Bay Area Concert Buzz: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival 2017

Bay Area Concert Buzz: Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival 2017


Since the summer of 2008, San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park has played host to the Outside Lands Music and Arts Festival. Like other well-known outdoor festivals (like Coachella and Lollapalooza) Outside Lands takes place over the course of three days and boasts an abundance of high profile performers on multiple stages. Unlike other festivals, Outside Lands bills itself as a “celebration of Music, Food, Wine, Beer, Art, and Comedy,” meaning, there’s something there for everyone (even if that something is getting drunk off Napa Valley Merlots at the Wine Lands pavilion).


The festival will be taking place this weekend: Friday August 11th, Saturday August 12th, and Sunday August 13th. This year also marks the 10th anniversary for Outside Lands, and with an all-star lineup, it’s sure to be one big celebration.


The festival begins on Friday August 11th, with everyone’s favorite virtual group, Gorillaz, headlining. Their latest album, “HUMANZ” was released this past spring. Known for their creativity and unique performances, Gorillaz is the perfect group to kick off this year’s festivities. Also performing on Friday: legendary hip-hop group A Tribe Called Quest; summer music festival indie favorites Alt-J and Fleet Foxes; as well as celebrated pop group Belle and Sebastian.


The Saturday lineup brings rock and heavy metal to the festival, with rock and roll hall of famers, Metallica, headlining in the evening. Queens of the Stone Age, and Alt/electronic pioneers, Empire of the Sun, are also taking the stage earlier that day. But Solange – whose late 2016 album, “A Seat at the Table,” debuted at #1 on the Billboard Top 200 Chart and earned her extensive critical acclaim – is the artist I’m most looking forward to seeing on Saturday.


On Sunday, the final day of the festival (which is typically the most laid back of the three), Jack Antonoff’s indie-pop side project, Bleachers, will perform. In addition to releasing a new Bleachers album, “Gone Now,” in June, Antonoff has been hard at work producing and writing for other artists over the past few years, most notably – Sara Bareilles, Taylor Swift, and Lorde. Speaking of Lorde – the twenty year-old music sensation who just released her sophomore album, “Melodrama” – will be sub-headlining that day. Lorde is known for her dramatic, captivating live performances, and to say I’m excited to see her is quite an understatement. The final act of Outside Lands 2017 will be classic English rock band, The Who, taking fans on a journey through their iconic body of work, from “My Generation” to “Tommy” and “Who’s Next.”

For more information on the festival and to purchase single day tickets or 3-day general admission, visit the Outside Lands Website.

Bay Area Concert Buzz: July-August

Bay Area Concert Buzz: July-August


On Saturday July 22, the hugely successful and highly acclaimed hip-hop duo, Run the Jewels, are taking the stage at San Francisco’s Bill Graham Civic Auditorium. In the wake of their third album, “Run the Jewels 3,” they’ve been selling out venues and headlining summer music festivals. With their political lyrics, they’re widely viewed as the future of hip-hop. For ticket information, click here.

On Sunday July 30, legendary folk rock singer, Neil Diamond, will be performing at San Jose’s SAP Center as part of his 50th Anniversary World Tour. Presented by Live Nation, the world tour is in celebration of the artist’s astonishing career: from selling over 125 million albums worldwide, to multiple Grammy wins and being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Neil Diamond and his music has helped shape the American landscape over the past half century. For more information, check out this link.


The Band Perry will be coming to the Bay Area and performing at two different outdoor venues this summer. The first, at Mountain Winery in Saratoga on Tuesday August 1st; and the second, at Wente Vineyards in Livermore on August 3rd. Both venues will serve as a perfect background for an evening with the unstoppable pop-country trio. Their popularity and massive industry success leaves other country stars shaking in their cowboy boots.


At the Oracle Arena in Oakland on Friday August 4th, the most talented and sought-after rapper in the business, Kendrick Lamar, will be gracing the stage to what is sure to be a spectacular night of hip-hop. Lamar is coming to the Bay as part of THE DAMN. TOUR, celebrating his latest album, which went straight to No. 1 and was certified platinum. For more ticket information, click here. And check out my review of DAMN. here.


Finally, Hans Zimmer, the Academy Award winning composer behind over 150 film scores including “The Lion King,” “The Dark Knight,” “The Pirates of the Caribbean” series and “Inception” has been on tour this year. To the surprise and delight of many music and movie fans, he was even a headliner this year at the largest summer music festival, Coachella. Now, Zimmer is scheduled to take on the Greek Theatre in Berkeley on Wednesday, August 9th. Get your tickets now before they sell out! And don’t forget to bring some popcorn.


What concerts or events are you most excited for in July and August? Comment below!

