The 25 best live music acts of 2016

Best live music acts of 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #25 - Tycho

25. Tycho

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #24 - Isaiah Rashad

24. Isaiah Rashad

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #23 - Bob Moses

23. Bob Moses

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #22 - Floating Points

22. Floating Points

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #21 - Ty Segall

21. Ty Segall

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


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

20. Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem

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


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

19. RÜFÜS DU SOL

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #18 - Rudimental

18. Rudimental

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #17 - BØRNS

17. BØRNS

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #16 - Flying Lotus

16. Flying Lotus

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


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

15. The Last Shadow Puppets

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #14 - Miike Snow

14. Miike Snow

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #13 - Young Thug

13. Young Thug

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #12 - Pretty Lights

12. Pretty Lights

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #11 - Mac DeMarco

11. Mac DeMarco

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #10 - Moderat

10. Moderat

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Foals

9. Foals

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #9 - Tame Impala

8. Tame Impala

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #7 - Jim James

7. Jim James

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #6 - The National

6. The National

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


Coachella 2016 - Guns 'N Roses

5. Guns N’ Roses

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


Coachella 2016 - Sia

4. Sia

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


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

3. Chance the Rapper

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


Best Live Music Acts of 2015 #2 - LCD Soundsystem

2. LCD Soundsystem

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


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

1. Anderson .Paak

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

Outside Lands 2016

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White Denim sport new members but still can rock

White DenimPhotos by Marc Fong // Written by Kevin Quandt //

White Denim with Sam Cohen //
The Independent – San Francisco
March 30th, 2016 //

It’s been almost two and a half years since Austin’s own White Denim graced the stage in the Bay Area. Sure, it’s not on a massive stage like Bill Graham Civic Auditorium while opening for The Flaming Lips and Tame Impala. Sure, they may have lost a few founding members in that time. However, with the release of their new album Stiff, they have found a new drive that is sure to take flight in 2016.

Former Apollo Sunshine frontman Sam Cohen took opening duties on this night as White Denim’s touring partner. Cohen’s 2015 debut solo release Cool It has gained some recent attention from these gigs and for good reason as songs like “Let the Mountain Come to You” are shiny diamonds waiting to be discovered. Cohen dialed up the psychedelia when you compare his solo act to Apollo Sunshine, and many were in agreement of the power of this first set at The Indy.

White Denim

SF and the Bay Area have always helped White Denim in their hearts as they combine equal parts heart and technical chops while making rock ‘n’ roll truly fun again, this time with less leopard leotards and hair spray. “Had 2 Know (Personal)” was a ripping opener, delivered with precision to a seriously packed house. A true highlight was Stiff closing track “Thank You”, which acted as a breezy period to catch one’s breath. This show was only the “amuse-bouche” in the Bay Area for White Denim, as one has to think they are gearing up for lots of touring this year. Fine by me.

Setlist:
Had 2 Know (Personal)
Ha Ha Ha Ha (Yeah)
Brain
Thank You
River to Consider
Real Deal Mama
Holda You (I’m Psycho)
Anvil Everything
I Start to Run
Limited by Stature
I Can Tell
(Unknown)
At Night in Dreams
Take It Easy (Ever After Lasting Love)
Cheer Up/Blues Ending
Shake Shake Shake

The best of Treasure Island Music Festival 2014

TIMF2014_postPhotos by Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash //

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Treasure Island – San Francisco
October 18th-19th, 2014 //

Treasure Island Music Festival 2014 will be remembered for its triumphant headliners along with its embrace of minimalist, finger-snapping electro-pop. Some of the performing acts that have blown up over the past year or so — including Jungle, Zedd, BANKS and Chet Faker — offered relatively tame performances, struggling to elevate their live music experiences. But many other acts gave inspired, breathtaking or insanely fun sets.

Here’s our best (and worst) of TIMF 2014.

Kaleidascope


Massive-Attack

Show of the Weekend: Massive Attack

Massive-Attack2With perhaps the most appropriate name for musical act on the planet, Massive Attack capped Treasure Island Music Festival 2014 in stunning fashion. With a balancing act of bass-infused downtempo brilliance highlighted by Martina Topley-Bird’s singing and industrialized synth-stabbing electronic pieces, a range of emotion is achieved for the listener. With contrasting tempos and a duality of tranquility then intensity, a cause-and-effect narrative starts to take shape — especially when paying attention to the video elements of the intense songs. “United Snakes” left nothing to the imagination with its barrage of corporate logos and national flags. It appeared the expanded duo slipped in one frame of a Ferris wheel, reminding us that yes, us consumers at TIMF, the only U.S. festival Massive Attack played on this tour, are part of the system. “Future Proof” visuals stripped out rows of zeroes and ones, using the simplicity of computer code to inspire multiple paths of thought, especially while absorbing this show in the Bay Area. And Tunde Adebimpe from TV On The Radio joined in for “Pray For Rain” for the grand finale.


