Monday, January 29, 2018

Best of 2017: Shows

It's tough enough to reflect back and (try to) remember every show you went to the previous year but  to pick the best shows and then rank them?! It is never easy, and 2017 was no exception. 
I went to a lot of shows last year and I also worked more music fests than I ever have and just because they're not on my list doesn't mean they weren't great because  every single show is always a treat.

Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers @ Stern Grove Festival 7/2/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini
Here are some shows that just barely missed my Best of 2017 list: Nikki Lane at Social Hall SF is the best show I've seen there yet. Magic Giant was truly magicial at Popscene and was the best Popscene show I saw last year. Crystal Fighters at Mezzanine were so vibrate and fun and I am so happy I caught that one. All the acts at the 18th Annual SF Oyster Fest (The Soft Whites Sixties,  SIR SLY, KONGOS, Passion Pit).  Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers celebrating the Summer of Love at the 80th Annual Stern Grove Festival. Being in the thick of the crowd at KABOO while Tom Petty played "Free Falling".The first show I was approved to cover last year, Mac Sabbath at Slim's.
I have to stop myself there otherwise I'll list every show that I saw last year. 

Mac Sabbath @ Slim's 1/28/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini

Nikki Lane @ SF Social Hall 3/23/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini
Crystal Fighters @ Mezzanine 3/27/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini

Here are my top shows of 2017: 

Milky Chance @ The Independent 3/10/ 2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini

It is always an honor when I am approved to cover shows and Milky Chance was the first "big" band that approved me last year. I covered their sold-out show at The Independent last March, one week before their sophomore album dropped. 
The lighting was great, their folky, indie-reggae vibes sounded great throughout the intimate venue, they played hits from Sadnecessary and the then up-coming Blossom and (almost) everything in between. Sensing that they were genuinely happy to be there performing was easy because they were so gracious and polite. Milky Chance delivered a very welcoming dance party at one of SF's most intimate concert venues in 2017.  

9: Phantogram at The Greek Theater in Berkeley July 1st, 2017

I was busy on July 1st, 2017. I was approved to cover the 18th Annual SF Oyster Fest, which was a first for me. After eating all the oysters and enjoying all the music in the San Francisco sunshine I headed to the Greek Theater in Berkeley. I was there to cover the opening act, Klangstof and had photo pit access for the rest of the show. Out of the three acts at The Greek that night, Klangstof, Phantogram and Miike Snow, the supporting act from Phantogram was by far my favorite.
Sara's energy is more kinetic than Josh's but the chemistry between the duo brings a forceful prescene to the stage. The front woman was so engaging with fans (commenting on people's clothes and antics in the crowd) and personable and genuine (talking about how excited they were to be there and opening for Miike Snow) and her style rocks as much as Phantogram does.
It was still light out during their set, so it took away from their light display which looked like it would have been rad but they sounded great at the outdoor arena.

Phantogram @ The Greek Theater in Berkeley 7/1/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini

Phantogram set-list 7/1/2017 
1. You're Mine 
2. Same Old Blues 
3. Black Out Days 
4. Run Run Blood 
5. Turning Into Stone
6. Don't Move 
7. Mouth Full Of Diamonds 
8. Answer 
9. Destroyer 
10. Calling All 
11. Howling At The Moon 
12. Fall In Love 
13. When I'm Small 
14. Cruel World 
15. You Don't Get Me High Anymore 

8: Willie Nelson at The Greek Theater in Berkeley August 19th, 2017

Whenever I get to experience Willie Nelson live, his show will, with out a doubt, always make my best of list. I've lost count how many times I've been lucky enough to see him live over the years but I still get goosebumps every time I see him play. He did all the classics, including a different take on the hit he wrote for Patsy Cline (one of my all time faves) "Crazy".  His voice may not be as strong as it use to be but it's still powerful and smooth. And his guitar playing? Forget about it. Willie is the best.

