It’s easy to spot the most experienced concertgoer at a show. The true veterans aren’t leaning up against the rail in the first row or posed coolly toward the back with a set of expensive ear plugs; they’re manning the sound booth, cleaning up beer cans or checking to see if that opener they booked was any good. And while there’s work to be done during a show, it’s hard for even the most jaded venue staff to ignore an act that’s jaw-droppingly talented (or, at least, jaw-droppingly loud). Here are the best, loudest, and strangest artists that played D.C. in 2014, according to some staffers who know shit from showgoing gold.

Howard Theatre
Ashley Barronette (bartender)
Best Show: Beres Hammond
Loudest Show: Rata Blanca and Ángeles Del Infierno
Sleepiest Show: Hiromi
Best Outfit: Shi-Queeta Lee
Best Onstage Dancing: Big Freedia (above)

Rock & Roll Hotel
Molly Majorack (marketing manager and assistant to talent buyer)
Best Show: Antemasque
Loudest Show: Black Clouds
Best Outfit: Betty Who
Best Onstage Dancing: Reignwolf

U Street Music Hall
Zach Eser (writer and social media manager for Blisspop, the blog of U Hall’s Will Eastman)
Best Show: Tie between Annie Mac and Cajmere; New Build and Museum of Love
Loudest Show: Rusko

Black Cat
Justin Gellerson (band liaison, band hospitality, barback)
Best Show: Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks
Loudest Show: The Orwells
Weirdest Show: The Polyphonic Spree
Best Onstage Dancing: Ex Hex
Best Crowd: King Tuff

9:30 Club
Maggie Cannon (I.M.P. director of marketing)
Best Show: Ryan Adams
Loudest Show: Death from Above 1979
Weirdest Show: Mac DeMarco
Best Outfits: The War on Drugs, pranking opener White Laces
Best Dancing: Future Islands
Best Crowd: Ty Segall

Paperhaus
Alex Tebeleff (house resident, booker)
Best Show: Pree with Krill, Star Rover, and Witch Coast
Loudest Show: Joy Buttons with Loud Boyz
Weirdest Show: The Three Brained Robot
Best Outfits: Young Rapids (Halloween show)