Our favorite performances from 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best of 2018 - Cut Copy

Cut Copy

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

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


Best of 2018 - Washed Out

Washed Out

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

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


Best of 2018 - Phoenix

Phoenix

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

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


Best of 2018 - Moby

Moby

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

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


Best of 2018 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

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

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


Best of 2018 - Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai

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

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


Best of 2018 - Eminem

Eminem

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

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


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

Big K.R.I.T.

Date: April 19th
Location: Echoplex – Los Angeles

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


Best of 2018 - Soulwax

Soulwax

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

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


Best of 2018 - NxWorries

NxWorries

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

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


Best of 2018 - The Roots

The Roots

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

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


Best of 2018 - Melvins

Melvins

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

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


Best of 2018 - Glassjaw

Glassjaw

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

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


Best of 2018 - Weezer

Weezer

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

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


Best of 2018 - Florence + the Machine

Florence + the Machine

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

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


Best of 2018 - Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe

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

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


Best of 2018 - Deafheaven

Deafheaven

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

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


Best of 2018 - Jack White

Jack White

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

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


Best of 2018 - David Byrne

David Byrne

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

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


Best of 2018 - The National

The National

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

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


Best of 2018 - Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

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

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


Best of 2018 - Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett

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

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


Best of 2018 - Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet

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

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


Best of 2018 - Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters

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

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


Best of 2018 - Pusha T

Pusha T

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

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


Best of 2018 - U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls

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

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


Best of 2018 - Daniel Caesar

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Treasure Island Music Festival 2018: A strong return for one of the Bay Area’s best live music events

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - JunglePhotos by Brendan Mansfield, Josh Withers, Paige K. Parsons & Josh Sanseri // Written by Brett Ruffenach //

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland
October 13th-14th, 2018 //

Treasure Island Music Festival is back. After 10 years on its namesake island, Another Planet Entertainment’s and Noise Pop’s two-day music and arts festival has returned in full form to its new home, the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland.

A popular spot for open-air events, MHSP has become well-known for its sprawling natural grass, cool breeze and stunning sunsets revealing a silhouetted view of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline. Having hosted both hip-hop festival Blurry Vision and house music day party All Day I Dream in the past, the park has become a reliable space for large-scale events in the East Bay.

TIMF 2018 was no different. For the fest’s first iteration at this new venue, organization and logistics ran as smoothly as one may hope. Based on my own experience and the anecdotes shared by other festivalgoers throughout the weekend, arriving and leaving the festival was simple and stress-free; exiting both nights after the headliner finished and waiting to board the shuttle to the West Oakland BART station took no longer than 30 minutes, even at peak times. After transporting thousands of patrons on and off Treasure Island in years past, it’s not a surprise that the organizers were successful in keeping everything on course over the whole weekend.

The layout of the festival followed a similar logic to previous iterations: two stages at opposite ends of a large field, with artists playing back-to-back on each stage. This is where TIMF truly shines — to be able to see every artist on any music festival’s lineup is always a treat. Kicking off Saturday’s hip-hop and electronic-oriented artist roster was up-and-coming experimental rapper JPEGMAFIA. Using nothing but a laptop (managed by himself) and a mic, JPEGMAFIA spent much of his set in the crowd, rapping his manic flows atop noisy, blaring hip-hop beats.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - Moses Sumney


Moses Sumney

Later, Moses Sumney took the stage as a four-piece band, a new iteration of what has usually been a solo project. His sultry vocals, combined with some expanded instrumentation, made for a complete reinvention of the LA native’s live show. “Make Out in Your Car”, for example, featured an extremely groovy outro that gave the band backing the soulful singer-songwriter space to jam out for a second.

Sadly, as Sumney began his closing track “Plastic”, electronic duo Polo & Pan started their set on the opposite stage, quickly overtaking the airwaves across Middle Harbor. Polo & Pan have garnered considerable hype this year, and for good reason. The French duo seamlessly guided us through a 45-minute, non-stop dance party, layering bacchanalian melodies over thumping house beats that invoked a sense of being at a old-time carnival. It’s quite a unique sound that can really get a crowd moving.

As the afternoon progressed, artist after artist brought their best underneath the beating sun. Laff Trax is a new side project featuring Bay Area resident Chaz Bundick (aka Toro y Moi) and enigmatic electronic producer Nosaj Thing. In what really ended up being a B2B DJ set rather than a new musical project, the two DJs were impeccable in their selections.

