I celebrated my birthday at LA’s Greek Theatre with a proper probing by Puscifer as ‘The Existential Reckoning Tour’ rolls on this summer

PusciferBy Josh Herwitt //

Puscifer with Billy Howerdel, Moodie Black //
Greek Theatre – Los Angeles
June 12th, 2022 //

California has already felt its first heat wave this year, and we’ve only reached the middle of June.

For those of us living in the Golden State who are more familiar with the notion of June Gloom than triple digits, that should only serve as a warning sign that the next three months could be unfavorably H-O-T.

While the high temperatures might play well for the live music industry with this summer marking the first since it returned to full form due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the coronavirus still remains a major part of daily life in the U.S. For that reason alone, it’s these long days when the weather is warmer (than usual) that can feel particularly reserved for us to safely catch live music outside before the days become short and a chill fills the air again. Call it “outdoor concert season” if you’d like. Either way, it’s certainly one of our favorite times of the year.

In my own case, being invited to cover Puscifer’s show at the Greek Theatre seemed like a cool way — even if there was some “work” involved — to celebrate my birthday. After all, what could be better than watching your favorite vocalist perform on your special day at one of LA’s most historic music venues?

Puscifer

Maynard James Keenan has long been known as the frontman for the critically acclaimed rock bands Tool and A Perfect Circle dating back more than a couple of decades ago, but the third project that the 58-year-old multi-hyphenate — which includes his acting and winemaking ventures over the years — considers to be his “creative subconscious” has been making music for almost 15 years with its latest LP Existential Reckoning dropping toward the end of 2020.

Puscifer, in many ways, feels inspired at least in part by Keenan’s brief stretch in Green Jellÿ during the early 90’s that saw him sing those high-pitched backup vocals as one of the pigs on the 1992 hit “Three Little Pigs” (you might recall the song’s classic claymation music video, too). Half comedy rock and half joke metal, the trio that also consists of Mat Mitchell (guitar, bass, keyboards, synthesizers, production) and Carina Round (vocals, guitar, percussions, keyboards) as permanent members has found a niche among MJK fans who don’t always take their rock ‘n’ roll so seriously. As you can see from our photos below in fact, there were actually a couple of spectators sitting near us who dressed up in costume as Keenan’s “Billy D” character and special agent Round complete with a metal briefcase.

That’s, of course, all part of the fun at a Puscifer show. Never short on theatrics, the group often plays pre-recorded videos during its live performances that only provide the audience with more laughs and further entertainment over the course of two hours. Even those who aren’t familiar with Puscifer’s four studio albums like “V” Is for Vagina and Money Shot should get a kick out of agent-in-training Keenan trying to play a strange game of celebrity lookalike on screen at one point in the evening.

Yet I would be remiss to not mention that when Puscifer announced “The Existential Reckoning Tour” in February, the slogan for the 21-date run was “Prepare To Be Probed.” And despite the message’s erotic undertones unsurprisingly, it does feel rather fitting as our world becomes more uncertain by the day. No one can know for sure if Planet Earth will be overtaken by extraterrestrials in the future, but with Keenan opening our eyes to the possibility while still managing to make us giggle, spending a night with Puscifer isn’t just an escape from reality whether you’re blowing out candles or not.

Setlist:
Act I
Bread and Circus
Postulous
Fake Affront
The Underwhelming
Grey Area
Theorem
Vagina Mine (Remixed)
UPGrade

Act II
Apocalyptical
The Remedy
Personal Prometheus
A Singularity
The Humbling River (Nagual del Judith Mix)

Act III (Billy D on vocals)
Bullet Train to Iowa
Flippant
Conditions of My Parole
Bedlamite

Tool are finally back on the road to finish their ‘Fear Inoculum’ tour & it couldn’t come at a more fitting time

ToolBy Josh Herwitt //

Tool with Blonde Redhead //
Viejas Arena – San Diego
January 19th, 2022 //

Did Maynard James Keenan really foresee what most of us didn’t?

