Phono del Sol goes bigger and better in 2015

2015 Phono del Sol Music Festival  - King Tuff

King Tuff

Photos by Diana Cordero // Written by Ava Bernard //

Phono del Sol Music Festival //
Potrero del Sol Park – San Francisco
July 11th, 2015 //

The Bay Bridged teamed up with John Vanderslice of Tiny Telephone recording studio for their fifth installment of Phono del Sol Music Festival at Potrero del Sol Park last Saturday. This surprisingly affordable festival (advanced tickets were $30 and tickets at the door were $35) brought quite the diverse crowd. Fans and families alike were able to soak up the sun on a hot day while getting a chance to see some pretty epic bands and munch on plenty of tasty gourmet treats from some of SF’s favorite food trucks.

With the festivals grounds covered with an abundance of flamingo decorations, Lagunitas beer gardens and the backdrop of skateboarders set the mood for the event. Between sets from some noteworthy local and East Coast bands, festival attendees were able to enjoy tunes from LIVE 105 DJ Aaron Axelson in the beer garden all day.

2015 Phono del Sol Music Festival - Tiaras


The festival included 11 bands on the bill and kicking off the day was Scary Little Friends, whose psychedelic guitar riffs were showcased during favorite cuts like “We Are Young”. Opening the Potrero Stage, the garage-pop supergroup Tiaras have succeeded in becoming a Bay Area favorite, drawing in the early-afternoon crowd with their harmonious, dreamy mirage sound thanks to the vocals of lead singer/guitarist/keyboardist Ryan Grubbs. The afternoon continued with an array of different bands, such as Oakland-based psychedelic rock outfit Everyone Is Dirty, which brought a packed crowd and captured the hearts and ears of nearby passersby.

As the day went on and the sun started going down, the bands continued to keep everyone entertained. A majority of them, including Vérité, Tanlines and Generationals, shifted the music heavily toward electropop. One band on the rise is HEARTWATCH (fka The Tropics), which will also be performing at Outside Lands this year. The five-piece brought fans to their feet as people of all ages danced to Claire Georges’ sweet, happy-go-lucky vocals.

2015 Phono del Sol Music Festival - Tanlines


To round out the night, King Tuff and Tanlines closed both stages. Tanlines, the electropop duo out of Brooklyn, is a fun group that will make you literally “just wanna dance.” With their upbeat tracks, they proved to be an afternoon delight for everyone at the park.

Meanwhile, over on the Potrero Stage, King Tuff’s heavy garage rock was a favorite of the day, with Kyle Thomas’ nasal vocal stylings almost comparable to that of T. Rex and other bands like SF’s Thee Oh Sees. Both fun and memorable, King Tuff’s unadulterated rock had those at the front of the crowd in the middle of a mosh pit, and even some skaters hopped the fence in hopes of crowd surfing. Thomas definitely immerses a crowd with his music and succeeds in making you feel like you’re experiencing some real rock ‘n’ roll. It’s just another reason why Phono del Sol once again was a major success this year.

Magik*Magik Orchestra look back to “When We Were Young” at Fox Theater Oakland


Photos by Sam Heller & Sterling Munksgard // Written by Mike Frash

Magik*Magik Orchestra with with guests Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, The Dodos, Diana Gameros, Geographer, How To Dress Well, Zoe Keating, The Lonely Forest, Maestro Michael Morgan, The Pacific Boychoir, Rogue Wave, Two Gallants, John Vanderslice
Fox Theater Oakland — Oakland, CA
January 31, 2014

Minna Choi and Magik*Magik Orchestra delivered on the promise of an uplifting, collaborative evening Friday with three breathtaking sets of emotive music. A long list of participating acts were featured in ten to twenty minute segments, offering originals and covers that fit into the concert gala’s theme, “When We Where Young”.

The Pacific Boychoir were on stage for the full performance, adding angelic harmony and a consistent reminder that the show’s proceeds were going to Magik-For-Kids, an organization that encourages children and adults alike to join an orchestra. An oversized frame surrounded the young choir and the stars of the evening, Magik*Magik Orchestra. The ensemble’s elegant leader Minna Choi orchestrated the proceedings throughout while playing lead piano on occasion, and John Vanderslice acted as a superb master of ceremonies.


Zoe Keating was the first featured player, starting the evening with Tears For Fears’ “Mad World”. Maestro Michael Morgon took the reigns for this section with a god-like spotlight haloing him. Another selection, “In C”, set a transcendent mood that never left.

The Dodos frontman Meric Long was next in the lead. “Black Night” was a suitable choice with the song’s “control yourself” center-point and adolescent angst. “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys included the Pacific Boychoir, adding a bit of heart-tugging depth. The choir stayed on stage all night but participated in about half the songs. As Minna Choi pointed out, “These are some of the most well-behaved people I’ve worked with.”

John Vanderslice took the stage with the phrase “Welcome to Minna’s world.” He played “Mulholland Drive” and “Forrest Knolls” amongst other songs, and admitted that “there is a terror for an indie rock band to work with Magik*Magik Orchestra, we’re all talking about it offstage.” He also complemented the Pacific Boychoir, saying “They know more about theory at 10 years old than I do now.”


