Seems like these days, every musical artist is steadfastly reconnecting with fans, a paying box office, and a living. All kinds of performers are gearing up and hitting the road in the cool and crisp months ahead. Fall concerts have arrived, people. We’ve hand-picked some of the best live music and DJ sets that are on deck in the Bay Area, so put on your warmest scarves. We’re going to make the end of the year a blooming success.
VINYL WILLIAMS AT THE CHAPEL, TUE/30
Expect hazy joy, driving rhythms, forward-moving dream-pop, stepped-up tempo, and odd time signatures when multihyphenate artist Lionel “Vinyl” Williams comes to the Bay Area—Talking Heads nervous funk recorded to VHS tape for trademark opaque texture.
That’s Williams’s trip. It’s his sound, mang. Weird, assertive, and cot-damn singular.
Playing and touring with Chaz “Bear” Bundick of Toro Y Moi (Bear’s Carpark imprint Company Records released two of the Williams’ pop projects), and directing music videos for Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Tears For Fears kept the multi-hyphenate engaged for a decade.
But it’s his own music that drives the bus.
When this grandson of acclaimed film composer John Williams—yep, Star Wars composer John Williams—comes to The Chapel, lock in for his traveling-without-moving energies. If you need an audio primer, check Brunei, his 2016 psychedelic-pop stunner.
Buy tickets here.
SWEATER FUNK AT STARLINE SOCIAL CLUB, FRI/2
A legendary San Francisco night that promotes boogie, two-step, and modern funk—strictly on vinyl, mind you—is coming to Oakland’s First Friday celebrations. And THAT tracks. Keep your casual-SF “it’s cool mane” shrug on ice for when the corner store runs out of White Claw.
This, right here, is perfecto—Kirk, Ren, Noel, and Guillermo bringing the gospel to people who want to pop and bounce to Universal Robot Band’s “Barely Breaking Even” and Logg’s “I Know You Will.” Get in where you fit in, fool.
Grab tickets here.
JUICEBUMPS AT RICKSHAW STOP, SAT/3
This local DIY supergroup personifies the very essence of strange wave. Its herky-jerky rhythms and otherworldly compositions regularly bring the house down during live performances.
Think Osees’ ferocity (more on that in a sec), built with unknown tape loops and audiovisual ephemera.
Get tickets here.
OSEES/AUTOMATIC AT THE CHAPEL, SEPTEMBER 5-7
These three sold-out shows are the crown jewels in The Chapel’s 10-year celebration of the venue bringing some of the most innovative shows to the city. Period.
Osees, led by the “psych-punk psychic warrior, ear worm-farmer, and possessor of many stamped passport pages, John Dwyer,” always give a little extra when they swing through Dwyer’s former home base of SF. I’ve checked out videos of previous Osees shows at The Chapel and was pleasantly surprised to see “close friends” crowd-surfing to this outfit.
THIS. BAND. WILL. BRING. IT.
Now we’ll move on to Automatic. Their 2019 debut breakthrough Signal and new apocalyptic groover of an album Excess broadcasts the talents of Izzy Glaudini (synths, lead vocals), Lola Dompé (drums, vocals), and Halle Saxon-Gaines (bass.) This is the declarative whir of three women who named a band after a Go-Go’s tune. Their heroines were the only all-female band to have written and played their own instruments on an album that went to number one in the United States.
Excess sees Automatic delving deeper into the arrangements, which are booed-up with handclaps and new wave energy. The group is getting colder with rhythms, icier with swagger, and fiercer with emotions. These are weird times we are living in, my friends. Automatic captures the strangeness and lets the mother-sucker rip. I can’t fuggin’ wait to hear this record live.
You already know what it is, this being a sold-out show. It’s time to get creative. Here are the deets.
