Royal Blood make a pit stop at brand-new Ventura Music Hall on their ‘Typhoons’ tour to remind us rock ‘n’ roll is still alive & well

Royal BloodBy Josh Herwitt //

Royal Blood with cleopatrick //
Ventura Music Hall – Ventura, CA
May 4th, 2022 //

If you’re one of those people who thinks rock ‘n’ roll is on its way out, then you probably haven’t heard of Royal Blood before.

The English alt-rock duo comprised of Mike Kerr (lead vocals, bass, keyboards, piano, guitar) and sidekick Ben Thatcher (drums, percussion, piano) has been growing its fan base far outside the UK since forming more than a decade ago, so much so the two Brits have found themselves headlining larger venues “in the states” with each passing tour.

But the smallest room on Royal Blood’s 26-date North American trek that included five shows up and down California is no doubt the brand-new Ventura Music Hall, which hopes to be a legitimate pit stop for bands traveling from the Bay Area to Los Angeles and vice versa.

Opening its doors for the first time less than two months ago, the 635-person club has already hosted several notable acts across a range of genres — from the world sounds of Thievery Corporation to the punk rock of Flogging Molly and Bob Mould to the synthpop of Gary Numan and Hot Chip — while the addition of Royal Blood should only help build its credibility as one of the few spots to catch live music along the Central Coast. At half the size of the Ventura Theater, it offers a more intimate setting despite being mostly standing room with food available via local pop-up Ruff House BBQ and a massive ceiling fan to create a strong ventilation system (because we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic).

Ventura, furthermore, has been primed to have a new space for a while now. Home to outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia as well as a handful of top-notch craft breweries an hour north of LA and 30 minutes south of Santa Barbara, the once-sleepy beach town is often overlooked and could be something more than its past as other entertainment and dining options are introduced and established over time.

Royal Blood

Much of the same can be said for Royal Blood after they last performed stateside in 2018. Since then, they’ve managed to reinvent some of that big, bombastic sound we first heard them unleash on 2014’s self-titled debut LP and 2018’s How Did We Get So Dark? by churning out even catchier melodies and dance-forward backbeats for their third studio effort Typhoons, which dropped more than a year ago to predominantly favorable reviews.

There might be no better track on Typhoons that manifests the sonic evolution of Royal Blood than its disco-flavored lead single “Trouble’s Coming”, and considering that it was the first song written for the album based on what Kerr has said in interviews, I would be surprised if it doesn’t become a staple at the band’s shows in the future.

On this night and this tour, we were treated to a performance from Kerr and Thatcher that spanned all three of their full lengths and more. There was “Typhoons” fittingly to open and “Boilermaker” to follow, the latter of which being the Josh Homme-produced track that you could argue is one of Royal Blood’s most electrifying songs right now (I did after naming it my favorite song of 2021). It has a similar energy to “Lights Out” and that might be why the first single — and one of the real standouts — off HDWGSD? came right after in the setlist.

Multiple deep cuts such as “Hook, Line & Sinker”, “Blood Hands” and “Loose Change” were also played, but hearing Royal Blood’s newest single “Honeybrains” that they uncovered right before hitting the road this spring was particularly praiseworthy for a group that has moved beyond a bass guitar and drums to incorporate more keyboards in their latest studio material. If it wasn’t evident to the crowd quite yet, Kerr made it upon his return to the stage after a short set break, as he took a seat at the piano and belted out the Typhoons finale “All We Have Is Now” to kickstart a furious, three-song encore that ended with Royal Blood cuts “Ten Tonne Skeleton” and “Out of the Black” sending us home after 90 minutes of ear-rattling and headbanging euphoria.

What has always amazed me about Royal Blood is how full their music sounds despite only having two permanent members who would serve as most bands’ rhythm section. And although you would have to think that Kerr and Thatcher will eventually explore adding other instrumentation — if not more full-time staff with Darren James brought on last year to be their touring keyboardist — into the fold, the 11-track Typhoons has provided them with that step forward. Where they go from here remains anyone’s guess as they help carry the torch for rock ‘n’ roll in 2022, but with another album cycle under their belts soon, those prospects feel just as exciting as where they’ve already been.

Setlist:
Typhoons
Boilermaker
Lights Out
Come on Over
Trouble’s Coming
Hook, Line & Sinker
Honeybrains
Little Monster
How Did We Get So Dark?
Blood Hands
Million and One
Limbo
Loose Change
Figure It Out

Encore:
All We Have Is Now
Ten Tonne Skeleton
Out of the Black

On a wild Oscars night, Baroness deliver their own brand of theatrics in LA for a sold-out crowd at The Echo

BaronessBy Josh Herwitt //

Baroness //
The Echo – Los Angeles
March 27th, 2022 //

If you didn’t catch it on live television, you probably have heard plenty about it. You know, how that one famous guy slapped the other famous guy in the face during an awards show over a bad joke?

Well, that’s all anyone can seem to talk about now. Even the ongoing war in Ukraine took a back seat to the “slap heard around the world.”

But for those Angelinos who could give a rat’s ass about the Academy Awards or the latest drama that’s surrounding Hollywood, you could find us at The Echo getting slapped in the face by some heavy metal … compliments of Baroness.

The alt-prog-sludge band with roots in Virginia but originally from Savannah, Ga., has been winning over metalheads dating back to the mid-2000’s with a sound reminiscent of former desert rockers Kyuss, and its fan base has only continued to grow in that time with a Grammy nomination five years ago.

