Circles Around the Sun take us on a long, strange trip back to 1967 at Terrapin Crossroads

Circles Around the SunBy Gina Lopez //

Circles Around the Sun with Mapache //
Terrapin Crossroads – San Rafael, CA
July 29th, 2017 //

Psychedelic rock, a liquid light show and tie-dye-clad fans … “Was this the ‘Summer of Love?'” I asked myself last Saturday night at Terrapin Crossroads.

After all, it has been 50 years since the summer of 1967, when San Francisco turned into the epicenter for America’s counterculture movement, but that was the scene at the well-known San Rafael restaurant and music venue founded by former Grateful Dead member Phil Lesh, where headliner Circles Around the Sun turned up the heat for a stellar performance.

Hailing from Los Angeles, Mapache kicked things off with an opening set reminiscent of the great folk-rock bands from the 60’s. Using just steel and acoustic guitars and delivering some earnest vocals, the long-haired duo successfully set the tone for the night.

Mapache


Mapache

Fronted by Neal Casal, who serves as the lead guitarist for the Chris Robinson Brotherhood and Phil Lesh, Circles Around the Sun appear to be setting out on their own orbital path as they passed through the zodiac of Terrapin Crossroads. The quartet took the sold-out crowd on a far-out trip around the sun and back with its extended, wah-inflected and entrancingly rhythmic jams.

It was as though Circles’ sound encapsulated the universe, with the soundwaves of distant galaxies reverberating within the intimate venue, all while fans swayed and grooved to the music’s gravitational pull and splashes of color swirled, pulsated and amalgamated across the stage in patterns as unique and unrepeatable as your fingerprint. The atmosphere was so groovy that it felt like we had actually time-traveled back to 1967, circling around the distant sun and back.

Chris Robinson delivers chills at The Chapel

Chris RobinsonBy Benjamin Wallen //

Chris Robinson with Mapache //
The Chapel – San Francisco
June 21st, 2017 //

It was about eight years ago when a girl messaged me on an online dating website.

“Hey, I don’t think we’d be a good match, but I got an extra ticket to the Chris Robinson Brotherhood show in Oakland,” she wrote. “I see you like the same kind of music. Do you want to go with me?”

“Why not?” I thought. I had no idea who Chris Robinson was, and I said so.

“Never heard of him, but why not?” I replied. She informed me that he was a member of The Black Crowes.

I thought to myself, “Wait, a country band?” So, I did a quick Google search.

I had always thought that Chris Robinson Brotherhood were a country band, but boy, was I wrong. Instead, I came to find that they were an amazing rock band and quickly fell in love with their music. I wrote back to the girl, “Hell yeah! Let’s do this!”

Chris Robinson

That night, I fell in love even more with Chris Robinson as he blazed through a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues”. It was one of the most memorable nights. Not only was it an amazing show, but I also met a new friend and fell in love with a whole new band.

Well, years have past and I was able to see Chris Robinson Brotherhood on a couple of other occasions, including at High Sierra Music Festival and again at The Chapel last Wednesday for a solo acoustic performance — something that I imagined would be incredible and absolutely proved to be.

Robinson’s voice gives me chills and seeing him at a venue as intimate as The Chapel was truly amazing. You always worry about solo acoustic shows being hard for the audience to keep its attention at or that it doesn’t feel quite as powerful as when a band performs live.

Well, I can say that Robinson is even better as a solo acoustic act. The sound at the first of his two SF shows was impeccable, and the vibe was all smiles. Even in a near-silent room, you could feel it.

From start to finish, it was an amazing night. Mapache, an acoustic duo from Los Angeles, kicked things off with great songs that were led by wonderful harmonies. I’ve since added them to my “must-see again” list, but in the end, the wonder that is Chris Robinson stole the show. While the crowd politely kept it down, the music took to the air and enchanted us all. The highlight for me was when he played “Sunday Sound”, a song by Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud, midway through the set.

If you get a chance to catch Robinson perform solo, do it. You will not be disappointed. Just keep it down and get as close as you can. You won’t regret riding the rail for this one.

Setlist:
Hotel Illness (The Black Crowes song)
Bad Luck Blue Eyes Goodbye (The Black Crowes song)
Someday Past the Sunset (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Fables (Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud song)
Silver Car (Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud song)
Shadow Cosmos (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Blonde Light of Morning (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Hark, The Herald Hermit Speaks (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Glow (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Train Robbers (Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud song)
Sunday Sound (Chris Robinson & The New Earth Mud song)
Good Friday (The Black Crowes song)
Blue Star Woman (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
If You Had a Heart to Break (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Beware, Oh Take Care (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
California Hymn (Chris Robinson Brotherhood song)
Jealous Again (The Black Crowes song)
Appaloosa (The Black Crowes song)

Encore:
High Head Blues (The Black Crowes song)
Oh, The Rain (Blind Willie Johnson cover)

The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

As we officially place 2016 in the history books, it’s time to look back at all the live music we experienced this year. Last year we shared our 25 favorite live performers of 2015, so this year we thought we would do it again while excluding any artists we named in 2015. After all, who really wants to see the same acts listed two years in a row? That said, now that we’re two years removed, our 25 favorite live performers of 2014 were once again fair game.

After covering many excellent bands, musicians and DJs over the past 12 months, trimming our list down to 25 wasn’t easy and as usual, some difficult decisions had to be made. 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:

