Doors Open: A Bay Area Reopening Series – Matt Haney

By Molly Kish //

Matt Haney – Supervisor, San Francisco Board of Supervisors (District 6)

Matt Haney has Bay Area advocacy in his blood. Raised predominantly by his mother in the East Bay, Haney was born into a family of civil rights activists and developed strong opinions about societal injustices. He noticed early on the ways in which his values were underrepresented in local politics, so he decided to get involved in efforts to reform them to support the communities that he was a part of while growing up.

Over the last decade, Haney has held roles as a faculty member at Stanford, an eviction defense attorney and a national policy director. He has served as vice president, president and commissioner of the SF School Board, and in 2019, Haney won in a landslide victory to become the supervisor of District 6, which stretches from the Tenderloin to Treasure Island. In the past year, he has not only assumed the position of budget chair on the Board of Supervisors, but has also worked tirelessly alongside the small business and entertainment commissions to introduce critical legislation that will help keep local, independent venues alive amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Just days after the launch of his SF Music and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund, we caught up with Haney over a veggie omelette at a Market St. café to discuss his passion for preserving the culture and community of the Bay Area music and entertainment scene.


Showbams: Throughout your career you’ve worn many hats, so what ultimately made you want to run for the Board of Supervisors and led you to represent District 6?

Haney: I think a lot of it for me was recognizing the potential that the Bay Area has, when it comes to providing opportunity and a quality of life for everyone, wherever they are. We have a certain responsibility here, that is unlike many other places in the world and I had the opportunity to be a part of that.

I was working with a lot with families as a school board member and that led me to want to support my neighbors in other ways including: making sure they had housing, jobs and a future here in our city. This feeling is what led me to get more involved in citywide issues and ultimately to run for the Board of Supervisors.

He stops mid-thought to signal the waitress and asks for hot sauce and ketchup.

Haney: I think District 6 is one of the most special places in the world. It has just a tremendous amount of culture and history and the most “San Francisco” neighborhood in San Francisco, the Tenderloin. District 6 houses a lot of the growth and innovation in our city, and representing this area is an opportunity to try to make all of that work for everyone, better than it is now. Especially when it comes to some of the wealth and incredible opportunities that are here, I’m constantly thinking of how we make sure that they’re shared more broadly and that people have access to all the things they need to survive and thrive in our city.

“I think District 6 is one of the most special places in the world. It has just a tremendous amount of culture and history and the most ‘San Francisco’ neighborhood in San Francisco, the Tenderloin.”

Showbams: Over the last year, you’ve been a huge advocate for creating lifelines for independent music venues. Were you always interested in including music and entertainment into your political scope or was this something that was prompted by the pandemic’s effect on the local economy?

Haney: Ever since I’ve lived in San Francisco, I’ve been involved in the nightlife and music community here. In 2007, I moved in with a close friend who was one of the biggest event promoters at the time, his name is Nate Mezmer. So from that I got to know DJs, venue owners and all the challenges they had in operating here. I also saw from that time until now, many of those venues disappear. I witnessed the ways in which these venues, DJs, artists and bartenders were being pushed out of San Francisco and how it really impacted our culture and community here.

So much of the history of San Francisco is about different groups of people who were kicked out of other places and thought that they were alone. They came to San Francisco and were able to find each other here and in many cases that happened through nightlife and music and art. That’s a huge part of what I love and what’s so special about San Francisco and a lot of those venues are in my district now, so I really made it a big part of my goals to support them.

“So much of the history of San Francisco is about different groups of people who were kicked out of other places and thought that they were alone. They came to San Francisco and were able to find each other here and in many cases that happened through nightlife and music and art.”

Showbams: In December, you introduced your SF and Entertainment Venue Recovery Fund legislation in a special meeting with the SF Board of Supervisors. Can you elaborate on how the meeting went and the key initiatives of the proposal?

Haney: I was committed to putting forward this fund, even before we knew where the money was going to come from. It was a bit of a leap of faith in some ways. In December we were still facing a pretty bleak outlook concerning the city’s budget, but we decided to introduce it anyways and started to develop the provisions with the venues, entertainment and small business commissions. In January it was decided we needed to put at least 1.5 Million into it, and then as things moved forward I proposed for us to double that. Luckily, we all ended up on the same page.

SF VENUES: APPLY HERE

We tried to make the application as simple as possible and are offering awards of at least $10,000. So that’s either 300 grants at $10,000, 150 at $20,000 or … I feel that some may even get upwards of $50,000. A lot of them have really high rents and are actually in need of 100’s or 1,000’s of dollars so we’re not going to be able to meet the whole thing, but writing a venue a check for $50,000 is meaningful.

We get briefly interrupted by a fellow diner who wants to express his gratitude for Haney’s work involving tenants rights. He graciously acknowledges the man, asks him how his particular experience is and orders a refill on his coffee. In that moment, it was apparent how ingrained and conscientious Haney was of the everyday issues that residents in his district were facing. The fact that someone felt comfortable enough to approach him while he was dining and engaged in conversation was not only a testament to his character, but also to his involvement with the community that he both resides in and represents. He apologizes and continues …

Haney: There’s always some politics ya know, the mayor initially did not want to put money into the fund that we created so we had to say, “Well, things have changed a little bit because I’m the budget chair now, so it’s just gonna happen.” It was kind of wild to have that level of power and be able to use it for something really important. It was the first real opportunity I had to do so in the new position.

For the last couple of years I was more of a flamethrower. So when the introduction of this fund came about I was still in that role and everyone kind of said, “Whoa, OK … you want to just take some money and give it to venues? Where’s that money coming from?” I said, “I don’t know yet” and then was able to move into a position of more power in relation to the budget, which allowed me to actually get the funds.

“It was kind of wild to have that level of power and be able to use it for something really important.”

Showbams: So the applications went live on April 21st, providing upwards of 300 grants for the initial funding. Do you feel optimistic that there will be a phase two of funding?”

Haney: I’m optimistic that we will add more money to the fund. We may need to learn from who applies, what the need is and change it accordingly in terms of targeting. In fact, some of what we’re going to need to focus on I think not just for these venues, but for small businesses more broadly, is commercial debt relief. Some of these venues may be getting the $25-50,000 dollars and they can’t even begin to have a conversation about their back due rent.

Each venue I think is in a different position because the only thing that has been universal is commercial eviction protection. Some of these venues may have just put pause on all rent for this past year, and now they have to have a conversation with their property management if they don’t own their own building. Then, the result is that they’ll have to negotiate some sort of payment plan and we’re going to have to figure out how we can meet up with that. So, that’s what I think might be the next phase of this.

We’re going to have to help these venues with their debt, but I hope they start to make even more money than they did before the pandemic. I hope that we can be more supportive of them and recognize their value, as to not make everything so hard for them to operate here. We need to protect our independent venues so that they can thrive and grow here and are able to create more spaces and events, to give them opportunities to do just that.

“We need to protect our independent venues so that they can thrive and grow here and are able to create more spaces and events, to give them opportunities to do just that.”

Showbams: Once the Bay Area opens back up, what’s the first venue that you would like to attend an event at?

Haney: I do miss a number of venues in my district. In the Tenderloin, I go to Black Cat and PianoFight a lot and I look forward to being able to go back to those two for sure. In the other parts of my district, I will definitely be at 1015 Folsom and 111 Minna Gallery when they reopen.

I really hope that by mid-June, if things go as they are now, that most of these venues can open at 100%. There’s no reason that I can think of — the vaccines have been very widely available for months — that a venue can’t allow a 100% capacity if everyone has been vaccinated. You should just be able to show your card or whatever, unless the vaccine starts to break down in some way. Then we’ve got a lot of other problems besides our venues.

“There’s no reason that I can think of — the vaccines have been very widely available for months — that a venue can’t allow a 100% capacity if everyone has been vaccinated.”

As we commiserate over the shows we have missed with the hope for some rescheduled dates soon, Haney finishes what was left of his side salad and asks the waitress for the check. His phone has been blowing up the entire interview, and it’s only in this moment that he glances at the numerous missed calls and texts. The waitress exchanges some cheerful banter with him as she finally places where she recognizes Haney from, and in return, he compliments the service and quality of his omelette. As he waits to sign the check and starts to visibly drift back into work mode, I ask him one final question.

