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.
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.
Nestled in the Sonoma Valley’s beautiful Gundlach Bundschu Winery, the 2014 Huichica Music Festival was highlighted by fine wine, warm weather and excellent music. Friday nights kick-off was a nice concert headlined by Vetiver, though Saturday was the real spectacle, with two stages hosting a dozen artists from the Bay Area and beyond. There were young up-and-comers, established favorites and even a few veteran folk artists for good measure. Click to read on and check out the photos below:
It’s 2am and this is what I’m feeling after getting home from Bottlerock’s biggest and best day: tired, deaf, a little hungry, tired, thirsty as hell, musically fulfilled, nostalgic, sore, tired, and, most of all, happy.
Could there be a better act to play the uniquely Northern California festival BottleRock than Santa Cruz’s own Camper Van Beethoven, with their conjoined twin band Cracker in tow?
After all, Camper is the group that on their 2013 album La Costa Perdida delivered “Northern California Girls,” perhaps the ultimate NorCal anthem—meaning an anthem that’s way too laid back to actually be an anthem.
“Right, it takes seven minutes to get where it’s going,” admits David Lowery, the frontman for both Camper and Cracker. “The drums come in a little bit like three times before they finally kick in about three-and-a-half minutes into the song.”
Lowery had already written his share of great California songs for both Camper and Cracker over the years—most recently, “Where Have Those Days Gone”—in which he mistakes Good Times’ astrologer Rob Brezsny for Thomas Pynchon in a bar in Mendocino County—but also “Big Dipper,” “Miss Santa Cruz County,” “Come On Darkness” and more.
But with his latest cycle, he’s outdone himself. While La Costa Perdida was a NorCal-influenced album, the songs on Camper’s latest, El Camino Real (which comes out June 3), are all set in, or otherwise related to, SoCal.
“We wrote these songs at the same time, then thematically we broke off most of the Northern California ones for the last album, and then kind of took these songs that were Southern California, and built another album around them, by adding another five songs or something like that,” says Lowery. “There’s kind of this opus going now, this theme going. There’s also a Cracker album, which comes out next year. It’s a double disc—one is Berkeley, one is Bakersfield. One is the punk side of the band, one is the country side.”
So, basically, four albums worth of California songs. And it all started because of…Joan Didion?
“I think it started with me and Victor [Krummenacher] and Jonathan [Segel] reading a bunch of Joan Didion,” confirms Lowery. He can’t remember which collection of essays specifically sparked it, but it would almost have to be the first section of Slouching Toward Bethlehem, in which Didion rips to shreds the “golden dream” of the Inland Empire—where Lowery, his Camper bandmates Krummenacher and Segel, and Cracker co-founder Johnny Hickman all grew up.
“Those essays really captured the feel of it. It’s not really that flattering about the area, but that’s sort of what people from the Inland Empire are proud of,” says Lowery. “There was actually some sort of referendum on a theme for the Inland Empire, like ‘Virginia is for Lovers’ or how California is the Golden State. And we all wrote in: ‘We will kick your ass.’”
The most noticeable difference between the two Camper albums is the overall feel—La Costa Perdida is more easygoing and gentle, while El Camino Real is darker and more intense, with a deep streak of paranoia that runs through songs like “The Ultimate Solution,” “It Was Like That When We Got Here” and “I Live In L.A.” Clearly, Lowery has very different views on the two halves of the state.
“Yeah, but I like ’em both,” says Lowey.
At the BottleRock festival in Napa May 30-June 1, Lowery’s bands will join an eclectic mix of five dozen other acts across four stages, including the Cure, OutKast, Weezer, LL Cool J, Robert Earl Keen, TV on the Radio and Smash Mouth. Some of those musicians have been around longer than Camper, while others benefited from the college-radio-to-gold-records trail that CVB and Cracker blazed in the ’80s and ’90s. It’s very likely, however, that Camper is the only band on the schedule that has been reunited longer than they were originally together. After recording their first album in Santa Cruz in 1985, the band imploded on a European tour in 1990. But after reforming in the early 2000s, they’ve been back together now for over a decade. Part of the reason, Lowery says, is that they all agreed to do the band on a more part-time basis, or at least do fewer tours, which puts less pressure on them as a group. But maybe it’s even simpler than that.
“Jonathan says it’s just because we’re not in our twenties,” says Lowery. “And it’s kind of true.”
Camper Van Beethoven and Cracker play BottleRock Napa, which runs May 30-June 1 at the Napa Calley Expo, 575 Third St., Napa. Tickets are $149 for single-day passes, $279 for a three-day pass, at bottlerocknapavalley.com. 877-435-9849.
We’re pretty stoked that after 3 years away, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine are coming back to Santa Rosa’s Arlene Francis Center, appearing April 4. In the last year, the punk icon/outspoken artist and his band released their second LP, White People and the Damage Done, and the former Dead Kennedys front man has been getting punks into mosh pits around the world, from Coachella Festival appearances to tours in Australia and Europe. Now, Biafra returns with the help of Pins of Light, We Are the Men, and local favorite Jack Attack in reportedly his final performance ever. Absolutely not to be missed, tickets for the April 4 all ages show go on sale March 1. $15.
(San Francisco) – A band of pirates on stilts tried to take over Treasure Island yesterday, but were blasted out instead by pounding drum n bass breaks from a wall of subwoofers.
This happened, of course, at the Treasure Island Music Festival, which took place on the decommissioned naval base in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Two stages, a Ferris wheel, the silent disco, gourmet food trucks, cool merchandise and the ultimate people watching experience awaited those wise enough to attend day one of the two-day music fest.
The Coup had just started playing when I walked through the gate. Since this was the “electronic” day, hearing a big, funky, rock-heavy hip hop group from Oakland was a welcome surprise. I’m not a huge fan of DJ music–I was there to see Public Enemy–so this was a good sign. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the Coup before, but they were on the top of their game for this show. Style, swagger and porkchop side burns lifted from the 70s. The kickass riffs and drum solos reminded me of Rage Against the Machine, but the Coup had more of a soul vibe at times.
Grimes was next, and their three-girl electro-pop sound gained momentum halfway through the set. By the end it felt like I was in a Visa commercial with so much pounding synth bass and young people in ridiculous clothing jumping around. It was the best Visa commercial ever. The enthusiasm for Grimes was electric, with some of the most passionate fans at the festival dancing their neon spandex-covered asses off.
What makes a Stabat Mater so special? Is it the holy text? The seriousness with which composers undertake the task? Whatever it may be, the Santa Rosa Symphonic Chorus and Santa Rosa Chamber Orchestra plucked every string in both chambers of the heart this weekend with their rousing performance of Gioachino Rossini’s Stabat Mater at the Center for Spiritual Living in Santa Rosa.
Rossini’s version of the sacred text, which dates back to the 13th Century as a somber hymn about the Sorrows of Mary, is powerful in a very Rossini way. At first, it might be surprising to know Rossini even composed a Stabat Mater (it was to me, at least). But the Romantic composer known for wild operas like the Barber of Seville and William Tell (think The Lone Ranger theme) was known for memorable melodies and dramatic crescendos stayed true to the feeling of the piece.