Outside Lands 2019: Our top sets & festival awards

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

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

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

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

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


Outside Lands 2019 - blink-182

TOP SETS:

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

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

Outside Lands 2019

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

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

Outside Lands 2019 - Childish Gambino

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

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

Outside Lands 2019

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

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

Outside Lands 2019 - Kacey Musgraves

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

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

Outside Lands 2019 - Toro y Moi

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

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

Outside Lands 2019 - Paul Simon

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

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


Outside Lands 2019

OUTSIDE LANDS 2019 AWARDS:

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

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

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

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

Best Wine: West + Wilder (Sparkling)

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

Best Upgrade: Verizon Members Lounge

Best Merchandise: Limited Edition Bomber Jacket (buy here)

Best Comedian: Alyssa Edwards

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

Outside Lands 2019: Here’s what to see, eat & drink

Outside LandsPhoto by Norm de Veyra // Written by Kevin Quandt //

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

As a thick layer of fog begins to make its daily descent upon the western edge of SF, Golden Gate Park to be precise, local residents know that Outside Lands can’t be too far off. Though in all seriousness, it hasn’t been a terribly overcast summer in the Avenues, especially come afternoon. Celebrating its 12th year as the Bay Area’s go-to festival for modern music, many have come to love their annual romp in the Outerlands and Golden Gate Park to an eclectic soundtrack of genres and eras.

Outside Lands’ 2019 edition is no exception with a truly varied trio of top-billed acts spread across three days. Attendees will get to see Twenty One Pilots in a headlining slot on Friday after their OSL debut in 2013. On Saturday, Donald Glover makes his own grand entrance as Childish Gambino while completing his recent victory lap. Paul Simon, meanwhile, has the honor of closing down the event on Sunday as he recently returns to the stage after retiring from intensive touring.

Now, let us assist with a few curated choices for this year’s event as you plan out your best layered-jacket look. But seriously, pray for sunshine and create your own schedule here.


Outside Lands 2019 - Paul Simon

Music

Artist: Boyfriend
Set date/time: Friday, 1:20-2 p.m. & 6:50-7:20 p.m.
Location: Panhandle & Gastromagic

Ever seen a rap-cabaret show? Do you want to see one? Well, you’ll have two opportunities on Day 1 to catch New Orleans’ own Boyfriend put on one of the most entertaining performances you’ll witness in a long time. Best known for her wildly creative live show where anything can happen, the singer-songwriter, rapper and producer spits some hyper-intelligent commentary on the current state of gender and identity. Collaborations with Big Freedia, Galactic and Run the Jewels DJ/producer Little Shalimar most recently have proven that she’s a versatile emcee who’s in high-demand. She’ll be presenting her act alongside Chris Cosentino, who will likely be dropping some serious Italian cuisine knowledge and techniques on the assembled crowd at the Gastromagic Stage after her afternoon set over at the Panhandle Stage.

Artist: Altın Gün
Set date/time: Saturday, 3-3:40 p.m.
Location: Panhandle

Though OSL and other large-scale music festivals have shifted the bulk of their lineups away from rock acts, Another Planet Entertainment has always been keen on tapping a handful of important up-and-coming bands that fit somewhere in the lexicon of rock ‘n’ roll. This year, attendees will have the chance to catch the SF debut of Turkish psychedelic folk-rock group Altın Gün as they finish up their first U.S. tour at OSL. The outfit’s supreme combination of traditional Turkish folk and psychedelic rock got the attention of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard in 2018 and was signed to ATO Records soon thereafter. This Amsterdam-based six-piece has their finger on something both thrilling and experimental, so make sure to catch their afternoon set at the Panhandle Stage.

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

It was only September 22nd when Paul Simon concluded “Homeward Bound – The Farewell Tour” much to the disappointment of his fans. The prolific singer-songwriter was still sharp onstage and was playing to packed houses when he stated it was time to close up shop. Fast forward six months later to March, and OSL would reveal its 2019 lineup that sees Simon top the Day 3 bill. But this booking also comes with a little twist. For this show and several of his subsequent Hawaiian dates, Simon will donate all of the proceeds to the San Francisco Parks Alliance and Friends of the Urban Forest in SF. So, don’t sleep on this set if you’ve never seen Simon before, as this could very well be one of the last times to hear hits such as “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Late in the Evening”.