Willie Nelson @ The Greek Theater in Berkeley 8/19/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini

7: Bonnaroo 2017 
stand-out performances: U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Deap Vally

Bonnaroo is one of the first, multi-day music festivals of our time and last  Summer, the 16th annual Bonnaroo was my first time experiencing it. I've been looking forward to going back to the farm ever since. Not only was it my first time getting to see U2  but I got to watch their headlining set on from the sound board.  I never even imaged that'd I'd ever see Bono that close! I also got to watch Red Hot Chilie Peppers when they played the final set on the main stage on Saturday night from the sound board. They opened with some Californication hits, they mixed in some oldies like "Suck My Kiss" and I discovered that Flea has some of the best banter ever. While those were great in all their glory for obvious reasons, my favorite was being able to catch some of Deap Vally's set.

Deap Vally @ Bonnaroo 2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini

I've been a fan of theirs since 2014 when they were on tour in support of Sistrionix, their debut album. I've seen them a handful of times in San Francisco and even caught them at Bottle Rock in 2016 but it was really cool to see them out side of my element. They played THAT tent mid-afternoon on Saturday, June 10th and the crowd wasn't crazy big so I was able to get right up front! Lindsey and Julie where wearing matching, hundred dollar bill body suits and totally rocked like they always do. Their set consisted mostly of songs off of Femejism except for one song from their first album,  "Walk of Shame". These two rock N roll ladies and the fierce energy they bring to the stage are so money, I'm so happy I got to see them at Bonnaroo!

6: Sleigh Bells at Outside Lands 2017 

When the line-up for Outside Lands was announced last year, Sleigh Bells was one of the only bands I really cared about hopefully getting to see. Don't get me wrong, I love Outside Lands, no matter
who's playing. I look forward to working in Golden Gate Park for the better part of a week with the concessions team whom I adore. I don't pay attention to the music line-up as much as I do the food vendor line-up because there's no way of knowing what set my on-site schedule will allow me to see. But I love Sleigh Bells and Alexis Krauss. Then they announced that there would be an  OSL night
show with Sleigh Bells at The Independent. I was equally excited as I was bummed because I knew for sure I couldn't make the intimate night show because I'd still be working on-site at the festival.

Sleigh Bells @ Outside Lands 8/11/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini
Late Friday afternoon, even though I was somewhere across the park with only a few minutes to spare before a mandatory team meeting I bolted to the Twin Peaks stage to catch a little Sleigh Bells. I literally ran, full speed ahead and I made it just in time to see Alexis slay, "Riot Rhythm", one of my favorite Sleigh Bells songs. In a black slip, sheer to black thigh-high tights, huge hoop earrings and a burgundy bomber jacket, Alexis rocked a chic goth-punk while her bubbly disposition made her badassery a little less intimidating. I had to bolt back across the park shortly after "Riot Rhythm" but seeing them perform that one song in it's entirety was enough for me. And I made it to my meeting on time! Even though I wasn't able to make it to the Sleigh Bells OSL night show that night, I was able to get a photo pass for my friend who went and got some awesome shots which is pretty cool

Sleigh Bells @ The Independent 8/11/2017
photo by Marc Fong 

5: M.I.A at The Fox Theater in Oakland November 2nd, 2017 

When M.I.A released her fifth studio album A.I.M in 2016 I thought it would be a while before she toured the states in support of it due to the (on going) political climate in this country. A lass my heart nearly exploded when she announced a show at The Fox Theater in Oakland on November 2nd, 2017.

M.I.A @ The Fox Theater in Oakland 11/2/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini
M.I.A set-list 11/2/2017 
1. Borders 
2. Go Off 
3. Pull Up The People 
4. Visa 
5. Bamboo Banga
6. P.O.W.A 
7. Sunshowers 
8. Story To Be Told 
9. Bucky Done Gone 
10. Bring The Noise 
11. XR2
12. The World 
13. Born Free 

14. Galang 
15. Finally 
16. Ali Are You Ok?
17. Bad Girls 
18. Fly Pirate 
19. Paper Planes

Apparently, having forgot that M.I.A is a brat, fans grumbled because she was nearly an hour late before she finally hit the stage.  From opening with "Borders" and "Go Off" from her newest album to classics like "Bucky Done Gone" and "Sunshowers" her set was chalk full of songs from across her catalog including classics like "Galang" "Bucky Done Gone" and "Paper Planes". She even had a couple of costume changes. Her wild, lightening quick back up dancers didn't share the stage with her, her backup singer was different than the one I remember and it seemed that sometimes M.I.A herself was out of breathe while she rapped. As the show went on M.I.A warmed up to the crowd more and more and as her energy increased so did her fans'.M.I.A's music has always been raw and outspoken and she has never been afraid or ashamed to say what she believes. For that, and because I love her music, her style and her sass, I love seeing her live even if her show falls a little short.

