Sound Cities: New Bay Area Music Festivals

Major music events define the places that host them — think of the way Outside Lands or Hardly Strictly Bluegrass are now inseparable parts of San Francisco's cultural identity, even in a crowded city with dozens of annual festivals. This year, even more music gatherings are popping up, hoping to further cast San Francisco as a national music destination, and to put other Bay Area cities up there with it.

Producer and engineer Michael Starita, for one, is trying to raise his adopted city's profile with a free event this October called the ULUV Music Festival. “People aren't paying enough attention to what we're doing here, and I want to change that,” he says. “When you ask anybody in America, 'What are your top five music cities?' … San Francisco doesn't make the top 10 sometimes.” Essentially a showcase of local artists from a wide variety of genres — jazz, house, indie rock, funk, and more — ULUV will help demonstrate the deep talent pool in the Bay Area, Starita hopes. Live performances from artists like Bayonics and Non Stop Bhangra will be split across three stages (two indoor, one outdoor) at the 111 Minna Gallery in SOMA, and staggered to keep things interesting. Donations to the festival's Indiegogo web campaign will also benefit three music-related charities. (One, MusiCares, will even be throwing a free dental clinic for all the performers the week after the festival.) But the big idea, Starita says, is to give people “a taste of the Bay … so maybe when they do their next record, they won't go to L.A.”

A similar urge underpins the brand-new Oakland Music Festival, which will take over San Pablo Avenue in the city's Uptown District on Sept. 21. “We wanted to highlight some of the folks on this side of the Bay that might not get as much attention,” says the festival's Hunter Marshall. So except for one out-of-town headliner (Dâm-Funk) and a couple of S.F. artists (J. Boogie and the Sweaterfunk crew), the rest of the lineup is East Bay-centric. The primo electronic pop of James and Evander, freaky experimental outfit Religious Girls, and the buoyant hip-hop of Trackademics and the Honor Roll Crew are all on the bill. Headlining with Dâm-Funk is none other than radical hometown rap outfit the Coup. And with industry hands behind clubs like the New Parish, the Independent, and the now-defunct SOM Bar organizing the festival, it just might succeed in its goal of becoming something like the East Bay version of Noise Pop.

The folks behind the brand-new Create Converge Silicon Valley conference and music festival have a different aim. They're shooting for a three-day South by Southwest in San Jose, with an enviable music lineup — the Stooges, Thee Oh Sees, OFF!, Deafheaven, and more — following a daytime tech conference. So if you want to mix swarthy rock 'n' roll with panel discussions on artificial intelligence apps, Bitcoin, and the convergence of retail and Big Data, cross off Sept. 26 to 29 on your calendar. But if you just want to see the music, that's available at C2SV as well: A $55 wristband will get you into the 12 downtown San Jose venues hosting shows, although catching Iggy and the Stooges on Saturday will cost $20 or so more. Either way, the C2SV organizers are hoping — like everyone behind the new crop of Bay Area festivals — to raise the region's musical profile even higher.

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