The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

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


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

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

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


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

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

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


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

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

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


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

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


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

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


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

3. Chance the Rapper

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

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


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

1. Anderson .Paak

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

Outside Lands 2016

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The best and worst of Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Lightning in a Bottle 2016Photos by Josh Herwitt & Melissa Hebeler // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 25th-30th, 2016 //

Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) returned to San Antonio Recreation Area for a third straight year over Memorial Day weekend, serving as that perfect hangover cure for those still suffering from their post-Coachella blues.

Last year, we asked whether the “transformational” festival was undergoing a transformation of its own by shedding its boutique label to go mainstream (read the review here). Now, after paying another visit to Bradley, Calif., the answer to that question appears to be even clearer than before with LIB selling out once again, this time more than a week in advance. Vanessa Hudgens, no less, showed up!

But for as strong as this year’s artist lineup was, not everything went off without a hitch. In fact, there were enough logistical nightmares and bad vibes — believe it or not — to keep us from coming back next year.

So, with another edition of LIB in the books, here are our best and worst moments from 2016:


Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - Emancipator

Best: Emancipator Ensemble

Portland-based musician Douglas Appling, better known by his stage name Emancipator, has been fusing hip-hop-flavored beats with downtempo electronica ever since he started writing his debut LP Soon It Will Be Cold Enough while attending the College of William & Mary. And in many ways, he’s still cooking up that same sonic recipe that borders on post-trip-hop with violinist Ilya Goldberg by his side, although it’s with his ensemble members that we get to see Appling serve as more than just an electronic music producer. At his Friday evening set on the festival’s main stage, Emancipator set the tone for the rest of the weekend, grooving to tracks from his latest studio album Seven Seas with a guitar in hand and a full band at his disposal, much like we saw at The Regency Ballroom last fall (see more photos from that show here).

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Worst: The weather

Sitting more than 200 miles north of Los Angeles, San Antonio Recreation Area once again proved to bring hot days and cold nights to LIB. With temperatures peaking in the mid-80’s during the day and dipping into the low 50’s at night, adjusting to such a drastic change in climate is never easy, especially when you’re forced to brave the outdoors by camping in a dried-up lakebed. Whether you were sweating profusely or shivering in your sleep, it was nearly impossible to ever feel comfortable with the weather at LIB.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - Rubblebucket

Best: Rubblebucket

LIB has always leaned heavily on electronic music while assembling its lineup, but in more recent years, the festival has also found room to include eclectic, female-fronted indie bands. Last year’s example was Poliça, the Minneapolis five-piece led by vocalist Channy Leaneagh. This year’s case in point was Rubblebucket, the more obscure, yet upbeat Brooklyn alt-dance outfit fronted by Annakalmia Traver. Playing very close to the same time slot on the Lightning Stage as Poliça did the year before, Rubblebucket, nevertheless, got festivalgoers moving after a scorchingly hot day in the sun, setting the bar for the rest of Saturday’s lineup as day turned to night. What makes Rubblebucket such a catch is their horns section that’s made up by Alex Toth (trumpet), Adam Dotson (trombone) and Traver (saxophone), who knows how to charm a crowd with her quirky stage banter.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - The Russ Liquid Test

Best: The Russ Liquid Test

Russ Liquid (born Russell Scott) broke onto the scene back in 2013 with his debut LP Foreign Frequency on STS9’s 1320 Records, fusing jazzy saxophone lines over dance beats much like Colorado livetronica duo Big Gigantic, who also performed at LIB this year, do for a living. But his “Test” set on Sunday at LIB was particularly special, as he stepped on the main stage with guitarist Andrew Block and drummer Nick Mercadel flanked on either side of him. The New Orleans trio laid down one funky groove after another for an hour and a half, at times sounding reminiscent of GRiZ, another electronic producer now based in Colorado who has featured Russ Liquid on his record label’s mix series titled “All Good Radio.” We weren’t all that familiar with Russ Liquid’s work prior to arriving at LIB, but his performance certainly intrigued us enough to want to hear more.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Worst: Crowds

With another sellout bringing more than 20,000 people to Bradley, LIB felt just as crowded as last year — something we never experienced at previous locations like Oak Canyon Park and Lake Skinner Recreational Area. After all, it’s no secret that part of the reason why The Do LaB settled on San Antonio Recreation Area was the fact that it could accommodate more “festies” and therefore, could sell more tickets as a result. But from a consumer’s standpoint, there are obvious drawbacks to that philosophy. Waiting for a shower, for instance, took as long as 2-3 hours depending on what time you got in line. Many of the food vendors had significant lines, taking as long as 15 minutes just to place your order. No one likes waiting in line in 85-degree heat, especially when your phone can’t get service. Part of what made LIB such a nice change-of-pace from Coachella was the sheer lack of crowds, but it was only a matter of time before big business won out, right?

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - Moderat

Best: Moderat

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

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Worst: Trash

LIB has been tabbed as the “Greenest Festival in America” over the last five years, though you might not have known it while looking at the grounds this year. With the festival’s attendance numbers reaching an all-time high, trash has increasingly become a bigger issue at LIB. Sure, it’s easy to blame a bunch of inconsiderate festivalgoers for littering and not picking up after themselves, but a big part of the problem is simply a lack of trash cans and dumpsters near the stages and in the camping areas. Furthermore, LIB’s “pack it in, pack it out” motto just isn’t realistic at this point with the amount of attendees. Maybe that’s the reason why after leaving the festival, trash was spewed all over the street. We’re glad The Do LaB tried their best as they told us on the way out, but sometimes trying your best, especially after you’ve been running the same festival for more than a decade, just isn’t good enough.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 - Chet Faker

Best: Chet Faker

I remember first learning of Chet Faker more than a couple years ago while researching the 2014 LIB lineup for this preview. At the time, the electronic-leaning singer-songwriter from Australia had yet to release a full-length album, which makes it all the more crazy to think that he has already reached festival headliner status in a little more than 24 months since then. But over that stretch, from his two-night run in LA at The Roxy Theatre to last year’s performance at FYF Fest, Nicholas James Murphy has grown his live show tremendously. There’s no question the full band setup has been the right call, affording the 27-year-old Melbourne native the opportunity to breathe new life into songs from his lone LP Built on Glass (read our review here), such as “Melt” and “Gold”. Yet, with only one studio album under his belt and a few festival headlining spots in 2016, including the spring edition of CRSSD Fest back in March, it’s just amazing to think where Murphy could go from here.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Worst: Leaving LIB

If the crowds and trash at LIB weren’t enough to leave a sour taste in your mouth by the end of the weekend, the disaster that ensued in the parking lot after the festival definitely was. Since I started attending concerts and music festivals years ago, I have never seen a bigger shitshow than the LIB parking lot by 9 a.m. on Monday. Taking five hours (yes, you read that right) just to leave San Antonio Recreation Area proved to be the ultimate test in patience for me as well as thousands of other festivalgoers. Of all the worst moments at LIB, this easily took the cake, so much so that after five times attending, this very well could have been my last.

