Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Talking Devolution with Burger Boogaloo Headliner Devo

“We're just the house band going down with the Titanic, playing your favorite tunes as we all go down.”

by Nessa Moreno
Wed, Jun 27, 2018 at 12:35 PM

Devo is perhaps best known for their hit, "Whip It." - PHOTO COURTESY OF ROBERT MATHEU
  • Photo courtesy of Robert Matheu
  • Devo is perhaps best known for their hit, "Whip It."


The history of Devo, the misunderstood iconoclast multimedia pioneers of punk, is far complicated than scores composed for Rugrats. Reached by phone earlier this week, Devo co-founder Jerry Casale cut into the grit about Donald Trump without hesitation (or espresso). "He's a blustering, idiotic developer-businessman-entrepreneur who hoodwinked everybody, has been bankrupt four times, gotten himself into a mountain of debt," Casale said, sounding groggy but perking up as the caffeine hits. "It's proof of Devolution of our entire culture."

What exactly is Devolution? Let’s go back to May 4, 1970, Kent State University. At the time, Casale was a student organizing with Students for a Democratic Society against the Vietnam War. That's when the National Guard gunned down the student uprising, killing four students and injuring nine. Casale knew two of the slain students, Allison Krause and Jeffrey Miller. For the next year-and-a-half, Casale channeled grief into a project with his colleague Bob Lewis and conceived the concept, Devolution. "We were seeing in western society going down, Devolution,” Casale said. “Then one night I decided to make it an art movement, so we wanted to shorten it up. We wanted to do what all corporations did by abbreviating, using anagrams — we wanted to make it like Xerox, rub off letters. … It was Devo from there on out.”


It was then that Casale met up with co-founder of Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh, who was a student part-time taking art classes. “We became friends,” Casale said. “I told him about all the Devolution stuff. He just went nuts. He was already mentally there with us.”


The group elevated their concept from art into music with the help of their brothers Bob Mothersbaugh (Bob1) and late Bob Casale (Bob2), and found their first drummer, the late Alan Myers. By 1977, Devo was ready to leave Akron Ohio behind, and Jerry took a trip to New York booking gigs for Devo at punk clubs CBGB’s and Max’s Kansas City and pretending to be Devo’s manager — rightfully so, at the time no one took them seriously. “Once we played those clubs, suddenly we were on the radar. People on the West Coast — the center of the record business world — were trying to sign us. A&M Records had an A&R man, Chip Cohen (he signed The Tubes two years earlier), he gave us money and had to drive out to California. Then we had to showcase for him in Hollywood, and he promptly rejected us.”


Rather than trudging the trail of failure back to Akron, Ohio, they met one last record executive. “He goes, ‘Guys, you could march seven naked teenage girls in here and they're all pretty but one's got a weird mole, one’s got no tits. What I'm trying to say is, you're not my kind of girl.’ I wanted to punch him out. ... That's when we left, and I started venting in the parking lot screaming about him, and Alan Myers, our drummer, goes, ‘Maybe we don't deserve a record deal.’ Ha, and I go, ‘Fuck that. That's bullshit. We're going to figure this out.’”


Word began to circulate about Devo’s distinctive sound and appearance. The same venue of Devo's debut showcase invited the band back, gaining them local recognition, and attracted the likes of Toni Basil and Iggy Pop, who then gave their tape to Neil Young, who then gave their tape to David Bowie, who brought Devo in touch with Brian Eno, who then produced their debut classic, Q: Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! Los Angeles has been their base ever since.


With their debut on Saturday Night Live, Devo was definitely perceived as polarizing by right wing America, especially in late 1970s. “When you're a do-it-yourself artist and you're punk in sense that you hate illegitimate authority, you hate all the gatekeepers — you know what? These people hate us, and we're doing something right.”


By 1980, ”Whip It” was on heavy rotation on MTV. But soon, MTV shifted its focus and basically became an advertising tool for Top 40, and Devo dropped off the mainstream radar. Yet, the band remained relevant to the underground. “By the 1990s, they weren't going, ‘Oh fuck Devo, that fucking ‘Whip It’ band,’” Jerry said.


