Towns Like These: Travis Hayes and Other Locals at Great American Music Hall

photo credit: Jared Swanson
photo credit: Jared Swanson

On a warm Saturday night during Pride weekend, the Great American Music Hall bustled with excitement. Not only were three amazing Bay Area bands about to share one of the most beautiful stages in San Francisco, but the Supreme Court had declared same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states just in time for LGBT Pride 2015.

“Guys. Love wins,” Travis Hayes said with an insistent joy that gave those words– which had for over 24 hours been a bland Twitter hashtag– such weight and meaning that they seemed to be carved across his acoustic guitar.

Opening band Travis Hayes and the Young Days turned the small stage into an arena, with Travis’ gritty folk songs translated into charging rock anthems with the help of his full band. Guitarist Brent Curriden’s stinging lead strums and Drummer Cade’s popping kick and snare made the crowd alternate between swaying headbanging every few bars. Each of Travis’ twanging lines about drinking too much and trying to think a little less were threaded with harmonies by Emily Whitehurst’s backing vocals.

These crisp sounds combined with the group’s warm stage chemistry brought an energy to the room that got everyone out of their chairs; and with a steady strum of Travis’ guitar and the creaking wood of the stage’s floorboards, The Young Daze were joined by the haunting tones of Helen Newby on Cello. With just Travis, Emily, and Helen left on stage, the room filled with an intimate hush. Lilting cello notes wafted through the heavy air, the crowd seeming to gather closer to listen to the somber second half of the set. Just as the sweat from the audience’s bodies was beginning to cool, however, the rest of the band returned to the stage for an unforgettable reimagining of The Smith’s “There is a Light That Never Goes Out.”

photo: Jared Swanson
photo: Jared Swanson

Second to the stage was Bonnie & The Bang Bang, exploding with rabid melodic rock, the bandmates rebounding off each other as they kicked their way to the edge of the stage, to the tops of amplifiers.

The audience shuffled along, yelling back hooks through tangling beards and cups of beer. They alternated between howling words to the rafters and nodding their heads downward as if frantically agreeing with a particular drum beat, “Yes, yes, absolutely, you are correct!”

Lead singer Patrick was the key variable for each song’s equation. With every sung syllable he simultaneously defined and defied musical genres– a held-out honey-smooth jazz note could easily transform into a screamo yelp, all while anthemic chants and psychobilly basslines kept the vocals aloft.

photo: Jared Swanson
photo: Jared Swanson

“We’re nerds. We make music with Gameboys and then this happens,” said the headlining Curious Quail’s frontman Mike Shirley-Donnelly as his bandmate Alan Chen slid a bow across a violin. Silhouetted in the flickering shadow of their backdrop– a charcoal sketch of the Bay Bridge lit with Christmas lights– the band hummed with an electric energy, often punctuated with choreographed jumps mid-song.

Inspired by the finger lights that had been distributed at the door– not to mention the infectious rhythms of San Jose’s best orchestral-chiptune-alternative-pop band– the audience broke into impromptu late-90’sesque rave dances.

Through the catchy melodies and driving beats, Mike’s voice carried a shy sadness to it, the bleeps and bloops from a Gameboy backing track adding an air of wonderment or perhaps a grasp for dwindling innocence.

At the end of their set, Curious Quail invited the other bands to join them on stage for a cover of The Pixies’ “Where is my Mind”. This swaggeringly cathartic song was a perfect way to finish off the night. While the joyful light of marital equality may have been tinged with the knowledge that humanity still has a long way to go, at that moment– with Curious Quail, Bonnie & the Bang Bang, and Travis Hayes and the Young Daze rocking Great American, the city seemed to glow with hope.

Lyrics Born Does That Damn Thing

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Lyrics Born. Doing it with style.

At The Independent, San Francisco

May 15, 2015

Words by: Chris Ryan Mannix

Photos by: Kristina Baky

I have often come down on San Francisco for being too stiff and slow to get dancing, but this was never going to be an issue for Lyrics Born.

With mammoth presence and an unmatched effortless style, the Berkeley-based rapper/producer found a vein and intravenously entered the soul of San Francisco on Friday night. He instantly ignited the stage, introducing new track “$Ir Racha” at spicy level: fire. For the rest of the show, the Independent was under command of Tom Shimura, AKA Lyrics Born.

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The Independent may have been the best venue to host this concert, as it fosters the perfect blend of capacity, intimacy, and on-point acoustics. Not to mention, Patrick and Kristen are the most fun, silly bartenders in San Francisco. I have never seen someone walk away from the bar at the Independent without a smile. And with Lyrics Born setting the tone, that place was all the smiles.

Leading into the night, I fully anticipated getting low and burning some carbs. But that said, I was still blown away by how much fun Lyrics Born is to watch live. It’s a struggle, because he makes you dance so hard but the performance is so rich you don’t want to look away.

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Shimura unleashed his fourth studio album, Real People, on May 5th. And with a mix of his older hits, like “Do That There,” and brand new bangers like “Chest Wide Open,” he had the whole party moving from start to finish. Channeling the funk soul vibe that resonates with San Francisco’s roots, Shimura and his crew create a sound that gives a nod to legends like Sly Stone and Curtis Mayfield.

