Our favorite performances from 2017

Best live shows of 2017 - The xx, Miguel, Moderat & Coldplay

2017, where the hell did you go? It just felt like the other day that we were ringing in a new year, and yet, here we are again as we plow straight ahead into 2018.

But before we officially put a bow on 2017, it’s time for us to revisit the past 12 months at Showbams. This year, we had the opportunity to capture many amazing moments in live music, and while we couldn’t pay homage to every single performance we witnessed, we made a conscious effort to include a wide range of talent spread across the industry.

Whittling down our list, though, was not that 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) whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

21 Savage, The Accidentals, Action Bronson, Alice Cooper, Alina Baraz, alt-J, Amber Mark, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Animal Collective, Atlas Genius, The Avalanches, The Band Perry, Beach Slang, Belle and Sebastian, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Bleachers, Blonde Redhead, Bob Moses, Car Seat Headrest, Cate Le Bon, Cigarettes After Sex, Circles Around the Sun, City of Caterpillar, The Coathangers, Claude VonStroke, Chris Robinson, Con Brio, Conor Oberst, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, Crystal Castles, The Crystal Method, Daniel Caesar, Dawes, Dead Meadow, Deafheaven, Deep Purple, Diet Cig, DIIV, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Dr. Dog, Dr. Octagon, Duke Dumont, Eagles of Death Metal, Electric Guest, Emancipator, Emily King, Empire of the Sun, Foxygen, Future Islands, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Gatecreeper, Girl Talk, Gone Is Gone, Grizzly Bear, Gucci Mane, Hamilton Leithauser, Hazel English, Hinds, The Hip Replacements, Hiss Golden Messenger, How to Dress Well, Iggy Pop, Isaiah Rashad, Jack Johnson, Jagwar Ma, Jamestown Revival, Jamie Isaac, Jay 305, Jen Cloher, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, Jessie Ware, Jim James, JR JR, Julie Byrne, Julien Baker, Justice, Karen Elson, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, KAYTRANADA, Kelis, K. Flay, Khalid, Khruangbin, Kilo Kish, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Kurt Vile, La Femme, LANY, Lauv, L.A. Witch, Lettuce, Lil Yachty, Little Dragon, Lo Moon, Lorde, Lord Huron, Miike Snow, Milky Chance, Minus the Bear, Mister Heavenly, MØ, Mondo Cozmo, Neon Indian, Nicki Bluhm, Norah Jones, North Mississippi Allstars, NVO, Oh Sees, OK Go, Once and Future Band, Pallbearer, The Palms, Passion Pit, Peaches, Perfume Genius, Petit Biscuit, Phoebe Bridgers, Playboi Carti, Pond, Porcelain Raft, PRAYERS, The Radio Dept., Real Estate, The Revivalists, Royal Blood, Sampha, ScHoolboy Q, Sheer Mag, serpentwithfeet, Silversun Pickups, Sleep, Sleigh Bells, SOFI TUKKER, Solange, Spiritualized, Styles P, Sunflower Beam, Talib Kweli, Tank and The Bangas, Tash Sultana, Tei Shi, Temples, Tennis, Tennyson, Thou, Thundercat, TOBACCO, Touché Amoré, Tool, Tove Lo, Travis Scott, Twin Peaks, Ty Segall, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vagabon, Vance Joy, Vic Mensa, Warpaint, Weezer, White Fence, Woods, YG, Young the Giant.

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our favorite performances from 2017.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2017

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2017:


Best of 2017 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

Date: February 1st
Location: Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles

Yet, in just four years, Run the Jewels have already reached hip-hop’s mountaintop with their politically charged lyrics and hard-hitting beats. Just take last Wednesday’s sold-out show in LA for example. With the duo’s third studio album still only a few weeks old, 5,000 or so fans poured into the spacious Shrine Expo Hall to watch El-P and Killer Mike fuck shit up (for lack of a better term). And that’s exactly what they did after opening sets from The Gaslamp Killer, Nick Hook, Gangasta Boo and CUZ. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - BADBADNOTGOOD

