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The 25 Best Live Acts of 2011

December 2, 2011  |  9:41am
Every day between now and New Year’s Eve, we’ll be looking back at the best music and pop culture of 2011. Today we look at live music, the band’s and solo performers who know how to command a stage. From DJs to hip-hop to bluegrass with plenty of rock ‘n’ roll, here are the 25 Best Live Acts of 2011.

15. Beirut
Berut’s music has always been dynamic, horn-filled and harmony-laden—three things which translate well live if done right. That’s exactly what Zach Condon and company have done in the latter half of 2011, touring now as a sextet behind their latest release The Rip Tide. After years of experimenting with his sound and instrumentation, Condon has honed his craft, reining in the novelty to become a musical force onstage.—Max Blau

14. The Alabama Shakes
At some point, God decided to take the voices of Janis Joplin, Robert Plant and Tina Turner and roll them all up into the body of Brittany Howard. She also happens to front a band that sounds like it just sprouted fully formed from the clay of Muscle Shoals, just an hour away from the Shakes’ hometown of Athens, Ala. Their live show was the talk of this year’s CMJ—Josh Jackson

13. Dawes
Seeing Dawes is like seeing a swelling wave headed your way with no idea of its power until it overtakes you and sweeps you away. The band’s brand of rock has an approachable elegance that can almost feel reserved. They get so deeply entwined in their own music, hitting pitch-perfect harmonies and wailing wandering solos, no one in the audience can escape the experience without being saturated by the easy ebbs and flows of their performance. I feel extremely lucky to have seen Dawes during their climb to what I’m sure will be the future heights of rock ’n’ roll.—Sean Doyle

video platform video management video solutions video player 12. Rich Aucoin
Rich Aucoin continues to win over a new batch of unsuspecting individuals in whatever-sized venue he can get his hands on, be it the Plush Palace (a glorified den) or Hangout Music Fest (a major music festival). Channeling the traditions of energetic electronic performance artists Girl Talk and Dan Deacon, he likes to blur the line between performer and concertgoer, and he seems to intuitively understand what it takes to turn a static crowd into a dynamic dance party. Aucoin knows how to work a room so well that he’s poised to become the Canadian answer to these American party starters.—Max Blau

11. The Flaming Lips
Once upon a time, The Flaming Lips emerged onstage from a giant spaceship, and leader Wayne Coyne crowd surfed in a giant plastic bubble. Since 2009’s Embryonic, the band has retired the space ship and now chosen to emerge out of a woman’s vagina displayed on a massive LED board. Coyne, of course, still surfs over his audiences in a giant bubble because, who wouldn’t? It’s antics like this, along with a rock-solid live show that put The Flaming Lips among the strongest touring acts in the U.S. The band’s overwhelming onstage energy is impressive even for skeptical audience members. And if you haven’t had the opportunity to grab Coyne’s butt through a giant plastic bubble and shove him over a crowd of thousands, I’m not sure you can say you’ve lived.—Clint Alwahab

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