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

Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest - Rochelle Shipman


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

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

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

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

See our favorite performances from 2019 here.

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


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall - Josh Herwitt


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

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cate Le Bon - Reward

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tool - Fear Inoculum

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium


David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Tim O’Shea

We have to be honest: 2018 was kind of a weird year for music. Sure, there were some major highlights — many of them listed below, in fact — but we also saw a serious changing of the guard. The decline of mainstream rock and the continued rise of hip-hop, R&B and pop was more noticeable than ever, from this year’s Coachella lineup to the cancellation of FYF Fest, making us wonder what the next twist or turn will be for the industry now that the demand for EDM has started to cool off following its boom circa 2012. That said, we still listened to a lot of new albums and caught plenty of concerts over the last 12 months, and it’s once again time for us to share our annual “Best of” lists, much like we have done over the past several years (see our 2017 picks here).

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2018.

See our favorite performances from 2018 here.

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


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018 // Photo courtesy of Coachella

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – February 17th
Just more than two months after his infamous assault on a photographer at The Forum for KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas, Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme made his return to the LA arena for a proper, sold-out affair with UK rock duo Royal Blood delivering what proved to be a headbanging opening set. From there, it only got better as Homme and the boys dazzled with a headlining performance that even included Villains producer Mark Ronson sitting in for most of the five-song encore and the band’s live debut of its “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” cover. You can bet Elton John, whom Homme actually collaborated with during the writing and recording of QOTSA’s sixth album …Like Clockwork, would have been proud. I always know when I’ve seen a good rock ‘n’ roll show because my neck will be sore the following day, but after this one, it was sore for the next three days. Ouch.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – December 12th, 14th-15th
3. Jamiroquai at Coachella, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 13th
4. David Byrne at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – August 24th
5. Foo Fighters/Nirvana reunion at Cal Jam 18 – San Bernadino, CA – October 6th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Jungle – For Ever
Unlike previous years, picking a favorite album in 2018 wasn’t quite as easy for me. I’ll admit that I didn’t hear every one that was released this year, but I listened to a lot of them. So, call me boring and short-sighted if you like, but nothing totally knocked my socks off. After much deliberation, it was Jungle’s sophomore LP For Ever that stood the test of time for me (no pun intended). The English soul collective’s follow-up to its 2014 self-titled debut doesn’t veer off in a completely different direction from what came before, but it still moves the sonic needle forward enough. After two full lengths, Jungle have shown a knack for writing catchy, dance-fueled tunes that transport you to a different time and place — even if it’s only for a three- or four-minute stretch.

2. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
3. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
4. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
5. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Nine Inch Nails – “Over and Out”
When I first listened to Bad Witch, I immediately knew this one was my favorite track on the album. But hearing it performed live on the final night of NIN’s “Cold and Black and Infinite” North American tour sealed it for top honors in 2018. Layering a brooding, yet funky bass line on top of a glitchy, experimental beat, Trent Reznor shows that he isn’t just playing it safe and merely saving his creativity for scoring films with bandmate and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross. You can tell Reznor had his late friend David Bowie in mind when he wrote the song too as he conjures up an even deeper baritone from behind the microphone than the one we have come to know over the last 30 years.

2. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
3. Jungle – “Heavy, California”
4. Wild Nothing – “Partners in Motion”
5. The Raconteurs – “Now That You’re Gone”


Richard Russell - Everything Is Recorded

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – August 16th
In support of his seventh solo album American Utopia, musical virtuoso David Byrne hit the road for one of this year’s most creative and ambitious tours. Over more than 150 dates that spanned the entire globe, the 66-year-old delivered Broadway-caliber performances with a traveling 11-piece band that served as a traveling retrospective of his solo and collaborative work. Meanwhile, the tour also doubled as a platform for him to deliver his “Reasons to Be Cheerful” manifestos on civic engagement, climate/energy, culture, economics, education, health, science/technology and urban transportation. He partnered with HeadCount while encouraging audiences every night to engage in public discourse through social media and their own personal stories on his website. And as a result, Byrne elevated the concert-going experience into more of an interactive, performance-art space that his fans became a living, breathing part of.

