Our favorite performances from 2017

Best live shows of 2017 - The xx, Miguel, Moderat & Coldplay

2017, where the hell did you go? It just felt like the other day that we were ringing in a new year, and yet, here we are again as we plow straight ahead into 2018.

But before we officially put a bow on 2017, it’s time for us to revisit the past 12 months at Showbams. This year, we had the opportunity to capture many amazing moments in live music, and while we couldn’t pay homage to every single performance we witnessed, we made a conscious effort to include a wide range of talent spread across the industry.

Whittling down our list, though, was not that 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) whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

21 Savage, The Accidentals, Action Bronson, Alice Cooper, Alina Baraz, alt-J, Amber Mark, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Animal Collective, Atlas Genius, The Avalanches, The Band Perry, Beach Slang, Belle and Sebastian, Black Moth Super Rainbow, Bleachers, Blonde Redhead, Bob Moses, Car Seat Headrest, Cate Le Bon, Cigarettes After Sex, Circles Around the Sun, City of Caterpillar, The Coathangers, Claude VonStroke, Chris Robinson, Con Brio, Conor Oberst, Courtney Barnett & Kurt Vile, Crystal Castles, The Crystal Method, Daniel Caesar, Dawes, Dead Meadow, Deafheaven, Deep Purple, Diet Cig, DIIV, Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Dr. Dog, Dr. Octagon, Duke Dumont, Eagles of Death Metal, Electric Guest, Emancipator, Emily King, Empire of the Sun, Foxygen, Future Islands, Gabriel Garzón-Montano, Gatecreeper, Girl Talk, Gone Is Gone, Grizzly Bear, Gucci Mane, Hamilton Leithauser, Hazel English, Hinds, The Hip Replacements, Hiss Golden Messenger, How to Dress Well, Iggy Pop, Isaiah Rashad, Jack Johnson, Jagwar Ma, Jamestown Revival, Jamie Isaac, Jay 305, Jen Cloher, Jessica Hernandez & The Deltas, Jessie Ware, Jim James, JR JR, Julie Byrne, Julien Baker, Justice, Karen Elson, Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, KAYTRANADA, Kelis, K. Flay, Khalid, Khruangbin, Kilo Kish, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, Kurt Vile, La Femme, LANY, Lauv, L.A. Witch, Lettuce, Lil Yachty, Little Dragon, Lo Moon, Lorde, Lord Huron, Miike Snow, Milky Chance, Minus the Bear, Mister Heavenly, MØ, Mondo Cozmo, Neon Indian, Nicki Bluhm, Norah Jones, North Mississippi Allstars, NVO, Oh Sees, OK Go, Once and Future Band, Pallbearer, The Palms, Passion Pit, Peaches, Perfume Genius, Petit Biscuit, Phoebe Bridgers, Playboi Carti, Pond, Porcelain Raft, PRAYERS, The Radio Dept., Real Estate, The Revivalists, Royal Blood, Sampha, ScHoolboy Q, Sheer Mag, serpentwithfeet, Silversun Pickups, Sleep, Sleigh Bells, SOFI TUKKER, Solange, Spiritualized, Styles P, Sunflower Beam, Talib Kweli, Tank and The Bangas, Tash Sultana, Tei Shi, Temples, Tennis, Tennyson, Thou, Thundercat, TOBACCO, Touché Amoré, Tool, Tove Lo, Travis Scott, Twin Peaks, Ty Segall, Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Vagabon, Vance Joy, Vic Mensa, Warpaint, Weezer, White Fence, Woods, YG, Young the Giant.

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our favorite performances from 2017.

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

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


Best of 2017 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

Date: February 1st
Location: Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles

Yet, in just four years, Run the Jewels have already reached hip-hop’s mountaintop with their politically charged lyrics and hard-hitting beats. Just take last Wednesday’s sold-out show in LA for example. With the duo’s third studio album still only a few weeks old, 5,000 or so fans poured into the spacious Shrine Expo Hall to watch El-P and Killer Mike fuck shit up (for lack of a better term). And that’s exactly what they did after opening sets from The Gaslamp Killer, Nick Hook, Gangasta Boo and CUZ. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - BADBADNOTGOOD

BADBADNOTGOOD

Date: February 23rd
Location: The Fillmore – San Francisco

As one of the bands to take the coveted headlining spot for NoisePop25, BADBADNOTGOOD seemed as — perhaps more — excited as all of the fans who made it to their sold-out show at The Fillmore. Combining consummate instrumentation with classic MC-style showmanship led by drummer Alexander Sowinski, the Canadian jazz-rock quartet has mastered the art of keeping the audience guessing where they’re going. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by James Pawlish


Best of 2017 - Spoon

Spoon

Date: March 7th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

In total, Spoon performed five songs from the new record, including “First Caress” to open a brief encore that left us eager for more. But as the five-piece rocked “Rainy Taxi” from 2014’s They Want My Soul to close, I couldn’t help but think to myself that this is one band I never should have slept on. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Larry Hirshowitz


Best of 2017 - Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

Date: April 8th
Location: Greek Theatre – Berkeley, CA

Now a trio, Sigur Rós have been delivering goosebumps for over two decades — and it’s a delight to hear Jónsi’s voice-as-an-instrument this clear, this powerful and as confident as ever. It would be a wonderful treat to check in on this outfit every 5-10 years going forward and realize they are still going strong. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


Best of 2017 - DREAMCAR

DREAMCAR

Date: April 9th
Location: Great American Music Hall – San Francisco

Fresh off a stop at Berkeley’s Hearst Greek Theatre the night before, Adams showcased some older favorites and a slew of new tunes from his 16th and latest studio album Prisoner, which came out in February. SoCal fans were treated to some extended full-band jamming, a couple of solo acoustic performances and Adams’ usual witty banter over the course of the evening.
-Jared Stossel, photo by Jared Stossel


Best of 2017 - A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle

Date: April 13th
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

In the world of rock supergroups, there are few that have sprung up in the last few decades that can hold a candle to A Perfect Circle. From the onset, APC have been a powerhouse on the senses, combining members from bands such as Tool, The Smashing Pumpkins, Failure, Primus and more over the years. Their body of work has been met with high praise across the board, and they have been able to solidify themselves as one of the most unique and tenured groupings out there, as opposed to bands like Zwan and Velvet Revolver. -Andrew Pohl, photo by Mike Rosati


Best of 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

Date: April 14th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

Yes, the sound problems (all three instances) put a real damper on what was easily one of the most anticipated performances of the weekend. This was the third time Goldenvoice called on Radiohead to headline Coachella, and for one of rock’s most important bands over the last 30 years, it certainly wasn’t a charm as the saying goes. In that moment, it was pretty hard not to feel bad for Thom Yorke, who could only make light of the situation by cracking a joke even if it wasn’t supposed to be one — or so he claimed. But Radiohead more than made up for it with a masterful setlist that opened with A Moon Shaped Pool cuts “Daydreaming”, “Desert Island Disk” and “Ful Stop” before circling back to older hits such as “Everything in Its Right Place”, “There There”, “Idioteque” and even “Creep”. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

Date: April 16th
Location: Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, Weekend 1 – Indio, CA

All hail, King Kendrick! Or should we say “Kung Fu Kenny?” The Compton rapper reached hip-hop’s mountaintop more than two years ago with his Grammy-winning masterpiece To Pimp a Butterfly, but headlining Coachella was still on his to-do list. In fact, it was only the second time he had ever been booked to perform at Coachella after being listed on the last line of the 2012 poster. Closing out the fest is no short order for any artist, let alone one who dropped his new album less than 48 hours before taking the stage, but K-Dot lived up to the billing with a show that provoked as much thought as it entertained. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2017 - The xx

The xx

Date: April 17th
Location: Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco

Playfully alluding to their material’s emotional sentiment, Romy Madley Croft (vocals, guitar) and Oliver Sim (bass, vocals) managed to entrance all of us with their tension-filled gazes and syncopated dance moves. Prolonging vocal arrangements, especially during their accelerated live interpretation of “Infinity”, were also stunning to witness. About halfway through the set, Jamie Smith (beats, MPC, production), aka Jamie xx, took the lead and transformed the room into a giant disco party thanks to an onslaught of consecutive dance hits before finishing with “Loud Places” from his 2015 solo LP In Colour. -Molly Kish, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

Date: April 20th
Location: Mayan Theater – Los Angeles

Moderat subsequently circled back to III, performing “Intruder” before exiting the stage to a rousing applause. Yet, when the house lights didn’t come on right away, the suspense began to build once again. Less than a minute later, the three-piece reemerged, giving the audience more than its money’s worth. Two-encore shows are usually reserved for high-profile groups with extensive catalogs like Radiohead, but Moderat have never played by any rules. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

Date: May 9th
Location: The Theatre at Ace Hotel – Los Angeles

The Lips, of course, made sure to play that song, and even though it was without Watts, it still proved to be an unforgettable moment due to the fact that Coyne rode a life-size unicorn from one end of the stage to the other as he belted out lines like “Yeah, there should be unicorns / The ones with the purple eyes / It should be loud as fuck / Hope the swans don’t die” to open the tune while wearing a big smile across his face. If that’s not psychedelic to you, then I don’t know what is. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Date: June 3rd
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

Fresh off a stop at Berkeley’s Hearst Greek Theatre the night before, Adams showcased some older favorites and a slew of new tunes from his 16th and latest studio album Prisoner, which came out in February. SoCal fans were treated to some extended full-band jamming, a couple of solo acoustic performances and Adams’ usual witty banter over the course of the evening.
-Steph Port, photo by Steph Port


Best of 2017 - Jay Som

Jay Som

Date: June 17th
Location: Potrero del Sol Park – San Francisco

Melina Duterte’s band goes by the name Jay Som and hails from Oakland. Do yourself a favor and remember this name: Jay Som. The Polyvinyl-signed songstress bathed the crowd at the Potrero Stage in her dreamy vocals and inanely catchy tunes that appeal to a wide-range of music fan; her songs could feel just as viable in the 90’s college rock area as they do today. Highlights from the set included a vibe-soaked rendition of “Baybee” as well as “The Bus Song”, arguably the artist’s first real “hit.” -Kevin Quandt, photo by Emmeline Munson


Best of 2017- AIR

AIR

Date: June 23rd
Location: The Masonic – San Francisco

AIR’s live performances focus on capturing the crisp, detailed production style that the duo has honed over two decades. It’s a vibrant, textured sound. Centered around acoustic guitar, synthesizers and the breathy timbre of the duo’s immaculate harmonized vocals, the use of live drums helped round out the contrast between both the artificial and acoustic sounds in songs like “Cherry Blossom Girl”. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Steve Carlson


Best of 2017 - PLANETARIUM

PLANETARIUM

Date: July 21st
Location: Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland

PLANETARIUM’s music, which channels Stevens’ reflections on astronomy, science and even the intricacies of human consciousness, is a fusion of styles from all four band members that evokes feelings of unity. The group’s performance was accompanied by otherworldly visuals that filled the backdrop as it traversed the Solar System with quite a few emotionally charged songs inspired by the planets and other celestial bodies like “Neptune” and “Jupiter”. -Norm de Veyra, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2017 - The Drums

The Drums

Date: July 21st
Location: The Fillmore – San Francisco

By the time The Drums took the stage, the intimate venue was packed to the brim with fans. The Brooklyn outfit made as much of an impression as it did when frontman Jonathan Pierce and company exploded onto the scene in 2009 with their initial EP Summertime! From then on, it became glaringly obvious with their eccentric band members and seemingly effortless style that they possessed an energetic presence. And at their SF show, it didn’t take long for the capacity crowd to fall into a groove as the venue’s whole atmosphere lit up. -Jacqueline Moore, photo by Jacqueline Moore


Best of 2017 - Miguel

Miguel

Date: July 23rd
Location: Annenberg Space for Photography – Los Angeles

Once the sun set and Miguel stepped onstage, the audience was transported somewhere else entirely. Born and raised in LA, the 31-year-old’s silky-smooth voice floated through the cool evening breeze over the twinkle lights in the trees, giving the impression of an island retreat rather than a concert in the park. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

Date: August 5th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

Granduciel’s raspy voice, as well as his driving (no pun intended) guitar rhythms and reverb-laden riffs, are largely what separates The War on Drugs from the rest in a crowded indie-rock scene, but the sum of the band’s parts — Charlie Hall (drums), David Hartley (bass), Anthony LaMarca (guitar, keyboards), Robbie Bennett (keyboards) and finally Jon Natchez (saxophone, keyboards) — also creates a sound that while familiar, still feels uniquely different. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Larry Hirshowitz


Best of 2017 - Gorillaz

Gorillaz

Date: August 11th
Location: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

Easily one of the most anticipated acts of the weekend, Gorillaz’s Humanz tour made its West Coast debut on Day 1 at OSL. After a six-year hiatus, expectations ran extremely high for this headlining performance. On previous tours, the band’s members had played second fiddle to the cartoon projections of their alter egos onstage, but everyone was visible this time around. Several collaborators from Gorillaz’s previous albums, including Kali Uchis, Yukimi Nagano and Del the Funky Homosapien, came out to join them, and the Damon Albarn-led group still pulled some even bigger surprises with cameos appearances from De la Soul and Pusha T. -Molly Kish, photo by James Pawlish


Best of 2017 - Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

Date: August 12th
Location: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival, Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

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


Best of 2017 - J.I.D

J.I.D

Date: September 9th
Location: Day N Night Fest, Angel Stadium – Anaheim, CA

While the headliners thrilled as expected, it was at the side “Day” and “Night” stages where the festival’s biggest highlights were generated. J.I.D, the rising Atlanta rapper who is signed to J. Cole’s Dreamville imprint, absolutely thrilled during his set. Dazzling with his rapid-fire and agile flow, J.I.D showed off his ability to command a crowd with songs such as “General” and “EdEddnEddy” before jumping into the crowd for the tempo-changing hit “Never” that left the crowd chanting for “one more song!” -Joseph Gray & Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - SZA

SZA

Date: September 9th
Location: Day N Night Fest, Angel Stadium – Anaheim, CA

Saturday, meanwhile, featured the vintage gospel spirit and warm vibes that have elevated Chicago emcee Chance the Rapper to superstardom. Earlier in the day, SZA, this summer’s breakout star, delivered her first festival performance since the release of her well-received debut album Ctrl. Swaying, spinning and singing her raw emotions and shortcomings while coming of age, the Top Dawg Entertainment songstress didn’t disappoint. -Joseph Gray & Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2017 - Bonobo

Bonobo (Live)

Date: September 27th
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

The real reason things felt different this time around, though, was the music. Extending and reimagining his tracks for easily one of the largest crowds he has ever performed in front of, Bonobo followed an uplifting opening set from Canadian electronic duo Bob Moses with an array of soothing sounds that paired beautifully with his lighting setup and entrancing stage production in the same way Scott Hansen (aka Tycho) creates an awe-inspiring audio-visual experience during his live-band performances. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Coldplay

Coldplay

Date: October 4th
Location: Levi’s Stadium – Santa Clara, CA

Coldplay took the stage shortly before 9 p.m. as a video montage of fans who introduced them as “the biggest band in the world” played onstage. While I’m pretty sure there are a few other artists or groups from their side of the pond (ehem, U2) who might take issue with that claim, they certainly did nothing during their electric, almost two-hour performance to dissuade that sort of thinking. Chris Martin and company, in fact, wasted no time getting down to business, flooding the stadium with confetti and firing off pyrotechnics at a steady clip while opening with “A Head Full of Dreams” and subsequently all throughout the night. -Steve Carlson, photo by Steve Carlson


Best of 2017 - Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene

Date: October 26th
Location: Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland

Here’s the thing about BSS — after 15 years, the web of musicians that makes up the collective have created their own individual projects, from Metric to Stars to Feist to Do Make Say Think to Emily Haines & The Soft Skeleton. And while many of the band’s members who have gone on to find success in their own solo careers didn’t happen to join the group on this particular tour, the sense of professionalism built into the BSS live experience remains prevalent. Every person who stepped onstage demonstrated consummate abilities in their own realms, never missing a beat or a note. -Brett Ruffenach, photo by Norm de Veyra

Best of 2017 - Jim James

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

Coldplay at Levi's Stadium


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

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

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

See our favorite performances from 2017 here.

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


Nine Inch Nails at FYF Fest 2017


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

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sigur Rós at Greek Theatre Berkeley


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

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


J.I.D at Day N Night Fest 2017


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

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Slowdive - Slowdive

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our 10 favorite shows from the first half of 2017

Best live shows of 2017 - Radiohead, Sigur Rós, Ryan Adams & Run the Jewels

Ah, where has the time gone? It wasn’t long ago — just six months, in fact — that we dished out our favorite live music acts of 2016, and yet here we are, already at the halfway point of the next calendar year.

But while these first six months haven’t been quite as tragic as they were last year, there still have been some exciting twists and turns. From Beyoncé postponing her Coachella debut to Monterey Pop celebrating its 50th anniversary, experiencing live music in California remains as enthralling and captivating as ever. So, with 2018 already looming, it’s time for us to look back at the best performances we’ve witnessed so far this year.

Here are our 10 favorite shows from the first half of 2017.


