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

David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium


David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Tim O’Shea

We have to be honest: 2018 was kind of a weird year for music. Sure, there were some major highlights — many of them listed below, in fact — but we also saw a serious changing of the guard. The decline of mainstream rock and the continued rise of hip-hop, R&B and pop was more noticeable than ever, from this year’s Coachella lineup to the cancellation of FYF Fest, making us wonder what the next twist or turn will be for the industry now that the demand for EDM has started to cool off following its boom circa 2012. That said, we still listened to a lot of new albums and caught plenty of concerts over the last 12 months, and it’s once again time for us to share our annual “Best of” lists, much like we have done over the past several years (see our 2017 picks here).

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2018.

See our favorite performances from 2018 here.

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


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018 // Photo courtesy of Coachella

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. Queens of the Stone Age at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – February 17th
Just more than two months after his infamous assault on a photographer at The Forum for KROQ’s Almost Acoustic Christmas, Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme made his return to the LA arena for a proper, sold-out affair with UK rock duo Royal Blood delivering what proved to be a headbanging opening set. From there, it only got better as Homme and the boys dazzled with a headlining performance that even included Villains producer Mark Ronson sitting in for most of the five-song encore and the band’s live debut of its “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” cover. You can bet Elton John, whom Homme actually collaborated with during the writing and recording of QOTSA’s sixth album …Like Clockwork, would have been proud. I always know when I’ve seen a good rock ‘n’ roll show because my neck will be sore the following day, but after this one, it was sore for the next three days. Ouch.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – December 12th, 14th-15th
3. Jamiroquai at Coachella, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 13th
4. David Byrne at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – August 24th
5. Foo Fighters/Nirvana reunion at Cal Jam 18 – San Bernadino, CA – October 6th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Jungle – For Ever
Unlike previous years, picking a favorite album in 2018 wasn’t quite as easy for me. I’ll admit that I didn’t hear every one that was released this year, but I listened to a lot of them. So, call me boring and short-sighted if you like, but nothing totally knocked my socks off. After much deliberation, it was Jungle’s sophomore LP For Ever that stood the test of time for me (no pun intended). The English soul collective’s follow-up to its 2014 self-titled debut doesn’t veer off in a completely different direction from what came before, but it still moves the sonic needle forward enough. After two full lengths, Jungle have shown a knack for writing catchy, dance-fueled tunes that transport you to a different time and place — even if it’s only for a three- or four-minute stretch.

2. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
3. Arctic Monkeys – Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino
4. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
5. Big Red Machine – Big Red Machine

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Nine Inch Nails – “Over and Out”
When I first listened to Bad Witch, I immediately knew this one was my favorite track on the album. But hearing it performed live on the final night of NIN’s “Cold and Black and Infinite” North American tour sealed it for top honors in 2018. Layering a brooding, yet funky bass line on top of a glitchy, experimental beat, Trent Reznor shows that he isn’t just playing it safe and merely saving his creativity for scoring films with bandmate and longtime collaborator Atticus Ross. You can tell Reznor had his late friend David Bowie in mind when he wrote the song too as he conjures up an even deeper baritone from behind the microphone than the one we have come to know over the last 30 years.

2. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
3. Jungle – “Heavy, California”
4. Wild Nothing – “Partners in Motion”
5. The Raconteurs – “Now That You’re Gone”


Richard Russell - Everything Is Recorded

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – August 16th
In support of his seventh solo album American Utopia, musical virtuoso David Byrne hit the road for one of this year’s most creative and ambitious tours. Over more than 150 dates that spanned the entire globe, the 66-year-old delivered Broadway-caliber performances with a traveling 11-piece band that served as a traveling retrospective of his solo and collaborative work. Meanwhile, the tour also doubled as a platform for him to deliver his “Reasons to Be Cheerful” manifestos on civic engagement, climate/energy, culture, economics, education, health, science/technology and urban transportation. He partnered with HeadCount while encouraging audiences every night to engage in public discourse through social media and their own personal stories on his website. And as a result, Byrne elevated the concert-going experience into more of an interactive, performance-art space that his fans became a living, breathing part of.

