My Morning Jacket spotlight the long-awaited return of live music to SoCal with a powerful performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl

My Morning Jacket (Jim James) at Santa Barbara BowlBy Josh Herwitt //

My Morning Jacket with Durand Jones & The Indications //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
September 23rd, 2021 //

The past 18 months have been hard to say the least. No matter how you’re feeling at this moment in time, the COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably created additional issues and stressors for many folks while also taking away some of the things we enjoy most about life.

And for those of us who love live music, its absence has been quite a blow to the psyche.

If anything, being locked down at home for more than a year has only made us long for the thrill of watching an artist or band command an audience’s attention and completely mesmerize its fans.

Yet with so much uncertainty still in the world, it’s almost surreal to think that concerts have finally made their return. Yes, you’ll need to offer proof of your COVID-19 vaccination status or a negative test within 48-72 hours, but it sure beats tuning into another livestream from your couch.

So when My Morning Jacket announced a 23-date jaunt across the U.S. for the second half of 2021 that included a stop at the always-exquisite Santa Barbara Bowl where we caught them nearly six years ago (read our review here), I knew that was one show I couldn’t miss and boy, am I glad that I didn’t.

My Morning Jacket - Santa Barbara Bowl

The Louisville-bred rockers are back on the road touring in support of their forthcoming self-titled LP — and ninth studio album — this October after releasing The Waterfall II in 2020, and they wasted no time reminding us of that fact by beginning with its first single “Regularly Scheduled Programming” to follow what was an upbeat and soulful opening set from Durand Jones & The Indications.

But this headlining performance on the second day of the fall season was as much about the quintet’s new material, including the slow burn of “In Color” for our very first listen of the My Morning Jacket cut, as it was a golden — pun intended since the It Still Moves track by the same name made it onto the setlist this night — opportunity for Jim James (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Blankenship (bass), Patrick Hallahan (drums, percussion), Bo Koster (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Carl Broemel (guitar, pedal steel guitar, saxophone, backing vocals) to put their expansive catalog on display.

MMJ, after all, gifted us not only both parts of “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream” but also hair-raising renditions of “Lay Low”, “One Big Holiday”, “It Beats 4 U”, Spring (Among the Living) and “Anytime” while James belted out the lyrics to songs like “Wordless Chorus” (with the disco ball in full effect), “Circuital” and “Feel You” that reaffirmed why he has had one of the best voices in rock, if not all of music, for more than two decades now.

When it came time for the encore though, James and company once again delivered the goods to a crowded amphitheater that was already brimming with excitement. Starting with fan favorite “Victory Dance” before transitioning into “Off the Record” from their seminal record Z, they offered “Where to Begin” on the “Elizabethtown” soundtrack for the first time since 2015. Nonetheless, that brief respite was quickly countered with a final rush of blood to the head that featured “Wasted”, “Run Thru” and “Dancefloors” as the clock struck 10 p.m. to mark the Bowl’s early curfew time.

Cruising back down U.S. 101 to Los Angeles later that evening, I reflected on the last year without live music and how rough it has been to not see some of my favorite acts in the flesh. But after witnessing more than two hours of pure sonic bliss at one of the best venues along the West Coast, I am beyond grateful that there’s MMJ to welcome us all home again.

Setlist:
Regularly Scheduled Programming
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 1
Wordless Chorus
Circuital
Lay Low
I’m Amazed (Jim and Carl solo, then full band)
Evil Urges
Golden
Feel You
Climbing the Ladder
One Big Holiday
In Color
It Beats 4 U
Love Love Love
Spring (Among the Living) (>)
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2
Anytime

Encore:
Victory Dance
Off the Record
Where to Begin (last played 11/25/2015)
Wasted (>)
Run Thru (End>)
Dancefloors

The Bam Team’s 5 Favorite Shows, Albums & Songs of 2019

Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest - Rochelle Shipman


Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Rochelle Shipman

Um, that’s it? Another year in the rear-view mirror? Where the hell did the last 12 months go? Time sure does seem to fly when there’s so much good new music out there to enjoy.

With that said, it’s once again time for us to share our annual “Best of” lists like we have done the past few years (see our 2018 picks here). From new emerging artists to reunion tours to the return of rock ‘n’ roll, this year had a little bit of everything for both the casual and passionate music fan. And even if you didn’t have the time to listen to every album that came out (neither did we), that’s why we’re here: to help point you in the right direction whenever you do finally get the chance to dig in.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2019.

See our favorite performances from 2019 here.

Listen to The Bam Team’s favorite songs of 2019:


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall - Josh Herwitt


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. Tool at Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA – October 20th & 21st
Unlike the delay on Tool’s fifth album Fear Inoculum, I thankfully didn’t have to wait 13 years to see my favorite band perform live. It was only a couple of years ago when I caught the boys at The Gorge, earning top honors as my favorite show in 2017, and subsequently a week later at Glen Helen Amphitheater for an all-day affair with Primus, Clutch, Fantômas, Melvins and The Crystal Method. Perhaps my tastes haven’t changed all that much since then, but even in a year that saw me attend half as many concerts as I usually do, Tool are still finding new and innovative ways to enhance their live show. Whether it’s tinkering with their stage production to incorporate a see-through curtain at times or adding surround sound throughout the arena, a Tool performance has evolved into a spiritual, meditative and almost out-of-body experience over the last decade. It’s no wonder why scoring tickets remains a trial of good fortune.

2. The Raconteurs at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – July 27th
3. The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles, CA – May 15th
4. Jim James & The Claypool Lennon Delirium at The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA – July 3rd
5. Foals at Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles, CA – March 24th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Tool – Fear Inoculum
When a three-time Grammy-winning band takes more than a decade to release its next album, it’s only natural for expectations to go through the roof. And I’ll be the first to admit that there was a small seed of doubt in my mind when it came to just how epic Tool’s latest sonic voyage in the studio could and would be. But upon first listen, any uncertainty I had about the merits of Fear Inoculum was quickly dispelled. The title track lures you in from the onset, building to a higher place as Maynard James Keenan (vocals) and company — Adam Jones (guitar), Justin Chancellor (bass) and Danny Carey (drums, percussion) — take listeners on an 80-minute rite of passage that holds up as some of the quartet’s best material in its entire catalog. I just hope they got at least one more LP in them, even if it takes another 13 years to make.

2. The Raconteurs – Help Us Stranger
3. Foals – Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1
4. The Chemical Brothers – No Geography
5. Black Pumas – Black Pumas

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. Tool – “Descending”
If you’re still reading, you’ve probably gotten the hint by now that I’m a big fan of Tool. After all, it only seemed fitting that my top song in 2019 should also come from my No. 1 album of the year by my favorite band over the last two decades. I have seen Tool perform a shortened version of “Descending” several times since 2014, before it ever had an official title, so when Fear Inoculum arrived back in August, there was no track I anticipated hearing more. In fact, at more than 13 minutes long, it’s one that requires your full, undivided attention, which can be a significant amount of time to dedicate in a world of three-minute pop songs and endless distractions now. But for prog-rock enthusiasts like myself who are more than willing to take the ride, “Descending” delivers a total rush of blood to the head that ultimately leads to pure unadulterated euphoria.

2. Bon Iver – “Hey, Ma”
3. Hot Chip – “Hungry Child”
4. Foals – “On the Luna”
5. Karen O and Danger Mouse – “Turn the Light”


Cate Le Bon - Reward

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. Stereolab at Primavera Sound – Barcelona, Spain – June 1st
Primavera Sound has always had a knack for booking reunions (i.e. Pulp, The Avalanches and Pavement) to its “musical mecca” on the Balearic Sea. 2019’s iteration featured the first proper show in nearly a decade from the anti-capitalist art-pop darlings Stereolab. “Come and Play in the Milky Night” on 1999’s Cobra and Phases Group Play Voltage in the Milky Night would open the evening to the international consortium of aging music nerds who undoubtedly knew that they were about to be treated to a “best of” set from the English-French outfit. Better yet, their politically themed lyrical content seemed more relevant in 2019 than it was around the time of their creation a quarter-century ago.

2. Mike Dillon’s New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium at The Music Box Village – New Orleans, LA – April 26th
3. BLACK MIDI at Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA – November 21st
4. Amen Dunes at August Hall – San Francisco, CA – January 10th
5. Ween at Desert Daze – Perris, CA – October 12th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Cate Le Bon – Reward
What a banner year for the Welsh artist as she created her most highly acclaimed LP to date. Le Bon has truly honed her craft over the last decade as she has collaborated with a laundry list of indie-music royalty before writing the whimsical and austere Reward that employs an array of fresh sounds swirling around her haunting, pixie vocals. 2020 will see Cate jump on tour alongside Kurt Vile in a solo capacity, but we can’t wait to see what she produces next.

