Each year since 2005, the NorBays have recognized and celebrated the best bands of the North Bay as voted by the readers of the Bohemian and Pacific Sun.
In this unprecedented year of 2020, North Bay musicians and bands continue to safely create excellent music online and on record while they endure a pandemic that has wiped out their main source of income, namely concerts and other social activities that continue to be canceled or postponed nine months into the shutdown.
Given the fact that venues have largely been closed to the public since late March, it may seem that 2020 was a quiet year in music, though North Bay musicians were among the first professionals to transition to a virtual platform for live events, and they have continually found ways to entertain the public from a distance. As the year closes out, it’s more important than ever to recognize and support the creative folks who make the North Bay special.
With that in mind, the 2020 NorBays are going live and asking the readers to once again take to the polls to vote for their favorite North Bay bands in several genres.
This year’s NorBays boasts more than a dozen musical categories, including Blues, Country, Folk, Hip-Hop, Jazz, Indie, Rock, Reggae, Punk, Metal, Electronica, Singer-songwriter, Americana and R&B.
Click here to find the 2020 NorBays ballot and enter your favorite local band from Sonoma, Napa or Marin Counties in each category. Please enter one name per category. Multiple “stuffed” votes from the same person will be recognized and thrown out. Voting ends Wednesday, Dec 16, at 12pm. Winners will be announced in the Dec 23rd NYE issue.
For those who need a refresher in North Bay music makers who have kept working in 2020, here are a dozen bands and performers that made headlines in the Bohemian and Pacific Sun this year.
In March, Marin supergroup Green Leaf Rustlers—comprised of frontman Chris Robinson (vocals, guitar), Barry Sless (pedal steel, lead guitars), Greg Loiacono (lead guitars, vocals), Pete Sears (bass) and John Molo (drums)—released their debut album; a 2-LP live record, From Within Marin.
Also in March, North Bay singer-songwriter and rancher Ismay merged her folk music and love of nature in an enthralling, full-length debut album, Songs of Sonoma Mountain.
In April, alt-pop quartet Lungs and Limbs released a new album of lush electronica and ethereal vocals, Great Goodbye, that somehow predicted the social isolation the North Bay was about to experience.
Also in April, Marin County musician Colin Schlitt, bassist and occasional vocalist for eclectic alternative-pop ensemble El Radio Fantastique, turned up the reverb with his solo project Peppermint Moon and released a digital EP, A Million Suns.
Former NorBay Award-winner and thoughtful Hip-Hop artist Kayatta released her debut, Beautiful and Messy, on June 19; a date which also marks Juneteenth, the oldest nationally-celebrated remembrance of the ending of slavery in the United States.
Also in June, alternative singer-songwriter and Petaluma native Matt Reischling debuted his new solo project, Matt Reischling & the Black Box, with the album Spirit Holiday; a melodic and lyrically reflective collection of original tunes (and one David Bowie cover) that looks back on Reischling’s adventures and imagines new ones.
In August, the North Bay big band King Street Giants released their third album of New Orleans–style jazz, Everything Must Go, which marked the band’s first release to feature vocals and the first release under the group’s current name.
In September, North Bay classically trained pianist and songwriter Eki Shola concluded a musical journey that began after the 2017 Tubbs Fire with the release of her full-length electronica-jazz album, Essential.
Also in September, San Rafael string band Late for the Train charmed North Bay audiences with their debut album, Plant It or Build It, a folksy collection of romantic songs full of thoughtful lyricism.
September also saw the debut collaborative LP from Marin County-based Rock & Roll Hall of Fame guitarist Elvin Bishop and Sonoma County-based Blues Hall of Fame harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite, 100 Years of Blues. The down-home collection of music features Bishop and Musselwhite trading songs over the course of 12 spirited tracks that consist of nine originals and three reimagined blues classics.
This fall also saw West Marin world music artist Jai Uttal–best known for albums that blend reggae, jazz and rock ’n’ roll–making music, running virtual Kirtan music camps and performing virtual concerts over Zoom.
Finally, Marin-based singer-songwriter Tim Bluhm paid tribute to Merle Haggard with his fourth solo record, Hag Heaven, released in late November.