Run the Jewels leave no stone unturned in LA, capping off their 10th anniversary tour with a fourth & final night at Hollywood Palladium

Run the Jewels - El-P & Killer MikeBy Josh Herwitt //

Run the Jewels with The Alchemist, Tenacious D (DJ set) //
Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles
October 14th, 2023 //

It’s almost hard to believe that more than a decade has already passed since El-P and Killer Mike formed Run the Jewels after being introduced to each other by Cartoon Network executive Jason DeMarco in 2011.

The Grammy-nominated hip-hop duo has rode a titanic wave of success over that span, putting out four albums in less than seven years with 2013’s self-titled debut paving the way for subsequent releases in 2014, 2016 and 2020.

To mark the occasion, RTJ announced a 10th anniversary tour consisting of four-night residencies in New York, Chicago, Atlanta and LA this year, with each LP being performed from start to finish on its respective date.

But the project’s fourth and most recent full length entitled RTJ4 — one that features Greg Nice, DJ Premier, 2 Chainz, Pharrell Williams, Mavis Staples, Josh Homme and Zack de la Rocha — is what propelled Jaime Meline and Michael Render into the Top 10 of the US Billboard 200 for the first time, and even though they were at Coachella in 2022, they had yet to schedule a proper show in LA after dropping the 11-track effort due to the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down live music for 18 months.

Run the Jewels - El-P & Killer Mike

That’s, in part, why we circled Saturday’s finale at the Hollywood Palladium on our calendar while also knowing it would be the last gig of the tour. We did wonder if Meline and Render would be running (no pun intended) on fumes by that point, but the two emcees seemed to be in great spirits when they took the stage after surprise DJ sets from Tenacious D and The Alchemist, the latter of which boasted guest appearances by Evidence and Rakaa Iriscience of Dilated Peoples, had riled up the capacity crowd.

As much as the beats and production that El-P cooks up in the lab are the catalyst for new RTJ material, the wordplay between Killer Mike and himself is what make them such a visceral force in front of any live audience no matter where they are at that moment. Plus, their stage antics and banter aren’t too shabby either. Not many acts in the hip-hop scene roll into town, specifically this one, and choose Jack Black of all celebrities to introduce them to a sold-out venue of 4,000 folks. Yet, that’s exactly what RTJ did when Black walked out to Queen’s epic hit “We Are the Champions” and sent fans into an absolute frenzy with his hype-man skills.

The beauty of an RTJ show, like any good concert, is that you simply don’t know what’s going to happen next. Sure, it was a little disappointing that de la Rocha didn’t grace us with his presence like he did only a couple of days earlier when Run the Jewels 2 was showcased in full, but El-P and Killer Mike weren’t about to wave goodbye without a cameo from their friend Joi, a longtime associate of the Atlanta-based Dungeon Family collective known for its collaborations with OutKast, Organized Noize and Goodie Mob, during an eight-song encore.

RTJ, however, weren’t about to wrap up (again, no pun intended) the tour with a Run the Jewels 3 cut. Instead, they fittingly went back to where things all started, unleashing the title track on Run the Jewels to send us home with one final banger and close the book on the “RTJX Tour.” Where they go from here following 10 years in the rap game, no one really knows. Neither does El-P or Killer Mike right now, and from what they have recently said, that’s the way they like it. Fortunately for us, so do we.

yankee and the brave (ep. 4)
ooh la la
out of sight
holy calamafuck
goonies vs. E.T.
walking in the snow
never look back
the ground below
pulling the pin
a few words for the firing squad (radiation)

Legend Has It
Oh My Darling Don’t Cry
Blockbuster Night Part 1
Talk to Me
Sea Legs
Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)
Down (with Joi)
Run the Jewels

Killer Mike’s ‘fuck boy’ chant in response to fuck boy SXSW fan is all time

Run-the-JewelsPhotos by Alfonso Solis // Written by Mike Frash //

The music portion of SXSW got underway on Monday in Austin, and Run the Jewels were busy continuing their rise to the throne at the Spotify House. Then some shit went down …

Killer Mike was likely having a good day — Kendrick Lamar gave the substantive spitter a massive shout out in his new track, “Hood Politics,” which unleashed on Sunday. In contrast to Kdot’s “Control” verse that took on the genre at large, the praise for Killer Mike is particularly loud due to the lack of shout outs to others.

So as RTJ was firing up “Banana Clipper,” someone from the audience walked up on stage like he owned the place and looked to be on the hunt for El-P.

Killer Mike takes the role of bouncer with security seemingly minimal and hunts down the stage crasher with gusto.

The most appropriate part: this is the song where Mike later says, “I sent they mom a little cash and a sympathy letter/ Told her she raised a bunch a fuck boys, next time do better/ Bitch.” Mike reiterates this in his response to the situation:

“Fuck boy” is RTJ’s catch all for weak ass phonies, and the phrase is sprinkled throughout their two LPs. It represents everything El & Mike are against in their populist, antics-driven crusade for real. And Mr. Render’s response to the altercation feeds into RTJ’s growing influence and the moment perfectly.

The best part: Mike has El’s back and vice versa. These guys truly are brothers.


Killer Mike’s emotional soliloquy on police brutality starts St. Louis show with a heavy dose of real

killer-mikePhotos by James Nagel // Written by Mike Frash //

As El-P has pointed out on twitter today, “far as I can tell me and my squad are the only Motherfuckers who fought tooth and nail to get IN to STL Last night.”

Run the Jewels, the dynamic duo of El-P and Killer Mike, are the closest thing America has to some form of political protest in music these days, so it’s only appropriate that one of the biggest breakthrough acts of the year would be performing in St. Louis mere hours after the Ferguson grand jury decided to not charge Michael Brown’s killer, policeman Darren Wilson, with murder.

So as rioting began in nearby Ferguson, and before the National Guard was sent into Missouri, Michael Render took the stage to deliver one of his most powerful speeches ever:

“It’s not about race, it’s not about class it is not about color — it is about what they killed him for. It is about poverty, it is about greed & it is about the war machine…it’s us against the mother fucking machine.

While this must-see speech isn’t too much of a surprise — Killer Mike has made multiple appearances on cable news outlets in the wake of the Michael Brown tragedy and Ferguson protests and Run the Jewels are on our “best stage banter spewing musicians in live music today” list – the content of Mike’s speech should go down in history as the quintessential reaction to the Grand Jury not indicting policeman Darren Wilson for murder. There’s anger, passion and lust for revenge, but ultimately a call for non-violent protest.

El-P and Killer Mike will be donating the proceeds from the forthcoming Meow The Jewels remix project to the families of Michael Brown and other victims of police brutality.

RELATED: The Unexpected Cult of Run the Jewels
RELATED: 10 most important political protest songs of the last 50 years

Listen to “Ddfh’ for more on Run the Jewels’ take on police brutality.


The unexpected cult of Run the Jewels

Run-The-Jewels-POSTPhotos by Alfonso Solis // Written by Mike Frash //

Run the Jewels with Ratking, Despot //
Mezzanine – San Francisco
November 14th, 2014 //

“A lot’s happened in the last week, but we are gonna give you a blockbuster night.” -El-P at Mezzanine

Populist leaders and destroyers of fuck boys, purveyors of high fives, hugs and grit-grime aggression that’s cartoonishly giddy, delivering dead-serious messages while inviting you the listener to join them — Run the Jewels operate in a self-imposed world of duality.

And since releasing Run the Jewels 2 on October 28th, the duo of Michael Render and Jaime Meline has exploded. Shortly after rave reviews started rolling out, their show at San Francisco’s Mezzanine sold out, and suddenly tickets were going for $150 into the thousands. Were the tickets being sold in the $800-$1,200 range on StubHub from fans extending RTJ’s penchant for absurdity? Or perhaps the exceptional amount of hype and well-deserved praise being showered on El-P and Killer Mike meant some engineer from Google or Facebook would actually pay 30 times face value. Either way, it shows how popular Run the Jewels have become.

Run the Jewels created this atmosphere by engaging with their audience online, enabling their biggest fans to feel like part of the RTJ inner circle, sharing the cultural torch that’s currently lighting the way to bigger and better things for El-P and Killer Mike. They’ve wisely relied on their audience, which is growing in volume at an exponential rate thanks to their open relationship both new and established media, but more importantly, by creating direct lanes with their fans.


The Emergence of a Cult Following

Certainly it helps when your new record will widely be considered one of the best albums of the year, but El-P and Killer Mike’s non-stop promotional blitz has been rooted in engaging their supporters, with the half-joking deluxe album options that turned into the forthcoming Meow The Jewels remix record, giving RTJ2 away for free via social media and with Tag The Jewels, a truly worldwide street art project that has sea legs of its own. Run the Jewels have grown into a progressive, cultish movement, one that is completely inclusive, as long as you are on the right side of history.

