The Raconteurs show all at the Santa Barbara Bowl why we need them after 11 years between albums

The RaconteursPhotos courtesy of The Raconteurs & David James Swanson // Written by Josh Herwitt //

The Raconteurs with Melvins //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
July 27th, 2019 //

“Rock is dead.”

It’s one of those overused catch phrases we have clung to at a time when clickbait headlines, Twitter beefs and heartbreaking stories now dominate our news feeds and timelines.

Vice’s music channel Noisey made the case only a year ago in fact, explaining that “the genre has been eclipsed in all measures of popularity and profitability by pop, hip-hop, and EDM.”

But whatever the metrics say, this isn’t the first time that argument has been advanced before.

The Raconteurs

In Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film “Almost Famous” for those who remember it, renowned music journalist and rock critic Lester Bangs tells a 15-year-old William Miller, “It’s just a shame you missed out on rock and roll.” That didn’t stop Miller from chasing his dream, though. After all, his character is based off of Crowe’s real-life experience covering rock bands like Led Zeppelin as a teenager in the early 70’s, and if anything, Miller proves over the course of the movie that the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll is alive and well, that it hadn’t died by the end of the 60’s like a lot of the counterculture had after Altamont.

Much like then, there are plenty of examples today that make us question the current zeitgeist surrounding rock music and The Raconteurs have the distinct honor of being some of the best in the business right now to dispel this notion after landing at No. 1 on the Billboard 200.

With the release of its third studio effort Help Us Stranger in late June after more than 11 years between albums, the four-piece consisting of Jack White (vocals, guitar, keyboards), Brendan Benson (vocals, guitar), Jack Lawrence (bass) and Patrick Keeler (drums) is finally back in the spotlight where it belongs — and for good reason.

While there are still a few months to go, we can say with confidence at this point that Help Us Stranger will most likely be one of our five favorite LPs from 2019 (see our 2018 picks here). At 41 minutes, it’s another gem from The Raconteurs and especially for White, who continues to put out music at a prolific rate — he just dropped his third solo LP Boarding House Reach last year on his own Third Man Records — that rarely seems to fall flat or short.

The Raconteurs

Led by “Sunday Driver” and “Now That You’re Gone” as its first two singles, Help Us Stranger is one of those albums you can pop on and listen to from start to finish. Its most abrasive cut “Don’t Bother Me” struggles at the onset but recovers midway through thanks in large part to White’s virtuosic guitar work. There are plenty of other standouts, though, including “Bored and Razed”, “Help Me Stranger”, “Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)” and “What’s Yours Is Mine” across the record, and it’s impressive how tight The Racs sound despite the long layoff.

On a Saturday night at the picturesque Santa Barbara Bowl — which we’ll argue is the best music venue in Southern California and where we caught White’s first-ever show there last year — The Raconteurs brought those songs to life as they stormed onstage and unleashed total sonic bliss on our ears with a 90-minute performance highlighted by Consolers of the Lonely tracks “You Don’t Understand Me” and “Carolina Drama”, the latter of which came during an extended encore that was capped off by the quartet’s biggest hit “Steady, as She Goes” and what ultimately inspired White and Benson to form the group back in 2005 as a couple of longtime friends from Detroit. All of this, of course, without having access to our mobile phones after locking them in a Yondr pouch and Dean Fertita (Queens of the Stone Age, The Dead Weather) assisting on keyboards and guitar as a touring member.

So hey, maybe this will be the year rock rebounds. For this music writer, it’s starting to feel that way with the return of new Raconteurs material after more than a decade and another one of our favorite rock bands releasing its first album in 13 years later this month (we’ll let you take a guess). Plus, we didn’t even mention that garage-rock duo The Black Keys issued their first record in five years this summer.

Yet, even if rock ‘n’ roll doesn’t attain the same commercial success it once had, those of us who are still giving it our time and ears at least have The Raconteurs (or “The Saboteurs” if you live Down Under). And that, my friends, should be a blessing in and of itself.

