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Top 20 Bay Area Bands of 2020

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2020 was not the year we planned for, but it was the year we got. It was a hard year for everyone, however these bands still managed to create and release new music during a pandemic.

Venues have been closed for the last 10 months and San Francisco currently has a stay at home order. Live shows aren’t coming back any time soon and touring is out of the question. Facebook isn’t notifying you of various bars you can visit to hear music and your upcoming Friday will be spent on your couch. Yet, there are still entertainers living in the Bay Area, and your musician friends are still creating new music.

Although we can’t go to shows, please continue to show your support for local music by listening to new music with your ears. The following TOP 20 playlist is composed of bands that still released new music in 2020 regardless of the pandemic. Each of them earned a spot on this list in their own way. We thank you for your continued support. We’ll see you in front of your favorite stage again soon enough, in the meantime please LISTEN.

1. Isn’t It a Pity (Ode to San Francisco) by The Sam Chase

Sam Chase is a San Francisco-based folk rock ‘n roll musican and winner of some awards. You didn’t see this San Francisco native on stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass or Outside Lands this year, but he was there in years past. He did however go live on Facebook every Friday for the last 10 months. His persistence and availability online was encouraging when all we wanted was to see a friendly face.

2. Dancing in My Bedroom by Planet Booty

This Endorphin-fueled electro-funk dance band from Oakland reminds us that they can take our venues but they will never take our bedrooms. Planet Booty did a good job of making a joke about a lot of fans’ real desires to be social and dance with friends on a dance floor. While it didn’t make me miss clubbing less, I did enjoy watching and dancing next to my laptop.

3. Scare the Night Away by Kat Robichaud

Originally from North Carolina, those with a TV may have seen Kat Robichaud on The Voice in 2013, she now calls San Francisco home.  Kat is ever entertaining, her music is sometimes humorous and always dramatic. She sings of adventure, curiosity, pleasure and good times. Also, if you’re tired of the same predictable Christmas music, you should check out her newly released holiday album.

4. Lonestar by Emily Afton

This Oakland-based singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist’s music is pleasant to stream and her band is epic to see live. Described as retro-pop sweetness, punctuated with dark rhythmic synths, she is ever progressing and morphing and never ceases to impress. Her sound and her persona are maturing and helping to make her a Bay Area staple.

5. Temple by Thao & The Get Down Stay Down

Thao & the Get Down Stay Down is a San Francisco-based alternative folk rock music group that originated in Falls Church, Virginia. If you read my announcement about her last release, you know that Thao Nguyen almost stopped making music all together. I am super thankful that she found the thing that made making music fun again and has graced us with new music.

6. I’m so Happy I Cry (feat. Tank) by Fantastic Negrito, Tank and The Bangas, Tarriona ‘Tank’ Ball

Fantastic Negrito has made it on my TOP 20 list many times. He does a good job representing the Bay by releasing new music, winning Grammys, and being super fun to see live. Xavier Dphrepaulezz’s life changed drastically after an accident almost took his life, since then he’s been working on getting his life back on track. So far he’s been doing an amazing job living his second life.

7.  Polar Nights by Life Size Models

Twin brothers Chris Seymour and Stephen Seymour from San Jose have been making music together since they were kids. Although they have been making music for years the band has finally matured and were becoming regulars in the San Francisco music scene. The band is active on social media and have been really good at engaging their fans during the pandemic.

8. California by Everyone Is Dirty

A new-wave post-punk rock band that hails from Oakland, Everyone Is Dirty. The band was scheduled to play Uptown last March, however that show was postponed and now will never happen due to the venue closing. On the brighter side, the band has played The Independent, Bottom of The Hill, SxSW, Treefort, and Phono Del Sol. When shows return you need to see this band live.

9. daily peptalk in front of a stained mirror by The Band Ice Cream

If you’re feeling a little punk, edgy, wild or weird … this is the band you’re looking for. They aren’t good at social media, they don’t post on a regular basis, and none of their platforms have a good bio for the band. All that may be true but their tracks still slap. Their music is fresh, the band’s energy is high, and that might also describe the mental state of their fans.

10. Hurry Up, John by Foxtails Brigade

I first discovered Laura Weinbach busking on the streets of San Francisco. I knew her partner and bandmate Anton Patzner before I met her. He is the person that introduced me to Stuart Schuffman. Before violinist and composer Anton joined Foxtails Brigade he made music with his brother in a band called Judgement Day. Since joining Foxtails Brigade the band has continued to grow, mature, progress and play bigger and better shows.

11. Piece of Mind by Adam Brookes

You may know Adam Burnett from his band Dangermaker, however, he is now riding solo. Now is a good time to get familiar with Adam’s new music as it has a very different sound than his previous band. Some may notice hints of his previous adventurous sound, the new music explores more hip-hop and rap stylings. He also leverages more collaborations and explores the boundaries of his sound.

12. Disco Vampire by Rose Haze

Self described as psycho dreampop, the lead singer is originally from Ohio, was temporarily based in Kauai, and is currently located in the Bay Area. Her music is heavy and her social media presence is consistent and strong. She plays multiple instruments, is married to her cat, and likes to roller skate. If you’re bored you won’t be after following her.