The Tag The Jewels project looks to take the Run the Jewels hand sign from both RTJ album covers and turn it into an iconic mainstay. Outside of Mezzanine on Jesse Street this past Friday, the brand-new Run the Jewels tour bus hovered over the venue’s entrance with the RTJ2 album cover adorning its side. Unsurprisingly, fans took this opportunity to stand between the two mummy-fist-talons, turning their right hand into a two-fingered gun and the left into a fist holding a real or invisible 36” chain.

During their SF show, El-P and Killer Mike used the hand sign as a calling card much more than on their first tour, throwing up the signal as many as five times — and all the way to the back of the rectangular club space, show-goers mimicked El and Mike, even throwing the RTJ hand sign up on impulse to show love back to the artists.


“It’s all love and respect.” -Killer Mike at Mezzanine

Much like a Phish or Die Antwoord audience, most everyone in the room at Mezzanine was there in “full buy-in” mode, not worried about what someone might think of you by getting a bit too into the moment. Which, when you think about it, is pretty elusive for a rap act that is beloved by the indie blogosphere and its readers. Yet, there is a collective acceptance, a mentality that has bubbled up from impromptu social media memes, gifs and videos, including El-P auditioning cats for Meow The Jewels by playing them “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry”.

In Run the Jewels’ return to SF, the guys seemed thoroughly blunted when they arrived on stage. They could barely open their eyes for the first few songs, but this didn’t thwart the lyrical precision we’ve come to expect. Relying on audience participation more than the last tour, something that is likely organic since people know RTJ’s material better now, the crowd committed to reinforcing each song with key words and phrasing, creating a sense that we’re all in this thing together. During the show, El-P candidly mentioned that everyone in the room are family, and “we are family now because you paid me.” The crowd was alive and engaged more than a large majority of most concert experiences, to which El-P tweeted post show as “the livest show I’ve ever had in San Fran in 15 years. fuck.”


Invigorating, Giddy Aggression

Run the Jewels’ lyrical violence is intended as a form of fantasy. Killer Mike made sure it was clear to FOX News watchers that his name refers to “killing the mic” when he went to discuss protests in Ferguson, Mo. And during El-P and Killer Mike’s recent hour-long interview with Microphone Check on NPR Music (a must-listen for fans of Run the Jewels), they spoke to this point:

El-P: “You’re listening to our record and you’re gonna grin. You’re in on the fun. This is not us threatening the listener … We’re not going on records and just being like ‘We’re gonna kill you!’ We’re having fun, and we’re also completely comfortable in our ridiculousness.”

Killer Mike: “And we understand you do want to kill people. But you can’t do that. So, let this be a way for you to kill people and then go back to work and don’t kill anyone.”

Mike is alluding to Run the Jewels as an outlet for invigorating, giddy aggression — to get that aggression out in a way that is cathartic, that doesn’t hurt other people, that is punk rock in its nature.

For example, in “Lie, Cheat, Steal”, Killer Mike states, “A revolutionary banging’ on my adversaries / And I love Dr. King but violence might be necessary / Cause when you live on MLK and it gets very scary / You might have to pull you AK, send one to the cemetery.” While Mike may seem like a civil rights leader more in the vein of the Black Panthers than Martin Luther King Jr., this example is about righteous self-defense.

Bottom line, it’s refreshing to see prominent rappers who are standing up for the good of the people, all people excluding fuck boys. You won’t see Run the Jewels putting down gay people, but most notably, Run the Jewels love women.


On Charges of Misogyny

Before launching into the most controversial song off RTJ2, El-P said “This city [San Francisco] has taught me that there is a place for filth in your life.”

Rap music has always had a reputation for being somewhat connected to misogyny. But when I first heard “Love Again (Akinyele Back)” through the second minute of the record, I thought that it was a bit of a departure since El-P and Killer Mike have a clear history of celebrating women.

For example, they satirize date rape’s place in contemporary club culture with “Twin Hype Back” character Chest Rockwell, who says ridiculous things in a cheesy way that contrasts RTJ’s machine gun fire smoothness. In speaking to political power, El-P rhymes “There’s truth where the filth is / There’s lies in the law / You want a whore with a white dress / I want a wife in a thong” in “Angel Dust”. And in “Get It”, El says all he wants is “a castle / and to move like a man with a minimum of harassment / the company of women with opinions and fat asses”. You won’t find any obvious denigration of women in RTJ1 or in Mike or Producto’s solo work, so it sounded a bit odd hearing them get hyper-aggressive in a sexual manner on “Love Again”.

But that was until the third verse of the song, where they hand it off to female rapper Gangsta Boo to flip the script and give a raunchy, sexually empowering section that holds up to nasty nasty of Run the Jewels.

In their NPR interview last week, El-P said, “Girls listen to raunchy, funny stuff too.” Killer Mike discussed that his wife has heard “Love Again” and immediately compared it to “Just Put It in My Mouth” by Akinyele. The guys then referenced 2 Live Crew and Too $hort as inspirations for the song as well.


El-P and Killer Mike also addressed the inevitable presumption of misogyny some people have with “Love Again”:

Killer Mike: “So, my thing is, I trust that women are intelligent. And I get offended — I have five sisters … Women are human. I think that when we start saying equal and human, that’s across the board, you know? Women enjoy sex … I’m just happy that our audience gets it …

El-P: “… Our intention is clear. We know our intention. Listen, real story: We made that record, and it didn’t have Boo on it. And we went and got Boo because we knew what we needed for that record … We have good intentions. I know that we are not being misogynist because we are not, a) being completely serious and, b) we’re talking about fucking here. I’m sorry if you’re offending by my language … but you’re not gonna tell me that being raw or being filthy is misogyny. I know the difference.

By definition, misogyny is the dislike of, contempt for, or ingrained prejudice against women. And when you let that definition sink in and listen to “Love Again” on RTJ2, labeling Run the Jewels with hating women is absolutely ridiculous. Sure, Run the Jewels often treat women as sexual objects, but they project and treat women as intellectual equals.

During the performance of “Love Again” at Mezzanine, Mike relied on the crowd to take on the “Dick in your mouth all day” refrain, making it more of a collective, fun thing. But they performed only two-thirds of the song — the all-important Gansta Boo verse was not played disembodied or with a replacement performer. This takes away from RTJ’s spirit of equality and opens the door to critics — especially since El-P admitted in the NPR interview that Gangsta Boo’s verse was a last-minute addition to rectify the song. El and Mike should find a creative way to fix this, or not play the song live, if they want to shut the door on charges of misogyny.


This was one of the most action-packed hours of live music I’ve ever seen. Ending with the final songs off of their two albums, “A Christmas Fucking Miracle” and “Angel Duster”, the cult of Run the Jewels was mostly spent as the clock approached 1 a.m. That said, most people would have been happy to hear more. Forget the last week though, El and Mike have had a non-stop couple of years and have already gone a long way to solidifying their legacy.

Meow the Jewels hits 10k in Kickstarter funding

Meow The Jewels

One of our favorite live acts of last (and this) year, Run the Jewels, have been building a media fervor as their next album, RTJ2, inches closer to an October 28th release. Killer Mike has made multiple appearances on cable news outlets in the wake of the Michael Brown tragedy and Ferguson protests, two dope new songs have been released as of late, and as we wait in anticipation for the new record, a genius collection of deluxe package offerings have stolen our hearts.

The bonus packages offered by Run the Jewels this past week have achieved for the duo a free round of viral advertising that might extend into unprecedented territory, while completely staying true to form and style.

If you haven’t checked out the bonus package choices yet, do it for a good laugh at least, but most attention has been given to the 40k bonus offering called “The Meow The Jewels Package”, promising “Run the Jewels will re-record RTJ2 using nothing but cat sounds for music.” Almost immediately, someone from Phoenix, Ariz., started a Kickstarter campaign and accompanying social media channels to crowd-fund the would be project.

Run the Jewels have captured the cultural zeitgeist by opening up their world to all cat-sourced production (Run the Jewels part one only had one cat’s meow.) El-P, whom is the sole producer of Run The Jewels, immediately confirmed that he will make this a reality if the Meow the Jewels Kickstarter total of $45,100 is met. And all the proceeds will go to charity.

Meow The Jewels3

Meow The Jewels hit 10k in funding on Sunday, with 622 total backers. With 36 days left to go (as of September 21st) there’s plenty of time to spread the word and bank small donations like the early days of the Obama campaign (There have been 16 backers whom have given $100 or more and no 1k backers…yet).

For backing Meow The Jewels, a plethora of sick swag is promised in return. Meow The Jewels stickers, “MTJ” branded lighters, shirts, bags of catnip, and final product vinyl signed by Mike and El-P are promised, and for being a 1k donator, you can submit your very own cat’s ridiculous utterances to be worked into the production of Meow The Jewels.

Consider donating today.

Killer Mike and El-P released one of the best albums of 2013 with their self-titled debut, self-producing the entire thing and releasing it as a free download a full year before U2 tried it. It was through the duo’s captivating live performances that word continued to spread about Run the Jewels — and now the guys are ready to catapult to the top tier of rap acts.

