This past weekend, April 15-17, some 28 bands and hundreds of fans came together for Sonoma County’s inaugural Next Level Showcase and Conference, with two days of music and a daylong seminar covering the business of creativity all aimed at helping local musicians get the information and assistance they need to take their music to, well, the next level.
Organized by the folks at Creative Sonoma (a program under Sonoma County’s economic development board) as well as the North Bay Hootenanny and Second Octave (both local promoters and event producers), the Friday and Saturday showcase took place at Arlene Francis Center next to Railroad Square, and the Sunday conference commenced down the block at Chop’s Teen Center.
In short, the two-day showcase was a fun-filled inspiration to anyone who’s a fan of North Bay bands, with a variety of genres and styles on display. Friday featured several folk acts alongside indie rockers. The crowd cheered along with harmonious groups like Rainbow Girls and emotionally-resonating rockers like Manzanita Falls.
Pop band Lungs and Limbs got a dance party going in the classroom stage, one of three performance spaces that featured bands, and the eclectic Oddjob Ensemble closed out Friday with a fantastic performance that included horns and accordions a plenty.
Saturday was a decidedly louder affair, what with experimental noise rock outfit Antiphony blasting the small saloon stage to pieces as the evening’s opening act.
Other spirited Sonoma County bands, like the quirky and solid Secret Cat, reminded the crowds that you can be both silly and sensational, and several San Francisco acts showed up as well, like Travis Hayes & the Young Daze, who were joined onstage by Petaluma singer Emily Whitehurst of Tsunami Bomb and Survival Guide fame.
Taking place in the cultural heart of Santa Rosa, last year’s inaugural Railroad Square Music Festival, presented by the North Bay Hootenanny, was hands down one of 2015’s best days of music in Sonoma County. With two stages of bands belting out folk, rock and country music and wild acts from performance art groups like Circus Maximus, the free-admission and all-ages event perfectly captured the freewheeling, laid back and friendly way most people around here like to live their life.
Now, the Railroad Square Music Festival is in the planning stages for round two, set to take place once again in the historic square on Sunday, June 5, 2016. And the first wave of acts has already been announced.
Slated to appear at this year’s fest are the Easy Leaves, Royal Jelly Jive, the Dixie Giants, the Bootleg Honeys and John Courage; an eclectic blend of traditional country, gypsy jazz, New Orleans jazz, Americana and rock and roll. And that’s only the ones we know about so far. To stayed tuned to the happenings with 2016’s Railroad Square Music Festival, check the website here. To see highlights of last year’s event, click on the video.
Seattle punk band Violent Human System is ok with you just calling them VHS. It helps that the acronym harkens back to a vintage, primitive design, much like way the gritty four-piece makes their music. After a handful of self-released 7″ records and EPs, VHS signed to Seattle-indie label Suicide Squeeze last year and are releasing their debut full-length, Gift of Life, later this year.
This week, VHS is taking their dark, rowdy and infectious punk rock on the road for a West Coast tour that lands them in Santa Rosa this Saturday, Feb 20, for a show at Atlas Coffee Company. Joining them on the bill is excellent experimental Oakland post-rock band Teal and Santa Rosa’s own doom-synth scamps Service. This one’s going to be a blast, so get down to Atlas Coffee early, doors are at 6:30pm. $6. 300 South A St.
Below, listen to VHS’s new single, “Wheelchair,” off the upcoming Gift of Life. You can pre-order the album here.
Last year’s debut Yountville Live event was a huge success, and the organizers are back for a sophmore year of pairing chart-topping recording artists, world-class chefs and the finest in Napa Valley wine. Scheduled to take place March 31 through April 3, Yountville Live’s 2016 lineup of musical and culinary rock stars came out today. And it’s a doozy.
The Goo Goo Dolls, “American Idol” winner Kris Allen, Mayer Hawthorne and Plain White T’s are all slated to appear in special up-close and personal sets, with a bevy of emerging artists once again sprinkling the weekend’s entertainment schedule.
On the culinary side, dozens of Napa valley’s vintners, including Trinchero Family Estates, Jessup Cellars, Cliff Lede Vineyards, Priest Ranch, Robert Mondavi Winery, and Somerston, among others, are matched with culinary creations by Michelin-rated chefs. Napa Valley favorites Michael Chiarello (Bottega Napa Valley in Yountville) and Bob Hurley (Hurley’s Restaurant in Yountville) join other nationally recognized chefs in demonstrating the latest and greatest in cuisine.
All of these awesome events take place at wineries and restaurants in Yountville and include the “Taste of Yountville” event, a red carpet gala and more. For full details and tickets, visit the Yountville Live website here.
Ohio-born singer and songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield first came to my attention last year when she collaborated with Seth Avett (the Avett Brothers) on an album of Elliott Smith cover songs that showcased Mayfield’s graceful voice and delicate guitar playing.
Her mastery of the emotionally-tinged music comes as no surprise to her fans. Mayfield’s been active as a solo artist from the time she was 15, playing guitar in bedroom recordings. Since 2008, her career has blossomed with albums that have transitioned from acoustic folk origins to electric and stylized garage pop wonder.
Tonight, Mayfield continues on her current solo West Coast tour with a show at HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol. Sonoma County native Alison Harris opens the show. For more details, check out the HopMonk website. And click on the videos below to get a glimpse of Mayfield’s singing/songwriting power.
Sonoma County songwriter Neem Wood mixes together shimmering electronics, soulful guitars and heartfelt lyrics for a compelling, emotional blend of indie rock and pop under the name Become the Villain.
