Michael Franti (credit: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
The Bay Area music scene has been a hotbed for emerging talent ever since the 1960s. Bands such as the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Credence Clearwater Revival, Journey, Metallica and Green Day all got their start here in the Bay Area. More recently, Michael Franti (pictured above), Third Eye Blind and Train have all become major acts and rap singers G-Eazy and K.Flay were among this year’s breakout artists. But other local bands also had a significant year and it’s not even over. Here are five of the best up-and-coming Bay Area bands of 2014.
Lee Gallagher and the Hallelujah
Citing influences from music artists such as Neil Young, Humble Pie, Merle Haggard and the Staples Singers, Lee Gallagher and the Hallelujah has gained a reputation as one of the Bay Area’s best rock bands. Earlier in the year, the band led by vocalist Lee Gallagher made a number of local, high-profile appearances, including the popular Haight-Ashbury Street Fair, the Not Dead Yet Fest and the Live 107.7 The Bone’s annual Bone Bash at Shoreline Amphitheater. The San Francisco-based band earned the distinction to appear at this year’s Bone Bash, which featured classic rockers Boston, The Doobie Brothers and Don Felder by winning the popular radio station’s Local Licks Battle of the Bands. More recently, Lee Gallagher and the Hallelujah was named The Deli Magazine’s SF Artist of the Month in September and is set to release their debut album in January.
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Together for a little over a year, Strange Hotel is already gaining notable attention, having been selected as The Deli’s SF Band of the Month for October. The hometown band lists “a lot of 80s goth,” The Cure and “all that CBGBs New York Punk” among its influences but lead singer Frank Abreau’s soaring tenor somewhat resembles Geddy Lee of the Canadian rock trio Rush or even Roger Hodgson of another Canadian rock band, Supertramp, while the band’s scorching guitar riffs seems to have inspirations from a wealth of pre-80s rock influences. Recommended songs to enjoy include “All the World is a Strange Hotel,” “Delusion of Self (Double Life) and “Dead in My Tracks.” The band recently performed at the Love City Horror Show and the Love City Music Festival in July. Upcoming shows include appearances at The Hemlock off Van Ness Avenue and Landmark Ballroom in San Jose.
The Family Crest
This San Francisco-based “orchestral indie rock band” has been around for a few years. But The Family Crest is on the verge of far greater success as music videos like the anthemic “The World” and “Love Don’t Go” get the broader attention they so rightfully deserve. Led by bandleader Liam McCormick, The Family Crest gained early recognition by being selected for Google Play’s Magnified Artist program and performed the following month at a Grammy Awards party sponsored by T-Mobile. That distinction likely led to their appearance to perform live at the 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Golden Gate Bridge. But it was this year when The Family Crest’s “The World” appeared in a Carnival Cruise commercial and another video, “Make Me a Boat,” was used to promote GoPro’s new Hero3+, helping the band gain over 620,000 views on You Tube. Around that same time, The Family Crest released their second full-length album, which debuted at No. 16 on Billboard’s Heatseekers Album charts. Information on upcoming shows can be found on their official website.
The Sam Chase
A two-time winner as Best Band in the Best of the Bay’s Reader Poll, The Sam Chase has had a phenomenal year, but the accolades didn’t stop there. Bandleader Sam Chase also earned further distinction this year by being named Best Singer-Songwriter by the San Francisco Bay Guardian in that publication’s final printed issue, after serving readers for nearly 50 glorious years. The Sam Chase specializes in a rousing brand of folk rock with influences from such music artists as Dave Matthews, Sting, Tom Petty and James Taylor. The lead singer’s voice has often been described as having a “voice like a nun on the lam with a mouthful of cigarettes and curse words in a lonely bar, drunkenly dancing next to a broken jukebox” and that description is clearly evident in songs like “In a Perfect World” and “Hero to Myself.” Sharing the stage with top acts such as k.d. lang and Siss Boom Bang and Lucinda Williams, The Sam Chase performed as this year’s Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, in addition to recent acoustic set at the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and a Birthday Burndown at The Chapel, in the Mission District. The Sam Chase has an upcoming show scheduled at The Catalyst in Santa Cruz on February 13.
Influenced by The Donnas, another Bay Area all-female rock band, this band with all four members born and raised in San Francisco has been together for about seven years. But although this quartet has played at venues such as the legendary Fillmore and the Standard hotel in Hollywood, none of them are of legal drinking age in California. The She’s have been together since seventh grade and got their band name by simply combining the first letter of the first names of each band member – Samantha Perez, Hannah Valente, Eva Treadway and Sinclair Riley. In an interview, the She’s were described as “San Francisco’s Teen Sensations” and “female Beach Boys,” with perhaps a little bit of The Donnas. “My Secret to Keep” and “Mystery” from their EP released in April and “Then it Starts to Feel Like Summer” are all excellent indications that The She’s are a uniquely talented band with a ton of potential, as long as college doesn’t get in the way for too long. The She’s have an upcoming show scheduled December 11 at Leo’s in Oakland.
Randy Yagi is a freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he was awarded a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on Examiner.com Examiner.com.