Outside Lands 2019 - Taste of the Bay Area

Food & Drink

Cassava: This Outer Richmond establishment has been drawing crowds to the Balboa Village area for years now and will be serving up buttermilk popcorn chicken rice bowls with harissa aioli and house furikake, as well as popcorn shrimp rice bowls with gribiche. Only a few short blocks from the Main Gate entrance, Cassava has become a popular destination for enjoying a pre-festival brunch. Just make sure to get there early, as a wait should be expected. Also, make sure to visit the Hockey Haven a block down Balboa St. for a quick libation before you head to the event.

Mozzeria: Famous for its mobile pizza ovens, Mozzeria returns to Golden Gate Park this year and will be whipping out its insanely delicious, and fresh, Neapolitan-style pies. The Mission District-based pizzeria will be serving up both personal Margherita and Salumi pizzas from its instantly recognizable truck that’s complete with an authentic brick oven. Expect a small wait as these pies are made to order, but just know that it’ll be worth your patience.

Woods Beer Co.: While Outside Lands brings in food and drink partners from around the Bay Area each year, this Outerlands-based writer felt compelled to focus on some local businesses located near the event. You might have visited one of the other Woods locations in Oakland or on Treasure Island, but the Woods Outbound outpost is only a few blocks from the polo fields. Despite the breweries at Beer Lands having not released their offerings yet, one should expect Woods to bring their flagship MateVeza IPA, their unfiltered Retro Pilsner or their Local Honey herbal ale to the park. Swing by Judah St. and try something a bit different than the rest.

Outside Lands - 2019 lineup

Outside Lands delivers its 2019 schedule

Outside Lands

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

The 12th edition of Outside Lands is only two weeks away, and the three-day music festival has dropped what many fans often clamor for in late July … that’s right, set times!

Ready to start planning your weekend at Golden Gate Park? Make sure to check out the 2019 schedule here.

But much like every year, there are some noteworthy scheduling conflicts. Friday will see Lil Wayne and Masego performing 15 minutes apart, blink-182 overlapping with Counting Crows, and Flying Lotus (3D), The Lumineers and headliner Twenty One Pilots all closing down their respective stages on Day 1.

Outside Lands 2019 - daily lineups

Saturday, though, is where things really start to get hairy with Santigold pitted against Tierra Whack, Alina Baraz playing at the same time as Phosphorescent, Better Oblivion Community Center starting 10 minutes before Flume, and headliner Childish Gambino vs. RL Grime — of course, that’s without mentioning Ella Mai and Hozier also have their own evening slots.

The Day 3 slate, meanwhile, offers some more challenges, beginning with Mavis Staples vs. Cherry Glazerr in the early afternoon. Catching both DJ Koze and Kacey Musgraves could be tough with their sets only separated by 30 minutes, as well as Leon Bridges and Toro y Moi. Sunday’s biggest conflict, however, could be choosing between Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals (7:30 p.m.) and legendary headliner Paul Simon (7:35 p.m.). Plus, there’s Kygo on the Twin Peaks stage less than an hour later at 8:20 p.m. For those of you going to OSL, just remember: whoever you decide to see, it’s sure to be a good time! Download the mobile app here, and oh, wear some comfortable shoes, too (nobody likes blisters anyway).

If you can’t wait for Outside Lands now, look back at our coverage from 2018 here.

Outside Lands - 2019 lineup

Paul Simon, Childish Gambino & Twenty One Pilots to headline Outside Lands 2019

Outside Lands - 2019 lineup

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

Outside Lands is back for another go-around in Golden Gate Park this August.

The three-day music festival, which a year ago saw The Weeknd, Florence + the Machine and Janet Jackson lead the way, has landed Paul Simon, Childish Gambino and Twenty One Pilots to anchor its 2019 installment.

Beyond the three headliners for the event’s 12th edition, this year’s roster will also welcome The Lumineers, Flume, Blink-182, Kygo, Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals, Leon Bridges, Kacey Musgraves, Lil Wayne, Hozier, RL Grime, Ella Mai, Counting Crows, Flying Lotus (3D), Alina Baraz, Mavis Staples, Bebe Rexha, Sheck Wes, The Neighbourhood, Santigold, Better Oblivion Community Center, Toro y Moi, Denzel Curry, Lauren Daigle, San Holo, Judah & the Lion, Big Wild, Bob Moses, Wallows, Edie Brickell & New Bohemians, Yaeji and many more. See the poster above for the rest of the lineup.

