Top 20 Bay Area Bands of 2019

The Bay's best newsletter for underground events & news

As long as I’m making playlists you can’t complain that you’re having trouble discovering new music in the Bay Area.

I have a love-hate relationship with creating TOP 20 playlists of local bands. On one hand, the playlist becomes my favorite thing to listen to for the next year. Additionally, it makes it super easy for me to recommend bands to friends. I also love posting a link to the playlist in my friend’s Facebook feeds when they say, “tired of my music, I need a new playlist.”

On the other hand, I hate it because I like more than 20 bands. This list had 60 artists in it before I edited it down to a meer 20. Thus this list doesn’t include a lot of friends that are crushing it in the Bay Area music scene right now. Thus, to make filtering easier, my top 20 list only features bands that created new music in 2019, booked a local show, and invited me to see them perform. The following artists accomplished that and more. LISTEN NOW

Sister • K.Flay Solutions
If you’ve been keeping track of my playlists, you may have noticed that K.Flay has been featured in all of my playlists. There is a reason why! She releases new music that bangs, invites me to her shows, and gets featured in movies and tv. You may have heard her music in Riverdale, Good Girls, Tomb Raider, BoJack Horseman, and more.

Dive • The Seshen • Dive
When a friend Emily from Survival Guide asked me to DJ before her set at Neck of The Woods in San Francisco I hadn’t DJ’d a concert before. Thus I thought the best approach was to play remixes of the Bay Area bands I loved. There was one band that regularly resulted in fans inquiring about the name of the band. I loved introducing people to “Unravel – Lost Midas Remix” by The Seshen. I think you’re going to love the newest track ‘Dive” from The Seshen.

Belly • Bells Atlasthe mystic
This band has toured to Portland, Seattle, Boise, Los Angeles, San Diego, Denver, Phoenix, Philadelphia, Chicago, Ann Arbor, Boston, Brooklyn, Washington D.C., and more. They’ve been everywhere … so if you haven’t heard their music yet … that’s on you!

The Daily Heavy • Thee Oh Sees • Face Stabber
Does a band really need two drummers? If your band is Thee Oh Sees you do. They play face-melting rock and roll that guarantees crowd surfing, mosh pits, and a garage punk F’n good time.

Taco Tuesday • Planet Booty Guilty Pleasure
Spotify lists this song as Explicit, that might be the understatement of the year. Planet Booty, known as a body-positive band goes into great detail about what they want to do with your body on Taco Tuesday.

Weather • Tycho Weather
I have seen Tycho live many times. My first encounter with them was a secret Noise Pop show at a bar on Market that no longer exists, or at least doesn’t do shows anymore. (I can’t remember the name of the venue and I haven’t been able to find it when I’ve searched.) This song is unique compared to their previous albums … it has lyrics.

Dream Song • Finish Ticket Dream Song
Years ago (like 5+) I left our SF bubble and traveled to Alameda, a man-made island in the East Bay, to see a band. So often I get stuck in my 7×7 radius, but I felt it was important to see up and coming band Finish Ticket. They put on an amazing show, were supported by tons of local fans, and I was impressed. What made it better is I got invited to their parent’s house to drink beer after. I went … said hi to all of the band members … but quickly realized I was too old for this party … so I left early. All band members are old enough to drink now, so I’d like to party with y’all again if you’re interested.

25 Miles • Ben Morrison Old Technology
If you’ve heard of The Brothers Comatose, then you know Ben Morrison. Recently he’s been doing a lot more shows solo, perhaps the most exciting show I saw was one where his then Fiance now wife Erika Tietjen from T Sisters.  I just name-dropped 3 bands in one post, you’re welcome, now check them out.

Shit from Shinola • The Sam ChaseThe Untraditional •  The Last Rites of Dallas Pistol
Sam is a memorable dude, the first time I met him he was wearing a tuxedo-like it was no big deal. That combined with his love of whiskey and energetic shows just touches the tip of the ice-burg of reasons you should listen to his band. I’ve been waiting 3 years to add Sam back into my top 20 list. His song What is All The Rage made my list in 2016, but hasn’t released new music until now.