Best of 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

Rather, they indulged us with one final song from III, treating our ears to the slow burn of “The Fool” as the clock neared midnight. For almost two hours on this night, Moderat transported us to another world. And for those of us who had just come back from spending three days in the desert, that’s exactly what the doctor ordered. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

Now a trio, Sigur Rós have been delivering goosebumps for over two decades — and it’s a delight to hear Jónsi’s voice-as-an-instrument this clear, this powerful and as confident as ever. It would be a wonderful treat to check in on this outfit every 5-10 years going forward and realize they are still going strong. -Mike Frash, photo by James Nagel


Best of 2017 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

When it comes to live performance, The Flaming Lips are one of those bucket-list bands every live music fan should see at least once. Even as Coyne nears the age of 60, the Lips haven’t forgot how to entertain a crowd, whether it’s at a music festival or at one of their own stand-alone gigs. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Bonobo

Bonobo

Bonobo’s DJ sets exemplify his eclectic taste in music, but it’s his live performances that really award him great accolades. Green is often supported by six, sometimes even more, incredibly talented musicians who help craft his music into the performance art that it truly is. -Kory Thibeault, photo by Kory Thibeault //


Best of 2017 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

Fresh off a stop at Berkeley’s Hearst Greek Theatre the night before, Adams showcased some older favorites and a slew of new tunes from his 16th and latest studio album Prisoner, which came out in February. SoCal fans were treated to some extended full-band jamming, a couple of solo acoustic performances and Adams’ usual witty banter over the course of the evening. -Steph Port, photo by Steph Port


Best of 2017 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

By the time El-P and Killer Mike dove into “Blockbuster Night, Part 1” and “Oh My Darling Don’t Cry” from their critically acclaimed sophomore record, the capacity crowd was fully entrenched in RTJ’s aggro-hip-hop stylings. But unlike most of the dates on their “Run the World Tour” so far, this one was loaded with top-notch special guests. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - The xx

The xx

Taking the audience on a breathtaking journey through light and sound, The xx, outfitted with their stunning new stage design, worked the title of their new album and tour “I See You” into the show. With filtered lights bouncing off rotating mirrors that were interspersed throughout the stage’s parameters, The xx used stark contrasts of chiaroscuro as well as dramatic LED screens to envelop each audience member’s sensory perception. -Molly Kish, photo by Norm de Veyra


Best of 2017 - Tool

Tool

For as long as Tool have made their fans wait for a new album, they can still sell out shows with the best of them. The prog-metal giants have cultivated a fan base whose loyalty is akin to that of Rush’s over the last 25 years, and as they debuted new, mind-blowing visuals to pair with a heavy-hitting setlist for their latest trek across North America, they once again showed that there really isn’t another band out there like them. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

Closing out the fest is no short order for any artist, let alone one who dropped his new album less than 48 hours before taking the stage, but K-Dot lived up to the billing with a show that provoked as much thought as it entertained. “Levitating” onstage, trading lines with Future, ScHoolboy Q and Travis Scott (all of whom performed separately during Coachella) and running through the hits, Kendrick reminded us that the rap throne belongs to him and only him right now. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


Best of 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

But Radiohead more than made up for it with a masterful setlist that opened with A Moon Shaped Pool cuts “Daydreaming”, “Desert Island Disk” and “Ful Stop” before circling back to older hits such as “Everything in Its Right Place”, “There There”, “Idioteque” and even “Creep”. And the ensuing five-song encore, punctuated by OK Computer singles “Paranoid Android” and “Karma Police” (with the crowd singing the song’s final lyrics in unison as they walked off stage, which delivered chills down the spine), only provided further validation for making the trip out to the desert this year. -Josh Herwitt, photo courtesy of Coachella


What has been your favorite show of 2017 so far? Let us know in the comments section below!

Sigur Rós induce goosebumps with their emotive performance at the Greek Theatre Berkeley

Sigur RósPhotos by James Nagel // Written by Mike Frash //

Sigur Rós //
The Greek Theatre – U.C. Berkeley
April 8th, 2017 //

The slow-burning, epic grandeur of Sigur Rós was on full display in Berkeley last Saturday night as the Icelandic group made its Bay Area fans feel a massive range of emotions, from meditative moments to outright joyousness. No matter what the decibel level was coming from the stage, this audience absorbed each song in a cerebral way, with solemn respect.

Now a trio, Sigur Rós have been delivering goosebumps for over two decades — and it’s a delight to hear Jónsi’s voice-as-an-instrument this clear, this powerful and as confident as ever. It would be a wonderful treat to check in on this outfit every 5-10 years going forward and realize they are still going strong.

Sigur Rós

The Berkeley show pulled a fairly even amount of favorites, as the Sigur Rós live spectacle has become a two-set event with no opener since last year. The first set felt like a proper warm-up, grounding us in the Greek Theatre’s immaculate sound. But the second set brought heavenly satisfaction and micro-concussion blasts of beauty from such songs as “Starálfur”, “Festival” and my personal favorite, the first track off of their (Untitled) album known as “Vaka”.

This tour has been building up to Sigur Rós’ special performances this week in Los Angeles, where they’ll perform alongside the LA Philharmonic for the first set with arrangements by Dan Deacon, Anna Meredith, Own Pallett and many more. This Friday (April 14th), you can teleport yourself to the show with Pitchfork’s live stream of this momentous event. It’s the first time the band has performed with an orchestra in 15 years, so don’t miss it!

Set 1:
Á
Ekki Múkk
Glósóli
E-Bow
Dauðalagið
Niður
Smáskifa

Set 2:
Óveður
Starálfur
Sæglópur
Ný Batterí
Vaka
Festival
Kveikur
Fljótavík
Popplagið

The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

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


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

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

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


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

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

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


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

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

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


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

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


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

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


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

3. Chance the Rapper

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

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


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

1. Anderson .Paak

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

Outside Lands 2016

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016: The Good, The Bad & The Muddy

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016Photos by Josh Herwitt & Lisette Worster // Written by Molly Kish //

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Treasure Island – San Francisco
October 15th-16th, 2016 //

Treasure Island Music Festival “raged the island” one last year and went out in a weekend of epic highs and tempestuous lows. Experiencing 2016’s most chaotic storm so far, festivalgoers and organizers were faced with some of the harshest conditions the boutique festival has ever faced. Beyond the obstacles Another Planet Entertainment and Noise Pop had going into the weekend with a new location, “no parking” restrictions and a few lineup changes, the added surprise element that Mother Nature tossed into the mix made for an experience to remember.

Here are the best, worst and most muddied (good ideas that ultimately went wrong) moments of TIMF 2016.


THE GOOD

Ice Cube


Ice Cube

The Headliners

Battling against the unfavorable conditions, both of the weekend’s headliners reclaimed the festival in the eye of the storm each night by delivering unforgettable performances for their dedicated fans. Accompanied by original members of NWA on Saturday night, Cube gave a career-spanning set that gave the most weather-weary attendees the energy to participate in his aggressive call-and-response classics. Bay Area hip-hop fans danced through what was some light drizzle, screaming “Fuck Ice Cube” while getting down with family, friends and fellow hardcore rap enthusiasts. Generations of Cube fans could be witnessed sharing in a truly memorable moment, where despite the ridiculousness of the entire day leading up to that set, all inconveniences were briefly forgotten while the crowd’s collective love for the Westside reigned supreme. Icelandic post rockers Sigur Rós, meanwhile, closed things out Sunday night in epic fashion with a rare SF performance, wrapping up two wet and muddy days on the island.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016

Accessible Ride-Share Options

While parking on the island was a no-go this year — festivalgoers were given the looming “you’ll be ticketed/towed” warning — TIMF was sure to ramp up their shuttle services and even have a ride-share loading zone available for commuter’s utmost convenience. In past years, tracking down Uber, Lyft or a taxi on the island was a real nightmare. With little to no signage, mystery addresses and a street grid, even local residents find the island confusing. However, in the midst of the Bay Area’s largest storm so far this year, TIMF made sure that what used to be the most aggravating part was a breeze.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016

The Crowd

Throughout the years, TIMF has cultivated a fan base whose attitude, interests and diversity truly elevates the festival experience. Becoming more of a congregation of friends over the past decade, the intimate setting and impeccably curated lineup has solidified an audience that returns to the island equally as excited for each and every installment. Even with rough weather conditions, a new location and a number of other things to gripe or complain about, the crowd remained hilariously positive. Groups bonded, friendships were formed and the relationships between artists and fans reached new levels of understanding due to their love for the festival and the absurdity of the circumstances.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016 - Kamaiyah


Kamaiyah

Artists Stepping Up

Rain delays were rampant, and to the dismay of many, quite a few artists weren’t even able to perform. Weather issues beyond the festival’s control caused stages to flood and equipment to malfunction, but amidst the torrential downpour, a few notable MVPs came through big time.

On Saturday, during what will forever be remembered as the “Young Thugg Rain Delay,” Bay Area emcee Kamaiyah Johnson, who goes by her first name when performing, went head to head with Mother Nature for one of the most electrifying sets of the weekend. Spitting bars in between 40 mile-per-hour winds and drenched head to toe in a neon-green poncho, her flow was flawless even as she was being pelted in the face by heavy rain. Doing the Bay proud, she definitely earned some street cred in keeping the rain-soaked crowd happy and hyphy during the delay.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016 - Tycho


Tycho

Bailing out Another Planet twice, Bay Area superstar/TIMF lifesaver Tycho lessened one of the weekend’s harshest blows when he filled in for James Blak after Blake’s set was abruptly canceled on Sunday evening. Coming off a surprise show at The Independent the night before the fest officially kicked off, which in turn, was making up for Pantha du Prince’s last-minute cancellation, Scott Hansen was called upon again after his band’s live set on Sunday — this time to DJ during another set-debilitating downpour. The defeated crowd, even more upset by the unfortunate news that Blake would not be performing, looked as though it had suffered one final blow and could be overheard discussing whether or not to stick around for Sigur Rós’ headlining performance.

It looked like a gloomy surrender until out of nowhere, TIMF started sending out alerts via its social media channels that a surprise DJ set from Tycho would promptly start in Blake’s place. Probably the only artist who could alleviate the crushing blow of hearing that Blake’s set was canceled took the stage and quickly reinvigorated the crowd, motivating spectators to weather the storm with his ethereal beats.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016 - James Blake at Fox Theater Oakland

James Blake’s “Redemption” Show

Monday morning hit like a ton of bricks, especially for anyone returning to work after the emotional rollercoaster that was TIMF. Still feeling the effects of the festival, many started off their week with a serious case of post-festival stress disorder. But just when we finally were ready to turn off any push notifications from the TIMF app, an alert delivered what easily was the best news of the entire weekend.

As a consolation for Blake’s canceled set, festival organizers announced he would be playing a makeup concert free to ticket holders that night at The Fox Theater Oakland. Sending social media into a flurry, Another Planet confirmed the news and even made tickets available for purchase to those who didn’t attend TIMF. Although many were skeptical about whether or not they’d be able to get in, those who made the effort were treated to a magical performance with a comfortably sized crowd.

Playing every song you would have hoped to hear at TIMF while being able to explain and subsequently show the crowd why his amazing new stage show would not have been able to survive the storm, Blake gave the crowd a performance to remember and extinguished any sedimentary frustrations left over from the mishaps that took place. The 28-year-old British singer-songwriter cleansed the crowd with a set full of beautiful, serene love songs as well as deep-house/1-800-Dinosaur cuts, making the show feel near-sacrosanct and giving us some serious festival redemption. He spoke candidly about the previous weekend’s circumstances, wooed the crowd with humorous antecdotes and even stopped the show at one point to make sure even the rowdiest audience members didn’t ruin the occasion.


THE BAD

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016

• The unrelenting mayhem of Mother Nature’s first official storm of 2016

• The inability to bring an umbrella to comfortably handle the weather

• Artists being unable to perform (and their social media meltdowns that followed)

• Gripes and backlash from ticket buyers that spawned the hashtag #refundTIMF10

• A shortage of water at the festival’s refill stations

• The lack of cellphone reception and timely communication from TIMF organizers during Saturday’s storm


THE MUDDY

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016

• Laying down a beautiful lawn that turned into a mud field by the end of the weekend

• The beautiful location of the pier for the Silent Disco and various vendors, yet due to high winds, was not accessible on Saturday and only available on Sunday

• The awesome bar and tent available for VIP ticket holders, which turned out to be the only cover from the storm throughout the festival grounds

• Selling disposable ponchos at the festival’s merchandise tent, only for them to sell out almost immediately

• The promise of a “rain or shine” festival without anticipating that the island would get consumed by a white squall

Treasure Island Music Festival releases 2016 lineup with headliners Sigur Rós, Ice Cube

Treasure Island Music Festival 2016 lineup

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Treasure Island – San Francisco
October 15th-16th, 2016 //

Treasure Island Music Festival is back for its 10th anniversary this fall, and after months of speculation, we now know who will be performing in 2016.

Headlining the two-day event in mid-October will be Icelandic post-rock outfit Sigur Rós and legendary rapper Ice Cube, who has been making the rounds on the festival circuit this year. The rest of the TIMF bill leans heavily on electronic music — as just another sign of times — with English singer-songwriter James Blake leading the way after the release of his critically acclaimed LP The Colour in Anything last month.

Other acts on the 2016 TIMF lineup worth noting include Canadian electronic duo Purity Ring, Chinese-American electronic musician ZHU, Oxford indie-rock quartet Glass Animals, English deep-house DJ Duke Dumont, slacker-rock king Mac DeMarco, 23-year-old emcee Young Thug, Australian electronic duo Flight Facilities, North Carolina indie-pop duo Sylvan Esso, French singer-songwriter Héloïse Letissier’s band Christine and the Queens, UK grime ambassador Stormzy, Texas chillwave group Neon Indian, Jack Tatum’s dream-pop quintet Wild Nothing and the experimental sounds of Tom Krell’s How to Dress Well.

The Bay Area music scene will also be well-represented at TIMF in 2016 with Scott Hansen’s ambient-techno project Tycho, black-metal enthusiasts Deafheaven and Oakland’s Day Wave all set to perform.

Tickets go on sale this Thursday, June 16th starting at 10 a.m. and include two-day GA passes for an early-bird price of $159.50 (before increasing to $179.50) as well as two-day VIP passes for $315. All GA and VIP tickets will include a complimentary shuttle to and from the festival at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in SF.

Ready to hit the island this October? Relive last year’s fest with our 20 favorite moments here.

Treasure Island Music Festival 2015

Showbams Photography 2013: A year in review

Purity-Ring

Purity Ring // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13


The power and impact of a great photo is undeniable. Striking photos take you to another place, inserting you into a spectacular moment from the past.

The photographers in the Bam Fam have produced many memorable, inspiring live music photos in 2013. Feast your eyes on 50 of our best shots from the past year.

Click a band or artist name to view the original article.

Fiona-Apple-and-Blake-Mills

Fiona Apple & Blake Mills // Sam Heller
Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkeley //10.8.13


Killer-Mike

Killer Mike // James Nagel
The Independent // 7.31.13


Crystal-Castles

Crystal Castles // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 4.27.13


Phantogram

Phantogram // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Warpaint

Warpaint // Marc Fong
The Independent // 9.17.13


Cut-Copy_

Cut Copy // James Nagel
Fox Theater Oakland // 11.2.13


Geographer_post

Geographer // Sterling Munksgard
Bimbo’s 365 Club // 11.23.13


Thee-Oh-Sees

Thee Oh Sees // Pedro Paredes
Great American Music Hall // 12.18.13


Grouplove

Grouplove // James Nagel
The Independent // 9.14.13


James-Blake

James Blake // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.20.13


Matthew-Dear

Matthew Dear // Mike Frash
Mezzanine // 5.22.13


Palma-Violets

Palma Violets // James Nagel
The Independent // 4.23.13


Polyphonic-Spree

Polyphonic Spree // Marc Fong
The Chapel // 8.19.13


Zedd

Zedd // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 10.9.13


Robert-Randolph

Robert Randolph // Steve Kennedy
Notes For Notes Benefit // 12.6.13


Savages1

Savages // James Nagel
The Independent // 9.27.13


Steve-Aioki

Steve Aoki // Sterling Munksgard
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // 11.16.13


The-Flaming-Lips

The Flaming Lips // James Nagel
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium // 10.31.13


The-xx

The xx // Marc Fong
The Greek Theatre // 6.1.13


Atoms-For-Peace

Atoms For Peace // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Thundercat1

Thundercat // James Nagel
The Independent // 11.13.13


Trey-Anastasio-Band

Trey Anastasio Band // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 4.20.13


Alabama-Shakes

Alabama Shakes // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oakland // 3.5.13


AlunaGeorge

AlunaGeorge // Marc Fong
The Independent // 9.11.13


Autre-Ne-Veut

Autre Ne Veut // Mike Frash
The Independent // 3.11.13


chk-chk-chk

!!! // James Nagel
Great American Music Hall // 2.28.13


CSS

CSS // James Nagel
The Independent // 6.16.13


Danny-Brown

Danny Brown // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


Father-John-Misty

Father John Misty // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.24.13


HAIM

Haim // Marc Fong
Treasure Island Music Festival // 10.19.13


How-To-Dress-Well

How To Dress Well // Sam Heller
The Independent // 8.26.13


Jagwar-Ma

Jagwar Ma // James Nagel
The Independent // 12.11.13


Jamie-Lidell

Jamie Lidell // Sam Heller
The Independent // 3.29.13


Primus

Primus // Sam Heller
High Sierra Music Festival // 7.5.13


Run-The-Jewels1

Run The Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) // James Nagel
The Independent // 7.31.13


Toro-Y-Moi

Toro Y Moi // James Nagel
Fox Theater Oakland // 11.15.13


Wild-Belle

Wild Belle // Eldon Christenson
The Independent // 9.26.13


alt-J

Alt-J // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 8.29.13


Andrew-Bird

Andrew Bird // Sam Heller
Congregation Sherith Israel // 12.16.13


Andrew-WK

Andrew W.K. // Marc Fong
The Independent // 10.12.13


Anna-Calvi

Anna Calvi // Marc Fong
The Independent // 11.17.13


Big-Boi

Big Boi // Mike Frash
Mezzanine // 5.17.13


Deerhunter

Deerhunter // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13


MS-MR

MS MR // James Nagel
The Independent // 6.16.13


Phoenix

Phoenix // Chaya Frash
The Independent // 4.1.13


Rogue-Wave1

Rogue Wave // Marc Fong
The Independent // 7.12.13


Sigur-Ros

Sigur Rós // Marc Fong
Fox Theater Oaklnad // 4.16.13


STS9_Post

STS9 // Sam Heller
Fox Theater Oakland // 3.1.13


Washed-Out

Washed Out // Marc Fong
First City Festival // 8.25.13

Showbams’ top shows of 2013

Top-Shows-of-2013

It’s been a rich year for music, but since most artists no longer rake in as much cash as they did in the past from record sales, performing live has become more essential. Easy access to streaming and torrents has created a world where music fans cultivate an increasingly wide-ranging palette. In turn, festivals have become exponentially more popular, out of necessity and due to the communal, diverse experiences festivals offer.

Most of the Showbams Team lives and frequents concerts in the Bay Area music scene (that’s what the “BAMS” in “Showbams” stands for), so many of our staff picks for best shows of 2013 took place in or around San Francisco.

The best live music performers blow minds on a nightly basis as they zig zag across the world, so if an act made our list, they probably left a lasting impact near you as well.

Click the links below to view the original show review.