2. Young Fathers at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – November 10th
3. Erykah Badu & Thundercat at The Armory – San Francisco, CA – February 14th
4. Beck at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – August 8th
5. LCD Soundsystem with TV on the Radio at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – April 27th-28th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Richard Russell – Everything Is Recorded by Richard Russell
A multi-artist project released as the debut album of XL Recordings founder Richard Russell, Everything Is Recorded is collaborative effort representing the ties between past and present sounds currently shaping the framework of hip-hop, funk and soul. Featuring collaborations with Sampha, Kamasi Washington, Syd, Damon Albarn, Peter Gabriel, Ibeyi, Obongjayar and more, the album also plays as the soundtrack to a 30-minute film, which documents the time each spent in the studio during its conception and is interspliced with archival footage of Gil Scott-Heron and Curtis Mayfield. With its underlying themes of loss and isolation, Everything Is Recorded effectively communicates Russell’s emotional journey as he battles a debilitating autoimmune disease in hope of finding salvation through the shared experience of creating a beautifully mastered piece of art.

2. George Fitzgerald – All That Must Be
3. Pusha T – DAYTONA
4. Robyn – Honey
5. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
If any song embodied the insanity and collective discontent of 2018, it was definitely Childish Gambino’s epic single “This Is America”. The juxtaposition of an a cappella choir leading into Donald Glover’s soft crooning over island beats and drum samples before staunchly diverting to a menacing base line reminiscent of 90’s gangster rap — as well as the hortative delivery of degrading lyrics about the current state of violence and American ideals — is near-perfect. Of course, the provocative music video that accompanied the track’s surprise release during his “Saturday Night Live” debut was incredible. The song, lyrics, video and marketing campaign could not have been a more flawless “slice of life” reflection of modern American society and justifiably has boomeranged into probably the most important moment of Childish Gambino’s career so far.

2. The Presets – “Downtown Shutdown”
3. Jon Hopkins – “Everything Connected”
4. Jungle – “Casio”
5. Parquet Courts – “Wide Awake”


Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. David Byrne at Jazzfest – New Orleans, LA – April 29th
You know what they say: the first time is always the best. With David Byrne’s 2018 “American Utopia Tour” being universally acclaimed as one of the most enigmatic live shows of the year, it’s not surprising to see it top other “Best of” lists. Byrne and his merry band of “unplugged” pranksters created a feast for the eyes and ears, and his daytime set on the Gentilly Stage did not disappoint at all. While his Fox Theater Oakland shows were more intimate and featured some more dynamic lighting features, his performance at Jazzfest back in April was the most memorable for NOLA revelers.

2. Jamiroquai at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – April 17th
3. Polo & Pan at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – June 20th
4. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 4th
5. Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever at Primavera Sound – Barcelona, Spain – June 2nd

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Khruangbin – Con Todo El Mundo
What a banner year for this Texas trio! Khruangbin have been on a steady rise the past few years as they turn on the masses to their infectious amalgamation of psychedelic soul, Thai surf rock and subtle funk. Having cemented their reputation as beasts in a live setting, Con Todo El Mundo proved their knack for penning tunes of equal strength with its emotive first single “Friday Morning” serving as a clear standout. “Evan Finds the Third Room” has also become a fan favorite, and the accompanying music video only lends to its growing charm. The sky’s the limit for Laura, Mark and DJ, so grab your ticket to fly.

2. Hookworms – Microshift
3. Amen Dunes – Freedom
4. Shame – Songs of Praise
5. Stephen Malkmus and the Jicks – Sparkle Hard

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Jonathan Wilson – “Trafalgar Square”
LA producer-turned-frontman Jonathan Wilson churned out one helluva album opener for his third solo LP Rare Birds, as this six-plus-minute romp has all the right pieces for true liftoff. A proper intro leads into a riff so heavy that it’ll break your mama’s back. Top-notch production is key to this track, as Wilson is a wiz behind the boards. As you cruise down the 405 with this whopper blaring, you’d be hard-pressed not to nod along. Extra points for those of you with a 1970’s convertible, too.

2. Tom Misch – “Water Baby” feat. Loyle Carner
3. Childish Gambino – “This Is America”
4. Jonathan Something – “Happy Day”
5. Men I Trust – “Seven”


Shame - Songs of Praise

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2018
1. The Smashing Pumpkins at Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA – August 27th
The Smashing Pumpkins are the quintessential 90’s arena-rock band, and they fully lived up to that billing at Oracle Arena for their Bay Area stop over the summer. I’ve seen them several times over the years, and although this time it was pegged as a “reunion tour” (minus D’Arcy, sigh), you never know what you’re going to get from them. Billy Corgan led the band through over three hours’ worth of material with some killer stage production to go with it. The show was definitely a marathon, but totally worth being there for. It came to light later that Corgan was also fighting off a bad case of food poisoning, but it didn’t show. It was great to see James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain back onstage, too — the way it should be.