4: The Kills at The Fox Theater March 22, 2017 

Less than a year after their headlining show at The Fox Theater in Oakland, The Kills were back on the same stage for their 15th Anniversary show last spring. A platinum blonde Alison rocked a leopard print blouse and thigh high leather boots over skinny jeans like the rock goddess that she is while Jamie rocked jeans and a button up long sleeve shirt. Their chemistry on stage never ceases to be amazing: you can see and feel the love they share for each other and the music they make as they play. His harmonizing complements her howling beautifully. Naturally, they played songs from all of their albums for a great 15 year Anniversary celebration show of one of the best rock duos of our time.

3: Glass Animals at The Greek Theater September 22nd, 2017 

Glass Animals @ The Greek Theater in Berkeley 9/22/2017
photo by Marc Fong

The indie-electro band from Oxford England, Glass Animals released their second album since they played in the East Bay in 2015. When they retuned last September, they returned with gusto: playing at The Greek Theater in Berkeley which has a bigger capacity than The Fox Theater in Oakland (which was were they'd played two years ago), I'm pretty sure the show was sold-out, they had more material to play thanks to that afore mentioned second album and their stage design was a lot more elaborate than the last time I saw them. Their set blew me away. I was there by myself and had a full on dance party all night and so did everyone around me. Glass Animals have really come into
their own: they've found a comfort level on stage and with each other that leaves them having a blast and their fans have a blast in return. Their show was a bunch of fun: from the colorful lights, their high energy, killer sound, all of the pineapples and all of their hits. If you want to get your dance on, smile and feel good, go see Glass Animals.

2: Yeah Yeah Yeahs at The Fox Theater in Oakland
 October 30th, 2017

In 2014 Yeah Yeah Yeahs' fans were left heartbroken when the New York art-punk rockers announced they were going on hiatus, myself included.  Three years later, to celebrate the re-issue of their 2003 debut album, Fever To Tell, they announced they'd be playing three shows. And one of those shows was in Oakland the night before Halloween.
The show was super sold-out, there was an additional merch booth upstairs and there weren't as many people dressed in costume as I thought there would be. Karen O was in full, rockstar fashionista form and my heart was so full seeing her on-stage with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs again that I could not take my eyes off of her.

Her soft spoken banter and otherwise awkward crowd interaction hasn't changed: she smiled and laughed and even mentioned her baby when she dedicated a song to all the Moms out there. Her fierce passion when she sings is still there. They didn't only play Fever To Tell songs which was awesome. Karen O's vocals still pack punch, Brain is a powerhouse on drums and Nick slays those wicked guitar licks. There was confetti and giant blow-up eyeballs and the signature Karen O "deep throating" her mic move and it was all so so good. Yeah. 

1: Sylvan Esso at Lagunitas Brewery August 21st , 2017 
& The Fox Theater in OaklandAugust 23rd, 2017

Sylvan Esso were big winners in my book last year. Their sophomore album, What Now was my #1 album and their show is my #1 show of 2017.
I was lucky enough to see Sylvan Esso twice last year with one day in between seeing them at The Lagunita's Brewery and The Fox Theater in Oakland. Each show was their own special experience and there's no way to choose which one was "better". So, my #1 show of 2017 is a double whammy.
On August 21st, 2017 Sylvan Esso played a benefit show at The Lagunitas Brewery. As if Sylvan Esso couldn't get any cooler, all proceeds from the show went to to Planned Parenthood. The outdoor music venue where my favorite beer is brewed is super small that I was literally just a few feet from Amelia and Nick as they commenced a dance party.

Sylvan Esso @ The Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma 8/21/2017
photo by Marc Fong 
August 23rd, 2017 was their second sold-out show at The Fox Theater in Oakland. I got to see their show the way it was meant to be seen, lighting and stage design wise. It was really neat to see them play in two different capacities and they're energy was great at both.
I love that Nick gets off his synths and dances now while Amelia dominates the stage.
Get all the deets on my #1 show experience from last year here

Sylvan Esso @ The Fox Theater in Oakland 8/23/2017
photo by Nikki DeMartini

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