BADBADNOTGOOD

Date: February 23rd
Location: The Fillmore – San Francisco

As one of the bands to take the coveted headlining spot for NoisePop25, BADBADNOTGOOD seemed as — perhaps more — excited as all of the fans who made it to their sold-out show at The Fillmore. Combining consummate instrumentation with classic MC-style showmanship led by drummer Alexander Sowinski, the Canadian jazz-rock quartet has mastered the art of keeping the audience guessing where they’re going. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by James Pawlish


Best of 2017 - Spoon

Spoon

Date: March 7th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

In total, Spoon performed five songs from the new record, including “First Caress” to open a brief encore that left us eager for more. But as the five-piece rocked “Rainy Taxi” from 2014’s They Want My Soul to close, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is one band I never should have slept on. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Larry Hirshowitz


Best of 2017 - Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

Date: April 8th
Location: Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA

Now a trio, Sigur Rós have been delivering goosebumps for over two decades — and it’s a delight to hear Jónsi’s voice-as-an-instrument this clear, this powerful and as confident as ever. It would be a wonderful treat to check in on this outfit every 5-10 years going forward and realize they are still going strong. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


Best of 2017 - DREAMCAR

DREAMCAR

Date: April 9th
Location: Great American Music Hall – San Francisco

Fresh off a stop at Berkeley’s Hearst Greek Theatre the night before, Adams showcased some older favorites and a slew of new tunes from his 16th and latest studio album Prisoner, which came out in February. SoCal fans were treated to some extended full-band jamming, a couple of solo acoustic performances and Adams’ usual witty banter over the course of the evening.
-Jared Stossel, photo by Jared Stossel


Best of 2017 - A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle

Date: April 13th
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

In the world of rock supergroups, there are few that have sprung up in the last few decades that can hold a candle to A Perfect Circle. From the onset, APC have been a powerhouse on the senses, combining members from bands such as Tool, The Smashing Pumpkins, Failure, Primus and more over the years. Their body of work has been met with high praise across the board, and they have been able to solidify themselves as one of the most unique and tenured groupings out there, as opposed to bands like Zwan and Velvet Revolver. -Andrew Pohl, photo by Mike Rosati


Best of 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

Date: April 14th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Yes, the sound problems (all three instances) put a real damper on what was easily one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. This was the third time Goldenvoice called on Radiohead to headline Coachella, and for one of rock’s most important bands over the last 30 years, it certainly wasn’t a charm as the saying goes. In that moment, it was pretty hard not to feel bad for Thom Yorke, who could only make light of the situation by cracking a joke even if it wasn’t supposed to be one — or so he claimed. But Radiohead more than made up for it with a masterful setlist that opened with A Moon Shaped Pool cuts “Daydreaming”, “Desert Island Disk” and “Ful Stop” before circling back to older hits such as “Everything in Its Right Place”, “There There”, “Idioteque” and even “Creep”. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

Date: April 16th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

All hail, King Kendrick! Or should we say “Kung Fu Kenny?” The Compton rapper reached hip-hop’s mountaintop more than two years ago with his Grammy-winning masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, but headlining Coachella was still on his to-do list. In fact, it was only the second time he had ever been booked to perform at Coachella after being listed on the last line of the 2012 poster. Closing out the fest is no short order for any artist, let alone one who dropped his new album less than 48 hours before taking the stage, but K-Dot lived up to the billing with a show that provoked as much thought as it entertained. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2017 - The xx

The xx

Date: April 17th
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

Playfully alluding to their material’s emotional sentiment, Romy Madley Croft (vocals, guitar) and Oliver Sim (bass, vocals) managed to entrance all of us with their tension-filled gazes and syncopated dance moves. Prolonging vocal arrangements, especially during their accelerated live interpretation of “Infinity”, were also stunning to witness. About halfway through the set, Jamie Smith (beats, MPC, production), aka Jamie xx, took the lead and transformed the room into a giant disco party thanks to an onslaught of consecutive dance hits before finishing with “Loud Places” from his 2015 solo LP In Colour. -Molly Kish, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

Date: April 20th
Location: Mayan Theater – Los Angeles

Moderat subsequently circled back to III, performing “Intruder” before exiting the stage to a rousing applause. Yet, when the house lights didn’t come on right away, the suspense began to build once again. Less than a minute later, the three-piece reemerged, giving the audience more than its money’s worth. Two-encore shows are usually reserved for high-profile groups with extensive catalogs like Radiohead, but Moderat have never played by any rules. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

