Outside Lands 2021: A return to hallowed ground

Outside Lands 2021 - crowdPhotos by Sarah Felker & Marc Fong // Written by Molly Kish //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
October 29th-31st, 2021 //

After postponing its 13th edition due to the COVID-19 pandemic and experiencing disappointing lineup cancellations in the months leading up to it, Outside Lands had quite a lot to make up for going into its 2021 relaunch for Halloween. Asserting themselves as hosts of the first “mega event” in Golden Gate Park during the pandemic, Bay Area concert promoter Another Planet Entertainment braved an entirely new entertainment landscape, time of year and crowd dynamic.

Following statewide safety protocols, attendees had to wear a mask and show proof of vaccination or a negative test result at all entrances before scanning their way inside the gates. Clear backpacks were enforced and costume guidelines were added to the laundry list of rules and regulations for all ticket holders. But even with the adjusted security measures and slight changes to the event’s production, concertgoers came out in record numbers. Averaging crowds of approximately 70,000 people per day, OSL 2021 wasn’t short of attendees willing to happily follow the new guidelines in order to return to the beloved three-day festival.

Outside Lands 2021

While at times the interactive experiences in 2021 seemed lacking with the obvious downplay of live art activations, comedy and representation of the Bay Area’s creative culture, OSL still provided a larger platform for community-based initiatives. This year the fest added a brand-new stage in the SOMA Tent, which focused on burgeoning talent across the local electronic scene, and also dedicated attention and space for both local and national non-profits with an extended Eco Lands footprint.

Relaunching OSL over Halloween weekend was one of the smartest pivots Another Planet could have made. The energy surrounding the holiday was palpable, providing a dialed-in event and location with an additional reason for both local and visiting attendees to celebrate. Costumed crowds filled the fields all three days and created an increasingly whimsical buildup to what felt like a triumphant return to the city’s historical Halloween legacy. With many hoping the holiday tradition would continue for years to come, OSL successfully stoked the sold-out crowd’s excitement for its return in August 2022.

Outside Lands 2021 - Moses Sumney


Moses Sumney

OUTSIDE LANDS 2021 AWARDS:

Headliner of the Weekend: Tyler, the Creator

Breakthrough Performance: The HU

Favorite First-Timer: Brijean

Best OSL Addition: SOMA Tent

Favorite Festival Food: Pork Lumpia from Abacá

Most Magical Cocktail: Silver Girl’s “St. Olaf’s Fizz”

Most Entertaining Activation: The Aperol Spritz Piazza

Best Wine Lands Pour: Brut Rose by Angels & Cowboys

Favorite OSL Night Show: Drama at Bimbo’s 360 Club

Most Popular Costume: Skeleton

Largest Crowd: RÜFÜS DU SOL

Biggest Dance Party: Khruangbin

Best Stage Production: Tame Impala

Funniest Band Interaction: The Neil Frances vs. Neal Francis beef

Local Standout: Kehlani

Most Impressive Pipes: Brittany Howard

Biggest Lasting Impression: Moses Sumney

Best Improvement: Open-air layout at The House by Heineken

Ohana Festival adds ‘Encore’ weekend for 2021 with Pearl Jam, Beck, Brandi Carlile & more on the bill

Ohana Encore - 2021 lineup

Ohana Encore //
Doheny State Beach – Dana Point, CA
October 1st-2nd, 2021 //

Well, Ohana fam … if you thought this year’s event was shaping up to be something special, you’re in for a pleasant surprise.

The music festival founded by Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder in 2016 has already shared an updated roster for its fifth installment in September after postponing the festivities 12 months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but that’s actually only half of the fun now.

Yes, that’s right. Ohana Festival has announced a second event for 2021 that will take place the ensuing weekend and follow what’s sure to be an epic three days in Dana Point. And if you happen to be a Pearl Jam fan, then you’re in for a real treat.

Leading the way will be the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band for two more days at Doheny State Beach, headlining a lineup that will also include Beck, Brandi Carlile (who is already slated to perform Sunday at Ohana Festival), Lord Huron, Sleater-Kinney, White Reaper, Margo Price, ZZ Ward, NHC (a supergroup featuring Jane’s Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro and bassist Chris Chaney as well as Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins), Pluralone (former Red Hot Chili Peppers guitarist Josh Klinghoffer’s project), Amythyst Kiah and a few more acts.

