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

Coldplay at Levi's Stadium


Coldplay at Levi’s Stadium // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Steve Carlson

Let’s be frank: 2017 had its ups and downs. And when it came to the political sector in this country, it was mostly the latter during Year 1 of the Trump administration. But as art often does in times of turmoil, music flourished in new and exciting ways. From stripper-turned-rapper Cardi B topping the charts to veteran alt-psych rockers Portugal. The Man filling the airwaves for Top 40 radio stations all over America, there were plenty of unexpected twists and turns this year. Amid all of them, we still managed to consume a healthy diet of music, both live and recorded, and once again it’s time for us to ante up our annual “Best of” lists, much like we have done each of the past few years (see our 2016 picks here).

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2017.

See our favorite performances from 2017 here.

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


Nine Inch Nails at FYF Fest 2017


Nine Inch Nails at FYF Fest 2017 // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2017
1. Tool at The Gorge Amphitheatre – George, WA – June 17th
What could be a better bachelor party than getting to watch your favorite band at the most scenic outdoor music venue in the U.S.? Seeing any concert at The Gorge would likely be a surreal experience, but my first trip to Washington’s holy grail was that much more special with Tool returning to the amphitheater for the first time since 2006. And even though their gap between albums has stretched to more than 10 years, Maynard and company still know how to elevate the live show to new heights both sonically and visually. Talk about a dream come true for this die-hard fan.

2. Nine Inch Nails at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – July 23rd
3. LCD Soundsystem at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – November 18th
4. Gorillaz at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – October 5th
5. Radiohead at Coachella, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 14th

Top 5 Albums of 2017
1. The War on DrugsA Deeper Understanding
Adam Granduciel had to know that it would take a monumental effort to match, let alone top, 2014’s Lost in the Dream (one of our favorite albums that year), but The War on Drugs’ primary songwriter and band leader delivered another masterpiece in late August with the release of A Deeper Understanding. It’s an album that will touch your heart and soothe your soul as the LP moves seamlessly from one track to the next, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a much better soundtrack for the road over the last 10-15 years. A Deeper Understanding doesn’t need to win a Grammy in 2018 to validate its legitimacy as an Album of the Year candidate, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

2. Slowdive – Slowdive
3. The xx – I See You
4. The National – Sleep Well Beast
5. Grizzly BearPainted Ruins

Top 5 Songs of 2017
1. The War on Drugs – “Holding On”
There’s something about Adam Granduciel’s guitar playing that will make you want to play air guitar, and maybe no better example of that is the second single from The War on Drugs’ fourth studio album A Deeper Understanding. For nearly six minutes, Granduciel takes his listeners on a ride through peaks and valleys, as the song finishes with him doing what he does best: shredding. But what makes “Holding On” even more powerful is its music video starring actor Frankie Faison, who plays a middle-aged man coping with his wife’s passing. It’s a sad, yet touching story written by Granduciel’s girlfriend, Krysten Ritter, that offers an important reminder about love and just how precious it is.

2. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”
3. Washed Out – “Hard to Say Goodbye”
4. The National – “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
5. Nine Inch Nails – “Less Than”


Sigur Rós at Greek Theatre Berkeley


Sigur Rós at Greek Theatre Berkeley // Photo by James Nagel

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2017
1. Solange at FORM Arcosanti – Arcosanti, AZ – May 12th
Taking the stage in the amphitheater of Arcosanti, a scenic artist compound that’s built into the canyons sitting north of Phoenix, Solange and her nine-piece crew brought her critically acclaimed LP A Seat at the Table to life right before our eyes. As an album entrenched in the modern experience of the black woman, Solange’s live production turned these themes into one visually stunning, intricately choreographed and sonically vibrant experience, coupled with a subtle balance of strength and vulnerability. Deep bass, soaring harmonies and tight rhythms made each song a joy to watch, including older hits like “T.O.N.Y.” After a year that was as emotionally taxing as 2017 was, it was a breath of fresh air to watch Solange present her own truth, her own experience with such bravado and mastery.

2. Gorillaz at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 11th
3. Sigur Rós at Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA – April 8th
4. Mitski at FORM Arcosanti – Arcosanti, AZ – May 13th
5. Kevin Morby at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – September 23rd

Top 5 Albums of 2017
1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Pure Comedy captures a different perspective in this politically drenched culture we’re in now — one that chooses to embrace the insanity of it all and laugh, as privileged and unhelpful as that might be. “She’s like, ‘Oh great, that’s just what we all need / Another white guy in 2017 / Who takes himself so goddamn seriously'” croons Josh Tillman. His lyrics in “Leaving LA” are just one of several scores of quotable lines that fill this nihilist-yet-comforting, saddening-yet-hilarious album. Being a privileged white man who lives in a liberal bubble, this album marks the definition of a guilty pleasure for me. Pleasure, because it is sharp, honest and bold. Guilt, because I am capable of even laughing in the first place.

2. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
3. Sylvan Esso – What Now
4. Lorde – Melodrama
5. Brockhampton – SATURATION II

Top 5 Songs of 2017
1. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – “Over Everything”
Its jangly guitars and wonky rhythm, combined with the chemistry of Courtney Barnett’s and Kurt Vile’s singing and occasional harmonizations, make “Over Everything” my favorite song of 2017. It’s an instant earworm — the cadence of Barnett’s and Vile’s lyricism gives the duo a distinct identity but still allows them to come together at the right moments to make the song feel whole. And after watching them make their live debut at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass earlier this year, they continue to raise my spirits and remind me to wear earplugs.