Founding member John Baizley (lead vocals, rhythm guitar, keyboards, percussion) has been working with Nick Jost (bass, keyboards, backing vocals) and Sebastian Thomson (drums) for nearly a decade, and Gina Gleason (lead guitar, backing vocals) has proven that she can shred with the very best since replacing Baroness’ other founding member Peter Adams in 2017.

Baroness

While the four-piece has yet to follow up 2019’s Gold & Grey with another studio album, Baizley and company have been powering through the ups and downs of the COVID-19 pandemic on their “Your Baroness Tour” after having to cancel and reschedule last year’s shows in Boise, Salt Lake City and Denver, as well as subsequently postpone its second leg from January-February to March-April.

But when they arrived in the City of Angels last Sunday for their first appearance since headlining The Wiltern with Deafheaven, there was a capacity crowd waiting for them. And judging by the line outside the venue, I wasn’t quite sure The Echo could even fit everyone inside. The 350-person room did, but there certainly wasn’t a lot of space to maneuver once we got through its front doors.

What was different and unique about this tour, though, was that Baroness were giving ticket holders the opportunity to request songs each night, with the top 10 being included in the performance’s setlist. LA’s own “by-request evening” began like many of them have as “Ogeechee Hymnal” paved the way for lead single “Take My Bones Away” off 2012’s Yellow & Green — and a whole lot of headbanging as Baizley’s and Gleason’s guitars intertwined with ferocity and regularity for the next two-plus hours.

By the end of it all, no one could argue Baroness had shortchanged anyone. Unleashing a 22-song set that covered all five of their full lengths and concluded with “Swollen and Halo” on 2009’s Blue Record, they even had something a little special saved for the encore as they gave us the option of hearing the first recorded track “Tower Falls” from their aptly titled debut EP First instead of fan favorite Red Album track “Isak”, which has often assumed the position of show closer lately.

Would it have been better if they had uncorked both to completely melt our faces? Of course, but with Baizley seemingly in high spirits due to the sold-out audience’s response, you can count on Baroness’ next visit to Tinseltown being even bigger, better and bolder than their last.

Setlist:
Ogeechee Hymnal
Take My Bones Away
Rays on Pinion
Kerosene
Tourniquet
March to the Sea
Green Theme
A Horse Called Golgotha
Shock Me
Chlorine & Wine
The Gnashing
Cold-Blooded Angels (Acoustic)
I’d Do Anything (Acoustic)
Can Oscura
Little Things
Borderlines
If I Have to Wake Up (Would You Stop the Rain?) / Fugue
The Sweetest Curse
The Birthing
Cocainium
Eula
Swollen and Halo

Encore:
Tower Falls

*Editor’s Note: “Isak” was written on the setlist as the encore, but fans were given the option to choose.

The War on Drugs prove in Adam Granduciel’s new hometown why they deserved to win a Grammy more than four years ago

The War on DrugsBy Josh Herwitt //

The War on Drugs //
Shrine Auditorium – Los Angeles
February 26th, 2022 //

What can you say about Adam Granduciel that hasn’t already been said or written?

Let’s just cut to the chase then: the guy keeps getting better and better with age. And though he might give off the impression that he’s a tad bit older than the 43 years he just turned last month thanks to all of those late nights writing songs in his bedroom or at the studio, Granduciel has continued to push the band he formed in Philadelphia more than 17 years ago to new and greater heights.

The War on Drugs’ foray into music’s mainstream has been a slow churn dating all the way back to 2005 before it culminated four years ago when they beat out a number of hard-rock heavyweights in Metallica, Mastodon, Queens of the Stone Age and Nothing More to win the Grammy for “Best Rock Album” at the 60th Annual Grammy Awards.

It was a career-defining moment for the group that’s heartland sound has centered around Granduciel’s fascination with Bob Dylan — an enthusiasm for the legendary folk singer-songwriter that he and fellow Philly-bred indie rocker Kurt Vile shared when they first started playing together in each other’s projects — and continued with his love for Bruce Springsteen. (There’s also a hint of Rod Stewart and Tom Petty in Granduciel’s work for good measure.)

Six months prior, I had caught The War on Drugs at Apogee Studio for KCRW’s Apogee Sessions (read our review here), and after hearing them preview a few songs off A Deeper Understanding that evening, it was right then and there that I knew the album was well deserving of some significant hardware.

But following 2014’s seminal Lost in the Dream — the band’s third album which might be arguably better than its award-winning follow-up — with another 10-track masterpiece, Granduciel had done what only a few are capable of these days, particularly in the rock space, by creating an emotional, yet timeless gem for our earholes to bathe in.

With little room to go up from there, Granduciel certainly had a challenge on his hands when it was time to make another LP. It wasn’t just that he had become a father to his son Bruce (yes, he really is named after the Boss) in 2019 and officially moved to LA’s San Fernando Valley shortly thereafter even if those were two major life changes, but the expectations surrounding The War on Drugs’ next studio effort had only grown even more since the last one.

For Granduciel, it didn’t matter. He went back to the grind and delivered once again. What resulted after hours at his Burbank rehearsal space with engineer and producer Shawn Everett was I Don’t Live Here Anymore, which arrived back in October and peaked at No. 22 on the Billboard 200. It’s another record worthy of high praise — in fact, I ranked it my favorite album last year (see our 2021 picks here) — and at the same time more accessible than its predecessors.

What makes The War on Drugs’ albums so great, however, is that you can just let them run. There’s no need to skip a track as one flows right into the next, and I Don’t Live Here Anymore follows suit much in the same way Lost in the Dream and A Deeper Understanding do. And as Granduciel seemingly settled into his new environs with music videos filmed in California for “Living Proof” and the title track featuring Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig of Lucius, I was eager to hear the new material with an audience on hand.