WiFi Router Upgrade Recommendations

WiFi Router Upgrade Recommendations


If you’re like me, setting up your home router is as enjoyable as a trip to the dentist. Maybe that’s why I have a toothache and my home network is struggling with the 2.4GHz router that I installed 7 years ago. It was a pretty good router in its day, however, 7 years is more like 50 when it comes to technology. It’s currently running well below its optimum due to advances in WiFi standards, improved router technology and increased demands on WiFi from almost every new device I buy. I’m giving in and setting up a new router for my house. But which router should I get? At Blackfire Research, we are often asked for recommendations on which routers will best support whole home wireless streaming. I must mention that technology changes rapidly, so by the time you read this blog post, there may be an even better router on the market. With that in mind, reviews at Tom’s Guide and CNET are my two go-to references.


We do quite a lot of wireless demos and testing at our Blackfire office in San Francisco, which require high performing routers operating at the latest 802.11ac WiFi standard. Netgear and Linksys/Belkin make very fine routers, and the Apple AirPort Extreme is a popular choice, but, we’ve grown particularly fond of two from ASUS that are not only high performing, but reliable, easy to set up, and are now available at a much lower cost than when they were first launched. Those two routers are: the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U.


The more cost effective of the two is the ASUS RT-AC56U, but the ASUS RT-AC68U will give the highest performance. Here’s what we like about both of these routers:

  • Default settings out of the box are good for most situations
  • Subjectively cope with noisy environments better than other routers we’ve tested
  • Relatively low cost (for an 802.11ac router)
  • Mobile phone app simplifies both setup and maintenance
  • Mature design (launched in 2013) which is very reliable
  • Large user community, offering plenty of online advice.


The ASUS RT-AC68U has all the features of the 56U, but adds:

  • 1.3Gb/s (vs. 900Gb/s) data rate at 5GHz
  • 600Gb/s (vs. 300Gb/s) data rate at 2.4GHz
  • External antenna (for more flexible adjustment, tweaking and positioning)


We recommend that you upgrade to the 68U version if:

  • you have a big home
  • there are several walls between your router and your living space
  • you have lots of family members all connecting at once
  • your home internet connection is greater than 200MB/s


You can purchase both the ASUS RT-AC56U and the ASUS RT-AC68U on Amazon.

Further, here’s a breakdown of the tradeoffs between 2.4GHz and 5GHz:



  • supports most WiFi devices; better range; less attenuation by walls and objects
  • congested band due to Bluetooth, cellphones and lots of other non-standard wireless devices



  • Fastest data rates; relatively uncongested frequency band at the moment
  • Not suitable for many devices due to antenna, range limitations and power consumption


For my home, I purchased the ASUS RT-AC68U for the extra capacity for multiple users and flexibility in antenna positioning. For my next blog post, I’ll walk through how I setup my new router.

5 Movies to Watch on the 4th of July

5 Movies to Watch on the 4th of July


For Bay Area dwellers, the 4th of July is usually a disappointment: most years it’s too cold for a backyard barbeque, and good luck trying to catch a glimpse of any fireworks through the dense layer of fog that incessantly rolls in every evening during the summer. Most people who live in the Bay Area tend to skedaddle out of town for the holiday, but for those staying in chilly San Francisco today, instead of trying to make out colors through the clouds, here’s a list of movies to watch on the 4th of July while staying cozy and warm inside.


Forrest Gump

One of the most quoted films of all time, “Forrest Gump” is an excellent choice for The 4th of July. The film chronicles the life of a lovable Southerner, Forrest Gump (Played by Tom Hanks), and takes viewers on an American history tour that spans the second half of the Twentieth Century. Through coincidence, talent, and sheer luck, Forrest continually finds himself in the midst of history unfolding: from meeting Elvis before his big break, fighting in the Vietnam War, engaging in 1960’s counterculture and even investing in Apple Computers. The carefully curated soundtrack especially helps the film fully manifest each decade and provides a perfect anthology of American rock. With a runtime of two hours and twenty minutes, “Forrest Gump” is a great film to watch when you’ve got the entire day off to enjoy. And on the 4th of July, it’s a near-perfect, American-themed film.


Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

You probably watched this uplifting, 1939 film about overcoming political corruption, the goodness of humanity, and the unflappable bedrock of morality that is the American Legislative branch (*sigh*) in your 8th grade Social Studies class. The story follows a Junior Senator, Jeff Smith, who takes on a powerful and corrupt political machine, culminating in an epic, 24-hour long filibuster highlighting American ideals. This film is exactly what your therapist wants you to watch this 4th of July.  


Apollo 13

The 1995, major box office success directed by Ron Howard depicts the true story of the on-board explosion and subsequent emergency landing expedition of the Apollo 13 lunar mission. Starring Tom Hanks as Jim Lovell and Kevin Bacon as Jack Swigert, the film was praised for being scientifically and historically accurate. Besides the all-star cast and stellar attention to detail,  “Apollo 13” is an excellent story about the science, ingenuity, and perseverance that defined the Apollo Program and lifted the American spirit during the Cold War.