Will Lightning in a Bottle continue its rise in 2016?

Lightning in a BottlePhotos courtesy of Juliana Bernstein // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 25th-30th, 2016 //

So you’re all recovered from Coachella by now, and you’re feeling like you’re ready to get back out there pretty soon.

Sure, you could wait until Outside Lands returns to San Francisco this summer, but that’s not until the first weekend of August anyway. Three months between music festivals, after all, can be a long time for some passionate music fans.

If you’re itching to go to another fest in between Coachella and Outside Lands but also feeling a little more adventurous than usual, Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) might be just what the doctor ordered.

Geographically, the “transformational” festival remains perfectly located to tap into both the LA and SF markets since adopting San Antonio Recreation Area in Bradley, Calif., as its home for what will be the third straight year this Memorial Day weekend.

Lightning in a Bottle

But LIB has always been so much more than merely a music festival. In what has been The Do LaB’s crown jewel of all the events it puts on throughout the year, LIB offers its own unique melange of art, yoga, workshops and speakers that few other U.S. festivals have been able to replicate; Symbiosis Gathering in Northern California and Further Future near Las Vegas are the closest comparison to date in matching LIB’s Burning Man-esque vibe. Major corporate sponsors like Heineken, American Express, H&M or T-Mobile don’t exist. Instead, it has made lasting partnerships with small to mid-size companies like New Belgium, Reed’s, KIND and your favorite coconut water brand (LIB had partnerships with three different ones last year). For California’s music scene in particular, what has been dubbed the “Greenest Festival in America” the past five years continues to serve as a stopgap between the state’s two largest music festivals in its two largest geographic regions.

And for that very reason, we’ve noticed that LIB may be undergoing a bit of a transformation after selling out for the first time in 15 years last May (read our review here), with attendance numbers reaching as high as 20,000, roughly 5,000 more than in previous editions. But even at this juncture more than a decade since LIB started as a friend’s birthday party in the Santa Ynez Mountains outside of Santa Barbara, each year is just as critical as the last in shaping its identity. Of course, it remains to be seen whether the festival’s boutique roots can stay firmly planted in the ground, and as the music migrates further and further toward the mainstream with indie-electronic artists like Chet Faker, Grimes and Jamie xx topping this year’s lineup, toeing that line can start to look rather murky. In fact, it’s become fairly commonplace to see Coachella and LIB share artists who either played in Indio the year before (i.e. Jamie xx, Chet Faker and Cashmere Cat) or less than two months prior (i.e. Grimes, TOKiMONSTA and Lucent Dossier Experience). Who knows, you may even see LIB newcomers like Moderat and Tourist making their debuts in the desert next year, too.

Lightning in a Bottle

LIB has not officially sold out yet, but with 80 percent of its tickets already accounted for, you can bet that it will by the time we reach Memorial Day weekend. This year’s bill is as strong as its ever been, with an undercard that will see international acts like Cashmere Cat, Ibeyi, Four Tet and Guy Gerber perform on The Do LaB’s three innovatively designed stages.

That’s not to say the U.S. is not well-represented at LIB, however. Portland-based electronic producer Emancipator (born Douglas Appling) and Colorado “jazztronica” duo Big Gigantic are two of the bigger names to grace the festival’s poster this year, while Florida electro-rock trio Hundred Waters and Brooklyn indie-dance quartet Rubblebucket are two other domestic groups bolstering an already-impressive collection of artists.

It should be no surprise then why LIB has become one of California’s fastest-growing festivals over the last five years as the lineup steadily improves with each spring that passes. Yet, only time will tell what kind of impact it makes in what’s been one wild and crazy 2016 so far.

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 lineup

Win Tix // GO4FREE to Lightning in a Bottle 2016

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 25th-30th, 2016 //

Masterful event creators and production innovators The Do LaB are offering an incredible opportunity to win the ultimate VIP package for the 11th annual Lightning in a Bottle (LIB) music, arts, yoga and camping festival taking place Memorial Day weekend at San Antonio Recreation Area.

Widely considered as California’s premier camping, music and art boutique festival, LIB brings together a community of inspired individuals, internationally acclaimed musicians, enlightening speakers and illuminating workshops designed to expand the mind and open the heart.

This year’s festival features headliners Chet Faker, Jamie XX and Grimes while TOKiMONSTA, Guy Gerber, Cashmere Cat, Four Tet and many more are also scheduled to perform on The Do LaB’s multiple majestically structured stages. Furthermore, LIB features visionary artists and interactive zones, including The Village, the Grand Artique, Amori’s Cafe, Kid’s Village and the Lucent Temple of Consciousness, in addition to an expanded Learning Kitchen, Healing Sanctuary, Meditation Nest, Mystery School, Pineal Playground, two yoga tents and more.

For a peek inside the magic of LIB, watch the LIB 2016 official video below and learn more by visiting the festival’s website here.

Click here to purchase tickets if you know you want to go!

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 contest flyer


LIGHTNING IN A BOTTLE 2016 PRIZE PACKAGES

Grand Prize “Ultimate LIB VIP Package” (one winner)

• Two passes to LIB 2016
• Two early-arrival passes allowing entry into the festival when the gates open on May 25th
• LIB’s uber-great camping experience, which includes:

— One 16-foot-wide Luxury Canvas Bell tent with a 9-foot-8 interior height and 200 square feet of living space that includes one full-size, elevated bed complete with a real mattress, fresh linens, shower towels, indoor furniture, lighting, power outlets, a personal cooler with complimentary ice, an outdoor seating area and access to upgraded restroom suites with full-length mirrors
— Two keepsake Lightning in a Bottle water bottles
— Two lush lounge visitor wristbands for friends not staying in boutique
— On-site concierge service
— One welcome package from LIB sponsors

• Two tickets to a sit-down dinner at Amori’s Cafe, Giggle Juice Cafe or The Last Supper Club
• Two LIB 2016 official T-shirts

Second-Tier Prize (one winner)

• Two LIB festival tickets and one on-site car camping pass

Third-Tier Prizes (five winners)

• One free pizza from The Dough LaB on site at Lightning in a Bottle

Please read below for the list of rules before you enter the giveaway. The contest will end this Sunday, May 1st at 11:59 p.m. PT. Winners will be notified by email on Monday, May 2th.


CONTEST RULES

• Entries can be submitted until May 1st at 11:59 p.m. PT.

• Entries are handled through the Rafflecopter widget above. You may enter without any obligation to social media accounts, but you can gain extra entries through social media shares.

• Your email address is required so we can get in touch with you if you win, but it will not be given out to any third parties.