2. Nine Inch Nails at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – December 3rd
3. Against Me! & Turbonegro at UC Theatre – Berkeley, CA – May 25th
4. Alkaline Trio at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – October 6th
5. Back To The Beach Festival – Huntington Beach, CA – April 28th-29th

Top 5 Albums of 2018
1. Shame – Songs of Praise
This album hit me like a ton of bricks in the best way. I had heard a ton of hype around Songs of Praise before giving it a first listen, and usually I am a healthy skeptic, but good Lord, does this record rip. It has a dark flavor and carries with it a lot of angst, and you can’t help but get caught up in the hooks that Shame offer. These five lads from South London simply killed it.

2. IDLES – Joy as an Act of Resistance
3. Kamasi Washington – Heaven and Earth
4. Hot Snakes – Jericho Sirens
5. Snail Mail – Lush

Top 5 Songs of 2018
1. Shame – “Concrete”
Conjuring up the ghost of Joy Division’s Ian Curtis without sounding like a complete poser is challenging for newer post-punk bands it seems — except for Shame’s Charlie Steen. Paired with some brilliant instrumentation, I just couldn’t stop listening to “Concrete” when I first heard it. I must have listened to the track a solid 10 times in a row on the first go. This song has an infectious quality to it and is a straight-up ripper.

2. The Soft White Sixties – “I Still Love You, San Francisco”
3. Hot Snakes – “Six Wave Hold-Down”
4. IDLES – “Colossus”
5. The Sword – “Come and Gone”

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Treasure Island Music Festival 2018: A strong return for one of the Bay Area’s best live music events

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - JunglePhotos by Brendan Mansfield, Josh Withers, Paige K. Parsons & Josh Sanseri // Written by Brett Ruffenach //

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland
October 13th-14th, 2018 //

Treasure Island Music Festival is back. After 10 years on its namesake island, Another Planet Entertainment’s and Noise Pop’s two-day music and arts festival has returned in full form to its new home, the Middle Harbor Shoreline Park in Oakland.

A popular spot for open-air events, MHSP has become well-known for its sprawling natural grass, cool breeze and stunning sunsets revealing a silhouetted view of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline. Having hosted both hip-hop festival Blurry Vision and house music day party All Day I Dream in the past, the park has become a reliable space for large-scale events in the East Bay.

TIMF 2018 was no different. For the fest’s first iteration at this new venue, organization and logistics ran as smoothly as one may hope. Based on my own experience and the anecdotes shared by other festivalgoers throughout the weekend, arriving and leaving the festival was simple and stress-free; exiting both nights after the headliner finished and waiting to board the shuttle to the West Oakland BART station took no longer than 30 minutes, even at peak times. After transporting thousands of patrons on and off Treasure Island in years past, it’s not a surprise that the organizers were successful in keeping everything on course over the whole weekend.

The layout of the festival followed a similar logic to previous iterations: two stages at opposite ends of a large field, with artists playing back-to-back on each stage. This is where TIMF truly shines — to be able to see every artist on any music festival’s lineup is always a treat. Kicking off Saturday’s hip-hop and electronic-oriented artist roster was up-and-coming experimental rapper JPEGMAFIA. Using nothing but a laptop (managed by himself) and a mic, JPEGMAFIA spent much of his set in the crowd, rapping his manic flows atop noisy, blaring hip-hop beats.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - Moses Sumney


Moses Sumney

Later, Moses Sumney took the stage as a four-piece band, a new iteration of what has usually been a solo project. His sultry vocals, combined with some expanded instrumentation, made for a complete reinvention of the LA native’s live show. “Make Out in Your Car”, for example, featured an extremely groovy outro that gave the band backing the soulful singer-songwriter space to jam out for a second.

