I go to a fair number of shows each year, sometimes as a function of this job and sometimes to go and see the weird stuff. I definitely got out to some spectacular ones this year. With no further ado, here are my top 5.
 
5. Solas/Bearfoot at Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, January
and
5. The Decemberists at Chicago’s Riviera Theatre, January
A tie, all the more amusing because just this past week I was ridiculing Tim Cain for having a tie with “two #11s” on his 2009 best album list. In my defense, though, I was doing a set of only five concerts, and I couldn’t bear to leave either of these groups off it.
Why Solas was awesome: This was probably the biggest traditional folk show I got out to this year. The Irish-born group has been a star on the Celtic music scene for over 15 years now, and the quality of their performance was no surprise. What WAS surprising was the awesome opening act, Bearfoot, a progressive bluegrass group of attractive, 20-something Alaskan citizens. Their 2009 debut, “Doors and Windows,” has at least 4-5 great songs, plus a surprising Beatles cover of “Don’t Let me Down” thrown in for good measure.