When Tool unleashed their long-awaited fifth studio album Fear Inoculum in 2019 less than six months before COVID-19 started to ravage the world, it was quixotic to assume then how much the frontman’s lyrics would resonate with the times we’re living in right now. But that’s exactly the case after everything we have been through for close to two years.

Keenan doesn’t see his recent work whether it be with Tool, A Perfect Circle or Puscifer as prophetic, however, despite surviving two nasty bouts with the virus himself. As he explained during an interview with Zane Lowe at the beginning of the outbreak, “it’s just understanding patterns, and understanding human nature and where we’re going.”

While he might not have a sixth sense like some fans have speculated, Keenan is certainly a lot more perceptive than your average person when it comes to the ever-changing ways of the world. At the not-so-young-anymore age of 57, he continues to find inspiration in the “human experience” more than from any particular event or person, and yet I wouldn’t blame him if he ever dropped an “I told you so” simply based on our current state of affairs.

And when Tool revealed last year after being forced to cancel their remaining 2020 tour dates that they would be hitting the road again in 2022 to “finish what we started” as Keenan succinctly put it, there was no way I was going to miss seeing my favorite band for the past 25 years even with the highly infectious omicron variant sweeping across Planet Earth.

So after catching Keenan (vocals), Adam Jones (guitar), Danny Carey (drums, percussion) and Justin Chancellor (bass) pack a sold-out Honda Center in Anaheim with over 18,000 fans the prior evening, I made the 133-mile trek south to Viejas Arena located on the campus of San Diego State University for what would be my 15th Tool show. What was different this time around though was a chance for me to photograph the band, something I had never done but always wanted to check off my bucket list.

Tool

Triple-vaxxed and triple-masked, I entered the 12,200-person indoor venue with my camera equipment knowing full well the risk that I was assuming but also what a unique opportunity this was for me. Every performance by Tool these days feels a little extra special given our present circumstances, but if there was ever a time for firsts, photographing the band’s “Fear Inoculum” tour during a global pandemic felt rather apropos to me. With 90’s alt-rockers Blonde Redhead tapped as support for this leg of Tool’s 55-stop tour across the U.S. and Europe, the New York City trio’s dreamy, shoegaze-tinged set offered an interesting dichotomy ahead of what would follow.

There’s almost a meditative and spiritual-like quality to Tool’s music since 2001’s seminal Lateralus, and although heavy at points, it has only become more palpable with each new LP in spite of how much time has passed. Of course no one would argue in today’s industry that 13 years isn’t a lengthy gap between albums no matter who the artist or group is, but Tool still stand among rare company after forming more than three decades ago in Los Angeles. The prog-metal titans, in fact, have been playing snippets from Fear Inoculum for live audiences dating back to 2012 — it just wasn’t until the record was released that they began opening with the title track, which hears Keenan belt out lines like “Immunity, long overdue / Contagion, I exhale you” and “What you say inoculated / Bless this immunity” to help raise the hairs on the back of your neck if you weren’t already worried about contracting a deadly respiratory disease at a concert in the dead of winter.

The quartet’s song selection for this latest tour has featured a core of 10 highlighted by Ænima deep cuts “Pushit” and “Hooker With a Penis” as well as the epic “Descending” off Fear Inoculum with four older gems — “Opiate”, “Sober”, “The Patient” and “Right in Two” — rotated in and out. On this night, Keenan teased the capacity crowd early on with a comparison to Bakersfield but was kind enough to reward us with “Sober” from Undertow and “Right in Two” on 10,000 Days after hearing “Opiate” and “The Patient” a day earlier. Even if Tool’s sonic rollercoasters often comprised of odd time signatures and abrupt tempo changes while regularly eclipsing the 10-minute mark don’t impress you with all of those twists and turns, at least their stage setup and production should with Jones’ art direction and plenty of modern advances in visual technology you can expect from a band of this stature to employ.

Tool’s material has always showcased top-notch musicianship going back to the Opiate and Undertow days that included former bassist Paul D’Amour, but with Chancellor now leading in spots as essentially a second guitarist to Jones thanks in part to his inventive bass effects and tones, you won’t find a whole lot of drummers who are quite as creative, technically skilled and powerful as Carey. Case in point: his psychedelic drum solo entitled “Chocolate Chip Trip” that he recorded for Fear Inoculum and sees him manipulate a massive modular synthesizer to build its 7/8 groove has become a staple at Tool’s shows in the last five years.