Adrian Younge, Air, Alessia Cara, Alina Baraz, AlunaGeorge, Alvvays, The Arcs, A$AP Ferg, Atlas Genius, Aubrie Sellers, The Avett Brothers, Bag Raiders, Baio, Banks & Steelz, Bas, Battles, Beats Antique, Beach House, Best Coast, Big Freedia, Big Gigantic, Big Grams, Big Wild, Bloc Party, Bob Mould, The Boxer Rebellion, Brand New, Brett Dennen, The California Honeydrops, Capital Cities, Cate Le Bon, Chairlift, Chelsea Wolfe, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chuck Mosley, Chromeo, Claude VonStroke, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Cold War Kids, The Crux, Dan Deacon, Danny Brown, Deftones, The Devil Makes Three, Dirtwire, Disclosure, DMA’s, DMX, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Duran Duran, Every Time I Die, Emancipator Ensemble, Ezra Furman, Faith No More, The Faint, Fantastic Negrito, Femi Kuti, Florence + the Machine, Flume, Fruition, The Gaslamp Killer, Geographer, Glass Animals, Gorgon City, Grimes, Halsey, The Head and the Heart, Heartwatch, The Heavy, Highly Suspect, Hippie Sabotage, Holy Fuck, How to Dress Well, Hudson Mohawke, Hundred Waters, IAMX, Ibeyi, Ice Cube, Iggy Pop, The Infamous Stringdusters, Jack Beats, Jack Garratt, Jack Ü, James Bay, Jamie xx, J. Cole, Jimmie Vaughn, Jhené Aiko, The Joy Formidable, Joywave, Julia Holter, Julien Baker, Kaki King, Kamaiyah, Kamasi Washington, Kehlani, K.Flay, The Kills, Kurt Vile, Lafa Taylor, Lana Del Rey, Låpsley, Les Sins, Lettuce, Lionel Richie, Lord Huron, Little Scream, Lucius, M83, Major Lazer, Marian Hill, Mayer Hawthorne, MC YOGI, Methyl Ethel, Metric, Miami Horror, Mick Jenkins, Midi Matilda, Miguel Migs, Modest Mouse, Moon Taxi, M. Ward, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Naked and Famous, Nas, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Neon Indian, Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker), Nite Jewel, Panic! at the Disco, Parliament-Funkadelic, Peaches, Petite Noir, The Pharcyde, The Polish Ambassador, Porches, Prince Rama, Purity Ring, Pusha T, Radiohead, Ra Ra Riot, The Regrettes, The Revivalists, RJD2, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rogue Wave, Rubblebucket, Run the Jewels, The Russ Liquid Test, Ryan Adams, The Sam Chase & The Untraditional, Saosin, Sarah Neufeld, The Seshen, Shabazz Palaces, Shlohmo, Silversun Pickups, Snakehips, Solange, Son Little, St. Lucia, Stormzy, The Struts, STS9, Sturgill Simpson, Sufjan Stevens, Summer Cannibals, Sunflower Bean, Sigur Rós, St. Germain, Sylvan Esso, Tacocat, Taking Back Sunday, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, This Will Destroy You, Thomas Jack, Thundercat, Toro y Moi, Tortoise, Tory Lanez, Tourist, The Trims, Troye Sivan, Umphrey’s McGee, Viceroy, Vince Staples, Vokab Company, Walk the Moon, Warpaint, Wavves, Weezer, Wheeler Walker Jr., White Denim, Wild Belle, Wild Nothing, Years & Years, Yeasayer, YG, Young Fathers, Yuck, ZHU, Ziggy Marley.

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our 25 favorite live performers of 2016.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2016

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2016:


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

For as much as Epoch was a surprise, so were Tycho’s two most recent shows in LA last week. It was the first time Hansen and company had played The Fonda Theatre since the Awake tour back in 2014, and Thursday’s sellout, which was announced less than a week before the show, along with the subsequent need to add a second date the next night, made it clear that more than ever, Angelinos have a strong appetite for what Hansen is doing on both a musical and visual level. It helps, too, that KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley, who opened the shows at The Fonda with a DJ set, has helped expose Tycho to a broader audience, whether through the “Morning Becomes Eclectic” theme song or live, in-studio performances by the band. Even nowadays with an abundance of streaming sites, you can’t underestimate the power of radio in a city with a driving culture as large as LA’s. And truth be told, Tycho is some of the best music to drive to, especially when you’re surrounded by nature. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

And when it did, Rashad torpedoed onto stage and turned the restlessness in the room on its head with “Smile”, the apropos homecoming banger he released after years of uncertainty that followed his 2014 EP Cilvia Demo. It was fitting because prior to his reemergence, which was sparked by the song, Rashad admitted to being addicted to Xanax and alcohol, and it almost led to him being dropped from his West Coast record label on several occasions. From his issues with substance abuse to the tears he shed while listening to Kid Cudi’s music and his open-book thoughts on the humanizing of mental-health issues, Rashad’s journey from being the contemplative unknown in superstar Kendrick Lamar’s crew to a complete artist deserving of your attention has been steeped in honesty. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

Needless to say, worn-out axioms failed to apply in this scenario. Bob Moses silenced anyone attempting to pass them off as yet another contrived electropop outfit aiming to please the masses. At Mezzanine, both Howie and Vallance proved their prowess as EDM innovators, bringing more to the stage than a couple of laptops and a pretty light show. Surprising those unfamiliar with their work or expecting to be underwhelmed, Bob Moses have elevated the live electronic game for their respective contemporaries and succeeded in defining a new chapter for the genre — an innovative sound standard that’s all their own. -Molly Kish, photo by Lisette Worster


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

The band continued building on its rhythms and melodies, creating a hypnotic feeling that was filled with textured synthesizers, guitar pedals and consummate percussion, as laser patterns reflected each rise and fall during its lengthy jam sessions. As Sheppard and his sidekicks progressed through each track, the complexity of the laser projections grew into optical illusions that, almost like another musical instrument onstage, intertwined with the style and progression of the band’s production perfectly. With each song reaching a climax and eventual denouement, the artwork remained untouched for a few minutes so that fans could observe each piece before their very own eyes. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Alister Mori


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

But Segall is no doubt a showman himself, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who expends as much energy onstage as he does in merely 90 minutes. His passion simply rubs off on his fans, who wasted little time climbing onstage and taking the plunge into a sea of hands for a couple of minutes. Segall, of course, also got in on the action at one point, as his shows are often known to feature crowd surfing from both band and audience members, and he made sure to take the mic stand with him while he horizontally slithered across the room. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #20 - Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind coming into Outside Lands was, “Who were Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem?” For those who knew, it was, “How in the hell were the Muppets going to fill a Sunday slot on the main stage?” Because the band had never played a show of such magnitude or outside the context of a TV/film studio, no one had any clue what to expect during this early-afternoon slot. Though some festivalgoers (mistakenly) decided to forego the experience altogether, those present will not forget the incredible feat that Another Planet Entertainment and Jim Henson Enterprises were able to pull off for what was one of the most emotionally nostalgic, blissfully complex and once-in-a-lifetime festival performances maybe ever. The Muppet house band both effortlessly managed to pluck the heartstrings of multiple generations of fans while delivering the most conceptually beautiful “love letter” to the city of SF, blanketing the grounds in a sea of love and collective euphoria for a brief, yet unforgettable moment. -Molly Kish, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #19 - RÜFÜS DU SOL

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

By the time RÜFÜS made their entrance, the excitement in the room was at a fever pitch. The crowd was ready to dance from the very first beat (thanks to the excellent warm-up from Kllo and Yuma X), and they did just that. Lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist took center stage with great energy and proceeded to do the customary water bottle toss shortly after. Lindqvist set the tone right from the get-go for a high-energy, high-audience-participation set. The crowd responded in kind by getting down much harder than expected for a Wednesday night. Notably, there were surprisingly very few phones out as most attendees put away their cameras to make the most of every song. The intimate setting of The Fillmore could almost have been mistaken for the polo grounds of Coachella, given how many girls-on-shoulders could be seen around the venue. -Geoff Hong, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