Even though cats may be providing all original sources of sound production for an RTJ2 remix album, Run the Jewels is still not for your children.

Meow The Jewels2

Five Outside Lands trends in 2014

Outside Lands 2014Photos by Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash & Kevin Quandt //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 8th-10th, 2014 //

The lineup for the seventh annual Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, taking place August 8th-10th in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, was announced Tuesday. Headliners Kanye West, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers and The Killers were the focus of the many knee-jerk reactions, but what does the lineup say as a whole? Here are five trends we’ve spotted.

Three-day passes for the festival go on sale Thursday, April 10th at 10 a.m.


Outside Lands missed out on the OutKast nostalgia sweepstakes, but the far more controversial (and relevant), Yeezus has been crowned as the first rap headliner in the festival’s history (see below). Beastie Boys were slotted to headline the festival in 2009, and they sadly had to pull out due to Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis. Tenacious D ultimately became the headliner over M.I.A. The Bay Area doesn’t attract an abundance of hip-hop or rap in general, yet many in the SF music community have wondered when Outside Lands, now a top national festival, would get into the game. El-P and Killer Mike, one of most dynamic music duos in years, are working on a follow-up to their incredible Run the Jewels debut and are sure get Golden Gate Park pumped. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis performed at noon in 2011 at Outside Lands, and since then, they own four major singles and seemingly sell out every show they perform. But they are dangerously within the range of overexposure, and since winning “Best Rap Album” at the Grammys over Kendrick Lamar (and Macklemore felt the need to text-apologize to Lamar), some music fans are out for vitriolic blood. That said, Macklemore’s impact on the popular music landscape is undeniable. Atmosphere, Aer and Watsky, also successful suburban-oriented spitters in their own right, are also on the bill this year.

Reaction to Kanye West as the top headliner was distinctively negative Tuesday, at least from the loudest people. West is at the peak of his career, releasing two of the most essential albums of the past five years with Yeezus and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. The mega-narcissistic artist of a generation is already busy working on a follow-up to be produced by Q-Tip and Rick Rubin, and it may be out before Outside Lands in August. Odds are Yeezus will pull back from minimalist trap production and go back to his soul-sampling roots to cast a wider net. West has won over music critics with his recent boundary-pushing efforts, but the question becomes, can he avoid a Kardashian-enhanced mainstream backlash bigger than the “Swifting” he pulled at the MTV Video Music Awards? Our money is on ‘Ye.

Now in its seventh year, Outside Lands has finally reached the point when we see our first repeat headliner in the form of classic rock demigod, Tom Petty and his band the Heartbreakers. Having played on the second day of the inaugural year to a healthy-sized crowd, Petty worked through some technical errors with a set heavy on his standout hits from the past decades. A new release and tour recently announced lead us to think that Mr. Charlie T. Wilbury is primed to have a big second half of 2014.

One thing that Showbams noticed when culling through the lineup was the inclusion of slightly more progressive EDM. What was once a genre more reserved for Treasure Island Music Festival is making its way to Golden Gate Park, hoping to turn some folks onto a newer style of electronic production. This new shift is mainly represented by Disclosure, Flume, SBTRKT and Gold Panda. Each act brings a quality that is slightly out of the “dance music” box, whether it’s Disclosure’s 2-step-garage sound or Gold Panda’s experimental beat production. Even after all these years, Another Planet and Superfly keeps us on our toes.

Outside Lands has always basked in musical diversity, and this notion is true now more than ever. As our collective access to music becomes easier and more plentiful, so does our acceptance of a greater variety of genres. In one weekend, festivalgoers will bounce to Big Freedia, get rural with Kacey Musgraves and dance with Duck Sauce. Whether it’s folk, EDM, hip-hop, indie rock, country or soul, Outside Lands’ eclectic lineup suits the integrity and character of SF and the Bay Area.

Follow our Outside Lands 2014 playlist on Spotify.

Outside Lands

Showbams Photography 2013: A year in review


Purity Ring // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13

The power and impact of a great photo is undeniable. Striking photos take you to another place, inserting you into a spectacular moment from the past.

The photographers in the Bam Fam have produced many memorable, inspiring live music photos in 2013. Feast your eyes on 50 of our best shots from the past year.

Click a band or artist name to view the original article.


Fiona Apple & Blake Mills // Sam Heller
Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley //10.8.13


Killer Mike // James Nagel
The Independent // 7.31.13


Crystal Castles // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 4.27.13


Phantogram // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Warpaint // Marc Fong
The Independent // 9.17.13


Cut Copy // James Nagel
Fox Theater Oakland // 11.2.13


Geographer // Sterling Munksgard
Bimbo’s 365 Club // 11.23.13


Thee Oh Sees // Pedro Paredes
Great American Music Hall // 12.18.13


Grouplove // James Nagel
The Independent // 9.14.13


James Blake // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.20.13


Matthew Dear // Mike Frash
Mezzanine // 5.22.13


Palma Violets // James Nagel
The Independent // 4.23.13


Polyphonic Spree // Marc Fong
The Chapel // 8.19.13


Zedd // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 10.9.13


Robert Randolph // Steve Kennedy
Notes For Notes Benefit // 12.6.13


Savages // James Nagel
The Independent // 9.27.13


Steve Aoki // Sterling Munksgard
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // 11.16.13


The Flaming Lips // James Nagel
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // 10.31.13


The xx // Marc Fong
The Greek Theatre // 6.1.13


Atoms For Peace // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Thundercat // James Nagel
The Independent // 11.13.13


Trey Anastasio Band // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 4.20.13


Alabama Shakes // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 3.5.13


AlunaGeorge // Marc Fong
The Independent // 9.11.13


Autre Ne Veut // Mike Frash
The Independent // 3.11.13


!!! // James Nagel
Great American Music Hall // 2.28.13


CSS // James Nagel
The Independent // 6.16.13


Danny Brown // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Father John Misty // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.24.13


Haim // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


How To Dress Well // Sam Heller
The Independent // 8.26.13


Jagwar Ma // James Nagel
The Independent // 12.11.13


Jamie Lidell // Sam Heller
The Independent // 3.29.13


Primus // Sam Heller
High Sierra Music Festival // 7.5.13


Run The Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) // James Nagel
The Independent // 7.31.13


Toro Y Moi // James Nagel
Fox Theater Oakland // 11.15.13


Wild Belle // Eldon Christenson
The Independent // 9.26.13


Alt-J // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 8.29.13


Andrew Bird // Sam Heller
Congregation Sherith Israel // 12.16.13


Andrew W.K. // Marc Fong
The Independent // 10.12.13


Anna Calvi // Marc Fong
The Independent // 11.17.13


Big Boi // Mike Frash
Mezzanine // 5.17.13


Deerhunter // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13


MS MR // James Nagel
The Independent // 6.16.13


Phoenix // Chaya Frash
The Independent // 4.1.13


Rogue Wave // Marc Fong
The Independent // 7.12.13


Sigur Rós // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oaklnad // 4.16.13


STS9 // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 3.1.13


Washed Out // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13

Showbams’ top shows of 2013


It’s been a rich year for music, but since most artists no longer rake in as much cash as they did in the past from record sales, performing live has become more essential. Easy access to streaming and torrents has created a world where music fans cultivate an increasingly wide-ranging palette. In turn, festivals have become exponentially more popular, out of necessity and due to the communal, diverse experiences festivals offer.

Most of the Showbams Team lives and frequents concerts in the Bay Area music scene (that’s what the “BAMS” in “Showbams” stands for), so many of our staff picks for best shows of 2013 took place in or around San Francisco.

The best live music performers blow minds on a nightly basis as they zig zag across the world, so if an act made our list, they probably left a lasting impact near you as well.

Click the links below to view the original show review.

El-P & Killer Mike as Run The Jewels - Photo by James Nagel

El-P & Killer Mike as Run The Jewels // Photo by James Nagel

Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

01. El-P & Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) – The Independent – July 31st
El-P & Killer Mike provided the most engrossing live performance I witnessed this past year, both in their opening solo sets and their combined tour de force as Run The Jewels. Killer Mike, perhaps the most fascinating rapper on the planet, had the audience in the palm of his hands by enforcing crowd participation while performing “R.A.P. Music” and an a cappella version of “Reagan”. El-P’s set contrasted perfectly with Mike’s more message-driven set, but the the most magical moments occurred when the duo donned their “36” Chains”. The super-clever spits came at machine gun pace, faster than brains can process, and El-P’s weird, abrasive-yet-fun production work kept the show flowing at a delightfully hyperactive pace. The future is blindingly bright for Run The Jewels as they aim to take the throne.