There was a shift, and with that shift, the band came out of a hiatus. With Mothersbaugh composing scores for Rugrats, Pee-wee's Playhouse, and Wes Anderson movies, Devo was rediscovered by a new generation, propelled by the tools of social media. “They're like, ‘Oh yeah, Devo, Devolution is real.’ Of course, it's a foregone conclusion — we're just the house band going down with the Titanic, playing your favorite tunes as we all go down.”


With headlining this Burger Boogaloo this weekend, Devo is influential to many artists on this bill, the Mummies, Quintron, and especially the founders of Burger Records. The band itself remains a relevant soundtrack of society falling apart. “We all proved that Devolution is real,” Jerry said. ”We became the new wave Grateful Dead, with three generations of kids liking our music.”


Devo performs at 8:15 p.m. on Saturday, June 30, at Mosswood Park in Oakland for Burger Boogaloo. Tickets here.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Otherwheres Finds Artificial Inspiration for Fifth Edition

The fifth edition of the literary and art magazine gets released Friday.

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, Jun 21, 2018 at 2:20 PM

Virginia Zamora created the cover art.
  • Virginia Zamora created the cover art.

When Joseph Bien-Kahn was a college student, he received a creative writing assignment that has stuck with him years later. His teacher handed out a few opening lines to novels and asked the students to pick one as their own opening line to a short story.

"He told us the first line was always the hardest," Bien-Kahn said. "What was fascinating most of all was all the stories were different. They all went in completely different directions."

Bien-Kahn applied that lesson to his literary and art magazine's newest issue, Otherwheres V: Artificial Inspiration — with an appropriately Bay Area twist. Web editor Aaron Strick found an open source sentence-building tool, so the pair put all of the poetry, first-person stories, and other writing from the first four Otherwheres editions into a database, and the algorithm spit out "an absolutely amazing, bizarre, magical collection of sentences," Bien-Kahn said. A few examples: "I think you grow stale and I am a backpack," "His face loosely stitched over his huge plantation homes," and "But something had raspberry bushes in my tongue."

The magazine team — editor Bien-Kahn, co-founder Aaron Kingon, web editor Strick, and design editor Toby Silverman — picked two sentences ("The Sisters are Dubious" and "You have found a thousand year passed by the ceremony") and found six writers to pen a short story using them as the opening line. They also gave six photographers different robo-excerpts to use as captions for an image.

Contributors include Lexi Pandell, who has written for Wired, The Atlantic, and Playboy; Megan Molteni of Wired; Nastia Voynovskaya, KQED's music and books editor and former Express writer; and Ismail Muhammad of Zyzzyva, The Millions, and LA Review of Books. Given the theme and technology behind the issue, it makes sense that some of the pieces lean dystopian and futurist, but others remain rooted in personal stories. "They still feel lived in and have that truth to them," Bien-Kahn said.

The hefty, beautifully designed magazines are printed at Autumn Press in Berkeley and will be for sale at the release party at 9 p.m. Friday, June 22, at Starline Social Club (2236 Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Oakland). With no cover to attend, folks can enjoy live readings followed by a dance party with Voynovskaya and Will Bundy of Wine & Bowties spinning hip-hop and R&B.

Editor's Note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Aaron Kingon as the web editor. In fact, Aaron Strick is the web editor.

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Thursday, June 14, 2018

The Pointer Sisters to Headline This Year's Art + Soul Oakland

Lyrics Born, Alphabet Rockers, Gift of Gab, and more will be at the 18th edition.

by Janelle Bitker
Thu, Jun 14, 2018 at 1:38 PM

The Pointer Sisters will receive a key to the city. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ART + SOUL OAKLAND
  • Photo courtesy of Art + Soul Oakland
  • The Pointer Sisters will receive a key to the city.

Art + Soul Oakland will return to the streets of downtown Oakland with a fresh lineup on a new weekend. While the festival usually takes place in mid-August, the 2018 edition will see it Saturday, July 28, and Sunday, July 29.

