Our favorite performances from 2018

Best live shows of 2018 - Foo Fighters, NxWorries, Pusha T & Courtney Barnett

Holy smokes, 2018 … you were a blur. Maybe it’s just us, but this year really did fly right by.

Before we officially say hello to 2019 though, it’s time for us to revisit the past 12 months at Showbams. Every year we have the great privilege of witnessing some amazing moments in live music, and this year was no different. While we can’t touch upon every performance we covered in looking back at the year that was, we still managed to see a wide variety of talent over the course of 2018.

Whittling down our list is never easy. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order), all of whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

Aaron Neville, A.CHAL, Alanis Morissette, Alina Baraz, Allen Stone, Amen Dunes, Aminé, A Perfect Circle, Ari Lennox, A$AP Rocky, Aquilo, BADBADNOTGOOD, The Bangles, Belle & Sebastian, The Beta Machine, Billie Eilish, BØRNS, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cashmere Cat, Childish Major, Chromeo, CHVRCHES, Cigarettes After Sex, Cloud Nothings, Cuco, Cut Snake, CyHi the Prynce, Daniel Caesar, Deap Vally, Destroyer, Diet Cig, Drab Majesty, DRAM, The Dustbowl Revival, Erykah Badu, Fantastic Negrito, Future, Garbage, George Fitzgerald, Gomez, Gov’t Mule, Great Grandpa, Griz, The Growlers, Gucci Mane, HAERTS, H.E.R., Hot Flash Heat Wave, Ibeyi, Iggy Pop, Irma Thomas, Isaiah Rashad, Jaira Burns, Jamie xx, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, Jhené Aiko, John Maus, Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, Joywave, JPEGMAFIA, Jungle, Kailee Morgue, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Kamasi Washington, Kauf, Kelela, Kikagaku Moyo, Kings of Leon, Kopps, Laff Trax, Lion Babe, Lizzo, Lophile, Lord Huron, Los Lobos, Lucy Dacus, Margo Price, Miguel, Mija, Milk Carton Kids, ModPods, Moses Sumney, The Mother Hips, Mura Masa, Neil Young, N.E.R.D, North Mississippi Allstars, ODESZA, Pale Waves, Paula Frazer and Tarnation, Phantogram, Pharoah Sanders, Pixies, Polo & Pan, POND, Portugal. The Man, The Pretenders, Quicksand, Ravyn Lenae, Rivers Cuomo, The Revolution, Robert Plant, Rory Phillips, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Sabrina Claudio, Salt-N-Pepa, Santigold, Sasha Sloan, Seu Jorge, Shakey Graves, Shame, Shana Falana, Sharon Van Etten, Silk City, Sleigh Bells, Snoh Aalegra, Soccer Mommy, The Specials, The Spook School, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Tame Impala, Tenacious D, Third Eye Blind, Tinashe, together PANGEA, TV on the Radio, Tycho, Typhoon, Uniform, Wafia, Waxahatchee, The Weeknd, Wet, William Tyler, Will Varley, Yen Yen, Zedd

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our favorite performances from 2018.

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

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


Best of 2018 - Cut Copy

Cut Copy

Date: March 3rd
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

For those in LA who missed Cut Copy 10 months ago when they visited the Shrine Expo Hall with De Lux, Palmbomen II and Cooper Saver also on the bill, their headlining performance last Friday at The Wiltern was another chance to dance the night away upon hearing several classics such as “Need You Now”, “Free Your Mind”, “Future”, “Hearts on Fire” and to close, “Lights & Music”. In fact, the last time that we caught them back in March, a mini downpour erupted at Shaun White’s Air + Style (read our festival review here), but it didn’t phase them. Who said playing — and dancing — in the rain isn’t fun anyway? -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Washed Out

Washed Out

Date: March 4th
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

In what was easily the most visually stimulating (and pleasing) show we witnessed at Expo Park, Ernest Greene, who performs under the moniker Washed Out, entranced a completely packed crowd at the smaller Summer Stage with a slew of trippy visuals and his chilled-out tunes. We had been wanting to see Washed Out in SoCal for several months now, ever since Greene released the project’s third LP Mister Mellow last year, and after missing his gig with Nick Murphy at the Shrine Expo Hall in October, we were glad to finally hear him play “Hard to Say Goodbye” (one of our favorite songs of 2017) and “Feel It All Around” live as any loyal “Portlandia” fan would be. With Toro y Moi venturing away from the chillwave movement he helped pioneer, it’s up to Greene to lead the charge, and so far, he has done one hell of a job. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Phoenix

Phoenix

Date: March 4th
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

After what we thought was an underwhelming way to wrap up Day 1, Air + Style closed with a bang thanks to Phoenix’s energizing, 16-song set. The French indie-pop outfit have headlined Coachella before, and it was more than worthy of that billing for this occasion. Kicking things off with the opening track “J-Boy” from their sixth studio album Ti Amo that dropped back in June, Thomas Mars and company gave us exactly what we wanted to hear: a hit-ladden show featuring singles like “Lisztomania”, “Trying to Be Cool”, “Too Young” and “1901”. No, there wasn’t a Daft Punk or R. Kelly appearance — not that we expected one — but Phoenix put an exclamation point on an otherwise successful weekend. We may not have known the quartet could rock that hard after the last time we saw them, but we definitely do now. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Moby

Moby

Date: March 26th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

His guitar playing, meanwhile, may be just as impressive, if not surprising to some. Less than two weeks before Moby stepped into Bob Clearmountain’s diminutive recording studio, I was fortunate enough to catch him the final of his three shows at The Echo, and it was there as he performed a variety of songs from Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, Play and a few other albums, that I fully realized just how talented he is with a black Gibson SG in his hands. He may be an electronic musician, but unlike a lot of them today, Moby is a musician in every sense of the word. While his vocals at times sound more like spoken word than actual singing, he has found more than capable sidekicks in Julie Mintz (keyboards, vocals) and Mindy Jones (vocals) to assist him in that department. Jones’ ranging voice, in particular, is one that suits his music well, and when you hear her sing, her pipes elevate the song to a whole new level. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Brian Feinzimer


Best of 2018 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

Date: April 13th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Weeks before The War on Drugs released their fourth LP A Deeper Understanding last year, we were fortunate enough to hear Adam Granduciel and company perform a handful of cuts from the new album in an intimate setting for KCRW. It was then and there that we knew the follow-up to 2014’s Lost in a Dream was another masterpiece, and that impression was only validated when A Deeper Understanding won the Grammy for “Best Rock Album” just a few months ago. On Day 1 of Coachella, the Philadelphia band brought some of those same songs we witnessed at Apogee Studio to life, though sadly, this time “Holding On” wasn’t part of the setlist. But we did get to experience “An Ocean in Between the Waves” in all of its glory, and we still have yet to come across another piece of music in more recent years that will make you want to play air guitar as much as the seven-minute track from Lost in a Dream does. Who said rock was dead? -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Goldenvoice


Best of 2018 - Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai

Date: April 13th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Thirteen years. That’s how long it has been since Jamiroquai last performed in the U.S. With that in mind, there was no way we were going to miss Jay Kay and the rest of his sidekicks in favor of The Weeknd’s headlining performance (sorry, Abel), and after what ended up being close to a 90-minute set from the London nu-funk/acid jazz group, we had no regrets about our decision. The only regret we have is that they ran out of time and didn’t get to play their smash hit “Virtual Insanity” in its entirety, and you could tell Jay Kay felt bad about it as he jumped down from the stage to greet some overjoyed fans after wrapping the show up with “Love Foolosophy” from 2001’s A Funk Odyssey. But while Weekend 2 attendees got the full version of the Travelling Without Moving single, we were treated to a massive surprise when Snoop Dogg came out to rap on “Dr. Buzz” with a huge blunt in his hand. It was the kind of collaboration you never expect to see, except at Coachella of all places. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2018 - Eminem

Eminem

Date: April 15th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

While we can’t say that we were completely thrilled with Goldenvoice’s choices for this year’s headliners, we were excited to see Eminem finally play Coachella (he had never performed in an official capacity before) and close out the festival on Sunday night. Sure, his newest album Revival didn’t exactly receive rave reviews from critics when it dropped at the end of 2017, but watching one of hip-hop’s most talented emcees run through his hits all while bringing out 50 Cent and Dr. Dre was undoubtedly THE highlight from Day 3. For this “stan,” just crossing Em off my concert bucket list would have been enough to send me home with a smile. Fortunately for those of us who were there though, the real Slim Shady lived up to the hype and more. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2018 - Big K.R.I.T.

Big K.R.I.T.

