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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A sold-out crowd at Hollywood Palladium propels Local Natives to new heights in their hometown

Local NativesBy Zach Bourque //

Local Natives with Middle Kids //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
June 22nd, 2019 //

Hometown indie heroes Local Natives packed the Hollywood Palladium to its capacity while on tour in support of their fourth studio album Violet Street. Selling out the venue is a pretty rare achievement that’s often reserved for more popular acts such as LCD Soundsystem and Nine Inch Nails, but low and behold, the local boys made it happen with Middle Kids on the bill as the evening’s opener.

A brand-name indie show on a weekend night normally draws a big crowd in LA, but this one proved to be even grander. By the time Local Natives took the stage around 10 p.m., there was nary a space to stand unless you were camping out through Middle Kids’ exceptional opening set. The Aussie rockers have been making a name for themselves on the festival circuit of late, and they did a fine job filling up the Palladium’s expansive floor. With Hannah Joy cementing the power trio’s sound on guitar and vocals, it was a performance that seemed to catch many spectators off guard. Middle Kids’ songs possess the perfect amount of 90’s nostalgia to keep things catchy while remaining unpretentious and accessible, so expect big things from them in the future.

Middle Kids


Middle Kids

Local Natives, subsequently, began with “Vogue” off Violet Street before cranking up the heat during fan favorite “Sun Hands” from their 2009 debut LP Gorilla Manor. Midway through the tune, Taylor Rice (vocals, guitar) launched himself into a sea of arms in what appeared to be a joyful exercise, which apparently didn’t bother the ecstatic crowd that was pressed up against the barricade. The harmonies didn’t stop with the quintet’s vocals either, as fans experienced a 21-song set that ebbed and flowed between old hits and new sounds with relative ease. Even more, material from all four Local Natives records coalesced into one fluid live experience that put the exceptional musicianship of Rice, Kelcey Ayer (vocals, keyboards, percussion, guitar), Ryan Hahn (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Matt Frazier (drums) and Nik Ewing (bass, keyboards, vocals) on full display.

The band’s subdued lighting setup let the music do the talking and echoed its simple formula for success. Sometimes three amazing vocalists singing in harmony is all that you need to sell out a 5,000-person theater. While Local Natives haven’t taken a whole lot of risks over the last decade, including on the 10-track Violet Street, they still know how to hit you right in the feels every time. Nonetheless, time will tell which room they can sell out next. Here goes nothing …

Setlist:
Vogue
Sun Hands
You & I (extended intro)
Shy
Ceilings
I Saw You Close Your Eyes
Coins
Megaton Mile
Someday Now
Heavy Feet
Past Lives
Fountain of Youth
Café Amarillo
Airplanes
Wide Eyes
Garden of Elysian
Dark Days
When Am I Gonna Lose You

Encore:
Gulf Shores
Tap Dancer
Who Knows, Who Cares

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

David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium


David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Tim O’Shea

We have to be honest: 2018 was kind of a weird year for music. Sure, there were some major highlights — many of them listed below, in fact — but we also saw a serious changing of the guard. The decline of mainstream rock and the continued rise of hip-hop, R&B and pop was more noticeable than ever, from this year’s Coachella lineup to the cancellation of FYF Fest, making us wonder what the next twist or turn will be for the industry now that the demand for EDM has started to cool off following its boom circa 2012. That said, we still listened to a lot of new albums and caught plenty of concerts over the last 12 months, and it’s once again time for us to share our annual “Best of” lists, much like we have done over the past several years (see our 2017 picks here).

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2018.

See our favorite performances from 2018 here.

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


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018 // Photo courtesy of Coachella

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – February 17th
Just more than two months after his infamous assault on a photographer at The Forum for KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas, Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme made his return to the LA arena for a proper, sold-out affair with UK rock duo Royal Blood delivering what proved to be a headbanging opening set. From there, it only got better as Homme and the boys dazzled with a headlining performance that even included Villains producer Mark Ronson sitting in for most of the five-song encore and the band’s live debut of its “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” cover. You can bet Elton John, whom Homme actually collaborated with during the writing and recording of QOTSA’s sixth album …Like Clockwork, would have been proud. I always know when I’ve seen a good rock ‘n’ roll show because my neck will be sore the following day, but after this one, it was sore for the next three days. Ouch.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – December 12th, 14th-15th
3. Jamiroquai at Coachella, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 13th
4. David Byrne at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – August 24th
5. Foo Fighters/Nirvana reunion at Cal Jam 18 – San Bernadino, CA – October 6th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Jungle – For Ever
Unlike previous years, picking a favorite album in 2018 wasn’t quite as easy for me. I’ll admit that I didn’t hear every one that was released this year, but I listened to a lot of them. So, call me boring and short-sighted if you like, but nothing totally knocked my socks off. After much deliberation, it was Jungle’s sophomore LP For Ever that stood the test of time for me (no pun intended). The English soul collective’s follow-up to its 2014 self-titled debut doesn’t veer off in a completely different direction from what came before, but it still moves the sonic needle forward enough. After two full lengths, Jungle have shown a knack for writing catchy, dance-fueled tunes that transport you to a different time and place — even if it’s only for a three- or four-minute stretch.

2. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
3. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
4. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
5. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Nine Inch Nails – “Over and Out”
When I first listened to Bad Witch, I immediately knew this one was my favorite track on the album. But hearing it performed live on the final night of NIN’s “Cold and Black and Infinite” North American tour sealed it for top honors in 2018. Layering a brooding, yet funky bass line on top of a glitchy, experimental beat, Trent Reznor shows that he isn’t just playing it safe and merely saving his creativity for scoring films with bandmate and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross. You can tell Reznor had his late friend David Bowie in mind when he wrote the song too as he conjures up an even deeper baritone from behind the microphone than the one we have come to know over the last 30 years.

2. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
3. Jungle – “Heavy, California”
4. Wild Nothing – “Partners in Motion”
5. The Raconteurs – “Now That You’re Gone”


Richard Russell - Everything Is Recorded

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – August 16th
In support of his seventh solo album American Utopia, musical virtuoso David Byrne hit the road for one of this year’s most creative and ambitious tours. Over more than 150 dates that spanned the entire globe, the 66-year-old delivered Broadway-caliber performances with a traveling 11-piece band that served as a traveling retrospective of his solo and collaborative work. Meanwhile, the tour also doubled as a platform for him to deliver his “Reasons to Be Cheerful” manifestos on civic engagement, climate/energy, culture, economics, education, health, science/technology and urban transportation. He partnered with HeadCount while encouraging audiences every night to engage in public discourse through social media and their own personal stories on his website. And as a result, Byrne elevated the concert-going experience into more of an interactive, performance-art space that his fans became a living, breathing part of.

2. Young Fathers at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – November 10th
3. Erykah Badu & Thundercat at The Armory – San Francisco, CA – February 14th
4. Beck at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – August 8th
5. LCD Soundsystem with TV on the Radio at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – April 27th-28th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Richard Russell – Everything Is Recorded by Richard Russell
A multi-artist project released as the debut album of XL Recordings founder Richard Russell, Everything Is Recorded is collaborative effort representing the ties between past and present sounds currently shaping the framework of hip-hop, funk and soul. Featuring collaborations with Sampha, Kamasi Washington, Syd, Damon Albarn, Peter Gabriel, Ibeyi, Obongjayar and more, the album also plays as the soundtrack to a 30-minute film, which documents the time each spent in the studio during its conception and is interspliced with archival footage of Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield. With its underlying themes of loss and isolation, Everything Is Recorded effectively communicates Russell’s emotional journey as he battles a debilitating autoimmune disease in hope of finding salvation through the shared experience of creating a beautifully mastered piece of art.

2. George Fitzgerald – All That Must Be
3. Pusha T – DAYTONA
4. Robyn – Honey
5. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
If any song embodied the insanity and collective discontent of 2018, it was definitely Childish Gambino’s epic single “This Is America”. The juxtaposition of an a cappella choir leading into Donald Glover’s soft crooning over island beats and drum samples before staunchly diverting to a menacing base line reminiscent of 90’s gangster rap — as well as the hortative delivery of degrading lyrics about the current state of violence and American ideals — is near-perfect. Of course, the provocative music video that accompanied the track’s surprise release during his “Saturday Night Live” debut was incredible. The song, lyrics, video and marketing campaign could not have been a more flawless “slice of life” reflection of modern American society and justifiably has boomeranged into probably the most important moment of Childish Gambino’s career so far.