UPDATE (May 14th): Outside Lands has delivered its daily lineups for 2019, with Twenty One Pilots headlining Friday, Childish Gambino performing Saturday and Paul Simon closing the festival Sunday. Take a look at the daily schedules below before single-day tickets go on sale for $155 (GA), $355 (VIP) and $695 (Golden Gate) this Thursday, May 16th at 10 a.m. PT here.

Outside Lands 2019 - daily lineups

If you’re already pumped for Outside Lands, don’t wait to get your tickets when they go on sale here this Thursday, March 28th at 10 a.m. PT and make sure to check out our coverage from 2018 here.

Outside Lands 2018

Our favorite performances from 2018

Best live shows of 2018 - Foo Fighters, NxWorries, Pusha T & Courtney Barnett

Holy smokes, 2018 … you were a blur. Maybe it’s just us, but this year really did fly right by.

Before we officially say hello to 2019 though, it’s time for us to revisit the past 12 months at Showbams. Every year we have the great privilege of witnessing some amazing moments in live music, and this year was no different. While we can’t touch upon every performance we covered in looking back at the year that was, we still managed to see a wide variety of talent over the course of 2018.

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

Aaron Neville, A.CHAL, Alanis Morissette, Alina Baraz, Allen Stone, Amen Dunes, Aminé, A Perfect Circle, Ari Lennox, A$AP Rocky, Aquilo, BADBADNOTGOOD, The Bangles, Belle & Sebastian, The Beta Machine, Billie Eilish, BØRNS, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cashmere Cat, Childish Major, Chromeo, CHVRCHES, Cigarettes After Sex, Cloud Nothings, Cuco, Cut Snake, CyHi the Prynce, Daniel Caesar, Deap Vally, Destroyer, Diet Cig, Drab Majesty, DRAM, The Dustbowl Revival, Erykah Badu, Fantastic Negrito, Future, Garbage, George Fitzgerald, Gomez, Gov’t Mule, Great Grandpa, Griz, The Growlers, Gucci Mane, HAERTS, H.E.R., Hot Flash Heat Wave, Ibeyi, Iggy Pop, Irma Thomas, Isaiah Rashad, Jaira Burns, Jamie xx, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, Jhené Aiko, John Maus, Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, Joywave, JPEGMAFIA, Jungle, Kailee Morgue, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Kamasi Washington, Kauf, Kelela, Kikagaku Moyo, Kings of Leon, Kopps, Laff Trax, Lion Babe, Lizzo, Lophile, Lord Huron, Los Lobos, Lucy Dacus, Margo Price, Miguel, Mija, Milk Carton Kids, ModPods, Moses Sumney, The Mother Hips, Mura Masa, Neil Young, N.E.R.D, North Mississippi Allstars, ODESZA, Pale Waves, Paula Frazer and Tarnation, Phantogram, Pharoah Sanders, Pixies, Polo & Pan, POND, Portugal. The Man, The Pretenders, Quicksand, Ravyn Lenae, Rivers Cuomo, The Revolution, Robert Plant, Rory Phillips, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Sabrina Claudio, Salt-N-Pepa, Santigold, Sasha Sloan, Seu Jorge, Shakey Graves, Shame, Shana Falana, Sharon Van Etten, Silk City, Sleigh Bells, Snoh Aalegra, Soccer Mommy, The Specials, The Spook School, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Tame Impala, Tenacious D, Third Eye Blind, Tinashe, together PANGEA, TV on the Radio, Tycho, Typhoon, Uniform, Wafia, Waxahatchee, The Weeknd, Wet, William Tyler, Will Varley, Yen Yen, Zedd

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our favorite performances from 2018.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2018

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2018:


Best of 2018 - Cut Copy

Cut Copy

Date: March 3rd
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

For those in LA who missed Cut Copy 10 months ago when they visited the Shrine Expo Hall with De Lux, Palmbomen II and Cooper Saver also on the bill, their headlining performance last Friday at The Wiltern was another chance to dance the night away upon hearing several classics such as “Need You Now”, “Free Your Mind”, “Future”, “Hearts on Fire” and to close, “Lights & Music”. In fact, the last time that we caught them back in March, a mini downpour erupted at Shaun White’s Air + Style (read our festival review here), but it didn’t phase them. Who said playing — and dancing — in the rain isn’t fun anyway? -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Washed Out

Washed Out

Date: March 4th
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

In what was easily the most visually stimulating (and pleasing) show we witnessed at Expo Park, Ernest Greene, who performs under the moniker Washed Out, entranced a completely packed crowd at the smaller Summer Stage with a slew of trippy visuals and his chilled-out tunes. We had been wanting to see Washed Out in SoCal for several months now, ever since Greene released the project’s third LP Mister Mellow last year, and after missing his gig with Nick Murphy at the Shrine Expo Hall in October, we were glad to finally hear him play “Hard to Say Goodbye” (one of our favorite songs of 2017) and “Feel It All Around” live as any loyal “Portlandia” fan would be. With Toro y Moi venturing away from the chillwave movement he helped pioneer, it’s up to Greene to lead the charge, and so far, he has done one hell of a job. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Phoenix

Phoenix

Date: March 4th
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

After what we thought was an underwhelming way to wrap up Day 1, Air + Style closed with a bang thanks to Phoenix’s energizing, 16-song set. The French indie-pop outfit have headlined Coachella before, and it was more than worthy of that billing for this occasion. Kicking things off with the opening track “J-Boy” from their sixth studio album Ti Amo that dropped back in June, Thomas Mars and company gave us exactly what we wanted to hear: a hit-ladden show featuring singles like “Lisztomania”, “Trying to Be Cool”, “Too Young” and “1901”. No, there wasn’t a Daft Punk or R. Kelly appearance — not that we expected one — but Phoenix put an exclamation point on an otherwise successful weekend. We may not have known the quartet could rock that hard after the last time we saw them, but we definitely do now. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Moby

Moby

Date: March 26th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

His guitar playing, meanwhile, may be just as impressive, if not surprising to some. Less than two weeks before Moby stepped into Bob Clearmountain’s diminutive recording studio, I was fortunate enough to catch him the final of his three shows at The Echo, and it was there as he performed a variety of songs from Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, Play and a few other albums, that I fully realized just how talented he is with a black Gibson SG in his hands. He may be an electronic musician, but unlike a lot of them today, Moby is a musician in every sense of the word. While his vocals at times sound more like spoken word than actual singing, he has found more than capable sidekicks in Julie Mintz (keyboards, vocals) and Mindy Jones (vocals) to assist him in that department. Jones’ ranging voice, in particular, is one that suits his music well, and when you hear her sing, her pipes elevate the song to a whole new level. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Brian Feinzimer


Best of 2018 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

Date: April 13th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Weeks before The War on Drugs released their fourth LP A Deeper Understanding last year, we were fortunate enough to hear Adam Granduciel and company perform a handful of cuts from the new album in an intimate setting for KCRW. It was then and there that we knew the follow-up to 2014’s Lost in a Dream was another masterpiece, and that impression was only validated when A Deeper Understanding won the Grammy for “Best Rock Album” just a few months ago. On Day 1 of Coachella, the Philadelphia band brought some of those same songs we witnessed at Apogee Studio to life, though sadly, this time “Holding On” wasn’t part of the setlist. But we did get to experience “An Ocean in Between the Waves” in all of its glory, and we still have yet to come across another piece of music in more recent years that will make you want to play air guitar as much as the seven-minute track from Lost in a Dream does. Who said rock was dead? -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Goldenvoice


Best of 2018 - Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai

Date: April 13th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Thirteen years. That’s how long it has been since Jamiroquai last performed in the U.S. With that in mind, there was no way we were going to miss Jay Kay and the rest of his sidekicks in favor of The Weeknd’s headlining performance (sorry, Abel), and after what ended up being close to a 90-minute set from the London nu-funk/acid jazz group, we had no regrets about our decision. The only regret we have is that they ran out of time and didn’t get to play their smash hit “Virtual Insanity” in its entirety, and you could tell Jay Kay felt bad about it as he jumped down from the stage to greet some overjoyed fans after wrapping the show up with “Love Foolosophy” from 2001’s A Funk Odyssey. But while Weekend 2 attendees got the full version of the Travelling Without Moving single, we were treated to a massive surprise when Snoop Dogg came out to rap on “Dr. Buzz” with a huge blunt in his hand. It was the kind of collaboration you never expect to see, except at Coachella of all places. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2018 - Eminem