Date: April 19th
Location: Echoplex – Los Angeles

At Echoplex, we were treated to the “rapper” and the man himself as bass-heavy party starters like the title-track opener and “Confetti” from 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time got everyone hyped, while Atlanta’s T.I. came out to perform his verse on “Big Bank”. After singling out one excited fan, who was wearing a shirt with a giant picture of his face, during the easygoing “1999” and paying homage to Southern rap pioneers UGK, Big K.R.I.T. took the latter half of his hour-long set to connect with the crowd. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - Soulwax

Soulwax

Date: April 19th
Location: The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles

While Soulwax’s recorded music has always been perfectly enjoyable, in person it becomes something else entirely. Their new, three-drummer lineup was the ideal format to hear new tracks like “Is It Always Binary” while giving older tracks such as “KracK” a newly textured and complex sound. Sitting stage right, drummer Victoria Smith, for one, offered the group some serious personality thanks to her animated facial expressions. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - NxWorries

NxWorries

Date: June 16th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

I fall somewhere in the middle between those two age groups, so it was fitting that the uber-talented rapper/singer/drummer Anderson .Paak had just walked onto the “Free Your Mind” main stage when I showed up. .Paak, 32, wore a smile as expressive as his music, packaged with a bright nautical-themed ensemble. He effortlessly impressed with standouts “Suede”, “Another Time” and “What More Can I Say” off Yes Lawd!, his 2016 LP with Los Angeles hip-hop producer Knxwledge as part of their collaborative project NxWorries (pronounced “No Worries”). The duo’s set would eventually culminate in a playful dance-off between women, which fans showed their appreciation for before .Paak and Knxwledge said their goodbyes. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - The Roots

The Roots

Date: June 16th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

However, anticipation for The Roots kept me at the main stage. It proved to be a wise decision, as their nearly hour-long performance reminded me why the Grammy-winning band is still so revered after more than three decades. Black Thought got the crowd riled up with a 10-minute barrage of lyrical proficiency that so many have come to know as his “Hot 97 Freestyle” after it hit the internet in December and quickly went viral, while his bandmates exuberantly jumped with sousaphones and guitars during “You Got Me” and a number of other hits. But providing a jolt like he only can, the one and only Busta Rhymes showed up for a quick-but-memorable performance of “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - Melvins

Melvins

Date: July 16th
Location: Great American Music Hall – San Francisco

I’m far from an expert on this kind of thing (because I’m not), but I didn’t expect to see the Melvins perform with the amount of energy that they showcased. For a band that has been touring and putting out new material for the past 35 years, they performed as if everything depended on it. You weren’t going to catch “King Buzzo” standing in one place for too long, with his signature fro whipping in the wind from the fans that were on the stage, McDonald and Pinkus holding it down on their own instruments, and Crover beating the living hell out of his drums. Fans were ready to receive the band and responded to the various sonic blasts coming from the amplifiers. During the thrashy songs, they formed a brutal pit, and during the sludgier songs, they lit up joints and bobbed their heads to the music. -Andrew Pohl, photo by Mike Rosati


Best of 2018 - Glassjaw

Glassjaw

Date: July 20th
Location: Observatory OC – Santa Ana, CA

Glassjaw’s show covered their entire discography, and very few fan favorites were left off the setlist. While it was to be expected that newer tunes like “Shira” and “New White Extremity” would rock, it was staggering how well their older songs held up in a live setting. Palumbo’s voice, though slightly less manic than it once was, is still unmatched in its vocal range and shear intensity. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - Weezer

Weezer

Date: August 8th
Location: The Forum – Inglewood, CA

That’s not to say that Cuomo isn’t a talented musician. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Harvard grad shreds without question, something I never really realized until he uncorked a number of guitar solos, whether it was during “Buddy Holly” to open Weezer’s performance or “Say It Ain’t So” (with a snippet of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”) to put a bow on the show. And while there aren’t many lead singers who can do both, Cuomo certainly remains among some elite company, with Jack White, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) also immediately coming to mind. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Florence + the Machine

Florence + the Machine

Date: August 11th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

There was a bit of controversy surrounding Saturday’s main slot as Florence + the Machine officially made the move to full-blown festival headliner. Some festivalgoers had their own doubts after FYF Fest 2018 was canceled with a near-identical top billing, but Florence and her bandmates proved, many times over, that she is more than capable of commanding any stage as her energy is unlike many others. She debuted a brand-new show, which featured “June” in the opening slot and was book-ended by “Big God” and “Shake It Out” for a two-song encore. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2018 - Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe

Date: August 12th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

The incomparable Janelle Monáe was a tad late to take the stage, as she was fighting off a stomach bug, but when she did, she captivated the masses with a suite of tracks from her most recent release Dirty Computer and tossed in a fair amount of costume changes over a nearly hour-long set. Monáe proved that she’s easily one of the best in the business at the moment and will only continue to climb upwards. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2018 - Deafheaven

Deafheaven

Date: August 18th
Location: The Wiltern – Los Angeles

Fortunately, Deafheaven haven’t bowed to convention or criticism. Their fourth studio album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, which ANTI‐ released last month, is their arguably their most experimental to date, spanning more than an hour over seven songs. There’s a sense of angst and nostalgia in the music that leans far more positive and hopeful than their previous work. There are still echoes of black metal at times, but you can feel this is a band that’s embracing its differences instead of defending them. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - Jack White

Jack White

Date: August 19th
Location: Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA

Yet, for as eclectic and wide-ranging as White’s output has been over two decades, it’s the unpredictable nature of his live shows that makes them so intriguing to see. This time, we were treated to a rare cover of The Stooges’ “T.V. Eye” from their 1970 album Fun House, as well as a number of fan favorites, from set closer “Ball and Biscuit” to an eight-song encore that featured “Icky Thump” (with some amusing “Icky Trump” messaging), “Steady, as She Goes” (with a snippet of Richard Berry’s 1955 song “Louie Louie”), and of course, what has easily become the biggest stadium anthem in the world, “Seven Nation Army”. And though the show didn’t conclude without a few hiccups during some of White’s improvised playing between songs, he hasn’t lost his unique ability to surprise an audience — whether it means bringing out his mother in Detroit to perform “Hotel Yorba” with him or covering Pearl Jam’s “Daughter” in Seattle — at any given moment, especially when we all aren’t staring down at our phones. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Jack White


Best of 2018 - David Byrne

David Byrne

Date: August 22nd
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

As the show progressed into his songs “Here” and “Lazy”, Byrne’s band joined him onstage. The light changed and filled in the stage, giving the audience a happier tone and providing a seamless transition into a Talking Heads interlude. Then, later on during “Blind”, one of the more stunning visual elements was made possible by a simple lamp that was placed in front of the band, casting whirling shadows on the strands of beads hanging behind them. -Tim O’Shea, photo by Tim O’Shea


Best of 2018 - The National

The National

Date: September 20th
Location: Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles

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. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Date: September 23rd
Location: Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles

Similarly, the gig also marked one of Grizzly Bear’s last performances in support of their fifth LP Painted Ruins, which they released last year on RCA Records, and having already played a two-night run at The Wiltern back in December, this was more of a victory lap than a coming-out party. Unfortunately for us, the five-piece had to cut things short due to the venue’s strict Sunday night curfew, ending on a rather sudden note. That’s just part of the deal at the Bowl, though. For those of us who have to work on Monday morning, it’s actually more of a blessing in disguise than a disservice to the overall concert experience as we’ve come to realize. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett

Date: October 5th
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

When she wasn’t sharing the spotlight with Waxahatchee, Barnett was sharing it equally with the rest of her stellar backing band, but it was mostly just difficult to take your eyes off of her. Everything she does feels casual, from her outfit to her guitar playing, slinging her instrument around like it was an extension of herself. Even her delivery of the wrenching reality that the 30-year-old Australian singer-songwriter articulates so well is casual, singing like the end of the world isn’t a mere 22 years away. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2018 - Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet

Date: October 6th
Location: Glen Helen Regional Park & Festival Grounds – San Bernardino, CA

By the time we got through security and stepped inside the gates, Manchester Orchestra had just finished their 45-minute set on the main stage, which essentially was the 65,000-person Glen Helen Amphitheater that was constructed back in 1982 for the first US Festival. Next up was Greta Van Fleet, and boy, do these kids know how to rock. Zeppelin clearly runs deep in these four Michiganders’ veins, as they showcased songs off their forthcoming debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army with frontman Josh Kiszka commanding the stage and offering his best Robert Plant impression. He even dresses the part, sporting some tight, white jeans with a water-colored blouse and necklace of feathers while his brothers Jake and Sam wore vests or shirts that looked like what you would find at a vintage clothing store. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters

Date: October 6th
Location: Glen Helen Regional Park & Festival Grounds – San Bernardino, CA

