The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

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


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

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

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


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

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

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


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

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

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


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

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


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

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


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

3. Chance the Rapper

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

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


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

1. Anderson .Paak

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

Outside Lands 2016

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Les Sins hypnotizes his fans at The New Parish

Les SinsPhotos by Alister Mori // Written by Paul Ronas-Tanner //

Les Sins with Taraval, DJ Nina Sol //
The New Parish – Oakland
August 19th, 2016 //

There was something special in the air as soon as I got off Bart at the 19th St. Oakland station — and I am not talking about the recreational drugs or the food stands that were all around me, but rather the electricity that resonated with all the people who rushed out of the train eager to get into a club or bar within walking distance. Anywhere on Telegraph Ave. where you could buy a drink had a line that started blending in with the establishment next to it, which continued on for blocks. On this night, it seemed like Oakland was the place to be.

As I walked up 18th St. toward The New Parish, the positive vibes must have started kicking in because I quickly got excited for an act whose music I had never heard before. All the laughs and big grins I must have encountered at the Bart station made me just want to have a good time with some good people, but little did I know how much my fun I really would have.

I put a little more bounce in my step and hurried to the destination where lucky for me, the line was moving quite well. The marquee said “Les Sins” in big font. From the music I could hear outside the venue, I couldn’t help but two-step the moment after I walked through the door. Maybe it was the positive vibes I felt walking briefly around in Oakland, but I took my time looking for my friends.

Occasionally stepping in and out of small groups while dancing to the opening DJ, I couldn’t help but notice that everybody was moving, too. From the coat-check girl to the bar backs, it was as if someone had put a spell on those in attendance to forget all of their problems and genuinely enjoy the night. There were some people with rhythm and some with absolutely none, but all of us were living in the moment. Arms were flailing as people reached for the ceiling, and souls, well, they were definitely being touched.

Les Sins

I have been to Electric Daisy Carnival (EDC), Outside Lands and numerous clubs where I had to be intoxicated just to feel the music (disclosure: I’m more of a R&B and hip-hop fan), but this wasn’t it. This was exactly your typical EDM, but rather a soulful mix of them all with an old-school feel and nostalgic samples. I felt as though they took the classic hooks and breaks my older sisters and father used to play and brought them to the forefront by mixing it with more of a modern club sound. Even though some may refer to chillwave as “downtempo pop,” it can give you an uptempo feeling that makes you forget about time. At The New Parish, the room was filled with a multitude of colors and cultures that all moved to the same beat, like we were one life form.

Wanting to get some fresh air, we stepped outside to converse and found a few connected bars in the courtyard, which if you were not feeling the vibe, could go to and still feel like you were apart of the scene. We decided to catch the rest of Taraval’s opening set, and we hurried back to the second balcony to watch the Canadian composer, musician and DJ work his magic on the crowd.

As we made our way up the stairs, we came back to two DJ’s onstage, with the other being the night’s headliner. Les Sins is the alter ego of Chaz Bundick, best known as the brains behind indie-rock stalwart Toro y Moi, and standing side by side, the two artists dropped harmonious beat after beat that complimented each other’s style before Bundick took over, transitioning seamlessly into his headlining set. As if I were having a flashback of a past weekend in Vegas, I subsequently went into a trance and let the music take over my body. And with a drink in my hand, I decided to dance the night away.

Some DJ’s can play music throughout a night and they would all sound like one track, but when it comes to Les Sins, you can feel the difference in every mix. To my surprise, Bundick hasn’t played as many Les Sins shows as he has with Toro y Moi, which made this experience feel somewhat exclusive. Following that night at The New Parish, I can proudly say that I have subscribed to both Les Sins and Toro y Moi; when I’m driving to work or getting ready for a night out on the town, putting on Bundick’s music in one form or another helps me relive what proved to be a magical night in the East Bay.

Show of the Week // GO4FREE to Les Sins at The New Parish 8/19 (FRI)

Les SinsWritten by Brett Ruffenach //

Les Sins with Taraval, DJ Nina Sol //
The New Parish – Oakland
August 19th, 2016 //

Chaz Bundick is a busy man. Between writing music for his solo-project-turned-rock-band Toro y Moi, touring around the world in support of their most recent album What For? (read our community review here) and even taking that band to the Trona Pinnacles to record and release their own Pink Floyd-inspired album Live From Trona (watch the live film here), it’s hard to believe Bundick has the time to work on his electronic side project Les Sins.

Conceived in 2010, Les Sins has evolved into an excellent expansion of Bundick’s musical tastes, filling the gaps between a quirky indie-rock singer-songwriter and a foot-stomping electronic producer. His debut LP under the Les Sins moniker, Michael, was released on his own Company Records in late 2014, led by the album’s infectious single “Bother”.

As a DJ, Bundick blends familiar elements of French electronic, pop, house and 90’s hip-hop to create a rhythm guaranteed to keep your body moving. On tracks like “Grind” and “Why”, he demonstrates a deep understanding of how pop, soul, house and disco can mix together, creating a familiar, yet unique sound. Having seen both Toro y Moi and Les Sins perform in the past year, I’d take the latter any day.

