1. Mdou Moctar at University of Richmond, Oct. 6
For sheer uniqueness, hearing this Tuareg songwriter and guitarist play like a Saharan version of Jimi Hendrix, with notes raining down like water – was a rare treat. And before he played the audience was treated to the film that introduced him to the world, a low budget remake of Prince's "Purple Rain" titled "Akounak Tedalat Taha Tazoughai," which translates to "rain that is blue with a little red in it."
2. Pere Ubu and Minibeast at Strange Matter, Nov. 15
Lead singer Dave Thomas is old and somewhat frail, and he made some oddball jokes that seemed to skirt dangerously close to misogyny, but his vocals were solid and the show impressed, featuring strong cuts off the latest album. An added bonus was a blistering, space rock sounding opening set by Minibeast featuring former Mission of Burma drummer Scott Prescott on bass and vocals. Solid bill.
3. Lonnie Holley at the Broadberry, Feb. 7
Southern "outsider" folk artist Lonnie Holley was an unusual opening act on this bill for Matthew E. White and Flo Morrissey. Both a surreal and earthy, rooted performer, Holley played keys, backed by a experimental trio, and sang one of the most mesmerizing and timely songs I heard all year: The chorus simply goes "I went to sleep, woke up in a fucked-up America."
4. King Sour reunion at Hardywood, April 12
Back in the mid-'90s, stop-and-start math-rock ruled the local scene. One of the best of those bands, the moody metal dance trio of King Sour reunited this year after two decades with visiting bassist Tom Peloso, now of Modest Mouse fame. Much to the delight of the beer-swilling Gen Xers in attendance, it was like the band had never stopped.
5. Melvins at the Broadberry, Aug. 8
Speaking of metal, it had been a long time since the Melvins poured their unique brand of napalm sludge all over Richmond audiences and their much anticipated, sold-out return did not disappoint. I heard several old fans say they sounded better now than their early '90s heyday.
Best out of town show: The Zombies perform "Odessey and Oracle" at Sandler Performing Arts Center in Virginia Beach, March 21
At age 72, it's amazing how much singer Colin Blunstone still sounds like his youthful self. This legendary British group, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee for 2018, delivered a memorable night: The first set featured energetic takes on classic pop hits such as "She's Not There" and "Tell Her No" and closed with a beautiful piano duet of "The Way I Feel Inside." But the second set was the main attraction, devoted to a pitch-perfect, note-for-note rendition of their entire 1968 psychedelic album "Odessey and Oracle." Especially rewarding was seeing bassist Chris White, who is all over the record, get his due appreciation from the crowd during his moving performance of "Butcher's Tale (Western Front 1914)." This was the fourth night into the final, 50th anniversary tour of this great album: a rare reunion show that thrilled.