The four-time Grammy winners, meanwhile, have been known to evolve from one tour to the next. This one has been no different, with “Culling Voices” recently solidifying a spot in their setlist for the first time as the four of them started the song by sitting at the front of the stage in a half circle with Carey playing rhythm guitar on Jones’ custom Gibson 1979 Les Paul before returning to his drums and Keenan to his two platforms midway through to complete the 10-minute tune that ends in a flurry of angst. If somehow that wasn’t enough, Carey’s use of his Buchla Marimba Lumina, a marimba-styled MIDI controller, down the final stretch of “Invincible” definitely leaves a lasting impression before you head home wondering if or when you’ll ever get to witness that kind of virtuosity again.

After all, taking the safe or easy route has never been an option for Tool, and regardless of what Keenan might portend down the road, it’s why we keep coming back for more.

TOOL

Setlist:
Fear Inoculum
Sober
The Pot
Pushit
Pneuma
The Grudge
Right in Two
Descending
Hooker With a Penis

Encore:
Chocolate Chip Trip
Culling Voices
Invincible

BLONDE REDHEAD

Setlist:
Falling Man
Bipolar
Spring and by Summer Fall
Elephant Woman
Doll Is Mine
Dr. Strangeluv
(Unknown)
(Unknown)
23

Tool show us at SAP Center that they’ve only gotten bigger & better with more time

ToolBy Mike Rosati //

Tool with Author & Punisher //
SAP Center – San Jose
January 14th, 2020 //

My first Tool show was at the Trocadero Transfer, a small SF club in the SoMa neighborhood that has been remodeled and renamed as The Grand.

It was 1993, and the band’s debut album Undertow had dropped several months earlier that year. My friend had been following the East Bay Express’ music column, which published a review of Tool’s 1992 EP Opiate. He picked up a cassette and we quickly became enamored, playing the snot out of it on every road trip we took together.

Unfortunately, we mistimed that show at the Trocadero Transfer and didn’t catch Failure’s opening set. The room was packed so we had to find a spot at the very back of the venue. And although we couldn’t see through the crowd from where we stood, we noticed that there was a trash can along the back wall. With little time to think, we turned it upside down, climbed atop of it and grabbed onto the fire sprinkler pipe. For us, that seemed to make all the difference, providing an amazing view of the room as the audience moved like an undulating ocean of bodies when Tool finally took the stage. Frontman Maynard James Keenan appeared shirtless and donned a Mohawk ponytail braid while standing at the front of the stage under a spotlight. Since then, I have seen a lot of shows but nothing quite like the moshing that transpired that night.

Tool

Fast forward to Tool’s latest Bay Area stop at San Jose’s SAP Center, and things have changed quite a bit for the prog-metal titans. Compared to that first performance I witnessed almost 27 years ago, Keenan (vocals), Danny Carey (drums), Adam Jones (guitar) and Justin Chancellor (bass) are now selling out arenas all around the world with a massive lighting rig, immersive video backdrop and veil of strings at the front of the stage when they open with the title track on their fifth LP Fear Inoculum.

But unlike the quartet’s previous tours, Keenan was actually illuminated at different points during the show as he strutted across the raised platforms behind Jones and Chancellor in a leather jacket with a Puscifer logo, a pair of red plaid pants and another Mohawk (albeit this one was spiked). Jones, as usual, was an economy of movement but his guitar voluminous in sound while Carey’s drums have only grown more into an incredible shrine of percussion.

Tool have certainly come a long way since that December night at the Trocadero Transfer nearly three decades ago, but looking back now, I’m sure glad we found that trash can.

Setlist:
Fear Inoculum
Ænema
The Pot
Parabol
Parabola
Pneuma
Schism
Jambi
Vicarious
Descending

Encore:
Chocolate Chip Trip
Invincible
Stinkfist

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

Kali Uchis at Smokin Grooves Fest - Rochelle Shipman


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

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

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

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

See our favorite performances from 2019 here.

