Kendra McKinley is a rising star in San Francisco. With a songwriting style that is at once nostalgic and futuristic, she is carving out quite a niche. Take a look/listen to her newest release “Honey” (off the upcoming TREAT, due this month) in which she visually and sonically invokes a ‘Mad Men meets the Mission’ universe. You’ll hear chamber pop, hints of her classical guitar training, and a 007 vibe on this track. Tuesday night she shared a bill at the Make-Out Room with Foxtails Brigade, and in some senses this song seems like a brighter take on a that band’s approach to music-making: well-crafted melodies moving in unexpected directions, arrangements twisting and lilting before jumping. Both bands write songs that abandon most traditional rules while still managing an impressive accessibility. Check out the video, and follow along with Kendra via her website or on Facebook.
After a long weekend of debauchery (or relaxation, whatever floats your boat), it’s time to get back in the saddle. And if there’s one band that should get you out on a Monday night, it’s Day Wave.
Playing what the band called their first ever show in San Francisco, these Los Angeles transplants played to an enthralled sold out crowd at The Fillmore last Sunday night.
The Last Shadow Puppets, the brainchild of Brit’s Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) and Miles Kane (The Little Flames, The Rascals), came out blazing in their 70’s styled butterfly collar suits. The crowd was eager to get a close up glimpse of Turner following his mega stadium and festival success with The Arctic Monkey’s 2013 album AM.
Rather than returning that love from the crowd, it seemed Turner’s attention was honed in on his BFF Kane. The two were inseparable on stage, constantly minding exactly where the other was, like two dancers always anticipating their partner’s next move. Having read a few disses to them regarding their chemistry, I found it refreshing to see the two band mates get on so well. Turner made sure everyone knew Kane’s name by reintroducing or praising him between tracks while also dipping his own balls in rock n roll concrete (so-to-speak) and presenting his altar ego showmanship through his own wild eyed performance. Read More
I have a confession to make. My name is Robert, and I am new to CHVRCHES.
Well that’s not entirely accurate; CHVRCHES have been on my radar for some time. A good friend started singing their praises a few years ago and I always see their albums appearing in the Spotify feeds of people clearly cooler than me. They seem ever present in the music press, with the band’s view on gender issues within the music industry (and society in general) both fearless and refreshing. The Glaswegian electro-indie trio are a band I always knew, however I never them knew musically.
It almost feels dirty to make this admission as someone who (sometimes) writes about music. Here’s a band who have seen a meteoric rise to success while I had been listening to other things; lost in a sea of Future R&B, Retro-Soul and throw away bands. Fresh off an appearance at Coachella, their small break between weekends provided the perfect opportunity for me to acquaint myself a group who sold-out Oakland’s Fox twice over! And from the first booming chords of “Never Ending Circles” I could see just why they have so quickly become a band revered by indie-kids all over the world. Read More
By now you may have heard the buzz about an editorial-style post on The Bold Italic last week declaring the SF music scene dead. While the article makes some important points about the struggles artists face in this city, there is much evidence to the contrary of its over-generalized claims. The Bay Bridged laid the argument down beautifully, and Do The Bay had the best line of all: “If you really want to help, put down your phone and go to a show.”
Since I arrived in the Bay Area 15 years ago, I’ve never seen the music scene so collaborative and hard working as it is now. Between community efforts by folks like KC Turner, Balanced Breakfast, and Popscene, great festivals like Noisepop, Treasure Island Music Festival and Outside Lands, and more to do on any given night than could possibly be done … Music is alive in this city.
What is true is that the musicians and their creative teams need the city’s support – and yours – to be able to stay here. At SF Critic we are obsessed with great live music, so repeating and adding to the lists of others, here are some of our staff favorites* for you to get out and support. Buy their music. Go to their shows. Help them stay in our great city:
(*You’ll notice that Hip Hop is conspicuously missing from this list … educate us! What’s the best hip hop happening in SF right now?)
The She’s – all female, indie rock band with some surf/60s influence
Slaptop– SF artist got his inspiration to make electronic music after seeing Justice at Treasure Island Music Festival in 2008, a SF festival.
Heartwatch – FKA The Tropics. One of their members was working at a major tech company and left to focus on music. It’s not just a hobby like they imply.
Heartwatch – “Never Let You Go”
Rin Tin Tiger – country rock folk punk indie jams
Union Trade – another band off Tricycle Records, super close to electronic-jam. STS9, Yeasayer, and especially Explosions in the Sky fans will be into this. When they have the full cast onstage – shows are quite strong. Album, regardless of headphone type, is very strong.
The Greening – fronted by Karl Meischen, the Greening put out a new album in 2015 and plays pretty regularly around town. Super upbeat, electric energy with some kickass vocals and great musicianship. New album coming soon.
Be Calm Honcho – I caught them at GAMH and not only was the place packed, it was an all out, wild party. Costumes, on stage antics, this band definitely shows up every single time. If you love California (like Shannon Harney does), you’ll be into this.