Through Rudimental tracks like “Not Giving In”, “Free” and “Waiting All Night”, the most unique element of the group’s live production was their charisma. Simply put, they look like they’re having fun. These aren’t tortured artists or cathartic performers — Rudimental are a band that loves the music they make. Even the band’s drummer, Beanie, easily one of the hardest working rhythmists on tour right now, managed to keep a smile on his face, racing through Rudimental’s repertoire of songs that were anywhere from 145 to 160 BPMs. The septet’s de-facto leader, DJ Locksmith, was surprisingly more in the background than you would expect from a typical DnB hype man. As Rudimental wrapped up their set with their chart-topping hit “Feel the Love”, the crowd joined in as the song ended, creating a shared moment at The Fox that perfectly reflected the intention of Rudimental — to spread the love. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

On this night, that proverbial phrase seemingly rang true. It wasn’t just that BØRNS most likely amassed the largest attendance in the history of the Twilight Concert Series, but also the fact that it was easily one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed at the Santa Monica Pier. One could certainly point to the opening of the Expo Line extension as a reason for the larger crowds so far this summer, which wasn’t all that noticeable during the series’ opening night with Mayer Hawthorne just the week prior, but that would simply be underestimating the exponential rise of Garrett Borns’ eponymous project. Since he relocated to Los Angeles in 2013 and signed with Interscope Records, the Michigan native has gone from supporting modest indie bands like MisterWives to selling out shows as a headliner in a matter of a year. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

Brainfeeder founder, producer and unapologetic cultural mouthpiece Flying Lotus (born Steven Ellison) ended the night with a mildly controversial headlining set. Walking onstage and making what any FlyLo fan would recognize as an off-colored comment on the current presidential race may have proven too brazen for those not used to his brand. He let Captain Murphy out of the box a little early and road the wave of confusion into a heady, bass-driven assault on the conflicted crowd, providing the distinct audio punctuation point for the night’s bill of artists. Playing several tracks off of his 2014 LP You’re Dead! as well as various hits from high-profile hip-hop emcees like Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar that he has produced over the years, Ellison stunned us all with his double-screen, audio-visual stage setup and plenty of bone-rattling bass drops. -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #15 - The Last Shadow Puppets

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

TLSP brought a strings section to their show, an added element that helped keep things fresh and new. The show began with the beautiful sounds of violins and cellos, but the moment TLSP got onstage, the whole floor at The Fillmore lit up in billows of smoke. I’m sure the band was stoned by the end of the show if it hadn’t been already, appearing beyond excited to be playing on a Sunday night in SF. Turner and Kane must have yelled out something about SF every few minutes and incorporated SF into some of their songs. They were so incredibly tight, and I felt their set in some ways was a bit better than what I had witnessed years ago — the mix and order of the songs felt more succinct at The Fillmore. -Rachel Goodman, photo by Diana Cordero


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

Sunday’s roster at Coachella last year was significantly weaker in comparison to Friday’s and Saturday’s. This year was much of the same, though Calvin Harris somehow proved to be an even worse headliner than Drake (we didn’t know that was possible). But one of the bright spots on Day 3 was no doubt Miike Snow’s 9:45 p.m. slot in the Mojave Tent, the same place where I discovered the Swedish trio back in 2010 during my first Coachella. Andrew Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have come a long way since then, and with three studio albums in their catalog, including their latest effort iii, they have more than enough material to fill out a 50-minute set and leave you wanting to hear more. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

Fresh off releasing the latest — and final — installment of his Slime Season mixtape trilogy, Young Thug took his place on the stage. Arriving in a white blouse, multicolored sequined jacket, dark shades, a polka-dot head scarf and remarkably slim, golden pants, he aligned such a rangy and vibrant uniform with his performance. There wouldn’t be any towering LED lights, stunts or stage diving. However, Young Thug, who for the majority of his roughly hour-long set played the lone wolf, delighted the crowd with his animated and bright delivery while running through thundering Slime Season 3 favorites like “With Them”, “Digits” and “Slime Shit”. The audience, ranging from high school seniors to seasoned workers likely with mortgages, strikingly recited every uncanny, controversial lyric and Ric Flair-esque “Woo!” like they had been analyzing them for years. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

Touring with a live band for the first time in 2013 — something that few other EDM artists have done to this day — he quickly changed the way electronic music can be experienced live. Fast forward to last Thursday, and we were once again treated to an electrifying Pretty Lights show that was more than just Smith behind a pair of Macbook Pros and two Akai MPD32s. Making his debut at the majestic Santa Barbara Bowl, he once again showed why he isn’t your typical EDM act. With Chris Karns and Big Wild providing support, Smith hit the stage at 8 p.m. with his bandmates — Karns, Borham Lee, Brandon Butler and Alvin Ford, Jr. — and put on a show that dazzled both sonically and visually. What was most impressive, though, was seeing how much of the performance was improvised, as the band transitioned from one jam to another while dropping in a number of remixes here and there. And as I looked on from my seat in the stands, I couldn’t help but think about how much the show reminded me of all the times I’ve seen STS9 perform live. It only seemed fitting considering that the livetronia band helped give Smith his start back in the day, and with the “EDM bubble” about to burst (that is, if it hasn’t already), it’s hopefully an approach more electronic artists will gravitate toward in the future. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

The 26-year-old king of slacker rock, who over the past few years has become a fan favorite of many Bay Area audiophiles, never seems to hold back when he comes to town. His first night in SF last week saw him jump from The Indy’s balcony into an awaiting crowd (a feat that was later imitated by a female audience member at The Warfield the next night), run around half naked while playing new songs and perform a 25-minute cover of Eric Clapton’s 1971 hit single “Layla” with fart solos sprinkled throughout. -James Pawlish, photo by James Pawlish


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

Easily the most anticipated set of the weekend from this spectator’s vantage point, Moderat hadn’t toured since dropping a pair of EPs in 2014. But with the release of its third full-length album, aptly titled III, the Berlin-based supergroup comprised of Apparat’s Sascha Ring and Modeselektor members Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary were primed to make their mark on the final day of LIB — and that they did. Beginning with “Ghostmother” off their latest LP, Moderat ran through a good chunk of new material, but nothing ignited the crowd more than their new single “Reminder”, which remains one of our favorite songs of the year so far. As we witnessed a few days earlier at The Fonda Theatre in LA, the group’s dark, minimalist stage setup with psychedelic flourishes paired nicely with Ring’s ethereal vocals. Of all the other performances throughout the weekend, Moderat’s 90-minute set undoubtedly stood as one of the brightest moments of LIB 2016. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