LUCIBELA AT SWEETWATER MUSIC HALL, SEPTEMBER 9
It’s a grace note when this Cape Verdean-raised, Lisbon-based vocalist takes a breath, before she releases sounds that have been associated with West Africa for generations. That persuasive voice—Lucibela’s a flowing, uncomplicated storyteller—will set the perfect autumnal mood at a must-attend performance in Mill Valley. Currently touring in support of her album AMDJER, a tribute to not just Cape Verdean women, but to women in general, the new project brings together 12 songs by composers and authors from her homeland.
Grab those tickets here.
JEFF MILLS AT PUBLIC WORKS, SEPTEMBER 17
Sometimes inviting Jeff Mills, ground zero Deeeeetroit royalty, a foundational component from day one in establishing this now-billion-dollar infrastructure of electronic music, is the best way to celebrate your nightclub surviving and thriving after 12 years of operation.
Just ask Public Works, which will host the master while he creates an audible representation of what the future can still sound like on a San Francisco dance floor.
Mills’ understanding can be attributed to growing up Black in Detroit, and thus channeling that alien outsider’s voice.
When he first gained notoriety as a DJ in the 1980s, Mills’ focus, like that of most turntablists of the time, was an expression of the shape of far-off things to come. He and his peers came up slinging hip-hop instrumentals with little signature spoken phrases cut devastatingly-quick over the beat. They manipulated the half-time signature found in drum and bass, or were transfixed by the freedom discovered in early Kraftwerk and Gary Numan. Their sounds, to varying degrees, were about capturing ideas from an alternate dimension—the polar opposite of their own day-to-day reality. Mills became known as “The Wizard” in the early-to-mid-’80s due to his technical abilities as a DJ. He founded the techno collective Underground Resistance with fellow Detroit techno producers “Mad” Mike Banks and Robert Hood, and founded the Chicago-based Axis Records in 1992, which still releases much of his solo work.
You want this person in the booth.
Public Works’ 12th anniversary, which takes place September 15-18, will feature four nights in a row of incredible talent in addition to Mills: Acid Pauli, Talabomon, Amon Tobin, a DJ set by Two Fingers, J.Phlip, and others.
Four-day passes and single-night tickets are now on sale. You can buy them here.
MONOPHONICS AND KENDRA MORRIS AT THE INDEPENDENT, SEPTEMBER 17
I was having a quiet drink with a friend at San Francisco’s fabled Lone Palm a couple weeks ago when a song came on the bartender’s playlist that sounded so nostalgic, yet modern.
For a few moments, I was completely perplexed. Stuck.
Then I realized it was Monophonics’ “Suffocating” from 2020’s It’s Only Us.
This Bay Area-based entity creates music that suggests unlikely combinations. It’s an aesthetic, with arrangements of retro-soul and psych-rock that never get boring. Put Marvin Gaye and Can in the same studio with Norman Whitfield at the helm? That’s this group’s vibes—it’s a gathering of immortals that never fails to excite.
When they arrive in September at The Independent, Kendra Morris will perform as a support act. Her readings of the retro-soul lane are so cold that this redheaded fixture of the New York City music scene (who is from Florida) does it backwards and blindfolded on the first try. Then she goes into “sing the hook” grit mode, transforming herself into a one-woman songster team for the indie hip-hop bracket. This promises to be a one-of-a-kind performance.
Get your tickets here.
DRY CLEANING AT THE CHAPEL, SEPTEMBER 20
Dry Cleaning, the nervy, edgy four-piece from London, makes a return to San Francisco for a sold-out show in support of their upcoming sophomore release Stumpwork. They’ll be swooping through for a one-night gig at The Chapel, with local faves Fake Fruit supporting.
Easily one of 2021’s breakout musical ensembles, guitarist Tom Dowse, drummer Nick Buxton, bassist Lewis Maynard, and vocalist Florence Shaw promise that, “the breadth of influences on Stumpwork is dizzying, a definitive rebuke to those who might reduce Dry Cleaning to a post-punk band.”
GRACE JONES AT FOX THEATER, SEPTEMBER 23
Listen, I don’t have the smarts, the Harvard degree, nor the time to get into a post-colonialist analysis of the androgynous Grace Jones’ performances.