2. Wand – Laughing Matter
3. (Sandy) Alex G – House of Sugar
4. The Murder Capital – When I Have Fears
5. Omni – Networker

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. Foals – “Sunday”
As Foals teeter on the edge of being rock’s next big headliner, the British group semi-quietly unleashed a pair of albums entitled Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 1 and Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost – Part 2. While their style continues to hover around math, dance and indie rock, they dig into a deeper realm of sonic atmosphere as frontman Yannis Philippakis questions, even laments, the state of our current times. “Sunday” tends to borrow a tad from the grandiose nature of their fellow Brits in Coldplay before dropping into a four-on-the-floor section that was rather well-received during their March stop at the Fox Theater in Oakland.

2. Crumb – “Ghostride”
3. Vampire Weekend – “Sunflower” feat. Steve Lacy
4. Oh Sees – “Henchlock”
5. Allah-Las – “In the Air”


Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. slowthai at Lodge Room – Los Angeles, CA – September 4th
Shortly after releasing his debut album Nothing Great About Britain in May, Tyron Frampton played a few intimate U.S. shows several months later. My guess is that those were probably the last ones he’ll do if the UK rapper out of Northampton continues to rise and deliver, just like he did for much of 2019. Part Johnny Knoxville-type grime smart ass, part brilliant gritty-crust punk, slowthai shook the roof off LA’s Lodge Room, which turned out to be a warm-up show before he returned to play Camp Flog Gnaw in November. Frampton certainly came to please, setting the energy level at 11 and even performing his rowdy hit “Doorman” twice in the set. He could’ve run through it 15 times and the crowd would’ve left just as satisfied.

2. Little Simz at The Echo – Los Angeles, CA – June 13th
3. Taking Back Sunday at Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles, CA – April 11th
4. Night Moves at The Echo – Los Angeles, CA – September 21st
5. Usher at Smokin Grooves Fest – Long Beach, CA – June 15th

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Little Simz – GREY Area
The production. The flow. The bars. The BALLS. Little Simz absolutely brings it on GREY Area, leaving no space for second-guessing, sexist bullshit or honestly anyone else at all. This latest studio album from the British emcee is all her, and you can feel it with every breath she takes. We should all be so lucky to come into our confidence the way that she did on this record, but most of all, we should just be grateful “Simbi” trusts us to keep her deepest secrets — and that they sound so, so good.

2. slowthai – Nothing Great About Britain
3. Shura – forevher
4. Ari Lennox – Shea Butter Baby
5. White Reaper – You Deserve Love

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. slowthai – “Doorman” (with Mura Masa)
This song technically dropped in 2018, but its spotlight was shone even wider with slowthai releasing his debut LP this year. The Mura Masa-assisted cut pulses with adrenaline, carries the air of a movie soundtrack in only three minutes and has a beat that will take you all the way to the moon and back. In the words of Lizzo, it’s a whole damn meal!

2. Kari Faux – “Latch Key”
3. Billie Eilish – “bury a friend”
4. Little Simz – “Venom”
5. Smino – “Trina”


Tool - Fear Inoculum

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2019
1. IDLES – Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – October 10th
After putting out one of my favorite albums from 2018 and missing their show earlier this year, I was thrilled to finally catch IDLES live. To say that these English punk rockers put on a good performance would be a true understatement. They had the energy of an out-of-control freight train but were able to contain it while proving to be an incredibly fun act to see live. Frontman Joe Talbot engaged with the audience in a very authentic way, talking and singing to fans, not just at them. There were crowd-surfing guitarists, mosh pits and sing-a-longs … it was wild.

2. Punk Rock Bowling 2019 – Las Vegas, NV – May 23rd-27th
3. Judas Priest at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – June 24th
4. Van’s Warped Tour 2019 at Shoreline Amphitheater – Mountain View, CA – July 20th-21st
5. ITCHY-O at Cornerstone – Berkeley, CA – November 23rd

Top 5 Albums of 2019
1. Tool – Fear Inoculum
Well, after all of the waiting and speculation, Tool have done it again, in a really big way. Fear Inoculum is everything that I was hoping it would be, and then some. HUGE-sounding drums, guitars and bass wrap your head in a warm prog blanket while Maynard does what he always has so well. It takes the best parts of their previous albums and combines them to showcase a band that has clearly not missed a step in the 13 years since 10,000 Days.

2. Bad Religion – Age of Unreason
3. Brittany Howard – Jaime
4. Catbite – Catbite
5. Plague Vendor – By Night

Top 5 Songs of 2019
1. The Hammerbombs – “I Hate Cars”
The Hammerbombs are an undersung Bay Area pop-punk group that have written some of the catchiest and fun songs I have heard from the East Bay scene in a long time. Their 2019 release Goodbye, Dreamboat made my top 10, and this track is the hands-down standout on an album chock-full of toe-tappers. It’s a heartfelt song written by singer and bassist Jen Louie, who has a knack for crafting some really fantastic tunes. The chorus is saccharine sweet, and you can’t help but sing along.

2. Lizzo – “Juice”
3. Bad Religion – “Do The Paranoid Style”
4. Ceremony – “In The Spirit World Now”
5. Lagwagon – “Surviving California”

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

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

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

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

“Rock is dead.”

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

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

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

The Raconteurs

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

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

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

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

The Raconteurs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

David Byrne at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium


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

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

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

See our favorite performances from 2018 here.

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


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018


Jamiroquai at Coachella 2018 // Photo courtesy of Coachella

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Richard Russell - Everything Is Recorded

Molly Kish // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shame - Songs of Praise

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Jack White proves at the Santa Barbara Bowl that a phone-free show is a better experience for us all

Jack WhitePhotos courtesy of Jack White // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Jack White with William Tyler //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
August 19th, 2018 //

In case you haven’t heard, Jack White isn’t the biggest fan of technology. Well, at least when it comes to some modern technological advancements.

Sure, White has been a self-proclaimed fan of Tesla for quite a while now. He was one of the first Model S owners in Nashville, which the Detroit native has called home since 2006, and just a couple weeks ago visited the company’s factory in Fremont, Calif., where he played a private show for its employees.

But the former White Stripes leader, whose old-timey passions for vinyl records, baseball and furniture upholstery are well-documented, doesn’t view mobile technology in nearly the same way. In fact, he never really has.

White first started to make his disdain for cell phones publicly known in 2014. At the time, he didn’t even own one himself (and he still doesn’t from what he told Rolling Stone in March for the magazine’s cover story). That same year, on the day he gave us his sophomore solo album Lazaretto, I caught White’s show at The Fonda Theatre in Los Angeles. It was there that one of his stagehands stepped to the mic minutes before the performance and politely requested that we refrain from using our cell phones, and while most of the sold-out crowd seemed to oblige, there were some who still couldn’t help themselves.

Jack White

Pics or it didn’t happen, right?

Since then, our lives have only become more centered around our Instagram feeds, and for as cynical as it sounds, it’s probably only going to get worse from here on out.

It’s why White announced before kicking off a world tour this year in support of his third LP Boarding House Reach that all of his non-festival dates would be phone-free. But what does that actually mean?

Adopting the same methods that stand-up comedians Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle have employed for their own gigs, White partnered with Yondr, a San Francisco-based company that creates mobile phone pouches with a proprietary lock. Upon entering the venue, your phone is placed in one of their pouches and then locked. If you need to use your phone for any reason during the show, the pouch can be unlocked at one of several designated areas inside the venue. Think of them as smoking sections but for phones. That’s how powerful, and simultaneously obnoxious, smartphones have become for fans and musicians such as White, who has said that he relies on human connection and fan interaction to help guide him through his always-unplanned setlists. For the 12-time Grammy winner, the myriad of distractions that an iPhone or Samsung Galaxy offers is not only disruptive, but it’s also a major obstacle in trying to hold a person’s attention for any extended period of time. And, quite honestly, I can’t blame White for implementing the ban. If we could control our own impulses, then he simply wouldn’t have to do it for us.

Jack White

It hasn’t exactly hurt him either. You can say what you want about his cell-phone policy, but White has sold out the majority of his U.S. dates over the past four months while headlining many of the country’s most popular music festivals, including Shaky Knees, Boston Calling, Governors Ball, Lollapalooza and Arroyo Seco Weekend (read our review here) this summer.