• Must be 18+ to enter. Contestants can come from anywhere in the world but need valid ID. Travel out to the Lightning in a Bottle festival will not covered.

• Winners will be chosen randomly. One (1) winner will receive VIP Prize Package, One (1) winner will win the Second Tier Prize, and Five (5) winners will receive the Third Tier Prize.

• Winners will be notified via email. Winners must respond within three days of being contacted to redeem prize. If you do not respond within that period, another winner will be chosen at random.

• Make sure that the email account you use to enter the contest includes your real name and a working email.

• Prize packages are part of a promotional giveaway and non-transferable.

CONTEST CLOSED.

Lightning in a Bottle unveils 2016 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle 2016 lineup

Lightning in a Bottle //
San Antonio Recreation Area – Bradley, CA
May 25th-30th, 2016 //

Returning to San Antonio Recreation Area for a third straight year, Lightning in a Bottle will once again take place over Memorial Day weekend — and this year’s bill is as strong as ever.

Led by headliners Chet Faker, Grimes and Jamie xx, the famed boutique festival that began more than 15 years ago as a birthday party among friends (and who would eventually start The Do LaB, a Los Angeles-based event production company) in the Santa Ynez Mountains will also feature performances from Big Gigantic, Moderat, Ibeyi, Emancipator Ensemble, Four Tet, Tourist, Cashmere Cat, Guy Gerber, Tokimonsta, The Polish Ambassador, Alina Baraz, Josh Wink, Hundred Waters, Lee Burridge, Minnesota and G Jones (B2B), Pimps of Joytime, Mija, Rubblebucket, PANTyRAiD, The Russ Liquid Test, AndHim and many more.

Furthermore, The Do LaB will welcome back the LA avant-garde circus act Lucent Dossier Experience and William Close & The Earth Harp Collective, which both have become LIB mainstays over the years. Check out the poster above for the rest of the lineup.

Tabbed as the “Greenest Festival in America” each of the last five years, LIB offers more than just live music on three different stages, with art, yoga, workshops and speakers all playing a crucial role in maintaining the festival’s identity, which centers around sustainability, social cohesion, personal health and creative expression. The word has certainly gotten out about LIB since its early beginnings, as last year’s festival, which boasted Australian DJ/producer Flume as its main headliner and included sets from SBTRKT, ODESZA, RL Grime and Tycho, was the first reported sellout in its longstanding history.

Weekend passes to LIB can be purchased here starting at $270, and the festival reports that 50 percent of them have already been sold, leaving us to believe another capacity crowd will be descending upon Bradley, Calif., this May. If you’re getting excited for LIB after reading this, make sure to check out our coverage from 2015.

The 25 best live music acts of 2014

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It’s that palpable sense of excitement in the crowd, how musicians can seize the moment and make you feel something unexpected or enlightening. Being able to connect with music through a collective experience is breathtaking when it happens, especially when you can tell fellow fans (and sometimes the artists themselves) are affected similarly. Nothing beats a transformative show that takes you to another place — or one that just fucking rocks.

Showbams covered many excellent bands, musicians and DJs throughout 2014 — the following 25 acts are our favorite live performers of the year.

Showbams’ Top 50 Albums of 2014
The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2014

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2014:


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25. Sylvan Esso

Singer Amelia Meath’s voice sparkles with the tone of Feist and the intonation of Regina Spektor, while Nick Sanborn’s live production hits the sweat spot of trending sound in 2014 — the wobbles and looping vocals are somehow familiar and fresh all at once. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


24.Fucked Up

24. Fucked Up

Now, it’s hard to not say that [Damian] Abraham is the show here. Not only because he is a musical madman who would rather be in the pit with his fans than on the stage with his longtime band, but also because frankly, the rest of the band seemed aloof at times. Sure, all but one help in the vocal department, but trying to compete for attention with Abraham would be a futile effort. The frontman, now shirtless (which is tradition), was cruising all over The Indy like a whirlwind. First, he was up in the seats on house right, and the next thing you know, he is having a full-blown mock-luchadore wrestling match with a fan in front of the stage. I kid you not. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


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23. Parquet Courts

Andrew Savage and his newly-grown Sideshow Bob-esque afro couldn’t help but remark on the younger members of the crowd having the time of their life; “Sure like watching you boys move around out there,” he stated with a smirk. “Stoned and Starving” was oddly missing from the night’s set, possibly a product of not being awarded the headlining set on this night. Whatever, Parquet Courts don’t give a fuck. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Kory Thibeault


22.disclosure

22. Disclosure

It was refreshing to witness intelligent dance music prospering, playing to an enthusiastic & packed Greek Theater Berkeley for the first ever “Wild Life”. Disclosure are revamping contemporary dance music by repurposing past elements into poppy, progressive packages, which is consequently influencing mainstream music in a meaningful way. -Mike Frash, photo by Sam Heller


21.Blood Orange

21. Blood Orange

Dev Hynes and company gifted us with a performance abundant in groove and energy. The crowd intensity quickly translated from the stage onto the entire venue, with the London-native acting as the master of ceremony, surrounded by talent. Samantha Urbani’s (Friends singer and Hynes’ girlfriend) vocals on “It is What It Is” were beautiful and hypnotic, and put the audience in a soothing stage that was only broken when Dev Hynes decided to bring the house down with an explosive version of “Uncle Ace”. -Pedro Paredes, photo by Pedro Paredes


20.deerhoof

20. Deerhoof

The ever evolving musical dialect that Deerhoof have created for them, and them alone is a big takeaway. The four members share a vernacular on stage that only they speak. Greg Saunier’ musical training allow him to ebb and flow with the other members on stage; never playing over Satomi’s dainty vocals while allowing Dietrich to expand on his freakish chords. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Greg RaMar


19.Rubblebucket

19. Rubblebucket

It should be stated that Kalmia Traver is one of the best frontwoman in the business. She truly is the full package as she sings with a rigorous passion, dances joyously, plays baritone sax and wins the adoration of nearly every member of the audience. Her dedication is refreshing and infectious. The group’s sound has evolved to a more varied palette as comparisons to Arcade Fire could begin to fester in one’s mind. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Kory Thibeault


18.Volcano Choir

18. Volcano Choir

It was the minimalist songs, complimented by reverent crowd silence and attention, that were the memorable highlights…attempts at discovering new sound spaces is an absolute success for Volcano Choir, making Bon Iver seem almost boring in retrospect. It’s understandable why Vernon said this might be his new band — Vernon’s claim to fame almost seems superfluous now. -Mike Frash, photo by Chaya Frash


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17. Connan Mockasin

It’s about time that the US markets pay a little more attention to this dream-psych export that has made waves in a handful of international markets, and for good reason. Sure, the likes of Ariel Pink and Animal Collective are hailed as gods in the genre, but Connan has something a little more unique to offer us. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


