Cal Jam 18: The closest we might ever get to seeing Nirvana perform as Foo Fighters take us ‘way back’

Cal Jam 18 - Foo FightersBy Josh Herwitt //

Cal Jam 18 //
Glen Helen Regional Park & Festival Grounds – San Bernardino, CA
October 6th, 2018 //

When Dave Grohl decided last year to revive the original California Jam (or Cal Jam for short), there was something intriguing about the Foo Fighters turning a once-banner event into their own mini music festival.

After all, this was the same event that Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake & Palmer co-headlined at the now-demolished Ontario Motor Speedway in the spring of 1974, with Black Sabbath, the Eagles, Earth, Wind & Fire and more rounding out the bill.

But as major music festivals on U.S. soil have started to move away from rock ‘n’ roll — take a look at this year’s Coachella lineup if you don’t believe us — there have been fewer and fewer that are embracing the roughly 70-year-old genre.

That hasn’t deterred Grohl, though. In fact, it has only enticed him to bring Cal Jam back for a second straight year following a stellar 2017 edition that included the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Cage the Elephant, Liam Gallagher, The Kills, Royal Blood, Japandroids and so many more, including the UK’s latest Mercury Prize winners, Wolf Alice.

And although Cal Jam’s 2018 cast wasn’t quite as eye-popping as the one that took Glen Helen Regional Park by storm last October, it continued to expand in both size and scope with a new comedy tent on the grounds and a pop-up event in LA six weeks before that saw the Foos play a rare show as The Holy Shits, a secret moniker the band hasn’t used since 2014.

Cal Jam 18 - Greta Van Fleet


Greta Van Fleet

For this year’s installment, Grohl and company assembled another rock-centric roster, turning to legends like Iggy Pop with Post Pop Depression (featuring members of Queens of Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys), Tenacious D and Garbage as well as rising stars such as Greta Van Fleet, Manchester Orchestra and The Front Bottoms. Silversun Pickups were also originally listed on the bill, but were forced to cancel their appearance due to “unforeseen circumstances.” While it was certainly a bummer that the LA alt-rockers couldn’t make it out to San Bernardino, that didn’t stop us from making the 70-mile trek to the country’s largest outdoor music venue on a warm fall Saturday.

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.

If Greta Van Fleet evoked the spirit of the 70’s during their hour-long gig, Garbage made sure to conjure up plenty of 90’s nostalgia as Shirley Manson arrived onstage with red hair pulled back, a stripe of red face paint over her eyes, a red choker and a black-and-white ombré faux fur coat because it couldn’t have been real given her well-publicized support for PETA dating back more than a decade. Manson would eventually shed that one layer of warmth, revealing a black romper, red sweatbands and red fishnet stockings underneath as she and her cohorts — Duke Erikson (guitar, bass, keyboards), Steve Marker (guitar) and famed Nirvana producer Butch Vig (drums, percussion) — opened with their 2017 single “No Horses” on a surprisingly overcast day. Yet, the most memorable moment of Garbage’s performance came during “Only Happy When It Rains” — not because it’s still the quartet’s most popular song to this day, but because a few sprinkles, coincidentally enough, dropped from the dark, ominous sky. Hey, at least Manson must have been happy, right?

Night fell over the Inland Empire shortly thereafter, with Jack Black and Kyle Gass taking the stage for Tenacious D’s first full LA show since Festival Supreme in 2016. Though the 11-song performance hinged on the comedy rock duo’s previous studio material, the D are preparing to release their fourth album — and first in six years — Post-Apocalypto next month. “Double Team” from their 2001 self-titled debut LP, in the meantime, featured snippets of Van Halen’s “Panama” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” before they encored with their cheeky tune “Fuck Her Gently” as the two actors/musicians have been known to do. Nevertheless, it was nice to see Black and Gass back onstage rocking out and making us chuckle because when you start to look around, there still aren’t too many who do what they do.

The same can be said for James Osterberg Jr., or more famously, Iggy Pop. At the age of 71, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hasn’t slowed down, and this was a particularly special occasion with his Post Pop Depression backing band after their 2016 world tour. Truth be told, anytime we get to see Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme play is a treat, and with bandmates Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Fertita as well as Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders joining him, you couldn’t ask for a better group of musicians to showcase Iggy Pop’s massive catalog as a solo artist. To begin, the foursome jumped right into the title track on Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, his 1977 commercial success, and from there delivered cuts from his other David Bowie-produced album The Idiot and Post Pop Depression. But the leathery, shirtless punk rocker is also a real hoot, and he showed his general appreciation for those of us who stood there and watched him let loose on the main stage, offering an emphatic “fucking thanks!” after pretty much every song ended. In that case … you’re fucking welcome, Iggy.