So, on a warm, mid-August night in Southern California, White paid his first official visit to Santa Barbara. The White Stripes, somewhat surprisingly, didn’t make it to the coastal city during their 15 years together, so White’s show at the always-stunning Santa Barbara Bowl seemed well overdue for one of rock’s last remaining guitar heroes. The amphitheater at a capacity of 4,562 stacks up as one of our favorite places in all of California to see live music (read our First Times review here), even with the shows running on a tight schedule due to some strict curfew laws until 10 p.m. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for those of us who live in LA, considering that the drive back is often no more than 90 minutes at that time of night. But with White’s sold-out show in Santa Barbara falling on a Sunday evening, those who showed up made it clear that they weren’t ready for the weekend to end.

Boarding House Reach has drawn its fair share of critics, and I couldn’t necessarily disagree with many of the album reviews that I read when it was released in March. It’s undoubtedly White’s weakest studio effort to date — and I admit that as a big fan — but that’s not to say I don’t commend him for trying something new or different. Plus, I’ve come to realize that the more experimental songs like “Corporation”, “Respect Commander” and “Ice Station Zebra” play much better live than they do on the record.

Yet, for as eclectic and wide-ranging as White’s output has been over two decades, it’s the unpredictable nature of his live shows that makes them so intriguing to see. This time, we were treated to a rare cover of The Stooges’ “T.V. Eye” from their 1970 album Fun House, as well as a number of fan favorites, from set closer “Ball and Biscuit” to an eight-song encore that featured “Icky Thump” (with some amusing “Icky Trump” messaging), “Steady, as She Goes” (with a snippet of Richard Berry’s 1955 song “Louie Louie”), and of course, what has easily become the biggest stadium anthem in the world, “Seven Nation Army”. And though the show didn’t conclude without a few hiccups during some of White’s improvised playing between songs, he hasn’t lost his unique ability to surprise an audience — whether it means bringing out his mother in Detroit to perform “Hotel Yorba” with him or covering Pearl Jam’s “Daughter” in Seattle — at any given moment, especially when we all aren’t staring down at our phones.

Setlist:
Over and Over and Over
Corporation
Dead Leaves and the Dirty Ground (The White Stripes song)
Missing Pieces
Lazaretto
Hotel Yorba (The White Stripes song)
Why Walk a Dog?
Cannon (The White Stripes song)
Broken Boy Soldier (The Raconteurs song)
Respect Commander
Do (The White Stripes song)
T.V. Eye (The Stooges cover)
Just One Drink
Ball and Biscuit (The White Stripes song)

Encore:
Icky Thump (The White Stripes song)
My Doorbell (The White Stripes song)
Connected by Love
Freedom at 21
We’re Going to Be Friends (The White Stripes song)
Ice Station Zebra
Steady, as She Goes (The Raconteurs song) (with “Louie, Louie” snippet)
Seven Nation Army (The White Stripes song)

Goldenvoice announces 2018 Coachella sideshows

Goldenvoice Presents: April 2018

It’s Valentine’s Day, so what could be a better way to celebrate love — or least your love for live music — than with a whole slew of newly announced shows?

Well, with Coachella’s 19th edition just a couple of months away, Goldenvoice has done it again, assembling another massive list of April sideshows at various venues all across the greater Los Angeles landscape, including some in Orange County (at The Observatory and Constellation Room), Santa Barbara County (at the Santa Barbara Bowl and The Arlington Theatre) and the desert (at Pappy & Harriet’s).

Sister trio HAIM kick off the festivities with their headlining performance at arguably our favorite Southern California venue, the Santa Barbara Bowl, on Saturday, April 7th before things ramp up the ensuing week with Kali Uchis, Chromeo, Tyler, the Creator, St. Vincent, Portugal. The Man (with Cherry Glazerr), Perfume Genius (with Big Thief), Princess Nokia, PVRIS, Marian Hill, Fleet Foxes, Carpenter Brut, Tash Sultana, The Drums & Alvvays (with Fazerdaze), alt-J (with BØRNS), Migos, The Bronx, Greta Van Fleet, A Perfect Circle, Yaeji, Angel Olsen, Jessie Ware, BROCKHAMPTON, First Aid Kit, Japanese Breakfast (with Snail Mail), Kelela, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever, Buscabulla (with The Marías), Priests, MØ, Jorja Smith & Tom Misch, ODESZA, Miguel, Boogarins (with B Boys & Señor Kino), Ron Gallo, Moon Boots (Live), The War on Drugs, Jungle, Soulwax, Petit Biscuit, 6lack, Aurora, Motor City Drum Ensemble (with Talaboman), Los Ángeles Azules, The Drums, Hayley Kiyoko and Elohim all playing — some even more than once — inside and/or outside of LA’s city limits.

Unlike last year’s sideshows, which included a special showcase at the Palm Springs Air Museum the night before Coachella’s first weekend featuring several artists from British independent record label Young Turks, Goldenvoice has opted not to go down that route again. The two gigs that mirror that mini festival the closest both take place on Thursday, April 19th, as Motor City Drum Ensemble performs at the Palm Springs Air Museum with Talaboman and Los Ángeles Azules invades the Riverside County Fairgrounds with Cuco, Helado Negro and Ocho Ojos just one day before Coachella Weekend 2 commences at the Empire Polo Club. Check out the full list of sideshows in the poster above.

Year after year, Goldenvoice seemingly continues to outdo itself with more and more shows in and around Coachella, and this April the renowned concert promoter has done its best to give music fans in Southern California a little bit of everything, from electro funk and indie folk to hip-hop and alternative R&B. But at first glance, the 2018 sideshows that stick out the most to us include the following: Chromeo at the El Rey Theatre, St. Vincent at The Orpheum Theatre, Perfume Genius (with Big Thief) at The Mayan, Fleet Foxes at the Warner Grand Theater, Tash Sultana at the Fox Theater Pomona, The Drums & Alvvays co-headlining (with Fazerdaze) at Pappy & Harriet’s, alt-J (with BØRNS) at the Santa Barbara Bowl, Migos at The Observatory, A Perfect Circle at The Arlington Theatre, Japanese Breakfast (with Snail Mail) at The Roxy, The War on Drugs at the Fox Theater Pomona, Jungle at Pappy & Harriet’s, Soulwax at The Fonda Theatre, 6lack at The Novo and Portugal. The Man (with Chicano Batman and Deap Vally) at the Santa Barbara Bowl.

Tickets for most of the sideshows go on sale here this Friday, February 16th at Noon PT with the rest of them available on Friday, February 23rd at Noon PT or Friday, March 2nd at Noon PT.

Goldenvoice

Goldenvoice reveals 2017 Coachella sideshows

Goldenvoice Presents: April 2017

We’re already six weeks into 2017, and for many music fans residing in California, that means Coachella isn’t all that far away. But while much of the talk around this year’s lineup has been centered on Beyoncé’s debut and more recently her pregnant-with-twins news (the jury is still out on whether it will put a wrench in her plans to perform both weekends), Goldenvoice has turned a good portion of April into a long stretch of top-notch shows, similar to what Red Bull Sound Select has done in November with its month-long “30 Days in LA” series that last year included artists like Nick Murphy (formerly Chet Faker), YG, Jhené Aiko, AlunaGeorge, Pusha T and Isaiah Rashad (look back at our coverage here).

Much like in 2016, Goldenvoice has once again released a list of sideshows that will take place at venues in the greater Los Angeles area, with a select few extending into Orange County (at The Observatory and Constellation Room), Santa Barbara County (at the Santa Barbara Bowl) and the desert (at Pappy & Harriet’s).

Florida emcee Denzel Curry will kick off the festivities on Friday, April 7th at The Glass House before LA outfit Chicano Batman close things out at the same venue on Saturday, April 29th. In between those gigs, Sampha, Banks, Jack Garratt, Crystal Castles, Francis and the Lights, Bishop Briggs, SOHN, Oh Wonder, Future Islands, Little Dragon (with Sophie Tukker), The Head and the Heart, Joseph, Kaytranada, Banks & Steelz, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Nicolas Jaar, Car Seat Headrest (with Preoccupations), Bonobo, Mura Masa (with Kamaiyah), DJ Shadow, Breakbot, Blossoms, New Order (with Poliça), Hinds (with Twin Peaks), Bonobo, Galantis, Local Natives (with Tennis), S U R V I V E, The Avalanches, Glass Animals (with Little Dragon and/or Jagwar Ma), Empire of the Sun (with Broods), Tacocat, Bastille, Roisin Murphy, Whitney, Lil Uzi Vert, Mitski, Röyksopp, Future Islands, Pond (with Ezra Furman), Moderat, Swet Shop Boyz, Floating Points (Live), HONNE (with Arkells), Daphini, Jai Wolf, Guided by Voices and Phantogram will all perform — some even more than once — inside and/or outside of LA’s city limits.