Showbams: Have there been any positive takeaways from the events of the past year?

He pauses for a second and takes a long, deep breath before replying.

Haney: The incredible resilience of the city, its businesses and our residents. The businesses and people that are still here really fought through a lot to stay in this city. I think coming out of the pandemic, it’s going to be really important to recognize, develop a greater appreciation for and not take for granted.

I think that’s what makes me hopeful and now we as a government acknowledge how much the Bay Area needs venues and places to see each other, celebrate and be inspired.

DOORS OPEN: MORE COVERAGE HERE

Doors Open: A Bay Area Reopening Series – The Midway

Photos courtesy of The Midway // Written by Molly Kish //

The Midway – San Francisco

On March 15th, 2020, bars, nightclubs, wineries and brewpubs all across the Bay Area were told to close effective immediately under California state order as industries long considered to be the backbone of the Bay Area’s cultural identity were shattered overnight by COVID-19.

While restaurants and retail began to slowly continue operations, the state’s color coded reopening plan left venues shuttered. Without any clear indication or timeline as to what the future held, SF’s nightlife was left to wonder when (or if), they’d ever be able to announce “Doors Open” again.

Amidst this last year of pandemic chaos, several local entities demonstrated resilience in preserving the city’s entertainment infrastructure. Setting the precedent for the rest of the country through unwavering passion and innovation, this series highlights key figures and institutions that continue to survive, fight for and usher in the re-opening of the Bay Area economy.

To start things off, we feature a SF venue that has progressively and successfully transformed in order to keep its doors open throughout the COVID-19 pandemic: The Midway.

Providing moderated crowds with uniquely intimate and COVID-19 friendly experiences, we spoke with The Midway’s assistant general manager Andrea Kirk about the struggles, endurance and ingenuity it takes to run an entertainment space during a global pandemic.

“The Midway is an intersection of art, culture, technology and food. We really aim to bring together all of those different elements that would be considered to be part of the creative realm and to be a canvas for different types of ideas that are coming through.” – Andrea Kirk, Assistant General Manager

It’s 3 p.m. on a Thursday, and The Midway patio is surprisingly active. Technicians are testing speakers, managers are laying out floor plans and several forklifts continue to load in tables, chairs and audio equipment. The energy is bustling. Kirk arrives and suggests that we relocate to the venue’s main room to avoid the noise.

Sitting at a table staged for an upcoming event, Kirk proceeds to laugh and lament about the absurdity of everything, humbly recognizing the fact that it’s a privilege to even have the opportunity to be interrupted by a load-in this afternoon. She’s still processing the emotions of the pandemic and subsequent toil it took on the Bay Area as she candidly discusses the moment it all became real and the past 18 months at The Midway.

“I mean, I think that there was definitely a certain level of disbelief. Not in a ‘is COVID real?’ sort of way but more of a ‘Is this really happening?’ It felt very surreal. Having to drop everything to a 250-person capacity effectively meant that we had to shut everything down. Afterwards we went into shelter in place for the two weeks which then was extended and extended again and it just was sort of like, ‘What is happening in the world?’ and not even having words to even identify thoughts or feelings about it. Just being really in shock.”

During the months leading up to reopening, Kirk’s main focus was to keep optimistic, explore all creative options and maintain open and honest communication with the staff. As businesses stood by watching the Bay Area dance between colors on the tier system, the staff of The Midway decided to be proactive with their options.

“I remember when we were approaching our initial ability to reopen, which I guess would’ve put us into the purple tier the first time and it was really such an experiment for us. We realized that outdoor dining was going to open and that we have our café on site, so one of the things we kept doing regularly was have a weekly staff check in. It really helped for all of us to stay on the same page.

This allowed for us to really have the conversation and realize that ‘Oh, wait we do fit this criteria?’ and raise the question of ‘Do we actually think anyone would come out, if we did it?’ You know those first several events I think we were losing money on them, but we really felt that it was so important to have something for people to do. When I say that I’m not just talking about the people who are coming to these events, I mean it was really important for us psychologically. Our team having the ability to do something and have ‘work’ … many tears of relief were shed.”

The Midway made its best efforts to comply with the city’s fluctuating live entertainment regulations, with initial events ranging from comedy shows to movie nights and even outdoor drag shows. Providing one of the only spaces in the Bay Area to engage in socially distant entertainment, the venue operated for about six weeks before it ran into its biggest obstacle yet.

“There was obviously that fact that we were shut down, which I think everyone knows about. The funny part was when an article was published about it months after the fact, people assumed that it had happened again, when it hadn’t. I think that was really hard because first of all, on that evening we were less than 10 minutes away from the end of the event and of course this is when the cops show up. When they wrote us up, they were saying ‘Oh, you guys don’t have food and you don’t have this or that,’ and literally my chef was walking out and the rest of the kitchen staff was still on site. It was just one of those moments where you’re thinking, ‘This looks so much worse than it is.’

Most disappointing was not the fact that we got a lot of feedback from the health department or anything like that, it was actually that they straight up gave us a cease and desist order instead of anybody reaching out to contact us. It was point blank ‘You have done all of the things wrong’ and ‘Let’s get the lawyers involved,’ which was really unfortunate.”

On July 22nd, 2020, The Midway was amongst a large sweep of businesses that were temporarily closed by the San Francisco Health Department. Along with the EndUp, The Knockout and Valencia Room amongst others, the venue’s live entertainment and dining experiences were once again placed on hold just weeks after it got up and running.

“We’ve since come around and been able to really have more of a real conversation with them. It’s been a balance to do this both safely and in a manner that people feel comfortable, which aren’t always the same thing.

There was a lot of back and forth during the shut down. Some very valuable information was exchanged but also with consecutive frustration when for example: you’ve got redlined documents in which we stated ‘tables and chairs are cleaned between guests,’ and we get told, ‘You need to say tables and chairs are sanitized between each guest’ I do feel like a lot of that could’ve happened in a really good conversation and that it didn’t need to go the way it went, but again, there were good things that came out of it too. We definitely revamped a few things, including how our security worked and service was conducted.”

After adjustments were made to comply with the new standards, The Midway was able to continue with their operations within a matter of weeks. The current outdoor layout spans two full city blocks accommodating more than 100 tables, all of which are limited to four people per designated space. The patio remains open with access to two outdoor bars and the venue’s café, Madame Zola’s Fortune, is providing both brunch and dinner menu options.

“Some of the changes just sort of happened naturally, like how we have the ability for people to do contactless ordering from their tables. This was something that we had just started to do via online ordering with our café, for our neighbors. I think we were some of the early adopters of that, and now you see it at just about every restaurant that I’ve been to in multiple states at this point. It was really nice to just be able to do that, and it definitely has been the thing that has allowed us to successfully scale. Getting 100 tables out here is a lot, especially if you have service. So, the online ordering has been really key in our ability to operate at the level that we are.”

Transitioning from streams and virtual events into full scale performances was no easy feat. Besides the logistical nightmare of attempting to book artists who were available and interested in performing, The Midway faced the challenge of creating an audio experience that would be comparable to the venue’s main room, but outdoors.

“We had to uninstall a bunch of equipment from one of the rooms here and really dig into our inventory to make sure that we were able to hit the sound outside, which in part was due to the new standards but also conversations with the neighbors, who have been absolutely amazing. I’m grateful that they are very supportive and they basically have an open invitation to come to any of the shows, (they just have to let us know so that we can reserve them a table).”

Though navigating the last few months has been no easy feat, Kirk remains positive in the fact that the venue has booked a consistently busy event calendar that people continue to remain excited about. As the vaccination rates rise in SF, the possibility of a “return to normalcy” in 2021 becomes more and more realistic by the day. Even with the current limitations, The Midway has already started to book their several indoor spaces for upcoming events and dining series.

