PHOTOS: The Barr Brothers at The Chapel 12/10

The Barr BrothersPhotos by Sam Heller //

The Barr Brothers with Leif Vollebekk //
The Chapel – San Francisco
December 10th, 2014 //

Following up their 2011 self-titled debut, Montreal folk quartet The Barr Brothers dropped their second album Sleeping Operator in early October and have recently been on the road in support of it. Hitting SF on a Wednesday night, they played the intimate Chapel and Sam Heller was there to catch the action after Leif Vollebekk opened the show.

The Barr Brothers

The Barr Brothers

The Barr Brothers

The Barr Brothers

The Barr Brothers

Jack Johnson spreads good vibes (and many hits) at the Greek

Jack-Johnson_postBy Sam Heller //

Jack Johnson with Bahamas //
Greek Theatre – U.C. Berkeley
August 26th, 2014 //

Returning to the Greek Theatre in Berkeley for the sixth time, surfer-turned-musician-turned-headliner Jack Johnson delivered a setlist on Tuesday that highlighted just how many popular hits he’s had over the years, while also stitching in a handful of covers.

Sam Heller was there to capture the moment.

Sitting, Waiting, Wishing
Middle Man
Inaudible Melodies
You and Your Heart
If I Had Eyes
Never Fade
Answering Machine Message
Tomorrow Morning / Bubble Toes
Not Fade Away (The Crickets cover)
Wasting Time
Upside Down
Rodeo Clowns (G. Love & Special Sauce cover)
Who Do You Love? (Bo Diddley cover)
Tape Deck
Banana Pancakes
Shot Reverse Shot / I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend (Ramones cover)
Staple It Together
At or With Me / Crosstown Traffic (The Jimi Hendrix Experience cover)
Good People
I Got You
Do You Remember
Better Together
















PHOTOS: Elbow at Fox Theater Oakland 5/27

Elbow_postBy Sam Heller //

Elbow with John Grant //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA
May 27, 2014 //

British quintet Elbow performed at the Fox Theater Oakland last week with Colorado singer-songwriter John Grant, formerly associated with the Denver-based alt-rock band The Czars. Sam Heller was on hand to capture the moment.









Damien Jurado takes the solo road in SF


By Sam Heller //

Damien Jurado //
The Independent — San Francisco
May 20th, 2014 //

Damien Jurado wooed the completely captive crowd at the Independent last week with his mesmerizing tunes and acerbic banter. The Seattle-based singer-songwriter said there was no way he could replicate his excellent 2014 record Brothers and Sisters of the Eternal Son live, so he decided a solo acoustic tour was the best alternative (listen to the album below). In a rather unusual but revealing move, Jurado conducted a Q&A with the audience. He was asked about his most expensive purchase, which he denied to answer, and if there were any hopes of acoustic albums in the future. He responded by labeling acoustic albums “boring”, and that he would unlikely make one.

Sam Heller was on the scene to capture the moment, saying he had “never seen a sold-out Indy show so quiet and attentive.”






Allen Stone’s generous soul marks a decade of music at The Independent

Allen Stone

By Sam Heller

The Independent’s 10th Anniversary featuring Allen Stone with Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas //
The Independent – San Francisco
February 19th, 2014 //

Allen Stone’s got soul. Loads of it. The self-professed “hippie with soul” headlined the first of a week long string of sold out shows at The Independent to celebrate the quintessential venue’s 10th anniversary. Stone mentioned early on that the Indy was the first venue he played with his full band, and he continued to shower a lot of love onto the Divisadero-based institution.

Stone’s stage presence is a big takeaway from seeing him live — he was dripping sweat within minutes. It was a polished, well rehearsed show; not much exploration went down, but that’s a given. Stone is generous with the attention he gives to his bandmates, allowing them to shine with their instruments. Super funky and solid, extended solos were spread all around.

The evening centered around many cuts from his two long players, but the packed house was also treated to a handful of new ones that have never been played before. For the first encore, Stone appeared by his lonesome, saying, “This is a new song I haven’t played in front of people before. If you don’t like it, can we just keep it cool?” Then the band came out to cover Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used To Know”. All in all, it was solid way to celebrate 10 years of live music live.