Furthermore, British independent record label Young Turks will host a special showcase for its roster of artists with performances by Ben UFO, Four Tet, Francis and the Lights, Jamie xx, Kamaiyah, Sampha and special guest PNL in Palm Springs on Thursday, April 13th. Check out the full list of sideshows in the poster above.

It’s hard to believe that Goldenvoice has found a way to top their efforts from a year ago, but the renowned concert promoter has managed to do just that. This year’s Coachella sideshows are jam-packed with alternative-electronic and indie-rock acts, with Nicolas Jaar’s headlining performance at Pappy & Harriet’s alongside Floating Points (Live) and Pond as well as Future Islands’ date at The Glass House featuring support from Car Seat Headrest as two of the bigger highlights — and no doubt there are plenty on this bill. Yet, one of the most enticing pairings has to be the Glass Animals-Little Dragon-Jagwar Ma one that’s slated to take over the Santa Barbara Bowl, arguably our favorite venue in Southern California, on Saturday, April 23rd.

Tickets for most of the sideshows go on sale here this Friday, February 17th at Noon PT with the rest of them available Friday, February 24th at Noon PT or Friday, March 3rd at Noon PT.

Goldenvoice

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

Danny Brown


Danny Brown at The Regency Ballroom // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by James Pawlish

Time flies when you’re having fun, right? Well, while we’re still wondering where the past 12 months have went, 2016 proved to be bittersweet for the entire music community. With David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Paul Kanter, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Prince, Leonard Cohen, Sharon Jones and most recently George Michael all leaving us too soon, it’s been a rough ride to say the least. But amid all the heartbreak, we experienced plenty of amazing moments in music from January to December, and now it’s time for us to once again unveil our annual “Best of” lists just like we did in 2015.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2016.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2016

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


Jim James at Orpheum Theatre


Jim James at Orpheum Theatre // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. LCD Soundsystem at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 8th
When reports started swirling around this time last year that LCD Soundsystem would reunite to headline Coachella a few months later, it was a chance to relive that one time I saw them on the same polo field six years earlier — the only time I was lucky enough to see James Murphy and company in action before they called it quits way too early. And while band reunions at Coachella are starting to feel like a gimmick these days, LCD had already played a couple of warm-up shows back home in New York by the time they stepped foot on the main stage for their highly anticipated headlining set at the Empire Polo Club. They didn’t perform any new material like some fans may have hoped they would, but rather a setlist laced with hits that also included their live debut of David Bowie’s “Heroes” as well as a nod to fellow headliner Guns N’ Roses. And as the final words to “All My Friends” left Murphy’s mouth that night, I walked away still buzzing from what I had just witnessed.

2. Radiohead at Shrine Auditorium – Los Angeles, CA – August 8th
3. Jim James at Orpheum Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – December 9th
4. Temple of the Dog at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – November 14th
5. Pretty Lights (Live) at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – November 10th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Moderat – III
With so many excellent albums being released each year, picking a favorite is never an easy task — but this year felt even more difficult than usual. And although I’ll admit I didn’t have time to hear every LP that dropped in 2016, it was hard not to choose Moderat’s latest studio effort after much thought and consideration. Time after time, I found myself coming back to III after countless listens. From the record’s opening track “Eating Hooks” to its initial single “Reminder”, the Berlin trio seems to get better and better with each release. As difficult as it can be to describe Moderat’s music, there’s something about the way Sascha Ring’s emotive vocals pair perfectly with the supergroup’s haunting melodies that makes III‘s repeatability incredibly strong. I guess the third time really is the charm for these three gents.

2. Jim James – Eternally Even
3. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
4. RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
5. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Jim James – “Here in Spirit”
My Morning Jacket frontman Jim James often receives praise for his unique singing style, but the Louisville native’s songwriting chops remain equally impressive. On his sophomore solo album Eternally Even, James takes a more political stance than what he devised for his 2013 debut Regions of Light and Sound of God. What results is some of James’ most poignant and inspiring material to date, including the soulfully psychedelic cut “Here in Spirit” that bats third in the LP’s nine-track lineup. With lines like “No compromise / But willing to sacrifice / Believe what you want / Go on and be who you are / Go out and get what you want” to open the song, James empowers his listeners to not sit on the sidelines and instead, speak up for what they believe in. He might not be able to solve the world’s problems, but “Yim Yames” knows how to make you think about the issues that matter.

2. Moderat – “Reminder”
3. Glass Animals – “Youth”
4. Tycho – “Division”
5. Run the Jewels – “Legend Has It”


Brainfeed at Fox Theater Oakland


Brainfeeder at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Marc Fong

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Brainfeeder at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – September 15th
This showcase featuring artists from Flying Lotus’ label, including himself, was an experience to behold. No matter who you went to see on this night, eyes were opened and brains were fed — so to speak — thanks to the sonic diversions that continue to make Brainfeeder one of the most important players in shaping the future of music.

2. Danny Brown at The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco, CA – October 11th
3. James Blake at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – October 17th
4. Erykah Badu at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – November 15th
5. Black Madonna at Public Works SF – San Francisco, CA – November 18th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Elevating the current state of hip-hop by ultimately bringing it back to its jazz roots, Malibu finally brought Anderson .Paak the credit he sorely deserved. The 16-track album boasts an intricately curated, eclectic roster of recording, production and songwriting talent. Easily the most important sophomore full-length release of the year, Malibu opened a brand-new door to a musical stratosphere that .Paak was born to commandeer.

2. Kendrick Lamar – untitled unmastered
3. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
4. The Avalanches – Wildflower
5. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Solange – “Cranes in the Sky”
Another career-skyrocketing release of 2016 that was introduced to the world through this single, “Cranes in the Sky” helped bring attention to “the younger Knowles sister” as a force to be reckoned with. Amidst a track list of powerful ballads and political anthems, this song delivers a personal testimony of introspection that humanizes Solange in a way most artists are too afraid to convey. The track, which was delivered through a series of avant-garde music videos, shook the world of modern soul and R&B with one of 2016’s most influential power moves.

2. Chance the Rapper – “All Night”
3. Blood Orange – “Best to You”
4. Kaytranada – “LITE SPOTS”
5. Flume – “Never Be Like You” feat. Kai


YG at The Wiltern


YG at The Wiltern // Photo by Joseph Gray

Joseph Gray // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Kanye West at The Forum – Inglewood, CA – November 1st
Prior to its bizarre, abrupt ending that included a long-winded tirade critical of Beyoncé and some outspoken support for President-elect Donald Trump, Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo Tour” was a once-in-a-lifetime party. Seriously. In LA, the show featured a floating, illuminated and spaceship-like stage that traveled back and forth — while raging youngsters moshed below — to give everybody a great view of their favorite contradiction and/or superhero, who was later hospitalized due to a reported “psychiatric emergency.” With the elevated platform, a smiling and dancing West manned through his conflicts, happiness and faith, reminding us of why he provides the unmistakable feel-good vibes that only he can bring.

2. Young Thug at The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles, CA – May 16th
3. Isaiah Rashad at Echoplex – Los Angeles, CA – November 14th
4. Jhene Aiko at Avalon Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA – November 21st
5. YG at The Wiltern – Los Angeles, CA – November 29th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
The unearthed gem on rap legend Dr. Dre’s long-awaited Compton opus a year prior, Southern California rapper, singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist (he really does it all) Anderson .Paak kicked open the door to his fully-formed world of warm, unbridled expressiveness and raspy soul with Malibu. Brilliantly combining funk and jazz-filled triumphs (“Come Down”) and hip-hop’s reflective grit (“The Season/Carry Me”) with distinct and sprawling elegance (“Room in Here”), .Paak unquestionably put his mark on 2016. A detailed dot (just like the one in .Paak’s moniker), you better not forget it because Malibu proved that you have to pay attention to everything his name is attached to.

2. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
3. Young Thug – Jeffery
4. NxWorries – Yes Lawd!
5. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. A Tribe Called Quest – “We the People…”
In a year drenched in political prejudices and panic for many citizens in the U.S., Q-Tip roared through the darkness over the funkiest of synths: “We don’t believe you ’cause we the people / Are still here in the rear / Yo, we don’t need you.” A message that echoed even louder after the presidential election, one of the standouts tracks from their celebrated final LP We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service invigorates a culture seemingly under attack more than ever.

