While many were asleep, and some were tucking into burritos, a small army was packed inside Rickshaw Stop to welcome Jorja Smith on her San Francisco debut. Aaron Axelsen’s Popscene is known for bringing exceptional talent to the Bay Area, and nineteen-year-old Jorja Smith, who placed fourth on the BBC’s sound of 2017 list is no exception. Rickshaw Stop felt full to the brim, and for good reason.
After a bit of jostling and 2-stepping between people dancing, I find a tiny space just big enough to fit me at least until the show starts. The woman to my right grabs her bag a little closer, the one to my left dances around to the music, her bangs glistening each time a stage light or the glitter ball catches her hair. A guy to my front nervously tries to avoid the fact he’s one of the tallest people in the room, it was a cross-section of music lovers on display. Around 11 pm, the band went on stage under the veil of darkness, shortly followed by the woman of the moment.
The British singer-songwriter, originally from Walsall and now residing in London, has an unassuming presence on stage. As she sung her voice seemed to weave its way through the music, feeling complementary to the sounds around her, like the way ice melts into whiskey to sweeten and accentuate the flavors. The band filled the space which often exists in her recorded music to provide a fuller and more impassioned listen. Her fusion of subtle R&B with soul and songwriter undertones felt grander. Songs like “Where Did I Go” had an extra funk to them as she performed.
San Francisco songwriter Seth Lael has created a beautiful folk song in “On the Road” – a thoughtful, nostalgic record-keeping of the journey to “get where you need to go.” The video – shot using handmade pinhole lenses – features original footage captured from Treasure Island to Pacifica. Whether riding the trolley, lurking at a protest at City Hall, row-boating on the Bay, or riding the PCH on a scooter, Lael comes across as something of a Bay Area cowboy (a troubadour/transient) with a rich lilt to his voice.
You can tell this video was made by someone who loves San Francisco but also sees her scars. Director Jason Jossefer — a native of the city — created the special pinhole lens (pictured below) mounted on an RED Epic camera. Read More
Sofi Tukker was one of my favorite new acts in 2016 with their deceivingly simple beats and Brazilian folk influences. Sometimes you just want to throw caution to the wind and dance, and they are all about facilitating a good time live. It seems like I wasn’t alone in my admiration as the NYC act also got a nomination for Best Dance Recording from the 59th annual Grammys for their breakout single “Drinkee.”
2017 is looking to be even bigger for the duo as they are already slated to play some of the biggest festivals and are returning to San Francisco February 10th to headline a sold out show at The Independent. They are also doing a DJ set after their show with The Knocks and XXYYXX at 1015 Folsom and tickets are still available here.
“Johny” features an infectious guitar rift and Sophie Hawley-Weld’s sultry voice. Tucker Halpern keeps the beat going and I am sure he is all over their unique “Book Tree” in the live show.
The Knocks are hitting the ground running in 2017, kicking off a North American tour and releasing new EP, Testify, February 3rd. This is the first headlining tour for the NYC-based duo since finishing up a European tour supporting Justin Bieber, and it seems to have really given them a bump in audience. Their newest release “Trouble (feat. Absofacto)” racked up over 250K plays on Spotify alone in the first day. They also sold out The Fillmore which many artists both local and across the world will tell you is a huge badge of honor.
Check out new track “Trouble”
If you made the mistake of sleeping on The Knocks stop at the Fillmore January 9th, we are here to help you out with a pair of tickets. Just let us add you to our mailing list, and/or follow us on Twitter. Winner will be picked at random and announced Feb 7th. a Rafflecopter giveaway
The Knocks always bring the energy and this will be one of the best dance parties of 2017. Check out our previous coverage here and here for photos and reviews.
Perhaps the best emo-folk-rock musician (and particularly lyricist) of his time, Conor Oberst will be releasing his eighth studio album in March. Salutations is a full-band rendering of the songs from last year’s solo Ruminations plus a few additional songs. Apparently, the latter was originally intended as a demo to attract collaborators, but the collaborators were so moved by the solo renditions of the ten songs, that Oberst was inspired to release them in the stripped down format.
