San Francisco string band the Brothers Comatose are beloved in the North Bay and beyond for their stirring original tunes and striking vocal harmonies. Formed four years ago by siblings Ben and Alex Morrison, the band imbues their traditional roots folk music with an infectious and accessible modernity that’s been drawing in crowds young and old alike. Already a mainstay on West Coast music fests and a headlining act in California, the Brothers this year have decided to take things to the hills and host their own festival in the Sierra Mountains. They’ve dubbed it “Comatopia.”
Taking place throughout the weekend of August 14-16, Comatopia is billed as a string summit at the Sierra Valley Lodge in Calpine, CA, about an hour north of Truckee. Joining the Brothers are a cavalcade of other Bay Area and North Bay folk, rock and jazz acts, giving the fest a versatile sound.
Comatopia kicks off on Friday, Aug 14, with headliners Hot Buttered Rum String Band joined by Steve Poltz and the Easy Leaves. Saturday, Aug 15, sees the Brothers Comatose headlining with support from the Sam Chase, Dixie Giants and Steve Poltz once again. Sunday, Aug 16, includes an All Star Bluegrass Jam in the afternoon with all the players taking part and getting down in the picturesque setting.
Comatopia takes place August 14-16 at the Sierra Valley Lodge, 103 Main Street, Calpine. $25 and up. 503.562.7051. Tickets are available now, with optional VIP, camping and room packages.
Looking at the music listings in this week’s Bohemian, it struck me that there are a host, a horde, a gaggle, a ton, just a whole lot of music legends playing in the North Bay this weekend. From Nicasio to Napa, here’s a breakdown of the who’s who of musicians playing live concerts in Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties over the next three days.
Tonight, rock and roll power couple Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo storm the stage at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa. This summer marks 35 years of partnership for the singer and guitarist, who have been married since 1982 and who still tour constantly, bringing the battle cries and ballads to the North Bay with a 35-year Anniversary CD/DVD package available.
In Petaluma, the retro-swing and big band sound of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy can be heard as the opening night concert of the annual Petaluma Music Festival. A first this year for the event, the show tonight features a special VIP dinner and drinks package available at 5pm as well as general admission tickets just for the show, which starts at 7:30pm. The Petaluma Music Fest continues all day Saturday as well, with headliners Nahko & Medicine for the People, the Woods Brothers and ALO all on hand.
Also in Petaluma on Saturday is longtime ska and funk ground breakers Fishbone, playing Aug 1 at Zodiacs downtown. Now celebrating 25 years together, the band has cultivated a following for their dynamic one-of-kind sound and electrifying live shows.
Saturday also sees several talented singers and songwriters appearing throughout the area. At the Green Music Center in Rohnert Park, Natalie Cole keeps the torch of her family’s musical dynasty burning brightly with a concert at Weill Hall. Cole will be performing hits from her 40 years as a singer, including the “Unforgettable” tracks she famously recorded with her late father, Nate King Cole.
Over in Napa, the Uptown Theatre presents Nashville Hall of Fame member Mary Chapin Carpenter in a show that is very nearly sold-out. After performing with full orchestras last year, Carpenter returns to the acoustic intimacy of her country folk roots, joined on stage this time by longtime friends Jon Carroll (piano) and Austin Nevins (guitars). Give the Uptown a call at 707.259.0123 to reserve spots or get on the wait list.
Sunday boasts a couple of shows so popular, they’re already out of tickets. Rancho Nicasio’s pairing of guitarist Elvin Bishop, harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite and BBQ on the lawn was too irresistible for patrons to pass up. It’s totally sold-out.
In Petaluma, Lagunitas Brewing Company’s annual “Coahoma to Sonoma County Blues Festival” is already sold-out for early admittance, meaning that you can show up, but it’s going to be crowded in front. Still, there’s no problem with listening to veteran Texas songwriter Ray Wylie Hubbard while enjoying a tasty brew in the back. Bill Abel, Markus James and Layla Musselwhite also play that show, which is free and open to the general public at 11:30am.
Santa Rosa guitarist and songwriter Francesco Catania is a bit of a musical chameleon, able to rock a melodic soul jam as easily as a post punk anthem. He’s been seen playing alongside local favorites like John Courage, and recently went on the road with Arizona garage rock duo Burning Palms.