Sadly, as Sumney began his closing track “Plastic”, electronic duo Polo & Pan started their set on the opposite stage, quickly overtaking the airwaves across Middle Harbor. Polo & Pan have garnered considerable hype this year, and for good reason. The French duo seamlessly guided us through a 45-minute, non-stop dance party, layering bacchanalian melodies over thumping house beats that invoked a sense of being at a old-time carnival. It’s quite a unique sound that can really get a crowd moving.

As the afternoon progressed, artist after artist brought their best underneath the beating sun. Laff Trax is a new side project featuring Bay Area resident Chaz Bundick (aka Toro y Moi) and enigmatic electronic producer Nosaj Thing. In what really ended up being a B2B DJ set rather than a new musical project, the two DJs were impeccable in their selections.

Back at the main stage, Santigold celebrated the 10th anniversary of her self-titled debut LP by performing it in full. Another new DJ duo, Silk City, which was formed by All-Star record producers Mark Ronson and Diplo, shortly followed, keeping a small crowd moving leading up to the night’s two final acts: Pusha T and A$AP Rocky.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - Pusha T


Pusha T

Pusha T took The City stage right at set time, kicking off with an a capella intro to the opening track “If You Know You Know” from his most recent album Daytona. From there, it was “King Push” in full form — performing a setlist of nearly 20 songs, back to back to back, while never missing a beat. Throughout the set, Pusha and his DJ continuously proclaimed “DAYTONA … ALBUM OF THE YEAR!” And after he performed the whole disc from start to finish, including a word-perfect rendition of “Infared”, I might be inclined to agree.

Saturday headliner A$AP Rocky was an unfortunate disappointment. Due to what we think was technical difficulties, he didn’t take the stage until 37 minutes after his scheduled start time, killing more than half an hour. While he brought all the bells and whistles one would expect — pyrotechnics, strobe lights and a full backing band — when headlining a festival, you could tell he felt rushed and flustered trying to get through what they could before the strict noise curfew of 10 p.m. As a result, Rocky ended up being one of the more forgettable acts of the weekend.

Sunday at TIMF proved to be sublime. Offering just as much sunshine and warmth as Day 1, a perfectly sequenced day focused heavily on rock transpired. Pond, the first of four Australian acts to perform on the main stage, got things started for a noticeably large audience, many of who were likely Tame Impala fans arriving early to show their support for Jay Watson, who is in both bands. Next was Soccer Mommy, another one of this year’s indie darlings, as she and her sidekicks held their own playing tracks off her debut LP Clean, including excellent takes on “Your Dog” and “Cool”.

Alex Cameron, the second Australian act to take the main stage on Sunday, is a puzzling one. Picture “Macho Man” Randy Savage meeting Michael Jackson if you can. It’s part comedy bit, part completely serious 80’s dream-pop band. Cameron describes the project as a “dossier of evidence about the condition of being a straight white male.” Take from that what you will.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2018 - U.S. Girls


U.S. Girls

The marathon of music subsequently continued. Shame, a post-punk outfit that couldn’t have originated from anywhere except the UK, brought a breath of fresh air (and dust) to TIMF with their fast and loose instrumentation and leery vocal stylings. Sharon Van Etton unveiled what I see as version 2.0 of her music by adding some really gritty guitar and synthesizer sounds to her stunning vocals. We look forward to hearing her new album Remind Me Tomorrow, which comes out next year.

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

Tame Impala delivered what one might expect from one of the world’s top-touring rock bands right now. Running through a 17-song set full of hits, from “Alter Ego” to “The Less I Know the Better” on 2015’s Currents, the final Aussie act of the day left us with a special treat by playing “Jeremy’s Storm” from their debut album Innerspeaker for the first time in nearly five years.

After taking 2017 off and relocating to Oakland, TIMF has returned in full form and we are certainly thrilled about that. With great weather, excellent organization and a near-perfect sequencing of artists this year, it still happens to be one of the best live music events in the Bay Area. Who’s ready for 2019?

Can Treasure Island Music Festival regain its footing after a year off & a new location?

Treasure Island Music Festival - 2018 lineupWritten by Brett Ruffenach //

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland
October 13th-14th, 2018 //

With what seems like an endless amount of opportunities to see dozens of artists perform over a weekend in the Bay Area — Outside Lands, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Blurry Vision … the list goes on — Treasure Island Music Festival has spent the past decade establishing a foothold in Northern California’s festival scene through well-curated lineups and unique headliners such as Massive Attack, Atoms for Peace and Outkast, along with exciting emerging artists in pop, hip-hop, electronic and rock ‘n’ roll.