2. Young Fathers at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – November 10th
3. Erykah Badu & Thundercat at The Armory – San Francisco, CA – February 14th
4. Beck at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – August 8th
5. LCD Soundsystem with TV on the Radio at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – April 27th-28th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Richard Russell – Everything Is Recorded by Richard Russell
A multi-artist project released as the debut album of XL Recordings founder Richard Russell, Everything Is Recorded is collaborative effort representing the ties between past and present sounds currently shaping the framework of hip-hop, funk and soul. Featuring collaborations with Sampha, Kamasi Washington, Syd, Damon Albarn, Peter Gabriel, Ibeyi, Obongjayar and more, the album also plays as the soundtrack to a 30-minute film, which documents the time each spent in the studio during its conception and is interspliced with archival footage of Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield. With its underlying themes of loss and isolation, Everything Is Recorded effectively communicates Russell’s emotional journey as he battles a debilitating autoimmune disease in hope of finding salvation through the shared experience of creating a beautifully mastered piece of art.

2. George Fitzgerald – All That Must Be
3. Pusha T – DAYTONA
4. Robyn – Honey
5. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
If any song embodied the insanity and collective discontent of 2018, it was definitely Childish Gambino’s epic single “This Is America”. The juxtaposition of an a cappella choir leading into Donald Glover’s soft crooning over island beats and drum samples before staunchly diverting to a menacing base line reminiscent of 90’s gangster rap — as well as the hortative delivery of degrading lyrics about the current state of violence and American ideals — is near-perfect. Of course, the provocative music video that accompanied the track’s surprise release during his “Saturday Night Live” debut was incredible. The song, lyrics, video and marketing campaign could not have been a more flawless “slice of life” reflection of modern American society and justifiably has boomeranged into probably the most important moment of Childish Gambino’s career so far.

2. The Presets – “Downtown Shutdown”
3. Jon Hopkins – “Everything Connected”
4. Jungle – “Casio”
5. Parquet Courts – “Wide Awake”


Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Jazzfest – New Orleans, LA – April 29th
You know what they say: the first time is always the best. With David Byrne’s 2018 “American Utopia Tour” being universally acclaimed as one of the most enigmatic live shows of the year, it’s not surprising to see it top other “Best of” lists. Byrne and his merry band of “unplugged” pranksters created a feast for the eyes and ears, and his daytime set on the Gentilly Stage did not disappoint at all. While his Fox Theater Oakland shows were more intimate and featured some more dynamic lighting features, his performance at Jazzfest back in April was the most memorable for NOLA revelers.

2. Jamiroquai at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – April 17th
3. Polo & Pan at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – June 20th
4. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 4th
5. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at Primavera Sound – Barcelona, Spain – June 2nd

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
What a banner year for this Texas trio! Khruangbin have been on a steady rise the past few years as they turn on the masses to their infectious amalgamation of psychedelic soul, Thai surf rock and subtle funk. Having cemented their reputation as beasts in a live setting, Con Todo El Mundo proved their knack for penning tunes of equal strength with its emotive first single “Friday Morning” serving as a clear standout. “Evan Finds the Third Room” has also become a fan favorite, and the accompanying music video only lends to its growing charm. The sky’s the limit for Laura, Mark and DJ, so grab your ticket to fly.

2. Hookworms – Microshift
3. Amen Dunes – Freedom
4. Shame – Songs of Praise
5. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Sparkle Hard

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Jonathan Wilson – “Trafalgar Square”
LA producer-turned-frontman Jonathan Wilson churned out one helluva album opener for his third solo LP Rare Birds, as this six-plus-minute romp has all the right pieces for true liftoff. A proper intro leads into a riff so heavy that it’ll break your mama’s back. Top-notch production is key to this track, as Wilson is a wiz behind the boards. As you cruise down the 405 with this whopper blaring, you’d be hard-pressed not to nod along. Extra points for those of you with a 1970’s convertible, too.