The Pointer Sisters, the Oakland R&B group who won three Grammy Awards during their peak of fame in the 1970s and '80s, headlines this year's festival. At Art + Soul, the trio will be given keys to the city. As with past years, Art + Soul keeps the lineup focused on homegrown talent. Other headliners include Lyrics Born, the rapper who is set to release his tenth record later this year; Alphabet Rockers, the Grammy-nominated hip-hop group aimed at children; and Jazz Mafia with specials guests Tiffany Austin, Martin Luther, and Gift of Gab of Blackalicious fame.

New this year is live salsa with free salsa dance lessons, backed by Mario Salomon's new band Mario y Su TimbeKO.

The festival will also bring back its turf dance battle, world dance showcases, blues stage, arts marketplace, local food and drink, and carnival with activities for kids.

In honor of Art + Soul's 18th birthday, kids ages 18 and under will get into the festival for free, ensuring that this will be an extra family-friendly weekend. Advance tickets for adults cost $12 and $6 for seniors 65 and older. For more information, visit ArtandSoulOakland.com.

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Monday, June 4, 2018

Oakland Singer Tatyana Schmid Killed in Traffic Accident

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 4:53 PM

Tatyana Schmid (left) wrote songs as duo TATATEO. - PHOTO VIA TATATEO'S FACEBOOK
  • Photo via Tatateo's Facebook
  • Tatyana Schmid (left) wrote songs as duo TATATEO.

Tatyana Schmid died Thursday, May 31, while riding her bicycle along the 7000 block of Skyline Boulevard, according to Bay Area News Group. She collided with a SUV and died at the scene. She was 28 years old.

Schmid was a local singer who performed in Bay Area folk bands, including Oakland acoustic duo TATATEO with Matteo Lovik.  The Minnesota native was also a trip leader for Backroads, the hiking and cycling company.

The collision remains under investigation.

Review: Politics Takes Center Stage at Clusterfest

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Jun 4, 2018 at 11:11 AM

Michael Che - COURTESY OF CLUSTERFEST BY FILMMAGIC.COM
  • Courtesy of Clusterfest by FilmMagic.com
  • Michael Che


Comedians brought their wokest material to Comedy Central’s Clusterfest, the three-day comedy festival in San Francisco that wrapped up Sunday night. Nearly every set spoke to Donald Trump, race, or the #MeToo movement — and often all three.


Many comics couldn’t resist playfully jabbing at San Francisco, especially its whiteness. “This feels like a really fucked up Jehovah's Witnesses concert,” said Tiffany Haddish, scanning the VIP section at the start of her set.


Saturday Night Live’s Michael Che spent some time on his feelings about the city as well. “Every time I get here, it gets a little whiter,” he said, as the camera pointed to an all-white section of the audience. “It’s like I’m slowly watching my favorite person turn gray.”


Others were even more direct. Kate Berlant began her surrealist set with a few questions: “Who here works for Facebook? Who here likes to actively displace the poor?” After some awkward laughter, she issued a clarification: “That's a San Francisco joke.” While performing at the outdoor, Civic Center stage, Jeff Jeffries remarked on how festival organizers cleared homeless folks out from the plaza — essentially, evicting them from where they currently live — just so he could tell some dick jokes. Arrested Development's David Cross cheerfully called San Francisco “the human poo capital of America.”


Comics didn’t shy away from #MeToo within the comedy industry, as Louis C.K. was put on blast multiple times. “There are at least 12 comics I know that I would not invite to my home,” said Jackie Kashian. “I call them my work friends.”


Kashian was one of many lesser-known openers who had audiences keeling over, demonstrating the impressive, top-to-bottom lineup at Clusterfest. She also encapsulated the weekend well in a single sentence: “I am surely not a political comic, but I am now, because I’m alive.”


The wokeness continued through Saturday's headlining set, which saw Amy Schumer splitting her time with three other women. Schumer, who is often accused of problematic white feminism, spoke to the importance of intersectionality and promoting people of color in her Saturday headlining set.

