Our favorite performances from 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best of 2017 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

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

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


Best of 2017 - BADBADNOTGOOD

BADBADNOTGOOD

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

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


Best of 2017 - Spoon

Spoon

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

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


Best of 2017 - Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

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

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


Best of 2017 - DREAMCAR

DREAMCAR

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

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


Best of 2017 - A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle

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

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


Best of 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

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

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


Best of 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

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

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


Best of 2017 - The xx

The xx

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

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


Best of 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

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

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


Best of 2017 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

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

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


Best of 2017 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

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

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


Best of 2017 - Jay Som

Jay Som

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

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


Best of 2017- AIR

AIR

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

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


Best of 2017 - PLANETARIUM

PLANETARIUM

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

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


Best of 2017 - The Drums

The Drums

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

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


Best of 2017 - Miguel

Miguel

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

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


Best of 2017 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

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

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


Best of 2017 - Gorillaz

Gorillaz

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

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


Best of 2017 - Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

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

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


Best of 2017 - J.I.D

J.I.D

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

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


Best of 2017 - SZA

SZA

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

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


Best of 2017 - Bonobo

Bonobo (Live)

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

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


Best of 2017 - Coldplay

Coldplay

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

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


Best of 2017 - Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene

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

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

Best of 2017 - Jim James

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Phoebe Bridgers inspires a sold-out crowd in her hometown at LA’s Lodge Room

Phoebe BridgersBy Rochelle Shipman //

Phoebe Bridgers with Gold Star //
Lodge Room – Los Angeles
December 16th, 2017 //

Phoebe Bridgers’ debut LP came out in September, but her album release show got pushed back two months. But for the eager fans who attended her sold-out concert at Lodge Room, Highland Park’s newest venue, it was well worth the wait.

The praise for Stranger in the Alps has only gotten louder since it dropped, and the LA native’s debut has found its way onto — and at the top of — a handful of year-end lists. Bridgers’ songs revolve around her stark storytelling, in a way that comes off as deeply personal, yet still feels relatable to the listener.

During much of Bridgers’ show last Saturday, the intimacy weaved within her songs spread far throughout the crowd. Little else could be heard as she worked her way through most of the album, pausing every now and then to acknowledge her band or shoot fans a coy smile.

Phoebe Bridgers

Even if she had been alone onstage the entire time, the audience’s rapt attention still wouldn’t have wavered, but halfway through her set, Bridgers brought out close friend Conor Oberst as the two delivered a transcendent performance of “Would You Rather”. Opening act Gold Star, the solo project of LA-based singer-songwriter Marlon Rabenreither, later joined Bridgers and Oberst onstage for a cover of “Christmas Song” by McCarthy Trenching, a band from Oberst’s native Omaha.

The only thing disappointing about Bridgers’ performance was being close enough to see the setlist. She was supposed to perform her devastating version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, but the guitar gods unfortunately threw a wrench in that. Instead, she ended the night quietly with just keyboardist/Stranger co-producer Ethan Gruska, performing a ringing rendition of “You Missed My Heart” by Mark Kozelek (aka Sun Kil Moon).

From the older couple right next to me to the 18-year-olds standing dead center, the eager eyes in the audience captured it best. Incredibly, Bridgers’ album release show will likely be one of the last times we’ll be able to catch her in such an intimate setting.

Conor Oberst’s sad songs make us feel happy at LA’s Greek Theatre

Conor OberstBy Rochelle Shipman //

Conor Oberst with Julien Baker //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
May 13th, 2017 //

As the crowd filled into the Greek Theatre during Julien Baker’s opening set last Saturday, the young singer softly said it best: sad songs simply make us feel happy.

This is what keeps fans coming back to see Conor Oberst year after year, this most recent time in support of his latest release Salutations. This is what quieted the crowd low enough to hear a sniffle or two during songs like “Lua”, which is now 12 years old and still inciting a cheerful uproar as it crescendoed midway through.

