By Eric Rivkin – January 20, 2020
The sheer volume of incredible bands playing intimate venues in the Bay Area can be overwhelming. To help you navigate the lengthy concert calendar (with respect to dozens of other worthwhile shows, including the Nas + Wu-Tang Clan mega-concert), below are my top five must-see shows for February 2020.
Wed 2/5 at The Fox Theater, Oakland
A NorCal based graphic designer who’s become a pioneer in downtempo electronic music, Tycho has crafted lo-fi sonic masterpieces that have been clinically proven to induce a natural high. His music layers drums, synths, guitar, and bass that flow between ambient, chillwave and groovy electronic dance music. Last year, Tycho added a vocalist to his live band for the first time. For long-time fans, it’s different hearing vocals over Tycho’s crisply composed instrumentals, though Saint Sinner has a light, ethereal quality to her voice that does a good job preserving the dream-like state the instrumentals put you in. This will be Tycho’s third Bay area date in less than a 7-month span, supporting his Grammy-nominated album, Weather.
Sat 2/8 at Great American Music Hall, SF
Seven years removed from their hilariously titled debut album, No Regerts, all-female, Seattle-based Chastity Belt has become an indie-rock mainstay. Since coming back from a short hiatus, they’ve released a fantastic new album and have again hit the road hard between Europe and U.S. tours. They play guitar-heavy music, synced up to leave no rest between notes; a style that gives their music a lo-fi psychedelic feel, especially on their new self-titled album. Lead singer and multi-instrumentalist Julia Shapiro has a vocal style that lands between dream-pop and punk. Its expressive, audible and stands out enough to give her lyrics weight.
Fri 2/14 at Great American Music Hall, SF
Sat 2/15 at the Regency Ballroom, SF
A tier-one jam band for the current generation, playing a mix of funk, rock, and disco. Either night you attend, expect two sets of near-constant energy from both the band and the crowd. PPPP originals are great, but you can also hope to hear a selection from their extensive list of jammy covers including Star Wars’ “Cantina Band Song” and Pocahontas’ “The Color of the Wind.” You can be certain that no musician has more fun on stage/in general than lead vocalist/rhythm guitarist Greg Ormont. The subject of many memes, it’s hard not to get behind the ebullient bandleader, even if he lyrically insults your favorite cheese. Also, look out for some wicked shredding from guitar virtuoso Jeremy Schon, powerful drum solos from Alex “Gator” Petropulos, and fan-generated wind gracefully blowing through bassist Ben Carrey’s beard. Another rising bird-themed jam band, Goose opens for what will be their first shows in San Francisco, so be sure to flock to these shows early.
Fri 2/14 & Sat 2/16 the Independent, SF
Sun 2/15 at The New Parish, Oakland
Right alongside the Kuti family, Antibalas is one of the world’s most prominent Afrobeat bands. Often a 12-piece group, complete with a full horn section and auxiliary percussion, they add on layers of funk and jazz to the sound that Fela Kuti pioneered. New album Fu Chronicles comes out on February 7, drawing from lead singer and master martial artist Amayo’s dojo experience. If you like to dance, and/or enjoy singing along to songs about fighting corruption, catch at least one of their THREE Bay Area dates.
Fri 2/28 at Slim’s, SF
This is a serious double-billing for fans of Latin-American indie music. Combo Chimbita’s collective backgrounds in traditional Colombian music, psychedelic rock, opera, and metal come together to form their self-described “tropical futurism” sound. Complex Latin and African rhythmic structures keep dancers on their toes while powerful, haunting vocals by Carolina Oliveros reverberate throughout every inch of a venue. Relatively new to the scene, expect big things from Combo Chimbita as they continue to experiment with their sound.
You don’t have to understand Spanish to feel the emotion behind Luz Elena Mendoza’s largely lyrical music. Expressive, creative music that often addresses the experience of being a Mexican-American woman, Y La Bamba’s sound mixes folk, indie-pop, electronic, and rock with Latin rhythms. A set could mix throaty, soulful folk favorites such as “Ojos Del Sol” with higher energy songs like “Mujeres” that border on hip-hop, with impressively syncopated vocals.
This show is an absolute standout of the Noise Pop Festival lineup.
Eric is a freelance writer and environmental professional based in San Francisco. His passion for live entertainment was born in the East Coast jam band scene but has evolved to include jazz, funk, rock, indie, and electronic music, in addition to comedy, sports, and theater. Find more of his concert/festival-related content on Medium, as well as regular contributions on RushTix.