this was a spectacular year for Bay Area Music, one of the best in recent memory in fact, and we at Live 105 had the very arduous task of selecting only twenty to best represent our vibrant local music scene.
hope you enjoy our Top 20 Best Bay Area Bands of 2011 special
and remember to tune in Sunday evenings at 7pm for Radio Soundcheck, which showcases the very best in new local music each and every week
Live 105 Music Director
The East Bay music mecca known as Walnut Creek, California, actually placed two bands on our top 20 Live 105 Bay Area band countdown this year, with one being influenced by punk rock (Set Your Goals) and the other, Mister Loveless, showing a musical penchant for moody indie rock and post-punk, ala Joy Division and Interpol. The year 2011saw Mister Loveless partnering up with a great Bay Area management team in Guerrilla Management, who also oversee Michael Franti & Spearhead
Upcoming show: Thursday, January 19 @ Brick And Mortar, SF
19. Doe Eye – Union City
Union City new up-and-coming singer-songwriter Doe Eye, who was first brought to my attention by Live 105 staffer Menace, ended 2011 with a fantastic headlining and packed show at SF’s legendary Bottom Of The Hill, which featured a full 10-piece band, complete with back-up singers and a string section. She released her debut EP this year, which harbors the absolutely beautiful and haunting I HATE YOU, and look for Doe Eye to release a full album in 2012.
Upcoming show: Saturday, January 7 @ Ear Peace Records, Berkeley
Yet another San Jose band clocking in on our top 20 countdown for 2011 and deservingly so. Picture Atlantic, primarily on the strength of their live sets and the amazing WHEN EVERYTHING IS NUMBERS EP, have amassed national acclaim and rave reviews from a multitude of influential blogs, mags and music fans alike. Picture Atlantic were also voted Silicon Valley band of the year by Metro Magazine and plan to release new music and a two part music video in 2012
Upcoming show: Friday, January 6 @ The Red House Live, Walnut Creek
Architects of two of the best local video’s of 2011, GIRL AT A PARTY and SEX U, San Francisco brooding-dance-rock 4-piece The Hundred Days have become a staple of the vibrant SF underground indie scene. they also released an excellent album this year entitled REALLY? and have packed such clubs as popscene and the DNA lounge.
This multi-talented South Bay band, products of the flourishing San Jose music scene, made a strong impact in 2011 by releasing several super catchy singles, including the Radio Soundcheck smash LIQUOR STORE, as well as dabbling in some remixing and knob twiddling, too, as they crafted remixes for LADY GAGA, indie faves BEACH HOUSE and SF’s own AB & THE SEA. YOUNG SCIENCE also performed at Live 105’s debut BottleRockit Music Festival in September at Wente Winery in Livermore
South Bay bred 5-piece I AM EMPIRE had quite a memorable 2011 campaign indeed. Not only did the boys headline the local band stage at BFD 2011 over the summer, cultivate a rabid fanbase and receive regular airplay on the Radio Soundcheck show, but they also landed a record deal with the very reputable independent label TOOTH AND NAIL RECORDS, which released their debut album KINGS.
Walnut Creek punks Set Your Goals have become synonymous with the melodic hardcore scene and have garnered an internationally ravenous fan base as well as landing a home on the storied punk label Epitaph Records (Offspring, Social Distortion, Rancid, et al) over the summer of 2011 the band released their third album, the blistering Burning At Both Ends, which harbored the kick ass single ‘Certain’ as heard on Radio Soundcheck most Sunday evenings.
SF three-piece Trophy Fire, fronted by the Josh Homme doppelganger Ben Flanagan, released one of the strongest, immaculately produced and most complete Bay Area albums of 2011 with ‘Modern Hearts’, which is chalk full of emotive rock anthems and Radio Soundcheck hits, including the title track and my personal favorite, their terrific cover of The Knife’s ‘Heartbeats’ one of my favorite local band gigs of 2011 was catching this band at Oakland’s Uptown Club!