2. Real Estate – “Darling”
3. Selena Gomez – “Bad Liar”
4. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”
5. Bonobo – “Bambro Koyo Ganda”


J.I.D at Day N Night Fest 2017


J.I.D at Day N Night Fest 2017 // Photo by Rochelle Shipman

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2017
1. J.I.D at Day N Night Fest – Anaheim, CA – September 9th
The J. Cole-signed rapper proved to be much more than just another name from Atlanta with a nonstop, energetic set that established him as a young goat. Keep tabs on this one.

2. Sonder at The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever – Los Angeles, CA – April 19th
3. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – July 21st
4. Gorillaz at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 11th
5. Erykah Badu at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – July 22nd

Top 5 Albums of 2017
1. Smino – blkswn
This album brings nothing but warm vibes and impressive wordplay from the fast-rising St. Louis emcee. Since it dropped in March, not a week goes by that I don’t bump this debut for me and all my neighbors.

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
3. Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors
4. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
5. Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy

Top 5 Songs of 2017
1. Smino – “Anita”
The dude rhymes “ice cream” with “chocolate” and gets away with it. Enough said.

2. Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
3. Dirty Projectors – “Up in Hudson”
4. Vince Staples – “Love Can Be…”
5. Phoebe Bridgers – “Funeral”


Slowdive - Slowdive

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2017
1. Slowdive at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – October 28th
This was my first time seeing Slowdive, and they completely took my breath away. It was one of those perfect shows in which the sound was on point, the band brought its A game and the visual elements complimented the music just right. They played cuts from their entire catalog, and by the end of the night, the audience was completely happy.

2. Quicksand at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – September 8th
3. LCD Soundsystem at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – November 15th
4. Band Together Bay Area: Metallica, G-Eazy, Rancid, Dave Matthews, Dead & Company and Raphael Saadiq at AT&T Park – San Francisco, CA – November 9th
5. Roger Waters at Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA – June 10th

Top 5 Albums of 2017
1. Slowdive – Slowdive
A totally perfect album from start to finish. There have been a lot of bands that have emulated Slowdive’s dream-pop/shoegaze sound over the past few years, but this album, their first in 22 years, proves why the UK group is one of the genre’s true originals. Lush soundscapes, paired with gorgeous vocals, made for what was easily my most-listened-to album of the year.

2. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
3. Quicksand – Interiors
4. Versing – Nirvana
5. Hobosexual – Monolith

Top 5 Songs of 2017
1. Quicksand – “Illuminant”
I had been waiting so patiently for the new Quicksand album to drop, and when they released this single, it was one of those completely satisfying musical moments. From that opening riff to the breakdown, “Illuminant” showcases the post-hardcore band’s evolution since the early 90’s while remaining true to its roots. Interiors is a fantastic album front to back, but this song is the one that stands out the most.

2. Slowdive – “Star Roving”
3. Elbow – “Magnificent (She Says)”
4. LCD Soundsystem – “Call the Police”
5. Versing – “Body Chamber”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Bluegrass takes center stage at The Chapel for a night

The Neckbeard Boys

The Neckbeard Boys

By Benjamin Wallen //

Newgrass and Tried & Truegrass – SF’s Finest Local Bluegrass Heroes feat. The Neckbeard Boys, Windy Hill, Grateful Bluegrass Boys, Rusty Stringfield //
The Chapel – San Francisco
January 3rd, 2015 //

The Chapel hosted another night of string-picking and foot-stomping bluegrass of all tastes thanks to Britgrass, a collection of local bluegrass musicians in the Bay Area. “Newgrass and Tried & Truegrass” was the theme of this show with music from Rusty Stringfield, the Grateful Bluegrass Boys (a mix of some players from Hot Buttered Rum and The David Thom Band), Windy Hill and headlining act The Neckbeard Boys.

There to host the event was none other than Bay Area bluegrass legend and president of the California Bluegrass Association Chuck Poling, who you may also recognize from his hosting of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass’s Rooster Stage. For a genre back on the rise, it was great to see some of the best in the Bay Area play together to a packed house on a Saturday night in The Mission. Windy Hill brought the classical approach of Doc Watson’s and Del McCoury’s single-mic, three-party harmonies that people know and love from the old-timey bluegrass days.

Rusty Stringfield


Rusty Stringfield

To bridge the gap from the true to the new grass was Rusty Stringfield and the Grateful Bluegrass Boys with their takes on bluegrass classics as well as both modern and Grateful Dead tunes. Closing the night out, the rousing tunes of The Neckbeard Boys had the place dancing and stomping, finishing with a cover of “Ignition (Remix)” by R. Kelly.

For bluegrass fans in the Bay Area, keep an eye out for these bands and more Britgrass events, as they offer one heck of a ride.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

St. Vincent at Fox Theatre Oakland // Showbams' Photo of the Year, by Pedro


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Pedro Paredes

Ah, year-end lists — they’re an exercise in subjectivity and personal experience if there has ever been one. But what better way is there to learn from each other and discover some great new music while capping off the year and beginning anew?

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2014.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2014
Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


Darkside at The Fillmore

Darkside at The Fillmore // Photo by James Nagel

Mike Frash // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
Looking at my top five shows list for 2014, it appears I favor the weird, ya know, the good weird. This Darkside performance, the only SF show ever (for now) since Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington have put the project on indefinite hold, had patrons at The Fillmore in SF breathing and moving in unison. There was a magical feeling in the air as the hybrid of electronic and organic played out wonderfully with the duo tipping their hat to the past and setting a new standard for the brave new future of live music.

