First Times: Covering a concert at Red Rocks as My Morning Jacket return to sacred ground for two awe-inspiring nights rain & shine

My Morning Jacket with M. WardBy Josh Herwitt //

My Morning Jacket with M. Ward
Red Rocks Park and Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO
August 25th & 26th, 2023 //

No matter where you are from, a trip to Red Rocks should be on every live music fan’s bucket list. The mile-high, open-air amphitheater only a short drive from Denver in Morrison, Colo., has over the years become a destination venue for live music fans all around the globe with its otherworldly rock structure and stellar natural acoustics.

Red Rocks’ annual attendance numbers certainly prove that to be true, too. Just a couple of years ago, it received the distinct honor of being named the top-grossing and most-attended concert venue of any size in the world. For a lot of artists and bands, having the opportunity to perform in such a unique and sacred space ranks up there with playing other famous sonic sanctuaries like The Gorge Amphitheatre, Radio City Music Hall and the Hollywood Bowl.

That’s some elite company to be included with, but ask anyone who has been and they will say Red Rocks is worthy of such acclaim. It’s why the 9,525-person amphitheater also holds a special place in the hearts of so many performers, including one of live music’s absolute best: My Morning Jacket.

Since opening in 1941, Red Rocks has been home to quite a few noteworthy performances from U2 to Widespread Panic, with the latter holding the venue’s record for most consecutive sold-out shows at 69 after their latest three-night run in June. And though MMJ hasn’t nearly reached that high mark, there’s no doubt that some of their most important moments over the past quarter century have taken place in between “Creation Rock” and “Ship Rock.” So it shouldn’t be a surprise that fans travel from all corners of the country to catch the Louisville-bred outfit there.

Red Rocks Park & Amphitheatre

Jacket’s very first appearance at the amphitheater, in fact, came in 2007 opening for the legendary Bob Dylan, but it only took another year before they were being offered their own date to headline. It wasn’t until 2012 for their “Spontaneous Curation Series” when MMJ started booking two nights “on the rocks,” with this year marking the quintet’s fifth time doing so for its 14th and 15th shows.

Nevertheless, it was a pair of performances at Red Rocks in 2019 that ultimately helped reignite the band and inspired Jim James (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Blankenship (bass), Patrick Hallahan (drums, percussion), Bo Koster (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Carl Broemel (guitar, pedal steel guitar, saxophone, backing vocals) — with James coining the venue as “the birth canal of the universe” that year — to get back in the studio to record their ninth full-length album. Even the cover artwork for the ensuing, self-titled My Morning Jacket directly paid homage as you can see here. That’s how much one of Colorado’s most prized possessions has meant to the group’s success and longevity.

So after making the short pilgrimage from LA for two nights of MMJ at Red Rocks last August, I wasn’t about to miss them when it was announced that they would be returning for two more gigs in 2023. This time would be a little bit different, though. Not only had the supporting act changed with M. Ward slated for both shows, but being granted a photo credential for Friday and Saturday had finally afforded me the chance to capture a concert (or two) at the one and only “RR” with my camera equipment.

Red Rocks has always been one of my favorite places to witness live music. It’s somewhere that I have found myself going back to time and time again for almost two decades because there’s really nowhere else like it. The sound, atmosphere and fans all make it a one-of-a-kind experience and one of the best spots anywhere to watch a concert. From the first to the last row, there’s truly no bad seat in the house. Plus, the tailgating in the Lower South Lots alone is worth going for — and why you should always plan to arrive early before the doors open. You might even make some new friends in the parking lot!

My Morning Jacket

For a band that rocks as hard as MMJ does, it only seems fitting that one of their beloved venues to visit would be Red Rocks. Friday’s show would see James and company not holding back as they performed their 2003 LP It Still Moves in its entirety, enlisting M. Ward to sit in on “Golden” and “Steam Engine”. As elated as I was to hear “Master Plan” again however, it was also the first time since 2018 that “Just One Thing” and “One in the Same” had been played. Thanks to an extended encore with deep cuts such as “Honest Man” from 2001’s At Dawn and “Smokin’ From Shootin'” off 2008’s Evil Urges, the evening still finished a lot better than it began after heavy rains put a damper on any pre-show partying and soaked plenty of us from head to toe.

Saturday’s forecast, on the other hand, proved to be quite the opposite. With clear skies and sunshine setting the stage for MMJ’s second night, we were treated to a setlist that was well worth hopping on a plane for. There was another sit-in from M. Ward — this time on “At Dawn” and “Off the Record” — but there was also the debut of Cat Stevens’ “The Wind” as well as a cover of Traffic’s “Feelin’ Alright?” for only the second time ever with surprise guest and Colorado native Nathaniel Rateliff on vocals. Those were definitely two of the biggest highlights (no pun intended) amid the light motif that MMJ signaled to us with “At Dawn”, “First Light”, “It’s About Twilight Now” and “The Dark” coming consecutively midway through their set, but it was the encore centered around a four-part “Cobra” — the track, after all, runs more than 24 minutes long on 2002’s Chocolate and Ice — with “Highly Suspicious”, “Off the Record” and “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2” interspersed in between, leaving the sold-out crowd mostly speechless. It was a setlist technique that you would see a jam band like Phish or Umphrey’s McGee employ, but not MMJ. The three-time Grammy nominees have always lived in the jam-adjacent space, even if they have been booked for some of the same music festivals you might find other jam bands at, including Bonnaroo, Hulaween and Peach. But ever since forming in 1998, MMJ have never presented or considered themselves to be a jam band and the same applies today.

Regardless of how you want to label their music, James, Blankenship, Hallahan, Koster and Broemel looked and sounded at Red Rocks as locked in as they ever have. A sincere joy emanated from all five members that was palpable the minute they walked onstage, and by the time MMJ had wound us down after more than two hours with “Love Love Love” to wrap up their two-night stand, nothing but immense gratitude and a genuine love for what we had just heard remained inside.

It’s safe to say that you can’t tell MMJ’s story now without referencing Red Rocks at some point along the way. The band knows that, and many of its most loyal enthusiasts have come to understand what’s there, too. Because if recent history serves as any indication, rocking out to MMJ under the stars while being surrounded by some red sandstone monoliths is like nothing else. Quite simply, it’s magical.


Mahgeetah (>)
Golden (with M. Ward)
Master Plan (>)
One Big Holiday (>)
I Will Sing You Songs (>)
Easy Morning Rebel (>)
Run Thru
Rollin Back (>)
Just One Thing (first time since 2018)
Steam Engine (with M. Ward)
One in the Same (first time since 2018)

Victory Dance
Least Expected (>)
The Way That He Sings
Honest Man
Feel You
Slow Slow Tune (>)
Smokin’ From Shootin’ (>)
Wordless Chorus

Editors’ Note: “It Still Moves” 20th anniversary show; portions of “Wordless Chorus”, “At Dawn”, “Butch Cassidy”, “Feelin’ Alright?”, “Highly Suspicious” and “Cobra” were played during soundcheck.


Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1
Spring (Among the Living) (Beatles “Dear Prudence” outro)
Evil Urges (>)
War Begun (>)
At Dawn (with M. Ward)
First Ligh
It’s About Twilight Now (>)
The Dark
Lay Low
Only Memories Remain
Butch Cassidy (>)
The Wind (Cat Stevens cover) (first time played)
Regularly Scheduled Programming
Feelin’ Alright? (Traffic cover) (with Nathaniel Rateliff)

Cobra (Pt. 1>)
Highly Suspicious
Cobra (Pt. 2>)
Off the Record (with M. Ward) (>)
Cobra (Pt. 3>)
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2
Cobra (Pt. 4>)
Holdin on to Black Metal
Love Love Love

First Times: Covering a show at the Hollywood Bowl

Kurt Vile & The ViolatorsBy Josh Herwitt //

Sufjan Stevens with Kurt Vile and The Violators, Ibeyi //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
August 7th, 2016 //

No matter what you think of LA, whether you love it, hate it or hold no opinion of it at all, the Hollywood Bowl has remained universally loved as one of the city’s most prized possessions. It’s safe to say that the Bowl, as us Angelinos like to call it for short, has always stood as one of the world’s most legendary outdoor music venues. In fact, it’s still considered the “largest natural amphitheater” in the U.S. (whatever that means) at 17,500, but just do a quick Google search for “best outdoor music venues in the U.S.” and you’ll see how often it’s included in listicles ranking the best amphitheaters in the country. For that reason alone — although the glitz and glamour of LA have certainly never hurt — there has always been an understanding within the music industry that any artist who headlines a show inside the Bowl’s iconic bandshell has officially “made it.”

Though I don’t know if the same can be said for my music journalism career, there have been at least a few bright spots, one as most recently as last Sunday, when I was invited to cover my first show at the Bowl. It might sound cliché (actually it definitely sounds cliché), but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get credentialed for a show at one of music’s most storied and historic venues, one that I grew up going to regularly as a kid. When you write for a small music blog like this one, getting the opportunity to cover a show at the Bowl doesn’t come around all that often, if ever. And what a show it turned out to be.

With a bill headlined by neo-psychedelic folk singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and featuring sets from lo-fi indie rocker Kurt Vile with his backing band, The Violators, and French-Cuban soul/R&B duo Ibeyi, the lineup of performers on this night was eclectic to say the least. Yet, with two of the three acts already in California to play Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival (read our review here), NPR member station KCRW made sure to take advantage for its World Festival series.

Sufjan Stevens

Sufjan Stevens

It’s always tough for an opener to play the Bowl, and unfortunately Ibeyi had to find that out the hard way for its first appearance. With the show’s early start time due to the Bowl’s 10:30 p.m. curfew on Sundays (it slides back to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday), most of the seats were empty when twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz took the stage at 7 p.m. sharp. It wasn’t until 7:40 p.m., when Vile and his three bandmates were subsequently up next, that the amphitheater started to fill up, especially in the upper-level sections. Vile, who has been touring heavily since the release of his sixth solo album b’lieve I’m goin down…, let out a few hoots and hollers as he opened his 50-minute set, doing his best to pump up the somewhat subdued crowd. But it was his music that ultimately got fans excited, leaning heavily on his newest material as he moved between electric guitar, acoustic guitar and banjo.

The spectacle of the night, however, was no doubt Sufjan Stevens’ set. The Michigan native, who professed his love for his home state on his 2003 LP, had it pretty rough growing up, as he details in “Should Have Known Better” from his latest studio effort Carrie & Lowell. The album, which recounts some of the more unsettling moments Stevens shared with his late mother (Carrie) and stepfather (Lowell) — including times when Carrie abandoned him as a child — and the emotional pain he felt following her death in 2012, has taken his career of almost 20 years to new heights, with many music critics pronouncing it his best yet.