So when The War on Drugs announced a tour for 2022 last summer and scheduled only one show in 2021 at Desert Daze, I knew their gig in LA at the Shrine Auditorium would feel even that much more special given Granduciel’s story but also because it was the final U.S. date before the band heads to Europe for a month. While that fact wouldn’t completely hold up with The War on Drugs replacing My Morning Jacket at Innings Festival the ensuing day, they made sure to offer quite a proper 2 1/2-hour concert experience for the nearly capacity crowd inside the landmark venue of 6,300.

Granduciel (vocals, guitars, harmonica, keyboards, samplers) and his cohorts — David Hartley (bass, backing vocals), Robbie Bennett (keyboards, piano, guitar), Charlie Hall (drums, organ), Jon Natchez (saxophone, keyboards), Anthony LaMarca (guitar, keyboards, backing vocals) and Eliza Hardy Jones (keyboards, backing vocals) — were treating us to “An Evening of LIVE DRUGS” and most were happy to oblige. That meant “Old Skin” leading things off with “Pain” batting second. “An Ocean in Between the Waves” never disappoints, and slotting it third before one of the highlights off I Don’t Live Here Anymore in “I Don’t Wanna Wait” created a huge wave of momentum that The War on Drugs carried through the rest of the set, which boasted “Strangest Thing” and “Red Eyes” back to back, another new standout in “Harmonia’s Dream” that has been extended live and an appearance by Lucius as expected with Wolfe and Laessig leaving their East Coast origins for the City of Angels a few years ago.

When it came time to take things up a notch, Granduciel turned to “Under the Pressure” as still one of the most shining achievements in his ever-expanding repertoire. That’s not to say what came after — the previously unreleased “Ocean of Darkness” that didn’t make it onto I Don’t Live Here Anymore but was debuted during The War on Drugs’ performance on “The Tonight Show” in 2020 — didn’t carry the same weight, because in many ways it did considering the song has only been played live seven times in total so far.

After taking a couple nights off in Portland and San Francisco, “In Reverse” subsequently returned to the setlist and propelled us into a short-lived encore break that only lasted a minute or two. Granduciel, after all, had more to get to before saying goodbye, as he used “Thinking of a Place” to jumpstart a four-song finish that included a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Born in Time” and “Comin’ Through” from The War on Drugs’ 2010 EP Future Weather to mark only the second time fans got to hear it on this tour and since 2019.

Granduciel isn’t one for much stage banter, and after one last thank you, he broke into I Don’t Live Here Anymore finale “Occasional Rain” to take us all home. Even though it has served as The War on Drugs’ closer for several shows on this tour, the title seemed rather appropriate in a city as dry as LA where we haven’t seen a whole lot of precipitation this winter.

People often say the phrase “when it rains, it pours” when they experience a barrage of misfortune all at the same time. In Granduciel’s case notwithstanding, the past eight years have been one big downpour of success for The War on Drugs. Now with the band at an all-time high, it doesn’t appear that the storm they’ve been riding will be letting up anytime soon.

Setlist:
Old Skin
Pain
An Ocean in Between the Waves
I Don’t Wanna Wait
Victim
Strangest Thing
Red Eyes
Living Proof
Harmonia’s Dream
Your Love Is Calling My Name
Come to the City
Rings Around My Father’s Eyes
I Don’t Live Here Anymore (with Lucius)
Under the Pressure
Ocean of Darkness
In Reverse

Encore:
Thinking of a Place
Born in Time (Bob Dylan cover)
Comin’ Through
Occasional Rain

10 California music festivals you won’t want to miss in 2022

2022 California music festivalsWritten by Josh Herwitt //

With live music returning to stages across the U.S. during the second half of last year and spring now right around the corner, 2022 is shaping up to be a monumental year for the industry and a big reason for that is the comeback of the music festival. California has certainly played a major part in its revival coming out of a global pandemic, with a number of single-day and multi-day events already scheduled to take place up and down the Golden State over the next six-plus months. So, who’s ready for festival season to begin?

If you’re itching to hit a music festival, here are 10 in California you should save your cash for this year.


CRSSD Festival - Spring 2022 lineup

CRSSD Festival
Location: Waterfront Park – San Diego
Dates: March 5th-6th
Tickets: Buy them here!

One North American concert promoter who wasn’t deterred by the news surrounding the coronavirus’ omicron variant a few months ago happens to be FNGRS CRSSD, the San Diego-based brand that debuted CRSSD Festival back in 2015 and has been going strong ever since with a spring and fall edition of the event each year. Unleashing another electronic-leaning roster for its first installment in 2022 with Glass Animals and SOFI TUKKER as headliners, CRSSD has managed to hold tight with its plans. Four Tet, Get Real (Claude VonStroke and Green Velvet), Gorgon City, 070 Shake, Blu DeTiger, Cautious Clay, Chet Faker, Parcels, Franc Moody, Lastlings, SG Lewis and more stack the undercard.

READ MORE HERE


Smokin Groves Fest - 2022 lineup

Smokin Grooves Fest
Location: LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
Dates: March 19th
Tickets: Buy them here!