With Real People, Lyrics Born has solidified a spot next to Jurassic 5 and Outkast at the spearhead of an ongoing movement that has been playing with a mixture of Hip-Hop, Funk, and Motown.

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If Lyrics Born is coming to you, get two tickets, grab a date and prepare to dance your face off. Lyrics Born is set to perform at this year’s Electric Forest Festival (Rothbury, MI) along with acts like Wale, BASSNECTAR, and Skrillex.

Favorite tracks seen live: $Ir Racha, Chest Wide Open, Do That There

Photos: Goodnight, Texas Great American Music Hall

I had the distinct pleasure of catching Goodnight, Texas at their Great American Music Hall show on February 19, 2015 opening for Wild Child. The room was packed and throughout the crowd I spotted vetted San Francisco songwriters like Jeff Campbell, Lia Rose, and Kelly McFarling singing along. The stand out song “The Railroad” got everyone stomping and hollering. Check out the photos I snapped below for the full “I wish I was there” experience and make sure to like them on Facebook to stay up to date on their upcoming shows and shenanigans.

Photos: Wood Shoppe at Brick and Mortar 09/02: Travis Hayes, City Tribe, and Ghost & Gale

I made it to Wood Shoppe at Brick and Mortar this month. It’s a free, finely curated, monthly series of bands on the first Tuesday of every month. http://woodshoppesf.com

Ghost and Ghale: A boy and a girl who make music together. Get the self-titled on bandcamp http://ghostandgale.com

City TribeThe new record from San Francisco band City Tribe rolls in triumphant, as if a cresting wave—the open hi-hat the sound of the surf, the vibrant harmonies classic California beach music transported instantaneously to the indie-pop now, re-imagined, resplendent. Debut album “Undertow” out now! https://citytribe.bandcamp.com/

Travis Hayes: May not be a household name just yet, but his honest and heartfelt music charms audiences and listeners near and far. Based out of San Francisco, the singer/songwriter captures a unique perspective on heartbreak and coming of age – all while sipping a glass of whiskey. http://iamtravishayes.storenvy.com

Review: Travis Hayes “Young Daze” Album Release Party at Bottom Of The Hill

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I caught this photo of Travis Hayes minutes before he hit the stage at Bottom Of The Hill to play his album release show for his new self-released full length, Young Daze. He was in good spirits. It was a Supermoon. The place was packed. Trebouchet and Christian Lee Hutson were putting on good sets. He joked with friends as we dodged cars in the street to get the shot but when he began strumming it was all business. He started out with an instrumental revving up the crowd after which he announced, “It’s Friday night, San Francisco” triumphantly kicking his band into gear. He bled out and we drank like vampires as he smiled back flirtatiously or ran up to the drummer in ecstasy and got lost in his pitch black guitar and sweat. This album is his San Francisco coming of age tale. The seasoned lyricist cries loneliness as the band rages on bravely. He jests with bravado, “Follow me home. Take all my money and never call my phone.” He plays out his revenge fantasies hissing over a crescendoing band, “I’ll take his bones and I’ll build a house. Then I’ll burn it down just to show him how evil good men can be”. But Travis lets down his guard in the stripped down must download song Night Swimming, “I’ll admit I’m not always right. But that doesn’t mean I should quit.”

I’m hearing some Bob Dylan timber nestled in with the dark folk indie twang of his band. It’s an “it” factor coming from a matured sense of self-acceptance that can only be attributed to the gutting of trauma. Travis remains collected or at least that’s how he appears; poised and unafraid. Maybe it’s because he finally got out the poison. “Young Daze” is the complacency anti-venom concocted from the hurt separated from his veins. Drink up. Dance it out. Let it go. You’re going to be ok.

Buy Young Daze now on Bandcamp

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Video: DonCat – ‘Where Wind Blows’ Live @ The Chapel Bar

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As a youth, Duncan ‘DonCat’ Nielsen’s grandma gave him an odd pile of European released Beach Boys tapes, which lead him to the record store searching for other oddities. Coming from a family of music enthusiasts, including a dad with a penchant for Cream and the blue shades of Jimi Hendrix, a brother with drum line credentials and a composer himself, and a mother who did Linda Ronstadt’s version of Blue Bayou at her high school talent show, he was poised for writing melodic music in a nostalgia-brand rock and soul format. He currently lives and makes music in the Corona Heights district of San Francisco, CA.

I caught his set recently at The Chapel Bar and decided to grab a video. Follow DonCat on Facebook and subscribe on youtube. Catch him tonight 6/27 at Slims.

SHOWS

6/27 SF, CA @ Slims
7/9 LA, CA @ Silverlake Lounge
7/10 Phoenix, AZ @ Lost Leaf
7/11 San Diego, CA @ Sycamore Den

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rp6AWEcT9iE]

Show Photos: Panic Is Perfect and The Mutineers at The Elbo Room 05.27.14

Panic Is Perfect

Bio: Incorporating afro – pop rhythms, retro synthesized sounds with well crafted song writing and pseudo-spiritual lyrical sensibilities Panic is Perfect has created their own brand of quirky eclectic indie dance pop.

