Our favorite performances from 2019

Best live shows of 2019 - Usher, Kacey Musgraves, Local Natives & Empire of the Sun

Ah yes, it’s that time again. Time to wave goodbye to another year, a hectic one that forced us to scale back our coverage toward the latter half of 2019. But before we officially ring in a new year and decade, it’s time for us to revisit the last 12 months at Showbams. For all intents and purposes, this space has provided us the access to witness so many amazing moments in live music, and even though we can’t show love to every performance we covered in 2019, we still managed to see some great ones.

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

Albert Hammond Jr., Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals, Ari Lennox, ASTU, AURORA, Bea Miller, Bebe Rexha, Beirut, Big Wild, Bobby, Bob Moses, Caroline Rose, Cherry Glazerr, Choker, The Claypool Lennon Delirium, Club Night, Coke, Counting Crows, Crumb, CupcakKe, Daniel Caesar, Denzel Curry, Derek Ted, DJ Koze, The-Dream, DREAMERS, Ella Mai, Film School, FITNESS, Foxtail Brigade, Ginger Root, Half Alive, Hozier, Illuminati Hotties, In the Valley Below, Judah & the Lion, Justin Martin, Kali Uchis, Kamaal Williams, Katzù Oso, KONGOS, Lapel, Leon Bridges, Leven Kali, The Lil Smokies, Lil Wayne, LPX, machineheart, The Marías, Max Frost, Melvins, Michigan Rattlers, Mikey Mike, Miserable, MNEK, Mother Mother, Nicotine, (((O))), ORB, Outer Embassy, Princess Nokia, Puddles Pity Party, Queens D.Light, Raveena, Ravyn Lenae, RL Grime, Robyn, Rose Droll, Santigold, Sea Moya, SOAR, Stonefield, Super Unison, Tia Nomore, Tony Danza, Toro y Moi, Twenty One Pilots, Uni, Winnetka Bowling League, You Me at Six, Yuna

Now, it’s time for The Bam Team to present our favorite performances from 2019.

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

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


Best of 2019 - MØ

Date: February 9th
Location: Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland

MØ’s performance, meanwhile, was even brighter than LPX’s with the colors just completely all over the place and smoke coming from behind her as the lights created larger shadows of the 30-year-old’s body against the back wall. Karen Marie Aagaard Ørsted Andersen went on to perform all five singles — “Imaginary Friend”, “Nostalgia”, “Sun in Our Eyes”, “Blur” and “Way Down” — off her sophomore album and even showcased her 2017 collaboration “Don’t Leave” with British electronic duo Snakehips. -Karina Kristensen, photo by Karina Kristensen


Best of 2019 - Bob Mould Band

Bob Mould Band

Date: March 2nd
Location: The Fillmore – San Francisco

Bob Mould has had a lengthy, fruitful relationship with Noise Pop and the packed Fillmore demonstrated that in spades after recently releasing his rather well-received, and 13th, solo album Sunshine Rock since disbanding Hüsker Dü and intersplicing Sugar releases. Mould is nearing the age of 60, but you’d be hard-pressed to think that when he frantically paces back and forth onstage while firing off his characteristic take of punk-leaning alternative rock. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Mike Rosati


Best of 2019 - Modeselektor

Modeselektor

Date: April 4th
Location: Echoplex – Los Angeles

At LA’s Echoplex last Thursday, we didn’t have the fortune of getting another surprise cameo from Yorke, but it was intriguing to see a sold-out crowd welcome Bronsert and Szary back to the City of Angels under the Modeselektor moniker for the first time in a long time (and on a school night no less). And considering they were only stopping through two U.S. cities — LA and NYC the night before at Elsewhere in Brooklyn — on this tour, the show felt a little extra special for those of us in attendance due to the circumstances. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - The Chemical Brothers

The Chemical Brothers

Date: May 15th
Location: Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles

Leading off with “Go” from their 2015 LP Born in the Echoes, The Chemical Brothers delivered a 24-song set that covered all nine studio albums, including their newest effort No Geography that dropped in April. They seamlessly transitioned from one banger to the next, keeping our spirits high and leaving us not a minute to rest our feet. The onstage production, meanwhile, was next level. With an arsenal full of lights and lasers as well as a massive projection screen mounted behind them, Rowlands and Simons created a scintillating audio-visual experience to remember and one of the best we’ve witnessed in a while. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - T-Pain

