BottleRock taps Imagine Dragons, Neil Young and Mumford & Sons to headline 2019 edition

BottleRock - 2019 lineup

BottleRock Napa Valley //
Napa Valley Expo – Napa, CA
May 24th-26th, 2019 //

If you didn’t hear, festival season is officially back.

With Coachella releasing its 2019 lineup last week just two days into the New Year, many other large-scale music festivals are gearing up to unveil their rosters. Up in Napa Valley, BottleRock has done just that with Imagine Dragons, Neil Young and Mumford & Sons topping the bill for its seventh edition this Memorial Day weekend after Bruno Mars, The Killers and Muse led the way for the 2018 installment. For the 73-year-old Young, it will mark his first date in California with Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real backing him since their headlining performance last June at Arroyo Seco Weekend (read our review here).

More than 80 artists and bands will once again hit downtown Napa to perform at the three-day event in late May, including Logic, Pharrell Williams, Santana, OneRepublic, Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats, Tash Sultana, Sylvan Esso, Gary Clark Jr., Lord Huron, Flogging Molly, Juanes, Michael Franti & Spearhead, AJR, Cypress Hill, Big Boi and many more. Plus, live cooking demonstrations between a variety of celebrity chefs and Hollywood stars, from musicians to athletes, will return to BottleRock’s beloved Williams-Sonoma Culinary Stage.

Tickets go on sale this Tuesday, January 8th at 10 a.m. PT here and start at $359 for a three-day GA pass (or $159 for a one-day). Both three-day VIP and platinum passes are already sold out, but you can buy a one-day VIP pass for $349 and a three-day skydeck pass for an eye-popping $1,599 if you really want to go big.

BottleRock Napa Valley 2016 - The Struts

Waterfront Blues Festival 2016: A colorful palette to feed the soul

Waterfront Blues Festival 2016By Tom Dellinger //

Waterfront Blues Festival //
Tom McCall Waterfront Park – Portland, OR
July 1st-4th, 2016 //

Portland is a remarkable city. It’s a city I’ve found to be one of the most hospitable I’ve ever encountered, and it was once again a great pleasure to cover their annual Waterfront Blues Festival over the Fourth of July weekend.

Now in its 29th year running, the Waterfront Blues Festival remains an anomaly in the world of modern music festivals. With a daily entrance cost of only $10 per day, though other levels are available like patron and benefactor which offer more perks, they continue sell out at all levels and annually raise surprisingly large amounts to donate to the Oregon Food Bank. This year they once again raised a stunning $1 million dollars! Represented in the musical lineup were artists ranging from the Portland area to California, Louisiana, Brazil and Nigeria with several of the higher-profile artists — JJ Grey & Mofro, Tedeschi Trucks Band, Samantha Fish, The California Honeydrops and Femi Kuti — also appearing at High Sierra Music Festival in Quincy, Calif., over the weekend.

Over the course of four days, there was a lot to take in. The festival featured two large stages at opposite ends of the main field, and beyond that, there were also a couple of smaller intimate stages — one offering a one-on-one opportunity with festivalgoers and the other with a dance floor. Both Portland and the Northwest in general have a wealth of excellent musicians to pull from, and every year I see a few new faces in addition to some I’ve witnessed a few times over the years. Local guitarists Ty Curtis and Ben Rice have become a couple of my favorites, and the soulful vocals of Andy Stokes and LaRhonda Steele never fail me. They always seem to provide memorable performances.

Waterfront Blues Festival 2016 - Christone Ingram

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram

There were many memorable moments over the holiday weekend, but one in particular came late in the day on July 4th as Christone “Kingfish” Ingram and Ty Curtis sat in with Samantha Fish. At just the age of 17, Ingram already has a few years of touring and recording behind him and has always been considered to be one with great potential. During his set on Saturday, it was obvious he was making good on that. He had a stronger stage presence, his voice more matured and the guitar work more expansive. It was a solid set that was well-received.

But on the festival’s final day as he, Curtis and Fish were taking things “out there,” Ingram let loose with some blistering hot runs, which in turn drove Curtis and Fish all that much harder. And the fans were loving it as if they were on a wild ride with no limits. Once the dust settled, everybody knew this was one of the great moments of the weekend with smiles all around.