2. Anderson .Paak – “Come Down”
3. Kanye West – “Real Friends”
4. Anderson .Paak – “Room in Here” feat. The Game & Sonyae Elise
5. Kendrick Lamar – “untitled 07 | 2014 – 2016”


Radiohead at Outside Lands 2016


Radiohead at Outside Lands 2016 // Photo by by James Pawlish

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Kanye West at T-Mobile Arena – Las Vegas, NV – October 29th
In some ways, there’s an unspoken hierarchy to the live-concert experience. The structure is simple — the closer you are to the front of the stage, the better your experience is, the bigger the fan that you are. Only the “rail riders” are the truest fans. In my experience seeing Kanye West’s “Saint Pablo Tour” in Las Vegas — a performance that ended up being one of his last uninterrupted shows prior to a breakdown and a subsequent cancellation of several future dates — he not only completely destroyed the hierarchy, he reinvented what a concert can be. Under a floodlight-filled sky, he spent 90 minutes on a floating stage playing a nonstop show that brought out a level of hype in the crowd I’m not sure I’ve ever seen before. On the floor, underneath the stage, you are instantly a part of the performance. As the stage moved back and forth across the arena, West captured a sense of connection with fans, making it nearly impossible to not scream every damn word to every damn song. It was an emotional roller coaster filled with adrenaline (“Black Skinhead”, “Father Stretch My Hands”), joy (“Waves”, “Fade”), swagger (“Can’t Tell Me Nothing”, “Heartless”) and some transcendent moments so intense during reworked songs like “Only One” and “Ultralight Beam” that many in the crowd (myself included) couldn’t help but be brought to tears. I’ve never seen a concert like this one and will probably never see something like it again. But for those 90 minutes as I jumped and sang with my brothers and friends, there was no world outside of Kanye’s floating stage. It’s a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life as Kanye proved to us there is no hip-hop artist in the world doing what he’s doing.

2. LCD Soundsystem at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 8th
3. Beyoncé at Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA – May 16th
4. Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – September 3rd
5. Air at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 6th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. The Avalanches – Wildflower
I really enjoy albums that can be experienced as one cohesive piece. Twelve years in the making, The Avalanches’ Wildflower is best experienced in one listen from start to finish. Using a near-plethora of samples from both ends of the musical spectrum, the Australian plunderphonics pioneers wove together a soundscape that’s not only textured and groovy, but also just plain old fun. From “Because I’m Me” and “Frankie Sanatra” to “Subways” and “If I Was a Folkstar”, the feel and experience of listening to Wildflower simply fills me with joy. After a year like 2016, it’s something we all needed.

2. RadioheadA Moon Shaped Pool
3. Beyoncé – Lemonade
4. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
5. The Range – Potential

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Radiohead – “Present Tense”
In a serene moment watching Thom Yorke and Co. play a live rendition of “Present Tense” at Outside Lands, I first thought to myself that this may be one of Radiohead’s best tracks. Ever. Their stripped-down rendition featuring Johnny Greenwood solidified that thought. “Present Tense” seems to capture all of the things I find most appealing about Radiohead: complex and beautiful chord progressions, subtle and complimentary percussion, and melancholy lyrics and ambient sounds creating a sense of space that no other band I know is capable of producing in a studio or on a stage. It’s an introspective song that blooms into a plea for a return to what was once had with “in you I’m lost …” That melody gives me goosebumps every time.

2. Blood Orange – “Best to You”
3. Brian Eno – “Fickle Sun (iii) I’m Set Free”
4. Hundred Waters feat. Chance the Rapper – “Show Me Love”
5. DJ Shadow feat. Run the Jewels – “Nobody Speak”


Anderson .Paak at South by Southwest


Anderson .Paak at South by Southwest 2016 // Photo by Rochelle Shipman

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals at South by Southwest – Austin, TX – March 18th
Anderson .Paak played 13 shows in three or four days at SXSW this year. The Pandora show was one of his last ones, so he and his bandmates had their set down to blind perfection and played their hearts out to 150 new fans as the sun went down. Austin was falling in love with .Paak right in front of his eyes, electrifying his performance and even bringing him down into the audience to crowd surf. When he wasn’t behind the drums, he spent the rest of the show dancing on the monitors in between the barrier and the stage, seemingly as close to is fansh as possible. He was just grateful to be there, and it spilled from every ounce of his body. 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.

2. Conor Oberst at The Cathedral Sanctuary at Immanuel Presbyterian Church – Los Angeles, CA – December 17th
3. Chance the Rapper at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 7th
4. Islands at Masonic Lodge at Hollywood Forever Cemetery – Los Angeles, CA – June 9th
5. Animal Collective at Scala – London, UK – September 8th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Anderson .Paak has put out a lot of material, even before he was Anderson .Paak and went by Breezy Lovejoy. There are gems sprinkled throughout his early releases, but his latest studio album has a funky backbone that lets .Paak explore aspects of his range that he never shared before. It resulted in a rhythmic, emotional journey that’s flirty, genre-defiant and fun as fuck. Malibu nearly ruined music for me because nothing else is it.

2. Vince Staples – Prima Donna
3. Conor Oberst – Ruminations
4. Gallant – Ology
5. Noname – Telefone

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. Childish Gambino – “Redbone”
I like Childish Gambino. I’ve always liked Childish Gambino. But the first time I heard his song “Redbone”, every hair on my body stood up and started grooving. It happened the second time and the third time, and even the 643rd time. And this dude is singing about peanut butter chocolate cake with Kool Aid, but because of how he’s singing about it, it’s somehow OK. I made a playlist with only this song on it 20 times over and it was still too short.

2. Anderson .Paak – “The Waters”
3. Sonder – “Too Fast”
4. Danny Brown – “Really Doe” feat. Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul & Earl Sweatshirt
5. Mac Miller – “Dang!” feat. Anderson .Paak


Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley


Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley // Photo by James Pawlish

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. The Cure at Shoreline Amphitheater – Mountain View, CA – May 26th
I saw a ton of amazing shows this year, but seeing The Cure for the first time on my birthday topped them all. For more than three hours I got to catch Robert Smith and company churn out hit after hit, and hanging out with some of my best mates only added to the splendor. A setlist that spanned their entire career on a beautiful evening was just what I needed for my 38th trip around the sun.

2. Tool at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – January 7th
3. At the Drive-In at The Warfield – San Francisco, CA – June 4th
4. Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley – Berkeley, CA – September 3rd
5. Temple of the Dog at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco, CA – November 11th

Top 5 Albums of 2016
1. A Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here… Thank You 4 Your Service
This is the album that we needed, and it was delivered at the right time, in the right way. For a year that had taken so much away from the music world, ATCQ surprised everyone with an LP that delivered a vibrant, thoughtful and politically charged gift to the masses. No guys, thank YOU for your service (RIP Phife Dawg).

2. Mitski – Puberty 2
3. David Bowie – Black Star
4. Mall Walk – Funny Papers
5. Tycho – Epoch

Top 5 Songs of 2016
1. David Bowie – “Lazarus”
Oh, Bowie … even on the eve of your own passing, you knew how to pull out all of the stops and push your art to the limit. A true showman and artist to the end, this song encapsulates all that is raw, beautiful and bizarre about our beloved Ziggy Stardust. Its somber tone is met with a sexy, sinister groove, which leaves you with a sense of unease and is honestly perfect in my opinion. Thank you, sir. RIP.

2. Bob Moses – “Tearing Me Up”
3. Savages – “Evil”
4. Zack de la Rocha – “digging for windows”
5. Deep Sea Diver – “Secrets”

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The ‘EDM bubble’ may be bursting, but Pretty Lights remains a beacon of hope at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Pretty LightsBy Josh Herwitt //

Pretty Lights (Live) with Big Wild, Chris Karns //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
November 10th, 2016 //

Amid the myriad of tragedies that the music industry has endured in 2016, one of the major talking points has been the future of electronic dance music. EDM, as the kids like to call it these days, experienced a meteoric rise just a few years ago as laptops replaced turntables and guitars, transforming DJs into music’s newest and biggest rock stars with multimillion-dollar residencies in Las Vegas and headlining slots at music festivals all around the world.

But in the last eight months, the genre’s sustainability has started to be called into question, with several media outlets predicting that the EDM boom will soon come crashing down. One well-known music website, for instance, published an in-depth look at EDM’s demise back in April, already declaring it a thing of the past with a title like “Popping the Drop: A Timeline of How EDM’s Bubble Burst.” Soon after, LA Weekly followed suit, continuing the conversation with their own piece on why an industry worth $6.9 billion only a year ago has fallen so fast. Of course, it should also be noted that Forbes was the first to tap into the subject, exploring how the proliferation of EDM festivals in the U.S. hasn’t always equaled massive payouts for some concert promoters.