Cal Jam 18 - Garbage


Garbage

Iggy Pop was a strong lead-in to the Foo Fighters’ headlining spectacle, which was supposed to start at 9:45 p.m. but actually kicked off 15 minutes prior. That’s because, after dropping a little hint earlier in the week, the Foos had something up their sleeves, but more on that in a jiffy. Grohl couldn’t have been in a much better mood, and in a lot of ways, Cal Jam feels like his own personal playground, from the fest’s outdoor movie theatre to the Foo Fighters Rock ‘N’ Roll Museum that’s filled with tons of memorabilia from the past 25 years. But Grohl also made a point on this night to celebrate the band’s history by playing one hit single after the next in chronological order, starting with “Run” and “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” on 2017’s Concrete and Gold and finishing with “For All the Cows” and “This Is a Call” from their 1995 self-titled debut. It was a little trip down memory lane, Foo Fighters style, even though there was more in store for us. What would follow we may never have the opportunity to see again.

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. “Serve the Servants” came first, then “Scentless Apprentice” and “In Bloom” as McCauley, who played just a few hours earlier on the festival’s Sun Stage with Deer Tick, sang with the same kind of strain in his voice to make us think Kurt was actually up there.

But what about Jett? Well, the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll followed McCauley’s performance with three songs herself, including “Breed”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and finally “All Apologies” with Novoselic strapping on his accordion and Brody Dalle of The Distillers (Homme’s wife) taking over bass duties. This wasn’t the first time, however, that Jett had performed Nirvana material with Grohl, Novoselic and Smear. In 2014, the singer-songwriter joined the three of them onstage for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. So while Jett wasn’t exactly making history with this cameo, it was still surreal to see Grohl paying homage to his former band with other All-Star musicians at what has now become the Foos’ annual hometown fest in a matter of two years.

Will Cal Jam be back in 2019? Can it survive Southern California’s ultra-competitive festival scene at a time when proven, well-funded ones like FYF Fest seemingly can’t?

We sure think so and hope so. With the oversaturation of three-day music festivals all over the world, there’s something refreshing and relaxing about watching a bunch of a great bands for a reasonable price over the course of one day. And if we learned anything from Cal Jam 18, it’s that you can never underestimate Dave Grohl or the power of rock ‘n’ roll.

Outside Lands Day 2: HAIM take another step toward the top

HAIM_postPhotos by Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 8th-10th, 2014 //

Saturday brought a more celebratory tone to Outside Lands Music and Arts Festiva despite the typical August fog’s return to SF’s Golden Gate Park. Following Kanye West’s exciting Friday set that was marred by multiple man-baby moments, it was time for smiles to become contagious and for the communal spirit of the fest to take flight.

No one led this Day 2 transition better than HAIM. “I want to see babes on babes on babes. Totem pole!” demanded ESTE FUCKING HAIM of the Outside Lands crowd, and oblige they did. An effective festival technique, Alana, Danielle and Este quickly counted as festivalgoers doubled up toward the sky like a meerkat looking for a predator. And by the time the awesome threesome blasted into “Forever”, the crowd had been primed by funny, engaging banter.

More importantly, they are remarkably talented at what they do. HAIM fucking rocks live. They elongate and have adapted some of their songs, like “Forever”, for the better. Before introducing “The Wire”, Danielle prepped the audience for the call and response of “Right!”. Full buy-in permeated the Lands End stage as most everyone joined in the fun.

If HAIM continue to write undeniably catchy songs while retaining their fierce attitudes, the sky’s the limit. The atypical vocal phrasing never gets old, and I hope they continue to create music that develops around their quirky approach to modern pop while re-purposing the familiar. These Los Angeles-based sisters could be headlining big festivals in 3-5 years.

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Jagwar Ma displayed noted improvement since their show last year at The Independent, the group has expanded their sound further on stage, stretching out the vocal mantras into delirious territory. Jano Ma’s production showed shades of Nine Inch Nails, balancing Moog synthesizer and a squelchy analogue sound.

Big Freedia was everywhere Saturday. The Queen Diva brought a taste of NOLA to the new GastroMagic stage, allowing proactive patrons to cook up a beignet while they got there bounce on. Then, Freedia was at the Soundwave tent, and finally for her proper set at the Panhandle Stage. Ass Everywhere!