Date: May 9th
Location: The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles

The Lips, of course, made sure to play that song, and even though it was without Watts, it still proved to be an unforgettable moment due to the fact that Coyne rode a life-size unicorn from one end of the stage to the other as he belted out lines like “Yeah, there should be unicorns / The ones with the purple eyes / It should be loud as fuck / Hope the swans don’t die” to open the tune while wearing a big smile across his face. If that’s not psychedelic to you, then I don’t know what is. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Date: June 3rd
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

Fresh off a stop at Berkeley’s Hearst Greek Theatre the night before, Adams showcased some older favorites and a slew of new tunes from his 16th and latest studio album Prisoner, which came out in February. SoCal fans were treated to some extended full-band jamming, a couple of solo acoustic performances and Adams’ usual witty banter over the course of the evening.
-Stephanie Port, photo by Stephanie Port


Best of 2017 - Jay Som

Jay Som

Date: June 17th
Location: Potrero del Sol Park – San Francisco

Melina Duterte’s band goes by the name Jay Som and hails from Oakland. Do yourself a favor and remember this name: Jay Som. The Polyvinyl-signed songstress bathed the crowd at the Potrero Stage in her dreamy vocals and inanely catchy tunes that appeal to a wide-range of music fan; her songs could feel just as viable in the 90’s college rock area as they do today. Highlights from the set included a vibe-soaked rendition of “Baybee” as well as “The Bus Song”, arguably the artist’s first real “hit.” -Kevin Quandt, photo by Emmeline Munson


Best of 2017- AIR

AIR

Date: June 23rd
Location: The Masonic – San Francisco

AIR’s live performances focus on capturing the crisp, detailed production style that the duo has honed over two decades. It’s a vibrant, textured sound. Centered around acoustic guitar, synthesizers and the breathy timbre of the duo’s immaculate harmonized vocals, the use of live drums helped round out the contrast between both the artificial and acoustic sounds in songs like “Cherry Blossom Girl”. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Steve Carlson


Best of 2017 - PLANETARIUM

PLANETARIUM

Date: July 21st
Location: Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland

PLANETARIUM’s music, which channels Stevens’ reflections on astronomy, science and even the intricacies of human consciousness, is a fusion of styles from all four band members that evokes feelings of unity. The group’s performance was accompanied by otherworldly visuals that filled the backdrop as it traversed the Solar System with quite a few emotionally charged songs inspired by the planets and other celestial bodies like “Neptune” and “Jupiter”. -Norm de Veyra, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2017 - The Drums

The Drums

Date: July 21st
Location: The Fillmore – San Francisco

By the time The Drums took the stage, the intimate venue was packed to the brim with fans. The Brooklyn outfit made as much of an impression as it did when frontman Jonathan Pierce and company exploded onto the scene in 2009 with their initial EP Summertime! From then on, it became glaringly obvious with their eccentric band members and seemingly effortless style that they possessed an energetic presence. And at their SF show, it didn’t take long for the capacity crowd to fall into a groove as the venue’s whole atmosphere lit up. -Jacqueline Moore, photo by Jacqueline Moore


Best of 2017 - Miguel

Miguel

Date: July 23rd
Location: Annenberg Space for Photography – Los Angeles

Once the sun set and Miguel stepped onstage, the audience was transported somewhere else entirely. Born and raised in LA, the 31-year-old’s silky-smooth voice floated through the cool evening breeze over the twinkle lights in the trees, giving the impression of an island retreat rather than a concert in the park. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

Date: August 5th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

Granduciel’s raspy voice, as well as his driving (no pun intended) guitar rhythms and reverb-laden riffs, are largely what separates The War on Drugs from the rest in a crowded indie-rock scene, but the sum of the band’s parts — Charlie Hall (drums), David Hartley (bass), Anthony LaMarca (guitar, keyboards), Robbie Bennett (keyboards) and finally Jon Natchez (saxophone, keyboards) — also creates a sound that while familiar, still feels uniquely different. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Larry Hirshowitz


