I'm getting a jump on it this year. This will be a multi-post thread. My final list (it needs one more listen-over for revisions) will be posted last. I'll start with easy stuff and as it gets closer to 2010, the list will eventually finish itself. Feel free to post in between my posts!
I'll start it off easy:
Mankvill's Top 5 "Surprise" Live Bands Of 2009
This is for bands that I didn't necessarily think I would like or that I didn't know of until I saw them live and they made a good impression on me.
The Black Dahlia Murder
Highlights: Statutory Ape, Elder Misanthropy, Everything Went Black
I've seen this band 4 times now without ever meaning to (?!) and I've actually kind of liked them live. This show was great (it was an off-date of Mayhem Fest headlined by Cannibal Corpse and featuring Behemoth and God Forbid) and TBDM really has quite unmatched live energy. I remember that "Elder Misanthropy" was an immense standout and "Statutory Ape" and "Everything Went Black" were fantastic live. Almost stole the show from Cannibal Corpse. Almost
Kansas City, MO
Highlights: Too Much Time On My Hands, Come Sail Away, Renegade
Yes, THAT Styx. I went to this show with my parents. REO Speedwagon headlined, but you'd have no idea if you just went to see Styx. They have so many classic songs that are meant to be sung along with a huge crowd, and although Dennis DeYoung isn't in the band anymore, his replacement does an admirable job of taking over his duties. "Come Sail Away" was the best crowd sing along all year.
Kansas City, MO
Barney from Napalm Death says this band renewed his faith in current heavy music, and he's totally right. Total aggression, this band is MADE for small bar/club shows. Even basement shows. It's impossible not to circle pit to this band. I don't have an exact setlist, but it was all insane.
Highlights: The Brain Scrambles, ReaniManiac
Imagine my surprise from flying halfway across the country to see Quo Vadis to have them easily upstaged by a three-piece thrash band! The injection of old school punk with their sound made them so infectious. I bought their album as soon as I could after this show. They're on tour soon, everyone should make it a priority to see Revocation.
Highlights: Modern Art, Emily Kane, My Little Brother
"Surprised" doesn't even begin to explain my experience with Art Brut. I won free tickets to this show and my indie snob friend LOVES them. And the opening bands were pretty much indie hipster garbage. But Art Brut completely blew me away. Equal parts The Clash, The Smiths, The Dead Kennedys and Interpol, every single song was high energy and their frontman Eddie Argos is far and away one of the best I've ever seen.
Honorable mentions: Reverend Horton Heat, Priestess, Lamb of God