El-P & Killer Mike as Run The Jewels - Photo by James Nagel

El-P & Killer Mike as Run The Jewels // Photo by James Nagel

Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

01. El-P & Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) – The Independent – July 31st
El-P & Killer Mike provided the most engrossing live performance I witnessed this past year, both in their opening solo sets and their combined tour de force as Run The Jewels. Killer Mike, perhaps the most fascinating rapper on the planet, had the audience in the palm of his hands by enforcing crowd participation while performing “R.A.P. Music” and an a cappella version of “Reagan”. El-P’s set contrasted perfectly with Mike’s more message-driven set, but the the most magical moments occurred when the duo donned their “36” Chains”. The super-clever spits came at machine gun pace, faster than brains can process, and El-P’s weird, abrasive-yet-fun production work kept the show flowing at a delightfully hyperactive pace. The future is blindingly bright for Run The Jewels as they aim to take the throne.

02. Nine Inch Nails – Outside Lands – August 10th
Nine Inch Nails triumphantly returned this summer after a couple last minute personnel changes, but in the end it felt as though Trent Reznor knows exactly what he is doing. Far from feeling like a greatest hits nostalgia show (while they did play nearly all their big singles), Nine Inch Nails guided the uninitiated (including myself) by unfolding the performance in segments. Starting with “Copy of A” from this year’s Hesitation Marks, the first portion was distinctively electronic as shadows silhouetted the players onto the background of the stage. Then the stage opened up to reveal a live drum set, and a handful of pure rock tracks took over. From there, the mix of crunchy, industrialized rock and alternative metal that NIN is known for, including “March of the Pigs” and “Head Like a Hole”, became the focal point. In all honesty, show closer “Hurt” elicited some tears. The experience was intense, surprisingly dance-oriented and breathtakingly emotional.

03. Savages – The Independent – September 29th
Savages made a big splash this year with their album Silence Yourself, and much of the publicity for the all female foursome out of London came from their phone “ban” at concerts. The idea behind this was to instill the idea of immersion into concert goers. Savages successfully put on a show that exhibited a “live in the moment” mentality through their songs and stage presence, and in turn the audience followed Jenny Beth and company to be hypnotically entranced. Savages curated a wholly attentive experience through the use of contrast, most notably in their look, their use of black and white, and the way Savages ultimately contrast with every other group that performs live.

04. FOALS – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 12th
05. Atoms For Peace – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 29th
06. Deerhunter – FYF – August 24th
07. Bassnectar – Fox Theater Oakland – September 19th
08. Alt-J – Not So Silent Night at Oracle Arena – December 7th
09. The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala with White Denim – Bill Graham Civic – October 31th
10. Eric Prydz – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 14th


Phoenix // Photo by Chaya Frash

Phoenix // Photo by Chaya Frash

Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

01. Phoenix – The Independent – April 1st
Preceding the release of their arena-filling 2013 smash album Bankrupt!, Phoenix stopped by San Francisco’s very own 500 person capacity venue to debut the new material. A last minute performance hosted a packed crowd of industry professionals and die-hard fans alike, and the setting felt more like a jam packed album release party than legitimate rock show. The French foursome dynamically performed their brand new tracks, fully engaging the attention of the audience through an intense stage show which fully used the venue’s limited space. Lead singer Thomas Mars even went as far as to stage dive, crowd surf, scale the back wall and return back full circle mid-encore without missing a beat. Catching a band of this magnitude, in a venue this size, performing yet to be released material was a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that anyone lucky enough to experience will undoubtedly remember forever.

02. Fiona Apple and Blake Mills – Zellerbach Hall at UC Berkely – October 8th
The only Bay Area stop on their “Anything We Want Tour”, guitar prodigy Blake Mills and the combustible Fiona Apple headlined an intimate performance this past October at UC Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall. Billed as joint headliners, Mills and Apple playfully supported and challenged each other for command of the completely improvised set list and cohesively chaotic stage show that unveiled. The lecture hall audience was treated to a concert that highlighed both artists individuality, and as a collaborative duo, exercising complete creative control over an occasionally uncomfortably raw, extremely uncensored and truly unique live music experience.

03. Matthew Dear – Mezzanine – May 22nd
Catching the Ghostly International co-founder and experimental dance artist Matthew Dear in the spatial dimensions of the Mezzanine is amazing enough, however if the dance floor is nowhere near half capacity, you’re in for an unforgettable, private performance. Accompanied by a four person live band, Matthew Dear took the stage this past May with the bravado of a veteran rock star. Playing as though he were performing to a sold out arena, he dramatically danced and belted his way through crowd rousing favorites from his entire catalogue. Stage show theatrics involving the dismemberment of dozens of white roses and passionate crowd interactions stunned the unassuming audience members. The band dynamics, amazing set list and impeccably charismatic Matthew Dear ultimately enticed the intrigue of the entirely undersold venue, prompting everyone to actively participate in the spectacle that evening.

04. Major Lazer – The Independent – March 28th
05. Moving Units – DNA Lounge – September 11th
06. Washed Out – Rickshaw Stop – August 29th
07. Toro Y Moi – The Independent – March 2nd
08. The Postal Service – The Greek Theater Berkeley – July 27th
09. Yeasayer – Mezzanine – April 12th
10. Muse – Oracle Arena – January 28th


Arcade Fire as The Reflektors // Photo by Kevin Quandt

Arcade Fire as The Reflektors // Photo by Kevin Quandt

Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

01. Arcade Fire as The Reflektors – Hollywood Palladium – October 31st
When I was lucky enough to score a ticket to this Halloween extravaganza, I knew I would be in for something special as I was in the process of falling in love with Reflektor. After donning a sharp suit and heading to Hollywood Boulevard, my show companion and I began to realize this was gonna be something special. The Palladium was alive as soon as you walked though the doors as revelers danced, socialized and admired each others outfits worn on this night. Obviously the band played heavy on the new tracks and the crowd was eating out of their hand for the duration with highlights such as “Here Comes the Night Time” and “We Exist”, to name a few. The evening didn’t end once the performance was done as the band joined the crowd for a post-show dance party to rival most. By the time we cruised out into the chilly night we were pretty thoroughly damp from the sweat that had amassed inside, and all was right on a Halloween in Hollywood.

02. Tame Impala – Coachella (Weekend 1) – April 14th
The continuously impressive Australian act delivered a loaded 40 minute set displaying their ability to crush, and expand, tracks on stage like rock and roll champs. Blustery winds blew through the Empire Polo Club, shaking the rows of palm trees behind the stage as if nature was swaying to the psychedelic goodness being enjoyed by the sizable crowd. The conditions may have led to some minor issues with a MIDI keyboard, but that didn’t phase them in the least and powered into a different direction without missing a beat. “Elephant” had an extended interlude before closing with old classic, “Half Full Glass of Wine”. Optimism at it’s finest.

03. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
A Friday night set just shy of 40 songs punctuated the first day of Outside Lands as living legend Paul McCartney captivated a packed crowd. Though not my first time seeing Sir Paul show, it was a special one in many ways on a foggy summer evening. The tenderness of “Blackbird” is always a thing of beauty, and the recently road-approved Beatles tune “Lovely Rita” were just a few of the highlights from this banner set. Macca has got it, straight up. I have preached to the power of his show since I was 15 years old, and on this night many got to experience that power first hand.

04. Phish – Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys – July 31st
05. Holy Ghost! – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
06. Mac DeMarco – FYF – August 25th
07. David Byrne & St. Vincent – Fox Theater Oakland – July 21st
08. Thee Oh Sees – The Independent – January 11th
09. Pickwick – The Getty Center – Los Angeles, CA – July 13th
10. The Walkmen & Father John Misty – The Fillmore – January 24th


Sigur Rós // Photo by Marc Fong

Sigur Rós // Photo by Marc Fong

Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

01. Sigur Rós – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 20th
Icelandic rockers Sigur Rós closed out night two of Coachella and put on an amazing performance that was highlighted by one of the most impressive visually striking stage set ups that I’ve seen. In addition to the mesmerizing video screen portrayal of various beautiful landscapes, the stage also had lamps with exposed bulbs that would light up in time to the music. The band was joined by a string and horn section for this unique experience, adding great texture to their already layered sound. The set was heavy on newer songs from their most recent album Kveikur with older tracks sprinkled in, which pleased new and old fans alike.  Sigur Rós provide a truly amazing experience.

02. M83 with Hollywood Bowl Orchestra – Hollywood Bowl – September 22nd
French indie-pop rockers stepped it up at the Hollywood Bowl this year with a little help from the in house orchestra.  It’s always tricky when mixing string instruments with electronic synthesizers, not to mention the full band, but M83 found the perfect medium. The band worked through most of their big hits like “Midnight City” and “Wait” with serious ambition and the subtle compliments from the orchestra really made the overall sound fuller.

03. Tame Impala – Fox Theater Pomona – May 30th  
This Australian Psychedelic band had a banner year as they played all over the world, but on this particular night in Pomona they showcased why they are going to be one of the biggest bands around. Their sound is pure psychedelic bliss that oozes ever so sweetly over your ears. The band weaved effortlessly between older tracks like “Desire Be Desire Go” and newer songs like the ever so popular “Elephant” and “Feels Like We Only Go Backwards”. After a solid two plus hour set, Tame Impala walked off the stage and I found myself standing there speechless. 

04. Phish – Dicks Sporting Goods Arena – Commerce City, CO – August 31st
05. Medeski Martin & Wood – UCLA Royce Hall – April 26th
06. Eric McFadden with Nels Cline and Mike Watt  –  The Mint – Los Angeles, CA – January 16th
07. Femi Kuti and The Positive Force – The El Rey Theater – Los Angeles, CA – January 18th
08. The Rolling Stones – Staples Center – Los Angeles, CA – May 3rd
09. Jim James – The Fonda Theater – Los Angeles, CA – May 11th
10. Anders Osborne with Neal Casal and Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe- The El Rey Theater – Los Angeles, CA – October 24th


Alt-J // Photo by Sam Heller

Alt-J // Photo by Sam Heller

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

01. Phish – Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena at Harveys – July 31st
In late July Phish performed two concerts at Harvey’s Lake Tahoe Outdoor Arena. Night 2 of the run contained one of the most infamous moments in recent Phish history: The Tahoe Tweezer. This 36 minute jam odyssey has already found it’s place in Phish lore as one of the defining moments of the current era of Phish. It’s not just the length that makes this jam so impressive, but also the song’s content, as Phish and the audience interact back and forth driving the jam deeper and deeper. Magical moments of improvisation like this do not come around very often. WOO!

02. Bjork – Craneway Pavilion – Richmond, CA – May 28th
This was my first time having the pleasure of seeing Bjork live, and she fully lived up to the hype. The entire crowd was on pins and needles as she performed her 2011 album, Biophilia, in it’s entirety. It was an audio/visual experience unlike any other concert, complete with a Tesla Coil instrument controlled by iPads and a series of sound-generating pendulums to accompany Bjork’s majestic voice. Bjork is a talent unlike anything I have ever seen live.

03. Tom Waits – Bridge School Benefit (Shoreline Ampitheatre) – October 27th
Checked a big one off the bucket list with this performance at Neil young’s annual Bridge School Benefit. It’s a wonder why Mr. Waits doesn’t tour more often as he is as talented, and as much of a showman, as he ever was. His voice sounded great, including the usual gritty and rawness that you can expect. One of the longer sets of the evening, Waits plucked tunes from his entire catalogue, yet he pulled mostly from his latest record Bad As Me. Don’t miss a chance to see Tom Waits as his shows are few and far between these days. A truly special individual and unique talent to behold.

04. Tame Impala – Fox Theater Oakland – May 29th
05. Sigur Ros – Fox Theater Oakland – April 16th
06. Alt-J – Fox Theater Oakland – August 29th
07. Nine Inch Nails – Outside Lands – August 10th
08. Rhye – Outside Lands – August 9th
09. Alabama Shakes – Fox Theater Oakland – March 5th
10. Bassnectar – Hangout Music Festival – Gulf Shores, AL – May 18th


Shpongle // Photo by Mike Frash

Shpongle // Photo by Mike Frash

The Festival Lawyer // Columnist // @FestivalLawyer

01. Shpongle – Sea of Dreams at Concourse Exhibition Center in SF – December 31st (2012)
Just a really interesting, weird and exotic New Year’s Eve show. He had a performance art group that accompanied him that night as well as a live violinist. This combo led to a really trippy, trance inducing sight and sound experience. So cool.  

02. The Cure – Austin City Limits – October 12th
When I first saw the Cure I was an eyeliner-wearing 80’s Goth kid. ACL has a 10 o’clock curfew, so when their set got close to 10 o’clock, Robert Smith announced, “Listen, we are going to play all the hits that we can until they shut us down.”  What followed next was just a very cool trip down memory lane.  Funny how music can just instantly take us back to a time or memory in our life.

03. Muse – Oracle Arena – January 28th
It’s always weird to see how much shit people talk about Muse. They seriously have a stage act only rivaled by groups like Swedish House Mafia (I still call SHM’s set at Coachella “The Night of a Million Lasers.”)  Muse combines moving TV sets, lasers, even robots all combined with the stage bravado of legendary UK acts like Queen. If you can’t sing along with me at the top of your lungs to “Uprising” then you just are really missing out on a terrific experience. 

04. Yeah Yeahs Yeahs – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th
05. Bassnectar – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th
06. Father John Misty – Fillmore – June 21st
07. Iggy Pop and the Stooges – C2SV Festival – St. James Park – San Jose, CA – September 28th
08. Disclosure – Treasure Island Music Fest – October 19th
09. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
10. Arctic Monkeys – Coachella (Weekend 2) – April 19th


Thundercat // Photo by James Nagel

Thundercat // Photo by James Nagel

James Nagel // Photographer // @JdropsKnowledge

01. Thundercat – The Independent – November 13th
Stephen Bruner delivered a performance that felt truly unique, deviating from the standards set on his album by slapping some soulful, jazzy rhythms on his epic bass. He wrapped the entire audience with the warm embrace of his music in the most personal, improvesed way. 

02. Savages- The Independent – September 27th
Jenny Beth is a goddamn rockstar. Period. 

03. The Flaming Lips with Tame Impala and White Denim – Bill Graham Civic – October 31st
This show was truly a surreal experience and did not disappoint when it came to the scope of the production. Confetti and balloons rained down endlessly it seemed, while the visual and lighting components completely enhanced this drone-filled yet enlightening event. 

04. Toro Y Moi – Fox Theater Oakland – November 15th
05. Cut Copy – Fox Theater Oakland – November 2nd
06. Digitalism – The Independent – May 7th
07. !!! – Great American Music Hall – March 1st
08. El-P and Killer Mike (Run The Jewels) – The Independent – July 31st
09. Grouplove – The Independent – September 14th
10. Palma Violets – The Independent – April 25th


The Black Keyes // Photo by Sterling Munksgard

The Black Keyes // Photo by Sterling Munksgard

Sterling Munksgard // Photographer // @sterlingmphoto

01. The Black Keys – Bottle Rock – Napa, CA – May 10th 
Bottle Rock was a first-year festival situated in the Napa wine country, and it featured a lineup which rivaled many well-established festivals. The Black Keys brought their in-your-face attitude and rocked the crowd good and hard. Bottle Rock was my fourth Keys show and they still had me singing along and dancing. 

02. Empire of the Sun – Life Is Beautiful in Las Vegas, NV – October 27th
When I got home from this festival and showed my photos to friends and family, many people asked, “what kind of music was Empire of the Sun?” The only thing I could come up with was the showmanship of Kiss and the sound and style of Phoenix. But classification aside, this band was not only one of my favorites to watch on stage in 2013 but one of my favorite to photograph. Next time they are in town I will for sure be at their show.  

03. Dave Matthews Band and Gogol Bordello – Jiffy Lube Live – Bristow, VA – July 27th
DMB keeps me coming back for more. At 60+ shows they still keep turning out new tunes and bringing back songs that haven’t been played in years. This show had many highlights including a show opening “Ants Marching”, something that band hadn’t done since 2004.  The band also busted out fan favorites such as “Granny”, “Spoon”, “Long Black Veil”, “Crazy Easy”, and “#41”.  

04. Tedeschi Trucks Band and The Black Crowes – Bill Graham Civic – December 14th
05. Imagine Dragons – Life is Beautiful – Las Vegas – October 27th
06. JJ Grey & Mofro – The Fillmore – November 15th
07. Grateful Grass feat. Keller Williams, Keith Moseley, Michael Kang and Jeff Austin – Rex Benefit – The Fillmore – December 7th
08. Sleigh Bells – Treasure Island Festival – October 20th
09. The Lumineers and Dr. Dog – The Greek Theater Berkeley – April 19th
10. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros – Portland Rose Festival – Portland, OR – May 25th


!!! // Photo by James Nagel

!!! // Photo by James Nagel

Dara Shulman // Columnist

01. David Byrne and St. Vincent – Fox Theater Oakland – July 21st
Byrne’s eclectic and eccentric sound, coupled with St. Vincent’s own quirkiness and talent, proved to be a fantastic performance. Creating rich, warm sound, the eight-piece brass band was as impressive as the two talented singers themselves. Playing mostly off their solid album, Love This Giant, the combination of choreography and Talking Heads songs turned out to be the icing on the cake.

02. Paul McCartney – Outside Lands – August 9th
It’s not every day you get to see a Beatle play a three-hour set complete with fireworks. McCartney wowed the packed main stage playing his hits from the Beatles, Wings and his solo efforts. It’s hard to determine which was more impressive, the acoustic set which included a beautiful “Blackbird” or the set-closing sing-along that was “Hey Jude”. Eight more songs over two encores only helped to make this an all-time show.

03. !!! – Great American Music Hall – March 1st
Vocalist and dance machine Nic Offer never fails to entertain the crowd. Offer and the band were on fire when they debuted songs such as “Slyd” off their fifth-album release Thr!!!er. Their upbeat, dance rock kept the crowd moving throughout the show.

04. FOALS – Outside Lands – August 11th
05. Atoms for Peace – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
06. Vampire Weekend – Outside Lands – August 11th
07. Primus – High Sierra Music Festival – July 5th
08. Holy Ghost! – Treasure Island Music Festival – October 19th
09. Cut Copy – Fox Theater – November 2nd
10. Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters – High Sierra Music Festival – July 4th


View the Showbams 40 Best Albums of 2013
View the Showbams Contributor Picks for Best Songs of 2013
View the Showbams picks for Best Live Music Venues in 2013

Showbams’ 40 best albums of 2013

Best-Albums-of-2013

“Best of” lists are always subjective, and this one is no anomaly. When it comes to the best albums of any given year, we can most likely agree that the best records are excellent from beginning to end — no “skip ahead” songs — and that groundbreaking new music can emerge from any genre.

At the same time, we imprint music on moments in our lives, and this will always influence personal taste. Combine these past influences with modern streaming capabilities in 2013, where new records are now accessible before an album release date, and our collective creation and criticism of music begins to transform, adapt and influence more rapidly.