OutKast-Big-Boi

Biggest Bay Area Party of the Year: OutKast

OutKast-DreIt’s almost the end of the biggest reunion tour in decades, and TIMF patrons were lucky enough to witness one of OutKast’s last shows. The Bridge Stage was more packed in than any show in memory, and festivalgoers outwardly had more fun compared to performances from past years. The set was perfectly paced, with André 3000 seemingly having a fun time — an important part of the equation compared to Big Boi’s rock-steady appearances throughout 2014. The guys gave shout-outs to Casual and The Misfits in the “local love” part of the show, and “Roses” (including a half-hearted apology for the “crazy bitch” outro) once again was one of the highlights. The set ended at least 20 minutes before the scheduled end of the day, emptying a large percentage of patrons into the shuttle line at the same time — there were some reports of people not making it back to SF until 2 a.m.


alt-J

Most Likely to Headline Festivals Very Soon: alt-J

alt-J is no longer a band on the rise, but one of the biggest bands in the world with this just-launched tour in support of the group’s second LP. This hour-long set at TIMF seemed like a coronation of sorts as it was the first festival set the now-quartet has played with new material. The highlights from An Awesome Wave still act as the backbone of the set while the best cuts from This Is All Yours were cherry-picked and sprinkled in perfectly to enhance their already-inspiring live show. “Hunger of the Pine” got things going while “Left Hand Free” worked well, getting away from the heady elements for a bit. “Dissolve Me” into “Matilda” is still so incredibly beautiful and emotive — alt-J should never break these two songs up. “Every Other Freckle” is the one song where I wish the guys would have considered new lyrics, but it’s a small complaint for a concert experience that had a huge crowd rapturously involved. When music implores a festival audience to be fully invested as alt-J pulled off on Sunday, with no one talking during the quiet intimate parts, it becomes clear you are ingesting something special. Even though their rise in popularity has happened remarkably fast, that trend should continue to move upward through festival season next year.


Classixx

Most TIMF Set of the Weekend: Classixx

On paper, Classixx is the ideal act for Treasure Island Music Festival 2014, and the duo delivered on this promise in the all-important sunset time slot. Restrained but upbeat enough, pop-oriented yet progressive in its sound, the LA-based remixers-turned-original producers brought Saturday together based on what we expect from past TIMF years. Their on-stage centerpiece, a modern take on a 1980’s-era television, visualizes Nancy Whang for “All You’re Waiting For” and YACHT’s Claire L. Evans for a remix of “Psychic City”. The television set offers a surreal scene juxtaposed with the backgrounded City skyline, functionally helping to break down the walls of disembodied vocals.


TVOTR

Best New Material: TV On The Radio

TVOTR2TVOTR gave one of the best sets of the weekend with their wonderful mix of slow burners, dance-punk blasts of energy along with three new songs: “Happy Idiot”, “Careful You” and “Could You”. The latter two were particularly impressive and fit perfectly into the band’s catalog. A couple other notes on the show: producer and multi-instrumentalist David Sitek now looks like Bono, Kyp Malone is still professionally chill and Tunde Adebimpe continues to be offended when listeners don’t give him full attention. After completing “Wolf Like Me”, wherein the TI faithful went nuts, the lead singer said that he couldn’t believe he saw someone leave during the song. Agreed Tunde, and we’re looking forward to the forthcoming record.


Janell-Monae

Best Recovery: Janelle Monáe

What’s exactly the point of sound checking a microphone if you’re not going to do it completely? The guy setting up the mic put it on the stand after unsuccessfully getting it to work, and Monáe sang the first song completely unaware her voice wasn’t projecting through the speakers. After some crowd chanting, a new microphone, and three different people near me saying “Why doesn’t she use the backup singer’s mic?” order was finally restored. Also, when we got “Tightrope”, all hope of seeing Monáe join mentor Big Boi during OutKast was shot. Still, there’s no doubt the Electric Lady is just beginning a long and illustrious career. And as she proved with “Cold War”, it’s damn near impossible to take your eyes or ears off her when it’s her time to shine.


Bill-Murray

Best Pop-Culture Friend-Finder: Bill Murray

Bill Murray is clearly the most important American pop culture icon, and this group knows it. They also had a high-flying Bill Murray flag to triangulate positions.


Ana-Tijoux

Best Festival Outlier: Ana Tijoux

French-Chilean MC and singer-songwriter Ana Tijoux brought the best change of pace on Saturday, something apparent from the beginning of “Vengo”. Upbeat and passionate fire-spitting about social injustice with electronic elements and a horn section? Yes please — this was perhaps the only set on the dance-oriented first day without finger snapping or words in English.


Washed-Out

Most TIMF Set of the Weekend Part 2: Washed Out

It’s impressive how Ernest Greene has evolved Washed Out from bedroom project to leader of the chill-wave movement to a live performer that can mimic the energy of a dance show through instrumentation. Like Classixx, this one just felt right for TIMF.


Polica

Most Immersive Set: Poliça

Sultry. Intensely Moody. World music-infused. These are the words I wrote down before being completely drawn into this set. Once awakening after completing locking in to a couple songs, I opted to get to alt-J early for a good spot. It was a tough call since Poliça were thoroughly captivating — I’ll be looking to see them again soon.


Mo

Best Unintentional Festival Blending:

MØ emerged on stage sporting a black eye-patch, seemingly joining in on the pirate theme that has defined TIMF over the years. But after a song, Karen Marie Ørsted needlessly admitted to an eye infection, even though the optical accessory worked well with her braid and masculine power stances. MØ stood above the other new minimalist-glitch offerings on display at TIMF 2014 with her authentic energy, ownership of the stage and video support. Mixing oddly-appealing archival footage on loop, including a small animal’s still-beating heart in the palm of a hand, with imagery of herself working background vocals, made this electropop highlight even more memorable.