Tiffany Haddish - COURTESY OF CLUSTERFEST BY FILMMAGIC.COM
  • Courtesy of Clusterfest by FilmMagic.com
  • Tiffany Haddish
The Lonely Island - COURTESY OF CLUSTERFEST BY FILMMAGIC.COM
  • Courtesy of Clusterfest by FilmMagic.com
  • The Lonely Island
Jon Stewart - COURTESY OF CLUSTERFEST BY FILMMAGIC.COM
  • Courtesy of Clusterfest by FilmMagic.com
  • Jon Stewart


A less political highlight of the weekend, however, was Lonely Island’s headlining set on Friday — the comedic hip-hop group’s first official live concert ever. The multimedia set was packed with over-the-top silliness, guest appearances, costume changes, and all of their beloved hits. The Berkeley group even debuted a new song, suggesting the possibility of more live shows down the line. The East Bay-centric track paid homage to sports stars Jose Canseco, Mark McGuire, and Joe Montana, and saw Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer dressed in Oakland A’s gear.

Other memorable, unserious attractions included a recreation of Nickelodeon’s game show Double Dare, equipped with green slime; a South Park carnival full of themed games; a brass band-led parade featuring a few men coated in blue paint and clad in cut-offs, which ended at a replication of the Arrested Development stair car; and a slew of hip-hop performances that played up the theme of '90s nostalgia.


But the most memorable attraction was the Daily Show’s Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library, which showcased Trump’s most bizarre and outrageous tweets in an ambitious format that struck the perfect tone between humor and despair. Cast members of the Daily Show served as ideal anchors throughout the festival, which fittingly ended on a political high via Jon Stewart. The former host proved he’s still the master of the form, even weaving in an old Twitter exchange between him and Trump, and gave a shout-out to his former colleague Samantha Bee, who is currently experiencing the president’s wrath.


But as with the rest of the festival lineup, he found a way to make fun of San Francisco, too.


“Is rent so fucking bad we can’t afford a theater?” he asked on the main stage, as thousands stood bundled in the chill. “Or a Google bus or something?”


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Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Howlin' Rain Premieres Rollicking New 'Missouri' Video

by Janelle Bitker
Wed, May 30, 2018 at 12:00 PM

PHOTO COURTESY OF KRISTY WALKER
  • Photo courtesy of Kristy Walker
Oakland's Howlin' Rain teamed up with the Express to premiere its new music video for "Missouri." The song comes from the rock band's soulful, anthemic new album Alligator Bride, which saw the group return to its DIY roots via bandleader Ethan Miller's own Silver Current Records. Miller is, of course, the Bay Area favorite who also fronts Heron Oblivion and Feral Ohms and formerly helmed Comets on Fire.


Miller shared a little bit about the new release: "The mission with the ‘Missouri’ video was to capture the live energy of the band, which I think we did quite nicely here. The energy is always high and together there's always a feeling of the band as a single entity being on the brink of eruption. When we get on stage that energy just goes through the roof. It’s such a joy to feel those guys whipping up around me like cyclones!” 

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Your 2018 Guide to Clusterfest

by Janelle Bitker
Wed, May 30, 2018 at 10:44 AM

PHOTO COURTESY OF JOSH WITHERS
  • Photo courtesy of Josh Withers

The biggest comedy festival in the Bay Area is also one of the newest. Clusterfest returns Friday, June 1, through Sunday, June 3, for its second year of nonstop stand-up as well as live music and interactive attractions.

Presented by Comedy Central, Superfly, and Another Planet Entertainment, Clusterfest inverts the Outside Lands formula with comics as the headliners and bands in supporting roles. The headliners are huge names: Amy Schumer, Berkeley’s The Lonely Island, John Mulaney, Trevor Noah, and Jon Stewart, who will close out the festival on Sunday with his first stand-up performance on the West Coast in 15 years. (Don’t worry, the former Daily Show host does indeed have an act. Read this interview in the San Francisco Chronicle.)