Setlist:
Bored and Razed
Level
You Don’t Understand Me
Old Enough
Broken Boy Soldier
Only Child
Together
Now That You’re Gone
Live a Lie
Don’t Bother Me
Sunday Driver

Encore:
Consoler of the Lonely
Help Me Stranger
Somedays (I Don’t Feel Like Trying)
Hey Gyp (Dig the Slowness) (Donovan cover)
Carolina Drama
Steady, as She Goes

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”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Cal Jam 18: The closest we might ever get to seeing Nirvana perform as Foo Fighters take us ‘way back’

Cal Jam 18 - Foo FightersBy Josh Herwitt //

Cal Jam 18 //
Glen Helen Regional Park & Festival Grounds – San Bernardino, CA
October 6th, 2018 //

When Dave Grohl decided last year to revive the original California Jam (or Cal Jam for short), there was something intriguing about the Foo Fighters turning a once-banner event into their own mini music festival.

After all, this was the same event that Deep Purple and Emerson, Lake & Palmer co-headlined at the now-demolished Ontario Motor Speedway in the spring of 1974, with Black Sabbath, the Eagles, Earth, Wind & Fire and more rounding out the bill.

But as major music festivals on U.S. soil have started to move away from rock ‘n’ roll — take a look at this year’s Coachella lineup if you don’t believe us — there have been fewer and fewer that are embracing the roughly 70-year-old genre.

That hasn’t deterred Grohl, though. In fact, it has only enticed him to bring Cal Jam back for a second straight year following a stellar 2017 edition that included the Foo Fighters, Queens of the Stone Age, Cage the Elephant, Liam Gallagher, The Kills, Royal Blood, Japandroids and so many more, including the UK’s latest Mercury Prize winners, Wolf Alice.

And although Cal Jam’s 2018 cast wasn’t quite as eye-popping as the one that took Glen Helen Regional Park by storm last October, it continued to expand in both size and scope with a new comedy tent on the grounds and a pop-up event in LA six weeks before that saw the Foos play a rare show as The Holy Shits, a secret moniker the band hasn’t used since 2014.

Cal Jam 18 - Greta Van Fleet


Greta Van Fleet

For this year’s installment, Grohl and company assembled another rock-centric roster, turning to legends like Iggy Pop with Post Pop Depression (featuring members of Queens of Stone Age and Arctic Monkeys), Tenacious D and Garbage as well as rising stars such as Greta Van Fleet, Manchester Orchestra and The Front Bottoms. Silversun Pickups were also originally listed on the bill, but were forced to cancel their appearance due to “unforeseen circumstances.” While it was certainly a bummer that the LA alt-rockers couldn’t make it out to San Bernardino, that didn’t stop us from making the 70-mile trek to the country’s largest outdoor music venue on a warm fall Saturday.

By the time we got through security and stepped inside the gates, Manchester Orchestra had just finished their 45-minute set on the main stage, which essentially was the 65,000-person Glen Helen Amphitheater that was constructed back in 1982 for the first US Festival. Next up was Greta Van Fleet, and boy, do these kids know how to rock. Zeppelin clearly runs deep in these four Michiganders’ veins, as they showcased songs off their forthcoming debut album Anthem of the Peaceful Army with frontman Josh Kiszka commanding the stage and offering his best Robert Plant impression. He even dresses the part, sporting some tight, white jeans with a water-colored blouse and necklace of feathers while his brothers Jake and Sam wore vests or shirts that looked like what you would find at a vintage clothing store.

If Greta Van Fleet evoked the spirit of the 70’s during their hour-long gig, Garbage made sure to conjure up plenty of 90’s nostalgia as Shirley Manson arrived onstage with red hair pulled back, a stripe of red face paint over her eyes, a red choker and a black-and-white ombré faux fur coat because it couldn’t have been real given her well-publicized support for PETA dating back more than a decade. Manson would eventually shed that one layer of warmth, revealing a black romper, red sweatbands and red fishnet stockings underneath as she and her cohorts — Duke Erikson (guitar, bass, keyboards), Steve Marker (guitar) and famed Nirvana producer Butch Vig (drums, percussion) — opened with their 2017 single “No Horses” on a surprisingly overcast day. Yet, the most memorable moment of Garbage’s performance came during “Only Happy When It Rains” — not because it’s still the quartet’s most popular song to this day, but because a few sprinkles, coincidentally enough, dropped from the dark, ominous sky. Hey, at least Manson must have been happy, right?