Allen Stone

Allen Stone

Allen Stone

Allen Stone


Allen Stone

Allen Stone

Allen Stone

PHOTOS: The Wood Brothers at The Fillmore 2/1


By Sam Heller

The Wood Brothers with Amy Helm //
The Fillmore — San Francisco
February 1st, 2014 //

Oliver and Chris Wood, popularly known the Wood Brothers, held acoustic court at the world famous Fillmore on February 1st, lighting up the stage with soaring melodies, new tracks and even a special guest. Amy Helm opened the evening before the main act opened their headlining set with “The Muse’, the opening track off of 2013’s album of the same name. Their sound is loaded with blues influences while melding in some of the most authentic Americana style in the business. Amy Helm returned halfway through the set to guest on a pair of tracks before the wonderful Amos Lee joined in for “The Luckiest Man”. Amos returned for the first encore which featured a rendition of Michael Jackson’s “P.Y.T.”. The second encore would display the cover of Lee Dorsey’s “Get Out of My Life Woman” before the familial duo bid the crowd adieu.






Amy Helm







Holy Ghost! dance in the new year at the Independent


Photos by Sam Heller // Written by Molly Kish //

The Independent was ablaze with nu disco vibes, kicking off 2014 with a back to back Holy Ghost! party on December 30th & 31st. Selling out both dates of the New Year’s double header, the DFA headliners threw down with a supporting cast of local dj’s and live talent each night. Pulsating party jams off of this past year’s dance manifesto Dynamics, along with fan favorites from their previous self-titled album and EP, kept the jam packed venue dancing into the early morning hours.

Celebrating in style, New Years Eve revelers got the added bonus of an open bar accompanying their ticket purchase, providing for a champagne soaked countdown into what undoubtedly will be a big year for the “local’s favorite” venue.

PHOTOS: The Head and the Heart at Fox Theater Oakland 12/5


The Head and the Heart with rayLand baxter and Rose Windows
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA
December 5, 2013

Seattle-based The Head and the Heart brought their folk-infused feel good songs to Oakland earlier this month. Sam Heller was there to capture snaps of this fast rising group — the show had sold out months in advance. The group is touring on Let’s Be Still, their second album.

PHOTOS: Andrew Bird at Congregation Sherith Israel 12/16


Andrew Bird
Congregation Sherith Israel – San Francisco
December 16, 2013

Andrew Bird, one of the finest violinists and whistlers in the world, continued his Gezelligheid Tour in San Francisco Monday at the Congregation Sherith Israel. Gezelligheid is a Dutch term that loosely translates to “extra extra cozy.” Bird’s holiday-timed performances usually concentrate on instrumental violin pieces amplified only by the signature giant Specimen horns.

While the Chicago & Los Angeles performances this month are at various Churches, the Congregation Sherith Israel Temple provided a spectacular setting to match Bird’s breathtaking music.

Two improvisational sets were played, including a group of countrified numbers with Tiff Merritt (guitar/vocals) & Todd Sickafoose (Bass).





J. Roddy Walston and the Business bring some Old-Fashioned Rock n’ Roll


Photos & Writing by Sam Heller

Let’s face it, it’s been a long time since you’ve rock and rolled, or your life was saved by rock and roll, or you’ve wanted to rock and roll all night and party everyday. The fact is, you just want to hear some of that rock and roll music. For a genre of music that seems as dead as punk, rock and roll is still the heartbeat of almost everything we treat our ears to. Lucky for us, there is a small Baltimore based band that plays our favorite past time genre the proper way; loud, rowdy and old fashion, in the best way possible.

J. Roddy Walston & The Business‘ infectious sound filled the veins of a comfortably packed house at the Independent Thursday October 10th. Walston’s heavy hand, hammering on a vintage Yamaha up-right piano is an obvious nod to the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis and Ian Stewart. A humble J. Roddy was genuinely taken back by the turn out, curiously asking the crowd how they heard about his band.

Without hesitation, J. Roddy and the Business brought pure rock and roll from start to finish. There was no messing around, no keyboards, no genre jumping songs or other distractions. Just fire-driven energy fueling the set, playing old and new songs in his signature style. “Our most listened to song” belted Roddy, a Bill Carlisle cover of “Sally Let Your Bangs Hang Down,” and the first song of a three song encore. The bonus track on their new album entitled “I Think Of You,” was the only moments the audience was given to catch their breath. In layman’s terms, PURE ROCK AND FUCKING ROLL!

Essential Tremors, is their most recent release, and if you want to hear the best rock and roll album of the year, give it a spin. Yea, Best Rock Album of the Year.