The “Encore” session, as you can see from the poster above, plans to once again lean heavily in the direction of rock ‘n’ roll but will still showcase flashes of indie folk, alt-country and even punk to round out an eclectic edition that boasts must-see sets by My Morning Jacket, Maggie Rogers, Sharon Van Etten, Durand Jones & The Indications, Mac Demarco, Wild Belle and Real Estate the week prior.

While three-day GA passes for Ohana Festival sold out months ago, weekend and single-day tickets for Ohana Encore will go on sale this Friday, July 23rd here for $275 and $138.50, respectively, plus fees. VIP, furthermore, can be purchased for $950 and $499.50 unless you’re willing to drop a small fortune of $7,000 for the Ultimate VIP+ Admission Pass. If you haven’t seen Pearl Jam before or you missed out on getting tickets to Ohana Festival, this is a great opportunity for fans of the Seattle grunge outfit to end their summers on a high note after spending most of 2020 at home.

Ohana Festival reveals updated 2021 lineup with Brandi Carlile, Spoon, Black Pumas & more

Ohana Festival - 2021 lineup

Ohana Festival //
Doheny State Beach – Dana Point, CA
September 24th-26th, 2021 //

Oh how we have missed you, live music! If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything over the past 15 months, it’s that the concert experience should never be taken for granted.

But with U.S. vaccinations increasing and summer right around the corner, music festivals are preparing to make their return all over the country, including up and down California, which has the lowest COVID-19 infection rate in the country now.

So why not escape to Doheny State Beach for a long weekend this September where you can rock out to Pearl Jam, Eddie Vedder and Kings of Leon at Ohana Festival?

The three-day event founded by Vedder five years ago had already announced a 2020 lineup just days before the festival circuit was quickly shut down and now it has updated that roster, swapping in Grammy-winning singer-songwriter Brandi Carlile, indie-rock veterans Spoon, psych-soul duo Black Pumas, LA punk rockers The Regrettes, Long Beach’s very own Cold War Kids, Salt Lake City four-piece The Backseat Lovers and TikTok sensation Sky McCreery for originally announced acts like The Pretenders, Dermot Kennedy, EOB, Broken Social Scene, Gangs of Youth, Inhaler and Ethan Gruska.

As you can see from the poster above, Ohana Fest has delivered another largely rock-leaning bill after an excellent showing in 2019 headlined by The Strokes, Vedder and Red Hot Chili Peppers, but this year also boasts one of its strongest undercards with My Morning Jacket, Maggie Rogers, Sharon Van Etten, Durand Jones & The Indications, Mac Demarco, Wild Belle and Real Estate all worthy of catching down in Dana Point.

UPDATE (September 23rd): Just a little more than 24 hours before they were supposed to take the stage, Kings of Leon have canceled their headlining performance on Friday due to a family emergency. In their absence, My Morning Jacket will play an extended set and Vedder will close out the fest’s first day with an additional appearance.

Three-day GA and Sunday single-day tickets are already sold out, but single-day tickets for Friday and Saturday can still be purchased here for $138.50 plus fees. Don’t wait before it’s too late, Ohana fam!

Outside Lands 2021 moves to Halloween weekend as Glass Animals, Kaytranada & more join the party

Outside Lands - 2021 lineup

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
October 29th-31st, 2021 //

The past 12 months have been a tense and agonizing time for musicians and live music fans everywhere. With the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down the concert and festival circuits for months on end, many of us around the world have had to resort to livestreams and drive-in performances to help get us through the chaos until normalcy resumes.

But those days could be coming to an end soon in the U.S. as vaccinations continue to rise and for those who are looking to celebrate Halloween this year in style with both friends and strangers (if you can believe it), look no further than Golden Gate Park when Outside Lands makes its long-awaited return to SF.

While the three-day music festival made the decision in June to cancel any plans for 2020 and instead target August 2021 for its 13th installment, organizers have given us a spooky surprise by shifting the event back more than two months.

Because whether you’re a kid or an adult, who doesn’t love the spirit of Halloween? The new dates scheduled for October will mark the first time that OSL won’t occur during its usual month of August, though those aren’t the only changes that were announced with this latest postponement news.