02. Nine Inch Nails – Outside Lands – August 10th
Nine Inch Nails triumphantly returned this summer after a couple last minute personnel changes, but in the end it felt as though Trent Reznor knows exactly what he is doing. Far from feeling like a greatest hits nostalgia show (while they did play nearly all their big singles), Nine Inch Nails guided the uninitiated (including myself) by unfolding the performance in segments. Starting with “Copy of A” from this year’s Hesitation Marks, the first portion was distinctively electronic as shadows silhouetted the players onto the background of the stage. Then the stage opened up to reveal a live drum set, and a handful of pure rock tracks took over. From there, the mix of crunchy, industrialized rock and alternative metal that NIN is known for, including “March of the Pigs” and “Head Like a Hole”, became the focal point. In all honesty, show closer “Hurt” elicited some tears. The experience was intense, surprisingly dance-oriented and breathtakingly emotional.

03. Savages – The Independent – September 29th
Savages made a big splash this year with their album Silence Yourself, and much of the publicity for the all female foursome out of London came from their phone “ban” at concerts. The idea behind this was to instill the idea of immersion into concert goers. Savages successfully put on a show that exhibited a “live in the moment” mentality through their songs and stage presence, and in turn the audience followed Jenny Beth and company to be hypnotically entranced. Savages curated a wholly attentive experience through the use of contrast, most notably in their look, their use of black and white, and the way Savages ultimately contrast with every other group that performs live.

04. FOALS – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 12th
05. Atoms For Peace – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 29th
06. Deerhunter – FYF – August 24th
07. Bassnectar – Fox Theater Oakland – September 19th
08. Alt-J – Not So Silent Night at Oracle Arena – December 7th
09. The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala with White Denim – Bill Graham Civic – October 31th
10. Eric Prydz – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 14th

Phoenix // Photo by Chaya Frash

Phoenix // Photo by Chaya Frash

Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

01. Phoenix – The Independent – April 1st
Preceding the release of their arena-filling 2013 smash album Bankrupt!, Phoenix stopped by San Francisco’s very own 500 person capacity venue to debut the new material. A last minute performance hosted a packed crowd of industry professionals and die-hard fans alike, and the setting felt more like a jam packed album release party than legitimate rock show. The French foursome dynamically performed their brand new tracks, fully engaging the attention of the audience through an intense stage show which fully used the venue’s limited space. Lead singer Thomas Mars even went as far as to stage dive, crowd surf, scale the back wall and return back full circle mid-encore without missing a beat. Catching a band of this magnitude, in a venue this size, performing yet to be released material was a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that anyone lucky enough to experience will undoubtedly remember forever.

02. Fiona Apple and Blake Mills – Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkely – October 8th
The only Bay Area stop on their “Anything We Want Tour”, guitar prodigy Blake Mills and the combustible Fiona Apple headlined an intimate performance this past October at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. Billed as joint headliners, Mills and Apple playfully supported and challenged each other for command of the completely improvised set list and cohesively chaotic stage show that unveiled. The lecture hall audience was treated to a concert that highlighed both artists individuality, and as a collaborative duo, exercising complete creative control over an occasionally uncomfortably raw, extremely uncensored and truly unique live music experience.

03. Matthew Dear – Mezzanine – May 22nd
Catching the Ghostly International co-founder and experimental dance artist Matthew Dear in the spatial dimensions of the Mezzanine is amazing enough, however if the dance floor is nowhere near half capacity, you’re in for an unforgettable, private performance. Accompanied by a four person live band, Matthew Dear took the stage this past May with the bravado of a veteran rock star. Playing as though he were performing to a sold out arena, he dramatically danced and belted his way through crowd rousing favorites from his entire catalogue. Stage show theatrics involving the dismemberment of dozens of white roses and passionate crowd interactions stunned the unassuming audience members. The band dynamics, amazing set list and impeccably charismatic Matthew Dear ultimately enticed the intrigue of the entirely undersold venue, prompting everyone to actively participate in the spectacle that evening.

04. Major Lazer – The Independent – March 28th
05. Moving Units – DNA Lounge – September 11th
06. Washed Out – Rickshaw Stop – August 29th
07. Toro Y Moi – The Independent – March 2nd
08. The Postal Service – The Greek Theater Berkeley – July 27th
09. Yeasayer – Mezzanine – April 12th
10. Muse – Oracle Arena – January 28th

Arcade Fire as The Reflektors // Photo by Kevin Quandt

Arcade Fire as The Reflektors // Photo by Kevin Quandt

Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

01. Arcade Fire as The Reflektors – Hollywood Palladium – October 31st
When I was lucky enough to score a ticket to this Halloween extravaganza, I knew I would be in for something special as I was in the process of falling in love with Reflektor. After donning a sharp suit and heading to Hollywood Boulevard, my show companion and I began to realize this was gonna be something special. The Palladium was alive as soon as you walked though the doors as revelers danced, socialized and admired each others outfits worn on this night. Obviously the band played heavy on the new tracks and the crowd was eating out of their hand for the duration with highlights such as “Here Comes the Night Time” and “We Exist”, to name a few. The evening didn’t end once the performance was done as the band joined the crowd for a post-show dance party to rival most. By the time we cruised out into the chilly night we were pretty thoroughly damp from the sweat that had amassed inside, and all was right on a Halloween in Hollywood.

02. Tame Impala – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 14th
The continuously impressive Australian act delivered a loaded 40 minute set displaying their ability to crush, and expand, tracks on stage like rock and roll champs. Blustery winds blew through the Empire Polo Club, shaking the rows of palm trees behind the stage as if nature was swaying to the psychedelic goodness being enjoyed by the sizable crowd. The conditions may have led to some minor issues with a MIDI keyboard, but that didn’t phase them in the least and powered into a different direction without missing a beat. “Elephant” had an extended interlude before closing with old classic, “Half Full Glass of Wine”. Optimism at it’s finest.

03. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
A Friday night set just shy of 40 songs punctuated the first day of Outside Lands as living legend Paul McCartney captivated a packed crowd. Though not my first time seeing Sir Paul show, it was a special one in many ways on a foggy summer evening. The tenderness of “Blackbird” is always a thing of beauty, and the recently road-approved Beatles tune “Lovely Rita” were just a few of the highlights from this banner set. Macca has got it, straight up. I have preached to the power of his show since I was 15 years old, and on this night many got to experience that power first hand.

04. Phish – Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys – July 31st
05. Holy Ghost! – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
06. Mac DeMarco – FYF – August 25th
07. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Fox Theater Oakland – July 21st
08. Thee Oh Sees – The Independent – January 11th
09. Pickwick – The Getty Center – Los Angeles, CA – July 13th
10. The Walkmen & Father John Misty – The Fillmore – January 24th

Sigur Rós // Photo by Marc Fong

Sigur Rós // Photo by Marc Fong

Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

01. Sigur Rós – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 20th
Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós closed out night two of Coachella and put on an amazing performance that was highlighted by one of the most impressive visually striking stage set ups that I’ve seen. In addition to the mesmerizing video screen portrayal of various beautiful landscapes, the stage also had lamps with exposed bulbs that would light up in time to the music. The band was joined by a string and horn section for this unique experience, adding great texture to their already layered sound. The set was heavy on newer songs from their most recent album Kveikur with older tracks sprinkled in, which pleased new and old fans alike.  Sigur Rós provide a truly amazing experience.

02. M83 with Hollywood Bowl Orchestra – Hollywood Bowl – September 22nd
French indie-pop rockers stepped it up at the Hollywood Bowl this year with a little help from the in house orchestra.  It’s always tricky when mixing string instruments with electronic synthesizers, not to mention the full band, but M83 found the perfect medium. The band worked through most of their big hits like “Midnight City” and “Wait” with serious ambition and the subtle compliments from the orchestra really made the overall sound fuller.

03. Tame Impala – Fox Theater Pomona – May 30th  
This Australian Psychedelic band had a banner year as they played all over the world, but on this particular night in Pomona they showcased why they are going to be one of the biggest bands around. Their sound is pure psychedelic bliss that oozes ever so sweetly over your ears. The band weaved effortlessly between older tracks like “Desire Be Desire Go” and newer songs like the ever so popular “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”. After a solid two plus hour set, Tame Impala walked off the stage and I found myself standing there speechless. 

04. Phish – Dicks Sporting Goods Arena – Commerce City, CO – August 31st
05. Medeski Martin & Wood – UCLA Royce Hall – April 26th
06. Eric McFadden with Nels Cline and Mike Watt  –  The Mint – Los Angeles, CA – January 16th
07. Femi Kuti and The Positive Force – The El Rey Theater – Los Angeles, CA – January 18th
08. The Rolling Stones – Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA – May 3rd
09. Jim James – The Fonda Theater – Los Angeles, CA – May 11th
10. Anders Osborne with Neal Casal and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe- The El Rey Theater – Los Angeles, CA – October 24th

Alt-J // Photo by Sam Heller

Alt-J // Photo by Sam Heller

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

01. Phish – Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys – July 31st
In late July Phish performed two concerts at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena. Night 2 of the run contained one of the most infamous moments in recent Phish history: The Tahoe Tweezer. This 36 minute jam odyssey has already found it’s place in Phish lore as one of the defining moments of the current era of Phish. It’s not just the length that makes this jam so impressive, but also the song’s content, as Phish and the audience interact back and forth driving the jam deeper and deeper. Magical moments of improvisation like this do not come around very often. WOO!