Eminem

Date: April 15th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

While we can’t say that we were completely thrilled with Goldenvoice’s choices for this year’s headliners, we were excited to see Eminem finally play Coachella (he had never performed in an official capacity before) and close out the festival on Sunday night. Sure, his newest album Revival didn’t exactly receive rave reviews from critics when it dropped at the end of 2017, but watching one of hip-hop’s most talented emcees run through his hits all while bringing out 50 Cent and Dr. Dre was undoubtedly THE highlight from Day 3. For this “stan,” just crossing Em off my concert bucket list would have been enough to send me home with a smile. Fortunately for those of us who were there though, the real Slim Shady lived up to the hype and more. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2018 - Big K.R.I.T.

Big K.R.I.T.

Date: April 19th
Location: Echoplex – Los Angeles

At Echoplex, we were treated to the “rapper” and the man himself as bass-heavy party starters like the title-track opener and “Confetti” from 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time got everyone hyped, while Atlanta’s T.I. came out to perform his verse on “Big Bank”. After singling out one excited fan, who was wearing a shirt with a giant picture of his face, during the easygoing “1999” and paying homage to Southern rap pioneers UGK, Big K.R.I.T. took the latter half of his hour-long set to connect with the crowd. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - Soulwax

Soulwax

Date: April 19th
Location: The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles

While Soulwax’s recorded music has always been perfectly enjoyable, in person it becomes something else entirely. Their new, three-drummer lineup was the ideal format to hear new tracks like “Is It Always Binary” while giving older tracks such as “KracK” a newly textured and complex sound. Sitting stage right, drummer Victoria Smith, for one, offered the group some serious personality thanks to her animated facial expressions. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - NxWorries

NxWorries

Date: June 16th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

I fall somewhere in the middle between those two age groups, so it was fitting that the uber-talented rapper/singer/drummer Anderson .Paak had just walked onto the “Free Your Mind” main stage when I showed up. .Paak, 32, wore a smile as expressive as his music, packaged with a bright nautical-themed ensemble. He effortlessly impressed with standouts “Suede”, “Another Time” and “What More Can I Say” off Yes Lawd!, his 2016 LP with Los Angeles hip-hop producer Knxwledge as part of their collaborative project NxWorries (pronounced “No Worries”). The duo’s set would eventually culminate in a playful dance-off between women, which fans showed their appreciation for before .Paak and Knxwledge said their goodbyes. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - The Roots

The Roots

Date: June 16th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

However, anticipation for The Roots kept me at the main stage. It proved to be a wise decision, as their nearly hour-long performance reminded me why the Grammy-winning band is still so revered after more than three decades. Black Thought got the crowd riled up with a 10-minute barrage of lyrical proficiency that so many have come to know as his “Hot 97 Freestyle” after it hit the internet in December and quickly went viral, while his bandmates exuberantly jumped with sousaphones and guitars during “You Got Me” and a number of other hits. But providing a jolt like he only can, the one and only Busta Rhymes showed up for a quick-but-memorable performance of “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - Melvins

Melvins

Date: July 16th
Location: Great American Music Hall – San Francisco

I’m far from an expert on this kind of thing (because I’m not), but I didn’t expect to see the Melvins perform with the amount of energy that they showcased. For a band that has been touring and putting out new material for the past 35 years, they performed as if everything depended on it. You weren’t going to catch “King Buzzo” standing in one place for too long, with his signature fro whipping in the wind from the fans that were on the stage, McDonald and Pinkus holding it down on their own instruments, and Crover beating the living hell out of his drums. Fans were ready to receive the band and responded to the various sonic blasts coming from the amplifiers. During the thrashy songs, they formed a brutal pit, and during the sludgier songs, they lit up joints and bobbed their heads to the music. -Andrew Pohl, photo by Mike Rosati