2. Tom Misch – “Water Baby” feat. Loyle Carner
3. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
4. Jonathan Something – “Happy Day”
5. Men I Trust – “Seven”


Shame - Songs of Praise

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. The Smashing Pumpkins at Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA – August 27th
The Smashing Pumpkins are the quintessential 90’s arena-rock band, and they fully lived up to that billing at Oracle Arena for their Bay Area stop over the summer. I’ve seen them several times over the years, and although this time it was pegged as a “reunion tour” (minus D’Arcy, sigh), you never know what you’re going to get from them. Billy Corgan led the band through over three hours’ worth of material with some killer stage production to go with it. The show was definitely a marathon, but totally worth being there for. It came to light later that Corgan was also fighting off a bad case of food poisoning, but it didn’t show. It was great to see James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain back onstage, too — the way it should be.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 3rd
3. Against Me! & Turbonegro at UC Theatre – Berkeley, CA – May 25th
4. Alkaline Trio at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – October 6th
5. Back To The Beach Festival – Huntington Beach, CA – April 28th-29th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Shame – Songs of Praise
This album hit me like a ton of bricks in the best way. I had heard a ton of hype around Songs of Praise before giving it a first listen, and usually I am a healthy skeptic, but good Lord, does this record rip. It has a dark flavor and carries with it a lot of angst, and you can’t help but get caught up in the hooks that Shame offer. These five lads from South London simply killed it.

2. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
3. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
4. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
5. Snail Mail – Lush

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Shame – “Concrete”
Conjuring up the ghost of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis without sounding like a complete poser is challenging for newer post-punk bands it seems — except for Shame’s Charlie Steen. Paired with some brilliant instrumentation, I just couldn’t stop listening to “Concrete” when I first heard it. I must have listened to the track a solid 10 times in a row on the first go. This song has an infectious quality to it and is a straight-up ripper.

2. The Soft White Sixties – “I Still Love You, San Francisco”
3. Hot Snakes – “Six Wave Hold-Down”
4. IDLES – “Colossus”
5. The Sword – “Come and Gone”

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Outside Lands 2018: A return to form in Year 11

Outside Lands 2018Photos by Norm de Veyra // Written by Kevin Quandt //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 10th-12th, 2018 //

As another summer festival season winds down, we look back at the 2018 edition of Outside Lands with highlights, thoughts, musings and enough images to make you nostalgic for the Bay Area’s banner music festival. With the Superfly, Another Planet Entertainment and Starr Hill event celebrating its 11th edition, this incarnation of the annual Golden Gate Park soirée saw more of a return to form over the past year while also experiencing a notable shift in the sound that could be heard emanating through the eucalyptus and other flora.

While cancellations left a slightly sour taste in the mouths of last year’s attendees, this year only saw limited lineup hiccups. However, the bigger story at hand surrounds the changing tides of popular music. Sure, you’ve heard folks state “rock is dead,” but is a once-amusing quip starting to take greater shape as the youth clamor for a different sound and aesthetic? Though it was pretty evident on the 2018 lineup poster when it dropped in April, this query started to take greater shape once you were on the grounds and bouncing between sets. So, let’s jump straight into this now.

Outside Lands 2018 - Billie Eilish


Billie Eilish

Friday

Day 1 at Outside Lands tends to be a slow trickle of fans entering the park as some are able to play hooky, bounce from the office early or only show up for the headliners. Sure, some folks had to deal with longer-than-expected box office lines and others even had to bear the fest’s new bag policies, but luckily those in attendance were blessed with some clear skies instead of the usual August dread of the Outer Lands.

While Billie Eilish was relishing in her rising appeal on the Lands End stage, covering Drake and running through the majority of her singles, Rex Orange County was trying his hand at something a bit new and terrifying. The UK wunderkind was forced to play his first-ever solo festival set as his band and their gear ran into transit issues on the way to SF from the Pacific Northwest. The young crooner seemed a bit nervous about this predicament but competently knocked out a solid, eight-song performance that included “Sunflower” and closer “Loving Is Easy”.

N.E.R.D., meanwhile, played their first SF show in many years to a raucous crowd, opening with “Anti Matter” as a hyped Pharrell Williams feverishly worked every corner of the huge Lands End stage. The set featured a massive medley of tracks by The Neptunes, a cover of “Seven Nation Army” and a double dose of “Lemon” to send us on our way to the next set.

Simultaneously, Carly Rae Jepsen was apparently throwing down one of Outside Lands’ most enjoyable performances in front of a rather large crowd. While the pop sensation pleased the masses with a rendition of her breakout hit “Call Me Maybe”, she also performed more recent songs like “Emotion”.