White-Denim

Band that Deserves More Listeners: White Denim

It’s a shame White Denim couldn’t be featured later in the day for more festivalgoers on Sunday. The seemingly spastic song structures and prog-rock mentality make White Denim a group to add to that list of bands you try to see perform live when they come to town.


The-New-Pornographers

Set that Thinned Out the Most: The New Pornographers

Along with the TIMF headliners, The New Pornographers have the most seniority out of all TIMF acts. Cuts from their underestimated 2014 record Brill Bruisers created the backbone of the set with fan favorites laced in throughout. Songs led by Destroyer’s Dan Bejar, with their skewered and self-inflicting lyrics, resonated strongest. This show thinned out as the set went on while most younger festivalgoers were queuing up for Chet Faker, signifying the current state of indie music popularity. Sadly, the eight members of the group walked off stage to nary an audible clap.


Silent-Disco

Best Constant Dance Party: Silent Disco

With no overlapping sets, Silent Disco is always an option if you want house music instead of the provided musicians on stage.


BANKS

Best Pop-Culture Friend-Finder 2: Kim Kardashian with Laser Beam Eyes at BANKS

BANKS kind of sums up the direction indie-turned-pop music has gone in 2014. Sleek bare-bones production, glitch elements and moody synth lay the ground work for whispery vocals. This aural cocktail has captured the collective zeitgeist (along with much of the TIMF curation) this year. Jillian Banks has an immaculate voice and is mega popular worldwide, but her set felt like more of the same. BANKS banned media photography for her TIMF set, so here’s a photo of one of the best location markers of the weekend: Kim Kardashian with laser beams coming out of her eyes.


The-Growlers

Most Entertaining Hype Man: The Growlers

Weirdo garage rock! The Growlers almost didn’t make their set according to the introduction given by the group’s eccentric hype-man named DMTina. But the psych-goth surf rock was pleasant enough, with “Chinese Fountain” giving a fun tone to the afternoon, but the dude in the robe pretty much stole the show.


St.-Lucia

Most Shiny Electro-Pop of the Weekend: St. Lucia

I have to be honest, St. Lucia is a bit too shiny and synth-heavy for me, but damn do they give it their all. If you’re into the nu-disco pop revival, St. Lucia is for you. OutKast was a priority, though.


Jungle

Most Surface-Level Fun: Jungle

Churning soul-disco mystery collective Jungle is a more well-known entity now, and the skyrocketing, UK-based outfit adeptly loops morsels of pleasurable phrasing as a house DJ would. But it all sounds the same. And given their debut record, I expected many similarities from song to song but still hoped for something more out of their live interpretations. Jungle is generic to the point of being an emotional blank slate, tofu without any other tastes involved. But there’s no better time than now to get involved in some Giants pandering — the “Let’s Go Giants” chant sparked by Josh Lloyd-Watson’s jersey and reference to SF’s World Series-bound team was one of the biggest crowd responses of the set.


Robot-Dance-Party

Best Mobile Dance Party: Robot Dance Party

Robot Dance Party can’t stop, won’t stop.


Chet-Faker2

Most Unlikely Show with People on Shoulders: Chet Faker

Chet-FakerChet Faker had the crew bring out a huge bass speaker to put directly behind him after his first song to give his music more oomph. And when he dipped into his career-making collaborations with Flume, “Left Alone” and “Drop the Game”, the Tunnel stage instantly began moving like the rhythm of the ocean. But otherwise, the set was downtempo to the point of boredom. And it’s not a good idea to take one of your best songs, “Talk is Cheap”, and strip it down even more. Some ladies still felt compelled to rock their friend’s shoulders as if it was a dance show, something that I’m still trying to figure out.


Zedd

Biggest Spectacle Over Substance: Zedd

More than any other set at TIMF 2014, Zedd felt out of place. By this point on Saturday, the fest needed a jump of adrenaline, but the Top 40 producer wasn’t the solution. Where acts like Knife Party or Bassnectar would have fallen more in line with the traditional ethos of TIMF, Zedd brought his world of contemporary pop to the island. There was no layering or transitions, his drops didn’t stand out from the EDM pack, and the show lacked any memorable surprises.

What were your favorite sets of Treasure Island Music Festival 2014?

17 reasons to rage in the bay at Treasure Island Fest 2014

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Photos by Marc Fong // Written by Mike Frash, Molly Kish, Kevin Quandt and Marc Fong //

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Treasure Island – San Francisco
October 18th-19th, 2014 //

The Festival in the Bay returns this weekend with its progressive mix of indie rock, electronic/dance, hip-hop and (now) soul. Treasure Island Music Festival is always adept at curating under-card acts that are in the process of emerging into collective consciousness while crowning the bill with well-known musical entities that most independent-minded music fans will enjoy.

View the full schedule. Tickets are still available (for now), and you can buy them here.

Here are 17 reasons why you should rage in the Bay at TIMF this weekend.

treasure-island-music-festival-2

BONUS CONTEST: Enter below to rock The Bold Italic’s party boat to & from TIMF for FREE!

17. Not familiar with every act on the bill? Well, that’s half the fun at these contemporary music festivals, as your next favorite band is just waiting to be discovered.