As the Foos left the stage for their encore break, we waited patiently for them to return. The crowd, by now, had been taken for a two-hour ride with Grohl firmly at the wheel, pumping adrenaline into our veins with every minute that passed as the Foo Fighters know how to do so well during their usual two-and-a-half-hour jaunts. The video screens on each side of the stage were black until suddenly some backstage footage appeared showing Grohl with Krist Novoselic and what looked like Joan Jett. All of that would end up coming true in the last 30 minutes of Cal Jam 18, but it was a six-song encore with Grohl on drums, Novoselic on bass, the Foo Fighters’ Pat Smear on guitar and Deer Tick frontman John McAuley on both vocals and guitar as Kurt Cobain’s fill-in who got us hyped. Nirvana fans have waited 25 years for a reunion since Cobain’s sudden passing, and when you put it in perspective, it will probably go down as one of the year’s biggest surprises, even at a time in music when many industry experts say that rock now stands in the shadows of hip-hop and EDM. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Pusha T

Pusha T

Date: October 13th
Location: Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland

But U.S. Girls were the highlight of the weekend for us. A nine-piece experimental pop act, they put on a stunning 45-minute set that culminated in an entrancing rendition of “Time”, the closing track on their critically acclaimed studio effort In a Poem Unlimited, that lasted more than 10 minutes. The energy, instrumentation and vocal capabilities were absolutely stunning. Easily one of this year’s most exciting new acts, and we can’t wait to catch them again soon. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Brendan Mansfield


Best of 2018 - U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls

Date: October 14th
Location: Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland

But U.S. Girls were the highlight of the weekend for us. A nine-piece experimental pop act, they put on a stunning 45-minute set that culminated in an entrancing rendition of “Time”, the closing track on their critically acclaimed studio effort In a Poem Unlimited, that lasted more than 10 minutes. The energy, instrumentation and vocal capabilities were absolutely stunning. Easily one of this year’s most exciting new acts, and we can’t wait to catch them again soon. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Josh Withers


Best of 2018 - Daniel Caesar

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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”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

At the age of 66, David Byrne is completely nailing one of the year’s most ambitious tours

David ByrneBy Tim O’Shea //

David Byrne with Ibeyi //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
August 22nd, 2018 //

“Music resonates in so many parts of the brain that we can’t conceive of it being an isolated thing. It’s whom you were with, how old you were, and what was happening that day.” – an excerpt from David Byrne’s 2012 book “How Music Works”

My first memories of Talking Heads bring me back to my family’s living room, where I would sit in front of our Hi-Fi turntable at the age of five. My mother had just replaced the needle in anticipation of playing a new LP, Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues. It is a memory that I’ll always have.

For the last 35 years, every time I hear “Burning Down the House” or “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)”, I am instantly transported back to that moment. It’s a nostalgic trip for me, the listener, one that we all share with our own favorite music.

And you may find yourself subsequently taking in one of the most ambitious concerts of the year, with this current Byrne iteration seeing him promote his seventh solo album American Utopia, which he released back in March, all over the country across more than 100 dates — from a couple of appearances at Coachella (read our festival review here) to two sell-outs at Red Rocks Amphitheatre — on his 2018 tour schedule at the ripe age of 66.

Opening for Byrne were Ibeyi, a downtempo experimental duo, named after the Yoruba word for “twins”. They mixed soul, R&B and some trip-hop into their performance, relying heavily on two drum machines and their incredible vocals.

Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz are French, but they highlight their ancestry by combining Afro-Cuban elements with vocals that are sung in a number of languages, including English, French, Spanish and Yoruba. The Yoruba language comes from Nigeria and was often spoken by the two sisters’ ancestors, who in the 1700s were taken to Cuba from West Africa and then sold as slaves.

Ibeyi’s show was slightly underappreciated by the throngs of latecomers who visited the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium last Wednesday, but they delivered a performance that was worthy of their supporting slot. Several neighbors in the audience agreed that their vocals reminded them of Björk, which was not a slight at all. I noticed the same thing, in fact, when it came to their dark, passion-filled timbre.

Ibeyi


Ibeyi

The sisters’ lyrics are sparked and inspired by social issues, whether they include references to President Donald Trump’s lewd “grab them by …” remark from the now-infamous “Access Hollywood” tape or address an ongoing problem with police brutality, but they’ve still found ways to touch upon such topics as faith, responsibility, family, love and perseverance. There was no truer example of this than during “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms” at the start of the night as a clip from Michelle Obama’s 2016 Democratic National Convention speech that highlighted Trump’s treatment of women played over the song.

Following a short break between sets, the stage was primed for Mr. Byrne. With a 12-piece ensemble nearly in perpetual motion for 90 minutes (that included a pair of encores), the crowd was brought into the middle of this performance-art circle.

Byrne’s show was mildly reminiscent of “Stop Making Sense”, the 1984 production directed by Jonathan Demme, in its use of disjointed, awkward movements and percussive elements that connect everything onstage, but it was updated in a way that made it not only relevant today, but also completely engrossing.

There has definitely been a jovial feeling on this tour, with all of Byrne’s band members either barefoot or subtly wearing slippers while also donning slightly-too-large grey suits. The entire production resembles a well-oiled, perfected marching band’s field show, with both the drum line and accompanying pieces intertwining to precisely hit their marks.

Visually, Byrne’s show should be commended for its use of light and minimalism. There were no tricky pyrotechnic elements or an overuse of strobe lights/spotlight. Instead, Byrne slowly revealed himself as he sat at a tiny desk while holding the human brain; heavy shadows were cast on his face with the light behind and above him.

As the show progressed into his songs “Here” and “Lazy”, Byrne’s band joined him onstage. The light changed and filled in the stage, giving the audience a happier tone and providing a seamless transition into a Talking Heads interlude. Then, later on during “Blind”, one of the more stunning visual elements was made possible by a simple lamp that was placed in front of the band, casting whirling shadows on the strands of beads hanging behind them.

The performance concluded with a powerful cover of Janelle Monáe’s “Hell You Talmbout” as Ibeyi joined in the fun. Featuring simple afrobeats and chanting vocals that showcased fervor and palpable energy, the song brought the entire audience into the fold as handfuls of victims of police brutality were made known: “Walter Scott, say his name, Walter Scott, say his name, Walter Scott, say his name, won’t you say his name?” It was visceral and raw and captured the brilliance of a poet like Byrne, who knows how to mix his mediums to absolute perfection.

DAVID BYRNE

Setlist:
Here
Lazy
I Zimbra (Talking Heads song)
Slippery People (Talking Heads song)
I Should Watch TV (David Byrne & St. Vincent cover)
Dog’s Mind
Everybody’s Coming to My House
This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads song)
Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads song)
Doing the Right Thing
Toe Jam (Brighton Port Authority cover)
Born Under Punches (The Heat Goes On) (Talking Heads song)
I Dance Like This
Bullet
Every Day Is a Miracle
Like Humans Do
Blind (Talking Heads song)
Burning Down the House (Talking Heads song)

Encore:
Dancing Together
The Great Curve (Talking Heads song)

Encore 2:
Hell You Talmbout (Janelle Monáe cover) (with Ibeyi)

IBEYI

No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms
Deathless
River
I Wanna Be Like You
Oya

Coachella drops 2018 set times & map changes

Coachella 2018

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 13th-15th & April 20th-22nd, 2018 //

Breathe easy, Coachellans. All of your scheduling conflicts have finally arrived.

The three-day, two-weekend music and arts festival has delivered this year’s set times just after 7 p.m. PT (7:02 p.m. to be exact), precisely one hour later than it did in 2017.

Part of going to Coachella is having to make some tough decisions when it comes to choosing which artists to see, and veterans like ourselves have become quite used to experiencing this #FirstWorldProblem over the years.

But now that the cat is out of the bag, you can start mapping out your 2018 schedule if you’re headed to the Empire Polo Club this weekend.

So, what’s your biggest conflict on this year’s schedule and who are you most excited to see?

WEEKEND 1 SET TIMES

Coachella 2018 - Friday set times

Coachella 2018 - Saturday set times

Coachella 2018 - Sunday set times

WEEKEND 2 SET TIMES

Coachella 2018 - Friday set times

Coachella 2018 - Saturday set times

Coachella 2018 - Sunday set times

Over the last several years, it has become more common to see the folks at Goldenvoice make some slight tweaks to Coachella’s Weekend 2 set times after the first weekend ends (the most notable might have been in 2015 when Florence Welch broke her foot during her performance Sunday on the main stage), and the same has proven to be the case in 2018, starting on Day 1 with Benjamin Clementine’s set being moved from the Gobi Tent to the Coachella Stage. Rick G., meanwhile, has been moved into Clementine’s 1:30 p.m. slot in the Gobi Tent, with DMM no longer preceding it at 12:30 p.m.