Here are our most addictive albums of 2013, the records we couldn’t stop spinning.

01. Arcade FireReflektor
02. DisclosureSettle
03. Atoms For PeaceAmok
04. FOALSHoly Fire
05. Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
06. Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
07. Kurt VileWakin On a Pretty Daze
08. James BlakeOvergrown
09. White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
10. Toro Y MoiAnything In Return

11. RhyeWoman
12. DarksidePsychic
13. Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
14. The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
15. My Bloody Valentinem b v
16. Sigur RósKveikur
17. Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold
18. Danny BrownOld
19. Holy Ghost!Dynamics
20. Jagwar MaHowlin

21. Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike) – Run the Jewels
22. Washed OutParacosm
23. ClassixxHanging Gardens
24. Hanni El KhatibHead In The Dirt
25. Queens of the Stone Age…Like Clockwork
26. The StrokesComedown Machine
27. Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
28. Volcano ChoirRepave
29. A$AP RockyLONG.LIVE.A$AP
30. Anders OsbornePeace

31. Jon HopkinsImmunity
32. Yeah Yeah YeahsMosquito
33. King Krule6 Feet Beneath The Moon
34. Kanye WestYeezus
35. Mount KimbieCold Spring Fault Less Youth
36. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
37. BonoboThe North Borders
38. Tyler, the CreatorWolf
39. PhoenixBankrupt!
40. PhosphorescentMuchacho


Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.


Vampire Weekend at Fox Theater Oakland 4/17. Photo by Marc Fong.

Mike Frash // Founder, Editor, Columnist // @MikeFrash

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
1The focus on larger themes of mortality and spirituality in Modern Vampires of the City have catapulted this indie group from angst-ridden collegians to mainstream players — and in the process Ezra Koenig and company crafted an American classic. Compulsively listenable, this record matured with age in 2013, just like the artistic path Vampire Weekend seem to be on. The album continuously waxes poetically about death and higher powers, and “Unbelievers” sums it up best: “Girl you and I will die unbelievers, bound to the tracks of the train.” The ambiguousness is biting, as it is tough to tell if the statement is earnest atheism or harsh criticism of Godless existence. In “Step”, we’re told, “Wisdom’s a gift but you’ll trade it for youth, age is an honor it’s still not the truth…we know the true death, the true way of all flesh. Everyone’s dying, but girl – you’re not old yet.” Even “Dianne Young” is a double entendre for ‘dying young’. Every track is filled with high-level substance lyrically, but sonically it’s multi-faceted as well, melding baroque sensibilities and African grooves at a wonderfully variant pace throughout. Ultimately, it’s a supremely empowering coming of age album from Vampire Weekend, one that stares mortality in the face while celebrating time’s finite quality.

Run the Jewels (El-P & Killer Mike)Run the Jewels
2Early in Run The Jewels, Killer Mike announces, “Producer gave me a beat, said it’s the ‘beat of the year’, I said ‘El-P didn’t do it, so get the fuck outa here.’ El-P, the sole producer of rap music’s most dynamic duo, bases his production in captivating weirdness, micro-sampling everything from classic organ to nintendo glitch sounds to electric guitar, building epic beats for Killer Mike & El-P to deliver clever rhymes, based both in reality and playful hyperbole. One of Run The Jewels’ greatest successes is that it can be both funny and deadly serious within the same song, and often within in the same flow or line at times. So motherfuckin’ grimy, “Job Well Done” highlights how successfully dolphin sounds can contrast with aggressive lyricism, for example. Killer Mike broaches serious topics, bringing up the “elephant in the room” whenever possible, and EL-P is hyperactive and light-hearted as he spits his ‘future shit’. Put these two together and you have the best hip hop album in years.

FOALSHoly Fire
3The beauty is in the build with FOALS, and that is the case with Holy Fire more than prior album as the UK-based festival-headliners-in-the-making have largely abandoned their post-dance punk sound aesthetic for a more ballad-based approach. Sure, “My Number” and “Providence” continue the upbeat, math rock-dance-freak-outs, but overall FOALS have centered their 2013 record around patient song development in order to establish more memorable, ecstatic moments. “Milk & Black Spiders” does just that, taking a full three minutes and forty five seconds to reach it’s blissful summit. “Late Night” is a harrowing slow burner, repeating the line, “Calling out your name,” asking for the subject of the song to “Stay with me.” Lead singer Yannis Philippakis’ impassioned vocals, paired with the band’s guitar interplay and non-standard rhythms make FOALS a unique force in the world of modern rock.

The NationalTrouble Will Find Me
4Matt Berninger has a way with words — who else could make the phrase “full of punks and cannonballers” sound eloquent and measured in the track “I Need My Girl”? The National thrives on non-literal lyricism, but the instrumental elements from The National in Trouble Will Find Me prop the singing up on a pedestal better than prior records. Void of any filler, this contemplative record easily allows the listener to take their own meaning from any given track, applying it internally. The first half impresses quickly with “I Should Live In Salt” through “Sea Of Love”, but it is the second half that solidifies the effort as The National’s best work to date. An album that also gets more addictive with subsequent listens, Trouble Will Find Me works well as both a “pick me up” record and one to embrace life’s good times, an odd duality indeed.

Volcano ChoirRepave
5Who needs Bon Iver when Justin Vernon is making music like he has with The Shouting Matches and Volcano Choir in 2013? Vernon, the creative centerpiece behind Bon Iver, announced while promoting Repave that Volcano Choir is his new band. Arguably, this is a genius move, as Vernon is exhibiting a higher level of confidence and innovation with this possibly permanent collaboration with members of Collections of Colonies of Bees. Repave traverses a path that balances grandiose and minimalism, choosing off-beat, unexpectedly contrasting moments to ‘drop the sound hammer’ in both “Comrade” and “Byegone”. “Drop the sound hammer” refers to the mesmerizing technique Volcano choir uses to quickly transition from falsetto-based minimalist intros into hard-hitting Philip Glass-like synth blasts and authoritative drums. I’m fine with Vernon considering himself a legend, as long as he continues creating music with cryptic, poetic lyrics and the progressive intermingling of intense and soothing sounds.

06. Darkside – Psychic
07. James Blake – Overgrown
08. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
09. Rhye – Woman
10. Disclosure – Settle
11. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
12. My Bloody Valentine – m b v
13. Atoms for Peace – Amok
14. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
15. Washed Out – Paracosm
16. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
17. Bonobo – The North Borders
18. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
19. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
20. John Vanderslice – Dagger Beach


Atoms For Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.


Atoms for Peace at Treasure Island Music Festival 10/19. Photo by Marc Fong.

Molly Kish // Artist Relations Manager, Columnist // @MollyKish

Atoms For PeaceAmok
1Alternative Rock super group Atoms for Peace delivered one of the most evocative, skillfully executed and notable debuts of 2013, completely as expected. Bringing together some of the most innovative, iconic and artistically defining tastemakers of the past two decades (most notably Thom Yorke & Flea), Atoms for Peace composed a near-perfect representation of contemporary sound evolution. Touring this past year promoting Amok through intermittent concert dates and festival-headlining performances, Atoms for Peace captivated live audiences on a global scale while generating critical acclaim, and for good reason.

Toro Y MoiAnything in Return
2Drawing artistic influence from elements of 90s dance music while paying homage to the iconic hip hop sounds of the era, Chaz Bundick departed from his signature “chillwave” style to compose his third studio album, Anything in Return. Revisiting harder house elements from his 2010 debut Causers of This, Bundick taps into a funky soundscape filled with intensified vocals and hard hitting jam-based percussion. Paying homage to legendary producer J Dilla, Anything in Return touches upon intimate subject matter while remaining accessibly pop-driven, delivering Bundick’s “biggest sounding” album to date.

DisclosureSettle
3UK sibling duo Disclosure was one of the most successful breakout acts of the past year, largely in part to the global commercial appeal of their debut album, Settle. Mixing the perfect blend of R&B vocals, UK garage, two step and deep house cuts, Settle is a seamless composition of dance floor ready hits. Disclosure’s first full length succeeded in curating a sound both primed for the band’s spellbinding live improvisation and the album’s inevitable mainstream sampling and remixes.

Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
4Preceding its April release date with a show-stopping album trailer debut at Coachella (and nationally syndicated on Saturday Night Live) and a video website series presented by The Creators Project, Daft Punk set the bar early this year for the future of mainstream album promotional campaigns. Defying the expectations of their devoted fan base along with the speculatory opinions of many EDM counterparts, Random Access Memories marks the band’s groundbreaking introduction of live musicians into their otherwise strictly electronic body of work. Their most successful album to date, Random Access Memories is a definitive album that highlights the robots’ personal influence, and the effect is a lasting impact on popular music.

Arcade FireReflektor
5Arcade Fire’s Reflektor serves as a testament to their creative ingenuity as a modern art rock group. Its evolutionary sound was produced by nu-disco vanguard James Murphy and features collaborations with David Bowie, Kid Koala and an armada of additional percussionists and recording personnel. Promoted and released through an ingenious guerrilla marketing campaign, intriguing the attention of a frothing worldwide audience.

06. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
07. Kanye West – Yeezus
08. Washed Out – Paracosm
09. Holy Ghost – Dynamics
10. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
11. Devendra Banhart – Mala
12. Major Lazer – Free The Universe
13. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
14. Starfucker – Miracle Mile
15. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
16. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
17. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
18. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
19. St. Lucia – When The Night
20. Jay Z – Magna Carta


Thee Oh Sees at Phono Del Sol 7/13. Photo by Mike Frash.


Thee Oh Sees at Phono Del Sol 7/13. Photo by Mike Frash.

Kevin Quandt // Assistant Editor, Columnist // @KJQuandt

Parquet CourtsLight Up Gold
1In a year with many strong rookie efforts (Haim, Disclosure, Lorde, etc.), it was this Brooklyn quartet that rejuvenated garage-tinged, punk rock with a blisteringly fierce debut LP, Light Up Gold. Opening track “Master of My Craft” lets us know we are in for one helluva a ride and it doesn’t let up in the least as Andrew Savage belts out anthems full of modern tales of urban decay and the slacker lifestyle. This we do-whatever-the-fuck-we-want mentality was also clearly present on a recently released EP entitled Tally All the Things That You Broke, which was equally as impressive as the full length. Alas, all is not lost when it comes to irreverent rock music in a sea of shiny synths and EDM takeovers. 

My Bloody Valentinem b v
2If this album was a person, it could legally drink in this country. Now, after that fact settles in, we can concentrate on how impressive m b v actually is. Kevin Shields and cohorts took 22 years to deliver this baby and it is chock-full of all the aural beauty that made these shoegaze legends modern rock royalty a couple of decades ago. Standout final track “wonder 2” is a whirling dervish of otherworldly drums, guitars and distorted vocals, slowly building into one serious rapture. Attention to detail is not lost on this album as meticulous craftsmanship is ever-present, especially when listened to fully, or in the distinct ‘3 EP’ structure that m b v is recorded in. All I ask Kevin Shields is that I don’t have to wait till I’m almost 50 years old to hear another new release from My Bloody Valentine.

Arcade FireReflektor
3There’s little surprise that this ‘double’ release ended in my, and many others, top albums list. Why? Because Arcade Fire make great albums, and I enjoy great albums. The grab bag of influences on this album is truly startling and lends much to it’s overall success whether it be deep Haitian rhythms or the the electro-dance production of James Murphy. With so many standout tracks, it really makes you wonder what they are putting in the water up in Canada. “Joan of Arc”, “Normal Person”, “Afterlife” and so many others create something fully unique and fully Arcade Fire. 

Boards of CanadaTomorrow’s Harvest
4It was a bit of a long wait for fans of BoC, but well worth the interesting journey that was to become Tomorrow’s Harvest and it’s unique marketing campaign which precluded the June release. Not much has changed from the ambient electronic soundscapes that put these Scots on the map nearly two decades ago. What makes Boards so significant is their knowledge of analogue gear they use to transform sound into warm ambience that is loaded with emotion, complexity and cinematic themes. Songs like “Nothing Is Real” fully demonstrate their textbook mix of instrumentation and warm, vintage synths which gracefully paint a picture of the natural world which we live in. It’s albums like this which should make every listener wanna go out and spend four figures on some serious headphones, and Boards of Canada wouldn’t object.

Thee Oh SeesFloating Coffin
5It’s been a long time coming for the San Francisco garage titans that, most popularly, go by Thee Oh Sees. John Dwyer once used this moniker as his solo effort, but eventually became his primary effort, eventually growing from one man to a full blown band. Floating Coffin shows a shifting of the tide as the once tin-can recording sound has matured to a sonic boom of heavy guitar, driving rhythm and quintessential weirdo vocal. All these elements, and many more, equated to the most comprehensive sounding release in their extensive discography. “Come From the Mountain” opens this album with atomic bomb-shredding guitar and doesn’t really relent from this style till the soothing album closer, “Minotaur”. What’s most profound about Floating Coffin is that they have arrived with a permanent lineup, a better produced sound and a band mentality that creates a more unified front as opposed to it being solely Dwyer’s project. Oh yeah, they are also straight bananas on stage.

06. Disclosure – Settle
07. King Krule – 6 Feet Beneath the Moon
08. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
09. Atoms for Peace – Amok
10. Tyler, the Creator – Wolf
11. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
12. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
13. Rhye – Woman
14. Danny Brown – Old 
15. David Bowie – The Next Day
16. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires in the City
17. White Denim – Corsica Lemonade
18. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
19. Pickwick – Can’t Talk Medicine
20. Mount Kimbie – Cold Spring Fault Less Youth


White Denim at Bill Graham Civic Center 10/31. Photo by James Nagel.


White Denim at Bill Graham Civic Center 10/31. Photo by James Nagel.

Pete Mauch // Festival Manager & Columnist // @PeteMauch

Arcade FireReflektor
1All-star collaboration of these Canadian rockers and producer James Murphy proved a success with their fourth release. The album, filled with instant hits like “Reflektor” and “Here Comes the Night Time”, is heavily influenced by traditional Haitian music that adds a deep rhythm to the elongated grooves, but the real treat is how its all tied together. Arcade Fire let loose on Reflektor, finding comfort in initiating a party atmosphere while staying confident with a dash of weirdness.

Jagwar MaHowlin
2There seems to be a psychedelic air blowing in Australia these days, and Jagwar Ma’s debut album is filled with trippy yet danceable songs like the opening pair “What Love” and “Uncertainty”. “Come Save Me” evokes a dream land where the Beach Boys created acid-dance music. This album is gonna get a lot of play on Friday nights for many years to come.

White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
3These Texas rockers put out an intense album in 2013 filled with screaming guitar solos layered over intense time signatures and wailing vocals, but White Denim makes it all sound so simple. Songs like “Pretty Green” and “Cheer Up/Blues Ending” are straight up rocking songs, rooted in the genre’s past while offering a progressive take at where rock is heading. It never hurts to have Jeff Tweedy producing as well.

Daft PunkRandom Access Memories
4The instantly classic single “Get Lucky”, the summer anthem of 2013, is still hyper-catchy, but “Instant Crush”, “Lose Yourself to Dance” & “Doin’ It Right” succeed as pleasantly repetitious tunes that represent a variety of decades. What makes Random Access Memories work completely is all the mellow cuts, perfect for bedtime or a drive down the coast. The music lesson that is “Giorgio by Moroder” just takes off after the ballsy call to include an interview with Giorgio Morodor before launching into an exploratory space jam. 

Anders OsbornePeace 
5Underground New Orleans guitar slayer Anders Osborne released a very impressive long player, filled with deep personal songs that are truly outstanding. Title track “Sentimental Times” showcases Osbornes’ brilliant songwriting, and his guitar work is simply phenomenal and engrossing. Personal favorite “Sara Anne” begins with a reggae feel that builds into a great bouncy song that has me repeating it often.

06. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
07. Atoms For Peace – Amok
08. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
09. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
10. FOALS – Holy Fire
11. Holy Ghost! – Dynamics
12. Jonathan Wilson – Fanfare
13. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
14. Darkside – Psychic
15. Bonobo – The North Borders
16. Phosphorescent – Muchacho
17. Savages – Silence Yourself
18. Deerhunter – Monomania
19. Ty Segall – Sleeper
20. Jim James – Regions of Light and Sound of God


Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15.


Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

Toro Y MoiAnything in Return
1Toro Y Moi just keeps getting better and better with subsequent listens. Part dance, part melancholy electro, Anything in Return strikes many different chords. From feelings of longing and romance, to coming to terms with growing up, Anything in Return ranges the emotionally gamut. This album stood the test of time in 2013, being one the first albums of 2013 to make a dramatic impact, then remaining front of mind come Christmas time.

RhyeWoman
2Woman is the mellow album of the year — If you need to relax, fall asleep, or just chill out, this is the album for you. A go-to in the bedroom, Rhye’s Woman also has the uncanny ability to cradle and comfort you from start to finish. Equally as good in a live setting, Woman proves excellent musicianship can flourish in downtempo form. The record’s male vocalist, Milosh, also released an excellent solo record titled “Jetlag” in late 2013 that clicks at a slightly faster tempo.

White DenimCorsicana Lemonade
3Funky, fresh and just downright dirty, the guys from Austin can bring the heat. Corsicana Lemonade is an album that might not make many end of the year album lists, but it should not be overlooked. Cool and collected while still being rhythmically aggressive, Corsicana Lemonade pushes forward an innovative rock sound that should make The Black Keys nervous their throne is currently up for grabs.

Danny BrownOld
4Danny Brown’s Old creates a new genre of hip hop, one with an electronic psyche. Old may offend some and be lost on others, but Brown’s distinctive voice and tongue-flaunting rhymes constitute a “grower”. Here we have a rapper who isn’t afraid to talk about more than banging it out in the streets, and all together Brown breathes more fresh air into a hip hop landscape that has been seeing a resurgence the past few years.

Vampire WeekendModern Vampires of the City
5It’s tough to deny that indie kings Vampire Weekend are on top of their game right now. If you haven’t heard of these A-Punks that escaped from Cape Cod, you surely have been living under a rock. With Modern Vampires of the City, an already huge band has gotten huger, blasting off into new territory more than in previous efforts. Did I mention they shout out Oakland and Alameda, too?

