The Best Summer Releases from the SJ Scene

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This has been an amazing Summer of musical releases- from both household names to local acts playing around The Bay. Due to global warming a decent part of my Summer has been indoors listening to local songs from some of my favorite acts until the murderous yellow star of our solar systems takes it’s rest on the horizon on our side of the equator to terrorize China. And seeing how I listen to a lot of local music, here is my current Summer playlist of music coming from SJ.

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Lena Nelson

Track: Fireworks

Release: Fourth of July

As much as I enjoy the more breathy, inventive style of singing brought on by the age of social media artists, there is something refreshing about hearing a track from a strong vocalist who is not perched behind their production or lofi engineering. The first single from Lena Nelson’s Fourth of July is entitled, “Fireworks”. It is a strong r&b number with a smooth jazzy keys over a fast-paced track all produced by Nebulous.

As on the nose as a track entitled, “Fireworks” released on the 4th of July is, Nelson has delivered a very solid R&B performance, which is included on this list only shortly after my first listen. It mirrors a Kehlani song in terms of the final product; its confident, sexy, and easy on the ears. It seems that she performs with a neo soul band, so I’m curious what her other tracks will sound like. It will be exciting to see what direction Nelson decides to venture into.

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Jay Summer

Track: Mania

Release Date: July

I couldn’t have a piece on SJ’s summer of music without the aptly named Jay Summer, the sleeping giant of the San Jose music scene. He has expertly crafted a string of releases starting with February’s excellent, “Clutch Burning” and now, the pulsing fever-dream of “Mania.” Summer’s sound exhibits strong influence from artists such as Frank Ocean, Kali Uchis, and Rex Orange County. His songs have a freshly-painted quality that matches his dreamy West-Coast-Livin’ aesthetic, but he also carries some surprisingly weighty social criticism in his sharp lyrics, often musing on the predicament of growing up a small-town New England kid, finding himself in the shiny excess of Silicon Valley.

His first few releases uses motifs of cars and has a cynical take on modern consumerism over summery instrumentals that radiate Channel Orange vibes. Like his influences, he has great vocal range that goes well with his inventive production choices- it is refreshing in a landscape of dreary anti-pop. His r&b takes a more indie rock feel, chords ring through his songs and he uses vocal pitching to deceive the listeners.

The Come Up has enjoyed his releases, even using one of them for our last video bump for a show.

His newest single Mania is probably his most promising release- and I think he knows it. A droning vocal plays throughout that sounds like Thom Yorke’s end to “Daydreaming”. It seems that he is tapping into a abstract sound with his r&b, edging into Jame’s Blake quirky-engineering territory. Mania feels like a down spiral- a song of decadent brand-laden lifestyle, combined with religious allusions to lands of milk and honey and praises to the most high. It seems Jay Summer has found his sound just in time for July.

I’m not sure of the end result of these releases- whether he is going to drop a full ep, album or visual component- but we’re enjoying this series of songs.

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Kylah Symone

Track: How does that sound

Release: July

Kylah Symone is probably one of the most promising rappers in the city, even standing out among her peers of SJ Hip-Hop collective, TankShit. She has proven it over the past years under her former alias KB Howard. Her flow is dope, her writing and handling of any instrumental is impressive. She varies from classical hip-hop, emotionally heartbroken tracks, to tracks “How does that sound” which is less about the lyrics and more so showing her ability to flow on a beat.

Dreamawake’s production on the track is great as always. A booming bass plays over a bombastic trap beat. “I had to work on my worth” Symone raps over the production, her flow fast paced and hungry. The song feels like a triumphant return to form and the SJ rap commnity is hype about it. It seems like Symone is reinventing her style under this new name. I’m excited to see if this solid start leads to new releases of the same style, or if Symone decides to surprise us…again.

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Young Tsukune

Track: Weed and Shorty

Release: July

Young Tsukune played for The Come Up 3 show and he enthralled our entire audience that night. Seeing his incredibly soft voice come from such a quiet and timid person reminded me of watching my first Spooky Black video. His music tends to be bubbly and fun, even when it centers around heartbreak and headaches. This track serves as a balance of his handling of cadence and flow and demonstrates how his voice can make a crowd melt.