The meteoric rise of Alt-J continues at Fox Theater Oakland

alt-J_postPhotos by Sam Heller // Written by Mike Frash

In just under nine months, quirky Brit-rockers alt-J have graduated from a double header at Bottom of the Hill to a two-night run at Fox Theatre Oakland — an impressive feat for any new band still touring on their first album.

The group’s meteoric rise can be attributed to their highly regarded 2012 record An Awesome Wave. Alt-J exhibit unique vocal syncopation, treating lyrics with off-beat rhythmic timing while also blending out-of-the-mouth sounds like a pleasant synth chord. Throw this in with some breathtaking bass drops and a drummer that performs cymbal-less, and you’ve got an exciting, breakthrough act.

In their third return to the Bay Area August 29 at a sold out Fox Theatre, the quartet seemed more comfortable than prior shows — and they delivered the proper, dreary set one would expect. Songs were played straight forward, but alt-J barely performed for an hour. Their live show should expand with additional material.

Traveler Trey Anastasio comes alive at Fox Theater Oakland

Trey-Anastasio-BandWritten by Kevin Quandt ~ Photos by Sam Heller

After releasing Traveler in October to mixed reviews, fans wondered when the subsequent tour would take place. For the West Coast, that happened to fall in mid-April at theaters up and down the western seaboard. Oakland, and the Bay Area, were thrilled that the circus would be a two night affair at the Fox revolving around the unofficial April 20th holiday that fans know, love and observe thoroughly.

It was the usual cast of characters accompanying Trey onstage, but the bulk of Friday’s night material was largely fresh to the sold out crowd. The first set was a veritable grab-bag of different eras in Trey’s career with a few obscure covers peppered in for good measure. “Mozambique” featured a guest appearance by former TAB horn section trombonist Jeff Cressman, who is the father of current trombonist, Natalie Cressman. The always energetic “Push On Till the Day” punctuated the end to the first set with Anastasio spinning in circles with a devilish grin wiped all over his face, and it’s clear to see he really enjoys these non-Phish outings.

The second set opened with Phish favorite “Sand” before launching into a set heavy with new tracks off Traveler. “Valentine” is a introspective ballad that has been played for years, a song which seemingly speaks to Anastasio’s post-addiction life and it’s possibilities for greatness, while maintaining sobriety. “Alaska” was the last Phish song of the night, and this solid rendition was highlighted by the multi-part horn section, adding an enjoyable funk element. Shine track “Tuesday” was featured as the encore, and the first of two nights came to a wrap.

Second night would feature popular covers like “Black Dog” and “Clint Eastwood”, but the Friday show was more about Trey opening up and taking chances, which is something he has been increasingly fond of on his solo tours.

Set One: Drifting, Cayman Review, Alive Again, O-o-h Child (Five Stairsteps cover), Magilla, Money Love and Change, Wherever You Find It, Greyhound Rising, Scabbard, Mozambique*, Dark and Down, Push On Till the Day

Set Two: Sand, Valentine, Night Speaks to a Woman, Architect, Gone, Pigtail, Alaska, Traveler

Encore: Tuesday

*with Jeff Cressman(trombone)

STS9, Tycho see split scenes in Oakland

STS9_PostPhotos by Sam Heller // Written by Mike Frash //

STS9 with Tycho //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
March 1st, 2013 //

Santa Cruz’s STS9 flowed through the Fox Theater Oakland Friday evening, delivering a couple sets that were heavy on newer material from their 2011 EP When the Dust Settles. The second set began with an unexpected treat; a horn section joined the electronic jam band for the first four songs of the second set.

More than any other live act, STS9 straddles the line between jam band and electronic act, but they usually defer to their live instruments. However, most members have a laptop nearby, and the second layer of the band on stage are on an elevated platform, as most big-name DJ acts are these days.

There was a duality to the night Friday, as rising SF-based Tycho had plenty of his own fans in attendance since he was the opening act. It seemed like Tycho would be a perfect opening act for STS9 based on both group’s musical output, but the bridge was never finished, as a surprising amount of concertgoers left before STS9 performed. This only gave more room for the Sound Tribe faithful to get down and celebrate live music.

Set 1: This, Us!, When The Dust Settles > Arigato, Beyond Right Now, T.W.E.L.V.E > Warrior, Metameme, Simulator

Set 2: Revolutions 1993*, End Titles*, Be Nice*, Firewall*, Golden Gate, Rent, Biggs >New Song, What is Love, Awesome, The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature

Encore: By The Morning Sun, Scheme

*with horns