16.Sun-Kil-Moon

16. Sun Kil Moon

Before launching into “I Watched the Film The Song Remains the Same”, something rather extraordinary happened. He looked at a young male fan in the front and asked why he had headphones on his head. Then Kozelek forcefully stated, “You look like a fucking douchebag”, filling the venue with tension and a bit of laughter. This happened right before playing a track about coming to terms with once bullying a kid on the playground in his youth. In the song he discusses the incident, “though I grinned, deep inside I was hurting.” It appears this whole incident was a creative, effective way to foreshadow and show his contradictory nature, as opposed to him being horribly passive aggressive. -Mike Frash, Photo Courtesy of Sun Kil Moon


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15. Sharon Van Etten

Despite her songs being so often daunting and bleak in nature, Van Etten was able to break up the heaviness with the levity of her between song banter. One crowd member shouted to Van Etten that she should do standup comedy, to which Van Etten responded, “So you’re saying my music career is over,” to even more laughter…Songs from her new release are much fuller in comparison to earlier Van Etten offerings and the benefit was instantly felt when performed with her talented band. -Mark E. Ortega, photo by Pedro Paredes


14.The National

14. The National

Grown to be more comfortable with themselves, poised and energetic with precise control, The National’s music is more accessible and impactful than ever before, and the group is pulling it off in front of the biggest audiences of their career. Slowly winning over fans for 15 years, The National have earned it. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


13.Flume

13. Flume

In the past year, Flume’s set has become more sophisticated, led by a restrained approach that intermingles hip-hop, trap, R&B and rap. The drops are inverted in their intensity compared to traditional EDM, offering slight delays and unpredictable syncopation…his ability to curate a festival-sized mega party cannot be questioned at this point. Fortune favors the bold. -Mike Frash, photo by Josh Herwitt


12.Ryan Adams

12. Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams impressed this year with sets laced full of cuts from his remarkable self-titled album, his 14th and newest. At his headlining show at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Adams transitioned his endearing goof-spaz stage banter into an impromptu gem of a song revolving around a someone holding balloons in the back of the show taking place in Golden Gate Park. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


11.Outkast

11. OutKast

OutKast was the reunion tour of the year, hitting a festival in nearly every region of the world. While Big Boi is the consistent, poised professional day after day, his partner André 3000 a bit of a wildcard, as we all witnessed as he turned his back on Coachella audience on opening night. But Dré’s rhymes were clean and on point as he sported a jumpsuit that told you how he really felt night to night. -Mike Frash, photo by Marc Fong


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10. Future Islands

Sam Herring is in no rush, and he takes it slow while the bass line marks a steady beat. He wants the people not just to feel, but to listen as well, and he takes time to give some context before commencing a new song.It became clear that Herring is all about making a connection with the audience…his style seems to draw inspiration from multiple sources, and I can’t help but to be reminded of the insane intensity of Ian Curtis, the shamanic charisma of Jim Morrison, and the storytelling skills of Johnny Cash. -Pedro Paredes, photo by Pedro Paredes


9.darkside

9. DARKSIDE

Simmering melodic-based atmosphere moved to dramatic slow-builds, and Nicolas Jaar would introduce a track along the way — all while creating tension. Then well-deserved bass drops revealed themselves in both sneaky and progressive ways, establishing a prolonged release in the form of the crowd losing their shit to four on the floor house beats and body-shaking bass…One of the most memorable transitions came deep into “Paper Trails” when the drop developed over four quick beats in a measure, from no bass to full on bass domination. It was a striking example of Jaar’s original, crafty abilities in the moment. -Mike Frash, Photo by James Nagel


8.tune-yards

8. tUnE-yArDs

Driven by percussion, vocals and ecstatic hyperactivity, tUnE-yArDs win with a lighthearted, quirky mentality that skewers conformity…this show had all the indications of an essential live performance; the music was thoroughly impacting, and the crowd was completely immersed and wide-eyed throughout, taking in tUnE-yArDs’ breathtaking sonic concoctions. -Mike Frash, photo by Pedro Paredes


7.mac-demarco2

7. Mac Demarco

DeMarco’s fans screamed in sheer delight as he transformed himself into some sort of pop-slacker, earning hoots and howls from a bevy of females in the crowd. His rise to King Weirdo status has been swift, and it’s been for good reason. His likeability, coupled with his unique playing style, is pretty damned infectious, after all. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Pedro Paredes


6.Arcade Fire

6. Arcade Fire

Throughout the Reflektor tour, Arcade Fire premiered a new cover each night. For example, halfway through their epic Coachella set, the band broke into the opening notes of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass”, only to be joined by Debbie Harry of Blondie fame for this full rendition. Arcade Fire successfully cultivated a party atmosphere, adding to the high level of revelry already there. -Molly Kish, Photo courtesy of Arcade Fire.


5.run-the-jewels

5. Run the Jewels

Much like at a Phish or Die Antwoord audience, most everyone in the room at Run the Jewels was there in “full buy-in” mode, not worried about what someone might think of you by getting a bit too into the moment. Which, when you think about it, is pretty elusive for a rap act that is beloved by the indie blogosphere and its readers. Yet, there is a collective acceptance, a mentality that has bubbled up from impromptu social media memes, gifs and videos that are moving RTJ into mainstream mentality. -Mike Frash, photo by Alfonso Solis


4.st-vincent

4. St. Vincent

Captivating an audience has never been much of an issue for St. Vincent due to the incredible musical talent Annie Clark possesses. Her amazing skills as songwriter, lyricist and guitar-shredding icon are nearly unmatchable in contemporary pop. This tour however is incredibly unique, in that it finally showcases these undeniable aspects of Clark on a grand scale. From the production elements to various costume and instrument changes amidst an encapsulating set design, Clark has finally emerged as a true rock star. -Molly Kish, photo by Pedro Paredes


3.the-war-on-drugs

3. The War on Drugs

Adam Granduciel has arrived to the next level, as The War on Drugs have broken through the underground in a big way with their latest release entitled, Lost in a Dream. The subsequent, and long awaited, tour has been nothing short of fantastic as an expanded band has led to their most sonically pleasing tour to date. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Sterling Munksgard


2.atomic-bomb

2. ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor

Luaka Bop founder and musical virtuoso David Byrne unearthed Onyeabor’s self-released eight album discography and organized a top secret live music project called “ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor”, bringing it to life on stage at the Warfield Tuesday for the third time ever.

