Debrief // Frightened Rabbit at the House of Blues, Boston // April 2, 2013

Frightened Rabbit at the House of Blues, Boston

With each area gig – on stages small and now big – it’s become increasingly clear that when Frightened Rabbit comes to Boston it’s probably a good idea to make sure your schedule is otherwise clear.

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Debrief // Adam Arcuragi and Spirit Family Reunion at Cafe 939, Boston // Nov. 9, 2012

Adam Arcuragi at Cafe 939, Boston

In perhaps as inspired of a double bill as Boston has seen this fall, Adam Arcuragi and Spirit Family Reunion both descended on Berklee’s cozy Cafe 939 on Friday night. Despite the early start time, the room quickly filled with a crowd that was equal parts attentive and enthusiastic as the two rising Northeast-based bands – each an author of one of 2012′s finest albums – dueled over setlists composed backstage on paper plates.

Spirit Family Reunion at Cafe 939, Boston

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Debrief // Ben Folds Five at the House of Blues, Boston // Oct. 13, 2012

Ben Folds Five at the House of Blues, Boston

A reunited Ben Folds Five made its much-anticipated return to Boston on Saturday night, playing a to a rabid, sold-out crowd at the House of Blues. The band’s nearly 2-hour set started out super-mid-tempo – and super-jazzy – before the trio let loose into a “rock block” to close out the main set. Drawing heavily from its new album, The Sound of the Life of the Mind, and its 1997 breakthrough Whatever and Ever Amen, the group also dipped into material from its self-titled debut but surprisingly avoided tracks from 1999′s The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner until re-emerging for a 3-song encore.

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Debrief // Beirut at the House of Blues, Boston // Aug. 28, 2012

Beirut at the House of Blues, Boston

Local fans had waited a very long time for this, and on Tuesday night – nearly a year to the date after the band’s latest album was unleashed on the world – Zach Condon finally brought Beirut back to Boston.

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Debrief // Shearwater + Sharon Van Etten at the Paradise Rock Club, Boston // Feb. 23, 2012

Shearwater at the Paradise Rock Club, Boston

Sharon Van Etten took top billing at the Paradise on Thursday night, but it was Shearwater that had me crazy excited about a show for the first time in 2012. The Austin collective has lingered on my “must-see” list since I first discovered Palo Santo nearly six years ago,  and though this was a somewhat unconventional live lineup for the band – sans Thor Harris and Kimberly Burke – Jonathan Meiburg and company did not disappoint.

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Favorite Albums of 2011

Wild Flag

Better late than never, right? The new (to me) album that I spun most frequently last year was actually released in 2009 (The Wooden Sky’s If I Don’t Come Home You’ll Know I’m Gone – thanks, Visible Voice!). Without further adieu, here are some of FiTi’s favorite albums of 2011…

FiTi's favorites on Spotify

Wild Flag (shown above) // Wild Flag // Debrief: 3.07.11 @ Brighton Music Hall
The Deep Dark Woods // The Place I Left Behind
Telekinesis // 12 Desperate Straight Lines
Elbow // Build a Rocket Boys! // Debrief: 9.26.11 @ Paradise
Fleet Foxes // Helplessness Blues

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Debrief // Mike Doughty at the Paradise Rock Club, Boston // Nov. 15, 2011

Mike Doughty at the Paradise Rock Club, Boston

When Mike Doughty announced that he was splitting from ATO to self-release Yes and Also Yes this year, it might have seemed logical for him to return to his early “Small Rock” solo roots. But the Brooklynite’s approach on Yes has much more in common with Haughty Melodic than the sparse compositions from Skittish, and after one listen it was pretty clear that – following a series of more intimate tours in support of 2009′s stripped-back Sad Man Happy Man – it was time for him to put the band together again.

So Doughty arrived in Boston on Tuesday with his Band Fantastic, establishing the mood immediately with a trio of crowd pleasers as the audience continued to fill up the Paradise. “(I Keep On) Rising Up,” “27 Jennifers” and “Tremendous Brunettes” pulled from Doughty’s major pre-Yes releases, but from that point on the main set leaned heavily on some of his new album’s finest moments.

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Debrief // Blind Pilot & Gregory Alan Isakov at the Paradise Rock Club, Boston // Nov. 8, 2011

Blind Pilot at the Paradise Rock Club, Boston

It’s hard to imagine that a large chunk of Blind Pilot’s catalog was written while the band was just a duo, busking in the UK and touring the West Coast by bicycle. At a packed Paradise on Tuesday, the now-six-piece Oregon group was a finely tuned machine, with each member playing an essential role around every gorgeous turn, whether the song was old or new.

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Debrief // Dawes + Blitzen Trapper at Royale, Boston // Oct. 28, 2011

Dawes at Royale, Boston

They’re both bands that draw inspiration from vintage ’70s sounds, but the big difference between co-headliners Dawes and Blitzen Trapper could be summed up pretty succinctly by their choice of cover songs at a jam-packed Royale on Friday night: Dawes turned in a faithful rendition of the sunny Paul Simon track “Kodachrome,” while Blitzen Trapper tackled the grittier Zeppelin classic “Good Times Bad Times.”

Dawes played first, taking the stage before 7 p.m. and squeezing everything that it could out of its hour-plus set. It’s been a crazy year for the VH1 “You Oughta Know” poster boys, but if the road is wearing on them they weren’t showing it as they nimbly rocked through songs from their standout second album, Nothing Is Wrong, and took time to stretch out on material from their 2009 debut, North Hills.

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Debrief // The Head and the Heart at Royale, Boston // Sept. 30, 2011

The Head and the Heart at Royale, Boston

The Head and the Heart has been crazy busy since making its Boston debut back in February, when it opened a pair of shows for Dr. Dog at the Paradise. The Seattle band’s self-titled debut album has since received a proper nationwide release on Sub Pop, selling some 70,000 copies and propelling it to appearances at Sasquatch, Bonnaroo, the Newport Folk Festival and Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Things have continued to fall into place for THATH on its first full headlining tour, and its show at Royale on Friday was just one of many sell-outs it’s scored across the country. This is all an awful lot to happen to a young band so quickly, and in these cases the hype can often outpace and overshadow a group’s development. To THATH’s credit, they’re clearly making the most of the opportunity, gigging nonstop and making a strong connection with its rapidly growing fanbase.

THATH led off its first Boston headlining set with the album-opening 1-2-3 punch of “Cats and Dogs,” “Coeur d’Alene” and “Ghosts,” a tactic that instantly sucked in the capacity crowd and serendipitously enlisted it as a makeshift seventh member, adding an atmospheric layer to the band’s already stellar vocal harmonies.

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