06. FOALS – Holy Fire
07. Sigur Rós – Kveikur
08. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
09. Atoms For Peace – Amok
10. Disclosure – Settle
11. James Blake – Overgrown
12. Arcade Fire – Reflektor
13. Darkside – Psychic
14. Kurt Vile – Wakin On a Pretty Daze
15. Jon Hopkins – Immunity
16. Camera Obscura – Desire Lines
17. Wild Belle – Idles
18. Nine Inch Nails – Hesitation Marks
19. Blood Orange – Cupid Deluxe
20. Laura Marling – Once I Was An Eagle


Classixx at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.


Classixx at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15. Photo by James Nagel.

Sean Little // Columnist // @Splittle

FOALSHoly Fire
1FOALS have made their best album to date with Holy Fire. It’s a wall of sonic noise mixed with strong doses of angst that starts with “Prelude” and continues to pin listeners to their seats until the last track. The British quintet have produced my number one record of the year, and their live performance is one to see if you haven’t.

ClassixxHanging Gardens
2Classixx made a superb album here. Being a primarily electronic poduction group, their skills show something much deeper and diverse as they move from bouncey disco tracks to deeper, more evocative tracks like “Borderline” where they showcase their ability to craft a tune that hits heart strings and nods heads. Classixx are vastly underrated and should be given a serious listen, even by non-electronic fans.

DisclosureSettle
3What can be said that hasn’t already about this brotherly duo? They hit the scene hard and made a lot of people snap their heads in their direction. Their production quality and use of instruments in their sets has turned many notions of a “DJ” set on its head and opened the doors for a whole new type of set that calls to the crowd more. This album is full of gems that will surely go down in dance history as classics.

Hanni El KhatibHead In The Dirt
4Hanni grew up immensely since his last album and really fine-tuned his sound. This is a pure rock album with no pretense. If you arere tired of pop rock bands trying to make the next iPod commercial-worthy track and long for a record that slaps you in the face to wake you up while still being a tad gentle about it, this is the one for you.

A$AP RockyLONG.LIVE.A$AP
5Hip Hop has fallen to the wayside in years past as electronic has made its resurgence. Fans have grown weary of the over-produced, same old lyric songs that most artists offer. A$AP though brings in, what I consider to be the finest hip hop album of the year. Production by Skrillex, and cameos by Florence Welch, Drake, and Birdyman attest to his range not just as a rapper but as a producer and curator as well.

06. James Blake – Overgrown
07. Queens of the Stoneage – …Like Clockwork
08. The Strokes – Comedown Machine
09. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
10. DJ Koze – Amygdala
11. Atlas Genius – When It Was Now
12. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
13. Bass Drum of Death – S/T
14. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
15. MS MR – Second Hand Rapture
16. Tesla Boy – The Universe Made of Darkness
17. Franz Ferdinand – Right Thoughts, Right Words, Right Action
18. Cut Copy – Free Your Mind
19. Ryan Hemsworth – Guilt Trips
20. The Weeknd – Kiss Land

MIDTERM REPORT: Best Albums of 2013

BEST-ALBUMS-so-far-2013Photos by Marc Fong and Mike Frash

Is 2013 the year digital dance music makes the big leap, fully taking over the Top 40 but also ingraining itself into the hearts of critics? Daft Punk made all the noise as the year was young, but young EDM-upstarts Disclosure, Flume & Jagwar Ma have all made an impact on the Bam Team.

That stated, the musical output in 2013 so far is pretty damn strong overall. And just think, we will be hearing new LPs from Arcade Fire, Earl Sweatshirt, Washed Out, Ty Segall, Franz Ferdinand, Nine Inch Nails, Arctic Monkeys, Holy Ghost!, Chvrches, and many more still. Take a gander at our favorite albums of the year as of July 17, 2013 – What are we missing?

*Any album released in the US in the year 2013 is eligible for Best Albums of 2013.
**Check out all of our music reviews from 2013.

Vampire Weekend

Mike Frash
1. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
2. Disclosure – Settle
3. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
4. James Blake – Overgrown
5. FOALS – Holy Fire
6. Flume – Flume
7. Foxygen – We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
8. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
9. Jagwar Ma – Howlin
10. Baths – Obsidian

Phoenix

Molly Kish
1. Atoms For Peace – AMOK
2. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
3. Disclosure – Settle
4. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
5. Phoenix – Bankrupt!
6. STRFKR – Miracle Mile
7. Devandra Banhart – Mala
8. Major Lazer – Free the Universe 
9. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
10. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito

Thee-oh-Sees

Kevin Quandt
1. my bloody valentine – m b v
2. The National – Trouble Will Find Me
3. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
4. Kurt Vile – Wakin on a Pretty Daze
5. Thee oh Sees – Floating Coffin
6. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
7. Disclosure – Settle
8. Rhye – Woman
9. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
10. A$AP Rocky – Long Live A$AP

Sigur-Ros

Pete Mauch
1. Sigur Ros – Kveikur

2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
3. Superhuman Happiness – Hands
4. FOALS – Holy Fire
5. Boards of Canada – Tomorrows Harvest
6. Deerhunter – Monomania
7. Youth Lagoon – Wondrous Bughouse
8. Bonobo – The North Borders
9. Kurt Vile and The Violators – Walkin’ On A Pretty Daze
10. Disclosure – Settle

Toro Y Moi

Kevin Raos
1. Toro Y Moi – Anything In Return
2. Rhye – Woman
3. Vampire Weekend – Modern Vampires of the City
4. Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
5. Sigur Ros – Kveikur
6. FOALS – Holy Fire
7. Foxygen – We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic
8. Camera Obscura – Camera Obscura
9. Atoms for Peace – AMOK
10. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends

Classixx

Sean Little
1. Flume – Flume
2. Daft Punk – Random Access Memories
3. Classixx – Hanging Gardens
4. Jessie Ware – Devotion
5. Hanni El Kattib – Head In The Dirt
6. Disclosure – Settle
7. Queens of the Stone Age – …Like Clockwork
8. Empire of the Sun – Ice on the Dune
9. Portugal. The Man – Evil Friends
10. DJ Koze – Amygdala

Starfucker5

Eric Shaden
1.  Jagwar Ma – Howlin
2.  James Blake – Overgrown
3.  Daft Punk – Random Access Memories  
4.  Starfucker – Miracle Mile
5.  Disclosure – Settle
6.  Phoenix – Bankrupt!
7.  Boards of Canada – Tomorrow’s Harvest
8.  Autre Ne Veut – Anxiety 
9.  Major Lazer – Free the Universe 
10. Thundercat – Apocalypse 

MS MR
Nikki De Martini
1. MS MR – Secondhand Rapture
2. Deap Vally – Sistrionix
3. Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Mosquito
4: CSS – Planta 
5: Little Boots – Nocturnes
6. Portugal The Man – Evil Friends 
7. Cold War Kids – Dear Miss Lonelyhearts
8. Kanye West – Yeezus
9. Great Gatsby Soundtrack
10. Sigur Ros – Kveikur

New Music Tuesday: Kanye West • Sigur Rós • Empire of the Sun

NMT_Kanye
Every Tuesday, we focus on new music releases by naming our top tracks, album highlights, lowlights and important takeaways for select albums.


Kanye WestYeezus

3.5-BamsTop Tracks:
“Black Skinhead”
“New Slaves”
“I’m In It”

Album Highlights: West’s most avant-guarde effort to date, Yeezus explores the pulsating bass-lines of trap music, glitch electronic beats and experimental noise. In taking some of the largest creative risks of his career, West enrolled a dream team of collaborators to keep the album cohesive and provoking. Executive produced by Rick Ruben, the album boasts a contributing roster of industry heavyweights both past and present. Beyond the tracks crafted by the likes of Daft Punk or featuring West’s handpicked protégé Chief Keef, “Yeezus” is filled with an impressive collection of samples from musical innovators both past and present. A collision of contemporary tastemakers and musical archetypes best exemplified on the standout track “Blood on the Leaves”. The track hits hard with quintessential trap horns and the paralyzing bass of TNGHT’s “R U Ready”, paired with vocals appropriated from Billie Holiday’s classic “Strange Fruit”.

Embellishing further upon audio elements explored in Cruel Summer, his most recent release with G.O.O.D. Music, Yeezus re-introduces us to West’s affinity for the abrasive. Lyrically he continues his legacy of controversial subject matter, with blatant misogyny, self-perpetuated deism and a “fuck the world” attitude dominating as themes. Touching upon the idea of modern-day slavery, within a society that feeds into and conversely scrutinizes his egocentric self-image, West angrily spits, screams and snarls his way through many of the albums tracks. “New Slaves” and “Black Skinhead,” the hardest hitting political tracks on the album bookend the aptly titled “I Am A God”, which will undoubtedly be a contentious track for most. Yeezus also has ample tracks in which West airs his relationship grievances and romantic dirty laundry. A signature trait of Kanye’s previous work, these private details are delivered this time around in a most uncensored manner, aggressively communicated and pornographically depicted. A sexually explicit manifesto, “I’m In It” may be the most NSFW track on the album with lines depicting unveiled racist foreplay with condiments and fisting. West let’s his freak flag fly in the albums’ most interesting collaboration, with vocals by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver fame and Agent Sasco.

Album Lowlight: Understandably, the album was not intended for airplay like his masterfully executed My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, which West makes sure to drive home with his blatant disregard for composition and lyrical structure. Although his choice of samples for this album is impressive and displays an advanced understanding of the contemporary music scene, they become convoluted within many of the songs. With his previous experience producing albums and tactfully paying homage to the artists he draws from, it’s jarring to hear certain tracks’ awkward incorporation of otherwise perfectly rendered samples. Splicing song structures to purposefully create a free form dissonance may ultimately be part of a larger-picture remix operation, but this ultimately leaves the album feeling raw and unfinished.

Takeaway: West set out to push buttons both literally and figuratively with Yeezus, embracing the idea of a gritty concept album over something he could have easily mailed in, ensuring commercial success and very immediate top 40 hits. Following in the vein of not only the collaborators he teamed up with on this album, but also a running theme present in many of 2013’s most successful new music releases, West went out on limb with hopes of producing something unique and game changing. Although Yeezus isn’t an entirely novel production, it undeniably will be an album that invokes reaction and causes discourse amongst industry professionals and fans alike. I commend West for his efforts to push himself creatively, and think he’s a genius for bringing on the talent he chose. Whether or not Yeezus will be a catalyst for a Kanye West 3.0 is still yet to be determined. Either way, I’m intrigued by how this new direction will play out and influence his future work.

~Molly Kish


Sigur RósKveikur

4-BamsTop Tracks:
“Brennisteinn”
“Rafstraumur”
“Bláþráður”

Album Highlights: Sigur Rós creates much more Godly material than Kanye West, evidenced with Kveikur, the second full length record the Icelandic trio has released in 14 months. The post-rock deities are pretty well-known for their grand live shows — they tour with a mini orchestra to recreate their layered sound — but between these two albums they lost core member and multi-instrumentalist Kjartan Sveinsson. What they’ve gained between albums is a stronger sense of immediacy and urgency. Kveikur is a more upbeat continuation of their 2012 album Valtari, offering a heavier wall of sound approach with faster beats-per-minute compared to the 2012 effort. That stated, it’s not a massively large departure, as neither record is in a hurry to prove a point. Each song takes the listener on a journey, yet all cuts work together within the context of their respective album as a whole. Kveikur is simply louder, showcasing more chaotic builds and rooting itself in epic dissonance. The tone of the newer album is darker, even demonic at times; Jónsi and his cohorts channel their demons and come out on the other side, transformed with an added emphasis on ‘Von’. (for non-Sigur Rós fanatics, ‘Von’ means ‘hope’ in the faux language the group invented called “Hopelandic”)

Both albums are continued steps away from mainstream fare, yet at the same time Sigur Rós invite you to join their chaotic world of hope. Opening track “Brennisteinn” commands attention and delivers a foreboding feeling, utilizing bass bombs and ecstatic feedback blasts to introduce the album. As “Brennisteinn” begins to wind down into its ambient outro, the static feedback returns to contrast sharply with the supposedly peaceful finale. “Stormur” begins with Jonsi’s angelic euphoria, but the song only takes flight when the positively pitched, high energy percussion arrives a minute in. “Rafstraumur” uses a typical Sigur Rós song structure — building to a peak, then ephemerally retreating into the valley of calmness before building to a euphoric release point that successfully climbs higher than the previous peak. The long-lasting crescendos are driven by invasive drums on “Rafstraumur”, making the calm respite mid-song especially effective. Kveikur ends as strong as it begins, with “Rafstraumur” and “Bláþráður” leaving a distinctively intense, new taste on your tongue before finishing with the albums’ only mellow cut “Var”.

Album Lowlight: Title song “Kveikur’ is a racing demonic soundscape, but it isn’t one of Sigur Rós’ best songs. “Kveikur” contains punk-rock influences and is particularly hard and rough around the edges for the Icelandic outfit, and it isn’t a track that is particularly satisfying. Maybe it sticks out as a lowlight because it’s missing the beautiful ambiance that is present in every other song, at least in some way. It rejects the duality concept of Kveikur, that being euphoric ambiance versus moments and excursions into jarring dissonance.

Takeaway: Kveikur is Sigur Rós’ best album since 2005’s Takk… largely due to the rapid pace throughout and the sonically jarring jolts that strike like a viking on the attack. The cacophonous noises that contrast with the typical Rós ambiance makes the LP all the more memorable. The resulting effect of this cognitive dissonance is immersive, thought-provoking music. The group favors ‘stress’ over ‘release’ here, but there are enough release moments to help the listener avoid a nervous breakdown. While the sound of Kveikur is certainly heavy, it is less emotionally heavy than Sigur Ros’ classic early releases Agaetis Byrjun, ( ), & Takks… — the albums that made Sigur Rós a worldwide phenomenon, so don’t expect this output to be in the same vein as those classics. Though this is quintessential Sigur Rós, and a must listen for fans of post-rock.

~Mike Frash


Empire of the SunIce on the Dune

3-BamsTop Tracks:
“DNA”
“Alive”
“Keep a Watch”

Album Highlights: The pair of Aussie lads from Empire of the Sun have followed up 2008’s blazing Walking on a Dream with another striking dose of synth rock, full of shiny production and dance grooves. Ice on the Dunes took almost five years to arrive at our ears, and there are some truly positive attributes to glean on this sophomore release. First, the visual marketing of the group has not tamed down, as their music videos, imagery and basically all aspects of the act, actually, are over-the-top and cinematic, to say the least. The bombastic vision of Luke Steele and Nick Littlemore is something to behold, as clearly demonstrated by their music video for “Alive” and subsequent tracks, and it appears to be the continuing vision of the duo. There was potential uncertainty for the future of this act as Nick decided not to tour behind Walking on a Dream, leaving Luke to span the globe a couple of times as the sole torch-bearer.

Now that the band is back together, it is able to create more pristine electro landscapes that could make Kylie Minogue weak in the knees. It’s maximal music at it’s best, so I suppose the five-year wait makes a bit of sense (see: Daft Punk) and comes through on the release, even if the strength of the songs do not hold up to the highlights on the previous release. Who would have thought that Australia would be such a hotbed for a unique brand of dance-driven synth-pop, but here we are. Songs like “Concert Pitch” epitomizes the EOTS sound with all it’s 80’s grandeur coupled with cute EDM-inspired, “feel good” lyrics that make the kids go a special type of crazy.

Album Lowlight: Over-production isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and no one should be surprised by this element from Empire. However, one can’t help but roll their eyes at certain spots where it’s simply too bright and shiny to be taken as something brilliant. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from an album I personally didn’t think would ever be made, but this is pretty damned close, even if it lacks multiple stand-out tracks. Lastly, a certain homogeneity of tracks is much more pronounced, especially when compared to the previous release.

Takeaway: What was once a side/pet-project by two well-established Aussie musicians has fully developed into festival headliner status and are gearing up for a sizable summer to growing crowds. Luke and Nick have a master plan for their most recent project, this plan includes a multifaceted approach to the music industry by cultivating both a sound and an image. It could be argued that both are equally valuable in drawing in new fans that yearn to experience the mega-production stage act or simply blasting their albums in a convertible cruising PCH.

~Kevin Quandt


Sigur Rós spellbind crowd & offer new material at The Fox

Sigur-RosPhotos by Marc Fong

A band amidst a reformation, Sigur Rós proved this week they are back in a major way after a four year hiatus and the loss of a core band member earlier this year. Their dreamy, ambient but oftentimes intense style of music remains intact, however they have evolved their sound to be more assertive than the direction they took with their extremely mellow 2012 album Valtari. Sigur Rós appears to be going in a new direction, which they put on display for a captive audience at The Fox Theater, Oakland Tuesday.

Making their second Bay Area appearance in less than a year (they sub-headlined Outside Lands 2012), Sigur Rós demonstrated this new sound immediately by opening the show with a new song titled “Yfirborð”. “Kveikur,” “Hrafntinna,” and “Brennisteinn” are also new songs that were performed throughout the show. “Brennisteinn” is a perfect example of their new, more “aggressive” sound – just watch the music video. In addition to these excellent new tracks, Sigur Rós demonstrated they still have the ability to nail their classics, despite the departure of keyboardist Kjartan Sveinsson earlier this year. Sigur Rós delighted with fan favorites such as “Svefn-g-englar,” “Hoppípolla” and “Glósóli,” to name a few. Although they now call themselves a “trio,” there was an accompanying string and horn section, as well as a percussionist/keyboardist and backing guitars.

The magical, etherial sounds of Sigur Rós would not be complete without steller visuals to accompany the music. Abstract video and the band member silhouettes were projected on a giant transparent screen draped in front of the stage for the first few songs before it was dramatically dropped at a peak moment, revealing the entire band behind it. Behind the band was a massive, movable video screen that played accompanying video throughout the entire show.

Frontman Jónsi looks poised to take this band to new heights and nothing should stop him. Jónsi’s spellbinding voice and guitar have always been a signature of Sigur Rós, and that has not changed one bit. Sigur Rós held the audience captive Tuesday and delivered a knockout set.

We can expect a few of the new songs we heard on Tuesday to appear on their upcoming album Kveikur, which is scheduled to drop June 18.

Setlist:
Yfirborð
Ný Batterí
Vaka
Hrafntinna
Sæglópur
Svefn-g-englar
Varúð
Hoppípolla
Með Blóðnasir
Olsen Olsen
Kveikur
Festival
Brennisteinn

Encore:
Glósóli
Popplagið

Coachella Review: Top Sets Weekend 1

Coachella

Coachella Weekend 1 came and went like a flash as it usually does. The build up is the slow part: You make your predictions, do your homework after the lineup drops, fret over the soul-crushing set times – then throw your plans in the trash and have some fucking fun.