“As for additional culinary things coming up, they’re still kind of in the works, but we’re developing a series of different types of tastings, food and liquor pairings. We’re very excited about those. In terms of the exhibits, we actually opened up our ‘Artist in Residence’ program, which was supposed to be a six-month cohort and it’s now going to be like nine or ten months just because we had opened and shut. We’ll be doing some shows with them later in the fall, and we actually are going to be launching some workshops with the artists as well.”

Instead of viewing this past year as an insurmountable challenge, Kirk and The Midway’s staff have taken risks to provide the Bay Area with an ingenious spin on outdoor entertainment. By utilizing its property and assets to their full potential, The Midway has not only been able to work around barriers other clubs have not been able to, but it also has produced events and concepts that have exceeded so many of their guests’ expectations.

“Well, our brunch has been really successful, and I think that there’s at least some elements of that we would love to keep. It’s funny because I moved to San Francisco just about four years ago and one of the things I said was that ‘I still love to go out and go dancing, but I just don’t know if I want to be up until 4 a.m. for much longer. Then I thought, day parties … day parties are great in the Bay Area!

They’ve been so good for our café, to really just come up with solid menus and develop them to shift seasonally. Whereas before, I think a lot of our café food was based on what corporate events would say they’d want on their menus. We will always have certain key dishes, but now there’s seasonal changes that will happen as well. So, I think from a creative aspect there is a lot more going on now.”

Looking toward the future, Kirk sees no slowing down and expects California — should things continue to trend positively — to be back in action in accordance with the statewide projection of June 15th. She remains grateful for The Midway’s ability to survive the challenges of this past year but could not be happier for the proverbial end in sight.

Remaining cognizant of everything that the venue has been able to endure, Kirk mentions how she has been humbled and changed personally by the pandemic. Her main takeaway, however, is much more indicative of the strength of her work force as well as her genuine leadership and core values as the venue’s assistant GM that truly make The Midway a relentless force in the re-opening of the Bay Area.

“No. 1 thing that I have gotten out of COVID is an emphasis on how we all work together. In my opinion, The Midway has always had a family vibe and I roll my eyes a little because I know that people say that and it’s annoying. But we really had each other’s backs through this across the board, and I am super duper proud of this team and how they’ve worked together.

I would say secondarily was the need for people to get out and have a way to do that in a safe manner. But 100% it has all been to make sure that our staff is taken care of.”

Check out The Midway’s event calendar for reservations here.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Albums & Songs of 2020

Best of 2020 - Run the Jewels, My Morning Jacket, Fiona Apple, Hum, Fleet Foxes

Wow, 2020 … what can we say? This year will certainly be remembered for a lot of things, but none more so than the COVID-19 pandemic that has ravaged both the U.S. and world over the last 10 months and forced the live music industry to mostly shutter as musicians pivoted to livestreams and drive-in concerts to keep the show going as best they could and however possible. Yet along the way, we lost musical legends who spanned multiple generations from Neil Peart to Bill Withers to John Prine to Little Richard to Eddie Van Halen to MF DOOM — some due to COVID-19 unfortunately — making these past 12 months even more painful to endure than they already were. Ready to officially flush 2020 down the toilet and start anew? Don’t worry … you’re not alone!

In retrospect though, it has been a very quiet year for The Bam Team. You’ll notice there haven’t been a lot of updates in this space, and that’s partly due to the lack of live music on Planet Earth right now. But it’s also been a hectic time for all of us as we try to navigate our way out of these dark days and into some brighter ones, and like any good remedy nowadays, new music has definitely played its part in helping us physically and emotionally cope with the chaos.

It’s why after several months of inactivity here, we decided to dust the cobwebs off Showbams and deliver a modified version of our annual “Best of” lists like we have done since this blog first started (see our 2019 picks here). While that doesn’t mean we had time to hear and dissect every new album or song in the last 365 days — we are still in a pandemic after all — sharing our own individual picks offers a fun and stimulating opportunity for us to reflect on the year that was in music.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite albums and songs from 2020.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2020:


Run the Jewels - RTJ4

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Run the Jewels – RTJ4
One might think that after three critically acclaimed albums with some of the most socially and politically charged material since Rage Against the Machine burst onto the scene, it would only seem natural for Run the Jewels’ act to turn a little stale by their fourth time around. But despite the three-year wait for RTJ4, the longest that the hip-hop duo has gone between releases, the final product — like a fine wine — has only gotten better with time. Anchored by stellar production (a RTJ trademark) and provocative rhymes, the 11-track offering sees the two emcees sounding off on everything from corporate greed to police brutality just days after the tragic death of George Floyd. It also boasts a guest list loaded with star power, with DJ Premier, 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, Zack de la Rocha, Mavis Staples and Josh Homme each lending a hand while El-P and Killer Mike inject truth serum into our ears with one verbal haymaker after another. In what proved to be a shitstorm of a year, this was the soundtrack a lot of us needed to survive 2020.

2. My Morning Jacket – The Waterfall II
3. Fleet Foxes – Shore
4. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush
5. Caribou – Suddenly

Favorite live album: Sylvan Esso – WITH

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Royal Blood – “Trouble’s Coming”
The British rock duo composed of lead singer/bassist Mike Kerr and drummer Ben Thatcher are gearing up to drop their third LP in 2021 and wisely chose to wet our palette with an absolute banger for its lead single. “Trouble’s Coming” has all the makings of a Royal Blood song — catchy bass riffs that sound like they’re coming out of a guitar, heavy-metal drums and Kerr’s falsetto vocals — while charting a slightly different path for the band, one that conjures up some serious 70’s disco vibes. Just watch this scene from Charlie’s Angels to see what we mean, and if you have a pair of fingerless leather gloves handy, you might as well put those on too. We think Sam Rockwell would approve.

2. My Morning Jacket – “Wasted”
3. Run the Jewels – “JU$T” feat. Pharrell Williams & Zack de la Rocha
4. Pearl Jam – “Dance of the Clairvoyants”
5. Sylvan Esso – “Ferris Wheel”

Favorite remix: Bonobo – “Final Days” (Michael Kiwanuka)


Hum - Inlet

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Hum – Inlet
This four-piece’s fifth studio effort came as a complete surprise when it dropped in June, and it was honestly THE album I needed. Being knee-deep into the COVID-19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure what the rest of the year would look like musically, and it was exactly the type of record that hits all the marks for me. It’s sonically huge, it showcases Hum’s trademark ultra-layered, dense instrumentation and it ebbs and flows between energetic and emotive. Inlet was easily my most-listened-to album in 2020.

2. Coriky – Coriky
3. PEARS – PEARS
4. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
5. Run the Jewels – RTJ4

Favorite live album: NOFX – The Decline (Live at Red Rocks)

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Run the Jewels – “Walking in the Snow”
Oh man, this track was just the thing I needed during what may have been one of the most tense times in modern history. And like all of RTJ4, it absolutely crushes as El-P and Killer Mike bring their signature styles to full effect on this dramatic, yet bouncy tune. The middle section, which sees Mike taking the lead, is not only effective, prophetic and timely, but it also serves as a reminder that the time for action is now and that history has a tendency to repeat itself if we’re not careful. Check out the song’s brand-new music video here, too.

2. Hum – “Desert Rambler”
3. IDLES – “War”
4. Middle-Aged Queers – “Gary’s Making Biscuits”
5. PEARS – “Zero Wheels”

Favorite remix: Squarepusher – “Pink Maggit” (Deftones)


Fiona Apple - Fetch the Bolt Cutters

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Albums of 2020
1. Fiona Apple – Fetch the Bolt Cutters
I almost feel cheated that my two No. 1 picks went to the same artist, but this year belonged to Fiona as much as it did to Dr. Fauci. FTBC busted us out of our mental prisons and allowed us to imagine our lives were more exciting than they actually were in 2020. It reminded us that we are strong enough to survive anything, to use our voices to speak even louder for what we believe in and that we can work on our own healing even if we can’t quite get outside. Ms. Apple set women free together.