ODESZA obviously drew a large crowd for their main stage afternoon showcase, putting the spotlight on the changing tides and tastes of the youth music market. That kind of youthful angst and energy seemed to be danced out to ODESZA, DJ Snake and Big Gigantic compared to the pits of rock bands from the 2000’s, be it Queens of the Stone Age, System of a Down or Deftones.

With the under-25 crowd predominantly stationed at Lands End, you could say there was a more intimate feeling at Twin Peaks for Father John Misty. Touting his expanded band that featured a string section and dialing back his quirky stage banter, Josh Tillman’s latest tour has been pretty much about presenting his music as faithfully as he can. “Nancy From Now On” opened his career-spanning performance as the shadows began to drape the park.

While FJM’s attendance was noticeably a bit small for a rock act, the king of “jizz jazz,” aka Mac DeMarco, was able to attract a rowdy crowd for his closing set on the Sutro stage. When the synth sections of “On the Level” opened DeMarco’s set, a certain air of relaxation swept the crowd as various smokeables were consumed in honor of indie-slacker royalty onstage.

Abel Tesfaye, popularly known as The Weeknd, enjoyed a sort of victory lap as he headlined the festival’s first day with an onslaught of hits such as “Starboy”, “Can’t Feel My Face” and “The Hills”, along with a few select covers of Future, Belly, Drake and Ty Dolla $ign. Though Tesfaye’s current large-scale show is nothing new to the live music circuit, he still threw one helluva party before sending the masses into the wilds of the City.

Outside Lands 2018 - Florence + the Machine


Florence + the Machine

Saturday

It has been a couple of years since Outside Lands was fortunate enough to have a truly clear, sunny Saturday — and not just for a few hours, but the whole damn day. Plus, it was topped off with another insanely gorgeous sunset, but let’s not jump the gun here.

As the day got underway, New York indie artist Amen Dunes performed an extremely tight set, showcasing his wavy take on psychedelic rock/folk. Led by Damon McMahon, the trio played heavy off its most recent release Freedom while also not completely ignoring its back catalog. Moreover, McMahon’s stage presence was infectious and somewhat akin to R.E.M.’s Michael Stipe, as his slender build moved to the emotive nature of his craft.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Lizzo was bringing down the early-afternoon house as she decimated the Lands End stage. “Fitness” opened her 10-song set as her pair of dancers, as well as Lizzo herself, left everything on the stage for the sizable crowd that was yearning for her energy, and some even yearned for a shot of tequila from her bottle of Patrón as she entered the photo pit for an up-close appearance during closing song “Good as Hell”.

When the Lizzo crowd dispersed, Broken Social Scene fans got prime real estate to catch the Canadian indie-rock demigods perform a blistering set of guitar-heavy tunes like opener “KC Accidental” and closer “Anthems for a Seventeen Year-Old Girl”. Even in such a large setting, the massive band was able to cook up a sense of intimacy and really engage.

While OSL this year leaned more toward R&B, electronic pop and other hip genres, UK jazz purveyors GoGo Penguin delivered a stunning set of avant-garde-leaning jazz. This punchy trio showed their chops over tracks like “One Percent” and set closer “Window” and could easily be compared to The Bad Plus. GoGo were a perfect palate cleanser before heading to more current stylings from either SOB X RBE or CHVRCHES.

Local legend Tycho performed to an enthusiastic crowd while Scott Hansen stated this would be the last incarnation of this phase for the group (we look forward to the next chapter). Back over at Lands End, Bon Iver delivered a prototypically powerful set as the sunlight dwindled, simultaneously providing a seriously stunning sunset.

As the limited amount of darkness fell over the park, one-third of The xx was preparing to hold court as the Sutro crowd swelled, moving their dancing feet to the new-school dance pioneer known as Jamie xx (born James Smith). Even as Jamie xx eased into his intro (The Animals’ “San Francisco Nights”) and more fans pushed in, it was rather evident that the Sutro’s sound system wasn’t able to fully reach the volume many were looking for. But an Above & Beyond nod (“Sun in Your Eyes”) eventually led straight into Smith’s mix of “On Hold” and all was right in the world, if only for about eight minutes.