Twas a unique weekend as each day was different from the other, and not just by which acts were on what stages at any given time. Friday, the masses showed up early and entry was a hassle due to it, and a few gate-crashing episodes due to slow security lines raised anxiety even before stepping foot in the concert venue itself. However, the majority did not stick around for the midnight action shared between highly buzzed acts. Saturday brought a more unified crowd to sing along to the Femmes classics and nervously await a certain special guest to make an appearance with Phoenix. As a whole, this was the best day for the overall experience we have come to know and love out in Indio. Sunday was a bit mild on banner moments, and the winds seemed to dominate as a theme, both for those withstanding and those retreating the gale. Goose pimples and bandana face-masks were plentiful as the event winded down, just to do it all over again next week. Even with a musically less eventful Coachella, compared to year’s past, it was the musical adventure so many long for year round.

Here are the most memorable sets we witnessed, for better or worse.

Day-1--PPIT

The Shouting MatchesGobi Tent, 2:05 p.m.
Coachella Weekend 1 featured a premier performance from Justin Vernon’s über-blues project. The Bon Iver frontman played it cool most of the set behind dark glasses, laying out thick, bluesy guitar riffs. Jack-of-all-trades Phil Cook took over stage banter duties for most of the set, allowing Vernon to try his hat at slow-grinding bluesman. The Shouting Matches explored a couple lengthy jams that worked well. -MF

Dillon Francis2:30 p.m.
Crowds swelled rather early compared to year’s past, and many eager youths were chomping at the bit with the lengthy entry lines trying to catch the buzzy Dillon Francis. An upgraded, arena-sized Sahara tent was packed early on with throngs of fresh attendees bouncing to “Bootleg Fireworks” and other stylistic electronic mash-ups for the primarily under-21 masses. -KQ

Jake BuggMojave Tent, 3:05 p.m. TOP SET
The teenage prodigy Jake Bugg impressed thoroughly at his early tent set, but it wasn’t only due to his excellent acoustic versions of “Two Fingers” and “Simple As This.” Bugg plugged in and let loose with his electric guitar for about half the set, and these songs proved to be the most successul and surprising. The young British singer-songwriter has already honed his live skills and is worth seeing live before his next trip through the states, when he’ll be packing theater-sized venues. -MF

Divine FitsOutdoor Theatre, 4:35 p.m.
Britt Daniel (Spoon) and Dan Boeckner (Wolf Parade) brought their newish outfit to the Outdoor Theatre for an afternoon of power-pop rock. Coupling the unmistakable vocals of Daniel with the heavy chorded guitar romp that is Boeckner added up to an impressive performance. “My Love is Real” was a highlight as drummer Sam Brown of New Bomb Turks added thick rhythm for the sun drenched crowd to sway and stomp to. -KQ

JapandroidsGobi Tent, 5 p.m.
Vancouver-based duo Japandroids had a tough time getting started due to sound issues, something that permeated the Gobi Tent Friday (the sound at TNGHT & Earl Sweatshirt was muted, but FOALS sounded great). Finally the set appeared ready to begin, until Brian King ran off stage, most likely to take a piss. David Prowse followed him offstage, then they returned to the stage to start “Fire’s Highway,” and we all discovered the sound was as shitty as it was when they were sound-checking. I’ve heard Japandroids play with immaculate sound quality, so it was time to move on… -MF

Japandroids

∆(Alt-J)Mohave Tent, 5:20 p.m.
This british quintet was a highlight of the day as they charmed a large crowd with their quintessentially unique take an indie rock, playing heavily off debut album An Awesome Wave. Cartoonish may be the best way to describe the singing style of Joe Newman, but once you’ve acquired the taste, it’s no joke and it shined brightly on the Mojave Stage. “Breezblocks” received a wonderful reception as revelers shook and weaved to the hypnotic rhythm while reciting the grand chorus. -KQ

Local NativesOutdoor Theatre, 7 p.m.
A calm mellow fell over the crowd for the majority of the Local Natives sunset time slot at the Outdoor Theatre. Some enjoyed the slightly closer and better beer garden, while others neatly filled a sizable chunk of real estate in front of the stage. “Sun Hands” was the perfect shock to attendees before sending them back out into the great wild that is the Empire Polo Club. -KQ

Dog BloodSahara Tent, 7:40 p.m.
Combine Skrillex and Boys Noize and you have the two-headed EDM monster fans are getting to know as Dog Blood. This recent collaboration made waves at Ultra this year, and they blew minds in the thickly packed Sahara for a hard driving amalgamation of many of the current electronic styles. The sound resonating from the beefed up DJ booth wasn’t fully Skrillex, nor Boys Noize, which was refreshing to hear from these two superstars. -KQ

Yeah Yeah YeahsCoachella Stage, 8:40 p.m.
Karen O commands crowds with the best of them, and every big performance from Yeah Yeah Yeahs confirms her place as one of the most enigmatic bandleaders of our time. She oozed intensity and sensuality while bopping all over the largest stage during hailed tracks like “Zero” and set closer “Maps.” The new tracks sounded as artsy and danceable as ever and Mosquito is sure to catch some serious attention as they prepare for a lengthy summer season. -KQ

FOALSGobi Tent, 10:50-11:40 p.m. TOP SET
FOALS destroyed their set against tough competition, making everyone present forget they were missing Blur & Jurassic 5. “Inhaler” and “Milk & Black Spiders” from FOALS’ 2013 LP Holy Fire were set highlights, but tracks from all three of their full length records were present in the setlist. The British group is pure fire in concert, producing surprisingly technical live versions of their songs while at the same time extending or intensifying some sounds or instruments in response to the audience reaction in the moment. -MF

FOALS

How to Destroy AngelsMojave Tent, 12 a.m. TOP SET
Trent Reznor’s new project took the stage for the second time ever, and the multi-dimensional presentation wowed the surprisingly sparse crowd in the Mojave Tent. “The Wake Up” began the set with the group veiled behind a curtain of white strings, creating an eerie outline of Atticus Ross, Rob Sheridan and the mystifying Marqueen Manndig. Presentation appeared to be key in the short time this act will be on the road before the return of NIN, even though the wall of sound aspect was a treat for the diehard fans of Reznor and everything he touches. -KQ

How-to-Destroy-Angels

Earl SweatshirtGobi Tent, 12:05 a.m.
Sure, Friday at midnight was undoubtedly one of the most stacked schedule times, but the lack of throngs at Odd Future wunderkid Earl Sweatshirt’s banner set showed that one can’t be in more than one place at a time, which is a massive dilemma at Coachella. New single “Whoa” was delivered confidently, even if the sound was less than stellar. Tyler, the Creator aided his LA bud on old rarity “Orange Juice” and crowd favorite “AssMilk” while climbing scaffolding and generally causing a ruckus. -KQ

Day-2

Danny BrownOutdoor Theater, 3 p.m.
Another moderatly hot day welcomed the wrist-banded festivilians to a more unified day and night compared to the calm finish of day 1. Detroit-born, gap-toothed hip-hop artist Danny Brown brought a feverish set of his unique brand of profane-ridden tunes to the Outdoor Theatre. His nasally delivery could be compared to Andre 3000, while his melodic flow is so neatly packed and wickedly clever it makes folks chuckle in awe. -KQ

Zane LoweYuma Tent, 3 p.m.
The BBC 1 Radio DJ hailing from New Zealand played a spirited set of electro-house in the new official sixth stage. The Yuma Tent was an air conditioned oasis for dance purists needing a respite from the elements while also not wanting to rest their dancing feet. A hard wood floor was a proper addition to this space. Lowe kept things straight ahead, pounding the sizable system with original beats and a mixed set of dance styles before the tent packed up for The 2 Bears.

The inaugural Yuma Tent was so intimate with such quality DJs that most festival-goers did not have the opportunity to see some highly anticipated shows. Many people bought tickets for Coachella this year so they could dance to their favorite progressive DJs, but ultimately you had to sacrifice lots of other shows and wait in long lines to experience the Yuma Tent. This should be remedied for 2014, as Jamie xx would have probably filled out the Mojave Tent. Make the Yuma Tent bigger. -KQ

Yuma-Tent

Ben HowardOutdoor Theatre, 4:10 p.m.
Ben Howard, another Brit, brought his soft semi-folk-rock material to a scorching Outdoor Stage, and the tunes he played were pretty standard. That is until “The Fear,” which built to an explosive peak not captured on Every Kingdom. It might have made sense to put 2 Chainz on the Outdoor and Ben Howard in the Mojave Tent based on the crowds. -MF

Ben-Howard

Violent FemmesCoachella Stage, 6:05 p.m.
Many weren’t aware that this was to be the first show from the folk-punk legends in over six years. Furthermore, many of the younger patrons were likely completely unfamiliar with this act besides the occasional play on KROQ and other national alternative rock radio stations. What a surprise when they launched into their self-titled premier album, playing it in full. Classics like “Blister in the Sun,” “Add It Up,” and “Gone Daddy Gone” were passionately crooned by the majority of the crowd. -KQ

Major LazerMojave Stage, 6:25 p.m.
Why Major Lazer didn’t play the Sahara is a mystery to me, but the EDM masses made the rare pilgrimage to Mojave to lap up Diplo’s worldly party. A frenetic set kept everyone jumping to Major Lazer hits like “Pon de Floor” and the ubiquitous Baauer banger “Harlem Shake” alike. Jillionaire is one helluva hype man keeping the crowd fully engaged at every track, instructing the crowd to remove their shirts, hold them in the air, eventually demanding they be tossed into the desert air in dance ecstasy. Many bros obliged. -KQ

Major-Lazer

Hot ChipCoachella Stage, 7:35 p.m.
What a perfect sunset Saturday dance party. It was a set full of hits like “One Life Stand,” “Over and Over,” & “Ready For The Floor,” along with the amazing “Flutes.” This show conflicted with Yeasayer, Grizzly Bear, & Julio Bashmore, so there was plenty of room to shake it. Guitarist Pat Mahoney, also from LCD Soundsystem, added a busy 70’s guitar riff to many songs, including most of the new tracks from In Our Heads. -MF

The Postal ServiceCoachella Stage, 8:50 p.m. TOP SET
The Postal Service show was surely one of the best pop sets of the weekend thanks to Jennie Lewis. Ben Gibbard, Jimmy Tamborello & Jen Wood were flawless as well, but Lewis’s sultry charisma, timing and all-around perfection made this a top set for me. From the building beat in “The District Sleeps Alone Tonight” to the outro of “Brand New Colony,” where “everything will change” was repeated until the session ended, the crowd was zoned in. As the last line was harmonized, I looked up to see all the Coachella spotlights meeting at a point in the sky directly above us and instantly was struck by goosebumps. -MF

DescendentsOutdoor Stage, 9:05 p.m.
Milo Aukerman and band were treated to an evening slot on the 2nd largest stage, up against the breezy Postal Service reunion. Manhattan Beach local punk legends treated their fans to classics like opener “Everything Sucks,” “Suburban Home,” and “I’m the One.” Though Aukerman’s voice is not the youthful squeal it once was, they still deliver in a pleasing way, especially to a home town-ish crowd that grew up on their classic releases. -KQ

Moby (DJ set)Sahara Tent, 9:55 p.m.
It was another tough conflict-ridden time slot, as The xx, Two Door Cinema Club, Janelle Monáe & Franz Ferdinand all rubbed up against one-another. So how the hell did I end up at Moby? It’s a good question, and one I haven’t quite figured out yet. Sometimes, after all the planning, it’s best to go by your mood and follow your friends. That’s what happened here, and I’m glad I did. I was prime for for a euphoric dance party, and this DJ set from Moby sampled from a large variety of music and pop culture to create a fun, upbeat show. -MF

Moby

PhoenixCoachella Stage, 11:35 p.m.
When Daft Punk is confirmed in the house, and they play a preview video the night before, and you consider Daft Punk showed up with Phoenix at Madison Square Garden in 2010, it’s kind of a no brainer to see the Phoenix set just in case. Well I became a sucker to the Daft Punk hype machine, but in this case I still won because I saw Phoenix perform live. R Kelly appeared as the special guest, spittin’ “Ignition” over a remixed “1901” and “Chloroform.” Thomas Mars has been finishing his recent shows by going to the back of the venue, thanking the audience, then crowd surfing back to the stage. Well, the crowd surfing didn’t quite work so well for the first festival try. Mars got hung up by grabbers multiple times, almost hung himself with his pink microphone cable, and he got knocked around on the dismount. The rest of the band had already extended the “Entertainment” reprise multiple times, and Mars was too winded to deliver the final line of the night. All he could get out was “Thank you Coachella!” I wonder if he’ll attempt this again Weekend 2. -MF

Sigur RósOutdoor Stage, 11:50 p.m. TOP SET
While a sizable chunk of the crowd awaited what potential surprise guest may come out with Phoenix on the Main Stage, a devote crowd enjoyed the sonic brain massage that is Iceland’s own Sigur Rós. Having seen this band since their first US performances, they are best enjoyed outside, whether it be in the fog swept fields of Golden Gate Park or the warm Indio evenings. The set featured a horn section, string section and a full piano, not to mention the Hopelandish, angelic singing and bowed guitar brilliance of frontman, Jónsi. Few live musical experiences can match up to the usual set closer, “Untitled #8,” and this rendition was no different. Truly one of the most transcendental builds in live music, it left most viewers floating out of the venue for the wrap to the second day. -KQ

Day-3

DIIVMojave Tent, 2:30 p.m.
Zachary Cole Smith has had a busy year after departing from Beach Fossils, but his diligence has paid off in dividends as DIIV has quickly garnered critical success as they win over new fans across the country. “Sometime” and “Doused” displayed their art-gaze rock style quite nicely among other tracks off the sublime album Oshin. -KQ

DIIV

Thee Oh SeesGobi Tent, 3:15 p.m. TOP SET
John Dwyer brought his disturbingly rocking flavor of psychedelic garage to the Gobi Tent for an unforgettable afternoon set. There was no let up after the first note (“The Dream”) as the pit grew and more joined in the pogo fever that swept the crowd during tracks like “Contraption/Soul Desert,” “Lupine Dominus,” and “Meat Step Lively.” Dwyer pulled Ty Segall from the VIP section to play tambourine the majority of the set, a nod to the tightness of the San Francisco garage-rock family. Look for a whirlwind summer as they release the scorching new album The Floating Coffin. -KQ

Jessie WareMojave Tent, 3:45 p.m.
Jessie Ware is a star in the making. Her pop music has a dance edge to it, but it’s her natural charisma and mannerisms that communicate so effectively to the audience, making her super likable. She has a killer smile and knows she’s hot shit. “If You’re Never Gonna Move,” “Wildest Moments” and the rest of her tracks were well received, including an impromptu new song that she performed with her slightly embarrassed drummer Dornik Leigh to end the set. -MF

Jessie-Ware

Kurt Vile and the ViolatorsOutdoor Stage, 3:55 p.m.
As the winds started to relieve the weathered festival goers, Vile brought a cool breeze of his own to the Outdoor Theatre while Gaslight Anthem wailed on the big top. Vile couldn’t help but make a quip at the Springsteen-esque vocals pumping a good hundred yards from where he was churning out laid-back tunes. Opening with the title track off his recent Wakin on a Pretty Daze displayed his fondness for his new material, especially track “A Girl Named Alex,” which is quickly becoming a fan favorite. Vile and band may have been better served in one of the tents, but nothing fazed this prolific up-and-coming song writer. -KQ

Social DistortionCoachella Stage, 6 p.m.
Orange County was fully represented by the legendary punk band Social Distortion and their fondly aging frontman, Mike Ness. What an honor for them to play the Main Stage, opening with “I Was Wrong” and including their stellar version of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire.” They nodded back to the old days with a personal fave “Mommy’s Little Monster.” I applaud Goldenvoice in their decision to spotlight music that is quintessential to this geographic region of Southern California. -KQ

Tame ImpalaOutdoor Stage, 6:25 p.m. TOP SET
As the gusty winds upgraded to blustery, Australian fuzz rockers churned up a storm of their own opening with “Solitude is Bliss.” Kevin Parker was visibly thrilled at the environment he found himself in, and this feeling was contagious to the crowd who were coming to the climax of their long weekend. This set was more exploratory than usual with an extended jam revolving around the heavy-as-lead single, “Elephant.” Palm trees swaying behind the Outdoor Theatre were all the visuals the fans needed, in total contrast to the Sahara rave, to reach even greater heights. “Enders Toi” was aborted as some of their equipment was giving the band trouble, luckily that didn’t distract the band from continuing on. “Half Glass Full of Wine” closed an impressive showing from the growing act that continues to thrill fans of rock and roll. -KQ

Tame-Impala

Pretty LightsOutdoor Stage, 7:45 p.m.
The Pretty Lights show took place out in windy, open space, but that didn’t stop one of the best dance sets of the weekend. Derek Vincent Smith curated a varying set, beginning with his patented downtempo trip-hop/dubstep cuts, but then the set transitioned into Pretty Lights remixes, including Pink Floyd’s “Time” and his tripple-threat remix of Radiohead, Nirvana & NIN. Overall, the set was geared toward the masses or for someone’s first Pretty Lights show. Of course, the open air light show was excellent, and it didn’t matter that the screens had been lowered due to the sandstorm. -MF

Pretty-Lights

The FaintMojave Tent, 8:30 p.m.
Post-punk dance act the Faint have returned to the live circuit and regained their title as one of the most exciting bands to see, especially in a festival setting. Todd Fink sauntered out with his signature hat and launched into “The Conductor” before tearing through favorite “Glass Danse” off of the acclaimed album, Dance Macabre. With dance music and live rock becoming better bed fellows, one has to respect one of the originators from the last decade. “ParanoiaAttack” would be their last song, and everyone caught their breath before facing the now moderate sandstorm wreaking havoc on the polo fields. -KQ

Eric PrydzSaharah Tent, 10:40 p.m. TOP SET
Choosing Eric Prydz to end the weekend was a rather easy choice, and it was done before we knew it would be smart to hide in the Sahara Arena to avoid the weather. The LA-Based Swedish DJ is worthy of headliner status at this point, as his progressive electro house is eclectic enough, unpredictable most of the time, and beyond fun. Prydz provided a massive exclamation point to a weekend that was packed with excitement. His hyperactive M83 cover of “Midnight City” was placed perfectly, and “Call On Me” signalled the end to the weekend musically. That was until the roadies decided to prank the buzzing crowd, continuously coming back and putting their arms in the air to falsely signal one more song. -MF

Eric-Prydz

What were your top sets? Leave a comment!

