It seemed like an improbable dream; organize a music festival in downtown Santa Rosa with multiple stages and a stellar lineup of the Bay Area’s hottest folk and revival acts, and make it free for all to attend. Yet, this year’s inaugural Railroad Square Music Festival was an outstanding success that brought together a friendly, communal and musical vibe that was positive as it was invigorating.
The all-day lineup of bands featured a host of performers who are beloved in the North Bay and beyond with headliners like the Brothers Comatose, T Sisters and the Sam Chase all on hand. I arrived just in time to see Santa Rosa’s own John Courage fronting his blues rock trio the Stone Cold Killers and playing an electrified set of sizzling solos and groovy jams on the Traveling Spectacular Stage, a vaudeville-inspired mobile set up that transforms from a truck into a full-on stage experience.
The main stage, donated by the city of Santa Rosa, saw Santa Cruz’s Marty O’Reilly and the Old Soul Orchestra perform the slowest burning set of the day. The young, but experienced group took traditional rhythms and infused them with a emotional and strained energy for supremely satisfying pay offs. The Old Soul Orchestra will be back in the North Bay on Saturday, June 20, performing at the Big Easy in Petaluma to raise funds for a European tour they have planned in the coming months.
The neighborly feeling at the festival extended from audiences to the bands, with special appearances and pairings; such as when enchanting singer Sally Haggard jumped in with Frankie Boots and the County Line for a ditty, or when the main stage was packed full of performers at the close of the show. The Brothers Comatose held crowds captive with their fast fiddling and multi-part harmonies, and many attendees stayed past the 7pm end time to contribute to an ebullient sidewalk chalk jamboree.
The Festival’s ultimate success was due to the tireless work of the North Bay Hootenanny’s Josh Windmiller and an army of volunteer staff who made the whole thing a smooth and easy experience. Food and drink lines moved quickly (even as 32 kegs of Lagunitas beer sold out in the early evening), kids and families hung out in the shade of the Big Tree kids area, and Wilson Street turned into an art walk with live art sessions by Luddart artists and wares from local vendors. Kudos to all involved. Here’s hoping the Railroad Square Music Festival returns next summer. If you’d like to contribute to the local music scene and events like this, you can donate to the North Bay Hootenanny, a nonprofit group, by clicking here.
BottleRock Napa Valley Music Festival was one wild weekend, and our intrepid photographer Jamie Soja was there to capture it. From Snoop Dogg and Iron Chef Masaharu Morimoto rolling sushi, to the eclectic assortment of headliners that packed crowds to maximum capacity, here’s a look back on all the music and antics from this year’s fest.
Written by Eddie Jorgensen:
Eric Lindell was a Sonoma County resident long before he moved to the South. Already a household name here and a veritable headliner everywhere he played, it only made sense to venture out of town to see what kind of musical influences he could soak up.
Fans of both blues, Americana, country, and anything in between will enjoy his live show which, at times, far eclipses anything he can do on record. Lindell is also one of the biggest sellers on his previous label, Alligator records. Today, he’s doing things on his own and just recently released a new EP on his Sparco records label.
Your latest release, ‘The Sun And The Sea,’ only has seven songs. Was there a conscious decision to make a shorter record?
Definitely. We recorded a bunch more songs but I wanted to narrow it down to make a more cohesive set. I’m not concerned with releasing a ton of material as I am good material.
What was different about this album than your other releases?
This album was made with live drums that were sampled rather than using a live drummer as I usually do. They are organic drums sound but just pieced together where applicable. When we played this project to my drummer and friend, Will, he thought it sounded amazing. It was recorded by one of my bass players, Sean Carey, and I’m very proud of what we made.
You weren’t always Eric Lindell, the solo artist, correct?
Besides playing in Grand Junction (local funk band) for awhile, I even sang with Accolades (local heavy metal band from the mid-80’s) with my buddy, Tim Solyan (of Victims Family fame). I ran into guys from both bands not long ago and it reminded what a great music scene we had in Sonoma County.
What are some of your favorite places to play?
I get so excited every year when I come to Sonoma County I can’t even explain it. It’s also lots of fun to bring friends who’ve never been here as well since they can’t believe how beautiful the place is. I also love other cities like Baltimore, New York, and San Francisco.