16. Discover why Janelle Monáe is a headliner of the (very near) future. She’ll likely join OutKast as well, more specifically Big Boi, for their collaboration “Tightrope”. This treat was only viewed by a handful of crowds on the reunion tour, including during Coachella Weekend 1 and at OutKast’s hometown spectacular in Atlanta last month.

15. Jean-Philip Grobler and company put on breathtaking performances as St. Lucia. The Brooklyn-based band has a familiar electro sound, but simultaneously has a playfulness that will wonderfully fit with the TIMF crowd.

14. Stumbling across the Silent Disco, tucked away in the eastern corner of the festival ground, can be a surreal experience. Filled with festival crowds of anywhere between 20-200 people, this TIMF staple allows DJs to perform through Wi-Fi-enabled headphones that are passed out to festivalgoers as they enter the designated dance space.

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13. Poliça is must-see music at TIMF. Their dark synth will fit ideally with the setting of the music-infused October sun. Channy Leaneagh’s haunting vocals are fantastic live and are not to be missed. Get close for this one.

12. Carl Newman’s outfit The New Pornographers can easily be classified as a supergroup — Destroyer’s Dan Bejar and the lovely Neko Case heavily contributed to their wonderful 2014 album Brill Bruisers — and you can watch them all perform in the flesh at TIMF.

11. TIMF is one of the most unique festival locations around, and it gives way to even more creative ways to get on and off the island. TIMF offers an extremely convenient and free shuttle service between the island and a main point of transit at the City’s Civic Center. Or you could book a party bus or ride The Bold Italic’s party boat! (Enter below to win free tickets to Rock The Boat)

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10. One of our favorites, White Denim, will take to the Bridge Stage early on Sunday for their mind­-melting prog rock. Along with Cathedrals, Bleached and Ásgeir, there are lots of musical reasons to get to the island early on Day 2.

9. We finally get the return of the UK-­based, modern ­funk collective that goes by the wild name of Jungle. Bursting from the seams a few months ago, these guys have taken the festival circuit by storm, igniting stages and crowds with an incendiary stage presence coupled with devastatingly catchy tracks off their debut LP. Dancing shoes? CHECK!

8. Ana Tijoux isn’t super popular yet in Northern California, and her lyrics are in Spanish, but none of that matters. Her MC skills are impacting, and her production straddles multiple genres, including hip-hop and soul. Expect this to be a standout performance on Saturday.

7. Convenience is key when it comes to keeping festival crowds satisfied, and TIMF spares no expense in that matter. Easy navigation between stages, ample access to bathrooms, food/beverage vendors and helpful on-site staff members work together to elevate the flow of the festival experience.

6. It’s been a while since the Bay Area has seen TV On The Radio, and hopefully these gritty indie rock geniuses will play some tracks off their upcoming album Seeds. TVOTR has no better place than TIMF to give us a taste of things to come.

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5. This will be alt-­J‘s first performance in the area in support of their second album, and we’re sure to hear all the exciting new songs off of This Is All Yours (Read our community review here). Ready to sing some Miley samples?

4. Landing Massive Attack to headline Sunday is a mondo feat for Noise Pop and APE Entertainment — 3D and Daddy G will playing their only 2014 U.S. festival at TIMF (and only two other shows in the U.S. this year). The electronic duo might normally be a Saturday headliner, but we get to finalize an action-packed Sunday with these influential trip-hop legends.

3. No set conflicts means no stress, no making tough festival decisions and no missing out on an act you love. You get to see everything.

2. The “Summer of OutKast” is coming to a close as Bay Area fans will bear witness to what is expected to be their third-­to­-last performance ever. Did ya hear us on that one? Big Boi and Dre have pretty clearly stated that this is it, so there’s little reason for any fan to miss this banner, headlining performance.

1. It’s on an island in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. ‘Nuff said.


Win-2-Tickets

ROCK THE BOAT TICKET CONTEST

For the 2014 installment of Rock the Boat, our friends at The Bold Italic have teamed up with Hornblower Cruises & Events to rent out the San Francisco Spirit luxury yacht, equipped with a full bar and live entertainment provided by premiere Bay Area DJs to get you to and from TIMF like a boss. For a full lineup and more details on the trip, click here and enter below for your chance to win a weekend pass aboard the party boat courtesy of Showbams.

Fill out your full name and email address below.
Contest ends Thursday at 4 p.m. The winner will be picked at random and notified by email on Thursday. Your email will be kept private –- we will share your email with no one.

Like Showbams on Facebook and follow Showbams on Twitter to be eligible to win.

treasure-island-music-festival-6

Treasure Island 2014 trends toward indie dance-pop

Treasure Island Music Festival

Treasure Island Music Festival //
Treasure Island, CA
October 18-19, 2014 //

Dance-oriented pop is taking over music festival curation, while rock is beginning to die a slow death when it comes to Bay Area festival lineups. Overall, this appears to be the trend for Treasure Island Music Festival in the San Francisco Bay.

While the daily lineups haven’t been announced yet, the upbeat dance acts for Saturday and the rock-oriented Sunday performers were easy to divvy up at this point in past years. It appears this line has been blurred significantly. Sure alt-J, TV On The Radio, The New Pornographers, White Denim and The Growlers seem like solid bets for the traditional day of rest, if past years hold true, but who will headline Sunday between OutKast and Massive Attack? Rap acts have always seen the stage on Saturday, so we’re thinking OutKast is a lock for Saturday.