Back at the main stage, Santigold celebrated the 10th anniversary of her self-titled debut LP by performing it in full. Another new DJ duo, Silk City, which was formed by All-Star record producers Mark Ronson and Diplo, shortly followed, keeping a small crowd moving leading up to the night’s two final acts: Pusha T and A$AP Rocky.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - Pusha T


Pusha T

Pusha T took The City stage right at set time, kicking off with an a capella intro to the opening track “If You Know You Know” from his most recent album Daytona. From there, it was “King Push” in full form — performing a setlist of nearly 20 songs, back to back to back, while never missing a beat. Throughout the set, Pusha and his DJ continuously proclaimed “DAYTONA … ALBUM OF THE YEAR!” And after he performed the whole disc from start to finish, including a word-perfect rendition of “Infared”, I might be inclined to agree.

Saturday headliner A$AP Rocky was an unfortunate disappointment. Due to what we think was technical difficulties, he didn’t take the stage until 37 minutes after his scheduled start time, killing more than half an hour. While he brought all the bells and whistles one would expect — pyrotechnics, strobe lights and a full backing band — when headlining a festival, you could tell he felt rushed and flustered trying to get through what they could before the strict noise curfew of 10 p.m. As a result, Rocky ended up being one of the more forgettable acts of the weekend.

Sunday at TIMF proved to be sublime. Offering just as much sunshine and warmth as Day 1, a perfectly sequenced day focused heavily on rock transpired. Pond, the first of four Australian acts to perform on the main stage, got things started for a noticeably large audience, many of who were likely Tame Impala fans arriving early to show their support for Jay Watson, who is in both bands. Next was Soccer Mommy, another one of this year’s indie darlings, as she and her sidekicks held their own playing tracks off her debut LP Clean, including excellent takes on “Your Dog” and “Cool”.

Alex Cameron, the second Australian act to take the main stage on Sunday, is a puzzling one. Picture “Macho Man” Randy Savage meeting Michael Jackson if you can. It’s part comedy bit, part completely serious 80’s dream-pop band. Cameron describes the project as a “dossier of evidence about the condition of being a straight white male.” Take from that what you will.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - U.S. Girls


U.S. Girls

The marathon of music subsequently continued. Shame, a post-punk outfit that couldn’t have originated from anywhere except the UK, brought a breath of fresh air (and dust) to TIMF with their fast and loose instrumentation and leery vocal stylings. Sharon Van Etton unveiled what I see as version 2.0 of her music by adding some really gritty guitar and synthesizer sounds to her stunning vocals. We look forward to hearing her new album Remind Me Tomorrow, which comes out next year.

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

Tame Impala delivered what one might expect from one of the world’s top-touring rock bands right now. Running through a 17-song set full of hits, from “Alter Ego” to “The Less I Know the Better” on 2015’s Currents, the final Aussie act of the day left us with a special treat by playing “Jeremy’s Storm” from their debut album Innerspeaker for the first time in nearly five years.

After taking 2017 off and relocating to Oakland, TIMF has returned in full form and we are certainly thrilled about that. With great weather, excellent organization and a near-perfect sequencing of artists this year, it still happens to be one of the best live music events in the Bay Area. Who’s ready for 2019?

Can Treasure Island Music Festival regain its footing after a year off & a new location?

Treasure Island Music Festival - 2018 lineupWritten by Brett Ruffenach //

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland
October 13th-14th, 2018 //

With what seems like an endless amount of opportunities to see dozens of artists perform over a weekend in the Bay Area — Outside Lands, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Blurry Vision … the list goes on — Treasure Island Music Festival has spent the past decade establishing a foothold in Northern California’s festival scene through well-curated lineups and unique headliners such as Massive Attack, Atoms for Peace and Outkast, along with exciting emerging artists in pop, hip-hop, electronic and rock ‘n’ roll.

Best of all, TIMF is one of the few music festivals where you can see every single artist on the lineup. A two-stage event that staggers artists back-to-back for 12 hours straight, it’s ideal for those looking to discover some of the hottest live music acts on tour right now.

TIMF has gone through a couple changes over the years. Originally held on the northwestern end of its namesake island for the first nine years, organizers were forced to relocate the fest due to construction on new housing (what else would it be, of course?) in the area. And after what was an unfortunate 2016 installment due to bad weather and artist cancellations on the opposite end of Treasure Island, the festival took a break last year.

