10 Bay Area Artists You Should Listen To (Right Now!)

The Bay Area is currently exploding with new and interesting musical talent. We put together a list of 10 of our favorites: some you may have heard of, some you probably haven’t!

Vudajé

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Photo Credit: Michael Rubio (@auxchordpapi)

Led by San Jose music veteran Mitchell Luján and a cast of accomplished musicians, Vudajé (a play on déjà vu) have nailed down a smooth and clean R&B sound in the 4-song EP, recorded primarily by Luján. It’s one of the best-produced albums to come out of San José in quite some time. Never ones to sleep on success, Vudajé has followed it up with two stellar singles, a power-pop throwback “Roleplay” and a sinewy, sultry number, “Nosedive.” Already in 2018, the band has been tearing it up in their hometown and beyond, with recent shows at Local Color in SJ and The Depot in SF, not to mention winning the Southwest Airlines – Coca Cola co-sponsored Eats & Beats contest! We were lucky enough to host Vudajé for our very first every Come Up show back in February, and we can’t wait to see what they’ll do next. 

Boy Scouts

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Photo Credit: Rachel McCord Creative (@rachelmccordcreative)

Boy Scouts is the performing moniker for SF-based singer-songwriter Taylor Vick, who has crafted beautiful and haunting bedroom-folk for the last several years. Vick’s first official boy scouts release was “Homeroom Breakfast” (see link above) in 2016. Having broken down traditional folk song structures and eschewed rhythm section in favor of vocal harmonies and samples, her songs are immediately captivating in their uniqueness. A follow-up 7-song release entitled “Hobby Limit” appeared in September 2017, and most recently a batch of 4 re-worked older songs, “Mood Rings.” Vick has a special talent for taking mundane subject matter: parks, fountains, her plants, etc. and injecting them with a palpable beauty. She will be an exciting artist to watch as boy scouts (now with a full live band) continues to pick up steam. See her at Silver Sprocket Bicycle Club on August 9th. 

The Seshen

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Photo Credit: Afropunk (@afropunk)

It’s almost impossible to call The Seshen up-and-coming at this point, but if you aren’t familiar with this powerhouse six-piece, you owe yourself the education. Led by singer/lyricist Lalin St. Juste and bassist/producer Akiyoshi Ehara, The Seshen carries on the bay area music tradition of building a sound that defies genre by fusing elements of R&B and synth-pop, among others. We got our first introduction to The Seshen at last summer’s San Jose Jazz Summerfest, with their rousing performance at Café Stritch. The group’s popularity has exploded since, having supported acts such as Thundercat, tUnE-yArDs, and Petite Noir, on their way to a headlining date at The Independent on September 1st. Buy a ticket, don’t look back.

Jay Som

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Photo Credit: The Bay Bridged (@thebaybridged)

Walnut Creek-born Melina Duterte picked up her performing moniker, Jay Som, from the same Wu-Tang Name Generator that bestowed “Childish Gambino” on Donald Glover. While their music is considerably different, Jay Som and Gambino share one thing in common: they are busy as hell. Since first turning heads with 2016’s Turn Into (Polyvinly) the band has been on the road A LOT, playing major festivals (including this year’s Panorama in NYC) and supporting everyone from The National to Mitski. Jay Som’s 2017 release, Everybody Works (Polyvinyl), was one of the best of 2017. Period. Spanning intensely intimate (see “(BedHead)”) to youthfully bombastic, (“Everybody Works”), it’s a modern indie masterpiece. We at The Come Up were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of Jay Som back in February. The proof was there: Jay Som is on their way to big things!

The Saxophones

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Photo Credit: The Saxophones Bandcamp

Emerging from relative obscurity, this Oakland-based husband/wife duo (Alexi Erenkov and Alison Alderdice) put out a 3-song EP in early 2017, each song a dark slow-burn beauty, particularly the standout “If You’re On The Water” which explores a personal tragedy from Erenkov’s own life. It’s quite remarkable for a group to make such an impression in today’s age by crafting ballads. The duo quickly followed up on their first release with a series of singles, leading to their debut LP Songs of the Saxophones, a gorgeous and timeless collection, flush with woodwinds and Erenkov’s softly heartbreaking vocals front and center. The Saxophones play Peach House Presents’ Daydream Festival in Sacramento August 5th.