Night fell over the Inland Empire shortly thereafter, with Jack Black and Kyle Gass taking the stage for Tenacious D’s first full LA show since Festival Supreme in 2016. Though the 11-song performance hinged on the comedy rock duo’s previous studio material, the D are preparing to release their fourth album — and first in six years — Post-Apocalypto next month. “Double Team” from their 2001 self-titled debut LP, in the meantime, featured snippets of Van Halen’s “Panama” and Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” before they encored with their cheeky tune “Fuck Her Gently” as the two actors/musicians have been known to do. Nevertheless, it was nice to see Black and Gass back onstage rocking out and making us chuckle because when you start to look around, there still aren’t too many who do what they do.

The same can be said for James Osterberg Jr., or more famously, Iggy Pop. At the age of 71, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer hasn’t slowed down, and this was a particularly special occasion with his Post Pop Depression backing band after their 2016 world tour. Truth be told, anytime we get to see Queens of the Stone Age leader Josh Homme play is a treat, and with bandmates Troy Van Leeuwen and Dean Fertita as well as Arctic Monkeys drummer Matt Helders joining him, you couldn’t ask for a better group of musicians to showcase Iggy Pop’s massive catalog as a solo artist. To begin, the foursome jumped right into the title track on Iggy Pop’s Lust for Life, his 1977 commercial success, and from there delivered cuts from his other David Bowie-produced album The Idiot and Post Pop Depression. But the leathery, shirtless punk rocker is also a real hoot, and he showed his general appreciation for those of us who stood there and watched him let loose on the main stage, offering an emphatic “fucking thanks!” after pretty much every song ended. In that case … you’re fucking welcome, Iggy.

Cal Jam 18 - Garbage


Garbage

Iggy Pop was a strong lead-in to the Foo Fighters’ headlining spectacle, which was supposed to start at 9:45 p.m. but actually kicked off 15 minutes prior. That’s because, after dropping a little hint earlier in the week, the Foos had something up their sleeves, but more on that in a jiffy. Grohl couldn’t have been in a much better mood, and in a lot of ways, Cal Jam feels like his own personal playground, from the fest’s outdoor movie theatre to the Foo Fighters Rock ‘N’ Roll Museum that’s filled with tons of memorabilia from the past 25 years. But Grohl also made a point on this night to celebrate the band’s history by playing one hit single after the next in chronological order, starting with “Run” and “The Sky Is a Neighborhood” on 2017’s Concrete and Gold and finishing with “For All the Cows” and “This Is a Call” from their 1995 self-titled debut. It was a little trip down memory lane, Foo Fighters style, even though there was more in store for us. What would follow we may never have the opportunity to see again.

As the Foos left the stage for their encore break, we waited patiently for them to return. The crowd, by now, had been taken for a two-hour ride with Grohl firmly at the wheel, pumping adrenaline into our veins with every minute that passed as the Foo Fighters know how to do so well during their usual two-and-a-half-hour jaunts. The video screens on each side of the stage were black until suddenly some backstage footage appeared showing Grohl with Krist Novoselic and what looked like Joan Jett. All of that would end up coming true in the last 30 minutes of Cal Jam 18, but it was a six-song encore with Grohl on drums, Novoselic on bass, the Foo Fighters’ Pat Smear on guitar and Deer Tick frontman John McAuley on both vocals and guitar as Kurt Cobain’s fill-in who got us hyped. Nirvana fans have waited 25 years for a reunion since Cobain’s sudden passing, and when you put it in perspective, it will probably go down as one of the year’s biggest surprises, even at a time in music when many industry experts say that rock now stands in the shadows of hip-hop and EDM. “Serve the Servants” came first, then “Scentless Apprentice” and “In Bloom” as McCauley, who played just a few hours earlier on the festival’s Sun Stage with Deer Tick, sang with the same kind of strain in his voice to make us think Kurt was actually up there.

But what about Jett? Well, the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll followed McCauley’s performance with three songs herself, including “Breed”, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and finally “All Apologies” with Novoselic strapping on his accordion and Brody Dalle of The Distillers (Homme’s wife) taking over bass duties. This wasn’t the first time, however, that Jett had performed Nirvana material with Grohl, Novoselic and Smear. In 2014, the singer-songwriter joined the three of them onstage for “Smells Like Teen Spirit” during the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction ceremony. So while Jett wasn’t exactly making history with this cameo, it was still surreal to see Grohl paying homage to his former band with other All-Star musicians at what has now become the Foos’ annual hometown fest in a matter of two years.