On this evening though, Stevens did his best to spin things in a positive light, proclaiming at one point that he wanted to “sing about life” after spending “a year-and-a-half singing about death.” “Feel your heart and your lungs and the warmth of your skin, and know you’re alive,” he told us in between songs while preaching that we as a society need “less resistance” and “more acceptance.” Coming from a man who dons a pair of giant wings, a neon-colored track suit and at times, a bizarre balloon costume onstage, a spiritual pep talk as such could sound like a bunch of hocus pocus to glass-half-empty types. But the stories Stevens tells on Carrie & Lowell are real and heartfelt, ones that take guts to broadcast publicly like he does, and with a rainbow of fluorescent lights covering the Bowl’s band shell once night fell, the final stop on his 2016 summer tour felt more like a celebration of sorts than a memorial service. So, as the man in a foil-like suit ran through the crowd at the start of his encore, which concluded with a tribute to another one of his fallen heroes in Prince, I couldn’t help but smile and take it all in, knowing full well that the chance to cover a show at the Bowl may never come my way again.


Seven Swans
Too Much
All of Me Wants All of You
Come On! Feel the Illinoise!
I Walked
Blue Bucket of Gold
Fourth of July
Should Have Known Better
Carrie & Lowell
I Want to Be Well
Impossible Soul

Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
Kiss (Prince cover) (with Moses Sumney)


Dust Bunnies
I’m an Outlaw
Jesus Fever
KV Krimes
Walkin’ on a Pretty Day
Pretty Pimpin’
Puppet for the Man
Freak Train


Lost in My Mind
Mama Says
I’m on My Way
Think of You

First Times: Experiencing the Santa Barbara Bowl as My Morning Jacket take their game to the next level

My Morning JacketBy Josh Herwitt //

My Morning Jacket with Fruit Bats //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
October 11th, 2015 //

Ever since I can remember, the Santa Barbara Bowl has always been on my bucket list of concert venues to visit.

With its majestic views overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the 4,562-seat outdoor amphitheater offers one of Southern California’s — and maybe even one of the country’s — most beautiful settings to take in live music.

My Morning Jacket

But for whatever reason, whether it was the distance, the timing or just not being able to find the right band to make the 90-minute drive from Los Angeles worth it, seeing a show there had yet to happen for me.

So, when My Morning Jacket unveiled their 2015 U.S. tour dates, which included a Sunday night gig at the Santa Barbara Bowl earlier this month, it was an opportunity that I wasn’t about to pass up.

Following the release of their seventh studio album The Waterfall this past May, My Morning Jacket are one of rock’s biggest crown jewels at the moment. There are a select number of rock ‘n’ roll bands that can elevate their game to another level when they perform live, and for all intents and purposes, the Louisville five-piece has clearly proven to be one of them over the last several years.

But since 1998, when frontman Jim James founded the band with three members from the emo-punk outfit Winter Death Club, My Morning Jacket have done their best to live outside the box, paying homage to the Southern rock gods that have come before them while combining elements of folk, country and even dub and reggae to create a sound that is uniquely their own. In short, they’re a rock band, while psychedelic in nature, that seemingly has no limits. Of course, at least some of that eclecticism can be attributed to James, who has long served as the band’s primary songwriter, but the 37-year-old has also managed to surround himself with a talented group of musicians over the years.

My Morning Jacket

At the Santa Barbara Bowl after an opening set from the recently revived, indie-folk project Fruit Bats (read our interview with the band here), Jim James (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Blankenship (bass), Patrick Hallahan (drums, percussion), Bo Koster (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Carl Broemel (guitar, pedal steel guitar, saxophone, backing vocals) were locked in from the moment they walked on stage and started with “Steam Engine”, a deep cut off 2003’s It Still Moves. Though it was more than understandable to see the band play a large majority of The Waterfall for its first performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl in almost four years, there were plenty of other deep cuts mixed in over the next two hours, from “Bermuda Highway” to “Mahgeetah” to “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”. After all, it’s no secret that My Morning Jacket have always been good to their most loyal and dedicated fans, and in once again taking song requests as part of their “Spontaneous Curation Series,” they made sure to dig up many of the classics from their seminal album Z, including “Wordless Chorus” and “Off the Record” one after the other in the middle of a loaded, four-song encore.

Yet, before it was all said and done, it was only fitting for James and his bandmates to end the night with “One Big Holiday”, a longtime crowd favorite about a “bad man from California” that put My Morning Jacket squarely on the map more than a decade ago. And as the curly, long-haired guitar wizard shredded his way through the single’s final notes, I couldn’t help but think that after waiting all those years to step inside the Santa Barbara Bowl, the whole show had felt like one big holiday to me.

Steam Engine
Believe (Nobody Knows)
Compound Fracture
In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)
Bermuda Highway
It Beats 4 U
Like a River
Spring (Among the Living)
Only Memories Remain
Tropics (Erase Traces)
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2

Victory Dance
Wordless Chorus
Off the Record
One Big Holiday

Camping at a music festival soon? You’ll want to check out this ultimate festival camping guide

Music festivals - campingWritten by Josh Herwitt //

Festival season is upon us, and some of you might be getting ready to pitch your tent at a music festival this summer. Lucky you!

Camping at music festivals can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a lot of work — and a lot to remember. Did you bring an extra pair of socks? Did you bring some earplugs? How about insect repellant? Do you know how to start your own campfire?

Well, now you’ll know exactly what to do and what you should bring thanks to our friends over at Superfi, who put together this really awesome festival camping guide that should help with all your outdoor living needs.

Take a look at the infographic below, and let us know what you think. What camping tips have you picked up from your own experiences that you can lend to other festivalgoers?

Superfi festival camping guide

I heard the new My Morning Jacket album and it’s amazing

MMJ3By Pete Mauch //

On the eve of April Fools’ day, Jim James and Bo Koster of My Morning Jacket invited about 50 people to a listening party of their new album, The Waterfall. Sonos Studio in Los Angeles began to fill up with everyone from Hollywood executives, interns, photographers and just a few die-hard fans like myself who won the My Morning Jacket Roll Call contest.

Huge projectors throughout the room displayed the album’s cover of psychedelic waterfalls amongst bean bags, cushions and fancy couches, adding to the overall chill atmosphere of the evening — not to mention the free beer.

Jim James arrived, explaining that he first fell in love with waterfalls in Portland, Ore., especially Bridal Veil Falls. My Morning Jacket plans on painting murals all across America using the album cover, the first to be adorned in Venice Beach, Calif. For you Angelenos, it’s on Lincoln Blvd. and Vernon Ave.


1.”Believe (Nobody Knows)”
The initial track could have been an extension of the recent Jim James solo LP, Regions of Light and Sound of God. We find out later this was the last track he wrote for the album, and James feels it gave the whole album credibility and cohesiveness. The lyrics are uplifting, especially the prose of “Roll the dice, sail the ship, and all doors will open,” which to me means take the chance and you will be rewarded.

2.”Compound Fracture”
This is a bass-heavy, fast-rocking tune that jumps right out of the gate and doesn’t let up. This song is made for the live setting, and I’m sure many people will compare it to the style Jacket uses on Evil Urges. Koster really stands out on this track, especially towards the end as he wails on his keyboard while James belts out “how long till the mix runs dry” or something of the sort. This one’s a keeper.

3.”Like a River”
The album was mostly recorded in Stinson Beach, Calif., and Koster was very quick to point out that “Like a River” is the song that captures the time they spent there best. It’s a slow “streaming” folk song that makes us recall the At Dawn era of My Morning Jacket, which is never a bad thing. In fact, it’s an amazing thing. James flexes his vocals on this one, which reminds you how a voice can be a damn great instrument.

4.”In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)”
The title track might have the best section in the whole album during the breakdown. The song starts off slowly, then builds and builds until it climaxes into pure bliss. I can’t wait for die-hard Jacket fans to hear this one. James explains The Waterfall is a metaphor for people who have so much shit on their plate that they wish they could just stop time and slow it down. He goes on to explain he’s been infatuated with wanting to stop the flow of a waterfall just to watch it stand still. And he wishes humans can do this with their own hectic lives. The chorus is a beautifully uplifting lyric that reads, “I stop the waterfall by finally feeling / I stop the waterfall by just believing / I gotta stop the waterfall.” 

5.”Get the Point”
“Get the Point” is the breakup song on the album, and it’s a fine one at that. James very openly states, “The feeling is gone, but I wish you all the love in the world.” He doesn’t love this gal anymore, but he still wishes her well. I think we can all relate to that. After this song, James explained that all the songs on this album are live takes, with overdubs added after the fact.

6.”Spring (Among the Living)”
On the sixth track and second single, James states that he’s ready for the change of season and that he’s “done hibernating.” Patrick Hallahan leads the charge with a strong drumbeat that carries the song forward until it reaches a magnificent climax that once again showcases Koster’s sick keyboard playing and Yim Yames’ always amazing vocals. Listen below:

7.”Thin Line”
“Thin Line” is the oldest cut that MMJ decided to bring to the table. The story goes that Tom Blankenship was handed a very short demo by James around 2001 and remembered that it would fit perfectly into the song they were working on. The result is a pure rocker with wailing guitars by Carl Broemel and James that leads toward a seriously amazing ending that has James screaming “between love and a waste of time.” That seems like quite the thin line to me.

8.”Big Decisions”
“Big Decisions” is the song that all “Jacketeers” already know, as the crowd present in LA got a little more into the experience. James said this song is about wanting to make decisions for your friends. Everyone has a friend who complains that they hate their job or they hate where they live, and this song is about wanting to be able to just go ahead make that decision for them. Get a taste here:

9.”Tropics (Erase Traces)”
The penultimate song starts with a ripping guitar solo, then mellows out as James starts to sing, “first time in a long time.” This song could very well be my personal favorite after one listen. The ending is beautiful chaos full of fuzzy guitars, loud keyboards and serious drumming that could please any rocker.

10.”Only Memories Remain”
“Only Memories” brings the album together with another Stinson Beach-like vibe. It’s a slow chiller that creeps up on you, especially the poignant lyrics “names of places have all changed, but the identity has stayed the same.” The slow song showcases some serious slinky guitar work by both James and Broemel.

After the album ended, James and Koster came out and did a full Q&A, which I got to be a part of. I told them how I felt the album reflects on days of old jacket like At Dawn and Tennesseee Fire and if this were a conscious effort to bring back the folky vibe as opposed to the avant-garde Circuital style.

Yim Yames answered with a simple “YES!” and then elaborated how he never goes back and is always pushing forward, but that it’s difficult to stay away from the basic guitar. After the interview disbanded, James and Koster hung out and mingled with the crowd and was gracious enough to sign my poster that I had brought and even took a picture. They stayed until everyone got to meet them. What an awesome time with an amazing band.

The Waterfall will be released May 4th via ATO/Capitol Records. Pre-order it here, and check out My Morning Jacket’s tour dates here.

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The Regent Theater brings new life to LA’s music scene

The Regent TheaterBy Josh Herwitt //

Say what you will about Los Angeles — maybe the traffic, the pollution and the people aren’t your cup of tea — but the city where the Kim Kardashians and the Justin Biebers of the world happen to roam is still one of America’s most important music cities.