2. Panda Bear at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
3. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
4. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
5. Volcano Choir at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 21st

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
Ever since Jamie and Mikey blew my mind performing Run the Jewels almost in its entirety at The Independent in August of 2013, I’ve been a loyal RTJ soldier. And without taking a break, El Producto and Killer Mike stepped it up to an even higher plateau with their production precision, an uncanny balance of fun and intense, while lyrically honing more on the important issues of our time. Sensing the unstoppable momentum, Run the Jewels are already heading back into the studio for Run the Jewels 3. When Mike was recently asked if they’d continue to name their albums numerically, he said “Why not?!? Zeppelin did it!” Exactly. Say it with me now: Festival headliners circa 2016?

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. The Antlers – Familiars

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Sturgill Simpson – “Turtles All the Way Down”
This is country music turned on its head, while staying mostly true to the hallmarks of the genre. Lyrically subversive while instrumentally emotive to the core, this song kept me coming back throughout 2014. It’s positive message of love winning over all else is certainly timeless, but when was the last time you heard a country tune tell a story of mind over matter transcendence? “There’s a gateway in our minds that leads somewhere out there, far beyond this place / Where reptile aliens made of light, cut you up and pull out all your pain.” Stirgill Simpson is as progressive as you can get within the realm of Americana, urging the listener to both think and feel.

2. St. Vincent – “Digital Witness”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”
5. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar


Nine Inch Nails

Nine Inch Nails // Photo by Rob Sheridan for NIN.com

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Red Rocks Amphitheatre – Morrison, CO – July 21st
What a dream come true. Having the opportunity to see two of my favorite childhood bands at one of the best venues in the country would be hard to beat any year, let alone in 2014. Sharing the bill with Soundgarden on this tour, Trent Reznor made the most of a minimalist stage setup and trimmed-down lineup of sidekicks. Of the four shows (Red Rocks, Chula Vista, Irvine and Hollywood) I saw on this tour, this one felt particularly special. If this was one of the last times I ever got to see Nine Inch Nails perform live, it was a night I will never forget.

2. Jack White at The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – June 10th
3. Cinquanta featuring Puscifer, A Perfect Circle and Failure at The Greek Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – May 10th
4. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Los Angeles, CA – October 31st
5. Tool at Valley View Casino Center – San Diego, CA – March 16th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The Black KeysTurn Blue
Akron’s favorite rockers answered the call this year, following up their Grammy-winning album El Camino with arguably their most ambitious effort to date — especially when you consider the turmoil that surrounded Dan Auerbach’s life at the time of its recording. Over the last five years, the Keys have become one of rock’s biggest bands, but they haven’t stopped taking risks as a result. Turn Blue dabbles in a myriad of styles, from the psychedelic sound of Pink Floyd on its opening track “Weight of Love” to the hip-hop groove on “10 Lovers.” For as many critics as they have, Auerbach and Patrick Carney have come a long way since their early years as strictly a blues duo.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. Jack WhiteLazaretto
4. Aphex TwinSyro
5. Death from Above 1979The Physical World

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Jack White – “High Ball Stepper”
Jack White seems to be on another level these days. The former White Stripe has grown into one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most exciting talents, and this blues-heavy, instrumental track showcases that better than any other offering on Lazaretto. White’s ferocious guitar riffs dominate the tune, taking listeners on an emotional roller coaster from start to finish. And when he plays “High Ball Stepper” live, the song takes on a new whole life of its own.

2. Foo Fighters – “Something for Nothing”
3. Interpol – “All the Rage Back Home”
4. TV on the Radio – “Happy Idiot”
5. Tycho – “Awake”


Jack White at BGCA // Photo by

Jack White at Bill Graham Civic // Photo by David James Swanson

Steven Wandrey // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Jack White at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – August 22nd
From the dramatic curtain drop that slammed into high-octane rock, this show never let off the gas. Even with a bum ankle, Jack White stalked the stage and held power over the crowd. When the slowest moments of a show are White Stripes ballads that you’re giddy to hear and the other half of the show is headbanging, guitar-slinging rock, it’s easy to see how this show cemented itself as the best of 2014.

2. Atomic Bomb! The Music of William Onyeabor at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – May 6th
3. The War on Drugs at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 1st
4. Run the Jewels at Mezzanine – San Francisco, CA – November 14th
5. Duck Sauce at Outside Lands Music Festival – August 9th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
This album makes me feel like I’m actually traveling through the underworld to the land of the dead. From front to back, the first thing that caught me about this album was its consistent message. Steven Ellison has an inviting sense of storytelling that’s infused with hip-hop but touches on an array of different music styles, involving a star-studded cast of guests, including Kendrick Lamar, Thundercat and Snoop Dog. I have a feeling Flying Lotus is on the forefront of creative hip-hop and that this album will prove to be influential down the line. More importantly, I just love listening to it. Taking wild turns from frenetic to serene, listening to this album from start to finish is a journey.

2. Aphex TwinSyro
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. Future IslandsSingles
5. Tweedy – Sukierae

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Run the Jewels – “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”
The minimalist production and deep, rumbling bass frequencies have helped this track become my No. 1 listened to on the album and also No. 1 for the year. The complimentary flow that El-P and Killer Mike have together is on display in this track. This cut has infected my brain like a virus (the good kind?), and I just can’t get enough.

2. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
3. Sam Smith – “I’m Not the Only One”
4. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
5. Perfume Genius – “Queen”


Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by

Future Islands at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
It’s been a banner year for the Baltimore darlings we have grown to love as Future Islands. Breaking through the underground touring circuit to being a highly sought-after festival act was quick and clean as the passionate stage performance of Samuel Harrington could not be ignored by growing audiences. A packed Gobi Tent was eating from the frontman’s palm as Herrington poured himself out on stage, belting out a set heavy on new tracks and old favorites. It was a pivotal point where both the band and audience knew that Future Islands had arrived at the next stage of their career.