This Friday, Les Sins pays a visit to The New Parish in Oakland for a DJ set with support from San Francisco’s own Taraval, a recent signee to Four Tet’s Text Records (you can listen to his debut EP Streetways here), and DJ Nina Sol, an Oaklander known for her eclectic sets as well as her genre-bending style. Tickets are available for $25, or you could win a pair of tickets by submitting your full name and email below.

Contest ends this Friday at 3 p.m.


Follow Showbams on Twitter for more contest giveaways throughout the week. Be the first to respond to our contest tweets to GO4FREE to these shows:

IdleFox: August 16th (TUE) @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall
Chuck Mosley & Friends: August 18th (THUR) @ Great American Music Hall
The Coathangers: August 19th (FRI) @ The Independent
Glen David Andrews: August 19th (FRI) @ Brick & Mortar Music Hall
The Muffs & The Rubinoos: August 20th (SAT) @ Slim’s
Panic Is Perfect & Dangermaker: August 20th (SAT) @ Great American Music Hall
Vetiver (Mollusk Moods special trio set): August 20th (SAT) @ The Chapel


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The 25 best live music acts of 2015

Best Live Acts of 2015

Around this time last year, we shared our 25 favorite live performers of 2014 after spending the past 12 months covering many excellent bands, musicians and DJs. So, with 2015 almost in the books, we thought we would give the same exercise another try, except this year, we made the call to exclude any artists we named in 2014. What fun would it really be to list them two years in a row anyway?

In the end, it wasn’t an easy task whittling down our list to 25, but some tough decisions had to be made. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists and bands (in alphabetical order) who we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

AlunaGeorge, Ariel Pink, BADBADNOTGOOD, Bad Religion, Battles, Beirut, Belle and Sebastian, Big Grams, Billy Idol, Black Lips, The Black Keys, Blonde Redhead, BØRNS, BROODS, Built to Spill, Catfish and the Bottlemen, Chet Faker, Chromeo, City and Colour, Classixx, Cold War Kids, Dâm-Funk, Damien Rice, Death Cab for Cutie, Dengue Fever, Django Django, Dr. Dog, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Failure, The Flaming Lips, Flight Facilities, Goldroom, Glen Hansard, The Glitch Mob, Gorgon City, Holly Herndon, Interpol, Israel Nash, James Bay, Jeff Tweedy, Jenny Lewis, The Jesus and Mary Chain, JMSN, Jose Gonzalez, Jurassic 5, Kanye West, Kindness, King Tuff, Marina and the Diamonds, Miami Horror, Milky Chance, Modest Mouse, Morrissey, MS MR, Les Sins, Lotus, Natalie Prass, Neon Indian, ODESZA, Of Montreal, Oneohtrix Point Never, Panda Bear, Penguin Prison, Phantogram, Portugal. The Man, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Purity Ring, Ratatat, Royal Blood, San Fermin, Shlohmo, Slow Magic, SOHN, St. Paul and The Broken Bones, STRFKR, Surfer Blood, Talib Kweli, Tame Impala, Tennis, Toro y Moi, Tycho, Umphrey’s McGee, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vintage Trouble, Vulfpeck, Widespread Panic, YACHT.

Now, without further ado, The Bam Team presents our 25 favorite live performers of 2015.

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2015

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2015:


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Lord Huron

25. Lord Huron

The audience reacted with just as much enthusiasm during classic Lord Huron tunes as they did in hearing brand-new material, especially during fan favorites like “She Lit a Fire” and back-to-back rockabilly-tinged jams “The World Ender” and “Fool for Love”. At this point, the crowd had not only warmed up to Lord Huron’s infectious stage presence, but also gave into their buoyant vibes as mini dance parties broke out throughout the venue. -Molly Kish, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Puscifer

24. Puscifer

Maynard James Keenan and friends have established themselves as not just a group of musicians who play songs on stage, but rather an assemblage of entertainers that provide their viewers and fans with something they may not have ever seen before — a true experience. Paying homage to the likes of Alice Cooper, Pink Floyd and the glory days of the rock opera, Puscifer have a very special way of combining their music with a stage show that offers so much more than just music. -Scotland Miller, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Viet Cong

23. Viet Cong

Once the appetizer had been digested, Viet Cong were taking the stage and beginning a theme of quirky banter that eased the crowd into the blistering set as opposed to bombardment. Within the first few chords, it was evident that continued time on the road found the band at the peak of perfection. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Diana Cordero


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Kate Tempest

22. Kate Tempest

This decade will likely be known for the death of “genre,” the end of how groups have been contained into categories like R&B or rap since the birth of record labels. And with dance music on the rise, digitized conventions are creeping into pop, rap and indie music on the regular. With music more accessible than ever and for free, listeners are willing to experiment with their auditory material — and amalgamation is the natural result. Tempest represents this change as much or more than anyone as we enter the smack-dab middle of this decade. And that includes Kanye West, Sylvan Esso or Run the Jewels. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Deerhunter