Some other noteworthy changes for Friday are Fisher, who didn’t perform during Weekend 1 but will replace B.Traits in the Yuma Tent, and Late Night Laggers, who were the first act to perform in the Sahara Tent on Day 1 but won’t be back for Weekend 2. Absent from Friday’s Mojave Tent lineup is Smiles Davis, which consequently has pushed Francesa Harding’s set back to 12:25 p.m., and Chulita Vinyl Club has replaced Jim Smith.

On Saturday, hip-hop producer Ahwlee will fill in for Salami Rose and Joe Lewis in the Mojave Tent, while Ron Gallo has been moved from the Gobi Tent, which lost Birdtastique and added Loboman, to the Sonora Stage, where Bane’s World, Otoboke Beaver and Mild High Club have all moved back one hour and five minutes to make up for the loss of R.O.C. Furthermore, Feel Good Green has replaced Palm Desert DJ Alf Alpha at the Outdoor Theatre, and Mexico City’s N.A.A.F.I. has been added to the Sahara Tent lineup in place of Jimbo Jenkins. The Coachella Stage also now has an eighth performer, with Gabe Real + Juicewon kicking things off at 1:25 p.m. on Day 2.

The third and final day of the festival’s second weekend sees the removal of Gabe Real from the Coachella Stage, leaving LION BABE as its first act to perform, while Los Angeles-based producer nostradahm will fill in for Juice won at the Outdoor Theatre. In the meantime, the Gobi, Mojave and Sahara Tents will each have new openers on Sunday: mr. rotu (replacing Phantom Thrett), VNSSA (replacing Pax) and EMME (replacing CVSS), respectively. And we couldn’t not mention that Jessie Ware’s set at the Outdoor Theatre has been moved back 15 minutes (as well as MAGIC GIANT’s by 10 to 2:25 p.m.), meaning that Weekend 2 attendees will have to settle for only 35 minutes from the UK singer-songwriter rather than 50.

Coachella 2018 - Weekend 2 set time updates

UPDATE (April 20th): Weekend 2 changes! Goldenvoice has announced some more tweaks to the schedule, with Jessie Ware moving from the Outdoor Theatre at 5:55 p.m. on Sunday to the Coachella Stage at 2:50 p.m. on Saturday (we have to think it has something to do with Cardi B performing around the same time after she drew one of the biggest crowds during Weekend 1). The other alterations are related to Sunday’s set times in the Sahara Tent, as Illenium (now at 6:35 p.m.) and French Montana (now at 8:05 p.m.) have switched places. Petit Biscuit will still precede both at 5:10 p.m., while chart-topping hip-hop trio Migos are expected to hit the stage at 9:30 p.m., although we’ll see if they’re a little more punctual this time compared to the first weekend of the festival, technical difficulties and all. Of course, we recommend downloading the Coachella app on your mobile device to receive the latest updates if you’re out in Indio for the festivities.

MAP

Several hours before revealing its Weekend 1 set times, the festival unveiled this year’s map, and it looks quite a bit different in comparison to some of Coachella’s past editions.

Last year, Coachella made some notable changes to its map, with the Mojave and Gobi Tents switching places and the addition of a third VIP section named “Hacienda Del Toro” that sat in between the Gobi and Sahara Tents. Goldenvoice even offered an updated location for the GA beer garden on that side of the polo field, which was supposed to improve the traffic flow behind the Sahara Tent, though we’re not sure it totally worked to be honest.

Now, the Mojave Tent has been moved far away from the Gobi Tent and into the same area that the Sahara Tent once occupied (next to the VIP Rose Garden). In its place will be the Sonora Stage, which Coachella introduced last year, with the third VIP section (no longer named “Hacienda Del Toro”) directly behind it rather than off to the side. The Gobi Tent, meanwhile, has moved back to its old confines closer to the Outdoor Theatre, where the Mojave Tent was located just a year ago.

Coachella - 2018 map

Another brand-new addition for Goldenvoice’s signature event is the Indio Central Market, a covered food hall that will feature 15 different restaurants and be situated behind the Sonora Stage. Inside will not only be New York City burger chain Shake Shack for the very first time, but also street food stand Cena, Moby’s vegan restaurant Little Pine and David Chang’s fried chicken sandwich shop Fuku. So, make sure to come hungry if you’re going to Coachella this year — we know we will.

But the biggest modification to the fest’s layout has to be the Sahara Tent’s new home after seeing the massive stage outgrow its longstanding location over the last decade. Positioned next to the main entrance, it will sit just in front of the Cantina and Beer Barn with the iconic ferris wheel and The Do LaB Stage nearby. And from what we can decipher by looking at the map, it appears that the Sahara Tent will be not as long as it used to be, but instead wider, a structural adjustment that was likely made to fit the space within the grounds.

We’ll make sure to give our two cents about these changes and much more when we return from the desert to share our favorite moments from this year’s installment, but as we often like to say around this time … Happy Coachella!

Coachella wastes no time, revealing 2018 lineup headlined by The Weeknd, Beyoncé & Eminem

Coachella - 2018 lineup

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 13th-15th & April 20th-22nd, 2018 //

Well, that didn’t take long.

Just one day into the New Year, and Coachella has already revealed its 2018 lineup, signaling to music fans worldwide that festival season isn’t far off.

After it was reported almost two weeks ago that this year’s headliners would be The Weeknd, Beyoncé and Eminem, that indeed will be the scenario, marking the first time in all 19 years that the three-day, two-weekend event won’t have a rock act topping its bill (a real sign of the times as some might say). Coachella’s 2018 edition will also serve as Beyoncé’s official debut after being forced to cancel last year due to pregnancy, as well as Eminem’s (the only time he has appeared was as a guest back in 2012 during Snoop Dogg’s and Dr. Dre’s headlining set). The Weeknd will be back on the polo fields for the first time since 2015, when the R&B singer closed the main stage on Saturday night as a sub-headliner after Jack White’s headlining slot.

Other notable names listed on the festival’s famed poster this year include HAIM, ODESZA, Kygo, Jamiroquai, Portugal. The Man, David Byrne, St. Vincent, The War on Drugs, alt-J, A Perfect Circle, Fleet Foxes, Chromeo, MØ, Chic feat. Nile Rodgers, Kamasi Washington and Jungle. The undercard, meanwhile, does feature some buzzworthy indie-rock acts such as Perfume Genius, BØRNS and King Krule, but as was the case in 2017, there continues to be more of a focus on hip-hop and R&B, as evidenced by this year’s headliner selections along with the second-line poster placement of SZA, Tyler, the Creator, Migos, Vince Staples, Post Malone, Cardi B and Miguel.

Coachella’s first weekend is scheduled for April 13th-15th, with its second weekend slated for April 20th-22nd. All tickets will go on sale for both weekends this Friday, January 5th at Noon PT here.

Got your sights set on the California desert this April? Relive our five favorite moments, from Radiohead to Kendrick Lamar, after last year’s festival.

Coachella 2017

The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

As we officially place 2016 in the history books, it’s time to look back at all the live music we experienced this year. Last year we shared our 25 favorite live performers of 2015, so this year we thought we would do it again while excluding any artists we named in 2015. After all, who really wants to see the same acts listed two years in a row? That said, now that we’re two years removed, our 25 favorite live performers of 2014 were once again fair game.

After covering many excellent bands, musicians and DJs over the past 12 months, trimming our list down to 25 wasn’t easy and as usual, some difficult decisions had to be made. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order) whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

