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Thursday, February 22, 2024

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Arts + CultureMusicB-52s, Kelela, Burning Spear—the secret to this year's local...

B-52s, Kelela, Burning Spear—the secret to this year’s local music fests is curatorial alchemy

Mixing it all up magically at Mosswood Meltdown, Sol Blume, and California Roots.

Show me a calendar and I’ll show you a line-up of dozens of bands playing in the blazing desert, in Reykjavik amid 72 continuous hours of sunlight, or at Summerfest in downtown Milwaukee for 800,000 people. Revelers, is that truly your idea of a magical weekend of fun, friendship, and art?

From February to November, you can’t hit Twitter, or any form of social media, without encountering a music festival. Like daylight savings time, camping retreats, or dressing up your four-legged furry friend, Mr. Pickles, as a Christmas tree for Halloween photos.

Music festivals have become our new shared seasonal activity.

The key to a great one lies in the curation. It’s the ideology, imagination, and action of the zig and the zag. The art of the steak, sizzle, and pan. Such science is the process of selecting and organizing bands for patrons to make other connections with. Boss sauce on this epic sammich for the ears.

Just take a look at our friends putting the Noise Pop Festival together, from February 22 to March 3.

They have partnered once again with SFJAZZ, the largest non-profit jazz presenter in the world, now in its 41st year, to bring cutting-edge artists who imbue the jazz tradition with modern accents.

Melanie Charles fits both bills. This Brooklyn-based singer, multi-instrumentalist, producer, beatmaker, and composer, who has performed with SZA, Mark de Clive-Lowe, and Gorillaz, gives dancefloors energy while pulling elements from different eras of American classical music which we call jazz. Presenting the culture and tradition where the ears are today. Watch that magic during her two shows on March 3 in the Joe Henderson Lab.

That same curatorial energy can be found with Seablite, our local favorite fog-pop band, whose last album Lemon Lights “offered up a captivating mix of pop styles, delivering on the oath of popping a can of alt-’90s energy wide open” according to Treblezine, opening for Laetitia Sadier, of legendary band Stereolab. Both artists, who connect via alt-’90s spirit, will be performing as a part of Noise Pop at The Chapel on March 2. 

It’s all a matter of musical alchemy. So let’s take a look at three festivals that make their bones from this type of science.


Did the multiple Grammy wins by Sacremento-born Victoria Monét trigger your Netflix and chill thirst? Well, I know a festival that can quench it.

Sol Blume, one of the West Coast’s deepest rostered R&B festivals, will be headlined this year by SZA and Snow Aalegra, with a plethora of artists on the bill who represent the many different realms of R&B in 2024.

For three days, the independently produced event at Sacramento’s Discovery Park will feature Kaytraminé (a collaboration between dance music producer Kaytranada and rapper Aminé), the multi-faceted Doechii, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Ari Lennox, UMI, Masego, Jordan Ward, and many more.

Keep an ear out for Kelela. Last year’s Raven kept one foot in this futuristic uptempo BPM world, while still following in vintage electronic underground culture.

Right now, is the best time for R&B and this festival, year after year, proves it.

Purchase tickets here.


Billed as the end-all-be-all showcase from top names to emerging artists in complementary genres of reggae rock, island reggae, roots reggae, folk, and conscious hip hop, this “smoke ’em if you got ’em” event is not for the faint of heart. Headlining this year is nothing but legacy heavyweights who know how to hold a crowd, engage with their “uniting force” if you will, and play those sing-to-’em hits.

E-40 & Too Short, J Boog, Burning Spear, Stephen Marley, Collie Buddz, and Ice Cube are just a few of the featured performers on this three-day weekend lineup of heavy hitters. 

Keep an eye out for Northern California native and performer Claire Wright, who draws influence from Sugar Ray and Jack Johnson and has built a strong reputation on her storytelling and songwriting skills.

Purchase tickets here.


While other festivals go insane trying to appeal to this or do that differently, festival organizers at Mosswood Meltdown know every year what’s going to work, and they stick with it. 

Year after year, queer-centric heroes stack the bill and the core fan base sells this festival out.

This year, it’s The B-52s, Hunx & His Punx, Big Freedia, Redd Kross, and Bush Tetras. Plus the usual hilarity from host John Waters. LA electro DJ vanguard artist Egyptian Lover will be performing turntable sorcery to shake the park all night. 

It’s gonna get sweaty.

Look out for Pansy Division, one of the first out-gay rock bands ever to do it. And new on the bill, a drag contest hosted by San Francisco legend Peaches Christ.

Outside Lands, Portola Fest this is not and that’s why it works. Every time.

PS Keep an ear out for the Oakland-based outfit Non Plus Temps. The group’s first, ghostly post-punk single “Saw The Car Free,” featured basslines outlining schizoid frenzy, and chanty lyrics, with an intensity that can be interpreted as impending doom or the result of dub pellets jacking your brain. Post-punk glory at its apex. 

Purchase tickets here.

48 Hills welcomes comments in the form of letters to the editor, which you can submit here. We also invite you to join the conversation on our FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiverhttps://www.clippings.me/channelsubtext
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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