Who Are the Hottest Bay Area Musicians?
Local Acts Flood Outside Lands
| By Ted Andersen |
Is your music playlist in need of a jumpstart? If you quietly nodded your head yes then this year’s Outside Lands music festival in Golden Gate Park has what you need. Here’s the lowdown on the all the local bands and DJs performing at the festival.
Fantastic Negrito blends the sounds of blues, soul, roots and rock while frontman and songwriter Xavier Dphrepaulezz lyricizes the socioeconomic, race and class issues he is currently living through in Oakland. Fantastic Negrito’s 2015 self-titled EP was a tour de force and the band has since been written up everywhere from the Washington Post to the UK Guardian. Expect big things to come.
Psychedelic Rock, San Francisco/Oakland
San Francisco’s Heron Oblivion features Meg Baird (Espers), Noel Von Harmonson (Comets on Fire, Six Organs of Admittance, Sic Alps, The Lowdown), Ethan Miller (Comets on Fire, Howlin’ Rain, Feral Ohms), and Charlie Saufley (Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound). The band’s origins date back to 2013 in the Bayview where they would embark on extended free jams. They may be pegged as a modern psychedelic act, but as guitarist Charlie Staufley puts it, “I really think of us as an unusually noisy folk rock band.”
Indie Rock, Oakland
Rogue Wave just seems to gather strength with time. This is not the first Outside Lands festival the Oakland-based indie rock band has washed through, and it may not be the last. Frontman Zack Rogue and longtime bandmate Pat Spurgeon recently released a new album, Delusions of Grand Fur, which draws on inspiration from the misplaced illusions of everyday American life, and especially those in young people starting bands to reinvent their own personas.
R&B singer-songwriter, Oakland
Kehlani is a straight shooter in conversation or on stage. The Oakland-born R&B singer and songwriter dishes straight truth about her life, pain, passion, love, triumph. It’s honesty that gives her music the depth of classic Motown and the feel of Neo Soul. Her 2015 mixtape, You Should Be Here, tells her story. She also broke up with Cavalier’s guard Kyrie Irving, who is responsible for beating the Warriors in game 7 of the NBA Finals, so props to her for that.
Neo-soul/R&B/Soul funk, San Francisco, Oakland and Alameda
Formed in 2013, Con Brio is the project of seven musicians with diverse backgrounds and a shared love for the Bay Area funk and psychedelic-soul sound coming out of groups like Sly & the Family Stone. Last year, the band self-produced their debut EP, Kiss the Sun, and that is just what they aim to do. As frontman Ziek McCarter puts it, “We don’t want to walk, we don’t want to drive … we want to fly. We want to levitate.” Their newest album is called Paradise.
R&B/Boogie and Disco/House/Techno, San Francisco
PillowTalk is Sammy D, Ryan Williams and Michael Tello, based in the Lower Haight. The group’s music fuses classic R&B, boogie and disco with underground house and techno. Like many local acts, PillowTalk came out of local improvised jam sessions around a piano and guitar that were recorded on an iPhone and taken to the beat lab to create dance-pop beats. Very organic!
Funk/Breakbeat, East Bay
Many of the DJs at Outside Lands owe a lot to MoPo and many would not have been booked without his behind-the-scenes engineering and deal brokering. As a Bay Area veteran who has been spinning for more than two decades, Robbie Kowal is a master of his craft and an act that should not be missed.
Ghetto Funk/Nu Funk/Breakbeat/Electro, San Francisco
Deckard is the project of DJ Keith Harris, a Tacoma native who brought his talents to San Francisco in 2005. The name comes from the fictional android-hunting plain-clothes police officer Rick Deckard, famously played by Harrison Ford in the 1982 sci-fi classic Blade Runner. Deckard is a current member of the SF DJ collective Space Cowboys and has a passion for multiple genres. “I like to get people to come along with my ride,” he says.
Make It Funky DJs
Classic Disco/Funk and Soul/Psychedelic, San Francisco
Make it Funky DJs is the brainchild of Inner Richmond residents Mohit Kohli and Michael Fortune. It began as a regular monthly party back in 2012 and grew into a weekly radio show on BFF.fm radio broadcast from a secret alleyway in the Mission. Other DJs are also a part of the mix.
Deep/Bass/Booty House, East Bay
Bay Area natives Elric Weibel and Scott Holland are the 219 Boys. They got their name from the time they worked together at Guitar Center in San Mateo County, which happened to be store #219. Before being introduced to DJ equipment at Guitar Center, they were guitar-playing metal head bangers. How times have changed! Now they make beats and their sound is built on house and bass. Both currently reside in the East Bay.
Bass-driven House, San Francisco
W. Haze is the lovechild of DJ Zach Moore. Moore loves House music but became pigeonholed as a Breakbeat DJ under his own name after going “all in” in that genre. So he did what any self-respecting artist would do, he reinvented himself to do more of what he loved. Also known for his work with the local DJ collective The Space Cowboys, 46-year-old Moore is the creator of the Armory Podcast (no relation to Kink.com), which features the sounds local DJs throughout the area and is syndicated on iTunes. Besides Outside Lands, his favorite DJ party of the year is Breakfast of Champions, an all-day New Year’s Day music fest in the city started by the Space Cowboys.
Disco/Dirty House/Tribal Latin, San Francisco
Derek is originally from upstate New York but has resided in San Francisco before most of today’s hipsters could even grow a beard. Pink Mammoth was his DJ collective and something he took a lead position in. True to his inner party mammoth, you can often catch him performing at Burning Man.
Future Bass/Tech House/Trap, Half Moon Bay (formerly San Francisco)
Ryan Grennan is Grensta. He began spinning in Chico State’s party scene but when he left and moved to the Bay Area, his sound, style and seriousness for being a DJ all evolved. Now he is surrounded by a number of talented and like-minded individuals, which he says has driven him to dedicate every day to his craft.