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

Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest - Rochelle Shipman


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

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

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

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

See our favorite performances from 2019 here.

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


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall - Josh Herwitt


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

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cate Le Bon - Reward

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tool - Fear Inoculum

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Desert Daze 2019: Another intriguing lineup loaded with must-see performances takes over Lake Perris

Desert Daze - 2019 lineupPhoto by David Evanko // Written by Kevin Quandt & Pete Mauch //

Desert Daze //
Moreno Beach – Lake Perris, CA‎
October 10th-13th, 2019 //

After settling into a new location last year, Desert Daze aims to dial in a festival that continues to gain steam and win over rock fans around the globe, beckoning them to come to the shores of Lake Perris. This self-proclaimed “anti-festival” has impressed with their eye-popping artist roster, interactive art and smorgasbord of workshops and otherworldly experiences for all you intergalactic space rangers making the drive from Los Angeles or any of the surrounding hubs across Southern California.

We have a deep love for Desert Daze and want to be your pre-fest sherpas, so we have broken down the best music, camping and food options ahead of this weekend’s festivities.


Stereolab


Stereolab

Music

Let’s jump head first into the real meat of Desert Daze, and that’s its cutting-edge lineup of all things rock, psychedelia, garage, noise, experimental, North African-desert Tuareg blues-pop guitar and so on. Between the festival’s trio of lakeside stages, there should be little downtime for the savvy listener, so we’ll happily offer up a few of our picks and tell you why you should order that chicken tikka wrap a little later on.

Artist: Frankie and the Witch Fingers
Set date/time: Friday, 2:15-3 p.m.
Location: The Block

These LA psych rockers are truly having an amazing year. After unloading their most cohesive and energetic album to date in ZAM, they have found themselves touring non-stop supporting their killer new release. They are currently on a 37-date tour that sees them opening for ZZ Top and Cheap Trick on seven of those dates, with their Desert Daze set coming right smack dab in the middle of their run with both legendary rockers, so we’d imagine that they’ll be fired up to play to their own crowd. This should be an extremely high-energy set that won’t let you take a breath because Frankie and the Witch Fingers are pure psychedelic bliss right now. -PM

Artist: Stereolab
Set date/time: Friday, 6:35-8:05 p.m.
Location: The Moon

Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier are finally bringing their electro-leaning indie pop back to the western side of the country and should be firing on all cylinders after a nearly decade-long break. Having witnessed one of their first reunion shows at Primavera Sound, I can confirm Stereolab’s laid-back vibe is still delivered with precision as they work classics like “French Disko” and “Brakhage” as well as others from Dots and Loops into the setlist. We can’t think of a better act to catch during Friday’s magic hour. -KQ

Artist: Altın Gün
Set date/time: Saturday, 2:40-3:40 p.m.
Location: The Moon

This Anatolian psych-folk group that calls Amsterdam home has been blending traditional Turkish music and psychedelic melodies to great avail. Their most recent release Gece finds this experimental outfit playing around with time signatures and quick, fierce changes that keeps their listeners wanting more. Their Desert Daze slot in the early afternoon Saturday is really going to get the day rolling. -PM

Shintaro Sakamoto


Shintaro Sakamoto

Artist: The Locust
Set date/time: Sunday, 12:45 a.m.-1:35 a.m.
Location: The Theatre

Shit! This set is not for the faint of heart and will surely be one of the most brutal (looks over shoulder for Lightning Bolt) and thrilling performances for those brave souls still awake after Devo, Ween and Flying Lotus (3D) hit the main stage. Expect a handful of masked musicians bending every boundary of rock music to their back and call, a feat that hasn’t transpired for close to five years. Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone clearly has the Midas touch whenever it comes to reuniting bands or flying in rarities from around the world. -KQ

Artist: SASAMI
Set date/time: Sunday, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Location: The Block

Domino artist Sasami Ashworth has been having a moment since the release of her self-titled debut LP back in March. Some veteran Desert Daze attendees might recognize Ashworth from her days as a former touring member of the LA band Cherry Glazerr, which played the festival in 2016 at its previous location The Institute of Mentalphysics. Since departing Cherry Glazerr, she has quickly cultivated a following under the moniker SASAMI that swoons for her unique brand as a guitar-wielding indie songstress. For now, she has toured with her contemporaries, received blessings from Mitski and expanded to larger international tours. -KQ

Artist: Shintaro Sakamoto
Set date/time: Sunday, 7:45 p.m.-9 p.m.
Location: The Block

Japanese composer Shintaro Sakamoto is making his U.S. debut at Desert Daze 2019, and we couldn’t be anymore excited to see him perform on Sunday. Sakamoto has been active in his home country for 30 years, most notably with psych rockers Yura Yura Teikoku, but you will see a softer side to him than with his prior band. Sakamoto at The Block during sunset with the Mad Alchemy light show behind him is an absolute must-see! We should hear plenty of tracks off 2014’s Let’s Dance Raw and 2011’s How to Live with a Phantom, too. -PM

Desert Daze 2019 - map

Camping

There’s nothing easier than pitching a tent only a few hundred yards away from any festival site, and Desert Daze continues to excel in this area. Moreno Beach’s plush grounds have it all: trees, campside parking, free hot showers, permanent bathrooms and even a camping-exclusive stage area called The Mystic Bazaar.

The Bazaar features a mind-expanding array of programming, including, but not limited to, Modular Sound Baths, Vinyasa Pranayama yoga and various forms of meditation (check out the full schedule here). Plus, plenty of camping options to fit your liking are available here.

Desert Daze 2019 - The Marketplace

The Marketplace

Whether your home base will be offsite or you’re calling Lake Perris home for a long weekend, you’ll want to do some light shopping, quench your thirst or carb load for Animal Collective’s blistering show on Friday. Desert Daze always prints a whopping selection of show- and artist-specific posters and they’re always sold at affordable prices, so an early trip to the merch tent is a must. And if boutique wares are your preference, a healthy variety of vintage sellers, craft jewelers and visionary designers are strewn about the groves and shoreline. Bring some cash because you won’t be disappointed with what you find.

For all of your consumption needs, Black Fin Sushi, Flavors of East Africa and Good Times Ice Cream are just the beginning of options that will be available onsite. Don’t forget to look at the full listing here to see if your local favorites will be making the trip out to Moreno Beach.

Lastly, make sure to grab your Desert Daze 2019 passes here and we’ll see ya on the other side.

Desert Daze 2019 - David Evanko