And for anyone who has been comforted by Oberst at some point during the last 20-plus years of his career, this was the truth that will keep us listening for 20 more.

Setlist:
Afterthought
Four Winds (Bright Eyes song)
Time Forgot
Too Late to Fixate
Till St. Dymphna Kicks Us Out
Eagle on a Pole
Barbary Coast (Later)
Well Whiskey (Bright Eyes song)
Mamah Borthwick (A Sketch)
Anytime Soon/Overdue
Map of the World (Monsters of Folk cover)
Lua (Bright Eyes song)
Jack at the Asylum (The Felice Brothers cover)
Salutations
Artifact #1
Poison Oak (Bright Eyes song)
A Little Uncanny

Encore:

Unknown (new song)
Train Under Water (Bright Eyes song)
Napalm

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

Danny Brown


Danny Brown at The Regency Ballroom // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by James Pawlish

Time flies when you’re having fun, right? Well, while we’re still wondering where the past 12 months have went, 2016 proved to be bittersweet for the entire music community. With David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kanter, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones and most recently George Michael all leaving us too soon, it’s been a rough ride to say the least. But amid all the heartbreak, we experienced plenty of amazing moments in music from January to December, and now it’s time for us to once again unveil our annual “Best of” lists just like we did in 2015.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2016.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2016

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


Jim James at Orpheum Theatre


Jim James at Orpheum Theatre // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. LCD Soundsystem at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 8th
When reports started swirling around this time last year that LCD Soundsystem would reunite to headline Coachella a few months later, it was a chance to relive that one time I saw them on the same polo field six years earlier — the only time I was lucky enough to see James Murphy and company in action before they called it quits way too early. And while band reunions at Coachella are starting to feel like a gimmick these days, LCD had already played a couple of warm-up shows back home in New York by the time they stepped foot on the main stage for their highly anticipated headlining set at the Empire Polo Club. They didn’t perform any new material like some fans may have hoped they would, but rather a setlist laced with hits that also included their live debut of David Bowie’s “Heroes” as well as a nod to fellow headliner Guns N’ Roses. And as the final words to “All My Friends” left Murphy’s mouth that night, I walked away still buzzing from what I had just witnessed.

2. Radiohead at Shrine Auditorium – Los Angeles, CA – August 8th
3. Jim James at Orpheum Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – December 9th
4. Temple of the Dog at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – November 14th
5. Pretty Lights (Live) at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – November 10th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Moderat – III
With so many excellent albums being released each year, picking a favorite is never an easy task — but this year felt even more difficult than usual. And although I’ll admit I didn’t have time to hear every LP that dropped in 2016, it was hard not to choose Moderat’s latest studio effort after much thought and consideration. Time after time, I found myself coming back to III after countless listens. From the record’s opening track “Eating Hooks” to its initial single “Reminder”, the Berlin trio seems to get better and better with each release. As difficult as it can be to describe Moderat’s music, there’s something about the way Sascha Ring’s emotive vocals pair perfectly with the supergroup’s haunting melodies that makes III‘s repeatability incredibly strong. I guess the third time really is the charm for these three gents.

2. Jim James – Eternally Even
3. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
4. RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
5. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Jim James – “Here in Spirit”
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James often receives praise for his unique singing style, but the Louisville native’s songwriting chops remain equally impressive. On his sophomore solo album Eternally Even, James takes a more political stance than what he devised for his 2013 debut Regions of Light and Sound of God. What results is some of James’ most poignant and inspiring material to date, including the soulfully psychedelic cut “Here in Spirit” that bats third in the LP’s nine-track lineup. With lines like “No compromise / But willing to sacrifice / Believe what you want / Go on and be who you are / Go out and get what you want” to open the song, James empowers his listeners to not sit on the sidelines and instead, speak up for what they believe in. He might not be able to solve the world’s problems, but “Yim Yames” knows how to make you think about the issues that matter.