The fest, in fact, is also giving its 2021 lineup a slight makeover with the additions of Glass Animals, Kaytranada, Lord Huron, SG Lewis, Flo Milli, 24kGoldn, Cannons, Buscabulla, JESSIA, Claud and several others while previously confirmed acts such as Beach House, Bonobo, Polo & Pan, Big Thief, Tones and I, EOB, Parcels, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and The Beths have unfortunately been removed from the poster. And for those hoping to see Tame Impala, Lizzo and/or The Strokes on the Lands End stage, don’t you worry — all three are still set to make their headlining debuts once day turns to night. See the poster above for the rest of the lineup.

Itching to get back out there and ready to don your best festival costume? Three-day GA and VIP passes to OSL 2021 are on sale now with payment plans available for both so don’t forget to purchase your tickets here and check out our coverage over the years here.

UPDATE (March 23rd): Wow! And just like that, three-day GA and VIP passes are sold out. If you’re looking for single-day tickets, stay tuned for more details soon.

Outside Lands - 2021 daily lineups

UPDATE (April 27th): Outside Lands has released its daily lineups for 2021, with The Strokes headlining Friday, Lizzo performing Saturday and Tame Impala on Sunday to wrap up the weekend. Take a look at the daily schedules above before single-day tickets go on sale here for $165 (GA) and $375 (VIP) plus fees starting this Thursday, April 29th at 10 a.m. PT.

UPDATE (September 30th): With less than a month to go before the festivities begin, organizers have revealed that Nicola Cruz, Salami Rose Joe Louis and Boy Scouts have each been added to the lineup.

Outside Lands cancels 2020 edition, reveals lineup for 2021 with Tame Impala, Lizzo & The Strokes

Outside Lands - 2021 lineup

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 6th-8th, 2021 //

As most of us know by now, 2020 has been a really rough year for the music industry. The COVID-19 pandemic has completely wiped out the concert and festival circuits, with free live streams and drive-in performances serving as our indefinite replacement during these strange and unpredictable days, weeks and months.

So when multiple major events like South by Southwest, Ultra Music Festival and Coachella canceled their 2020 editions and the entire U.S. shut down in March, it seemed unlikely that Outside Lands would actually transpire this summer.

Now that forecast has been officially confirmed, with the three-day music festival announcing that it will not take over Golden Gate Park during the weekend of August 7th-9th this year. It’s sad news for many in the Bay Area community and beyond, but OSL organizers did their very best to lift fans’ spirits by not only releasing the fest’s 2021 dates but also unveiling its lineup.

The 13th installment, in fact, will see Tame Impala, Lizzo and The Strokes each make their OSL headlining debuts with a solid undercard behind them that’s led by Tyler, the Creator, Vampire Weekend, J Balvin, Kehlani, The 1975, ZHU and Young Thug. The undercard might even be better, though (if you can believe that).

Other notable names on next year’s roster include Khruangbin, Beach House, Bonobo, Nelly, Brittany Howard, Burna Boy, Melanie Martinez, Polo & Pan, Big Thief, Troyboi, Angel Olsen, SOFI TUKKER, EARTHGANG, Tones and I, EOB, Sharon Van Etten, Marc Rebillet, A R I Z O N A, JPEGMAFIA, Dr. Dog, Shiba San, Boy Pablo, Rico Nasty and more. Check out the poster above for the rest of the lineup.

UPDATE (Jan. 12th): As COVID-19 cases continue to surge across the country, The 1975 have made the difficult decision to cancel all of their tour dates scheduled for 2021, including Outside Lands in August. The good news is that they’ll be replaced by RÜFÜS DU SOL, who made their OSL debut in 2016 and have swiftly climbed the festival ranks since issuing 2018’s Solace. “We have fond memories of playing the Panhandle stage at Outside Lands five years ago and we are excited to be back this year,” the Australian alt-dance trio says in a statement.

Outside Lands 2021 might feel like a long way away at this point, but it will be here before you know it so don’t forget to purchase your tickets when they go on sale here this Thursday, June 25th at 10 a.m. PT — Eager Beaver passes that were bought in 2020 will also be honored while those who choose to roll over their admission to the following year by July 24th will also have the opportunity to win exclusive upgrades and other prizes — and make sure to check out our coverage from 2019 here.

Our favorite performances from 2018

Best live shows of 2018 - Foo Fighters, NxWorries, Pusha T & Courtney Barnett

Holy smokes, 2018 … you were a blur. Maybe it’s just us, but this year really did fly right by.

