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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Noise Pop 2019: Celebrating Bay Area indie culture with great music & a whole lot more

Noise Pop 2019 - Caroline Rose


Caroline Rose

Photos by Mike Rosati, Norm de Veyra & Marc Fong // Written by Kevin Quandt & Ryan Bright //

Noise Pop //
Bay Area venues – San Francisco & Oakland
February 25th-March 3rd, 2019 //

Another epic edition of Noise Pop is now in the history books, and we were there to witness much of the action. Here are a few of our favorite moments, plus a ton of photos, from 2019.

Coke

With a name like Coke, you’d hope this SF band would be loud and wild enough, even with a 7 p.m. hit time, and they were. Playing their second-to-last show before losing a key member to the East Coast, they proved rock is not dead and that it generally sounds best in medium-sized bars full of your friends. – KQ

In the Valley Below

It has been a hot minute since the duo of Jeffrey Jacob and Angela Gail released their widely acclaimed debut album and supported it with multiple late-night appearances that saw them play their breakthrough hit “Peaches”. Their slow return to the stage hasn’t stopped this pair from performing some powerful indie pop that set the stage perfectly for Albert Hammond Jr. on a Wednesday night at The Independent. The live-expanded twosome also delivered select cuts from their forthcoming sophomore release The Pink Chateau, which will also feature an accompanying “motion picture companion.” Certainly appearing to be a comeback year for the Michigan-based group and a packed room at the Independent would likely agree. – KQ

Albert Hammond Jr.

Hammond Jr. is an explosive performer, and his Noise Pop show at The Independent was no exception. Relying heavily on his 2018 release Francis Trouble, his live effort showcased his frontman stature and musical abilities apart from his cohorts in The Strokes. Interestingly enough, the album explores the stillborn death of his twin brother and a recent reckoning that part of Francis’ fingernail was actually born alongside him. Despite the LP’s macabre topic, songs like “Far Away Truths” really conveyed Hammond’s raw energy as he jumped right into the crowd, mic in hand, for a cathartic mosh pit. – RB

Bob Mould Band


Bob Mould Band

Bob Mould Band

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. “In a Free Land” and “Something I Learned Today” were Hüsker Dü highlights, while “If I Can’t Change Your Mind” and “Hoover Dam” represented a handful of Sugar cuts that the balding frontman belted out. Mould recently moved to Berlin from SF, but any longtime Bay Area fan can sleep well knowing he’ll always return to give us a dose of his infectious punk rock. – KQ

Film School

While it has been almost 20 years since Gerg Bertens initially formed Film School, the band has continued to keep a strong relationship with Noise Pop. Many consider the five-piece’s 2016 Noise Pop shows at Bottom of the Hill to be its grand return after hanging it up in 2011, and this year’s well-attended opening set showed that they can still whip up some polished alternative shoegaze. “Two in Sun” shined bright, and many of us hope this California outfit sticks around and rides the wave of the current shoegaze revival. – KQ

Beirut

After taking several years off, Zach Condon’s project Beirut returned this year with a new album titled Gallipoli and an international tour that included a stop at the Fox Theater in Oakland for Noise Pop. While Beirut’s career-spanning set might have been a nostalgia trip for some, the musicianship and multi-instrumentation were the real highlights of the night. They managed to make their unique brand of “world” music, which features Balkan, polka, mariachi and francophone influences, feel inviting, warm and triumphant thanks to subtle textures of the accordion, ukulele, trumpet, Moog synthesizer, piano and Condon’s unique satiny vocal stylings. For me, new songs like “Landslide” and “We Never Lived Here” stood out just as strongly as fan favorites “Elephant Gun” and “Nantes” — and the entire crowd’s response indicated that as well. – RB

Noise Pop 2019: Here are the shows you can’t miss

Noise Pop 2019Written by Molly Kish //

Noise Pop //
Bay Area venues – San Francisco & Oakland
February 25th-March 3rd, 2019 //

Noise Pop returns this year for its 27th installment with a lineup that features more than 130 acts spanning 18 Bay Area venues. In addition to the debut of the “Ear Up Global Showcase” this Saturday, March 2nd, NP2019 boasts a brand-new venue located in SF’s Mission District that’s known as the Brava Theater Center.

Attendees can still look forward to plenty of happy hours at Bender’s Bar & Grill as well as special showcases curated by DoTheBay, San Franpsycho, BFF.fm, Sea Witch Productions and Text Me Records. Plus, you can also view the “Noise Pop Festival Photo Retrospective” this Tuesday, February 26th at The Royale to relive some of the best moments in Noise Pop history through the lenses of the Bay Area’s top photographic talent.

Brava Theater Center


Brava Theater Center

The festival’s art this year highlights the Bay Area’s very own Kristin Farr, whose work can be seen on public murals, office building interiors and festival stages in SF and beyond and was even included in the Emmy Award-winning KQED Art School series.

Noise Pop badges and individual tickets to shows are still available and can be purchased here. To help you sort it all out, we have broken down the 2019 lineup and offered our top performances that you won’t want to miss below.


Noise Pop 2019 - Bob Mould

TUESDAY 2/26

  • Men I Trust @ Great American Music Hall

WEDNESDAY 2/27

  • Noise Pop Happy Hour with Coke
  • Baths @ Great American Music Hall
  • The Marías @ The New Parish

THURSDAY 2/28

  • Vetiver and Fruit Bats @ The Chapel
  • DJ Boring & Jacques Greene @ 1015 Folsom

FRIDAY 3/1

  • Saul Williams @ Brava Theater Center
  • Tourist @ Gray Area
  • Vagabond @ Swedish American Hall

SATURDAY 3/2

  • Beirut @ Fox Theater Oakland
  • Bob Mould @ The Fillmore
  • Princess Nokia @ UC Theater
  • VHS Collection @ The Independent

SUNDAY 3/3

  • Partner & Dude York @ Cafe du Nord
  • Daughters @ The Independent

Check out the monthly Noise Pop Podcast series to discover more new music and create your own customized Noise Pop schedule here.

Noise Pop 2019 - Phase 3 lineup

Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band emanate plenty of positivity during their two-night run at The Fillmore

Josh Ritter & The Royal City BandBy Benjamin Wallen //

Josh Ritter & The Royal City Band with The Dustbowl Revival //
The Fillmore – San Francisco
January 20th, 2018 //

SF welcomed Josh Ritter for a two-night run at The Fillmore last week. While Friday’s show featured Bay Area singer-songwriter Nicki Bluhm as opening support, the next evening saw one of Los Angeles’ finest, The Dustbowl Revival, showcase their vintage Americana sound.

Ritter & The Royal City Band subsequently hit the stage and flashed numerous smiles as they emanated a positive energy across the room. With this gig marking my first time seeing Ritter perform with his backing band, it proved to be a fun-filled night with a range of genres being blended together onstage. If you missed Ritter and his cohorts on this occasion, make sure to catch them the next time they come to town.