But TIMF has found a new home in Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. A new popular spot for open-air events, MHSP has become quite well-known for its sprawling natural grass, cool breeze right off the water and sunsets revealing a stunning, silhouetted view of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline. MHSP has proven to be a reliable space for festivals, with events like hip-hop festival Blurry Vision and house music day party All Day I Dream.

Treasure Island Music Festival - 2018 daily lineups

TIMF’s 2018 lineup features, top to bottom, some of the most interesting artists in pop, rock, hip-hop, electronic and all the experimental forms that cross them. In an era where hip-hop remains at the height of its popularity, TIMF 2018 includes artists behind some of the most provocative rap music released this year. JPEGMAFIA, a rapper hailing from Baltimore, is a standout among heavy hitters like Pusha T and A$AP Rocky. Blending experimental noise with booming beats behind maniacal flows, this is not one to be missed. He’s on at 12:40 p.m., so get there early, folks. You won’t regret it.

It’s hard to place a lot of these exciting artists in a specific genre. How can you capture the sweeping sounds of Moses Sumney? Take the soaring vocal traditions in gospel, then mix jazz, looped electronics and simple guitar chord progressions, and stir. Having hit pretty much every major music festival this year while also appearing at The Oscars with Sufjan Stevens, this buzzworthy artist lives up to the hype.

In a similar vein, serpentwithfeet will make an appearance to play the experimental sounds from his critically acclaimed album, entitled soil, that arrived in June. Alongside other genre-bending artists like Hiatus Kaiyote, a soul-meets-rock band bound to catch the interest of any first-time listener, there’s really no shortage of artists refusing to be placed in one category.

Joining the wide spectrum of hip-hop, R&B and jazz showcased on Saturday is a cavalcade of cutting-edge electronic projects, including easily one of the most exciting acts to emerge over the last year in French duo Polo & Pan.

Treasure Island Music Festival - 2018 map

Even more excitingly, TIMF will host two brand-new projects making their Bay Area debut: Laff Trax and Silk City. Hard to imagine what exactly to expect, but when you see that indie-pop artist and Berkeley native Toro y Moi is going B2B with the downtempo, enigmatic beats of Nosaj Thing, it’s hard not to have your hopes high. Similarly, Silk City will feature two of the biggest pop music producers in the world joining forces, Mark Ronson and Diplo. You’ll just have to be there to see what it’s like.

Guitars may seem like a thing of the past at other major music festivals (we’re looking at you, Coachella), but at TIMF, rock ‘n’ roll is thriving. With the current kings of psychedelic rock in Tame Impala leading the pack, the bands preceding them are sure to pack their own punch.

Among the most exciting are U.S. Girls, a pop project lead by the unique vocal stylings of Meghan Remy. Their most recent LP In a Poem Unlimited is destined to top many year-end lists, and we can only expect their live production to meet a similar standard. Sharon Van Etten, with her new-meets-old-school style, and Courtney Barnett, who possesses the most charming accent in the game and just played LA’s Greek Theatre (read our review here) this month, also will be there to showcase their latest material.

Be sure to hit the merch stand early, as TIMF will have a brand-new line of gear to celebrate their new home in Oakland. This year’s merch is presented in partnership with Oaklandish, which is a popular fashion line and retail store based in Oakland. They’ll be printing all of this year’s merch locally in their warehouse, and they’ve also been tapped to design a new collaborative item specific to 2018. The company will also have a pop-up booth at TIMF for those looking to explore additional apparel and accessories. Plus, there will be a variety of Oakland and East Bay food trucks to keep things local and of course, your bellies full.

Who are you most excited to see? What are your pro tips for this weekend?