• SF-based graphic designer-turned-musician-turned-full-band Tycho had a prime spot mid-day at Twin Peaks, but it’s unclear if Scott Hansen’s minimalist approach translates in a big, open field at a festival. While the crowd energy was low as expected, it was a solid set accompanied by a new, intriguingly odd video component.

• The Sutro Stage was alive with an intimate crowd for Deer Tick. Screaming fans belted out lyrics and danced with interlocked arms to the group’s raucous, twangy Southern rock.

Duck Sauce is refreshing for embracing the absurd, boiling down dance music into explosions of bass with melodies as obnoxious as “Gangum Style” or happy hardcore. But A-Trak and Armand Van Helden have pinpointed the perfect equation for a ridiculously good time, making sure not to ever get too jarring or obvious. When looking for a raging, good time in a festival setting, nothing may be more fun than Duck Sauce. Quack.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers are just about as “legend” as it gets, and tracks from Petty’s 2014 LP Hypnotic Eye were laced throughout the main stage headliner’s set. “Friend of the Devil” was covered, a nod and a wink to the Grateful Dead’s home turf, while “American Girl” finished of the night on a high note.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis at Twin Peaks was way more crowded than Tom Petty’s show. Macklemore brought out Mary Lambert for the GBLT anthem “Same Love”, which included a wedding proposal well-suited for SF.

What was your favorite show or moment on Saturday? What are you looking forward to Sunday?

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Outside Lands 2014 night shows: Keep it going ’til the AM

Girls-on-Fire-Main-Stage-TimWritten by Molly Kish //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 8th-10th, 2014 //

We’re only a few weeks away from one of the most anticipated summer festivals of the 2014 season. Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival has announced their official schedule for this year’s five consecutive evenings of night shows. In case you missed this past weekend’s announcement or weren’t privy to the ticket holder password, fret not — we’ve got you covered with our rundown of after-parties and links for you to win or purchase your tickets. The party does not have to stop on the polo field!

View the 2014 schedule and create your custom grid to share with friends!
View our 2014 beer/artist pairings!


Phosphorescent

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 6TH

Phosphorescent @ The Independent // SOLD OUT: Win tickets via Do 415

Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter Matthew Houck, aka Phosphorescent, kicks off this year’s lineup of OL night shows with a sold out performance Wednesday night at The Independent. A follow up to last year’s show at the Indy with his five piece band, the Alabama native returns to the venue, bringing his mix of “western ballads and swelling jams” to the intimate venue. On tour promoting his most recent record Muchacho, one can expect to hear standout tracks from this critically acclaimed 2013 release. A perfect Wednesday night warm up for Houck’s Friday set, hardcore fans will be starting their weekend early, and we recommend you do the same!


THURSDAY, AUGUST 7TH

Typhoon @ CA Academy of Sciences // Buy Tickets

Comprised of twelve singers, songwriters and multi-talented instrumentalists, this small army of a band will be bringing their impressive live show to the CA Academy of Sciences on Thursday night. A band whose sound is characterized by their complicated arrangements and articulate orchestration, Typhoon’s catalogue of work ranges from “sea shanties, to country western and Eastern European inspired songs.” Across the board they cover various styles, meld multiple genres and produce thematically dense work, focusing heavily on lead singer-songwriter Kyle Morton’s struggles with mortality and finding strength through personal relationships. A beautiful setting to catch an equally stunning set, grab your tickets here to take part in this OL edition of Nightlife.

Discover our Outside Lands beer pairing for Typhoon.

Glen Hansard @ The Fox Theater // Buy Tickets

Irish songwriter, actor, vocalist and guitarist Glen Hansard will headline the Fox Theater Oakland with opener Sean Hayes on Thursday night as well. Founding member of The Frames and half of the critically acclaimed duo, The Swell Season, Hansard has been creating seminal folk rock internationally for well over a decade. Gaining attention in the states initially for his role in the 1991 film The Commitments, Hansard recorded his first solo album in 2006 with help from Czech singer and mutli-instrumentalist Marketa Irglova, whom he would go on to co-star with in the 2006 Sundance Festival World Cinema Audience Award winning film Once and form the band The Swell Season within the same year. Hansard has since recorded and produced various songs on film scores and compilations, leant opening support for Eddie Vedder’s solo American tour, guest starred on American primetime sitcoms and released his solo debut Rhythm and Repose in 2012. NOT PERFORMING AT THE FESTIVAL, this performance is an exclusive night show only date! Grab tickets to this limited OL affair right here.

