The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2019

Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest - Rochelle Shipman


Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Rochelle Shipman

Um, that’s it? Another year in the rear-view mirror? Where the hell did the last 12 months go? Time sure does seem to fly when there’s so much good new music out there to enjoy.

With that said, it’s once again time for us to share our annual “Best of” lists like we have done the past few years (see our 2018 picks here). From new emerging artists to reunion tours to the return of rock ‘n’ roll, this year had a little bit of everything for both the casual and passionate music fan. And even if you didn’t have the time to listen to every album that came out (neither did we), that’s why we’re here: to help point you in the right direction whenever you do finally get the chance to dig in.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2019.

See our favorite performances from 2019 here.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2019:


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall - Josh Herwitt


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. Tool at Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA – October 20th & 21st
Unlike the delay on Tool’s fifth album Fear Inoculum, I thankfully didn’t have to wait 13 years to see my favorite band perform live. It was only a couple of years ago when I caught the boys at The Gorge, earning top honors as my favorite show in 2017, and subsequently a week later at Glen Helen Amphitheater for an all-day affair with Primus, Clutch, Fantômas, Melvins and The Crystal Method. Perhaps my tastes haven’t changed all that much since then, but even in a year that saw me attend half as many concerts as I usually do, Tool are still finding new and innovative ways to enhance their live show. Whether it’s tinkering with their stage production to incorporate a see-through curtain at times or adding surround sound throughout the arena, a Tool performance has evolved into a spiritual, meditative and almost out-of-body experience over the last decade. It’s no wonder why scoring tickets remains a trial of good fortune.

2. The Raconteurs at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – July 27th
3. The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles, CA – May 15th
4. Jim James & The Claypool Lennon Delirium at The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA – July 3rd
5. Foals at Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles, CA – March 24th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Tool – Fear Inoculum
When a three-time Grammy-winning band takes more than a decade to release its next album, it’s only natural for expectations to go through the roof. And I’ll be the first to admit that there was a small seed of doubt in my mind when it came to just how epic Tool’s latest sonic voyage in the studio could and would be. But upon first listen, any uncertainty I had about the merits of Fear Inoculum was quickly dispelled. The title track lures you in from the onset, building to a higher place as Maynard James Keenan (vocals) and company — Adam Jones (guitar), Justin Chancellor (bass) and Danny Carey (drums, percussion) — take listeners on an 80-minute rite of passage that holds up as some of the quartet’s best material in its entire catalog. I just hope they got at least one more LP in them, even if it takes another 13 years to make.

2. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
3. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1
4. The Chemical Brothers – No Geography
5. Black Pumas – Black Pumas

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. Tool – “Descending”
If you’re still reading, you’ve probably gotten the hint by now that I’m a big fan of Tool. After all, it only seemed fitting that my top song in 2019 should also come from my No. 1 album of the year by my favorite band over the last two decades. I have seen Tool perform a shortened version of “Descending” several times since 2014, before it ever had an official title, so when Fear Inoculum arrived back in August, there was no track I anticipated hearing more. In fact, at more than 13 minutes long, it’s one that requires your full, undivided attention, which can be a significant amount of time to dedicate in a world of three-minute pop songs and endless distractions now. But for prog-rock enthusiasts like myself who are more than willing to take the ride, “Descending” delivers a total rush of blood to the head that ultimately leads to pure unadulterated euphoria.

2. Bon Iver – “Hey, Ma”
3. Hot Chip – “Hungry Child”
4. Foals – “On the Luna”
5. Karen O and Danger Mouse – “Turn the Light”


Cate Le Bon - Reward

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. Stereolab at Primavera Sound – Barcelona, Spain – June 1st
Primavera Sound has always had a knack for booking reunions (i.e. Pulp, The Avalanches and Pavement) to its “musical mecca” on the Balearic Sea. 2019’s iteration featured the first proper show in nearly a decade from the anti-capitalist art-pop darlings Stereolab. “Come and Play in the Milky Night” on 1999’s Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night would open the evening to the international consortium of aging music nerds who undoubtedly knew that they were about to be treated to a “best of” set from the English-French outfit. Better yet, their politically themed lyrical content seemed more relevant in 2019 than it was around the time of their creation a quarter-century ago.

2. Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium at The Music Box Village – New Orleans, LA – April 26th
3. BLACK MIDI at Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA – November 21st
4. Amen Dunes at August Hall – San Francisco, CA – January 10th
5. Ween at Desert Daze – Perris, CA – October 12th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Cate Le Bon – Reward
What a banner year for the Welsh artist as she created her most highly acclaimed LP to date. Le Bon has truly honed her craft over the last decade as she has collaborated with a laundry list of indie-music royalty before writing the whimsical and austere Reward that employs an array of fresh sounds swirling around her haunting, pixie vocals. 2020 will see Cate jump on tour alongside Kurt Vile in a solo capacity, but we can’t wait to see what she produces next.