Will Cal Jam be back in 2019? Can it survive Southern California’s ultra-competitive festival scene at a time when proven, well-funded ones like FYF Fest seemingly can’t?

We sure think so and hope so. With the oversaturation of three-day music festivals all over the world, there’s something refreshing and relaxing about watching a bunch of a great bands for a reasonable price over the course of one day. And if we learned anything from Cal Jam 18, it’s that you can never underestimate Dave Grohl or the power of rock ‘n’ roll.

Weezer show a sold-out crowd in their hometown that they can still be wildly entertaining

WeezerBy Josh Herwitt //

Weezer & Pixies with Sleigh Bells //
The Forum – Inglewood, CA
August 8th, 2018 //

It has always been hard for me to take Weezer completely seriously. Of course, when one of your oldest and biggest hits is called “Undone – The Sweater Song” while others like “Pork and Beans” and “(If You’re Wondering If I Want You to) I Want You to” have cultivated their own commercial success, it’s easy to think that the Los Angeles foursome must have shared the stage with Green Jellÿ, Tenacious D or “Weird Al” Yankovic at one point in time over the last 26 years.

Well, one of those whimsical pairings actually became a reality last Wednesday. With a sold-out audience at The Forum welcoming them home during their 30-date, North American co-headlining tour with the Pixies, frontman Rivers Cuomo (lead vocals, lead guitar, keyboards) and his cohorts — Patrick Wilson (drums), Brian Bell (guitar, backing vocals, keyboards) and Scott Shriner (bass, backing vocals) — gave many of us exactly what we wanted to hear near the end of a 20-song set: their now-viral cover of Toto’s single “Africa” from the group’s 1982 album Toto IV.

But what we didn’t expect to see midway through the tune was Cuomo introducing “Weird Al” Yankovic, who stepped onstage in one of his patented Hawaiian shirts and accordion in hand to perform the last half of it with the band. The crowd erupted upon the announcement, with many shocked by what they were witnessing. For me though, the surprise cameo only further validated some of those preconceptions I had about Weezer being one of rock’s goofiest acts.

Pixies


Pixies

That’s not to say that Cuomo isn’t a talented musician. In fact, quite the opposite is true. The Harvard grad shreds without question, something I never really realized until he uncorked a number of guitar solos, whether it was during “Buddy Holly” to open Weezer’s performance or “Say It Ain’t So” (with a snippet of Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid”) to put a bow on the show. And while there aren’t many lead singers who can do both, Cuomo certainly remains among some elite company, with Jack White, Trey Anastasio (Phish), Jim James (My Morning Jacket) and Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) also immediately coming to mind.

Cuomo, however, might have all of them beat in one category: costumes. Appearing first in his preppy sweater-and-tie look, he eventually changed into a soccer jersey before later wearing a classic Nirvana T-shirt with the sleeves cut off. If anything, it was even more proof that Weezer don’t take themselves too seriously, considering that the only rock star who I’ve seen live with more costume changes than Cuomo is Axl Rose (and that shouldn’t be very surprising). It’s all part of the band’s playful attitude at the end of the day, and despite the political state that we currently find ourselves in, many of us could use a good laugh or at least a chuckle from time to time (I know I could).

After watching Cuomo and company do their thing for a little more than an hour, there’s no doubt that I have newfound respect for Weezer now. Selling out a 17,505-person arena in the middle of the week is no easy feat, even if the Pixies, who ripped through their own 22-song set in the same amount of time, were on the bill. But there’s a reason why Weezer have been performing second on this tour, and it’s simply because they’re still one of rock’s most wildy entertaining bands out there today — with or without Mr. Yankovic by their side.

WEEZER

Setlist:
Buddy Holly
Beverly Hills
Pork and Beans
Undone – The Sweater Song
Hash Pipe
Perfect Situation
My Name Is Jonas
El Scorcho
In the Garage
The Good Life
Happy Together (The Turtles cover) (with a snippet of “Longview” by Green Day)
Keep Fishin’ (Brian Bell on vocals)
Island in the Sun (Rivers Cuomo solo acoustic)
Take on Me (a‐ha cover) (Rivers Cuomo solo acoustic)
Burndt Jamb (Brian Bell on vocals; with lyrics from “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana)
(If You’re Wondering If I Want You to) I Want You to
Feels Like Summer
Africa (Toto cover) (with “Weird Al” Yankovic)

