Ten best concerts of the summer

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Summer's over -- well, at least according to the time-tested seasonal benchmark, the annual passing of Labor Day. Of course, it still feels like we might burst into flames at any moment, but whatever. The Taste of Colorado has foisted its parade of also-rans upon us and Phish has now come and gone -- two things that officially signal the end of the summer concert season, as far as we're concerned. And what a summer's it's been for music, eh? Keep reading for a look back at the ten best concerts of the summer.

See also: Ten best concerts, summer 2011

10. Eighteenth Annual Westword Music Showcase, 6/23/12 "Holy Moses! It's no stretch to say that yesterday was the hottest day of the summer. Literally. Not only did the late news reports back this up, but we're pretty sure if you ask anyone in the sea of people who attended the eighteenth annual Westword Music Showcase, they'll co-sign this claim -- well, that is, after they rehydrate, and assuming they can stand upright and their legs aren't all wobbly from all the dancing last night during Girl Talk's massive Showcase-closing dance-party blowout. And if the weather was hot, the music was even hotter."

9. Die Antwoord at the Ogden Theatre, 8/6/12 "Die Antwoord's draw is a bit beyond the realm of rational comprehension, the fact that a South African rap crew can sell out a venue the size of the Ogden without much of the crowd actually knowing the words to the group's songs. Casually strolling out in matching orange sweat suits emblazoned with their logo, Ninja (aka Watkin Tudor Jones) and Yo-Landi Vi$$er (aka Anri Du Toit), the two MCs who have carved a niche for themselves unlike any other group in the world, absolutely blew the pants off the Ogden last night, as the Zef-style crew ripped through most of the tracks off $0$ and Ten$Ion."

8. Santigold at the Ogden, 5/29/12 "There were horses and what looked like buffalo skins, elaborate umbrellas and a rhythm-perfect band dressed in...we don't know what. There were striking red, blue and green lights, with plenty of space for Santigold to emerge, flanked by two synchronized-singing, back-up-dancing drummer gals, wearing absolutely blinding smiles. Starting the show with "Go," Santigold (aka Santi White) opened up a can of weird for Denver last night. As the opening strains of "Go" played, the dancers came out with militant fervor, high stepping and jumping, taking their places on either side of Santigold, who mimicked their movements with a cool style of her own."

7. The Avett Brothers at Red Rocks, 6/30/12 "Last night was the perfect date concert at Red Rocks. The heat forced people to drink copious amounts and wear very little. The natural romance of the setting was out in force, with the lights against the rock reaching up to an almost-full moon. And then there was the music. And it was a night for the instruments. Sure, there were the requisite guitars, keyboards, drums, bass...but there were also banjos, cellos and violins, all being utilized to the fullest by musicians who don't just know their tools well, but seemed to honestly love to bring out the full sound of each -- and to sometimes pound the crap out of them like they were Colfax hookers. The Avett Brother's cello bow bore little resemblance to the refined bows from DeVotchKa -- it was more like Sunday morning walk-of-shame hair."

6. Mumford & Sons at Red Rocks, 8/28/12 "Perhaps more impressive than the group's harmonies was the intimacy the group created in such a massive space. Fans standing what seemed a couple miles away in the top rows were just as much a part of this as those in the VIP section. Anyone who's spent time in a ratty college apartment knows the best way to create a vibe like this is with Christmas lights. Mumford & Sons had those, too."

5. Skrillex at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 8/9/12 "The request from Skrillex for everyone to pull out lighters, cell phones, glow sticks or whatever they had capable of illuminating was met with feverish enthusiasm. Once the entire place was singing along with Gary Go's lyrics, the waves of energy began to rise from the bottom to the top. What else could trump lasers, fire blasts, fireworks and confetti streamers? A full wall of fucking fireworks blasting from the top of the stage, that's what."

4. Phish at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, 8/31/12 - 9/2/12 "Telluride '88, Red Rocks '94 and Denver '97 -- these aren't just places and years to Phish fans. They're monuments, pivotal parts of Phish's Colorado legacy. Out of nearly eighty concerts that the band has played in the Centennial state and more than 1,578 shows in all, they represent high points of the band's career and various peaks of their musical eras. This past weekend, Phish showed over three nights that after nearly 24 years touring in Colorado, they still have the stuff of legend."

3. Dead Can Dance at Temple Buell, 8/19/12 "There was nothing gimmicky about any aspect of the show. It was like seeing something dignified and respectful without being stuffy, and the audience truly returned the favor. While the music had clearly struck a chord with many people and the crowd's enthusiasm was palpable, even the more exuberant members of the audience waited for song breaks to shout out things at the stage."

2. Bon Iver at Red Rocks, 5/31/12 "Justin Vernon's compositions are even more drastically transformed in concert; far from the sparse, layered, vocal-driven basement ballads of his recordings, they were suddenly huge swaths of arena-rock dynamics. There was a sort of engineered cacophony in Bon Iver's set that brilliantly became elegant as all the instruments blended in and out of each other, intermittently creating walls of sound or cutting out completely in favor of a spotlighted violin solo."

1. Jack White's last-minute show on Colfax "White, with his solo touring band, rolled through a thunderous cover of Dick Dale's "Misirlou" and a squealing, feedback-drenched rendition of the White Stripes classic "Ball and Biscuit," among other crowd-pleasers. The second White struck his final guitar chord and snapped a split-second "thank you" to the audience, he and his band quickly leaped into a nearby limo-bus and drove away, leaving a sweat-drenched crowd to gawk at each other, wide-eyed, mocking those who rode up just too late."

*Ed note: The Refused show last month most definitely merits being recognized among the ten best concerts of summer, but alas, we somehow neglected to include it on our original list (shame on us!). But since that ship has already sailed, we'd be just remiss by adding it in after the fact as we were by excluding it originally (the old damned if you do, damned if you don't scenario). So anyhow, here's an honorable mention, and for what it's worth, if it were ranked, this show would be tied for something in the top five to be sure.

Refused at the Ogden Theatre, 8/22/12 "From the very beginning, we knew we were in for something special when we saw the name of the band spelled out in giant, translucent white letters as members of the band were taking stage. Before the curtain dropped, a low ambient swell coursed through the Ogden like a sense of building anticipation. When Refused were revealed and went right into "Worms of the Senses," it was like getting hit with a wave of inspiring energy that didn't really end until the show was over."

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