T-Pain

Date: June 15th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

The sun finally came out for none other than T-Pain. Bouncing onstage like Tigger, T-Pain made a case for deserving a later set time (and was probably indirectly responsible for the wave of people passing out around 6 p.m.). The man is a party in a human body, and he’s aging like a fine wine — his music, his dance moves, all of it. It’s clear he belongs on that stage, whether it’s 2:15 or 10:15 p.m. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2019 - Erykah Badu

Erykah Badu

Date: June 15th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

As the sun set over the Pacific Ocean, the crowd swelled in front of the festival’s main stage, waiting for our lord and savior Erykah Badu. We waited. And we waited. Finally, 30 minutes later, Ms. Badu walked out and surveyed the scene before all was forgiven. Her shortened set was still probably more than the sun-dried fans could handle, with her vocals perfect and her vibe far-reaching and unmatched. As she threw her body left and right, jutting her limbs into the air and even jumping down to clasp a few lucky hands, you could feel a collective healing washing over the grounds. Before she left, she even thanked us for waiting for her, as though we had done her a favor. Psh. -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2019 - Usher

Usher

Date: June 15th
Location: The Queen Mary – Long Beach, CA

How do you follow Erykah Badu? I didn’t think it could be done until about five seconds into Usher’s performance. He came out swinging, energy and choreography at 110 percent, so fast and fierce that I yelped, “Holy shit!” I grew up listening to Usher and respect him for days, but I didn’t expect him to put on one of the most enjoyable shows I’ve witnessed in 2019 so far. To say “he’s still got it” wouldn’t nearly be enough. So, just trust me when I say “you’ve gotta get yourself to an Usher show.” -Rochelle Shipman, photo by Rochelle Shipman


Best of 2019 - Middle Kids

Middle Kids

Date: June 22nd
Location: Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles

The Aussie rockers have been making a name for themselves on the festival circuit of late, and they did a fine job filling up the Palladium’s expansive floor. With Hannah Joy cementing the power trio’s sound on guitar and vocals, it was a performance that seemed to catch so many spectators off guard. Middle Kids’ songs possess the perfect amount of 90’s nostalgia to keep things catchy while remaining unpretentious and accessible, so expect big things from them in the future. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2019 - Local Natives

Local Natives

Date: June 22nd
Location: Hollywood Palladium – Los Angeles

The band’s subdued lighting setup let the music do the talking and echoed its simple formula for success. Sometimes three amazing vocalists singing in harmony is all that you need to sell out a 5,000-person theater. While Local Natives haven’t taken a whole lot of risks over the last decade, including on the 10-track Violet Street, they still know how to hit you right in the feels every time. Nonetheless, time will tell which room they can sell out next. -Zach Bourque, photo by Zach Bourque


Best of 2019 - Empire of the Sun

Empire of the Sun

Date: June 25th
Location: The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco

We showed up for the second of three Bay Area performances only to find the crowd anxiously awaiting the group’s arrival onstage. When lead vocalist/guitarist Luke Steele finally emerged through all the smoke donning his usual headdress and face paint however, it quickly came to life. Complemented by a pair of backup dancers and plenty of eye-catching on-screen visuals, Empire of the Sun kicked things off appropriately with “Standing on the Shore” and between multiple costume changes and instrument swaps, completely blew us away before uncorking the LP’s title track to close their headlining set. -Karina Kristensen, photo by Karina Kristensen


Best of 2019 - Jim James

Jim James

Date: July 3rd
Location: The Wiltern – Los Angeles

That said, one could argue fairly easily that James’ songs are a bit more accessible than The CLD’s, and with that in mind, it wasn’t hard at all to understand why the man who has also put out music under the pseudonym Yim Yames assumed the closing duties for this tour. It became even more evident once James took the stage, shredding his way through tracks on Uniform Distortion like “Over and Over” and “You Get to Rome” before going to an acoustic guitar for “A New Life” from 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God. James would end up performing almost all of Uniform Distortion, but the real standouts of the show were in fact slightly altered versions of the Marvin Gaye-inspired “Here in Spirit” and the ever-haunting “Same Old Lie” to close what felt like a roller-coaster set full of peaks and valleys — and of course, plenty of screeches and squeals emanating from his Gibson ES-335, too. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - COMMON