Owl Paws – comrades of Rin Tin Tiger, the indie / alternative band just opened for Rob Crowe’s Gloomy Place (from Pinback), and casually sold out the Chapel the other day.
Shout out to Annie Bacon & her OSHEN too
Owl Paws – “Reservoir”
Geographer – beautiful indie rock music tinged with classical, folk, and electronic elements, check out their indelible cover of Paul Simon’s “I Know What I Know” below
Thao & The Get Down Stay Down – heartfelt, earnest rock n roll with an eccentric vibe
Nikki Bluhm & The Gramblers – Americana meets 70’s era rock n roll
Foxtails Brigade – while this band is based in Oakland, their bass player Joe Lewis is one of the hardest working SF musicians I’ve ever known and has played with dozens of SF bands through the years
And a host of less well known / on the rise bands that are killing it: Sunrunners, Abbot Kinney, Karina Denike, Kendra McKinley, Megan Slankard, The Y Axes, Kat Robichaud and her Misfit Cabaret, the soulful funkstress Pamela Parker, former Parlimentarian RonKat Spearman (aka Katdelic), and let’s never forget the amazing Gaucho playing their gypsy jazz at Amnesia for a few bucks every single Wednesday night.
Geographer – “I Know What I Know”
Artists who live in SF – Mike Patton (Faith No More), Christopher Owens (Girls), Adam Carson (AFI), Joel Gion from Brian Jonestown Massacre lives under me.
Two Gallants –
The Stone Foxes (Rock n’ Roll) – They formed their band while attending SF State.
Eaglewolfsnake (Indie Rock/Pop)- Some friends of mine that are creating a big following. Formerly from Music For Animals.
San Francisco’s live music scene dead? I’d bet that’s a surprise to local soul favorites Con Brio, called “The Best New Live Band in America” by PopMatters and whose members are deeply involved in supporting the communities they entertain. Just one of countless examples that would have been discovered with a bit more research”
Con Brio – “Kiss the Sun [Live at Audiotree]”
Photo of Thao Nguyen at Noisepop / Swedish American Music Hall by Mark Mosher
It’s been a few years since Miike Snow made an appearance in San Francisco (check out my previous story to learn what they’ve been up to) and they really pulled out all the stops on this trip. SF folks know The Independent is a great venue to catch an act. The acoustics and lighting are fantastic, and with a capacity of 500 it has an intimate feel. When a large act like Miike Snow plays such a small venue you know you are in for an insane show.
Visually the show was both amazing and absurd. It looked like they put their whole AV setup for their upcoming Coachella show on stage including massive metal towers covered in LCD panels, guitar stands, drum set and each performers massive musical “battle stations.” While the visuals were super interesting, the light show was almost too much to take at times in such a cozy venue. This was also the most packed show I’ve ever seen at the Independent, and I’ve been to plenty of sold out shows there before. I guess sometimes shows sell out but not everyone attends, this place was right at capacity. The experience was definitely unique in its excess.
Musically, they did a great job of mixing in new material like “Trigger” and “Genghis Khan” from iii with favorites like “Silvia” and “Burial.” There weren’t many surprises in the setlist, but no fan could have left disappointed. To end the show they made sure to showcase their Swedish house credentials with an insane mix of “Animal” that topped 10 minutes.
If you missed them this time around you can see them the next two Sunday’s at Coachella or back here in SF for Outside Lands 2016.
At what point do you stop trying? When do you give up? What happens when you look back at everything you’ve done, every accomplishment, and realize you haven’t made the progress you deserve? How do you know when a career you have dedicated your life to is at an end?
These are tough questions many ask themselves every day, and even more so in the music industry where the difference between success and failure seems like a wafer thin line. These were questions Rachel Platten was asking herself a few years ago. “I had a really dark moment in December when I actually thought, ‘Can I do this anymore?’ I just collapsed on my bed and was thinking about how I wasn’t making money and nothing was sticking,” she told music journalist Rob Ledonne during an interview with The Guardian. After years of trying to breakthrough, being signed and subsequently dropped following the release of “1,000 Ships” times were tough for the Massachusetts raised singer.
Fast forward to April 2016 and she shoots on stage in front of a busy Regency Ballroom in San Francisco; stop number twenty-four on her Wildfire Tour. It is a far cry from playing to “fifteen people” at Hotel Utah a few years ago. The crowd was mixed, teeny boppers (some with fluorescent bands so they could be easily identified by parents and chaperones) filled the floor while the older crowd largely occupied the comfortable seats upstairs. Read More
On paper, you might assume that Swedish/American electronic act Miike Snow have been slacking since the release of 2012’s Happy To You. It’s true that new album, iii, was four years in the making, but the reason for the delay seems to be just how prolific the guys of Miike Snow have been in their side projects. That’s what happens when you put two of Sweden’s most creative producers and team them ultra-talented American vocalist Andrew Wyatt. When the trio takes the stage April 13th and 14th at the Independent they are bringing us new music that’s been honed by all the different work they have done in the last few years.