With five stages sprinkled throughout San Francisco Civic Center and the Bill Graham Auditorium, Clusterfest has a habit of overwhelming. Here’s what we recommend checking out this weekend beyond the headliners:


Comedy

Tiffany Haddish: Endearing and hilarious, the star of 2017’s Girl Trip is an easy choice in one of the earlier time slots.

Saturday, 5:45-6:30 p.m., Colossal Stage


David Cross: Best known for his role as Tobias on Arrested Development, Cross is far more dry and sarcastic in his stand-up persona. He also has a small but vital role in the upcoming Boots Riley film, Sorry to Bother You.

Sunday, 7:45-8:45 p.m., Bill Graham Stage


Maria Bamford: Her semi-autobiographical Netflix show Lady Dynamite was a critical hit and an important, destigmatizing portrayal of mental illness.

Friday, 5:30-6:30 p.m., 415 Comedy Club; 7:15-8:30 p.m. Bill Graham Stage


Awkwafina: The Asian American comedian and rapper is poised to blow up with two movies coming out this summer, Ocean’s 8 and Crazy Rich Asians, as well as a Comedy Central pilot.

Saturday, 3:15-4 p.m., Colossal Stage; 7:15-8:15 p.m. Room 415 Comedy Club


Doughboys: Mike Mitchell and Nick Wiger took reviewing chain restaurants to a new level with their hilarious podcast.

Sunday, 7:30-8:30 p.m., Larkin Comedy Club


Music

Wu-Tang Clan: Get ready to sing along to "C.R.E.A.M."

Sunday, 6:45-7:45 p.m., Colossal Stage


Third Eye Blind: This is, after all, a comedy festival.
Friday, 6:25-7:10 p.m., Colossal Stage

Food


Kronnerburger: The Piedmont Avenue restaurant is no more, so this might be one of your last chances to get the official Kronnerburger. (The stand will also serve vegan Impossible burgers.)


Aburaya: The Oakland favorite will serve fried chicken rice bowls, vegan drumstix, and fried cauliflower.


Whistlin’ Willys pizza: Little Star Pizza will serve deep dish and thin crust slices in honor of the South Park pizzeria.


Paddy’s Pub food: Ever wondered what rum ham, bagged spaghetti, and tachos would actually taste like? It’s time to find out.


Dosa By Dosa: Head here for lighter, healthier meals, including their sprouted mung bean salad and pani poori, a chaat dish you can’t even get at the actual Oakland restaurant.


Attractions


Paddy’s Pub: The shitty bar from It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is back, featuring live entertainment every day in addition to themed food. You can even play Flipadelphia.


The Donald J. Trump Presidential Twitter Library: The Daily Show presents “the finest works from Trump’s Twitter collection.”


South Park County Fair: Join the gang for skee ball, archery, and other carnival games.


Double Dare: The Nickelodeon game show will be recreated with interactive challenges, a one-hour live show on Sunday, and slime.


Arrested Development: You’ve probably already binge-watched the new season on Netflix, and now you can hit up the banana stand and take a selfie on the stair car.


Tickets ($289.50 for three days and $115 for single days) are still on sale here.

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Monday, May 28, 2018

Review: The White Elitism of BottleRock Napa Valley

Bruno Mars called the festival 'the fancy Coachella.'

by Azucena Rasilla
Mon, May 28, 2018 at 9:31 AM

Sunday saw more than 30,000 attendees. - PHOTO COURTESY BOTTLEROCK NAPA VALLEY
  • Photo courtesy BottleRock Napa Valley
  • Sunday saw more than 30,000 attendees.

More than 30,000 people showed up to day three of BottleRock Napa Valley — a vast majority to see Bruno Mars. Many chose to skip all of the day's other performances to try to get a coveted spot close to the front of the main stage to see Bruno Mars close the festival.

It was a commitment to sit through so many other performances, including Halsey. Throughout her mediocre performance, the New York native — and G-Eazy’s girlfriend — kept complaining between songs, berating fans who had been waiting by the stage for hours for their lack of enthusiasm. She is overrated at best.

Bruno Mars called the festival “the fancy Coachella.” This term is accurate, as BottleRock primarily functions as a music festival for the elite.