Encore:
Susanne
Say It Ain’t So (with a snippet of “Paranoid” by Black Sabbath)

PIXIES

Setlist:
Gouge Away
Wave of Mutilation
U-Mass
Um Chagga Lagga
Isla de Encanta
Caribou
All the Saints
Cactus
Nimrod’s Son
Mr. Grieves
All I Think About Now
Debaser
Classic Masher
Monkey Gone to Heaven
I’ve Been Tired
Head On (The Jesus and Mary Chain cover)
Tame
Hey
Gigantic
Wave of Mutilation (UK Surf)
Where Is My Mind?
Vamos

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2017

Coldplay at Levi's Stadium


Coldplay at Levi’s Stadium // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Steve Carlson

Let’s be frank: 2017 had its ups and downs. And when it came to the political sector in this country, it was mostly the latter during Year 1 of the Trump administration. But as art often does in times of turmoil, music flourished in new and exciting ways. From stripper-turned-rapper Cardi B topping the charts to veteran alt-psych rockers Portugal. The Man filling the airwaves for Top 40 radio stations all over America, there were plenty of unexpected twists and turns this year. Amid all of them, we still managed to consume a healthy diet of music, both live and recorded, and once again it’s time for us to ante up our annual “Best of” lists, much like we have done each of the past few years (see our 2016 picks here).

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2017.

See our favorite performances from 2017 here.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2017:


Nine Inch Nails at FYF Fest 2017


Nine Inch Nails at FYF Fest 2017 // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2017
1. Tool at The Gorge Amphitheatre – George, WA – June 17th
What could be a better bachelor party than getting to watch your favorite band at the most scenic outdoor music venue in the U.S.? Seeing any concert at The Gorge would likely be a surreal experience, but my first trip to Washington’s holy grail was that much more special with Tool returning to the amphitheater for the first time since 2006. And even though their gap between albums has stretched to more than 10 years, Maynard and company still know how to elevate the live show to new heights both sonically and visually. Talk about a dream come true for this die-hard fan.

2. Nine Inch Nails at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – July 23rd
3. LCD Soundsystem at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – November 18th
4. Gorillaz at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – October 5th
5. Radiohead at Coachella, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 14th

Top 5 Albums of 2017
1. The War on DrugsA Deeper Understanding
Adam Granduciel had to know that it would take a monumental effort to match, let alone top, 2014’s Lost in the Dream (one of our favorite albums that year), but The War on Drugs’ primary songwriter and band leader delivered another masterpiece in late August with the release of A Deeper Understanding. It’s an album that will touch your heart and soothe your soul as the LP moves seamlessly from one track to the next, and you’d be hard-pressed to find a much better soundtrack for the road over the last 10-15 years. A Deeper Understanding doesn’t need to win a Grammy in 2018 to validate its legitimacy as an Album of the Year candidate, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt either.

2. Slowdive – Slowdive
3. The xx – I See You
4. The National – Sleep Well Beast
5. Grizzly BearPainted Ruins

Top 5 Songs of 2017
1. The War on Drugs – “Holding On”
There’s something about Adam Granduciel’s guitar playing that will make you want to play air guitar, and maybe no better example of that is the second single from The War on Drugs’ fourth studio album A Deeper Understanding. For nearly six minutes, Granduciel takes his listeners on a ride through peaks and valleys, as the song finishes with him doing what he does best: shredding. But what makes “Holding On” even more powerful is its music video starring actor Frankie Faison, who plays a middle-aged man coping with his wife’s passing. It’s a sad, yet touching story written by Granduciel’s girlfriend, Krysten Ritter, that offers an important reminder about love and just how precious it is.

2. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”
3. Washed Out – “Hard to Say Goodbye”
4. The National – “The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness”
5. Nine Inch Nails – “Less Than”


Sigur Rós at Greek Theatre Berkeley


Sigur Rós at Greek Theatre Berkeley // Photo by James Nagel

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2017
1. Solange at FORM Arcosanti – Arcosanti, AZ – May 12th
Taking the stage in the amphitheater of Arcosanti, a scenic artist compound that’s built into the canyons sitting north of Phoenix, Solange and her nine-piece crew brought her critically acclaimed LP A Seat at the Table to life right before our eyes. As an album entrenched in the modern experience of the black woman, Solange’s live production turned these themes into one visually stunning, intricately choreographed and sonically vibrant experience, coupled with a subtle balance of strength and vulnerability. Deep bass, soaring harmonies and tight rhythms made each song a joy to watch, including older hits like “T.O.N.Y.” After a year that was as emotionally taxing as 2017 was, it was a breath of fresh air to watch Solange present her own truth, her own experience with such bravado and mastery.