COMMON

Date: July 25th
Location: Apogee Studio – Santa Monica, CA

That’s what COMMON does — he spreads love to each and every person his music reaches. As KCRW DJ Anthony Valadez pointed out during his sit-down interview with the emcee midway through the evening, COMMON has lots of songs about love, and you could quickly find more than enough evidence to assert that fact by looking at the setlist alone. Of the seven tracks he showcased off Let Love, five had the word “love” in its title, starting with “Show Me That You Love” that opened his set. The album, which is inspired by COMMON’s new memoir “Let Love Have the Last Word”, remains a departure from the political deliberations that dominated his 2016 LP Black America Again and spawned out of our most recent U.S. presidential election. I don’t think we need to revisit that moment in history right now, so let me stick to the script. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Brian Lowe


Best of 2019 - The Raconteurs

The Raconteurs

Date: July 27th
Location: Santa Barbara Bowl – Santa Barbara, CA

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


Best of 2019 - FKJ

FKJ

Date: August 5th
Location: Shrine Expo Hall – Los Angeles

2019 has already been a banner year for Venton in several ways. Besides making his debut at Coachella less than four months ago, he partnered with livestream media company Cercle to release this jaw-dropping live video that sees him performing on the world’s largest salt flat. Plus, he married Marieezy in March after previously working with the Filipino songstress. So with Marieezy by his side and fan bases in both Europe and North America now solidified, it appears that FKJ is ready to share his one-of-a-kind live show with the rest of the world. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - blink-182

blink-182

Date: August 9th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

Though these 90’s pop-punk kings may be short an OG member, that didn’t stop them from a summer shed tour alongside Lil Wayne. Sure, we all miss Tom DeLonge, and yes, Matt Skiba of Alkaline Trio remains a considerably solid stand-in, but how effective is this nostalgia act in 2019? That’s a tricky question we won’t answer because at the end of the day, festivalgoers of all ages still love singing along to “What’s My Age Again?” and “All the Small Things”. It’s really as simple as that to be honest. Does frontman Mark Hoppus’ silly onstage banter work even as he approaches 50? That’s a whole other can of worms I won’t unpack here. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2019 - Childish Gambino

Childish Gambino

Date: August 10th
Location: Golden Gate Park – San Francisco

As one of the most anticipated sets of the weekend, Childish Gambino (born Donald Glover) was an absolute highlight of OSL 2019 and it could very well go down as one of the best sets over the festival’s 12-year run. Minutes before making his grand entrance on the main stage, Glover was informed that he had induced the largest crowd in OSL history. When he finally dismounted from his disco platform in the middle of the polo fields, he shared the news and the audience’s energy from that point forward was palpable. Catching Childish Gambino on his current touring schedule is not only rare, but also few and far between. This year he has been mainly headlining festivals, and rumor has it that this cycle will be his final one billed under the “Childish Gambino” moniker, which made for an even more monumental event in SF. Glover dove straight into an aggressive set of songs from Because the Internet and notable cuts on 2016’s Awaken My Love while being accompanied by a backup band and rotating cast of creative support, including a full choir and crew of dancers/performance artists. More of a conceptual art piece than a typical headlining set, Childish’s masterpiece is one that we will remember for a long time. -Molly Kish, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2019 - Kacey Musgraves

Kacey Musgraves

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

Kacey Musgraves is arguably one of 2019’s top artists. Her fourth LP Golden Hour has received incredible accolades since its release in 2018, eventually nabbing the highly coveted Grammy for Album of the Year. That said, it was little surprise that Musgraves was able to fill the main stage with fans. Her subtle, yet powerful opener “Slow Burn” could not have been more ideal as she took in the immense crowd. She cutely quipped about playing the Sutro stage in 2014, and you could tell she was well-aware of the moment’s gravity. She naturally leaned heavily on Golden Hour, making sure to include fan favorites such as “Butterflies” and “High Horse” during her set, and at this rate, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before this alt-country breakout star finds herself in big font at the top of festival posters. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2019 - Paul Simon