Coachella conflicts: 2013 set times announced

Coachella-2013

Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival //
Empire Polo Club – Indio, CA
April 12th-14th & April 19th-21st, 2013 //

Set times dropped Tuesday evening, and Coachella shared they had been battling agents all day to explain the delay. Sounds like a fascinating behind-the-scenes documentary …

Although set times didn’t unleash any surprise acts (what no Lou Reed replacement?), the brand new Yuma Dome is confirmed as the 6th main performance area, not including The Do Lab or Heineken Dome. The Yuma Dome will host Seth Troxler, DJ Harvey, Four Tet, Julio Bashmore, The 2 Bears, Jamie Jones, Jamie xx and so many more. This additional platform on the outskirts of the tents and Do Lab will be the anti-Sahara Tent with a minimalist-dance edge.


Friday features one of the most brutal headline conflicts in years. The Stone Roses are on a mondo reunion tour, while How to Destroy Angels and Earl Sweatshirt are playing their first major shows. Poliça will be performing in the Gobi Tent after The Shouting Matches, Justin Vernon’s (Bon Iver) new project. Vernon collaborated with the members of Poliça in his side project Gaynes. You connect the dots…

Toughest Conflicts:
• The Stone Roses vs. Earl Sweatshirt vs. How to Destroy Angels
• Blur vs. Grinderman
• Modest Mouse vs. Local Natives (SUNSET)
• Japandroids vs. alt-J
• Poliça vs. Jake Bugg
• The Shouting Matches vs. Youth Lagoon vs. Beardyman vs. C2C

Saturday headliners will depend on your energy and vibe, as Phoenix, Sigur Rós, Booka Shade, New Order and Knife Party will create inner-group conflicts. Upon seeing The xx above The Postal Service and Major Lazer at 6 p.m. while Moby sub-headlines the Sahara Tent, the “been fighting with agents all day” reference starts to make sense.

It’s almost as if Goldenvoice is attempting to set a new tone in the Sahara Tent this year after house-pop like David Guetta and Calvin Harris dominated last year. Are they challenging the Sahara stalwarts to go see Franz Ferdinand, Two Door Cinema Club or The xx … or go check out the Yuma during Moby?

Toughest Conflicts:
• Phoenix vs. Sigur Rós vs. Booka Shade vs. New Order vs. Knife Party
• Hot Chip vs. Yeasayer vs. Grizzly Bear (SUNSET)
• Danny Brown vs. Baauer vs. Savages
• Wild Nothing vs. Birdy Nam Nam vs. Action Bronson

Sunday will be a tale of two scenes. Eric Prydz and Disclosure will be packed while Dead Can Dance & Red Hot Chili Peppers should be relatively spacious. Tame impala secured a Sunset-ish slot, but Roodriguez and James Blake will be playing in the tents at the same time. Pretty Lights seems odd at 7:30, but he’s the only EDM artist to get a featured slot on an outdoor stage this year.

Toughest Conflicts:
• Eric Prydz vs. Disclosure
• Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds vs. OMD vs. The Faint
• Vampire Weekend vs. Pretty Lights vs. Father John Misty vs. La Roux (SUNSET)
• Tame Impala vs. James Blake vs. Rodriguez (SUNSET-ISH)
• Kurt Vile and the Violators vs. Grimes
• Thee Oh Sees vs. Jessie Ware vs. Jamie xx

Coachella 2013: What you should know before you go

Coachella 2013

So now that we have had time to let the 2013 Coachella line-up settle in, it’s pretty good, right? People were freakin’ out there for a minute. There has been a universal panning of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers performing as the closing headliner, even though they were a last hour addition. And rightfully so – there have been some popular sets that have shut down Coachella the past few years (Dre/Snoop, Kanye West, Gorillaz).

Goldenvoice clearly lost an expectation game with the reactions to the headliners this year, most notably due to the rumors swirling around Daft Punk and Rolling Stone. That didn’t stop them from selling out both weekends within a day, including weekend one within 15 minutes, so saying Goldenvoice lost anything is pure silliness.

Coachella 2013

Rock, particularly British Rock, leads the charge this year (Blur, The Stone Roses, the xx, New Order, Hot Chip, Grizzly Bear, James Blake, alt-J, Jessie Ware).

Conversely, Electronic Dance Music bro-house is gone compared to 2012. There is no major DJ act closing out a night on the main stage for the first time in years. There are no EDM acts on the top two lines of any day. It seems like a concerted effort was made by Goldenvoice to enact a change in direction, and it has been welcomed by many Coachella vets.

Subscribe to the Spotify Playlist Coachella 2013.
Coachella-2013Friday 2013

Friday should be a day to remember, as there are plenty of reunions and first time performances scheduled (see below). Lou Reed fits the “living legend” bill, Nick Cave’s supposedly on-hiatus Grinderman will appear for a one-off, and half of The Smiths songwriting partnership will be present with Johnny Marr performing. Bassnectar or Dog Blood (Skrillex & Boys Noize project) will close the Sahara Tent, and Justin Vernon’s new blues project The Shouting Matches will play one of their first shows. Hopefully Vernon sticks around for the weekends and makes some surprise appearances with the many acts he is associated with.

Friday Reunions

Damon Albarn’s Blur returning to the US for the first time since their reunion is a pretty big deal, though the American masses may not agree. Sure “Song 2” is a bit played out, but there are albums full of some of the best Brit-pop in decades. Songs like “Coffee and TV” and “She’s So High” beckon back to the 90s for many, but not all. Luckily this reunion is including Graham Coxon, a seminal part to the vocal arrangements of Blur. 


The co-headliner for Friday is also an English exported reunion, courtesy of the Manchester sound-makers The Stone Roses, fresh off a 15 year hiatus. Sure, New Order captured American fans a little more than the Roses, but they created a serious body of work for well over a decade starting in the mid-80s. John Squire’s guitar-work is something to marvel in as aspects of the Roses’ sound would be borrowed by some serious US acts like the Pixies. Having released an album last year, the Coachella masses should plan to hear these tracks coupled with hits like, “I Wanna Be Adored.”


Jurassic 5 is a name more fans will recognize over the one-two combo of Blur and the Roses. After a 6 year break, the LA hip-hop collective are back on the circuit with a banner set. The question will be if all the original members show up, as many of the artists have branched off to become successful solo artists; mainly Cut Chemist, Chali 2na and Nu-Mark. While the landscape of hip-hop has shifted a bit since their departure, tracks like “Quality Control” and “Concrete Schoolyard” will whip the crowd into a frenzy as equally as Danny Brown.

UPDATE – Jurassic 5 doesn’t know “How far” reunion can go.

Possible Friday Collaborations
Johnny Marr with Modest Mouse
Justin Vernon with Poliça

Friday Firsts (First shows ever/First in the US)

How To Destroy Angels – Trent, Marqueen, and Atticus will debut their newest project on Friday, and boy is it gonna be something. As many miss Nine Inch Nails, this band is pretty damned close in sound and personnel, and their two released EPs show great strength and should be an awesome early evening set in the warm desert winds. Look for their upcoming LP, and likely national tour. 


TNGHT – The duo that is Hudson Mohawke and Lunice has almost single handedly birthed the trap music sub-genre that is permeating bass music and hip-hop alike. Their debut EP is so fresh and hot, I needed an oven mitt to flip the vinyl. Having only played a show or two in NYC, this will be the marquee US debut of this Canadian meets Scottish production duo. The kids are gonna be losing their shit for this set, as trap is all the rage on the dance floor. Second in command to this movement is Baauer, who is featured this year as well. Will Kanye make an odd appearance on stage as he did in New York?


Earl Sweatshirt – Years in the making, and the anticipation is still sky high for Thebe’s live, full set premier. Expect massive crowds for this Odd Future cast-away, as his talent is undeniable, his story unbelievable and his allure is unquenchable. This set has lots of guest potential, as his OFWGKTA crew will likely be in tow for support both morally and lyrically. The Earl mixtape from a few years ago is such an impressive collection of explicit, yet Rhodes smart tunes that many fans are dying to hear them first hand from the man himself. Will Flying Lotus don his Captain Murphy cape and back Earl on the massive track “Between Friends?” Will Syd tha Kid be on the decks and buttons? 

Best Friday “Bottom-Liners”

Purity Ring’s sound is as future-pop as it gets, and the light-show matches the duo’s vibe and timing. Each light change is controlled by percussionist & beat-maker Corin Roddick’s drum strikes. Hopefully they are given a night tent set so they can show what they’ve got.

Jamie xx (Jamie Smith) is the chief producer, percussionist and DJ for The xx (performing Saturday), and he’s already well known for his progressive sound and excellent remixes.

•The lo-fi dream-pop from Trevor Powers’ Youth Lagoon will be a chill way to get started Friday.

Beardyman uses live sounds to make instant dance grooves, and it’s impressive how good he is at his niche skill.

Lord Huron is an indie-folk rock group on the rise. Their 2012 record Lonesome Dreams was highly underrated.

Palma Violets are a buzzy British psych-rock group that wil likely have a big year. Catch them early when most people haven’t arrived yet.

Coachella-2013Saturday 2013
Saturday is stacked: Phoenix, the xx, The Postal Service, Sigur Rós, New Order, Hot Chip, Grizzly Bear. If you are as excited as we are about the top two lines for Saturday, be ready to make tough decisions. There will be conflict. This doesn’t even include Yeasayer, Franz Ferdinand or Spiritualized into the conflict factor. Saturday is fucking stacked. It appears Knife Party will close the Sahara, and Simian Mobile Disco, Major Lazer & Richie Hawtin should deliver top notch electronic sets. Saturday also features FOALS, Ben Howard, Danny Brown, Janelle Monáe, Wild Nothing, El-P, & Booka Shade.

Saturday Reunions

The banner reunion on Saturday is squarely held by The Postal Service, the exciting collaboration of Ben Gibbard and Jimmy Tamborello. Their first announced show since 2005 came as a surprise to most music junkies as mumblings of The Smiths, as always, took first prize in the reunion hype category. Their upbeat electro-pop sound is pretty perfect for a sunset Saturday show, maybe warming up the majority to the dance-rock stylings of Phoenix later that night. Will Jenny Lewis make an appearance to sing as she did many times in their touring days a decade ago?


Many readers and attendees may not be familiar with The Make-Up, and that’s cool, but this soul-garage-politico-punk act is a force to see. The organ driven sound is highly infectious, and their live show has been compared to a punk rock gospel. Having only recently regrouped to play ATP, persuaded by Les Savvy Fav, this will be their marquee return, similar to Refused last year. Maybe Dischord co-owner Ian McKaye will accompany his labelmates for a track.


Violent Femmes slowly faded off the radar about 5 years ago as Gordon Gano and Brian Ritchie were tangled in royalty lawsuits stemming from the sale of “Blister in the Sun” to Wendy’s. It now appears the hatchet has been buried and they are returning to what they have been at for a couple of decades, making kitschy alternative rock. Their folk-driven sound is unmistakably likable, and devastatingly difficult to not sing along to. “Gone Daddy Gone” and “Add it Up” will be heard throughout the polo fields in the afternoon on Saturday. Will we get some surprise members to their infamous Horns of Dilemma? 


Toss The Descendents in the “sort-of reunion” column, but don’t diminish their key addition to the quintessential Southern California festival lineup. Birthed in Manhattan Beach in the late 70s, this seminal punk band that pioneered the skate, even pop-punk sound is still playing shows when singer Milo Aukerman can fit it between his demanding job as a biologist. Surely, the majority of attendees will recognize the Buddy Holly-glasses wearing frontman and his cartoonish caricature. They’ve been back at it a few years now, but mainly at small punk festivals, not the 80,000-size crowd that will be in attendance. Milo Goes to College is a must in your pre-fest rotation.

Possible collaborations:
Danny Brown & El-P
Danny Brown & Purity Ring
Ian McKaye with The Descendents

Saturday “Firsts:” (First shows ever/First in the US)

Savages – London’s all-female post-punk band have been building lots of buzz and lots of comparisons as they bring a fresh act to the music landscape this year. It’s hard to not hear Siouxsie and Banshees and the infectious howl of Karen O at first listen, but there’s a lot more going on here. Coachella will be their first trip across the ‘Pond’ and they will be hitting the road hard before, after and in the middle of the festival. 

Best Saturday “Bottom-Liners”

Birdy Nam Nam is a four man turntabilist crew from France, and their sound champions a mix of jazz, funk & downtempo. Asses will be shaking.

Action Bronson is fire breathin’ fat fuck who spits mostly about food, and he does it damn well over sick beats. All true.

•Bummed about no Warpaint? Get your girl power on early with Savages (check out the preview above).

•Singer-songwriter Kurt Vile made a delicious record with Smoke Ring For My Halo in 2011, and he’s got a new LP lined up for later this year. Preview his new songs in April.

•If you like Hot Chip, check out The 2 Bears, which is a DJ collaboration between Hot Chip’s Joe Goddard and producer Raf Rundell. Think Hot Chip’s tone with more dancing and less instruments.

Coachella-2013Sunday 2013

Sunday has the “dreaded” Red Hot Chili Peppers headlining, but Wu-Tang will get more love. Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds and RHCP may create the most empty scene on the main stage ever. Cool dads will profit. On the other side of the field Pretty Lights and Eric Prydz will be spilling ragers outside of the Sahara Tent parameter. If there is a god Tame Impala will get a sunset slot. Where will the house crew consisting of Julio Bashmore, Jamie Jones, Loco Dice, Maya Jane Coles, etc. end up? Sunday has a deep undercard with Grimes, the Faint, Father John Misty, Tanlines, Jessie Ware, Disclosure, Cloud Nothings & Thee Oh Sees.

Sunday Reunions

Wu Tang Clan’s inclusion this year isn’t so much a reunion, but a re-introduction. After talk of a new album around 2011 went quiet, fueled by reserved speculation by some members, it appears this new recording will see the light of day this year, and Coachella will likely mark the beginning of a busy year for RZA, GZA, Method Man, Raekwon, Ghostface Killah, Inspectah Deck, U-God, and Master Killah.

Possible Collaborations:
Jessie Ware live with Disclosure
Justin Vernon with James Blake

Sunday “Firsts:” (First shows ever/First in the US)

Excision – Many EDM artists are creating bigger, brighter and blinkier stages on the road and festival circuit, and Canadian brostep artist Excision is the next to toss his hat into the ring. Excision presents the Executioner will be making it’s big stage debut at Coachella after a few US dates. It promises to be loud, flashing and full of pre-pubescent kids losing their collective minds. 

La Roux – Even though the synth-pop princess and her producer aren’t a new act to the US or even Coachella, their cancellation from last year is being rectified with a slot in 2013. Look for some new material from this act in the upcoming year after a hiccup in the previous.

Best Sunday “Bottom-Liners:”

•Zachary Cole Smith from Beach Fossils started DIIV (originally “Dive” until they were sued) as a solo project, and their dreamy, building indie songs will put a smile on your face.

Little Green Cars offers five-part harmony anthems in the vein of Local Natives and First Aid Kit.

•The electro-pop group White Arrows put on a great show, and their set can get pleasantly psychedelic and heady at times.

Wild Belle is a prime candidate to be a 2013 breakout group, and their set at Treasure Island Music Festival went over well last October. Elliot and Natalie Bergman’s debut LP will arrive in March.

Subscribe to the Spotify Playlist Coachella 2013.

Coachella 2013

Coachella 2013: Predictions, wishes & rumors vs. reality

Coachella 2013By Mike Frash //

With a casual tweet, festival season is about to begin. Anticipation over the imminent 2013 Coachella lineup is building, and recent history shows the festival lineup could come this week.

Do you have your accommodations set? Hopefully your ticket is taken care of, because Coachella 2013 could already be close to sold out.

Presale ticketing for this year’s Coachella sold out within hours of going on sale both weekends last May, and it was the first time pre-sale sold out in such a quick fashion. The Coachella 2012 general on-sale sold out within an hour for both weekends a year ago, and if you weren’t ninja-quick at getting into the waiting room, you were shit out of luck. Take all this into account, and there might be a very limited amount of tickets available after the 2013 lineup drops. Is it possible Coachella 2013 is completely sold out from presale ticketing?

Coachella

Headliners: Reality vs. Rumors
The headliner rumors arrived early this year, with speculation over The Rolling Stones and Daft Punk dominating the conversation. At this point The Rolling Stones seems like the more likely of the two to be headlining, even though they haven’t played a whole lot of festivals since Altamont in 1969. Besides, Coachella rumors about Daft Punk and David Bowie playing Coachella are a yearly running gag at this point — we’ll believe it when we see it. Bowie even has a confirmed album coming out in the spring, but his bandmates are saying Ziggy has ruled out performing live … forever.

Reunions are a big part of Coachella’s top-notch lineups, and last year saw the regrouping of At The Drive-In, Pulp and Refused. This year it looks like The Postal Service and My Bloody Valentine could happen. Blur would also make sense since they reunited at the Olympics last year. Black Sabbath was reportedly on board to headline last year until they had to pull out at the last moment, and they have a new album coming out in June. Outkast would be the perfect hip-hop headliner, but that seems unlikely with Big Boi pushing his new LP. Wu-Tang Clan seems like the most likely rap act to play the main stage, but are they big enough to headline one of the three days each weekend?

Last year saw The Black Keys headline Friday along with Swedish House Mafia, and most people thought The Black Keys weren’t worthy of headliner status. But Coachella is good at king-making groups and artists, elevating them to the top level simply by making them headliners. Goldenvoice could repeat last year’s Friday concept by crowning Phoenix, The xx or Mumford and Sons headliners while putting deadmau5 on the top line to satiate the EDM masses.

Reality (likely headliners):
The Rolling Stones, The Postal Service, deadmau5, My Bloody Valentine, Black Sabbath, Pearl Jam, Phoenix, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Wu Tang Clan, No Doubt, Mumford & Sons, The xx

Rumors (probable wishlist-fiction):
Daft Punk, Outkast, David Bowie, Nine Inch Nails (How to Destroy Angels is likely)

Artists to see before they get big:
Last year, Frank Ocean, Kendrick Lamar, Death Grips, Azealia Banks, First Aid Kit, and lots of other artists performed at Coachella before getting exponentially bigger by the end of 2012. Possible contenders for 2013 include Angel Haze, AlunaGeorge, FIDLAR, Foxygen, Wilde Belle, & Earl Sweatshirt, although the hype for Earl is already tremendously loud.