But I do know this: she popularized the high-top fade for African Americans in the early 1980s—check your dates! The impact of her collaborations with musician-producers Sly and Robbie, her forever-flipping of punk, her theft of an Iggy Pop joint to make it her dub-and-disco own, can still be heard in artists like Santigold’s music today. Jones’ appearance in the late ’80s James Bond series, in which she upstaged Christopher Walken (who does that?) all led to this moment.
Jones reshaped American culture like no one else, from the moment her face appeared on the Ebony Woman Billy Paul album cover in 1973 (one of her first professional modeling jobs) to her 2014 New York Times best-selling memoir I’ll Never Write My Memoirs.
When she decides to perform, just show up—and prepare to be amazed.
Grab tix here.
MILDLIFE AT THE INDEPENDENT, SEPTEMBER 29
This group’s debut album Phase blended jazz and post-disco with space groove atmospherics to offer a new take on krautrock, highlighting that genre’s ability to remain perpetually-adaptable. Complete transparency? I’ve been waiting for this Melbourne-based band, whom I once referred to as “daring musical gamblers,” to make it Stateside, and to the Bay, specifically.
So congratulations, Independent, on this September 29 booking. When Midlife played London a few years ago, every publicist, artist, band, musician, and DJ I spoke with said the shows were electrifying. This performance will be one for the season.
Get tickets here.
BROKEN SOCIAL SCENE AT FOX THEATER, SEPTEMBER 30
Real talk? This supergroup was first introduced to me during a scene in Ryan Gosling’s 2006 film Half Nelson.
“Stars and Sons” is caught blasting in some hipster-iffic Williamsburg bar-club as Gosling works the dance floor alongside a future paramour. That feeling, reminiscent of “New Brooklyn” in the late aughts, captured fleeting ephemerality that, like it or not, hit kinda genuine.
Relive your sweaty hipster days by seeing Broken Social Scene at The Fox Theater.
Buy tickets here.
HARDLY STRICTLY BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL AT GOLDEN GATE PARK, SEPTEMBER 30-OCTOBER 2
San Francisco’s cherished Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival shall return in person to Golden Gate Park, marking the first time this free three-day concert has gathered in front of a live audience since 2019. The festival’s organizers recently revealed the festival’s 2022 dates, and its lineup will be divulged through a series of online musical medleys featuring the bands on the bill.
With acts like Emmylou Harris, Antibalas, and Jerry Harrison of Talking Heads fame performing his “Remain in Light” show with Adrian Belew having been originally planned for the 2020 HSBG that wasn’t, this promises to be a homecoming sure to have the city hypnotized by its merry-making.
All updates may be found on the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass site.
B-52’S FAREWELL TOUR AT THE MASONIC AUDITORIUM, OCTOBER 28-30
Return to Mesopotamia for one more—well, three more—get-downs as our favorite Athens, Georgia-born little band puts a fork in it. As the song goes, “they laid down the law,” making dance music more interesting, unpredictable, and quirky. The Tubes are the scheduled opening act for the tour’s SF dates, and B-52’s vocalist Fred Schneider has previously said that, “while the band would no longer tour, it would still make some festival appearances.” Still, if you can make these dates, you should.
Get tix here.
SANTOGOLD AT THE MASONIC, NOVEMBER 5
Santi White captivated me. Her 2008 debut album Santogold fused punk, dub, new wave, and hip-hop like a peak Jackson Pollock creation. Her and M.I.A. collaboratively presented pop from a woman-of-color perspective. But let’s tell it: They were the cool kids, defying convention and running wild with agency.
What Pitchfork read as a nod to Debbie Harry, Kim Deal, Ari Up of The Slits (OK, that one I see), Joe Strummer, and Karen O. actually screams Grace Jones, Bad Brains, The Waitresses, Eddy Grant, Alice Bag, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Mos Def to any brown-skinned new wave-punk AF kid.
Santogold returns to The Masonic this fall, bringing that future pop almost 15 years later, without a single note gathering dust.
Get tickets here.