This 1972 movie-musical about the events leading up to the signing of The Declaration of Independence features our Founding Fathers (Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, & Company) in neatly choreographed musical routines. Based off of the 1969 Broadway musical of the same name, “1776” borrows portions of its dialogue and song lyrics directly from the letters, diary entries, and memoirs of participants of the Second Continental Congress. Overall, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously, putting a jazzy twist on a long, tiresome debate and the birthday of American Independance.


Independence Day

No 4th of July movie list would be complete without “Independence Day,” the 1996 sci-fi disaster flick about aliens coming to Earth to destroy all of mankind on – you guessed it – the 4th of July. Featuring iconic performances by Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum (and an epically inspirational speech by fictional President Thomas Whitmore), it’s easy to remember that this movie was a really big deal when it first came out – from its high stakes action scenes to its cutting edge special effects (like blowing up the White House), “Independence Day” helped define the modern blockbuster heading into twenty-first century. But most importantly, “Independence Day” brought to light a Utopic vision of all of humanity putting aside their differences once and for all to seriously kick some evil alien butt.

Happy 4th of July! Do you have any favorite 4th of July movies that didn’t make the list? Tell us yours in the comments section below!

Bay Area Concert Buzz: Outdoor Venue Special

Bay Area Concert Buzz: Outdoor Venue Special


Despite Mark Twain’s cheeky remark that “the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco,” the Bay Area does have the occasional temperate day during the so-called “warmer” months. Like most major cities across the US, summertime in San Francisco is a frenzy of music festivals and outdoor concerts, because what better way is there to celebrate summer than spending time outdoors listening to excellent music? Here’s a list of outdoor concerts and festivals we’re excited for throughout June and July in the Bay Area. (Just don’t forget to bring a sweater!)

John Mellencamp is performing a two night engagement on June 13th and 14th at The Mountain Winery in Saratoga, California (just south of Cupertino) as part of his “Sad Clowns and Hillbillies” Tour. Listen to classics like “Jack and Diane,” “Hurts So Good,” and “Pink Houses” while taking in breathtaking views, overlooking the entire Valley. The Mountain Winery hosts it’s Annual Summer Concert Series in an outdoor amphitheater facing it’s historic, ivy-covered Winery Building. For more information, check out The Mountain Winery’s website. For ticket information, click here.


The Monterey International Pop Festival is celebrating it’s 50th anniversary this summer. Founded in 1967, it was the first major rock festival, predating Woodstock, and was an influential force behind (and kickstarted) the famous Summer of Love in 1967. The original festival hosted the likes of The Jimi Hendrix Experience (their first major US performance), Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, The Who, and The Grateful Dead. Now, 50 years later, the festival, scheduled for June 16th-18th, boasts big names like Leon Bridges, Father John Misty, Regina Spektor, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Dr. Dog, and The Head and the Heart. The festival is taking place at the same location as it did 50 years ago, at The Monterey County Fairgrounds. For more information, check out their website here.


ID1OT Music Festival and Comic Conival, created and hosted by stand-up comedian, Chris Hardwick (“@midnight with Chris Hardwick”), will be taking place at The Shoreline Ampitheatre in Mountain View on June 24th and 25th. This two-day event features musical acts on The Mainstage, such as Weezer, Girl Talk, TV on the Radio, OK GO, and Animal Collective; a Comedy Tent with comedians Demetri Martin, Michael Che, and Garfunkel & Oates performing; a Comic Book Artist’s Alley; and a Comic Conival with games, interactive displays, photo ops, and more. For more information about this unique festival, check out their website.


Australian rock legend, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds, will be performing at The Greek Theatre in Berkeley on Saturday, June 24th. The architecture of this gorgeous outdoor amphitheater is based off of the ancient Greek theater, Epidaurus. Over the years, The Greek Theater in Berkeley has become one of the most well known, and well liked, outdoor concert venues in the Bay Area. Located at the base of the Berkeley Foothills, The Greek Theatre overlooks the city, as well as the picturesque UC Berkeley campus. The Greek Theatre is owned and operated by the University. On July 14, multi-talented musician and singer, Beck, will  be performing at The Greek Theatre alongside fellow Los Angeles native, Thundercat, for what’s sure to be an unforgettable night of funk-rock. For upcoming concert information, click here.



Also on July 14, rocker Alanis Morissette will be performing at The Wente Vineyards, just south of Livermore, in the midst of the beautiful, rolling hills of the East Bay. Wente Vineyards provides a unique amphitheater experience, where guests can reserve a table for the concert and enjoy a sunset dinner provided by the Vineyard’s restaurant. So go ahead, swallow that “Jagged Little Pill” while feasting on a gourmet meal with world class wines. For more information, click here.

What outdoor concerts or festivals are you most excited for this summer?