2. Gorillaz at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 11th
3. Sigur Rós at Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA – April 8th
4. Mitski at FORM Arcosanti – Arcosanti, AZ – May 13th
5. Kevin Morby at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – September 23rd

Top 5 Albums of 2017
1. Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
Pure Comedy captures a different perspective in this politically drenched culture we’re in now — one that chooses to embrace the insanity of it all and laugh, as privileged and unhelpful as that might be. “She’s like, ‘Oh great, that’s just what we all need / Another white guy in 2017 / Who takes himself so goddamn seriously'” croons Josh Tillman. His lyrics in “Leaving LA” are just one of several scores of quotable lines that fill this nihilist-yet-comforting, saddening-yet-hilarious album. Being a privileged white man who lives in a liberal bubble, this album marks the definition of a guilty pleasure for me. Pleasure, because it is sharp, honest and bold. Guilt, because I am capable of even laughing in the first place.

2. Broken Social Scene – Hug of Thunder
3. Sylvan Esso – What Now
4. Lorde – Melodrama
5. Brockhampton – SATURATION II

Top 5 Songs of 2017
1. Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile – “Over Everything”
Its jangly guitars and wonky rhythm, combined with the chemistry of Courtney Barnett’s and Kurt Vile’s singing and occasional harmonizations, make “Over Everything” my favorite song of 2017. It’s an instant earworm — the cadence of Barnett’s and Vile’s lyricism gives the duo a distinct identity but still allows them to come together at the right moments to make the song feel whole. And after watching them make their live debut at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass earlier this year, they continue to raise my spirits and remind me to wear earplugs.

2. Real Estate – “Darling”
3. Selena Gomez – “Bad Liar”
4. Kendrick Lamar – “DNA.”
5. Bonobo – “Bambro Koyo Ganda”


J.I.D at Day N Night Fest 2017


J.I.D at Day N Night Fest 2017 // Photo by Rochelle Shipman

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2017
1. J.I.D at Day N Night Fest – Anaheim, CA – September 9th
The J. Cole-signed rapper proved to be much more than just another name from Atlanta with a nonstop, energetic set that established him as a young goat. Keep tabs on this one.

2. Sonder at The Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever – Los Angeles, CA – April 19th
3. Anderson .Paak & The Free Nationals at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – July 21st
4. Gorillaz at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 11th
5. Erykah Badu at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – July 22nd

Top 5 Albums of 2017
1. Smino – blkswn
This album brings nothing but warm vibes and impressive wordplay from the fast-rising St. Louis emcee. Since it dropped in March, not a week goes by that I don’t bump this debut for me and all my neighbors.

2. Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
3. Dirty Projectors – Dirty Projectors
4. Phoebe Bridgers – Stranger in the Alps
5. Tyler, the Creator – Flower Boy

Top 5 Songs of 2017
1. Smino – “Anita”
The dude rhymes “ice cream” with “chocolate” and gets away with it. Enough said.

2. Cardi B – “Bodak Yellow”
3. Dirty Projectors – “Up in Hudson”
4. Vince Staples – “Love Can Be…”
5. Phoebe Bridgers – “Funeral”


Slowdive - Slowdive

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2017
1. Slowdive at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – October 28th
This was my first time seeing Slowdive, and they completely took my breath away. It was one of those perfect shows in which the sound was on point, the band brought its A game and the visual elements complimented the music just right. They played cuts from their entire catalog, and by the end of the night, the audience was completely happy.

2. Quicksand at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – September 8th
3. LCD Soundsystem at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – November 15th
4. Band Together Bay Area: Metallica, G-Eazy, Rancid, Dave Matthews, Dead & Company and Raphael Saadiq at AT&T Park – San Francisco, CA – November 9th
5. Roger Waters at Oracle Arena – Oakland, CA – June 10th

Top 5 Albums of 2017
1. Slowdive – Slowdive
A totally perfect album from start to finish. There have been a lot of bands that have emulated Slowdive’s dream-pop/shoegaze sound over the past few years, but this album, their first in 22 years, proves why the UK group is one of the genre’s true originals. Lush soundscapes, paired with gorgeous vocals, made for what was easily my most-listened-to album of the year.

2. LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
3. Quicksand – Interiors
4. Versing – Nirvana
5. Hobosexual – Monolith

Top 5 Songs of 2017
1. Quicksand – “Illuminant”
I had been waiting so patiently for the new Quicksand album to drop, and when they released this single, it was one of those completely satisfying musical moments. From that opening riff to the breakdown, “Illuminant” showcases the post-hardcore band’s evolution since the early 90’s while remaining true to its roots. Interiors is a fantastic album front to back, but this song is the one that stands out the most.

2. Slowdive – “Star Roving”
3. Elbow – “Magnificent (She Says)”
4. LCD Soundsystem – “Call the Police”
5. Versing – “Body Chamber”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Outside Lands 2017: Our 10th anniversary awards

Outside Lands 2017Photos by Marc Fong & James Pawlish // Written by Kevin Quandt & Molly Kish //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 11th-13th, 2017 //

Outside Lands celebrated its 10th anniversary this August, and it was a weekend that we can definitively say had its share of ups, downs and unexpected twists. While many found plenty to gripe about, some took away a more positive experience, proving that music festivals and live music events are truly unpredictable even when you have some of the best in business at the helm. That said, the increasingly over-inflated market of music festivals right now can be volatile and may not be a cakewalk for concert promoters as more and more folks are drawn to large-scale events such as Lollapalooza, Coachella and Outside Lands.

Some stated that the 2017 edition of OSL lacked fireworks when the lineup dropped. Others said the lineup catered closer to the 25-35 demographic. There was no lack of opinions with regard to the acts that Another Planet Entertainment and Superfly booked, but it was clear they did have a vision and a bill that stood apart from the pack with a rare group of festival legends in The Who, Gorillaz and Metallica. Below those names led to further intrigue with the return of Queens of the Stone Age, Fleet Foxes and A Tribe Called Quest after a multiyear absence from the live arena.

But many now know that two out of those three sub-headliners were unable to perform for one reason or another, and while these sorts of things are generally out of anyone’s hands, they still take a toll on everyone involved in the days, hours and even minutes leading up to those highly anticipated sets. Alas, when you have such festival production pros who were backed by three insanely spot-on headliners, these bumps in the road can create something different than initially intended, yet equally satisfying.

So, without further ado, here are our awards from the 2017 edition of Outside Lands.


Outside Lands 2017 - Gorillaz


Gorillaz

Best three-time OSL performer: Hamilton Leithauser
One highlight this year was the debut of Hamilton Leithauser’s solo act on the Sutro Stage. Having played the festival in 2008 and 2012 with his primary outfit, The Walkmen, his set marked the rare occasion of an artist performing at Outside Lands for the third time, and while Leithauser did have to battle some minor sound issues, he rallied past them like the consummate professional that he is. Short of “Alexandra”, Leithauser exclusively dug into tracks from his collaborative album with fellow New Yorker Rostam Batmanglij (formerly of Vampire Weekend) by the name of I Had a Dream That You Were Mine. The spirited crooner still remains at the top of his game, and his vocal performance can’t be rivaled by even the best. One can only hope that this will not be Leithauser’s final time onstage at OSL as fans clamor to know what’s next from this crooning, indie god. -KQ

Best cameo’d performance of the weekend: Gorillaz
Easily one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, Gorillaz’s Humanz tour made its West Coast debut on Day 1 at OSL. After a six-year hiatus, expectations ran extremely high for this headlining performance. On previous tours, the band’s members had played second fiddle to the cartoon projections of their alter egos onstage, but everyone was visible this time around. Several collaborators from Gorillaz’s previous albums, including Kali Uchis, Yukimi Nagano and Del the Funky Homosapien, came out to join them, and the Damon Albarn-led group still pulled some even bigger surprises with cameos appearances from De la Soul and Pusha T. The two-hour set also saw Little Simz deliver a blistering performance of “Garage Palace” as well as a string of radio hits that included “Feel Good Inc.”, Clint Eastwood” and “Demon Daze”. With longtime fans and a new generation of contemporaries on hand, there was something truly special about seeing a packed crowd sing along with some cartoon legends. -MK

