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Portola Music Festival

68 musicians on a pier at the height of SF "summer" weather

The inaugural Portola Music Festival is running on San Francisco’s Pier 80 the last weekend in September, also known as my mother’s birthday (that Sunday). It features 68 of my favorite emerging & established musicians, including Channel Tres, Kaytranada, and Jungle. As my friend called it, “it’s better than a highly curated portion of Coachella.” And of course it’s put on by the same people, Goldenvoice.

There’s no better measure of hype around a festival than when more friends ask if I’m going. Check out my favorite picks below. I’ll see you there.

Happy birthday, mom!

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Mill Valley Music Fest

Following La Doña to some beautiful backgrounds

Photo by Paige K. Parsons / Mill Valley Music Festival

Mill Valley’s inaugural day long music festival was quaint and well put together. It featured five bands on one stage, but my partner and I were there for La Doña.

We first saw La Doña at the opening of the new KQED building back in November. She’s becoming a staple of San Francisco music and represents it well with her family filling out the rest of the band. When I found out she was opening up Mill Valley’s first festival, I knew this would be a perfect setting to see her and her family perform again.

Mill Valley Music Fest was a romantic getaway from the city in the beautiful Spring sunshine and a backdrop of the Napa hills. Plus, it ended at a reasonable time. Let’s normalize day partying.

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Songs to See at Sxsw, 2022

Just over 100 artists, but especially six

It’s been three years! I missed SXSW live and in Austin, but a pandemic broke my favorite live event of the year and all others in 2020 & 2021.

2022 is my fifth year at South by! Looking back, I realized that live music was the second most important reason I go. More importantly, it’s to better understand culture and how it ticks. There’s no better place for that than live music, and SXSW is one of the best showcases around the world.

There’s been a theme with every showcase and this year pushes my boundaries like all good things do. I may have thought back in 2016 with my Women Behind the Boards post that there was and still is a lack of DJ’s who identify as women. I don’t know if I can say the same for lead vocalists, thankfully. The latest example, all of my top picks at SXSW 2022. Half of which I got to see, half sadly I did not.

TEKE::TEKE and Annabelle Chairlegs had such good performances (separately) that I saw them again (separately). Some of the most expressive faces I’ve ever seen in a show – pictures above and below. Sadly, I only got to see Joseph once, but it was in the majestic St. David’s Historic Sanctuary and their voices gave me electrofying goosebumps.

Three of my other most anticipated vocalists I didn’t get to see live. Petty Booka was online only :( I’d love to create a play about their music, which is a blending of Japanese and Hawaiian music. The music had such strong visuals for me. Luna Li cancelled her tour, which I was suppose to see in San Francisco and Austin, but I did catch her set online when she was in Oakland. It was one of those weekdays where I couldn’t make the trip, ugh. Still, a lovely show. Jacks Haupt was the only show I actually could’ve missed and did so because my plane arrived in Austin a few hours too late.

I missed the days of Hypem at SXSW, seeing Anderson .Paak more than a few times, but the music is just as rich in culture from around the world this year. Thanks to my photographer, Chris, and for the company, Regina and Alejandra <3

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Picks 4 Noise Pop 2022

But especially Alice Phoebe Lou

Noise Pop’s annual festival has been my live music kickoff to the year since I moved to San Francisco, and it’s good to have it back.

Like I did first in 2019, I went through every single artist to figure out my schedule. I love how drastically different the music is this year for me. Most of it surprisingly chill, jazz music, but styles stretch as far as trap metal, hyperpop. Maybe I’m just expanding my tastes, but of course it dips into my usual staples of indie and even more so soul.

Check out all the content from the shows below, but if you consume one thing, watch Alice Phoebe Lou’s “Only When I” video.

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Lost in Riddim Festival

Celebrating the new rhythms of Africa & the Caribbean

Lost in Riddim was a healthy introduction to afrobeats. I’ve looked back at using afrobeats in the past on Silence Nogood and I should’ve done more research. As much as Chiddy Bang and Bixiga 70 I’m sure had some sort of afrobeats influence, it’s not even close to the music that I listened to at Lost in Riddim – a two-day festival in Sacramento with performers mainly from Nigeria and the Caribbeans.

I went through at least 14 hours of afrobeats music in two playlists (1, 2) to prepare for Lost in Riddim, and made a 15-track playlist of my own (see below).

London produced two of my favorite tracks off the playlist. Tiwa Kawa’s Koroba and Rema’s Soundgasm. I’ll talk about Rema’s music next paragraph, but about this time last week, I heard my partner humming Tiwa’s “Koroba”. She told me that’s how she first hears the music I love – from me humming a tune, only to listen to the song later and recognize it from my humming. This is how music spreads. From your partner humming.

Other than Koroba, Rema’s music has been buzzing around my head and lips all month, especially after hearing him live. He’s got the best catalog and I got the best shots of him at Riddom (pics & video below). His fine detail in word choice and style is something I haven’t heard since JID. Finesse at its finest, especially after the “beeeeep” on “Soundgasm” ~2 minutes in.