Because artists love being compared to contemporaries, I would say Tsukune combines the new age trap pop sound of Lil Yatchy or Uzi, with lofi beats and cloud pop vocals similar to Shiloh Dynasty. Because he has been performing for a long time as a rapper, Tsukune has a better grasp of his breath and delivery, giving him one of the most unique sounds in San Jose. This puts him ahead of the curve of a new genre of rap associated with less- how to say- production-dependent acts. While producer, Dream awake and Young Tsukune are a match made in heaven, his androgynous voice blends well with this guitar laden lofi track.

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Mitchell

Track: Every Devil’s Got His Angel

Release: July

Riley introduced us to Mitchell over the weekend. Hailing from San Jose, Mitchell’s demo releases a garage rock sound that coalesces blues with the modern garage rock sound. It has the feel of a new-age lofi rock, but if you were to strip the psychedelic effects and production. San Francisco Bay Area and Orange County have a kinship of this sound molded from acts like Sic Alps, Ty Segall, and The Oh Sees. Mitchell takes these garage rock sounds and adds a more bluesy feel to tracks. It feels a bit cinematic because he lets the instrumentals fill the song versus layering them with pedals and vocal effects.

For demos, these feel like fully realized songs, especially “Devil Feels Like An Angel”. It bounces to slow burn and hits a chorus that reminds the listener of Mitchell’s more pop sensibilities.  I have a feeling Mitchell and others will help grow the garage rock sound to the SJ music scene. And eventually they will be performing at shows that will attract all sorts of fans- aging hipsters who drink quadruple IPAs and 15 years old who wear cuffed mom jeans and smoke Marlboro Reds.

Artist: Matinee Global

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Track: Adna Kaw

Released: June

Adna Kaw feels like a colossal project, it could be the various genre blending, it could be the pacing, or the credits on the song. A bit of recent trend for reasons I don’t know, but people are into having large teams of people to create projects. This is important for reasons I will cover in my next piece. But Adna Kaw -Which is Wakanda backwards- is a well versed ride that goes into dark alt-hip hop production to a slower alternative rock break. The execution seems a bit forced at points, but the racially tense vibes over percussion that have an African trap feel make up for the change switch ups that occur.

It feels like Matinee Global plans on making waves in San Jose- possibly by the end of Summer time. We will see what comes of this.

Like our list? Good, go follow the links and support these SJ artists. Hate our list? Well what are you doing here then?

Do you feel like your friend or loved has been wrongly robbed from their spot on the playlist? Submit your work, so we can give it a listen. Riley is writing a list of some of his favorite bands, so be on the lookout for that. Until then, keep your ear local.

And be sure to see our show August 4th at Uproar Brewing.

Come Up Episode IV: A New Hope Recap

A shoutout to everyone who supported the show and made another unforgettable night with The Come Up IV: A New Hope.

Our opener  IPA (an acronym for band members Ian, Pablo, and Angelo) provided smooth hip hop inspired jazz music as well as great inventive improvisation. They created amazing renditions of hip hop and music that brought the crowd together.

After introductions and IPA’s performance, Co-hosts Riley and Isaiah discovered that the fish-netted lamp leg- a precious centerpiece to The Come Up stage- was missing! It turns out it was stolen by our neighbors and show rivals from Tournamentertainment, who host their own show the same time we do across the street. (They also donate to the National Association of Baby Seal Clubbing*). Isaiah ran across the street, lightsaber in hand, to face the culprits of this crime.

 

In the meantime, Riley continued on with the show, giving away lightsabers to those in the crowd who proved themselves worthy by answering lightsaber trivia.

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Cohost of Tournamentertainment and alt-right blogger* Adira Sharkey showed up with our precious leg lamp in hand that her show stole from our stage. Riley, believing the hatchet was buried, foolishly handed her a lightsaber. While Riley turned his attention to the crowd, like a good host, Adira literally stabbed him in the back. Adira slayed Riley in front of the younglings in the crowd. She then preceded to rant about her inferior show across the street.