Best reason to sit in Golden Gate Park with your friends and listen to music: Real Estate
Real Estate continue to tour off this year’s stellar LP release, In Mind, and they demonstrated their live prowess at OSL with a sphincter-tight set of jangle pop. “Stained Glass” got the show started for the rather sizable crowd, which only grew over their allotted time. The Sutro Stage has become an ideal locale for mellower acts to play for slightly-more-seated audiences, and this set felt more loungey than others even though fan favorites “It’s Real” and “Green Aisles” punctuated a strong, breezy performance from Martin Courtney, Alex Bleeker and crew. -KQ

Most in need of performance pointers: KAYTRANADA
KAYTRANADA’s debut LP 99.9% was a highlight from 2016, and the Canadian producer has been continuing his victory lap with banner festival sets all around the world. While there’s no denying the infectious nature of his tracks like “Glowed Up” and “Got It Good” in a large-group setting, we yearn to get a little more out KAYTRA when he’s onstage. To be fair, he has loosened up a little and will toss a quick little dance move or hand gesture, but he still really doesn’t engage his audience much, whether it’s in the intimate confines of Mezzanine or in front of 25,000 strong at Outside Lands’ Twin Peaks Stage. Kay, like many others, was pretty stoked for A Tribe Called Quest to follow, but we all know how that ended. -KQ

Outside Lands 2017 - Cage the Elephant


Cage the Elephant

Next “big” rock headliner (TIE): Cage the Elephant and Royal Blood
While the cancellation of Queens of the Stone Age was a blow a week prior to the event, the replacement that was lined up more than delivered a blistering set of rock ‘n’ roll. Cage the Elephant are now being widely considered festival-headliner material, and frontman Matt Shultz is making a strong claim for that accolade as he continues to elevate his stage act to near-Mick Jagger levels of pomp and energy. “Come a Little Closer” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked” received hearty sing-alongs from a decidedly youthful crowd as Cage have become a favorite of Generation Z.

But Cage did have some competition at OSL, and these guys are moving at a helluva pace for the crown. Royal Blood have been one of the hottest rock acts over the past few years. I mean, their first single wasn’t even released four years ago. Royal Blood quickly rose to fame in the UK, then set their sights on Europe and lately have become the new darlings of alt-rock radio here in the U.S. with one of their newest singles, “Lights Out”. The bass-and-drums duo make a serious racket for only two blokes onstage, but they put on a show that rivals any full-band act with four or five members. Similar to Cage, the kiddos were swirling up a decent little pit in front of the stage while Mike Kerr belted out an impressive setlist with minimal effort and contributed to the low end in a serious manner. -KQ

Best use of Thai funk in a group setting: Khruangbin
Sure, many think K-bin (short for “Khruangbin”) have Thai origins with their Thai name (which means “airplane”) and their Thai funk-infused groove rock. But this rising trio that met and formed in Texas have steadily built a following based around an infectious sound that feels home both on the dance floor and at the lounge. Mark Speer on guitar is a phenom to behold; his playing style, coupled with his tone, has a true lyrical quality that’s perfect for the trio, which opted to not have a lead vocalist. It was clear that the band, like many fans in attendance, were bummed about ATCQ’s sudden cancellation, so they decided to bring one of their classics, “Electric Relaxation”, to life as drummer Donald Johnson delivered the chorus. Many chuckled and grooved to the track before the band jumped back into a set that featured “Mr. White” and “The Infamous Bill”. We can only hope a sophomore LP is not too far off. -KQ

Best use of a festival billing for a greater purpose: Solange
After a weekend marred with schedule changes and cancellations, Solange was the festival’s saving grace on Day 3. Despite starting 15-20 minutes late, she descended upon the glowing stage in a choreographed flight pattern, followed by her backing band and team of dancers, and segued directly into a soulful montage of hits from 2016’s A Seat at the Table, extending each breakdown with some interpretive dance routines. An outstanding cover of Thundercat’s “Heartbreaks + Setbacks” was seamlessly woven midway into her set before leading into an all-out dance party with deep cuts from her 2012 LP True. Solange then took a minute to touch upon the events that were happening concurrently in Charlottesville. As the only artist on the OSL bill to do so, she addressed the tragedy and utilized the stage as a final public platform before deleting her Twitter account the next day. The evening ended in dramatic fashion with the power getting shut off and the performance concluding with the crowd singing the lyrics to “Rise” in the dark. -MK