2. Wand – Laughing Matter
3. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
4. The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears
5. Omni – Networker

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. Foals – “Sunday”
As Foals teeter on the edge of being rock’s next big headliner, the British group semi-quietly unleashed a pair of albums entitled Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 and Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2. While their style continues to hover around math, dance and indie rock, they dig into a deeper realm of sonic atmosphere as frontman Yannis Philippakis questions, even laments, the state of our current times. “Sunday” tends to borrow a tad from the grandiose nature of their fellow Brits in Coldplay before dropping into a four-on-the-floor section that was rather well-received during their March stop at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

2. Crumb – “Ghostride”
3. Vampire Weekend – “Sunflower” feat. Steve Lacy
4. Oh Sees – “Henchlock”
5. Allah-Las – “In the Air”


Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. slowthai at Lodge Room – Los Angeles, CA – September 4th
Shortly after releasing his debut album Nothing Great About Britain in May, Tyron Frampton played a few intimate U.S. shows several months later. My guess is that those were probably the last ones he’ll do if the UK rapper out of Northampton continues to rise and deliver, just like he did for much of 2019. Part Johnny Knoxville-type grime smart ass, part brilliant gritty-crust punk, slowthai shook the roof off LA’s Lodge Room, which turned out to be a warm-up show before he returned to play Camp Flog Gnaw in November. Frampton certainly came to please, setting the energy level at 11 and even performing his rowdy hit “Doorman” twice in the set. He could’ve run through it 15 times and the crowd would’ve left just as satisfied.

2. Little Simz at The Echo – Los Angeles, CA – June 13th
3. Taking Back Sunday at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – April 11th
4. Night Moves at The Echo – Los Angeles, CA – September 21st
5. Usher at Smokin Grooves Fest – Long Beach, CA – June 15th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Little Simz – GREY Area
The production. The flow. The bars. The BALLS. Little Simz absolutely brings it on GREY Area, leaving no space for second-guessing, sexist bullshit or honestly anyone else at all. This latest studio album from the British emcee is all her, and you can feel it with every breath she takes. We should all be so lucky to come into our confidence the way that she did on this record, but most of all, we should just be grateful “Simbi” trusts us to keep her deepest secrets — and that they sound so, so good.

2. slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
3. Shura – forevher
4. Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby
5. White Reaper – You Deserve Love

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. slowthai – “Doorman” (with Mura Masa)
This song technically dropped in 2018, but its spotlight was shone even wider with slowthai releasing his debut LP this year. The Mura Masa-assisted cut pulses with adrenaline, carries the air of a movie soundtrack in only three minutes and has a beat that will take you all the way to the moon and back. In the words of Lizzo, it’s a whole damn meal!

2. Kari Faux – “Latch Key”
3. Billie Eilish – “bury a friend”
4. Little Simz – “Venom”
5. Smino – “Trina”


Tool - Fear Inoculum

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. IDLES – Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – October 10th
After putting out one of my favorite albums from 2018 and missing their show earlier this year, I was thrilled to finally catch IDLES live. To say that these English punk rockers put on a good performance would be a true understatement. They had the energy of an out-of-control freight train but were able to contain it while proving to be an incredibly fun act to see live. Frontman Joe Talbot engaged with the audience in a very authentic way, talking and singing to fans, not just at them. There were crowd-surfing guitarists, mosh pits and sing-a-longs … it was wild.

2. Punk Rock Bowling 2019 – Las Vegas, NV – May 23rd-27th
3. Judas Priest at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – June 24th
4. Van’s Warped Tour 2019 at Shoreline Amphitheater – Mountain View, CA – July 20th-21st
5. ITCHY-O at Cornerstone – Berkeley, CA – November 23rd

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Tool – Fear Inoculum
Well, after all of the waiting and speculation, Tool have done it again, in a really big way. Fear Inoculum is everything that I was hoping it would be, and then some. HUGE-sounding drums, guitars and bass wrap your head in a warm prog blanket while Maynard does what he always has so well. It takes the best parts of their previous albums and combines them to showcase a band that has clearly not missed a step in the 13 years since 10,000 Days.