We continued on with Ryan Sudhakaran, who had a hilarious bit that ranged from Americans appropriating cuisine, role playing with his girlfriend, and the modern dating scene for Indians.

 

Alan Frenz took the stage soon after to dominate with an amazing entertaining hip hop performance. It was the first rap group to come to the stage, replacing a DJ with a full band with guitars, keyboards, bass, guitar, and Al acting as the lead vocalist. The crowd and The Come Up crew loved the performance by the band.

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San Jose powerhouse Socorra gave a pure rock and roll performance with her immense vocals and equally impressive guitars. Socorra has been a supporter of The Come Up and she is part of a lot of great work in San Jose, including the SJ Songrwriters, which provides a space for songwriters to share their work.

IPA returned to stage with Come Up with Riley McShane to perform together, making the band Rye IPA (get it?). And after Riley exited the stage, IPA played us off into the warm Spring night.

It was a night with great beer provided by Uproar Brewing, warm weather, Star Wars music, lightsabers, more kids than usual, and great creatives both on and off stage. Thank you for Uproar Brewing, Exhibition District, and the artists for making such a great night. We will see you on May 17th, as well as the rest of the summer. Let’s keep making it happen.

*Some of the fact regarding that horrible show across the street have not yet been confirmed, but the statements are back by reputable people who definitely are not just Isaiah and Riley.

The Come Up 3

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I just wanted to thank everyone who was part of The Come Up 3. This had to be our favorite show so far. It is insane that we have already had three shows and we will be having another one in less than two weeks. Thank you to the amazing audience who came out to support us (on a rainy day, no less) our amazing performers, our hilarious comedians, and of course everyone at Uproar Brewing.

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Shannon Murphy discussed dating Engineers and the Adventures in Babysitting. Her stand up was incredible and you should check her out.

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The community came out in full force and supported the artists and the show. I loved seeing the diverse faces, a lot were young aspiring artists who are making their voices heard through their art.

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Dav, Active Poet, rapping over insane Bay Area style production. He even performed an unreleased banger for the crowd. Give him a listen.

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Dear Liry playing wonderful, witty music. She is a pure delight and you should have her music in her life. 

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Young Tsukune drew the crowd in with his unique crooning over, smooth lofi productions. Please support this amazing young artists.

Sunnier days and future shows are ahead and with those will be future shows. We have a show on April 19th at SoFA Market and course The Come Up 4: A New Hope will be on Star Wars Day May 4th on First Friday at Uproar.

 

We had a lot of amazing film makers and photographers show up and capture that amazing night. Keep a lookout for the video content and photography that will be our in the next few days. Please support the artists and check out their amazing work on our websites.

 

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Tyler not only had great bits on depression and San Jose bike thieves, but hosts and runs his own comedy shows called Super Stacked. You should follow his hilarious Twitter and check out his stand ups. 

Were humbled to be part of San Jose during such a transformative time in the art scenes. Let’s keep this same energy for Spring and Summer. Let’s Make It Happen

Bless Up,

The Come Up

 

Atmosphere and Identity: An Interview with Reign LaFreniere

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Every aspiring creative can relate to the importance of music and art as a constructive outlet for your emotions and ideas. A lot of artists begin to understand that in our adolescents. Because The Come Up is about building a platform for young artists, we wanted to conduct a interview about how young musicians use their music as an outlet.

Reign LaFreniere is an example of a young talented artist’ who has found a way to express ideas of loss, activism, and identity through music and film. At 18, he is already an accomplished musician and filmmaker. He is a student at an art school in San Francisco and commutes by Cal Train back and forth to the city. That where myself and Leopoldo Macaya, our resident photographer, met up with to discuss his craft and his vision.

Reign was born in Berkeley. In elementary and middle school he spent a lot of time at San Jose, where he still frequently performs open mics at The Poor House Bistro and Caffe Frascatti. San Jose is one of the few cities where he can showcase his talents and appreciates it because of it.

“I think it’s awesome,” Reign said when we asked him about his thoughts on the music scene “I think the whole community is awesome. Everybody helps everybody out. And everyone’s talented too.”