This weekend, Catania dusts off his gold cape and shiny shoes to show a different side of his musical personality when he performs under his solo electronic outfit Frances Wolfe. An ongoing project since 2013, Frances Wolfe allows Catania to go deep into his inner cosmos, producing synth and reverb-soaked atmospheres that blissfully explore ambient sounds and abstract melodies for a down-tempo chill wave head trip.
In anticipation of a new EP this fall, Frances Wolfe has released his latest single, “Portrait.” The tune wanders in and out of a trippy guitar riff as building feedback menacingly encroaches and Catania’s voice floats like an out-of-body experience. Listen to “Portrait” below:
On Sunday, Aug 2, Frances Wolfe performs at the Arlene Francis Center as part of an eclectic showthat also includes face-melting jazz from InOverOut, rock and roll from Sleepwalk Sunday, dreamy punk from Plastic Ghost, groovy pianos from Saffell and more. 99 Sixth St, Santa Rosa. 7pm. $5-$10. For more details, click here.
The musical minds running Gundlach Bundschu Winery are at it again, working with Bay Area concert curators (((folkYEAH!))) to bring the best in indie-minded bands and songwriters to Sonoma Valley. Today, the two partners announced a pair of new shows, with Gun Bun welcoming Cat Power on Wednesday, September 2, and Bonnie “Price” Billy on Sunday, September 27.
Enigmatic singer and songwriter Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, has evolved from a lo-fi punk singer to an acclaimed and eclectic songwriter in her 20-year career. Her most recent album, 2012’s Sun, was praised for its passion and pop sensibility. This summer marks the famously introspective artist’s first live dates since announcing she gave birth to a baby in late April.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy is the stage name for songwriter and occasional actor Will Oldham. Since 1998, Oldham has released the majority of his musical works under the pseudonym, crafting a traditional roots rock and Americana folk with a gutsy, avant-garde approach that always satisfies. His latest LP, 2014’s Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues, exemplifies Oldham’s willingness to bend the rules by acting as a covers album to his own previous material with rollicking reworkings and stark new translations of his older tunes.
These two shows are in addition to Gun Bun’s already highly anticipated upcoming concert with Seattle grunge legends Mudhoney and the excellently loud San Francisco garage rockers Fuzz, featuring Ty Segall. That show is scheduled for Friday, October 16.
Singer and songwriter Martha Davis has fronted some form of her seminal new wave band, The Motels, since first forming the group in 1971 in her hometown of Berkeley, CA. Originally, under a few different names, the group adopted the moniker of the Motels after landing in Los Angeles in 1975 with a record contract from Capitol.
Over the next decade, the Motels would hit the Billboard Chart Top 100 over and over again with hits like “Only the Lonely” and “Suddenly Last Summer.” Davis lead the group though various lineup changes with her sonorous and melancholy voice over darkly pleading synths and edgy guitars, giving the tunes an unmistakable and alluring hook.
Over the years, Davis has re-formed the group time and again, and in 2013, the band was re-branded with a permanent name, Martha Davis and The Motels. Possessing a voice still as effervescent as it was 40 years ago, Martha Davis and the Motels perform at City Winery Napa tonight, July 27, with their timeless melodies and irresistible charm in tow. Tickets are still available, so don’t miss this chance to re-connect with an old favorite or discover a classic group for the first time.
City Winery Napa is located at 1030 Main St, Napa. 8pm. $25-$35. 707.260.1600.
Last Saturday, the idyllic Santa Rosa Junior College neighborhood got a little jolt of of rock and roll with the 6th annual Lion Awake Productions Backyard concert. Taking place at a private residence on Slater St, the concert featured four local favorites performing on the deck and crowds of up to 150 people hanging out on the large lawn.
Kicking off at 4pm, the show opened with young Sonoma County band Parcivillian mixing a fresh blend of rock and blues with a dash of folk thrown in via their fiddle player. Next up was popular local rockers Kingsborough, who impressed with their tight rhythms and free-wheeling attitudes. Powering through their own high-energy original tunes and dedicated covers of classic party songs alike, Kingsborough really got the party going.