Best of 2018 - Glassjaw

Glassjaw

Date: July 20th
Location: Observatory OC – Santa Ana, CA

Glassjaw’s show covered their entire discography, and very few fan favorites were left off the setlist. While it was to be expected that newer tunes like “Shira” and “New White Extremity” would rock, it was staggering how well their older songs held up in a live setting. Palumbo’s voice, though slightly less manic than it once was, is still unmatched in its vocal range and shear intensity. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - Weezer

Weezer

Date: August 8th
Location: The Forum – Inglewood, CA

That’s not to say that Cuomo isn’t a talented musician. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Harvard grad shreds without question, something I never really realized until he uncorked a number of guitar solos, whether it was during “Buddy Holly” to open Weezer’s performance or “Say It Ain’t So” (with a snippet of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”) to put a bow on the show. And while there aren’t many lead singers who can do both, Cuomo certainly remains among some elite company, with Jack White, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) also immediately coming to mind. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Florence + the Machine

Florence + the Machine

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

There was a bit of controversy surrounding Saturday’s main slot as Florence + the Machine officially made the move to full-blown festival headliner. Some festivalgoers had their own doubts after FYF Fest 2018 was canceled with a near-identical top billing, but Florence and her bandmates proved, many times over, that she is more than capable of commanding any stage as her energy is unlike many others. She debuted a brand-new show, which featured “June” in the opening slot and was book-ended by “Big God” and “Shake It Out” for a two-song encore. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2018 - Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe

Date: August 12th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

The incomparable Janelle Monáe was a tad late to take the stage, as she was fighting off a stomach bug, but when she did, she captivated the masses with a suite of tracks from her most recent release Dirty Computer and tossed in a fair amount of costume changes over a nearly hour-long set. Monáe proved that she’s easily one of the best in the business at the moment and will only continue to climb upwards. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2018 - Deafheaven

Deafheaven

Date: August 18th
Location: The Wiltern – Los Angeles

Fortunately, Deafheaven haven’t bowed to convention or criticism. Their fourth studio album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, which ANTI‐ released last month, is their arguably their most experimental to date, spanning more than an hour over seven songs. There’s a sense of angst and nostalgia in the music that leans far more positive and hopeful than their previous work. There are still echoes of black metal at times, but you can feel this is a band that’s embracing its differences instead of defending them. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - Jack White

Jack White

Date: August 19th
Location: Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA

Yet, for as eclectic and wide-ranging as White’s output has been over two decades, it’s the unpredictable nature of his live shows that makes them so intriguing to see. This time, we were treated to a rare cover of The Stooges’ “T.V. Eye” from their 1970 album Fun House, as well as a number of fan favorites, from set closer “Ball and Biscuit” to an eight-song encore that featured “Icky Thump” (with some amusing “Icky Trump” messaging), “Steady, as She Goes” (with a snippet of Richard Berry’s 1955 song “Louie Louie”), and of course, what has easily become the biggest stadium anthem in the world, “Seven Nation Army”. And though the show didn’t conclude without a few hiccups during some of White’s improvised playing between songs, he hasn’t lost his unique ability to surprise an audience — whether it means bringing out his mother in Detroit to perform “Hotel Yorba” with him or covering Pearl Jam’s “Daughter” in Seattle — at any given moment, especially when we all aren’t staring down at our phones. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Jack White


Best of 2018 - David Byrne

David Byrne

Date: August 22nd
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

As the show progressed into his songs “Here” and “Lazy”, Byrne’s band joined him onstage. The light changed and filled in the stage, giving the audience a happier tone and providing a seamless transition into a Talking Heads interlude. Then, later on during “Blind”, one of the more stunning visual elements was made possible by a simple lamp that was placed in front of the band, casting whirling shadows on the strands of beads hanging behind them. -Tim O’Shea, photo by Tim O’Shea


Best of 2018 - The National

The National

Date: September 20th
Location: Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles

Right before that final aforementioned single, they brought out Phoebe Bridgers to help them perform “Sorrow” from 2010’s High Violet, as Berninger and the 24-year-old singer-songwriter, who said during her brief opening set that The National were her favorite band, traded vocals on the tune they once played 105 times in a row, with the performance at an art installation in New York lasting all of six hours. We weren’t quite as fortunate to get that kind of show in LA, as The National opted for one of their more traditional, two-hour events. But whether you’ve been a fan from the start or one like myself who arrived rather late to the party, The National continue to make some of the most compelling music in rock, expanding their fan base with each and every album they release. That’s the sign of any good band these days, and though there’s only a handful of others that could even say the same right now, The National should take comfort in knowing they’re one of those select few. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Date: September 23rd
Location: Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles

