Vacation for the Senses 

Our critics recommend ten Bay Area acts to awe, inspire, and just plain rock you all summer long.

The Attik If Bay Area hip-hop were more of a meritocracy, chances are Attik emcees Elefant, Anansi, and Do D.A.T. would be getting major radio spins by now. As it stands, the Attik — a group that combines its own sanctimonious rhymes and industrial drum-machine patterns with theatrical spoken verses by frequent contributors Chinaka Hodge and Ise Lyfe — hasn't quite gotten its due. Still, the crew has garnered an ardent fanbase in the Bay Area, particularly since its spirited live performances far outpace its recorded material. With a one-man rhythm section provided by DJ TreatUNice — a ranking artist in his own right — the group stunned audiences at 2232 MLK, where the Attik held its album release party last year with a fully choreographed stage show, and at this year's Hip-Hop in the Park, where it performed a rousing, agit-prop spinoff of Rich Boy's hit "Just Bought a Cadillac." Just imagine a world in which conscious rap had as much sex appeal as a new Caddy. (R.S.)

Bassnectar The news that former psy-trance DJ Bassnectar is bringing his Burning Man ethos into hip-hop seems to have elicited a mixed reaction among his disciples, as well it should. Genre labels aside — and, in fairness, he's one of the few artists of rank who really does elude labels — Bassnectar will surely garner a large fanbase wherever he goes. Like a jazz musician who's capable of bobbling from one quotation to the next, he samples hooks and breaks from recognizable rap artists and renders them unfamiliar. His "Bomb the Blocks" music video sets the voices of underground emcee Persia (formerly of hip-hop duo the Mamaz) against a weirdly intricate electronic beat — like jungle with extra layers, or a form of hip-hop that's disabused of its commercial pretensions. On vinyl, it's infectious. Seen live, it's electrifying. (R.S.)

Cold Hot Crash It takes a certain amount of brash self-assurance to openly compare yourselves to Stone Temple Pilots. But the members of Cold Hot Crash can be excused, since their lack of pretense is coupled with a proper alt-rock whupping. More on par with Foo Fighters and Rival Schools, Cold Hot Crash strikes that difficult balance of indie-rock cred and radio-friendly hooks, which made those aforementioned bands so popular and enduring. Brothers Adam and John Schuman provide a tight rhythm section for Rich Brinkerhoff's ferocious guitar riffs and Mick Leonardy's emotionally pleading vocals. Thanks to relentless shows at teen centers and all-ages clubs, and the release of a catchy-as-hell self-titled album, the band has won a healthy local following and the title of "Best Local Band" for Live 105's Not So Silent Night last December. Now that's something to brag about. (K.R.)

Everest Singer and guitarist Adam Zabarsky of Everest says it's hard to get fans to come out to your shows when they're aging with offspring, and often inundated with music that's "painful." Even more difficult is finding Bay Area bands to share your bill when you play "good-timey, unironic rock 'n' roll." Yet this foursome is quickly proving that its pristine power-pop is worth getting a babysitter for. Citing influences of Cheap Trick, Tom Petty, and Badfinger, Everest conjures an aesthetic that is surprisingly refreshing. Catchy vocal harmonies, sweetly crunching guitar licks, and a rollicking good time drench songs like "Heartbreak Kid," and "You're Gonna Pay" on the band's debut EP. (K.R.)

La Grita It's not every day that a band — even a hardcore punk band — can take the stage in Zapatista-style bandannas, or sing battered-woman revenge anthems about slicing an abusive husband into little pieces and sticking him in a box, and still sound entirely convinced in what they're saying. But Fremont and Union City quintet La Grita — second-generation Latino children of migrant fruit pickers and factory workers — manages to successfully straddle the line between shrillness and earnest activism. Inspired, in equal measure, by old-school bands like Dead Kennedys and Brujería, acerbic hip-hop acts like Immortal Technique, and Latin American guerrilla movements like the Sandinista National Liberation Front, La Grita delivers one of the most rousing spectacles you'll see at 924 Gilman. (R.S.)