If Tiwa had the song and Rema was best overall, Sho Madjozi had the performance. She was the first set I saw on the last day of the festival. She was the most charismatic performer and her audience reflected it. From teaching us all stepping moves to coming out into the crowd for a short performance, she hit the timing right more than once.

Lost in Riddim was a festival of the future. Not just the afrobeats music, but the niche festival itself. I got to dive into another culture for a weekend and experience more than just one set on the side stage. It was everything and the crowd reflected that.

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BottleRock 2021 • Music Discovery Online & Off

Some of the best discovery this year was at BottleRock & their playlist

BottleRock had some amazing emerging artists play, but besides going through all 70 or so performers before the festival on Spotify, there wasn’t any easy way to find what performance to go to next. Discovering new artists is a problem I see at all festivals, but I think there is a solution – something I briefly go over in my 2019 SXSW recap.

Unfortunately, I was only able to listen to half of the performers before BottleRock, and of course, by the time I got around to listen to the other half, I missed my top discovery, Watchhouse (but Jessie Reyez was an excellent alternative).

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What was SXSW 2020 & ’21

Still great music, but not much of an experience

SXSW was all digital in 2021 and it didn’t go as well as I would’ve hoped. The schedule was off so I only saw a few shows (if any). I did do my yearly ritual of going through all of the thousands of SXSW performers on Spotify to find a few gems.

Since there were only a few hundred performers in 2021, I went back to the 2020 list I was creating until the pandemic hit last March. SXSW continually expands my taste in music and 2020 and ’21 seem to be the biggest expansion yet. 2019 may have been my biggest move internationally, but these past two years expanded into a genre I rarely touch, country. It wasn’t all solely country by any means, but it still heavily pushed my tastes and that’s what SXSW does best. Can’t wait for 2022 when we’re live again.

One last note. I haven’t been curating as much music lately, but I have been doing so with podcasts on a podcast app, called Hark. We’re doing some interesting stuff over there – check out some of my work.

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Channel Tres, best described with music

Music speaks to the heart and not really through words

Music is about feeling. And is best described through it. Even the words are written for the heart more than the head. My last decade has been defined primarily by music, curating here and at TuneIn, but more recently I’ve shifted towards spoken word. Podcasts, not specifically poetry.

Podcasts have the buzz these days, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have the substance. They’ve got more of it for the head than music does. The insights from the conversations and questions that come out of podcasts are only matched by the feelings I get from music. But I can find dozens of new inspiring podcast episodes each day. I can’t say the same for music. Music has a greater barrier to greatness and is far more subjective as an art, but the ones I do love I can listen to forever. All the more reason why curation is so important to music. People need as much context and connection when discovering something.

Most of the new music I found in 2019 came from SXSW and I guess that’s how I found Channel Tres. He wasn’t at the 2019 showcase, for all I know, but he was there in 2017 supporting Duckwrth. It was one of the most memorable shows of my life. Dudes could dance, in unison.

Channel Tres has grown into his own thing since then and I was so honored to see him at the Starline Social Club in Oakland this last December. The presence him and his dancers, Jessie & Nique, embodied on stage reflected in his audience. Their routines livened the whole club up. A progression from his dance moves with Duckwrth just two years ago. It felt like something out of a movie. The whole experience. It’ll be etched in my body forever. And the music even more so.

Trying to describe in words something that is far deeper is challenging. I’ll keep it simple, Channel Tres can make a Jew from Minnesota feel like a cool ass black dude from Compton. And it’s mostly through his beat. Empathy at its finest.

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The Music Tectonics Conference

What's hot in music tech: AI, blockchain, and podcasts

I first heard about the term “music is like fire” from the Music Tectonics Podcast. It comes from “music is like water,” where music is treated as a commodity because of music streaming services. In other words, it’s cheap and you can get it anywhere. As opposed to music being like fire, spreading onto smart speakers, into social media, and everywhere else in our lives.

Dmitri Vietze, host of the Music Tectonics Podcast, printed up 18 trading cards with themes similar to “music being like fire,” which could be collected at the first-ever Music Tectonics Conference. The trading cards were a fun way of getting to know others at the conference, as well as a helpful way to know what’s going on in the music industry. The next best ways were the panels. Two of which, my favorite and least favorite panel, got me thinking about how AI, blockchain, and podcasts relate to music, specifically music curation.

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Planet Home at the Palace of Fine Arts

Finding solutions from multiple resources

Planet Home was a three-day conference, festival, and pop-up village inside of San Francisco’s historic Palace of Fine Arts. It got people together to talk about and show the progress of potential solutions to our world’s biggest environmental challenges, along with musical performances to close out each night. Notable speakers & performers included Edward Norton, Bill Nye, Chet Faker, Snoop Dogg, and Wyclef Jean.

The festival and village were open to all, but there was a special track, known as Visions, which opened up panels, workshops, and talks with experts in the future of our planet. However, unlike most festivals that offer VIP upgrades for three-times the ticket price, to get into Visions was a different story.

First off, there was an application process, which appears to gauge if applicants already work on these challenges or simply bring new ideas with a “solutionist” approach. I’m not sure what made up the rest of the process, but based on the people I met at Visions, it was a pleasant change over the VIP bros and made for some meaningful conversations.

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