Adrian Younge, Air, Alessia Cara, Alina Baraz, AlunaGeorge, Alvvays, The Arcs, A$AP Ferg, Atlas Genius, Aubrie Sellers, The Avett Brothers, Bag Raiders, Baio, Banks & Steelz, Bas, Battles, Beats Antique, Beach House, Best Coast, Big Freedia, Big Gigantic, Big Grams, Big Wild, Bloc Party, Bob Mould, The Boxer Rebellion, Brand New, Brett Dennen, The California Honeydrops, Capital Cities, Cate Le Bon, Chairlift, Chelsea Wolfe, !!! (Chk Chk Chk), Chris Robinson Brotherhood, Chuck Mosley, Chromeo, Claude VonStroke, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Cold War Kids, The Crux, Dan Deacon, Danny Brown, Deftones, The Devil Makes Three, Dirtwire, Disclosure, DMA’s, DMX, Drew Holcomb and The Neighbors, Duran Duran, Every Time I Die, Emancipator Ensemble, Ezra Furman, Faith No More, The Faint, Fantastic Negrito, Femi Kuti, Florence + the Machine, Flume, Fruition, The Gaslamp Killer, Geographer, Glass Animals, Gorgon City, Grimes, Halsey, The Head and the Heart, Heartwatch, The Heavy, Highly Suspect, Hippie Sabotage, Holy Fuck, How to Dress Well, Hudson Mohawke, Hundred Waters, IAMX, Ibeyi, Ice Cube, Iggy Pop, The Infamous Stringdusters, Jack Beats, Jack Garratt, Jack Ü, James Bay, Jamie xx, J. Cole, Jimmie Vaughn, Jhené Aiko, The Joy Formidable, Joywave, Julia Holter, Julien Baker, Kaki King, Kamaiyah, Kamasi Washington, Kehlani, K.Flay, The Kills, Kurt Vile, Lafa Taylor, Lana Del Rey, Låpsley, Les Sins, Lettuce, Lionel Richie, Lord Huron, Little Scream, Lucius, M83, Major Lazer, Marian Hill, Mayer Hawthorne, MC YOGI, Methyl Ethel, Metric, Miami Horror, Mick Jenkins, Midi Matilda, Miguel Migs, Modest Mouse, Moon Taxi, M. Ward, Nahko & Medicine for the People, The Naked and Famous, Nas, Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Neon Indian, Nick Murphy (fka Chet Faker), Nite Jewel, Panic! at the Disco, Parliament-Funkadelic, Peaches, Petite Noir, The Pharcyde, The Polish Ambassador, Porches, Prince Rama, Purity Ring, Pusha T, Radiohead, Ra Ra Riot, The Regrettes, The Revivalists, RJD2, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Rogue Wave, Rubblebucket, Run the Jewels, The Russ Liquid Test, Ryan Adams, The Sam Chase & The Untraditional, Saosin, Sarah Neufeld, The Seshen, Shabazz Palaces, Shlohmo, Silversun Pickups, Snakehips, Solange, Son Little, St. Lucia, Stormzy, The Struts, STS9, Sturgill Simpson, Sufjan Stevens, Summer Cannibals, Sunflower Bean, Sigur Rós, St. Germain, Sylvan Esso, Tacocat, Taking Back Sunday, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, This Will Destroy You, Thomas Jack, Thundercat, Toro y Moi, Tortoise, Tory Lanez, Tourist, The Trims, Troye Sivan, Umphrey’s McGee, Viceroy, Vince Staples, Vokab Company, Walk the Moon, Warpaint, Wavves, Weezer, Wheeler Walker Jr., White Denim, Wild Belle, Wild Nothing, Years & Years, Yeasayer, YG, Young Fathers, Yuck, ZHU, Ziggy Marley.

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our 25 favorite live performers of 2016.

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

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

For as much as Epoch was a surprise, so were Tycho’s two most recent shows in LA last week. It was the first time Hansen and company had played The Fonda Theatre since the Awake tour back in 2014, and Thursday’s sellout, which was announced less than a week before the show, along with the subsequent need to add a second date the next night, made it clear that more than ever, Angelinos have a strong appetite for what Hansen is doing on both a musical and visual level. It helps, too, that KCRW Music Director Jason Bentley, who opened the shows at The Fonda with a DJ set, has helped expose Tycho to a broader audience, whether through the “Morning Becomes Eclectic” theme song or live, in-studio performances by the band. Even nowadays with an abundance of streaming sites, you can’t underestimate the power of radio in a city with a driving culture as large as LA’s. And truth be told, Tycho is some of the best music to drive to, especially when you’re surrounded by nature. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

And when it did, Rashad torpedoed onto stage and turned the restlessness in the room on its head with “Smile”, the apropos homecoming banger he released after years of uncertainty that followed his 2014 EP Cilvia Demo. It was fitting because prior to his reemergence, which was sparked by the song, Rashad admitted to being addicted to Xanax and alcohol, and it almost led to him being dropped from his West Coast record label on several occasions. From his issues with substance abuse to the tears he shed while listening to Kid Cudi’s music and his open-book thoughts on the humanizing of mental-health issues, Rashad’s journey from being the contemplative unknown in superstar Kendrick Lamar’s crew to a complete artist deserving of your attention has been steeped in honesty. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

Needless to say, worn-out axioms failed to apply in this scenario. Bob Moses silenced anyone attempting to pass them off as yet another contrived electropop outfit aiming to please the masses. At Mezzanine, both Howie and Vallance proved their prowess as EDM innovators, bringing more to the stage than a couple of laptops and a pretty light show. Surprising those unfamiliar with their work or expecting to be underwhelmed, Bob Moses have elevated the live electronic game for their respective contemporaries and succeeded in defining a new chapter for the genre — an innovative sound standard that’s all their own. -Molly Kish, photo by Lisette Worster


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

The band continued building on its rhythms and melodies, creating a hypnotic feeling that was filled with textured synthesizers, guitar pedals and consummate percussion, as laser patterns reflected each rise and fall during its lengthy jam sessions. As Sheppard and his sidekicks progressed through each track, the complexity of the laser projections grew into optical illusions that, almost like another musical instrument onstage, intertwined with the style and progression of the band’s production perfectly. With each song reaching a climax and eventual denouement, the artwork remained untouched for a few minutes so that fans could observe each piece before their very own eyes. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Alister Mori


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

But Segall is no doubt a showman himself, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who expends as much energy onstage as he does in merely 90 minutes. His passion simply rubs off on his fans, who wasted little time climbing onstage and taking the plunge into a sea of hands for a couple of minutes. Segall, of course, also got in on the action at one point, as his shows are often known to feature crowd surfing from both band and audience members, and he made sure to take the mic stand with him while he horizontally slithered across the room. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #20 - Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind coming into Outside Lands was, “Who were Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem?” For those who knew, it was, “How in the hell were the Muppets going to fill a Sunday slot on the main stage?” Because the band had never played a show of such magnitude or outside the context of a TV/film studio, no one had any clue what to expect during this early-afternoon slot. Though some festivalgoers (mistakenly) decided to forego the experience altogether, those present will not forget the incredible feat that Another Planet Entertainment and Jim Henson Enterprises were able to pull off for what was one of the most emotionally nostalgic, blissfully complex and once-in-a-lifetime festival performances maybe ever. The Muppet house band both effortlessly managed to pluck the heartstrings of multiple generations of fans while delivering the most conceptually beautiful “love letter” to the city of SF, blanketing the grounds in a sea of love and collective euphoria for a brief, yet unforgettable moment. -Molly Kish, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #19 - RÜFÜS DU SOL

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

By the time RÜFÜS made their entrance, the excitement in the room was at a fever pitch. The crowd was ready to dance from the very first beat (thanks to the excellent warm-up from Kllo and Yuma X), and they did just that. Lead singer Tyrone Lindqvist took center stage with great energy and proceeded to do the customary water bottle toss shortly after. Lindqvist set the tone right from the get-go for a high-energy, high-audience-participation set. The crowd responded in kind by getting down much harder than expected for a Wednesday night. Notably, there were surprisingly very few phones out as most attendees put away their cameras to make the most of every song. The intimate setting of The Fillmore could almost have been mistaken for the polo grounds of Coachella, given how many girls-on-shoulders could be seen around the venue. -Geoff Hong, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

Through Rudimental tracks like “Not Giving In”, “Free” and “Waiting All Night”, the most unique element of the group’s live production was their charisma. Simply put, they look like they’re having fun. These aren’t tortured artists or cathartic performers — Rudimental are a band that loves the music they make. Even the band’s drummer, Beanie, easily one of the hardest working rhythmists on tour right now, managed to keep a smile on his face, racing through Rudimental’s repertoire of songs that were anywhere from 145 to 160 BPMs. The septet’s de-facto leader, DJ Locksmith, was surprisingly more in the background than you would expect from a typical DnB hype man. As Rudimental wrapped up their set with their chart-topping hit “Feel the Love”, the crowd joined in as the song ended, creating a shared moment at The Fox that perfectly reflected the intention of Rudimental — to spread the love. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

On this night, that proverbial phrase seemingly rang true. It wasn’t just that BØRNS most likely amassed the largest attendance in the history of the Twilight Concert Series, but also the fact that it was easily one of the best shows I’ve ever witnessed at the Santa Monica Pier. One could certainly point to the opening of the Expo Line extension as a reason for the larger crowds so far this summer, which wasn’t all that noticeable during the series’ opening night with Mayer Hawthorne just the week prior, but that would simply be underestimating the exponential rise of Garrett Borns’ eponymous project. Since he relocated to Los Angeles in 2013 and signed with Interscope Records, the Michigan native has gone from supporting modest indie bands like MisterWives to selling out shows as a headliner in a matter of a year. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