Wood has a new album due to be released this weekend with a show at HopMonk in Sebastopol, and he has a preview of his latest work in the form a new single, “Slip Away,” that’s available to listen to right now.
Stylistically and sonically sophisticated, “Slip Away” features Wood’s soaring vocals and dark percussions with strong pop hooks and a cathartic chorus. Click on the track below; and catch Become the Villain tomorrow, Saturday Jan 23 at HopMonk, with other local luminaries Lungs and Limbs, Horses Heaven and Charley Peach. Details are here.
Formed in 2001, Toronto hardcore punk rockers Career Suicide have carried a heavy brand of old school ’80s punk ethos to underground acclaim. Yet, the band has been rarely seen in the last five years and guitarist Jonah Falco has gone on to great heights as a member of the experimental punk band F*cked Up.
Last year, F*cked Up went on their own hiatus, and Falco has come back to his rough and rowdy origins with a revamped Career Suicide, including a new album in the works, their first since 2006. Last November, the band released “Cut and Run,” the first single off the so-far-untitled upcoming album. It’s an intense two minutes of razor-sharp riffs and pounding drums that prove the band still has a Hell of an edge.
Career Suicide are also embarking on a world tour that takes them from Bakersfield to Tokyo. And right in the middle of this tour, the band is bringing the amps and axes to Santa Rosa for a concert this Saturday, Jan 16, at the Arlene Francis Center.
Hosted by the saucy kids at the Pizza Punx, this eardrum-buster of a show also features Bay Area punks Culture Abuse, Ruleta Rusa, Ex-Youth and Abusivo. Tickets are ten bucks at the door and is open to all ages.
This is actually one of the last two shows the Pizza Punx are hosting under that name, as the moniker is being laid to rest in the new year. Some of the punx will still be booking shows as Shock City, and some will be taking on a new venue project simply known as Funhouse. Stay tuned for more details on those developments. In the meantime, listen to Career Suicide’s “Cut and Run” below and turn it UP.
Subtle lo-fi songwriter Bill Callahan, who spent 15 years making music under the name Smog before venturing out under his birth name, opens the 2016 concert season at Sonoma’s hippest winery venue, Gundlach Bundschu, next month on Feb 24.
Fans of Smog and Callahan (who I count myself among) have long been obsessed with his sonorous baritone vocals delivered over sometimes dreary, sometimes groovy and often minimalistic instrumentation. Since the late ’80s, Callahan has operated with a singularly artistic vision, infusing his poetic songs with heartbreaking and revealing storytelling lyricism.
For the upcoming February concert, co-presented by (((folkYEAH!))), the songwriter is slated to appear in Gun Bun’s historic century-old Redwood Barn, recently restored to its former glory. Carpooling is encouraged, and dressing in warm layers is a must! Tickets to this intimate, one of a kind concert are available here.
Below is a video of one of my favorite Smog tracks, “Hit the Ground Running.”
Just in time for the holidays, the North Bay’s biggest music festival, BottleRock Napa Valley, will hold a special one-day pre-sale of a limited number of Platinum, VIP and general admission passes for their 2016 event, taking place next May 27-29. The sale happens tomorrow, December 15, starting at 10am PST and lasts until midnight, or until supplies sell out.
“Last year went very well,”says Dave Graham of festival organizer Latitude 38 Entertainment. “And the day after the festival, we started anew and reviewed everyone from customers to vendors and partners to figure out where we can improve, and we have been working diligently on that all year.”
BottleRock Napa Valley 2016 promises to be even bigger and better this year, with an eclectic lineup of over 70 bands joining the best of Napa Valley food and wine. Graham says that popular additions to last year’s fest, like the always packed Culinary Stage, are being taken to the next level, and the fest hopes to entice more families with an established kid’s area that’s fun for any age.
Though the lineup will not be announced until early next January, Graham says,”This year with the credibility we were able to build with the industry and our customers, we’ve been able to bring on an amazing lineup of artists.”
Tomorrow’s pre-sale will feature four tiers of specially-priced tickets. The 3-Day Platinum Pass ($2750) features an exclusive one-of-a-kind experience that gets you up close and personal with the musicians, chefs and master sommeliers for a gourmet experience through and through.
The popular 3-Day VIP Plus Skydeck Pass ($925) this year boasts a more expansive experience, as Graham and the organizers are planning a bigger sky deck with all-day complimentary beer and wine, and private suites available as well.
There’s also the 3-Day VIP Pass ($579) with expanded culinary offerings, premium viewing and upgraded amenities. The 3-Day general admission ($250) is also available at a reduced rate tomorrow.
Folk and Americana duo Eight Belles is made up of Michigan-born and longtime Bay Area-based singer Jessi Phillips and Sonoma County native songwriter and guitarist Henry Aloysius Nagle. The pair met in 2010 and first made noise in 2012 with their debut album, “Girls Underground,” hailed as a vividly beautiful country rock record.
Now, Eight Belles is back in the spotlight with a new self-titled album on Saint Rose Records, a recently premiered music video and an upcoming record-release show at the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa on Saturday, Dec 12, at 2pm.
Even with their impressive debut, the new self-titled record proves to be an even stronger effort, with Phillip’s lovely voice sounding like a mixture of Patsy Cline and Carol King, and evolved melodic arrangements performed with a full band of popular Bay Area musicians.
To get a taste of the new album, Eight Belles offer up a music video for their single, “The Old Life,” that matches their timeless country folk with enchanting black-and-white visuals, click on the video below to watch.
This weekend’s release show at the Last Record Store will feature the pair playing in an intimate setting, with Sonoma County songstress Ashley Allred opening. Vinyl and CD copies of the self-titled album will be available. The show starts at 2pm and is free.