2. The Cure at BottleRock Napa Valley – Napa, CA – May 30th
3. Phish at MGM Grand Arena – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
4. Connan Mockasin at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – May 15th
5. Deerhoof at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 18th 

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream 
Adam Granduciel had one helluva 2014 to brag about. His third studio album Lost in the Dream was an overwhelming success, and all for good reason as the lush waves of rock swell over the listener like a warm Christmas sweater, just less ugly than the one you wore to that one party. “Under the Pressure” opens this release in epic fashion and does not let up from there. Guitar rock is not dead!

2. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
3. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
4. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
5. White Fence – For the Recently Found Innocent  

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” (feat. Kendrick Lamar)
Steven Ellison’s left-field meditation on death, as demonstrated on 2014’s release You’re Dead!, is not for everyone and is more about the full album than the sum of its parts (tracks). However, there is one shining beacon of a collaboration that could not be cast aside in the form of “Never Catch Me”. The partnership of one of the hottest MCs with one of the most sought-after producers was meant to be a brutally infectious slice of off-kilter street music. 

2. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”
3. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
4. Beck – “Blue Moon”
5. Ariel Pink – “Put Your Number in My Phone”


Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014

Ryan Adams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014 // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pete Mauch // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Phish at MGM Grand – Las Vegas, NV – October 31st
Phish has made the tradition of covering other artists albums on Halloween, and this year they completely outdid themselves by covering essentially an album of only narrative and spooky sounds. The Disney-produced album The Thrilling and Chilling Sounds of the Taunted House was turned into a rock opera of sorts as Trey and company worked through completely new songs based off just minimal sounds, but the night didn’t just end there. The band played this rock opera sandwiched between two very strong sets of original Phish songs that could have held its own alone.

2. Lettuce’s Late Night in Red Barn at Summer Camp Music Festival – Chillicothe, IL – May 22nd
3. Future Islands at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 12th
4. Ryan Adams at The Fox Theater Pomona – Pomona, CA – October 11th
5. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles – August 24th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams
When someone as prolific as Ryan Adams puts out a new record, you buy that record and you listen intently. The songs in his first self-titled album may seem simple at first listen, but they stay with you in the back of your mind until you just can’t take it and you re-listen again and again. This is exactly how what I’ve been doing the past few months since the release. Songs like “Gimme Something Good” and “Am I Safe” prove once again that Adams is still on top of his game.

2. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3. moe. – No Guts, No Glory
4. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time
5. Greensky Bluegrass – If Sorrows Swim

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
“People change / You know but some people never do / You know when people change, they gain a piece but they lose one too.” These lyrics are so uplifting and real, and the music to accompany these amazing lyrics ties the emotion perfectly together.

2. The War on Drugs – “Under the Pressure”
3. The Barr Brothers – “Come in the Water”
4. Temples – “Shelter Song”
5. Caribou – “Can’t Do Without You”


Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Old Crow Medicine Show at The Regency // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Pedro Paredes // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Darkside at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – January 24th
The album Nicolas Jaar and Dave Harrington put together in 2013 was a delight for the ears, but with the show they played at The Fillmore, they were going after every sense in your body. Jaar once said that Darkside’s music was more experiential rather than musical, and they surely succeeded in delivering one of the best musical experiences to all the lucky attendants on that cold January night.

2. Future Islands at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – April 10th
3. St. Vincent at The Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – March 22nd
4. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5. Old Crow Medicine Show at The Masonic – San Francisco, CA – September 20th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. BeckMorning Phase
Beck’s Morning Phase follows the same breezy style as Sea Change, but the latter’s serenity seems to come from darker places. Morning Phase is, as the title suggests, a bit brighter and sets the tone for all the good things yet to come.

2. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
3. Real EstateAtlas
4. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
5. Perfume Genius – Too Bright

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. alt-J – “Nara”
It is hard to isolate “Nara” as the best song of Alt-J’s latest album This is All Yours since the story told in it is not exclusive to that song and it comes back in different sections of the album (as well as in some of the musical arrangements). But “Nara”, a song about love, deserves to be listened again and again. The 2:58 mark is bliss to my ears.

2. tUnE-yArDs – “Water Fountain”
3. Run the Jewels – “Love Again”
4. Perfume Genius – “Fool”
5. Angel Olsen – “Hi-Five”


St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by

St. Vincent at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. Nine Inch Nails & Soundgarden at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – August 24th
I had never seen either band live before and based on my experience, it was like they had never broken up or aged since the ’90s. Amazing stage/light shows to go along with what was hands down my most eagerly anticipated show of the year.

2. Cibo Matto at Slim’s – San Francisco, CA – February 26th
3. American Football at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – December 12th
4. Failure at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – May 14th
5. Crosses at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – March 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. St. VincentSt. Vincent
This album comes off like a chameleon, with many shifts but always staying very characteristically St. Vincent. I feel that she is one of the more important artists to come around over the last few years, and I am excited to see what she does next.

2. Nothing – Guilty of Everything
3. BeckMorning Phase
4. Fugazi – First Demo
5. The War on DrugsLost in the Dream

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Spoon – “Do You”
Spoon have a knack for throwing a good toe tapper in their albums. This song is short and sweet, and you cannot help but get caught up in its infectiousness.  