Diarrhea-Planet

Those Darlins and Diarrhea Planet @ Brick and Mortar Music Hall // Buy Tickets

It’s going to be a dual-headliner, Nashville rock throw down Thursday night at Brick and Mortar Music Hall. With Those Darlins founding members meeting at the Southern Girl’s Rock & Roll Camp in Tennessee, country roots run deep in the musical history of this band. Formed in 2006, releasing their alt-country debut in 2009, the band fluctuates between traditional southern instrumentation, rockabilly and garage rock. Partners on the bill, fellow Nashville natives and six piece rock band Diarrhea Planet complement the foursome perfectly with their explosive guitar shredding, pop-laden “drunken sing-along” spectacle of a performance. Fresh off of touring their volatile live show to this past year’s South By Southwest, Bonnaroo, Governor’s Ball and various other festival stages (we reviewed their inspiring show at The Indy in 2013), the band brings their energetic ensemble to Brick and Mortar Music Hall for another exclusive night show only performance. Be sure to grab your tix here.

Mikal Cronin and Bear Hands @ The Independent // Buy Tickets

Two separate OL acts for the price of one! Mikal Cronin and Bear Hands, both performing day one of the festival, will be headlining The Independent in a one-off warm up session on Thursday night. Cronin, having released his self-titled debut in 2011, has had a busy few years questioning long term relationships, moving to San Francisco, touring and recording with musical counterpart Ty Segall, forming his own band and releasing his sophomore album MCII as a Merge Records artist. A multi-instrumentalist, Cronin’s gritty garage rock sound blends perfectly with co-headliner Bear Hands’ post-punk influenced indie rock. Fresh off the release of their second studio album, Distraction, Bear Hands’ “New York buzz band” reputation precedes them, gaining the group national attention on several music blogs and entertainment websites. Be sure to grab your tix here.


Soul-Rebels

FRIDAY, AUGUST 8TH

The Soul Rebels @ Brick and Mortar Music Hall // Buy Tickets

Bringing the NOLA funk to Friday’s Outside Lands festival lineup, The Soul Rebels plan to keep the party going well into the evening at Brick & Mortar Music Hall that evening. Fate brought together original members Derrick Moss and Lumar LeBlanc when they met as percussionists in Dejean’s Young Olympia Brass Band. Although trained in New Orleans jazz fundamentals, the two opted to take the traditional brass band sound they were raised on to the next level, incorporating their love for contemporary R&B, funk and hip hop. Branching off in a new direction, the duo left to form their own group, quickly winning over local audiences and officially being christened the “Soul Rebels” backstage before their opening slot for the Neville Brothers, by Cyril Neville himself. Since then the band has released several full lengths albums, set up a residency at Uptown NOLA club Le Bon Temps, have become a staple act at festivals throughout the globe and most recently released a mixtape Power=Power, premiered by Noisey, including brass band renditions of Jay-Z, Drake, Kanye West, Daft Punk and more. Easily the most funky of post festival Friday night festivities, this show will be the dance party of the weekend. Be sure to grab your tickets here.

Death Cab for Cutie @ The Independent // SOLD OUT: Win tickets via Do415

Heavy hitters on Saturday’s OL bill, Death Cab for Cutie bring their iconic indie rock to The Independent for an extraordinarily intimate one night only performance. For 17+ years, DCFC have been impacting the modern shape of indie rock, becoming one of the most prominent mainstream alternative bands during this time. Recording a discography comprised of seven studio albums, five EPs, a demo and numerous side projects/solo efforts, DCFC has carved out a significant place in music history and remain a staple within the contemporary scene both through their continual contributions to music, film and live entertainment. Announcing via social media that they’re in the process of working on their eighth studio album, the group just celebrated the 10 year anniversary of their seminal 2003 album Transatlanticism and released a live album of material from their 2012 tour dates with Magik Magik Orchestra. This show will be one for the books and quite possibly the only time you’ll be able to catch this caliber of a band in a club-sized venue ever again. Register to win a pair of tix here.


The Killers

SATURDAY, AUGUST 9TH

The Killers @ The Independent // SOLD OUT: Win tickets via Do 415

Headlining what is undoubtedly the biggest night annually in the SF music scene, The Killers will be playing to a sold-out crowd at The Independent on Saturday night, preceding their Sunday night closing set at Outside Lands. The Las Vegas foursome formed in 2001 and has become one of the largest names in alternative rock over the past decade with four hit studio albums. Selling over 25 million albums worldwide, the band has garnered mainstream success worldwide after performing in over 50 countries and headlining arenas on six continents. On the 10-year anniversary of their first show ever, The Killers released their greatest hits compilation Direct Hits last September and have been touring the festival circuit and selling out dates around the globe since then. This year’s OSL appearance will be their first at the festival and first show back in the Bay Area since playing the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last April. Tickets to their pre-festival, late-night show sold out minutes after their release, but there’s still a chance to win a pair of tickets to what easily will be one of the most coveted shows of this year’s summer concert calendar. Register to win a pair of tix here.