The lead song on the new record is “Going To California.” Sounds like you’re aching to be back.
For sure. However, I come and play here pretty regularly. I moved to New York in 1998 and left to Louisiana just a little bit later. I pretty much come here every Summer with my band and every December with my band Dragonsmoke (with Ivan Neville, Robert Mercurio, and Stanton Moore). I always come back.
Eric Lindell plays on Sunday, June 21, at the Forestville Club, 6250 Front St, Forestville. Oyster Feed starts at 5pm. $20. 707.887.2594. The next night, Monday, June 22, he appears at The Big Easy, 128 American Alley, Petaluma. 6:30pm. $20. 707.776.4631. For more info and tickets, visit www.ericlindell.com.
Last year’s Huichica Music Festival, a burgeoning tradition at Sonoma’s Gundlach Bundschu Winery, was my first time at the rousing, rollicking festival full of indie rock sweethearts and celebrated Bay Area artists; and it was by far one of the best days of music of my 2014. This year, the festive weekend returns on June 12 and 13, and now the full lineup has been announced.
Performing at Huichica this year are Allah-Las, Atlas Sound, Amen Dunes, Jessica Pratt, Shannon and the Clams, Sonny & the Sunsets, Gap Dream, the Fresh and Onlys, EDJ, Pure Bathing Culture, the Tyde, GospelbeacH, the Donkeys, Ryleey Walker, William Tyler, Mariee Sioux, Kacey Johansing, Trummors, DJ Andy Cabic and DJ Golden Gram.
The lineup is jam packed with popular indie bands and accomplished songwriters. Headliners Allah-Las are a Southern California based quartet of garage rockers who meet up while they were working at Amoeba Music in L.A. Atlas Sound is the solo moniker of Atlanta songwriter Bradford Cox, known as the striking front man of post-punk shoegaze rock band Deerhunter. Amen Dunes is the self-described bedroom industrial pop of Damon McMahon. And Jessica Pratt is a young folk songstress with an old soul renowned in her native San Francisco steadily being discovered by a larger national audience. More details on the rest of the bands can be found here.
Presented by musician Eric D. Johnson, Gun Bun owner Jeff Bundschu and boutique event curators (((folkYEAH!))), the Huichica Music Festival this year is adding the winery’s historic Old Redwood Barn to the Hillside Amphitheater and Cave stage, expanding the setting of the picturesque venue. There will also be a host of gourmet food trucks and beer and wine on hand.
Tickets are on sale now.
By Eddie Jorgensen
If you haven’t heard of Black Map, chances are you’ve never listened to the members’ former bands which all have distinct fan bases of their own. Drummer Chris Robyn played with Far which released two albums through Immortal/Epic records, guitarist Mark Engles has played with Dredg since the band’s inception, and bassist/vocalist Ben Flanagan played with The Actual and Trophy Fire.
Black Map shows some immense musical depth with their latest album on minusHEAD records, ‘…And We Explode.’ And while the album was released in October 2014, the band is just starting to play out live.
Even before the release of the band’s album, the group landed a coveted slot on a national tour with Chevelle. “The experience with Chevelle was better than anything I could have hoped for,” said Robyn. “Chevelle are great. They are genuine and were incredibly generous to provide a stage for us to share. Far (Robyn’s previous band) fans did come out and it made me incredibly proud of what I spent so many years doing. It has been a good while since those years and people who witnessed it then, or did not get a chance to, came out and it was an extra reward for me to hear from them and talk with them.”
The songwriting process, as well, has been very organic and the members are already starting the writing process for a follow-up.
“Typically Ben and/or Mark have a piece of music that they introduce. I just try to empty my head of any predetermination, find the base/core rhythm of the piece, dive in full on, and allow myself to find a pattern that is musical, exciting, and purposeful” said Robyn. “Sometimes it comes quickly. Sometimes it takes a little bit. I try not to over think parts or beats, as history has taught me that if I over think something it will usually, in the end, be the most stale part or parts of a given piece of music. It’s a fine line, but that’s the rewarding part of writing music.”
However, personal interests can get in the way of a song structure but rolling with the changes has made Robyn’s life in Black Map easier.