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.

Outside Lands 2018 - Janelle Monáe


Janelle Monáe

Sunday

On the final day, the weather was back on track; by that, I mean it was cold, blustery and generally moist. Most were thankful for the two previous days as opposed to three days of “Karl the Fog,” as has been tradition for a good 3-4 years now.

The early afternoon of Sunday bore witness to some very lively performances from up-and-comers like Rainbow Kitten Surprise and Hobo Johnson & the Lovemakers, both of who are primed to make moves in the festival circuit over the next year if they play their cards right.

Continuing with the trend of electro-leaning acts playing to some big crowds, BØRNS fully commanded a youthful contingent with hits such as “10,000 Emerald Pools” and set closer “Electric Love”.

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.

Over at the Twin Peaks stage, The Internet was trying to hash out some sort of technical difficulties before beginning their abbreviated performance, which seemed to be a little lopsided and uneven as they did their best to deal with the 30 minutes that they had left. Fortunately, “Girl” got the majority who stuck around swaying to Syd’s sultry vocals and generally chilled demeanor.

Portugal. The Man held a fleeting rock slot on the main stage, putting their quirky brand of psych-leaning pop rock on display. Moreover, they tossed in some oddly placed Pink Floyd and Beatles covers before closing with their breakthrough hit “Feel It Still”.

Aussie newcomer Tash Sultana, meanwhile, was putting on a masterclass in instrumentation and looping. Sultana has really had one of the biggest breakout years in independent music, and it was clearly evident as she had a carefree stage presence backed by some truly unique, solo-delivered music ripe with psychedelic and world elements. The 23-year-old is certainly a name to watch over the next year and beyond.

As the last set of OSL artists got ready to play, James Blake brought us to church for this year’s final performance on the Sutro stage, failing to disappoint while the fog grew slightly thicker in Lindley Meadow. Highlights from Blake’s dreamy set were easily his take on Untold’s track “Stop What You’re Doing” and a semi-rare rendition of “Modern Soul”.

Some say Janet Jackson couldn’t pull in big crowds amid the current shifting landscape of large-scale music festivals, and although she didn’t pull in record-breaking numbers on a rugged SF night, it was clearly evident that those fans who stayed to watch her were all-in. Jackson’s career-spanning show touched on more than 35 songs and was accompanied by some fierce choreography and production elements. Sure, she wasn’t singing much of the time, but that didn’t stop a wide range of fans from showering Jackson with affection. Her closing performance was highlighted by “That’s the Way Love Goes” and later on, the MJ collaboration “Scream” that transitioned into “Rhythm Nation”.

As the music festival industry continues to deal with a shifting crowd and demand, Outside Lands regained its stride after a few hiccups in 2017. And while this year’s lineup might not have appealed to the core demographic from its incarnation, the event still offers something for everyone.

Outside Lands releases its 2018 schedule

Outside Lands - 2018 schedule

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 10th-12th, 2018 //

With Outside Lands just a little more than two weeks away, the three-day music festival has revealed what many fans have been waiting for since this year’s lineup dropped: set times!

Check out the fest’s schedule for its 11th edition here and start making your plans for which artists you’ll be seeing at Golden Gate Park this August.

As usual, there are enough scheduling conflicts to sort through in 2018. Friday’s action will see festivalgoers choosing between Rex Orange County/Perfume Genius, N.E.R.D./Chicano Batman/Carly Rae Jepsen, ODESZA/The Growlers/Father John Misty and The Weeknd/Mac DeMarco/Beck, while Saturday offers its own assortment of difficult decisions with Broken Social Scene, Poolside and Daniel Caesar pitted up against one another. Of course, there’s also CHVRCHES vs. Big Gigantic, Bon Iver vs. Tycho and Florence + the Machine vs. Future that the masses will have to consider on Day 2.

Outside Lands 2018 - daily lineups

Sunday’s slate offers even more, with Janelle Monáe and LP scheduled only 15 minutes apart and The Internet on 10 minutes later. Portugal. The Man’s and Tash Sultana’s performances, meanwhile, are only separated by five minutes, and to close out the weekend, attendees will have to choose between Janet Jackson and DJ Snake, which presents quite a dichotomy.