2. Moderat – “Reminder”
3. Glass Animals – “Youth”
4. Tycho – “Division”
5. Run the Jewels – “Legend Has It”


Brainfeed at Fox Theater Oakland


Brainfeeder at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Marc Fong

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Brainfeeder at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – September 15th
This showcase featuring artists from Flying Lotus’ label, including himself, was an experience to behold. No matter who you went to see on this night, eyes were opened and brains were fed — so to speak — thanks to the sonic diversions that continue to make Brainfeeder one of the most important players in shaping the future of music.

2. Danny Brown at The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA – October 11th
3. James Blake at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – October 17th
4. Erykah Badu at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – November 15th
5. Black Madonna at Public Works SF – San Francisco, CA – November 18th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Elevating the current state of hip-hop by ultimately bringing it back to its jazz roots, Malibu finally brought Anderson .Paak the credit he sorely deserved. The 16-track album boasts an intricately curated, eclectic roster of recording, production and songwriting talent. Easily the most important sophomore full-length release of the year, Malibu opened a brand-new door to a musical stratosphere that .Paak was born to commandeer.

2. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered
3. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
4. The Avalanches – Wildflower
5. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Solange – “Cranes in the Sky”
Another career-skyrocketing release of 2016 that was introduced to the world through this single, “Cranes in the Sky” helped bring attention to “the younger Knowles sister” as a force to be reckoned with. Amidst a track list of powerful ballads and political anthems, this song delivers a personal testimony of introspection that humanizes Solange in a way most artists are too afraid to convey. The track, which was delivered through a series of avant-garde music videos, shook the world of modern soul and R&B with one of 2016’s most influential power moves.

2. Chance the Rapper – “All Night”
3. Blood Orange – “Best to You”
4. Kaytranada – “LITE SPOTS”
5. Flume – “Never Be Like You” feat. Kai


YG at The Wiltern


YG at The Wiltern // Photo by Joseph Gray

Joseph Gray // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Kanye West at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – November 1st
Prior to its bizarre, abrupt ending that included a long-winded tirade critical of Beyoncé and some outspoken support for President-elect Donald Trump, Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo Tour” was a once-in-a-lifetime party. Seriously. In LA, the show featured a floating, illuminated and spaceship-like stage that traveled back and forth — while raging youngsters moshed below — to give everybody a great view of their favorite contradiction and/or superhero, who was later hospitalized due to a reported “psychiatric emergency.” With the elevated platform, a smiling and dancing West manned through his conflicts, happiness and faith, reminding us of why he provides the unmistakable feel-good vibes that only he can bring.

2. Young Thug at The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – May 16th
3. Isaiah Rashad at Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA – November 14th
4. Jhene Aiko at Avalon Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA – November 21st
5. YG at The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA – November 29th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
The unearthed gem on rap legend Dr. Dre’s long-awaited Compton opus a year prior, Southern California rapper, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (he really does it all) Anderson .Paak kicked open the door to his fully-formed world of warm, unbridled expressiveness and raspy soul with Malibu. Brilliantly combining funk and jazz-filled triumphs (“Come Down”) and hip-hop’s reflective grit (“The Season/Carry Me”) with distinct and sprawling elegance (“Room in Here”), .Paak unquestionably put his mark on 2016. A detailed dot (just like the one in .Paak’s moniker), you better not forget it because Malibu proved that you have to pay attention to everything his name is attached to.

2. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
3. Young Thug – Jeffery
4. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!
5. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People…”
In a year drenched in political prejudices and panic for many citizens in the U.S., Q-Tip roared through the darkness over the funkiest of synths: “We don’t believe you ’cause we the people / Are still here in the rear / Yo, we don’t need you.” A message that echoed even louder after the presidential election, one of the standouts tracks from their celebrated final LP We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service invigorates a culture seemingly under attack more than ever.