2. The Presets – “Downtown Shutdown”
3. Jon Hopkins – “Everything Connected”
4. Jungle – “Casio”
5. Parquet Courts – “Wide Awake”


Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Jazzfest – New Orleans, LA – April 29th
You know what they say: the first time is always the best. With David Byrne’s 2018 “American Utopia Tour” being universally acclaimed as one of the most enigmatic live shows of the year, it’s not surprising to see it top other “Best of” lists. Byrne and his merry band of “unplugged” pranksters created a feast for the eyes and ears, and his daytime set on the Gentilly Stage did not disappoint at all. While his Fox Theater Oakland shows were more intimate and featured some more dynamic lighting features, his performance at Jazzfest back in April was the most memorable for NOLA revelers.

2. Jamiroquai at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – April 17th
3. Polo & Pan at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – June 20th
4. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 4th
5. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at Primavera Sound – Barcelona, Spain – June 2nd

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
What a banner year for this Texas trio! Khruangbin have been on a steady rise the past few years as they turn on the masses to their infectious amalgamation of psychedelic soul, Thai surf rock and subtle funk. Having cemented their reputation as beasts in a live setting, Con Todo El Mundo proved their knack for penning tunes of equal strength with its emotive first single “Friday Morning” serving as a clear standout. “Evan Finds the Third Room” has also become a fan favorite, and the accompanying music video only lends to its growing charm. The sky’s the limit for Laura, Mark and DJ, so grab your ticket to fly.

2. Hookworms – Microshift
3. Amen Dunes – Freedom
4. Shame – Songs of Praise
5. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Sparkle Hard

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Jonathan Wilson – “Trafalgar Square”
LA producer-turned-frontman Jonathan Wilson churned out one helluva album opener for his third solo LP Rare Birds, as this six-plus-minute romp has all the right pieces for true liftoff. A proper intro leads into a riff so heavy that it’ll break your mama’s back. Top-notch production is key to this track, as Wilson is a wiz behind the boards. As you cruise down the 405 with this whopper blaring, you’d be hard-pressed not to nod along. Extra points for those of you with a 1970’s convertible, too.

2. Tom Misch – “Water Baby” feat. Loyle Carner
3. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
4. Jonathan Something – “Happy Day”
5. Men I Trust – “Seven”


Shame - Songs of Praise

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. The Smashing Pumpkins at Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA – August 27th
The Smashing Pumpkins are the quintessential 90’s arena-rock band, and they fully lived up to that billing at Oracle Arena for their Bay Area stop over the summer. I’ve seen them several times over the years, and although this time it was pegged as a “reunion tour” (minus D’Arcy, sigh), you never know what you’re going to get from them. Billy Corgan led the band through over three hours’ worth of material with some killer stage production to go with it. The show was definitely a marathon, but totally worth being there for. It came to light later that Corgan was also fighting off a bad case of food poisoning, but it didn’t show. It was great to see James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain back onstage, too — the way it should be.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 3rd
3. Against Me! & Turbonegro at UC Theatre – Berkeley, CA – May 25th
4. Alkaline Trio at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – October 6th
5. Back To The Beach Festival – Huntington Beach, CA – April 28th-29th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Shame – Songs of Praise
This album hit me like a ton of bricks in the best way. I had heard a ton of hype around Songs of Praise before giving it a first listen, and usually I am a healthy skeptic, but good Lord, does this record rip. It has a dark flavor and carries with it a lot of angst, and you can’t help but get caught up in the hooks that Shame offer. These five lads from South London simply killed it.

2. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
3. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
4. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
5. Snail Mail – Lush

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Shame – “Concrete”
Conjuring up the ghost of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis without sounding like a complete poser is challenging for newer post-punk bands it seems — except for Shame’s Charlie Steen. Paired with some brilliant instrumentation, I just couldn’t stop listening to “Concrete” when I first heard it. I must have listened to the track a solid 10 times in a row on the first go. This song has an infectious quality to it and is a straight-up ripper.

2. The Soft White Sixties – “I Still Love You, San Francisco”
3. Hot Snakes – “Six Wave Hold-Down”
4. IDLES – “Colossus”
5. The Sword – “Come and Gone”

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After winning their first Grammy, The National don’t hold back at the Hollywood Palladium

The NationalBy Josh Herwitt //

The National with Phoebe Bridgers //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
September 20th, 2018 //

I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve only been a fan of The National for a little more than a couple of years now. And though I was familiar with the band before then, it was merely by accident that they finally piqued my interest not that long ago.