Best of 2017 - Gorillaz

Gorillaz

Date: August 11th
Location: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

Easily one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, Gorillaz’s Humanz tour made its West Coast debut on Day 1 at OSL. After a six-year hiatus, expectations ran extremely high for this headlining performance. On previous tours, the band’s members had played second fiddle to the cartoon projections of their alter egos onstage, but everyone was visible this time around. Several collaborators from Gorillaz’s previous albums, including Kali Uchis, Yukimi Nagano and Del the Funky Homosapien, came out to join them, and the Damon Albarn-led group still pulled some even bigger surprises with cameos appearances from De la Soul and Pusha T. -Molly Kish, photo by James Pawlish


Best of 2017 - Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

Date: August 12th
Location: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

While the cancellation of Queens of the Stone Age was a blow a week prior to the event, the replacement that was lined up more than delivered a blistering set of rock ‘n’ roll. Cage the Elephant are now being widely considered festival-headliner material, and frontman Matt Shultz is making a strong claim for that accolade as he continues to elevate his stage act to near-Mick Jagger levels of pomp and energy. “Come a Little Closer” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” received hearty sing-alongs from a decidedly youthful crowd as Cage have become a favorite of Generation Z. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2017 - J.I.D

J.I.D

Date: September 9th
Location: Day N Night Fest, Angel Stadium – Anaheim, CA

While the headliners thrilled as expected, it was at the side “Day” and “Night” stages where the festival’s biggest highlights were generated. J.I.D, the rising Atlanta rapper who is signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint, absolutely thrilled during his set. Dazzling with his rapid-fire and agile flow, J.I.D showed off his ability to command a crowd with songs such as “General” and “EdEddnEddy” before jumping into the crowd for the tempo-changing hit “Never” that left the crowd chanting for “one more song!” -Joseph Gray & Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - SZA

SZA

Date: September 9th
Location: Day N Night Fest, Angel Stadium – Anaheim, CA

Saturday, meanwhile, featured the vintage gospel spirit and warm vibes that have elevated Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper to superstardom. Earlier in the day, SZA, this summer’s breakout star, delivered her first festival performance since the release of her well-received debut album Ctrl. Swaying, spinning and singing her raw emotions and shortcomings while coming of age, the Top Dawg Entertainment songstress didn’t disappoint. -Joseph Gray & Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - Bonobo

Bonobo (Live)

Date: September 27th
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

The real reason things felt different this time around, though, was the music. Extending and reimagining his tracks for easily one of the largest crowds he has ever performed in front of, Bonobo followed an uplifting opening set from Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses with an array of soothing sounds that paired beautifully with his lighting setup and entrancing stage production in the same way Scott Hansen (aka Tycho) creates an awe-inspiring audio-visual experience during his live-band performances. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Coldplay

Coldplay

Date: October 4th
Location: Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA

Coldplay took the stage shortly before 9 p.m. as a video montage of fans who introduced them as “the biggest band in the world” played onstage. While I’m pretty sure there are a few other artists or groups from their side of the pond (ehem, U2) who might take issue with that claim, they certainly did nothing during their electric, almost two-hour performance to dissuade that sort of thinking. Chris Martin and company, in fact, wasted no time getting down to business, flooding the stadium with confetti and firing off pyrotechnics at a steady clip while opening with “A Head Full of Dreams” and subsequently all throughout the night. -Steve Carlson, photo by Steve Carlson


Best of 2017 - Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene

Date: October 26th
Location: Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland

Here’s the thing about BSS — after 15 years, the web of musicians that makes up the collective have created their own individual projects, from Metric to Stars to Feist to Do Make Say Think to Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. And while many of the band’s members who have gone on to find success in their own solo careers didn’t happen to join the group on this particular tour, the sense of professionalism built into the BSS live experience remains prevalent. Every person who stepped onstage demonstrated consummate abilities in their own realms, never missing a beat or a note. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Norm de Veyra

Best of 2017 - Jim James

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Miguel’s silky-smooth voice captivates at this year’s Sound in Focus series opener

Sound in Focus - MiguelBy Rochelle Shipman //

Sound in Focus: Miguel with Gabriel Garzón-Montano //
Annenberg Space for Photography – Los Angeles
July 23rd, 2016 //

KCRW kicked off their annual Sound in Focus concert series last Saturday, bringing plenty of R&B grooves to the Annenberg Space for Photography.