Later in 2016, Oberst enlisted New York folk/rock band The Felice Brothers as his backing band, and put seventeen songs in the hands of the legendary Malibu studio Shangri-La. The list of guest contributions on the album – including Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M Ward, Gillian Welch, Gus Seyffert, Pearl Charles, Nathaniel Walcott, and Jonathan Wilson – has me itching to hear this album.
Oberst will hit The Fox in Oakland come May, and I’m sure we’ll have some news on that down the road. Meantime, here is the second release (after December’s “Tachycardia”) off the album, “Uncanny”, the video for which features Oberst played by multiple actors at various stages of life, and the ghost of Sylvia Plath among other delights. Any relation to actual autobiographical – past or future – events has not been verified.
Pre-orders of the album – which you can do here – include immediate downloads of both “Uncanny” and “Tachycardia”.
The beloved local festival Noise Pop just made its 4th announcement of acts it will be hosting February 17-27th — including 50+ Bay Area bands. Known for bringing both huge names in indie music and highlighting great local bands, this year – the festival’s 25th happening all across the city – is going to be one for the books.
The full line up (so far) is here, but first … of the 50+ here are ten local bands we think you shouldn’t miss at this year’s festival:
Hazel English – Tuesday 2/21 @ Rickshaw Stop — Dreamy does not begin to describe this indie band, whose releases this year built beautifully upon the gems of the past such as “Never Going Home”
“Never Going Home” – Hazel English
Shannon & The Clams – Monday 2/27 @ the Fox — Never a dull moment with this staple local scene band, who sits somewhere between Wanda Jackson and a raucous early Rolling Stones
DONCAT – Wednesday 2/22 @ Swedish American Music Hall — An ethereal singer-songwriter – in the vein of Mark Kozalek / Sun Kil Moon – gets full band treatment with a gorgeous result that leans both to late 60’s folk and contemporary indie rock
Rogue Wave – Friday 2/24 @ Rickshaw Stop — After several years dormant, this well-established band returned in 2016 with Delusions of Grand Fur which Pop Matters said “manages to balance clear folk influences with gawking explorations of electronica”
“California Bride” – Rogue Wave
Before the Brave – Friday 2/24 @ Bottom of the Hill — This band* is a fantastic voice in the folk rock scene and not to be missed, with well-developed songs and gorgeous harmonies
Two Sheds – Sunday 2/26 @ Bottom of the Hill — Another that isn’t actually from the Bay (they apparently moved to LA in 2012) – but they formed here so we’ll give them a pass. Two Sheds hasn’t put any new music out in a couple years but front woman Caitlin’s voice is undeniably beautiful and emotive – her songs like poems that emanate from a sunny California afternoon that carries its own kind of melancholy
“Come Home” – Two Sheds
Hot Flash Heat Wave – Thursday 2/23 @ Bottom of the Hill — No festival in the Bay Area would be complete without some surf rock and few do it better round here than Hot Flash Heat Wave
“Gutter Girl” – Hot Flash Heat Wave
*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Before the Brave was from Sacramento. The band hails from multiple parts of the Bay Area, and is solidly a Bay Area band.
The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual’s 6th Annual Bowie Birthday Bash took place on January 9th last year; one day before the unexpected passing of its musical deity David Bowie.
Since then we’ve also lost Prince, George Michael, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, Glenn Frey, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Bernie Worrell, 2/3rds of Emerson, Lake & Palmer ( Keith Emerson & Greg Lake), Suicide’s Alan Vega, Dead or Alive’s Pete Burns, Leon Russell, Christina Grimmie, Beatles prouducer George Martin, three jazz legends (Gato Barbieri, Bobby Hutcherson, and Toots Thielemans), the amazing Pauline Oliveros, and the list goes on and on including – devastatingly – our beloved friends lost in the Oakland fire barely a month ago.
It is time to fucking pray to the music gods again, my friends. Come be baptized by your comrades’ sweat and tears as they dance their souls pure with The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual at the Chapel on Friday and/or Saturday night — a holy musical revival in the form of a tribute to David Bowie.
Now performing only once a year, this supergroup of local musicians and performers was orginally formed as a band in SF in 2010. I tried to rephrase their “About” in my own words, but it’s just too damn perfect: “A musical, theatrical, sparkly spectacle of a show that tap dances on all the lines between religion and revelry, beatitude and blasphemy, rock show and revival.” They’ve been called “an orgasmic sensation” and “a Suffragette City spectacle” (SFBG). How can you resist?