2. Ryan Adams – “Give Me Something Good”
3. St. Vincent – “Prince Johnny”
4. TV on the Radio – “Could You”
5. Nothing – “Bent Nail”


Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheater // Photo by Justin Yee

Justin Yee // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1) Future Islands at South by Southwest (Cheer Up Charlie’s) – Austin, TX – March 13th
2) Arcade Fire at Shoreline Amphitheatre – Mountain View, CA – July 30th
3) Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
4) James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
5) Outkast at Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA – October 18th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1) Future IslandsSingles
2) The War on DrugsLost in the Dream
3) ODESZA – In Return
4) Flying LotusYou’re Dead!
5) CaribouOur Love

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1) Future Islands – “Seasons (Waiting on You)”
2) Chromeo – “Come Alive” feat. Toro y Moi
3) Flying Lotus – “Never Catch Me” feat. Kendrick Lamar
4) Chet Faker – “1998”
5) Mac Demarco – “Let Her Go”


James Blake at The Chapel //

James Blake at The Chapel // Photo by Pedro Paredes

Eric Shaden // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. James Blake at The Chapel – San Francisco, CA – December 7th
I feel bad telling friends about how great this show was since so few people were able to get tickets. An intimate venue hosting such a phenomenal artist was a no-brainer for my top pick. James covered hits from his albums as well as debuted new tracks and an incredible interlude of house jams. I just wish more friends could have seen this!

2. Chromeo at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – April 12th
3. Todd Terje at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – August 24th
4. tUnE-yArDs at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. Holy Ghost! at San Francisco Museum of Modern Art – San Francisco, CA – April 30th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Run the JewelsRun the Jewels 2
What else can be said about this album that hasn’t been covered already? An outstanding sequel to Run the Jewels that expands on the original with top-notch production and punishing delivery from El-P and Killer Mike. Without a doubt my top choice of the year.

2. Syd Arthur – A Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble
3. D’Angelo – Black Messiah 
4. Sinkane – Mean Love
5. Todd Terje – It’s Album Time

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. D’Angelo – “Sugah Daddy”
I imagine D’Angelo coming back with his long-awaited album in December showed which writers/blogs/etc. wrote their “Best of the Year” lists early. His style of soulful R&B is sorely needed, and “Sugah Daddy” is my favorite from the album. Looking forward to his tour in 2015!

2. Caribou – “Our Love”
3. Aphex Twin – “minipops 67 [120.2]”
4. Jungle – “Time”
5. Jamie xx – “Sleep Sound”


High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

High Sierra Music Festival // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

Benjamin Wallen // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. High Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 2nd-5th
2. Paul McCartney at Candlestick Farewell – Candlestick Park – San Francisco, CA – August 14th
3. Jamestown Revival at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – November 28th
4. The String Cheese Incident at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – April 24th
5. Greensky Bluegrass at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – November 14th


Cali-Roots_fix

Scott Martin // San Jose

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. California Roots Music Festival at Monterey Fairgrounds – Monterey, CA – May 23rd-25th
2. Rival Sons, Soft White Sixties & Sir Madam at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – September 25th
3. The Pimps of Joytime at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – February 15th
4. Caravan Palace & Rosin Coven at The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA – April 16th
5. Jackie Greene at The Catalyst Club – Santa Cruz, CA – March 26th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Bears Den – Islands
2. Milky Chance – Sadnecessary
3. Lana Del Rey – Ultraviolence
4. Mighty Oaks – Howl
5. Solstafir – Otta

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Bears Den – “Agape”
2. Bears Den – “Isaac”
3. Milky Chance – “Down by the River”
4. Mighty Oaks – “The Great Northwest”
5. Crosses – “Bitches Brew”


MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

MIA at BFD // Photo by Marc Fong

Nikki DeMartini // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2014
1. MIA at Shoreline Amphitheatre for BFD 2014 – Mountain View, CA – June 1st
It had been four years since I saw MIA live and even though I’d prefer to see her play her own show rather than a set at a music festival, I was super excited to see her at BFD last summer. It was the first time in nearly 10 years that my cousin and I went to LIFE105’s annual summer show together. We lucked out and upgraded our tickets just in time to see MIA’s performance. Both of us were out of our seats, singing and dancing along to every song as soon as her set started. I was beside myself as MIA herself made her way off the stage, up into the seats of the venue and stopped near our row to spit lyrics as fans gathered and danced around her, myself included. I still can’t believe I danced with MIA!

2. OK Go at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – July 16th
3. Die Antwoord at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – May 22nd
4. Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – June 6th
5. MS MR at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – April 15th

Top 5 Albums of 2014
1. Sylvan Esso – Sylvan Esso
When I covered Sylvan Esso at The Fillmore earlier this year (when they opened for tUnE-yArDs), I had no idea who they were but ended up leaving the show a fan. Their self-titled debut album is an uplifting mix of danceable electropop tracks and indie rock that’s easy to lose yourself in. Their sparkly, layered and melodic sounds translate well whether you’re listening to the album or seeing them live. Sylvan Esso is one of three albums I bought in 2014, and it’s been on repeat ever since I picked it up.

2. Glass Animals – Zaba
3. Die Antwoord – Donker Mag
4. Iggy Azalea – The New Classic
5. First Aid Kit – Stay Gold

Top 5 Songs of 2014
1. Tove Lo – “Habits (Stay High)”
I really enjoy the simple percussion-driven melody and voluptuous vocals of Tove Lo’s hit single “Habits (Stay High)”. The subtle, yet engaging buildup to her belting, emotionally-charged lyrics has me singing along and turning it up every time I hear it on the radio. While it is very catchy, it’s not a super dancey song. However, it is a great go-to for karaoke. 

2. Die Antwoord – “Rat Trap 666”
3. Sylvan Esso – “Hey Mami”
4. First Aid Kit – “My Silver Lining”
5. The Dead Weather – “Buzzkill(er)”

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass survival guide

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UPDATE 10/2: The weather will be something out of Coachella on Friday with 88 degree highs expected. Forget the layers, bring extra sunscreen and water.

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is one of the most anticipated events of the year in San Francisco, but with it’s increased size over the past decade it can be a daunting weekend for some. Showbams breaks down all the pro tips you could need to enjoy long days of stellar, free music in a stunning setting. 