With an all-star cast of incredible artists, the Atomic Bomb! band took the stage in a handful of lucky cities to provide a near-religious experience (mock-secular program included), reviving the spirit of Onyeabor’s body of work. Lending their various talents to the incredible performance, Alexis Taylor (Hot Chip), Kele Okereke (Bloc Party), Pat Mahoney (LCD Soundsystem), Joshua Redman, Money Mark, The Lijadu Sisters and Sinkane (the musical director) were accompanied by Byrne (along with a full horn section and backing band). -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


1.Jack White

1. Jack White

It’s been Jack White’s year on the live music circuit. His endless Bonnaroo headlining set this year is now a recognizable career milestone based on word of mouth alone. He severely twisted his ankle in SF and kept touring against the advice of his doctor. Jack seemed more focused and engaged than on prior tours, while also appearing authentic, positive, comfortable and likable. Labeled as grumpy, sad and controlling in the past, White embodied the ambassador of fun, and a sharp haircut seemingly signified the “new” Jack White further. The newest item of actual substance is that the man is in the prime of his career, playing truly epic shows, proving to be the biggest rock star in the world with grit night after night. Without question, Jack White is one of the best live artists of 2014 — and now with a humble, inclusive attitude, his stock should only rise further. -Mike Frash, photo by David James Swanson

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Rubblebucket’s Survival Sounds lifting indie act to the next level

Kalmia_1Photos by Kory Thibeault // Written by Kevin Quandt //

Rubblebucket with Royal Canoe //
The Independent – San Francisco
October 15th, 2014 //

It’s been one helluva year for the Brooklyn-based indie-dance outfit known as Rubblebucket. There’s been some tough times that started back in July of 2013 when front-woman Kalmia Traver was diagnosed with ovarian cancer, yet luckily the electric leader is in remission. They also proceeded to pump out a new album, appropriately titled, Survival Sounds. On this sold-out Wednesday evening, both Kalmia and the new record were the clear shining stars of the night as each complimented each other in ecstatic manners.

Before we go any further, it should be stated that Kalmia Traver is one of the best frontwoman in the business. She truly is the full package as she sings with a rigorous passion, dances joyously, plays baritone sax and wins the adoration of nearly every member of the audience. Her dedication is refreshing and infectious. The group’s sound has evolved to a more varied palette as comparisons to Arcade Fire could begin to fester in one’s mind. In fact, they really could be an ideal candidate for tour-mates in the future.

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“Sounds of Erasing” was a highlight early in the show as the Independent was transformed to an island getaway as the breezy vibes were expertly delivered. It was evident that Rubblebucket are madly in love with their latest efforts as the first half of the show played heavy on it. Choreographed dance moves by the two-man horn section accompanied most songs. The projections and lighting were sublimely seamed into each track and augmented the show further. Another spotlight new track, “Hey Everybody”, had the vibe of Bjork singing over a TV on the Radio song. This night peaked with a revelrous rendition of “Came Out of a Lady” that featured a local friend (John of Brass Magic) blasting beefy notes on his sousaphone. At the end of it all, the crowd left fully satiated from one of indie music’s rising stars, completely deserving of the love and adoration that many have, and some discovered, for this band.

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SF Shows of the Week // GO4FREE to Rubblebucket, J. Roddy Walston and The Business or Sinkane

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Win a pair of free tickets to one of our SF Shows of the Week by entering your name and email below.

• Rubblebucket: October 15th (WED) @ The Independent
• J. Roddy Walston and The Business: October 17th (FRI) @ The Independent
• Sinkane: October 19th (SUN) @ The Independent




Rubblebucket: October 15th (WED) @ The Independent // Buy Tickets

Rubblebucket’s new output, Survival Sounds, is an appropriate name for a very real reason. Lead singer Annakalmia Traver is “doing great now. Better than ever. I’m 100% cancer free” according to a recent interview with thegirlsare. When we saw Rubblebucket late last year, they delivered an inspirational show while Traver was in the midst of treatment. This is an update we are very happy to hear.

Contest ends Wednesday, October 15th at Noon.




J. Roddy Walston and The Business: October 17th (FRI) @ The Independent // Buy Tickets

Let’s look to our review of J. Roddy Walston and The Business at the Independent late last year for reasoning to head to Divis on Friday night: J. Roddy and the Business brought pure rock and roll from start to finish. There was no messing around, no keyboards, no genre jumping songs or other distractions. Just fire-driven energy fueling the set, playing old and new songs in his signature style.

Contest ends Friday, October 17th at Noon.




Sinkane: October 19th (SUN) @ The Independent // Buy Tickets

Sinkane has worked with the likes of Caribou, Yeasayer and of Montreal, and he blew our collective minds as the band leader of the Atomic Bomb! tribute to William Onyeabor that starred David Byrne earlier this year. His new album Mean Love is an enjoyable listen — this is a nice option for a Treasure Island Music Festival after-show.

Contest ends Friday, October 17th at Noon.


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Rubblebucket triumph through celebration of life and love

Rubblebucket_1By Kevin Raos //

Rubblebucket //
The New Parish – Oakland, CA
November 7th, 2013 //

It has been quite a roller coaster year for Rubblebucket. Enjoying much success in 2012, Rubblebucket was poised for a breakout year in 2013. Then, in July of this year, the group announced lead singer and co-founder Kalmia Traver was diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer. Undoubtedly this was devastating news for friends, family, fans of the band and Kalmia herself. Fuck cancer, in any form.

In a statement released by Kalmia on July 22nd, she proclaimed the band would continue touring this fall and that she would be counting on their fans to be “my love line, my support groups and inspirations (as always).” Life reared its ugly head and Rubblebucket weren’t about the let it break them.

At the New Parish in Oakland Thursday Night (November 7), Rubblebucket’s performance was inspirational, to say the least. Hailing from Brooklyn, New York, this was their first venture into the gritty Oakland wilderness. The seven-piece band brought their blend of dance, brass, and electro-synth to the small stage in Oakland to the adoration of their fans, who filled every square inch of the venue with positivity. Love and dance filled the room — not a negative vibe could be sensed in the building.

The affection and compassion Traver expressed in her July statement was evident as the band performed their songs with infectious enthusiasm that spread throughout the crowd like wildfire. Everyone lost themselves in the moment, a moment that was more like musical therapy than a concert.

Kalmia walked onto stage wearing a piece of cloth and hat on her head. The music began and all felt right in the world. So as not to restrain her unstoppable dancing, Kalmia eventually pulled her hat off to candidly reveal a completely bald head, a product of her recent rounds of chemotherapy.

This, however, would be the only sign that her entire world was turned upside-down just a few months prior. Not once did she talk about the offstage issues, but rather Traver focussed on the love in the room. Her smile had never been bigger as the asked the audience “Can you feel the love?”

The band played many of their hits, including the ever-popular “Came Out of a Lady” and the title track from their latest EP “Save Charlie”.

It’s evident that Rubblebucket is as strong as ever. They have been reminded of the fragility of our existence and now show an even greater appreciation for life and love. As Kalmia so eloquently stated in July, “Love your mind-spirit-bodies, be healthy, get checkups, eat well, laugh a lot, be kind to each other, be kind to this earth that we are made of.”

