Perhaps nothing connected people during the pandemic more than music. It seems as if every band in the world produced an album in recent years. And when live performances returned, for many it was as if collective spirits lifted and bodies again moved freely in dance.
In the North Bay, the vibrant and diverse music scene is something worth celebrating, as are all these bands, performers and music supporters.
And so, here are the winners of the 2022 North Bay Music Awards, as voted by the readers of the Pacific Sun and the North Bay Bohemian.
Last year’s winner in the folk category, Dave Hamilton’s win in Americana, no small feat in the rich tradition the genre has in the region, shows the breadth of his appeal across categories. Hamilton plays throughout the North Bay this month. davehamiltonfolkamericana.com
Bluesmen aren’t born; they are formed through struggle and soul. Sultry North Bay fixture Spike Sikes bleeds out the blues at local venues week after week. His band of accomplices blends a slow burn of blues, jazz and soul on their 2022 LP, Magnolia Street. awesomehotcakes.com
Bloomfield Bluegrass Band plays that brand of music that was called “old-time” 100 years ago and that will still move the heart 100 years hence. Their experiments with the locally built redwood fiddle are especially worthy. bloomfieldbluegrassband.com
707 native Lady Char spins upbeat sets that draw from an eclectic mix of influences, all connected by the love of a dancing crowd. Lauded for the positivity of her sets, Char started the Love Beat DJ after-school enrichment program to inspire love of music in youth. djladychar.com
Co-owner of Santa Rosa’s Next Record Store, Doug Jayne teams up with KRCB morning DJ Brian Griffith to give listeners a taste of new releases every Tuesday at 11am. Dudes know their stuff. norcalpublicmedia.org/radio-programs/new-release-hour-with-brian-doug
Winner of the electronica category for the last four years, Eki Shola defies comparison. Percussive piano, synth vocals, jazzy bass lines and whisper-soft breakbeats melt together under easy pop vocals and hip-hop delivered wisdom. ekishola.com
Two time winner this year, Dave Hamilton channels the spirit of Pete Seeger to win the NorBay for folk for the third year running. davehamiltonfolkamericana.com
“Too much comfort can be a disservice,” raps J.Lately in his single, “Pictures.” The Sebastopol native spits cozy smooth flow, but drops albums like a madperson, with three long players in the last two years. When one wants to feel good to the core, these are the beats. justlatelymusic.com
Berklee College of Music grad Ellie James has a reputation as an indie standout, winning the award in 2020. Now she is back and in a big way…but small, as in indie. Her sound and approach capture that dichotomy perfectly: a honed talent, yet fun and free. thisiselliejames.com
Lauded in past Bohemian articles for her “magnetic vocals and tight rhythms,” Petaluma native Stella Heath draws from the origins of popular jazz to channel Louis Armstrong and Billie Holliday in a fistful of can’t miss projects for jazzheads. stellaheathmusic.com
For those who wish the Dillinger Escape Plan lived next door, they may look no further than North Bay metalcore mainstays A Hero To Fall. NorBay winners again in the metal category, this wholesome bunch has scream-growled their way into hearts. instagram.com/aherotofall
With a sound evolving from tripped out Brit-punk like The Clash covering the Moving Sidewalks, to a more recent tapestry of West Coast sounds—think pre-grunge northwest punk plus surf rock—if one doesn’t love The Happys, they may stop reading this column. thehappysofficial.com
One of the biggest sounds around, The Soul Section returns to claim the R&B category for yet another year. Those looking to cut the floor to the vibe of classic Motown can see the brass and bass heavy crew at the California in Santa Rosa on Jan. 20. thesoulsection.com
Multi-NorBay winners Sol Horizon continue to garner votes for their true-to-the-roots reggae. Energetic live shows and upbeat, stoner-positive messages will never be out of vogue in the North Bay. instagram.com/sol.horizon
Those who love Fleetwood Mac and Don Henley will gravitate to Santa Rosa rockers Kingsborogh. In true classic rocker style, the band takes its name from the family name of frontperson Billy Kingsborough. kingsboroughmusic.com
The happy-go-lucky tunes of Ellie James can sometimes belie the deeper craftsmanship of the winner of this year’s indie category. As a songwriter, James’ chops continue to develop, more than justifying her win in the highly competitive singer-songwriter category. thisiselliejames.com
Jake Ward seems to own this category. Why? Because he and his cast of over-the-top performers hustle to bring a unique experience to the North Bay through blood, sweat and tears. Live piercing fans have a home here. northbaycabaret.com
The original location of the popular local chain of beer gardens, HopMonk Sebastopol sits in a 115-year-old stone and timber tavern. A dual music venue with stages outside and in the cozy inside Abbey, HopMonk is a spot for music not to be missed. hopmonk.com/sebastopol
The local music scene contains a wealth of talented musicians who dedicate themselves to teaching the next generation of North Bay talent. No wonder the area is so rich in music. It is a credit to many-time NorBay winner Sikes to stand out among them. instagram.com/spike_sikes
Ok, girl, go. Just go. Winning her third NorBay in 2022 proves the point. Ellie James is working her butt off to bring the message of uplifting pop to ears desperate for positivity in this age of permacrisis. thisiselliejames.com