Before we officially say hello to 2019 though, it’s time for us to revisit the past 12 months at Showbams. Every year we have the great privilege of witnessing some amazing moments in live music, and this year was no different. While we can’t touch upon every performance we covered in looking back at the year that was, we still managed to see a wide variety of talent over the course of 2018.

Whittling down our list is never easy. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order), all of whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

Aaron Neville, A.CHAL, Alanis Morissette, Alina Baraz, Allen Stone, Amen Dunes, Aminé, A Perfect Circle, Ari Lennox, A$AP Rocky, Aquilo, BADBADNOTGOOD, The Bangles, Belle & Sebastian, The Beta Machine, Billie Eilish, BØRNS, Carly Rae Jepsen, Cashmere Cat, Childish Major, Chromeo, CHVRCHES, Cigarettes After Sex, Cloud Nothings, Cuco, Cut Snake, CyHi the Prynce, Daniel Caesar, Deap Vally, Destroyer, Diet Cig, Drab Majesty, DRAM, The Dustbowl Revival, Erykah Badu, Fantastic Negrito, Future, Garbage, George Fitzgerald, Gomez, Gov’t Mule, Great Grandpa, Griz, The Growlers, Gucci Mane, HAERTS, H.E.R., Hot Flash Heat Wave, Ibeyi, Iggy Pop, Irma Thomas, Isaiah Rashad, Jaira Burns, Jamie xx, Jeff Goldblum and the Mildred Snitzer Orchestra, Jhené Aiko, John Maus, Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band, Joywave, JPEGMAFIA, Jungle, Kailee Morgue, Kaitlyn Aurelia Smith, Kamasi Washington, Kauf, Kelela, Kikagaku Moyo, Kings of Leon, Kopps, Laff Trax, Lion Babe, Lizzo, Lophile, Lord Huron, Los Lobos, Lucy Dacus, Margo Price, Miguel, Mija, Milk Carton Kids, ModPods, Moses Sumney, The Mother Hips, Mura Masa, Neil Young, N.E.R.D, North Mississippi Allstars, ODESZA, Pale Waves, Paula Frazer and Tarnation, Phantogram, Pharoah Sanders, Pixies, Polo & Pan, POND, Portugal. The Man, The Pretenders, Quicksand, Ravyn Lenae, Rivers Cuomo, The Revolution, Robert Plant, Rory Phillips, RÜFÜS DU SOL, Sabrina Claudio, Salt-N-Pepa, Santigold, Sasha Sloan, Seu Jorge, Shakey Graves, Shame, Shana Falana, Sharon Van Etten, Silk City, Sleigh Bells, Snoh Aalegra, Soccer Mommy, The Specials, The Spook School, Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks, Tame Impala, Tenacious D, Third Eye Blind, Tinashe, together PANGEA, TV on the Radio, Tycho, Typhoon, Uniform, Wafia, Waxahatchee, The Weeknd, Wet, William Tyler, Will Varley, Yen Yen, Zedd

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our favorite performances from 2018.

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

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


Best of 2018 - Cut Copy

Cut Copy

Date: March 3rd
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

For those in LA who missed Cut Copy 10 months ago when they visited the Shrine Expo Hall with De Lux, Palmbomen II and Cooper Saver also on the bill, their headlining performance last Friday at The Wiltern was another chance to dance the night away upon hearing several classics such as “Need You Now”, “Free Your Mind”, “Future”, “Hearts on Fire” and to close, “Lights & Music”. In fact, the last time that we caught them back in March, a mini downpour erupted at Shaun White’s Air + Style (read our festival review here), but it didn’t phase them. Who said playing — and dancing — in the rain isn’t fun anyway? -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Washed Out

Washed Out

Date: March 4th
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

In what was easily the most visually stimulating (and pleasing) show we witnessed at Expo Park, Ernest Greene, who performs under the moniker Washed Out, entranced a completely packed crowd at the smaller Summer Stage with a slew of trippy visuals and his chilled-out tunes. We had been wanting to see Washed Out in SoCal for several months now, ever since Greene released the project’s third LP Mister Mellow last year, and after missing his gig with Nick Murphy at the Shrine Expo Hall in October, we were glad to finally hear him play “Hard to Say Goodbye” (one of our favorite songs of 2017) and “Feel It All Around” live as any loyal “Portlandia” fan would be. With Toro y Moi venturing away from the chillwave movement he helped pioneer, it’s up to Greene to lead the charge, and so far, he has done one hell of a job. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Phoenix