And speaking of the first rap headliner in Treasure Island Music Festival history, San Francisco proper will get a visit from the ATLiens after their highly successful headline set in Napa a few weeks back. Since catching their stride, 3 Stacks and Big Boi have been murdering large crowds across the globe with a mix of hits, old favorites and a smattering of solo material. So, go re-learn the “Roses” dance for what is sure to be the peak of energy on the island. Also with Janelle Monáe on the bill, expect at least one special guest appearance for the Big-Boi produced “Tightrope”.

READ OUR REPORT FROM TIMF 2013

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2014 breakout acts Jungle, Banks and Chet Faker, all of whom recently played sold out shows at the Independent in SF, are remarkably high on the bill, but odds are they will be in the perfect slot come October. If you haven’t heard of Jungle yet, they performed on Jimmy Kimmel Live last night and crushed it. Emerging acts that can catalyze ticket sales are an increasingly important premium when curating a festival lineup, hence Jungle & Banks’ mid-to-upper lineup position.

Female acts are never appropriately represented based on the statistical division of sexes at a festival, but TIMF has done a great job of lessoning the gap this year. Janelle Monáe, The New Pornographers, St. Lucia, Banks, Jungle, MØ, Poliça and more will be at the Festival on the Bay come October.

alt-J played at Bottom of the Hill in December 2012, and here they are as a prime sub-headliner. The response to the recent announcement of their second album and tour behind it shows that this makes sense.

The New Pornographers also announced a brand new album recently, and they’ll be returning to the bay via TIMF with original members Neko Case and Dan Bejar from Destroyer.

There may be less rock in the vein of Interpol, The Strokes and Parquet Courts than past years, but there is no doubt this lineup is loaded with fun, upbeat acts. What are you most excited to see at TIMF 2014?

2-Day GA, VIP tickets and Parking Passes On Sale Thursday, June 19th at 10AM PT!

OutKast
Massive Attack
Zedd
alt-J
TV On the Radio
Janelle Monáe
The New Pornographers
Washed Out
St. Lucia
Banks
Jungle
White Denim

Poliça
The Growlers
Classixx
Chet Faker
Ryan Hemsworth
Ana Tijoux
Asgeir
Xxyyxx
Ratking
Tobacco
Bleached
Painted Palms
Waters

Treasure Island Music Festival Scene

Showbams’ 40 best albums of 2013

Best-Albums-of-2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Toro Y Moi at Fox Theater Oakland 11/15.


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

Kevin Raos // Columnist // @Semirec

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

Sean Little // Columnist // @Splittle

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Flaming Lips & Tame Impala deliver a Halloween Bloodbath at Bill Graham Civic

The Flaming Lips


The Flaming Lips

Photos by James Nagel // Written by Mike Frash //

The Flaming Lips & Tame Impala with White Denim //
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium – San Francisco
October 31st, 2013 //

In many ways, the triple-bill event that took place at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in SF was the ideal Halloween gathering. The Flaming Lips, Tame Impala and White Denim all deal in the realm of psychedelic, weird music and the creation of lasting, memorable impressions.

Members from all three acts got into the spirit of the ghoulish holiday by getting into costume, with each band donning drag wear in some way. The crowd followed suit, displaying a variety of costumes from pink robots to requisite zombies and happy hippies.

Spending Halloween with one band on the rise, another that is fully realizing their potential and a headliner in the midst of artistic evolution proved to be a wonderful mental mind-fuck for the ages.

The Flaming Lips


The Flaming Lips

White Denim performed an abbreviated 7 p.m. set that featured tracks off their new LP Corsicana Lemonade. “At Night in Dreams” was a delight to hear live, but the Austin-based group could have used another 30 minutes to flesh out a couple more new songs and jam out to a couple favorites like “Street Joy” and “Drug”.

The Flaming Lips, meanwhile, have abandoned the cheerleaders, the oversized hands, the hamster ball and many of the elements of spectacle Flaming Lips frontman Wayne Coyne and company have become known for over the years. The Heady Fwends release strongly hinted at a new direction last year, but their 2013 LP The Terror made it official — gone are the euphoric, melodic hyper-happy songs that illustrate visions of dancing on puffy clouds in the sky with Care Bears and unicorns, hello drone-filled soundscapes and slow building intensity!

A Halloween Bloodbath was promised and literally delivered by Coyne. Appearing to the “Halloween Theme” from John Carpenter’s films, Coyne took to his Matrix-style pedestal dressed as Carrie, pre-blood bath. After getting the bucket from a scantily clad woman on a bear, Coyne had a cinematic Jesus look for the rest of the show. Huge red balloons were unleashed and a visual stage production consistently delivered ‘wows’ that could likely surpass any dance show in the eye-candy department. The big red balloons didn’t quite fit the intense, drone-filled cuts the Flaming Lips played, but they served as a veil for all the folks who came for Yoshimi-era Flaming Lips.

Tame Impala


Tame Impala

Overall, there is much more audience member internalizing with songs like “Look…The Sun Is Rising” and “The Terror” and less singalong numbers at a Flaming Lips concert these days. But when songs like the encore ballad “Do You Realize?” show up, they are much more effective.