With its ties to the film and entertainment industries, LA continues to be a hotbed for young, emerging artists and well-established stars across all genres, whether it’s hip-hop, electronic, punk or rock ‘n’ roll. Maybe it’s why we have more music venues than we know what to do with here. Sporting music venues of all shapes and sizes, LA has no shortage of options, particularly between Hollywood and downtown.

But it is downtown where LA continues to thrive at an exponential rate these days, marking one of the most exciting times in the city’s history, certainly when you consider what downtown LA looked like 20 years ago. One of the latest examples of the gentrification process downtown comes along Main Street, where sought-after, forward-thinking restaurants like Bäco Mercat and Pete’s are now calling home.

Yet, the facelift Main Street has been undergoing over the past five years wasn’t completely solidified until last month’s official opening of The Regent Theater, a 1,100-capacity venue with a gourmet pizza joint (Prufrock Pizzeria) and trendy watering hole (The Lovesong Bar) right next door.

The Regent Theater

Inside The Regent Theater

While it’s not as if Main Street was completely missing a music venue prior to The Regent’s opening, the new space provides a much different dynamic than what came before it. Just a few blocks up the street and tucked away in an adjacent alleyway, The Smell has long catered to underground punk and weird, experimental electronic acts as one of the few all-ages spots left in LA. But with no bar inside, it boasts an attitude unlike most music venues today, dating back to a time when punk was sweeping the nation for the first time.

You won’t find those anti-establishment vibes at The Regent, where local promoter Mitchell Frank, who also operates The Echo and Echoplex, and his company Spaceland Presents have already sold out shows for Death from Above 1979, Cold War Kids and FKA twigs (two nights). And although there are other suitable options nearby with historical movie palaces like The Orpheum Theatre, The Tower Theater and the newly renovated Theatre at Ace Hotel all lining Broadway within a block of each other, The Regent has quickly found its place amid the crowded, yet booming confines of downtown LA.

Cold War Kids

Cold War Kids at The Regent Theater

At first glance, the venue has everything to make it a successful addition to LA’s live music scene. Once a grindhouse and adult movie theater before more recently serving as a pop-up store/venue for Jack White’s label Third Man Records and his band The Dead Weather, The Regent fits in quite nicely with its immediate surroundings, evoking a feeling of “old downtown” (the building celebrated its 100th birthday this year, in fact) despite it still bearing that brand-new look and smell. Its sloped dance floor, perfect for any vertically-challenged music fan, is a refreshing change to the club-style venues that dominate LA’s scene. Though the floor area can become difficult to maneuver throughout when shows sell out — as I found out for myself during Cold War Kids’ headlining gig one night — the horseshoe-shaped balcony provides some respite while offering a close view of the stage. There are even a few high-top tables near the stairs for those needing to take some weight off their feet. No need to worry, though. The Regent’s custom-fitted sound system makes it plenty easy to hear the performance from the very back of the room.

If there’s one thing The Regent has going for it, it’s that there aren’t many “bad seats” in the house. Yes, the bar downstairs can easily become inundated with thirsty patrons (quick tip: you’re better off going to the bar upstairs) and the lack of air conditioning at times can make things uncomfortable for some, but with any new music venue nowadays, there are always pluses and minuses. Instead, it will come down to how The Regent resolves these smaller — however, noteworthy — grievances that will determine whether or not it becomes a favorite among LA music fans.

The Regent Theater

With the death of net neutrality, how will music consumption change?


By Mike Frash //

The way the Internet works is about to fundamentally change, unless companies, organizations and people continue to band together in a populist uprising to take on Big Cable. If the Telecom behemoths have their way, the wild, weird open web as we know it is dead.

So how might the death of net neutrality effect the way we consume digital music?

The second battle over net neutrality is heating up, and we the people are losing. A major blow to net neutrality went down last week when a three judge panel unanimously agreed with Verizon’s appeal to 2011 net neutrality regulations that “the FCC did not have the legal authority to enact …”

Within a day, a grassroots conglomeration of 76 major websites and thousands of others organized by Battle For The Net joined forces on September 10th for “Internet Slowdown Day”, building a campaign of awareness around the corporate threat to net neutrality.

On September 10th, over two million people took action, making 312,171 calls, writing 2,332,092 emails and filing 777,364 comments to the FCC, numbers that indicate a successful viral and action-inducing effort. One of the more effective illustrations of the Internet’s possible future came from Join the Fast Lane, a mocked up website that shows what using the Internet might be like soon.

The battle over net neutrality signifies the most important struggle between populism and corporate interest in the age of information. “Team Cable” has the money and K Street influence on their side, but “Team Internet” is able to use their platforms and creativity to make an impactful counter attack.

Visit Battle For The Net and sign their letter to lawmakers — it should take about 20 seconds to complete.


So what will happen to the landscape of digital music consumption if net neutrality is no more?

Rock The Net is an effort from the Future of Music Coalition, which believes “creators must be able to compete on a level technological playing field alongside the biggest companies.” Artists that support Rock The Net include R.E.M., Pearl Jam, Death Cab for Cutie, Bob Mould, Calexico, Les Claypool, Rogue Wave, and many more.

In writing about access and innovation for artists, Rock The Net declares, “imagine logging on to your favorite band’s website, only to have it take forever to load on your computer because they couldn’t afford (or didn’t want) to pay a toll to powerful Internet Service Providers. All artists deserve the right to use the Internet to cultivate listeners, and fans deserve to make their own choices of how and where to access legitimate content. That’s why the open Internet must be preserved.”

Is it possible that net neutrality regulation are part of why there are more mega-break out bands now more than ever? Would Imagine Dragons, alt-J, Chvrches, The Lumineers, Disclosure, Sky Ferreira, Capital Cities, and Bastille have all made it as big as they are now without an open Internet?

Streaming music has become the most essential means of listening to music, greatly reducing peer-to-peer piracy. Piracy has been so rampant that many artists stream new albums a week before they are released. Spotify, Beats Music, Pandora, MOG, Rdio, YouTube, Grooveshark and others have become the de facto platform for music consumption.

When these companies are forced to choose the “fast lane” of bandwidth options, you can bet streaming will cost more — all so the elite can get richer. Services that don’t pay ISPs could lose sound quality if they don’t pay to allow users more bandwidth — as Gizmodo pointed out, “… the end of net neutrality would mean striking deals with ISPs if they want to reach consumers, the same way television networks must do with cable companies.”

The absence of net neutrality also means it’s plausible that Big Cable could help decide the victor of the battle for streaming supremacy by taking the most strategic pay-to-play partnership that comes their way.

And if streaming starts to sound worse, has interruptions or gets more expensive, won’t we see a second boom in piracy? Will private bit torrenting networks become even more popular, while a new generation masters IP blocking and online activity masking?

How do you see the future of music without net neutrality?

As corrupt as this whole thing is, it’s not over yet. You can still make your voice heard at the FCC Website, and visit Battle for the Net for more information and tools for your own website.

What is net neutrality?

You might be asking yourself, what exactly is net neutrality and why do I care? Let’s let Jimmy Kimmel, an expert curator in virality, explain:

We are now amidst the second major battle of online businesses & users versus IP & Content Provider Associations. The first major counter-offensive on January 18, 2012 was against proposed legislation called the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the PROTECT IP Act (PIPA), which were legislation largely funded by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) and the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). If passed, these laws would have threatened online freedom of speech and Internet communities. Websites could be outright shut down if one user of a community shared a link to trademarked media.

Virtually all major web-based businesses protested this legislation. Wikipedia went completely dark for the day, only featuring an easy to use widget that helped visitors find the contact details of their representatives in DC. Reddit, WordPress, Mozilla and Flickr conducted prominent information campaigns. Google covered their iconic landing page logo with a censor bar, and a petition at Google recorded over 4.5 million signatures.


Congressional offices were flooded, and the laws being pushed by content provider associations and big cable were tabled, and the power brokers behind the would-be laws had no clue what hit them. But in typical villain style, these groups retreated to their lair to regroup, strategically infiltrating the FCC, to come back with a stronger and final spear to the heart of net neutrality.

The FCC cleared way in April for a two-tiered system, where Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner Cable and Verizon can charge tech companies for bandwidth priority, creating a
fast lane” for established businesses that can afford it, making it much harder for start ups and small businesses to compete. It’s a sort of caste system that will ultimately mean consumers pay higher prices for online subscriptions and services.

The biggest hurdle for the people and online businesses is the cronyism between the FCC and Telecommunication Corporations. Comcast has spent over 18 million dollars in lobbying over the past year. Law professor and net neutrality expert Susan Crawford has essentially said that “if the FCC tries to save it [net neutrality] … Republicans have sworn to dismantle the FCC.

Then in 2013, President Obama named Tom Wheeler, a former top lobbyist for a consortium of Big Cable behemoths, the current Chairman of the FCC. John Oliver compares this incestual corruption hilariously to “needing a babysitter and hiring a dingo.”

The semi-fascist possibility of collusion between the governmental agency meant to regulate communications and the cable providers themselves looms over all these proceedings. As Vice pointed out, “The FCC is stocked with staffers who have recently worked for Internet Service Providers (ISP) that stand to benefit tremendously from the defeat of net neutrality.”


First Times: Experiencing Seattle’s music scene

Seattle skylinePhotos by Melissa Hebeler & Josh Herwitt // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Growing up in the 90’s, Seattle always had a special place in my heart.

From my days of listening to Soundgarden, Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains albums in my bedroom, grunge music had already produced a profound impact on my musical taste by the time I entered my teens. Unlike so many of my peers, I never became a crazed Nirvana fan, but the rock music I did like — whether I knew it or not at the time — was being born in the Pacific Northwest.

As time passed and my music palette grew, grunge wasn’t the only genre coming out of the region that tickled my ears. In fact, Seattle’s musical history stretches further than it just being the birthplace of grunge. In more recent years, Seattle’s hip-hop scene, for one, has exploded in part due to Grammy winners Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, but even experimental acts like Shabazz Palaces and Blue Sky Black Death have helped build the local scene. And let’s not forget that we’re talking about the city that bred the one and only Sir Mix-a-Lot, of course.

Knowing this, my expectations of Seattle’s music scene have always been quite high. Since the late 60’s when Seattle native Jimi Hendrix took London by storm with bassist Noel Redding and drummer Mitch Mitchell, there has been a musical fabric that has run through the Emerald City. It’s a city, after all, that has a nonprofit museum dedicated largely to pop culture and music, with informative, in-depth exhibits on the history of The Jimi Hendrix Experience and Nirvana that include authentic artifacts, hand-written lyrics, used instruments and original photographs of both groups. You never know — maybe someday Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Foo Fighters memorabilia will also find its way behind the EMP Museum’s glass doors.

EMP Museum

Meanwhile, Sub Pop, Seattle’s famed independent record label, has found continued success outside of its home base long after popularizing the grunge movement, with indie contemporaries like The Shins, Fleet Foxes, Beach House, Foals, The Postal Service and Wolf Parade all signed to its current roster. And even more than 25 years after its inception, the label Bruce Pavitt and Jonathan Poneman created hasn’t lost its charm in a city where the Seahawks carry as much weight as any local band on the brink of national prominence these days.

