Top 20 Bay Area Bands of 2018 vs 2009
Have your listening habits changed from 2009 to 2019?
Following the trend of comparing 2009 to 2019, I’ve created a playlist that documents Bay Area bands from the past 10 years. It will compare the bands I was listening to when I started writing about the Bay Area music scene compared to the bands I simply eat breakfast with now.
Did you know the average life expectancy of indie bands is 2 years? Sometimes I feel like that statistic is super accelerated here is the Bay Area. So it’s fair to say, almost none of the bands I was listening to in 2009 are still creating music now.
Sometimes this gets me down, but I know it’s just part of the hustle. Thus instead of focusing on the bands that are no more. I take this moment to remember the bands that were, and celebrate the bands that are now. Without further ado, here is my list of Top 20 Bands of 2018 and below that is my Top 20 Bands of 2009ish:
“Blood In The Cut”
K.Flay • Every Where Is Some Where
I met K.Flay during a panel discussion at SF MusicTech, she is super sweet. If you’ve ever heard her music, it’s crass and at times pretty dirty. However, in person, outside of her dark brooding style, she’s super personable. She has an amazing way of pairing her soft approachableness with an emo style of “stay the F away from me.” Listening to her music makes me feel like I know her, but I don’t. Her lyrics feel like a secret conversation that I could bring up when I see her … but I wasn’t there … so I don’t really know the story. Last year during the credits of the new Tomb Raider I heard a song that sounded all too familiar. Holy crap, it’s K.Flay. I knew then that she wasn’t on the up and up, she had made it.
“Crazy” (Some Days I Feel Like Shit) (feat. Atosa)
Caleborate, Atosa • Crazy (Some Days I Feel Like Shit) [feat. Atosa]
When I go to music festivals I like to go early and stay late. I spend the day seeing artists I know, and discovering ones I’d never heard before. My top discovery for 2018 was Oakland band Caleborate. His set on the Panhandle stage of Outside Lands was one for the books. The energy he brings to the stage is contagious, make sure you catch his next set.
Fantastic Negrito • Please Don’t Be Dead
If you don’t know this man yet … you’re missing out. He has a story that is made for the movies. The first time I heard him tell his story was at Pandora for a Creative Mornings meetup. He tells of a life not going the way it should, an accident that almost took his life, then getting his priorities straight and tell his story through his music. This was in 2015 and things hadn’t truly started to blow up for him. There was no way he could have known then that he would receive a Grammy for ‘The Last Days Of Oakland’ featuring two tracks ‘Push Back’ and ‘The Shadows.’
“Heart Shaped Box”
Con Brio • Explorer
A few years ago I walked past a music stage in North Beach, during the neighborhood festival, just in time to see the lead singer Ziek of Con Brio do series of flips. I didn’t know the band then … but I knew I needed to. I asked the audience members near me for the band name until somebody knew. Finding this band has lead to a lot of wild adventures, like seeing them in 2017 at High Sierra Music Festival or in 2018 opening for Blues Traveler.
Bells Atlas • Be Brave
I did a really cool interview with Oakland band Bells Atlas at Music City Hotel. We drank tea and talked about their past shows, upcoming festivals, and goals. Halfway through the interview, I checked my recording device only to discover the camera had died. Not an issue with the battery … the camera had died. Though there is little proof of that interview … there is a photo of our mugs. Stream this band, they’re worth a few thousand listens.
The Seshen • Eidolon
When I started DJing, as if San Francisco needs another DJ, I was seeking out remixes of the Bay Area bands I loved. One of the bands that got the most inquiries from attendees was “Unravel – Lost Midas Remix” by The Seshen.
“Head in the Clouds”
Hot Flash Heat Wave • Head in the Clouds
In 2015, when they were new to the San Francisco scene and had just released their debut LP Neapolitan, everybody said they were like a male complement to The She’s. I think it was mostly based on their young age and the fact that most of them were under 21. Flash forward 4 years and people have a lot more to say about this band. You could talk about their tour to SxSW, or the set they played at Outside Lands. This band is willing to put in the work it takes to be successful in the Bay Area.
“Our Dreams Are Made of Numbers”
Panic Is Perfect • Our Dreams Are Made of Numbers
This band brings the energy to all their sets! It doesn’t matter if they’re playing a show in San Francisco, a festival like BottleRock in Napa, or touring the US, you’re going to get 110% energy.
