BARF-y, in a good way: Bay Area record labels draw a cattle drive of local music lovers

Pub date February 17, 2014
WriterErin Dage

On Saturday, the first annual Bay Area Record Label Fair (BARF) was born. As a labor of love between Father/Daughter Records and local promoters, Professional Fans, the event set out to be an ode to the ingenuity and entrepreneurial efforts of record labels in the Bay. Some 17 labels, including Slumberland Records, Loglady Records, Polyvinyl Record Co., Alternative Tentacles, and many more, displayed and sold their music at Thee Parkside.

It was a given that BARF would be successful — after all, it was free, and boasted a live show with uber-talented Bay Area acts — but it was truly staggering to see how packed the place was. At times, wandering through the vendor section was nothing short of a cattle drive. The layout of vendors was superb, however; I was pleasantly surprised to see how the folks behind BARF turned the patio at Thee Parkside into a marketplace for music wares.

al lover

Al Lover

Of course, one big thing that initially attracted me to the event (other than the possibility of spending too much money) were the performances by Al Lover, Cocktails, Twin Steps and Dog Party. All bands were from various record labels tabling at BARF. Al Lover kicked off the more musical aspect of the event. As a San Francisco-based music producer, he combines various beats from ‘60s psych-rock and heavy-sounding drum tracks much like those of Wu-Tang Clan alum RZA. Al Lover has also been known to make remixes of tracks from fellow Bay Area artists, such as Fuzz and Burnt Ones.

More people started to filter in when Cocktails, self-dubbed “slop-pop” from San Francisco off Father/Daughter Records, started to play. At times, vocalist and guitarist Patrick Clos’ vocals were reminiscent of Elvis Costello. Often fuzzed out and with a tendency to combine sneering and saccharine-sweet vocals, the band cranked out its set in record time.


Twin Steps, off 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, is a sample-based quartet from Oakland that blends elements of ‘60s soul, weirdo rock, and pop. Known for surf riffs punctuated with yelping vocals, the band is flying off the handle exemplified. Vocalist Drew Pearson tried to engage the audience by routinely darting off the stage and using the crowd as a crutch (literally), but they weren’t quite as receptive as he’d maybe hoped. This was a little disheartening, given the band’s track record of rowdy (or raucous, if you will) shows.

twin steps
Twin Steps

It should be noted here that the audience for the show portion of the event was ultimately meek. Since the event occurred between the hours of noon and 5 pm, maybe there just weren’t enough fierce advocates for day-drinking in the crowd? Pearson was caught saying “I didn’t know we were in a library” during the band’s set. So yes, it was very quiet.

Despite that one shortcoming, Dog Party, a Sacramento-based sister duo (ages 17 and 14) brought an air of Ramones worship to the house. Known cronies of Kepi Ghoulie, their fellow Asian Man Records labelmate and the former frontman for ‘90s pop-punk mainstays Groovie Ghoulies, it’s easy to see where the band draws influence from. The high point of the Dog Party set was its cover of “Los Angeles” by seminal ‘80s punk band X.

dog party
Dog Party

After that, the audience dispersed. Some mingled, others ventured out to vendor area saddled with questions to the tune of “Should I buy this cassette for $5, though I have never heard of this band before?” or perhaps “How did I spend so much money at an event that’s supposed to be free?”

Long story short: BARF was pretty much everything a fan of independent Bay Area music could hope for. So when does this all happen again?