Brainfeeder founder, producer and unapologetic cultural mouthpiece Flying Lotus (born Steven Ellison) ended the night with a mildly controversial headlining set. Walking onstage and making what any FlyLo fan would recognize as an off-colored comment on the current presidential race may have proven too brazen for those not used to his brand. He let Captain Murphy out of the box a little early and road the wave of confusion into a heady, bass-driven assault on the conflicted crowd, providing the distinct audio punctuation point for the night’s bill of artists. Playing several tracks off of his 2014 LP You’re Dead! as well as various hits from high-profile hip-hop emcees like Travis Scott and Kendrick Lamar that he has produced over the years, Ellison stunned us all with his double-screen, audio-visual stage setup and plenty of bone-rattling bass drops. -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #15 - The Last Shadow Puppets

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

TLSP brought a strings section to their show, an added element that helped keep things fresh and new. The show began with the beautiful sounds of violins and cellos, but the moment TLSP got onstage, the whole floor at The Fillmore lit up in billows of smoke. I’m sure the band was stoned by the end of the show if it hadn’t been already, appearing beyond excited to be playing on a Sunday night in SF. Turner and Kane must have yelled out something about SF every few minutes and incorporated SF into some of their songs. They were so incredibly tight, and I felt their set in some ways was a bit better than what I had witnessed years ago — the mix and order of the songs felt more succinct at The Fillmore. -Rachel Goodman, photo by Diana Cordero


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

Sunday’s roster at Coachella last year was significantly weaker in comparison to Friday’s and Saturday’s. This year was much of the same, though Calvin Harris somehow proved to be an even worse headliner than Drake (we didn’t know that was possible). But one of the bright spots on Day 3 was no doubt Miike Snow’s 9:45 p.m. slot in the Mojave Tent, the same place where I discovered the Swedish trio back in 2010 during my first Coachella. Andrew Wyatt, Christian Karlsson and Pontus Winnberg have come a long way since then, and with three studio albums in their catalog, including their latest effort iii, they have more than enough material to fill out a 50-minute set and leave you wanting to hear more. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

Fresh off releasing the latest — and final — installment of his Slime Season mixtape trilogy, Young Thug took his place on the stage. Arriving in a white blouse, multicolored sequined jacket, dark shades, a polka-dot head scarf and remarkably slim, golden pants, he aligned such a rangy and vibrant uniform with his performance. There wouldn’t be any towering LED lights, stunts or stage diving. However, Young Thug, who for the majority of his roughly hour-long set played the lone wolf, delighted the crowd with his animated and bright delivery while running through thundering Slime Season 3 favorites like “With Them”, “Digits” and “Slime Shit”. The audience, ranging from high school seniors to seasoned workers likely with mortgages, strikingly recited every uncanny, controversial lyric and Ric Flair-esque “Woo!” like they had been analyzing them for years. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

Touring with a live band for the first time in 2013 — something that few other EDM artists have done to this day — he quickly changed the way electronic music can be experienced live. Fast forward to last Thursday, and we were once again treated to an electrifying Pretty Lights show that was more than just Smith behind a pair of Macbook Pros and two Akai MPD32s. Making his debut at the majestic Santa Barbara Bowl, he once again showed why he isn’t your typical EDM act. With Chris Karns and Big Wild providing support, Smith hit the stage at 8 p.m. with his bandmates — Karns, Borham Lee, Brandon Butler and Alvin Ford, Jr. — and put on a show that dazzled both sonically and visually. What was most impressive, though, was seeing how much of the performance was improvised, as the band transitioned from one jam to another while dropping in a number of remixes here and there. And as I looked on from my seat in the stands, I couldn’t help but think about how much the show reminded me of all the times I’ve seen STS9 perform live. It only seemed fitting considering that the livetronia band helped give Smith his start back in the day, and with the “EDM bubble” about to burst (that is, if it hasn’t already), it’s hopefully an approach more electronic artists will gravitate toward in the future. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

The 26-year-old king of slacker rock, who over the past few years has become a fan favorite of many Bay Area audiophiles, never seems to hold back when he comes to town. His first night in SF last week saw him jump from The Indy’s balcony into an awaiting crowd (a feat that was later imitated by a female audience member at The Warfield the next night), run around half naked while playing new songs and perform a 25-minute cover of Eric Clapton’s 1971 hit single “Layla” with fart solos sprinkled throughout. -James Pawlish, photo by James Pawlish


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

Easily the most anticipated set of the weekend from this spectator’s vantage point, Moderat hadn’t toured since dropping a pair of EPs in 2014. But with the release of its third full-length album, aptly titled III, the Berlin-based supergroup comprised of Apparat’s Sascha Ring and Modeselektor members Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary were primed to make their mark on the final day of LIB — and that they did. Beginning with “Ghostmother” off their latest LP, Moderat ran through a good chunk of new material, but nothing ignited the crowd more than their new single “Reminder”, which remains one of our favorite songs of the year so far. As we witnessed a few days earlier at The Fonda Theatre in LA, the group’s dark, minimalist stage setup with psychedelic flourishes paired nicely with Ring’s ethereal vocals. Of all the other performances throughout the weekend, Moderat’s 90-minute set undoubtedly stood as one of the brightest moments of LIB 2016. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

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. -Zach Bourque, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

As they opened with the dream-inducing interlude “Nangs” from their latest studio album Currents, Tame Impala gave the crowd an ample minute and a half to commit to the spatial surroundings before jumping full throttle into an explosive rendition of lead single “Let It Happen,” playing the tracks in reverse order than they are on the LP. By the third song (as promised), the sky, having just turned black, was filled with a stadium’s worth of rainbow confetti as the band played the opening chords of 2012’s psuedo love ballad “Mind Mischief”. Followed by a rare performance — only the second time in three years — of “Music to Walk Home By” from 2012’s Lonerism, Tame Impala played a wide range of emotive classics while scrambling the brains of more than 8,500 audience members with their intense onslaught of sensory-overloading imagery and hypnotic light show. -Molly Kish, photo by James Pawlish


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

James is in rare company these days, amid a dying breed of guitar-rock gods like Jack White and Josh Homme who are not only capable of playing anything on six strings, but also on a myriad of instruments. And while Eternally Even feels in some ways like an opportunity for him to finally experiment more with keyboards, James made sure to remind his fans at the 90-year-old Orpheum Theatre last Friday that shredding is still a priority. Performing in his new hometown after officially moving to LA this year, he assumed the role of lead singer for much of the show as he and his bandmates from Twin Limb (also opening for James on this tour) played all of Eternally Even and half of Regions. But propped up by a stand onstage the whole time was James’ black Gibson axe, and you knew at some point during a two-hour set that he was going to unload some sick riffs like we have become accustomed to seeing from him at Jacket shows. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

The real headline from The National’s performance was hands down the new material that was debuted, pretty much across their entire set, encore included. A rather standard opening of “Don’t Swallow the Cap” and “I Should Live in Salt” led into our first taste of the band’s upcoming LP in the form of “Checking Out”. Though many locals likely recognized this track from last year’s Treasure Island Music Festival (read our review here), it has tightened up over the past year and even begins to sound familiar as the Brooklyn-based five-piece begins to weave in more electronic, synth-like elements. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Steve Carlson


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

There may have been no more talked-about act in Coachella’s 17-year history than Saturday’s headliner — and for good reason. Going back to 1993, it had been 23 years since Axl Rose and Slash last performed on the same stage together, and though some of that allure had worn off by the time they reached Indio thanks to a surprise show in LA and back-to-back nights in Las Vegas in prior weeks, Guns N’ Roses were still the talk of the town leading up to Coachella. In fact, all you had to do was look around on Saturday and see just how many GNR T-shirts were traversing the polo field before their 10:30 p.m. set. When it came time to deliver, the original trio of Axl, Slash and bassist Duff McKagan most certainly did, while rhythm guitarist Richard Fortus and drummer Frank Ferrer proved to be more than suitable fill-ins for Izzy Stradlin and Steven Adler/Matt Sorum. Meanwhile, the surprise appearance by Angus Young couldn’t have come at a much better time after the announcement was made minutes before GNR’s set that Rose will be filling in for Brian Johnson on AC/DC’s remaining tour dates this year. GNR have always been one of my biggest bucket-list bands, and even if a broken leg prevented Axl from strutting and slithering across the stage like he once did as a brash, slender 21-year-old rock star, seeing one of my favorite childhood bands perform for two and a half hours felt all too surreal as I left the Empire Polo Club that night. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