With that said, while history can’t be erased, it certainly doesn’t mean it will be repeated. The Crocodile, formerly known as The Crocodile Café, has long been a fixture in Seattle’s music scene; the relatively small, intimate club on the corner of 2nd Avenue and Blanchard Street in the neighborhood of Belltown was the place where bands like Nirvana and Death Cab for Cutie first got their start. Even though the 525-person venue closed its doors in 2007, it reopened them a couple years later and has remained instrumental in maintaining Seattle’s reputation as one of America’s best music cities.

But whether it was the Fourth of July holiday or just the band that was booked for the night — in this case, San Francisco’s Geographer, who I have seen a handful of times at this point — I was surprised to see a room only half full of spectators when I walked inside. Maybe Geographer just doesn’t draw in Seattle what it does in SF or LA — or maybe I’m just spoiled. Since graduating college, I have had the privilege of living in New York and Los Angeles while getting to experience both cities’ music scenes for an extended period of time. My concert-going experiences haven’t been restricted to just LA and NYC, though. Over the years, I have made numerous trips to Denver — a city smaller than Seattle, yet one that undeniably eats, breathes and lives for live music — to attend shows at Red Rocks and beyond.


At The Crocodile, something felt missing unfortunately. Sure, it was just one show, but there wasn’t the same kind of buzz I found in any of those aforementioned cities. For whatever reason, my native LA often gets vilified by outsiders and transplants for our crowds’ lack of enthusiasm; words like “rude” and “unengaged” are regularly thrown around when it comes to LA’s music scene. But the energy at The Crocodile on that Friday night wasn’t anything better than what I experience on a regular basis in Southern California. If anything, it was considerably worse.

As disappointed and uninspired as I was after the show, my respect for Seattle’s music scene hasn’t wavered. With so much of my youth influenced by the musicians who have called this majestic seaport city home, it will always remain an important place for this music lover. Yet, what it’s made me realize is just how lucky I am to have lived where I’ve lived and been where I’ve been.


The “Know Your Rights” infographic at a festival


Download the infographic image or PDF //

People often suggest to me that either 1) It’s somehow “Un-American” to talk about your rights when dealing with the police or that 2) Somehow only someone who is intending to break the law would need to understand their legal rights.

As to 1) This is really some dangerous nonsense. In fact this honestly might be one of the craziest ideas that has ever taken root in our Country and as to 2) As I always say “It’s better to know your rights and not need them, than to need your rights and not know them.”

The accompanying article goes into an overview of some 4th Amendment law in more detail. But really the infographic is meant to be shared even without the article. Feel free to share this infographic on Twitter and Facebook. Tag family members or friends who might be going to a music festival. Share your experiences and insights. Do more reading of your own and share that too.

As the very last part of the infographic says
You have rights. Know them.

Tweet & Retweet at Twitter (use the hashtag #KnowYourRights)
Share at Facebook
Upvote & Comment at Reddit
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Ed. Note: The Following breaks down the Festival Lawyer’s infographic in more detail:

The “Know Your Rights” infographic – A Police encounter “Flow Chart”

A lot of people write me asking how they should have handled a negative encounter they had with the police at a music festival or rave.

I keep hearing phrases like, “I wish I had known that I didn’t have to make a statement” or “I didn’t know I could say no” or “I wasn’t sure if I had a right to leave or if the cop was detaining me.”

The fact is that you DO have rights in dealing with the police. The “Know Your Rights” infographic is meant to be used as a practical flowchart of what your rights are at every stage of a police encounter.


The 4th Amendment of the Constitution prohibits “unreasonable” searches and seizures. That means you are supposed to have a right as a citizen to freely go about your business without being randomly detained or investigated. In order to “stop” you, an officer first has to have a belief that you were engaged in criminal activity.

There are 3 levels of police “stops”. At each higher level of police encounter, the police officer has to show more justification as to why he stopped you.

Consensual Encounter – A police encounter where you are not the subject of a police investigation and are free to leave. Officers don’t have to legally justify a consensual encounter because you can leave at any time.

Detention – A police encounter where you are temporarily stopped while the police investigate you for a crime. Officers must have a “reasonable suspicion” that you were involved in criminal activity to detain you.

Arrest – Permanently stopped and on your way to jail. An officer must have “Probable Cause” to believe you committed a crime to arrest you.

You know how H20 can be in three different physical states? (Steam, water and ice if you don’t have your 4th grade science notes handy) Well, the 3 levels of police stops are similar. Each of these levels is sort of a different legal “state” of being. And your rights are different in each of these “states”.

There are some big differences of course. In the H20 example you end up with an ice cube. In the police stop final state you end with a cell mate named “Bubba”.

One of the main goals of the infographic is to give you the right questions to ask so that you will know at any time which level of police “state” you are in. (Get it? police state? See what I did there?).


If you are stopped by a police officer, the first question out of your mouth should be, “Am I free to leave?”

Asking this question gets you an immediate answer as to whether you are legally “detained” or free to leave. It also puts you in the best legal position possible should you later want to challenge the legality of the police stopping you. If you challenge your detention, the officer will have to show a “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity based only on the facts existing at the moment you said the phrase and he detained you. Nothing AFTER that moment can be used to justify the stop.

Here is a practical example of the use of the “Am I Free to leave” phrase.


As you can see from the decision tool, if you get a “YES” after you ask “Am I free to leave? The only “action item” is to LEAVE.

Again, there is a legal reason for this. If you don’t leave immediately when given the chance, a judge may later rule that you were free to leave but that you chose to stay. (In other words, it was a “Consensual Encounter”). As I mentioned above, an officer never has to legally justify a “Consensual Encounter”.

In other words, once you get a “YES”, the best and only advice is “You got to get out of there”


A “NO” answer means that you are detained and no longer free to leave. You are enough of a suspect that Marge Gunderson would consider you to be, “fleeing the interview” if you left at this point.

It’s important to remember that officers DON’T have to read you your Miranda rights in a detention. Don’t respond to questions like “What is this?” or “Whose backpack is this? or even something innocent like “How long have you been here?” as they can be legally used against you later.


Some civil libertarians would argue that you legally never have to show a police officer your ID unless you’re driving a vehicle or you are a passenger on a commercial airline. The problem with that is that a number of states have what are called “stop- and-identify” laws. These laws give cops the authority to make you identify yourself if officers have a “reasonable suspicion” to believe criminal activity may be taking place.

As of 2013, 24 states had stop-and-identify laws. Since you already asked to leave and were told “NO”, the officer clearly thinks he has a “reasonable suspicion” to detain you. To me, it’s too risky not to show your ID (and give your correct name) once detained. But as with everything in this article, do your own research for your state laws and make your own best decision.


If you are detained, calmly ask, “Why am I being detained?” This can be valuable if you later want to fight your case in court.The answer the cop gives may limit what he can later claim was the reason for stopping you.

It’s important not to use this question as an excuse to start arguing with the cops. I can’t stress enough the prior advice about not talking to the police. People who talk to the cops end up in a legal situation we call “raptus regaliter” (royally screwed).


In an encounter with the police, the courts require you to keep asking to leave or you may be deemed to be in a “Consensual Encounter”. If the answer is “YES” then leave. If the answer is “NO” you will need to determine if you are under arrest by asking the following:


Legally, if a detention goes on long enough, it becomes an arrest even if the officer doesn’t say the magic words “You are under arrest”. Basically, if you keep asking to leave and the cop doesn’t let you go the courts say you are in the “functional equivalent” of an arrest. I call this a “Cover Band” arrest. The officer may not be calling it an arrest, but it sure looks, feels and sounds like an actual arrest.

Whether the officer is calling it a “detention” or an “arrest” as a practical matter you should make the two statements listed at the bottom of the infographic to fully protect your legal rights.


Cops always make it seem like you’re some kind of a criminal if you express the slightest hesitation about having your property searched without a warrant. You can expect to hear an “If you have nothing to hide, why can’t we search your stuff?” type of response from the cops.

Know this…If the police are asking you permission to search you or your property, it usually means they know they are making an illegal search.

The police may have a legal right to search you without your consent. (For example, if you are arrested and the officer had probable cause for that arrest) But what you’ve done by making this statement is preserve all your legal rights and force the police to show they are legally entitled to search you.


Cops will say that a person invoking their rights in this way has “lawyered up”. In addition to sounding cool, there is a really good legal reason for “lawyering up”.

As I mentioned above, the police only have to read you your Miranda rights if you are under arrest (or a “cover band” equivalent of arrest). The police can legally question you without Miranda rights in a detention.

In Salinas v. Texas (Jun 17, 2013) 133 S. Ct. 2174 the Supreme Court took that rule a step further. The Supreme Court ruled since it’s legal to question you during a detention it’s also fair for a prosecutor to comment on your silence. In other words the prosecutor can say how suspicious it is that you didn’t respond when a cop made a damning accusation to you like, “I know it was you, Fredo!

The Court ruled that your silence in the fact of an accusation can be used against you unless you make it clear that you were affirmatively exercising your right to remain silent and have a lawyer present for questioning.

In other words, you have to SAY OUT LOUD THAT YOU WISH TO REMAIN SILENT…which would make an awesome Newspeak poster in Oceania by the way.


Recording a police encounter can be one of the most helpful things a festival buddy can do to help a friend being arrested. However, it’s also one of those areas where you can easily end up in legal trouble yourself from taping.

I strongly suggest you review your state’s laws and have an understanding of what you need to do legally before attempting to video the police. Here is a good starting place.

If you feel you can safely and legally video tape the encounter I suggest that you say the following if cops instruct you to turn off the camera.

“Officer, I’m not interfering with you in any way. I am just documenting this arrest. This is a public place and I’m entitled to record this.”

While making this statement, I would make a show of backing up and getting out of the way to prove that you are not interfering but just observing.


10 music festival must-haves to elevate the experience

1.MUSIC-FEST-BRING-POSTBy The Festival Lawyer //

With festival season starting, I decided to ask my Twitter and Facebook followers (and of course some of my favorite “Festie” writers and bloggers) the following question:

“What one item did you not know to bring to your first music festival that you always bring now?”

I took the best of their advice (and a few of my own tips) to give you the following 10 items that are guaranteed to make your next festival safer, more comfortable and more fun.



A few years ago, I stood about three feet from Dave Navarro’s amp for an entire show at The Roxy Theatre in Los Angeles. For several weeks I had massive ear ringing and buzzing. I also said, “What?” so many times my friends were at the, “Say what again, say what again. I dare you, I double dare you, motherfucker” level of exasperation with me.

Fortunately, my hearing returned. But ever since then, I’ve considered earplugs an essential festival item for both safety and comfort. Most people who say they “don’t like” earplugs have only tried those cheap drug store foam ones. Those don’t do much more than muffle and muddy the sound.

High quality earplugs (I personally like @earpeace, but there are lots of choices) are only about $12-15. They provide a nice level of hearing protection without feeling like you’re missing the live sound experience of the show. Believe it or not, at certain shows earplugs make the sound better. Get all your festival gear here.