While not working on Miike Snow, Christian Karlsson, and Pontus Winnberg have a long history of producing hits as Bloodshy & Avant. Additionally, they both put out music in the last couple years in other side projects. Karlsson is half of club favorite Galantis and Winnberg worked on one my favorite albums of 2015, Sky City by Swedish super group Amason. Meanwhile, Andrew Wyatt was doing some awesome collaborations of his own, including providing the vocals for A-Trak‘s big single “Push.”
When you are kicking ass in so many other projects you probably don’t want to put out any new music as Miike Snow until you know you have something special. With iii, I feel like the group has recaptured that infectious pop sound that skyrocketed them to fame with 2009’s self-titled debut. The stand out single has to be “Ghengis Khan”, which features one of the few music videos I love watching from start to finish. Wyatt’s high-register vocals melt into the clipped hip hop drumbeat and synth tones in a perfect pop creation. Read More
Outside Lands is only getting bigger every year, but the capacity isn’t going up from the past two years. This means the festival will sell out, and fairly quickly so you will want to be pretty quick on the trigger.
We noticed that it was a little easier to get into the ticket queue by using this link vs navigating the official website: https://outsidelands.frontgatetickets.com/
The lineup this year is stellar, bringing some of the worlds biggest acts to the center of SF. We have Radiohead and the newly un-retired LCD Soundsystem joining the infectious tones of Lionel Richie as headliners. The rest of the lineup is stacked as well with a veritable who’s who of indie, R&B, electronic and pop. See below for a rundown of artists each day.
FRI, AUG 5TH
LCD SOUNDSYSTEM, J. COLE, DURAN DURAN, BEACH HOUSE, GRIMES, MIIKE SNOW, NATHANIEL RATELIFF & THE NIGHT SWEATS, THOMAS JACK, FOALS, THE CLAYPOOL LENNON DELIRIUM, ST. LUCIA, POLIÇA, HIATUS KAIYOTE, RA RA RIOT, TOKIMONSTA, WET, JIDENNA, LÅPSLEY, MARIAN HILL, CAVEMAN, VULFPECK, MOON TAXI, LANY, and WHITNEY
SAT, AUG 6TH
RADIOHEAD, ZEDD, AIR, SUFJAN STEVENS, HALSEY, BIG GRAMS (BIG BOI + PHANTOGRAM), THE LAST SHADOW PUPPETS, LORD HURON, JAUZ, VINCE STAPLES, YEARS & YEARS, IBEYI, PEACHES, ANDERSON .PAAK & THE FREE NATIONALS, THE WOMBATS, THE KNOCKS, ROGUE WAVE, CON BRIO, KEVIN MORBY, FANTASTIC NEGRITO, LEWIS DEL MAR, JULIEN BAKER, DECLAN MCKENNA, and METHYL ETHEL
Sun, AUG 7TH
LIONEL RICHIE, LANA DEL REY, MAJOR LAZER, RYAN ADAMS AND THE SHINING, CHANCE THE RAPPER, MIGUEL, JASON ISBELL, THIRD EYE BLIND, KEHLANI, GRIZ, BRANDI CARLILE, SNAKEHIPS, LETTUCE, OH WONDER, KAMASI WASHINGTON, JACK GARRATT, RÜFÜS DU SOL, DIIV, NATALIA LAFOURCADE, THE OH HELLOS, FRANCES, HÆLOS, CLOVES, and HERON OBLIVION
More info as always at www.SFOutsideLands.com
Do you ever have things you keep meaning to do and then keep not-doing and then suddenly when you do it, you realize that you were perhaps cosmically meant to do it at that time and place and none other? Well … welcome to Happy Hollows‘ “Way Home”, released in late February and only now being shared with you. It was meant for today. Bright shining sky. Friday. This is the song that you need to propel you into this very weekend. You can thank my overcrowded brain later for this impeccable timing.
Unbelievably catchy and hook-filled, this song weaves vocal melancholy with bright synth staircases that lift you up and out of the depths. It feels at once nostalgic and futuristic. Standing out are guitarist and vocalist Sarah Negahdari’s rich and nimble phrasing on both instruments — vocally somewhere between The Pretenders’ Chrissy Hinds and My Brightest Diamond’s Shara Nova — and the drumming by Daniel Marcellus — cracking and romping decisively and reminding me of the difference between the machines and the humans. The drums wax polyrhythmic and I lean closer to the shimmering possibilities of my weekend.
The song – and presumably others – was just recorded and mixed between Los Angeles and London in collaboration with Lewis Pesacov (Best Coast) and Gareth Jones (Grizzly Bear, Interpol, Depeche Mode).
Happy Hollows – “Way Home”