Rubblebucket’s fortuitous story is simply an inspirational reminder to be a better person and cherish every moment we have in our short time here.

WIN TICKETS: Rubblebucket at the New Parish 11/7

Rubblebucket

It’s been a harrowing three months for Rubblebucket and singer Kalmia Traver. The group has been touring much of the year, and the group released their Save Charlie EP in October, but Kal was shockingly diagnosed with Stage 1 ovarian cancer in July. Traver has undergone chemotherapy, and in her interview with Seven Days, she said, “I get sick for about a week straight and then pop out of it and feel great.” The group is continuing to tour around Traver’s treatment, and her commitment to music and touring is apparent and inspiring. Traver continued, “Performing live is such a source of energy in my life, I didn’t want to put that on the back burner.”

Rubblebucket will perform Thursday September 7th at the New Parish in Oakland, so consider attending this funky, psyched-out dance show. The group has a sound and look that is all their own, embracing a neon visual aesthetic with their full brass section. Their upbeat, breezy music can’t be pigeon-held to one genre — how many acts mash the frequencies that come from horns and synths?

Buy tickets if you know you want to go.


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High Sierra Music Festival 2013: Top Sets

Photos by Sam Heller // Written by Kevin Quandt, Mike Frash & Pete Mauch

Lennon-McCartney said it best when they stated, “Got to admit it’s getting better, getting better all the time.” High Sierra Music Festival, held every Fourth of July weekend for the past 23 years in lovely Quincy, California somehow keeps getting better each year. The success of this event isn’t anything too surprising, as the producers truly know how to run a seamless event while drawing in such a rich diversity of musical talent from across the globe, year after year. The Plumas County Fairgrounds are amazingly transformed into a wonderland for both adults and kids, alike, becoming a community environment that allows people to lose themselves in the festivities.

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Young and old are ever-present at HSMF — while the little ones enjoy family yoga and children’s sets by the one Vince Herman from Leftover Salmon, the older attendee may likely enjoy wine tasting by sponsors or fresh sushi in the morning or fresh oysters in the afternoon. From the wide variety of cuisine available from Gerard’s Paella to crab smothered artichoke to the array of music playshops to explore the deeper, inner workings of music. It’s qualities such as these that lend to one overall thrilling experience, which keeps so many returning every year, and most newcomers pledging the same.

High Sierra caters to everyone, and if you are unable to have an amazing time, you may want to check your pulse. But let’s be honest, the masses primarily flock to the Sierra Mountains to enjoy the varied selection of musical acts. Here are Showbams’ top sets from the long weekend.

Allen-Stone

Allen Stone
Thursday • Big Meadow • 7:15pm

Young soul powerhouse Allen Stone and his electrifying band held down a two hour (!) set at the Big Meadow Thursday — not bad for a performer who self-released his two full length albums and toured hard and strong enough to catch fire over the past year. He stretched his set out for the last 20 minutes by announcing a dance off and asking the crowd to create an aisle down the middle toward the soundboard. Either it was too early in the fest on a hot day, the two hour set was too long, or people were too high, because no one obliged. Stone had to collect himself before trying again, and after some chastising by the neo-soulster a the dance off ignited. -MIKE FRASH


White Denim
Thursday • Grandstand • 7:15pm + Friday • Big Meadow • 7:15pm

Fast rising indie-psych rockers White Denim delivered a couple excellent sunset shows on Thursday and Friday. The foursome is tightly synced, precisely nailing oft-changing time-signatures in a set that rarely paused. The songs segued seamlessly, blending with the help of swirling electric guitar layering and looping. The Thursday show on the Grandstand came as a relief as the ridiculously hot sun dipped behind the trees, and many were sitting down waiting for the legendary Thursday headliner. The Friday show at the Big Meadow ended spectacularly — a tighter crowd gave way to more heady psychedelic fare, including a sneakily-effective light show once full darkness arrived for the set-ending song “Drugs”. -MF


Robert-Plant

Robert Plant presents The Sensational Space Shifters
Thursday • Grandstand • 9:30pm

Robert Plant’s a legend, we all know this, so to have this mammoth performer be featured as the first major headliner of the event led to seriously large crowds, especially on Thursday. His banner set did not disappoint with his mix of rockin’ Zeppelin classics, blues-laden solo material and a rich representation of various world music styles. Plant’s band was a very impressive conglomeration of modern musicians featuring players from Massive Attack and other highly regarded acts, which lent well to the characteristic howl of the Zeppelin legend on a clear, cool first evenin. Highlights were a show opening “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You”, Zep classic “Black Dog” and a version of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful”. The response was unanimous that Robert Plant and his latest touring act were a rousing success as one would expect from this caliber performer. -KEVIN QUANDT


Tumbleweed-Wanderers

Tumbleweed Wanderers
Friday • Vaudeville • 1:15pm

Oakland’s Tumbleweed Wanderers benefited from being placed in the shady Vaudeville tent Friday afternoon, and the folky, soulful group took full advantage of the dense crowd seeking solar protection. Frontman Zak Mandel-Romann fearlessly ripped into tracks from their 2012 debut LP So Long as he would jump off the stage to engage with the audience. The crowd reciprocated, and upon the end of the set the rousing applause was so widespread and forceful that the band members tried to hide their unbridled joy, an indication they were experiencing the best response of their careers. It was a goose bump-inducing moment, and after the continuous applause interrupted the stage emcee, the Tumbleweed Wanderers were called back for a rare encore. -MF


Nataly Dawn
Friday • Big Meadow • 3:45pm

Nataly Dawn was yet another newcomer to the festival, and she represented the singer-songwriter sect in splendid form. Her songbook may not be extensive, but is incredibly strong with playful elements of both comedy and heartfelt songs of real life and love. Dawn’s delivery was flawless as she was simply accompanied by an electric guitar player, augmenting her vocals ever so slightly. Some may know this Sacramento rising star as one half of the act Pomplamoose, but with a recent release How I Knew Her making waves, she is sure to be a name to look out for. High Sierra is generous with the amount of time a performer gets onstage, and in Dawn’s case, too much time for her limited song selection. However, with the crowd gaining size, she went through a few selections twice, including “Caroline”. Hey, exposure is exposure. -KQ


Houndmouth
Friday • Big Meadow • 5:45pm

Indiana based Houndmouth showcased their Americana folklore to the High Sierra masses on Friday afternoon, and they did so with amazing harmonies, precise musicianship and all around great whiskey-drenched songwriting. Their songs speak of troubled travelers, coked-up drug dealers and any vigilante vagabond looking to make amends with oneself. The set focused on their debut album From the Hills Below the City, with “Come On, Illinois”, “Houston Train” and “Penitentiary” rounding out the show highlights. One aspect that makes High Sierra so wonderful is the intimacy of the Festival — after Houndmouth’s set, I let them know their set was excellent. They were extremely grateful and thanked me as I walked away to my next adventure. -PETE MAUCH