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


The Chemical Brothers at Shrine Expo Hall - Josh Herwitt


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

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Cate Le Bon - Reward

Kevin Quandt // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tool - Fear Inoculum

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

Showbams_Sticker_Rectangle2

A Perfect Circle’s new album ‘Eat the Elephant’ plays a lot better live than its critics might think

A Perfect CirclePhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

A Perfect Circle with The Beta Machine //
Event Center at San Jose State University – San Jose
April 18th, 2018 //

Between their two performances at Coachella (read our festival review here) this month, alt-metal supergroup A Perfect Circle made a quick stop in the Bay Area last Wednesday to play the Event Center at San Jose State University as a follow-up to their 2017 gig in San Francisco at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (read our show review here).

With their fourth LP Eat the Elephant — their first in 14 years — dropping two days later, APC were eager to share their latest material, with half of the band’s 17-song set dedicated to cuts off the new album.

Opening the show on this night were The Beta Machine, founded by APC members Jeff Friedl (drums, percussion) and Matt McJunkins (bass, keyboards, vocals). The four-piece is rounded out by Claire Acey (keyboards, vocals) and Nicholas Perez (guitar, keyboards, vocals), and its synth-laden, somewhat soulful music served as a nice prelude for what was to come.

The Beta Machine


The Beta Machine

APC then followed, starting with the title track on their new full length as frontman Maynard James Keenan stood back center in the dark, coiffed in a pig-tailed wig, which has become his standard “look” with the band. Meanwhile, the group’s other founding member and principal songwriter Billy Howerdel (guitar, keyboards, vocals) stood near the front of the stage, directly across from McJunkins and to the left of Keenan, with Friedl to the left of the singer.

To Kennan’s right stood Greg Edwards, who, as Maynard took a moment to point out, is filling in for James Iha while Iha gets ready for The Smashing Pumpkins’ upcoming reunion tour this summer. Edwards is a founding member of both Failure and Autolux (two incredible bands if I may say so myself), and he has a long history working with Keenan. Failure have been booked to play with Tool several times over the years, dating as far back as 1993 when they opened for them in San Francisco at the gone-but-not-forgotten Trocadero Transfer, and then again at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in 2014.

In San Jose, APC sprinkled in songs from all three of their previous albums and included a stirring rendition of Depeche Mode’s “People Are People” toward the show’s midway point. Having had a chance to listen to the new album in advance, I was a skeptical of what I was going to be in for with the new tracks. However, I am happy to report that experiencing the new music live was a wholly different experience. The band breathed new life and enough vibrancy into the material to cast away any doubts that I previously had. But three Eat the Elephant tracks in particular that stood out to me were “The Contrarian”, “Talk Talk” and “Hourglass” before they hit the road next month for an extended U.S. and European tour that’s scheduled to run through the end of the year.

Setlist:
Eat the Elephant
Disillusioned
Weak and Powerless
So Long, and Thanks for All the Fish
Rose
Thomas
People Are People (Depeche Mode cover)
3 Libras (All Main Courses Mix)
The Contrarian
TalkTalk
Hourglass
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
The Outsider
The Doomed
The Package
Gravity
Feathers

Our favorite performances from 2017

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

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

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

Whittling down our list, though, was not that easy. Those who didn’t make the cut but still deserve to be mentioned here include the following artists, DJs and bands (in alphabetical order) whom we either covered at their own show and/or at a music festival this year:

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

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

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

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


Best of 2017 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

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

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


Best of 2017 - BADBADNOTGOOD

BADBADNOTGOOD

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

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


Best of 2017 - Spoon

Spoon

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

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


Best of 2017 - Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

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

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


Best of 2017 - DREAMCAR

DREAMCAR

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

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


Best of 2017 - A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle

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

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


Best of 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

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

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


Best of 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

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

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


Best of 2017 - The xx

The xx

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

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


Best of 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

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

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


Best of 2017 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

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

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


Best of 2017 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

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

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


Best of 2017 - Jay Som

Jay Som

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

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


Best of 2017- AIR

AIR

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

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


Best of 2017 - PLANETARIUM

PLANETARIUM

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

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


Best of 2017 - The Drums

The Drums

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

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


Best of 2017 - Miguel

Miguel

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

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


Best of 2017 - The War on Drugs

The War on Drugs

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

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


Best of 2017 - Gorillaz

Gorillaz

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

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


Best of 2017 - Cage the Elephant

Cage the Elephant

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

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


Best of 2017 - J.I.D

J.I.D

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

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


Best of 2017 - SZA

SZA

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

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


Best of 2017 - Bonobo

Bonobo (Live)