One of the most common issues at festivals is how to transport your needed gear easily. I asked Molly Kish (Media Relations Manager, Showbams) what makes her such a “fan” (see what I did there?) of fanny packs.

Fanny packs are the quintessential festival must-have. Trumping the bulky backpack or burdensome purse, fanny packs are the hands free alternative to carrying around your belongings all day and keep you from becoming the resident mule amongst your festival going friends. Allowing enough room for your wallet, camera, phone, sunscreen, chapstick or any other personal items you’ll want within immediate reach, fanny packs keep your possessions conveniently stationed on your hips throughout the day (becoming nearly unnoticeable by the end of your festival experience).



Like the fanny pack, a Camelbak is another easy way to store your keys, wallet and other valuables at a festival. It also has the added advantage of keeping you hydrated while avoiding long lines for refillable water or the high cost of bottled water. Dehydration can turn from a comfort issue to a safety issue really quickly. This is especially true at music fests where people are partying hard or are dancing in the middle of the desert in the afternoon.

There are entire reddit threads and message boards devoted to arguing the topic of which Camelbak is the “best” for festivals or raves. This should come as no surprise since the internet was pretty much invented for people to have a place to argue with ferocity and utter moral certainty about things that are subjective opinions. I won’t enter that fray except to say that this model of Camelbak is super popular. See designs of rucksack backpacks here.



The average festival porta potty looks like something they would show Piper on the first episode of “Orange is the New Black” to scare her about how awful prison life is going to be.

Because of this, a lot of folks wrote me to remind people to bring things like baby wipes, packs of tissue, hand sanitizer or their own toilet paper to try to make the situation better.

(Bonus tip for the ladies: Cardboard “p-mate” disposable female urination assist devices lets women go to the bathroom standing up. Find them here.)



Tucker Gumber, aka “The Festival Guy”, attended something like 20 festivals last year. I figured he would be a good guy to ask the “things to bring to a music festival” question.

People go to festivals to hang out with their friends while enjoying world class music. The more festivals you go to, the more friends you make, the harder it is to see everyone. There is one thing that will determine your ability to meet up with whoever you want, whenever you want. Your cell phone battery. If your phone dies in the middle of the festival you will often find yourself searching through thousands of people looking for your crew. (PS: always set a meeting point) This frustrating situation can be easily avoided by carrying a cell phone power bank (I recommend Mophie). When you carry extra battery life you will not only avoid the stress of having a dead phone, you will now have the ability to help other people whose phone has died. Cell phone service is not perfect at festivals (although I did have service at 16 of 20 festivals I went to last year with Verizon) so make sure to be very precise with meetup locations and time stamp your texts.

(Bonus Tip: Tucker and the rest of the Festevo crew are only weeks away from their Festival App “Festevo” going live. When it does, it will DEFINITELY make this list. Find out more about their app here.)



A lot of festivals take place in crazy hot environments where shade is at a premium. Sunscreen, sunglasses and chapstick are all “musts” at these kind of fests.

I asked bloggers and festival experts “The Festival Twins” if they had any other tips for folks trying not get “fried” at a music festival.

If it’s a camping festival, a canopy is an essential addition to your campsite. We learned the hard way, showing up to our first Coachella without one and paying the price for it. Shortly after sunrise the inside of our tent was super bright and roasting (no sleeping in!). During the day when we were at our camp we would all huddle under a small blanket we had strung up between our car and tent (we didn’t all fit underneath it).

Canopies not only offer shade from the sun and reflect heat, they also shelter from the rain and wind, and offer privacy. They are also a great way to distinguish your camp site from those around you, by attaching siding to them, adding a sign or flag to the top, or simply just by color (Hey! We’re the blue canopy between the red and white one!).



Most music festivals involve a ton of walking. Probably THE most common items that people recommended were worn in, comfortable shoes. I asked Pete Mauch (Contributor, Showbams) if he had any other tips to keep a long day of walking from turning into a disaster.

At Bonnaroo 2005 in Manchester, Tennessee on the fourth and final day, I was hobbling around like I had been riding a horse for weeks. From that day forward I swore to myself that I would never go to a festival without my precious Gold Bond. Being able to walk long distances comfortably is key to having a great experience at a festival, especially a larger scale one like Bonnaroo or Coachella where you could be walking for a good while between stages and your campsite. I’ve helped out many aching friends who were not as prepared so please share your Gold Bond with others.



I highly recommend you keep a few “safety” apps on your phone. Since there isn’t a “Festival Lawyer” app (yet), I highly recommend you download and bring the DanceSafe app. Tons of great drug safety tips and emergency care information are available there.



One of the easiest ways to make new friends at a music festival is to share an item your festival neighbor forgot to bring (a lighter, handwipes etc.). Personally, I like to hand out candy or gum. There are certain fests where dust is everywhere. When your mouth is dry, your lungs are uncomfortable, and your breath is questionable, someone handing you a stick of gum is sort of your new hero.

I also love to give away cheap “fireworks” (refraction) glasses. It’s a close call between cats and myself about who likes lasers more. Fortunately, man has again defeated the animal kingdom by inventing this new technology. (These diffraction glasses make lasers look freaking great is what I am saying.)

You can find cheap paper diffraction glasses or nicer ones here.



I’ve written before about how much more fun your festival is when you spread positivity and good vibes to your fellow audience members.

One of the absolute best ways you can spread the good vibes is by wearing a funny t-shirt or something else that says, “let’s party”. But if you really want to take it to the next level you can wear a memorable costume. I asked Eamon Armstrong (Social Media Manager – Fest 300) for the origin story of “Purpleganda.”

In 2006 I went to Coachella in a baseball cap and a polo shirt. I thought of it like a concert where you go with a friend to watch other people play music. Eight years later festivals have become an immersive experience for me and how I present myself is part of how I participate.

A memorable outfit isn’t just an upgrade for you, it upgrades the whole festival. Your style makes the atmosphere of the fest more alive for your friends and other festies. Your silliness makes you more approachable. People want to compliment you because you look awesome. You say thanks, making them feel great. I personally love to just walk around the grounds telling people just how terrific they look!

From some funky tights to a full DIY light-suit, your costume makes the surreal world of the festival that much more magical. Plus if you ever get overwhelmed by the experience you can simply retreat into the role you’ve created. In fact, sometimes the costume makes you free to lose your mind a little.

OK, festies! What other festival items do you now consider “essential”? Be sure to let your fellow festivalgoers know in the comments section about any other festival “upgrades” that you love and want to share. Plus, see which are some of the top festivals in the world here.


Live music artists ignite the dawn of a smartphone backlash


By Mike Frash //

Mobile technology and social media have advanced exponentially the past five to ten years, connecting scores of individuals that would have never met a decade ago, enabling us to share narcissistic musings and photos at a moment’s notice. (Unsurprisingly, “Selfie” is the “Word of the Year”.) Bottom line — It’s mostly a glorious thing to live in the age of information and rapidly expanding technology.

But holy shit do we misuse it sometimes. Our social behaviors frankly haven’t caught up to our relatively newfangled devices that are always available in our pockets and purses.

The Pope’s inauguration at the Vatican, in 2005 & 2013.

It’s all changed so quickly, hasn’t it? Communication abilities, access to content & opinions, the structure of web-based writing itself and a pervasive social media mentality have all collided and intermingled magnificently since Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone in 2007. Consequently a massive smartphone market has flourished, and a large majority of us have gotten a bit more ADHD.

Our collective focus and attention span have changed significantly, taking a turn for the horrible. It’s become second nature for many to plug-in to their smartphones while mentally checking out of their immediate surroundings, whether we’re riding the bus, enjoying drinks with friends or experiencing a concert.

Daniel Goleman, author of Focus: The Hidden Driver of Excellence, recently said, “We have a world that’s been engineered to distract us.” This can’t be denied when a Facebook update, tweet or Instagram upload is always only a finger tap or two away.

One of the most contentious issues revolving around smartphones today is crowd-based photography and videography at shows. A continuous lack of technology awareness from just one individual can inhibit the live music experience for those around the bright screen being held just above eye level. Not only is the screen-addicted cinematographer distracted, but so is everyone else, including the artists on stage.

So is this the new normal, or is this a trend that can be addressed and changed? There are a handful of artists that have spoken out this year, igniting what might be the roots of a mainstream “be where you are” backlash in the world of live music.


In the year that Arcade Fire’s Win Butler crooned, “We fell in love when I was nineteen / And I was staring at a screen,” many artists have fought back against concert camera phone use, putting their proverbial foot down explicitly, politely and absurdly.

UK-based Savages fired the loudest, most forceful warning shot of 2013. The all-female foursome released their debut album Silence Yourself to critical acclaim, taking the ethos of the record on the road with them by banning phones based on the idea of immersion. For every show, they put up signs that read:

Our goal is to discover better ways of living and experiencing music. We believe that the use of phones to film and take pictures during a gig prevents all of us from totally immersing ourselves. Let’s make this evening special. Silence your phones.

That show at the Independent in San Francisco was special because of Savages’ intense, smart use of contrast and due to the room’s communal, energetic focus. The phone ban helped, keeping most devices out of sight.

Savages haven’t been alone this past year shaming phones at shows. Prince threatened to boot any patrons caught playing director on his west coast club tour, and the Artist excluded all media photographers outright. Yeah Yeah Yeah’s phone ban sign was way more punk than Savages’ nuanced approach, advising that ticket holders “PUT THAT SHIT AWAY.” Neko Case stopped her show in Cincinnati multiple times October 22, threatening to end the show early because of flashing phone photos, finally saying “Just put away the cameras. It isn’t going to kill you, but it might kill me.” David Byrne & St. Vincent, She & Him, The Polyphonic Spree & Bjork all prohibited phone photography or asked for devices to be put away mid-show this year as well.

Ever the groundbreaker, Jack White was the one to get the ball rolling in the summer of 2012. Rumor spread that the young living legend demanded that fans avoid social media and not take photos during his show, and the public backlash was surprising brutal. White’s label Third Man Records later clarified, “the only thing that we’ve ever asked of the audience is to not take pictures or videos while holding up their camera phones, etc that block other peoples view or otherwise hinder other fans concert experiences.” The message continued, “Along with that, the bigger idea is for people to experience the event with their own eyes and not watch an entire show through a tiny screen in their hand.”

Father John Misty performed through a giant iPhone on his recently wrapped solo tour. Perhaps J. Tillman wanted to treat the audience to the same visual that has been thrown in his face the past two years. But Father John Misty gets bonus points for referring to himself as “content.”


Some artists are using mobile technology to enhance their live performance. Dan Deacon told his fans to download his interactive app before his show via a projected message at the venue. Then during one song late in the set, he instructed the audience to pull phones out, launch the app, and dance with it. Deacon controlled the color blasts and strobe effects that emanated from scattered smartphones, using the devices to bring the collective attention of the crowd together. Pretty Lights followed suit this year at Outside Lands with a much bigger audience.

So the possibilities for using our pocket computers to enhance the live music experience are out there and will likely gain steam.