Paul Simon

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

Now that OSL has casually cruised into its 12th year, some musical traditions appear to be in place. Sunday night has become the “legacy artist” slot for many years now, and while these may not be the highest-attended sets of the weekend, they have become a quintessential part of the event. Simon was no different in all circumstances referenced above. No one should be upset that his live retirement barely lasted a year, as the 77-year-old came out jubilant and as entertaining as ever. He quipped about his past musings and even invited a Bay Area legend onstage. As the sun began to set on a shockingly sunny August day, Simon waltzed out there and opened with “Late in the Evening”. Other classic hits like “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard” were featured early. “Graceland” kicked off his encore, which saw the Grateful Dead’s Bob Weir join in on the Simon & Garfunkel tune “The Boxer”. Although Weir didn’t tackle any major vocals, it was a unique moment to see the two share the stage. And in a fitting way, “The Sound of Silence” served as Simon’s closing song before the masses strolled into SF’s Outerlands one last time. -Kevin Quandt, photo by Marc Fong


Best of 2019 - King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard

Date: August 13th
Location: Greek Theatre – Los Angeles

All jokes aside, as these Aussie weirdos continue to explore other creative avenues, catching a King Gizzard show remains a fairly unique experience in its own right. You can usually expect at least one mosh pit, if not more, to form, but with the Greek only having a small floor area at the front of the stage, the lively audience that showed up on a Tuesday night could only get so rowdy with most of it resigned to the venue’s seated sections. That, however, didn’t stop these mates from delivering the goods. Over the course of a 90-minute set, they touched upon seven of their 15 albums, including opening and closing with three straight tracks off Infest the Rats’ Nest. There was “People-Vultures” from 2016’s Nonagon Infinity, plus a version of “Wah Wah” that featured a snippet of “The River” at the performance’s midway point. I’m actually a little surprised that they didn’t throw us a couple of curveballs before saying goodbye to be honest, because for as prolific and unpredictable as they’ve become lately, King Gizzard might be one of the most versatile rock bands on Planet Earth, too. -Josh Herwitt, photo by Josh Herwitt


Best of 2019 - Maribou State

Maribou State

Date: October 16th
Location: The Regency Ballroom – San Francisco

When Maribou State walked off stage for their encore break, it was almost as if the crowd immediately expected an encore. But no one left until they came back out and performed “Turnmills” from Kingdoms in Colour in honor of the London club that closed in 2008. We really couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend a fall night in The City by the Bay. -Karina Kristensen, photo by Karina Kristensen


Outside Lands 2019

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

Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest - Rochelle Shipman


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

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

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

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

See our favorite performances from 2019 here.

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


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall - Josh Herwitt


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

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cate Le Bon - Reward

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tool - Fear Inoculum

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Desert Daze 2019: Another intriguing lineup loaded with must-see performances takes over Lake Perris

Desert Daze - 2019 lineupPhoto by David Evanko // Written by Kevin Quandt & Pete Mauch //

Desert Daze //
Moreno Beach – Lake Perris, CA‎
October 10th-13th, 2019 //

After settling into a new location last year, Desert Daze aims to dial in a festival that continues to gain steam and win over rock fans around the globe, beckoning them to come to the shores of Lake Perris. This self-proclaimed “anti-festival” has impressed with their eye-popping artist roster, interactive art and smorgasbord of workshops and otherworldly experiences for all you intergalactic space rangers making the drive from Los Angeles or any of the surrounding hubs across Southern California.

We have a deep love for Desert Daze and want to be your pre-fest sherpas, so we have broken down the best music, camping and food options ahead of this weekend’s festivities.


Stereolab


Stereolab

Music

Let’s jump head first into the real meat of Desert Daze, and that’s its cutting-edge lineup of all things rock, psychedelia, garage, noise, experimental, North African-desert Tuareg blues-pop guitar and so on. Between the festival’s trio of lakeside stages, there should be little downtime for the savvy listener, so we’ll happily offer up a few of our picks and tell you why you should order that chicken tikka wrap a little later on.

Artist: Frankie and the Witch Fingers
Set date/time: Friday, 2:15-3 p.m.
Location: The Block

These LA psych rockers are truly having an amazing year. After unloading their most cohesive and energetic album to date in ZAM, they have found themselves touring non-stop supporting their killer new release. They are currently on a 37-date tour that sees them opening for ZZ Top and Cheap Trick on seven of those dates, with their Desert Daze set coming right smack dab in the middle of their run with both legendary rockers, so we’d imagine that they’ll be fired up to play to their own crowd. This should be an extremely high-energy set that won’t let you take a breath because Frankie and the Witch Fingers are pure psychedelic bliss right now. -PM

