Play It Back

Remembering the best of North Bay music from 2018

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Herbie Hancock (center) hit musical heights with Bob Weir, drummer Vinnie Colaiuta and bassist James Genus at the 2018 Sound Summit on Mount Tamalpais.Jay Blakesberg Photography/courtesy Sound Summit

It was quite a year. After a devastating end to 2017 in neighboring Sonoma and Napa counties, 2018 was a year of healing and rebuilding in the North Bay, and music and art played a vital part in keeping spirits high. Looking back on the concerts, album releases and other musical adventures in Marin, it’s clear that the scene is strong as ever and getting stronger. Here, we revisit some highlights of the year in music.

In the wake of 2017’s disaster, Mill Valley musician and producer Scott Mickelson was one of the first to spearhead a musical fire relief project; collaborating with Bay Area songwriters to record a benefit compilation album, After the Fire: Vol. 1.

“My wife and I have been enjoying Napa and Sonoma since 1987; that was always our go-to place. It hit me hard, the thought that it won’t ever be the same in our lifetime,” said Mickelson last March when the album was released and raised thousands of dollars for relief. Last month, Mickelson started producing a new benefit compilation, this time for the Blanket the Homeless organization, that’s due to be completed by springtime.

Another major musical fundraiser in Marin last year was the annual Sound Summit festival, held atop Mount Tamalpais State Park by Roots & Branches Conservancy, who have raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Mount Tam conservation efforts. Last year’s Summit featured headliners like Herbie Hancock, Grace Potter and Bob Weir, who also headlined last September’s Sweetwater in the Sun Festival in Novato, a new showcase of the Mill Valley music hall’s roster of talent. Joining Weir (co-owner of the Sweetwater Music Hall) onstage at Sweetwater in the Sun’s headlining jam session were longtime North Bay stars like guitarist Steve Kimock (Zero), drummer Jay Lane and bassist Robin Sylvester (RatDog).

“We’re excited to showcase what we do inside our venue,” said Sweetwater Music Hall general manager and talent buyer Aaron Kayce in advance of last year’s festival, which celebrated Sweetwater’s long history in Marin’s music scene.

Last year was also a memorable one for Marin record stores, as San Rafael’s Red Devil Records turned 20 years old, and Mill Valley Music marked 10 years of business. With vinyl records sales numbers higher now than they’ve been in over 20 years, Red Devil Records owner Barry Lazarus summed up vinyl’s popularity in two ways: it sounds better and it looks better.

“Marin County has such a rich musical history, there are just endless record collectors [here],” Lazarus said last year. “The age range of customers in my store is from 10 to 80 years old, and the flow doesn’t stop.”

Let’s keep the flow going in 2019.

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