Stones Throw Records’ Gabriel Garzón-Montano, who dropped the trip-hop-tinted Jardín earlier this year, got things started. Even though no one else but a drummer accompanied him, he effortlessly commanded the stage even while being tucked behind his keyboard.

Sound in Focus - Gabriel Garzón-Montano


Gabriel Garzón-Montano

Once the sun set and Miguel stepped onstage, the audience was transported somewhere else entirely. Born and raised in LA, the 31-year-old’s silky-smooth voice floated through the cool evening breeze over the twinkle lights in the trees, giving the impression of an island retreat rather than a concert in the park.

With the exception of an impromptu barstool-crooner cut, he spent the majority of his set on the tip of the stage, captivating a crowd that could have only otherwise looked away to admire the sultry enthusiasm of the ASL translators.

Nas preaches positivity while closing out this year’s Sound in Focus series in style

Sound in Focus - NasBy Josh Herwitt //

Sound in Focus: Nas with Wild Belle //
Annenberg Space for Photography – Los Angeles
July 23rd, 2016 //

It’s hard to beat summer in LA. With longer days and warmer nights, there’s always so much to do in the City of Angels during this time of the year. But part of what makes summers in LA so special are the countless opportunities to see live music and best of all, for free. From the Twilight Concert Series on Thursday nights at the Santa Monica Pier to Saturdays Off the 405 at the Getty Museum, you can catch a show — if not multiple shows — in LA every week from July to September for little to no money.

Right along those lines, KCRW’s Sound in Focus concert series is just another reason why summertime in LA has its advantages. For the past few years, the NPR member station has shown its appreciation for photography by welcoming a wide array of musicians, including indie-rock stalwarts like Portugal. The Man, Band of Skulls, TV on the Radio and Cold War Kids (read our review of their 2015 show here), to what was once unchartered territory as far as concert spaces in LA go. And in many ways, the Annenberg Space for Photography, as a result, has proven to be the perfect location for KCRW to combine its love for music and the arts by offering fans of all ages the chance to explore the museum’s newest exhibit and see well-established artists perform for free with a simple RSVP online.

After last year’s roster, which featured old-school hip-hop group De La Soul and country music legend Dwight Yoakam as headliners, it was somewhat surprising to see Grammy-nominated rapper Nas (born Nasir bin Olu Dara Jones) listed next to psych-folk collective Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and eventually Senegalese singer/guitarist Baaba Maal when the 2016 Sound in Focus lineup dropped last month (Maal’s performance was revealed at a later date). Not because KCRW had booked a hip-hop act for a second straight year, but more that it had booked a hip-hop act of Nas’ stature. You don’t have to look much further than his two million Twitter followers, in stark contrast to Edward Sharpe’s 105,000 and Maal’s 5,750, to understand that. It should go without saying then that Mr. Jones is easily the biggest artist KCRW has ever booked for Sound in Focus in its three years running.

Sound in Focus 2016 - Nas

On the other hand though, Nas hasn’t released an album in more than four years. Better yet, it’s been more than three since the Brooklyn native disclosed he had begun work on his 12th studio album, the follow-up to 2012’s Life Is Good. In this day and age of instant gratification, that’s often three years too long to keep fans waiting. With so many options to choose from, it’s becoming harder and harder to remain relevant, even for a hip-hop artist of Nas’ caliber.

But there’s also something to be said for releasing eight straight platinum records, even if Nas doesn’t have any Grammys to go along with them. So, if last Saturday’s show was supposed to be Nas’ reminder to the world that he’s still working and grinding like he always has since the early 90’s, then a whole lot of fans got to hear that message loud and clear after Wild Belle’s opening set.

With the anticipation building, Nas arrived onstage with energy and purpose, immediately diving into his I Am…. anthem “Hate Me Now” that’s almost two decades old at this point. A little bit later, he would end up waxing poetic on “One Mic”, the third single off his 2001 LP Stillmatic that was nominated for an MTV Video Music Award. Yet, more important than the songs Nas chose to perform or the albums he drew from was the postivity he preached to the crowd before calling it a night. At a time of racial and social unrest in the U.S., he imparted optimism and encouraged everyone who stood before him to chase their dreams, whatever they may be. For an emcee who once proclaimed that “hip-hop is dead,” that’s seemingly quite a change in rhetoric.