2. Bad Religion – Age of Unreason
3. Brittany Howard – Jaime
4. Catbite – Catbite
5. Plague Vendor – By Night

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. The Hammerbombs – “I Hate Cars”
The Hammerbombs are an undersung Bay Area pop-punk group that have written some of the catchiest and fun songs I have heard from the East Bay scene in a long time. Their 2019 release Goodbye, Dreamboat made my top 10, and this track is the hands-down standout on an album chock-full of toe-tappers. It’s a heartfelt song written by singer and bassist Jen Louie, who has a knack for crafting some really fantastic tunes. The chorus is saccharine sweet, and you can’t help but sing along.

2. Lizzo – “Juice”
3. Bad Religion – “Do The Paranoid Style”
4. Ceremony – “In The Spirit World Now”
5. Lagwagon – “Surviving California”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Jim James, The Claypool Lennon Delirium take us on a psych-rock roller coaster at The Wiltern

Jim James


Jim James

By Josh Herwitt //

Jim James & The Claypool Lennon Delirium with Uni //
The Wiltern – Los Angeles
July 3rd, 2019 //

Ever since he launched his solo career more than five years ago, Jim James has been trying to bring people closer together.

The frontman and primary songwriter of My Morning Jacket frequently preaches peace, love and equality on and off the stage, but at a time when technology continues to dominate our way of life and our political divides grow bigger by the day, unity has become a challenging proposition to achieve no matter how famous or popular you are — unless you’re Oprah.

It’s not for a lack of effort from James (born James Edward Olliges Jr.), though.

Claypool Lennon Delirium


Claypool Lennon Delirium

The Louisville native remains steadfast in his commitment to doing and saying the right things, whether it’s helping to get out the vote or raising awareness and funds around a number of important environmental, climate and humanitarian issues.

Because when James sings “No use waiting and wondering why / Better get together while we still got time” on his third solo album Uniform Distortion that dropped last year, it’s a message that many of us could learn from. After all, actions speak louder than words, and a songwriter with as much talent, insight and creativity as James certainly knows that.

Embarking on a 33-date North American tour that included festival stops at Shaky Knees and Bonnaroo in support of the 11-track LP, the 41-year-old multi-hyphenate was back in LA — the city he now calls home since moving there in 2016 — on the eve of Independence Day for only one night at the always-beautiful Wiltern. The last time we caught James in the City of Angels, he was headlining another historic SoCal venue just a few miles down Olympic Blvd. after the release of his second solo effort Eternally Even. And boy, was that a lot of fun at the Orpheum Theatre as celebrity fanboys like Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka “McLovin” from the 2007 film “Superbad”) showed their appreciation for one of rock’s last remaining guitar heroes.

Jim James


Jim James

But things were a little different for this occasion, in large part because James would be billed as a co-headliner alongside his psychedelic counterparts in The Claypool Lennon Delirium for much of the tour. Even so, with Primus bassist and lead singer Les Claypool being a legend in his own right and guitarist/vocalist Sean Lennon conceived by a couple himself, we had quite the pairing for a Wednesday affair. Heck, the duo even covered Pink Floyd, King Crimson and The Beatles among cuts off 2016’s Monolith of Phobos and its stellar follow-up South of Reality that arrived in February. So if you like psych rock with an extra dose of weird, then these guys are probably for you.

That said, one could argue fairly easily that James’ songs are a bit more accessible than The CLD’s, and with that in mind, it wasn’t hard at all to understand why the man who has also put out music under the pseudonym Yim Yames assumed the closing duties for this tour. It became even more evident once James took the stage, shredding his way through tracks on Uniform Distortion like “Over and Over” and “You Get to Rome” before going to an acoustic guitar for “A New Life” from 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God. James would end up performing almost all of Uniform Distortion, but the real standouts of the show were in fact slightly altered versions of the Marvin Gaye-inspired “Here in Spirit” and the ever-haunting “Same Old Lie” to close what felt like a roller-coaster set full of peaks and valleys — and of course, plenty of screeches and squeals emanating from his Gibson ES-335, too.

James didn’t break for long before beginning a three-song encore with one from My Morning Jacket’s catalog in “I’m Amazed” and then dueting with Amo Amo’s Lovell Femme on “Of the Mother Again”. While it may have been somewhat predictable for him to offer us “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” as a parting gift, it wasn’t as if it came unwanted. If anything, it was a strong reminder of how powerful music can be as a unifying force and a gateway to a more positive and promising future, especially with someone like James serving as a guiding light.