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

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


Best of 2017 - Coldplay

Coldplay

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

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


Best of 2017 - Broken Social Scene

Broken Social Scene

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

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

Best of 2017 - Jim James

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Our 10 favorite shows from the first half of 2017

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

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

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

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


Best of 2017 - Moderat

Moderat

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


Best of 2017 - Sigur Rós

Sigur Rós

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


Best of 2017 - The Flaming Lips

The Flaming Lips

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


Best of 2017 - Bonobo

Bonobo

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


Best of 2017 - Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams

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


Best of 2017 - Run the Jewels

Run the Jewels

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


Best of 2017 - The xx

The xx

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


Best of 2017 - Tool

Tool

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


Best of 2017 - Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar

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


Best of 2017 - Radiohead

Radiohead

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


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

Tool continue to melt minds on their latest tour

ToolBy Mike Rosati //

Tool with The Crystal Method //
SAP Center – San Jose
June 21st, 2017 //

With prog-metal giants Tool back on the road for a month-long trek across North America, my first experience at “The Shark Tank” (aka the SAP Center) in San Jose last Wednesday proved to be a memorable one.

After an early and sparsely attended set by big beat pioneers The Crystal Method, Tool hit the stage in standard formation as guitarist Adam Jones stood front left, bassist Justin Chancellor front right, drummer Danny Carey back right and vocalist Maynard James Keenan back left in the dark, sporting tactical assault gear that was replete with Puscifer rainbow logo stickers on his chest and knee pads.

The three-time Grammy winners haven’t released an album since 2006’s 10,000 Days, but they did debut new visuals on this latest tour, which ended with an epic, day-long event at Glen Helen Amphitheater out in San Bernadino, Calif., that also featured performances by Melvins, Fantômas, Clutch and Primus.

Set 1: The Grudge, Parabol, Parabola, Schism, Opiate, Ænema, Descending, Jambi, Third Eye, Forty-Six & 2

Set 2: Drum Solo, The Pot, Sweat, (-) Ions, Stinkfist

A Perfect Circle make their triumphant return to SF at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

A Perfect CirclePhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Andrew Pohl //

A Perfect Circle with PRAYERS //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
April 13th, 2017 //

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

It was a bit of an earlier start for a show even with it being on a weekday, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium was only half full through the opening act. Hailing from San Diego, Chicano electronic-rock duo PRAYERS, who describe their music as “Cholo goth” and are comprised of vocalist Rafael Reyes and producer/keyboardist Dave Parley, initially seemed like another one of APC frontman Maynard James Keenan’s side projects given how Reyes looked and behaved similarly to Keenan’s “Country Boner” persona that he assumes with Puscifer, but after taking a closer look, it was obvious that wasn’t the case. PRAYERS’ music was a sharp contrast to A Perfect Circle’s, but they did have some awesome lighting, which helped keep our attention. As their set ended, the venue had sufficiently filled up, which wasn’t unexpected given that the show had been sold out for weeks.

A Perfect Circle kicked off their headlining performance with a giant shroud in front of them and a rad backlight on each band member that created five different shadows. They opened the show with “The Package”, the first track from their sophomore studio album Thirteenth Step, which was a great way to build tension. As he usually does when performing with APC and Tool, Keenan opted to stand concealed in a dark area toward the back of the stage and centered between guitarist James Iha and drummer Jeff Friedl, who were also on their own platforms in addition to Keenan’s. Taking center stage was the band’s creator and guitarist Billy Howerdel, who along with bassist Matt McJunkins, kept the energy at a high level by moving around the front area of the stage from right to left throughout the evening.