Similarly, the gig also marked one of Grizzly Bear’s last performances in support of their fifth LP Painted Ruins, which they released last year on RCA Records, and having already played a two-night run at The Wiltern back in December, this was more of a victory lap than a coming-out party. Unfortunately for us, the five-piece had to cut things short due to the venue’s strict Sunday night curfew, ending on a rather sudden note. That’s just part of the deal at the Bowl, though. For those of us who have to work on Monday morning, it’s actually more of a blessing in disguise than a disservice to the overall concert experience as we’ve come to realize. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett

Date: October 5th
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

When she wasn’t sharing the spotlight with Waxahatchee, Barnett was sharing it equally with the rest of her stellar backing band, but it was mostly just difficult to take your eyes off of her. Everything she does feels casual, from her outfit to her guitar playing, slinging her instrument around like it was an extension of herself. Even her delivery of the wrenching reality that the 30-year-old Australian singer-songwriter articulates so well is casual, singing like the end of the world isn’t a mere 22 years away. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2018 - Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet

Date: October 6th
Location: Glen Helen Regional Park & Festival Grounds – San Bernardino, CA

By the time we got through security and stepped inside the gates, Manchester Orchestra had just finished their 45-minute set on the main stage, which essentially was the 65,000-person Glen Helen Amphitheater that was constructed back in 1982 for the first US Festival. Next up was Greta Van Fleet, and boy, do these kids know how to rock. Zeppelin clearly runs deep in these four Michiganders’ veins, as they showcased songs off their forthcoming debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army with frontman Josh Kiszka commanding the stage and offering his best Robert Plant impression. He even dresses the part, sporting some tight, white jeans with a water-colored blouse and necklace of feathers while his brothers Jake and Sam wore vests or shirts that looked like what you would find at a vintage clothing store. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters

Date: October 6th
Location: Glen Helen Regional Park & Festival Grounds – San Bernardino, CA

As the Foos left the stage for their encore break, we waited patiently for them to return. The crowd, by now, had been taken for a two-hour ride with Grohl firmly at the wheel, pumping adrenaline into our veins with every minute that passed as the Foo Fighters know how to do so well during their usual two-and-a-half-hour jaunts. The video screens on each side of the stage were black until suddenly some backstage footage appeared showing Grohl with Krist Novoselic and what looked like Joan Jett. All of that would end up coming true in the last 30 minutes of Cal Jam 18, but it was a six-song encore with Grohl on drums, Novoselic on bass, the Foo Fighters’ Pat Smear on guitar and Deer Tick frontman John McAuley on both vocals and guitar as Kurt Cobain’s fill-in who got us hyped. Nirvana fans have waited 25 years for a reunion since Cobain’s sudden passing, and when you put it in perspective, it will probably go down as one of the year’s biggest surprises, even at a time in music when many industry experts say that rock now stands in the shadows of hip-hop and EDM. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Pusha T

Pusha T

Date: October 13th
Location: Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland

But U.S. Girls were the highlight of the weekend for us. A nine-piece experimental pop act, they put on a stunning 45-minute set that culminated in an entrancing rendition of “Time”, the closing track on their critically acclaimed studio effort In a Poem Unlimited, that lasted more than 10 minutes. The energy, instrumentation and vocal capabilities were absolutely stunning. Easily one of this year’s most exciting new acts, and we can’t wait to catch them again soon. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Brendan Mansfield


Best of 2018 - U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls

Date: October 14th
Location: Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland

But U.S. Girls were the highlight of the weekend for us. A nine-piece experimental pop act, they put on a stunning 45-minute set that culminated in an entrancing rendition of “Time”, the closing track on their critically acclaimed studio effort In a Poem Unlimited, that lasted more than 10 minutes. The energy, instrumentation and vocal capabilities were absolutely stunning. Easily one of this year’s most exciting new acts, and we can’t wait to catch them again soon. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Josh Withers


Best of 2018 - Daniel Caesar

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

After 16 years, Smokin Grooves Fest makes its long-awaited return & blazes a new trail in Long Beach

