division is one of the best bands ever, so I’d be happy seeing anyone play any Joy Division songs. But the fact I got to see a founding member play all of their two albums + more? It was a dream come true. It was the perfect way to cap off another amazing edition of MOTM fest, completely with freezing drizzle coming down outside. I had chills more than once during the performance – and not just from the cold.



05/21 – at Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore, MD

This might be my new barometer for heaviness in life. I was absolutely floored by how loud and heavy Conan were. The best parts of doom, stoner and death metal combined into the most fun I’ve had getting my eardrums broken and my face melted.



12/2 – at The Jackpot in Lawrence, KS

Baroness is one of the best heavy bands of this millennium and seeing them in an intimate venue simply won’t be possible from this point on. I jumped at the opportunity to see such an explosive, heavy, spine-tingling group at a small venue like the Jackpot. And it was awesome. The band was right there interacting with diehard fans less than 3 feet away – when similar bands of their popularity are behind a barrier and multiple security guards. The best.



05/16 – at Riot Room in Kansas City, MO

Anaal Nathrakh is my favorite band. If you know anything about me, it’s probably that I’ve been feverishly obsessed with this group for more than the past decade. I own every release they’ve put out (most of them more than one time in more than one format) and have spent hours upon hours deciphering lyrics when the group doesn’t print them.

Back in high school, the group had an internet forum where they’d regularly interact with fans. I sheepishly would ask when they’ll play Kansas City – they replied they’d like to play anywhere as long as people would show up. Of course, Anaal Nathrakh infamously did not tour for the longest time – only recently have they even played live with actual musicians. But my dream came true – my favorite band of all time, who means more to me than anyone else on this planet, came to town and I was front row and center for them. It was exquisite brutality unlike any other force imaginable in the world. It was hell and I wouldn’t want it any other way.



07/22 – at Record Bar in Kansas City, MO

Melt-Banana is one of the best bands ever – period. Full stop. That’s all that needs to be said. They are incredibly influential to noise rock, grindcore and all music from Japan. At the Record Bar, they took the stage as a two-piece: with vocalist Yasuko controlling all drums and samples from a futuristic looking device on her hand, and guitarist Agata with his signature surgeon’s mask over his face in front of the most gargantuan and intimidating pedal set up you will ever see. There was non-stop moshing and stage diving and it didn’t let up until the final note of the final song. Still one of the best bands I’ve ever seen and I’ll always look forward to seeing more of them in the future.

P.S. I also saw them 2 months prior at MDF and they still rocked.



10/25 – at The Granada in Lawrence, KS

Tribulation is a band I was turned on to with the release of their first album, The Horror, in 2009. That album was an extremely unrelenting, brutal and aggressive mixture of death and thrash metal that made huge waves in the underground. Their next two albums, however, showed the band exploring their sound, adding elements from all over the place, and not just from metal. This turned some people off to the band, especially the hardcore, true metalheads. I will admit that I sort of dismissed the band around this time. I had their second album but it just really didn’t click with me.

When I saw that Deafheaven was headlining at the Granada, I was stoked. Then I saw that Tribulation was opening. I figured that I loved their first album and a handful of songs off the 2nd (I hadn’t heard their latest, third album at the time) that I would really love to see them live. I thought, at best, they’d perform one song off The Horror.

After their opening song, my jaw was permanently on the floor.

Tribulation transcends whatever preconceived notions you have for them and leaves it all on the live stage. All of their songs, though some may toy around with melodies and songwriting, have an underlying current of menacing Swedish death/thrash metal – and it’s always been there. This opening performance alone was enough to get me back into Tribulation and now I completely love every one of their albums.

Easily the best performance from an opening band I’ve seen and the best performance I witnessed in 2015.

About Jackson May

Read more from Jackson at Mandatory Metallica and follow him on Twitter at @Mankvill.

View all articles by Jackson May

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