Smookin Grooves’ lineup has easily matched what it offered fans in 2018 (read our review here) and 2019 (read our review here) after putting on excellent showings both years sheerly by landing Erykah Badu, Nas, The Roots, Miguel and Jhené Aiko to lead the charge. But adding The Internet, Flying Lotus, Kamasi Washington, Thundercat, Smino, Toro y Moi, SiR, Little Dragon, Hiatus Kaiyote and more to the roster makes this another must-see production. The one-day fest is also getting a change of scenery as it relocates north to the 32-acre LA State Historic Park in the Chinatown neighborhood of downtown LA that once hosted FYF Fest and several HARD events.

READ MORE HERE


Coachella - 2022 lineup

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival
Location: Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
Dates: April 15th-17th & April 22nd-24th
Tickets: Buy them here!

The three-day, two-weekend event is finally ready to give it another go in April after becoming one of the first large-scale music festivals in the U.S. to postpone its plans when the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm almost two years ago. Harry Styles and Billie Eilish will spearhead the 2022 lineup, with Swedish House Mafia back at Coachella for the first time in a decade since the electronic supergroup’s closing set on the main stage in 2012 and The Weeknd added late to help replace Ye (fka Kanye West). The famed California fest has had a penchant for booking more international acts — from BLACKPINK to Bad Bunny — in recent years, and 2022 will be no different.

READ MORE HERE


BeachLife Festival - 2022 lineup

BeachLife Festival
Location: Seaside Lagoon – Redondo Beach, CA
Dates: May 13th-15th
Tickets: Buy them here!

The three-day event moved to September in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s back to its normal month of May this year with plenty to get excited about. Leading the fest’s third installment will be Weezer and 311 as co-headliners on Friday while The Smashing Pumpkins and Steve Miller Band will have their own days — Saturday and Sunday, respectively — to shine even after the sun dips into the Pacific Ocean. Black Pumas, Vance Joy, Sheryl Crow, Stone Temple Pilots and Lord Huron, in the meantime, anchor an impressive undercard for what’s sure to be a party down by the shore.

READ MORE HERE


Just Like Heaven - 2022 lineup

Just Like Heaven
Location: Brookside at the Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
Dates: May 21st
Tickets: Buy them here!

The one-day music festival put on by Goldenvoice, which debuted in 2019 and was an instant success, has dropped a 2022 roster that should be a dream come true for any indie music fan. And after a two-year absence due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the show is ready to go on again — although this time it’s migrating north from the Queen Mary Park in Long Beach to take over the Brookside Golf Course at the Rose Bowl — and we still can’t remember the last time heaven ever looked this good. NYC indie rockers Interpol will have the honor of headlining this time around, but sets by Modest Mouse, The Shins, M.I.A., Bloc Party, Franz Ferdinand, Chromeo, Santigold, Cut Copy, The Hives, Wolf Parade, Peaches, !!!, The Raveonettes and more are likely to leave a lasting impression.

READ MORE HERE


Lightning in a Bottle - 2022 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle
Location: Buena Vista Aquatic Recreation Area – Bakersfield, CA
Dates: May 25th-30th
Tickets: Buy them here!

After being forced to cancel its 15th edition more than 18 months ago due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the “transformational festival” is returning to Kern County over Memorial Day weekend and The Do LaB has retained a handful of acts on the 2020 roster from headliners like Kaytranada and GRiZ to several undercard standouts such as Purity Ring, Big Wild, Four Tet, Empress Of and Jon Hopkins. But LIB in 2022 will also feature some new blood, starting right at the top of the poster with Glass Animals as well as a pair of Brits in SG Lewis and Little Simz — who are newcomers to the event — on the bill. Other notable names include Chet Faker, Black Coffee, CloZee, Seth Troxler, Monolink, G Jones B2B Eprom, Maya Jane Coles, Goldlink, OPIUO, Chika, Mr. Carmack, Big Freedia, Dirtwire and more, including a Desert Hearts launch party with Lee Reynolds.

READ MORE HERE


BottleRock - 2022 lineup

BottleRock Napa Valley
Location: Napa Valley Expo – Napa, CA
Dates: May 27th-29th
Tickets: Buy them here!

Despite announcing its lineup at the beginning of this year when COVID-19 cases were skyrocketing across the U.S. due to the omicron variant, the three-day event is marching ahead toward its normal timing of Memorial Day weekend after canceling in 2020 and sliding the festivities back to Labor Day weekend in 2021. And much like BottleRock’s previous rosters, 2022’s follows very much in the same vein (i.e. lots of rock ‘n’ roll) with Metallica, P!NK, Twenty One Pilots and Luke Combs topping the bill. The Napa fest’s ninth edition should serve as a special performance for Metallica no less, considering that the legendary heavy-metal band has called the Bay Area home for almost three decades.

READ MORE HERE


Outside Lands - 2022 lineup

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
Dates: August 5-7th
Tickets: Buy them here!

After being forced in 2021 to push back its 13th year (read our review here) to Halloween weekend due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three-day music festival is finally returning to its usual timing in August and spring is when we normally anticipate the lineup dropping every year. But the latest installment of SF’s signature event has a slightly different feel than in years past as Green Day, Post Malone and SZA assume headlining duties with Jack Harlow, Weezer, Phoebe Bridgers, Illenium, Lil Uzi Vert, Kali Uchis, Disclosure, Mitski, Polo & Pan and Anitta leading the undercard. And though all three headliners will be topping the poster at OSL for the first time, Green Day’s performance should carry a little extra weight given that the legacy act is originally from the East Bay.

READ MORE HERE


This Ain't No Picnic Festival 2022

This Ain’t No Picnic
Brookside at the Rose Bowl – Pasadena, CA
Dates: August 27th-28th
Tickets: Buy them here!