Author Daniel Goleman explains the phenomenon quite effectively:

We all are carrying technological devices, our phones, our iPads, and whatever it may be, and they are diabolically designed to take advantage of the weaknesses of our attention system and nab us, and keep us nabbed. And so we’re constantly fighting distractions. That’s why, I think focus is more important than ever.


Certainly there is a difference between popping out your Android for 10 seconds to snap off a couple shots versus literally shooting an entire concert on your smartphone with it’s shitty sound recording capabilities.

The Festival Lawyer explained this best in his Upgrade article:

Maybe you might want to record the whole show on your iPhone (or now iPads? seriously?) and just stand there and focus on getting the best video and pics. I’m not here to judge or scold you. Although I do feel the need to point out that you will NEVER watch that stupid motherfucking shaky video again and you are watching something through a tiny screen that is actually happening really big and loud RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU LIVE!!! (Umm…actually maybe I am judging you a tiny bit. Sorry.)

Ultimately, it’s about finding balance between capturing the moment and immersing in the moment.

When someone is shooting a song-long video during a show, staring through a screen version of their current reality, and thinking about their friends watching it on YouTube later, that person is simply not in the moment.

The musical moments that give us auditory pleasure and ingrain in our memories are significantly more powerful and important than anything that can be captured on a phone.

Just take a look at the Jimmy Kimmel crowd at their outdoor stage…

This is the new normal — we’re all photographers. (Granted, people that go to a free taping in Los Angeles don’t represent a typical concert crowd.)

We are moving toward a world where we are more connected to our phones than each other. Many of us (yes, including myself) are too damned dependent on digital devices.

It’s a bit scary to contemplate a generation born with Facebook accounts. A generation of kids that are given tablets to stop them from crying at a restaurant. A third generation that is routinely fed amphetamine-based drugs when focus is an issue, even though we don’t teach attention-based skill strategies (yet).

In his book, Goleman wrote, “Today’s children are growing up in a new reality, one where they are attuning more to machines and less to people than has ever been true in human history. That’s troubling for several reasons. For one, the social and emotional circuitry of a child’s brain learns from contact and conversation with everyone it encounters over the course of a day. These interactions mold brain circuitry; the fewer hours spent with people— and the more spent staring at a digitized screen— portends deficits.”

The problem here is way bigger than just experiencing a show through a smartphone.

Phone zombies can SnapChat all day if they want to, but it’s critical that we live in the moment as much as possible and enjoy who we are with. The key is to identify screen addiction, set new habits through cognitive control & repetition, and be where you are to the best of your ability in this distracting age of information.


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MDMA safety: Practical medical tips for ravers who choose to use ecstasy


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In writing the second part of this article about “Ecstasy Safety”, I found almost as many urban myths surrounding the medical aspects of Ecstasy as there are surrounding the legal aspects of the drug.

That’s why I’m super fortunate to be able to collaborate with Stefanie Jones and Missi Wooldridge from DanceSafe.

DanceSafe is a grassroots organization that promotes health, education and safety within the rave and festival community. DanceSafe is also one of the leading groups promoting “harm reduction” policies in the rave and festival community.

“Harm Reduction” is a public health philosophy that encourages policy choices at raves and fests that reduce the risks associated with the use of MDMA.

Think of this article as a form of ”Personal Harm Reduction”. What specific, practical medical tips should ravers who choose to use Ecstasy know?


The Number One Risk in using MDMA isn’t actually using MDMA.

Woah. This first tip reads a bit like a Zen Koan. Allow me to explain what I mean.

People make irrational and illogical decisions when it comes to weighing perceived risks all the time.

I mean, we have a 5 second rule for foods because, “Oh God! I couldn’t possibly touch a Fig Newton off that disgusting floor.” And we put dainty paper rings down on our toilet seats to avoid the rampaging public health threat of TSTBDs (Toilet Seat Transmitted Butt Diseases).

But pass around an unknown powder which may or may not contain any active ingredient other than rat poison? All of a sudden it’s, “Let me hit that shit!…Is there enough for me?”

In preparing this article I had a chance to speak to Dr. Julie Holland, who ”wrote the book” on Molly in her book, Ecstasy: the Complete Guide: A Comprehensive Look at the Risks and Benefits of MDMA.

Turns out Dr. Holland puts “ingesting unknown substances into your body” into the “risk” rather than “benefit” category of Ecstasy usage:

What’s happening these days, though, is you have no idea what you’re taking. Maybe it’s MDMA, but it could also be any other number of drugs, research chemicals, or prescription drugs. When someone buys “Ecstasy” or “Molly” maybe it’s MDMA, but it’s very possible it could be anything else you can think of. A bag of white powder is inherently very dangerous since you have no idea what’s in it.

Missi Wooldridge at DanceSafe makes the same point. Unless you have a testing kit, you literally have NO idea what you are putting in your body

What is sold as Molly is often a mystery powder and may not contain MDMA at all. Most frequently, it contains a new psychoactive substance such as those from the family of Cathinones (i.e., Mephedrone, Methylone, Butylone or MDPV). Other common adulterants include 2C(x); PMA/PMMA, mCPP, and other Piperzines; and Methamphetamine. NEVER obtain drugs from a stranger!

In his recent article for Forbes Magazine, Jacob Sollum put it this way…. “Molly these days is the shit… but not in a good way”.

(PS – Here is a bonus Zen Koan tip. That tree falling in the forest without anyone there? It definitely makes a sound. Leave your iPhone in the forest and hit that red “record” button if you don’t believe me…Boom. Done. I just totally saved you a trip to a Zen monastery.)


Unless you happen to be crazy, test your Stuff.

Okay, so Ecstasy/Molly may contain things you had no idea you were putting in your body. Like what? Well, for example, there are synthetic Cathinones, a common ingredient in those “bath salts” that supposedly turn people into flesh-eating zombies. (FYI, Stefanie Jones says that of all the pills tested by DanceSafe, less than half contain actual MDMA.)

Given that, Tip 2 should be pretty obvious — You have to be crazy to use an unknown powder without having it tested.

I asked Missi why she advocates so strongly for testing kits to be available for use at raves and festivals:

I advocate for testing kits because NOT providing them is morally and medically negligent. The other side of this is how highly adulterated substances are now. Until we screen/test people’s substances, we aren’t doing anything at all to reduce the risk of people taking adulterated substances at these big events where we are seeing tragedies.

Another huge reason for testing your stuff is the danger of unintentionally mixing substances. Experts usually have some idea what one drug may do to you. But when you combine it with another drug, you are basically a “drug guinea pig”. That’s because it’s so difficult to predict how two drugs will react together in an individual.

This issue of these so called “drug cocktails” came up in the Electric Zoo deaths as well. Toxicology tests showed that the young woman (Olivia Rotondo) died from acute intoxication after taking pure MDMA. However, the young man (Jeffrey Russ) had actually taken a fatal mixture of MDMA and Methylone.

Missi uses the term “morally and medically negligent” to describe the decision not to test an unknown substance. I would describe the decision to not to test as falling into the “Don’t you know I’m loco? Insane in the membrane. Insane in the brain!” level of crazy decision-making.

DanceSafe provides adulterant screening on site at events when they are allowed to do so. But if you are going to “roll responsibly”, you need to buy and use your own test kits.


Take steps to properly hydrate and chill out.

Every music audience seems to have it’s own mood altering substance of choice. When I saw Snoop Dogg at Coachella, he came out with a gigantic blunt and encouraged the audience to “light up”. This might have been the most unneeded direction given by a performer to an audience ever. I don’t think there was anyone there who was NOT smoking weed.

On the other hand, if you go to a “rave”, chances are high some folks will be using Ecstasy. But the combo of high-energy dance music and “rolling” can be dangerous without taking precautions.

That’s because MDMA (and Methylone, which is one of the most common things in Molly), and Methamphetamine all work in part by increasing your heart rate and blood pressure and body temperature. Dancing for hours uninterrupted by breaks, especially in hot temperatures and with other people packed together does the same thing. It’s this combo of raving and rolling that can potentially be lethal.

I asked Dr. Holland what she would tell a raver taking MDMA to do to increase their safety:

To increase safety, there needs to be chill out rooms, free water readily available, and a lot of outreach and education. People need to be instructed to take breaks, drink water or electrolyte solutions, not alcohol or energy drinks, and also not too much water, which can be dangerous. Try to only replace fluids lost by sweating.

As Jules Winnfield would tell you, “we all have to be like Little Fonzies…and what’s Fonzie like? …Cool.”

So everyone just needs to be cool and everything is fine, right? Well not really. That’s because you can’t just hydrate and chill out and solve the danger. The problem is that MDMA causes fluid retention, especially in women, and hyponatremia (overhydration) can also be lethal.

For a while, people in the community were treating water like a “toxic drug flush”. The myth has been floating around (ha! see what I did there?) that if you just drank enough water that it would flush out the bad stuff in your body. But that’s not true. Water is an antidote to dehydration, not to the effects of Ecstasy or other drugs. You have to be careful hydrating too.


Make sure your Festival buddies are okay.

As I mentioned in a previous article, making a commitment to be responsible for your friend’s safety at an event is the “Golden Rule” of being a good Festival Buddy.

I asked Missi Wooldridge what a Festival Buddy should know to be able to take care of their buddy who takes Molly:

This may be stating the obvious, but LOOK OUT FOR YOUR FRIENDS and never let someone wander alone. Drink water and replenish electrolytes. Take breaks and cool down. Communicate with someone around you if you start to feel overwhelmed or are having a difficult experience. If someone around you seems fatigued, confused, or is having a difficult time breathing and/or standing on their own two feet, get them somewhere safe to sit and cool down. Seek onsite medical personnel.

I started to dedicate a portion of this article to talk about what symptoms or signs people should be looking for when it comes to determining if their fest buddy is overdosing or having a bad reaction. But I realized it would be safer and smarter to direct you to two resources that answer these questions in more detail.

First of all, I encourage you to look at the DanceSafe advice page talking about how to avoid dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.

It’s also a good idea to download the DanceSafe app. (it’s just Android App right now but IOS shortly). The emergency response sections of the app talks a great deal about what to do if you feel your friend is overdosing or having a “bad trip”.

Boom Festival, one of the largest Psytrance Festivals on the planet, is a great example of how drug checking has been integrated into a festival event.

Boom Festival, one of the largest Psytrance Festivals on the planet,
is a great example of how drug checking has been integrated into an event.

Festivalgoers should only attend events where the promoters encourage “harm reduction”.

In 2002, Senator Joe Biden attempted to pass a bill called the RAVE act in Congress. When opposition to the bill started to organize, they changed the name to the Illicit Drug Anti-Proliferation Act of 2003, attached it to the popular Amber Alert legislation and quietly snuck it into law.

The bill basically makes it illegal for for anyone to “knowingly” put on an event that has the purpose of “using, distributing or manufacturing any controlled substance.”

This is why promoters and festival organizers are in such a tough spot. They know that if they allow test kits and other “harm reduction” activities they are potentially exposing themselves to civil and criminal liability.

