SUBSONIC Turntable star DJ Shadow is one of the featured artists on BFD's Subsonic Stage. Photo by Luis Rocha / SF Station.
Since 1994, LIVE 105’s BFD festival has been a staple for exposing new artists to the Bay Area. The Killers, Imagine Dragons, MGMT and Foster the People all played the festival before they were well known. Even AFI performed—on the local-band stage—well before they hit the national spotlight.
In fact, the purpose of BFD, with the exception of presenting a couple of big-name headliners, has always been to treat music consumers to emerging artists at a reasonable price. Aaron Axelsen, the assistant program director/music director at LIVE 105 is heavily involved with booking BFD. He likens the station’s booking strategy to that of the Oakland A’s in Moneyball.
“We’re trying to find acts at a reasonable cost that we’re anticipating are going to pop, like a Robert DeLong, or a C2C or a Diplo, or even Capital Cities, Neighbourhood, Atlas Genius. These are bands that are going to blow up. It’s using our instincts to find them, and not charging $200 a ticket,” Axelsen explains.
As the festival has matured, the Subsonic Tent, which focuses on electronic and hip-hop, and the Soundcheck Stage, with Bay Area bands, have become an increasingly important part of the festival. For Subsonic, a lot of it has to do with the growing popularity of electronic dance music.
“It was more of an underground niche back in the day, but EDM culture has really caught on,” Axelsen says. “It’s not pigeonholed. The 23-year-old music consumer—you look at their iPod, they have everything in there; they have Of Monsters and Men, but they also have Diplo.”
This year’s Subsonic Tent includes an eclectic blend of bands: Wallpaper (hip-hop, electro-pop), C2C (French turntable artists), K Theory (hip-hop), as well as electronic-music legends Chemical Brothers and Bay Area-based turntable game changer DJ Shadow.
As the Soundcheck Stage has grown, local bands are seeing a boost long before BFD arrives. “It seems like the stage has intensified because of all those other components that go into it,” Axelsen says. “These bands are getting support on Soundcheck every week and on the website. They’re getting a lot of exposure. The bands can use it when talking to booking agents or labels—oh, look, we played BFD.”
This year, San Jose is the most represented city at BFD, with four out of the 10 acts, including Curious Quail, the winner of the local band contest, Anya and the Get Down, Picture Atlantic and the Trims.
Sunday, May 19; 11am; $39.50-$59.50
Shoreline Amphitheater, Mountain View