Trying to decide who to see might feel a little overwhelming right now, but just remember you really can’t go wrong with whatever you choose. Much like every year, there are so many good options at Outside Lands that it’s not worth stressing over in the long run. Just be sure to wear a comfortable pair of shoes and download the mobile app here before you head to the park.

Overjoyed for Outside Lands’ return? Take a peek at our coverage from 2017 here.

Outside Lands - 2018 lineup

Outside Lands taps The Weeknd, Florence + the Machine, Janet Jackson to lead 2018 lineup

Outside Lands - 2018 lineup

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 10th-12th, 2018 //

Outside Lands is bringing some heavy hitters to Golden Gate Park this August.

The three-day music festival, which celebrated its 10th anniversary last year, has inked The Weeknd, Florence + the Machine and Janet Jackson to headline its 2018 edition, and we had good reason to believe that the latter, who was already confirmed for FYF Fest in July, would come true as early as a few days ago.

Last week, Ranger Dave started releasing lineup clues via Twitter, including one in particular that indicated Jackson would be on the bill as well as others hinting that Bon Iver, Huey Lewis and the News, Mac DeMarco, Jessie Ware, Big Gigantic, BØRNS, Rex Orange County, SOBxRBE and to get things started, Portugal. The Man, would perform.

Now, we have this year’s complete roster that also boasts Future, Beck, ODESZA, DJ Snake, N.E.R.D., CHVRCHES, James Blake, Jamie xx, Illenium, Tycho, Father John Misty, Carly Rae Jepsen, Chromeo, The Internet, Gryffin, The Growlers, Tash Sultana, Broken Social Scene, Rainbow Kitten Surprise, Daniel Caesar, Perfume Genius, Goldlink, Chicano Batman, Jessie Reyez, LP, Sabrina Claudio, Margo Price, Kelela, Claptone, The Mountain Goats, Lauv, Lizzo, Whethan, Smokepurpp, Quinn XCII, Poolside, Bahamas, CUCO, Amen Dunes, Shannon and the Clams, Aquilo and many more.

The festival’s culinary program, meanwhile, will continue to expand in 2018, with access to more than 200 menu items from some of the Bay Area’s top restaurants that you’ll be able to pair with hundreds of Northern Californian wines and beers and a collection of the region’s best cocktail bars. Taste of the Bay Area, Wine Lands, Beer Lands, The Back Wine, Cocktail Magic and GastroMagic are all back as well, so there’s plenty to be excited about in regard to the unique food and drink experiences that Outside Lands has to offer (and stayed tuned for the full food and drink lineup coming soon).

Moreover, adding to the overall experience will be Outsider Art, Eco Lands and The Barbary, which is named in honor of SF’s Barbary Coast district and features some of the best comedy and cabaret around. The environment has long been an important cause for Outside Lands, and its organizers aren’t afraid to say that after contributing more than $20 million to the SF Recreation & Park Department and rather remarkably turning 91 percent of 2017’s waste into reusable, recyclable and compostable materials.

Outside Lands has delivered seven consecutive sellouts since 2011, so you won’t want to wait on getting your tickets when they go on sale here this Thursday, April 5th at 10 a.m. PT. Plus, for the first time ever, the fest is offering fans the option for a three-day GA and VIP layaway plan that will allow them to pay for their passes in four installments. After last year saw an increase in ticket prices, three-day GA passes will start once again at $375 while VIP passes will be available for $795.

UPDATE (June 5th): Outside Lands has revealed its daily lineups for 2018, with The Weeknd gracing the stage Friday, Florence + the Machine playing Saturday and Janet Jackson closing down the festival Sunday. See the daily schedules below before single-day tickets go on sale for $149.50 (GA) and $345 (VIP) this Thursday, June 7th at 10 a.m. PT here.

Outside Lands 2018 - daily lineups

If you’re excited for Outside Lands now, make sure to check out our coverage from 2017 here.

Outside Lands 2017

Coachella announces 2017 lineup with Radiohead, Beyoncé & Kendrick Lamar serving as headliners

Coachella - 2017 lineup

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 14th-16th & April 21st-23rd, 2017 //

The wait is over, and the rumors are finally true. After it was reported several weeks ago that Radiohead, Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar would headline Coachella’s 18th edition, that news has now been confirmed.