Panda Panda's five members just graduated from Piedmont High School, yet they've already laid the groundwork for a great career. A string of Bay Area gigs has helped the energetic young musicians move from talent-show champs to local-scene linchpins. Beyond playing at Slim's and organizing a showcase at the Oakland Metro, the band performed at this year's South by Southwest Festival in Austin. Panda even finished in the top five among a spate of local bands competing to appear at Live 105's BFD concert earlier this month. The timeless joy of watching slightly awkward teenagers transform into sublime rockers is certainly a factor here — check their cover of the Beatles' "She's So Heavy." But the group's originals are also strong enough to carry it into the real world. (N.S.)

Queen Deelah Though husky-voiced emcee Queen Deelah deploys all the staple techniques of Bay Area rappers — employing drug or hyphy-oriented slang terms; ending rap lyrics with a kewpie-doll-voiced Yee!; name-checking inner-city regions that have currency in hip-hop — every once in a while she'll let slip some intriguing detail about her personality or her life. Hailing from Oakland's rough Sobrante Park neighborhood, where she came up singing in the church choir and eventually found her voice, she raps about murders she's witnessed ("Dock of the Bay"), and about falling in love and being jilted ("Thinking Out Loud"). By singing all her own hooks in a gorgeous tenor that could, with a little practice, hark back to great gospel divas of the '60s and '70s, Deelah adds an extra layer of musical depth to her tracks. Like her forebear Latifah, this young queen juxtaposes her tender, feminine side with her harder street side; if her career moves forward, she may be remembered for bringing softness into hip-hop. (R.S.)

Saviours The members of Oakland band Saviours aren't exactly masters of subtlety, and in this case, that's a good thing. Drummer Scott Batiste says they're pretty much a "piss-angry metal band" inspired by "partying, the occult, girls, drugs, loud music, Black Sabbath, old Metallica, and Slayer." If that isn't a clear enough picture for ya, imagine blazing a well-oiled battletruck through a smoke-filled, strobe-lit demolition derby in a 1970s drug stupor. Yes, it's bliss. Fresh off a European tour with Mastodon, Saviours recently inked a deal with New York City label Kemado, and are soon to start recording songs for their second album with producer Joe Barresi (whose credits include Tool, Melvins, and Queens of the Stone Age). In other words, see them now before they embark on their world tour. (K.R.)

Still Flyin' At its best, Still Flyin' is an orgy of twenty-odd musicians from as far away as Sweden making a spirited ruckus to the same reggae rhythm. Drums, horns, guitars, and voices scatter all over the place, drifting in here and out there. There's a masterful order to it all: a glorious mess that doesn't need cleaning up. Frontman and songwriter SA Rawls pulls everything together, his high-pitched voice so bright it sounds as if he's fighting back a big grin the whole time. He projects above the music and the chorus of background singers like a kindergarten teacher leading a sing-along. Nonsensical lyrics abound — about mystery tents, rope burns, and heads being submerged in ice water — and, predictably, so do weed references. Still, Flyin's music exudes good will and gratitude, spiked with that special Flaming Lips silliness. (N.S.)

Trainwreck Riders If you look back through photos of historical San Francisco, a still, gray world of cable cars, pickaxes, and fishing boats emerges. It's almost too precious. Though young and brash, Trainwreck Riders make it real. Introducing frontier Americana to the American underground, the San Francisco group joins country, blues, folk, and punk as if they were always meant to be together. It's more fun than any overt revival and more authentic than most anything else in the so-called cow-punk genre. The Riders are the gritty punks who show up at a hoedown, boot the old band off the stage, and keep the damn thing going until dawn. They may dress like apathetic indie rockers, but forlorn lyrics, crashing rhythms, and believable hints of twang attest otherwise. The whole package remains ensconced in that old-fashioned San Francisco fog. (N.S.)


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