“Ben and Mark will always chime in on where I am going with something, whether it be minor tweaks or to let me know I am way off base,” he says. “I welcome any and all of their input. We constantly feed off one another during the writing process.”
And while most bands would readily assume signing to a major label deal is still where it’s at, Robyn knows otherwise.
“minusHEAD (band’s current label) has been great. They have been incredibly supportive and we have a shared vision on the exploitation of Black Map” he said. “Although it is substantially less expensive now to record and people can experience music in so many different ways, I don’t see things for a band much different than back in the day. You just have to go out there and do the work no matter who you are. Label support, whether indie or major, is great but never a guarantee for success, whatever you deem success to be.”
Black Map play Friday, Jan. 23 at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma with The Iron Heart, French Girls, and We Are Invisible Monsters. 8
pm. $8. All ages are welcome. 201 Washington Street, Petaluma. 707.762.3565.
Noah Benjamin Lennox is best known as a member of experimental indie rock group Animal Collective, and under the pseudonym Panda Bear, Lennox has evolved considerably as an electronic artist with a pitch perfect penchant for expansive melodies in his sampled beats. This week, Panda Bear released his fifth solo album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, to universal acclaim; and today at noon tickets go on sale for Panda Bear’s upcoming concert at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma on April 16. This is a great chance to see the indie star in the intimate setting of Gun Bun’s newly restored Old Redwood Barn. Click here to grab tickets to the show, and watch the official video for “Mr Noah,” the first single off the new album.
This time last year, BottleRock producer Dave Graham and the partners of Latitude 38 Entertainment were in a very different place. Still negotiating the asset purchase of the popular yet financially strapped festival in Napa, Latitude 38 didn’t get a lineup in 2014 until almost April. This year, the producers of the third annual music, wine and food festival, which takes place May 29–31, are ahead of the curve, and they have already announced BottleRock 2015’s three-day lineup of big name bands and emerging artists.
Chart-topping indie rock band Imagine Dragons, alternative megastars No Doubt and rock legend Robert Plant will be headlining BottleRock Napa Valley 2015.
“We’re not trying to be like any other festival,” says Graham. “The notion of having something for everyone applies to BottleRock. You have bands that gear towards younger crowds as well as the older crowd.”
Imagine Dragons, which includes Forestville native Ben McKee on bass, emerged out of Las Vegas in 2012 with a succession of hits. No Doubt’s iconic front woman Gwen Stefani was recently well received on NBC’s karaoke competition show, The Voice. Stefani and the gang are reportedly only performing a handful of dates this year, as is Robert Plant.
“Nuff said,” comments Graham, when asked about Plant. “He’s one of the biggest names in rock and roll history.” (For you kids, Plant sang in some band called Led Zeppelin). “To have him in Napa Valley is going to be so cool,” says Graham.
Joining these diverse headliners are a slew of indie darlings; the Avett Brothers, Passion Pit, Foster the People, Cage the Elephant, Capital Cities and Portugal, the Man. Graham is also bringing in a slew of hip-hop acts like Snoop Dogg, Afrolicious and Public Enemy; jazz greats such as Preservation Hall Jazz Band and JJ Grey & Mofo; and international stars like Xavier Rudd & the United Nations and Courtney Barnett.
Graham is especially excited to welcome Michael Franti & Spearhead to BottleRock. “I love their music, but they’re just good people. They stepped it up for Napa after the earthquake and played a fundraising show for free. Napa loves them,” says Graham.
The rest of the lineup includes Gipsy Kings, Young the Giant, AWOLNATION, American Authors, Trampled By Turtles, Los Lobos, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, ZZ Ward, Echosmith, Brett Dennen, Scott Weiland & the Wildabouts, Lettuce, Los Amigos Invisibles, Aer, The Mowglis, Kopecky, Big Talk, Tristan Prettyman, People Under the Stairs, Vacationer, The Brothers Comatose, Knox Hamilton, The Last Internationale, Zella Day, Finish Ticket, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Ryan Sims Band, The London Souls, MoonAlice, Grizfolk, Black English, Wild Ones, The Record Company, Kawehi, Emily Wolfe, Afrolicious, Con Brio, Wildlife Control, Sneakout, Transfer, Battle Tapes, The Trims, Fritz Montana, The Frail, Eagle Wolf Snake, Matt Moon, Sielle, The Iron Heart, The Bad Jones, Silverado Pickups, The Deadlies, grass child, Pion 2 Zion, Walsh, Napa Crossroads Live featuring: David Pack of Ambrosia, John Elefante of Kansas, Bill Champlin formerly of Chicago, Jim Peterik founding member of Survivor.