It was a Thursday evening in the middle of summer when I got a text from a friend who said he had an extra ticket to their show at the Greek Theatre that very same night. The ticket, of course, was supposed to be for his girlfriend at the time, but they had just gotten into one of their volatile back-and-forths and there was no way she was going to go with him. I, like any devoted live music fan, wasn’t about to let her ticket go to waste, so I said yes on a whim and made my way to the venue, where The National invited St. Vincent and Adam Granduciel (of The War on Drugs) onstage as surprise guests and even performed “Morning Dew” from their massive Grateful Dead tribute box set for the first time. Pretty cool, right?

From that point on, I’ve made an effort to pay closer attention to what Matt Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Scott Devendorf and Bryan Devendorf have been up to. I knew I had some catching up to do considering that they’ve been at it for close to 20 years, but when the group’s seventh studio album Sleep Well Beast dropped last September on British indie label 4AD, much of it caught my attention thanks to SiriusXMU — and for good reason.

The National

The 12-track LP, after all, would not only go on to produce five singles, but it also took home a Grammy for “Best Alternative Music Album” in one of the more encouraging moments at this year’s 60th Grammy Awards. And at the Hollywood Palladium for the first of two nights in LA last Thursday, The National gave us all five of those singles, beginning with “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” and running through the remaining four as part of a 22-song setlist that opened with “Nobody Else Will Be There” just as Sleep Well Beast does.

Berninger, by now, is well-known for his baritone vocals and somber lyrics, and for that same reason, The National have never come across as one of rock’s more uplifting acts. Their music often sounds perfect for a rainy day, even though there are some energetic moments on Sleep Well Beast, be it “I’ll Still Destroy You”, “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness” or “Day I Die” as maybe the record’s most uptempo cut despite its obviously melancholy message.

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

Setlist:
Nobody Else Will Be There
The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness
Walk It Back
Guilty Party
Don’t Swallow the Cap
Bloodbuzz Ohio
I Need My Girl
Green Gloves
Lemonworld
Born to Beg
I’ll Still Destroy You
Slow Show
Sorrow (with Phoebe Bridgers)
Day I Die
Carin at the Liquor Store
Graceless
Rylan
Fake Empire

Encore:
Light Years
Mr. November
Terrible Love
Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks

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

Foals unite all walks of life at Hollywood Palladium

FoalsBy Zach Bourque //

Foals with Bear Hands, Kiev //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
September 27th, 2016 //

Of all the seven days in a week, Tuesday might be the least exciting. We go to work, grab a bite to eat and go to bed.

But when UK rockers Foals come into town, things change. Bros get stoked, beers get drunk and fans get pumped. This exact course of events went down last Tuesday at the Hollywood Palladium for the band’s return to Los Angeles after a raucous performance in Oakland the night before (see our photos from the show here).

Few bands bring out such an eclectic cross section of a city like Foals. While the majority in attendance seemed to be irresponsible USC students, old-timers, high schoolers, hipsters and average Joe’s all made an appearance despite the fall heat. The variety was no fluke. Foals are a band that transcend expectations — a commercial indie-rock band whose appeal is equal parts KROQ and KCRW.

Opening duties came from Orange County’s Kiev, who were missed due to traffic, followed by Brooklyn’s Bear Hands. Instead of telling you what genre Bear Hands’ music fits under, it’s probably more efficient to tell you what they’re not. They’re not metal, they’re not country and they’re definitely not gospel.

Bear Hands


Bear Hands

Needless to say, Bear Hands were all over the map on this night. Rap vocals? Check. Catchy keyboards? Check. Each song sounded different than the next, which proved to be equally refreshing and infuriating. It was like they set out to chronicle the musical progression of today’s culture starting with Limp Bizkit and ending with Imagine Dragons.

This “throw everything at the wall and see what fits” worked to a certain degree for Bear Hands. Their music remained genuinely interesting to hear throughout their set, and the foursome definitely had the chops to handle a venue the size of the Palladium. Ultimately though, Bear Hands never coalesced into something extraordinary.

If the line outside the venue after Bear Hands was any indication, many skipped the opening acts entirely in anticipation of the main course. Around 9:50 p.m., Foals took the stage and quickly got everyone’s feet moving with an instrumental prelude and the hard-rocking track “Snake Oil” off their latest release What Went Down. The band’s range was exhausted in full effect throughout their set as they transitioned into catchy, dance-friendly tracks such as “My Number” and slower tracks like “Give It All”.