Smokin Grooves Fest 2018 - NxWorries


Anderson .Paak of NxWorries

Photos by Joseph Gray & Natalie Somekh // Written by Joseph Gray //

Smokin Grooves Fest //
The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA
June 16th, 2018 //

We are in the heart of festival season. This is a time of the year for music lovers that’s often synonymous with multiple days of unforgiving heat, dusty campgrounds and some young adults who are readily anxious for a mosh pit. The long food-truck lines and heart-shaped sunglasses, polka dots, ripped denim and tie-dyed garments that have become staples at a large majority of music festivals — particularly during the summer months — were present, but Smokin Grooves Fest offered a welcome alternative. And based on its history, Southern California concert promoter Goldenvoice wouldn’t have had it any other way.

For one day only, a sold-out crew enjoyed moderate temperatures at the overcast waterfront adjacent to the historic Queen Mary in Long Beach for Smokin Grooves’ long-awaited return. The event, which last took place 16 years ago, pushed hip-hop, R&B and soul to the forefront of popular music at the time by booking The Fugees, A Tribe Called Quest, Cypress Hill and a whole lot more when Lollapalooza and other rock-focused festivals weren’t showing them the same kind of love.

The crowd, relaxed with a peaceful aura but also energized, mirrored much of the lineup, which showcased veterans such as Erykah Badu, The Roots and Yasiin Bey (fka Mos Def) among buzzing newcomers like H.E.R., Smino, THEY. and Arin Ray across the 38-act bill.

I fall somewhere in the middle between those two age groups, so it was fitting that the uber-talented rapper/singer/drummer Anderson .Paak had just walked onto the “Free Your Mind” main stage when I showed up. .Paak, 32, wore a smile as expressive as his music, packaged with a bright nautical-themed ensemble. He effortlessly impressed with standouts “Suede”, “Another Time” and “What More Can I Say” off Yes Lawd!, his 2016 LP with Los Angeles hip-hop producer Knxwledge as part of their collaborative project NxWorries (pronounced “No Worries”). The duo’s set would eventually culminate in a playful dance-off between women, which fans showed their appreciation for before .Paak and Knxwledge said their goodbyes.

Many attendees went back and forth from the main stage to the two other aptly named stages — “Smokin'” and “Groovin'” — via an elevated overpass, where we overheard several praising the Brooklyn troop Phony Ppl for their soulfully funky grooves.

Smokin Grooves Fest 2018 - Miguel


Miguel

However, anticipation for The Roots kept me at the main stage. It proved to be a wise decision, as their nearly hour-long performance reminded me why the Grammy-winning band is still so revered after more than three decades. Black Thought got the crowd riled up with a 10-minute barrage of lyrical proficiency that so many have come to know as his “Hot 97 Freestyle” after it hit the internet in December and quickly went viral, while his bandmates exuberantly jumped with sousaphones and guitars during “You Got Me” and a number of other hits. But providing a jolt like he only can, the one and only Busta Rhymes showed up for a quick-but-memorable performance of “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”.

The concert, nevertheless, was not without its faults, as some complained about the sound quality during various times, but neglecting hometown artists certainly wasn’t one of them.

Not long after the buzz around Thundercat’s bass-guitar skills subsided, fellow LA-area acts Jhené Aiko and Miguel were greeted with admiration. Aiko, for one, entertained fans behind flowers, acoustics and enchanting vocals with occasional curse words. Miguel, who proudly reminded us that he was from nearby San Pedro and Inglewood, kept the momentum, along with his fringed microphone stand, moving by performing several crowd-pleasers like “How Many Drinks?”, “Sure Thing” and “Come Through and Chill”, among others.

The event’s headliner was Erykah Badu, who performed during the tour’s second edition in 1997 and looked like she hasn’t missed a beat since. Playing a drum machine between songs while weaving some classic hip-hop instrumentals — one of which was Mobb Deep’s “Shook (Part II)” — into her set, the neo-soul queen dazzled with her seductive, incredible voice and responsive wit for an hour-long class on “How to Deliver a Full-on Show.”

Several journalists and photographers, myself included, mentioned at various times the need to leave early to avoid the traffic on the way. But Badu and others made liars out of us, and we couldn’t have been happier in the end.