The feeling of Babeland Gallery and Venue on this night, Saturday the 16th of August, is more like a house party than a traditional gig.

Upstairs, No One is painting a piece, adding the beginnings of a figure in front of swirling mountain scenery. Downstairs, Odd Nosdam and JEL of ANTICON have just finished playing a set using sampler pads to rapidly knock out beats that mix hip hop, rap, indie, and alternative sounds. JEL includes songs dedicated to Oakland and Jason Statham while the crowd bounces along with the music.

The after party of the second quarterly Oakland Drops Beats music crawl, put on by Oaktown Indie Mayhem, is a great example of how Oakland’s music scene is acting creatively, both in order to fill the gap that’s emerged in Oakland over the last few years between the growing number of artists and a lack of enough new venues, and in terms of a enjoying the underground feel while bringing more of that atmosphere to the public.

Oakland Drops Beats can be described as Art Murmur, but for music. People gather, walk the streets, and listen to a variety of genres of music throughout downtown Oakland. Just like the artists that began organizing years ago, those in the Oakland’s music industry are coming together to share their unique community with the rest of the Bay Area.

No One painting above the music.

Babeland Gallery is a great example of what the scene offers, an intimate space not looking for sleek lines, but rather a mash of functional materials and art installations both upstairs and downstairs.

Calling the area where the musicians play a stage is misleading. There is no section of the room raised above the floor. The ceiling is only about 7 feet high. Some taller people in the crowd occasionally hold their palms against the ceiling. The limited headspace creates a sense of comfort and intimacy, though seeing the bands gets hard if you’re a few rows back. Not that it matters too much, since the acoustics of the room make up for the lack of clear visuals.

When Rose Droll takes the “stage” at Babeland, the crowd falls in love with her take on soul immediately. Her band includes a saxophone, and every time there’s a sax solo, the crowd cheers.

The saxophone has made a comeback in indie rock since the late 2000s, but there often seems to be a facetious element to its use: an easy way to add a feeling of oversentimentality or call back the 80s. But this night, Rose Droll’s band uses the jazzy sax in every song. It’s as important to the sound of her set as her piano, the bass, or the drums, and definitely something worth cheering.

Berkeley’s Art Nikels‘ psychedelic sounds mix electronic effects and traditional instruments that echo through the room. The five-piece band includes two guitars, drums, bass, and often uses four-part harmonies to accompany the lead singer. The band’s experimental folk rock, in a similar vein to Brooklyn’s Grizzly Bear, have perfected the jams that build tension and then release back into slow rhythms.

Since the show was running late, the last band, Dirty Ghosts, didn’t go on until past midnight and the crowd had thinned significantly. But that didn’t stop Dirty Ghosts from playing an energetic set of reverb- and delay-soaked garage rock. Halfway through their set, they played a rocking cover of The Payolas’ “The Eyes of a Stranger.” They were the only band to acquiesce to an encore, as the small but emphatic crowd demanded it.

There’s something special going on with Oakland music at the moment. It’s embracing the DIY mentality, but eschewing the exclusive nature that can often accompany the underground scene. Instead, it’s openly embracing the city as a whole and anyone who shares a love of music.

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About The Author

Katie is the Music Editor at OL. She's a music geek, culture junkie, massive A's fan, and Oakland native. When she was six, she stood for five minutes with a felt pennant stuck under Chris Mullin’s armpit. Check out her Oakland music listings at, follow on twitter/instagram as @craziesthawk, or contact at

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