Since the previous 30 minutes of music could have lent itself to a horror movie soundtrack with its intense, stressful sound and effect, “Do You Realize?” delivered an imprinting, memorable moment. The same thing happened mid-set during “Race for the Prize” — placing happy, positive songs after a half hour of intense, repetitive sound truly allows for a strong feeling of release. Kevin Parker from Tame Impala joined for the beginning of the Lips’ set, adding a hypnotic electric guitar layer.

This new sound allows Coyne to take advantage of technology to modulate his vocals, which helps him play to his strengths as a passionate frontman. The drone-filled, intense mind-melting chaos can be surprisingly peaceful if it’s expected and embraced. In many ways, the Flaming Lips have come full circle as an introspective, psychedelic freak out of a live act.

Tame Impala


Tame Impala

If Tame Impala were to tour forever on Lonerism, it would be understandable and acceptable. They might be one of the best touring acts on the planet at the moment, and the project seems to be in the midst of realizing its full potential. This particular show marked the fourth time that the Australian band has performed in the Bay Area since last summer, and constant touring has made Parker and company better each time they come back to visit.

The grim reaper came on stage to introduce Tampe Impala as the Spice Girls, and sure enough the five guys looked the part. The set began with “Half Glass Full of Wine”, a song the group often encores with, signaling things weren’t quite normal. The group still play five or six cuts off InnerSpeaker live, and songs like “Solitude Is Bliss” and “It Is Not Meant To Be” have evolved magnificently over the years, allowing some of the riff heavy sound on Lonerism to spill over into earlier music.

“Elephant” got the Halloween treatment, transitioning a bit of Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” into the mix. The set highlight had to be an extended acid-psych section in “Be Above It” that could officially be called a mind melter. The weird jumped another level when an octopus-like costume made its way on stage. If you ever have to chance to witness Tame Impala perform live, I implore you to go.

THE FLAMING LIPS

Setlist:
Halloween Theme
The W.A.N.D.
Virgo Self-Esteem Broadcast
Silver Trembling Hands
Look…The Sun Is Rising
The Terror
Race for the Prize
Try to Explain
Gates of Steel (Devo cover)
Butterfly, How Long It Takes to Die
Turning Violent
A Spoonful Weighs a Ton

Encore:
Do You Realize?
Always There, In Our Hearts

TAME IMPALA

Setlist:
Half Full Glass of Wine
Enors Toi
Solitude Is Bliss
Why Won’t You Make Up Your Mind?
Why Won’t They Talk to Me?
Desire Be Desire Go
Mind Mischief
It Is Not Meant to Be
Elephant (Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” snippit)
Be Above It
Feels LIke We Only Go Backwards
Apocalypse Dreams

High Sierra Music Festival 2013: Top Sets

Photos by Sam Heller // Written by Kevin Quandt, Mike Frash & Pete Mauch

Lennon-McCartney said it best when they stated, “Got to admit it’s getting better, getting better all the time.” High Sierra Music Festival, held every Fourth of July weekend for the past 23 years in lovely Quincy, California somehow keeps getting better each year. The success of this event isn’t anything too surprising, as the producers truly know how to run a seamless event while drawing in such a rich diversity of musical talent from across the globe, year after year. The Plumas County Fairgrounds are amazingly transformed into a wonderland for both adults and kids, alike, becoming a community environment that allows people to lose themselves in the festivities.

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Young and old are ever-present at HSMF — while the little ones enjoy family yoga and children’s sets by the one Vince Herman from Leftover Salmon, the older attendee may likely enjoy wine tasting by sponsors or fresh sushi in the morning or fresh oysters in the afternoon. From the wide variety of cuisine available from Gerard’s Paella to crab smothered artichoke to the array of music playshops to explore the deeper, inner workings of music. It’s qualities such as these that lend to one overall thrilling experience, which keeps so many returning every year, and most newcomers pledging the same.

High Sierra caters to everyone, and if you are unable to have an amazing time, you may want to check your pulse. But let’s be honest, the masses primarily flock to the Sierra Mountains to enjoy the varied selection of musical acts. Here are Showbams’ top sets from the long weekend.

Allen-Stone

Allen Stone
Thursday • Big Meadow • 7:15pm

Young soul powerhouse Allen Stone and his electrifying band held down a two hour (!) set at the Big Meadow Thursday — not bad for a performer who self-released his two full length albums and toured hard and strong enough to catch fire over the past year. He stretched his set out for the last 20 minutes by announcing a dance off and asking the crowd to create an aisle down the middle toward the soundboard. Either it was too early in the fest on a hot day, the two hour set was too long, or people were too high, because no one obliged. Stone had to collect himself before trying again, and after some chastising by the neo-soulster a the dance off ignited. -MIKE FRASH


White Denim
Thursday • Grandstand • 7:15pm + Friday • Big Meadow • 7:15pm

Fast rising indie-psych rockers White Denim delivered a couple excellent sunset shows on Thursday and Friday. The foursome is tightly synced, precisely nailing oft-changing time-signatures in a set that rarely paused. The songs segued seamlessly, blending with the help of swirling electric guitar layering and looping. The Thursday show on the Grandstand came as a relief as the ridiculously hot sun dipped behind the trees, and many were sitting down waiting for the legendary Thursday headliner. The Friday show at the Big Meadow ended spectacularly — a tighter crowd gave way to more heady psychedelic fare, including a sneakily-effective light show once full darkness arrived for the set-ending song “Drugs”. -MF