21. Deerhunter

Deerhunter’s Bradford Cox talked about how he decided on the way over to the island that he wouldn’t play many songs, how he took ayahuasca on Saturday night in LA and he was surprised at how reserved the TIMF audience was. He said we were “polite like the Japanese.” Bradford, that’s what we call “respect” — and you’ve earned it. -Mike Frash, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #20 - Faith No More

20. Faith No More

It can be hard to know what to expect from a crew like Faith No More and their eccentric, yet prolific members. The entire stage was dressed in white, from the curtains to the amplifiers to the mic stands. Lining the entire length of the stage and any flat surface that would support them were thousands of dollars worth of beautiful, fresh flowers. The abundance of purples and pinks, reds and yellows created a very comfortable and soothing, yet incredibly eerie feeling as to what was about to happen next. Once the setup was complete and the lights dropped, the crowd was let in to the stark contrast that is the weird world of Faith No More. -Scotland Miller, photo by Greg Ramar


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #19 - Sufjan Stevens

19. Sufjan Stevens

Stevens spoke of the need for community in the throes of grief, and the audience ably did their part to help him through this very public grieving process. At the end of the main set, a young woman crashed the stage to offer a bemused Sufjan something (a hug? words of love and encouragement?), and it seemed wholly appropriate, as if the audience needed in some small way to collectively reach out to the man after he bared his soul so openly. -Steve Carlson, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Allen Stone

18. Allen Stone

In many ways, Stone’s ideological stance on technology shapes not only his set as a performer but also his fan base. Watching an Allen Stone show, one can feel certain that all pretenses will be left at the door and those surrounding you will be committing their full attention to the music. Midway through Stone’s set, the venue was completely under his charismatic spell. The audience actively followed the Seattle-born frontman’s lead as he prompted a group participation “2-step” and rolled through crowd favorites from his self-titled LP and latest album Radius. -Molly Kish, photo by Tom Dellinger


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - The Kills

17. The Kills

Mosshart, tall and slender, strutted her way through just about all of it, displaying a bravado that exudes both sex and confidence, while Hince handled his axe like a bona fide rock star, eventually playing some slide guitar during the gritty, blues-infused track “Pots and Pans” that got the crowd roaring after it was over. After all, it’s that blues/garage-rock overlap, along with the chemistry exhibited between Mosshart and Hince onstage, that makes The Kills such a captivating rock ‘n’ roll act to see live these days. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - The Chemical Brothers

16. The Chemical Brothers

Directly following their dramatic entrance to a recording of Junior Parker’s epic “Tomorrow Never Knows”, the duo kicked off their career-spanning set with crowd favorite “Hey Boy, Hey Girl” from 1999’s Surrender. They launched into a full-blown frenzy from that moment on, and the UK dance legends went hard (no pun intended) throughout the rest of their two-hour performance, debuting live remixes of new material from their 2015 release Born in the Echoes while interspersing nostalgia-inducing EDM classics off their seven previous albums. -Molly Kish, photo by Justin Yee


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #15 - Eagles of Death Metal

15. Eagles of Death Metal

EODM have the perfect style as a rock band, one that takes itself just seriously enough. As a whole, they are a hard, fast and tightly-wound production, with their silly lyrics and even sillier frontman bringing a perfect balance to what you want to see at a rock show. Closing with “Speaking in Tongues”, EODM walked off the stage at the Great American Music Hall knowing that they had accomplished what they came to do — to prove that rock ain’t dead. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Florence + the Machine

14. Florence + the Machine

Welch lapped around the inside ring of the bowl, stopping briefly at the sound stage. What a cool moment. -James Nagel, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Sturgill Simpson

13. Sturgill Simpson

Simpson has stage presence, that is without a doubt. The conviction of his voice bolsters his words as he describes a life of highs and lows, trials and tribulations. This was evident on renditions of songs like “Turtles All the Way Down”. If there is a song to capture your attention and convince you of Simpson’s talents as a songwriter, this is one of them. Just like that of his predecessors, he writes music that goes against the grain of popular country music. It may be defined as “outlaw country,” but I personally feel it is music that resonates with a wider audience than that of its counterparts. -Kory Thibeault, photo by Kory Thibeault


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - alt-j

12. alt-J

The 2012 Mercury Prize winners echoed a semblance to that of Sigur Rós or Volcano Choir, leaving audience members entranced in a near-altered state while observing the foursome. The biggest fan responses erupted during the band’s singalong favorites “Breezeblocks”, “Fitzpleasure” and their token cover of Bill Withers’ “Lovely Day”. -Molly Kish, photo by Mike Rosati


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Hot Chip

11. Hot Chip

In recent years, only ever getting the chance to see the outfit in stripped-down DJ sets or as part of side projects/collaborations, the afternoon crowd full of die-hard, nu-disco fans were not disappointed as the UK dance veterans set the polo fields ablaze. Refraining from any slow builders, Hot Chip performed an hour-long set of career-spanning bangers, keeping the crowd moving with hit after hit, that seamlessly blended into one another. The set procured one of the most viral dance party moments of the festival, with the audience spiraling into a collective bliss as it came to a close. -Molly Kish, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Dan Deacon