A Perfect Circle

The Thirteenth Step-heavy set started with APC’s earlier tunes from their debut LP Mer de Noms before leading into the group’s awesome rendition of John Lennon’s timeless classic “Imagine”. Along the way, they ended up covering Brinsley Schwarz’s “(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”, which ultimately wasn’t much of a surprise.

As the night moved along, Keenan managed to get a few quips in, at one point mentioning that he could smell the marijuana smoke permeating from the crowd. He even stopped the show at one point to give Iha a chance to tell some vaudeville-esque jokes, which included rimshots from Friedl. My favorite was “Where do penguins keep their money?” … “in a snow bank” (ba-doom, crash!).

Although I didn’t get to hear my favorite APC song (“3 Libras”), I was stoked that they played “Magdalena”, “The Hollow”, “Weak and Powerless” and “The Outsider”. They winded down with “Gravity”, and for the closer, APC treated the audience to a brand-new song that’s called “Feathers”. This hopefully means that the rumored new album on the way may be coming out sometime this year, after their tour ends with a grand finale of a show at the Hollywood Bowl. With this supergroup, you never know, but they’ve been great about surprising us in the past, so keep your eyes peeled for more new music on the horizon.

Setlist:
The Package
The Hollow
The Noose
Weak and Powerless
Rose
Imagine (John Lennon cover)
Thinking of You
By and Down
Thomas
(What’s So Funny ’bout) Peace, Love and Understanding (Brinsley Schwarz cover)
Magdalena
Vanishing
Counting Bodies Like Sheep to the Rhythm of the War Drums
A Stranger
Blue
The Outsider
Gravity
Feathers

Editor’s Note: A Perfect Circle debuted a new song titled “Hourglass” the following night at their April 14th concert in Reno, Nev.

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

Danny Brown


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

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

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

The 25 Best Live Music Acts of 2016

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


Jim James at Orpheum Theatre


Jim James at Orpheum Theatre // Photo by Josh Herwitt

Josh Herwitt // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Brainfeed at Fox Theater Oakland


Brainfeeder at Fox Theater Oakland // Photo by Marc Fong

Molly Kish // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


YG at The Wiltern


YG at The Wiltern // Photo by Joseph Gray

Joseph Gray // Los Angeles

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

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

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

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

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

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


Radiohead at Outside Lands 2016


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

Brett Ruffenach // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anderson .Paak at South by Southwest


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

Rochelle Shipman // Los Angeles

Top 5 Shows of 2016
1. Anderson .Paak & the Free Nationals at South by Southwest – Austin, TX – March 18th
Anderson .Paak played 13 shows in three or four days at SXSW this year. The Pandora show was one of his last ones, so he and his bandmates had their set down to blind perfection and played their hearts out to 150 new fans as the sun went down. Austin was falling in love with .Paak right in front of his eyes, electrifying his performance and even bringing him down into the audience to crowd surf. When he wasn’t behind the drums, he spent the rest of the show dancing on the monitors in between the barrier and the stage, seemingly as close to is fansh as possible. He was just grateful to be there, and it spilled from every ounce of his body. I’m going to be completely honest: I went to SXSW this year to see .Paak because I knew once he played it, tickets to his shows would be impossible to get. Six months later, $30 tickets to his show in San Francisco at The Fillmore resold for upwards of $400. If you didn’t have another way to get into that show or rent to pay, it was worth it. The energy that comes out of .Paak while he’s performing is charming, infectious and unmatched. He splits his time roaming every inch of the stage and behind his drum set, often singing and rapping without missing a beat. At .Paak’s December show at the Hollywood Palladium in LA, Stevie Wonder came out not to sing, but to tell the crowd what a big fan he is. So basically, Stevie Wonder dropped by. OK, Anderson … we see you.

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

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

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

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

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


Tame Impala at Greek Theatre Berkeley


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

Andrew Pohl // San Francisco

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Are Umphrey’s McGee LA’s quintessential jam band?