Foals closed out their rambunctious set with a killer take on the title track “What Went Down” that brought lead singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis diving into the crowd, giving fans one hell of a selfie and proving their rock credentials for good. After all, any band that can unite 20-something bros with 50-something grandparents gets a gold star in our book. Rock brings people together, and those who made it out to see this unicorn of a band won’t live to regret it. -Zach Bourque, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

As they opened with the dream-inducing interlude “Nangs” from their latest studio album Currents, Tame Impala gave the crowd an ample minute and a half to commit to the spatial surroundings before jumping full throttle into an explosive rendition of lead single “Let It Happen,” playing the tracks in reverse order than they are on the LP. By the third song (as promised), the sky, having just turned black, was filled with a stadium’s worth of rainbow confetti as the band played the opening chords of 2012’s psuedo love ballad “Mind Mischief”. Followed by a rare performance — only the second time in three years — of “Music to Walk Home By” from 2012’s Lonerism, Tame Impala played a wide range of emotive classics while scrambling the brains of more than 8,500 audience members with their intense onslaught of sensory-overloading imagery and hypnotic light show. -Molly Kish, photo by James Pawlish


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

James is in rare company these days, amid a dying breed of guitar-rock gods like Jack White and Josh Homme who are not only capable of playing anything on six strings, but also on a myriad of instruments. And while Eternally Even feels in some ways like an opportunity for him to finally experiment more with keyboards, James made sure to remind his fans at the 90-year-old Orpheum Theatre last Friday that shredding is still a priority. Performing in his new hometown after officially moving to LA this year, he assumed the role of lead singer for much of the show as he and his bandmates from Twin Limb (also opening for James on this tour) played all of Eternally Even and half of Regions. But propped up by a stand onstage the whole time was James’ black Gibson axe, and you knew at some point during a two-hour set that he was going to unload some sick riffs like we have become accustomed to seeing from him at Jacket shows. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

The real headline from The National’s performance was hands down the new material that was debuted, pretty much across their entire set, encore included. A rather standard opening of “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and “I Should Live in Salt” led into our first taste of the band’s upcoming LP in the form of “Checking Out”. Though many locals likely recognized this track from last year’s Treasure Island Music Festival (read our review here), it has tightened up over the past year and even begins to sound familiar as the Brooklyn-based five-piece begins to weave in more electronic, synth-like elements. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Steve Carlson


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

There may have been no more talked-about act in Coachella’s 17-year history than Saturday’s headliner — and for good reason. Going back to 1993, it had been 23 years since Axl Rose and Slash last performed on the same stage together, and though some of that allure had worn off by the time they reached Indio thanks to a surprise show in LA and back-to-back nights in Las Vegas in prior weeks, Guns N’ Roses were still the talk of the town leading up to Coachella. In fact, all you had to do was look around on Saturday and see just how many GNR T-shirts were traversing the polo field before their 10:30 p.m. set. When it came time to deliver, the original trio of Axl, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan most certainly did, while rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer proved to be more than suitable fill-ins for Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler/Matt Sorum. Meanwhile, the surprise appearance by Angus Young couldn’t have come at a much better time after the announcement was made minutes before GNR’s set that Rose will be filling in for Brian Johnson on AC/DC’s remaining tour dates this year. GNR have always been one of my biggest bucket-list bands, and even if a broken leg prevented Axl from strutting and slithering across the stage like he once did as a brash, slender 21-year-old rock star, seeing one of my favorite childhood bands perform for two and a half hours felt all too surreal as I left the Empire Polo Club that night. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

From the very beginning, Sia set herself apart from every other artist who took the Coachella Stage this year. With the Australian artist standing in the back of the stage, her set was more performance art than it was pop music. While her face was hidden thanks to her trademark wig, Sia’s voice stood front and center as she belted out every note to hits like “Diamonds”, “Bird Set Free” and “Titanium”. Throughout it all, different dancers and actors would come on stage, abstractly embodying the themes her songwriting often conveys: fear, anticipation, stress, anger, joy, love and most of all, doubt. As Kristen Wiig and Paul Dano contributed to the overall performance, the height of Sia’s conceptual masterpiece reached its peak with a breathtaking rendition of “Breathe Me”, bringing some of the audience to tears. It was the true headliner of Sunday night and among the top performances of the entire weekend. -Brett Ruffenach, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #3 - Chance the Rapper

3. Chance the Rapper

In one of the few transcendent moments of the weekend, a set that had everyone throughout the fairgrounds hyped into an anticipatory frenzy, Chance the Rapper performed at the Lands End stage on Sunday afternoon for easily the largest crowd of the entire weekend. Even those who stood their ground through Third Eye Blind’s preceding set felt the drastic change in both crowd size and personal space as the Polo Fields flooded and temperatures rose. Even though Chance could have used this to his advantage and conducted an explosive show, igniting the tightly configured crowd into a combustive state, he instead took his fans “to church” with a spiritually centered gospel set, making sure everyone was attentive and of course, that “his part” resonated among the masses. -Molly Kish, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

Over the last couple of years, it’s hard to think of a band I have wanted to see more than LCD Soundsystem. Deeply tied to my formative years in college, the Brooklyn outfit’s return after a five-year hiatus was nothing short of stunning. Opening with the undeniably groovy “Us vs. Them” and covering a good chunk of their catalog over almost two hours, LCD certainly met the expectations of an eager crowd. James Murphy kept the banter between songs fairly short, and these indie heavyweights demonstrated a true dedication to their craft, starting fast with songs like “Movements” and “Yeah” before moving to more deep, tightly wound rhythms on “Someone Great” and “Home”. Though “Losing My Edge” was written more than 10 years ago, Murphy’s part-improvised, part-proclamation, part-perfectly-delivered rendition of the track seemed to really capture the attention of more casual LCD fans. Nearing the end of its set, the band covered “Heroes” by late collaborator David Bowie. I have seen many concerts as well as attended many festivals in my life, but this was truly among the most beautiful moments in live music I have ever experienced. Wrapping up their headlining performance with “All My Friends”, LCD Soundsystem proved to be among the top artists to ever grace the festival’s main stage. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #1 - Anderson .Paak