View the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014 Schedule.

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GETTING THERE:
Public Transit is going to be your best bet for arriving at Hardly Strictly in the morning. The 5, 5L, 31, 38, 71 and N are you best bets if coming west to the the Park. NOTE: Some 5 busses will end at 6th Ave.
• Parking can be rather tricky, as you can imagine. It’s possible, and much more feasible the earlier you arrive in the area. Heading past 25th Avenue deeper into the Outer Richmond may be a better bet than trying to park near the festival stages. You can park in the park on Friday and Saturday, but it’s limited to 4 hours, so it’s a gamble. Limited pay lots at these locations were available in 2013:

  • George Washington High School – 600 32nd Ave. [enter at 30th Ave. between Geary & Anza]
  • Argonne 680 18th Ave. [enter at Cabrillo between 17th Ave. and 18th Ave.]
  • Lafayette 4545 Anza Street @ 36th Avenue [enter on 36th between Anza and Balboa]
  • Presidio Middle School (Sat & Sun ONLY) – 450 30th Ave. [enter on 29th Ave. between Geary and Clement]
  • Jefferson Elementary School (Sat & Sun ONLY) – 1725 Irving St. [Enter on 18th Ave. between Irving and Judah]

• Be aware of not blocking driveways if you park, your car will be towed.
Bike parking is available in the form of self-parking or valet.


ONCE AT HARDLY STRICTLY:
• Take a look at the schedule and figure which stage interests you most each day — this is where you should setup ‘Homebase’. For best location, arrive an hour or two before the music starts. From there, you can wander to other stages but still have a place to leave your picnic and cooler. 
• Don’t ‘save’ more room than you need. 
• Meet and be friendly with your neighbors.
• Orient yourself early. Locate the closest porta-potties and concessions (if interested in purchasing food), as the park can fill in quickly.
• Most people bring large picnics for the day, though there are concessions offered. 
• Beer and wine is allowed to be brought to the event, and for obvious reasons there is no glass allowed. No hard alcohol is allowed, but this isn’t harshly enforced if you use discretion.
• A beacon or small flag will be helpful if you hope for friends or family to find you, or your Homebase, in the sizable crowds.
• Pace yourself if you do imbibe. These can be long days in the sun, and though you want to let the good times roll, be mindful of your intake for the safety of yourself and attendees. 
• Be mindful of others. There is no smoking allowed in the park, but let’s be honest, it’s not a rule obeyed by many. Do your best to not smoke cigarettes in the crowds and head somewhere in the fringes and throw your butts away into the trash.
• Time-slots are accurate, as the production is top-notch, so allow the needed time to travel between stages.
• It’s supposed to be a sunny, breezy weekend in the park like last year, so bring sunscreen, chapstick, a layer and wishes for as good of weather as we enjoyed last year.


EXODUS:
• There will be increased amounts of 5-Fulton busses, but it can still be a cluster between 25th and 30th avenues. May be better served walking towards Geary to the 31 or 38 or towards Ocean Beach where the busses launch.
• If you are trying to grab a Lyft, Uber, Sidecar or private car, we suggest trying to meet them off of Fulton or Lincoln into the neighborhoods.
• If you truly have to leave the festival quickly in your car, one suggestion would be trying to park your car in the area the night before.
• Walk the park in the early evening back to the Haight or Divisadero with the elated masses.

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Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014 proving to be as diverse as ever

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Written by Mike Frash // Photos by Shawn Reiss //

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2014 //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
October 3rd-5th, 2014 //

The 14th incarnation of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass is shaping up to be one of the finest offerings yet, especially if the four rounds of medley preview clues are any indication.

Adept at balancing legends, local Bay Area acts and fast-rising talent, the curation team for Hardly Strictly Bluegrass never disappoints the hundreds of thousands of music lovers that show up for the free event.

The HSB website has shared the traditional four medleys that preview many of the acts that will play, and variety is the key word (listen below). Returning legends include Emmylou Harris, Chris Isaak, Lucinda Williams, Shawn Colvin, Dave Rawlings Machine and Buddy Miller.

But take a look at the standout indie, rock and neo-soul acts announced so far, including a dash of hip-hop and punk:

•Ryan Adams
•Sun Kil Moon
•Deltron 3030 with The 3030 Orchestra
•Social Distortion
•Yo La Tengo
•Thao & The Get Down Stay Down
•Jonathan Wilson
•St. Paul & The Broken Bones
•The Sam Chase
•Cibo Matto
•Malawi Mouse Boys

History tells us the complete lineup will be announced after the four rounds of medleys — it could come as early as next week!

Watch webcasts, read our survival guide and view our photos from Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013.







Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

PHOTOS: Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 2013

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Photos by Shawn Reiss & The Bam Team // Written by Mike Frash

The tone of a festival is set at the door. Long lines and abrasive security checks are often a hefty buzzkill, reducing smiles and increasing tension. But then there’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, a free three day music festival in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park with no perimeter fencing, security lines, or stress if you planned right. Police on horseback spent way more time showing off their equestrian partners than having to enforce the law.

And that’s the beauty of this fest — while there may have been upwards of 700,000 people that attended the festival October 4-6, and lines were long, and it was actually pretty hot, the community at this event makes sure that good vibes prevail. There’s a group mentality that polices itself at Hardly Strictly, and maybe it’s the laissez-faire attitude toward artist busking, alcohol & marijuana consumption and allowing freak flags to fly that actually makes it all work. In the end it’s cultural events like Hardly Strictly that endear us to the great City of San Francisco.

Take a look at these scene shots from the weekend!