Primus

Primus
Friday • Grandstand • 9:30pm

Primus is weird in all the right ways. Legendary bassist Les Claypool’s primary vehicle headlined Friday night, proving to be an über-suitable headliner that fits High Sierra’s full embrace of individuality. An intense, trippy “Southbound Pachyderm” gave way to more energetic favorites like “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” and “Jilly’s on Smack”. Skerik appeared to add yet another twisted layer of sax to “Groundhog’s Day”. Two consistent factors relate to Claypool — his bass is the driving force and his uniquely weird songwriting and vocal delivery make it work every time. Claypool hid in the shadows all night, letting his jazz-paced diction and offbeat baseline and leadership boggle the minds of the packed main stage. -MF


The John Scofield Uberjam Band
Friday • Vaudeville • 11:30pm

The return of John Scofield’s electric band was a bit of a surprise to longtime fans of this freaked-out, electric jazz-fusion act. Jazz legend Scofield brought old friends and new to blaze through some selections from his past catalogue (Up All Night, Uberjam) and most recent (Uberjam Deux) to a healthily packed free, late night show. His mix of funky-fusion, hip-hop and electronic drum beats generally adds up to sonic grooves that are easy to dance to, but complex in their melody and solos arranged onstage. Some highlights were “Polo Towers”, “I Brake for Monster Booty”, and “Everynight is Ladies Night.” Try to catch this act on tour, as it could be the last time Scofield brings this band on the road for awhile before he likely returns to more straight-ahead jazz projects. -KQ


Skerik’s Lab
Saturday • Music Hall • 3:30pm

High Sierra vagabond and artist at large Skerik once again showcased his teaching abilities, along with his oddly-interesting poetic musings. The best woodwind and brass musicians, some in official acts and others just at High Sierra to camp and have fun, line up on stage at the Music Hall. With Mike Dillon supporting on drums, each player on stage gets a turn to take the lead, and everyone else joins in until a ferocious jam builds to a peak. Skerik then introduces the next performer, and often will ask the audience for the next musical key. Once again Carley Meyers from Mike Dillon Band stole the show. -MF


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The Barr Brothers
Saturday • Big Meadow • 7:55pm

Brad and Andrew Barr are two longtime performers who have graced the many stages at High Sierra for well over a decade. Generally, they represent their early project the Slip, sometimes with their Marco Benevento and Nathan Moore collaborative project, Surprise Me Mr. Davis. This year, they towed along a giant harp for the Barr Brothers, a rising indie-leaning project garnering impressive underground success. Songs like “Give The Devil Back His Heart” demonstrate Andrew’s complex rhythmic arrangements and Brad’s ability to write dynamic songs under any moniker. This set saw the band joined by Mike Dillon on vibraphone and the Rubblebucket horns for a bombastic set closer. -KQ


Thievery Corporation
Saturday • Grandstand • 9:30pm

Thievery Corporation brought a much needed dance party to the main stage Saturday, also delivering on the promise of being an ideal headliner for HSMF. With rotating live singers seriously augmenting the beats laid down by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the upbeat set never got too stuck in downtempo territory. After getting “Lebanese Blonde” out of the way early, hip hop and dance influences took center stage. So much more than a DJ show, the DC based duo have curated a revolving door spectacle supported by Rob Myers, Frank ‘Booty Lock’ Mitchell, Jeff Franca and Ashish Vyas and live instrumentation. Put it all together and it was an awe-inspiring production that hit the High Sierra sweet-spot. -MF


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Lee Fields and the Expressions
Sunday • Vaudeville • 12:15am

The final Vaudeville late night featured soulful R&B brought by the charismatic Lee Fields and his young, competent band, the Expressions. A possible new name to many in attendance, few could deny the soul-drenched revue delivered in true professional form by a 40+ year veteran. Hands in the air in rejoice were plentiful while the dapper dressed frontman channeled the obvious comparison, James Brown. Come Sunday, the High Sierra faithful were murmuring about their new favorite act, for the time being, and how friends had to catch Fields’ set on the big stage for their final Sunday performance in Quincy. -KQ


moe.
Sunday •Music Hall Late Night Show • 1:30am

Sunday night jam headliners moe. played a sold out late-night show early Sunday morning, and as usual it raged. Rob, Al, Chuck and and the rest of the gang were pretty subdued as a physical presence on stage, but they sounded as good as always. Classic opening one-two punch “Not Coming Down –> Wormwood” kicked things off nicely, and “McBain”, “Moth” and “Timmy Tucker” were set highlights. “Seat of My Pants” ended the epic third day on a high note. -MF


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Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Sunday • GrandStand • 12:45pm

Lukas Nelson & POTR made their High Sierra debut this year and put on quite an impressive set that caught the eye of many a festivalgoer, including that night’s headliner moe.(Nelson guested on “Opium” in Moe’s set). Nelson started things off with his single “Forever is a Four Letter Word”, which was well received by the growing crowd. Nelson is the son of the legendary Willie Nelson, and he truly shines on his own, clearly not leaning on his namesake to achieve success (I’m looking at you Jakob Dylan). Nelson delivers high energy sets full of excellent originals, many of which are about “Weed”, so the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. The band also ran through great cover songs including an amazing take on The Grateful Dead’s “Althea”, Pink Floyd’s “Money” and set closer “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Stones. Lukas Nelson should just be getting started –plan on seeing him grow exponentially from here. -PM


Guitarmaggeddon
Sunday • Music Hall • 4:00pm

The 10th annual Guitarmaggeddon face-melt was a special treat. Each year, Tea Leaf Green’s Josh Clark leads a group of electric guitar thrashers on a set of covers that revolve around a theme, and the songs always give way to epic guitar wailing and thrashing. It seemed like last year’s Talking Head’s set would be tough to beat, but the “Stadium Rock!” theme was plenty epic. From the steady opening of “Slow Ride” to “Satisfaction” (with a younger Mic Jagger in tow) to “Layla”, the show just killed it as expected. Lukas Nelson and Al Schnier from moe. guested for multiple songs, and fest-goers who still had a couple ounces of energy left benefited from a jamtastic, raging two hours of fun. -MF


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Steel Pulse
Sunday • Grandstand • 7:15PM

Roots reggae legends Steel Pulse would also make their debut appearance at the event this year, and they filled the Sunday “worldly afternoon” slot in proper form. The legendary Birmingham, England act are some of the most proficient performers in the business, likely do to nearly 40 years of pumping out revolutionary songs and touring the globe. “Roller Skates” and “Chant a Psalm” were just a few of the hits played to a nicely sized late-festival crowd as the sun dropped behind the Main Stage one final time this year. A new, tribute song to Trayvon Martin called “Put Your Hoodies On [4 Trayvon]” may have been too borderline serious for the crowd, but the masses embraced the message of equality for all. -KQ


Rubblebucket
Sunday • Big Meadow • 10pm

Representing Brooklyn, Rubblebucket has really come into their own as an entrancing mix of pop, rock and world music that thrives on crowd energy and is helmed by one helluva front-woman, Kalmia Traver. This would be there first evening set after gracing the fairgrounds for a few years now, and they brought their already stellar show to the next level on the final evening. Highlights from the set included “Overstaurated”, “Rescue Ranger” and “L’Homme”. Kalmia invited attendees up on stage to join in the revelry, and the throngs rewarded this act by crowd-surfing her across the stage during “Came Out a Lady”. -KQ

Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival: 10 best looking sets


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View the full schedule at the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass website.