Phoenix

Date: March 4th
Location: Exposition Park – Los Angeles

After what we thought was an underwhelming way to wrap up Day 1, Air + Style closed with a bang thanks to Phoenix’s energizing, 16-song set. The French indie-pop outfit have headlined Coachella before, and it was more than worthy of that billing for this occasion. Kicking things off with the opening track “J-Boy” from their sixth studio album Ti Amo that dropped back in June, Thomas Mars and company gave us exactly what we wanted to hear: a hit-ladden show featuring singles like “Lisztomania”, “Trying to Be Cool”, “Too Young” and “1901”. No, there wasn’t a Daft Punk or R. Kelly appearance — not that we expected one — but Phoenix put an exclamation point on an otherwise successful weekend. We may not have known the quartet could rock that hard after the last time we saw them, but we definitely do now. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Air + Style


Best of 2018 - Moby

Moby

Date: March 26th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

His guitar playing, meanwhile, may be just as impressive, if not surprising to some. Less than two weeks before Moby stepped into Bob Clearmountain’s diminutive recording studio, I was fortunate enough to catch him the final of his three shows at The Echo, and it was there as he performed a variety of songs from Everything Was Beautiful, and Nothing Hurt, Play and a few other albums, that I fully realized just how talented he is with a black Gibson SG in his hands. He may be an electronic musician, but unlike a lot of them today, Moby is a musician in every sense of the word. While his vocals at times sound more like spoken word than actual singing, he has found more than capable sidekicks in Julie Mintz (keyboards, vocals) and Mindy Jones (vocals) to assist him in that department. Jones’ ranging voice, in particular, is one that suits his music well, and when you hear her sing, her pipes elevate the song to a whole new level. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Brian Feinzimer


Best of 2018 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

Date: April 13th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Weeks before The War on Drugs released their fourth LP A Deeper Understanding last year, we were fortunate enough to hear Adam Granduciel and company perform a handful of cuts from the new album in an intimate setting for KCRW. It was then and there that we knew the follow-up to 2014’s Lost in a Dream was another masterpiece, and that impression was only validated when A Deeper Understanding won the Grammy for “Best Rock Album” just a few months ago. On Day 1 of Coachella, the Philadelphia band brought some of those same songs we witnessed at Apogee Studio to life, though sadly, this time “Holding On” wasn’t part of the setlist. But we did get to experience “An Ocean in Between the Waves” in all of its glory, and we still have yet to come across another piece of music in more recent years that will make you want to play air guitar as much as the seven-minute track from Lost in a Dream does. Who said rock was dead? -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Goldenvoice


Best of 2018 - Jamiroquai

Jamiroquai

Date: April 13th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Thirteen years. That’s how long it has been since Jamiroquai last performed in the U.S. With that in mind, there was no way we were going to miss Jay Kay and the rest of his sidekicks in favor of The Weeknd’s headlining performance (sorry, Abel), and after what ended up being close to a 90-minute set from the London nu-funk/acid jazz group, we had no regrets about our decision. The only regret we have is that they ran out of time and didn’t get to play their smash hit “Virtual Insanity” in its entirety, and you could tell Jay Kay felt bad about it as he jumped down from the stage to greet some overjoyed fans after wrapping the show up with “Love Foolosophy” from 2001’s A Funk Odyssey. But while Weekend 2 attendees got the full version of the Travelling Without Moving single, we were treated to a massive surprise when Snoop Dogg came out to rap on “Dr. Buzz” with a huge blunt in his hand. It was the kind of collaboration you never expect to see, except at Coachella of all places. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2018 - Eminem

Eminem

Date: April 15th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

While we can’t say that we were completely thrilled with Goldenvoice’s choices for this year’s headliners, we were excited to see Eminem finally play Coachella (he had never performed in an official capacity before) and close out the festival on Sunday night. Sure, his newest album Revival didn’t exactly receive rave reviews from critics when it dropped at the end of 2017, but watching one of hip-hop’s most talented emcees run through his hits all while bringing out 50 Cent and Dr. Dre was undoubtedly THE highlight from Day 3. For this “stan,” just crossing Em off my concert bucket list would have been enough to send me home with a smile. Fortunately for those of us who were there though, the real Slim Shady lived up to the hype and more. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2018 - Big K.R.I.T.