Foals closed out their rambunctious set with a killer take on the title track “What Went Down” that brought lead singer/guitarist Yannis Philippakis diving into the crowd, giving fans one hell of a selfie and proving their rock credentials for good. After all, any band that can unite 20-something bros with 50-something grandparents gets a gold star in our book. Rock brings people together, and those who made it out to see this unicorn of a band won’t live to regret it.

Setlist:
Prelude
Snake Oil
Olympic Airways
My Number
Providence
Give It All
Mountain at My Gates
Spanish Sahara
Red Socks Pugie
Late Night
A Knife in the Ocean
Inhaler

Encore:
What Went Down
Two Steps, Twice

Metric, Joywave drop a double dose of electro rock on their fans at Hollywood Palladium

Metric


Metric

By Josh Herwitt //

Metric with Joywave //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
February 25th, 2016 //

Coincidence or not, Toronto’s music scene was surprisingly well-represented in LA last week. The Great White North’s largest city has been its largest cultivator of electronic music since the early 2000’s, boasting some of EDM’s biggest and brightest names, whether it’s DJs and producers like DeadMau5 or live improvisational bands like Holy Fuck, who we saw debut brand-new material from what will be their first studio album in six years last Thursday night (read more about the show here). But if Holy Fuck’s hour-long set at Los Globos was simply there to serve as the undercard for Toronto’s aural invasion in LA over a brief 24-hour period, then the main event belonged to a different Queen City quartet the following night: Metric.

The indie/new wave four-piece fronted by Broken Social Scene’s Emily Haines has been at it for almost two decades now, with six studio albums to boot, including 2015’s Pagans in Vegas that dropped this past September. But with their last visit to LA seeing them perform only nine songs as opening support for Imagine Dragons at The Forum, Metric had yet to play a proper show in LA since unveiling Pagans. And as evidenced by the near-capacity crowd at the Hollywood Palladium last Friday for the band’s first headlining performance in quite a while, dating all the way back to 2012, many fans were ready to get their weekend started as they arrived early to catch Joywave’s opening set.

Joywave


Joywave

For as mainstream as Metric have become — and it’s only fitting considering that Haines and guitarist James Shaw originally named the group “Mainstream” when it first formed in 1998 as a duo — Joywave have garnered their own commercial success in their rather short career, though much of it can been attributed to “Dangerous”, the Big Data hit that peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart. But the electronic-inspired, indie-rock act that calls Rochester, N.Y., home harnessed that momentum to write and release its debut LP How Do You Feel Now? on Hollywood Records, so it only seemed appropriate that Joywave were here in Tinseltown to perform material from the album.

Evidently, frontman Daniel Armbruster came ready for the moment, bringing what felt like a Red Bull’s worth of energy to the stage while working the crowd in between songs with some unorthodox, yet comedic stage banter. He mentioned the group’s upcoming performance at Coachella this April and joked about LA being the ninth-most-privileged city to hear its new track from the Alice in Wonderland movie that’s due out May 27th. In the end, it was one of those exceptionally strong sets from an opener — even with only 45 minutes to work with — and we can only wonder what Armbruster and his sidekicks could do with another album or two under their belt and their own headlining gig at a large LA venue like The Palladium.

Metric


Metric

When it came time for Metric to take the stage, the audience had been properly warmed up and was hungry for more. To kick off their 23-song set that lasted almost two hours, Haines, Shaw, bassist/keyboardist Joshua Winstead and drummer Joules Scott-Key transported us all the way back to 2003 with “IOU” from their debut album Old World Underground, Where Are You Now? But while it was fairly safe to assume that at least part of the reason why they were embarking on a 24-date tour across the U.S. was to support their latest album, Metric only unveiled a handful of songs — five to be exact — from Pagans.

Instead, the Canadian rockers put together a career-spanning performance, whether it was “Empty” from 2005’s Live It Out, “Raw Sugar” from 2007’s Grow Up and Blow Away, “Sick Muse” from 2009’s Fantasies or “Youth Without Youth” from 2012’s Synthetica. Yes, singles like “Dead Disco”, “Poster of a Girl”, “Monster Hospital”, “Help, I’m Alive”, “Front Row”, “Stadium Love” and their most recent hit “The Governess” were left off the setlist, yet that didn’t stop them from throwing in a few wrinkles, including an a cappella intro for “Hustle Rose” and some audience assistance for “Dreams So Real”, the latter of which didn’t quite deliver as planned.