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: 10 best ‘Hardly Bluegrass’ shows

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The artist lineup for the best free music festival (in the world?), Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, has been released and it’s as strong as ever. The festival began as “Strictly Bluegrass Festival” in 2001 through the hard work of Warren Hellman, the sole benefactor and founder of HSB who passed away in late 2011. Hellman has made sure the festival will continue on long after his death — the investment mogul, banjo performer and all around music fan routinely referred to his festival as a “selfish gift.”

After three years of “Strictly Bluegrass,” Hellman changed the name of the Festival to its current moniker and started inviting acts that strayed from pure bluegrass. In the past few years, San Francisco has witnessed performances from Buckethead, MC Hammer, and Broken Social Scene at Hardly Strictly, so clearly the fest has evolved over 13 years.

And this year there are plenty of acts that are “Hardly Bluegrass” — here are the 10 best looking non-bluegrass shows (and a bonus wildcard) October 4-6, 2013 in Golden Gate Park.


Father John Misty

For a guy that gained traction as ‘the drummer from Fleet Foxes,’ things have certainly changed in the course of 1.5 years for Father John Misty. Now, FJM is more well-known than the group that helped catapult him into contemporary culture. This entire conversation is a moot point as J. Tillman has presented himself as the twenty-first century troubadour, mixing a mentality dripping in Bohemianism with over-the-top stage theatrics. The result is a debaucherous yet beautiful live music performance that should fit nicely into HSB.

And his fall tour promises a new experience — it’s billed as a “Solo Variety Show” featuring comedian Kate Berlant. Doesn’t a Father John Misty show already seem like a solo variety hour? FJM’s San Francisco shows in October will kick off this fall tour, so if you can’t bear the possibility of showing up late to Golden Gate Park and settling on a poor spot, reserve a ticket for his Thursday pre-HSB show at Slim’s. -MIKE FRASH



Sonny and the Sunsets

With such a vast array of acts present on the many stages over the 3 days, it’s a wonder so many local artists are able to be present on the lineup. Well this year, Sonny Smith, and his band the Sunsets, is likely to win over many new fans with his infectious take on folkified psych-pop with a flair for catchy lyrics and a rousing stage presence. The multifaceted front-man connects to his audiences in very intimate ways, so try to catch this rising star before he’s out of reach. -KEVIN QUANDT



First Aid Kit

For a duo whose greatest single (so far) revolves around “Emmylou,” “June,” “Gram” & “Johnny”, it’s really not too surprising to see the sisterly Swedish group First Aid Kit on the Hardly Strictly bill. If the schedule doesn’t preclude them, the ladies from First Aid Kit can catch Emmylou Harris’ set in the flesh at Hellman Hollow (most likely on Sunday).

When thinking about future Hardly Strictly mainstays amongst the new offerings this year, First Aid Kit just seems like the perfect fit going forward. And who would be more perfect than third year “Friday Friends” curator of the Rooster stage Conor Oberst to introduce the group to the festival?

Oberst made a cameo on the final track of First Aid Kit’s excellent 2012 LP The Lion’s Roar, and Klara Söderberg spoke about the experience last year: “People say you should never meet your idols. But for us it’s been the opposite, but that’s because our idols are the coolest, sweetest people.” Klara was referencing Oberst & company, so be sure to get to Golden Gate Park early Friday to secure your spot in Marx Meadow. Expect Oberst to make an appearance with First Aid Kit. -MF



The Evens

Ian MacKaye is not a name most would consider to be present on the bill for Hardly Strictly, but alas Conor Oberst invited the former Minor Threat/Fugazi frontman and his wife Amy Farina to his showcase on Friday. The Evens have a stripped-down punk-folk sound delivered in a guitar and drums format with husband and wife handling vocals equally. McCaye’s most consistent project after Fugazi demonstrates that a mellowed out sound is where his passions are now after years of hardcore and punk. You won’t be the only one calling in sick on Friday, October 4th. -KQ



Gogol Bordello

Gypsy-punk ensemble Gogol Bordello certainly fall into the “Hardly Bluegrass” category of this quintessential SF music fest. Eugene Hütz is the lead force of the bombastic, ecstatic curators of weird and crazy, but as many as five performers step into the spotlight to contribute vocals throughout any given song. A Gogol Bordello performance boarders on surrealism, projecting a humorous party atmosphere that is irresistible to join in on — just ask anyone in their small but loyal (and rabid) fan club near the front. -MF



Allah-Las

Hopefully the throngs of attendees will be rewarded with one of those perfect Indian Summer weekends; sun shining, a few patchy clouds and a steady on-shore breeze from the Pacific. Essentially a perfect storm to enjoy the lo-fi, surfed-out sound of LA band, the Allah-las. These garage rock wunderkids have been blazing a trail across the Western US with their melancholic, yet optimistic, take on traditional rock and roll. Tinges of psychedelia will certainly nod to the origins of loud, outdoor music events in Golden Gate Park. -KQ



The Wood Brothers

The Wood Brothers, Oliver and Chris Wood, procure roots-influenced folk rock that is simple and effective. The focus here is on straightforward lyricism, along with basic acoustic guitar and upright bass with simple rhythm backing. Chris Wood is better known as the bassist from Medeski, Martin & Wood, a jazz-fusion trio that has often included John Scofield in recent years. While you won’t hear a lick of vocals with MMW, The Wood Brothers should get music fans swooning and swaying come October.-MF



Low

These Minnesotan slow rockers have been mystifying their audiences for 20 years with a blend of muted tempos and minimized song stylings. Low are considered ‘slowcore’ mavericks, and have been heralded for dynamic stage shows that reach exploratory levels, especially in reinterpretations of cover songs from Toto to Outkast. An “anything goes” attitude is needed for the large crowds and distances at HSB, so might as well take another chance with indie demigods, Low. -KQ



