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The best live music performances of 2013

Kenny Metcalf captures the essence of Elton John
Kenny Metcalf captures the essence of Elton John

Live music excelled again in 2013, with the usual suspects, a few newbies and the advent of AXS TV's World's Greatest Tribute Bands to give us one of the best years for music in quite a while. I did not get out as often as I wanted to in 2013, but still managed to catch every performance but one of Seasons 1 and 2 of The World's Greatest Tribute Bands before I moved to Missoula in September. I know I missed out on what were some great performances at the end of 2013, but believe that my Top 10 covers the gamut of the great indie music scene in LA. Here are my picks:

10. Arthur Lee Land (Genghis Cohen) - July 11 - Land is an incredible one-man band. He has mastered the art of looping, and makes his performances sound like he is fronting a big band. His songs are unique and well written, and his voice brings them to life. I was thoroughly impressed by both his live performance and his CD, which was nominated for an LA Music Critic Award. Thanks to Jen Lyneis (UE3 Promotions) for turning me on to Land.

9. Calico (Hotel Cafe) - August 29 - Calico is an incredible Americana band composed of Manda Mosher, Kirsten Proffit and Jaime Wyatt who burst onto the music scene in 2013, garnering an LA Music Award as best touring band along the way. The blending of these three voices is pure honey as they bring together a musical smorgasbord of aural delight.

8. Maddi Rose (Whiskey a-go-go) - January 22 - Rose my be a native of Australia but her musical roots run more American, as in indie pop/rock. Her Whiskey show was a true treat as she proved to LA that she has the right stuff to make it in America. Watch for this lady to truly break out in 2014.

7. Ernie Halter and Sam Grow (Genghis Cohen) - January 11 - Halter is no stranger to avid LA music fans, as he has been burning up the scene for many years prior to his recent move to Nashville. On the other hand, Grow is an East Coast artist who is on the verge of truly breaking out. The combination of their music was perfection and was the cherry on the top of a good year of music for Genghis Cohen.

6. Queen Nation (The Roxy & AXS TV) – May 13 – I have been to a few tribute band shows in the past but never have I been so impressed as I was at the bands assembled by AXS TV for their new show World’s Greatest Tribute Bands, hosted by the delightful Katie Daryl. The quality of bands selected for the show, which all performed live at The Roxy Theatre over a period of 15 weeks, were among the best performances of 2013. Queen Nation is the first of three such performances in my Top Ten.

5. Nina Storey (Hotel Café) – January 8 – Storey is one of those “usual suspects” that always deliver quality performances whenever they play live. Regardless of the musicians in her band, Storey brings great songs and stories, and a voice that doesn’t quit to the table. Storey is a true LA gem – don’t ever miss an opportunity to hear her.

4. Keaton Simons (Hotel Café) – January 5 – Simons has had a breakout year in 2013, which is reflected in his multiple nominations for the LA Music Critic Awards. He launched his own label, released the title cut to commercial radio, and made numerous television appearances, including Californication and Dr. Drew’s Celebrity Rehab. His performances are also consistently among the best LA has to offer – don’t miss his next performance at the Hotel Café.

3. David and Devine (Hotel Café) – March 6, 13, 20, 27 & April 3 – David and Devine accomplished a feat no one else in LA did – packing the house for five consecutive weeks. They did it with amazing songs, powerful vocals by Candace (Devine) and (David) Yaden, and with amazing guests, including Glee’s own Darren Criss and jazz great Mindi Abair. D&D are headed for an even bigger year in 2014 – watch for them.

2. DSB (The Roxy & AXS TV) – April 22 – Don’t Stop Believing (DSB) is a Journey tribute band featuring incredible recreations of the original tunes. This performance was made all the more special by the presence of actor Dean Cain, brother of DSB guitarist Roger Cain, who co-hosted with Katie Daryl for the night. I have always been a huge Journey fan and these guys truly brought it.

1. Kenny Metcalf as Elton (The Roxy & AXS TV) – April 15 – I have known Metcalf for more than 30 years, and have enjoyed his skills as a musician and an A&R rep for an indie record label. Metcalf turned me on to a band he later performed with (Stryper), as well as many indie artists along the way. When he launched his career as Elton, I knew he had something special. As the band grew, he added his daughter into the mix as Kiki Dee, as well as Isaac Johnson as Caleb Quaye, Elton’s first guitarist. However, this performance truly put the band on the map. Not only did he nail every Elton tune he played, but he also brought the real Caleb Quaye to the show to do a duet with his younger self. It was an amazing performance and set the bar high for every other tribute band. Don’t miss seeing him live.

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