Robert-Plant

Robert Plant presents The Sensational Space Shifters
Thursday • Grandstand • 9:30pm

Robert Plant’s a legend, we all know this, so to have this mammoth performer be featured as the first major headliner of the event led to seriously large crowds, especially on Thursday. His banner set did not disappoint with his mix of rockin’ Zeppelin classics, blues-laden solo material and a rich representation of various world music styles. Plant’s band was a very impressive conglomeration of modern musicians featuring players from Massive Attack and other highly regarded acts, which lent well to the characteristic howl of the Zeppelin legend on a clear, cool first evenin. Highlights were a show opening “Baby I’m Gonna Leave You”, Zep classic “Black Dog” and a version of Willie Dixon’s “Spoonful”. The response was unanimous that Robert Plant and his latest touring act were a rousing success as one would expect from this caliber performer. -KEVIN QUANDT


Tumbleweed-Wanderers

Tumbleweed Wanderers
Friday • Vaudeville • 1:15pm

Oakland’s Tumbleweed Wanderers benefited from being placed in the shady Vaudeville tent Friday afternoon, and the folky, soulful group took full advantage of the dense crowd seeking solar protection. Frontman Zak Mandel-Romann fearlessly ripped into tracks from their 2012 debut LP So Long as he would jump off the stage to engage with the audience. The crowd reciprocated, and upon the end of the set the rousing applause was so widespread and forceful that the band members tried to hide their unbridled joy, an indication they were experiencing the best response of their careers. It was a goose bump-inducing moment, and after the continuous applause interrupted the stage emcee, the Tumbleweed Wanderers were called back for a rare encore. -MF


Nataly Dawn
Friday • Big Meadow • 3:45pm

Nataly Dawn was yet another newcomer to the festival, and she represented the singer-songwriter sect in splendid form. Her songbook may not be extensive, but is incredibly strong with playful elements of both comedy and heartfelt songs of real life and love. Dawn’s delivery was flawless as she was simply accompanied by an electric guitar player, augmenting her vocals ever so slightly. Some may know this Sacramento rising star as one half of the act Pomplamoose, but with a recent release How I Knew Her making waves, she is sure to be a name to look out for. High Sierra is generous with the amount of time a performer gets onstage, and in Dawn’s case, too much time for her limited song selection. However, with the crowd gaining size, she went through a few selections twice, including “Caroline”. Hey, exposure is exposure. -KQ


Houndmouth
Friday • Big Meadow • 5:45pm

Indiana based Houndmouth showcased their Americana folklore to the High Sierra masses on Friday afternoon, and they did so with amazing harmonies, precise musicianship and all around great whiskey-drenched songwriting. Their songs speak of troubled travelers, coked-up drug dealers and any vigilante vagabond looking to make amends with oneself. The set focused on their debut album From the Hills Below the City, with “Come On, Illinois”, “Houston Train” and “Penitentiary” rounding out the show highlights. One aspect that makes High Sierra so wonderful is the intimacy of the Festival — after Houndmouth’s set, I let them know their set was excellent. They were extremely grateful and thanked me as I walked away to my next adventure. -PETE MAUCH


Primus

Primus
Friday • Grandstand • 9:30pm

Primus is weird in all the right ways. Legendary bassist Les Claypool’s primary vehicle headlined Friday night, proving to be an über-suitable headliner that fits High Sierra’s full embrace of individuality. An intense, trippy “Southbound Pachyderm” gave way to more energetic favorites like “Jerry Was A Race Car Driver” and “Jilly’s on Smack”. Skerik appeared to add yet another twisted layer of sax to “Groundhog’s Day”. Two consistent factors relate to Claypool — his bass is the driving force and his uniquely weird songwriting and vocal delivery make it work every time. Claypool hid in the shadows all night, letting his jazz-paced diction and offbeat baseline and leadership boggle the minds of the packed main stage. -MF


The John Scofield Uberjam Band
Friday • Vaudeville • 11:30pm

The return of John Scofield’s electric band was a bit of a surprise to longtime fans of this freaked-out, electric jazz-fusion act. Jazz legend Scofield brought old friends and new to blaze through some selections from his past catalogue (Up All Night, Uberjam) and most recent (Uberjam Deux) to a healthily packed free, late night show. His mix of funky-fusion, hip-hop and electronic drum beats generally adds up to sonic grooves that are easy to dance to, but complex in their melody and solos arranged onstage. Some highlights were “Polo Towers”, “I Brake for Monster Booty”, and “Everynight is Ladies Night.” Try to catch this act on tour, as it could be the last time Scofield brings this band on the road for awhile before he likely returns to more straight-ahead jazz projects. -KQ


Skerik’s Lab
Saturday • Music Hall • 3:30pm

High Sierra vagabond and artist at large Skerik once again showcased his teaching abilities, along with his oddly-interesting poetic musings. The best woodwind and brass musicians, some in official acts and others just at High Sierra to camp and have fun, line up on stage at the Music Hall. With Mike Dillon supporting on drums, each player on stage gets a turn to take the lead, and everyone else joins in until a ferocious jam builds to a peak. Skerik then introduces the next performer, and often will ask the audience for the next musical key. Once again Carley Meyers from Mike Dillon Band stole the show. -MF