Another standout performance came from Portland-based vocalist Liv Warield, a member of The New Power Generation who performed alongside Prince for several years. She reached out to members of TNPG as well as other locals to put together a tribute for Prince in a way she said he would want to be remembered. In addition to some Prince songs, there were also some of her own (Prince co-wrote songs with her) as well as from other artists whom Prince liked to play or cover. It was a riveting and powerful performance.

Waterfront Blues Festival 2016 - Igor Prado Band

Igor Prado Band

I always appreciate an international element at music festivals, and we had a few overseas acts again this year. The great Femi Kuti & The Positive Force played a stunning set with a large band that was heavy on horns, percussion and dancers as they worked a passionate performance in the Afrobeat style of his late father, Fela Kuti.

Hailing from Brazil was the Igor Prado Band, whose passion and understanding of this very American music form is undeniable. Prado is riveting on guitar, both for his playing and for his stage presence. The man knows how to work a crowd. They were also joined by keyboard ace Jim Pugh (who was in on many sets over the weekend) and Portland-based Curtis Salgado on harp and vocals.

Another big surprise came from Bay Area artist Aki Kumar. With a strong backing band at the singer’s side that featured Christoffer “Kid” Andersen on guitar, Derrick “D’mar” Martin on drums, Vance Ehlers on bass and Jim Pugh on keyboards, they played a wildly fun set that featured blues mashed up with Bollywood. It worked very well, and the crowd loved them.

Waterfront Blues Festival - Royal Jelly Jive

Royal Jelly Jive

There were artists who stretch what we might expect at a blues festival. Few embody that idea more than Los Straightjackets. Sure. Why not? We all need surf music from time to time, and these guys are fun to watch as well.

Bay Area collective Royal Jelly Jive defy categorization. With strong elements of swing, they nevertheless have a very modern sound with smart, well-crafted songs that both swing and rock a crowd, which is exactly what they did. In addition to being a fun band to watch, their unique sound and style made them a standout.

Ayron Jones and the Way were interesting. Though they are heavily blues-based, at times it felt like head-banging metal. What a kick that was!

Waterfront Blues Festival - Tedeschi Trucks Band

Tedeschi Trucks Band

Few bands seem to be so universally loved and admired more than Tedeschi Trucks Band, and on the festival’s opening night, they gave us one of their sublime sets. It was a perfect night in Portland with the Willamette River in the background and the band running through another one of its flawless, tasty performances, marking an elegant start to the festival.

Over the weekend, many names we’ve come to know and love made an appearance. Maceo Parker, Dr. John, Jimmie Vaughan, ZZ Ward, JJ Grey & Mofro and The California Honeydrops were all exciting sets to see. It was a festival that was rich in many ways. The diversity. The quality. The vibe. Even the weather was about perfect (last year it was in the 90’s).

Portland remains an impressive city that knows how to throw one hell of a party. I continue to be impressed with all they are able to accomplish, and this festival is at the top of the list. Big props to the city, the artists, the staff and the volunteers who make it all possible. I can’t wait for next year.

With The Sam Chase & The Untraditional leading the way, The Chapel celebrates Halloween in style

The Candy Butchers Bash - The Sham Chase & The Untraditional

The Sam Chase & The Untraditional

By Tom Dellinger //

The Candy Butchers Bash featuring The Sam Chase & The Untraditional, Royal Jelly Jive, The Crux and special guests Mission Delirium //
The Chapel – San Francisco
October 31st, 2015 //

Halloween just came and went this past Saturday night. The weather was perfect as the streets of SF filled early with trick-or-treating kids as well as those out to celebrate the night with some big-kid entertainment. All across the Bay Area, there were many parties and shows to get that itch scratched. One of the best was The Candy Butchers Bash, a sold-out show at The Chapel that featured The Sam Chase & The Untraditional, Royal Jelly Jive and The Crux, along with special guests Mission Delirium and a number of talented aerialists to give it that something extra that made it one of the more unique shows in Northern California.

Decked out for that All Hallows’ Eve vibe, the venue’s stage was decorated with pumpkins and strands of light bulbs over it gave the room a carnival-like feel. Royal Jelly Jive vocalist Lauren Bjelde and The Crux vocalist Josh Windmiller pulled that off together and did a fine job of decorating The Chapel properly. By the time The Crux hit the stage first, most of the crowd was on hand, dressed in costumes and ready to have a good time.