Sure, BottleRock offers a payment plan just like Coachella and Outside Lands, but out of the three festivals, only Outside Lands offers a payment plan for the VIP section. With BottleRock, there are too many tiers going from general admission, which cost $409 for all three days, to their Platinum Experience, which will set you back $3,500.

The tiers in pricing were surely reflected in the crowds. While there has been an increase in younger people attending, which was the case this year with lots of people in their teens and early 20s, as well as families with kids in strollers, the mix of people stops there. It remains predominantly white. If you wanted to find people of color, more were there as staff as opposed to as attendees.

A sea of white people. - PHOTO COURTESY BOTTLEROCK NAPA VALLEY
  • Photo courtesy BottleRock Napa Valley
  • A sea of white people.

The "BottleRock is too white" theme doesn’t stop at the attendees or the lineup — none of the 16 Latino-owned wineries from Napa were present at the festival either.

Choosing Bruno Mars, one of few people of color on the lineup, as the closer of the festival was an excellent idea. He is, after all, one of the best singers and entertainers around currently. The hope is that the folks behind BottleRock put more effort into bringing not only a more diverse group of artists in the future — if Michael Franti can play the festival over five times, so can Latinx bands who have previously played — but also find a way to make the crowd more diverse as well as have the food and drinks selection reflect the demographics of Napa Valley.

BottleRock Napa Valley 2019 will take place May 24-26.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Review: Police Activity Disrupts Day Two of BottleRock Napa Valley

Plus, white attendees say the N word during E-40's set.

by Azucena Rasilla
Sun, May 27, 2018 at 9:49 AM

The Killers closed out Saturday. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NISHA GULATI (LATITUDE 38 TEAM)
  • Photo courtesy of Nisha Gulati (Latitude 38 Team)
  • The Killers closed out Saturday.

Chaos briefly hit the second day of BottleRock Napa Valley, as police arrested an armed robbery suspect within the festival.

According to the Napa Police Department, dispatch received a 9-1-1 call of an armed robbery that occurred on Hagen Road, near Silverado Trail. Two suspects left in a Hyundai, a car chase ensued, and the suspects fled into the festival on foot. Police immediately arrested one suspect, but the second wasn't located.

The incident prompted a brief lockdown. Gates to the festival were closed as police searched for the second suspect.

Most attendees inside the festival were unaware of the activity. Others seemed more concerned with the inconvenience of a potential lockdown for security reasons, and less concerned with an armed individual potentially roaming inside the festival.

Still, most of BottleRock went off without delays. My goal for BottleRock day two was to find as many people of color as possible. Saturday was, after all, the most diverse as far as the lineup was concerned — Michael Franti, Snoop Dogg, E-40, and Natalia Lafourcade were all part of the bill.

My biggest disappointment on Saturday was the sight of a sea of white people singing along to E-40. I don’t doubt that there are folks who are legitimate fans of the Bay Area legend, but there’s something extremely uncomfortable about hearing rich white people say the N word like it is not a big deal. Have they not learned anything? Clearly not. Judging by the large crowd, festival-goers chose the music over the do-or-die Warriors game happening at the same time — except E-40 himself, who cut his set short by roughly 5 minutes, probably to catch the end of the game.

View from the Midway stage while E-40 was performing. - AZUCENA RASILLA
  • Azucena Rasilla
  • View from the Midway stage while E-40 was performing.

One highlight of BottleRock every year is the food and drink selection. I checked out the Hendrick’s Gin cocktail bar, which stayed busy with a variety of signature cocktails flowing. Hendrick’s was perfectly positioned next to the Williams-Sonoma culinary stage, which remained a popular hub throughout the day with appearances by Tre Cool of Green Day with Graham Elliot; E-40, Mike D with Adam Richman; and Snoop Dogg and Warren G with Michael Voltaggio, who won the Guinness World Record for the biggest paradise cocktail made live in front of the crowd.