02. Bjork – Craneway Pavilion – Richmond, CA – May 28th
This was my first time having the pleasure of seeing Bjork live, and she fully lived up to the hype. The entire crowd was on pins and needles as she performed her 2011 album, Biophilia, in it’s entirety. It was an audio/visual experience unlike any other concert, complete with a Tesla Coil instrument controlled by iPads and a series of sound-generating pendulums to accompany Bjork’s majestic voice. Bjork is a talent unlike anything I have ever seen live.

03. Tom Waits – Bridge School Benefit (Shoreline Ampitheatre) – October 27th
Checked a big one off the bucket list with this performance at Neil young’s annual Bridge School Benefit. It’s a wonder why Mr. Waits doesn’t tour more often as he is as talented, and as much of a showman, as he ever was. His voice sounded great, including the usual gritty and rawness that you can expect. One of the longer sets of the evening, Waits plucked tunes from his entire catalogue, yet he pulled mostly from his latest record Bad As Me. Don’t miss a chance to see Tom Waits as his shows are few and far between these days. A truly special individual and unique talent to behold.

04. Tame Impala – Fox Theater Oakland – May 29th
05. Sigur Ros – Fox Theater Oakland – April 16th
06. Alt-J – Fox Theater Oakland – August 29th
07. Nine Inch Nails – Outside Lands – August 10th
08. Rhye – Outside Lands – August 9th
09. Alabama Shakes – Fox Theater Oakland – March 5th
10. Bassnectar – Hangout Music Festival – Gulf Shores, AL – May 18th

Shpongle // Photo by Mike Frash

Shpongle // Photo by Mike Frash

The Festival Lawyer // Columnist // @FestivalLawyer

01. Shpongle – Sea of Dreams at Concourse Exhibition Center in SF – December 31st (2012)
Just a really interesting, weird and exotic New Year’s Eve show. He had a performance art group that accompanied him that night as well as a live violinist. This combo led to a really trippy, trance inducing sight and sound experience. So cool.  

02. The Cure – Austin City Limits – October 12th
When I first saw the Cure I was an eyeliner-wearing 80’s Goth kid. ACL has a 10 o’clock curfew, so when their set got close to 10 o’clock, Robert Smith announced, “Listen, we are going to play all the hits that we can until they shut us down.”  What followed next was just a very cool trip down memory lane.  Funny how music can just instantly take us back to a time or memory in our life.

03. Muse – Oracle Arena – January 28th
It’s always weird to see how much shit people talk about Muse. They seriously have a stage act only rivaled by groups like Swedish House Mafia (I still call SHM’s set at Coachella “The Night of a Million Lasers.”)  Muse combines moving TV sets, lasers, even robots all combined with the stage bravado of legendary UK acts like Queen. If you can’t sing along with me at the top of your lungs to “Uprising” then you just are really missing out on a terrific experience. 

04. Yeah Yeahs Yeahs – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th
05. Bassnectar – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th
06. Father John Misty – Fillmore – June 21st
07. Iggy Pop and the Stooges – C2SV Festival – St. James Park – San Jose, CA – September 28th
08. Disclosure – Treasure Island Music Fest – October 19th
09. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
10. Arctic Monkeys – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th

Thundercat // Photo by James Nagel

Thundercat // Photo by James Nagel

James Nagel // Photographer // @JdropsKnowledge

01. Thundercat – The Independent – November 13th
Stephen Bruner delivered a performance that felt truly unique, deviating from the standards set on his album by slapping some soulful, jazzy rhythms on his epic bass. He wrapped the entire audience with the warm embrace of his music in the most personal, improvesed way. 

02. Savages- The Independent – September 27th
Jenny Beth is a goddamn rockstar. Period. 

03. The Flaming Lips with Tame Impala and White Denim – Bill Graham Civic – October 31st
This show was truly a surreal experience and did not disappoint when it came to the scope of the production. Confetti and balloons rained down endlessly it seemed, while the visual and lighting components completely enhanced this drone-filled yet enlightening event. 

04. Toro Y Moi – Fox Theater Oakland – November 15th
05. Cut Copy – Fox Theater Oakland – November 2nd
06. Digitalism – The Independent – May 7th
07. !!! – Great American Music Hall – March 1st
08. El-P and Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) – The Independent – July 31st
09. Grouplove – The Independent – September 14th
10. Palma Violets – The Independent – April 25th

The Black Keyes // Photo by Sterling Munksgard

The Black Keyes // Photo by Sterling Munksgard

Sterling Munksgard // Photographer // @sterlingmphoto

01. The Black Keys – Bottle Rock – Napa, CA – May 10th 
Bottle Rock was a first-year festival situated in the Napa wine country, and it featured a lineup which rivaled many well-established festivals. The Black Keys brought their in-your-face attitude and rocked the crowd good and hard. Bottle Rock was my fourth Keys show and they still had me singing along and dancing. 

02. Empire of the Sun – Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas, NV – October 27th
When I got home from this festival and showed my photos to friends and family, many people asked, “what kind of music was Empire of the Sun?” The only thing I could come up with was the showmanship of Kiss and the sound and style of Phoenix. But classification aside, this band was not only one of my favorites to watch on stage in 2013 but one of my favorite to photograph. Next time they are in town I will for sure be at their show.  

03. Dave Matthews Band and Gogol Bordello – Jiffy Lube Live – Bristow, VA – July 27th
DMB keeps me coming back for more. At 60+ shows they still keep turning out new tunes and bringing back songs that haven’t been played in years. This show had many highlights including a show opening “Ants Marching”, something that band hadn’t done since 2004.  The band also busted out fan favorites such as “Granny”, “Spoon”, “Long Black Veil”, “Crazy Easy”, and “#41”.  

04. Tedeschi Trucks Band and The Black Crowes – Bill Graham Civic – December 14th
05. Imagine Dragons – Life is Beautiful – Las Vegas – October 27th
06. JJ Grey & Mofro – The Fillmore – November 15th
07. Grateful Grass feat. Keller Williams, Keith Moseley, Michael Kang and Jeff Austin – Rex Benefit – The Fillmore – December 7th
08. Sleigh Bells – Treasure Island Festival – October 20th
09. The Lumineers and Dr. Dog – The Greek Theater Berkeley – April 19th
10. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Portland Rose Festival – Portland, OR – May 25th

!!! // Photo by James Nagel

!!! // Photo by James Nagel

Dara Shulman // Columnist

01. David Byrne and St. Vincent – Fox Theater Oakland – July 21st
Byrne’s eclectic and eccentric sound, coupled with St. Vincent’s own quirkiness and talent, proved to be a fantastic performance. Creating rich, warm sound, the eight-piece brass band was as impressive as the two talented singers themselves. Playing mostly off their solid album, Love This Giant, the combination of choreography and Talking Heads songs turned out to be the icing on the cake.

02. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
It’s not every day you get to see a Beatle play a three-hour set complete with fireworks. McCartney wowed the packed main stage playing his hits from the Beatles, Wings and his solo efforts. It’s hard to determine which was more impressive, the acoustic set which included a beautiful “Blackbird” or the set-closing sing-along that was “Hey Jude”. Eight more songs over two encores only helped to make this an all-time show.

03. !!! – Great American Music Hall – March 1st
Vocalist and dance machine Nic Offer never fails to entertain the crowd. Offer and the band were on fire when they debuted songs such as “Slyd” off their fifth-album release Thr!!!er. Their upbeat, dance rock kept the crowd moving throughout the show.

04. FOALS – Outside Lands – August 11th
05. Atoms for Peace – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
06. Vampire Weekend – Outside Lands – August 11th
07. Primus – High Sierra Music Festival – July 5th
08. Holy Ghost! – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
09. Cut Copy – Fox Theater – November 2nd
10. Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters – High Sierra Music Festival – July 4th

View the Showbams 40 Best Albums of 2013
View the Showbams Contributor Picks for Best Songs of 2013
View the Showbams picks for Best Live Music Venues in 2013

El-P and Killer Mike make ‘rap church’ a reality as Run the Jewels

Run-The-JewelsPhotos by James Nagel // Written by Mike Frash //

All hyperbole aside, El-P and Killer Mike have joined forces to produce one of the best live-music experiences of the year as Run the Jewels. Those present at The Independent for sold-out shows July 30th & 31st were treated to a triple threat of sets — Killer Mike got things started with an incredibly memorable solo set before El-P took over for the second act. Then, just before midnight, the best rap duo alive joined forces to Run the Jewels in epic fashion.