JIM JAMES

Setlist:
Over and Over
You Get to Rome
A New Life
Out of Time
Just a Fool
Throwback
No Secrets
Here in Spirit
No Use Waiting
All in Your Head
The World’s Smiling Now
Yes to Everything
Same Old Lie

Encore:
I’m Amazed (My Morning Jacket song)
Of the Mother Again (with Amo Amo lead singer Lovell Femme)
State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM

Setlist:
Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd cover)
Blood and Rockets: Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons / Movement II, Too the Moon
Little Fishes
Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, The Delirium)
Cricket and the Genie (Movement II, Oratorio Di Cricket)
South of Reality
The Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson cover)
Easily Charmed by Fools
Boomerang Baby
Breath of a Salesman
Cricket Chronicles Revisited: Part 1, Ask Your Doctor – Part 2, Psyde Effects
Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles cover)
Third Rock From the Sun

New Music Tuesday: Bombay Bicycle Club • Broken Bells • Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang • Gardens & Villa

Bombay Bicycle Club - So Long, See You Tomorrow
Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


Bombay Bicycle ClubSo Long, See You Tomorrow

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Feel”
“So Long, See You Tomorrow”
“Carry Me”

Album Highlights: Bombay Bicycle Club’s fourth full length finds the English indie group dabbling with a wider sphere of world music influences, yet the output is still pretty damn catchy. The big strength with So Long, See You Tomorrow is how it thrives on pop arrangements that are both diverse and understated. Earnest without being overbearing, it’s an album that’s bombastic in its spectrum of sound yet relatively subtle lyrically. The world music influence in “Feel” does wonders, helping to build a song that does a good job following through on it’s title. More of the record could have benefitted by following style and vibe of this track. Final track “So Long, See You Tomorrow” ends the album with a fitting big opus, a song that shines as bright as any on the record.

Album Lowlight: The first half of the album takes a while to gain steam — it doesn’t really pick up until the second half. “Whenever, Wherever” sounds interesting and slightly innovative at first, but upon repeat listens, it turns into some kind of twisted Millennial anthem. Also “It’s Alright Now” is an angst-filled slow-builder without the bite. Where’s the fun in that?

Takeaway: Demonstrating a greater focus on world music influences and female vocals has benefitted Bombay Bicycle Club nicely. The production is anything but formulaic, and So Long, See You Tomorrow flourishes the further it plays out — maybe it’s intentional sequencing, but the album certainly peaks on a high note. For many, it might also take half an album’s worth of listening to adapt to Bombay Bicycle Club’s understated, yet catchy, tunes.

-Mike Frash


Broken BellsAfter the Disco

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Perfect World”
“Medicine”
“Control”

Album Highlights: James Mercer and Danger Mouse follow up their 2010 collaborative debut as Broken Bells with an ambitious and divergent sophomore effort in After the Disco. Their signature sound remains imbedded in the group’s funky basslines, audio production and Mercer’s incomparable talent as one of this decade’s most distinguishable singer songwriters. Yet, it’s their expansion into larger soundscapes with the inclusion of orchestral and big band elements, that sets this album apart from its predecessor in a positively encompassing manner. Branching out from their stylistically simplistic debut, the group incorporates hard hitting disco rudiments, space rock synths and jazzy lounge percussion components that give the record a vintage appeal while remaining on point with current modern pop trends.

Album Lowlight: A generally mid-tempo album, the pace of the record remains consistent except for the final tracks which unfortunately close out the otherwise dance worthy compilation awkwardly. Both songs are beautiful in their own right, but unfortunately don’t get the attention they deserve due to their arrangement on the record. Instead of ending on a high note, the band closes out a predominately new wave and disco themed track list with their two most dramatic songs back to back. Which may have been a premeditated move creatively, but ultimately falls flat against the alternatively up beat album structure.

Takeaway: Following suit with the current thematic shift in pop music, Broken Bells embraces the best aspects of late seventies disco, capturing the final moments of the genre’s crossover into early eighties nu-wave, while maintaining a modern flair. With both members bringing their equally influential tastes to the table, James Mercer and Danger Mouse devise an intriguing tribute to an era of music that achieves effortless resuscitation through their unique integration of modern production and musical skillsets.

~Molly Kish


Les Claypool’s Duo De TwangFour Foot Shack

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Man in the Box”
“Pipe Line”
“Boonville Stomp”

Album Highlights: Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang make their studio debut with a stompin’ album that pays homage to a variety of classic tunes and puts a new spin on some Claypool staples. Consisting of Les Claypool on vocals and acoustic bass and Bryan Kehoe on guitar, Four Foot Shack offers stripped-down versions of songs that span Claypool’s career such as “Wynona’s Big Brown Beaver” and “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver.” As wonderful as these Claypool classics are, it is the covers on this album that really shine. Of the 6 cover tracks, the Twang interpretation of Alice in Chain’s “Man in a Box” alone is worth the price of admission. The Duo de Twang also tackle the Bee Gees disco anthem “Stayin’ Alive” and the surf rock masterpiece “Pipe Line” originally by The Chantays. Like every song the Duo De Twang covers, they put their own magic into it.