10. Dan Deacon

One of the toughest things to do in the world of electronic music is to sound organic, to imbue a sense of heart into the digitized nature of ones and zeroes. The Baltimore native accomplishes this through his hilarious and improvisational free-form, stand-up comedy, which thrives on wandering non sequiturs. And he mirrors this by adapting his insane-train of sound to meet and exceed the energy in the room. The “America” suite finished off the show with an extended doom metal quality that gave a sense that no aesthetic boundaries can contain Deacon’s sense of musical exploration. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - FKA twigs

9. FKA twigs

British singer-songwriter Tahliah Debrett Barnett, better known as FKA twigs, has been all the rage lately after performing at Coachella in April, and she closed out FYF in style, donning an elaborate burgundy- and gold-colored robe for her Sunday night set. Just the week before, the 27-year-old fiancée of actor/musician Robert Pattinson released her brand-new EP M3LL155X, and with it receiving high marks from a number of music outlets, there were quite a few fans who stuck around after 11:30 p.m. on a “school night” to watch her perform some of them, including the opening track “Figure 8”, “In Time” and “Glass & Patron”. FKA twigs might be one of the most compelling live acts out there right now, and after scheduling Purity Ring to close out The Lawn the night before, FYF seemed to make a point of letting women rule that stage in the late-night hours this year. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #8 - Empire of the Sun

8. Empire of the Sun

As Steele belted out “Alive”, the hit single off the band’s sophomore studio album Ice on the Dune, to close things out, he brought the audience to a transcendent place of exhilaration. Crowd members embraced and danced amongst a like-minded family of people lost in the moment, even if it involved intergalactic creatures dancing in colored smoke and a crowned Emperor playing without his bandmate on stage. EOTS shows are a special kind of magic that regardless of the material’s absurd nature, translate into an experience unlike anything else. -Molly Kish, photo by Steve Carlson


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - My Morning Jacket

7. My Morning Jacket

Though it was more than understandable to see the band play a large majority of The Waterfall for its first performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl in almost four years, there were plenty of other deep cuts mixed in over the next two hours, from “Bermuda Highway” to “Mahgeetah” to “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”. After all, it’s no secret that My Morning Jacket have always been good to their most loyal and dedicated fans, and in once again taking song requests as part of their “Spontaneous Curation Series,” they made sure to dig up many of the classics from their seminal album Z, including “Wordless Chorus” and “Off the Record” one after the other in the middle of a loaded, four-song encore. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - Jamie xx

6. Jamie xx

Throughout his tour, Smith has refused to compromise his individual style for the sake of appeasing either extreme of his now commercially hybrid audience. Whereas those familiar with his early XL Records mixtapes were satiated by his intermingling of Gil Scott-Heron and Idris Muhammad samples between hits, his newfound post-In Colour fans experienced equally breathtaking moments with the crowd hitting peak energy levels during the encore chorus of “Loud Places” amidst the glow of a warped-speed, neon-green strobe light. Other notable moments included the near-religious choral drop of “Gosh” that escalated the packed house to spiritual levels of enthusiasm, bathed in the glowing sparkle of Smith’s staggeringly iridescent ceiling to floor disco ball and stage lights. -Molly Kish, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #5 - Elton John

5. Elton John

The star-spangled legend sat at his majestic piano as the sun went down on Sunday and moved the crowd with his brilliant playing. The adoring audience hung on every word and joined in singing his most popular hits. Walking off stage quickly after his last song, the audience demanded more and Elton happily obliged. With rumors of Lion King songs being played at past performances, some doting fans wanted a second encore to the tune of “Circle of Life”. While he didn’t indulge the Lion King fans, his stellar performance was a perfect ending to an amazing weekend at Outside Lands, leaving everyone’s festival tank full of love. -Nik Crossman, photo by James Nagel


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #4 - Father John Misty

4. Father John Misty

Father John (Sassypants) Misty has his festival game on point, and he has progressed his I Love You, Honeybear songs into epic plateaus since premiering them in the Santa Cruz mountains last February. He spewed banter like an Stephen Colbert-esque contrarian, saying, “Look at these suckers with their hair blowing all over the place.” And as he approached the mic for more improv-snark later on, Tillman paused to say, “Sorry, I have nothing to say. Ha.” FJM was speechless for once, but granted, it might have been set up for “Bored in the USA”, a song that should be considered an American classic at this point. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #3 - Kendrick Lamar

3. Kendrick Lamar

As Kendrick Lamar’s incredible performance began to wrap up with his newest single “Alright”, a group of fans in the crowd proceeded to lift someone up in a wheelchair, who, if I recall correctly, was the same guy who had his photo famously taken at Outside Lands in 2013. Kendrick took notice and called him out — his sense of sincere appreciation for a place like the Bay Area was written all over his face. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Marc Fong


