The third annual Phono del Sol music and food festival kicked off on a warm, sunny July 13 and featured some of the Bay Area’s hottest indie bands and most popular food trucks. The nonprofit organization The Bay Bridged started the festival as a way to converge the vibrant local music scene with the creativity of food trucks in the versatile venue of Protero del Sol — complete with a skate park, playground, two stages for performances and a beer garden. With 12 bands — some mature and venerable bands like Thee Oh Sees and a few young and rising bands like Surf Club — and eight food trucks, this is an up-and-coming festival that will only get better and attract bigger crowds in the future.
One of the first bands that played was San Francisco’s Cool Ghouls. These San Francisco State alumni bring a harmonious blend of psychedelic, garage and rock n’ roll. Genres and ’60s influences aside, these folks are just fun-loving musicians who are out to jam together with the impressive trifecta of high and low vocals from Pat McDonald, Ryan Wong and Pat Thomas. “Natural Life” is a perfect example of the band’s convivial personality, with an undeniably catchy hook and upbeat lyrics. The horns in the background added a more contemporary twist to the throwback nature of the guitars. Cool Ghouls’ liveliness in focalizing these different sounds brought a conspicuous energy to the festival.
Vocalist and keyboardist Natalia Rogovin evokes the ethereal and soulful voice of Beach House’s Victoria Legrand. “Away for the Weekend” features her smooth vocals, which, in juxtaposition with the sharp guitar and synth lines, create a delicately and oddly unifying structure — a commonality in many of their songs. The more somber tone of “Terracur” hushed the crowd and epitomized the band’s maturation in their sophomore LP, Developer. Besides the improved production, Developer focuses more on introspective exploration of the Kairotic moments in life, centering on the subtlety and fleeting nature. Even after the band finished their set, their songs remained unsettling and lingered on.
When they played “Looking for a Fight,” Los Angeles sisters Jennifer and Jessie Clavin established their electrifying intensity with bombastic lyrics and swift guitar hooks. But despite the rhythmic, opening bass lines of “Dead in Your Head,” they were subtle in comparison to the lyrics about individualism and love, and the song showcased their versatility. Their soothing vocals along with the fast-paced structure in “Next Stop” added to the visceral surf-rock, pop-punk nature that matched the bright sunny ambience of the festival.
Walking on stage barefoot, Marnie Stern nonchalantly began her signature guitar tapping. She held nothing back — she did Woody Allen impressions and asked the audience if her vagina overpowered her guitar or if it was the other way around. But she proved that she isn’t all flash and no substance. “Noonan” featured her honesty and determined drive as a musician as she wailed, “Don’t you want to be somebody?” For her new album, The Chronicles of Marnia, Stern brought in drummer Kid Millions, who played impressive drum solos. These two virtuosos helped show the essence of rock n’ roll through Stern’s volatile guitar shredding and Kid Million’s powerfully raw drumming.
Thee Oh Sees
The veteran San Francisco punk stars have been around since 1997, but they haven’t run out of steam. Thee Oh Sees’ frenetic energy was palpable; the passion of frontman John Dwyer and guitarist Petey Dammit re-energized the crowd from a midday lull. In “Contraption/Soul Desert,” Dwyer’s shouts and screams rang across the field along with the band’s heavy, fast-paced bass lines and powerful guitar riffs. No matter how dissonant and accelerated the songs in their set were, it never descended into disorder, and the band never missed a beat — a testament to the chemistry of the band members. For their last song, Dwyer let the crowd jump on the stage with them.
K.Flay stood out in the festival not because she was the only hip-hop act but for her nonstop energy. She dropped lightning-fast lines that ranged from the nerdy — “My calculator’s TI-89, you’re stuck on 83” — to downright attention-grabbing: “Flow so menstrual I need a tampon on the track.” But K.Flay isn’t just about hitting clever one-liners. In “So Fast, So Maybe,” the electro-pop production and storytelling helped touch on her emergence as an artist and roused a sense of hope: “Well, I suggest you switch your mind state / When people ask you how it’s going, just say, ‘I’m great.’” K.Flay was able to be optimistic without being sentimental and sophisticated without being pretentious.
Contact Fan Huang at [email protected].