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Year in Music 2015: New Venues, Strong Releases

In Music
MUSICAL MEMORIES: Ali Shaheed Muhammad, of A Tribe Called Quest fame, was one of this 
year’s memorable local performances.

MUSICAL MEMORIES: Ali Shaheed Muhammad, of A Tribe Called Quest fame, was one of this year’s memorable local performances.

With the help of new and new-ish venues, downtown San Jose saw some great shows in 2015. Sir Mix-A-Lot proved that big butts will never go out of style, and Mac Sabbath demonstrated the power of drive-thru metal with energetic sets at The Ritz; Kirk Hammett brought djent masters Meshuggah and stoner metal veterans High On Fire to the RockBar Theater, with his two-day Fear FestEvil; The Velvet Teen returned with a full-length album and a powerhouse performance at Cafe Stritch; and The Continental Bar, Lounge and Patio hosted some fantastic, forward-thinking dance music—hosting, among others, Ali Shaheed Muhammad of A Tribe Called Quest fame.

Some notable big-name acts rolled through town, as well. Taylor Swift brought her 1989 World Tour to Levi’s Stadium, while Aziz Ansari got big laughs and The Weeknd hit high notes at the Shark Tank.

Also, this year in the realm of musical WTFs, Chris Brown presided over a terrible party (see Pg. 14) at the Fiesta nightclub in south San Jose, where five fans were shot; and Steve Harwell—frontman for the reviled San Jose-bred alt-rockers, Smash Mouth—had a meltdown after the crowd at a Colorado music festival started throwing slices of bread at the band during their set.

“I’m gonna come find your ass, I’m gonna beat your ass, whoever the fuck you are out there, OK?” Harwell can be heard saying into the microphone in a viral video of the bizarre spectacle. A Vine clip of Brown’s “Capricorn Bash” shows the self-styled bad boy R&B singer flinching as shots ring out in the middle of his song, “Loyal.”

And 2015 was also a great year for local releases. Here are my five favorites:

Will Sprott—Vortex Numbers
Former frontman for The Mumlers—one of the better indie rock outfits to emerge from the South Bay in recent memory—released his debut solo LP. On Vortex Numbers, Sprott, who now lives in Seattle, lays out a stripped-down, 10-song set, which recalls his work with the Mumlers, as well as the dusty, shuffling beats, warm guitar lines and shaky harmonies of The Rolling Stones.

Rey Resurreccion­—Heart of the City
When he isn’t rocking shows, writing raps or working on beats in his downtown studio, Rey Resurreccion can often be found teaching chess to young kids. One day in late 2014, Resurreccion told a group of his mentees to “make sure every move you make counts.” Rey Res knows a thing or two about waiting for the right moment. The local emcee made sure that everything was just so before dropping his third full-length, Heart of the City, on Jan. 27. The album is his strongest to date.

Forgotten Gods—Twin Sisters
Anyone who has recorded a full-length record on a tight budget and in a professional studio knows just how stressful the process can be. That they managed to record their sophomore LP in just two days is, in itself, a testament to the work ethic of local stoner metalheads Forgotten Gods—especially considering how good it is. There wasn’t much room for error, says guitarist Dave Stoltenberg. But that didn’t get him too worked up. “We figured that Black Sabbath did Paranoid in one day. We had twice that amount of time.”

Citabria—Exit Reality
After local alt-rockers Citabria released the excellent, if scrappy, The Stereo Guillotine EP in 2010, local fans couldn’t get enough. But then internal tensions led the band to take a long hiatus. They returned in 2015 with the highly polished and ultra-catch Exit Reality. One of the album’s standout tracks, “The Animal,” features a stuttering, Moog bass line, soaring vocal harmonies and jet-plane guitars; it sounds like a cross between Muse, Depeche Mode and Dredg.

Eric Victorino—“Captured”
The frontman for Strata and The Limousines decided to step out on his own this year. Initially calling the project Gestalt—a nod to the psychological concept that underpins the project—he has since changed his moniker to E. James. A record is due out in mid-2016, according to his PledgeMusic page, but at least one full track has been released: the moody, downtempo, electronic track, “Captured.” A snippet of another song, “Stumble Back To You,” recalls the exuberance of Passion Pit.

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