Why? Well, because someone after the fact may say, “see they KNEW there were going to be people using Ecstasy at this event. They even had test kits to help them use it!”

On the other hand, if they don’t take basic “harm reduction” steps (chill out rooms, medics on hand, plenty of water available) they get accused of not taking care of their audience and could potentially end up with people getting hurt or killed.

Missi Wooldridge thinks the key is for promoters and raves and fests to integrate “harm reduction” services while at the same time adopting a “zero tolerance” drug policy:

There is a thin line, but the line is walkable. If you familiarize yourself with the NEWIP and TEDI project, these are great examples of how government, public health officials, and the nightlife industry can come together to improve the quality of life for this community. Boom Festival in Portugal is a great example of how drug checking has been integrated into the event.

Remember a few articles back when I wrote about needing to bring back the second “R” in PLUR? The one promoting “Responsibility”? To me the “Second R” means encouraging promoters and club/venue owners to adopt and promote harm reduction practices and policies. It also means not supporting or attending events that don’t follow these practices.

I’m trying, Ringo. I’m trying real hard with this article to be the shepherd. But honestly, people in the dance community themselves are the only ones who can fix this problem. They can do that by demanding safe events. And if they don’t see harm reduction policies in place, they can force change by not going to that event again.


Join and promote organizations like Dance Safe that promote harm reduction

As you can tell, I am a big fan of DanceSafe. I have all their albums.

DanceSafe provides on site harm reduction services, both stationary and mobile to events. Typically, they will set up a table and provide patrons with condoms, water, ear plugs, sunscreen, unbiased drug information, and adulterant screening (upon approval). They also provide a safe space for people to cool down and have healthy conversations about the drug use and their health.

Go like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter @dancesafe.

Once again, huge thanks to Missi Wooldridge and Stefanie Jones for all their time and attention to this article. This is collaboration in the best sense of the word.

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What to do if the police stop you at a music festival


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I know what you are thinking. What the heck’s a Festival Lawyer?

Is it a Public Defender who helps you out if you get arrested at a concert? No. (Although, to be honest, I wish I had thought of that as a job option after law school).

I’m a criminal defense attorney with a background as a former prosecutor. But I also have a background as a drummer, a DJ, and avid festivalgoer. The idea behind “The Festival Lawyer” column is to combine these backgrounds to give you legal and practical advice that will make you a safer, more responsible festivalgoer.

Advice like how to protect your rights if the police approach you at a concert. Or how to recognize the symptoms of a drug or alcohol overdose. We will talk about things like California’s Medical Marijuana laws or what to do if stopped for a DUI on your way to a concert. But mainly, the column will be focused on how we can make the Festival Experience work better for everyone as a more responsible, positive community.

As an aside, I’ve noticed that as soon as I start talking about knowing your rights, a certain percentage of people start complaining that I am somehow “teaching people how to commit crimes.”

This is dangerous nonsense. We don’t live in a police state (well, not yet anyway). As citizens it is not only our right but our duty to know and defend our Constitutional Rights and keep an eye on the police.

Anyway, let’s start with a hypothetical situation where the police stop you out of the blue in the middle of a music festival and start questioning you. They don’t say why they are stopping you but just immediately ask permission to search your person and backpack.

What should you do?

1. Like the Clash said, “Know Your Rights.”

Okay, quick criminal procedure tutorial.

In any encounter with the police, a Judge will be looking after the fact at whether the police had a right to stop you in the first place. This is because the 4th Amendment of the Constitution says that you have a right as a citizen to freely go about your business unless the police can show they had a belief you were engaged in criminal activity.

What the police have to show to a Judge later depends completely on whether the Judge finds that you were being “arrested”, “detained” or were “free to leave”.

If the police arrest you, they have to show they had “Probable Cause” to believe you were committing a crime.

On the other hand, the police will probably argue that they weren’t arresting you but just “detaining” you. A “detention” is a situation where the police stop you briefly while they investigate a crime but haven’t arrested you yet. In a detention, the police have a much lower burden of proof. They only have to show a “reasonable suspicion” as to why they were detaining you. Or the police may argue that their entire contact with you was just a “consensual encounter” where you were free to go at anytime. In a consensual encounter, they don’t really need to justify why they stopped you because they were just talking to you and you were “free to leave”, (Because people always feel free to walk away when contacted by the police, right?)

2. Remember the Festival Lawyer’s Key Phrases.

So knowing the above, what should you do If a cop stops you?

The first question out of your mouth should be, “Am I being detained?” Then, “Why? What am being stopped for? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?”

Memorize this. Repeat it out loud: “Am I being detained? Why? Am I free to go, or am I under arrest?”

Yes I am aware that like the cop in 99 Problems, the cop may not appreciate you being so “sharp as a tack” and view you as a potential troublemaker.

So your job in this situation is to keep calm and cool. Be respectful but clear and firm in what you are saying. It is completely reasonable (and legal) to ask why you are being stopped and whether you are free to go. By asking from the start if you are under arrest or free to leave you are forcing the officer to tell you exactly what is happening and whether you are a suspect.

3. Miranda Rights: Myths vs. Reality

One of the most common urban myths out there is that the police have to read you your Miranda rights or the arrest gets thrown out of court.

Not true. The police don’t have to read you these rights. In fact, the police have the right to completely lie to you in any interview. The only time they have to read Miranda rights is if:

  • A) You are under arrest
  • B) They want to use a statement you made after being arrested in court against you.

The Right against Self Incrimination is in the Bill of Rights for a reason. USE IT. You should NEVER give a statement to the police without a lawyer. Period. No exceptions.

In the above scenario, questions like “whose backpack is this?” should be answered with a firm, “Officer, I am choosing to remain silent. I want a lawyer.”

4. Do not give the authorities consent to search you.

One other major Constitutional right you have is the right to be free from an unlawful search of your person and property.

So lets say you are already in a Festival when the police approach you. They won’t let you leave and ask for permission to search your backpack. (Obviously, security has a right to search you as you enter a festival and go through their initial security screening.)

Cops always make it seem like you’re some kind of a criminal if you express the slightest hesitation about having your property searched without a warrant. You can expect to hear an “If you have nothing to hide, why can’t we search your stuff?” type of verbal approach from the cops.

Know this…If the police are asking you permission to search you or your property, it usually means they know they are making an illegal search. Let that sink in for a second. When the police ask you “Can I search this bag?”, they KNOW they are asking you to let them make a search they are not legally entitled to make.

My advice? Respectfully tell the police officer, “I’m not giving you consent to search my property.” If they ask what you have to hide, don’t argue with them. Simply say again, “Officer, I’m sorry I’m not giving you consent to search my person or my property. If I’m free to leave I’d like to leave. If not, I’d like a lawyer please…”

At this point, they can still search you if they have probable cause, but what you’ve done with your statements is make them declare their reason for doing so and force them to show they are legally entitled to search you.

5. Document the Encounter.

In future columns we are going to talk a lot about what a Festival Buddy is and what their responsibilities are. In this scenario, the Festival Buddy’s job isn’t to yell “Hey man leave him alone” or drunkenly argue with the cops. Festival Buddy’s job is to whip out his or cell phone and document the entire encounter.

SPOILER ALERT – COPS REALLY FREAKING HATE THIS. The best thing to happen to Civil Liberties in this country was the invention of the cell phone camera and YouTube. But just bear in mind, cops will do just about anything to avoid having you upload your video of them on YouTube or on Social Media.

This is an area where your own comfort level has to dictate how far you push it. Legally, since you are in a public place you are completely entitled to film and record what is happening. But cops will sometimes argue that you are “interfering with an investigation” and threaten to arrest you. Or if you have had anything to drink they will suddenly decide that you are “publicly intoxicated” and try to arrest you. As a Festival Buddy you have to decide if you can safely film what is happening. That’s because your other job as FB is to stay out of custody and post bail and let your buddy’s family know he just got arrested.

I suggest that you say the following if cops order you to turn off your camera.

“Officer, I’m not interfering with you in any way. I am just documenting this arrest. This is a public place and I’m entitled to record this”.

While making this statement, I would make a show of backing up and getting out of the way to prove that you are not interfering but just observing.

If that doesn’t work and your Latin is good you can just tell them, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” (pssst…that’s a joke but go ahead and Google it kids)

If things get crazier, be sure to get footage of the cop screaming “turn that camera off” before you turn it off. Everyone (You Tube, Media, Juries, Internal Affairs) loves footage of cops screaming “turn off that camera” to a calm person who is doing nothing but saying “I’m not interfering, just watching to make sure you are following the law.”

Okay that’s it for this column. Be sure to follow me on Twitter @Festivallawyer and be sure to tweet at me for comments on this story or future story ideas. I’ll be back in two weeks with a new column!

Read the Festival Lawyer’s follow up article, highlighting the best reactions and responding to the most pertinent questions from this article.

BIO – The Festival Lawyer is not a professional writer (duh). I am also not a journalist or concert promoter. I am just a fan who has gone to concerts all my life. I like to say that I’ve gone to a “saw Pink Floyd, The Clash, White Stripes before they broke up” and “I wish I had started wearing ear plugs a long time ago” years-worth of concerts. I’m hoping you will consider The Festival Lawyer your legal spirit guide.

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Best live music venues in San Francisco // Bay Area

Photos by Sam Heller, Marc Fong, Maggie Corwin, James Nagel & Mike Frash

Photos by Sam Heller, Marc Fong, Maggie Corwin, James Nagel & Mike Frash

San Francisco is one of the best live music cities in the world — if an act is touring the western United States, they will most likely swing through SF. Packed into 7×7 square miles, the City by the Bay offers some kind of concert nightly. The East Bay, Oakland and Berkeley, respectively, is home to a growing number of live music options as more and more folks flee the City for better living costs.

Here are the best places to catch a show in or near San Francisco.


The Independent

628 Divisadero St. San Francisco, CA 94117
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: The Independent boasts the best sound, artist curation and lighting in the Bay Area for any room close to it’s 500-person max capacity — and you can count on 3-5 shows per week. It’s a great venue to catch artists on the rise from virtually every music genre, and already-established groups such as Phoenix, Green Day, TV on the Radio and Band of Horses have performed at this intimate musical oasis.

Best Features: The general admission venue is a conveniently-shaped square; no matter where you watch the show, the sound is stellar and you can see what’s happening on the lifted stage. The staff is professional, friendly and drinks are easy to procure. The Independent is simple and perfect, an ideal platform to witness bands and DJs live before they get bigger.

Drawbacks: Bring earplugs and sunglasses if sensitive to sound and light. Arrive early to secure a parking spot if driving — if possible, take public transportation and grab a drink nearby before the show. Get there when doors open if you need a seat.


Fox Theater – Oakland

1807 Telegraph Ave. Oakland, CA 94612
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: Fox Theater Oakland is a premium, large theater-style venue with a general admission floor and sizable, assigned-seated balcony overhead. The renovation of this historic site was masterfully achieved in 2009, conserving the stellar artwork and design features.