How To Dress Well started the second act with his moody, snap-glitch R&B song “Cold Nights”, then moved onto the haunting “Suicide Dream 1”. Most will remember the set for his Janet Jackson cover, “Again”. Later in the set Vanderslice commented that “Tom Krell is a philosophy professor”, which was followed be an audible “Don’t embarrass me!” offstage from Krell.

Mina Choi then took the mic to say Magik*Magik Orchestra has wanted to do something like this for a long time but she “never had the guts to pull the trigger. It’s really a celebration of the Bay Area and local bands from Oakland and San Francisco, including Geographer.”

Geographer played a stripped down “Verona” without the woodblock clicks, until the final notes of the song. Neil Young’s “Helpless” got the cover treatment successfully with help from the Pacific Boychoir.

John Vanderslice introduced Diana Gameros, a Mexican-born San Franciscan that displayed remarkable talent. Her two songs made her segment feel entirely too brief — her Latin indie-rock was a pleasant change of pace, leaving the crowd wanting more. Her voice and smile deserves more attention, including from us.

Rogue Wave ended a stacked second act with “Your Eyes” and “Sight Lines” from their catalogue, and a fun cover from Buddy Holly, “Everyday”. Also Zach Rogue dismissed a prior charge from John Vanderslice that he had offered a uber-strong beverage to the master of ceremonies.


Two Gallants spent the entirety of their segment with an immersive, long slow-burner. The odyssey of a song surely was the longest single piece of the night.

The Lonely Forest’s lead singer John Van Deusen gave a simple, stunning performance. “Be Everything” from the Lonely Forest and “In Your Eyes” by Peter Gabriel ended up being two of the most memorable movements.

Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers anchored the evening with their laid back California Soul, including the scorning ditty “Little Too Late”.


11 reasons to celebrate five years of Magik*Magik Orchestra at Fox Theater Oakland


Photos by Sterling Munksgard //

Led & conducted by Minna Choi, Magik*Magik Orchestra and their many contemporaries have prepared an evening for the ages at Fox Theater Oakland January 31. A dynamic group of mostly local performers will join forces over three 45 minute acts to deliver a gala concert to revolve around the theme of childhood, and “collaboration” will be the word of the evening.

Here are 11 reasons why celebrating 5 years of Magik*Magik Orchestra should be in your plans this month. Secure your seats here.


11. Two Gallants
SF-based duo Two Gallants will be joining the festivities — “Fly Low Carrion Crow” from their self titled record might flourish with symphonic backing…

10. The Lonely Forest
The Lonely Forest and Magik*Magik joined forces on “Be Everything”, the first track from the group’s first track on their debut album Arrows. The band has confirmed John Van Deusen will be playing this song and a Peter Gabriel cover with M*MO.

9. Zoe Keating
The one-woman orchestra teamed up with the Magik string section in 2011 for two shows at Great American Music Hall, so Keating should be pretty locked in with the headliners.


8. Geographer
The City’s very own Geographer performed with M*MO at Stern Grove Music Festival last summer, where they opened for Kronos Quartet. Will they simply add a tasty layer of electronic sound or will songs like Geographer’s “Original Sin” get full orchestral support? Maybe both…

7. The event benefits Magik-For-Kids, Outreach & More
Magik-For-Kids is Magik*Magik’s key community project, giving local children access to brass instruments. The initiative also allows kids to compose their own string quartet, build a band, and more. So that’s pretty cool.


6. Rogue Wave
Oakland-based Rogue Wave seem like an obvious choice to include in the experience, and classics like “Eyes” or “California” seem like solid song bets. “Everyone Wants to Be You” from last year’s Nightingale Floors might be a tremendous selection for full Magik backing.


5. The Dodos
Magik have backed The Dodos on their last two records and they performed together at Noise Pop 2010, so they are probably able to send subliminal mind messages to each other at this point. Watch them perform “Substance” below with the stars of the night at Tiny Television in San Francisco.

4. How To Dress Well
Tom Krell is one of the best singers around, and his double mic technique to control vocal echo combined with minimalist, digitized R&B is remarkably haunting. We’ve been promised “Cold Nites” from Total Loss, and the 30-piece Pacific Boychoir will join a 30-piece M*MO for it. Also, let’s hope we get “Talking To You”. Expect goosebumps.


3. Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers
Nicki Bluhm will lend the sole female vocals to the affair, so in this way she is key to the proceedings. Uber-popular locally yet under the radar nationwide, the group’s California Soul will sweeten the overall sound.

2. John Vanderslice
Local luminary & Tiny Television recording studio owner John Vanderslice has collaborated with Minna Choi and Magik*Magik for years — in fact M*MO is the official house orchestra of Tiny Television.

They recorded 2011’s White Wilderness together over 3 days, and joined together again last year on Vanderslice’s incredibly underrated Dagger Beach. Here’s hoping for a glorious live version of “Song for David Berman”. Watch “Promising Actress” from Cellar Door.

1. Celebrating 5 years of Magik*Magik
It’s the Orchestra’s night to shine after five years of providing auditory pleasure backing to over 100 projects. A lineup has been curated that highlights some of the ensemble’s strongest partnerships, so the comfort level and past experiences should set the table for a night to remember.

*BONUS: It’s at Fox Theater Oakland — can you imagine a better setting?