Tickets go on sale Thursday, Jan. 8, at 10am.
She’s called the Carole King of our generation, and for good reason. Beth Nielsen Chapman is a singer and songwriter extraordinaire, penning famous tunes for numerous country music stars and performing her own emotionally striking songs for over twenty years. Chapman is based in Nashville and regularly works alongside and writes for superstar recording artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Bette Midler, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Trisha Yearwood and many more.
Chapman’s new album, Uncovered, is a look back on many of her top ten hits, penned for other artists, but never recorded herself until now. A number of there were number one hits, and the album includes fresh takes of classic songs like
This Kiss (Faith Hill),
Here We Are (#1 for Alabama),
Strong Enough To Bend (#1 for Tanya Tucker) and
Nothin’ I Can Do About It Now (#1 for Willie Nelson). Now, Chapman brings her diverse and acclaimed songs to San Rafael when she preforms this Sunday, September 7, at Studio 55 Marin, in San Rafael. This intimate show will be a vibrant display of Chapman’s lyrical mastery and musical passion. Tickets are $18 to $22, and are available here.
The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University celebrates the opening of the brand new Schroeder Hall this weekend, August 23 and 24. The latest addition to the center that already boasts the acoustically perfect Weill Hall, this new, intimate recital space is ideal for choral performances and holds within it the stunning Brombaugh Opus 9 Organ. Named for the beloved piano playing character of “Peanuts” fame, Schroeder Hall opens to the public for a debut weekend that boasts 10 different free concert performances over the two days.
When Donald and Maureen Green first dreamt up the music center, they wanted a permanent home for the SSU Bach Choir. How fitting that the choir, now dubbed the Sonoma Bach Choir and still led by retired SSU music director Bob Worth, kicks off the celebratory Schroeder Hall opening with an 11am performance on Saturday, joined by organist David Parsons.
From there the Hall will show off its versatility, as the rounded stone walls and reverberating nature is tuned to performances from the SSU Faculty Jazz Ensemble at 2pm, local piano legend and Santa Rosa Symphony conductor laureate Jeffrey Kahane at 4pm, and Organist James David Christie of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at 5:30pm. Capping off the first day is contemporary Jazz pianist David Benoit at 8pm.
On Sunday, Schroeder Hall opens up once again to feature such diverse acts as Weill Hall’s own artists-in-residence, Trio Ariadne, at 1pm, SSU chamber music artists-in-residence, Trio Navarro, at 5pm, and faculty and alumni vocal recitals throughout. The curved look of the Hall makes it ideal for vocal chants and choral recitals, and Sunday’s performances will explore the space’s capacity for rich aural effects.
Though the weekend is completely free, the limited seating of Schroeder Hall means tickets are required. Each performance requires it’s own ticket, and many have already been claimed online. Still, there is hope, as the Green Music Center has said some tickets will be held at the door on a first come basis. Also, if you already have seats, get there early to claim them, as any unclaimed tickets will be given out 10 minutes before each performance. Details are online right here.
Last weekend, August 16, the Bohemian held the annual NorBay Music Awards, honoring bands and performers from around the area. Winners were voted by you in ten different categories and many of the races were very close. More photos and coverage is coming this week. For now, here are the Gold Record Award winners of the 2014 NorBays.
Blues and R&B: Lester Chambers & the Mudstompers
Country and Americana: Frankie Boots & the County Line
DJ: Paul Timberman
Folk and Acoustic: Flowerbox
Hip-Hop and Electronic: MC Radioactive
Indie: the Highway Poets
Jazz: Dixie Giants
Punk and Metal: Shotgun Harlot
Rock: Dylan Chambers
World and Reggae: Soup Sandwich
Thanks to all the bands who came out and all of those who voted. Stay tuned for our review of the 24-Hour band contest and the highlights of the show.