Artist: Stereolab
Set date/time: Friday, 6:35-8:05 p.m.
Location: The Moon

Tim Gane and Lætitia Sadier are finally bringing their electro-leaning indie pop back to the western side of the country and should be firing on all cylinders after a nearly decade-long break. Having witnessed one of their first reunion shows at Primavera Sound, I can confirm Stereolab’s laid-back vibe is still delivered with precision as they work classics like “French Disko” and “Brakhage” as well as others from Dots and Loops into the setlist. We can’t think of a better act to catch during Friday’s magic hour. -KQ

Artist: Altın Gün
Set date/time: Saturday, 2:40-3:40 p.m.
Location: The Moon

This Anatolian psych-folk group that calls Amsterdam home has been blending traditional Turkish music and psychedelic melodies to great avail. Their most recent release Gece finds this experimental outfit playing around with time signatures and quick, fierce changes that keeps their listeners wanting more. Their Desert Daze slot in the early afternoon Saturday is really going to get the day rolling. -PM

Shintaro Sakamoto


Shintaro Sakamoto

Artist: The Locust
Set date/time: Sunday, 12:45 a.m.-1:35 a.m.
Location: The Theatre

Shit! This set is not for the faint of heart and will surely be one of the most brutal (looks over shoulder for Lightning Bolt) and thrilling performances for those brave souls still awake after Devo, Ween and Flying Lotus (3D) hit the main stage. Expect a handful of masked musicians bending every boundary of rock music to their back and call, a feat that hasn’t transpired for close to five years. Desert Daze founder Phil Pirrone clearly has the Midas touch whenever it comes to reuniting bands or flying in rarities from around the world. -KQ

Artist: SASAMI
Set date/time: Sunday, 3:30-4:30 p.m.
Location: The Block

Domino artist Sasami Ashworth has been having a moment since the release of her self-titled debut LP back in March. Some veteran Desert Daze attendees might recognize Ashworth from her days as a former touring member of the LA band Cherry Glazerr, which played the festival in 2016 at its previous location The Institute of Mentalphysics. Since departing Cherry Glazerr, she has quickly cultivated a following under the moniker SASAMI that swoons for her unique brand as a guitar-wielding indie songstress. For now, she has toured with her contemporaries, received blessings from Mitski and expanded to larger international tours. -KQ

Artist: Shintaro Sakamoto
Set date/time: Sunday, 7:45 p.m.-9 p.m.
Location: The Block

Japanese composer Shintaro Sakamoto is making his U.S. debut at Desert Daze 2019, and we couldn’t be anymore excited to see him perform on Sunday. Sakamoto has been active in his home country for 30 years, most notably with psych rockers Yura Yura Teikoku, but you will see a softer side to him than with his prior band. Sakamoto at The Block during sunset with the Mad Alchemy light show behind him is an absolute must-see! We should hear plenty of tracks off 2014’s Let’s Dance Raw and 2011’s How to Live with a Phantom, too. -PM

Desert Daze 2019 - map

Camping

There’s nothing easier than pitching a tent only a few hundred yards away from any festival site, and Desert Daze continues to excel in this area. Moreno Beach’s plush grounds have it all: trees, campside parking, free hot showers, permanent bathrooms and even a camping-exclusive stage area called The Mystic Bazaar.

The Bazaar features a mind-expanding array of programming, including, but not limited to, Modular Sound Baths, Vinyasa Pranayama yoga and various forms of meditation (check out the full schedule here). Plus, plenty of camping options to fit your liking are available here.

Desert Daze 2019 - The Marketplace

The Marketplace

Whether your home base will be offsite or you’re calling Lake Perris home for a long weekend, you’ll want to do some light shopping, quench your thirst or carb load for Animal Collective’s blistering show on Friday. Desert Daze always prints a whopping selection of show- and artist-specific posters and they’re always sold at affordable prices, so an early trip to the merch tent is a must. And if boutique wares are your preference, a healthy variety of vintage sellers, craft jewelers and visionary designers are strewn about the groves and shoreline. Bring some cash because you won’t be disappointed with what you find.

For all of your consumption needs, Black Fin Sushi, Flavors of East Africa and Good Times Ice Cream are just the beginning of options that will be available onsite. Don’t forget to look at the full listing here to see if your local favorites will be making the trip out to Moreno Beach.

Lastly, make sure to grab your Desert Daze 2019 passes here and we’ll see ya on the other side.