SCENE


The Barr Brothers
Saturday • Big Meadow • 7:55pm

Brad and Andrew Barr are two longtime performers who have graced the many stages at High Sierra for well over a decade. Generally, they represent their early project the Slip, sometimes with their Marco Benevento and Nathan Moore collaborative project, Surprise Me Mr. Davis. This year, they towed along a giant harp for the Barr Brothers, a rising indie-leaning project garnering impressive underground success. Songs like “Give The Devil Back His Heart” demonstrate Andrew’s complex rhythmic arrangements and Brad’s ability to write dynamic songs under any moniker. This set saw the band joined by Mike Dillon on vibraphone and the Rubblebucket horns for a bombastic set closer. -KQ


Thievery Corporation
Saturday • Grandstand • 9:30pm

Thievery Corporation brought a much needed dance party to the main stage Saturday, also delivering on the promise of being an ideal headliner for HSMF. With rotating live singers seriously augmenting the beats laid down by Rob Garza and Eric Hilton, the upbeat set never got too stuck in downtempo territory. After getting “Lebanese Blonde” out of the way early, hip hop and dance influences took center stage. So much more than a DJ show, the DC based duo have curated a revolving door spectacle supported by Rob Myers, Frank ‘Booty Lock’ Mitchell, Jeff Franca and Ashish Vyas and live instrumentation. Put it all together and it was an awe-inspiring production that hit the High Sierra sweet-spot. -MF


Scene3


Lee Fields and the Expressions
Sunday • Vaudeville • 12:15am

The final Vaudeville late night featured soulful R&B brought by the charismatic Lee Fields and his young, competent band, the Expressions. A possible new name to many in attendance, few could deny the soul-drenched revue delivered in true professional form by a 40+ year veteran. Hands in the air in rejoice were plentiful while the dapper dressed frontman channeled the obvious comparison, James Brown. Come Sunday, the High Sierra faithful were murmuring about their new favorite act, for the time being, and how friends had to catch Fields’ set on the big stage for their final Sunday performance in Quincy. -KQ


moe.
Sunday •Music Hall Late Night Show • 1:30am

Sunday night jam headliners moe. played a sold out late-night show early Sunday morning, and as usual it raged. Rob, Al, Chuck and and the rest of the gang were pretty subdued as a physical presence on stage, but they sounded as good as always. Classic opening one-two punch “Not Coming Down –> Wormwood” kicked things off nicely, and “McBain”, “Moth” and “Timmy Tucker” were set highlights. “Seat of My Pants” ended the epic third day on a high note. -MF


Scene


Lukas Nelson & Promise of the Real
Sunday • GrandStand • 12:45pm

Lukas Nelson & POTR made their High Sierra debut this year and put on quite an impressive set that caught the eye of many a festivalgoer, including that night’s headliner moe.(Nelson guested on “Opium” in Moe’s set). Nelson started things off with his single “Forever is a Four Letter Word”, which was well received by the growing crowd. Nelson is the son of the legendary Willie Nelson, and he truly shines on his own, clearly not leaning on his namesake to achieve success (I’m looking at you Jakob Dylan). Nelson delivers high energy sets full of excellent originals, many of which are about “Weed”, so the apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. The band also ran through great cover songs including an amazing take on The Grateful Dead’s “Althea”, Pink Floyd’s “Money” and set closer “Sympathy for the Devil” by The Stones. Lukas Nelson should just be getting started –plan on seeing him grow exponentially from here. -PM


Guitarmaggeddon
Sunday • Music Hall • 4:00pm

The 10th annual Guitarmaggeddon face-melt was a special treat. Each year, Tea Leaf Green’s Josh Clark leads a group of electric guitar thrashers on a set of covers that revolve around a theme, and the songs always give way to epic guitar wailing and thrashing. It seemed like last year’s Talking Head’s set would be tough to beat, but the “Stadium Rock!” theme was plenty epic. From the steady opening of “Slow Ride” to “Satisfaction” (with a younger Mic Jagger in tow) to “Layla”, the show just killed it as expected. Lukas Nelson and Al Schnier from moe. guested for multiple songs, and fest-goers who still had a couple ounces of energy left benefited from a jamtastic, raging two hours of fun. -MF


Scene


Steel Pulse
Sunday • Grandstand • 7:15PM

Roots reggae legends Steel Pulse would also make their debut appearance at the event this year, and they filled the Sunday “worldly afternoon” slot in proper form. The legendary Birmingham, England act are some of the most proficient performers in the business, likely do to nearly 40 years of pumping out revolutionary songs and touring the globe. “Roller Skates” and “Chant a Psalm” were just a few of the hits played to a nicely sized late-festival crowd as the sun dropped behind the Main Stage one final time this year. A new, tribute song to Trayvon Martin called “Put Your Hoodies On [4 Trayvon]” may have been too borderline serious for the crowd, but the masses embraced the message of equality for all. -KQ


Rubblebucket
Sunday • Big Meadow • 10pm

Representing Brooklyn, Rubblebucket has really come into their own as an entrancing mix of pop, rock and world music that thrives on crowd energy and is helmed by one helluva front-woman, Kalmia Traver. This would be there first evening set after gracing the fairgrounds for a few years now, and they brought their already stellar show to the next level on the final evening. Highlights from the set included “Overstaurated”, “Rescue Ranger” and “L’Homme”. Kalmia invited attendees up on stage to join in the revelry, and the throngs rewarded this act by crowd-surfing her across the stage during “Came Out a Lady”. -KQ