Killer Mike might look and sound intimidating to some, but he’s really the Robin Hood of Rap, a populist leader at heart that looks out for the downtrodden. As much as Michael Render despises the government, racial-based violence and institutionalized religion, he sure presents himself as a preacher — a most awesome evangelist of justice and women’s rights while still enjoying life’s vices.

He connects with everyone in the room through individualized eye contact, by sitting down on the stage with his legs dangling and by projecting everything he stands for passionately, and it draws the audience in. Everything Mike does works toward the message that we (the audience and Killer Mike himself) are on the same team, working together to fight the people, actions & power that create society’s ills — most notably politicians, police and racially-based hatred.


But let’s be clear — if you’re not on Killer Mike’s team, watch out; Mike’s foes are repeatedly the subject of his vitriol and death wishes. While introducing “Burn”, a new song dedicated to Oscar Grant, Mike simply stated that the police officer who shot the young black man should be killed. Mike cultivates an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality, and by engaging with concert goers this way, it wills everyone to reciprocate by participating in call-and-response moments while putting hands in the air.


Mike’s banter is as entertaining as his R.A.P. music, and the control he exhibits over his rhymes, body language & subsequently the audience is admirable. Almost everyone in attendance got involved in a striking a cappella version of “Reagan”, but Mike switched up the form of the song to make “fuck Ronald Reagan” the refrain so everyone could sing along multiple times. With no instrumentals in the background, Mike slowed the song down, delivering the lyrics with whispered urgency, like he was telling a secret.

The high point of the set arrived during Mike’s introduction to “R.A.P. Music”, when he allowed himself to be vulnerable by sharing an important moment in his life. Render discussed how his mentor challenged him six years ago when he was formulating a new album. His mentor asked him if he wanted to make a party record, or something meaningful. That was clearly a turning point in Michael Render’s life, and it’s obvious he picked the correct path — Killer Mike has certainly found his calling. He continued on, saying “God is in the building tonight,” and that we were experiencing “Rap Church.” This is his standard introduction to the song — but Mike showed extra emotion Wednesday night. He said he’s never had a religious experience in a Church, but we were giving him that feeling people look for in religion. But in reality, Mike Render only gets back what he gives on stage. Hands down, Killer Mike is one of the best entertainers in music today.


El-P, the sole producer of Killer Mike’s music and their collaboration Run the Jewels, took the stage with two instrumentalists and a second MC to perform his solo work. El-P exhibited his hyperactive spits with fire, contrasting perfectly with Mike’s message-driven music. Random sounds like clown horns, crying babies and dolphin squeaks pop in to add elements of humor during otherwise serious songs. While introducing the second song of his set, El-P got serious, only to drop quickly into “The Full Retard” with spastic flair.

El Producto is such a future-forward, progressive producer, and beats from all three sets came from his pioneering brain. His style is based in weirdness — his instrumentals utilize non-standard form and his sound layering, often built off modulated vocal beats, cross-pollinates with so many genres like dance and rock music successfully.


El-P and Killer Mike (aka Run the Jewels) got into character with their faux-opulent chains, and they said as much before they performed their album Run the Jewels in its entirety. They held their chains in one hand and pointed at them with the other, as portrayed on the cover of the Run the Jewels album. But before starting, El-P disclosed that their jewels were fake, but the chains make them feel good and powerful when they are worn. It proved to be a candid lesson about 21st Century materialism, showing that it’s more important how you feel over how you spend.

Half way through the set, Killer Mike complained to his tour manager that they need wireless microphones — and that is a fact. He then turned his annoyance into a vaudeville-esque skit, shuffling over to EL-P to hold the twisted cables over their heads, joking that they were connected by friendship beyond the physical tanglement happening in the moment.


El-P stopped the set before “Get It” to tell the story of how he was discovered. El-P was at a club in San Francisco when he slipped DJ Qbert one of his early records. Qbert previewed the track in one ear, nodded in approval, then mixed in El-P’s cut, proceeding to scratch over it for four minutes. All the producers in the room ran over to meet him, and the rest is history. Then El-P introduced DJ Qbert himself to guest DJ for the song.

By seeing El-P and Killer Mike perform their solo material, then their collaborative work as Run the Jewels, adds up to the perfect equation. They are an ideal yin-yang duo, complementing each other with grace. Killer Mike has more fun but still interjects meaningful messages into a handful of songs, while El-P tones down his cartoonish antics in favor of machine gun back-and-forth rap mastery. Together they have produced a concert experience with an entertainment-first mentality, something that music fans — not just hip hop or rap fans — will enjoy thoroughly.

New Music: Run the Jewels (EL-P + Killer Mike) – Self-titled


Run the Jewels (EL-P + Killer Mike)Run the Jewels

4.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“A Christmas Fucking Miracle”
“Run the Jewels”

Highlights: Before Killer Mike brought on El-P to produce his bangin’ 2012 album R.A.P. Music, he was mostly known as a frequent OutKast collaborator on tracks such as “The Whole World” and “Snappin’ & Trappin'”. El-P released his 2012 LP Cancer 4 Cure the exact same day as Mike’s album last year — signaling a certain syncopation beyond MC competitiveness. Fast forward one year to the present, and El-P & Killer Mike have joined forces as the best hip-hop project in years dubbed Run the Jewels, touring on their landmark new album Run the Jewels.

El-P is the sole producer of Run the Jewels, and it’s safe to say this shit will be pumped in the future. The world of sound is incorporated into tight, aurally pleasing production that feels familiar yet completely original. El-P uses everything from classic organ to Nintendo glitch sounds to electric guitar to build epic beats. Contemporary dance elements can be found interjected into the beats most often, but in a micro-sampling fashion not akin to today’s trap movement. The most groundbreaking instrumental aspect of Run the Jewels is the sole producer’s use of vocals in beat production. The opening cut “Run the Jewels” contains an echo effect on accented words until they meld into the music track, blending parts of the rhymes into the instrumentals. “Job Well Done” & “Banana Clipper” feature instrumental melody stems that are really modulated vocal beats that loop and pitch-shift with ease. The effect of rhyming over modulated vocal-based beats is striking.

The lyrics constantly paint descriptive word pictures, and frequently celebrate wide ranging drug use — “No Come Down” is hyper-catchy with the chopped up refrain “I get so high, I close my eyes like I may die” contrasting with “and I won’t come down.” “DDFH”, the best track on the record, delves into aspects of police brutality, government surveillance & the US’s unbalanced prison system with ease within one Killer Mike verse. Killer Mike breaths fire as aggressively as ever, but with his patented wink and a smile.

Lowlights: Like the rest of hip-hop, Run the Jewels embraces Molly use — pure MDMA — without hesitation. And in “Twin Hype Back”, the duo include an over-the-top date rape skit with the help of Prince Paul about putting MDMA in a girl’s drink. Paul, playing “Chest Rockwell,” goes into cheesy-creep mode by crooning “You feeling relaxed? Maybe it’s that half a molly I put in your Mountain Dew. Ya works like a charm / I’ve got your glass of Beefeater, a pack of Uno Cards / OK, how about I come over tonight and pick you up on my Segway and we go to Long John Silver.” Seemingly, this is a song-long spoof about the Rick Ross controversy, where he rhymed about date raping a girl by using Molly.

There’s a bit of contradiction between the El-P & Killer Mike’s very real celebration of drug culture and the hip-hop date rape skit that is meant as social criticism in “Twin Hype Back”. It’s obviously lampooning Rick Ross and the controversy around it. And clearly, most people that enjoy recreational drug use don’t rape people. But it’s hard to take the intention of the spoof seriously after hearing about how dope Molly, shrooms, blunts & blow is the previous eight tracks.

Takeaway: One of Run the Jewels’ greatest successes is that it can be both funny and dead serious within the same song and often within in the same flow or line at times. El-P & Killer Mike are at their strongest when spitting rhymes with meaning — regarding oppression, government hypocrisy, racism — and this is the Killer Mike influence (the same guy that made the four words “I’m glad Reagan’s Dead” a catch phrase over the past year).

But this shouldn’t detract from how fun this album is to listen to — whether the topic at hand is dead serious or downright funny. Killer Mike broaches serious topics, bringing up the “elephant in the room” whenever possible, and EL-P is a hyperactive, light-hearted goofball MC. And that really is why El-P & Killer Mike are the perfect duo. Put these two together and you have the best hip-hop album of the year so far, and one of the best overall albums of 2013.

*Win free tickets to see Run the Jewels at The Independent in San Francisco on July 31st.

Win free tickets: EL-P + KILLER MIKE = RUN THE JEWELS


**Read our full review of Run The Jewels.

Run The Jewels is the immaculate collaboration of hybrid hip-hop ‘future-shit’ embracing producer/performer El-P and the best rapper in the year 2013, Killer Mike. El-P produced the best hip hop record last year, Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music, and apparently that was just the beginning for the duo.

