Author: Paul Piazza

Paul Piazza is a freelance writer and photographer who lives in Sacramento and often finds excuses to go play disc golf. He covers all genres of music but loves old-school trash metal, Stax-era soul, freestyle hip-hop and the sounds of NOLA. However, the latest album he bought was Cambodian pop. Good music is good music.

Cypress Hill Ace of Spades, Sacramento March 22, 2019 Photos by Paul Piazza  At the recent sold-out Cypress Hill/Hollywood Undead show at Ace of Spades in Sacramento, there was a bit of a surprise before the final headliner came out. After engaging sets by Xzibit and Hollywood Undead, Cypress Hill’s DJ Lord came out and did a short warm-up set. But at the interval where the rest of the group were expected to come out onstage, comedian George Lopez made an unannounced entrance and gave a raucous introduction for the legendary stoner rap band. Naturally, it was one high point in…

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McDowell Mountain Music Festival Phoenix, Arizona March 6 – March 8, 2019 Photos by Paul Piazza Early March was a great time to flee rainy Northern California and head for Arizona. After two straight weeks of continuous soggy storms in Sacramento, it felt good to land somewhere arid, warm, and a sunny 75 degrees. Spring training baseball games were in full swing and fans from all over the nation had flown out to escape their own regional weather woes and catch a game or three. This spring also marked the 15th year of the McDowell Mountain Music (M3F) Festival, which…

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Emerald Cup Sonoma County Fairgrounds December 15-16, 2018 Photos by Paul Piazza. Photo of Willie Nelson by Pollen Heath. The 15th annual Emerald Cup took place at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds recently. The event, which has been growing annually since it began in 2003, hosted perhaps its biggest and best music lineup as it celebrated the success of and innovations by cultivators and businesses in North America’s fastest growing legal industry. Naturally, there were all manner of cannabis products available at the event, many of them engineered with the highest standards for outdoor growing, harvesting, and personal use. And of…

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Hangtown Music Festival El Dorado County Fairgrounds, Placerville October 25 – 28, 2018 Photos by Paul Piazza.  The Annual Hangtown Music Festival is one of the final large outdoor music events before most things musical go indoors and hibernate for the late fall and winter. This year’s event, the eighth since its inception, continued the wonderful tradition of camping, camaraderie, and incredibly fun celebrations of music, renewals of friendships, and common love for exceptional live music. But amidst all the revel, there was an undercurrent of loss felt for Andy Goessling, the incredible multi-instrumentalist of Railroad Earth, who had passed…

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Pigeons Playing Ping Pong Regency Ballroom October 6, 2018 Photos by Paul Piazza. On the weekend of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, when so many great bands had made beautiful sounds in nearby Golden Gate Park, a funny thing happened at the Regency Ballroom on Van Ness. Many of the same people who had traipsed the dusty trails from stage to stage in the park earlier in the day, were now standing in a lengthy queue that went around the block and down an alley. It was the longest line many of us had ever seen to get into…

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Photos by Paul Piazza. Last year, The Jesus Lizard toured together for the first time in 8 years. The six-show run brought the noise rock legends to a sold-out show at the Independent in San Francisco, which was considered by many to be one of the best rock shows in the City By the Bay in 2017. Things must have gone so well that the legendary band decided to go out for another short run of eight shows recently that concluded in Seattle and Portland. SF Sonic was there to cover both of those shows. The legendary band, who are…

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Beats Antique Ace of Spades, Sacramento August 23, 2018 Photos by Paul Piazza. Beats Antique recently played at the Ace of Spades in Sacramento. Their performance was during the week before the annual regional exodus to Burning Man and the show was full of burners who were using this night as a launching pad before heading out into the high desert. The Oakland band were in good form, but were without their drummer Sidecar Tommy Cappel, who had a medical emergency prior to the show. The band let everyone know he would be alright but he wouldn’t be performing on…

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High Sierra Music Festival Plumas County Fairgrounds, Quincy July 5-8, 2018 Photos by Paul Piazza. The 28th annual High Sierra Music Festival was one of the best ever. Of course, that’s a bold statement coming from someone who has just returned from attending only his fourth one. Each and every one of those first three were fantastic. But after comparing notes with the experts, it was a sentiment shared by many as they were slowly packing up and heading out of Quincy on Monday morning after the phenomenal four-day event. The consensus was that his year’s version was un-freaking-believably fantastic!!…

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The Revivalists The Outdoor Plaza at Harrah’s, Reno May 25, 2018 Photos by Paul Piazza. As I was driving into a mountain storm on the ride up from Sacramento to Reno to catch The Revivalists at the start of their recent three-day Memorial Day weekend run on the West Coast, I had sudden a sense of deja-vu. A couple of years earlier, I had driven out to Santa Cruz during a storm to catch the fantastic New Orleans band at the Catalyst Club. That trip ended up being a memorable white-knuckle ride on the way there, with me and my…

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Winter Wondergrass Squaw Valley April 6-8, 2018 All photos by Paul Piazza. The 4th Annual Winter Wondergrass Festival Tahoe came to Squaw Valley recently. So did the weather. It was quite stormy during the first two out of the three days of the busy festival. Snow, sleet and rain took their turns in the mountain region before things finished up sunny on the third day. A big storm came in on Friday and rain started early in the day with fans watching tentatively as the skies opened up on the outdoor event. This was followed by sleet and snow for…