1. Anderson .Paak

I’m going to be completely honest: I went to SXSW this year to see .Paak because I knew once he played it, tickets to his shows would be impossible to get. Six months later, $30 tickets to his show in San Francisco at The Fillmore resold for upwards of $400. If you didn’t have another way to get into that show or rent to pay, it was worth it. The energy that comes out of .Paak while he’s performing is charming, infectious and unmatched. He splits his time roaming every inch of the stage and behind his drum set, often singing and rapping without missing a beat. At .Paak’s December show at the Hollywood Palladium in LA, Stevie Wonder came out not to sing, but to tell the crowd what a big fan he is. So basically, Stevie Wonder dropped by. OK, Anderson … we see you. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Norm de Veyra

Outside Lands 2016

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Chris Robinson Brotherhood put the pedal to the metal at LA’s newest home for jam bands

Chris Robinson BrotherhoodBy Josh Herwitt //

Chris Robinson Brotherhood //
The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles
December 17th, 2016 //

Back when MTV was in its heyday, I remember seeing the music video for The Black Crowes’ “Hard to Handle” routinely flash across my television screen. It was my first memory of the now-defunct Southern blues-rock band fronted by Chris Robinson, whose soulful croon for nearly 25 years helped the Crowes sell more than 30 million albums.

But despite all of their success together, Robinson and his younger brother Rich often didn’t see eye to eye. That’s why after two separate hiatuses, The Black Crowes made it official late last year, announcing that they were done once and for all.

For Robinson, the breakup signaled an opportunity for him to focus primarily on his other project, the eponymous Chris Robinson Brotherhood that formed several years earlier and leans more heavily toward the West Coast jam scene that the Grateful Dead pioneered than the feel-good rock ‘n’ roll that The Black Crowes were well-known for fostering in the 90’s.

At this point, CRB are a well-oiled machine. With five LPs — including two this year in Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel and If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now — under its belt, the five-piece has established itself as one of the hardest-working bands out there, both in the studio and on the road.

The Chris Robinson Brotherhood

With the release of If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now in early November, CRB had already been up and down the West Coast for a couple of weeks by the time they arrived in the city where the group was formed. It was a unusually cold, winter night in LA last Saturday, as Robinson (lead vocals, guitar) and his fellow bandmates — Neal Casal (guitar, vocals), Adam MacDougall (keyboards, vocals), Tony Leone (drums) and newest addition Jeff Hill (bass) — walked onstage at The Fonda Theatre for the very first time.

After all, since CRB formed in 2011, the El Rey Theatre has served as their LA home, like it has for many jam-related acts. But over the past year, The Fonda has reasserted itself as the venue for jam bands. Both Lotus and Galactic have made the move, with each scheduled to perform at the 1,200-person venue that’s changed its name a handful of times in February.

The Fonda, on this night, appeared to serve CRB well, well enough to mix in their newest material like “Roan County Banjo” and “New Cannonball Rag” off If You Lived Here, You Would Be Home By Now with covers of The Byrds’ “Lazy Days” and Robinson’s past solo project New Earth Mud. There were cuts from Any Way You Love, We Know How You Feel, particularly during the band’s second set as CRB plowed through “Ain’t It Hard but Fair”, “Leave My Guitar Alone” and “Forever as the Moon” before wrapping up with “Narcissus Soaking Wet”, which opens the eight-track record that reached as high as No. 118 on the Billboard 200.

CRB are among a rare breed of bands. With Robinson’s roots in Georgia despite moving to California more than 20 years ago, there’s still a Southern quality to his music. His unique voice puts you at ease, and although guitar is still fairly new to him, you wouldn’t know it from the way his playing jives so seamlessly with Casal’s. Yet, as a Marin County resident where friends Phil Lesh and Bob Weir also live, you can see where Robinson’s allegiances have started to lie. Intertwining elements of psychedelic rock, blues and jam, CRB are an amalgamation of Robinson’s many influences. Maybe no better example of that was their cover of swamp rocker Tony Joe White’s “Saturday Night in Oak Grove, Louisiana”, which showed up as “Saturday Night in L.A.” on the setlist. So, as Robinson and company closed with their own rendition of The Velvet Underground’s “Rock & Roll” that had fans singing along to the words Lou Reed once wrote back in 1970, it felt like a good way to celebrate a Saturday night in LA.


Set 1: Lazy Days (The Byrds cover), Roan County Banjo, Badlands Here We Come, Clear Blue Sky & The Good Doctor, Sunday Sound (Chris Robinson & New Earth Mud cover), Meanwhile in the Gods…, California Hymn, Saturday Night in L.A. (officially titled “Saturday Night in Oak Grove, Louisiana”) (Tony Joe White cover)

Set 2: Rosalee, New Cannonball Rag, Ain’t It Hard but Fair, Reflections on a Broken Mirror, Leave My Guitar Alone, Forever as the Moon, I Ain’t Hiding (The Black Crowes cover), Narcissus Soaking Wet > Rosalee reprise

Encore: Rock & Roll (The Velvet Underground cover)

At the Fox Theater Oakland, Tedeschi Trucks Band float beautifully in the balance

Tedeschi Trucks BandPhotos by Mike Rosati, Karen Goldman & Kory Thibeault // Written by Kory Thibeault //

Tedeschi Trucks Band //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland
September 8th-9th, 2016 //

Tedeschi Trucks Band are one of those acts that transcend a person’s taste in music. Everyone walks away from a Tedeschi Trucks show with a few moments that resonate with their heart and soul. The coupling of Susan Tedeschi’s powerhouse vocals with husband Derek Trucks’ slide-guitar genius creates a blues-rock masterpiece that will rock you to your soul. And that statement fails to tip my hat to Tedeschi’s beautiful guitar musings.

TTB are big, both in size and sound. The 12-piece band consists of seasoned professionals who understand the kind of collaboration needed to realize the group’s vision. Not a single member sounded flat during a two-night run at the Fox Theater Oakland last Thursday and Friday. Their music was tight yet improvisational, loud yet restrained, powerful yet gentle. Practice and passion have seemingly allowed them to float beautifully in the balance, or in other words, to “ring those lofty bells” as the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir might say. And by the time their Bay Area run was over, they had delivered two solid performances to a grateful and full house.

On Friday night, the group presented “An Evening with Tedeschi Trucks Band”, featuring two full sets and an encore. TTB craft their setlists from the solo careers of Tedeschi and Trucks as well as a couple of their studio albums. They started the night ripping right into “Anyhow”, a standout track off their latest album Let Me Get By, and transitioned into “Don’t Know What It Means”, another on the LP. The energy was palpable from the start as everyone anticipated a sublime night of music.

