Summer in the Bay means music festival season — hold on to your butts (and your wallets)
For local bands just starting to make a name for themselves, of course, there's nothing like a larger and yes, very corporate festival for reaching new audiences. Take the locals stage at LIVE 105's BFD, the all-day radio-rock party celebrating its 20th year June 1 at the Shoreline: Curated by the station's music director, Aaron Axelsen — aka the DJ who's launched 1,000 careers, thanks to his Sunday night locals-only show, Soundcheck, as well as booking up-and-comers for Popscene — the locals stage at BFD has a pretty good track record for launching bands onto the next big thing. The French Cassettes, one of SF's current indie-pop darlings, sure hope that holds true for them.
"Aaron Axelsen has been really generous to us. I think we're all clear that none of this would be happening without him," says singer-guitarist Scott Huerta. The band will be playing songs from its newest album, out on cassette (duh) at the end of May. "But we're super excited just to be in there. Hopefully we make some new fans. I know I used to find out about new bands by going to BFD and just passing by that stage. It's by all the food vendors, so as long as people are hungry, we'll be good. Don't eat before you come."
For the Tumbleweed Wanderers, an Oakland-based soul-folk-rock band that's been hustling back and forth across the country for the past year, hitting the stage at Outside Lands (Aug. 8-10) — that festival everyone loves to hate and hates to love — will be the culmination of years of playing around the festival, quite literally.
"In 2011, we busked outside, and I think that's the year [our keyboard player] Patrick almost got arrested?" says Rob Fidel, singer-guitarist, with a laugh. "Then the next year we got asked to play Dr. Flotsam's Hell Brew Review, which is this thing in the park just outside Outside Lands, and we did that for an hour and a half every day for free. And then busked outside. I like to say we played Outside Lands more than any other band that year.
"But to be on the other side of that all of a sudden is awesome," he says, noting that the band will be playing some tunes from a new record set for release later this year. "It was the same when we played the Fillmore for the first time — we used to busk outside of there and the venue would get super pissed, and now, oh look, that same guy's carrying our amps...but I think the experience of working our way up like that has kinda taught us you're gonna see the same people on the way up as on the way down. And we've worked really hard these past few years. It's nice to feel like we've earned it."
It's only a slight exaggeration to say there are roughly 1,000 other music festivals happening throughout the Bay Area this summer — at the Guardian, our inboxes have been filling up with press releases and show announcements since February; check out the roundup below for a mere smattering of what's going on. And, ticket price hand-wringing aside, you don't need to be rich to rock out: Stern Grove's free Sunday lineups, with heavy hitters like Smokey Robinson, Andrew Bird, Rufus Wainwright, and the Zombies, are among the best we've seen. In the East Bay, the Art+Soul Festival is always a source of up-and-comers in hip-hop, funk, and more — this year for the whopping price of $15.