Nevertheless, it was these slight deviations that kept fans on their toes throughout the show, proving that Metric are more than just the sum of their studio cuts. Their four-song encore continued along that path, as Haines and Shaw performed an acoustic rendition of “Gimme Sympathy” before Winstead and Scott-Key made their return and closed things out with the group’s 2012 single “Breathing Underwater”. And with all four members singing their hearts out until the night’s very last note, it was easy to see why Metric have become the critically acclaimed band that they are today.

Setlist:
IOU
Help I’m Alive
Youth Without Youth
Twilight Galaxy
Cascades
Raw Sugar (a cappella intro)
Hustle Rose (a cappella intro)
Too Bad, So Sad
Artificial Nocturne
Dreams So Real (audience participation)
Blind Valentine (instrumental intro)
Sick Muse
Collect Call
Other Side
Black Sheep
Synthetica
Combat Baby (a cappella portion)
Gold Guns Girls
The Shade

Encore:
Empty
Celebrate
Gimme Sympathy (Emily & James acoustic)
Breathing Underwater

LA welcomes back Beirut as they continue to climb the charts

BeirutBy Josh Herwitt //

Beirut //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
October 8th, 2015 //

There’s something heartwarming about watching Beirut perform live. Led by Santa Fe native Zach Condon on trumpet, flugelhorn and ukulele, the six-piece band is truly one of a kind, melding elements of world music with Balkan folk and baroque pop to create a sound that is completely its own.

But what started as a solo project conceived in Condon’s bedroom, where he wrote a large majority of Beirut’s debut album Gulag Orkestar, has turned into a commercially successful outfit. After earning U.S. Billboard 200 placement with 2007’s The Flying Club Cup and 2011’s The Rip Tide, Beirut’s latest full length No No No, which was released on 4AD in September, reached its highest position (No. 46) of them all. And seeing that kind of response has to be comforting for Condon after recently going through a tumultuous time in his life that included the divorce from his ex-wife and a trip to the hospital for exhaustion due to extensive touring.

On the second of two nights at the historic Hollywood Palladium, Condon and his sidekicks — Nick Petree (drums, percussion, melodica), Paul Collins (electric bass, upright bass), Kyle Resnick (trumpet), Ben Lanz (trombone, sousaphone, glockenspiel) and Aaron Arntz (piano, keyboards) — dove into some of Beirut’s newest material from No No No, offering fans a taste of their fourth studio album with songs like “Perth”, “As Needed” and “So Allowed”. Though the venue was far from sold out, it was good to see Condon back on stage with his band and a piece of brass in his hands.

Going inside the mind of a hip-hop hero with Cut Chemist

cut-chemist_postBy Josh Herwitt //

Lucas MacFadden has been collecting vinyl for more than 30 years. That is his job, after all.

The renowned turntablist, who his fans know better as Cut Chemist, has scratched and sampled his way to the top of the DJ world over the past 20 years, thanks in part to his work with Latin funk/hip-hop/rock outfit Ozomatli and 90’s alternative hip-hop pioneers Jurassic 5.

But neither MacFadden nor hip-hop would be anywhere near where they are today without the lifelong contributions of Afrika Bambaataa — and MacFadden would be the first to tell you that himself.

“It was all his vision for an entire culture,” he explained to me one day over the phone last week.

Afrika Bambaataa

That culture, hip-hop, would be characterized by more than just the music it fostered, as graffiti artists and break dancers found their calling during the late 70’s. But with street gangs and drug dealers also holding court in the South Bronx, it was Bambaataa’s hope for a different way of life, a peaceful way of life that transcended both its time and place.

“He was very active in the community in going from gangs to art, gangs to music and having that impact his community,” MacFadden continued on. “The groups that I’ve been involved with throughout my life have done the same thing. It’s no question why I gravitate toward people with those ethics.”

What ultimately lured MacFadden into Bambaataa’s world, though, was the legendary DJ’s fascination with the past and present — from royal space garbs to Native American headdresses — as strange as it may have seemed for a young, white boy first learning about hip-hop culture at the age of 12.

“He represented some other-worldly figure,” MacFadden remembered. “It was a representation of the past and the future in a way where it just seemed like he was in total control of the present. That was something I never experienced before, and I didn’t know how to comprehend that.”