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - Caribou

2. Caribou

Described by fellow musician Dan Deacon as “one of the most brilliant acts touring right now” just before their set, Caribou lived up to the hype. Starting with “Our Love”, the four-piece band led by Dan Snaith perfectly set the stage for the next hour — a series of tightly wound compositions that, as the song progresses, expand in rhythmic complexity before reaching a climax that will get even the most tired Sunday afternoon crowd moving. Heavily augmenting its live performances from its studio recordings, the band’s live rendition of “Jamelia” in particular was a highlight of the set. Caribou is a band not to be missed. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Justin Yee


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 - D'Angelo & The Vanguard #1

1. D’Angelo & The Vanguard

One of the most anticipated sets of the entire weekend was none other than D’Angelo’s — and for good reason. The R&B/neo-soul singer-songwriter hadn’t put out an album in 14 years until he suddenly dropped his 2014 masterpiece Black Messiah last December, so you knew that getting the rare opportunity to see Michael Eugene Archer work a crowd at FYF would be something special. Sounding more like a youthful James Brown than a wannabe Prince (we still don’t totally understand where those comparisons are coming from), D’Angelo and his eight-piece backing band The Vanguard took the audience for a ride as they doled out new and old hits. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt

Outside Lands 2015 - Dan Deacon

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Is Lightning in a Bottle shedding its ‘boutique’ label to go mainstream?

Lightning in a BottleBy Josh Herwitt //

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 21st-25th, 2015 //

It has been more than 15 years since Jesse and Josh Flemming set out to throw a wild birthday bash for themselves in the Santa Ynez Mountains just north of Santa Barbara, Calif. The twin brothers, who had left their Pennsylvania roots behind for Los Angeles in the late 90’s in hopes of pursuing careers in the entertainment industry, enlisted the help of their younger brother Dede, who had his own aspirations of working in Hollywood, making the cross-country move to Southern California a few years after them.

But what started as a private party of 150 people would eventually become better known as Lightning in a Bottle (LIB), the famed boutique festival that the Flemming brothers have curated for more than a decade with the help of their LA-based event production company The Do LaB. Tabbed as the “Greenest Festival in America” each of the last five years, LIB has continued to foster a community that values sustainability first and foremost, but also social cohesion, personal health and creative expression. Consequently, the Flemming brothers have created one of the most unique experiences on the entire U.S. festival circuit, with music, art, yoga and workshops all serving as essential elements in forming LIB’s identity. Whether all of that can be sustained while the festival maintains its “boutique” label though, remains to be seen.

Lightning in a Bottle


LIB sold out for the first time in its 15-year history with as many as 20,000 festivalgoers attending.

For the first time ever, LIB sold out in its 15-year history this month, with last weekend’s attendance peaking at 20,000 after hovering around 15,000 in previous years. Some of that surge can likely be attributed to the musical talent that LIB now shares with Coachella. SBTRKT, ODESZA, Tycho and Panda Bear, for instance, all performed in Indio this year while Flume, RL Grime and AlunaGeorge made appearances on the polo fields last April. But the festival has arguably welcomed no bigger up-and-coming artist than Flume, the 23-year-old Australian producer and DJ who won numerous awards in his home country back in 2013. Since then, he has been all the rage in today’s electronic dance music scene, with tickets to his three sold-out shows in LA last August reselling on both Craigslist and StubHub for upwards of $100.

So, it was no surprise that the largest crowd over the entire weekend congregated a little after midnight on Sunday to see Harley Streten take the stage as the festival’s top headliner and drop one wonky trap beat after another. With the crowd spilling over outside of the main stage’s premises, it was a quick reminder of what the Gobi Tent looked like during Flume’s set at Coachella just a year earlier. And by the following day, much of the camp grounds had already emptied out — a clear sign that those who made the trek to Bradley, Calif., had seen all that they needed to see, even if that meant simply watching Streten command the crowd with mainly a laptop. It’s at least in part why if The Do LaB continues to book headliners of Streten’s stature, LIB can likely kiss that “boutique” label goodbye — unless financial gain is of no interest or concern.

Lightning in a Bottle - Flume


Australian DJ/producer Flume packed the main stage at LIB for his Saturday night headlining set.

Yet, that’s not the only indication that LIB could soon be headed for the big time. The real icing on the cake didn’t come until Sunday night, when English synthpop/trip-hop duo AlunaGeorge, midway through their main-stage set, busted out a cover of “White Noise”, the Disclosure mega-hit on 2013’s Settle that they collaborated with brothers Howard and Guy Lawrence on. And as I watched those all around me mouth every word that vocalist Aluna Francis belted out, it was hard not to foresee the moment becoming somewhat of a trend at LIB. Because when I attended the festival for the first time in 2011, there was little chance of hearing a Top 40 song on the main stage. LIB, for better or worse, has certainly come a long way since then.