Tedeschi Trucks Band

The “Swamp Raga” opening to their hit “Midnight in Harlem” introduced what would easily be considered the highlight of the first set. This ballad features a tear-jerking performance from Tedeschi as her vocals were nothing less than awe inspiring. A certain calm came over the crowd as everyone softly sang along to her musings. They finished the set strong with “Had to Cry Today” and sent everyone buzzing into the set break.

The rest of the evening was spectacular as the band weaved in and out of both originals and covers, the latter of which included Sleepy John Estes’ “Leaving Trunk”, John Prine’s “Angel From Montgomery”, Bob Dylan’s “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” and lastly Joe Cocker’s “Space Captain”, with all of them exemplifying the band’s superb taste and perfect execution. “You Ain’t Going Nowhere” featured high-flying vocals from Chris Robinson, formerly of The Black Crowes and now the driving force behind the Chris Robinson Brotherhood.

Catching an evening of Tedeschi Trucks Band in such a brilliant environment as the Fox was certainly a treat. Fortunately for those not in attendance, the band will be releasing a live LP and DVD to remember the two-night run in Oakland. I am overjoyed at the idea of that I will get to relive this experience as TTB continue to push the sonic boundaries of blues rock. So, don’t sleep on this band — they have something for everyone.

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Set 1: Anyhow, Don’t Know What It Means, Keep on Growing (Derek and the Dominos cover), Bird on the Wire (Leonard Cohen cover), Within You Without You (The Beatles cover), Just as Strange, Crying Over You, Swamp Raga (The Derek Trucks Band cover), Midnight in Harlem, Had to Cry Today (Blind Faith cover)

Set 2: These Walls (with Alam Khan on sarod), Right on Time, Leaving Trunk (Sleepy John Estes cover), Don’t Drift Away, I Want More, Soul Sacrifice (Santana cover), Angel From Montgomery (John Prine cover), Sugaree (Jerry Garcia cover), Get What You Deserve (The Derek Trucks Band cover), I Pity the Fool (Bobby “Blue” Bland cover), Bitches Brew (Miles Davis cover), Let Me Get By

Encore: You Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere (Bob Dylan cover) (with Chris Robinson), Space Captain (Joe Cocker cover) (with Chris Robinson)

A brotherhood led by Chris Robinson conjures connectedness & growth

CRB_postBy Kory Thibeault //

Chris Robinson Brotherhood //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
November 23rd, 2014 //

Chris Robinson Brotherhood, otherwise known as CRB, wrapped up a spectacular run at the Great American Music Hall, the obvious venue of choice for the Los Angeles-based band.

I was fortunate enough to catch two nights of what I can only assume were four spectacular nights in SF. Rather than attempt to create some “new” sound, CRB root themselves deep in psych-rock while exploring the genre with their own flair. Is there a better place to do so than right here in the San Francisco Bay?

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Frankly, there may not be. Our venues were so often graced by the likes of Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead, groups that redefined the concert experience. In that same tradition, CRB pushes the boundaries of the very songs they pen, inviting their audience along for the aural journey that seems to flow out of them so effortlessly. Is this why they are called the Brotherhood rather than the Chris Robinson Band? I certainly believe so.

A brotherhood conjures notions of connectedness and growth. After enjoying CRB’s music upwards of eight hours this weekend, I feel confident when I say that is exactly what this band is doing: growing together. The kinship of Neal Casal and Chris Robinson’s guitar is certainly telling of this, but the congruence does not end there.

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Keyboardist Adam McDougall crafts an ethereal layer of sound, which infuses CRB with the psychedelia needed to push the group into those outer dimensions of space. This group is undoubtedly the sum of its parts.

Currently on tour promoting their third full-length album Phosphorescent Harvest, CRB has fortified lead singer Chris Robinson’s claim of being “a farm-to-table psychedelic band,” a self-defining statement that plays well off this concept of a “Phosphorescent Harvest.” The palpable excitement of their audience cultivated more-than-noteworthy performances that radiated throughout the weekend. And so it seems that CRB have a far greater idea of who they are and where they are heading than even the most prudent of fans.

SF Shows of the Week // GO4FREE to Deerhoof, Cold War Kids, Fred Falke or Chris Robinson Brotherhood

11.17_Show-of-the-Week_postWritten by Molly Kish //

Win a pair of free tickets to one of our SF Shows of the Week by entering your name and email below.

• Deerhoof: November 18th (TUE) @ Great American Music Hall
• Cold War Kids with Avid Dancer: November 21st (FRI) @ Fox Theater Oakland
• Fred Falke with Midnight Magic: November 22nd (SAT) @ Mezzanine
• The Chris Robinson Brotherhood: November 23rd (SUN) Great American Music Hall




Deerhoof: November 18th (TUE) @ Great American Music Hall // BUY TICKETS

Bay Area noise staples Deerhoof headline the Great American Music Hall on Tuesday night alongside the indie rock supergroup Crystal Skulls and Oakland’s own GO DARK. Promoting their twelfth studio album released on Polyvinyl Records at the beginning of this month, the punk rock veterans kick of the Western span of their tour making their only hometown stop at the Great American. With the current band members working on projects in several locations around the world, this tour marks an extremely rare chance to catch the band’s explosive live show in such an intimate venue and hear the new material from La Isla Bonita firsthand.

Contest ends Tuesday, November 18th at 1PM.




Cold War Kids with Avid Dancer: November 21st (FRI) @ Fox Theater Oakland // BUY TICKETS

Tapping into the gritty nature of the human experience, through the pervasive dialogue of rhythm and blues, Cold War Kids bring their modern interpretation of roots rock to the stage this Friday night at The Fox. Celebrating the release of their fifth studio album Hold My Home, the Fullerton, Calif., natives headline an impressive lineup that features ex-Marine, former fundamentalist Christian and percussionist extraordinaire Jacob Dillan, otherwise known as Avid Dancer. Fresh off the release of his debut EP I Want to See You Dance, which has been recognized as a meeting ground between “laid back synth and super cool scuzz”, Dillan’s sound evokes influences from Hot Chip, The Dandy Warhols and Elliot Smith. Be sure to arrive early to catch his distinctly-individual performance that’s sure to be gracing the stages of similar venues as headlining material very soon.

Contest ends Friday, November 21st at Noon.




Fred Falke with Midnight Magic: November 22nd (SAT) @ Mezzanine // BUY TICKETS

French DJ and producer Fred Falke closes out the final date of his 2014 Fall tour this weekend at Mezzanine in SF with the cosmic disco ensemble Midnight Magic (live)! Most noted for his collaborations with Alex Braxe and Kris Menace, Falke has remixed the work of artists such as Röyksopp, Justice, U2, Lykke Li and more. Paired with the live electronic dance party fronted by Midnight Magic’s fiery vocalist Tiffany Roth, Saturday night will be raging in the SOMA, and we’ve got your chance at tickets right here.