From the very beginning, Sia set herself apart from every other artist who took the Coachella Stage this year. With the Australian artist standing in the back of the stage, her set was more performance art than it was pop music. While her face was hidden thanks to her trademark wig, Sia’s voice stood front and center as she belted out every note to hits like “Diamonds”, “Bird Set Free” and “Titanium”. Throughout it all, different dancers and actors would come on stage, abstractly embodying the themes her songwriting often conveys: fear, anticipation, stress, anger, joy, love and most of all, doubt. As Kristen Wiig and Paul Dano contributed to the overall performance, the height of Sia’s conceptual masterpiece reached its peak with a breathtaking rendition of “Breathe Me”, bringing some of the audience to tears. It was the true headliner of Sunday night and among the top performances of the entire weekend. -Brett Ruffenach, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #3 - Chance the Rapper

3. Chance the Rapper

In one of the few transcendent moments of the weekend, a set that had everyone throughout the fairgrounds hyped into an anticipatory frenzy, Chance the Rapper performed at the Lands End stage on Sunday afternoon for easily the largest crowd of the entire weekend. Even those who stood their ground through Third Eye Blind’s preceding set felt the drastic change in both crowd size and personal space as the Polo Fields flooded and temperatures rose. Even though Chance could have used this to his advantage and conducted an explosive show, igniting the tightly configured crowd into a combustive state, he instead took his fans “to church” with a spiritually centered gospel set, making sure everyone was attentive and of course, that “his part” resonated among the masses. -Molly Kish, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

Over the last couple of years, it’s hard to think of a band I have wanted to see more than LCD Soundsystem. Deeply tied to my formative years in college, the Brooklyn outfit’s return after a five-year hiatus was nothing short of stunning. Opening with the undeniably groovy “Us vs. Them” and covering a good chunk of their catalog over almost two hours, LCD certainly met the expectations of an eager crowd. James Murphy kept the banter between songs fairly short, and these indie heavyweights demonstrated a true dedication to their craft, starting fast with songs like “Movements” and “Yeah” before moving to more deep, tightly wound rhythms on “Someone Great” and “Home”. Though “Losing My Edge” was written more than 10 years ago, Murphy’s part-improvised, part-proclamation, part-perfectly-delivered rendition of the track seemed to really capture the attention of more casual LCD fans. Nearing the end of its set, the band covered “Heroes” by late collaborator David Bowie. I have seen many concerts as well as attended many festivals in my life, but this was truly among the most beautiful moments in live music I have ever experienced. Wrapping up their headlining performance with “All My Friends”, LCD Soundsystem proved to be among the top artists to ever grace the festival’s main stage. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #1 - Anderson .Paak

1. Anderson .Paak

I’m going to be completely honest: I went to SXSW this year to see .Paak because I knew once he played it, tickets to his shows would be impossible to get. Six months later, $30 tickets to his show in San Francisco at The Fillmore resold for upwards of $400. If you didn’t have another way to get into that show or rent to pay, it was worth it. The energy that comes out of .Paak while he’s performing is charming, infectious and unmatched. He splits his time roaming every inch of the stage and behind his drum set, often singing and rapping without missing a beat. At .Paak’s December show at the Hollywood Palladium in LA, Stevie Wonder came out not to sing, but to tell the crowd what a big fan he is. So basically, Stevie Wonder dropped by. OK, Anderson … we see you. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Norm de Veyra

Outside Lands 2016

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

First Times: Covering a show at the Hollywood Bowl

Kurt Vile & The ViolatorsBy Josh Herwitt //

Sufjan Stevens with Kurt Vile and The Violators, Ibeyi //
Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles
August 7th, 2016 //

No matter what you think of LA, whether you love it, hate it or hold no opinion of it at all, the Hollywood Bowl has remained universally loved as one of the city’s most prized possessions. It’s safe to say that the Bowl, as us Angelinos like to call it for short, has always stood as one of the world’s most legendary outdoor music venues. In fact, it’s still considered the “largest natural amphitheater” in the U.S. (whatever that means) at 17,500, but just do a quick Google search for “best outdoor music venues in the U.S.” and you’ll see how often it’s included in listicles ranking the best amphitheaters in the country. For that reason alone — although the glitz and glamour of LA have certainly never hurt — there has always been an understanding within the music industry that any artist who headlines a show inside the Bowl’s iconic band shell has officially “made it.”

Though I don’t know if the same can be said for my music journalism career, there have been at least a few bright spots, one as most recently as last Sunday, when I was invited to cover my first show at the Bowl. It might sound cliché (actually it definitely sounds cliché), but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would get credentialed for a show at one of music’s most storied and historic venues, one that I grew up going to regularly as a kid. When you write for a small music blog like this one, getting the opportunity to cover a show at the Bowl doesn’t come around all that often, if ever. And what a show it turned out to be.

With a bill headlined by neo-psychedelic folk singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens and featuring sets from lo-fi indie rocker Kurt Vile with his backing band, The Violators, and French-Cuban soul/R&B duo Ibeyi, the lineup of performers on this night was eclectic to say the least. Yet, with two of the three acts already in California to play Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival (read our review here), NPR member station KCRW made sure to take advantage for its World Festival series.

Sufjan Stevens


Sufjan Stevens

It’s always tough for an opener to play the Bowl, and unfortunately Ibeyi had to find that out the hard way for its first appearance. With the show’s early start time due to the Bowl’s 10:30 p.m. curfew on Sundays (it slides back to 11 p.m. Monday-Saturday), most of the seats were empty when twin sisters Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz took the stage at 7 p.m. sharp. It wasn’t until 7:40 p.m., when Vile and his three bandmates were subsequently up next, that the amphitheater started to fill up, especially in the upper-level sections. Vile, who has been touring heavily since the release of his sixth solo album b’lieve I’m goin down…, let out a few hoots and hollers as he opened his 50-minute set, doing his best to pump up the somewhat subdued crowd. But it was his music that ultimately got fans excited, leaning heavily on his newest material as he moved between electric guitar, acoustic guitar and banjo.

The spectacle of the night, however, was no doubt Sufjan Stevens’ set. The Michigan native, who professed his love for his home state on his 2003 LP, had it pretty rough growing up, as he details in “Should Have Known Better” from his latest studio effort Carrie & Lowell. The album, which recounts some of the more unsettling moments Stevens shared with his late mother (Carrie) and stepfather (Lowell) — including times when Carrie abandoned him as a child — and the emotional pain he felt following her death in 2012, has taken his career of almost 20 years to new heights, with many music critics pronouncing it his best yet.

On this evening though, Stevens did his best to spin things in a positive light, proclaiming at one point that he wanted to “sing about life” after spending “a year-and-a-half singing about death.” “Feel your heart and your lungs and the warmth of your skin, and know you’re alive,” he told us in between songs while preaching that we as a society need “less resistance” and “more acceptance.” Coming from a man who dons a pair of giant wings, a neon-colored track suit and at times, a bizarre balloon costume onstage, a spiritual pep talk as such could sound like a bunch of hocus pocus to glass-half-empty types. But the stories Stevens tells on Carrie & Lowell are real and heartfelt, ones that take guts to broadcast publicly like he does, and with a rainbow of fluorescent lights covering the Bowl’s band shell once night fell, the final stop on his 2016 summer tour felt more like a celebration of sorts than a memorial service. So, as the man in a foil-like suit ran through the crowd at the start of his encore, which concluded with a tribute to another one of his fallen heroes in Prince, I couldn’t help but smile and take it all in, knowing full well that the chance to cover a show at the Bowl may never come my way again.

SUFJAN STEVENS

Setlist:
Seven Swans
Too Much
All of Me Wants All of You
Come On! Feel the Illinoise!
I Walked
Vesuvius
Blue Bucket of Gold
Fourth of July
Should Have Known Better
Carrie & Lowell
I Want to Be Well
Impossible Soul
Chicago

Encore:
Concerning the UFO Sighting Near Highland, Illinois
For the Widows in Paradise, For the Fatherless in Ypsilanti
Kiss (Prince cover) (with Moses Sumney)

KURT VILE & THE VIOLATORS

Setlist:
Dust Bunnies
I’m an Outlaw
Jesus Fever
Goldtone
KV Krimes
Walkin’ on a Pretty Day
Pretty Pimpin’
Puppet for the Man
Freak Train

IBEYI

Setlist:
Elleggua
Lost in My Mind
Mama Says
I’m on My Way
Oya
Think of You
Oddudua
River

Outside Lands 2016: Top sets, awards & what we overheard at Golden Gate Park

Outside Lands 2016Photos by Norm de Veyra & James Pawlish // Written by Molly Kish //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 5th-7th, 2016 //

Celebrating its ninth annual year as Northern California’s premier music, comedy, food and arts festival, Outside Lands took over Golden Gate Park last weekend and entertained crowds of more than 60,000 attendees each day with a massive roster of world-renowned talent. This year’s highlights surmounted all previous editions and exceeded the expectations of the most veteran festivalgoers.