EaSWay

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Photo Credit: EaSWay Twitter (@EaSWay)

Born in San Francisco, Easweh Harrison has been making music for an impressively long time considering he’s still only 23. After moving to Los Angeles to attend USC and grow his music career, Easweh became more involved in visual arts, crafting a distinctive style through digital painting and design. According to his self-written Spotify bio, EaSWay’s art, be it musical or visual, “attempts to spark constructive dialogue about about things that go on in the world that may not be discussed in such public spaces.” EaSWay is a socially-engaged emcee, displaying a fully-formed vision on 2017’s The Panther in the Room. In the very opening lines of “Blue Skies”, EaSWay proclaims, “this is a story about a boy, about a quest, for respect and nothing less.” EaSWay certainly has our respect, and our attention.

Dick Stusso

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Photo Credit: Harldy Art Records (@hardlyartrecords)

Who would’ve guessed that such a swaggering, hot-blooded Americana sound would come out of Oakland? Even after his solid debut, “Nashville Dreams/Sings the Blues” on Vacant Stare Records, Stusso hadn’t received much notoriety outside of the Bay. But that is already starting to change, thanks in large part to his powerful and surprisingly moving LP, “In Heaven,” released this time around by Hardly Art Records. The album traipses over the darkened territory of disillusionment, and settling into adulthood, but maintains a half-drunken smirk the whole way through. As a songwriter and storyteller, Stusso now stands next to Sonny Smith as a fixture in the Bay Area scene, and is sauntering into a grander spotlight – catch him at Outside Lands 2018!

Spellling

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Photo Credit: Spellling Bandcamp

Arguably one of the lesser-known artists on this list, Spellling (aka Oakland-based Chrystia Cabral) describes her sound as “Freak Faith Folk” and it could not be more accurate. We have a hard time describing Spellling without simply saying that they are different. Cabral’s first full-length release, Pantheon of Me, was written, performed and produced in her Berkeley apartment, and landed at #4 on Bandcamp’s top albums of 2017. Interestingly enough, Pantheon of Me reminds us of the #1 album from that list, Moses Sumney’s insta-classic Aromanticism. Not to box Cabral and Sumney together, as they each have plenty of distinguishing characteristics, but the music of both artists strikes directly to the listener’s soul thanks to their otherworldly voices and production. Legendary indie label Sacred Bones has noticed Cabral’s undeniable talents, and recently released her 7” Hard to Please b/w My Other Voice. We predict Spellling will soon be in the national music conversation, and we will be all the better for it.

Pardoner

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Photo Credit: Bandcamp Daily

It wouldn’t be a Bay Area music list without the local post-punk band of the moment. And for our money, that is Pardoner. Formed shortly after a hardcore band called “Moms” burned out in 2014, the San Francisco four-piece have forged a remarkable messy-but-it-works sound bolstered by their natural chemistry and a certain jagged sense of humor. Pardoner had been at it for a couple years, playing shows out and around the Bay when they captured the attention of Father/Daughter Records, who released 2017’s Uncontrollable Salvation, cementing Pardoner as a real-deal Bay Area band and garnering them some national attention. See them play alongside Oakland DIY vets Club Night, and Vancouver, BC rockers Jo Passed at Oakland.Secret, September 6th.  

Knowmadic

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Photo Credit: Knowmadic Bandcamp

Prolific San Jose-based beatmaker Knowmadic rounds out our list, having quietly amassed himself quite the online following (his song “Fade” just cracked 8 million streams on Spotify.) A master of the lush lofi sound, Knowmadic has been uber-busy in 2018, with five releases only halfway through the year. This includes Spring Loops, which was produced entirely in one day, and Hydrangea EP, put out earlier this month. We can’t stop listening to the latter, a brilliantly crafted piece of work. We know that Knowmadic is not going to be slowing down anytime soon, so while we’re waiting for the next track or tape to come out, feel free to dive into his already impressive library.

 


Think we missed anybody? Of course we did, but that’s because there’s so much music in the Bay. Please feel free to share your favorite local artist with us via email (sanjosecomeup@gmail.com) or DM (@sjcomeup)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.