Concert promoter Goldenvoice is bringing back This Ain’t No Picnic to SoCal for the first time since 2002 and taking over the Brookside Golf Course at the Rose Bowl for two days in late August (warning: it will be hot) with a killer two-day roster that screams “Pitchfork Fest!” The event has a history of exposing the raw energy of punk-leaning, indie darlings such as Sonic Youth, Sleater-Kinney and Guided by Voices in 1999 before taking another step toward the mainstream by booking Beck, Yo La Tengo, Built to Spill, At the Drive-In and Modest Mouse for its 2000 edition. A couple of NYC products in The Strokes and LCD Soundsystem will serve as headliners in 2022 while the fest’s undercard offers its own set of highlights starting with the reunion of Le Tigre, another NYC product who last reunited in 2016 to give us “I’m with Her” as their latest single.

READ MORE HERE


Primavera Sound Los Angeles - 2022 lineup

Primavera Sound Los Angeles
LA State Historic Park – Los Angeles
Dates: September 16-18th
Tickets: Buy them here!

Primavera Sound has been a staple across the music festival circuit since launching back in 2001 with its Spanish roots firmly planted in Barcelona. But we would be lying if we didn’t admit here that we have eagerly been anticipating the release of Primavera Sound LA’s inaugural lineup, which was originally set to make its U.S. debut in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic put a hold on things, and that news has finally become a reality with Arctic Monkeys, Lorde and Nine Inch Nails set to headline. That said, Arca, Bicep (Live), Buscabulla, Cigarettes After Sex, Clairo, DARKSIDE, Faye Webster, James Blake, Jehnny Beth, Khruangbin, Kim Gordon, King Krule, Low, Mitski, Stereolab and Tierra Whack have all signed on as well to mark what’s looking like a banner year for live music in the City of Angels.

READ MORE HERE


Which of these music festivals are you going to? Which are you looking forward to the most?

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Tool are finally back on the road to finish their ‘Fear Inoculum’ tour & it couldn’t come at a more fitting time

ToolBy Josh Herwitt //

Tool with Blonde Redhead //
Viejas Arena – San Diego
January 19th, 2022 //

Did Maynard James Keenan really foresee what most of us didn’t?

When Tool unleashed their long-awaited fifth studio album Fear Inoculum in 2019 less than six months before COVID-19 started to ravage the world, it was quixotic to assume then how much the frontman’s lyrics would resonate with the times we’re living in right now. But that’s exactly the case after everything we have been through for close to two years.

Keenan doesn’t see his recent work whether it be with Tool, A Perfect Circle or Puscifer as prophetic, however, despite surviving two nasty bouts with the virus himself. As he explained during an interview with Zane Lowe at the beginning of the outbreak, “it’s just understanding patterns, and understanding human nature and where we’re going.”

While he might not have a sixth sense like some fans have speculated, Keenan is certainly a lot more perceptive than your average person when it comes to the ever-changing ways of the world. At the not-so-young-anymore age of 57, he continues to find inspiration in the “human experience” more than from any particular event or person, and yet I wouldn’t blame him if he ever dropped an “I told you so” simply based on our current state of affairs.

And when Tool revealed last year after being forced to cancel their remaining 2020 tour dates that they would be hitting the road again in 2022 to “finish what we started” as Keenan succinctly put it, there was no way I was going to miss seeing my favorite band for the past 25 years even with the highly infectious omicron variant sweeping across Planet Earth.

So after catching Keenan (vocals), Adam Jones (guitar), Danny Carey (drums, percussion) and Justin Chancellor (bass) pack a sold-out Honda Center in Anaheim with over 18,000 fans the prior evening, I made the 133-mile trek south to Viejas Arena located on the campus of San Diego State University for what would be my 15th Tool show. What was different this time around though was a chance for me to photograph the band, something I had never done but always wanted to check off my bucket list.

Tool

Triple-vaxxed and triple-masked, I entered the 12,200-person indoor venue with my camera equipment knowing full well the risk that I was assuming but also what a unique opportunity this was for me. Every performance by Tool these days feels a little extra special given our present circumstances, but if there was ever a time for firsts, photographing the band’s “Fear Inoculum” tour during a global pandemic felt rather apropos to me. With 90’s alt-rockers Blonde Redhead tapped as support for this leg of Tool’s 55-stop tour across the U.S. and Europe, the New York City trio’s dreamy, shoegaze-tinged set offered an interesting dichotomy ahead of what would follow.

There’s almost a meditative and spiritual-like quality to Tool’s music since 2001’s seminal Lateralus, and although heavy at points, it has only become more palpable with each new LP in spite of how much time has passed. Of course no one would argue in today’s industry that 13 years isn’t a lengthy gap between albums no matter who the artist or group is, but Tool still stand among rare company after forming more than three decades ago in Los Angeles. The prog-metal titans, in fact, have been playing snippets from Fear Inoculum for live audiences dating back to 2012 — it just wasn’t until the record was released that they began opening with the title track, which hears Keenan belt out lines like “Immunity, long overdue / Contagion, I exhale you” and “What you say inoculated / Bless this immunity” to help raise the hairs on the back of your neck if you weren’t already worried about contracting a deadly respiratory disease at a concert in the dead of winter.