Contest ends Friday, November 21st at Noon.




The Chris Robinson Brotherhood: November 23rd (SUN) Great American Music Hall // BUY TICKETS

Formed as a side project by The Black Crowes lead singer Chris Robinson, CRB developed as an attempt to configure a California based house band, touring leisurely throughout the state simply “to have a good time and see where the music takes (them).” Three years later with a trio of albums under their belt, they return as Chris Robinson’s primary band to the Great American Music Hall this Thursday for a four night residency. Following up their 2013 five night stay at the venue, this weekend’s CRB run holds the high possibility of guest appearances from their immense repertoire of friends, family and Bay Area music legends.

Contest ends Friday, November 21st at Noon.


Win-2-Tickets

Pick the show you would like to attend from the dropdown, then enter your name (First and Last) along with your email. If you win a contest, you’ll be notified on the day the contest ends (details above).

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival: San Francisco at it’s best

San Francisco had a lot going on last weekend. The Blue Angels were blasting their way from the Marin Headlands to San Francisco in a split second. Boat racers in America’s cup challenged each other to qualify for the big race in 2013. Street fairs & heritage parades dominated The Castro & North Beach. The bottom line was if you didn’t want to get stuck in traffic purgatory, get to your event early.

The wisest of the bay area and beyond got to Golden Gate Park’s newly named Hellman Hallow early last Friday, Saturday and Sunday for one of San Francisco’s newest and best traditions, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival. The best strategy for Hardly Strictly is to pick a spot, home-base it there, and go for a couple excursions to one of the 5 other stages. Traveling around the festival this year, there were reminders that this was a bittersweet year. Sole benefactor Warren Hellman passed away last December, and Warren was on the minds of many artists and music aficionados based on the amount of shout-outs and fanfare throughout the three-day musical delight.

SF was treated to three days of pretty excellent weather as well, especially since it’s been densely foggy during this supposed Indian Summer. The pristine weather framed hundreds of thousands of people in one of the cities’ most scenic areas, listening to A-list music for free. What could be better?

One thing that was quite obvious about the crowd is how freaky and/or tolerant everyone is, from children to grandparents. The festival can be oppressively crowded at times; there is no ticketing, perimeter fences or control on the influx of people really. But the crowd takes care of each other and at the same time celebrates the idea of being different. This microcosm that takes place in San Francisco the first weekend of October yearly signifies something that is wonderfully refreshing about SF compared to other major metropolises, where following trends and conforming are keys to fitting in at times. Enough babble about how fun and exciting this festival is – SF music fans enjoyed some inspiring musical performances as well.






Jenny Lewis
Jenny Lewis tours with “The Twins,” who appear to be twice as big as the diminutive Lewis.


Conor Oberst brings friends for Friday
For the second year, Conor Oberst was granted the honor of curating the Rooster stage. Conor Oberst played a majority of his set with his solo band, then invited Jenny Lewis & the twins for a couple songs, and finally invited all the friends from friday on stage for the finale. Many Bright Eyes songs were played, including the breathtaking duet “Lua” with Jenny Lewis.


Red Baraat

Saturday kicked off with a bang with the instand dance-party from “Red Baraat.” On Facebook they called their 11:40am set a “Reverse Headlining set,” which was actually appropriate. They had the crowd letting loose before noon. All the members of Red Baraat are super animated and have an infections presence.


The Lumineers

The Lumineers’ show in narrow Marx Meadow was perhaps the most packed set of the weekend. You wouldn’t know it from this picture. The excursion to the Rooster Stage revealed an unholy amount of people present. The only spot available was a little spot smushed up against a fence. But it was close to the stage and The Lumineers sounded great. This group is getting more popular by the day; As of today they have the 3rd most listened to album on Spotify in the US. My only regret was not being able to stand up and dance.


The Head & the Heart


The Head & the Heart’s set was highly anticipated, and it will be a lasting memory from the weekend for most. Their sound is incredibly inspiring live, even more so than their only album. This is a Must See Live band, even though they performed the exact same festival set they usually play. It didn’t matter. The Golden Gate Park setting was made for this group. This set was heavenly.


Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Chris Robinson apparently had come out earlier with Claypool Du Twang, Les Claypool’s new outfit. Later on during the final set of the day on the Star Stage, Chris Robinson Brotherhood played all their best songs, and melted faces like it was 1968 in Speedway Meadow. Speedway meadow is where the Grateful Dead played their free shows in San Francisco, and this helped SF become a hub of the counter-culture movement. Speedway meadow is now officially & appropriately named Hellman Hallow after Warren Hellman. Chris Robinson has been channeling the Grateful dead with CRB since he ended the Black Crows and started this jamband. Good choice Chris.


Soul Rebels


One of NOLA’s finest brass groups Soul Rebels got things going again on Sunday at the Towers of Gold stage. They incorporated many catchy cover songs into the repertoire like “Sweet Dreams,” which made the early show fun and upbeat.


The Knitters
The original punk-folk group turned in a mostly alternative country set.


The Del McCoury Band

A concerted effort was made to watch some legends in action this year after witnessing Buckethead, yes that Buckethead, show up 45 minutes late and then hand out merchandise in 2011. Maybe this was the wrong legend – a Nick Lowe excursion might have done the trick.


Patti Smith and her band


Patti Smith was a pleasant surprise. As the sun fully emerged Patti Smith emerged and owned her stage. She had positive, progressive advise to hand out throughout the show, but she did’t come off pushy. This living legend delivered completely.


Keller Williams, Steve Kimock & Kyle Hollingsworth featuring Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram & Andy Hess


This set seemed like it would be a String Cheese Incident type one-off, and it was. They played five or six songs over the hour. Translation: Songs were 10-14 minutes song. The super-group covered the Talking Head’s song “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” which seemed especially appropriate, and is a consistant SCI cover over the years. They also played the Keller Williams song “Freaker by the Speaker,” which also seemed absolutely relevant in Golden Gate park this afternoon.


Conor Oberst – Late Night at The Fillmore


If you’re bummed the shows end at 7pm, there’s always the night shows in San Francisco nearby…There’s nothing wrong with bookending a truly awesome weekend Conor Oberst.


Until next year…

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival: 10 best looking sets


Subscribe to the “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival” playlist on Spotify.
View the full schedule at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass website.