Umphrey's McGeeBy Josh Herwitt //

Umphrey’s McGee feat. special guest Joshua Redman //
The Wiltern – Los Angeles
March 6th, 2015 //

Los Angeles has never been known as a home for jam bands. For as well-rounded as its music scene stands today, LA hasn’t ever been a prominent city for jam bands quite like Denver, San Francisco and other smaller U.S. markets have.

While psychedelic rock thrived in the City of Angels five decades ago thanks to bands like The Doors and The Byrds, much of the counterculture that was born out of the 60’s and remains connected to today’s jam band scene isn’t one many LA bands strive to recreate, whether it be sonically or culturally.

So, in a city with as much music and creativity as LA, how is that there are no well-known jam bands, past or present, that officially call it home?

Maybe it’s because LA’s penchant for glitz and glamor has always been a major turnoff for most jam bands. Or maybe it’s the city’s high cost of living that is just too demanding for many to survive in nowadays.

But if there’s one jam band that could finally transform that notion here in La-la-land, it might be Umphrey’s McGee.

The six-piece originally hailing from South Bend, Ind., isn’t your typical “jam band” in the traditional sense. Umphrey’s, for one, have always had an affinity for progressive rock and heavy metal, with a long list of influences ranging from King Crimson and Pink Floyd to Iron Maiden and Guns N’ Roses. For that very reason, their fan base’s demographics remain fairly widespread — much like another well-known jam band by the name of Widespread Panic, coincidentally enough — from young, tie-dye-wearing hippies to 50-year-old dads with long, shaggy hair who just want to rock out.

Umphrey's McGee

That said, it isn’t hard to spot the group’s jam band qualities either. Over the course of their 18-year career, Umphrey’s have demonstrated quite a few of those characteristics, whether it’s been the band’s live improvisation, ever-changing setlists or open taping policy.

That’s not all, though.

With their repertoire of covers, nothing appears to be off-limits for Brendan Bayliss (guitar, vocals), Joel Cummins (keyboards, vocals), Ryan Stasik (bass), Andy Farag (percussion), Jake Cinninger (guitar, vocals) and Kris Myers (drums, vocals) these days.

Consequently, it’s a recipe that continues to draw more and more fans each time Umphrey’s play LA. After graduating from the House of Blues Sunset Strip to The Wiltern last year, the Chicago-based band returned to the historic, art deco venue on Friday night and had the 1,850-capacity theater packed from the front to the back. If the show wasn’t completely sold out, it felt damn near close. And really, when you think about it, that’s not bad for a band — let alone a “jam band” — that only plays LA once a year. Add in the fact that Cummins and now Myers live in LA, and it makes even more sense that Umphrey’s McGee could be well on their way to becoming LA’s quintessential jam band.

Playing two sets and an encore for a total of almost three hours, Umphrey’s performed a number of cuts from their upcoming ninth studio album The London Session, which was recorded in one day at Abbey Road Studios in London. Unlike the year before where they shocked everyone at The Wiltern with a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” there were no big surprises this time around. Instead, we were treated to classics like “Bridgeless,” “In The Kitchen” and “Miss Tinkle’s Overture” as well as a cover of The Police’s “Driven to Tears” to close out the second set, not to mention Joshua Redman’s jazzy saxophone lines at various points throughout the night.

Umphrey's McGee

Yet, what was also interesting to hear was Tool’s Ænima being played over the PA system in between sets. Whether that was Umphrey’s choice or the venue’s remains unknown, but the selection definitely said something about the type of music fans who occupied The Wiltern that night.

Formed in LA during the early 90’s, Tool has been one of the most respected rock bands over the last two decades. With multiple Grammy Awards and countless sold-out tours inked on their résumé, Tool’s prog-rock/alt-metal tendencies have won over fans both far and near, garnering one of the strongest cult followings in rock despite the fact that their last album 10,000 Days came out practically nine years ago.

As cultivators of “improg” (live improvisation + progressive rock) and fans of heavy metal, Umphrey’s McGee in many ways fall under the same musical tree, even with all of their “jam band” attributes. Sure, they likely won’t be selling out two nights at Staples Center — much like Tool did in 2006 — anytime soon, but with the audience they’ve been gradually building in LA, they may finally be on to something.