Jeremy Belzer and Mike Hoffman officially started the group as an acoustic duo while traveling in south India together in the spring of 2010. Since then the San Francisco based group has evolved into the 5-piece band it is today.

The Mutineers

Bio: Life’s too short to play it safe,” declare The Mutineers in unison on their new song “Ace.” Frontman and songwriter Brian Mathusek is not waiting around for things to get better. “Let’s hit the road before it gets too late.” Like many members of the Santa Barbara-based quartet, he has roamed from East to West and most places in-between. Along the way, he has gathered stories of hope and fear, love and loss. Songs like “California” recall his younger years, struggling to make ends meet in a new town. In other early tunes, like “End of the World,” he questions faith: “I want to know whose religion wins, and what counts as sin.” Throughout Mathusek’s writing there has always been an openness and honesty that seems to come straight from the heart—there are no gimmicks. Such is the case in the latest eight-song release from The Mutineers, entitled, From the Dirge to the Dance.

The entire album displays more texture and virtuosity than any of the band’s previous EP’s. Along with longtime friends Michael Astudillo on acoustic guitar, Merry Young on drums and recent addition Terry Luna on stand-up bass, Mathusek and his fellow Mutineers have been stirring up a fierce blend of folksy “pub rock” marked by sweet-and-sour storytelling, mug-swinging melodies and foot-stomping beats. As a trio, their first EP, Tidal Wave (2008), was well received with radio play on several stations in California. It wasn’t long before they began to share stages with such artists as Langhorne Slim, The Devil Makes Three, The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band and The Tallest Man on Earth. Their second EP, titled Nihilisteria (2009), was a more dynamic exploration of their evolving sound, reminiscent of bands like X, The B-52s, The Pogues, and The Velvet Underground.

Working with Tucker Bodine at Playback Recording Studio in Santa Barbara, the band set out to record a new album that would reflect the energy and emotion of their live performances. Instrumentally, each song was recorded live and in one complete take. Then the lead vocal tracks were laid down by Mathusek with all back-up harmonies performed together as a group. The result shows a new side of The Mutineers. Mathusek belts out anthems with punk-rock intensity, then slips smoothly into a sad melody. With the addition of Luna’s stand-up bass, both the electric and acoustic guitars have found space to be more elaborate, intricate, and interwoven. The melodic bass riffs maintain a powerful heartbeat with the kick drum throughout the album while Young lays down beats that are both aggressive and sensitive. Lyrically, songs like “Hell No” and “Give It a Rest” stir passion and optimism, diverting from some of the cynicism of earlier recordings. Twin ballads “The Dirge” and “The Waltz” frame the aptly-titled album nicely with a sense of nostalgia and a longing for permanence during our short, but sweet, moments on Earth. Overall, From the Dirge to the Dance explores a full spectrum of life’s peaks and pitfalls, inspiring the pursuit of dreams while reveling in the spirit of rebellion that defines The Mutineers.

Photos from Balanced Breakfast: How to Market and Promote at Coast Recorders 05.29.14

Helpful self-promotion tips for songwriters included naming your influences in the subject line of cold emails to potential blogs. But getting an intro from someone you share in common is always best. Incremental growth is your friend. Set reasonable goals and use all the analytic data you can to track your progress. If you have a small budget, make darn sure that your publicist can get you results. Something all these panelists have that us musicians hope might rub off on us is moxie. Dustin Shey is the marketing manager at Soundhound, Patti Silverman ran social media for some of the biggest stars at Colombia Records and now is the communications director for SF Music Tech, Stuart Schuffman (@brokeassstuart) hosted his own travel series on IFC called Young Broke & Beautiful and as always the “the big man on campus” Stefan Aronsen of SF Intercom. The panel was hosted by Piper Payne (@sfmastering) of Michael Romanowski Mastering (@Romanowski_M) at Coast Recorders (@coastrecorders). Special thanks to Nigel Brown (not_nigel) for the PA mix.

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(Left to Right) Dustin Shey @indiequick of @soundhoud, Patti Silverman @silvermansays of @SFMusicTech, Stuart Schuffman @BrokeAssStuart and Stefan Aronsen @iheartsfbands (Photo credit Jared Swanson @swanjar)

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(Left to Right) Dustin Shey @indiequick of @soundhoud, Patti Silverman @silvermansays of @SFMusicTech, Stuart Schuffman @BrokeAssStuart and Stefan Aronsen @iheartsfbands (Photo credit Jared Swanson @swanjar)

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(Left to Right) Dustin Shey @indiequick of @soundhoud, Patti Silverman @silvermansays of @SFMusicTech, Stuart Schuffman @BrokeAssStuart (Photo credit Jared Swanson @swanjar)

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Stuart Schuffman @BrokeAssStuart (Photo credit Jared Swanson @swanjar)

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Patti Silverman @silvermansays of @SFMusicTech (Photo credit Jared Swanson @swanjar)

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Dustin Shey @indiequick of @soundhoud (Photo credit Jared Swanson @swanjar)