The Candy Butchers Bash - The Crux

The Crux

Opening the show was the Santa Rosa-based band consisting of Josh Windmiller (vocals, guitar), Joshua Jackson (bass), Kalei Yamanoha (trumpet, accordion) and Taylor Cuffie (drums). With a style they refer to as “folk punk”, The Crux have a stripped-down, rough sound that felt like a mix of Tom Waits and Kurt Weill with a vaudevillian vibe. Windmiller is no doubt an engaging performer, as his persona and rough vocals easily connected with the Halloween audience. After a few tunes into the band’s set, he was joined by aerialist Sierra Faulkner, who performed using silk fabric as she effortlessly twisted and turned her way up the strands above the crowd to perform numerous maneuvers. Graceful, stylistic and with a bit of danger, she added fuel to the fire as the evening continued to warm up.

During the ensuing set break, brass band Mission Delirium came out into the crowd, lined up at the front of the stage and proceeded to keep the energy high as they playfully ripped through some funky tunes with blasting trombones, tuba and drums. The crowd loved it as many audience members laughed and danced with the band, signaling that the festive party and carnival vibe was in full swing at this point.

The Candy Butchers Bash - Royal Jelly Jive

Royal Jelly Jive

Keeping the momentum going, Royal Jelly Jive hit with another one of their explosive sets. Foot stomping and swinging, they lit up the place as Bjelde tore into the band’s catalog with a fervor. With irresistibly rich grooves from the rhythm section of Felix Macnee (drums) and Tyden Binsted (bass), Bjelde and the band touched upon many of their best tunes, including “Indian George” and “Pterygophora”, both of which continued to elevate the crowd’s energy. Rich songs and compositions are the norm for this dynamic up-and-coming band, which also offers enchanting vocals from Bjelde, wide-ranging keyboard styles and sounds from Jesse Lemme Adams and an enviable, articulate horn section comprised of Robbie Elfman, Luke Zavala and Danny Cao. Also joining the band was aerialist Caroline Dignes, who performed on a hoop high above the crowd. Elegant and visually riveting, she continued to add to the carnival theme of the night.

After more shenanigans from Mission Delirium, headliner The Sam Chase & The Untraditional hit the stage with style. Introducing the band beforehand was a pair of twins with a creep factor reminiscent of those in “The Shining”, as they invited the house to enjoy The Sam Chase forever and ever … and ever. With drummer Ted Desmarais dressed as Igor from the 1974 comedy film “Young Frankenstein”, he entered the stage bent over with a massive hump (“what hump?”), and one by one, he physically moved, pushed and cajoled each member of the band to their place on the stage. The band members appeared to be in a zombie-like state as Desmarais positioned them and patiently placed instruments in their hands. It was a fine little piece of theater before the band would explode with the final entrée of the night.

The Candy Butchers Bash - The Sham Chase & The Untraditional

The Sam Chase & The Untraditional

Though The Sam Chase & The Untraditional describe their music as “kick-ass folk” on their Facebook page, they are that and more. Many of Chase’s songs are rowdy and delivered with a weather-beaten, whiskey-colored vocal style as he and the band rolled through their catalog. It’s not surprising they’ve become a favorite among SF bands. Their songs are well-crafted — much like an artisan cocktail — and delivered with a precision that stands in contrast to Chase’s seemingly reckless, almost drunken delivery style.

For The Sam Chase & The Untraditional’s set on Saturday night, we were treated to a ride that was at times bombastic and exhilarating but also included the occasional easygoing folk tune. Chase has a tight band behind him between the aforementioned Desmarais, Dave Rapa (bass), Joshua James Jackson (trumpet), Debbie Neigher (keyboards), Devon McClive (cello) and Nikko Rios (guitar), and they all lit into the music with an infectious energy that they sustained to the very end. During the performance, we saw the return of Dignes and Faulkner to perform on the hoop together. In costume as zombies, these two aerialists were dramatic as they went through their routine, adding both elegance and a sense of danger by pushing the envelope of possibilities, all while the crowd roared with delight.

Reminiscent of the Great American Spirit Ball headlined by Royal Jelly Jive back in July (read our review of the show here), The Candy Butchers Bash has the potential to become another highly sought-after, recurring show in SF. Unique in presentation, both events delivered some of the most memorable performances I have experienced in some time. And for those who found themselves at The Chapel on Saturday night, we all know we experienced some of the very best that the Bay Area music scene has to offer right now.