The quartet’s song selection for this latest tour has featured a core of 10 highlighted by Ænima deep cuts “Pushit” and “Hooker With a Penis” as well as the epic “Descending” off Fear Inoculum with four older gems — “Opiate”, “Sober”, “The Patient” and “Right in Two” — rotated in and out. On this night, Keenan teased the capacity crowd early on with a comparison to Bakersfield but was kind enough to reward us with “Sober” from Undertow and “Right in Two” on 10,000 Days after hearing “Opiate” and “The Patient” a day earlier. Even if Tool’s sonic rollercoasters often comprised of odd time signatures and abrupt tempo changes while regularly eclipsing the 10-minute mark don’t impress you with all of those twists and turns, at least their stage setup and production should with Jones’ art direction and plenty of modern advances in visual technology you can expect from a band of this stature to employ.

Tool’s material has always showcased top-notch musicianship going back to the Opiate and Undertow days that included former bassist Paul D’Amour, but with Chancellor now leading in spots as essentially a second guitarist to Jones thanks in part to his inventive bass effects and tones, you won’t find a whole lot of drummers who are quite as creative, technically skilled and powerful as Carey. Case in point: his psychedelic drum solo entitled “Chocolate Chip Trip” that he recorded for Fear Inoculum and sees him manipulate a massive modular synthesizer to build its 7/8 groove has become a staple at Tool’s shows in the last five years.

The four-time Grammy winners, meanwhile, have been known to evolve from one tour to the next. This one has been no different, with “Culling Voices” recently solidifying a spot in their setlist for the first time as the four of them started the song by sitting at the front of the stage in a half circle with Carey playing rhythm guitar on Jones’ custom Gibson 1979 Les Paul before returning to his drums and Keenan to his two platforms midway through to complete the 10-minute tune that ends in a flurry of angst. If somehow that wasn’t enough, Carey’s use of his Buchla Marimba Lumina, a marimba-styled MIDI controller, down the final stretch of “Invincible” definitely leaves a lasting impression before you head home wondering if or when you’ll ever get to witness that kind of virtuosity again.

After all, taking the safe or easy route has never been an option for Tool, and regardless of what Keenan might portend down the road, it’s why we keep coming back for more.

TOOL

Setlist:
Fear Inoculum
Sober
The Pot
Pushit
Pneuma
The Grudge
Right in Two
Descending
Hooker With a Penis

Encore:
Chocolate Chip Trip
Culling Voices
Invincible

BLONDE REDHEAD

Setlist:
Falling Man
Bipolar
Spring and by Summer Fall
Elephant Woman
Doll Is Mine
Dr. Strangeluv
(Unknown)
(Unknown)
23

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2021

Best of 2021 - Olivia Rodrigo, Quicksand, Modest Mouse, My Morning Jacket, Moses Sumney, Caribou, Outside Lands

The past 12 months have been interesting to say the least. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the world after almost two years, 2021 did prove to be a little better than its predecessor on the calendar and a big reason for that was undoubtedly the return of live music during the second half of this year. For so many of us after being locked down at home, just having the chance to attend a concert or festival in person again provided some sense of normalcy to our everyday lives.

But as we look forward to hopefully better days in 2022, it’s time for us to unveil our annual “Best of” lists like we have done since this blog first began (see our 2020 picks here). No, we didn’t have time to catch every show or hear all of the albums released in the last 365 days, but forcing ourselves to make difficult decisions can be a fun exercise that helps us reflect on the year in music before turning the page.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2021.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2021:

My Morning Jacket (Jim James) at Santa Barbara Bowl


My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – September 23rd
Almost six years had passed since the last time Jim James and company performed at one of Southern California’s best music venues, but after surviving 18 months without witnessing any live music, the wait for MMJ’s return to the stage felt even longer. Fortunately for us, the Louisville-bred quintet brought its A game to kick off a string of West Coast dates and powered through a collection of 23 songs at the Santa Barbara Bowl that included the emotive “In Color” off the band’s new self-titled album as well as “Where to Begin” from the “Elizabethtown” soundtrack. MMJ have earned a reputation over the years as one of the best live acts still out there, and they certainly validated that claim with a 2.5-hour performance that made the 90-mile drive from LA on a weeknight totally worth it.

2. Modest Mouse at The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles, CA – September 25th
3. Caribou at Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – November 15th
4. Lord Huron at Hollywood Forever – Los Angeles, CA – September 30th
5. Primus “A Tribute to Kings” at Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – October 17th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. The War on Drugs – I Don’t Live Here Anymore
What can we say about Adam Granduciel that hasn’t already been said? After composing and producing The War on Drugs’ best material during his previous two trips into the studio with the latter effort winning a Grammy, we knew it would be tough for the Philadelphia native to match that same level of excellence attained in 2014 and 2017 with Lost in the Dream and A Deeper Understanding. And though I Don’t Live Here Anymore doesn’t quite get there, it marks another LP from Granduciel and his cohorts that you can listen straight through from start to finish without skipping a track. Because in an era when our attention spans have been shrunk thanks in large part to technology, that’s something we should all applaud.

2. Modest Mouse – The Golden Casket
3. DARKSIDE – Spiral
4. My Morning Jacket – My Morning Jacket
5. Royal Blood – Typhoons

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. Royal Blood – “Boilermaker”
The English alt-rock duo comprised of lead singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher shared “Boilermaker” in the lead-up to releasing its third full length this year, and the promotional single certainly stands out from the pack as one of the best songs on Typhoons. Produced by Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme, it opens with Kerr’s fuzzed-out riff and quickly builds into a head-banging anthem over the course of three and a half minutes. If you haven’t heard it before, just make sure to also check out the badass music video that’s directed by and stars Liam Lynch. Enjoy!

