music in the park san jose

.Based, Spaced, and Bare

Ten hot local bands for summer.

music in the park san jose

Lil B

A self-made meme of the hour, Berkeley rapper Lil B built an entire platform on Twitter and Tumblr, which eventually led him to become the subject of Cal lectures, fawning articles, and recently, political debate — particularly after the avowedly heterosexual emcee announced the title of his forthcoming album: I’m Gay. Lil B might not be the first person to use shock tactics to fuel a marketing campaign, but he’s certainly complicated many of our notions about gender, sexuality, and imagery in hip-hop. His live shows, while unwieldy, are nonetheless full of surprises at every corner. During a recent homecoming at the Mezzanine, the self-proclaimed “Based God” led a room full of hipsters in “cooking” dances (a kind of dance), followed by a group meditation session. Lil B’s near-messianic persona has helped him indoctrinate numerous fans to the cult of “swag,” a sub-genre of hip-hop with its own slang terms and its own slowed-down production style. Adherents call it a “movement.” Skeptics call it a really smart business move. Whatever the case, it’s highly entertaining. (R.S.)


By damn near every measure, Oakland’s Tune-Yards is poised for Dirty Projectors-esque ubiquity/overexposure just about any day now. In the last month alone, the one-woman Afro-pop outfit — aka Merrill Garbus — has been named an Editors’ Pick by Rolling Stone; was awarded a prestigious 8.8 rating (and a Best New Music designation) by Pitchfork for its (fantastic) second album, w h o k i l l; and, in what’s surely irrevocable evidence of hipster street cred, been called out as nothing less than “the next female indie sex icon” by cult-hero music blogger Hipster Runoff. Garbus will be off on an international tour all summer, but get into w h o k i l l now and you’ll soon be able to brag about how you knew her back when. (E.C.)

Acephalix and Vastum

In the warehouses and underground spaces hidden from view, a crop of local bands are playing a raw amalgam of old-school death metal and crust punk. Chief among them is San Francisco-based Acephalix, as well as Vastum, which share members and have new releases coming out this month by proper labels — Southern Lord, whose roster has gotten far crustier in recent years; and 20 Buck Spin, respectively. Both outfits are also beginning to get love from metal blogs, where underground bands tend to live or die. Acephalix’s newest, Interminable Night, is a grinding, pulverizing, grimy, dense mix that’s less punk and more metal than its past releases — vocals are largely indecipherable, and the catchy opener “Christhole,” sounds like it’s being sung by a monster in a cavernous den. Vastum’s debut full-length, Carnal Law, shares similar qualities, but owes more to classical Swedish death metal in its squealing guitar solos, “cleaner” vocals, and mid-tempo sludge. Despite how dirty these bands seem, it’s surprising how straightforward and memorable many of their riffs are. But in order to hear them, you’ll have to be savvy — Acephalix is doing a one-time CD pressing of only 2,000 copies. Your best bet might be to see them out at one of their live shows this summer. Check their web sites for details. (K.R.)


Los Rakas

Say you speak Spanish and split your time between hip-hop and reggaetón. Say you’re loyal to the Bay, but tune your ears to the world stage. Say you’re an agnostic club rat who likes a good beat and doesn’t give a damn where it comes from. Time to learn to say Los Rakas. It’s a Panamanian term loosely meaning “from the ghetto,” but ’round here it means something closer to “two Panamanian kids out of Oakland rapping in Spanish over reggae.” If that’s not a billboard for globalization, what is? But Los Rakas isn’t an academic exercise; the duo’s music sweats and swings sufficiently to render its backstory nonessential. Songs like “Mi Barrio” and “Soy Raka” are smart, musical, and a bit weird; you can bump the bass or feel the beat on the dance floor, or you can sit with your headphones and parse them out. MIA, you’ve been warned. (N.S.)

