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.
Santa Rosa indie power trio The New Trust have been a staple of Sonoma County music going on 13 years now, formed by Velvet Teen bassist Josh Staples, guitarist Sara Sanger and drummer Julia Lancer. From their 2003 debut release, “We are fast-moving motherfuckers. We are women and men of action,” which saw the band as a four-piece outfit with guitarist Michael Richardson (Benton Falls); to their latest full-length, 2013’s “Keep Dreaming,” which found the band recording with studio legend Steve Albini, the New Trust has kept up a frenzied pace and sharp sound, the best of which is on display in their new cassette-only release, “These Motherfuckers: The Best of Decade One.”
Available now online and at the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa, the cassette boasts 27 tracks and over 80 minutes of music. Side A is composed of 15 of the band’s most beloved songs. Side B switches it up with rarities, B-sides, demos and live recordings to offer a fully rounded listening experience. There’s no downloading this album, so if you’re a die-hard New Trust fan, you’ll want to grab a copy of this cassette and dust off your walkman.
Below, click on the 2003 music video for “All Things Are Moving Toward Their End,” the opening track of the cassette, and marvel at how young these kids looked. Here’s to another decade of The New Trust.
Yesterday, a flurry of rumors surfaced that country music legend Merle Haggard had cancelled his upcoming appearance at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa due to illness. Well, now the good news has come in that Haggard’s recent bout with double pneumonia will not keep him from the stage and his recovery is such that his show is BACK ON!
Haggard’s management released the following statement this morning-
The Merle Haggard show scheduled for Feb. 10, 2016 in Santa Rosa, CA will now take place as originally planned. Mr. Haggard received some medical care earlier this week, responded positively to the treatment and looks forward to seeing his fans next Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts.
It’s great news to hear that Merle is healthy and ready to play. Tickets were temporarily put on hold yesterday as the venue monitored Haggard’s situation, though they should be back on sale by the end of the day today. Call the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts box office at 707.546.3600 with any questions.
Last night, at the otherwise awesome Ty Segall show in Santa Rosa, someone decided to tag the brick bathroom walls at the Arlene Francis Center with spray paint. It was a destructive and costly act, and one that local promoter and concert booker Jake Ward took offense to. Here, Ward writes and rants on why this vandalism is harmful not only to the venue, but to the Santa Rosa music scene overall. It’s a real and powerful wake-up call, and one that is worth reading in its entirety.
Well this is frustrating. Last night somebody vandalized the restroom of the Arlene Francis Center. I’m not even gonna address what they wrote, but I will say a couple things.
One, this is why we can’t have nice things. We live in a town where people complain about a lack of venues for cool music and art happenings, and yet when one of our few beloved local institutions for hosting events opens its doors to hosting an all ages rock show, someone goes out of their way to disrespect the space. How can we complain about the scene when we have no respect for it?
Two, this is brick. Brick is extremely porous. Spray paint on old brick does not come off easily. The only full time operators at AFC are in their 60s. Are they expected to clean this off? There’s also no surplus funds at this space to buy special cleaning products. This was super rude *and* destructive.
Three, this is not a punk venue, this is a non profit community center. The morning after the show this happened at, the classroom was rented out for a weekly event called Mini Music where parents bring their toddlers to learn to sing. There are all sorts of important political, educational, and arts activities happening at this space. Who really thought this was a place that deserved to be vandalized like this?
Prolific rock and roller Ty Segall just can’t stop. In addition to playing in excellent garage rock outfits like FUZZ and Sic Alps, Segall’s massive solo output has been a wide array of experimental hard rock.
This month, Segall releases his tenth solo record, Emotional Mugger, on Drag City. It’s a super fuzzed out and darkly glammed collection of awesome weirdness. And you can hear it now, before it’s Jan 22 release date, by clicking on the link below, via NPR.
Ty Segall will be in the North Bay next week as well, blowing the roof off the Arlene Francis Center on Sunday, Jan 24, with his new full band the Muggers. Details on that show, which marks the final concert hosted by Sonoma County’s Pizza Punx, 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.
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.
Garage rock and glam pop songwriter Ezra Furman is a fierce and fearless indie music maker who’s been gathering steam for his irresistible tunes and infectious personality. His most recent release, “Perpetual Motion People” is as groovy as it is restless, as personal as it is catchy. And, Furman has also been making headlines lately for identifying as gender fluid. We last wrote about Furman’s awesome cover of the Replacements song, “Androgynous,” and we’re happy to have another excuse to highlight some amazing music once again.
That’s because, this week Furman is playing a last minute concert on Saturday, December 5, at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, as part of a west coast tour. With Furman’s star shining brightly and musical momentum perpetually gaining speed, this might be the last time anyone will get to see the songwriter in such an intimate setting as this, and the rest of the lineup is fully stacked with local wonders. Music from the Corner Store Kids, Don Kennemer and Plastic Ghost joins a masked performance art piece by Quenby, comedic antics from Be The Clown, a gallery of works from local artists and Lagunitas beer on tap.
This is one not to miss. The show happens on Dec 5 at Arlene Francis Center, 99 Sixth St, Santa Rosa, 8pm, $12 suggested donation.