Afrika Bambaataa

Just days after my interview with Cut Chemist, it’s nearly impossible to escape the net that Bambaattaa has cast wide over pop culture as I watch half chef, half television star Anthony Bourdain chat with “The Godfather” on the newest episode of his CNN show “Parts Unknown.” The brief exchange between Bourdain and Bambaattaa reminds me of some of the topics MacFadden and I discussed, including Bambaataa’s appreciation for Kraftwerk (he sampled the group in his 1982 hit “Planet Rock”) at a time when no one else in the U.S. even knew who they were.

“Just to take Kraftwerk and have the foresight to go, ‘You know, that’s a really cool song. I’m going to play that at the park,’” MacFadden said toward the end of our interview. “He brought Kraftwerk to the street. It’s crazy.”

It’s why when New York-based writer Johan Kugelberg first came to Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow (aka Josh Davis) with the idea of putting on a nationwide tour that would feature strictly Bambaataa’s historic archive of more than 40,000 records, the two beat makers didn’t think twice.

“I’ve already taken away more than I could have ever imagined,” MacFadden told me at one point during our conversation, even with more than a handful of shows to go on the 25-date “Renegades of Rhythm” tour that wrapped up October 9th in Vancouver.

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist

At the Hollywood Palladium on a Friday night, a crowd of mostly 30-40-year-olds packs the dance floor, soaking up everything that MacFadden and Davis throw its way — whether it’s the Latin, African, Calypso or Soca grooves that Bambaataa once introduced as leader of the famed Universal Zulu Nation — over the course of a 90-plus-minute set.

The performance, which eventually ventured deeper into Bambaataa’s extensive catalog, would serve as an important reminder that hip-hop music and the culture many of us associate with it now has changed quite a bit, for better or worse, since Bambaataa’s heyday. But that doesn’t mean Bambaataa’s impact still can’t be felt to this day.

“I want people to know about Afrika Bambaataa as a person and as a figure that has contributed more to modern music than anybody else I can think of,” MacFadden replied when I ask him what he wanted his fans to take away from the “Renegades of Rhythm” shows.

In all likelihood, there never will be another Afrika Bambaataa. As two of hip-hop’s most prominent DJs today, Cut Chemist and DJ Shadow understand that better than most people.

Yet, in paying the utmost respect to one of music’s greatest living legends over the last six weeks, they have proved to be worthy of at least some of the admiration and praise Bambaataa has warranted for almost 45 years. Because you never know — one day, two other talented DJs may just choose to honor MacFadden and Davis with a tribute tour of their own.

cut-chemist_1

DJ Shadow

DJ Shadow & Cut Chemist

Cut Copy heat up the dance floor in LA

Cut-Copy1By Josh Herwitt //

Cut Copy //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
April 1st, 2014 //

Is there a band right now that throws a better dance party than Cut Copy?

In 2014, you’d be hard-pressed to find one that can even come close.

Returning to Los Angeles five months after performing at HARD Day of the Dead, the Australian four-piece played its first proper headlining show in the City of Angels since releasing its fourth full-length album Free Your Mind last November.

Though the record may not live up to the same standard set by 2011’s Zonoscope and 2009’s In Ghost Colours, there are enough winners on 2013’s Free Your Mind for Cut Copy, as a band and not just as a DJ project, to keep their all-encompassing setlists from growing moldy.

At the Hollywood Palladium, the electropop extraordinaires dug into their new material right away, opening with their latest hit “We Are Explorers” before dolling out five other songs from the 14-track LP on Modular Recordings.

Cut-Copy

And while it may have been a school night for some, it sure didn’t feel like it inside the historic ballroom.

With fan favorites “Take Me Over” and “Hearts on Fire” coming within the first 30 minutes of its set, Cut Copy had a dance-happy crowd of mostly 20-somethings moving and grooving in a matter of no time.

But what may have been the biggest highlight of the night was how well newer cuts like “Let Me Show You Love” and “Meet Me in a House of Love” on Free Your Mind translated to a live setting. Because even after seeing Cut Copy twice in 2011, I walked out the Palladium’s front doors late Tuesday night feeling just as good as I did those previous two times.

In fact, if there was any drawback to note, it was that we didn’t get a few more songs out of frontman Dan Whitford and his bandmates on the final night of their North American tour. Whitford, all things considered, knows how to energize an audience as well as anyone out there these days, whether it’s with his old-school dance moves or incessant hand clapping.

Cut-Copy-post

Of course, it didn’t hurt that Cut Copy took its encore break right after unleashing “Lights and Music”, the band’s most successful single to date still. So, when Whitford (vocals, keyboards, guitar), Tim Hoey (guitar, sampler, percussion, vocals), Mitchell Scott (drums, vocals) and of course Ben Browning (bass, keyboards, vocals) left the stage for a couple of minutes in what served as an encore break, they instantly had their fans begging to hear more.

