By Eric Rivkin – March 1, 2020
With one of the best live music scenes in the world, you can find a worthwhile concert any night of the week in The Bay Area. In case thirty-one shows in a month is too much though, below are my top five must-see shows of March. In favor of more intimate concerts, arena shows have been omitted from the list. For those who missed out on sold-out Tame Impala tickets, I hope this helps ease your FOMO.
Sun 3/1 at SFJAZZ: Joe Henderson Lab, SF
A recent signee on Flying Lotus’ popular Brainfeeder label, experimental indie-jazz producer, vocalist, and keyboardist Salami Rose Joe Louis is a rising Bay Area star. In the past year, she’s opened for major acts including Toro y Moi, Cinematic Orchestra, Alice Phoebe Lou and Flying Lotus on shows throughout the US and Europe. A background in planetary science serves as inspiration on her 2019 sci-fi-inspired album “Zdenka 2080,” which tells a tale of the Earth’s impending doom. It’s a dreamy, twenty-two song odyssey that’s weird in the best way. Often a solo performer, Salami Rose will be joined by fellow Bay Area talents – bassist Cheflee, saxophonist Eli Maliwan, and drummer Brandon Farmer. To close out the 2020 Noise Pop Festival, they’ll be playing two separate shows at SFJAZZ’s Joe Henderson Lab – an intimate glass room that’s fully visible from Franklin Street. Expect extended jazz and hip-hop inspired jams building off of her spacy originals.
Fri 3/6 at The Fox Theater, Oakland
Two artists from Brainfeeder’s roster in a row (I swear they’re not sponsoring this article). Thundercat is a Grammy award-winning jazz-fusion bassist and falsetto vocalist with deep roots in hip-hop. In addition to his four solo albums, Thundercat has garnered critical acclaim as a collaborator, having been featured on numerous songs with Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, Mac Miller, Childish Gambino, Kamasi Washington, and others. His use of effects pedals often takes his sound into a futuristic, electro-funk-pop space on songs like “Friend Zone” and “Them Changes.” Thundercat has exceptional chemistry with keyboardist Dennis Hamm and drummer Justin Brown, who help take his studio material to another level during shows with their collective, high-energy, jazz-fusion jams. Look out for songs from his new album It Is What It Is, out on April 3.
Sat 3/7 at The Fillmore, SF
Kindness, positivity and goofiness are the brand for Vermont-based funk, rock, reggae, jam powerhouse Twiddle. Made up of four supremely talented musicians, their songs range from deeply emotional and inspirational, to twenty-minute-long funky reggae jams about nonsensical characters, such as “Cabbage Face” and “Frankenfoote.” Zdenek Gubb, who joined the band as a 17-year-old prodigy back in 2007, slaps the bass in intricate, deeply funky patterns. Mihali Savoulidis shreds harder and more frequently than any other guitarist and has a slightly raspy vocal style that hits with sincerity on his charged lyrics. Brook Jordan is a versatile drummer with an angelic voice, who gracefully transitions through changes in rhythm and dynamics. A puppeteer with a degree in film, Ryan Dempsey, a.k.a. Norb, sets the tone on organ and brings a thoughtful mix of classical, jazz and funk to his keyboard solos. Honoring the tradition Bill Graham established in the 1960’s, grab a free apple or two from the bucket on your way into the show. A sugar rush before what’s sure to be a high-energy set is highly recommended. As the popular Twiddle lyric goes, “you gotta like apples, man.”
Sun 3/8 at Brick and Mortar, SF
A fast-rising funk/rock/soul band led by Neal Francis, a Chicago-based pianist and singer who has drawn apt comparisons to Allen Toussaint. Neal brings instant cred to the stage with a horn-filled band that includes members of Orgone and the Revivalists. Touring on the heels of his first LP, they’ve been opening shows for a laundry list of big names in funk and soul, including JJ Grey & Mofro, Turkuaz, the Black Pumas, and Lee Fields. “Changes,” the title track of their LP, is a chilled out, 70’s-style-cool, funk masterpiece that was objectively one of the best songs of 2019. Take advantage of the few remaining opportunities to see Neal and Co. at intimate venues like the 250-capacity Brick & Mortar.
Sun 3/22 at SFJAZZ: Miner Auditorium, SF
Celebrating the Hindu festival Holi for the 6th year in a row at SFJAZZ, Red Baraat brings a loud, colorful, funky dance party to the Miner Auditorium. A horn and percussion filled 7-piece group from Brooklyn, their style is best described as New Orleans brass band meets North Indian bhangra.Their energetic bandleader Sunny Jain, one of the world’s most celebrated dhol drum players, sets the tone with spiritedly shouted vocals and pounding, physically demanding rhythms played on the double-sided drum.An incredible venue for acoustics and site lines, it’s hard to go wrong with any seats at the Miner Auditorium. That being said, for great views of the stage and crowd, don’t sleep on the seats behind the stage (pictured above).
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.