The twelfth edition of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, from October 5th-7th in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, will prove to be a bittersweet occasion. Founder & 100% funder of this free festival Warren Hellman passed away this past December after a battle with leukemia. Hellman built his wealth as a co-founder of the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, but always had a passion for music. Hellman called his festival a “selfish gift,” one that he, the musicians and the community could all enjoy. In 2006, Hellman said, “How could you have more fun than that? What the hell is money for if it isn’t for something like that?” Hellman set up an endowment to make sure Hardly Strictly continues long past his death. The city of San Francisco honored Hellman after his passing by renaming Speedway Meadow “Hellman Hollow.”

So this will be the first year Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival takes place in Hellman Hollow. Coincidentally or by design, the artist select is going back to it’s roots before they added “Hardly” to the festival name. The first three years were ‘Strictly Bluegrass.’ Last year Buckethead performed. This year, most acts playing the festival are in some way countrified.

Here are 10 shows to consider attending:

Tribute to the Fouding Fathers: Warren Hellman, Earl Scruggs & Doc Watson

The world has also lost two legends in the past year that were fixtures at Hardly Strictly. Earl Scruggs & Doc Watson will only be with us in spirit, and the first set that pops off the artist list is this tribute to Hellman, Scruggs, Watson. Expect this set to end Saturday or Sunday on the Banjo Stage. Expect a superjam that will include Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello, Buddy Millar, and every performer that was close with trio being celebrated. Expect plenty of tears.

The Head & The Heart

This group from Seattle Washington was formed in 2009, have put out one self-titled album, and keep filling bigger venues by the month. In June they sold out a three show run at the Fillmore San Francisco. The Head & the Heart is popular for a good reason – they are a must see live act.

Rubblebucket

Rubblebucket is an American indie-dance band from Brooklyn, NY. They are captivating to watch, they put out a wall of sound, and they make you want to dance. There are eight musicians in the group, and they are lead by musical couple Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver.

Keller Williams, Steve Kimock & Kyle Hollingsworth featuring Bernie Worell, Wally Ingram & Andy Hess

This set looks like a Bonnaroo super-jam. Keller Williams has plenty of experience in this type of roll leading String Cheese Incident at many one-off shows. Steve Kimock is one of the best electric guitarists in the world. Seriously. And Kyle Hollingsworth is the keyboardist from String Cheese Incident. This should be a jam-filled fun time.

The Lumineers

Much like The Head & The Heart, The Lumineers have put out one hugely successful album and their star is rising. The three main components to the group ooze with charisma. The core of the band consists of Wesley Schultz on guitar and lead vocals, Jeremiah Fraites on drums, percussion, mandolin and vocals, and Neyla Pekarek on cello, mandolin, piano, and vocals. The songs from their self titled album are ridiculously catchy. This group from Denver, Colorado are a must see live act.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Do you like Chris Robinson’s voice and the music of the Grateful Dead? Yes? Than this is the show for you. Chris Robinson toured with Phil Lesh and friends for a couple years, and it clearly rubbed off on him. He ended the Black Crows and fully committed to this jam band. Neal Casal is a filthy guitarist who is right up there with Steve Kimock. It would not be surprising to see Phil Lesh or Bob Weir join the group for some Grateful Dead numbers.

Conor Brings Friends for Friday

For the first time in 2011, Conor Oberst was invited to curate his own stage on Friday, and Golden Gate Park was witness to Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Kurt Vile and other great acts. Conor has been invited back this year, and he’s bringing Jenny Lewis, Ben Kweller, Beachwood Sparks, Chuck Prophet & Mission Express, & Simone Felice. Conor should be performing his solo material on the Rooster Stage. Put in for a vacation day at work, get there early, and park your ass in Marx Meadow for a lovely afternoon.

The Civil Wars

The album “Barton Hollow” from The Civil Wars was released in early 2011 to massive critical success. The band won the Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Folk Album in 2012. The duo, singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White, craft emotional songs that build with beautiful harmony, and should fit the tone of the weekend.

Red Baraat

As their website states, Red Baraat puts out “…a sound so powerful it has left the band in its own utterly unique and enviable class. These days you are as likely to find Red Baraat throwing down at an overheated and unannounced warehouse party in their Brooklyn neighborhood as you are at the Barbican or the Montreal Jazz Festival, or Lincoln Center.” NPR called Red Baraat one of their favorite live shows of 2011. These upbeat party-starters will get butts shaking.

Steve Earle & the Dukes (and Duchesses)

TV oriented people might know Steve Earle as Harley Watt, the actor who plays a musician on Treme. TV oriented people are wrong. Steve Earle is a musician who can also act. Earle is a political lefty from Texas, and he has the ability to entertain just as much with stage banter as he does with his songs. He performed a solo set at the Warren Hellman celebration concert in February, which included a song he wrote for Warren Hellman. We should hear that one again at 2012 Hardly Strictly.

10 More Shows Not to Miss:
ALO
Claypool Duo de Twang
Elvis Costelo Solo
Emmylou Harris
Heartless Bastards
Moonalice
Nick Lowe
Soul Rebels
The Chieftains
The New Orleans Bingo! Show

Subscribe to our “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival” playlist on Spotify.

Night Shows in San Francisco
Friday October 5th:
Dead Winter Carpenters – Brick & Mortar
Break Science – Mighty
Reckless Kelly – Slim’s
Dry the River – The Independent
Shpongle – The Warfield

Saturday October 6th:
Jenny Lewis – Great American Music Hall
The Soul Rebels – Boom Boom Room
John Talabot – Public Works
Big Gigantic – The Regency Ballroom
Glen Hansard – The Fillmore

Sunday October 7th:
Conor Oberst – The Fillmore
Michael Kiwanuka – The Independent

What sets are you looking forward to?

New Music Tuesday: Bob Dylan • The xx • The Avett Brothers • The Presets • The Raveonettes • Calexico • Chris Robinson Brotherhood • David Byrne & St. Vincent

Bob Dylan - Tempest

Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks and supplying the latest videos for select albums.


Bob DylanTempest

Top Track: “Duquesne Whistle”

Listen to the album on Spotify.


The xxCoexist

Top Track: “Swept Away”

Listen to the album on Spotify.


The Avett BrothersThe Carpenter

Top Track: “Live & Die”

Listen to the album on Spotify.


The PresetsPacifica

Top Track: “Youth in Trouble”

Listen to the album on Spotify.


The RaveonettesObservator

Top Track: “Observations”

Listen to the album on Spotify.


CalexicoAlgiers

Top Track: “Splitter”

Listen to the album on Spotify.


Chris Robinson BrotherhoodThe Magic Door

Top Track: “Vibration & Light Suite”

Listen to the album on Spotify.


David Byrne & St. VincentLove This Giant

Top Track: “Who”

Listen to the album on Spotify.