Hendrick's cocktails, from left to right: ruby radler, sun god, bespoke G&T, and butterfly effect. - PHOTO BY MAYRA ALFARO MARTINEZ
  • Photo by Mayra Alfaro Martinez
  • Hendrick's cocktails, from left to right: ruby radler, sun god, bespoke G&T, and butterfly effect.

Snoop Dogg stirrring the biggest paradise cocktail in the world, according to the Guinness World Records. - PHOTO BY MAYRA ALFARO MARTINEZ
  • Photo by Mayra Alfaro Martinez
  • Snoop Dogg stirrring the biggest paradise cocktail in the world, according to the Guinness World Records.
E-40, Mike D, and Adam Richman at the culinary stage. - PHOTO BY AZUCENA RASILLA
  • Photo by Azucena Rasilla
  • E-40, Mike D, and Adam Richman at the culinary stage.

Las Vegas indie rockers, The Killers, closed out day two, with a massive number of people eager to see their performance up close. What can be said about The Killers that hasn’t been said before? They put on one hell of a live performance, and lead singer Brandon Flowers is aging like the most expensive and exquisite wine from the Miner family winery.

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Review: On the Lack of Brown and Black Artists at Day One of BottleRock Napa Valley

Mike D's set was a nostalgic surprise.

by Azucena Rasilla
Sat, May 26, 2018 at 10:24 AM

Matt Bellamy of Muse. - PHOTO COURTESY OF NISHA GULATI (LATITUDE 38 TEAM)
  • Photo courtesy of Nisha Gulati (Latitude 38 Team)
  • Matt Bellamy of Muse.

I went to BottleRock Napa Valley lamenting the lack of Brown and Black artists. In the span of the three days, there’s a whopping two Latinx artists: Colombian band Bomba Estéreo and Mexican singer Natalia Lafourcade.

Let’s start with Bomba Estéreo. Non-Spanish speaker music lovers, do not sleep on this band from Bogotá Colombia led by Li Samuet and Simón Mejía.

The Colombian powerhouse played at the Miner Family Winery Stage, the same stage that two years ago saw Fantastic Negrito. Unlike him, Bomba Estéreo has yet to win a Grammy — perhaps their eclectic and energetic set at this year’s BottleRock is the good luck charm they need to finally win it.

PHOTO COURTESY OF NISHA GULATI (LATITUDE 38 TEAM)
  • Photo courtesy of Nisha Gulati (Latitude 38 Team)

What was surprising about their set was the lack of Brown people singing and dancing along to their lyrics. One thing is for sure, the rich folks who paid for VIP and Platinum tickets certainly enjoyed Samuet’s quick and fiery freestyling. Sure, they didn’t understand a single thing, but that’s the beauty of music: It’s universal, you feel it, even if you don’t understand it. Their Afro-pop, dubstep, freestyle, psychedelia, cumbia, and champeta (a genre of folk music from the coastal regions of Colombia) sound is contagious. Even if you’ve never heard of the band, chances are you have heard their song “Soy Yo” which was part of a 2016 Target commercial.
I walked away after their set was over with an overwhelming sense of pride to be Latinx.

As I made my way between stages, my second favorite moment of day was Mike D’s DJ set. If you grew up listening to Beastie Boys, the nostalgia was sure to take over seeing him on stage. It was partly amazing to see him rocking the stage on his own, although at the same time, it was also melancholic. The death of Adam Yauch in 2012 marked the end of the Beastie Boys — not seeing Ad-Rock and MCA on stage with Mike D felt slightly unnatural.

View from the Jam Cellars (main stage) - PHOTO COURTESY OF NISHA GULATI (LATITUDE 38 TEAM)
  • Photo courtesy of Nisha Gulati (Latitude 38 Team)
  • View from the Jam Cellars (main stage)

Muse closed day one, and from the aerial views of the main stage area, it seemed that more people chose to see overrated pop duo, The Chainsmokers over the English rock legends. Can someone explain to me why The Chainsmokers are famous?

We shall see what day two has in store. E-40 is on the bill, and I’m sure he’s hating that he won’t be able to attend game six of the Western Conference finals to root for his beloved Warriors.

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