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Electronic Music, San Jose Bands Rule at BFD This Year

In Music
Ricky Reed of Wallpaper at BFD. Photo by Jennifer Anderson.

Ricky Reed of Wallpaper at BFD. Photo by Jennifer Anderson.

LIVE 105 has been on the forefront of the EDM movement for years, promoting it even back when it was still a niche genre. In recent years at the BDF festival, the Subsonic Tent—an extension of Aaron Axelsen’s electronic music show—has become a bigger part of the festival, encompassing a bulk of the festival’s more interesting bookings.

In fact, even on the other stages this year, the strongest bands were the ones who stylistically could just as easily fit on the Subsonic Tent. Below are some of the highlights from this year:

Capital Cities
By far the strongest act to play the Festival Stage this year. Capital Cities, a new duo from LA, brought disco-infused synth-pop beats to BFD with a live guitarist, bassist and a trumpet player. Two vocalists, one tall with a mustache and the other short with a bushy beard, both equally shared vocal duties with a fun, somewhat goofy stage presence.

Midway through their set they taught the audience the “Capital Cities Shuffle,” which was simple enough for anyone to execute. They played a bizarre, slow-downed rendition of the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive” and an upbeat dance-version of Sinead O’Conner’s Prince-penned “Nothing Compares 2 U.” They closed with their buzz single, “Safe and Sound,” a catchy dance-pop song.

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It’s incredible the attention Wallpaper have been getting the past year considering that it’s basically an ironic pop act with elements of R&B, hip-hop, all done through a weird performance-art lens. But now it seems the ridiculous character known as Ricky Reed is becoming an actual pop star. What has been their biggest selling point is how strong of a performer Reed is and his ability to engage the audience and get them moving, but the entire band has become a theatrical spectacle.

At the Subsonic Tent, where they played this year, their three drummers pulled out some amazing synchronized moves, including the final breakdown of “Fucking Best Song Everrr” when the drummers stood up, shook the audience’s hands and returned to their kits at the same moment and jumped back in on the beat. They are one of the best live acts going right now.

Passion Pit
LIVE 105 couldn’t have booked a better main stage headliner this year. Passion Pit have really blown up this past year with the success of their brilliant sophomore release, Gossamer, which infuses synth-pop with elements of indie rock. At BFD, they played cuts from their debut, but the highlights were the tracks from Gossamer, including “Carried Away,” “It’s not my fault, I’m Happy,” “Cry Like a Ghost” and the breakout single “Take a Walk.” The evening was particularly special for Passion Pit as lead singer Michael Angelakos celebrated his 26th birthday.

DJ Shadow
DJ Shadow’s set at BFD featured obscure and often brand new tracks that he continued to assure the audience they’d probably never heard before. It was a strange, mind-melting juxtaposation of songs, mixed and blended by the iconic Bay Area producer. Every once and a while he’d lower the music and make a comment, like, “Just to let you know, there’s no laptop on stage with me” or “If you’re confused about what’s going on, look at your neighbor and do what they’re doing.” Some of the beats we danceable, others were just weird, slow trance beats, while others were loud, bass-filled outer space soundscapes. He cut songs together so fast, and with so much skill, it was hard to do anything but stare, amazed.

San Jose
This was the year for San Jose at BFD. There were more bands from the South Bay to play BFD than probably any year before with four bands on the Soundcheck Stage and the Limousines on the Subsonic Stage. Over on the Soundcheck stage, the Trims, Anya and the Getdown and Picture Atlantic all played excellent sets, but it was a particular pleasure watching Curious Quail’s set. Their music probably least resembles LIVE 105’s format of all the local bands, but they fought hard to get there with an online vote.

Their excitement of being on stage at Shoreline was palatable, understandably so. Over at Subsonic, the Limousines put on an intense, mostly serious set that, with the exception of two songs, were all tracks off their new album, Hush.

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