Cold War Kids are finally getting the respect they deserve

Sound in Focus - Cold War KidsBy Josh Herwitt //

Sound in Focus: Cold War Kids with Other Lives //
Annenberg Space for Photography – Los Angeles
August 15th, 2015 //

Back in 2004 while attending Biola University, a private, evangelical Christian liberal arts college in Southern California, Nathan Willett and Matt Maust met at a friend’s apartment above an Italian restaurant called Mulberry Street Ristorante in Fullerton, Calif. It was there that Maust, influenced by his travels in Eastern Europe, would come up with the name for the band that he would soon start with Willett. Considering both were ones themselves, the name “Cold War Kids” quickly stuck, and it wasn’t long after that they were relocating to Whittier, Calif., to record their first demo.

Now a decade later, with five full-length albums and a handful of EPs (including their debut Mulberry Street) under their belt, Cold War Kids — even with Willett (vocals, piano, guitar, percussion) and Maust (bass) standing as the only two remaining founding members — are finally getting the respect they deserve. Their latest single “First” from 2014’s Hold My Home has become the band’s highest charting single to date, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, and there’s a good chance that you probably heard it this past spring if you saw any previews for Cameron Crowe’s latest film “Aloha”. Riding that recent wave of popularity, the quintet has continued to grow its fan base thanks to some high-profile festival performances this summer at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands (read our review of the festival here). So, needless to say, things are at an all-time high for these Cold War Kids right now.

Sound in Focus - Cold War Kids

But like most bands, Cold War Kids have also faced their own set of challenges along the way. While they moved around Southern California before making Long Beach their official home in 2008, they’ve endured some lineup changes along the way, too. One of them came in 2012 with the departure of founding member and lead guitarist Jonnie Russell, whose apartment served as the original meeting place where the band was first conceived. The other came a year later, when drummer Matt Aveiro left the group before eventually joining LA alt-rock outfit Bootstraps.

Willett and Maust, nonetheless, did one hell of a job in finding their replacements. They went after two former Modest Mouse members in guitarist Dann Gallucci, who also served as the band’s live sound engineer during Russell’s final three years, and drummer Joe Plummer, who also plays in The Shins and just released his first solo album Built in Sun less than two weeks ago. Consequently, it’s created a winning formula, with Cold War Kids sounding better live than they ever have before.

Sound in Focus - Cold War Kids

Ringing in the final performance of Sound in Focus, a summer concert series presented by the Annenberg Foundation and KCRW that also featured free-to-the-public performances by TV on the Radio, De La Soul and Dwight Yoakam over the past four weeks, Cold War Kids ripped off 19 songs for an all-ages audience with a mix of fans and families in attendance. The group, of course, has never shied away from showcasing its biggest hits live, and longtime crowd favorites such as “We Used to Vacation” and “Hang Me Up to Dry” came relatively early in its set. But much of Cold War Kids’ newest material from Hold My Home, tracks like slow burner “Harold Bloom”, the symphonic “Nights & Weekends” (the band has been playing live with a pair of backup string players and backup vocalists now, too) and the ska-punk vibe of “Hot Coals”, exuded their own unique energy.

When I caught Cold War Kids back in mid-November at the brand-new Regent Theater (read our venue review here) in downtown LA, it had been only a month since Hold My Home had come out. With the band supporting the album on tour over the last 10 months though, it’s not a surprise to see it operating like a well-oiled machine at this point. Even so, Cold War Kids have never been afraid to switch things up, much like they did during their two-song encore, which started off with a cover of John Lennon’s 1970 single “Well Well Well” and concluded with the irreverent “Saint John” from 2006’s Robbers & Cowards, the album that ultimately put the ball in motion for Willett and Maust. And as that ball continues to roll on now, there’s no telling when it will slow down for these hometown heroes.

Setlist:
Miracle Mile
Minimum Day
We Used to Vacation
Audience
Louder Than Ever
One Song at a Time
Loner Phase
Hang Me Up to Dry
Harold Bloom
Tuxedos
All This Could Be Yours
Drive Desperate
Nights & Weekends
Hot Coals
First
Hospital Beds
Something Is Not Right With Me

Encore:
Well Well Well (John Lennon cover)
Saint John