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Reign has been playing guitar since he was fourteen, and developed his craft studying the classics; The Beatles, Pink Floyd and other quintessential rock artists. He references Sam Cooke, Jimi Hendrix, and Ben Howard as some of his major influences. It is apparent he draws from classic and modern interpretations of rhythm blues, rock, and gospel music especially when it comes to his guitar playing. His crooning is akin to a more soulful gospel sound, which comes from his background in choirs. Rise Up is a notable example of his work that embodies both Hendrix style rock with a folk delivery style.

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Because LaFreniere plans to pursue film in college, we eventually began discussing his film works, his inspirations, and the connection to his music. Kubrick and The Coen Brothers were the immediate names he dropped for artist who inspire him. Whether it be Kubrick, or Hendrix, or Pink Floyd, all the artist he mentions as inspirations are famous for creating themes and motifs and enhancing their work by conveying emotion through atmosphere. Reign mentions that creating ambiance is a key to producing any content, whether it be music or film.

“I feel like atmosphere is really important in anything,” Reign says, when referring to his creative process “there’s got to be a certain vibe, you know, for an emotion to be drawn out.” It’s always impressive when an artist’ constructs an atmosphere to accompany their music. Even more impressive is that Reign recognizes its importance at such a young age. Reign pauses and starts admiring the tunnel we’re walking through near the Guadalupe River.

“But yeah, atmosphere is awesome” he laughs.

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LeFreniere’s use of aesthetics and atmosphere is a means of enhancing his emotionally potent lyricism. Originally, he sung political style folk songs, but he realized that was not his genuine voice. “There were dry,” he says about his early works “you could tell the heart wasn’t in it.” He was experimenting his with sound and if you listen through his discography, you can hear the folk influences. It was not until fairly recently that Reign began focusing the bulk of his time on music.

Shortly after Reign returned from a backpacking trip in Yosemite, the content which would make his feature film, the Ghost Ship fire occurred.

Ghost ship was a warehouse near the Fruitvale neighborhood in Oakland. It was converted into an artist collective and December 2nd in 2016, a house record label 100% Silk was hosting a show. During the house show, a fire broke out. Several were injured and 36 lives were lost in the deadliest fire in Oakland’s history and one of the deadliest events in the recent history of California. Reign’s friend was among the lives lost.

“The whole school was…everyone was traumatized after that and I decided to use music as an outlet for that. And then that’s how, that’s usually, where it [his music] comes from.”

The Ghost ship fire had a lasting impression on the Bay Area’s art community and the tragedy pushed Reign to explore his musical endeavors.

“SkyMan, that’s about him” Reign explains, referring to his song Sky Man off of his Taking Back Winter EP, which is about the friend he lost in the Ghost Ship fire. It’s beautifully done; the backing vocals and drums are sparse in the best way and his voice and guitar carry you through a young man navigating loss.

“these changes you want to see

and danger is at your feet

And he said, it’s going to be alright

I had hope once before, but it burned away

I have a friend who is no more

But he said it is going to be alright”

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LaFreniere mentions his hope of releasing a full album soon. In this year long time frame, he also will be graduating, starting film school and finishing the films he is working on this year. He mentions the pressure he puts on himself to create “I get angry with myself,” LaFreniere says, when he is not working towards his music or art. A feeling any artist can relate to. “My mom worries,” he says and the three of us can’t help but to laugh.

Our conversation led into a discussion on identity. Reign did a TED Talk where he discussed his issues with bullying and criticism when it deals with identity. “I struggled making whether I should make music I really want or music more appropriate for my race” the artist explains. Reign struggled with his music and identity, but its clear he has found his space and knows himself.

“There shouldn’t be boundaries when it comes to art” the artist says confidently “I personally believe the world is moving towards a more unified culture in general. I think we should start accepting that [rather] then fight it.”

In the midst of our social conversations on identity, music, the Internet, and the differences in our generations, he mentions that his generation seems more self-aware. He believes this self-awareness is  what motivates the recent student protests around mass shootings. Self-awareness is one of the most notable traits I picked up from this local musician.

He carries himself with an lucidity of his place in the world, and where that can lead him. He says he is not fit to be a politician or scientists “If I can use my art to get to a place where I can have a voice, then I can help the rest of the world.”