The Boom Boom Room is presenting this show – though, I repeat, it is at The Chapel. Both nights will feature the band playing an entire Bowie album cover to cover (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on 1/6 and Diamond Dogs on 1/7), as well as, we’re told, a Bowie Reverend in the Silversexual Confession booth, drag artists, and one hell of a stage show.
Tickets are $20. Get them here. Don’t wait to get them. Seriously. You need this.
Country music has many faces, and none so damn good looking and Bay Area-grown as The Easy Leaves. With their ability to weave vernacular poetry and honky tonk jam, you’ll think you’d stepped into Robert’s Western World in Nashville. Now, it’s time pull on your boots, warm up with some whiskey and head out to the Great American Music Hall this Saturday for their annual Western Winter Formal.
Touring heavily for the past few years (including stops at Outside Lands, the Mother Hips‘ Hipnic and Strawberry Music Festival), the list of bands the Easy Leaves have supported is a veritable Who’s Who in Country Western Music (and etcetera): Dwight Yoakam, Junior Brown, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Asleep At The Wheel, Billy Joe Shaver, Robert Earl Keen, Blind Boys of Alabama, Jim Lauderdale, Ry Cooder, Ricky Skaggs, Charlie Musselwhite, Kasey Chambers and Los Lobos.
It’s unfair and untrue to say they have a unique voice in country music – because part of what makes The Easy Leaves great is their revival of a rich period in country western. A time when Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash were getting drunk and starting fights in bars and Willie Nelson was … well, Willie’s still touring around and getting high with his friends. But you get the picture. Those songwriters had a certain melodious twang that spoke to lonely hearts and these boys have it too.
For the Western Winter Formal they’ll be joined by Country Lips, Caleb Klauder, Reeb Willms, and DJ Golden Gram. You can grab your tickets here.
Friday night saw Aaron Axelsson’s Popscene close out another successful year with their annual Xmas Party. Sumif headlined the event, which helped cap a successful year for the San Francisco based electro-pop singer-songwriter.
Her single, “Lay Down,” reached number one on Hype Machine during the summer and she sold out Brick and Mortar Music Hall with her first show in San Francisco since releasing the new music. During her energetic set, Steph mentioned how she had previously jumped on the Rickshaw Stop stage and vowed to play on it one day.
The set was full cheer, as Sumif, joined on stage by Rahi Kumar, powered through many of the songs released during the year. She managed to slip some new music into the set which, on first listen, sounded a bit slower, a bit richer and a bit rounder in sound. If there was any doubt this was a Christmas party, beyond the Popscene tree glittering in the corner, she dropped a karaoke style rendition of Mariah Carey into the set to cement the show’s Christmas credentials.
Closing out with the aforementioned “Lay Down,” it was a fun gig, full of joy, and the perfect way to close out another year of Popscene.
In August, BROODS sold out Oakland’s Fox Theater. The New Zealand brother, sister combo have been riding a wave of success since their breakout single “Bridges” was followed up by the much-loved Evergreen, ascending them to international fame. Their latest trip to the Bay Area could be seen as unusual territory as they found themselves opening for Two Door Cinema Club on their North American Tour (BROODS’ 2015 visit was to sell out San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom).
BROODS’ latest album, Conscious, was released in the Summer to a mixture of positive and lukewarm reviews. Many praising the more layered, fuller production with others bemoaning the seeming trudge towards predictability creeping into the sound. What the album lost in raw, emotive, stories it gained in slick, multi-layered production. Their set, in front of a packed Fox Theater, was in many ways a reflection of this; both for better and for worse.
The set focused heavily on new music, the broader fuller sound was translated to the stage with aplomb. No longer doubling up on vocals and keys Georgia Nott was free to roam, spin, wiggle and dance to each corner of the stage. Even though they were only opening, it felt bigger than the time I saw them previously (at The Regency in 2015). With a bigger band, Caleb appears to present a less prominent figure on stage, at the front yes, but often hidden in the shadows of the spotlight following his sister around the stage. Read More