1. James Blake
    Was already a huge fan, but didn't expect so much of his sound to be sung/played live. No laptops, etc.
  2. Reggie Watts
    Had no idea how much improvisation he incorporates into his set. Super philosophical and topical, and doesn't mind going on a 10 minute tangent if it's interesting. Also, was always able to get the crowd right back with him as soon as he started another jam.
  3. Andrew Bird
    Charming presence, varied instruments, and an absolute master of looping. Once saw him play along with songs from a Chicago theatre company's shows at a bar. He'd never heard a single one of them before, and you'd have thought he wrote them himself.
  4. Dirty Projectors
    The trio of female voices create a Wall of Sound that (believe it or not) is even more powerful than it sounds on their albums. Saw them twice in Chicago, first at the Congress, and then three years later at Lincoln Hall. Phenomenal guitar work from David Longstreth as well.
  5. Lyle Ritz
    The undisputed God of Jazz Ukulele. I'd heard a few recordings before stumbling upon him at a Jazz festival in West Virginia. Look him up. He plays standards essentially unaccompanied, as he's developed a style that's simultaneously the basic chords of the song as well as a solo. Chord-solos? I dunno, he's incredible.
  6. Devo
    Just...bizarre. But man, do they own it. Great example of a band that truly does whatever the fuck they want. 100% commitment made these guys a joy to watch.