Best of all, TIMF is one of the few music festivals where you can see every single artist on the lineup. A two-stage event that staggers artists back-to-back for 12 hours straight, it’s ideal for those looking to discover some of the hottest live music acts on tour right now.

TIMF has gone through a couple changes over the years. Originally held on the northwestern end of its namesake island for the first nine years, organizers were forced to relocate the fest due to construction on new housing (what else would it be, of course?) in the area. And after what was an unfortunate 2016 installment due to bad weather and artist cancellations on the opposite end of Treasure Island, the festival took a break last year.

But TIMF has found a new home in Oakland’s Middle Harbor Shoreline Park. A new popular spot for open-air events, MHSP has become quite well-known for its sprawling natural grass, cool breeze right off the water and sunsets revealing a stunning, silhouetted view of the Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline. MHSP has proven to be a reliable space for festivals, with events like hip-hop festival Blurry Vision and house music day party All Day I Dream.

Treasure Island Music Festival - 2018 daily lineups

TIMF’s 2018 lineup features, top to bottom, some of the most interesting artists in pop, rock, hip-hop, electronic and all the experimental forms that cross them. In an era where hip-hop remains at the height of its popularity, TIMF 2018 includes artists behind some of the most provocative rap music released this year. JPEGMAFIA, a rapper hailing from Baltimore, is a standout among heavy hitters like Pusha T and A$AP Rocky. Blending experimental noise with booming beats behind maniacal flows, this is not one to be missed. He’s on at 12:40 p.m., so get there early, folks. You won’t regret it.

It’s hard to place a lot of these exciting artists in a specific genre. How can you capture the sweeping sounds of Moses Sumney? Take the soaring vocal traditions in gospel, then mix jazz, looped electronics and simple guitar chord progressions, and stir. Having hit pretty much every major music festival this year while also appearing at The Oscars with Sufjan Stevens, this buzzworthy artist lives up to the hype.

In a similar vein, serpentwithfeet will make an appearance to play the experimental sounds from his critically acclaimed album, entitled soil, that arrived in June. Alongside other genre-bending artists like Hiatus Kaiyote, a soul-meets-rock band bound to catch the interest of any first-time listener, there’s really no shortage of artists refusing to be placed in one category.

Joining the wide spectrum of hip-hop, R&B and jazz showcased on Saturday is a cavalcade of cutting-edge electronic projects, including easily one of the most exciting acts to emerge over the last year in French duo Polo & Pan.

Treasure Island Music Festival - 2018 map

Even more excitingly, TIMF will host two brand-new projects making their Bay Area debut: Laff Trax and Silk City. Hard to imagine what exactly to expect, but when you see that indie-pop artist and Berkeley native Toro y Moi is going B2B with the downtempo, enigmatic beats of Nosaj Thing, it’s hard not to have your hopes high. Similarly, Silk City will feature two of the biggest pop music producers in the world joining forces, Mark Ronson and Diplo. You’ll just have to be there to see what it’s like.

Guitars may seem like a thing of the past at other major music festivals (we’re looking at you, Coachella), but at TIMF, rock ‘n’ roll is thriving. With the current kings of psychedelic rock in Tame Impala leading the pack, the bands preceding them are sure to pack their own punch.

Among the most exciting are U.S. Girls, a pop project lead by the unique vocal stylings of Meghan Remy. Their most recent LP In a Poem Unlimited is destined to top many year-end lists, and we can only expect their live production to meet a similar standard. Sharon Van Etten, with her new-meets-old-school style, and Courtney Barnett, who possesses the most charming accent in the game and just played LA’s Greek Theatre (read our review here) this month, also will be there to showcase their latest material.

Be sure to hit the merch stand early, as TIMF will have a brand-new line of gear to celebrate their new home in Oakland. This year’s merch is presented in partnership with Oaklandish, which is a popular fashion line and retail store based in Oakland. They’ll be printing all of this year’s merch locally in their warehouse, and they’ve also been tapped to design a new collaborative item specific to 2018. The company will also have a pop-up booth at TIMF for those looking to explore additional apparel and accessories. Plus, there will be a variety of Oakland and East Bay food trucks to keep things local and of course, your bellies full.

Who are you most excited to see? What are your pro tips for this weekend?