1. Umphrey’s McGee – Stew Art Series (S2) – The Crystal Ballroom, Portland, OR – 10/24/09

This new fan appreciation concept from Umphrey’s McGee could not have been more pleasing for the hardcore Umphreak. A ticket (expensive for some at $100.00, but worth it for the diehards) gets you an intimate chance to jam with the band by texting concepts and ideas to guide the improvisation. Not to mention free beer and snacks, some question and answer sessions, and plenty of time to hang out with the band and crew for autographs and pictures after the jamming. Top notch!

2. David Byrne – The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, Portland, OR – 6/23/09

One of my favorite performers came to town on my girlfriend’s birthday to make for the perfect gift. Always inventive and fun to watch perform, Byrne was on top of his game this night. He played a slew of his classics and also many numbers off his newest album, Everything That Happens Will Happen Today. Everyone on stage was dressed in glowing white and this ensemble included dancers and interesting visual pleasures to accompany the music. The double encore with a full on marching band, scantily clad performers, and general chaos and mayhem topped it all off in grand style!

3. Phish – The Gorge, George, WA – 8/8/09

They’re baaaaack. Of course the biggest story of 2009 was the return of Phish. I was able to catch the second night of the two night stand at the Gorge and was very pleasantly surprised. While 3.0 is a completely new version of the band, this version rocked pretty tough on this beautiful night. New effects, fresh takes on classics, some great new tunes, and obvious practice to re-learn the memorized sections of the more complicated pieces all added up to an extremely pleasurable concert experience. Not to mention the fact that this awesome show was framed by the majestic beauty of The Gorge! I will happily see Phish again in 2010 should they decide to come back to the Pacific Northwest.

4. Umphrey’s McGee – The McDonald Theater, Eugene, OR – 10/23/09

While the Stew Art Series show in Portland was an incredible, intimate, and unique experience, the show the night before in Eugene was just a damn good time. The band had not played Eugene for about 5 years and they did not disappoint. From beginning to end, this show was packed with energetic jams and a dance party vibe. The band was very loose and joking with folks in the front of the room and smiles were plastered on everyone’s faces. The booze and positive energy was flowing for this Friday night performance and everyone in attendance loved it. After this great show, I don’t think they’ll wait another 5 years to return to the Yooj. Hetty!

5. Slightly Stoopid & Snoop Dogg – The Memorial Coliseum, Portland, OR – 7/17/09

This show was one of my favorites mostly because of the sheer novelty. My buddy Paul is playing keys for Slightly Stoopid and was able to provide backstage passes for the show. We ended up standing on stage only feet away from Snoop as he performed! His band was tight and it was fun to groove out to all of Snoop’s classic hits. Of course, the backstage party, free drinks, and chance to hang out with my buddy didn’t hurt, either. This is the type of concert I would not usually attend on my own, so it was a breath of fresh air to try something a little different. All the sweet perks involved easily elevated it to my top 5 list.

6. The Quick and Easy Boys – Various Locations, Portland, OR – “Honorable Mention”

I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention these hometown boys. They play around town consistently and always put on a great show filled with energy, debauchery, jamming tunes, and lots of “Yeah, Bud!” calls. I caught the trio on New Year’s Eve the last two years in a row and usually see them a few times per month around town at local venues. Their self-described Honkadelic music can always be counted on to warm up a room on a cold, rainy, Portland night.