Album Lowlight: It’s tough to say anything bad about this album. Four Foot Shack has a very live feel to it, and was likely recorded in single takes with mild overdubbing of vocals and other effects. I really would’ve loved to have gotten an album full of covers. The Claypool originals are great, but not much new ground is broken with the Duo De Twang version. The covers are just so unique and interesting that an entire album of them would not disappoint me. Tough to complain about anything though, this album features vintage Claypool at his finest.

Takeaway: Four Foot Shack has a very distinct sound to it. Claypools signature slap and tap of the bass, albeit acoustic, mixed with his whacky vocal delivery and the twangy guitar of Bryan Kehoe make this album a foot-stomper. The sounds and rhythm Les Claypool creates with his bass are astounding and nothing is lost despite trading in the electric bass for an acoustic. If you’ve ever been a fan of anything Claypool has been apart of you will be much obliged to listen to this record.

-Kevin Raos


Gardens & VillaDunes

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“Domino”
“Chrysanthemums”
“Echosassy”

Album Highlights: With the help of DFA’s Tim Goldsworthy, Gardens & Villa have crafted an enjoyable slice of synth-rock while establishing their own sound on this sophomore release. This Santa Barbara-bred act burst onto the scene with an impressive debut with some seriously catchy numbers, and have followed it up with a slightly more sonically in-depth batch of varied sounding songs.

The pace and tempo of Dunes is one of it’s strong suits as Gardens & Villa expand beyond the more upbeat/tempo songs which open the album. Tracks like “Chrysanthemums” slow things down nicely with a piano-driven ballad with just the right amount of minimal effects to allow the songwriting, and Chris Lynch’s vocals, to shine through. On the other hand, the next track “Echosassy” shifts the band’s sound towards a contemporized New Wave breakdown. Fans of Miike Snow are sure to gobble up this batch of poppy dance-rock songs full of hooks, post-punk beats and swirling synths.

Album Lowlights: Similar to their previous self-titled release, Dunes is a solid release. They are not earth-shattering or breaking much new ground, unfortunately. Gardens & Villa do squarely have command of their sound and style, but there are times when a little more is desired from them. “Bullet Train” was oddly one of the first announced singles off of Dunes, and is a bit of a muddled mess of falsetto singing, flute effects and slightly cheesy 80’s synth flourishes which simply don’t add up to anything you need to play on repeat.

Takeaway: Fan’s of Gardens & Villa’s first release are sure to eat up this grouping of new tracks and play this album well through the warm summer months. Dunes does lack a bit of the ‘star fire power’ of their self-titled album, but solidifies their unique style of layered dance-rock that has launched similar acts like Cut Copy, who has been produced by Goldsworthy. There is a flavor for all current music fans to find enjoyable in this release, it’s just a matter of how memorable that taste turns out to be for each individual.

-Kevin Quandt


Showbams’ best shows of 2012

Showbams contributors name their favorite shows of 2012.

Showbam contributors reflect on the best concerts they went to in 2012 & list their favorite shows.

2012 has been a top-notch year for live music, and the Showbams team has witnessed some great acts that have come through California in the last 11 months. Take a look at our contributor’s favorite shows of 2012.

What was your favorite concert in 2012? Let us know in the comments below.

The xx at Treasure Island Music Festival

The xx at Treasure Island Music Festival


Mike Frash San Francisco

1. Sigur Ros @ Outside Lands Music Festival 8.11.12
Leaving Metallica for Sigur Ros to end the second day at Outside Lands was a torturous decision. Metallica was a warzone spectacle, but i stuck to my guns and headed to the Twin Peaks stage. I’m glad I did. Jonsi now conducts a mini orchestra, and the eerie SF fog lowered on command to the slow builds & crescendos. It was a spiritual show that effected me more than any other concert in 2012.

2. Japandroids @ The Independent 6.14.12
Brian King and David Prowse brought ecstatic energy to the sold out Independent in June the week after Celebration Rock was released. Brian King understands how to control the pace of his set, offering fun pre-song statements that prepare you for what’s next. Their songs are vibrant live – it doesn’t sound like only two people are playing instruments. They truly seem to live the life they glorify on their 2012 album – still drinking, still smokin, and full of hyperactive desperation.

