Fall Arts 2017: Music

No Treasure Island Music festival this year, sadly, but there's a ton of excellent acts swinging through town this fall.

Jessica Hernandez and the Deltas
Tuesday, Sept. 12 at Rickshaw Stop

The term “powerhouse” is overused in 2017, but Jessica Hernandez is one of the contemporary performers who might actually deserve it. Besides the fact that she possesses a show-stopping set of pipes, Hernandez and the Deltas win fans over thanks to their distinct blend of power-pop, soul, traditional Mexican music, and classic rock. (In fact, the Deltas’ brass section is a force to be reckoned with all on its own.) It’s rare to find performers with airtight synergy and a propensity for unbridled mania onstage, but Hernandez and her Deltas have always been a rare find.

Tuesday, Sept. 19 at The Warfield

It’s been a banner year for SZA. (Newbies, please pronounce it “SIZ-zuh.”) The R&B crooner’s long-awaited debut, CTRL, sent the music world reeling and earned rave reviews from critics and hoards of new fans. A labelmate of Kendrick Lamar and a student of ’90s and early-2000s R&B, SZA finds the sweet spot between Keyshia Cole and Frank Ocean, all while offering a distinct take on the pleasure and pitfalls of being liberated-while-female in 2017. Add her soulful voice and you’ve got one hell of a combination.

Downtown Boys
Friday, Sept. 22 at Bottom of the Hill

Think of Downtown Boys as punk at its most elated. The band’s punk is a balls-to-the-wall, guitar-powered whirlwind — as the genre often requires. But there’s something truly thrilling about frontwoman Victoria Ruiz’s hyper-political battle cries, especially in the midst of the Trump era. Cost of Living, released last month, doubles down on all of the band’s trademarks to create a juggernaut rock record as intelligent, thrilling, and delightful as it is willing to spit right at The Man. If the resistance had a house band, Downtown Boys would be it.

Kevin Morby
Saturday, Sept. 23 at Great American Music Hall

Indie rock is difficult to define on a good day, and the kind Kevin Morby makes is perhaps a bit calmer than that of his counterparts. The former bassist for Woods, Morby has spent 2017 in the wake of his captivating third album, City Music. It’s a beautiful, elegant stroll through Morby’s exceptional songwriting, unhurried but luminous each time he lets himself ride out a jam. The influences are obvious and classic: Think Bob Dylan and The Velvet Underground, except that Morby chooses to believe in love whereas Lou Reed would have opted for gritty New York pessimism. It is, in a word, gorgeous.

Moses Sumney
Tuesday, Sept. 26, at the Great American Music Hall

From being raised by two pastor parents to spending his adolescence growing up in Accra, Ghana, to earning money after college by running social media accounts for California Pizza Kitchen, Moses Sumney’s road to becoming a musician was full of unexpected twists and turns. Today, however, the artist’s path to success is straight and clear, as he performs alongside artists like Sufjan Stevens and Solange, showcasing his falsetto, trembling vocals on indie ballads that are uniquely magnetic.

L.A. Witch (Photo by Rhyan Santos)

L.A. Witch
Monday, Oct. 2 at The Chapel

Having toured the world and paid their dues among the lower half of undercards of psychedelic music festivals everywhere, L.A. Witch now seem on the edge of a breakthrough — and deservedly so. The trio’s scorched and spiraling scuzzy garage-psych takes no prisoners — the Black Angels-conjuring “Kill My Baby Tonight” being the most obvious example — and there’s a certain darkness slithering through even the most melodic moments. If only that darkness weren’t so damn irresistible…

T-Pain: Acoustic Tour
Wednesday, Oct. 4, at the Independent

T-Pain, the god of Auto-Tune, has heard our prayers and is answering them at last with his long overdue acoustic tour. After his NPR Tiny Desk Concert video — which featured the pop R&B singer performing a few of his hit singles such as “Buy U A Drank (Shawty Snappin’)” and “Up Down (‘Do This All Day)” without his usual autotuned effects — went viral, T-Pain partnered with NPR to showcase his soulful, full-bodied vocals at select cities across the country.