2. Fleet Foxes – Shore
3. Mura Masa – R.Y.C.
4. Kari Faux – Lowkey Superstar
5. Liv.e – Couldn’t Wait to Tell You…

Favorite live album: Dolores Diaz & The Standby Club – Live at O’Leaver’s

Top 5 Songs of 2020
1. Fiona Apple – “Shameika”
This is a badass, “can-do” tune that was inspired by a passing comment made decades ago, one Fiona surely never thought twice about until now. And as she pounds the piano with the strength of RBG, it’s clear that this is the song 2020 needed — not to mention that it came full circle, inspiring Shameika herself all these years later. Sweet.

2. Noname – “Song 33”
3. Open Mike Eagle feat. Kari Faux – “Bucciarati”
4. Liv.e – “Lessons From My Mistakes…but I Lost Your Number”
5. Quakers feat. Sampa the Great – “Approach with Caution”

Favorite remix: Thundercat feat. Smino & Guapdad 4000 – “Dragonball Durag”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Tool show us at SAP Center that they’ve only gotten bigger & better with more time

ToolBy Mike Rosati //

Tool with Author & Punisher //
SAP Center – San Jose
January 14th, 2020 //

My first Tool show was at the Trocadero Transfer, a small SF club in the SoMa neighborhood that has been remodeled and renamed as The Grand.

It was 1993, and the band’s debut album Undertow had dropped several months earlier that year. My friend had been following the East Bay Express’ music column, which published a review of Tool’s 1992 EP Opiate. He picked up a cassette and we quickly became enamored, playing the snot out of it on every road trip we took together.

Unfortunately, we mistimed that show at the Trocadero Transfer and missed Failure’s opening set. The room was packed so we had to find a spot at the very back of the venue. And although we couldn’t see through the crowd from where we stood, we noticed that there was a trash can along the back wall. With little time to think, we turned it upside down, climbed atop of it and grabbed onto the fire sprinkler pipe. For us, that seemed to make all the difference, providing an amazing view of the room as the audience moved like an undulating ocean of bodies when Tool finally took the stage. Frontman Maynard James Keenan appeared shirtless and donned a Mohawk ponytail braid while standing at the front of the stage under a spotlight. Since then, I have seen a lot of shows but nothing quite like the moshing that transpired that night.

Tool

Fast forward to Tool’s latest Bay Area stop at San Jose’s SAP Center, and things have changed quite a bit for the prog-metal titans. Compared to that first performance I witnessed almost 27 years ago, Keenan (vocals), Danny Carey (drums), Adam Jones (guitar) and Justin Chancellor (bass) are now selling out arenas all around the world with a massive lighting rig, immersive video backdrop and veil of strings at the front of the stage when they open with the title track on their fifth LP Fear Inoculum.

But unlike the quartet’s previous tours, Keenan was actually illuminated at different points during the show as he strutted across the raised platforms behind Jones and Chancellor in a leather jacket with a Puscifer logo, a pair of red plaid pants and another Mohawk (albeit this one was spiked). Jones, as usual, was an economy of movement but his guitar voluminous in sound while Carey’s drums have only grown more into an incredible shrine of percussion.

Tool have certainly come a long way since that December night at the Trocadero Transfer nearly three decades ago, but looking back now, I’m sure glad we found that trash can.

Setlist:
Fear Inoculum
Ænema
The Pot
Parabol
Parabola
Pneuma
Schism
Jambi
Vicarious
Descending

Encore:
Chocolate Chip Trip
Invincible
Stinkfist

Our favorite performances from 2019

Best live shows of 2019 - Usher, Kacey Musgraves, Local Natives & Empire of the Sun

Ah yes, it’s that time again. Time to wave goodbye to another year, a hectic one that forced us to scale back our coverage toward the latter half of 2019. But before we officially ring in a new year and decade, it’s time for us to revisit the last 12 months at Showbams. For all intents and purposes, this space has provided us the access to witness so many amazing moments in live music, and even though we can’t show love to every performance we covered in 2019, we still managed to see some great ones.

Trimming down the list is never an easy task. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order), all of whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

Albert Hammond Jr., Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals, Ari Lennox, ASTU, AURORA, Bea Miller, Bebe Rexha, Beirut, Big Wild, Bobby, Bob Moses, Caroline Rose, Cherry Glazerr, Choker, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Club Night, Coke, Counting Crows, Crumb, CupcakKe, Daniel Caesar, Denzel Curry, Derek Ted, DJ Koze, The-Dream, DREAMERS, Ella Mai, Film School, FITNESS, Foxtail Brigade, Ginger Root, Half Alive, Hozier, Illuminati Hotties, In the Valley Below, Judah & the Lion, Justin Martin, Kali Uchis, Kamaal Williams, Katzù Oso, KONGOS, Lapel, Leon Bridges, Leven Kali, The Lil Smokies, Lil Wayne, LPX, machineheart, The Marías, Max Frost, Melvins, Michigan Rattlers, Mikey Mike, Miserable, MNEK, Mother Mother, Nicotine, (((O))), ORB, Outer Embassy, Princess Nokia, Puddles Pity Party, Queens D.Light, Raveena, Ravyn Lenae, RL Grime, Robyn, Rose Droll, Santigold, Sea Moya, SOAR, Stonefield, Super Unison, Tia Nomore, Tony Danza, Toro y Moi, Twenty One Pilots, Uni, Winnetka Bowling League, You Me at Six, Yuna

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our favorite performances from 2019.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2019

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2019:


Best of 2019 - MØ

Date: February 9th
Location: Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland

MØ’s performance, meanwhile, was even brighter than LPX’s with the colors just completely all over the place and smoke coming from behind her as the lights created larger shadows of the 30-year-old’s body against the back wall. Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen went on to perform all five singles — “Imaginary Friend”, “Nostalgia”, “Sun in Our Eyes”, “Blur” and “Way Down” — off her sophomore album and even showcased her 2017 collaboration “Don’t Leave” with British electronic duo Snakehips. -Karina Kristensen, photo by Karina Kristensen


Best of 2019 - Bob Mould Band

Bob Mould Band

Date: March 2nd
Location: The Fillmore – San Francisco

Bob Mould has had a lengthy, fruitful relationship with Noise Pop and the packed Fillmore demonstrated that in spades after recently releasing his rather well-received, and 13th, solo album Sunshine Rock since disbanding Hüsker Dü and intersplicing Sugar releases. Mould is nearing the age of 60, but you’d be hard-pressed to think that when he frantically paces back and forth onstage while firing off his characteristic take of punk-leaning alternative rock. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Mike Rosati


Best of 2019 - Modeselektor

Modeselektor

Date: April 4th
Location: Echoplex – Los Angeles

At LA’s Echoplex last Thursday, we didn’t have the fortune of getting another surprise cameo from Yorke, but it was intriguing to see a sold-out crowd welcome Bronsert and Szary back to the City of Angels under the Modeselektor moniker for the first time in a long time (and on a school night no less). And considering they were only stopping through two U.S. cities — LA and NYC the night before at Elsewhere in Brooklyn — on this tour, the show felt a little extra special for those of us in attendance due to the circumstances. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - The Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers

Date: May 15th
Location: Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles

Leading off with “Go” from their 2015 LP Born in the Echoes, The Chemical Brothers delivered a 24-song set that covered all nine studio albums, including their newest effort No Geography that dropped in April. They seamlessly transitioned from one banger to the next, keeping our spirits high and leaving us not a minute to rest our feet. The onstage production, meanwhile, was next level. With an arsenal full of lights and lasers as well as a massive projection screen mounted behind them, Rowlands and Simons created a scintillating audio-visual experience to remember and one of the best we’ve witnessed in a while. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - T-Pain

T-Pain

Date: June 15th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

The sun finally came out for none other than T-Pain. Bouncing onstage like Tigger, T-Pain made a case for deserving a later set time (and was probably indirectly responsible for the wave of people passing out around 6 p.m.). The man is a party in a human body, and he’s aging like a fine wine — his music, his dance moves, all of it. It’s clear he belongs on that stage, whether it’s 2:15 or 10:15 p.m. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2019 - Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu

Date: June 15th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, the crowd swelled in front of the festival’s main stage, waiting for our lord and savior Erykah Badu. We waited. And we waited. Finally, 30 minutes later, Ms. Badu walked out and surveyed the scene before all was forgiven. Her shortened set was still probably more than the sun-dried fans could handle, with her vocals perfect and her vibe far-reaching and unmatched. As she threw her body left and right, jutting her limbs into the air and even jumping down to clasp a few lucky hands, you could feel a collective healing washing over the grounds. Before she left, she even thanked us for waiting for her, as though we had done her a favor. Psh. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2019 - Usher

Usher

Date: June 15th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

How do you follow Erykah Badu? I didn’t think it could be done until about five seconds into Usher’s performance. He came out swinging, energy and choreography at 110 percent, so fast and fierce that I yelped, “Holy shit!” I grew up listening to Usher and respect him for days, but I didn’t expect him to put on one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve witnessed in 2019 so far. To say “he’s still got it” wouldn’t nearly be enough. So, just trust me when I say “you’ve gotta get yourself to an Usher show.” -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2019 - Middle Kids

Middle Kids

Date: June 22nd
Location: Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles

The Aussie rockers have been making a name for themselves on the festival circuit of late, and they did a fine job filling up the Palladium’s expansive floor. With Hannah Joy cementing the power trio’s sound on guitar and vocals, it was a performance that seemed to catch so many spectators off guard. Middle Kids’ songs possess the perfect amount of 90’s nostalgia to keep things catchy while remaining unpretentious and accessible, so expect big things from them in the future. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2019 - Local Natives

Local Natives

Date: June 22nd
Location: Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles

The band’s subdued lighting setup let the music do the talking and echoed its simple formula for success. Sometimes three amazing vocalists singing in harmony is all that you need to sell out a 5,000-person theater. While Local Natives haven’t taken a whole lot of risks over the last decade, including on the 10-track Violet Street, they still know how to hit you right in the feels every time. Nonetheless, time will tell which room they can sell out next. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2019 - Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun

Date: June 25th
Location: The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco

We showed up for the second of three Bay Area performances only to find the crowd anxiously awaiting the group’s arrival onstage. When lead vocalist/guitarist Luke Steele finally emerged through all the smoke donning his usual headdress and face paint however, it quickly came to life. Complemented by a pair of backup dancers and plenty of eye-catching on-screen visuals, Empire of the Sun kicked things off appropriately with “Standing on the Shore” and between multiple costume changes and instrument swaps, completely blew us away before uncorking the LP’s title track to close their headlining set. -Karina Kristensen, photo by Karina Kristensen


Best of 2019 - Jim James

Jim James

Date: July 3rd
Location: The Wiltern – Los Angeles

That said, one could argue fairly easily that James’ songs are a bit more accessible than The CLD’s, and with that in mind, it wasn’t hard at all to understand why the man who has also put out music under the pseudonym Yim Yames assumed the closing duties for this tour. It became even more evident once James took the stage, shredding his way through tracks on Uniform Distortion like “Over and Over” and “You Get to Rome” before going to an acoustic guitar for “A New Life” from 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God. James would end up performing almost all of Uniform Distortion, but the real standouts of the show were in fact slightly altered versions of the Marvin Gaye-inspired “Here in Spirit” and the ever-haunting “Same Old Lie” to close what felt like a roller-coaster set full of peaks and valleys — and of course, plenty of screeches and squeals emanating from his Gibson ES-335, too. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - COMMON

COMMON

Date: July 25th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

That’s what COMMON does — he spreads love to each and every person his music reaches. As KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez pointed out during his sit-down interview with the emcee midway through the evening, COMMON has lots of songs about love, and you could quickly find more than enough evidence to assert that fact by looking at the setlist alone. Of the seven tracks he showcased off Let Love, five had the word “love” in its title, starting with “Show Me That You Love” that opened his set. The album, which is inspired by COMMON’s new memoir “Let Love Have the Last Word”, remains a departure from the political deliberations that dominated his 2016 LP Black America Again and spawned out of our most recent U.S. presidential election. I don’t think we need to revisit that moment in history right now, so let me stick to the script. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Brian Lowe


Best of 2019 - The Raconteurs

The Raconteurs

Date: July 27th
Location: Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA

On a Saturday night at the picturesque Santa Barbara Bowl — which we’ll argue is the best music venue in Southern California and where we caught White’s first-ever show there last year — The Raconteurs brought those songs to life as they stormed onstage and unleashed total sonic bliss on our ears with a 90-minute performance highlighted by Consolers of the Lonely tracks “You Don’t Understand Me” and “Carolina Drama”, the latter of which came during an extended encore that was capped off by the quartet’s biggest hit “Steady, as She Goes” and what ultimately inspired White and Benson to form the group back in 2005 as a couple of longtime friends from Detroit. All of this, of course, without having access to our mobile phones after locking them in a Yondr pouch and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather) assisting on keyboards and guitar as a touring member. -Josh Herwitt, photo by David James Swanson


Best of 2019 - FKJ

FKJ

Date: August 5th
Location: Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles

2019 has already been a banner year for Venton in several ways. Besides making his debut at Coachella less than four months ago, he partnered with livestream media company Cercle to release this jaw-dropping live video that sees him performing on the world’s largest salt flat. Plus, he married Marieezy in March after previously working with the Filipino songstress. So with Marieezy by his side and fan bases in both Europe and North America now solidified, it appears that FKJ is ready to share his one-of-a-kind live show with the rest of the world. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - blink-182

blink-182

Date: August 9th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

Though these 90’s pop-punk kings may be short an OG member, that didn’t stop them from a summer shed tour alongside Lil Wayne. Sure, we all miss Tom DeLonge, and yes, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio remains a considerably solid stand-in, but how effective is this nostalgia act in 2019? That’s a tricky question we won’t answer because at the end of the day, festivalgoers of all ages still love singing along to “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things”. It’s really as simple as that to be honest. Does frontman Mark Hoppus’ silly onstage banter work even as he approaches 50? That’s a whole other can of worms I won’t unpack here. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2019 - Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino

Date: August 10th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

As one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, Childish Gambino (born Donald Glover) was an absolute highlight of OSL 2019 and it could very well go down as one of the best sets over the festival’s 12-year run. Minutes before making his grand entrance on the main stage, Glover was informed that he had induced the largest crowd in OSL history. When he finally dismounted from his disco platform in the middle of the polo fields, he shared the news and the audience’s energy from that point forward was palpable. Catching Childish Gambino on his current touring schedule is not only rare, but also few and far between. This year he has been mainly headlining festivals, and rumor has it that this cycle will be his final one billed under the “Childish Gambino” moniker, which made for an even more monumental event in SF. Glover dove straight into an aggressive set of songs from Because the Internet and notable cuts on 2016’s Awaken My Love while being accompanied by a backup band and rotating cast of creative support, including a full choir and crew of dancers/performance artists. More of a conceptual art piece than a typical headlining set, Childish’s masterpiece is one that we will remember for a long time. -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2019 - Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves

Date: August 11th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

Kacey Musgraves is arguably one of 2019’s top artists. Her fourth LP Golden Hour has received incredible accolades since its release in 2018, eventually nabbing the highly coveted Grammy for Album of the Year. That said, it was little surprise that Musgraves was able to fill the main stage with fans. Her subtle, yet powerful opener “Slow Burn” could not have been more ideal as she took in the immense crowd. She cutely quipped about playing the Sutro stage in 2014, and you could tell she was well-aware of the moment’s gravity. She naturally leaned heavily on Golden Hour, making sure to include fan favorites such as “Butterflies” and “High Horse” during her set, and at this rate, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before this alt-country breakout star finds herself in big font at the top of festival posters. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2019 - Paul Simon

Paul Simon

Date: August 11th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

Now that OSL has casually cruised into its 12th year, some musical traditions appear to be in place. Sunday night has become the “legacy artist” slot for many years now, and while these may not be the highest-attended sets of the weekend, they have become a quintessential part of the event. Simon was no different in all circumstances referenced above. No one should be upset that his live retirement barely lasted a year, as the 77-year-old came out jubilant and as entertaining as ever. He quipped about his past musings and even invited a Bay Area legend onstage. As the sun began to set on a shockingly sunny August day, Simon waltzed out there and opened with “Late in the Evening”. Other classic hits like “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” were featured early. “Graceland” kicked off his encore, which saw the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir join in on the Simon & Garfunkel tune “The Boxer”. Although Weir didn’t tackle any major vocals, it was a unique moment to see the two share the stage. And in a fitting way, “The Sound of Silence” served as Simon’s closing song before the masses strolled into SF’s Outerlands one last time. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2019 - King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Date: August 13th
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