The two-song encore that ensued, nevertheless, offered a snapshot of the band’s current disposition, as it left us with one more tune off Free Your Mind — the oscillating, yet also comforting “Walking in the Sky” — before closing things out with the 80’s-laced anthem “Need You Now.”

It was a fitting ending for a band that has come a long way since dropping its debut album Bright Like Neon Love a decade ago, yet isn’t looking to ease off the gas pedal any time soon.

Cut-Copy2

Setlist:
We Are Explorers
Take Me Over
Free Your Mind
Where I’m Going
In Memory Capsule
So Haunted
Hearts on Fire
Saturdays
Feel the Love
Out There on the Ice
Let Me Show You Love
Meet Me in a House of Love
Lights and Music

Encore:
Walking in the Sky
Need You Now

Cut-Copy3

Cut-Copy6

Cut-Copy5

Cut-Copy4

The Reflektors shine bright in Hollywood on Halloween

ReflektorsBy Kevin Quandt //

Arcade Fire performing as “The Reflektors” //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
October 31st, 2013 //

“My Grandfather played here. I can feel his spirit,” Win Butler announced to the packed house as the costumed and formal-dressed band took to the Hollywood Palladium stage to continue their ascension as the most buzzed band in the world.

It was not your typical night in the famed LA venue as the Reflektors would stir up a packed crowd on this night. Though this band normally plays under the moniker of Arcade Fire, the baroque pop was shelved to make way for a world-infused dance party that rivaled the most banging discotheque.

A massive line wrapped comically through a parking lot of stanchions filled with a vast array of costumed and formally dressed revelers, all patiently waiting to get in on the night’s festivities. Dressing up for the night was requested by the band, and the vast majority obliged, which Win would later comment on. In the meantime, the party was underway as soon as the doors opened — the lights stayed down as a mix of the Isley Brothers, James Brown and P-Funk got the crowd lubed up for the ensuing onslaught.

“Reflektor” would open the ruckus evening as the expanded group were revealed behind a large curtain. Win wore a tiger-esque mask for the first song before unmasking. Somewhat surprisingly, they launched into Funeral track, “Neighbourhood #3 (Power Out)”, which got a great response from the devoted attendees. This was not a show for casual fans, as the tickets were much harder to procure than imagined with such short notice, among other mitigating factors. The next section of songs would be a grand-suite of Reflektor tracks which started with “Flashbulb Eyes” then “Joan of Arc”. It was pretty evident this room had heard the new album more than one or two times in the past week. “We Exist” was another new highlight, as this track is a sublime mix of an infectious dance beat coupled with a slightly more psychedelic take on the already famous Arcade Fire indie-rock sound many have come to love. At this point, the room was boiling as face paint smeared and costume layers were shed and abandoned.

The second half of the show held even more surprises for the moist crowd as “Headlights Look Like Diamonds” was opened with a nod to Lou Reed via a tease of Velvet’s “Beginning to See the Light”. “Normal Person” showed off blazing guitar notes that led to a decent pogo section in the crowd. The temperature rose. Though most in the venue were not alive when the next song was released, Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge” got a rapturous reply as Win enthusiastically hollered the word ‘yeah’ over and over. A few more degrees were added to the thermometer. Somehow Win caught his breath before telling the crowd that THIS was the time to go crazy, and subsequently launched into dance opus “Here Comes the Night Time”. Conga lines spontaneously sprouted and snaked through the pulsating fans lost in the thick rhythms, and yes, it got even warmer in the Palladium.

An encore, which spotlighted Régine Chassagne, would close out the evening, starting with “Haïti” and then “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)”. It did seem a bit odd to end the show with Win stuck in the back of the stage, but it was great to see his lovely bride dance to her heart’s content as we all caught our breath. This would be the end of the live music section, but not the end of the show as the band stuck around for more dancing festivities.

Setlist:
Reflektor
Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)
Flashbulb Eyes
Joan of Arc
You Already Know
We Exist
It’s Never Over (Oh Orpheus)
Afterlife (with The Velvet Underground’s “Beginning to See the Light” outro)
Headlights Look Like Diamonds
Normal Person
Uncontrollable Urge (Devo cover)
Here Comes the Night Time

Encore:
Haïti
Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)