Father John Misty
Saturday, Oct. 7 at the Greek Theatre

Somehow, calling Father John Misty the snarkiest man in pop feels like an understatement. Sure, Josh Tillman has made a career out of his fine-tuned biting wit — evident since his fantastic 2012 debut, Fear Fun — but he’s also a stellar indie-rock songwriter who never lost his ’70s-pop sensibilities. On this year’s Pure Comedy, Tillman laughs and groans his way through the apocalypse, America’s political-climate-turned-shit-show, and the relentless deluge of content available at our fingertips. His unflagging cynicism isn’t so much a cure for the madness as an invitation to laugh along. After all, it’s better than crying.

Zola Jesus
Tuesday, Oct. 17 at The Independent

Zola Jesus is becoming increasingly elusive. As in, Nika Roza Danilova technically makes synth-pop, but she has immersed herself in goth and industrial from the very beginning. On 2014’s Taiga, she ventured into pop territory far brighter than her usual sparse, post-punk compositions; her most recent singles return her to the aggressive, thudding gothic electronica of earlier EPs. Regardless of which genre Danilova chooses to toy with, her voice remains her music’s unmatched centerpiece. The sonic daughter of Florence Welch and Ian Curtis, her vocal power is enough to fill a venue without a microphone. And it’s absolutely captivating.

Arcade Fire (Photo by Guy Aroch)

Arcade Fire
Monday, Oct. 21, at Oracle Arena

“We’re just a million little gods causing rain storms / Turning everything good to rust,” roars lead singer Win Butler in Arcade Fire’s most iconic track, “Wake Up.” Using its music as a philosophical lens to examine the triumphs and vicissitudes of life, Arcade Fire creates indie rock that taps into humanity’s most private spirituality, and engulfs listeners in a flurry of yearning melodies and uninhibited rhythms.

A$AP Mob
Wednesday, Oct. 23, at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

In a rare live musical performance reunion, the Harlem hip-hop group arrives at the West Coast to defend its title as one of the most influential artist collectives in existence today, as well as one of the coolest friend groups of all time. Featuring A$AP Rocky, A$AP Ferg, A$AP Twelvyy, A$AP Nast, A$AP Ant, Playboi Carti, Key!, and Cozy Boys, the ensemble pays homage to the golden era of hip-hop with hard, old-school beats, while pushing forward with contemporary lyrics about high art, fashion, and coming-of-age amid wide-scale stardom.

Death Grips
Sunday, Nov. 5 at The Warfield

It’s shocking that Death Grips has lasted this long — not because the experimental hip-hop group is overhyped, but because its members go so hard at each show that it’s remarkable their bodies haven’t given out already. But this intensity is all part of the appeal. Death Grips’ brutal live shows pulverize devoted audiences without shame. As vicious and smartly grotesque as the group’s recorded material sounds — last year’s Bottomless Pit received the critical acclaim we’ve come to expect — the proper way to experience Death Grips is in the flesh. Just be sure you’re willing to sacrifice a pound of your own if you go.

Check out more from our Fall Arts 2017 Guide:

From the LED artist who lit up the Salesforce Tower to the collision of Rodin and Klimt, it’s going to be a busy fall.

We’re waiting to see what Hillary Clinton reveals in “What Happened,” but Jennifer Egan, Jeffrey Eugenides and Matt Taibbi are high on our list, too.

Trevor Noah is coming to town! And Peaches Christ takes on the 1993 Halloween comedy Hocus Pocus with queens from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Film and Film Festivals
A Salinger biopic, an adaptation of Stephen King’s creepiest clown, and the return of “Art House Theater Day.” Time to huddle in a darkened cinema!

A relative dearth of powerhouse musicals about the Founding Fathers this season means that Bay Area theater has room to breathe again.

24-Decade Party People: Taylor Mac Hit S.F.
Performed in four six-hour segments, Mac’s drag-splosion, A 24-Decade History of Popular Music, will be the defining event of the fall.


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