All jokes aside, as these Aussie weirdos continue to explore other creative avenues, catching a King Gizzard show remains a fairly unique experience in its own right. You can usually expect at least one mosh pit, if not more, to form, but with the Greek only having a small floor area at the front of the stage, the lively audience that showed up on a Tuesday night could only get so rowdy with most of it resigned to the venue’s seated sections. That, however, didn’t stop these mates from delivering the goods. Over the course of a 90-minute set, they touched upon seven of their 15 albums, including opening and closing with three straight tracks off Infest the Rats’ Nest. There was “People-Vultures” from 2016’s Nonagon Infinity, plus a version of “Wah Wah” that featured a snippet of “The River” at the performance’s midway point. I’m actually a little surprised that they didn’t throw us a couple of curveballs before saying goodbye to be honest, because for as prolific and unpredictable as they’ve become lately, King Gizzard might be one of the most versatile rock bands on Planet Earth, too. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - Maribou State

Maribou State

Date: October 16th
Location: The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco

When Maribou State walked off stage for their encore break, it was almost as if the crowd immediately expected an encore. But no one left until they came back out and performed “Turnmills” from Kingdoms in Colour in honor of the London club that closed in 2008. We really couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a fall night in The City by the Bay. -Karina Kristensen, photo by Karina Kristensen


Outside Lands 2019

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The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2019

Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest - Rochelle Shipman


Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Rochelle Shipman

Um, that’s it? Another year in the rear-view mirror? Where the hell did the last 12 months go? Time sure does seem to fly when there’s so much good new music out there to enjoy.

With that said, it’s once again time for us to share our annual “Best of” lists like we have done the past few years (see our 2018 picks here). From new emerging artists to reunion tours to the return of rock ‘n’ roll, this year had a little bit of everything for both the casual and passionate music fan. And even if you didn’t have the time to listen to every album that came out (neither did we), that’s why we’re here: to help point you in the right direction whenever you do finally get the chance to dig in.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2019.

See our favorite performances from 2019 here.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2019:


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall - Josh Herwitt


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. Tool at Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA – October 20th & 21st
Unlike the delay on Tool’s fifth album Fear Inoculum, I thankfully didn’t have to wait 13 years to see my favorite band perform live. It was only a couple of years ago when I caught the boys at The Gorge, earning top honors as my favorite show in 2017, and subsequently a week later at Glen Helen Amphitheater for an all-day affair with Primus, Clutch, Fantômas, Melvins and The Crystal Method. Perhaps my tastes haven’t changed all that much since then, but even in a year that saw me attend half as many concerts as I usually do, Tool are still finding new and innovative ways to enhance their live show. Whether it’s tinkering with their stage production to incorporate a see-through curtain at times or adding surround sound throughout the arena, a Tool performance has evolved into a spiritual, meditative and almost out-of-body experience over the last decade. It’s no wonder why scoring tickets remains a trial of good fortune.

2. The Raconteurs at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – July 27th
3. The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles, CA – May 15th
4. Jim James & The Claypool Lennon Delirium at The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA – July 3rd
5. Foals at Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles, CA – March 24th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Tool – Fear Inoculum
When a three-time Grammy-winning band takes more than a decade to release its next album, it’s only natural for expectations to go through the roof. And I’ll be the first to admit that there was a small seed of doubt in my mind when it came to just how epic Tool’s latest sonic voyage in the studio could and would be. But upon first listen, any uncertainty I had about the merits of Fear Inoculum was quickly dispelled. The title track lures you in from the onset, building to a higher place as Maynard James Keenan (vocals) and company — Adam Jones (guitar), Justin Chancellor (bass) and Danny Carey (drums, percussion) — take listeners on an 80-minute rite of passage that holds up as some of the quartet’s best material in its entire catalog. I just hope they got at least one more LP in them, even if it takes another 13 years to make.

2. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
3. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1
4. The Chemical Brothers – No Geography
5. Black Pumas – Black Pumas

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. Tool – “Descending”
If you’re still reading, you’ve probably gotten the hint by now that I’m a big fan of Tool. After all, it only seemed fitting that my top song in 2019 should also come from my No. 1 album of the year by my favorite band over the last two decades. I have seen Tool perform a shortened version of “Descending” several times since 2014, before it ever had an official title, so when Fear Inoculum arrived back in August, there was no track I anticipated hearing more. In fact, at more than 13 minutes long, it’s one that requires your full, undivided attention, which can be a significant amount of time to dedicate in a world of three-minute pop songs and endless distractions now. But for prog-rock enthusiasts like myself who are more than willing to take the ride, “Descending” delivers a total rush of blood to the head that ultimately leads to pure unadulterated euphoria.

2. Bon Iver – “Hey, Ma”
3. Hot Chip – “Hungry Child”
4. Foals – “On the Luna”
5. Karen O and Danger Mouse – “Turn the Light”


Cate Le Bon - Reward

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. Stereolab at Primavera Sound – Barcelona, Spain – June 1st
Primavera Sound has always had a knack for booking reunions (i.e. Pulp, The Avalanches and Pavement) to its “musical mecca” on the Balearic Sea. 2019’s iteration featured the first proper show in nearly a decade from the anti-capitalist art-pop darlings Stereolab. “Come and Play in the Milky Night” on 1999’s Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night would open the evening to the international consortium of aging music nerds who undoubtedly knew that they were about to be treated to a “best of” set from the English-French outfit. Better yet, their politically themed lyrical content seemed more relevant in 2019 than it was around the time of their creation a quarter-century ago.

2. Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium at The Music Box Village – New Orleans, LA – April 26th
3. BLACK MIDI at Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA – November 21st
4. Amen Dunes at August Hall – San Francisco, CA – January 10th
5. Ween at Desert Daze – Perris, CA – October 12th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Cate Le Bon – Reward
What a banner year for the Welsh artist as she created her most highly acclaimed LP to date. Le Bon has truly honed her craft over the last decade as she has collaborated with a laundry list of indie-music royalty before writing the whimsical and austere Reward that employs an array of fresh sounds swirling around her haunting, pixie vocals. 2020 will see Cate jump on tour alongside Kurt Vile in a solo capacity, but we can’t wait to see what she produces next.

2. Wand – Laughing Matter
3. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
4. The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears
5. Omni – Networker

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. Foals – “Sunday”
As Foals teeter on the edge of being rock’s next big headliner, the British group semi-quietly unleashed a pair of albums entitled Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 and Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2. While their style continues to hover around math, dance and indie rock, they dig into a deeper realm of sonic atmosphere as frontman Yannis Philippakis questions, even laments, the state of our current times. “Sunday” tends to borrow a tad from the grandiose nature of their fellow Brits in Coldplay before dropping into a four-on-the-floor section that was rather well-received during their March stop at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

2. Crumb – “Ghostride”
3. Vampire Weekend – “Sunflower” feat. Steve Lacy
4. Oh Sees – “Henchlock”
5. Allah-Las – “In the Air”


Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. slowthai at Lodge Room – Los Angeles, CA – September 4th
Shortly after releasing his debut album Nothing Great About Britain in May, Tyron Frampton played a few intimate U.S. shows several months later. My guess is that those were probably the last ones he’ll do if the UK rapper out of Northampton continues to rise and deliver, just like he did for much of 2019. Part Johnny Knoxville-type grime smart ass, part brilliant gritty-crust punk, slowthai shook the roof off LA’s Lodge Room, which turned out to be a warm-up show before he returned to play Camp Flog Gnaw in November. Frampton certainly came to please, setting the energy level at 11 and even performing his rowdy hit “Doorman” twice in the set. He could’ve run through it 15 times and the crowd would’ve left just as satisfied.

