The Sounds of 2010

What we'll remember from the year in S.F. music.

What? Another year is over already? We could have sworn it was mid-September only last week. But all right: The close of oh-ten means it's time to look back on some of the absurd, important, and/or hilarious that went down this year in Bay Area music. Won't you join us?

The Morning Benders Trade Up
They began 2010 as an obscure Berkeley rock band, headlining Bottom of the Hill on New Year's Eve. They finished the year with the lush dream-pop of sophomore album Big Echo landing on many critics' Best of 2010 lists. And despite moving to Brooklyn, the Morning Benders also managed to headline San Francisco's very own Fillmore in 2010. Not bad for a bunch of nice boys from the East Bay. Ian S.Port

S.F. Rock Graduates from the Garage
Musically and in terms of notoriety, 2010 was a banner year for San Francisco indie-rock. Garage-punk wunderkind Ty Segall honed his bluesy minefields into more tuneful shapes on his excellent third album, Melted, and took his new songs on tour around the U.S. and Europe. The Fresh & Onlys released Play It Strange, an 11-song masterpiece of psychedelic pop-rock so gorgeous and catchy it ranks among the best albums made this year by anyone, anywhere. Girls continued their swift rise, following 2009's acclaimed Album with the heart-wrenching Broken Dreams EP. Sonny & the Sunsets signed to top-shelf indie label Fat Possum. Postpunk outfit Weekend released its debut album, Sports, putting the band's spacious fuzz on display at its most damaged and captivating. The finicky tastemaking website Pitchfork made happy noises about these and other products of the S.F. scene, including albums from Tamaryn, Royal Baths, Kelley Stoltz, Thee Oh Sees, and Grass Widow — pretty much guaranteeing them national, if not global, attention. Is it the water, the weed, or the weather? We dunno, but the rock is certainly good here. I.S.P.

Gogol Bordello’s wild energy stood out on Outside Lands’ first day.
Christopher Victorio
Gogol Bordello’s wild energy stood out on Outside Lands’ first day.
Fun? Not for ravers looking to party at LovEvolution in Civic Center.
Hanna Quevedo
Fun? Not for ravers looking to party at LovEvolution in Civic Center.
Ashkon’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” kicked off a rash of Giants-related songs.
Ashkon’s “Don’t Stop Believin’” kicked off a rash of Giants-related songs.

Festival of Insanity
Another year, another new festival — or maybe four or five new music festivals. Not that we're complaining: If Noise Pop, Outside Lands, Hardly Strictly, and Treasure Island didn't cater to your latest obsession, chances were that a random weekend festival this summer did. Abstract electronica, Japanese rock, hip-hop dance, blues, jazz, guitar pop — 2010 even saw the birth of San Francisco's only country music festival, complete with line-dancing, a country music hall of fame, and a barbecue cook-off. We even threw our own music orgy, getting Janelle Monae and Neon Indian, along with dozens of great local bands, to perform on the streets of North Beach at SF Weekly's first-ever All Shook Down music festival. I.S.P.

Is Lil B God, the Devil, or Paris Hilton?
Rap in 2010 had no voice more prolific or polarizing than Berkeley's Lil B. After some local success with post-hyphy quartet the Pack, B subchristened himself "the Based God" and showed the world what it means to get weird. Armed with a rubber-ducky flow, a spot-on ear for beats, and a deeply confused theologicopersonal ontology, he plastered the web with hundreds of half-baked to totally baked songs and videos about everything under the sun, starting with himself: "I'm God," "I'm the Devil," "I'm Paris Hilton," "Bitch I'm Bill Clinton." (Also, "Birth of Rap" and "I Killed Hip Hop.") And as if it weren't enough to release at least a dozen mixtapes — including one inspired by pro wrestling — and a full-length album, he studiously kept things lively outside of the mic booth as well. There's the tweet where he threatens to fuck Kanye West in the ass; there's the video where he gets socked in the jaw. Say what you want about his tendency toward provocation or skewed wheat-to-chaff ratio; this cat is the talk of the town. Not bad for someone who turned 21 in August. Daniel Levin Becker

Ravers Get No Love
This certainly wasn't a great year to wear fuzzy pink hats and wave glowsticks. LovEvolution, the latest moniker of the Love-Fest rave in San Francisco's Civic Center, lost its main daytime event, which draws more than 100,000 some years. City officials cited a "rash of violence" at S.F. entertainment events this summer, and even invoked the tragic death of 21 people at the Love Parade in Germany, all as an excuse to deny organizers a permit to return to their usual location. LovEvolution planners then flirted with the idea of bringing the event to Candlestick Park, but ultimately didn't get their plan together in time for city approval. The daytime event was canceled, but that didn't stop the neon set from getting down all weekend at various smaller (and not quite as awesome) venues in the city. Here's hoping the revelry returns to Civic Center, where it belongs, next year.

Big trippy dance parties at the Cow Palace suffered more disappearances: After two attendees tragically died of Ecstasy overdoses at the Pop 2010: The Dream party in May, and 17 were hospitalized with drug and alcohol problems at Live105's Subsonic Spookfest in October, the rodeo ring's controlling board decided to ban those events outright. That's some tough love. I.S.P.

Musical Giants
A near-avalanche of S.F. Giants–related songs followed the advance of our lovable team of freaks into the pennant race. And when the Giants made — and won — the World Series? Well, Ashkon Davaran's official theme, a take on Journey's "Don't Stop Believin'," was only the first of a flurry of odes to the orange and black. Despite a few other successes — and one or two tremendous failures — we'll remember it as the best. I.S.P.

City Cracks Down on Clubs; Clubbers Respond
After the city's efforts to shut down clubs and intimidate promoters were exposed in news stories early this year, the offending officers were reassigned. But the relationship between the SFPD and members of the nightlife scene remained tense, especially as officials worked to combat what they described as a rash of violence at S.F. venues this year. The city has plenty of issues to deal with, but don't look for this one to go away any time soon — new regulations on promoters and club owners are in the works. I.S.P.

Jay-Z Beefs with MC Hammer
It was a good year for Jay-Z. It hasn't been such smooth yachting for Oakland O.G. MC Hammer, whose rap career has been on the wane since the early '90s, but that's apples and oranges, right? Well, not so much after Jay dropped a lightly scorching Hammer reference in his verse on Kanye West's "So Appalled": "Hammer went broke so you know I'm more focused/I lost 30 mil, so I spent another 30, 'cause unlike Hammer, 30 million can't hurt me." Hackles up, Hammer retaliated with a medium-scorching diss called "Better Run Run," in which he questions the spiritual legitimacy of Hova's fortune, doubts Beyoncé's fidelity, and supports the theory that rap has become one big Masonic conspiracy. In the video, a low-budget demon chases a stocky dude in a Yankees cap toward a lake, where said dude is finally forcibly baptized by Hammer himself (who is an ordained minister, as well as a reality TV star and a Cash4Gold spokesman). For his part, Hova stayed above the fray. "I didn't know that was on the table for discussion," he told a radio DJ the following week, sounding more amused than chastened. "It is what it is." D.L.B.

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