Big K.R.I.T.

Date: April 19th
Location: Echoplex – Los Angeles

At Echoplex, we were treated to the “rapper” and the man himself as bass-heavy party starters like the title-track opener and “Confetti” from 4eva Is a Mighty Long Time got everyone hyped, while Atlanta’s T.I. came out to perform his verse on “Big Bank”. After singling out one excited fan, who was wearing a shirt with a giant picture of his face, during the easygoing “1999” and paying homage to Southern rap pioneers UGK, Big K.R.I.T. took the latter half of his hour-long set to connect with the crowd. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - Soulwax

Soulwax

Date: April 19th
Location: The Fonda Theatre – Los Angeles

While Soulwax’s recorded music has always been perfectly enjoyable, in person it becomes something else entirely. Their new, three-drummer lineup was the ideal format to hear new tracks like “Is It Always Binary” while giving older tracks such as “KracK” a newly textured and complex sound. Sitting stage right, drummer Victoria Smith, for one, offered the group some serious personality thanks to her animated facial expressions. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - NxWorries

NxWorries

Date: June 16th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

I fall somewhere in the middle between those two age groups, so it was fitting that the uber-talented rapper/singer/drummer Anderson .Paak had just walked onto the “Free Your Mind” main stage when I showed up. .Paak, 32, wore a smile as expressive as his music, packaged with a bright nautical-themed ensemble. He effortlessly impressed with standouts “Suede”, “Another Time” and “What More Can I Say” off Yes Lawd!, his 2016 LP with Los Angeles hip-hop producer Knxwledge as part of their collaborative project NxWorries (pronounced “No Worries”). The duo’s set would eventually culminate in a playful dance-off between women, which fans showed their appreciation for before .Paak and Knxwledge said their goodbyes. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - The Roots

The Roots

Date: June 16th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

However, anticipation for The Roots kept me at the main stage. It proved to be a wise decision, as their nearly hour-long performance reminded me why the Grammy-winning band is still so revered after more than three decades. Black Thought got the crowd riled up with a 10-minute barrage of lyrical proficiency that so many have come to know as his “Hot 97 Freestyle” after it hit the internet in December and quickly went viral, while his bandmates exuberantly jumped with sousaphones and guitars during “You Got Me” and a number of other hits. But providing a jolt like he only can, the one and only Busta Rhymes showed up for a quick-but-memorable performance of “Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Can See” and “Pass the Courvoisier, Part II”. -Joseph Gray, photo by Joseph Gray


Best of 2018 - Melvins

Melvins

Date: July 16th
Location: Great American Music Hall – San Francisco

I’m far from an expert on this kind of thing (because I’m not), but I didn’t expect to see the Melvins perform with the amount of energy that they showcased. For a band that has been touring and putting out new material for the past 35 years, they performed as if everything depended on it. You weren’t going to catch “King Buzzo” standing in one place for too long, with his signature fro whipping in the wind from the fans that were on the stage, McDonald and Pinkus holding it down on their own instruments, and Crover beating the living hell out of his drums. Fans were ready to receive the band and responded to the various sonic blasts coming from the amplifiers. During the thrashy songs, they formed a brutal pit, and during the sludgier songs, they lit up joints and bobbed their heads to the music. -Andrew Pohl, photo by Mike Rosati


Best of 2018 - Glassjaw

Glassjaw

Date: July 20th
Location: Observatory OC – Santa Ana, CA

Glassjaw’s show covered their entire discography, and very few fan favorites were left off the setlist. While it was to be expected that newer tunes like “Shira” and “New White Extremity” would rock, it was staggering how well their older songs held up in a live setting. Palumbo’s voice, though slightly less manic than it once was, is still unmatched in its vocal range and shear intensity. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - Weezer

Weezer

Date: August 8th
Location: The Forum – Inglewood, CA

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


Best of 2018 - Florence + the Machine

Florence + the Machine

Date: August 11th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

There was a bit of controversy surrounding Saturday’s main slot as Florence + the Machine officially made the move to full-blown festival headliner. Some festivalgoers had their own doubts after FYF Fest 2018 was canceled with a near-identical top billing, but Florence and her bandmates proved, many times over, that she is more than capable of commanding any stage as her energy is unlike many others. She debuted a brand-new show, which featured “June” in the opening slot and was book-ended by “Big God” and “Shake It Out” for a two-song encore. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2018 - Janelle Monáe