2. Little Simz at The Echo – Los Angeles, CA – June 13th
3. Taking Back Sunday at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – April 11th
4. Night Moves at The Echo – Los Angeles, CA – September 21st
5. Usher at Smokin Grooves Fest – Long Beach, CA – June 15th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Little Simz – GREY Area
The production. The flow. The bars. The BALLS. Little Simz absolutely brings it on GREY Area, leaving no space for second-guessing, sexist bullshit or honestly anyone else at all. This latest studio album from the British emcee is all her, and you can feel it with every breath she takes. We should all be so lucky to come into our confidence the way that she did on this record, but most of all, we should just be grateful “Simbi” trusts us to keep her deepest secrets — and that they sound so, so good.

2. slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
3. Shura – forevher
4. Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby
5. White Reaper – You Deserve Love

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. slowthai – “Doorman” (with Mura Masa)
This song technically dropped in 2018, but its spotlight was shone even wider with slowthai releasing his debut LP this year. The Mura Masa-assisted cut pulses with adrenaline, carries the air of a movie soundtrack in only three minutes and has a beat that will take you all the way to the moon and back. In the words of Lizzo, it’s a whole damn meal!

2. Kari Faux – “Latch Key”
3. Billie Eilish – “bury a friend”
4. Little Simz – “Venom”
5. Smino – “Trina”


Tool - Fear Inoculum

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. IDLES – Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – October 10th
After putting out one of my favorite albums from 2018 and missing their show earlier this year, I was thrilled to finally catch IDLES live. To say that these English punk rockers put on a good performance would be a true understatement. They had the energy of an out-of-control freight train but were able to contain it while proving to be an incredibly fun act to see live. Frontman Joe Talbot engaged with the audience in a very authentic way, talking and singing to fans, not just at them. There were crowd-surfing guitarists, mosh pits and sing-a-longs … it was wild.

2. Punk Rock Bowling 2019 – Las Vegas, NV – May 23rd-27th
3. Judas Priest at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – June 24th
4. Van’s Warped Tour 2019 at Shoreline Amphitheater – Mountain View, CA – July 20th-21st
5. ITCHY-O at Cornerstone – Berkeley, CA – November 23rd

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Tool – Fear Inoculum
Well, after all of the waiting and speculation, Tool have done it again, in a really big way. Fear Inoculum is everything that I was hoping it would be, and then some. HUGE-sounding drums, guitars and bass wrap your head in a warm prog blanket while Maynard does what he always has so well. It takes the best parts of their previous albums and combines them to showcase a band that has clearly not missed a step in the 13 years since 10,000 Days.

2. Bad Religion – Age of Unreason
3. Brittany Howard – Jaime
4. Catbite – Catbite
5. Plague Vendor – By Night

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. The Hammerbombs – “I Hate Cars”
The Hammerbombs are an undersung Bay Area pop-punk group that have written some of the catchiest and fun songs I have heard from the East Bay scene in a long time. Their 2019 release Goodbye, Dreamboat made my top 10, and this track is the hands-down standout on an album chock-full of toe-tappers. It’s a heartfelt song written by singer and bassist Jen Louie, who has a knack for crafting some really fantastic tunes. The chorus is saccharine sweet, and you can’t help but sing along.

2. Lizzo – “Juice”
3. Bad Religion – “Do The Paranoid Style”
4. Ceremony – “In The Spirit World Now”
5. Lagwagon – “Surviving California”

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The prolific, often unpredictable King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard turn heavy at LA’s Greek Theatre

King Gizzard & The Lizard WizardBy Josh Herwitt //

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard with Stonefield, ORB //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
August 13th, 2019 //

Are King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard the most prolific and unpredictable band in all of rock?

If they aren’t, they’re certainly making a convincing case for that crown right now.

The Australian septet that’s made up of Stu Mackenzie (vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, flute), Ambrose Kenny-Smith (vocals, harmonica, keyboards), Cook Craig (guitar, bass, vocals), Joey Walker (guitar, bass, keyboards, vocals), Lucas Skinner (bass, keyboards), Michael Cavanagh (drums, percussion) and Eric Moore (drums, percussion, management) have put out 15 studio albums, including five in 2017, and two EPs since forming almost a decade ago while shifting styles and genres with each one. It’s in part why they have harvested one of the strongest and fastest-growing cult followings out there today as more new fans jump on the bandwagon (no pun intended) like yours truly.

In fact, just last year, a sold-out crowd packed the 5,000-person Hollywood Palladium to see the Gizz on a Thursday night, affirming that these guys’ popularity is no joke even if you feel compelled to laugh at their name (a colleague, who was unfamiliar, did when I brought them up recently during one of our conversations about music).

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Fast forward more than a year later to now, and King Gizzard’s popularity has only continued to rise, with their latest date in LA at the historic, 5,870-seat Greek Theatre serving as another example of how far they’ve come since their early days in Melbourne. Also on the bill for this North American tour opener were their fellow countrymen and women in ORB and Stonefield respectively, and with both supporting acts leaning in the direction of psychedelic rock upon first listen, the table was set quite nicely for Mackenzie and company to showcase their most recent sonic foray into the world of none other than thrash metal.

Yep, that’s right. You know, like, Metallica pre-1990?

Of course, with the arrival of Infest the Rats’ Nest just a couple of days away, I was prepared to have my ears pummeled while hearing a good portion of the nine-track LP that sees the group diving even deeper into heavy metal than it ever has before. This is what KG&TLW do, though. There simply are no boundaries or formulas when it comes to their songwriting. Sure, most of their albums fall under the general “psych rock” label, but 2015’s Quarters!, for instance, was inspired by jazz fusion and prog rock, and their third LP from 2017, Sketches of Brunswick East (with Mild High Club), was also rooted predominantly in jazz. So far this year, they’ve already taken their shot at the blues with the release of Fishing for Fishies and now they’ve unleashed their new doom-filled effort. Because after jazz and the blues, what could be a more respected musical genre than heavy metal?

All jokes aside, as these Aussie weirdos continue to explore other creative avenues, catching a King Gizzard show remains a fairly unique experience in its own right. You can usually expect at least one mosh pit, if not more, to form, but with the Greek only having a small floor area at the front of the stage, the lively audience that showed up on a Tuesday night could only get so rowdy with most of it resigned to the venue’s seated sections. That, however, didn’t stop these mates from delivering the goods. Over the course of a 90-minute set, they touched upon seven of their 15 albums, including opening and closing with three straight tracks off Infest the Rats’ Nest. There was “People-Vultures” from 2016’s Nonagon Infinity, plus a version of “Wah Wah” that featured a snippet of “The River” at the performance’s midway point. I’m actually a little surprised that they didn’t throw us a couple of curveballs before saying goodbye to be honest, because for as prolific and unpredictable as they’ve become lately, King Gizzard might be one of the most versatile rock bands on Planet Earth, too.

Setlist:
Self-Immolate
Mars for the Rich
Venusian 2
Inner Cell
Loyalty
Horology
People-Vultures (tour debut)
Alter Me III
Altered Beast IV
The River
Wah Wah (with “The River” snippet)
Road Train
This Thing
Beginner’s Luck
The Bird Song
Acarine
Murder of the Universe
Boogieman Sam
Cyboogie
Planet B
Perihelion
Hell

*Editor’s Note: “Venusian 1” and “Organ Farmer” were originally listed on the setlist after “Hell” but were not played.

Outside Lands 2019: Our top sets & festival awards

Outside Lands 2019Photos by Marc Fong & Mike Rosati // Written by Molly Kish & Kevin Quandt //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 9th-11th, 2019 //

Now that the dust has settled in Golden Gate Park both literally and figuratively, it’s time to look back at what made the 12th annual Outside Lands such a success this year. Besides the banner performances from a smorgasbord of artists and bands across a multitude of genres, some attention should be paid to the fresh features that were brought to the three-day music festival’s expansive grounds.