Our favorite performances from 2017

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

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

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

Whittling down our list, though, was not that easy. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order) whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

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

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

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

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


Best of 2017 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

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

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


Best of 2017 - BADBADNOTGOOD

BADBADNOTGOOD

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

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


Best of 2017 - Spoon

Spoon

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

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


Best of 2017 - Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

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

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


Best of 2017 - DREAMCAR

DREAMCAR

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

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


Best of 2017 - A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle

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

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


Best of 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

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

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


Best of 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

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

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


Best of 2017 - The xx

The xx

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

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


Best of 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

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

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


Best of 2017 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

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

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


Best of 2017 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

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

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


Best of 2017 - Jay Som

Jay Som

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

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


Best of 2017- AIR

AIR

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

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


Best of 2017 - PLANETARIUM

PLANETARIUM

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

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


Best of 2017 - The Drums

The Drums

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

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


Best of 2017 - Miguel

Miguel

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

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


Best of 2017 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

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

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


Best of 2017 - Gorillaz

Gorillaz

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

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


Best of 2017 - Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

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

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


Best of 2017 - J.I.D

J.I.D

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

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


Best of 2017 - SZA

SZA

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

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


Best of 2017 - Bonobo

Bonobo (Live)

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

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


Best of 2017 - Coldplay

Coldplay

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

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


Best of 2017 - Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene

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

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

Best of 2017 - Jim James

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Desert Daze 2017: Another stellar year for one of California’s premier music festivals

Desert Daze 2017Photos by Zach Roth, David Evanko, Sheva Kafai & Zane Roessell // Written by Kevin Quandt //

Desert Daze //
Institute of Mentalphysics – Joshua Tree, CA
October 12th-14th, 2017 //

There’s something special about climbing the hills of Big Morongo Canyon Preserve cresting into Yucca Valley that removes one’s self from what exists to the east and west. Gone are the masses of cars and people all across Riverside County or the ticky-tack of Palm Desert, both replaced by the rugged personality of Joshua Tree and the surrounding area.

It’s always a treat to visit these nether regions, but it’s even better when a slew of today’s most exciting rock acts converge on this positively charged piece of land many have fondly come to know as the Institute of Mentalphysics. Plenty of attendees didn’t quite realize how fortunate we were to be able to return to this desert sanctuary for a second year, and just like any good thing, the word had spread about Desert Daze after the music festival’s run last year.

Desert Daze promoter Moon Block really pulled off quite a doozy for the sixth installment of California’s premier psychedelic and garage-rock extravaganza, which occupied more than 400 acres of wild desert earth. With the four-day festival continuing along an up-and-to-the-left trajectory, it was no real surprise to followers that Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone and crew upped their booking to include legends like Iggy Pop and John Cale. Though the lineup was a shining star for the weekend, it was the amalgamation of the venue, attendees and art that put an extra layer of buttercream on the fest, cementing Daze’s status as a stellar event.

An expanded program featured added stages and a cavalcade of programs, including Sacred Plant Medicine, Modular Sound Baths, Black Metal Yoga and a Women’s Moon Lodge. 2017’s edition also included screenings from comedy duo Tim & Eric such as their Adult Swim series “Bedtime Stories”, which suited those who were looking for a quick chuckle. As far as the art went, there was no shortage of intriguing installations dotted across the Institute. One of the larger, more immersive artworks was Cristopher Cichocki’s “Circular Dimensions” piece as it took over the Sanctuary Hall space with 3-D projections and a variety of dronal soundtracks.

Desert Daze 2017

As stated, Daze attendees could have easily filled their day and night with the programming described above, but the majority of them rarely had much expendable time for those sort of extracurricular activities as the festival consistently churned out a veritable smorgasbord of garage, psych and various other outlying subgenres of rock ‘n’ roll across three stages. While the last statement is generally true, this year saw an expansion into more jazzy areas thanks to BADBADNOTGOOD’s showing on the event’s first day.

Other highlights on Friday saw a wildly energetic performance from French cold-wave band La Femme. These exports don’t cross the Atlantic a bunch, so it was a rare treat for the early arrivals that culminated with set closer “Antitaxi”. Tim Presely (White Fence) and LA-based singer-songwriter Cate Le Bon brought their collaborative project DRINKS to the desert and whipped through a set of angular-leaning art rock. Japanese experimental juggernauts Boris put on a spectacle worthy of the big stages at European metal festivals, as they have for well over two decades. Day 1 also saw Ty Segall and his Freedom Band obliterate the larger Moon Stage, opening with “Alta” and later covering DEVO’s “Gut Feeling”. Courtney Barnett, Kurt Vile and the Sea Lice played just their third headlining show, and while it was evident they were still working out a few kinks onstage, they still managed to dazzle with a mix of songs from both of their catalogs.