Tennessee • Goodnight, Texas The Senseless Age
I’ve never been to Tennessee but this song makes me think maybe I should go. I also learned that if I ever try to take something away from the band … it won’t be Tennessee.

Easy • Down and Outlaws • Gas Money
If growing up my brother or I were good at making music I would have loved to make a band with him. We weren’t, we aren’t and you don’t want us in your band. However, Peter Danzig and Chris Danzig have made a truly amazing band with Kyle Luck and Jon Carr.

Polar Nights • Life Size Models • Polar Nights
Live Size Models played Balanced Breakfast’s festival this year, and they impressed me very much. Started by twin brothers Chris and Stephen Seymour, this band only recently hit my radar, however, I’m going to be watching them closely from now on.

Sleepless • Travis Hayes • Sleepless
Their music is so good, Travis’ voice is iconic, and they’re fun to see live. I keep saying Travis Hayes’ band is on the edge of breaking the glass ceiling of local success and being a household name. This is me praying I’m around to witness his next level of success.

21 • Sam Johnson 21
Bringing the super chill vibes and the polished pop sound, Sam gets romantic with your ears in this banger he released as a single at the end of 2019. Push play, but put some protection on your ears, they might get pregnant.

Empty Space • The Y Axes • No Waves
Whenever I listen to The Y Axes I think about space, comics, science, math, pop and all-around good times. This song makes me want to stand on my tippy toes and dance around a wooden dance floor with disco ball lights circling around me.

Where You Are • New Spell Where You Are
Can a song be both chill and an anthem at the same time? I love the low deep bass combined with the falsetto vocals of lead singer Leanne Kelly. Self-described as Dark Electronic Indie Pop … I’d rather describe it as Bubble Gum Synth-Pop … it’s fun and makes me happy. But genres are so 1999, so let’s just say I’d love to ride tandem on a fast motorcycle with a hot girl listening to the song in our matching helmets. (I don’t have a motorcycle … so she can drive … and I’ll hold on to her!!!)

T.O.T. (Take Our Time) • Weekend Youth • T.O.T. (Take Our Time)
After changing their name two times publically in the last 1 year and 100+ times behind closed doors, Weekend Youth, formerly known as Forgotten Dreamers, and Serf & James before that, have finally landed on their permanent name. (RIGHT?!) They go into 2020 with a newly found drive, focus, ambition, and polished look and sound.

Push, Pull • Great Highway • Into the Sun
Jason Hunter, the founder of Great Highway, has overcome a lot of health obstacles in order to make his newest album a reality. Recently winning a battle with cancer, Jason has no plans to slow down. In 2019 he released “Into The Sun,” and curated a very successful fundraiser at Bottom of The Hill. All proceeds from the show went to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Based on the success of the last fundraiser, you should be on the watch for the 2020 edition.

Stargaze • Leon Rosen • Stargaze
In 2019 I started helping bands with their marketing efforts. Leon was one of my first clients, and it has been amazing to see his growth in the local music scene over the last few months. Have you seen the new Joker movie? I think Leon imagines his music evoking those feels. My goal in helping him with his marketing is to capture all of the feels without the face paint. Leon describes his music creation process as a rescue from the darkness.

Mask • Ian Acredolo Colors for Jac
If you have any juvenile penis jokes, please send them to my friend and client Ian Acredolo. I don’t know why guys like to bond over stupid nonsensical jokes … but we do. I like talking to Ian about his vision for his music, but I also love knowing when we’re not talking shop it’s safe for me to expect inappropriate gifs texted to me at off-hours. Bookmark Ian Acredolo, I think 2020 is going to be a big year for him and his music.


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Stefan Aronsen

Stefan Aronsen

I am the co-founder of Balanced Breakfast, a meetup for music industry professionals. No, I do not sing or play any instruments ... but I have tried! My passion for music began at 7 when my parents bought me a drum set. I was BAD at drums. So I moved on, joined the school band, and played clarinet. I was BAD at the clarinet. Trying and failing at instruments continued through elementary school and into college. It turns out that while I could recognize good music; I lacked the skill to make it.

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