2. Anderson .Paak – “Come Down”
3. Kanye West – “Real Friends”
4. Anderson .Paak – “Room in Here” feat. The Game & Sonyae Elise
5. Kendrick Lamar – “untitled 07 | 2014 – 2016”


Radiohead at Outside Lands 2016


Radiohead at Outside Lands 2016 // Photo by by James Pawlish

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Kanye West at T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV – October 29th
In some ways, there’s an unspoken hierarchy to the live-concert experience. The structure is simple — the closer you are to the front of the stage, the better your experience is, the bigger the fan that you are. Only the “rail riders” are the truest fans. In my experience seeing Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo Tour” in Las Vegas — a performance that ended up being one of his last uninterrupted shows prior to a breakdown and a subsequent cancellation of several future dates — he not only completely destroyed the hierarchy, he reinvented what a concert can be. Under a floodlight-filled sky, he spent 90 minutes on a floating stage playing a nonstop show that brought out a level of hype in the crowd I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. On the floor, underneath the stage, you are instantly a part of the performance. As the stage moved back and forth across the arena, West captured a sense of connection with fans, making it nearly impossible to not scream every damn word to every damn song. It was an emotional roller coaster filled with adrenaline (“Black Skinhead”, “Father Stretch My Hands”), joy (“Waves”, “Fade”), swagger (“Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, “Heartless”) and some transcendent moments so intense during reworked songs like “Only One” and “Ultralight Beam” that many in the crowd (myself included) couldn’t help but be brought to tears. I’ve never seen a concert like this one and will probably never see something like it again. But for those 90 minutes as I jumped and sang with my brothers and friends, there was no world outside of Kanye’s floating stage. It’s a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life as Kanye proved to us there is no hip-hop artist in the world doing what he’s doing.

2. LCD Soundsystem at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 8th
3. Beyoncé at Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA – May 16th
4. Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – September 3rd
5. Air at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 6th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. The Avalanches – Wildflower
I really enjoy albums that can be experienced as one cohesive piece. Twelve years in the making, The Avalanches’ Wildflower is best experienced in one listen from start to finish. Using a near-plethora of samples from both ends of the musical spectrum, the Australian plunderphonics pioneers wove together a soundscape that’s not only textured and groovy, but also just plain old fun. From “Because I’m Me” and “Frankie Sanatra” to “Subways” and “If I Was a Folkstar”, the feel and experience of listening to Wildflower simply fills me with joy. After a year like 2016, it’s something we all needed.

2. RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
3. Beyoncé – Lemonade
4. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
5. The Range – Potential

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Radiohead – “Present Tense”
In a serene moment watching Thom Yorke and Co. play a live rendition of “Present Tense” at Outside Lands, I first thought to myself that this may be one of Radiohead’s best tracks. Ever. Their stripped-down rendition featuring Johnny Greenwood solidified that thought. “Present Tense” seems to capture all of the things I find most appealing about Radiohead: complex and beautiful chord progressions, subtle and complimentary percussion, and melancholy lyrics and ambient sounds creating a sense of space that no other band I know is capable of producing in a studio or on a stage. It’s an introspective song that blooms into a plea for a return to what was once had with “in you I’m lost …” That melody gives me goosebumps every time.

2. Blood Orange – “Best to You”
3. Brian Eno – “Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free”
4. Hundred Waters feat. Chance the Rapper – “Show Me Love”
5. DJ Shadow feat. Run the Jewels – “Nobody Speak”


Anderson .Paak at South by Southwest


Anderson .Paak at South by Southwest 2016 // Photo by Rochelle Shipman

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals at South by Southwest – Austin, TX – March 18th
Anderson .Paak played 13 shows in three or four days at SXSW this year. The Pandora show was one of his last ones, so he and his bandmates had their set down to blind perfection and played their hearts out to 150 new fans as the sun went down. Austin was falling in love with .Paak right in front of his eyes, electrifying his performance and even bringing him down into the audience to crowd surf. When he wasn’t behind the drums, he spent the rest of the show dancing on the monitors in between the barrier and the stage, seemingly as close to is fansh as possible. He was just grateful to be there, and it spilled from every ounce of his body. 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.

