1. Please Do Not Fight. Elder statesmen of the Bay Area Rebirth movement, PDNF are notable mainly due to their profound influence on other Fogtown bands as well as mentoring Madders and Cypher Syndicate. Their excellent album Leave It All Behind (2007) could very well be the album that started the much-lauded “rebirth” in the first place.
2. Battlehooch. Like PDNF, Battlehooch are considered part of the first wave of Bay Area rock-scene revivalists, but it’s not easy imagining Zen Zenith growing a Dali moustache and calling people “bromang.” These guys play Beefheart-style experimental fusion weird enough to spice up the whole SF rock brew.
3. Finish Ticket. One of the few truly serious bands to emerge from Alameda, Finish Ticket play a sort of jazzy indie pop that in no way sounds like a grotesque fusion. They’re post-punk rock n’ soul, rarely crazy but always cool.
4. Lou Lou & The Guitarfish. A quartet featuring two offspring of Crime’s Henry Rosenthal (Lou Lou & George), LL&GF exist for the sole purpose of injecting a little punk rock into the indie-pop-dominated Bay Area rock scene. Judging by their success, I’ll assume they’ve succeeded.
5. Handshake. Think Grizzly Bear with banjos and you have a basic idea of what this Novato quartet are like. A concept band, yes, but far from a novelty.
6. Emily’s Army. If punk is truly dead, how can these guys exist?
7. Cypher Syndicate. Spectacular live and not bad in the studio, Cypher Syndicate are in the same vein as bands like Pere Ubu that use straight-ahead pop rock as a template for their crazy experiments. Three out of four members have released solo singles, all of which are worth checking out.
8. The Audiophiles. Featuring bluegrass guitar virtuoso Greg Fleischut, rising neo-folk star Jeremy Lyon, and honorary Guitarfish Nathan Pastor, the Audiophiles are an unwitting supergroup of Bay Area rock n’ rollers. Yet their sound is nothing like you’d expect--witty, catchy alt-pop with a distinctly Bay Area ethos.
9. Fever Charm. Groovy indie quartet emerged from the ashes of Oakland funk-punkers Nuck Fu with a new drummer and a new ethos. They also distinguish themselves from the rest of the pop pack by sporting a great singer in Ari Berl.
10. The Psychotherapists. It’s impossible to tell whether or not the Psychotherapists have any talent, but their utterly baffling brand of Moondog-meets-Stranglers oddball rock is some of the best outsider music since “Rock n’ Roll McDonald’s.”
11. The Piers. While obscure, the Piers possess an emotional intensity few bands twice their age have come even close to matching. None of the members are shredding gods, but they much, much more than make up for it with pure soul--a quality that seems overshadowed by technical wizardry in many bands these days.
12. DFR. This hard rock ensemble has become a local-music-festival “it” band following a performance at SF Pride in 2008 under the name Squeezles. They have absolutely zero studio recordings to their name, but their live shows are that much more killer.
13. Madders. Sam Crocker is a punk who knows his roots, and it reflects in his band’s raw punkaboogie rock. Has appeared on American Songwriter despite having yet to release any music elsewhere besides their MySpace.
14. The SHE’S. Sought by every impresario from Suisun Bay to Davenport, the SHE’s have released a full album but have yet to attract more than a small cult following.
15. Maus Haus. Featuring members of Battlehooch, Maus Haus are electro-rock kings at best and a more-than-competent Black Moth Super Rainbow tribute at worst.