2. My Morning Jacket – “In Color”
3. Modest Mouse – “Walking and Running”
4. The War on Drugs – “I Don’t Wanna Wait”
5. Bonobo – “Rosewood”

Favorite remix: Four Tet – “Never Come Back” (Caribou)


Quicksand - Distant Populations

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. Kowloon Walled City at The Golden Bull – Oakland, CA – November 30th
Regardless of the fact that I didn’t go to many shows this year, this would have likely been my No. 1 even if I went to more. I had only recently been turned on to Kowloon Walled City, but I was immediately drawn to their heavy sound and they proved to replicate that sonic fury live. The Golden Bull is a nice, intimate setting for live music, and the fact that KWC were able to dial in such a balanced sound at a small club made a huge difference given how BIG they sound on their studio albums. Everyone was fixated on the band throughout its entire set, and I barely noticed anyone looking at a phone — one of the modern-day signs of a great show.

2. Quicksand at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – October 15th
3. Bad Religion & Alkaline Trio at The Masonic – San Francisco, CA – November 24th
4. The Slackers & The Aggrolites at Cornerstone Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – December 9th
5. Lagwagon with Red City Radio & Decent Criminal at Bottom of the Hill – San Francisco, CA – November 4th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. Quicksand – Distant Populations
During a turbulent time like what we’ve all been collectively experiencing since last year, I think this album resonated with me so much because Quicksand has always been such a solid standby. Distant Populations is heavy in all of the right ways without being abrasive while also effectively showcasing Walter Schreifels’ dynamic song-crafting abilities. Quicksand aren’t necessarily breaking the mold here, but they’re a band that had already set the bar high with their earlier albums and this LP is an excellent continuation of their contribution to the hardcore scene.

2. Turnstile – Glow On
3. IDLES – Crawler
4. Kowloon Walled City – Piecework
5. Snail Mail – Valentine

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. IDLES – “The Wheel”
I love how IDLES have the ability to take a song about a heavy subject like chemical dependency and turn it into an absolutely infectious banger. “The Wheel” is a perfect example of this, leaving you drawn in and tapping your foot while giving you something to ponder. The way that it can make you feel equal parts uplifted and uncomfortable is part of the appeal to me, and this was easily one of my most played songs of the year.

2. Decent Criminal – “Reap”
3. The Dirty Nil – “Doom Boy”
4. Kills Birds – “Rabbit”
5. Snail Mail – “Valentine”


Adam Schatz


Adam Schatz at The Gold Room // Photo by Rochelle Shipman

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2021
1. Adam Schatz at The Gold Room – Los Angeles, CA – November 18th
The Landlady frontman actually served as the opener on this night, but armed with little more than his saxophone, keyboards and loops, it’s safe to say Schatz stole the entire show. Fresh off a tour playing with Japanese Breakfast, he stepped onstage and quite literally let loose. It was the most refreshing, freeform, organic set full of wit and wonder, offering a sharp reminder why we need to protect the live music space (and to buy the killer album Landlady put out this year, too).

2. Foxx Bodies with Suzie True & Lando Chill at Resident DTLA – Los Angeles, CA – November 7th
3. Islands at Lodge Room – Los Angeles, CA – September 9th
4. Spoon at Teragram Ballroom – Los Angeles, CA – September 28th
5. Armand Hammer & The Alchemist at Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA – September 19th

Top 5 Albums of 2021
1. Foxx Bodies – Vixen
The raw emotions that come through Foxx Bodies’ debut on indie label Kill Rock Stars grabbed me by the ankles and knocked me off my feet the first time I heard it. For an album that explores everything from mental illness, sexual abuse, eating disorders, gender fluidity and beyond, it’s equally shocking how upbeat and uplifting it comes off. It’s part empowering riot grrrl and part rollicking surf punk, full confessional. Trigger warning: it will change your life.

2. Olivia Rodrigo – Sour
3. Tyler, the Creator – Call Me If You Get Lost
4. Backxwash – I LIE HERE BURIED WITH MY RINGS AND MY DRESSES
5. Noga Erez – KIDS

Top 5 Songs of 2021
1. Hiatus Kaiyote – “Red Room”
This song is the antithesis to 2021. It’s so warm and beautiful, so intimate as though it was conceived in a world where social distancing doesn’t even exist. Nai Palm’s soft, raspy vocals envelop you, and the uncharacteristically subtle sounds (for Hiatus Kaiyote) deliver perhaps the most consistent semblance of peace felt this year.

2. Olivia Rodrigo – “Brutal”
3. Foxx Bodies – “BPD”
4. Yaya Bey – “fxck it then”
5. Little Simz feat. Cleo Sol – “Woman”

Favorite remix: Kari Faux feat. J.I.D – “While God Was Sleepin’… (Remix)”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Caribou kick off their North American tour at LA’s Greek Theatre & make the case why they’re among today’s best live-electronic acts

CaribouBy Josh Herwitt //

Caribou with Jessy Lanza //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
November 15th, 2021 //

Whether he’s creating new material in the studio or hitting the decks to share the music that has inspired him with others, Dan Snaith has been honing his craft for more than two decades now.

The Canadian musician who performs under several stage names got his start recording as Manitoba, but in 2005, NYC punk rock singer Richard “Handsome Dick” Manitoba of The Dictators came calling and threatened Snaith with legal action, prompting him to make a change. Shortly thereafter, Snaith’s new recording alias Caribou was born.

But maybe Manitoba barking up Snaith’s tree over a silly name more than 15 years ago was actually a small blessing in disguise. After all, it’s only subsequently led Snaith to make several excellent Caribou records, most notably 2014’s seminal Our Love but also last year’s Suddenly that dropped just weeks before the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm. And of course there’s Snaith’s DJ side project Daphni that allows him to focus on more club-oriented sounds as Caribou’s live-electronic aesthetic has simultaneously grown in its appeal to larger audiences.