Desert Daze 2019 - David Evanko

Jim James, The Claypool Lennon Delirium take us on a psych-rock roller coaster at The Wiltern

Jim James


Jim James

By Josh Herwitt //

Jim James & The Claypool Lennon Delirium with Uni //
The Wiltern – Los Angeles
July 3rd, 2019 //

Ever since he launched his solo career more than five years ago, Jim James has been trying to bring people closer together.

The frontman and primary songwriter of My Morning Jacket frequently preaches peace, love and equality on and off the stage, but at a time when technology continues to dominate our way of life and our political divides grow bigger by the day, unity has become a challenging proposition to achieve no matter how famous or popular you are — unless you’re Oprah.

It’s not for a lack of effort from James (born James Edward Olliges Jr.), though.

Claypool Lennon Delirium


Claypool Lennon Delirium

The Louisville native remains steadfast in his commitment to doing and saying the right things, whether it’s helping to get out the vote or raising awareness and funds around a number of important environmental, climate and humanitarian issues.

Because when James sings “No use waiting and wondering why / Better get together while we still got time” on his third solo album Uniform Distortion that dropped last year, it’s a message that many of us could learn from. After all, actions speak louder than words, and a songwriter with as much talent, insight and creativity as James certainly knows that.

Embarking on a 33-date North American tour that included festival stops at Shaky Knees and Bonnaroo in support of the 11-track LP, the 41-year-old multi-hyphenate was back in LA — the city he now calls home since moving there in 2016 — on the eve of Independence Day for only one night at the always-beautiful Wiltern. The last time we caught James in the City of Angels, he was headlining another historic SoCal venue just a few miles down Olympic Blvd. after the release of his second solo effort Eternally Even. And boy, was that a lot of fun at the Orpheum Theatre as celebrity fanboys like Christopher Mintz-Plasse (aka “McLovin” from the 2007 film “Superbad”) showed their appreciation for one of rock’s last remaining guitar heroes.

Jim James


Jim James

But things were a little different for this occasion, in large part because James would be billed as a co-headliner alongside his psychedelic counterparts in The Claypool Lennon Delirium for much of the tour. Even so, with Primus bassist and lead singer Les Claypool being a legend in his own right and guitarist/vocalist Sean Lennon conceived by a couple himself, we had quite the pairing for a Wednesday affair. Heck, the duo even covered Pink Floyd, King Crimson and The Beatles among cuts off 2016’s Monolith of Phobos and its stellar follow-up South of Reality that arrived in February. So if you like psych rock with an extra dose of weird, then these guys are probably for you.

That said, one could argue fairly easily that James’ songs are a bit more accessible than The CLD’s, and with that in mind, it wasn’t hard at all to understand why the man who has also put out music under the pseudonym Yim Yames assumed the closing duties for this tour. It became even more evident once James took the stage, shredding his way through tracks on Uniform Distortion like “Over and Over” and “You Get to Rome” before going to an acoustic guitar for “A New Life” from 2013’s Regions of Light and Sound of God. James would end up performing almost all of Uniform Distortion, but the real standouts of the show were in fact slightly altered versions of the Marvin Gaye-inspired “Here in Spirit” and the ever-haunting “Same Old Lie” to close what felt like a roller-coaster set full of peaks and valleys — and of course, plenty of screeches and squeals emanating from his Gibson ES-335, too.

James didn’t break for long before beginning a three-song encore with one from My Morning Jacket’s catalog in “I’m Amazed” and then dueting with Amo Amo’s Lovell Femme on “Of the Mother Again”. While it may have been somewhat predictable for him to offer us “State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)” as a parting gift, it wasn’t as if it came unwanted. If anything, it was a strong reminder of how powerful music can be as a unifying force and a gateway to a more positive and promising future, especially with someone like James serving as a guiding light.

JIM JAMES

Setlist:
Over and Over
You Get to Rome
A New Life
Out of Time
Just a Fool
Throwback
No Secrets
Here in Spirit
No Use Waiting
All in Your Head
The World’s Smiling Now
Yes to Everything
Same Old Lie

Encore:
I’m Amazed (My Morning Jacket song)
Of the Mother Again (with Amo Amo lead singer Lovell Femme)
State of the Art (A.E.I.O.U.)

THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM

Setlist:
Astronomy Domine (Pink Floyd cover)
Blood and Rockets: Movement I, Saga of Jack Parsons / Movement II, Too the Moon
Little Fishes
Cricket and the Genie (Movement I, The Delirium)
Cricket and the Genie (Movement II, Oratorio Di Cricket)
South of Reality
The Court of the Crimson King (King Crimson cover)
Easily Charmed by Fools
Boomerang Baby
Breath of a Salesman
Cricket Chronicles Revisited: Part 1, Ask Your Doctor – Part 2, Psyde Effects
Tomorrow Never Knows (The Beatles cover)
Third Rock From the Sun

The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

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


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

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

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


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

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

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


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

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

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


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

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


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

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


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

3. Chance the Rapper

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

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


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

1. Anderson .Paak

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

Outside Lands 2016

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Outside Lands 2016: Top sets, awards & what we overheard at Golden Gate Park

Outside Lands 2016Photos by Norm de Veyra & James Pawlish // Written by Molly Kish //

Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival //
Golden Gate Park – San Francisco
August 5th-7th, 2016 //

Celebrating its ninth annual year as Northern California’s premier music, comedy, food and arts festival, Outside Lands took over Golden Gate Park last weekend and entertained crowds of more than 60,000 attendees each day with a massive roster of world-renowned talent. This year’s highlights surmounted all previous editions and exceeded the expectations of the most veteran festivalgoers.

Beyond the daily artist lineups, mouth-watering fare and unparalleled comedy showcases, Outside Lands kicked it up a notch in 2016, playing to what seemed like a more refined crowd on a local and national level. The festival’s organizers created an environment that appealed to both novices and seasoned attendees, with convenience being the key factor and a running theme that helped establish a flow to the fairgrounds that was unattainable in past years.

The fest also worked with PayPal to set up an option for cashless transactions by uploading “Bison Bucks” to your wristband, creating a seamless navigation of all the food/beverage and merchandise options. Furthermore, the debut of additional boutique concessions at Oyster Lands and Cocktail Lands provided a reprieve from the long lines at food trucks, booths and beer stands for the mature palette.

Even the structure and pace of this year’s Outside Lands schedule felt more conducive to less park-length traversing, with each stage focusing more on specific genres and demographics. There are still certain aspects that could use improvement, such as an increased availability of trash receptacles, bathroom options and crowd control at the festival’s entrance, but the issues that Outside Lands faced this year were no different or more overbearing than any other large-scale production.

Now nine years on the circuit, the Bay Area’s premiere destination for festival revelers has definitely matured to an impressive standard in the live music business. As Outside Lands continues to set the bar high thanks to its innovative features, top-notch billing and overall experience, here are our favorite moments from 2016.

Outside Lands 2016 - LCD Soundsystem


LCD Soundsystem

TOP SETS:

Headliner: LCD Soundsystem

Hip-Hop: Anderson .Paak

Pop: Grimes

Singer-Songwriter: Lana Del Rey

Rock: Foals

EDM: Zedd

Jazz: Kamasi Washington

Experimental: Air

Breakthrough artist: Jidenna

Local act: Down and Outlaws

Heineken Dome: Warren G & E-40 (pop-up performance)

Outside Lands 2016 - Chance the Rapper


Chance the Rapper

OUTSIDE LANDS 2016 AWARDS:

Biggest Crowd: 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.

Honorable Mention: Lana Del Rey, J. Cole

Most Magical Outside Lands Moment: 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. Relive the full performance here.

Honorable Mention: Big Boi’s set at Heineken Dome (pop-up performance), Jason Isabel performing with Ryan Adams

Outside Lands 2016

Funniest Stage Banter: Ryan Adams and The Shining

Known to be quite the comedian with his sassy stage banter and on-the-spot ad libs, Ryan Adams and his backing band, The Shining, catered to the Bay Area audience by revisiting a moment from his 2014 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass set with a rousing reprise of “3 Balloons”. He not only called out his attending family’s and audience members’ concert etiquette faux pas, but he also mentioned his annoyance with the bass of Major Lazer’s simultaneous set as well as referenced the standout beacon of this year’s festival, which was hoisted up by a group of super fans watching from the crowd. Check out it here.

