The holidays are in full swing, and Bohemian and Pacific Sun readers are spreading the good cheer by voting for their favorite North Bay bands, music venues and more in the 2021 Norbay Music Awards.
This year’s winners include longtime favorites, fresh faces and a few brand-new categories that recognize the hardworking musicians and music advocates who make the North Bay a year-round wonderland of rock ’n’ roll, blues, jazz and more.
Without further ado, here are the winners of the 2021 Norbays.
Americana: The Farallons
A trio of seasoned professionals with a strong local following, the Farallons play an acoustic blend of original tunes that span the gamut of Americana and cover classic hits at local gigs like their upcoming shows at Tips Roadside in Kenwood on Jan. 23 and Feb. 6. thefarallons.com
Blues: Spike Sikes & His Awesome Hotcakes
Veteran bluesman Spike Sikes found a swinging family of like-minded musicians in Sonoma County, and Spike Sikes & His Awesome Hotcakes produce a classic soulful brand of music at local venues and on records like 2021’s Take Some Time to Dream. awesomehotcakes.com
Country: Bloomfield Bluegrass Band
In 2018, the Bloomfield Bluegrass Band snagged the Norbay award for “Acoustic” group. This year, the homegrown North Bay ensemble is recognized in the “Country” category, lending credence to the group’s eclectic output. bloomfieldbluegrassband.com
DJ (Live): DJ Shannon J
Shannon Jones, a.k.a. DJ Shannon J, is the owner and spinner behind North Bay party-starters Surge Entertainment, which hosts karaoke and DJ nights at clubs and private events. facebook.com/SurgeEntertainmentLLC
DJ (Radio): Bill Bowker
Earlier this month, beloved KRSH (95.9FM) afternoon drive-time radio DJ Bill Bowker spent his last afternoon behind the dial, retiring from radio after a career spanning more than four decades. In the North Bay, Bowker will be forever known as the region’s best purveyor of the blues and a champion of local artists. Have a wonderful retirement, Bill!
Electronica: Eki Shola
Classically trained pianist and songwriter Eki Shola crafts jazzy, ambient tones with ethereal melodies. Last year, Shola completed a trilogy of albums—Possible, Drift and Essential—that musically chronicled her life from the Tubbs fire to the pandemic. ekishola.com
Folk: Dave Hamilton
North Bay–veteran Dave Hamilton has won Norbays in several categories over the years, and continues his long-running winning streak with this year’s recognition. Hamilton will be back onstage next year, performing on Jan. 8 at HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol. davehamiltonfolkamericana.com
Since hitting the North Bay, hip-hop artist Kayatta has enlightened and elevated the local scene with mindful events and albums such as Beautiful and Messy, released on Juneteenth in 2020. kayattamusic.com
Indie: Sebastian Saint James & the Highway Poets
Led by guitarist and vocalist Sebastian Saint James, the Highway Poets are a tight-knit powerhouse group on record and on stage. Next up, the band plays a New Year’s Eve show at JaM Cellars in Napa. highwaypoetsmusic.com
Jazz: The King Street Giants
Bringing a New Orleans flair to the North Bay, the King Street Giants conjure up popular trad jazz and create their own original songs. During the last year, the King Street Giants performed as trios and quartets in addition to full-band arrangements, offering lean new takes on their jazz repertoire. thekingstreetgiants.com
Metal: A Hero To Fall
Santa Rosa metalcore band A Hero To Fall recently released their debut LP, Ambivalence, featuring lightning-fast drums, shredding guitars and growling screams. The record is available for streaming now, as the group gears up for more live shows in the New Year. facebook.com/aherotofall
Promoter: Jake Ward Presents
Jake Ward is the founder and face of several local arts enterprises including the mischief-making variety show North Bay Cabaret, which recently marked its return after nearly two years and which takes over Whiskey Tip in Santa Rosa for a New Year’s Eve blowout. Northbaycabaret.com
Punk: One Armed Joey
The melodic—even harmonizing—Petaluma punk trio returns to the Norbay winner’s circle, even as they work on a new record and look forward to their first show of 2022 on Jan. 9 at Shady Oak Barrel House in Santa Rosa. facebook.com/onearmedjoey
R&B: The Soul Section
After a year away from the stage, veteran outfit the Soul Section recently returned to action with live shows at the Cotati Music Festival and the Novato Festival of Art, Wine & music, bringing the band’s high-energy funk and soul revues back to local stages. thesoulsection.com
Reggae: Sol Horizon
Featuring former members of Groundation and Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade, North Bay reggae mainstays Sol Horizon most recently rocked the stage with a headlining set on Halloween and keep the musical fire alive with energetic live performances and messages of peace, community and sustainability. facebook.com/SolHorizonBand
Rock: The Bluebyrds
Winning the category for the second year in a row, the Bluebyrds play tribute not to just a single artist or band but to an entire music genre, proving that the music of well-known classic rock bands stands the test of time. thebluebyrds.com
Singer-Songwriter: Frankie Bourne
California-native Frankie Bourne is a prolific and soulful songwriter whose tunes can be heard on four solo albums, 3 EPs, a handful of singles and on North Bay stages. Next month, Bourne gets onstage at Reel & Brand, in Sonoma, on Jan. 14 and at Legit Provisions, in St. Helena, on Jan. 28. frankiebourne.com
Venue: Mystic Theatre & Music Hall
Petaluma’s iconic music venue is alive and well, and rings in 2022 with a New Year’s Eve show featuring Brothers Comatose and T Sisters. Next year’s schedule at the Mystic includes headliners Elvin Bishop, Nicki Bluhm & the Band of Heathens, John Craigie, Gary Numan and many others. mystictheatre.com
Music Instructor: Casey Jones and Nick Pulley
In addition to their Norbay award for “Jazz,” the King Street Giants can also celebrate that members Casey Jones and Nick Pulley are splitting the inaugural “Music Instructor” Award. Pulley heads the music program in Sebastopol’s Gravenstein school district, and Jones teaches at West County High School.
Hardest Working Musician: Spike Sikes
Spike Sikes—winner of the first-ever “Hardest Working Musician” Norbay award and frontman of the “Blues” Norbay award-winning band Spike Sikes & His Awesome Hotcakes—is a father, husband, part-time elementary school band director, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and much more. Catch him next when he plays Reel & Brand in Sonoma on New Year’s Eve.