13. A World So Full of Love by Boy Scouts

Not to be confused with BSA, oakland-based songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Taylor Vick describes the type of music she makes as good advice from a beloved friend. Taylor started her career in the Bay by opening for bands like Soccer Mommy, Palehound, and Vagabon. In march of 2019, she played her first SxSW.

14. Images by Great Highway

Led by Jason Hunter, the band originally formed as an acoustic guitar-driven indie pop group. . However, over the years, it has blossomed into a high-energy electronic rock. Although they have been struggling to find a long-term lead singer, the band doesn’t quit. In addition to playing multiple Star Crash events in 2020, they are known for using their music to benefit good, like cancer research and saving local venues.

15. Tired by Weekend Youth

An Alt-Pop Rock band from Napa, they started as a singer-songwriter duo known as Serf & James. The fellows eventually added multiple members to create a complete band and accomplish a more full sound. After playing BottleRock the band changed their name to Forgotten Dreamers, then again to Weekend Youth. There music was heard regularly on former Music Director Aaron Axelsen‘s Soundcheck show on Alt 105 before the station dropped him due to COVID.

16. Devils by TREASVRE

TREASVRE is a group of five San Francisco Bay Area natives that blend elements of post-rock and shoegaze with rich synth textures, heavy guitar riffs, and electronic rhythms. I was fortunate to be involved with Treasvre’s recent EP releases. In addition to making music together 4 of the 5 members also ride motorcycles together. Additionally the band is made up of two couples and a drummer. (The drummer also doesn’t ride a motorcycle.)

17. Tokyo by Alvie & The Breakfast Pigs

Originally from Tempe, Arizona the band relocated to San Francisco in 2014. The band considers their music to be trash blues rock. A homie of mine, lead singer Alvie Alex Adams has been involved with many Balanced Breakfast events. He is very involved in the local music scene and many of his efforts can be seen through his day job at Music City SF.

18. I’m On Fire by NRVS LVRS

NRVS LVRS (pronounced “Nervous Lovers”) is the dreamy darkwave project of husband & wife duo Andrew Gomez and Bevin Fernandez. San Francisco natives Andrew and Bevin have been recording as NRVS LVRS since 2014. I first discovered them in 2016 at Benders Bar for Different Fur Studio’s Noise Pop happy hour show with The Dead Ships and White Knuckles.

19. Probably Priceless by Tell Me Tell Me

Lead singer of Tell Me Tell Me, Michael Bang has multiple projects, each unique in it’s own way. Tell Me Tell Me is a dance grunge band from Oakland. You might say Michael is a one stop shop for INDIE ROCK, DANCE GRUNGE, INDIE FOLK, and CLASSICAL MUSIC.

20. What Am I Afraid Of? by Ken Newman

Ken Newman is a singer/songwriter and rock musician based in San Francisco. In addition to making music, Ken also curates music, you can hear him as well as various other Bay Area artists on his benefit album to help Blanket The Homeless. Some of the artists include The Stone Foxes, The Brothers Comatose, Rainbow Girls, Con Brio, and more.

Please support local music, your non essential friends need your support now more than ever. Check in on your extroverted friends and attend streaming shows whenever you can. The entertainment industry needs you and you don’t have to leave your house to support it.

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Stefan Aronsen

Stefan Aronsen

I do not sing, play the drums, clarinet, guitar, piano or harmonic ... but I have tried! My passion for music began when I was still a pre-teen begging my parents for my first drum set. After a year’s worth of lessons, it was clear that I wasn’t very good at drums. So I moved on, joined the school band, and tried my hand at the clarinet. Again after a year’s worth of lessons and hard work I was without much skill. This continued through elementary school and into college with voice lessons, guitar lessons and finally piano. It turns out that while I could recognize good music; I lacked the talent to make it.

Now I'm broke, beautiful and writing about music for Stuart...

5 Comments

  1. Clarinet
    January 4, 2021 at 6:30 pm — Reply

    I would disagree and say Once & Future Band are by a long distance the best band in the Bay Area. I’m very surprised Kelley Stoltz is not on here as he released 3 lauded albums this year alone.

  2. MJB
    January 5, 2021 at 8:59 am — Reply

    Honorable mentions:

    Once & Future Band
    Trough
    Sapphire Lung

  3. January 7, 2021 at 3:03 pm — Reply

    Thanks for sharing your picks. Glad Foxtails Brigade is still going strong. I would add to the list “You Might Be Happy Someday” by The Reds, Pinks and Purples, which has a photo of a Balboa street sign right there on the album cover, and it’s a darn beautiful record from a longtime SF musician, Glenn Donaldson (Skygreen Leopards, Art Museums).

  4. January 7, 2021 at 8:07 pm — Reply

    Sorry, but Lee Gallagher and The Hallelujah’s “L.A. Yesterday” is hands down, one of the best albums by a San Francisco band this year.

  5. February 20, 2021 at 1:01 pm — Reply

    What’s a girl got to do to get on the list in 2021?
    We are actively working on the album but we just released new single High Rollin’. I know you’re not a big country music fan but this one’s more of a jazz/soft rock fusion. Perhaps you’ll dig it. Give it a listen and let me know either way. One day you’re gonna like one of our tracks. I wonder if we hit the mark on this one for you. 🤔

    Cheers,
    KAT

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