2. Conor Oberst at The Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian Church – Los Angeles, CA – December 17th
3. Chance the Rapper at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 7th
4. Islands at Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Los Angeles, CA – June 9th
5. Animal Collective at Scala – London, UK – September 8th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Anderson .Paak has put out a lot of material, even before he was Anderson .Paak and went by Breezy Lovejoy. There are gems sprinkled throughout his early releases, but his latest studio album has a funky backbone that lets .Paak explore aspects of his range that he never shared before. It resulted in a rhythmic, emotional journey that’s flirty, genre-defiant and fun as fuck. Malibu nearly ruined music for me because nothing else is it.

2. Vince Staples – Prima Donna
3. Conor Oberst – Ruminations
4. Gallant – Ology
5. Noname – Telefone

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
I like Childish Gambino. I’ve always liked Childish Gambino. But the first time I heard his song “Redbone”, every hair on my body stood up and started grooving. It happened the second time and the third time, and even the 643rd time. And this dude is singing about peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool Aid, but because of how he’s singing about it, it’s somehow OK. I made a playlist with only this song on it 20 times over and it was still too short.

2. Anderson .Paak – “The Waters”
3. Sonder – “Too Fast”
4. Danny Brown – “Really Doe” feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt
5. Mac Miller – “Dang!” feat. Anderson .Paak


Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley


Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley // Photo by James Pawlish

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. The Cure at Shoreline Amphitheater – Mountain View, CA – May 26th
I saw a ton of amazing shows this year, but seeing The Cure for the first time on my birthday topped them all. For more than three hours I got to catch Robert Smith and company churn out hit after hit, and hanging out with some of my best mates only added to the splendor. A setlist that spanned their entire career on a beautiful evening was just what I needed for my 38th trip around the sun.

2. Tool at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – January 7th
3. At the Drive-In at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – June 4th
4. Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – September 3rd
5. Temple of the Dog at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – November 11th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
This is the album that we needed, and it was delivered at the right time, in the right way. For a year that had taken so much away from the music world, ATCQ surprised everyone with an LP that delivered a vibrant, thoughtful and politically charged gift to the masses. No guys, thank YOU for your service (RIP Phife Dawg).

2. Mitski – Puberty 2
3. David Bowie – Black Star
4. Mall Walk – Funny Papers
5. Tycho – Epoch

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. David Bowie – “Lazarus”
Oh, Bowie … even on the eve of your own passing, you knew how to pull out all of the stops and push your art to the limit. A true showman and artist to the end, this song encapsulates all that is raw, beautiful and bizarre about our beloved Ziggy Stardust. Its somber tone is met with a sexy, sinister groove, which leaves you with a sense of unease and is honestly perfect in my opinion. Thank you, sir. RIP.

2. Bob Moses – “Tearing Me Up”
3. Savages – “Evil”
4. Zack de la Rocha – “digging for windows”
5. Deep Sea Diver – “Secrets”

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2015 spreads contagious smiles across Golden Gate Park

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival 2015 - The Stone Foxes


The Stone Foxes

Photos by Tom Dellinger // Written by Mike Frash //

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2015 //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
October 2nd-4th, 2015 //

Oh Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, how the Bay Area loves you. It may be hard for those outside of Northern California to imagine how such a massive gathering of celebratory music lovers “chillax” in harmony, spreading contagious smiles with strangers and friends alike. But it happens every year in early October thanks to the late, great Warren Hellman.

See some of what you missed via the eye candy below, whether you were at the three-day fest witnessing your own slice of life or watching from home on the webcast. And if you couldn’t make it, there’s always next year.

It’s good to hear Conor Oberst happy

Conor-Oberst-@-Fillmore_postPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Brooks Rocco //

Conor Oberst with Jonathan Wilson, The Good Life //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
October 4th, 2014 //

“Crank Gillian in my monitor. Guitar and vocals, all the way”, the frontman requested with an impish grin.