The twelfth edition of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, from October 5th-7th in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, will prove to be a bittersweet occasion. Founder & 100% funder of this free festival Warren Hellman passed away this past December after a battle with leukemia. Hellman built his wealth as a co-founder of the private equity firm Hellman & Friedman, but always had a passion for music. Hellman called his festival a “selfish gift,” one that he, the musicians and the community could all enjoy. In 2006, Hellman said, “How could you have more fun than that? What the hell is money for if it isn’t for something like that?” Hellman set up an endowment to make sure Hardly Strictly continues long past his death. The city of San Francisco honored Hellman after his passing by renaming Speedway Meadow “Hellman Hollow.”

So this will be the first year Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival takes place in Hellman Hollow. Coincidentally or by design, the artist select is going back to it’s roots before they added “Hardly” to the festival name. The first three years were ‘Strictly Bluegrass.’ Last year Buckethead performed. This year, most acts playing the festival are in some way countrified.

Here are 10 shows to consider attending:

Tribute to the Fouding Fathers: Warren Hellman, Earl Scruggs & Doc Watson

The world has also lost two legends in the past year that were fixtures at Hardly Strictly. Earl Scruggs & Doc Watson will only be with us in spirit, and the first set that pops off the artist list is this tribute to Hellman, Scruggs, Watson. Expect this set to end Saturday or Sunday on the Banjo Stage. Expect a superjam that will include Emmylou Harris, Steve Earle, Elvis Costello, Buddy Millar, and every performer that was close with trio being celebrated. Expect plenty of tears.

The Head & The Heart

This group from Seattle Washington was formed in 2009, have put out one self-titled album, and keep filling bigger venues by the month. In June they sold out a three show run at the Fillmore San Francisco. The Head & the Heart is popular for a good reason – they are a must see live act.

Rubblebucket

Rubblebucket is an American indie-dance band from Brooklyn, NY. They are captivating to watch, they put out a wall of sound, and they make you want to dance. There are eight musicians in the group, and they are lead by musical couple Alex Toth and Kalmia Traver.

Keller Williams, Steve Kimock & Kyle Hollingsworth featuring Bernie Worell, Wally Ingram & Andy Hess

This set looks like a Bonnaroo super-jam. Keller Williams has plenty of experience in this type of roll leading String Cheese Incident at many one-off shows. Steve Kimock is one of the best electric guitarists in the world. Seriously. And Kyle Hollingsworth is the keyboardist from String Cheese Incident. This should be a jam-filled fun time.

The Lumineers

Much like The Head & The Heart, The Lumineers have put out one hugely successful album and their star is rising. The three main components to the group ooze with charisma. The core of the band consists of Wesley Schultz on guitar and lead vocals, Jeremiah Fraites on drums, percussion, mandolin and vocals, and Neyla Pekarek on cello, mandolin, piano, and vocals. The songs from their self titled album are ridiculously catchy. This group from Denver, Colorado are a must see live act.

Chris Robinson Brotherhood

Do you like Chris Robinson’s voice and the music of the Grateful Dead? Yes? Than this is the show for you. Chris Robinson toured with Phil Lesh and friends for a couple years, and it clearly rubbed off on him. He ended the Black Crows and fully committed to this jam band. Neal Casal is a filthy guitarist who is right up there with Steve Kimock. It would not be surprising to see Phil Lesh or Bob Weir join the group for some Grateful Dead numbers.

Conor Brings Friends for Friday

For the first time in 2011, Conor Oberst was invited to curate his own stage on Friday, and Golden Gate Park was witness to Bright Eyes, M. Ward, Kurt Vile and other great acts. Conor has been invited back this year, and he’s bringing Jenny Lewis, Ben Kweller, Beachwood Sparks, Chuck Prophet & Mission Express, & Simone Felice. Conor should be performing his solo material on the Rooster Stage. Put in for a vacation day at work, get there early, and park your ass in Marx Meadow for a lovely afternoon.

The Civil Wars

The album “Barton Hollow” from The Civil Wars was released in early 2011 to massive critical success. The band won the Grammy Award for Best Country Duo/Group Performance and Best Folk Album in 2012. The duo, singer-songwriters Joy Williams and John Paul White, craft emotional songs that build with beautiful harmony, and should fit the tone of the weekend.

Red Baraat

As their website states, Red Baraat puts out “…a sound so powerful it has left the band in its own utterly unique and enviable class. These days you are as likely to find Red Baraat throwing down at an overheated and unannounced warehouse party in their Brooklyn neighborhood as you are at the Barbican or the Montreal Jazz Festival, or Lincoln Center.” NPR called Red Baraat one of their favorite live shows of 2011. These upbeat party-starters will get butts shaking.

Steve Earle & the Dukes (and Duchesses)

TV oriented people might know Steve Earle as Harley Watt, the actor who plays a musician on Treme. TV oriented people are wrong. Steve Earle is a musician who can also act. Earle is a political lefty from Texas, and he has the ability to entertain just as much with stage banter as he does with his songs. He performed a solo set at the Warren Hellman celebration concert in February, which included a song he wrote for Warren Hellman. We should hear that one again at 2012 Hardly Strictly.

10 More Shows Not to Miss:
ALO
Claypool Duo de Twang
Elvis Costelo Solo
Emmylou Harris
Heartless Bastards
Moonalice
Nick Lowe
Soul Rebels
The Chieftains
The New Orleans Bingo! Show

Subscribe to our “Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival” playlist on Spotify.

Night Shows in San Francisco
Friday October 5th:
Dead Winter Carpenters – Brick & Mortar
Break Science – Mighty
Reckless Kelly – Slim’s
Dry the River – The Independent
Shpongle – The Warfield

Saturday October 6th:
Jenny Lewis – Great American Music Hall
The Soul Rebels – Boom Boom Room
John Talabot – Public Works
Big Gigantic – The Regency Ballroom
Glen Hansard – The Fillmore

Sunday October 7th:
Conor Oberst – The Fillmore
Michael Kiwanuka – The Independent

What sets are you looking forward to?