The three-day, two-weekend festival revealed its 2017 lineup on Tuesday, and all three acts are scheduled to headline the Goldenvoice event. The announcement comes just a few hours after BottleRock Napa Valley unveiled its own bill with Foo Fighters, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and Maroon 5 leading the way.

UPDATE (February 23rd): Coachella has announced that Beyoncé, who is currently pregnant with twins, will not perform this year due to doctor’s orders but instead will headline the fest in 2018. Goldenvoice has yet to name a replacement for the 22-time Grammy winner.

UPDATE (February 28th): Hours after Billboard first reported the news, Coachella has named Lady Gaga as Beyoncé’s replacement. It’s another first-time headliner for Goldenvoice’s crown jewel, which hasn’t had a female top the bill since 2007.

Other notable acts performing in Indio later this year include The xx, Travis Scott, Father John Misty, Empire of the Sun, Dillon Francis, Bon Iver, Future, DJ Snake, Martin Garrix, ScHoolboy Q, Gucci Mane, Lorde, Justice, New Order, Porter Robinson & Madeon and Future Islands. The undercard, meanwhile, looks particularly tasty with such electronic acts as Bonobo, Nicolaas Jarr, Tycho, Röyksopp, Four Tet, Moderat and The Avalanches, who will be making their first U.S. appearance in roughly 15 years.

It’s also worth mentioning that there’s seemingly been an added emphasis placed on hip-hop while EDM surprisingly has taken a backseat to some of the more alternative-electronic artists mentioned above (yes, we did notice that DJ Snake and Martin Garrix are listed on the poster).

Coachella’s first weekend is scheduled for April 14th-16th, with its second weekend slated for April 21st-23rd. All tickets will go on sale for both weekends on Wednesday, January 4th at 11 a.m. PT here.

Ready to hit the desert this April? Relive last year’s festival with our 10 favorite moments, from Run the Jewels and Vince Staples to LCD Soundsystem and Guns N’ Roses.

Coachella 2016

Five new songs that show Bon Iver’s magnificent, post-rock influence

Justin-Vernon_post

How influential has Justin Vernon been the past five years?

He put Bon Iver on the backburner after exhaustively touring the group’s second record, but you can’t say the guy hasn’t been busy. Volcano Choir has helped us look inward while touring on Repave, while also getting back to blues roots with The Shouting Matches. Vernon curated a stems remix project with Spotify, sponsored whiskey and is now working with James Blake and of course, Kanye West.

Also in the last five years, Vernon’s influence has spread amongst popular and indie music alike. His hallmark vocal sound mixes falsetto with bass-oscilated auto-tone, all while multi-tracking. It’s a synthetic process that somehow instills auditory pleasure that feels organic.

Consider these five new songs if you’re a fan of Vernon.


Coldplay

1. Coldplay – “Midnight”

Coldplay’s new record Ghost Stories has the obvious radio single that won’t be going away anytime soon in “Magic”, along with the Avicii-assisted radio banger “A Sky Full of Stars”. But “Midnight” was the first song Coldplay chose to release in promoting their return to action.

Many were quick to point out that it sounds just like Bon Iver, and they are pretty much right. Martin’s auto-tuned vocals are slightly multi-tracked, and they soar out into the cheesy cosmos like only Coldplay could do. Imitation is the ultimate source of flattery, right? This song, more than any other, has been the centerpiece of divisiveness in criticizing Coldplay’s latest effort, one that favors wallowing over love instead of the usual stadium anthems.

In the end, this song delivers, minimalist design and all.


James-Vincent-McMorrow

2. James Vincent McMorrow – “Cavalier”

“I remember my first love…”, a line of reflective emotion that sticks to the mind like no other this year. Why? Because his voice. Meet the best song of 2014 that is getting no attention. By the time the wave of horns join McMorrow in his magnificent introspection mid-way through, the instrumental stylings of Bon Iver begin to bubble up. But pay no mind to this as a possible copycat scenario – just check out James Vincent McMorrow’s Post Tropical inspiration to see for yourself.