With hundreds of songs written and nearly two dozen records tucked under his belt, it would be easy to forgive Conor Oberst were he to appear burnt out from an already bountiful and robust career, a seemingly never-ending touring schedule and a notably difficult year. But during moments like the final All-Star ‘family’ jam at the end of Saturday’s inspiriting show at The Fillmore, punctuated by jubilant appearances by country legend Gillian Welch, Dave Rawlings and the fantastic Felice Brothers, the singer never seemed more alive.

Buoyed by a band comprised of long-term collaborators along with members of opening act Jonathan Wilson’s own touring ensemble, Oberst deftly led the audience on a scenic journey through some of his best work, both vintage and virginal. Opening with “Hundreds of Ways”, the lead single from his excellent and underrated new record Upside Down Mountain, he enraptured the audience from the beginning with his earnest crooning, smart melodies and a refreshing lack of artifice.

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Perhaps on a high from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival (read our review here), which has immersed the city in an overflowing bubble bath of good vibes (Conor’s Family Band played on Friday), the crowd swayed along to Oberst’s occasionally guarded, but authentic and revealing verses. And indeed, as a well-seasoned artist, the show never seemed to drag or let up, from the sweetness of Bright Eyes’ “Bowl of Oranges” to the glorious highlights of “Desert Island Questionnaire”. This is a thoroughly enlivening rock ‘n’ roll band that knows exactly what it’s doing.

Jonathan Wilson for his part, also knows what he’s doing (having co-produced the aforementioned Upside Down Mountain), though at times seemed much more confident playing as a member of Conor’s band rather than fronting his own. Sporting a backwards ball cap and a scraggly, street-kid trench coat, Wilson with his band seemed less sure of his place in the folk-rock canon. As he experiments with his own style, he shines as a collaborator and producer of the excellent musicians he surrounds himself with, especially on this tour.

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All of which culminated in an exultory trio of encores filled with Hardly Strictly heroes. As Dave Rawlings slithered out masterful, melodious country twang over the John Prine tune “Pretty Good”, Conor could be seen soaking in deeply the sublime voice of Gillian Welch (which, indeed, the sound guy eventually cranked up loud enough) and his good fortune to be sharing the stage not only with legends, but with an audience that has grown along with him to the heights he now visibly enjoys. It’s good to hear Conor Oberst happy.

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Jim James ignites The Fonda Theatre with ‘Monster’ mate Conor Oberst

Jim-James


Conor Oberst does his best Jim James impersonation, cape and all.

By Pete Mauch //

Jim James //
The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles
May 11th, 2013 //

My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James performed in LA at the sold-out Fonda Theatre on Saturday night, playing two eclectic sets, including the majority of his 2013 solo LP Regions of Light and Sound of God. The first set featured James and his band playing through the entire album, while the second set gave way to older material from My Morning Jacket & Monsters of Folk.

Jim James started the second set solo with his acoustic guitar and treated the crowd to “Bermuda Highway” and “Wonderful”, two of the best ballads in James’ repertoire. James even showcased his Saxophone skills, which I never knew he had.Bright Eyes crooner Conor Oberst made a late second set surprise appearance to help out with Monsters of Folk heavy hitter “Dear God” while doing his best Jim James impression, donning his cape and over-the-top theatrics.

Jim-James

James was his normal weird self on stage, traversing all over the place utilizing hand motions and head banging. I believe I had a staring contest with him for about thirty seconds during the encore.  Jim James is one of the most exciting frontmen in the business and there truly is something special about him. I don’t know if it’s his stage antics or how sincere he seems with all his “Thank You’s” and “God Bless You’s’. He must of said both those phrases thirty times on Friday.

When James released his solo album back in February, I wasn’t very impressed, but after hearing the songs come to life in a live setting, I have a new found respect for the album and I look forward to re-listening to it. I highly suggest you catch Jim James on his solo tour if possible.

Jim-James

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?