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Last Saturday was my first BFD, and it was awesome.  BFD is a Bay Area all-day outdoor music festival put on by San Francisco radio station LIVE 105, which features mostly alternative and mainstream rock.  I’ve wanted to go ever since high school, but never ended up making it out to the Shoreline until this year.  I’m glad I did.  Here’s who I saw and what I thought:

The Airborne Toxic Event

Blistering, majestic viola-enhanced, anthemic rock that lives up to the bands advance hype. USA TODAY  Photo credit: Band MySpace

"Blistering, majestic viola-enhanced, anthemic rock that lives up to the band's advance hype." (USA TODAY) Photo credit: The Airborne Toxic Event's MySpace

I’d heard lots of people say they liked The Airborne Toxic Event before, but I have to admit, I was ready to dislike this band.  Until they started playing.  First, there was the cool Asian guy on guitar.  Then, the girl who was singing/playing keyboard started playing viola — and not just playing it for the sake of having a viola in the band, but really legitimately harmonizing and adding to the sound.  Then, the bass player started playing his bass like a cello, with a bow and everything.  Then, the cool Asian guy swapped his guitar for keyboard duties, causing a girl behind us to remark excitedly, “Cool Asian Guy is playing the keyboard!”  The whole band had really good energy and sounded awesome live.  They have solid musical theory behind their songs, which makes me confident that their popularity will carry beyond their single “Sometime Around Midnight”.  Thumbs up.

Dizzy Balloon

Dizzy Balloon

"Dizzy Balloon, a band with an infectious pop sensibility....were like the class clowns in AP English -- juvenile without being delinquents, fun yet smart." (SF Gate) Photo Credit: Dizzy Balloon's MySpace

Alex highly recommended Oakland pop rock band Dizzy Balloon to me after they stole the show when they opened for The Jakes at UCSD.  After BFD, I will agree — they are hands down one of the most fun live bands I’ve ever watched.  The audience can tell they’re having a blast playing, and that enthusiasm and energy is infectious.  Their keyboardist was my favorite; he dances while he plays, and I think I even saw him throw in a bhangra move or two.  They’re playing at the Oakland Metro this Saturday with The Cataracs, one of Davin’s top local picks.  I’ll be out of town, unfortunately, but if you can make it out there, you should not miss it.  Catch Dizzy Balloon now before they hit it huge.  Thumbs up.

Alkaline Trio

Alkaline Trio headlined the Bud Light Festival Stage in an encore performance at BFD 2009.  Photo credit Steve Jennings,

Alkaline Trio headlined the Bud Light Festival Stage in an encore performance at BFD 2009. Photo credit: Steve Jennings,

Alkaline Trio was a bit of a disappointment at BFD this year.  I thought they lacked the distinctive, raw vocals that made Crimson and Good Mourning such good albums — maybe touring the U.S. and Canada with The Offspring has them tired.  Thumbs down, I’m sorry to say.

MC Lars

MC Lars headlined the Local Lounge stage at BFD 2009.  Photo Credit: MC Lars MySpace

MC Lars headlined the Local Lounge stage at BFD 2009. Photo Credit: MC Lars' MySpace

Over at the the Local Lounge stage, however, headliner MC Lars delivered a great live set as usual.  It’s pretty incredible that I haven’t blogged about  him yet, because he’s one of my favorite artists.  For now, suffice it to say that he is an English major from Stanford who blends old school hip-hop references with snarky social commentary and literary allusions.  He and his friends rocked the stage and got the crowd jumping with a mix of old favorites (“Download this Song,” “Hot Topic (Is Not Punk Rock)”) and new tracks from his 2009 album This Gigantic Robot Kills.  It’s always a good sign when the crowd seems to know all the lyrics to all the songs by heart.  Thumbs up.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Karen O. rocks her poncho and the mic during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set.  Photo credit Steve Jennings,

Karen O. rocks her poncho and the mic during the Yeah Yeah Yeahs set. Photo credit: Steve Jennings,

On the main stage, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs were busy being their loveably weird selves.  At various points during their set, Karen O. donned a large neon poncho; put a towel on her head; and jammed her microphone into her mouth, leaned waaay backward, and screamed.  At the end of the set, they fired what appeared to be hundreds of fluttering white moths out of a special white-moth-firing-cannon, much to the delight of the box seat audience below and, later, the local birds.  I can’t claim to be  the hugest Yeah Yeah Yeahs fan, but I do value their artistic statements (however inexplicable).  Thumbs sideways?

The Offspring

The Offspring headline the main stage at Shoreline.  Photo credit Steve Jennings,

The Offspring headline the main stage at Shoreline. Photo credit: Steve Jennings,

I couldn’t have asked for a better performance from festival headliner The Offspring.  They knew the crowd, which ranged from college students to highschoolers to families with small but awesome children, was there to hear classic Offspring, and rose to the occassion magnificently.  They hit all the favorites  (“The Kids Aren’t Alright,” “Come Out and Play,” “Why Don’t You Get a Job?,”) and made a nod to their newer ones (“Hammerhead”), sounding just as great live as they do in the recording studio.  Lead singer Dexter Holland even did a gorgeous piano arrangement of “Gone Away” he’s been working on, which was arguably better than the original.  Joining the band and 22,000 fans in sold-out Shoreline Amphitheatre singing “Self Esteem” was the perfect end to an awesome day.  Thumbs up.


One of the neat things about living in the San Francisco Bay Area is the music scene here.  My friend Davin, whom I met at Cal, is in a band called Fox Culture.  They call themselves a mix of indie, alternative, and baroque pop; their sound is mellow and introspective.  Fox Culture is the kind of indie band that often does duets between one male and female singer.  They sound kind of like Broken Social Scene and the Arcade Fire.

Fox Culture after a gig at Santana Row in San Jose, CA.

Fox Culture after a gig at Santana Row in San Jose, CA.

“Oh yeah- ol’ school organ to set the stage; nice. Nice how you follow each other around vocally and musically. Like lovers chasing each other around town.”

Perry Farrell (Jane’s Addiction, Satellite Party, founder of Lollapalooza)

I used one of Fox Culture’s songs, “Phony”, in a video commerical I created at my internship this summer.  The video basically demonstrates my company’s new product, ChunkIt!, which allows users to find information on the Internet more easily.  I used Camtasia Studio to create a video demonstrating ChunkIt!’s applications to, one of my favorite music websites.

Fox Culture recently entered and won a contest to be featured on an album from one of UC Berkeley’s largest student festivals, Caltopia Live 2008.  The album can be downloaded for free on iTunes and features 14 tracks from bands at UC Berkeley.  I just downloaded it, and will let you know which local artists I think are worth a listen.

“Gotta say, this isn’t a sound I usually gravitate toward, but there’s something about your music that gets under my skin–in a good way. Maybe it’s the subtle, off-kilter songcraft or the double vocals and hypnotic finger plucking, or the noise guitar at the end of Fireman. Your heart is really in this and it shows–and I don’t say that about of a lot of what I hear on this site. Lots of luck!”

Doug Brod (editor of SPIN Magazine)

If you liked the sound of “Phony” from my ChunkIt! video, you can check out more Fox Culture songs on their MySpace page.