TWRP, Planet Booty • Together Through Time
Ladies, Gentlemen, and everyone in between … the classic opening line of Oakland band Planet Booty. It’s hard to describe this band, it would better if you just saw it in person. I’ve seen them open for SisQó, and I saw them before Capital Cities. Thus you might say they’re a little bit thong song, and a lot something you want to see play a show in your capital city. If they play near you, go see them, tell them Stefan sent you, you’re bound to get a sweaty hug filled with non-platonic love from lead singer Dylan.
Kat Robichaud • Criminal
When I first met Kat Robichaud (Row + Bee + Show) in 2015, she complained to me that nobody in San Francisco watches TV, thus none of us had seen her on The Voice. Four years later, that doesn’t matter, she has created quite a scene in the Bay Area with her Misfit Cabaret.
“When You Are Not Around”
The Band Ice Cream • Numbskull
Forget the dumb dad jokes about Ice Cream, The Band Ice Cream is super hot right now. After their debut song Jerk it Off in 2016, the band quickly followed it up with a full length Classically Trained in 2017 and Numbskull in 2018.
“The Wishing Song”
Everyone Is Dirty • The Wishing Song
If you like strong female vocals paired with rip’n electric violin, you’re going to love Everyone is Dirty. One part weird and 9 parts pure rock and roll, this band is ready to rock your face off.
Travis Hayes • Sleepless
Notorious for his sad songs, Travis Hayes even made a club for all of his sad fans. Sleepless is another great song that he can add to his portfolio of sad songs that drives this consistent theme home.
The Y Axes • Empty Space
When I first met The Y Axes guitarist Devin Nelson he told me his band was a combination of nerdy science, mathematics and something else I can’t remember. When I looked at their band photos from 2013, I understood completely. Their sound has come a long way and matured a lot, this photo from 2018 sums it all up. You’ll notice they’re looking off to nowhere … aloof as FCK … too cool for school.
New Spell • Of Time
You may have seen lead singer and keyboardist Leanne Kelly in a few other side projects, like Agouti for example. However in her personal project New Spell she takes a more front and center approach to her sound.
Unlikely Heroes • Unlikely Heroes
When this band started in 2016 they had more members than could fit on my couch. The band has been doing a lot of maturing over the past few years. This has included shrinking the size of the band member, changing the drummer, and learning how to own the stage. Now, 3 years later, your mouth will drop in awe when you see lead singer Enon Gaines dominate his space.
“What Could Have Been”
Ellisa Sun • Just a Little More
Having purchased an RV in 2018, Ellisa Sun was on the road for most of 2018. While that might be good for you if you’re not in San Francisco, it was hard for us to share her.
“With You, Better”
Great Highway • Rise
As if overcoming the obstacles of organizing a band in San Francisco wasn’t enough, bandleader Jason Hunter also had to win a battle with cancer. (He did!) This can be hard on a band, so 2018 was a year of adapting to change. With a new lead singer Holly Kulm, the band is coming into 2019 with vengeance.
“Power of Silence”
Fellow Vessel • In the Morning – EP
Relatively new to the scene, Fellow Vessel released their debut album in March of 2018. Lead singer Robin Sawaya voice is often compared to that of Sameer Gadhia from Young the Giant. When asked the main goal of their band, Robin said he didn’t want to be a progue rock band.
Van Goat • Follow Me Under
When you can’t get enough clarinet in your music, look no further than Van Goat. That would be enough, but this band pairs that with the warm sounds of a trombone, and the sweet beats of a digitally wired Pineapple.
Follow my Top 20 Bay Area Bands of 2018 Playlist on Spotify
Join our weekly newsletter so we can send you awesome freebies, weird events, incredible articles, and gold doubloons (note: one of these is not true).
In 2009 I was very young to the music scene and hungry for new jams. I would take my camera to shows with the hope of meeting band members. I had the naive idea that I could fix the entire music scene with a serious of survival guides that told bands how to Plan, Personify, Promote, Plug-in, and Play. They were beautiful books, they helped me get a masters in design, but they weren’t what people in the local scene needed. After spending time at shows, I realized that people craved community. It was from this idea that I created Balanced Breakfast, a way for music industry professionals to come together for a meal and make lasting friendships. This playlist was created before I realized bands needed community.
Follow my Top 20 Bay Area Bands of 2009 Playlist on Spotify
“Now that you know my listening habits, who were you listening to in 2009? I wanna know!”