Upcoming show: March 10 @ Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco’s answer to Vampire Weekend and perhaps the next local indie pop band to break out of the Bay Area music scene since The Morning Benders, AB & THE SEA dropped one of the best local singles and most played Soundcheck songs of 2011 with the infectiously sun-soaked gem IN THE SUNSHINE. these Wisconsin transplants migrated out West a few years ago and have quickly established themselves as one of the top Bay Area unsigned acts. They also hooked up with a solid local management team in Figurehead that also manages Wallpaper and once even managed Bay Area legends Primus! AB & THE SEA is working on their debut album at SF’s Different Fur studios, slated for a Spring 2012 release, and one their songs BONE DRY will be featured on the CHRONICLE motion picture soundtrack, along with M83, SIMIAN MOBILE DISCO and STARF*CKER.
Upcoming show: February 18th @ Great American Music Hall
Rising out of the ashes of former Bay Area band Mud, and picking up ex-members of Good Charlotte and The Lovemakers along the way, San Francisco’s SEEKING EMPIRE stormed onto the scene in late 2010 and made an indelible impact in 2011 with the release of their very well-received and self-titled debut EP. Other highlights included selling out Bottom Of The Hill at their EP release party, performing live in-studio on Live 105’s Radio Soundcheck show and releasing the very cinematic and alluring video for Caving In. So impressed was I with SEEKING EMPIRE in 2011 that i already confirmed them to play at BFD 2012 on this year’s local band stage!
Upcoming show: January 21st @ Bottom of the Hill
10. Girls – San Francisco
Adored in the UK, endorsed by blog heavyweights Pitchfork and Stereogum and beloved by thousands of music bloggers and fans throughout the country, SF art-rockers GIRLS have quickly ascended up the musical ranks to become one of today’s top indie rock outfits. From first gracing the stage at Great American Music Hall to now Fillmore sellouts, this lo-fi collective released their sophomore album FATHER, SON, HOLY GHOST which impressively debuted at #37 on the U.S top 200 Billboard album charts!
attention major label A&R record weasels: come check out this new SF 5-piece NEW DIPLOMAT when they play Bottom Of The Hill on January 21 and see for yourselves why they are our #9 top Bay Area band of 2011. my one lone complaint about this band is that their debut EP BUY YOURSELF SOME FREEDOM is too damn good! i can never decide on only one song to play on Soundcheck each week ’cause the entire EP, and all five songs it contains, is worthy of Live 105 airplay. somewhere between The Faint and post-hardcore band Rival Schools lives San Francisco’s New Diplomat.
Upcoming show: January 21st @ Bottom of the Hill
Oakland, by way of Connecticut, Tune Yards is the brainchild of one Merrill Garbus, the precociously talented artist who incorporates an eclectic array of instruments into her music and live sets, including drum loops, a ukulele, electric bass and even a saxophone thrown in for good measure. Tune Yards sold-out the Regency Ballroom in 2011 and triumphantly returns in 2012 to headline a show not far from her hood at the prestigious Fox Theater! Our favorite Tune Yards track of the year was the wonderfully warped GANGSTA, particularly the sick Adrock of Beastie Boys remix!
Upcoming show: Tuesday, April 24 @ Fox Theater, Oakland
Hard working San Jose reggae players THE HOLDUP have been embraced by the very same music community of artists that have heavily influenced them, referring to such successful acts cut from the same cloth as Rebelution, Slightly Stoopid, Dirty Heads, Rome and Pepper. The band have become a touring force, like recently selling out Slim’s on a Saturday night and they also performed at Live 105’s BottleRockit Music Festival in Livermore and the local band stage at BFD 2011 @ The Shoreline! THE HOLDUP released the very successful STILL GOLD album in 2011 on local label Dub Rock Records, the bands third release, and it remarkably debuted at #1 on the iTunes and Billboard Independent Reggae charts. Look for a brand new HOLDUP track ‘SLOW SONGS’ to drop on Friday, January 6 on iTunes
Upcoming show: Thursday, February 23 @ Fulton 55, Fresno, Ca
Upcoming show: March 16th @ The Phoenix Theatre, Petaluma
While many music industry pundits would consider 2011 a tremendously successful year for San Francisco 3-piece Geographer, validated by performances at Treasure Island Music Festival and selling out, i mean packed to the rafters, shows at The Independent and popscene, 2012 is gonna dwarf it all, i’ll tell you right now. look for Geographer to release a brand new album on Modern Art Records and take to the road with the support of one of the biggest booking agencies in the country The Windish Agency. What Mumford and Sons did for the banjo in 2011, Geographer will do the same for the cello in 2012