3. Phish Night 3 @ Bill Grahm Civic Auditorium 8.19.12
The highly anticipated phish three-show SF run in August started off a bit slowly. Saturday’s show left me a little bummed about Phish due to some sloppy play (“Split open and melt”) and what felt like a lack of enthusiasm. I was questioning why I still see Phish live heading into the last show of the weekend. My lowered expectations combined with a killer show quashed those thoughts. Crosseyed > Light > Sneakin’ Sally > Crosseyed was some of the best Phish I’ve ever heard, “Boogie on” redeemed Stevie Wonder’s omission of the song at Outside Lands the week before, “Meatstick” made me really happy, and the San Francisco-mentioning “Ride Captain Ride” made a surprise encore appearance. The show was pure bliss.

4. The Rapture @ Coachella 4.13.12
5. The xx @ Treasure Island Music Festival 10.14.12
6. The Presets @ The Independent 10.12.12
7. STS9 @ High Sierra Music Festival 7.5.12 & 7.6.12
8. Head and the Heart @ Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 10.6.12
9. Tame Impala @ The Fillmore 11.15.12
10. My Morning Jacket @ The Greek 9.15.12

Honorable Mention:
Father John Misty at Jansport Bonfire 9.30.12
Of Monsters & Men at The Independent 3.22.12

My Morning Jacket performing at The Wiltern in September

My Morning Jacket performing at The Wiltern in September


Pete Mauch Los Angeles

1. My Morning Jacket @ The Wiltern 9.13.12
MMJ capped off the best 3-night run I saw this year with this stellar closing show complete with a Horn section. This is a big statement for a band I knew I loved but wasn’t fully convinced about until this night. Highlight: “All Night Long” & “Movin On Up” with Horns

2. Phish @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium 8.19.12
Phish played a terrific 3-night run, and topped off by an amazing Sunday night show that proves that Phish is still top of the Jam Scene. Highlight: Light > Sneakin Sally Through the Alley

3. Ryan Adams @ Walt Disney Concert Hall 2.17.12
Ryan Adams, an acoustic Guitar, and a Piano is all this show contained, and it was truly special. Adams’ classic songs stripped down with his raspy croons is all I needed to make this a top show of the year. Highlight: “Rescue Blues” on Piano “Holy Diver” on Guitar

4. Trey Anastasio and LA Philharmonic @ Walt Disney Concert Hall 3.10.12
5. Neil Young and Crazy Horse @ the Hollywood Bowl 10.17.12
6. Charles Bradley and The Menahan Street Band @ UCLA Royce Hall 11.29.12
7. Radiohead @ Coachella Music Festival 4.21.12
8.Trombone Shorty @ the Key Club 2.11.12
9. Wilco @ the Palladium 1.24.12
10. New Multitudes (Tribute to Woody Guthrie) @ the Mayan Theatre 3.7.12

Honorable Mention:
Phish at Long Beach Arena 8.15.12
String Cheese Incident at Greek Theatre Berkeley 7.14.12
Roger Waters The Wall at the LA Coliseum 5.21.12
Umphreys Mcgee (True Hollywood Stories Acoustic Show) at the House of Blues 3.16.12

The Faint performing in November at The Regency Ballroom

The Faint performing in November at The Regency Ballroom

Molly Kish San Francisco

1. Radiohead @ HP Pavilion 4.12.12
After merely catching glimpses of them while shoved against thousands of festivalgoers at Outside Lands 2008, I was determined to catch Radiohead the next time they came through the Bay Area. The sound, visuals, performance and energy of the evening were electrifying. Although I was extremely lucky to have been viewing the concert from the sixth row, the entire crowd looked as though they were just as lost in the moment as I was. The band’s enigmatic stage presence, fully developed set composition and career spanning choice of material made for one of the most collectively impressive concert experiences that I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of.

2. Kishi Bashi/Of Montreal @ Slim’s 3.22.12
As a long time Of Montreal fan, I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to interview their opening act and latest addition to the line up (Kishi Bashi) the night of their performance at Slim’s. It wasn’t only for the sake of getting a personal perspective on the band, but also due to the fact that this would actually be my first time catching them performing live. The entire show and evening that followed was everything I could’ve wanted for my first experience seeing Of Montreal. Accompanied by three screens of psychedelic visuals, various costumed extras, balloon drops, props and whole score of vaudevillian rivalry, the band took the crowd and venue by storm. During the encore to top it off, I was able to reconnect with Kishi Bashi and ended up initiating an after-party with the entire band, crew and record label affiliates at an industrial themed “dark carnival,” taking place across the street at local dive bar Butter. Several jello shots, deep fried twinkies and contortionist carnie-prompted dance battles later, I looked around and felt assured that I had enough material to develop my own personal “Of Montreal” concert story contender.