Beyond the daily artist lineups, mouth-watering fare and unparalleled comedy showcases, Outside Lands kicked it up a notch in 2016, playing to what seemed like a more refined crowd on a local and national level. The festival’s organizers created an environment that appealed to both novices and seasoned attendees, with convenience being the key factor and a running theme that helped establish a flow to the fairgrounds that was unattainable in past years.

The fest also worked with PayPal to set up an option for cashless transactions by uploading “Bison Bucks” to your wristband, creating a seamless navigation of all the food/beverage and merchandise options. Furthermore, the debut of additional boutique concessions at Oyster Lands and Cocktail Lands provided a reprieve from the long lines at food trucks, booths and beer stands for the mature palette.

Even the structure and pace of this year’s Outside Lands schedule felt more conducive to less park-length traversing, with each stage focusing more on specific genres and demographics. There are still certain aspects that could use improvement, such as an increased availability of trash receptacles, bathroom options and crowd control at the festival’s entrance, but the issues that Outside Lands faced this year were no different or more overbearing than any other large-scale production.

Now nine years on the circuit, the Bay Area’s premiere destination for festival revelers has definitely matured to an impressive standard in the live music business. As Outside Lands continues to set the bar high thanks to its innovative features, top-notch billing and overall experience, here are our favorite moments from 2016.

Outside Lands 2016 - LCD Soundsystem


LCD Soundsystem

TOP SETS:

Headliner: LCD Soundsystem

Hip-Hop: Anderson .Paak

Pop: Grimes

Singer-Songwriter: Lana Del Rey

Rock: Foals

EDM: Zedd

Jazz: Kamasi Washington

Experimental: Air

Breakthrough artist: Jidenna

Local act: Down and Outlaws

Heineken Dome: Warren G & E-40 (pop-up performance)

Outside Lands 2016 - Chance the Rapper


Chance the Rapper

OUTSIDE LANDS 2016 AWARDS:

Biggest Crowd: Chance the Rapper

In one of the few transcendent moments of the weekend, a set that had everyone throughout the fairgrounds hyped into an anticipatory frenzy, Chance the Rapper performed at the Lands End stage on Sunday afternoon for easily the largest crowd of the entire weekend. Even those who stood their ground through Third Eye Blind’s preceding set felt the drastic change in both crowd size and personal space as the Polo Fields flooded and temperatures rose. Even though Chance could have used this to his advantage and conducted an explosive show, igniting the tightly configured crowd into a combustive state, he instead took his fans “to church” with a spiritually centered gospel set, making sure everyone was attentive and of course, that “his part” resonated among the masses.

Honorable Mention: Lana Del Rey, J. Cole

Most Magical Outside Lands Moment: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

One of the biggest questions on everyone’s mind coming into Outside Lands was, “Who were Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem?” For those who knew, it was, “How in the hell were the Muppets going to fill a Sunday slot on the main stage?” Because the band had never played a show of such magnitude or outside the context of a TV/film studio, no one had any clue what to expect during this early-afternoon slot. Though some festivalgoers (mistakenly) decided to forego the experience altogether, those present will not forget the incredible feat that Another Planet Entertainment and Jim Henson Enterprises were able to pull off for what was one of the most emotionally nostalgic, blissfully complex and once-in-a-lifetime festival performances maybe ever. The Muppet house band both effortlessly managed to pluck the heartstrings of multiple generations of fans while delivering the most conceptually beautiful “love letter” to the city of SF, blanketing the grounds in a sea of love and collective euphoria for a brief, yet unforgettable moment. Relive the full performance here.

Honorable Mention: Big Boi’s set at Heineken Dome (pop-up performance), Jason Isabel performing with Ryan Adams

Outside Lands 2016

Funniest Stage Banter: Ryan Adams and The Shining

Known to be quite the comedian with his sassy stage banter and on-the-spot ad libs, Ryan Adams and his backing band, The Shining, catered to the Bay Area audience by revisiting a moment from his 2014 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass set with a rousing reprise of “3 Balloons”. He not only called out his attending family’s and audience members’ concert etiquette faux pas, but he also mentioned his annoyance with the bass of Major Lazer’s simultaneous set as well as referenced the standout beacon of this year’s festival, which was hoisted up by a group of super fans watching from the crowd. Check out it here.

Honorable Mention: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, Lionel Richie

Most Jaw-Dropping Performance: Peaches

For those familiar with the raunchy revelry that a Peaches show entails, we were front and center when the pro-sex powerhouse took the Panhandle stage on Saturday. As for novice audience members or anyone really within the general vicinity during the set, this festival performance was one that frontwoman Merrill Nisker was determined to make sure would be burned into our Outside Lands memories for life. Somewhat of a crossbreed between live sex show and avant-garde performance art, Peaches paired hard-hitting bass lines with spitfire lyrics and a stage show of elaborately X-rated costumes and choreography that left the crowd on one hand speechless and on the other frantically screaming for more.

Honorable Mention: Grimes, The Claypool Lennon Delirium

Best GastroMagic Moment: Skew It on the Bar B with Big Boi, Animal’s Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo and State Bird’s Stuart Brioza

On the third and final day of Outside Lands, most attendees were camped out at their favorite stage, decompressing from the first two days of excitement and settling in to watch the final performances of the weekend. But if you happened to be one of the few wandering through the Choco Lands overpass or happened to remember Big Boi’s scheduled performance at the GastroMagic stage, you were in for a treat. Those present in the intimate crowd not only got a mini set of both Outkast and solo hits from the vivacious emcee, but they also got samples of some of the most sought-after BBQ shrimp in the Bay Area while listening to remixed versions of each song that incorporated the word “shrimp” into every chorus. Hilariously ridiculous and insanely delicious, those present may never hear those songs performed the same way again. In fact, we’re still giggling and singing “I like the way you shrimp” days later.

Honorable Mention: Beignets and Bounce Brunch (with Big Freedia and Brenda’s Soul Food), Shark Bites (with Jauz, Mother of Pearl and Guittard Chocolate Company)

Outside Lands 2016 - Big Grams


Sarah Barthel of Big Grams

Most “Thirst-Inducing” Performers of the Weekend: Big Gram’s Sarah Barthel, Miguel

Worst Decisions of the Weekend: The girl who climbed the windmill during J. Cole’s set and fell (watch here), deciding to bring a bag with you to the festival

Best Totems: The Red Balloon

Honorable Mention: Rick & Morty, Stranger Things Dustin

Biggest Festival Wear Trend of 2016: Hipster Bandito

Honorable Mention: Animal-themed onesies, flower crowns/bedazzled body parts

Best “Taste of the Bay” Menu Item: Bacon Bacon CA BBQ Bacon Burritos

Best Adult Beverage: Elixir’s Whatamelon Cocktail

Best Non-Alcoholic Nectar of the Gods: Straw’s Basil Strawberry Lemonade

Best Festival Feature: Cocktail Lands

Best Way to Waste Time Between Sets: PayPal Video Game Arcade

Outside Lands 2016 - Radiohead


Radiohead

OVERHEARD AT OUTSIDE LANDS 2016:

The best directly stated and heard in passing at the festival.

“An empty bag is still a bag!” – crowd members policing the “no-bag” entry lines to the festival

“Is this the Trail of Tears section of Outside Lands?” – crowd members while passing through Choco Lands

“I’m in the Upside Down …” – Day 3 entry ways to the festival

“Hurry up, run! The flower crowns are coming, the flower crowns are coming!” – crowd members exiting the Twin Peaks stage area before Lana Del Rey

“I must’ve missed the goth/bandito appropriation memo …” – in reference to this year’s style trends

“Meet me at the Red Balloon!” – various lost attendees throughout the grounds

“Tits out for Radiohead!” – an ambitious crowd member on Saturday night

“Jesus, Rachel!” – in reference to “basic bitch” behavior/clothing choices throughout the weekend

“I be on that shrimp tonight, straight up on that shrimp tonight, I be on that straight up on that, I be on that shrimp tonight.” – Big Boi during his GastroMagic performance

“Mmmm, porcini doughnuts …” (Homer Simpson voice) – mimicking nearby food vendors

“Who even is Lionel Richie … oh, Nicole Richies’ dad?!” – mortifyingly clueless audience member

“We’re all Diana Ross!” – Lionel Richie in reference to his “special guest”

“We’re all gonna die, whatcha’ gonna do about it?” – Sufjan Stevens contemplating life on stage

“This is the best moment of my life, can I live in an LCD set?” – enthused crowd member

“I’d follow you to hell …” – a member of a large group attempting to traverse the grounds

“But my mom and dad are in there …” – festivalgoers attempting to jump the line entering the festival

“You know San Francisco has totally changed, like I went back to my place on the pier and it was taken over by sea lions, like totally gentrified!” – Janus during Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem’s set