Grass Lands was unquestionably the most talked-about “land” onsite, as OSL made history by becoming the first major U.S. music festival to permit the sales of recreational cannabis. There was something for every stoner in this lush forest, whether it was a variety of edible selections from Kiva to our own personal favorite, the Pineapple Coast-flavored disposable vape pens by DomPen. It wasn’t surprising to witness a vast majority of attendees make a pass through this immersive area that featured vendors, promotional goodies and dedicated cannabis smoking areas. While the enjoyment of ganja-related items is not new to music events in the Bay Area, it was a breath of fresh air to have it be considered legal in these specified areas. What better way to cure that cotton mouth and those pesky munchies than with all of the mind-boggling food and drink options that were available?

The 2019 edition of Outside Lands also featured plenty of memorable sets from some of the best breakthrough talents, returnees and legacy acts in the business. So, sit back, relax and discover which were our favorite performances of the weekend, plus our picks for the fest’s most standout aspects, below.


Outside Lands 2019 - blink-182

TOP SETS:

Artist: blink-182
Set date/time: Friday, 6:25-7:40 p.m.
Location: Lands End

Though these 90’s pop-punk kings may be short an OG member, that didn’t stop them from a summer shed tour alongside Lil Wayne. Sure, we all miss Tom DeLonge, and yes, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio remains a considerably solid stand-in, but how effective is this nostalgia act in 2019? That’s a tricky question we won’t answer because at the end of the day, festivalgoers of all ages still love singing along to “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things”. It’s really as simple as that to be honest. Does frontman Mark Hoppus’ silly onstage banter work even as he approaches 50? That’s a whole other can of worms I won’t unpack here. -KQ

Outside Lands 2019

Artist: Tierra Whack
Set date/time: Saturday, 3:45-4:35 p.m.
Location: Twin Peaks

Following in the footsteps of many groundbreaking female artists who came before her, Tierra Whack brought some next level “Black Girl Magic” to OSL. Filling the oddball category on this year’s bill, the fire-spitting emcee brought impeccable artistry and her uniquely quirky brand of hip-hop to a stunned crowd as she competed against blink-182’s nostalgia-laden set over at the festival’s main stage. The audience was completely immersed in the 24-year-old’s warped red-and-white “Seussical” set design, as she delivered penetrating verses off her debut album Whack World. Reminiscent of Janelle Monae’s production during her tour cycle for Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase), Tierra paid homage to the aesthetics of Missy Elliot and Grace Jones while setting the bar for what music fans should expect from a truly authentic hip-hop show. -MK

Outside Lands 2019 - Childish Gambino

Artist: Childish Gambino
Set date/time: Saturday, 8:25-9:55 p.m.
Location: Lands End

As one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, Childish Gambino (born Donald Glover) was an absolute highlight of OSL 2019 and it could very well go down as one of the best sets over the festival’s 12-year run. Minutes before making his grand entrance on the main stage, Glover was informed that he had induced the largest crowd in OSL history. When he finally dismounted from his disco platform in the middle of the polo fields, he shared the news and the audience’s energy from that point forward was palpable. Catching Childish Gambino on his current touring schedule is not only rare, but also few and far between. This year he has been mainly headlining festivals, and rumor has it that this cycle will be his final one billed under the “Childish Gambino” moniker, which made for an even more monumental event in SF. Glover dove straight into an aggressive set of songs from Because the Internet and notable cuts on 2016’s Awaken My Love while being accompanied by a backup band and rotating cast of creative support, including a full choir and crew of dancers/performance artists. More of a conceptual art piece than a typical headlining set, Childish’s masterpiece is one that we will remember for a long time. -MK

Outside Lands 2019

Artist: DJ Koze
Set date/time: Sunday, 3:40-4:30 p.m.
Location: Sutro

Daytime disco is never an easy feat to pull off at a festival, but DJ Koze had no issue whipping a packed field of dance enthusiasts into a lucid, sweaty frenzy. Coming off his OSL night show Friday at Mezzanine, Stefan Kozalla brought the club vibes so seamlessly to the midday crowd that in the moment, you could barely recognize that you were with so many glistening festival attendees in 80-degree weather (yes, really). Everywhere you turned, smiling faces flashed in unison to the infectious beats of “Pick Up” and “Operator” from his 10-year discography. Fans unapologetically sang along to DJ Koze’s well-known, nu-disco anthems and genuinely let go of themselves during a set that produced some of the weekend’s best vibes. -MK

Outside Lands 2019 - Kacey Musgraves

Artist: Kacey Musgraves
Set date/time: Sunday, 4:10-5:10 p.m.
Location: Lands End

Kacey Musgraves is arguably one of 2019’s top artists. Her fourth LP Golden Hour has received incredible accolades since its release in 2018, eventually nabbing the highly coveted Grammy for Album of the Year. That said, it was little surprise that Musgraves was able to fill the main stage with fans. Her subtle, yet powerful opener “Slow Burn” could not have been more ideal as she took in the immense crowd. She cutely quipped about playing the Sutro stage in 2014, and you could tell she was well-aware of the moment’s gravity. She naturally leaned heavily on Golden Hour, making sure to include fan favorites such as “Butterflies” and “High Horse” during her set, and at this rate, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before this alt-country breakout star finds herself in big font at the top of festival posters. -KQ

Outside Lands 2019 - Toro y Moi

Artist: Toro y Moi
Set date/time: Sunday, 6:10-7 p.m.
Location: Sutro

While this wasn’t Chaz Bundick’s first OSL appearance, the Berkeley resident was welcomed back with the biggest and most energetic audience that he has ever amassed in the festival’s history. Riding high from touring in support of his sixth album Outer Peace, he commanded the stage with confidence and performed a club-worthy list of dance-floor jams from his full catalog. Complemented by idyllic weather, Chaz Bear got us grooving and sweating during a much-needed, pick-me-up set on an often-weary Day 3. -MK

Outside Lands 2019 - Paul Simon

Artist: Paul Simon
Set date/time: Sunday, 7:35-9:35 p.m.
Location: Lands End

Now that OSL has casually cruised into its 12th year, some musical traditions appear to be in place. Sunday night has become the “legacy artist” slot for many years now, and while these may not be the highest-attended sets of the weekend, they have become a quintessential part of the event. Simon was no different in all circumstances referenced above. No one should be upset that his live retirement barely lasted a year, as the 77-year-old came out jubilant and as entertaining as ever. He quipped about his past musings and even invited a Bay Area legend onstage. As the sun began to set on a shockingly sunny August day, Simon waltzed out there and opened with “Late in the Evening”. Other classic hits like “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” were featured early. “Graceland” kicked off his encore, which saw the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir join in on the Simon & Garfunkel tune “The Boxer”. Although Weir didn’t tackle any major vocals, it was a unique moment to see the two share the stage. And in a fitting way, “The Sound of Silence” served as Simon’s closing song before the masses strolled into SF’s Outerlands one last time. -KQ


Outside Lands 2019

OUTSIDE LANDS 2019 AWARDS:

Best “Lands”: Grass Lands
Elevating the festival game with the legal purchase and consumption of marijuana on the grounds, there were interactive installations like the smell wall, tutorials on how to make bongs and pipes out of fruit, and lounges to chill and take in all the heady vibes.

Best Beacon: The Giant Inflatable Straw
In a city where the use of plastic straws is nearly obsolete, OSL found a tongue-in-cheek way to make sure that the last remaining one was ever-present throughout the park.

Best Food: Lobster Roll (Woodhouse Fish Co.)
This decadently loaded, perfect on-the-go meal may have been overshadowed by the rest of the 2019 culinary menu, but it was by far the best bang for your buck.

Best Cocktail: Pork Chop Express (The Treasury)
If you were looking for something refreshing and not too overwhelmingly intoxicating, The Treasury had you covered all weekend long. Consisting of gin, pineapple gum, honey syrup and lapsang souchong tea, this libation was a crowd favorite that essentially tasted like an adult Arnold Palmer.

Best Wine: West + Wilder (Sparkling)

Best Pop-up: Wyclef Jean’s (somewhat surprise) set outside of the Heineken Dome

Best Upgrade: Verizon Members Lounge

Best Merchandise: Limited Edition Bomber Jacket (buy here)

Best Comedian: Alyssa Edwards

Best Cameo: Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead (during Paul Simon’s headlining performance)