I can’t help to think of all the personal and social events happening to young artists’ right now and how that influences their state of minds and their visions for the future. It is apparent with young people like Reign, they are eager to have their voice heard. In the middle of these conversations, he laughs and says “I’m still trying to figure all of this out”

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Reign will be playing at the The Come Up 2: Electric Boogaloo this Friday March 2nd 9pm at Uproar brewing in San Jose, California. You can find his music here and his film work here.

*interview questions were conducted by Isaiah Wilson and Leopoldo Macaya. All photography was created by Leopoldo Macaya. You can find more of his work here.

Debut Come Up Posters

Hey people!

It’s Isaiah, one of The Come Up’s co-founders and the illustrator. So I will be posting the official poster for the second Come Up show pretty soon. But before I do that, I thought it’d be fun to post the previous posters for our last show. We had a total of four posters last time! Three were done by yours truly and the first main poster was created by young artists Virdiana Alcaraz.

 

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ICYMI: A Recap on the first Come Up show

Hello all. So we’re busy preparing for the second Come Up Show on March 2nd. Did you miss the first Come Up show? Well too bad, you will have to live with that regret for the rest of your life. Kidding (sort of) . But, if you’re curious about what went down during the first show, we wrote a recap of the events for those who couldn’t make it.

The debut Come Up show was last Friday at Uproar Brewing in the heart of The SoFA district in downtown San Jose. For our first show, we wanted to create a unique blend of both musical artists and comedy performances. We started off with Vudaje’s Mitchell Lujan, who performed three acoustic versions of songs off his Mood EP. His solo performance was a raw, stripped down take on his neo-soul project, but his smooth voice still carried that R&B feel that made his EP so vibrant. He was the perfect start to a show dedicated to local, young local artists.

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We followed Lujan’s act with comedian and Moth Story Slam Winner Omar Qureshi, who was fresh from performing at this years Sundance Film Festival. Qureshi provided great bits that ranged from eating phallic-shaped cookies to the NSA listening in on his phone calls.

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Meridian E took to the stage shortly after and shook things up in the best way possible. Also known as Pilot Red Sun, Meridian E is animator and music producer who has garnered a cult following with his strange MS Paint style animations and cartoons to accompany his ambient music production. His live performance enthralled the audience with his unique electronic sound that is akin to Aphex Twin.

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Off Key Comedy host Florentina Tanase offered hilarious takes on dating, adulthood, and being a comedian in the Bay Area. Singer-songwriter Marley HaleSinger-songwriter Marley Hale followed shortly after, where she provided a youthful take on the folk rock sound, similar to that of Angel Olson or Big Thief. Even though Hale is still a high school student, she put-on a polished performance, most of which came from her recent Skeletons EP.

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We took an intermission from the festivities for the co-founders to make a call to action. Isaiah Wilson gave a speech that encapsulated the goal of The Come Up; to believe in your creative vision and to uplift others in the art community to do the same. This followed with Riley McShane performing his aptly named single “San Jose” off his indie folk Places EP. Shelbi Evans, of BOC podcast, finished off comedy acts of the night which touched on great one-liners and even some commentary on the recent Me Too movement.

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Our headliner Craig White, seen as one of the hottest hip-hop artists in San Jose, took the stage and performed songs off his Born For This album. His stage presence, production and cadence embodies the bay area hip-hop scene and he left a strong impression on the crowd for the first Come Up show.

Once the performance ended, the rest of the night was filled with conversations, drinks, and people connecting about music, comedy, art, and their visions. We are all very grateful for Uproar Brewing who hosted us and all the artists who put on amazing performances. Ellina of Local Color and Exhibition District who believed in our vision and gave us the funding so we can pay our talented artists and make this little idea into one of the biggest shows of First Friday.

And whether you were there for the first show, there in spirit, or visiting this page for the first time, we wanted to thank you. Every show needs an audience and a community willing to come together and support it’s creatives. The second Come Up will be March 2nd, just around the corner. Cultures, scenes, and artists need a space and platform to let their vision a reality and a community to support it.

 

*All photography was taken by Leopoldo Macaya. You can find more of his brilliant visual works here.