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Trans-Siberian Orchestra Golden 1 Center December 1, 2017 All photos by Paul Piazza. The Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO) put on a sensational pair of shows at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento recently. The group, which celebrated it’s 21st year, gave the audience a show full of lasers, lights, pyro, and all the majesty that has been come to be expected during their twenty one years as a band. The show was an encore of their wildly popular Ghosts of Christmas Eve performance for the first half, and then continued with a second set that featured many of the group’s greatest hits.…

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Joe Tomino is the phenomenal drummer for the Dub Trio and for Matisyahu. He has also played or recorded with many other bands including GriZ, Peeping Tom, The Fugees, Lady Gaga, Wyclef Jean, Leela James, and the Ying Yang Twins. Recently, during a stop in Sacramento with Matisyahu, he spoke to SF Sonic about a variety of things including music, yoga, eating vegan on the road and his first visit to a mosh pit. SF Sonic: Let’s start with music influences. One of the things I noticed at the Dry Diggings Festival in Placerville was that you were wearing a…

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Hangtown Music Festival El Dorado County Fairgrounds October 26 – 29, 2017 All photos by Paul Piazza.  The Seventh Annual Hangtown Music Festival was held in Placerville at the El Dorado County Fairgrounds recently and this year’s affair may have been the best one yet. The lineup was solid, the weather in the foothills was close to perfect, and the clever costumes and a carefree spirit were in effect throughout the fairgrounds. After the event, festival organizers proclaimed this year’s crowd at the four-day festival to be the largest to date in its seven year history. Part of the reason…

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Recently, SF SF Sonic had the opportunity to speak with reggae legend Jimmy Cliff. He’s been performing since he was a teen and is known for many songs that are part of the reggae lexicon as well as for the landmark 1972 Jamaican badass crime film The Harder They Come.  That movie’s soundtrack is said to have “brought reggae to the world.” These days, Cliff splits his time between living in Jamaica and Florida. Cliff turns 70 next year and plans to release a new album and hopefully tour as well. Recently, he released the single “Life,” which will be…

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Stu Brooks is the bassist and musical director for Matisyahu. Far before joining Matisyahu, he established himself as a member of The Dub Trio. He has been playing with drummer Joe Tomino and guitarist DP Holmes in the legendary Trio since it’s inception in 2000. He has also worked as a producer, performer, and musical director for many other artists. The list of artists he has worked with is quite long and includes Dr. John, Meshell Ndegeocello, 50 Cent, Pretty Lights, and GRiZ. Recently, SF Sonic was able to sit down with Brooks prior to a Matisyahu performance at the…

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Dry Diggings Festival Placerville September 2-3, 2017 All photos by Paul Piazza. The third annual Dry Diggings Festival took place over Labor Day weekend at the El Dorado Country Fairgrounds in Placerville. The event featured headliners Matisyahu on Saturday night and Nahko and Medicine for the People on Sunday night. Despite the hot temperatures throughout the region, Dry Diggings had a nice turnout and kept up it’s reputation as a small festival with a great vibe, kind heart and excellent beer choices from Livermore’s Altamont Beer Works. The festival’s tag line stated “Beer, Camping, Music” and although there were many…

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Hall and Oates Golden 1 Center, Sacramento July 23, 2017 All photos by Paul Piazza. It felt like it could have been 1982 when Hall and Oates hit the stage at Sacramento’s Golden 1 Center recently. The new arena was sold out and people were eager to hear, dance, and sing along to all of the band’s big hits, much as it may have been during the tour for their biggest selling album 1982’s H20.. Naturally, the hair and fashions were different, but people were ready to party with the Philadelphia duo and their band on this 2017 night. Of…

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As Michael Franti prepares to headline California WorldFest in Grass Valley this weekend, it is important to note that in over thirty years of making music, the singer/rapper/poet/songwriter/activist has been an ever-evolving artist. From his early days with the Beatnigs to his long-standing tenure as the frontman in Michael Franti and Spearhead, the Northern California native has covered a lot of musical ground as well as a wide swath of intellectual, political, and social justice territory. There are wide-ranging opinions about which musical era is his best, and regardless of which era you prefer, it’s been an interesting ride watching…

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Maxwell Golden 1 Center, Sacramento June 22, 2017 All photos by Paul Piazza. Neo soul legend Maxwell recently headlined at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. He was touring in support of 2016’s blackSUMMERS’night. On this warm summer’s evening (the temperature was 108 degrees), the singer brought along two hot supporting acts-rapper/actor Common and fellow neo soul artist Ledisi. Maxwell, who won a Grammy earlier this year for best R&B song with “Lake By the Ocean,” played songs from the recent album as well as a vast selection of hits from throughout his career. He began the show by descending slowly…

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Pitbull/Enrique Iglesias Golden 1 Center, Sacramento June 8, 2017 All photos by Paul Piazza. Two of the Kings of Latin pop, Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull, recently co-headlined a show at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento. The results were a packed house, nonstop dancing and a satisfying night of hits from these pop giants.  Both entertainers are huge in the Latin music world and have fared better than most in the US – not just with music, but in TV and film as well. So, when they decided to team up on the “Enrique Iglesias and Pitbull Tour!” (exclamation point intended!),…

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