Still, for a culture born out of the UK’s underground rave scene, it shouldn’t be too surprising to hear that the EDM business has reached its ceiling. From simply a spectators’ point of view, watching someone entertain an audience with a computer and a mixer can only be engaging for so long, even if the song selection and stage production are superb (it can also depend on if any mind-altering substances were ingested at the time). That’s not to say dance music can’t or won’t survive. As oversaturated as the market is right now, there will always be a thirst for music that can make you move — it’s more that the genre will continue to evolve in new and different ways. And if there’s one electronic artist whom others should look to for inspiration, it’s unquestionably Pretty Lights.

Pretty Lights

Praised by legendary record producer Rick Rubin as “the face and voice of the new American electronic music scene,” Derek Vincent Smith started out making music under his Pink Floyd-inspired moniker with his close friend and frequent collaborator Michal Menert more than a decade ago. But unlike so many of his contemporaries, the Colorado native was carving his own path in his early 20’s. Influenced by hip-hop groups from the Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest to Wu-Tang Clan and The Roots, Smith got his big break opening for jam bands like Sound Tribe Sector 9 (STS9), The Disco Biscuits and Widespread Panic at their late-night, after-party shows. Employing a colorful patchwork of hip-hop breakbeats and soul samples to build the foundation for his tracks, Smith’s process as well as his music in many ways felt like an extension of the classic trip-hop that DJ Shadow pioneered in 1996 with his seminal debut LP Endtroducing….. and RJD2 (read our interview with him here) later furthered on his initial studio album Deadringer.

Pretty Lights’ rise to stardom didn’t happen overnight. Releasing his music for free on his own record label Pretty Lights Music, it took years for Smith to build the worldwide following that he has today. Yet, what has always made him more than just merely a “DJ” or a “producer” is his propensity for incorporating live instrumentation into his live performances. By the time he began touring in 2007, he had enlisted drummer Cory Eberhard to join him for a run that would eventually include important U.S. festival appearances at Coachella and Ultra in 2010. Smith would go on to replace Eberhard with Adam Deitch, and while Deitch’s commitment to his other projects (Break Science, Lettuce) has curtailed his involvement in more recent years, he served as a key ingredient during the recording sessions for 2013’s A Color Map of the Sun, which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Dance/Electronica Album.

Since then, Smith has made a conscious effort to bring other talented musicians into the fray. 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.

Setlist:
Still Night Jam
Maybe Tomorrow
Time Remix
One Day They’ll Know > ODESZA Remix > Break Science Remix
Let The World Hurry By
So Much In The Dark
More Important Than Michael Jordan
Bombay Bump
Total Fascination > Jam
Understand Me Now > Jam
Cold Feeling > Jam > Remix
There Is a Light
Jam
Where I’m Trying to Go tease
More Important Than Michael Jordan tease
I Can See It In Your Face > Jam
High School Art Class

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

Caribou


Caribou at The Fillmore // Showbams’ Photo of the Year, by Justin Yee

Ah, where did 2015 go? It felt like we were just ringing in a new year a couple months ago. But with another year in the rear-view mirror, it’s time to once again doll out our annual “Best of” lists. Much like we did in 2014, we heard a lot of music this year, whether it was at a show or at a festival, at work, on the bus or in our cars. From established headliners who continue to amaze us to emerging artists who rekindled our excitement for new music, our collective lives were filled with one musical memory after another over the past 12 months.

So, without further ado, Showbams presents The Bam Team’s five favorite shows, albums and songs from 2015.

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2015

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


Tycho


Tycho at Lightning in a Bottle // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Jack White at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 11th
There’s a reason why Mr. White was named our No. 1 live music act of 2014 around this time last year, and it’s not because he’s simply a guitar god. The Detroit native and former White Stripe is much more than that now, as he has proven with the kind of clever, genre-swirling songwriting that permeates his two solo albums Blunderbuss and Lazaretto. But witnessing White perform live almost feels like a musical right of passage in and of itself, reminding us that while inventive, mainstream rock ‘n’ roll may be harder to come by these days, it’s still far from dead. On this warm, spring night in the California desert, he imparted on us that “music is sacred” — not just with his words in between songs, but also with every ferverous note that he struck on his fret board. From the moment White appeared on the festival’s main stage, his 20-song, headlining set was bold and powerful, even if it would serve as one of his last shows for a while.

2. My Morning Jacket at Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA – October 11th
3. Modest Mouse at Hollywood Forever – Los Angeles, CA – August 21st
4. Tycho at Lightning in a Bottle – Bradley, CA – May 24th
5. The War on Drugs at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 10th

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. My Morning JacketThe Waterfall
When My Morning Jacket announced that they would be releasing a new studio LP in May after nearly a four-year layoff, their longest between albums since forming in the late 90’s, I wasn’t sure if they could top what they had devised on 2011’s Circuital. But these Louisville rockers, rather, did just that, putting together a flawless record that opens with the inspiring “Believe (Nobody Knows)” and concludes with the gloomy, yet poignant “Only Memories Remain”. In between it all, frontman Jim James continues to build off his 2013 solo album, showing what a thoughtful songwriter he has become — knowing when to step on the gas pedal and when to ease off of it. With an already impressive catalog highlighted by 2005’s Z, it’s hard to definitively say that The Waterfall has taken over the throne as MMJ’s best album now, but there’s no doubt it belongs in the conversation.

2. Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear
3. Silversun Pickups – Better Nature
4. Jamie xxIn Colour
5. Tame ImpalaCurrents

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. My Morning Jacket – “Tropics (Erase Traces)”
It’s only fitting that my favorite album of the year also boasts my favorite song of the year. The penultimate track on My Morning Jacket’s The Waterfall is an absolute rocker that gradually builds from the opening, Led Zeppelin-esque guitar lick before peaking midway through for a chilling finish. There might not be a better example in MMJ’s catalog that demonstrates how well Jim James and Carl Broemel play off each other, and if the two guitarists haven’t already, then they’ve certainly cemented themselves as one of rock’s best one-two punches by now.

2. The Weeknd – “The Hills”
3. Modest Mouse – “The Ground Walks, With Time in a Box”
4. Battles – “The Yabba”
5. Tame Impala – “The Less I Know the Better”


The Chemical Brothers


The Chemical Brothers at The Armory // Photo by Justin Yee

Molly Kish // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Jamie xx at Bimbo’s 365 Club – San Francisco, CA – July 31st
Whereas those familiar with his early XL Records mixtapes were satiated by his intermingling of Gil Scott-Heron and Idris Muhammad samples between hits, Jamie xx’s newfound, post-In Colour fans experienced equally breathtaking moments with the crowd hitting peak energy levels during the chorus of “Loud Places” amidst the glow of a warped-speed, neon-green strobe light. Another notable moment included the near-religious choral drop of “Gosh” that escalated the packed house to spiritual levels of enthusiasm, all while bathed in the glowing sparkle of Jamie Smith’s staggeringly iridescent, ceiling-to-floor disco ball and stage lights.

2. The Chemical Brothers at The Armory – San Francisco, CA – November 30th
3. Kate Tempest at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – May 20th
4. Kishi Bashi at Palace of Fine Arts Theatre – San Francisco, CA – January 30th
5. Caribou at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – March 1st

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Jamie xxIn Colour
Acclaimed London-based producer and half of electronic powerhouse The xx, Jamie Smith (aka Jamie xx) broke the mold this past year with his stunning solo debut In Colour. Earning top accolades within the music industry, including a 2015 Mercury Prize nomination and a Grammy nomination for “Best Electronic/Dance Album”, In Colour featured both individually conceptualized strokes of production ingenuity as well as many of the biggest contemporary-crossover hits this year. Smith explored his dubstep, house, garage and trip-hop influences on In Colour to deliver a genre-spanning masterpiece, highlighting his illustrious career as an electronic composer while setting the standard for the current and future state of EDM.

2. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly
3. Tame ImpalaCurrents
4. The Weeknd – Beauty Behind the Madness
5. Lord Huron – Strange Trails

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Jamie xx – “Loud Places”
As part of a track list that included some of 2015’s most groundbreaking and genre-defining hits, “Loud Places” holds its own as a standout cut on Jamie xx’s monumental solo debut In Colour. It comes in toward the latter half of the UK producer’s LP and enlists the gorgeously haunting vocals of Romy Madley Croft, one of Jamie Smith’s partners in The xx and a longtime collaborator of his. Amid a packed roster of acclaimed vocalists, emcees and iconic samples, Croft’s contributions, while paired with a full choir, help manifest the lyrical content of the song while evoking a near-religious experience for its listener.

2. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
3. Robyn – “Love Is Free”
4. Kendrick Lamar – “King Kunta”
5. FKA twigs – “In Time”


Outside Lands 2015 - Tame Impala


Tame Impala at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival // Photo by James Nagel

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Four Tet b2b Floating Points at Public Works SF – San Francisco, CA – May 3rd
Sparked by their set at Plastic Peoples in London earlier in the year — a set, coincidentally, that was named “Best of the Year” by THUMP a few days ago — SF’s own DJ Dials was kind enough to bring Kerian Hebden and Sam Shepherd, better known as Four Tet and Floating Points, to Public Works last May. Starting early in the evening, the two well-established English producers put on a scorching, non-stop, six-hour, vinyl-only DJ set. Kicking off the evening with over an hour of early-70’s Brazilian samba and steadily moving from there to all forms of funk, big band, soul, jazz and of course their own eclectic catalog of music, the two DJs seamlessly moved between tracks, bringing up and down the energy at just the right point to keep you guessing what’s going to happen next. After dozens and dozens of shows and DJ sets this year, I always keep thinking back to this one because it wasn’t only a chance to see an artist I like play their music — it was a chance to see two artists I like play the music that they love, and do it on an absolutely killer sound system.

2. Kendrick Lamar at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – November 10th
3. Tame Impala at Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival – San Francisco, CA – August 8th
4. Jamie xx “In Colour” album release show at Church of St John-at-Hackney – London, England – July 16th
5. Nicolas Jaar at Symbiosis Gathering – Oakdale, CA – September 19th

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly
Kendrick wins. No contest. At this point, there’s nothing I can say that will be new or not already over-analyzed by the blogosphere over TPAB. All I can say is that TPAB is one of those rap albums that, just like Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy in 2010, expanded my understanding of what a rap album can be. From the very start you hear Lamar’s voice in the genius, FlyLo-produced “Wesley’s Theory” — a track that I think is among the greatest album openers ever — to the closing conversation with 2Pac in Mortal Man, TPAB is among the most ambitious and thoroughly conceptualized productions I have had the pleasure of hearing (and seeing) in my life.

2. Tame ImpalaCurrents
3. Nicolas Jaar – Nymphs I-IV
4. Jamie xxIn Colour
5. Beach HouseDepression Cherry

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Pumarosa – “Priestess”
“Priestess” is a seven-minute, punk-meets-disco dance party that starts as an observation and ends as a declaration. Its declaration? To dance. Its lyrics (for instance: “Cut from clay and stone / Electricity flows through your spine and shoulders/In the night when we’re alone”), its visceral rhythm and undeniably entrancing, three-minute instrumental closing out the track (DAT SAX) are what make it an easy choice for my favorite of the year. In a culture engulfed in consumerism, celebrity and over-consumption, “Priestess” reminds us all that dancing is free. Dancing can be a protest. Dancing can be a celebration. Dancing is whatever you make of it. “Priestess” is a track that reaches into your soul and forces you to do one simple thing: dance. That’s something we all need in our lives every once and a while.

2. Kendrick Lamar – “Wesley’s Theory”
3. Jamie xx – “Gosh”
4. Tame Impala – “Eventually”
5. Nicolas Jaar – “Swim”


High Sierra Music Festival 2015 - The String Cheese Incident


The String Cheese Incident at High Sierra Music Festival 2015 // Photo by Benjamin Wallen

Benjamin Wallen // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Greensky Bluegrass at The Independent – San Francisco, CA – November 1st
Many bands get bigger and play bigger shows. Every now and then, you get to see them in a smaller venue with a more “intimate” feel. This was that show. Following a crazy night at the Fox Theater Oakland celebrating Halloween, the band crossed the Bay Bridge to play a birthday show for its dobro player Anders Beck at The Independent. It was a “Greatest Hits” setlist of all the songs I loved the most: past, present and future. The show was definitely intimate and filled with energy, and Greensky ended the night with some acoustic tunes. I think it says a lot about a band that can pack a big venue and then play a smaller venue and still the heat. This is my favorite band these days. They are consistently great and just too much fun.

2. String Cheese Incident at High Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 3rd
3. The Sam Chase at High Sierra Sierra Music Festival – Quincy, CA – July 3rd
4. Jeff Austin Band at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – April 26th
5. The Devil Makes Three at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – February 3rd

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Della Mae – Della Mae
These girls are damn talented as much as they are cute. I stumbled upon these five girls from Nashville while at The Chapel a few years back, and they were just damn good. Then, I heard that they were nominated for a Grammy and only beaten by the legendary Del McCoury Band. These ladies can pick and tick and get the crowd jumping. For Della Mae, powerful songs and epic throw-down jams are just par for the course. This album was Kickstarter-funded, which I was happy to contribute to, and continues the revival of bluegrass for the younger generation and modernizing the sound with the energy of youth. I find myself playing this album more and more each day from start to end — it’s just that good.

2. The Dustbowl Revival – With a Lamp Shade On
3. Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear
4. Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers – Loved Wild Lost
5. Jackie Greene – Back to Birth

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Jackie Greene – “A Face Among the Crowd”
I have been a Jackie Greene fan since I moved to SF almost 10 years ago. This song I heard a number of years ago when Greene was uploading hotel room solo tracks on the road. This song was put up on Father’s Day for Greene’s dad and was a touching song. Creepily sitting in a hotel room, you can feel the emotion. Hearing it on a record in my home is just heaven. After some of those really tough days in life, I come home, put this song on while listening on my best pair of headphones and zone out — let all the crap from the day that doesn’t mean shit just fade away. This song does that for me, and as a music lover, finding this type of song is like finding gold on the street.

2. The Dustbowl Revival – “Standing Next to Me”
3. The California Honeydrops – “When It Was Wrong”
4. Father John Misty – “I Went to the Store One Day”
5. Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers – “Mr. Saturday Night”


Father John Misty


Father John Misty at Treasure Island Music Festival 2015 // Photo by Marc Fong

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Father John Misty at Treasure Island Music Festival – San Francisco, CA – October 18th
Of all of the performers on Day 2 at the festival, Father John Misty held my attention the most. A stellar performance, hitting all of the right points, which gave me good reason to believe that he may in fact be one of the best frontmen of the last 10 years.

2. Hum at Slim’s – San Francisco, CA – September 18th
3. Fat Wreck Chords 25th Anniversary at Thee Parkside – San Francisco, CA – Aug 22nd & 23rd
4. Refused at Great American Music Hall – San Francisco, CA – May 28th
5. alt-J at Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA – April 16th

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Tame ImpalaCurrents
From top to bottom, this is an album that I can listen to over and over without feeling burnt out (and believe me, I have). I appreciate the fact that on this album, they steer clear of too much “jam” and keep it straight forward. I can’t help but move my feet when I hear some of the tracks on Currents.

2. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly
3. Failure – The Heart Is a Monster
4. Father John MistyI Love You, Honeybear
5. God Is an Astronaut – Helios/Erebus

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Tame Impala – “The Less I Know the Better”
From the first time I heard this track, I knew it was the best song of the year. Infectious as hell, you cannot stop your body from getting into that groove.

2. Grimes – “Kill V. Maim”
3. Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”
4. The Velvet Teen – “All Is Illusory”
5. Viet Cong – “Continental Shelf”


Viet Cong


Viet Cong at Rickshaw Stop // Photo by Diana Cordero

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

Top 5 Shows of 2015
1. Viet Cong at Rickshaw Stop – San Francisco, CA – March 5th
Viet Cong were easily one of the most brilliant bands in 2015 as they shook up South by Southwest (even when their drummer had a broken arm), generally not caring about the whole band-name fiasco and releasing a stellar debut LP. The brooding studio work from this Canadian outfit turned out to be way more accessible on the live stage as bassist/singer Matt Flegel bounced between playful banter and pile-driving post-punk.

2. Caribou at The Fillmore – San Francisco, CA – March 1st
3. Todd Terje (Live) at Coachella Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA – April 10th
4. Kendrick Lamar at Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA – November 10th
5. BADBADNOTGOOD at FYF Fest – Los Angeles, CA – August 22

Top 5 Albums of 2015
1. Kendrick LamarTo Pimp a Butterfly
No surprises here, as truly this was objectively the best album of the year. With expectations high from his growing fan base, Lamar delivered an LP that had it all: crushing singles, a bold concept and a clear message. The smorgasbord of genres and vibes TPAB lays out for the listener further shows that K-Dot’s bag of tricks has no end in sight.