The musical offerings aren’t the only noticeable change at LIB when you take a closer look, however. While the festival has always catered to health-conscious individuals, offering a variety of vegetarian, raw, organic and non-GMO options, it’s only started to offer dishes featuring meat, whether it be chicken, beef or pork (bacon was served … yes, bacon!), in the last two years — even though the chicken supply ran dry by Day 3 this year. That small, yet significant transformation could simply be the product of a growing fan base, one that continues to swell as EDM heavyweights like John Digweed, Thomas Jack and Bakermat become more and more a part of the festival’s musical palette. And with more people comes more trash (something LIB has kept to a minimum more than any other festival in America to date), less space (something that has always been relatively easy to come by at LIB) and a harder time of finding your friends (something that was never an issue at LIB in the past but became much more of one this year).

The purists may already be claiming that LIB has sold out and there’s no turning back. But at this juncture, the “transformational” festival — as some like to call it — is still toeing a fine line between the underground and mainstream. It’s where it goes from here that will ultimately decide its fate.

Is the Lightning in a Bottle lineup becoming a mini version of Coachella’s?

Lightning in a BottlePhoto courtesy of Daniel Zetterstrom // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 21st-25th, 2015 //

For those who made the trek to Indio, this week officially signals the return to reality after witnessing some of the best live music you’ll likely see all year.

Coachella withdrawals, after all, don’t take long to set in, and the thought of having to wait 12 more months to experience what you just went through in three days is probably really bumming you out right now.

But fear not, because while it may not have the same name recognition that Coachella has come to garner, Lightning in a Bottle has slowly but surely started to share more and more of the same artists that have recently graced the polo fields.

Take this year’s LIB lineup, for example. SBTRKT, ODESZA, Tycho and Panda Bear all played at Coachella the past two weekends while newly anointed headliner Flume, RL Grime and AlunaGeorge made appearances last April. Other acts like John Digweed and Poliça have also performed at Coachella not that long ago, making this year’s LIB lineup one of the most appealing in its decade-long history.

With its own stage at Coachella for some time now, the artists collective and event creations company known as The Do LaB has continued to expand its reach, and as a result, LIB has grown more and more popular each year. Though the musical overlap might be just one reason for the boutique festival’s growing attendance, there are a number of LIB acts this year that could very well be printed on Coachella’s lineup next year, much like what Chet Faker, Gramatik, What So Not, Cashmere Cat and Ryan Hemsworth experienced from 2014 to 2015.

2015 Lightning in a Bottle lineup

Active Child: Electronic music artist Pat Grossi will follow up his critically acclaimed 2011 debut You Are All I See in June with the release of his second full-length album Mercy. But before that, he’ll kick off his North America tour consisting of mostly seated shows with his first appearance at LIB this May, and it’s only natural to think that a stop at Coachella is on the horizon.

GRiZ: Grant Kwiecinski has become a household name in electronic music circles over the past three years after supporting electronic heavyweights like Bassnectar, Pretty Lights, Gramatik and Big Gigantic on tour. The Detroit native has kept his foot on the accelerator, having already released his fourth studio album Say It Loud in only a little more than four years on the scene, and will be back at LIB after hitting the festival for the first time two years ago.

Goldroom: Josh Legg’s project performed on the main stage at LIB in 2013, and he’s got the live band back together for another go-around this year. The LA-based act gave off a sexy vibe at CRSSD Festival in San Diego last month, and it could be ready to take on Coachella once a full-length album comes out.

Les Sins: Chaz Bundick is best known for his work as Toro y Moi, but his electronic-leaning side project Les Sins has kept him rather busy going back and forth between the two. After playing Coachella this year with Toro, Bundick could be back in 2016 with the way Les Sins has taken off over the past few months.

Little People: London downtempo electronic artist Laurent Clerc has been releasing music since 2006, starting with his debut album Mickey Mouse Operation. Now based in the States and more specifically Portland, Ore., Clerc dropped his Csay Csay EP in March and recently spent some time on the road supporting Seattle duo ODESZA, which makes a lot of sense after you listen to his track “Enola”.

Random Rab: Having played the festival the past four years, the San Francisco producer is a LIB veteran, and he’ll be making his fifth straight appearance this spring. While his last album came in 2011, Random Rab has continued to perfect his live sets after touring with such LIB favorites as Bassnectar, Shpongle and Beats Antique.

Thomas Jack: EDM rising star Thomas Jack hit it big in 2013 with his single “Final Speech”, and his stock only continued to grow with remixes of Adrian Lux and Of Monsters and Men. With the way the 20-year-old DJ and producer from Australia is igniting dance floors, it’s probably not long before he’s hitting the polo fields in Indio after taking another crack at the LIB audience this year.

Snakehips: Oliver Lee and James Carter quickly climbed the dance charts last year with their sample-heavy PBR&B grooves as they exhibited on popular remixes of Wild Belle and The Weeknd. The UK production duo continues to sell out venues, and it will be no surprise if it’s listed on the 2016 Coachella lineup.

SOHN: English musician, songwriter and producer Christopher Taylor unleashed his first full-length album (read our review here) a little more than a year ago, and he’s been known to collaborate with high-profile artists like Lana Del Rey and BANKS. While it was relatively surprising to not see SOHN on the Coachella lineup this year, it’s a safe bet that he’ll find his way to Indio pretty soon.

