Like a whistle in the night,
Sound without sight.
A note that hangs,
Monstrously cleffed in treble.
Opinions were like kittens, I was giving them away.
Like a whistle in the night,
Sound without sight.
A note that hangs,
Monstrously cleffed in treble.
Phono del Sol is a one-day music festival staged in Potrero del Sol Park by John Vanderslice’s magnificent Tiny Telephone recording studio in conjunction with Do The Bay and The Bay Bridged. It is kid friendly, music focused, civilized and affordable with a great selection of local food and beverages. Much to my chagrin, I’ll be missing my favorite California music festival this year because it’s wedding season and two more beautiful humans in our lives are getting hitched on the SAME DAY, July 11th.
My loss, however, is your gain. Due to the double-booking, Nostos Algos is giving away two regular admission tickets to Phono del Sol (a $60 value). To win these tickets, you need to:
All entries must be received by midnight on July 3rd, 2015, and the winner will be notified of their remarkable good fortune on America’s birthday, July 4th, 2015. Below you’ll find a selection of my favorite bands, and you can peruse other offerings on the festival’s website.
Sonny & The Sunsets: Sonny Smith has become is a prolific staple of the local music scene in San Francisco. While I’ve seen him perform live many times over the years, I never know what the next show will hold. He is a spontaneous, musically brilliant goofball playing infections 1960s-inspired garage rock that seemingly rolls ashore with the surf at Ocean Beach.
Everyone Is Dirty: This Oakland band is on the verge of many things, most imminently of breaking out from indie obscurity into the limelight. Just like their city, these East Bayers blend raw kickass with polished perspective to deliver a uniquely California sound. So much energy, so great live–they’ll provide a wonderful compliment to the skateboarders shredding next to the main stage.
Tiaras: The debut album from Tiaras has just been released by Mt.St.Mnt (pronounced Mount Saint Mountain), a colony of creators that publish printed and audio art in limited batches. With the indie music scene in San Francisco endangered by real estate scarcity and superficial patrons, this band and this project give us hope for what’s artistically in store for the Bay Area.
Scary Little Friends: Another local band that offers a beautiful 60s-80s-90s mashup of sound imubed with a Jeff Buckley vulnerability that is hard to authentically master. Each song on their album From the Beginning brings such a different vibe that it was impossible to pick just one feature, so you’ll find the first two tracks available for a listen below. So bummed to be missing them.
Tanlines: Never fail, listening to this synth-pop duo makes me want to watch Empire Records. Perhaps its the way the album’s 1980s evocation sparks 1990s nostalgia in my listening heart. Whatever the reason, the band’s newest album Highlights is polished and pleasant from first to last. Also, they built a website that mimics Netflix in a subtle commentary on consumer culture. Brilliant through and through.
Looking back on our recent trip to Cincinnati for the Bunbury music festival, there were as many low-lights as there were highlights. This is a festival in its third year, and the event’s new organizers, PromoWest, still have much to learn. Rookie mistakes include a security team that asks about weapons on your person instead of checking for them; too few water stations in an unforgivably hot and humid climate; poor sound quality at the smaller stages; and a “craft beer village” that served us Stella Artois–a brand owned by Anhueser-Busch, the world’s largest beer manufacturer and distributor.
My favorite oversight was the poor signage and lack of visible staff at the start of the festival. On Friday, my little group entered the only marked entrance a few hours after opening, and walked into a Kafkaesque scene in the parking lot. Without any direction, attendees had formed a web of lines TO NOWHERE, some of which snaked into the ends of other lines and moved nonsensically in circles. People were hot, people were missing beloved bands, people were hangry. Some people were stuck outside for an hour or more, while craftier festival goers walked straight through the gates with ease as the only two visible staff members stood near the entrance and did nothing to control the situation. This was an amazing social experiment. Thank you, Bunbury, for proving that society descends into chaos within minutes in a vacuum.
In truth, these are all fixable deficiencies and some were on the road to remedy by the third day while others will probably (most likely…hopefully) be worked out by next year. For a note of positivity, the beer lines were short, and we weren’t packed into the festival grounds like sardines. Re-entry was allowed so we could come and go as we pleased (a fact that probably improved the bathroom situation immensely), and Bunbury was very kid friendly. In fact, there wasn’t one tripping teen, scared and lost in a sea of acid, to be seen all three days–a marked difference from Outside Lands. Most notably, the crowd wasn’t clogged with fashion bloggers and wannabe chanteuses looking to commemorate their coolness with Internet. This is because Bunbury hasn’t jumped the shark like Coachella, Outside Lands, or SXSW: all of which are now places to see and be seen rather than places to see and hear music. People actually came to the banks of the Ohio River to be with friends in the presence of live music; what a concept.
