The A.V. Club’s favorite at-home performances of the year

The A.V. Club’s favorite at-home performances of the year

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Gif: Natalie Peeples
AVQ&AWelcome back to AVQ&A, where we throw out a question for discussion among the staff and readers. Consider this a prompt to compare notes on your interface with pop culture, to reveal your embarrassing tastes and experiences.

Live shows—like most social events—went virtual in 2020, so we’re tweaking our typical “favorite live show” end-of-year AVQ&A to ask:

Which artist put on your favorite home show/livestream of 2020?

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Race Chaser presents Name That Tune

Race Chaser presents Name That Tune

Hands down, the best livestream money I’ve spent in 2020 has gone to the fine queens behind the Race Chaser podcast. Drag Race alumni Alaska and Willam have put on a few livestream events during quarantine, with proceeds from each going to a great cause, like For The Gworls, a charity that helps support black trans people in economic need. They did a spelling bee with Mariah Paris Balenciaga, Meatball, Monet X Change, and a mousily dressed Jinkx Monsoon that left me laughing, as well as a version of Pictionary with queens like Naomi Smalls that thrilled and chilled, but their Name That Tune really had me rolling in the proverbial aisles. The one-two punch of Bianca Del Rio and Bob The Drag Queen competing against each other and Alaska and Willam’s not-so-friendly competitive streak made that stream a winner. If you’d like to check it out, the whole stream is archived for your viewing pleasure. [Marah Eakin]

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Kylie Minogue’s Infinite Disco

Kylie Minogue’s Infinite Disco

While it was a thrill during early livestreams to get an unprecedented peek into the homes of our favorite musicians, the best shows of late have transported us to another world entirely. Leave it to reigning dance-floor queen Kylie Minogue to deliver the most joyful, escapist music event of the year, Infinite Disco, which invited fans to come into her world, a laser-lit discotheque floating in space. Streamed into homes the night Joe Biden became our president-elect, the show was a rush of euphoria, taking viewers through a tour of past favorites and cuts from her dazzling new album, Disco. Minogue looked radiant in a gold jumpsuit—with her vocals somehow sounding even better than on the LP—giving the whole experience the (good) kind of infectious energy we’ve so sorely been missing in 2020. [Cameron Scheetz]

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Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration 

Take Me To The World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration 

With Broadway closed down indefinitely, my annual NYC trip and musical marathon of five shows in four days was canceled for 2020. Luckily, the industry decided to celebrate Stephen Sondheim’s 90th birthday in epic fashion. The most-publicized highlight of Take Me To he World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration was Meryl Streep, Audra McDonald, and Christine Baranski’s version of “Ladies Who Lunch” from Company, but that’s just one musical dream team from 140 minutes of performances. Be it Lea Salonga’s “Loving You” from Passion, Sutton Foster’s “There Won’t Be Trumpets” from Anyone Can Whistle, or Brian Stokes Mitchell’s “The Flag Song” from Assassins, there was something for everyone who considers themselves even a passing Sondheim fan. Best of all, the entire evening served to benefit ASTEP, Artists Striving to End Poverty. [Patrick Gomez]

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AWOLNATION’s at home performance

AWOLNATION’s at home performance

I had bought concert tickets for nearly every month of the year, and I was absolutely crushed as I kept getting notifications that they were canceled, one of those shows being AWOLNATION. During the summer, frontman Aaron Bruno did a quick livestream Q&A and acoustic set of songs from his new album for Chicago’s alternative station WKQX. It was one of the first livestream “shows” I got to watch in the early days of the pandemic, and it made me so happy, especially after knowing I wasn’t going to be able to see him perform any of those songs live. Though the livestream can’t duplicate the sheer energy Bruno shows on stage, he offered a completely intimate, candid, and outstanding performance. Acoustic sets always have a warm place in my heart, and this one was one of the most memorable. [Angelica Cataldo]

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Ratboys’ Halloween Telethon

Ratboys’ Halloween Telethon

At this point, most of my favorite musicians have turned in livestreams or digital concerts of varying degrees of quality, but there’s one band that has been absolutely crushing it from the very start: Ratboys. Within the first few weeks of the lockdown, the band started up a series of live performances, including our own inaugural episode of House Shows—they had already booked and were set to embark on a length tour, so the pivot made sense. But as the weeks turned into months, they became more and more ambitious, experimenting with new formats during their endearing Twitch streams, bringing on near-weekly guests to perform or play along with their good-natured tomfoolery, and more. But it all culminated with the group’s massive blowout of a Halloween treat: A 24-hour marathon livestream telethon for the Equal Justice Initiative and Girls Rock! Chicago, with a bevy of guests and stunts. It was equal parts musical greatness (Nectar! Diet Cig! The Beths!) and inspired silliness (costume contests! Rating Halloween movies!). I could only watch some of it, but it felt like a communal hug orchestrated by one of my favorite bands. [Alex McLevy]

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NCT 127: Beyond The Origin live concert

NCT 127: Beyond The Origin live concert

After watching a few very great remote live shows, the persistent challenge with these events lies in replicating the kinetic energy of a live audience. In truth, it’s an irreplicable element to any in-person performance. But it’s nice to see a group of performers like NCT 127 attempt to fill the void, which is what made the K-pop outfit’s Beyond The Origin live show so engaging. After following the group’s concert with similar attempts by others, I grew to miss the roar of the Zoom’d audience, the playful graphics, and even the extended Q&A. It came the closest to transporting me back to the far-too-hot arenas of yore and made such creative use of a soundstage. And I will never tire of a CGI dragon, which made for quite the finale. [Shannon Miller]

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Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production Of Eggs livestream

Andrew Bird, The Mysterious Production Of Eggs livestream

Quarantine stretches on, but thankfully, Andrew Bird remains as committed as ever to providing live entertainment via livestream. The multi-instrumentalist has been putting on mini-shows on Instagram on a near-daily basis; he’s also hosted several artists via his YouTube series, “Live From The Great Room.” In October, he released his finest home show yet, The Mysterious Production Of Eggs livestream. Bird is meticulous as a producer and a performer, which helped make TMPOE a transportive experience at a time when we have to remain homebound. And Bird’s not done yet—his annual Gezelligheid concert series, one of the brightest spots in the Chicago winter, will be available via livestream on December 13. [Danette Chavez]

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