Zion I: Oakland hip-hop group Zion I haven’t performed at Coachella in surprisingly more than a decade, and this year will mark their first time ever at LIB. Rapper Baba Zumbi and producer Amp Live earned praise for their ninth and latest album Shadowboxing back in 2012, but the duo is long overdue for a return to the desert.

Toro y Moi pivots to psych-disco-funk & a greater sense of band unity

Toro-Y-Moi_postPhoto by Sam Ortega // Written by Mike Frash //

Toro y Moi //
The Independent – San Francisco
March 28th, 2015 //

Much has changed for Chaz Bundick and his project Toro y Moi since playing The Independent two years ago. Keyboardist Anthony Ferraro was added to the touring band, Toro y Moi then graduated to performing at the much larger Fox Theater Oakland, and Bundick once again reset and pivoted toward a new beat for his fourth album under the TYM moniker.

The fourth Toro y Moi album, What For?, is set to release April 7th, and you can listen to it now at NPR Music.

But there’s another new element that emerged from witnessing Toro y Moi premier new tracks over the weekend in SF at The Independent. It’s becoming more and more ambiguous whether Toro y Moi is Chaz Bundick, or is Toro y Moi the five-piece group that impressed in such a spectacular, unhurried way Saturday night with 70’s-influenced psych-disco-funk. Granted they can be both at once, and Bundick is the sole creative song-crafting force, but it must be asked now: Is Toro y Moi a man or a band?

An intense wall of sound began the show with “What You Want,” the first track off the new LP, pushing the soundboard into the red with all instruments swirling on the high side, jarring the shit out of me. Yes, it was the opposite of chill, but it acted as a palate cleanser, bringing an “I am here” mentality to the moment. The band and sound team may have still been acclimating to each other, but it more likely was an intentional sonic slap to the face. And once the second single “Buffalo” took over next, the sound was tight and dialed in for the duration of the 90-minute show.

There is less focus on Bundick as the centerpiece of the outfit compared to before, with more attention being paid to the unit’s loose cohesiveness that ultimately creates a wandering, exploratory sensibility.

Bundick is now positioned all the way to stage left, as opposed to being front and center at the podium, which was the touring setup in support of the electronic-leaning Anything in Return. When Bundick took to the keys during the encore, he crafted an interlacing synchronicity with band key player Anthony Ferraro that had the two locked in sync. A focus on group solidarity appears to be the centerpiece now.

Selections from Anything in Return got the biggest reaction out of the SF crowd (most notably “Rose Quartz”, “So Many Details” & “Say That” to end the night”), but each cut transitioned into funk grooves, getting a coat of paint from the mindset of the new album. Les Sins seems to be Bundick’s electronic vehicle now, while Toro y Moi delves into heady instrumentation in the vein of Underneath The Pine.

Now a Bay Area resident out of Berkeley, Bundick morphs and changes in some way with each new output — that much is clear. And Chaz Bundick deserves all credit as the creative force behind Toro y Moi, but with this step toward group unification, perhaps it makes sense to dub Toro y Moi as a band instead of a stage name.

Setlist:
What You Want 

Buffalo 

New Beat 

High Living 

Half Dome 

Lilly 

Rose Quartz 

So Many Details 

Grown Up Calls 

Low Shoulder 

Still Sound 

The Flight 

Ratcliff 

Spell It Out 

Empty Nesters 

Campo 

Yeah Right 


Encore:
Why feat. Nate Salman 
(Les Sins cover)
Say That

Noise Pop 2015: Who made the ‘most’ of SF’s 12-day indie fest?

Caribou


Caribou at The Fillmore // Photo by Justin Yee

Photos by Justin Yee, Pedro Paredes, Mike Rosati, Alfonso Solis & Nicole Alfaro // Written by Molly Kish //

Noise Pop //
Bay Area venues – San Francisco & Oakland
February 20th-March 1st, 2015 //

2015 marked the Bay Area’s 23rd annual celebration of independent music, art, film and more, affectionately known as Noise Pop. Running 12 full days and taking place at more than 20 different venues throughout SF and the East Bay, this marathon party is best described as the West Coast version of South by Southwest.

Each year, Noise Pop highlights both the biggest stars within the independent music and art industries as well as emerging artists performing at the peak of their games and has always been ahead of the curve when it comes to booking their acts — and this year was no exception. Curating a demographic of music fans with limitless knowledge, expectations and preferential ranges, this festival never fails to create some of the most memorable experiences in live entertainment throughout the Bay Area.

Noise Pop remains one of our favorite times of the year, not only for its amazing lineups and exceptional performances, but also for its genuine ability to bring music and lifestyle connoisseurs from across the globe to extrapolate, communicate and participate in the independent culture of the Bay Area.

Here are some of our favorite moments from Noise Pop 2015.