Janelle Monáe

Date: August 12th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

The incomparable Janelle Monáe was a tad late to take the stage, as she was fighting off a stomach bug, but when she did, she captivated the masses with a suite of tracks from her most recent release Dirty Computer and tossed in a fair amount of costume changes over a nearly hour-long set. Monáe proved that she’s easily one of the best in the business at the moment and will only continue to climb upwards. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2018 - Deafheaven

Deafheaven

Date: August 18th
Location: The Wiltern – Los Angeles

Fortunately, Deafheaven haven’t bowed to convention or criticism. Their fourth studio album Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, which ANTI‐ released last month, is their arguably their most experimental to date, spanning more than an hour over seven songs. There’s a sense of angst and nostalgia in the music that leans far more positive and hopeful than their previous work. There are still echoes of black metal at times, but you can feel this is a band that’s embracing its differences instead of defending them. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2018 - Jack White

Jack White

Date: August 19th
Location: Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA

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. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Jack White


Best of 2018 - David Byrne

David Byrne

Date: August 22nd
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

As the show progressed into his songs “Here” and “Lazy”, Byrne’s band joined him onstage. The light changed and filled in the stage, giving the audience a happier tone and providing a seamless transition into a Talking Heads interlude. Then, later on during “Blind”, one of the more stunning visual elements was made possible by a simple lamp that was placed in front of the band, casting whirling shadows on the strands of beads hanging behind them. -Tim O’Shea, photo by Tim O’Shea


Best of 2018 - The National

The National

Date: September 20th
Location: Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles

Right before that final aforementioned single, they brought out Phoebe Bridgers to help them perform “Sorrow” from 2010’s High Violet, as Berninger and the 24-year-old singer-songwriter, who said during her brief opening set that The National were her favorite band, traded vocals on the tune they once played 105 times in a row, with the performance at an art installation in New York lasting all of six hours. We weren’t quite as fortunate to get that kind of show in LA, as The National opted for one of their more traditional, two-hour events. But whether you’ve been a fan from the start or one like myself who arrived rather late to the party, The National continue to make some of the most compelling music in rock, expanding their fan base with each and every album they release. That’s the sign of any good band these days, and though there’s only a handful of others that could even say the same right now, The National should take comfort in knowing they’re one of those select few. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Grizzly Bear

Grizzly Bear

Date: September 23rd
Location: Hollywood Bowl – Los Angeles

Similarly, the gig also marked one of Grizzly Bear’s last performances in support of their fifth LP Painted Ruins, which they released last year on RCA Records, and having already played a two-night run at The Wiltern back in December, this was more of a victory lap than a coming-out party. Unfortunately for us, the five-piece had to cut things short due to the venue’s strict Sunday night curfew, ending on a rather sudden note. That’s just part of the deal at the Bowl, though. For those of us who have to work on Monday morning, it’s actually more of a blessing in disguise than a disservice to the overall concert experience as we’ve come to realize. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2018 - Courtney Barnett

Courtney Barnett

Date: October 5th
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

When she wasn’t sharing the spotlight with Waxahatchee, Barnett was sharing it equally with the rest of her stellar backing band, but it was mostly just difficult to take your eyes off of her. Everything she does feels casual, from her outfit to her guitar playing, slinging her instrument around like it was an extension of herself. Even her delivery of the wrenching reality that the 30-year-old Australian singer-songwriter articulates so well is casual, singing like the end of the world isn’t a mere 22 years away. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2018 - Greta Van Fleet

Greta Van Fleet

Date: October 6th
Location: Glen Helen Regional Park & Festival Grounds – San Bernardino, CA

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


Best of 2018 - Foo Fighters

Foo Fighters

Date: October 6th
Location: Glen Helen Regional Park & Festival Grounds – San Bernardino, CA

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


Best of 2018 - Pusha T

Pusha T

Date: October 13th
Location: Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland

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


Best of 2018 - U.S. Girls

U.S. Girls

Date: October 14th
Location: Middle Harbor Shoreline Park – Oakland

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


Best of 2018 - Daniel Caesar

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