Spirit animals rule the night at Great American Music Hall as Royal Jelly Jive come roaring to life

Royal Jelly Jive

Royal Jelly Jive

By Tom Dellinger //

The Great American Spirit Ball featuring Royal Jelly Jive, Be Calm Honcho, Rainbow Girls, Brass Magic & The Jelly Roll Dancers //
Great American Music Hall – San Francisco
July 25th, 2015 //

A seed was planted last Saturday at The Great American Music Hall as the site for the first Great American Spirit Ball, where fans were encouraged to join the performers and come dressed as their favorite spirit animal. The brainchild of Lauren Bjelde and Jesse Lemme Adams from Bay Area band Royal Jelly Jive, it was an event that embodied the very best of SF’s music history.

More than a show featuring four bands, it was a package — a unique experience that took the participant on a magic ride that was both a visual and aural feast. Upon entry into the venerable hall, you found it had been decorated with strands of light bulbs and long strands of line with triangular flags that had been strung from the stage to the balcony facades and created something akin to a circus atmosphere from an earlier time.

Brass Magic

Brass Magic

Unlike most shows with a multi-band format, the energy and vibe of the evening never waned between sets as the time was filled with performances on the floor in front of the stage that featured Oakland eight-piece horn dance band Brass Magic, which jammed on funky grooves that kept the crowd engaged, and a group of Aztec dancers led by San Jose-based Cipacteo Herrera. Also joining Brass Magic during their set were some wonderfully costumed dancers on stilts from the group Jelly Roll Dancers, adding immensely to the “spectacle” aspect of the evening.

Rainbow Girls

Rainbow Girls

While the action on the floor was wildly entertaining and kept things on a high note, the action onstage gradually ramped up throughout the evening with an over-the-top closing set from Royal Jelly Jive. The opening set began with Santa Barbara/Sebastopol-based band Rainbow Girls, a group that’s been building a steady following in the Bay Area. The girls played a tasty set drawing from their recent release Perceptronium with many fine grooves that moved through rock, funk and a few points between.

Be Calm Honcho

Be Calm Honcho

After more fun on the floor with Brass Magic and the Jelly Roll Dancers, local favorite Be Calm Honcho took the stage. Having caught them at a recent date where they opened for Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas and now seeing them for the second time, it’s becoming obvious they’re a band with a repertoire that could take them places. Drawing heavily from their release Honcho Dreams, their songs are catchy, fun and artistically satisfying. Keyboardist and lead vocalist Shannon Harney has an irresistibly magnetic personality with a fine voice that sits beautifully in the mix. It was an excellent performance from them and well worth seeing whenever possible.

Great American Spirit Ball - Royal Jelly Jive

Royal Jelly Jive

As the spectacle and joy of it all had increased to a steady boil, SF’s Royal Jelly Jive hit the stage and blew the lid off the place with a romping, stomping and fast-driving set of their remarkable catalog. The band came onstage much like an entourage that was clearly excited and ready to seize the moment. It was time to unleash their inner animal, which they quickly proceeded to do as they tore through their catalog with a passion rarely seen.

Royal Jelly Jive

Royal Jelly Jive

For those familiar with Royal Jelly Jive’s work, a listen to their most recent CD reveals performances that are more studied, well-crafted and restrained. But on this night, they came roaring to life as they played it all at an uptempo pace compared to their recordings. One could hear previously unheard textures from the drums that were nothing short of mind-blowing. The horns section was tight and ripping with Adams ever so cool on the accordion and keyboards. Bjelde, whose vocals often range between the alluringly sweet and the gritty, laid into the mic with style, grace and power. Rarely the quiet voice, she was in top form and she knew she had something magical to share with us, which is exactly what she did. And, it was truly stunning to behold.

Now that the dust has settled, it’s easy to see this venture was a great success. At the end of the night, as Royal Jelly Jive played right up to midnight and didn’t have enough time to play an encore, the crowd cried for more. It was one of those nights where no one in the house wanted it to end. As mentioned earlier, a show such as this, because of its groundbreaking uniqueness and the quality of performers, honors the musical legacy of SF. Perhaps if we’re lucky, the spirit animal in us all will come out to play once again someday.