3. The Presets @ Treasure Island Music Festival 10.13.12
Completely blown away by their performance the night before, I was overwhelmed with excitement and intrigue to see how the Presets could accomplish translating such energy to a festival setting. Anyone who had caught their Treasure Island Music Festival opener at the Independent instantly was taken over by sensory recall as they broke into song almost right where they left us hanging less than 24 hours earlier. Almost in homage to those who witnessed them destroy their previous set, they picked the dance party up right where they left off, only this time kicking it up about ten notches with the accompanied stage show, visual intensity and professional grade sound of seasoned professionals. Completely upstaging their more commercially recognized headliner and showing the younger generation how it should be done, they stole the show and were easily the stand out act of the 2012 TIMF. To this day I still find myself saying that I wish I could continually be going to a Presets show, based off of the concert experience I had at these two performances.

4. Dan Deacon @ The Great American Music Hall 10.23.12
5. Against Me! @ The Catalyst 9.10.12
6. The Faint @ The Regency Ballroom 11.18.12
7. Justice @ The Fox 11.4.2
8. Metallica @ Outside Lands 8.10.12
9. Animal Collective @ The Fox 9.21.12
10.The Shins @ The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium 4.22.12

Honorable Mention:
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s @ The Creator’s Project SF 3.17.12
Cold War Kids @ The Bottom of the Hill 3.5.12
Dr. John @ The Independent 8.17.12
Girl Talk @ Sasquatch 5.25.12

David Byrnes & St. Vincent performing in

David Byrnes & St. Vincent performing in October

Kevin Raos San Francisco

1. David Byrne & St. Vincent @ the Orpheum Theater 10.15.12
This is my number one show of 2012 for a couple of reasons. First off, Love this Giant, the recently released collaborative album between Byrne and St. Vincent, was a major disappointment. One of my most anticipated albums of the year ended up being one of the most disappointing. All was redeemed, however, when I saw these songs performed live. The accompanying brass band and the chemistry on stage breathed new life into was I felt was a stale album. Playfully executed and precisely choreographed, these songs shined live.

Secondly, I am a huge David Byrne fan and was able to check a big one off my bucket list of musical artists. Byrne’s career needs no introduction and this evening we were treated to a few Talking Head’s classics such as “Burning Down the House,” “This Must Be the Place,” and “Like Humans Do.”

This show was simply a once in a lifetime experience.

2. Phish @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium 8.19.12
A three night run at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium was capped off with a masterful performance by jamband kings, Phish. The final night of the run was easily the best night as the band flexed their improvisational muscles in a blistering 2-set performance, highlighted by covers of the Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless” and Robert Palmer’s “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley.”

3. Sigur Ros @ Outside Lands 8.11.12
Sigur Ros on my birthday to cap off an unbelievable festival day? How could it possibly get any better? It can’t really.

4. Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang @ Terrapin Crossroads – San Rafael 10.4.12
5. Keller Williams, Steve Kimock & Kyle Hollingsworth ft. Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram & Andy Hess @ Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Music Festival 10.7.12
6. Miike Snow / Penguin Prison @ Fox Theater Oakland 4.12.12
7. Washed Out @ Mezzanine 5.4.12
8. Electric Guest @ The Independent 11.2.12
9. The Album Leaf / Blackbird Blackbird @ Bottom of the Hill 9.30.12
10. Citizens! Lescop, Housse de Racket, Tomorrow’s World @ The Rickshaw Stop 10.12.12

Honorable Mentions:
Zee Avi @ New Parish 9.28.12
M83 @ The Fillmore 4.22.12

Japandroids performing in 2012

Japandroids performing in 2012

Eric Shaden San Francisco

1. D’Angelo @ HOB – Los Angeles 7.4.12

2. Passion Pit @ Rock en Seine – Paris 8.26.12

3. Starfucker @ the Independent 1.7.12

4. Stevie Wonder @ Outside Lands 8.12.12
5. Miike Snow + Penguin Prison @ The Fox Oakland 4.12.12
6. A.Skillz + Krafty Kuts Presents Tricka Technology @ Mighty 6.1.12
7. Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) @ the Independent 10.19.12
8. Japandroids @ the Independent 6.14.12
9. Guns n’ Roses @ Bridge School Benefit 10.21.12
10. Kid Koala Vinyl Vaudeville Tour @ Independent 11.4.12

The Lumineers performing at The Chapel in August

The Lumineers performing at The Chapel in August

Marc Fong San Francisco
1. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros @ Slim’s 3.25.12
It’s not often I gush like a school girl (only about once or twice a week), but seeing ESatMZ at Slim’s was panty dropping. Can I say that? Well, I just did. It was a secret/private show so Slim’s was overcrowded. I stood center stage close enough to see the dirt on Alexander’s suit. The sound was great and the band always puts on a damn fine show.