So after having his return to Coachella in 2020 postponed due to coronavirus cases skyrocketing at the time, that could be why Snaith decided to kick off Caribou’s tour across North America in LA to mark the Greek Theatre’s final gig of the year. While it would have been a lot to expect a full house on a Monday night in mid-November, the outdoor amphitheater with a 5,900 capacity still managed to welcome a few thousand folks inside its gates as Snaith’s fellow Canadian Jessy Lanza, who collaborated with him on the Grammy-nominated Our Love, warmed up a modest crowd as part singer, part electronic producer.

Caribou

Snaith, like Lanza, has taken a somewhat similar approach with Caribou, though even one step further live as a four-piece band that sees him not only incorporating various samples into the performance but also his vocals. Suddenly is actually the first Caribou album that features Snaith singing on every track, and you could sense it was a point of emphasis at the Greek over the course of 14 songs that spanned the project’s last three studio efforts and included new single “You Can Do It” from this past August.

That said, it isn’t often that you come across an electronic act as eclectic as Caribou. Snaith, in fact, has a knack for making dance-ready tracks that blend everything from 70’s funk and soul to 90’s hip-hop and R&B, with some of the highlights on Suddenly — whether it be the glitchy “New Jade” or soulful “Home” — serving as prime examples. But the real standout on the 12-track LP has to be the infectious “Never Come Back”, which has amassed nearly 28 million streams on Spotify and closed Caribou’s set with a version that employed elements of Four Tet’s extended remix.

And while it was a little bit surprising that Lanza did not join Snaith and company onstage at point in the evening, a Caribou concert wouldn’t be complete without hearing “Can’t Do Without You” before heading for the exits. The Our Love opener is no doubt a favorite for many Caribou fans, and at a time when the live music industry is still recovering after being shut down for 18 months or so, it was a simple reminder to soak up every second of the show we had left.

With plenty of uncertainty still surrounding the pandemic, there’s no telling what the future will hold for live music. If all goes as scheduled though, Snaith and his sidekicks will be back in California next year for a date at the Fox Theater Oakland on February 16th, and we can tell our Bay Area friends right now that’s one you won’t want to miss in 2022.

Setlist:
New Jade
Odessa
Our Love
Silver
Lime
Bowls
Like I Loved You
You and I
Ravi
Sun
Home
You Can Do It
Never Come Back (with elements of the Four Tet remix)

Encore:
Can’t Do Without You

Outside Lands 2021: A return to hallowed ground

Outside Lands 2021 - crowdPhotos by Sarah Felker & Marc Fong // Written by Molly Kish //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
October 29th-31st, 2021 //

After postponing its 13th edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic and experiencing disappointing lineup cancellations in the months leading up to it, Outside Lands had quite a lot to make up for going into its 2021 relaunch for Halloween. Asserting themselves as hosts of the first “mega event” in Golden Gate Park during the pandemic, Bay Area concert promoter Another Planet Entertainment braved an entirely new entertainment landscape, time of year and crowd dynamic.

Following statewide safety protocols, attendees had to wear a mask and show proof of vaccination or a negative test result at all entrances before scanning their way inside the gates. Clear backpacks were enforced and costume guidelines were added to the laundry list of rules and regulations for all ticket holders. But even with the adjusted security measures and slight changes to the event’s production, concertgoers came out in record numbers. Averaging crowds of approximately 70,000 people per day, OSL 2021 wasn’t short of attendees willing to happily follow the new guidelines in order to return to the beloved three-day festival.

Outside Lands 2021

While at times the interactive experiences in 2021 seemed lacking with the obvious downplay of live art activations, comedy and representation of the Bay Area’s creative culture, OSL still provided a larger platform for community-based initiatives. This year the fest added a brand-new stage in the SOMA Tent, which focused on burgeoning talent across the local electronic scene, and also dedicated attention and space for both local and national non-profits with an extended Eco Lands footprint.

Relaunching OSL over Halloween weekend was one of the smartest pivots Another Planet could have made. The energy surrounding the holiday was palpable, providing a dialed-in event and location with an additional reason for both local and visiting attendees to celebrate. Costumed crowds filled the fields all three days and created an increasingly whimsical buildup to what felt like a triumphant return to the city’s historical Halloween legacy. With many hoping the holiday tradition would continue for years to come, OSL successfully stoked the sold-out crowd’s excitement for its return in August 2022.

Outside Lands 2021 - Moses Sumney


Moses Sumney

OUTSIDE LANDS 2021 AWARDS:

Headliner of the Weekend: Tyler, the Creator

Breakthrough Performance: The HU

Favorite First-Timer: Brijean

Best OSL Addition: SOMA Tent

Favorite Festival Food: Pork Lumpia from Abacá

Most Magical Cocktail: Silver Girl’s “St. Olaf’s Fizz”

Most Entertaining Activation: The Aperol Spritz Piazza

Best Wine Lands Pour: Brut Rose by Angels & Cowboys

Favorite OSL Night Show: Drama at Bimbo’s 360 Club

Most Popular Costume: Skeleton

Largest Crowd: RÜFÜS DU SOL

Biggest Dance Party: Khruangbin

Best Stage Production: Tame Impala

Funniest Band Interaction: The Neil Frances vs. Neal Francis beef

Local Standout: Kehlani

Most Impressive Pipes: Brittany Howard

Biggest Lasting Impression: Moses Sumney

Best Improvement: Open-air layout at The House by Heineken