The highest of highs, however, came from two bands I’ve seen on the west coast many-a-time. Father John Misty has been profiled on this blog before, and I don’t feel there’s much more to add. His pitch was perfect, his outfit on point, his set amazing and peppered with insights that skewered the absurdity of every band asking the audience “how y’all doing today?” as well as the weak explanation Bunbury gave for its choice of name. For the record, he renamed the festival Blimberskrimp. After all was said and done, he made two grown females swoon just by walking by them. I was one of those two females, the other was my lady compadre for the weekend. He passed us and we attempted to say words with our mouths but words that never came; then he was gone in the blink of a swoon. As soon as he was out of earshot, we released breathy, disbelieving screams and lost our minds just as it began to pour down rain with a southern fury. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think that means Father John Misty conjured the rain. It was a monswoon.
As the skies opened up we stood in the rain like teenagers and watched Tame Impala play an epic set through the downpour. For a band that up until recently hadn’t seen any of its U.S. royalties, Tame Impala always plays an amazing show like none of that BS is happening to them. Listening to psychedelic Aussies while running losey-goosey in the rain with an equally stimulated crowd conjured thoughts of Woodstock in the best of ways. Especially for a Californian that had almost forgotten what it was like to see water come from the sky, this moment was seared deeper into my memory as each huge sweat-salty drop of water stung my eyes. I was blown away when they played the Fox Theater in Oakland a few years back, and blown away a second time here in Ohio not only for the quality of their performance but for their professionalism in finishing their set as thunder wailed, lightning flashed, and the rain incapacitated their keyboard. This is a great band; this was a great night.
Other than Friday, we didn’t spend much time at the festival because we’re jaded city folk who weren’t that impressed with the line-up, and the trip was more of an excuse to see old friends than an effort to see new music. I am 30 now and I wasn’t paid to cover Bunbury, both facts which de-incentivized fighting crowds to catch a glimpse of Snoop Dog or enduring the heat to hear a local band I can hear better on Bandcamp. Instead of trapping us by the river, however, Bunbury’s re-entry policy allowed me and my band of merry travelers to explore Cincinnati.
Did you hear that, American cities currently negotiating with festival promoters, and the festival promoters that try to rob us blind with over-priced food and drinks? By enabling ticket holders to come and go at their leisure they will spend more money within city limits, and be much happier, much less destructive people at the festival because the herd mentality has been usurped by the freedom of movement. We still bought plenty of food and beer at the festival, but we also frequented Cheapside Cafe, MOTR Pub, Park + Vine, Coffee Emporium, the Taft Museum of Art and Eden Park, among others. In addition, we Ubered everywhere–further injecting Cincinnati’s local economy with our out-of-state moneys. Freedom = Choice, Choice = Patronage, Patronage = Successful Small Businesses.
Bunbury is a quaint local festival that sent us home feeling unsullied and sun-kissed with a side of musical memories. Cincinnati is a cool town grappling with the same issues of suburban flight, urban blight, gentrification, and the on-coming flood of hipness as are so many other American cities in the 21st-century. But there is an element of midwest charm in Ohio that compels even the hippest bartenders and baristas to be awesomely polite and authentically engaged with me, the customer. I had almost forgotten this was possible, living as I do in San Francisco where rudeness is now worn as a badge of honor–a way to stratify class in Northern California into hierarchies of unhip, hip, hipper, and hippest. I’m sure Cincinnati’s growing pains are not over and that the city’s gentrification is not appreciated by all its residents, but, from an outsider’s perspective, it was encouraging to see murals restored and small businesses popping up amidst empty storefronts, while other businesses remained in place and looked untouched by time.
If you’re looking for a relaxing pace of life and an excuse to catch up with old music-loving friends, Cincinnati is the place and Bunbury is the festival for you. Will I personally return to Bunbury next year? Probably not, but Goonies never say die and this lady is most certainly for hire as a freelance music journalist. We’ll see where the year takes us, but until then…you take care, Ohio–perhaps I’ll see you again some day.
I enjoy Outside Lands every year, but, at the risk of sounding like a grumpus, the Summer of 2014 may be the season that music festivals jumped the shark. I say this in spite of loving the concept of music festivals. What could be better than listening to music while enjoying the great outdoors with delicious food and drinks? Particularly at Outside Lands, you descend into another realm free from the urban cyclone that whirls away just outside the park perimeter. You can wander through psychedelic circus-lit canopies holding a rice crispy treat the size of your face in one hand, a watermelon cocktail in the other, and end your journey with a pyrotechnic light show soundtracked by a Beatle, in person. If you live in the Outer Sunset, like this little lady, you can then stumble home in a haze of disbelieving glory and wonder aloud, “Was this all a dream?”
