by Charlie Swanson
Our annual appreciation of North Bay bands, the NorBays Music Awards, is taking a break from hosting a live concert and ceremony this year. We’re retooling the show to make it bigger and better, but in the meantime, we’ve still got awards to hand out to nine of the best bands and musicians in the North Bay, in categories that range from jazz to folk to hip-hop. Without further ado, the winners of the 2015 NorBays, as voted on by readers (that means you):
Blues/R&B: Volker Strifler
Santa Rosa guitarist and North Bay fixture Volker Strifler dazzles as a bandleader and solo act with superb blues licks and funky, breezy arrangements. His talent as a guitarist got him a gig as a member of the Ford Brothers Blues Band and his sound is often compared to Duane Allman.
Country/Americana: McKenna Faith
Technically, McKenna Faith is not from the North Bay, but we’re going to let it slide on account of her stunning songwriting ability and sublime voice. At 20 years old, Faith is a newcomer to the country music scene, but she’s already making a lot of noise in Nashville recording studios and touring nonstop all over the country. Her next show is on Oct. 10 at Wild Flowers Saloon in Healdsburg.
DJ: DJ Beset
The Petaluma-based DJ Beset makes the rounds between Sonoma and Marin County parties and clubs, spinning an eclectic array of reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, soul and mainstream hits. He’s been heard on Wild
94.9 and he’s been getting shout-outs most recently for his sizzling remix of Janet Jackson’s “No Sleeep.” A resident DJ at Flatiron in San Rafael, DJ Beset will be spinning there next on Friday, Oct. 2.
Folk/Acoustic: Misner & Smith
There’s something exceedingly timeless about folk-revival duo Misner & Smith, as if they stepped out of another era. In fact, Megan Smith and Sam Misner—who are also thespians, it turns out—met at a Shakespeare festival where they continue to perform, a testament to their old-timey enthusiasm and theatrical presentation. This fall, Misner & Smith are journeying through Europe on a cultural exchange trip. Their next North Bay show is on Nov. 22 at the Big Easy in Petaluma.
Santa Rosa underground rapper Broiler just dropped his ultra-dope LP Someone’s Thunder last June, and it’s packed with guest stars and sick beats. Look no further than the chill opening track, “Minivan Cruisin’,” a song about rolling down Mendocino Avenue in a Ford Aerostar.
Jazz: Hot Club Beelzebub
Hot Club Beelzebub is an infernally entertaining five-piece formed in Santa Rosa in 2010. The longtime friends who make up the band have their hands in several North Bay music projects, yet when it comes to cabaret-style jazz, there’s nothing like the bawdy and brash sound they make as the Hot Club.
Indie/Punk: The Velvet Teen
This has been a landmark year for Sonoma County indie rock trio the Velvet Teen. We’ve already fawned over their new record, All Is Illusory, released this summer; and we rocked at their blowout Phoenix Theater show in Petaluma last month. If you’ve not heard the new tunes from these North Bay favorites, now is the time.
There’s nothing low key about the funk rock of Frobeck. Led by keyboardist and vocalist Spencer Burrows, the band, which includes a full horn section and a tight rhythm foundation, has been cranking out feel-good grooves since 2005. Frobeck has amassed a dedicated North Bay fan base that enjoys the band’s high-energy live shows and top-notch musicianship. Frobeck’s next show is an album-release concert, where the band will unveil their new record, Sea of Truth, on Oct. 24 at HopMonk Tavern in Novato.
World/Reggae: Arcane Dimension
Most of us live in a world of three dimensions. And then there’s Arcane Dimension, the avant-garde, world music collective. With a melding of bowed guitar melodies, belly dancing, performance art and tribal drums, the edgy and envelope-pushing Arcane Dimension are highly influenced by main man Jarek Tatarek’s metal and industrial background. This month, as the votes came in for the NorBays, Arcane Dimension announced they were going on hiatus for the fall. But when they decide to return to the tribe, the band will have plenty of fans ready to welcome them back.