Coachella

Best EDM acts most likely to not perform in the Sahara Tent:
• deadmau5
• Bassnectar
• Tiesto
• Simian Mobile Disco
• Andy Stott
• Nicolas Jaar
• Dan Deacon
• John Talabot
• Disclosure
• Totally Enormous Extinct Dinosaurs

Artists most likely to return for second consecutive year:
Kendrick Lamar and Dawes, because Dawes somehow plays every festival.

Headlines we’d like to see:
“Frank Ocean, Tyler The Creator join Earl Sweatshirt’s first solo set”
“Progressive-house trend baffles Sahara tent candy-kids”
“Thom Yorke, Bradford Cox & Trent Rezner play a combined 9 sets each weekend”
“Katie Perry attends Coachella again, never considered for performing duties.”

Plausible Acts We’d Like to See:
Alabama Shakes
alt-J
AlunaGeorge
Andy Stott
Angel Haze
Animal Collective
Atlas Sound
Atoms for Peace
Bassnectar
Bat for Lashes
Beach House
Ben Howard
Big Boi
Bjork
Black Sabbath
Blur
Cloud Nothings
Chromatics
Crystal Castles
CHVRCHES
Dan Deacon
Divine Fits
Disclosure
Die Antwoord
Django Django
Ducktails
Earl Sweatshirt
Father John Misty
Fiona Apple
Frightened Rabbit
Grimes
Grizzly Bear (Added 1.17.13)
Haim
Hot Chip
How to Dress Well
James Blake
Jamie Lidell
Japandroids
Jessie Ware
John Talabot
Jim James
Kendrick Lamar
Kishi Bashi
Killer Mike
Local Natives
New Order
Nicolas Jaar
Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds
Major Lazer
Matthew Dear
Mumford & Sons
Passion Pit
Penguin Prison
Phoenix
Pretty Lights
Sigur Ros
Skrillex
Spiritualized
Stars
STRFCKR
Tame Impala
The Faint
The Joy Formidable
The Knife
The Postal Service
The Rolling Stones
The Walkmen
The xx
Toro Y Moi
TNGHT
Ty Segall
Unknown Mortal Orchestra
Vampire Weekend
Warpaint
Wavves
Wild Belle
Wild Nothing
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yeasayer
Yo la Tengo
!!!

Coachella

Showbams’ best shows of 2012

Showbams contributors name their favorite shows of 2012.

Showbam contributors reflect on the best concerts they went to in 2012 & list their favorite shows.

2012 has been a top-notch year for live music, and the Showbams team has witnessed some great acts that have come through California in the last 11 months. Take a look at our contributor’s favorite shows of 2012.

What was your favorite concert in 2012? Let us know in the comments below.

The xx at Treasure Island Music Festival

The xx at Treasure Island Music Festival


Mike Frash San Francisco

1. Sigur Ros @ Outside Lands Music Festival 8.11.12
Leaving Metallica for Sigur Ros to end the second day at Outside Lands was a torturous decision. Metallica was a warzone spectacle, but i stuck to my guns and headed to the Twin Peaks stage. I’m glad I did. Jonsi now conducts a mini orchestra, and the eerie SF fog lowered on command to the slow builds & crescendos. It was a spiritual show that effected me more than any other concert in 2012.

2. Japandroids @ The Independent 6.14.12
Brian King and David Prowse brought ecstatic energy to the sold out Independent in June the week after Celebration Rock was released. Brian King understands how to control the pace of his set, offering fun pre-song statements that prepare you for what’s next. Their songs are vibrant live – it doesn’t sound like only two people are playing instruments. They truly seem to live the life they glorify on their 2012 album – still drinking, still smokin, and full of hyperactive desperation.

3. Phish Night 3 @ Bill Grahm Civic Auditorium 8.19.12
The highly anticipated phish three-show SF run in August started off a bit slowly. Saturday’s show left me a little bummed about Phish due to some sloppy play (“Split open and melt”) and what felt like a lack of enthusiasm. I was questioning why I still see Phish live heading into the last show of the weekend. My lowered expectations combined with a killer show quashed those thoughts. Crosseyed > Light > Sneakin’ Sally > Crosseyed was some of the best Phish I’ve ever heard, “Boogie on” redeemed Stevie Wonder’s omission of the song at Outside Lands the week before, “Meatstick” made me really happy, and the San Francisco-mentioning “Ride Captain Ride” made a surprise encore appearance. The show was pure bliss.

4. The Rapture @ Coachella 4.13.12
5. The xx @ Treasure Island Music Festival 10.14.12
6. The Presets @ The Independent 10.12.12
7. STS9 @ High Sierra Music Festival 7.5.12 & 7.6.12
8. Head and the Heart @ Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 10.6.12
9. Tame Impala @ The Fillmore 11.15.12
10. My Morning Jacket @ The Greek 9.15.12

Honorable Mention:
Father John Misty at Jansport Bonfire 9.30.12
Of Monsters & Men at The Independent 3.22.12

My Morning Jacket performing at The Wiltern in September

My Morning Jacket performing at The Wiltern in September


Pete Mauch Los Angeles

1. My Morning Jacket @ The Wiltern 9.13.12
MMJ capped off the best 3-night run I saw this year with this stellar closing show complete with a Horn section. This is a big statement for a band I knew I loved but wasn’t fully convinced about until this night. Highlight: “All Night Long” & “Movin On Up” with Horns

2. Phish @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium 8.19.12
Phish played a terrific 3-night run, and topped off by an amazing Sunday night show that proves that Phish is still top of the Jam Scene. Highlight: Light > Sneakin Sally Through the Alley

3. Ryan Adams @ Walt Disney Concert Hall 2.17.12
Ryan Adams, an acoustic Guitar, and a Piano is all this show contained, and it was truly special. Adams’ classic songs stripped down with his raspy croons is all I needed to make this a top show of the year. Highlight: “Rescue Blues” on Piano “Holy Diver” on Guitar

4. Trey Anastasio and LA Philharmonic @ Walt Disney Concert Hall 3.10.12
5. Neil Young and Crazy Horse @ the Hollywood Bowl 10.17.12
6. Charles Bradley and The Menahan Street Band @ UCLA Royce Hall 11.29.12
7. Radiohead @ Coachella Music Festival 4.21.12
8.Trombone Shorty @ the Key Club 2.11.12
9. Wilco @ the Palladium 1.24.12
10. New Multitudes (Tribute to Woody Guthrie) @ the Mayan Theatre 3.7.12

Honorable Mention:
Phish at Long Beach Arena 8.15.12
String Cheese Incident at Greek Theatre Berkeley 7.14.12
Roger Waters The Wall at the LA Coliseum 5.21.12
Umphreys Mcgee (True Hollywood Stories Acoustic Show) at the House of Blues 3.16.12

The Faint performing in November at The Regency Ballroom

The Faint performing in November at The Regency Ballroom

Molly Kish San Francisco

1. Radiohead @ HP Pavilion 4.12.12
After merely catching glimpses of them while shoved against thousands of festivalgoers at Outside Lands 2008, I was determined to catch Radiohead the next time they came through the Bay Area. The sound, visuals, performance and energy of the evening were electrifying. Although I was extremely lucky to have been viewing the concert from the sixth row, the entire crowd looked as though they were just as lost in the moment as I was. The band’s enigmatic stage presence, fully developed set composition and career spanning choice of material made for one of the most collectively impressive concert experiences that I have ever had the opportunity to be a part of.

2. Kishi Bashi/Of Montreal @ Slim’s 3.22.12
As a long time Of Montreal fan, I was ecstatic to get the opportunity to interview their opening act and latest addition to the line up (Kishi Bashi) the night of their performance at Slim’s. It wasn’t only for the sake of getting a personal perspective on the band, but also due to the fact that this would actually be my first time catching them performing live. The entire show and evening that followed was everything I could’ve wanted for my first experience seeing Of Montreal. Accompanied by three screens of psychedelic visuals, various costumed extras, balloon drops, props and whole score of vaudevillian rivalry, the band took the crowd and venue by storm. During the encore to top it off, I was able to reconnect with Kishi Bashi and ended up initiating an after-party with the entire band, crew and record label affiliates at an industrial themed “dark carnival,” taking place across the street at local dive bar Butter. Several jello shots, deep fried twinkies and contortionist carnie-prompted dance battles later, I looked around and felt assured that I had enough material to develop my own personal “Of Montreal” concert story contender.

3. The Presets @ Treasure Island Music Festival 10.13.12
Completely blown away by their performance the night before, I was overwhelmed with excitement and intrigue to see how the Presets could accomplish translating such energy to a festival setting. Anyone who had caught their Treasure Island Music Festival opener at the Independent instantly was taken over by sensory recall as they broke into song almost right where they left us hanging less than 24 hours earlier. Almost in homage to those who witnessed them destroy their previous set, they picked the dance party up right where they left off, only this time kicking it up about ten notches with the accompanied stage show, visual intensity and professional grade sound of seasoned professionals. Completely upstaging their more commercially recognized headliner and showing the younger generation how it should be done, they stole the show and were easily the stand out act of the 2012 TIMF. To this day I still find myself saying that I wish I could continually be going to a Presets show, based off of the concert experience I had at these two performances.

4. Dan Deacon @ The Great American Music Hall 10.23.12
5. Against Me! @ The Catalyst 9.10.12
6. The Faint @ The Regency Ballroom 11.18.12
7. Justice @ The Fox 11.4.2
8. Metallica @ Outside Lands 8.10.12
9. Animal Collective @ The Fox 9.21.12
10.The Shins @ The Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium 4.22.12

Honorable Mention:
Yeah Yeah Yeah’s @ The Creator’s Project SF 3.17.12
Cold War Kids @ The Bottom of the Hill 3.5.12
Dr. John @ The Independent 8.17.12
Girl Talk @ Sasquatch 5.25.12

David Byrnes & St. Vincent performing in

David Byrnes & St. Vincent performing in October

Kevin Raos San Francisco

1. David Byrne & St. Vincent @ the Orpheum Theater 10.15.12
This is my number one show of 2012 for a couple of reasons. First off, Love this Giant, the recently released collaborative album between Byrne and St. Vincent, was a major disappointment. One of my most anticipated albums of the year ended up being one of the most disappointing. All was redeemed, however, when I saw these songs performed live. The accompanying brass band and the chemistry on stage breathed new life into was I felt was a stale album. Playfully executed and precisely choreographed, these songs shined live.

Secondly, I am a huge David Byrne fan and was able to check a big one off my bucket list of musical artists. Byrne’s career needs no introduction and this evening we were treated to a few Talking Head’s classics such as “Burning Down the House,” “This Must Be the Place,” and “Like Humans Do.”

This show was simply a once in a lifetime experience.

2. Phish @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium 8.19.12
A three night run at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium was capped off with a masterful performance by jamband kings, Phish. The final night of the run was easily the best night as the band flexed their improvisational muscles in a blistering 2-set performance, highlighted by covers of the Talking Heads’ “Crosseyed and Painless” and Robert Palmer’s “Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley.”

3. Sigur Ros @ Outside Lands 8.11.12
Sigur Ros on my birthday to cap off an unbelievable festival day? How could it possibly get any better? It can’t really.

4. Les Claypool’s Duo De Twang @ Terrapin Crossroads – San Rafael 10.4.12
5. Keller Williams, Steve Kimock & Kyle Hollingsworth ft. Bernie Worrell, Wally Ingram & Andy Hess @ Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Music Festival 10.7.12
6. Miike Snow / Penguin Prison @ Fox Theater Oakland 4.12.12
7. Washed Out @ Mezzanine 5.4.12
8. Electric Guest @ The Independent 11.2.12
9. The Album Leaf / Blackbird Blackbird @ Bottom of the Hill 9.30.12
10. Citizens! Lescop, Housse de Racket, Tomorrow’s World @ The Rickshaw Stop 10.12.12

Honorable Mentions:
Zee Avi @ New Parish 9.28.12
M83 @ The Fillmore 4.22.12

Japandroids performing in 2012

Japandroids performing in 2012

Eric Shaden San Francisco

1. D’Angelo @ HOB – Los Angeles 7.4.12

2. Passion Pit @ Rock en Seine – Paris 8.26.12

3. Starfucker @ the Independent 1.7.12

4. Stevie Wonder @ Outside Lands 8.12.12
5. Miike Snow + Penguin Prison @ The Fox Oakland 4.12.12
6. A.Skillz + Krafty Kuts Presents Tricka Technology @ Mighty 6.1.12
7. Aaron Freeman (Gene Ween) @ the Independent 10.19.12
8. Japandroids @ the Independent 6.14.12
9. Guns n’ Roses @ Bridge School Benefit 10.21.12
10. Kid Koala Vinyl Vaudeville Tour @ Independent 11.4.12

The Lumineers performing at The Chapel in August

The Lumineers performing at The Chapel in August

Marc Fong San Francisco
1. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros @ Slim’s 3.25.12
It’s not often I gush like a school girl (only about once or twice a week), but seeing ESatMZ at Slim’s was panty dropping. Can I say that? Well, I just did. It was a secret/private show so Slim’s was overcrowded. I stood center stage close enough to see the dirt on Alexander’s suit. The sound was great and the band always puts on a damn fine show.

2. The Lumineers @ The Chapel 10.11.12
LIVE 105 brought the Lumineers to newly opened Chapel in SF and the band didn’t disappoint. The venue was the perfect size for the band and like most of the other bands on this list, the Lumineers had fun playing and it made for a great show.

3. Kronos Quartet @ Greek Theater 10.5.12
Okay, it was really Amon Tobin’s deal, but Kronos opened and performed beautifully. Being a long time fan, it’s not a surprise these openers made my list. Great music from great performers. And The Greek Theater in Berkeley was the best venue to see them. (And most other shows.)

4. Willie Nelson and Family @ The Fox Oakland 3.15.12
5. Of Monsters and Men @ Independent 5.22.12
6. Fun. @ The Independent 5.28.12
7. Sage Francis @ Independent 3.17.12
8. Steve Aoki @ Bill Graham 1.21.12
9. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros @ The Fox Oakland 5.12.12
10. AVICII @ Bill Graham Civic 6.28.12

Tame Impala at The Fillmore in November

Tame Impala at The Fillmore in November

Kevin Quandt San Francisco

1. The Walkmen @ The Independent January 20th & 21st
These 10th Anniversary shows were a Walkmen fan’s wet dream as they played their first album in full among multiple sets and configurations including a horn section. Over 30 songs of Hamilton Leithauser and company churning out their own brand of rock and roll to devote fans from across the States.

2. Refused with the Hives & the Bronx @ The Warfield 4.18.12
Having seen their Coachella show a week prior, the anticipation was less palpable, yet the reigning post-punk champs delighted a more rowdy and dedicated crowd with a spirited set for the masses who patiently waited a decade to witness.

3. Trey Anastasio and The Los Angeles Philharmonic @ Walt Disney Concert Hall 3.10.12
Dressing up for a show is fun, especially when Trey is at the helm of philharmonic symphony in one of the best rooms to hear, and see, music in. From the playful rendition of “Guyute” to the half hour “Time Turns Elasctic,” this night had the packed concert hall re-charmed by Ernest and his recharged song book.

4. Tame Impala @ The Fillmore 11.15.12
5. Phish @ Bill Graham Civic Auditorium 8.19.12
6. Woods and White Fence @ The Chapel at Preservation Hall West 10.17.12
7. Howlin Rain @ The Independent 2.18.12
8. Radiohead @ The Santa Barbara Bowl 4.12.12
9. Father John Misty & Har Mar Superstar @ Bottom of the hill 5.5.12
10.Mala @ Yoshi’s San Francisco 6.23.12

Festival sets:
Sigur Ros @ Outside Lands 8.11.12
Future Islands @ FYF 9.1.12
Flying Lotus @ Coachella 4.14.12

Justice performing at The Warfield in November

Justice performing at The Warfield in November

Sean Little San Francisco

1. Justice @ The Warfield 11.4.12
What else is there to say about Justice that hasn’t already been said. They came, they saw, and they melted faces with an amazing set the blew fans away and converted first timers alike. At least half my friends decided to go last minute (tickets were still available because it was a Sunday) and all of them became huge fans. Some of these friends are not into electronic music of any kind either, so that really says something. It was one of those rare shows where you leave euphoric and can’t stop saying “wow” to the people you went with.

2. Florence & the Machine @ Coachella 4.15.12
The only other performer I’ve ever seen that commanded an audience like Florence did was Snoop Dogg back in 02 at the Smoke Out (stop-you’re not better than me so put that eyebrow back down). It was one of the rare festival sets where everyone felt really in tune with the performer and each other, singing along and knowing when to interact with each other and the songs. She was absolutely amazing, and the set was a dark horse highlight to my festival as I didn’t expect her to command the audience like she did. She’s truly a presence.

2ManyDJ’s @ Regency Ballroom
I saw them about this time last year but fuck it, it still counts. If you have never seen them live then go. Even if you don’t like electronic, go. Even if you hate music go. If you want to be schooled in what real DJs as performers can do, you have to go. They blend the most amazing remixes, edits, mashups and drops all together with a mindblowing set of animated artwork, based on the song that is being played behind them. I won’t even try to explain because it won’t work.

Sigur Ros Announces Spring US Tour

Photo courtesy of Sigur Ros.

In continuing support of their under-appreciated 2012 album Valtari, Sigur Ros has extended their tour to include a new batch of North American dates from late March to mid April. Tickets go on sale Friday, and presale tickets will go on sale sometime before then. You can sign up for presale information at the Sigur Ros site.

This development indicates the group will be one of the top acts at Coachella 2013, and that Sigur Ros will continue to headline festivals next summer.

The San Francisco date is smack-dab in the middle of Coachella’s two weekends.

NORTH AMERICAN SHOWS 2013
03-24 Washington, DC – Patriot Center
03-25 New York, NY – Madison Square Garden
03-26 Boston, MA – Agganis Arena
03-27 Montreal, Quebec – Bell Centre
03-29 Ottawa, Ontario – Scotia Bank Place
03-30 Toronto, Ontario – Air Canada Theatre Bowl
04-01 Detroit, MI – Fox Theatre
04-02 Chicago, IL – UIC Pavilion
04-03 Minneapolis, MN – Roy Wilkins Auditorium
04-06 Denver, CO – 1st Bank
04-08 Dallas, TX – Verizon Theatre
04-09 Houston, TX – Bayou Music Center
04-10 Austin, TX – Cedar Park Center
04-12 Phoenix, AZ – Comerica
04-17 San Francisco, CA – Bill Graham Civic

Watch mystery film experiment #6 for “Varúð”