2. The Lumineers @ The Chapel 10.11.12
LIVE 105 brought the Lumineers to newly opened Chapel in SF and the band didn’t disappoint. The venue was the perfect size for the band and like most of the other bands on this list, the Lumineers had fun playing and it made for a great show.

3. Kronos Quartet @ Greek Theater 10.5.12
Okay, it was really Amon Tobin’s deal, but Kronos opened and performed beautifully. Being a long time fan, it’s not a surprise these openers made my list. Great music from great performers. And The Greek Theater in Berkeley was the best venue to see them. (And most other shows.)

4. Willie Nelson and Family @ The Fox Oakland 3.15.12
5. Of Monsters and Men @ Independent 5.22.12
6. Fun. @ The Independent 5.28.12
7. Sage Francis @ Independent 3.17.12
8. Steve Aoki @ Bill Graham 1.21.12
9. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros @ The Fox Oakland 5.12.12
10. AVICII @ Bill Graham Civic 6.28.12

Tame Impala at The Fillmore in November

Tame Impala at The Fillmore in November

Kevin Quandt San Francisco

1. The Walkmen @ The Independent January 20th & 21st
These 10th Anniversary shows were a Walkmen fan’s wet dream as they played their first album in full among multiple sets and configurations including a horn section. Over 30 songs of Hamilton Leithauser and company churning out their own brand of rock and roll to devote fans from across the States.

2. Refused with the Hives & the Bronx @ The Warfield 4.18.12
Having seen their Coachella show a week prior, the anticipation was less palpable, yet the reigning post-punk champs delighted a more rowdy and dedicated crowd with a spirited set for the masses who patiently waited a decade to witness.

3. Trey Anastasio and The Los Angeles Philharmonic @ Walt Disney Concert Hall 3.10.12
Dressing up for a show is fun, especially when Trey is at the helm of philharmonic symphony in one of the best rooms to hear, and see, music in. From the playful rendition of “Guyute” to the half hour “Time Turns Elasctic,” this night had the packed concert hall re-charmed by Ernest and his recharged song book.

4. Tame Impala @ The Fillmore 11.15.12
5. Phish @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium 8.19.12
6. Woods and White Fence @ The Chapel at Preservation Hall West 10.17.12
7. Howlin Rain @ The Independent 2.18.12
8. Radiohead @ The Santa Barbara Bowl 4.12.12
9. Father John Misty & Har Mar Superstar @ Bottom of the hill 5.5.12
10.Mala @ Yoshi’s San Francisco 6.23.12

Festival sets:
Sigur Ros @ Outside Lands 8.11.12
Future Islands @ FYF 9.1.12
Flying Lotus @ Coachella 4.14.12

Justice performing at The Warfield in November

Justice performing at The Warfield in November

Sean Little San Francisco

1. Justice @ The Warfield 11.4.12
What else is there to say about Justice that hasn’t already been said. They came, they saw, and they melted faces with an amazing set the blew fans away and converted first timers alike. At least half my friends decided to go last minute (tickets were still available because it was a Sunday) and all of them became huge fans. Some of these friends are not into electronic music of any kind either, so that really says something. It was one of those rare shows where you leave euphoric and can’t stop saying “wow” to the people you went with.

2. Florence & the Machine @ Coachella 4.15.12
The only other performer I’ve ever seen that commanded an audience like Florence did was Snoop Dogg back in 02 at the Smoke Out (stop-you’re not better than me so put that eyebrow back down). It was one of the rare festival sets where everyone felt really in tune with the performer and each other, singing along and knowing when to interact with each other and the songs. She was absolutely amazing, and the set was a dark horse highlight to my festival as I didn’t expect her to command the audience like she did. She’s truly a presence.

2ManyDJ’s @ Regency Ballroom
I saw them about this time last year but fuck it, it still counts. If you have never seen them live then go. Even if you don’t like electronic, go. Even if you hate music go. If you want to be schooled in what real DJs as performers can do, you have to go. They blend the most amazing remixes, edits, mashups and drops all together with a mindblowing set of animated artwork, based on the song that is being played behind them. I won’t even try to explain because it won’t work.