Ben_Khan

3. Ben Khan – “Youth”

First the synth hits, then the wailing guitar takes over, as if calling out to the distance. Then Ben Khan announces himself with cooing ease, and the vocal reverb and tone of Vernon starts to sound familiar. Wait for it….BAM! The song takes off with a screech-blast à la Solange’s “Losing You” combined with the ca-ching! from M.I.A.’s “Paper Planes” mixed in with a barrage of pleasurable sounds. Ben Khan’s four-track LP 1992 is out now, but the real question is, what’s next?


S.-Carey

4. S. Carey – “Fire-scene”

This pick is a tad obvious, since Sean Carey is actually in Bon Iver as a percussionist and singer. He’s an integral part of the group, and he’s reemerged on his own this year with his new record, Range of Light. But for fans of Bon Iver, look toward “Fire-scene” to get a sense of what S. Carey has to offer. Sure, the video for the song even looks like the breathtaking short for “Holocene“, and his song-stucture sounds straight out of Eau Claire, but his lyrics are more direct. All that said, Carey shows why he deserves solo attention with his remarkable debut.


Daugher

5. Daughter“Smother”

Vernon’s influence has impacted beyond the dudes, as is seen with Daughter. She put her spin on “Perth” last year for BBC Radio, mashing it with Hot Chip’s “Ready for the Floor. Since then the impact of the aught’s favorite post-rock behemoth can be heard in Daughters’ original material, especially with “Smother”, off of If You Leave. If you’re a fan of Bon Iver, you likely will dig Daughter too.

What other new songs or artists remind you of Justin Vernon/Bon Iver? Let us know, or call us out…We’ll keep adding good songs to the playlist as long as you’ve got em.

25 of the best cover songs ever

It’s pretty hard to proclaim the best cover songs of all time — there have been so many great covers performed in the studio and in a live environment. So that’s why we’re framing this as “25 of the Best Cover Songs Ever”. This list is not as hyperbolic as we prefer to be, but our top 10 is pretty damn solid.

Some prescribe to the theory that a cover song has to be better than the original to be great, or considered one of the the best. I don’t believe this to be true. There are cases in this list where the cover song does not surpass the original in greatness (see #25 for example). But if a cover song attempts to be different and successfully recreates a track to make it original and timeless in its own way, credit should be granted.

What did we miss? Leave us a comment with a YouTube link.

25. Chromatics – “Into the Black”
Originally by Neil Young

24. Guns N’ Roses – “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”
Originally by Bob Dylan

23. Bob Dylan – “Train of Love”
Originally by Johnny Cash

22. Johnny Cash – “I’m on Fire”
Originally by Bruce Springsteen

21. Bruce Springsteen – “Trapped”
Originally by Jimmy Cliff

20. Birdy – “Skinny Love”
Originally by Bon Iver

19. Sublime (featuring Alex Grenwald) – “Scarlet Begonias”
Originally by the Grateful Dead

18. Grateful Dead – “Morning Dew”
Originally by Bonnie Dobson

17. Alison Krauss & Robert Plant – “Trampled Rose”
Originally by Tom Waits

16. Santana – “Black Magic Woman”
Originally by Fleetwood Mac

15. Sharon Jones – “It’s a Man’s World”
Originally by James Brown

14. Radiohead – “The Headmaster Ritual”
Originally by The Smiths

13. Eric Clapton – “Coccaine”
Originally by JJ Cale

12. Tina & Ike Turner – “Proud Mary”
Originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival

11. Creedence Clearwater Revival – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine”
Originally by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles

10. The White Stripes – “Jolene”
Originally by Dolly Parton

9. Joe Cocker – “With a Little Help from My Friends”
Originally by The Beatles

8. The Beatles – “Twist & Shout”
Originally by The Top Notes, made famous by The Isley Brothers

7. Nirvana – “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”
Traditional song; arranged by Lead Belly

6. Janis Joplin – “Me and Bobby McGee”
Originally by Kris Kristofferson

5. Phish – “Remain in Light” LP in it’s entirety
Originally by Talking Heads

4. Talking Heads – “Take Me to the River”
Originally by Al Green

3. Aretha Franklin – “Respect”
Originally by Otis Redding.

2. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower
Originally by Bob Dylan.

1. Johnny Cash – Hurt
Originally by Nine Inch Nails.