Their style and tone differ pretty significantly, but Killer Mike & El-P complement each other perfectly. Michael Render spits aggressive fire and often dips into issues of race and politics, while Jaime Meline (El-P) keeps things more lighthearted and fun. Together they are a stronger force to be reckoned with — they’ve got a locked in Yin-Yang thing going on that is evident in their back-and-forth song structure lyrically. El-P helms the production, which incorporates a wide range of dance influences, vocally modulated repetition that morph into beats, and instrumentation that includes electric guitar and organ interludes.

Run The Jewels is getting rave reviews so far on the current tour. Expect to hear most of Run The Jewels, the name of their collaboration and first album, but also solo cuts off of Killer Mike’s R.A.P. Music & El-P songs like “Full Retard” and “Oh Hail No”.

Win 2 Free Tickets! Enter to win if you can attend this show Wednesday July 31 at The Independent in San Francisco.

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Big Boi and Killer Mike bring much-needed R.A.P. Music to SF


Two of the most ferocious names in hip hop descended upon Mezzanine in San Francisco May 17, as Southern fire-breather Big Boi and force of nature Killer Mike brought some much needed rhymes to the bay. Killer Mike made his debut on Outkast’s landmark LP Stankonia, and he also is featured on “The Whole World”, which the two giants of R.A.P. Music performed together during Big Boi’s set.

Killer Mike knows how to command a room’s collective attention, which is something of a challenge for an opening act, as many a show-goer will defer to chatting and drinking while waiting for the main act. During the third song Thursday night, two intrusive security guards trounced through the middle of the crowd with flashlights at a top down, forty-five degree angle, presumably looking for pot-smokers. Killer Mike stopped mid-spit, the music was halted, and the larger-than-life nonconformist launched into his first anti-establishment argument. In this case it was lighthearted; “Everyone smoke your weed – they can’t get everybody.” Most likely the security guards were roadies and it was all part of the act, but either way it effectively established pin-drop silence and crowd attentiveness.


His command is impressive, and Michael Render is also accessible, engaging while acting politically assertive, asking you to join his thought process. His energy, charming smile & effective use of language draws you into him, which allows his points to absorb in the listener, making even overt political statements sink in easier. With “Reagan”, Mike puts a large dent into the idealized memory the Republican Party celebrates daily for their most adored president. He began the song with a long soliloquy that set the stage for Mike to entice a large portion of the crowd to chant “I’m glad Reagan’s dead” by the end of the best political protest song in recent memory, essentially spitting on his grave. Single handedly, Killer Mike is a force that is battling the right wing celebration of everything Ronald Reagan, and when the the American right moves to put him on the twenty dollar bill, watch for this song to be the opposition anthem.

Mike took pride in his political, but not partisan focus before finishing the set, showing that standing up against Establishment wrongs can be entertaining and fun, and his take-charge tone projects pure leadership and is slightly contageous. It’s easy to imagine Killer Mike as a leading figure in hip-hop within one more album cycle. He’s already completed a new album with El-P, and they’ll be heading out on tour together this summer, stopping in SF July 30.

While Killer Mike might say things some people don’t want to hear (I think he’s dead on), San Francisco concert goers were treated Thursday night to a satisfying greatest hits show by Big Boi. The half of Outkast that was more likely to deliver dexterous, lightning-fast lyrics than hooky refrains understands what people want to hear when they see him live. The set blasted off with an Outkast medley, featuring “ATliens”, “Skew it on the Bar-B”, & “Rosa Parks” in mash-up fashion. Sir Lucious tapped into his catchiest, most upbeat solo songs from his 2012 LP Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors like “Apple of My Eye” and “CPU”. One of the only surprising drawbacks was the lack of solo tracks from his two excellent solo records and a glutton of Outkast jams.


Big Boi may be performing “solo” these days, but he’s anything but alone. Throughout the evening he was joined by his live band, DJ, female backup singer Keisha Jackson, a geeky white guy, his entourage, a gaggle of dancing women, Killer Mike for four songs and BlackOwned C-Bone, who played hype-man and oddly filled the André 3000 role at times. Big Boi even took a break, allowing C-Bone to have the stage for a song to up his importance. He’s certainly as entertaining a stage presence as Big Boi, and he psyched out the audience by saying they were slowing things down before launching into “Shutterbugg”.

Big Boi still projects bravado, and he’s a showman that’s has curated a live concert experience that caters to his most well known work. His joy and love for SF seemed true this night, so much that he reappeared for four encore songs and a 1am shutdown.

Best tracks of 2012

Some of our favorite tracks in 2012 are from The Lumineers, Tame Impala, Japandroids, Father John Misty, & Electric Guest.

The Lumineers, Tame Impala, Japandroids, Father John Misty, & Electric Guest created classic songs in 2012.

Showbams contributors have listed their favorite tracks of the year.
What were your favorite songs in 2012? Leave a comment below.

View our Best Shows of 2012
View our Best Albums of 2012

Mike Frash San Francisco @MikeFrash
Subscribe to Mike’s “Best Tracks of 2012” Playlist on Spotify.

1. Sun Kil Moon “Among the Leaves”

When a song get’s it’s 50th play and just gets better, you know you’ve found something special. This song showcases Mark Kozelek’s voice and songwriting perfectly, and is so good he named the album after it. With every spin the descriptive lyrics evolve in the mind of listener. Kozelek tells the tale of a girl he sees around town and wants to help. And when the wind instruments kick in, the song takes off and flies.

2. Tame Impala“Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”

This track might me the most simple song from Lonerism, but it is also the most memorable. It’s plenty trippy like the rest of the album, and it’s also the most catchy song – the one that’s still bouncing around your head a day later. “It feels like we only go backwards, but every part of me says go ahead.” This refrain so basic yet effective, and Kevin Parker’s familiar vocals blend seamlessly into Tame Impala’s psychedelic fuzz rock.

3. Passion Pit“It’s Not My Fault, I’m Happy”

Once Michael Angelakos’s bi-polar disorder disorder and attempted suicides were made public, this album and track worked on a higher level. It may be the most biographical song on Gossamer (that says a lot), and the penultimate track steps into anthem territory with confessional optimism. It’s like Michael is telling himself, repeating over and over, that he’s going to make it. Knowing the context of the song makes it more effective, but the biographical background is not needed to know this song is great.

4. Japandroids“Fire’s Highway”
5. Frank Ocean“Pyramids”
6. The xx“Angels”
7. John Talabot“Destiny” feat. Pional
8. Fiona Apple“Every Single Night”
9. Tanlines“Brothers”

Honorable Mention:
Killer Mike – “Reagan”
The Presets – “Fall”
Wild Nothing – “Paradise”

Pete Mauch Los Angeles @PeteMauch

1. Father John Misty“Hollywood Forever Cemetery Sings”

2. Neil Young“Walk Like a Giant”

3. Trey Anastasio“Scabbard”

4. Tame Impala “Apocalypse Dreams”
5. Neil Young“Ramada Inn”
6. Kendrick Lamar“Swimming Pools”
7. Alabama Shakes“Hold on”
8. Lumineers“Ho Hey”
9. Gary Clark Jr.“Numb”
10.Jack White“Freedom at 21”

Molly Kish San Francisco @MollyKish

1. Lumineers “Ho Hey”

Due to the incredible commercial success of the Lumineers self-titled debut, you couldn’t escape this song in 2012. Infectiously simple both in lyrics and structure, this song’s basic pop composition grabs it’s audience’s attention immediately and has you singing along from the first listen. An instant crowd pleaser and multi-format radio hit, I still have yet to change the dial.

2. Azealia Banks“212”

A Hard hitting hip hop club hit, this song’s dirty beat and even filthier flow is an immediate dance party call to arms. Bursting onto the scene with this track produced by Lazy J, Azaelia Banks jumped into the female rap game spitting fire. Incorporating the repetitive use of the word cunt into a chorus and making it contagiously catchy and not crude: genius.

3. The Presets“Youth in Trouble”

The Presets came back to the EDM scene after a four year hiatus and did so with authority. Starting off one of this year’s best dance albums, this standout track is a club banger. With its extreme builds, relentless bass line and scream along party lyrics, the Presets win my “drop of the year” award in this bar setting track.

4. Electric Guest“This Head I Hold”
5. Fiona Apple“Hot Knife”
6. The xx“Reunion”
7. Kishi Bashi“Bright Whites”
8. Dr. John“Locked Down”
9. Yeasayer“Reagan’s Skeleton”
10.Bloc Party“Octopus”

Honorable Mentions
Passion Pit“I’ll be Alright”

Kevin Raos San Francisco @kevinraos

1. Tame Impala“Apocalypse Dreams”

Best track on the best album of the year. The more I listen to this album the more my opinion of it morphs and shifts. That’s one of the best things about an album like this – you hear something new every time you listen.

2. Electric Guest“This Head I Hold”

This song sounds like it could have been written 50 years ago. Classic sound, classic song. One of my favorites of the year.