2. Protomartyr – The Agent Intellect
3. DJ Paypal – Sold Out
4. Tame ImpalaCurrents
5. Archy Marshall – A New Place to Drown

Top 5 Songs of 2015
1. Tame Impala – “Let It Happen”
This track was our first taste of Currents, and it got fans salivating in no time. “Let It Happen” was the perfect amuse-bouche with Kevin Parker’s vision shifting a bit toward synths over his trusty Rickenbacker guitar, which slightly became the resounding chatter behind the LP. Oh yeah, and there was the “record skip” in the middle of the track that we all went mental over.

2. Ought – “Beautiful Blue Sky”
3. The Weeknd – “Can’t Feel My Face”
4. DJ Spinn – “Dubby” (feat. DJ Rashad & Danny Brown)
5. Deerhunter – “Snakeskin”

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First Times: Experiencing the Santa Barbara Bowl as My Morning Jacket take their game to the next level

My Morning JacketBy Josh Herwitt //

My Morning Jacket with Fruit Bats //
Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA
October 11th, 2015 //

Ever since I can remember, the Santa Barbara Bowl has always been on my bucket list of concert venues to visit.

With its majestic views overlooking the Pacific Ocean, the 4,562-seat outdoor amphitheater offers one of Southern California’s — and maybe even one of the country’s — most beautiful settings to take in live music.

My Morning Jacket

But for whatever reason, whether it was the distance, the timing or just not being able to find the right band to make the 90-minute drive from Los Angeles worth it, seeing a show there had yet to happen for me.

So, when My Morning Jacket unveiled their 2015 U.S. tour dates, which included a Sunday night gig at the Santa Barbara Bowl earlier this month, it was an opportunity that I wasn’t about to pass up.

Following the release of their seventh studio album The Waterfall this past May, My Morning Jacket are one of rock’s biggest crown jewels at the moment. There are a select number of rock ‘n’ roll bands that can elevate their game to another level when they perform live, and for all intents and purposes, the Louisville five-piece has clearly proven to be one of them over the last several years.

But since 1998, when frontman Jim James founded the band with three members from the emo-punk outfit Winter Death Club, My Morning Jacket have done their best to live outside the box, paying homage to the Southern rock gods that have come before them while combining elements of folk, country and even dub and reggae to create a sound that is uniquely their own. In short, they’re a rock band, while psychedelic in nature, that seemingly has no limits. Of course, at least some of that eclecticism can be attributed to James, who has long served as the band’s primary songwriter, but the 37-year-old has also managed to surround himself with a talented group of musicians over the years.

My Morning Jacket

At the Santa Barbara Bowl after an opening set from the recently revived, indie-folk project Fruit Bats (read our interview with the band here), Jim James (lead vocals, guitar), Tom Blankenship (bass), Patrick Hallahan (drums, percussion), Bo Koster (keyboards, percussion, backing vocals) and Carl Broemel (guitar, pedal steel guitar, saxophone, backing vocals) were locked in from the moment they walked on stage and started with “Steam Engine”, a deep cut off 2003’s It Still Moves. Though it was more than understandable to see the band play a large majority of The Waterfall for its first performance at the Santa Barbara Bowl in almost four years, there were plenty of other deep cuts mixed in over the next two hours, from “Bermuda Highway” to “Mahgeetah” to “Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2”. After all, it’s no secret that My Morning Jacket have always been good to their most loyal and dedicated fans, and in once again taking song requests as part of their “Spontaneous Curation Series,” they made sure to dig up many of the classics from their seminal album Z, including “Wordless Chorus” and “Off the Record” one after the other in the middle of a loaded, four-song encore.

Yet, before it was all said and done, it was only fitting for James and his bandmates to end the night with “One Big Holiday”, a longtime crowd favorite about a “bad man from California” that put My Morning Jacket squarely on the map more than a decade ago. And as the curly, long-haired guitar wizard shredded his way through the single’s final notes, I couldn’t help but think that after waiting all those years to step inside the Santa Barbara Bowl, the whole show had felt like one big holiday to me.

Setlist:
Steam Engine
Believe (Nobody Knows)
Compound Fracture
Circuital
In Its Infancy (The Waterfall)
Bermuda Highway
It Beats 4 U
Gideon
Like a River
Golden
Mahgeetah
Spring (Among the Living)
Only Memories Remain
Tropics (Erase Traces)
Touch Me I’m Going to Scream Pt. 2

Encore:
Victory Dance
Wordless Chorus
Off the Record
One Big Holiday

Fruit Bats are back together and hitting the road this fall on My Morning Jacket’s latest U.S. tour

Fruit BatsPhotos by Annie Beedy // Written by Josh Herwitt //

Since their early beginnings in Louisville, My Morning Jacket have toed the line between the indie and jam worlds better than any other rock ‘n’ roll band out there. But they’re also now partially responsible for reviving an early pioneer of the post-millennial, folk-rock boom that stormed the U.S. music industry more than a decade ago.

Conceived by Eric Johnson while working as an instructor at The Old Town School of Folk Music in his native Chicago, Fruit Bats first served as an outlet for the 39-year-old singer-songwriter to experiment writing songs with his 4-track recording device.

“My ultimate goal was to play the local club on a Tuesday night,” Johnson tells me by phone. “I was coming from this very shrewd indie-rock era. My goal was just to have a couple people hear it, and I didn’t even think that would happen.”

Johnson, nevertheless, would go on to befriend James Mercer of The Shins and Isaac Brock of Modest Mouse while touring as a member of Califone, gaining the support of both bands before signing Fruit Bats to Sub Pop Records in 2002 and releasing a new LP on the Seattle label the following year.

“It took going on tour and seeing those guys do well to realize it doesn’t take magic,” Johnson says with regard to the role The Shins and Modest Mouse played in helping Fruit Bats reach a wider audience during the early 2000’s. “You get to see how the wheels start to turn and how it can work.”

Fruit Bats subsequently released three more studio albums on Sub Pop, with Johnson joining The Shins during part of that time as a multi-instrumentalist. But more than two years after putting the final touches on the band’s last full length Tripper, Johnson announced that Fruit Bats would be no more. He was set on taking his career solo, and if that meant calling it quits on the band he founded and led for more than 15 years, then that’s what he had to do.

It was a decision that Johnson still doesn’t regret making now almost two years later, largely because it has completely flipped his perspective on playing in a band, something he started to miss as a solo artist. And after much thought, he came up with a “new” concept for a band, only to realize that it was exactly what Fruit Bats had been all along.

“I formulated this whole plan in my head that seemed like such a great idea, and when I looked at it all on paper, I said, ‘I did that already,'” he says.

Around this same time, My Morning Jacket came calling, asking Johnson if he wanted to open for them as a solo act over a two-week stretch — starting on Sunday at the Santa Barbara Bowl and continuing Tuesday in Los Angeles at the Shrine Auditorium before hitting San Francisco for three straight nights at The Masonic a couple days later — on their current U.S. tour.

“My Morning Jacket asked if I wanted to do the tour and open solo,” he says. “I thought, ‘That would suck to open solo for those guys.’ I felt like I would be swallowed up by those rooms.”

Fruit Bats

So, rather than turning them down, Johnson proposed another idea.

“I asked them, ‘What if I reunited Fruit Bats for these shows?'” he says. “And they were like, ‘That would rule! That would be awesome!’ So, I got the My Morning Jacket seal of approval.”

Shortly thereafter, Johnson wrote on the band’s Twitter page that he would be performing as Fruit Bats again, but the accomplished film scorer (his credentials include working on “Our Idiot Brother” in 2011 and “Smashed” in 2012) would also reveal two months later that he had begun writing the band’s next album, which is slated for release in early 2016.

Still, after 16 years fronting Fruit Bats, he never expected that he would be taking the band on the road as an opener.

“I don’t do opening tours ever,” says Johnson, who splits his time between Portland, where he now calls home, and LA, where he’s currently recording the latest Fruit Bats album. “I’ve said ‘No’ to a lot of them because it’s hard. It’s a bus-chasing tour as they call it.”

But opening for My Morning Jacket, even with the prospect of doing it while traveling from state to state on a bus, was an opportunity that Johnson, whom has been friends with Jim James for a number of years now, couldn’t pass up when the offer was presented to him.

“My Morning Jacket would be on the very short list of people I would chase around because talk about one of the great rock ‘n’ roll bands of our time that is making super relevant and timeless music,” he says. “It seemed like a no-brainer. If you want to talk about a big band with that reach that I would want to get in front of, they’re definitely one of them.”

From California to Arizona to Texas, Fruit Bats will take on some fairly large venues this month, even if it means doing it as an opener despite having been around the block like Johnson has by now.

“It can be a pretty thankless gig,” he says when it comes to opening shows.

If there’s one thing Johnson can be thankful for though, it’s that phone call he got earlier this year from My Morning Jacket.

Fruit Bats