UPDATE: Umphrey’s McGee have confirmed to us that Tool was the band’s choice to play during intermission at The Wiltern.


Set 1: October Rain, Bridgeless > Gents > Bridgeless, Booth Love > Rocker Part 2, Professor Wormbog*, Made to Measure* > Bad Friday*

Set 2: Miss Tinkle’s Overture, Hajimemashite -> In The Kitchen, Wife Soup*, 1348* > Educated Guess* > 1348*, Driven to Tears

Encore: Plunger

*with Joshua Redman on saxophone

Primus bring Danny Carey from Tool into a Bay Area tradition

Primus_postPhotos by Mike Rosati // Written by Scotland Miller //

Primus – An Uber Drum Spectacular //
Fox Theater Oakland – Oakland, CA
December 31st, 2014 //

There are few things in this world that are as much of a sure thing as a local New Year’s Eve show from the kings of oddity and tweakerdom. If you are unaware, Les Claypool and the boys of Primus have established a tradition in the Bay for the past 25 years, and don’t show signs of stopping any time soon. In his first banterings of the night, Les joked and welcomed everyone to the “45th annual New Years show … only 73 to go!”

In efforts to keep things fresh and new smelling, each year’s celebration is centered around a fantastic and goofy theme to accompany an already weird and bizarre psyche that is Primus. Past motifs have included a night with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, 3D projection screens and full-album performances. This year was dubbed the “Uber Drum Spectacular”, featuring a second set guest appearance by the percussive giant Danny Carey (Tool, Pigmy Love Circus, Volto!). As if Tim “Herb” Alexander (Laundry, Blue Man Group, Puscifer) wasn’t enough?

There is something especially dirty about having two 180-degree thunder kits next to each other on stage playing “My Name is Mud”, with the closing drum rolls lingering until utter hysteria breaks out in the crowd.

Primus_post2

The atmosphere at these well-known evenings is always a feature of the night and rarely disappoints even those who aren’t on some sort of psychedelic substance. “Some people, like Dave Grohl, need to drive around the country looking for inspiration. What do we at Primus do? We suspend a 60-foot inflatable sperm whale in the air and gaze up at it as we play.” It was as if the show was contained in an deep sea wonder world, watched over by Spermy. The patterned ceiling of The Fox was splattered with bluish lights that served to resemble the shimmering of aquatic world of the epic Moby Dick. This would eventually lead to the “Uber Drum Spectacular” that was the post-countdown antics and song selection obviously inspired by the mighty Bonzo himself.

As the second set hammered on with “Herb” and Danny dueling away on such songs as “Last Salmon Man” and “Southbound Pachyderm”, the clock neared midnight. “Jerry Was a Race Car Driver” ended, and Les dribbled his way through a Hendrix rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner”. 2015 closed in and the balloons fell like backwards bubbles from above Spermy’s watery home. The oh so familiar engine-like rumblings of Van Halen’s classic “Hot for Teacher” began as a long, unseen member of the Primus family appeared. Bob C. Cock performed the vocals in his best David Lee Roth garb and impression, only substituting the chorus with “I’m hot for cock”. The “Spectacular” culminated with an extended rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Moby Dick”.

Primus has had very few lineup changes since their original EP release Suck on This, but the addition of Danny Carey to the mix is surely to be a well-remembered appearance. After filling in for “Herb” earlier in the year, it was a great surprise to see his name on the bill.

PRIMUS SUCKS!!!

Set 1:
Sailing the Seas of Cheese
John the Fisherman
The Toys Go Winding Down
Frizzle Fry
Lee Van Cleef
Del Davis Tree Farm
The Heckler

Set 2 with Danny Carey:
Those Damn Blue-Collar Tweekers
Last Salmon Man
Southbound Pachyderm
Too Many Puppies (Ænema chorus included)
Eleven
My Name Is Mud
Jerry Was a Race Car Driver
The Star-Spangled Banner (countdown to midnight)
Hot for Teacher (Van Halen cover with Bob Cock)
Moby Dick (Led Zeppelin cover)

Encore:
American Life
Here Come the Bastards