Best Features: No expense was spared in this renovation. Cool air rises from hundreds of vents in the floor, keeping attendees comfortable. The multitude of bars are fully staffed and efficient.

Drawbacks: In order to accommodate BART travelers, the venue has a pretty strict curfew, with shows ending well before midnight.


The Fillmore

1805 Geary Blvd. San Francisco, CA 94115
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: The Fillmore is nondescript from the outside, but a classic gem once you enter and climb the stairs. Expect a warm welcome, a selection of free fresh apples in the tradition of Fillmore founder Bill Graham and a free poster of the evening’s show (if the event sold out three weeks in advance usually).

Best Features: A large general admission floor area (1,200 capacity), surrounded by adult-beverage facilitators, is overshadowed by the venue’s iconic chandeliers that add a touch of sophistication to any affair. There is an additional saloon upstairs with ample seating away from the stage, and live acts will perform here on occasion before and during the opening act. Also, be sure to head upstairs to view previous show posters.

Drawbacks: If having a seat is on the agenda, arrive early and head for the poster room. Snag a seat and cozy up to the balcony rail for the best view in the house, but the best sound can be found on the floor.

*Bonus Venue: The BooM BooM RooM across Geary Blvd. is an excellent place for a pre-show martini and to keep the party going once The Fillmore has wrapped for the evening. This room focuses on jamming into the late night, often until 4 a.m.


Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell St. San Francisco, CA 94109
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: This historic space has been a beloved jewel for live music for well over 100 years, able to house some 600 attendees on any given night. As SF’s oldest nightclub, the Great American Music Hall can transport music fans to a more elegant era with its ornate balconies, soaring marble columns and elaborate ceiling frescoes.

Best Features: The Great American features a great variety of acts over the year and offers something for everybody. The space, sound and staff are top-notch. Opt for dinner and a show (quick tip: the food is great) to secure a seat on the balcony rail upstairs.

Drawbacks: The location is rather central to many areas of the city, though it’s not the safest in the the City. The venue’s lights are rather basic, but they aren’t needed in a room with such grand decor.


The Greek Theatre – UC Berkeley

2001 Gayley Rd. Berkeley, CA 94720
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: A seasonal venue from the Spring to the Fall at the top of the UC Berkeley campus, The Greek Theatre can pack 8,500 folks into their popular, yet infrequent concerts. Constructed after the ancient Greek theater of Epidaurus in 1903 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, this space often inspires magical performances.

Best Features: The sound from within the bowl provides incredible acoustics, but get there early for a spot in the seated steps or within the pit. If all seats are taken, get closer and stand in the general admission area as close as possible for a memorable live music experience.

Drawbacks: Don’t retreat to the grass — the magic is lost outside of the main bowl area. Getting to the venue (and back) requires walking up the campus, or driving to the top. Parking near the theater also means it will take forever to leave, and it will cost you $20 or more. Give yourself plenty of time and plan on walking. Shows won’t go past 11 p.m. due to the campus’ curfew, and be sure to head to the top of the grass for the quickest bathroom lines.


The Warfield

982 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94102
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: A 2,300-capacity theater located on Market Street, The Warfield beckons a near century-long history as a premier downtown music venue. Ornate gilding and details are found throughout this lovely space, and a recent renovation upgraded many areas in need of a little help.

Best Features: The tiered floor has become a staple for California mid-size venues like The Fox in Oakland and The Wiltern in Los Angeles, allowing an array of sight-lines for attendees. It’s in an easily accessible location with decent bars and restaurants within proximity.

Drawbacks: Mid-Market is trying to revive itself from a once-peppered history. Similar to many other “overhang” theater venues, the sound can leave a bit to be desired if in the middle or back of the general admission floor.

Bimbos 365 Club

Bimbo’s 365 Club

1025 Columbus Ave. San Francisco, CA 94133
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: Bimbo’s 365 Club, located on the fringes of North Beach, offers one of the most unique live concert settings in SF. Red velour curtains and exquisite details lend to an entirely classy experience in this 685-capacity, theater-like live performance space.

Best Features: It’s not like any other venue in the City in regards to location and style — side rooms and bars create an ideal pre-show place to socialize and imbibe. The low stage creates an intimate atmosphere with the limited acts that grace the stage over the year.

Drawbacks: The North Beach location is not the easiest venue to reach in comparison to others, and the booking leaves much to be desired as folks love this space.


Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell St. San Francisco, CA 94102
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: This recent hot-spot hosts many up-and-coming indie acts bursting onto the scene before they graduate to larger rooms. Expect a hip crowd sipping on strong drinks in a no-frills room, enjoying heat-seeking artists from across the globe. Shows start late, even on weekdays.

Best Features: Rickshaw Stop has very dynamic booking, bringing in all sorts of parties to utilize this Civic Center area venue. The bar is efficient for a small-ish room that can fill up nicely, but not overly.

Drawbacks: It’s basically a long narrow room with a small “balcony”, therefore sight-lines can be rough for those who are vertically challenged on the main floor.



444 Jessie St. San Francisco, CA 94103
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: Mezzanine specializes in up-and-coming club scene shows, hosting DJs from all over the world and bands that incorporate electronic elements into their music. Expect young people ready to party in a rectangular room that can hold up to 1,000 people.

Best Features: DJs will perform on the ‘side stage’, cultivating a dance-centric environment before and after live acts. A great choice for birthdays, bachelor parties and other special occasions, secure a table and bottle service on the floor or in a private area upstairs.

Drawbacks: Ins and outs are not permitted, and it can get a bit crunchy near the front and in the smoking area. Getting drinks can be a challenge during peak times.

Brick and Mortar

Brick and Mortar Music Hall

1710 Mission St. San Francisco, CA 94103
View Current Show Listings

What To Expect: An intimate, square space for live music, Brick and Mortar Music Hall in the Mission hosts concerts almost nightly, and they are always affordable. Rock, bluegrass, funk, soul and many more types of shows go down here.

Best Features: Brick and Mortar has that “neighborhood rock/club” feel — if you are in the ‘front row’, then you are basically on the stage — and it just became the new home of outcast swine-house Bacon Bacon during lunchtime.

Drawbacks: Cash only at the box office. It can get a little tight during capacity shows unless you squiggle to your left against the wall.


The Chapel

777 Valencia St. San Francisco, CA 94110
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What To Expect: The newest venue in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, The Chapel opened in 2012 and includes an attached restaurant and bar. The building was originally built as a mortuary, so the funeral home’s Chapel was converted to the music room upon renovation. There is a mezzanine above the floor level of the Chapel for bird’s-eye view observing.

Best Features: The restaurant and bar is brand-new and swanky, and the high ceilings and beams in the formerly sacred space give it a unique, striking feel for live music. More acts are booked with each passing month, and bigger names becoming more frequent too. Artists usually have a rootsy and indie sound aesthetic, but The Chapel recently had their first DJ night.

Drawbacks: It’s a great location for nightlife, but not for parking. The stage is small, and it can be tough to secure a drink at peak moments.


The New Parish

579 18th St. Oakland, CA 94612
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What To Expect: This unique venue has recently sprouted up in the East Bay, and many are taking notice of their recent success. With a courtyard and large, wrap-around balcony, The New Parish offers many options for patrons to get down, watch the act or be social with friends.

Best Features: A plethora of national touring acts are opting to stay east of the bay and hold court in this ever-rising space. Securing a view of the stage isn’t terribly tough with a less traditional venue setup. Proximity to the Fox Theater makes it a popular place to keep the night going.

Drawbacks: The design of the space is unlike any other, and this has a few negatives regarding access to the bar or sound being optimal. It’s in Oakland and goes late, so not great for SF-bound BART riders.


Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

99 Grove St. San Francisco, CA 94102
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What To Expect: As big an open, indoor floor space that exists in the Bay Area (not including arenas), the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium can fit 7,000 people into its vast confines.

Best Features: There’s plenty of floor space — and plenty of seats upstairs if you arrive early enough. The location adjacent to City Hall makes it easy to get to via public transportation. When the Civic Auditorium is packed and full of energy, it comes alive.

When the venue isn’t sold out, there’s an empty, hollow feel to live music here. The sound can seriously lack at times, especially from the sides. The best bet is to get in front of the large speaker banks (duh). Some acts, like Phish, bring additional sound equipment to fill out the copious space in the building.


Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St. San Francisco, CA 94107
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What To Expect: This legendary little rock club at the foot of Potrero Hill has room for 350 partygoers of varying ages. It’s a well-oiled and well-regarded space that breeds lively shows by bands of all sizes and eras.

Best Features: Not exclusively a 21-and-over club, Bottom of the Hill allows patrons of all ages the chance to enjoy a high-energy show in this wacky space. Ample parking, a large smoking section and reasonably priced drinks as well as tickets make it an ideal spot to rock out.

Drawbacks: The booking doesn’t veer terribly far off the path of rock ‘n’ roll. The lights are simple, as one might expect from a venue like this.


Cafe Du Nord

2170 Market St. San Francisco, CA 94114
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What To Expect: Walking down the stairs into the main room lends the vibe of a classic speakeasy with red velour and classical seating in the back. It’s yet another historic space to enjoy some fresh artists of the 21st century in an intimate setting.

Best Features: Located rather conveniently on Market Street makes Cafe Du Nord both accessible and flush with pre-show drink options. Cafe du Nord is amazing for the fan hoping to engage with his or her favorite artists.

Drawbacks: The room has an odd shape with a bar, seating and even a pool table in the back, while the front is slightly sectioned off for live music.



333 11th St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect: Slim’s is located in a lively section of SOMA, and the venue hosts a vast array of lively acts for an all-ages crowd with a maximum capacity of 400. A high-ceiling room with few frills makes it a good option for dedicated fans.

Best Features: A large bar makes grabbing a beer or cocktail a snap, and they offer dinner with premium, upstairs seating if that’s your thing. The sound is just fine to accommodate either hardcore punk-rock or some of the Bay’s finest hip-hop.

Drawbacks: Oddly-placed pillars can obstruct attendees’ views and make a sold-out room that much more less appealing.


Public Works

161 Erie St. San Francisco, CA 94103
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What To Expect:
Expect two venues in one. Public Works offers a live music space and a separate room dedicated to dance music curated by some of the best DJs around. A separate ticket is needed for each option.

Best Features: The location is pretty central to most of the City. The live venue offers a balcony overhang — get there early for the best spot in the house. The staff is friendly.

Drawbacks: There are a few columns that make the live space a bit cumbersome at times, and the mobility at sold-out shows can be tough.


The Regency Ballroom

1290 Sutter St. San Francisco, CA 94109
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What To Expect: The large, well-worn ballroom with a horseshoe-shaped, wrap-around balcony and teardrop chandeliers can hold plenty of people at The Regency Ballroom. Most shows are general admission.

Best Features: There are plenty of seats to grab upstairs if sitting is a must.

Drawbacks: Shows here are infrequent, and the sound can get drowned out at times by the massive space of the ballroom, especially from the seats. Drinks are priced astronomically.