Foxtails Brigade

“Baroque folk” might sound like an oxymoron, but it’s actually a spot-on descriptor for Foxtails Brigade, the ever-evolving duo that now consists of singer-songwriter Laura Weinbach and violinist Anton Patzner (of Bright Eyes and Judgement Day fame). Weinbach composes most of the material, which is intricate but compact. Classically trained, with a dulcet voice and an acoustic guitar in her armature, she looks and sounds like a character plucked from a Lewis Carroll novel. And her lyrics befit the theme. Weinbach’s songs are veritable poems, brimming over with veiled meanings and painterly imagery. Her vintage aesthetic and high, sweet vocal timbre serve equally well for standards, like the Edith Piaf tune “La Vie en Rose.” (R.S.)

Ty Segall

Despite what Pitchfork says, the Bay Area garage rock scene is hardly new. But the region’s surfeit of bands in love with that jangly, reverb-drenched genre is enjoying a particular renaissance at present, gaining national attention, signing to big indie labels, and playing major festivals (see: The Fresh & Onlys, Thee Oh Sees, Sonny & the Sunsets, et al). Ty Segall is a bit rawer and punkier than his peers; he’s also incredibly prolific. After playing in a bunch of bands, he embarked on a solo career and released four albums in just a couple years. Known for his energetic stage shows, the 23-year-old SoCal native says his forthcoming release, Goodbye Bread, to be released by Drag City in June, will be tamer and more psychedelic than past work. Because he’s got real songwriting skill, that description sounds promising. If he keeps it up, there’s no telling where his career might take him. For starters, he’ll be at Outside Lands this year. (K.R.)

The Memorials

Ex-Mars Volta drummer Thomas Pridgen and soul singer Viveca Hawkins learned their instruments in church, but apparently found their souls in rock ‘n’ roll. Their new power rock trio, The Memorials — also featuring guitarist Nick Brewer, who met Hawkins and Pridgen at Berklee School of Music — is primarily a hard rock band, though it combines elements of jazz, gospel, and R&B. Pridgen and Brewer tag-team on compositions, many of which have complex drum patterns, weird shifts in time signature, and jazzy harmonies. Hawkins adds depth and personality with her endlessly supple vocals — she’s both a belter and a raspy-voiced crooner. The group’s debut album was a party joint bolstered by real musicianship. Its live shows are rousing. (R.S.)

Bare Wires

The music industry is awash in asinine, increasingly narrow micro-genre distinctions (see: “chillwave,” “glitch-hop,” “witch house,” “crab-core,” the ineffably terrifying “rape gaze”), but there’s something sweet — and totally spot-on — about “Slop Pop,” the (self-invented) descriptor Oakland’s Bare Wires apparently use to categorize themselves. Indeed, the three-piece band’s stuff is, at its core, melodic, mid-tempo beach-pop, but it’s cloaked in enough lo-fi effects, T-Rex-esque guitar riffs, and glam-punk flourishes to be interesting. It’s also addictive as all hell. (E.C.)


Leave it to Sliggitay to name-check his therapist in one sentence, and then spend the rest of the verse talking up his swag and inventing creative euphemisms for various sexual functions. After all, the Berkeley-bred, Harvard-dropout may be something of an elite, but that doesn’t mean he’s not based. He’s a loose adherent to the Lil B school of rap, with straightforward beats and a borderline-monotone delivery, but his rhyming style —an addictive, often hilarious mix of Bay boy insouciance and Ivy League thoughtfulness — is truly all his own. (E.C.)

Man in Space

First there was a band of Piedmont High teenagers playing Rage Against the Machine covers in a cramped basement. Next came Beatles-influenced heartthrobs Panda, then dream-big college kids Dizzy Balloon. The balloon popped, but the lineage continues today through Man in Space, one of a number of side projects to evolve from the band’s dissolution last November. The new act features two members of the original clan, guitarist Jonny Flannes and keyboardist Louie Diller, both with a lot to offer. Members of the Panda gang have always been miles ahead of their garage-band peers, and Man in Space takes another step forward with overtly odd pop modeled on the likes of the Talking Heads. Its debut EP features slightly askew ear-worms “Exposition” and “Memoir,” and comes complete with impressionistic artwork on the cover. College will do that to you. (N.S.)


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music in the park san jose
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