Along with the music, the house show featured a delicious taco truck parked on the curb offering up spicy carnitas tacos and sumptuous chicken burritos. After scarfing down on some of the best Mexican food I’ve ever had, it was time to enjoy the perfectly-pitched sounds of the T Sisters and the grooving beats of Lazyman.
Hailing from Oakland, the three harmonizing T Sisters, Erika and twins Rachel and Chloe, were joined by mandolin master Andrew Allen Fahlander and standup bassist Steve Height and crowded on to the deck for a sonorous mix of traditional gospel folk tunes. Honestly, they didn’t even need the microphones, their vocal power is so great they could have sung to the whole block without any electronic amplification.
By the time the sun set, headlining act Lazyman was ready to rock. Fronted by Sonoma County songwriter Steve Pile, the band capped off the concert with their eclectic rock that’s singularly dedicated to having a good time. With cooling temperatures and gusty winds, Lazyman kept the crowd lively and laid-back all at the same time.
Zodiacs in Petaluma continually puts on eclectic live shows, and tonight they’re going strictly indie rock with a free jam-packed lineup of some of the most exciting young bands in the area.
Headlining is Santa Rosa rising stars Girls & Boys, past winners of the Bohemian’s Norbay Music Award, who have quickly impressed audiences around the Bay Area with a moody swagger and soulful pop jams. Their music has already hit the waves of television and film, and with a new album on the way, the band are preparing for a massive tour later in the year.
Next up are power rockers EagleWolfSnake out of San Francisco. I last saw this band perform at this year’s BottleRock Music Festival in Napa and they bring an infectious ebullience to their sets. Dedicated to spreading that joy to their audience, this young band is the most likely to get everyone jumping in unison at the show tonight.
That’s only if Lungs & Limbs doesn’t do it first. Led by the alluring voice of Karina Rousseau, the spirited ensemble describe themselves as Pink Floyd meets the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Based on their shiny demo songs, it’s hard to argue with them.
Opening the show is a personal favorite of mine, the impassioned rock group Manzanita Falls. In their few years together, the group has already faced and overcome adversity and now they’re set to head into the recording studio to follow up their debut release, Vinyl Ghost.
Zodiac’s is located at 256 Petaluma Blvd North, Petaluma. Tonight’s show starts at 8:30pm and is FREE!
The heavenly harmonies emanating from the folk gospel duo MaMuse has steadily built a following around their spiritual and sonorous songs. They have appeared numerous times at folk fests like Kate Wolf and won best duet performance on “A Prairie Home Companion” in 2012. This year, the Chico-based Sarah Nutting and Karisha Longaker have released their most personal and ethereal album to date, Heart Nouveau. Featuring collaborations with songwriter Molly Hartwell and a deep percussive rhythm throughout, the new record is emotionally charged and resonant.
This week, MaMuse celebrates the new album with a performance in Sebastopol. Hartwell will be on hand to lend her voice, as will longtime friend and musician Mike Wofchuck. Lauren Brown opens the show on Saturday, July 11, at Subud Hall, 234 Hutchins Ave, Sebastopol. 7:30pm. $18-$20. Get tickets here.
Brooklyn pianist and songwriter Erik Deutsch has long been called on by the most prolific entertainers in music, from Norah Jones to Shooter Jennings, to tickle the ivories on tours with them. When he’s not on stage as a hired gun, this outlaw musician makes his own brand of experimental modern jazz as a solo performer and bandleader.
This year, Deutsch unleashed his latest album, Outlaw Jazz, to wide acclaim. Melding psychedelic soul and rough-and-tumble country rock, the record was funded through a wildly successful Kickstarter fund that allowed Deutsch to assemble a dream team of musicians to accompany him, including Tony Mason (drums), Jeff Hill (bass), Jon Gray (trumpet), and Avi Bortnick (guitar) among others.
This week, Erik Deutsch & the Jazz Outlaws come to the North Bay for a special appearance on Thursday, July 9, at Terrapin Crossroads. 100 Yacht Club Dr, San Rafael. 8pm. $15. 415.524.2773.
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.