Honorable Mention: Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem, Lionel Richie

Most Jaw-Dropping Performance: Peaches

For those familiar with the raunchy revelry that a Peaches show entails, we were front and center when the pro-sex powerhouse took the Panhandle stage on Saturday. As for novice audience members or anyone really within the general vicinity during the set, this festival performance was one that frontwoman Merrill Nisker was determined to make sure would be burned into our Outside Lands memories for life. Somewhat of a crossbreed between live sex show and avant-garde performance art, Peaches paired hard-hitting bass lines with spitfire lyrics and a stage show of elaborately X-rated costumes and choreography that left the crowd on one hand speechless and on the other frantically screaming for more.

Honorable Mention: Grimes, The Claypool Lennon Delirium

Best GastroMagic Moment: Skew It on the Bar B with Big Boi, Animal’s Jon Shook & Vinny Dotolo and State Bird’s Stuart Brioza

On the third and final day of Outside Lands, most attendees were camped out at their favorite stage, decompressing from the first two days of excitement and settling in to watch the final performances of the weekend. But if you happened to be one of the few wandering through the Choco Lands overpass or happened to remember Big Boi’s scheduled performance at the GastroMagic stage, you were in for a treat. Those present in the intimate crowd not only got a mini set of both Outkast and solo hits from the vivacious emcee, but they also got samples of some of the most sought-after BBQ shrimp in the Bay Area while listening to remixed versions of each song that incorporated the word “shrimp” into every chorus. Hilariously ridiculous and insanely delicious, those present may never hear those songs performed the same way again. In fact, we’re still giggling and singing “I like the way you shrimp” days later.

Honorable Mention: Beignets and Bounce Brunch (with Big Freedia and Brenda’s Soul Food), Shark Bites (with Jauz, Mother of Pearl and Guittard Chocolate Company)

Outside Lands 2016 - Big Grams


Sarah Barthel of Big Grams

Most “Thirst-Inducing” Performers of the Weekend: Big Gram’s Sarah Barthel, Miguel

Worst Decisions of the Weekend: The girl who climbed the windmill during J. Cole’s set and fell (watch here), deciding to bring a bag with you to the festival

Best Totems: The Red Balloon

Honorable Mention: Rick & Morty, Stranger Things Dustin

Biggest Festival Wear Trend of 2016: Hipster Bandito

Honorable Mention: Animal-themed onesies, flower crowns/bedazzled body parts

Best “Taste of the Bay” Menu Item: Bacon Bacon CA BBQ Bacon Burritos

Best Adult Beverage: Elixir’s Whatamelon Cocktail

Best Non-Alcoholic Nectar of the Gods: Straw’s Basil Strawberry Lemonade

Best Festival Feature: Cocktail Lands

Best Way to Waste Time Between Sets: PayPal Video Game Arcade

Outside Lands 2016 - Radiohead


Radiohead

OVERHEARD AT OUTSIDE LANDS 2016:

The best directly stated and heard in passing at the festival.

“An empty bag is still a bag!” – crowd members policing the “no-bag” entry lines to the festival

“Is this the Trail of Tears section of Outside Lands?” – crowd members while passing through Choco Lands

“I’m in the Upside Down …” – Day 3 entry ways to the festival

“Hurry up, run! The flower crowns are coming, the flower crowns are coming!” – crowd members exiting the Twin Peaks stage area before Lana Del Rey

“I must’ve missed the goth/bandito appropriation memo …” – in reference to this year’s style trends

“Meet me at the Red Balloon!” – various lost attendees throughout the grounds

“Tits out for Radiohead!” – an ambitious crowd member on Saturday night

“Jesus, Rachel!” – in reference to “basic bitch” behavior/clothing choices throughout the weekend

“I be on that shrimp tonight, straight up on that shrimp tonight, I be on that straight up on that, I be on that shrimp tonight.” – Big Boi during his GastroMagic performance

“Mmmm, porcini doughnuts …” (Homer Simpson voice) – mimicking nearby food vendors

“Who even is Lionel Richie … oh, Nicole Richies’ dad?!” – mortifyingly clueless audience member

“We’re all Diana Ross!” – Lionel Richie in reference to his “special guest”

“We’re all gonna die, whatcha’ gonna do about it?” – Sufjan Stevens contemplating life on stage

“This is the best moment of my life, can I live in an LCD set?” – enthused crowd member

“I’d follow you to hell …” – a member of a large group attempting to traverse the grounds

“But my mom and dad are in there …” – festivalgoers attempting to jump the line entering the festival

“You know San Francisco has totally changed, like I went back to my place on the pier and it was taken over by sea lions, like totally gentrified!” – Janus during Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem’s set