Bay Area blues-garage-rockers THE STONE FOXES crash into Live 105’s top 5 Bay Area bands of 2011 by riding a number of different factors, but none stronger than their electric live performances! the band has virally developed a loyal following and noted reputation for giving The Black Keys a run for their money on stage, and this was all cemented over the summer at their ‘coming out ‘ party in Golden Gate Park at the Outside Lands Music Festival where the Stone Foxes absolutely destroyed it! The band also released one of the most reactive (meaning, i always get a sea of texts and phone calls asking me what i’m playing) Bay Area songs of 2011 with the fiery and poignant PSYCHO
Another strong component of the well-represented South Bay Music scene would be San Jose’s Beta State who had a memorable 2011 indeed, which encompassed TWO Live 105 benchmark concerts: BFD 2011 AND winning the annual NSSN local band competition out of 120 entries…subsequently landing the highly-coveted opening slot for YOUNG THE GIANT, FLORENCE + THE MACHINE, BUSH, MUMFORD & SONS and GREEN DAY at Oakland’s Oracle. They also orchestrated one of the most brazen marketing ploys in recent memory over the summer: As legend has it, Beta State skillfully snuck past and infiltrated the Fort Knox-sized security team for Linkin Park backstage at BFD and proceeded to give the Chester and the band iPod Touches loaded with Beta State music and video’s! (which Linkin Park tweeted about the next day and caught the interest of the entire music industry) finally, 2011 was accented by the December release of one of their best songs to date STRONGER THAN GRAVITY
Upcoming show: Friday, January 27 @ Avalon Nightclub, Santa Clara
I first met Eric Frederic of WALLPAPER many moons ago when he was fronting an east bay emo band called Facing New York and one of his many characteristics that stood out to me was an insatiable appetite and conviction he had for his music AND a tenacious work ethic. fast forward a few years to the birth of his grandiose new stage alias Ricky Reed and now WALLPAPER are poised to be one of the next true Bay Area breakthrough artists! (as even documented today on MTV.COM’s new artists to watch in 2012, Wallpaper is featured alongside Lana Del Rey! click here
Think of WALLPAPER as the smarter stepbrother of LMFAO, stuck up in his chemistry lab inventing clever pop music and dancefloor anthems for a 21st century generation that grew up with a musical palate for punk rock, indie, hip hop, electronica, funk and perhaps even their parents ’80s record collection. the video for STUPiDFACEDD currently has over 2 million views and look for some very exciting label news to announce in 2012, too.
hmmmmm, remember the last dude to front an emo band that eventually crossed over into dance music? I’ll give you a hint: its a bespectacled fella with a funny haircut that starts with the letter S
Upcoming show: Saturday, January 21 @ Blank Club, San Jose
2. K.Flay – San Francisco
As legions of Stanford Cardinal fans mourn the disappointing loss to Oklahoma State this week in the Fiesta Bowl, and curse the name of a red shirt freshman field goal kicker, a silver lining could be found in the shape of a Stanford alumnus and super fresh sucka MC that goes by the name of K FLAY! she makes dope beats. period. and can rap with the best of ’em and even inked an awesome record deal this year. she’s an incredibly talented Bay Area musician and poised for big things in 2012. K FLAY played BFD 2011, popscene and even packed the Independent last month! look for K FLAY to drop a brand new EP on January 31, which will be offered for free on her website and itunes, and two of the cuts feature electronic luminary Liam Howlett of PRODIGY! don’t take my word for it, check out this glowing review of K FLAY this week from the NY TIMES here
ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls…. we give you Live 105’s #1 Bay Area band of 2011: THE LIMOUSINES! its been a rewarding experience for me watching this San Jose electro-pop duo exponentially grow from a freshly conceived new project a few years ago to becoming one of Northern California’s best homegrown products. 2011 was quite a banner year for Eric and Gio, too, as they successfully toured the country supporting Sweden’s THE SOUNDS, sold-out countless clubs and continued to bolster an aesthetic and brand that is now adored by thousands of hardcore fans. also, on the impressive Limo’s resume would be 3 BFD performances and two bona-fide Bay Area radio smashes on Live 105 with Internet Killed The Video Star and Very Busy People. in 2012 The Limo’s embark on their first ever European tour and prepare to release a new video for The Future, which will be the 3rd single of their GET SHARP debut album (released on indie label Dangerbird Records and label mates with Silversun Pickups)
Upcoming show: January 19th @ The Independent