3. Lana Del Rey“Born to Die”

I put this in my top 3 simply because I want to comment about my love/hate fascination with Lana Del Rey. Lana Del Rey’s fragile demeanor and futile resistance towards fame make her one of the most interesting artist of 2012. I’m not a giant fan of her music as a whole, but I LOVE this song.

4. alt-J “Fitzpleasure”
5. Stepdad“My Leather, My Fur, My Nails”
6. Django Django“Default”
7. Passion Pit“Carried Away”
8. Memory Tapes“Thru the Field”
9. Trey Anastasio“Scabbard”
10.Matthew Dear“Her Fantasy”

Eric Shaden San Francisco @3ricShaden

1. Major Lazer feat. Amber of Dirty Projectors“Get Free”

2. Kendrick Lamar“Swimming Pools (Drank)”

3. Passion Pit “Constant Conversations”

4. MIA“Bad Girls”
5. Santigold“Disparate Youth”
6. Hot Chip“Motion Sickness”
7. Purity Ring“Lofticries”
8. Frank Ocean“Thinkin Bout You”
9. Chairlift“Sidewalk Safari”
10.RAC feat. Penguin Prison“Hollywood”

Kevin Quandt San Francisco @KJQuandt

1. TNGHT“Higher Ground”

The duo of Hudson Mohawke and Lunice brought their unique brands of production into one insanely big release this year. This highlight track, among others, features chopped vocals, a plethora of hand-clapping and a massive bass tuba beat that has been destroying dance floors the better part of 2012. Higher Ground begs to be properly rhymed over, but in the meantime the production is the shining light of the year.

2. Pond“Eye Pattern Blindness”

What an epic rock track these Aussies churned out this year. Taking notes from Floyd and Zeppelin equally have helped these lads write and perform a rock masterpiece full of twist and turns, not to mention it clocks in at a rare 6 minutes. Syd Barrett is smiling down from above.

3. Japandroids“House That Heaven Built”

From the distorted wall of guitar to the infectious chorus, epitomizing the sound of Brian King and David Prowse, this track has angst and energy slathered all over it. These guys don’t write typical rock and roll songs, and it is refreshing to see their hard work paying off in dividends. A true rock gem for the ages.

4. Father John Misty“Hollywood Cemetery Forever Sings”
5. The Allah-Las“Tell Me What’s on Your Mind”
6. How to Destroy Angels “Keep it Together”
7. Cloud Nothings“Wasted Days”
8. Jack White“Love Interruption”
9. Clark“Secret”
10.Woods“Size Meets Sound”

Honorable Mentions:
Liars – “No. 1 Against the Rush”
Thee Oh Sees – “Lupine Dominus”
Chromatics – “Kill For Love”

Sean Little San Francisco @splittle

1. Nikki & The Dove“Mother Protect” (Goldroom Remix)

Nikki & The Dove are great as is, but what Goldroom does with this track is reinvent it in a way that’s thoughtful and massive all at once. It’s one of those rare remixes that you hear after the original, and never listen to the original again. It’s that good. Goldroom has really blown up over the last year, touring the globe and this is the track that arguably started it all as it was supported by Aeroplane and The Magician among others giving it, and him, serious credibility. Keep him on your radar and expect more of this for a long time to come.

2. Bicep“Vision of Love”

This is stripped down, essential house. This track could be thrown into any 90’s house set and not skip a beat, which is a testament to Bicep and how they hone their craft. Two dudes from Ireland that just seem to constantly pump out hits and push the party and boundaries. This is the song that shows less can be more, and stripped down production can have a big impact especially when compared with many of today’s overproduced tracks. When the pianos come back in at 3:39 it’s all over.

3. Moonlight Matters“Come For Me” (Might Mouse Remix)

This is huge. It’s just euphoria in a song. I’ve ended more than a few sets with this and hands are in the air, drinks are being tossed around and people are just losing their shit. Don’t sleep on this stellar remix as many people have and it’s a shame. Words don’t do it just so just listen and wait for it to kick in.

4. Waze & Odyssey“Love that (Burns Hot Enough)”
5. ColeCo“Rickey Smiley”
6. Moon Boots“Off My Mind”
7. Presets“Ghosts”
8. Van She“Jamaica”
9. Lykke Li – “I Follow Rivers” (The Magician Remix)
10.Chris Malinchak“The Fourth”

10 most important Political Protest Songs of the last 50 years

As President Obama looks ahead to four more years, let’s look at the 10 most important political protest songs of the last 50 years, from oldest to most recent. What did we miss? Leave a comment below.

(1963) Sam CookeA Change is Gonna Come

Upon hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in 1963, Cooke was greatly moved that such a poignant song about racism in America could come from someone who was not black. (Source: The RS 500 Greatest Songs of All Time). This was an era of segregation, and Cooke was very popular with white audiences due to his hit “Twistin’ the Night Away,” so it took guts to create this song and perform it before the Civil Rights Movement had really begun.

(1964) Bob DylanThe Times They Are A Changing

In 1985, Dylan told Cameron Crowe for Rolling Stone, “This was definitely a song with a purpose…I wanted to write a big song, with short concise verses that piled up on each other in a hypnotic way. The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.” This song, along with “Blowin’ in the Wind,” cemented dylan as a lead counter-culture figure.

(1969) Creedence Clearwater RevivalFortunate Son

Many of the best US political protest songs relate tot he Vietnam War, and one of the best is “Fortunate Son” by CCR. Fogerty is pretty blunt and loud in speaking for the working, middle and low-income earners, the sons drafted to fight. John Fogerty told Rolling Stone, “Julie Nixon was hanging around with David Eisenhower, and you just had the feeling that none of these people were going to be involved with the war.

(1970) Gil Scott HeronThe Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Probably the biggest influence in hip hop history, even after his death in 2011, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” is Gil Scott Heron’s most important and influential poetic track. Heron wins the listener over with his humor, but it’s one of the best political protest songs of all time due to it’s subversion during the Nixon era.

(1970) Crosby Stills Nash & YoungOhio

“Ohio” was written by Neil Young as a reaction to the US military personel killing of four Vietnam War protestors at Kent State University, the event that effectively ended US support of the disastrous war. CSNY added to the pressure with this classic, catchy song that ensured that the the Kent State shooting stayed on the mind of the American public for months and years to come.

(1973) Bob Marley & Peter ToshGet Up,Stand Up

Like “Ohio,” “Get Up, Stand Up” is an overtly political song. Unlike CSNY, Bob Marley is best known for being the most prominent Raggae musician of all time, smoking copious amounts of marijuana, and for his political protest songs. (Alright, CSNY probably smoked lots of weed) And this track owns the best lines in political protest music history: “You can fool some people sometimes, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. So now we see the light! We gonna stand up for our rights!”

(1984) Bruce Springsteen Born In the U.S.A.

This song was mistaken as a positive American anthem for years, and still is today by many. Ronald Reagan even used this song in his 1984 reelection campaign and tried to claim Bruce as a supporter! Lyrically the song takes a realistic approach the effects of the Vietnam war on those that were forced to go fight in Southeast Asia, but if you manage to only listen to the chorus, it can be seen as a patriotic anthem. Brian Doherty wrote, “The song’s lyrics are about a shell-shocked vet with ‘no place to run, nowhere to go.’ Bruce once said it’s about “a working-class man…It’s like he has nothing left to tie him into society anymore. He’s isolated from the government. Isolated from his family…to the point where nothing makes sense.” It’s not an overt political protest song, but it’s way closer to that then a national anthem.

(1989) Public EnemyFight the Power

“Fight the Power” was brilliantly used as Radio Raheem’s jam of choice and musical motif to the classic Spike Lee film Do The Right Thing. It was Public Enemy’s breakthrough song, and it incorporates references to many parts of African-American culture, including civil rights samples, black church services sounds, and the music of James Brown. And laying the smack down on Elvis Presley & John Wayne for their on-the-record white supremacist views certainly is the cherry on top of this political protest firestorm of a sundae.

(1992) Rage Against the MachineKilling In The Name

Rage was one of the most politically active groups at a time when political protest songs weren’t and aren’t very common. “Killing in the Name” is the quintessential Rage Against the Machine song, with it’s confronting vocals that link police to racism with the line “Some of those that work forces, are the same that burn crosses,” and with the ending refrain “Fuck You, I won’t do what you told me.” Zach de la Rocha & Tom Morello almost inspired a riot at the Democratic National Convention in 2000. Then de la Rocha abruptly left the group, but Tom Morello has continued his political activity, most recently getting involved in the Occupy WallStreet movement.

(2012) Killer MikeReagan

Hip hop artist Killer Mike put out an excellent LP this year called R.A.P. Music, and Mike’s passion and effective deconstruction of Reaganomics & the man himself is stinging. He explores the Iran Contra scandal, privatization of the prison system, how all US presidents are puppets to the elite (including Obama). One of the best tracks of 2012, “Reagan” shows that political protest songs are far from dead.