Yes, I drink the Outside Lands Kool-Aid every year, however that doesn’t erase my memory of the inevitable claustrophobic panics and the annoyance of youngins rolling on molly who indiscriminately pee where people want to sit. In many ways, it seems to me these big festivals have grown too big for their britches. Each successive year of Outside Lands becomes more corporate and crowded with people who are more drunk, more rude, and more oblivious to the music. Sadly, this is a recurring theme where music has become a secondary distraction at music festivals. Coachella broke Instragram this year when the barrage of blogging fashionistas, there to see-and-be-seen, all simultaneously uploaded photos of their outfits (#ootd). And if you’re an optimist willing to endure the downsides of large festivals, you’d best be quick to buy tickets because they sell out in a matter of minutes only to be found for sale on Stubhub at double the cost mere moments after they officially “sell out”.
The glorious antidote to these maladies is Phono del Sol, the feel-good festival that won’t tax your budget or your patience. Co-hosted by The Bay Bridged and John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone, this one-day, $25 event held on July 12th was just the right size–never overcrowded, always relaxed. It was held at Potrero del Sol, which is located a stone’s throw away from Tiny Telephone at the base of Potrero Hill, and includes a skate park that was packed for the entire festival. A hill in the middle of the park separated the two stages, and offered the best seats in the house. A mere pivot to either side of this hill gave you the perfect view of killer sets from Nick Waterhouse, which sparked an old-fashioned dance party near the stage; from Wye Oak, who showcased her flawless, bass-driven new sound alongside some old Civilian favorites; and from local favorites Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, who ended the day with their infectious indie pop. Phono del Sol also introduced many people to lesser known notables such as White Fence, A Million Billion Dying Suns, The Tambo Rays, and Tony Molina.
The success of Phono del Sol ultimately lies in its authenticity. The Bay Bridged is a nonprofit music blog devoted to covering and promoting Bay Area music, while John Vanderslice opened Tiny Telephone to give local, independent musicians access to affordable hi-fi recording. This dedication to local music was mirrored in the dedication of those in the audience who were as attentive to the musicians who played as they were respectful of their fellow listeners. We ate amazing sliders with garlic sweet potato fries courtesy of Voodoo Van, and sipped beer from a souvenir turquoise koozie–all with ample elbow room that provided maximum enjoyment. Compare that to a day at Outside Lands that begins with Esurance bracelets, drains your bank account and your faith in humanity, and then spits you out onto Lincoln Way to begin your arduous journey home. To me, despite my affection for Outside Lands, that’s Phono del Sol for the win.
Couldn’t make the Bay Bridge + Tiny Telephone production Phono del Sol today? Not to worry, Nostos Algos has you covered. Here are some festival favorites for you to view in the pantsless privacy of your apartment, so crack that craft brew, microvave those Chinese leftovers and let this visual playlist be your Saturday highlight.
Wye Oak, an everlasting gobstopper-esque addicition.
Much love for the throwback sound of San Francisco State University alum, Nick Waterhouse.
The Tambo Rays, purveyors of one of the best damn shows I’ve seen all year.
Always a woman of her own means, the ever-ready Thao & The Get Down Stay Down.
Tony Molina. Tony (freaking) Molina.
Living two blocks from Golden Gate Park, Outside Lands is well within the perimeters of my urban backyard. This was initially why I started attending the festival a few years ago, but now I go to escape the Normal. This is partially achieved by the way I revert to a gushy teen while watching acts for which my hipster-ass thinks it’s too cool (Red Hot Chili Peppers). The other part of the equation is they way OL transforms the Park into a carny fairytale filled with fine food and trees that are alive with color, as if their moods were on display in the night.
These moods were infectious, and the spirit of camaraderie and goodwill amongst the crowd was palpable. Heterosexual men approached my fella to compliment him on his majestic beard and give him free beer. We won free food, and happened upon a giant pouch of medical (yet illicit) substances on the ground. Old friends were found, and new friends were made with people and bands alike. My inner teenager was able to see Camper Van Beethoven, and I fell madly in love with Gary Clark Jr–our generation’s equivalent to Jimmy Hendrix.
When the tally was made the sum became a conglomeration of moments that will never be forgotten. This is what makes the price for entry worthwhile, the sticker shock recede. For a brief three days we were persons outside of ourselves: two souls wandering turf that many men and women had trod before, imprinting the land with another notch in a timeline that will carry on beyond our own. This fact was made clear to me while watching Paul McCartney–a piece of living history. His three-hour set included every song I NEEDED to hear, was peppered with deeply moving stories about John Lennon and George Harrison (Ringo got no play), and included fireworks. Positively breathtaking.
Thank you, Outside Lands. See you in 2014.