It was rather evident early on Saturday that Desert Daze was ramping up for its most popular day in the event’s short history with a combination of legends, today’s hottest acts and a few rarities that peppered the schedule. Detroit stalwarts The Gories offered their Michigan-bred take on garage rock in a powerful display of dual guitars coupled with a sparse drum set. At the Moon Stage, the Marshall amps were stacked high for doom-metal outfit Sleep’s banner performance of their 1992 opus Holy Mountain. Al Cisneros and associates delivered a lead-heavy set to wafting plumes of smoke, playing such classics as “Dragonaut” flawlessly, but the new sound ordinance imposed by the local community became a factor for the San Jose trio that’s known for its abuse of volume.

Brooklyn three-piece Sunflower Beam drew a sizable crowd in the Wright Tent as bassist Julia Cumming commanded the stage better than most while barreling through a set that included “I Was Home”. Elsewhere, it wasn’t surprising to see King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard have a wild and energetic crowd assembled well prior to their hit time. A rabid following continues to grow for the Australian septet that is capping off a massive year filled with multiple studio releases and lengthy tours. Of course, That Fucking Panda made sure to take advantage of the ruckus crowd, getting in a solid crowd surf, as is tradition.

Desert Daze 2017 - Iggy Pop


Iggy Pop

Iggy Pop is a fucking legend, one who is still a ball of energy onstage even as he gracefully creeps into his 70’s and destroys expectations on a near-nightly basis. His setlist at Desert Daze was rather standard, but his persona continues to be anything but.

Meanwhile, those looking for something different were treated to a rare live performance by Black Moth Super Rainbow. With Desert Daze marking only their second show in more than four years, the TOBACCO-led group dazzled on tracks like “Sun Lips”. Sure, a large chunk of the set was reserved for TOBACCO tracks, but their sound had more oomph behind it as they were fleshed out by a full band rather than one man. Nearing the 30-year mark, Tortoise held closing duties for the night, shooting out darts of experimental post-rock before they were cut short at the stroke of 12:30 a.m.

Sunday saw a sustained crowd that was doing its best to shake off a big night after the fest’s second day. Luckily, the mellow sounds of the Allah-Las, plus a few drinks, got fans back into prime form for the closing evening. L.A. Witch followed on the Block Stage, forcefully proving that females belong on this lineup just as much as the opposite sex.

While Eagles of Death Metal continue their domination at the hands of Jesse Hughes and his not-so-merry band of pranksters, it must have felt truly amazing for the Palm Desert band to play Desert Daze. The highlight of the set was undoubtedly their prime cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream”.

Desert Daze 2017

The tent hosted something a tad more on the mellow side as Texas’ own Khruangbin served up their patented combination of surf rock and Thai funk. Tracks like “Mr. White” sounded sublime as the Sunday evening sets were a tad more toned-down than what we witnessed at the same time during the festival’s previous nights. K-Bin’s set led into an equally beautiful one by Hope Sandoval & the Warm Inventions, as the Mazzy Star vocalist and her sidekicks set the vibe perfectly for the final headliner.

Spiritualized are truly an ideal band to close out the main stage at Desert Daze, and similar to Television last year, these longtime UK legends still know how to thrill a crowd with their pea soup-thick wall of sound. Jason Pierce and company delivered a truly epic performance under the desert stars that opened with “If I Were With Her Now” from their 1992 debut album Lazer Guided Melodies, was punctuated by Laurie Anderson’s “Born, Never Asked” and concluded with “Oh Happy Day”. Classic hits like “Come Together” seem to have a stronger message in these times, and Desert Daze is truly one of those events where the bullshit of reality quickly gets washed away, if only for a long weekend.

Although Cigarettes After Sex are a band on their way to bigger things, we opted to close the weekend with Unknown Mortal Orchestra. Having played the event in 2014 when it was held in Mecca, Calif., UMO were warmly welcomed back. Ruben Nielson was ready to close things out with a bang as they rattled through their current set with highlights such as “Ur Life One Night” and even debuted a new track entitled “American Guilt”.

Growth is generally seen as positive for any sort of event, but Desert Daze remains one of those hidden gems you want to announce from the mountaintops yet also don’t want it to outgrow its unique place in the festival stratosphere. Regardless, Moon Block is carrying a bright torch for how boutique festivals are supposed to be produced, and we applaud their staff with high hopes that they continue to set the bar high.