Calexico

Named after the border town of Calexico California, Calexico aren’t your typical indie group. Aspects of Latin, country, jazz & rock can be gleaned from this band that has been going at it for about 15 years — but the overall product sounds mysterious and rambling. Joey Burns & John Convertino are the two constants in Calexico, who continue to tour on their 2012 LP, Algiers. Calexico will also be performing at Slim’s Friday night. -MF



Betty LaVette

50 years of soul singing makes Betty Lavette one of the vets in the industry, even if she is still a relatively new name to music lovers. A wide range of influences also lends to a truly unique voice and writing style, which is likely to thrill patrons of all ages. Her rise to fame was relatively late in her career, but she has since graced many of the biggest stages and collaborated with a “who’s who” of legends such as Sir Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr. A sunday morning slot could be a perfect way to ease into the final day. -KQ


WILDCARD BONUS:

String Cheese Incident

String Cheese Incident and the circus that follows the group on the road will most likely bring their joyful sound to the Satr Stage. Kyle Hollingsworth, keyboardist of SCI, appeared last year alongside Steve Kimock, Keller Williams & Bernie Worrell Sunday evening at the Star Stage — so maybe Hollingsworth (and Keller) convinced the rest of the group that HSB is a worthwhile festival to contribute to, for all the right reasons.

Will SCI play to the roots of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass by honing in on bluegrass numbers like “Good Times Around the Bend” & “Restless Wind”, or will the group curate a ‘normal’ show by incorporating jamtronica classics like “Rivertrance” or mind-melters like “Miss Brown’s Teahouse” or “Jellyfish”? -MF

THANKS-WARREN

The Lumineers play to 120 lucky folks at The Chapel

Photos by Marc Fong // Written by Molly Kish //

Warren Hellman’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival just closed out it’s 12th year w/ impeccable weather, and it featured over 250,000 attendants and three days of amazing performances from a wide variety of globally recognized artists. Focusing on the latest and greatest in contemporary and traditional country, rockabillly, soul, brass and/or any slight derivative of the genre, crowds spanned throughout the entire Hellman Hollows portion of Golden Gate Park, for a full weekend of bluegrass bliss. One of the stand out acts of the weekend, bringing a fully packed Rooster Stage to their feet, was Denver Colorado’s five piece folk outfit, the Lumineers.

Production-wise, the band is known for their stripped down, vocally saturated, exceptional acoustic performances. While this can be hard to do on a large scale, they accomplished it with ease and they won the enthusiastic attention of a fully packed Saturday afternoon crowd. Hailed by many as a favorite act of the weekend, the Lumineers proved their sound and talent could transcend the difficulties present within the setting of a large scale festival. Beyond allowing them to reach a whole different level of notoriety, it left many fans in anticipation for their next return to the Bay Area. Luckily for me, I was able to catch it front an center during the soft opening of what is properly being referred to as “The Preservation Hall West,” or The Chapel.

The brand new (still under construction) venue, located in the heart of the Mission District in San Francsico, is one with a particularly interesting back story. Beyond being named after & the official west coast home of the New Orleans Preservation Hall Jazz Band, the building itself is a converted mortuary built in 1914. The stage, which played host to a slew of Hardly Strictly talent for the remainder of the weekend, including Elvis Costello, Steve Earle, Buddy Miller and Allison Moore, is sans alter, directly in the middle of what used to be the resident chapel. Elevated about eight feet above floor level, underneath 40 ft. wooden beamed ceiling’s, surrounded by the barren walls of an incomplete venue. Because of all this, the room has a beautifully organic stereo quality. This scope of sound perfectly complemented the intimate nature of the private Lumineers show to close out the venue’s first full week of operation.

Right when I found out about this show, I jumped upon the opportunity to see them in such a gorgeous space. With a crowd maxing out at about a 120 person guest list, audience members were treated to a show most would only be lucky enough to catch in the context of a wedding or band’s debut performance. Although a newer face in commercial radio, The Lumineers played a far from amateur show, highlighting material off of their 2012 self titled debut along with encore accapella numbers and a teaser of a yet to be released track. Wesley Shultz’s humble front man presence charmingly absorbed the crowd while Jeremiah Fraite’s drums and Neyla Pekarek’s cello bled beautifully into perfect cohesion with their visceral back up vocals. Stelth Ulvang and Ben Wahamaki remained in the offstage areas, ducked behind the velvet curtains until their aid was needed on tracks featuring the piano, mandolin, accordion and bass.

The Lumineers’ sound, although self described as folk rock in the vein of traditional roots revival, is one that transcends a typecast amongst listeners. The crowd that evening, completely diverse in background and reason for attendance, hung upon every lingering note, extended bridge and crowd participatory moment the band brought to the stage. Whether languidly entranced, swaying back and forth to Shultz’s accapella crooning of “Dead Sea,” or bursting with energy, jumping at the invitation to scream along the chorus of “Hey Ho,” the band decidedly made the evening an especially participatory experience for everyone in attendance. Shultz even went as far as to candidly suggest that everyone limit their recording to a minimum, to keep the evening as it was intended to be: a private moment to be shared between them and the audience.

The band ended their set thanking everyone for their support through radio play and downloads. They cheekily added the casual reminder that said hits were part of a larger collection of music they were proud to share, through purchase of their entire album. Constant discourse, hugs and sentimental moments shared through the band member’s playful nature and glances at each other resonated a relatable quality that the Lumineers have, but in another setting could get lost in the moment. Their sound, personas and overall ambiance they brought to the deconstructed venue was perfect for the Preservation Hall West’s first week performance schedule. This intimate gathering worked as a seamless transition but the scene was completely different than their incredibly impressive appearance at HSB 2012.

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…