Gold Panda @ Mezzanine // Buy Tickets

Multi-faceted producer Gold Panda returns to Mezzanine on Friday night with his genre-bending take on electronic music. With the rise of producers such as Flying Lotus and Flume, many other similar artists are breaking out to larger crowds and stages as forward-leaning electronica garners a new level of popularity and appreciation. Gold Panda represents a vast amalgam of electronic music, borrowing influences from all over the world to weave an upbeat, futuristic tapestry. His latest release Half of Where You Live has been critically hailed as his third stab at a comprehensive full-length album. Tracks like “Brazil” demonstrate his use of South American rhythms in a contemporary manner while consistently maintaining a dance beat. There are no ‘drops’ or huge frills to his dance ethic, but rather a rapturing, constant beat that listeners can lose themselves in rather easily. Ghostly International only signs the finest in contemporary dance music, so it’s no surprise that Gold Panda reps the prolific label. Teamed with local opener Doseone, this after party will keep the positive energy flowing from Saturday night straight into Gold Panda’s festival set that closes out the weekend on Sunday. Purchase tickets for the only electronic night show announced for Saturday.

Woods @ Brick and Mortar Music Hall // Buy Tickets

BK-based Americana neo-psychadelia outfit Woods will be headlining Saturday night at Brick and Mortar Music Hall ahead of their festival set on the final day of OL. The trio have released eight albums since their formation in 2005, which have garnered them both critical acclaim across the board. Dubbed “pop shamanism”, the band is currently on tour celebrating the release of their new album, With Light and with Love, exploring “expanded sonic palettes” heavy with percussion, altered vocals and experimental guitar riffs. Their latest release on their self-run record label, Woodsist, is described as distinctly different from their previous work, “showcasing a more sophisticated brand of contemporary drug music,” relatable to the Beatles iconic Magical Mystery Tour, catering to a “new age of searchers, of Don Juan and Animal Chin alike.” Easily the biggest head trip of the OL night show options — if you’re looking to get weird Saturday night you’re going to want to buy tix here.

Discover our Outside Lands beer pairing for Woods.


SUNDAY, AUGUST 10TH

Deer Tick @ The Rickshaw Stop // Buy Tickets

The ever-rambunctious, consistently capricious, gut punching Americana enigma that is Deer Tick will be closing out the weekend after parties at Rickshaw Stop with help from fellow Saturday OL performers, The Districts. After years of touring with a rotation of band members and various name changes, Deer Tick officially formed and released their debut album War Elephant in 2007. Signing to Partisan Records in 2008, re-releasing their debut along with second and third albums to critical acclaim, the band took off running. On their fifth album Negativity in 2013, the band has aimed to “capture the raw and spontaneous kerosene blaze” of their live shows in their studio recordings. Exploring personal tragedies suffered throughout the recording process such as his father’s tax evasion prison sentence, the death of his uncle, a broken engagement, drug and alcohol abuse, etc., lead singer John McCauley brings brutal honesty to the stage that is an all-encompassing, sometimes tragic, explosive performance. Truly an incomparable performance, this show will be the one that punctuates the weekend with one, final, lasting impression.

Kool and the Gang SuperJam @ The Independent // Buy Tickets

Last but not least, the Kool and the Gang SuperJam will be taking over The Independent Sunday night for a one-time only collaborative concert event, closing out the festival in proper fashion. Featuring members of the legendary funk outfit along with Eric Krasno, Adam Dietch, Nigel Hall, The Shady Horns and top secret special guests, this diverse group of musical luminaries will be on stage reimagining a variety of classic songs from Kool and the Gang. The Grammy Award-winning group have influenced three generations of musicians worldwide, selling over 70 million albums which earned collectively 2 Grammy’s, 7 AMA’s, 25 Top Ten R&B hits, 9 Top Ten Pop hits, 31 gold and platinum albums and the title of the longest running R&B group in the history of the genre. If there is one show where artists from Outside Lands would randomly decide to sit in on a performance, this would be the one. Can’t see yourself wanting to call it an evening on Sunday night? This show might be the best option for you. Be sure to buy your tix here.

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