Most Likely to Have a Hospital Bill: Ben Gibbard

Gibbard enlisted Sun Kill Moon’s Mark Kozelek to play guitar for him after breaking his wrist before his big opening night performance at the Swedish American Music Hall. We’re still surprised the notorious shit talker (Kozelek) didn’t give Gibbard a harder time about it, considering the last song off Kozelek’s Benji is titled “Ben’s My Friend” and is about how Kozelek went to the Greek Theatre in Berkeley to watch Gibbard play with The Postal Service before proceeding to have a mental breakdown.

Runner-up: PPL MVR

This second-place honor goes to SNWBLL after the band had to cancel its performance at Bottom of the Hill due to some unfortunate bladder issues.


The Black Ryder

Most Likely to Inspire 2015 Festival Fashion: The Black Ryder

Dark, brooding and beautifully tragic. Beyond the torrid love affair story and musical diatribe to accompany the duo of Aimee Nash and Scott Van Ryper, the band embodies its self-proclaimed “Rhinestone Drone” sound into a wicked wardrobe, guaranteed to materialize on the proverbial polo fields across the nation this summer.

Runner-up: Bestie

The Vancouver outfit brought some creativity to the merch table with fun and functional band gear, such as koozies and friendship bracelets, as you can see here via Instagram.

https://instagram.com/p/zjwd2OJ5-G/


Kindness

Most Bar-Raising Performance of the Festival: Kindness

“(Adam) Bainbridge grabbed one audience member’s cell phone out of its hands and filmed himself as well as the crowd with it at one point, elevating the crowd-interaction a notch. He sang from on top of the bar at stage left, walked into the crowd with his mic and made a huge lap while singing to individuals in the audience to end the night.”

Read the full review here.


Dan Deacon

Act Most Likely to Prompt a Mind-Altering Freak Out: Dan Deacon

“Layer upon insane layer of sound interprets into harmonious infectiousness, a feat that hints at an intersection of mathematical and creative genius. The guy takes all sorts of frequencies and cross sections of genre elements and composes it all together into a crescendo of weird, atypical pop. And by weird, I mean the very good kind of weird.”

Read the full review here.


Holly Herndon

Runner-up: Holly Herndon

“People laughed nervously as a slow burn of glitch sounds began to emerge, and before you knew it, her browsing gave way to an interactive, virtual world featuring two-dimensional cutouts of people floating about while strategically-placed cameras around the room recorded and projected images of the crowd, usually catching them unexpectedly on their phones, on two adjacent screens.”

Read the full review here.


Surfer Blood

Most Entertaining Attempt at a Cover Song: Surfer Blood

These guys covered “Hey Sandy” by Polaris, aka the theme song for “The Adventures of Pete & Pete.”

Runner-up: Girrafage‘s rendition of Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the USA”


Caribou

Most Likely to Be Headlining Future Festivals: Caribou

Absolutely destroying two back-to-back, sold-out nights at The Fillmore, Caribou’s live show is currently on a world tour, hitting all of the largest festival stages in its wake. We unanimously believe that this act will be one of the biggest of 2015 and are keeping our fingers crossed that they will be filling the empty spot in their August tour schedule with a stop at this year’s Outside Lands Music Festival.


Flight Facilities

Runner-up: Flight Facilities

“… to consider booking this lineup on a ‘school night’ at a venue with a max capacity of 1,424 people was a pretty bold call. Subsequently though, it was also one that paid off in easily the largest dance party of the festival.”

Read the full review here.


Les Sins

Most Likely to Break the “Local Music” Barrier: Les Sins

“Intermingling his own material with disco classics, 90’s pop jams and dirty trap beats, Bundick had the crowd on fire and easily could have prolonged the party well into the after hours had there been the option to do so.”

Read the full review here.

Geographer

Runner-up: Geographer

With a doctored lineup and powerful new songwriting approach, Mike Deni has taken full reign of the band’s beloved history of material and is moving forward into bold, uncharted territory — a leap of faith that just might cover the extra ground needed to penetrate a mainstream audience.


Les Sins get The New Parish grindin’

Les SinsPhotos by Justin Yee // Written by Molly Kish //

Les Sins with DJ Cali, DJ Dials //
The New Parish – Oakland
February 26th, 2015 //

Chaz Bundick is a man of many monikers. Known best as the “chillwave” movement ambassador and talent behind Toro y Moi, he also has ventured out into the world of experimental electronic music as both Sides of Chaz and Les Sins. Last week as part of the Noise Pop 2015 roster, the Bay Area was treated to a rare, live Les Sins set at one of Oakland’s most intimate venues, The New Parish.

Supported by opening acts DJ Cali and DJ Dials, Bundick delivered a late-night performance on the venue’s main stage for a sold-out, Thursday night crowd. While it was kind of a mixed bag as far as the attendance went, the audience took a minute to warm up to what most definitely wasn’t a simple Toro y Moi DJ set. Something Bundick had alluded to in the Noise Pop “Song Exploder” podcast earlier that day, Les Sins have always meant to be a completely separate project in which Bundick can explore obscure electronic soundscapes without alienating his Toro y Moi fan base.

Les Sins