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Favorite bands in the North Bay music scene

One of the best things about the North Bay live music scene is that it never stands still. The region has its share of mainstay local bands that have been consistently popular for decades, but there also are new bands coming up all the time.

When we asked area music lovers to tell us about their favorites among Sonoma County's rising music acts, we got a long list of names, but four of them stood out. Nearly every list included the Bootleg Honeys, Midori and Ezra Boy, Snake Walk and the Timothy O'Neil Band.

So here is a quick look at a fab foursome of local groups with relatively short histories but a growing following:

The Bootleg Honeys

Performing everywhere from the Great American Music Hall in San Francisco to the Kate Wolf Festival in Laytonville, this all-woman trio of singer-songwriters has been building a fan base for their original folk, country and Americana music over the past few years.

'As new as we are, we've had some incredible opportunities, and I think it's because the support we have gotten from Sonoma County has been really incredible. We played the New Noise Music Festival in Santa Barbara in 2013. It takes some bands a lot longer to get where we are,' said Katie Phillips, 32, of Santa Rosa, who sings and plays acoustic guitar with the band.

'We're playing a lot of bigger places, but also a lot of wineries. Then we have a monthly gig at the Twin Oaks Tavern in Penngrove and that's free. It's a great place to workshop new material,' Phillips said.

The group also includes Alison Harris of Sebastopol on vocals, acoustic guitar, keys and tambourine, and Hannah Jern-Miller of Petaluma on vocals, electric guitar and harmonica.

'Because of families and jobs and life, sometimes it's hard to set long-term goals,' Phillips said. 'Our goal is to have fun, make a little bit of money and get our music out there. We are grassroots and very homemade at this point.'

The Bootleg Honeys will perform 7-10 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 12, at the Twin Oaks Tavern. Free admission. twinoakstavernpenngrove.com, 795-5118. The group also plays at 7 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, at the Gypsy Cafe in Sebastopol. $25. 861-3825, gypsy-cafe.com. facebook.com/thebootleghoneys

Midori and Ezra Boy

Founded in 2008 and originally known as Midori and Audioclique, the band moved from soft pop rock to a heavier dance and party rock style in 2011, starting a new chapter in its career.

'We pretty much started a new band and changed the name,' said lead singer Midori Longo, 22. of Santa Rosa. 'We moved forward with a different sound.'

The band's bassist is Midori's father, Ron Longo, who explained the origins of the group's new name:

'The name came from Midori's childhood,' he said. 'She had a best friend in grade school that she was convinced was named Ezra Boy. She found out years later that his name actually was Savoy.'

Midori writes the lyrics and her dad writes the music; some of the songs come out of group jam sessions. The band also includes Dave Briggs on drums and vocals. Sean Zilla played guitar on the band's current CD, 'So What,' but recently moved to Los Angeles. The new CD is the band's third so far.

'This new album is definitely polished, but it's also a little more raw, especially some of the lyrics,' Midori said.

Midori and Ezra Boy performed at the first BottleRock music festival in Napa in 2013, and has played at the HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol and the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa.

'I just like performing and traveling,' Midori said. 'We've been to Canada, Florida, Colorado and all over the place. I love getting to play music, and meeting people we never would have met before.'

The band will perform 8 p.m on Friday, March 13, at 755 After Dark (formerly Aubergine) in Sebastopol. 829-2722. facebook.com/aubergine.sebastopol, ezraboymusic.com

Snake Walk

A young Santa Rosa trio with a flair for the dramatic, Snake Walk combines literate, original lyrics with unpredictable pacing and spontaneous performances.

'We like to use the words 'adventurous' and 'artful' to describe our music,' said Jaycob Bellochio. 20, co-founder of the group.

The band includes Bellochio and Stephanie McCollum on guitar, banjo and bass, and Lukas Thompson on ukulele. All three also sing and play synthesizer, percussion and glockenspiel.

'We've had different members throughout the past few years,' Bellochio said, 'but Lukas and I have been with it since the beginning. We started the band.'

All three members collaborate on the band's original music, with Thompson acting as lead writer for a lot of the lyrics. A hint of drama pervades their work.

'I've been an actor my whole life,' said Thompson, 20. 'My parents are actors. The band is involved with working with the Imaginists theater company here in Santa Rosa. I think that contributes somewhat to our performance style and the way the song's are written.'

Thompson's parents, Argo Thompson and Danielle Cain, have long been active at Sonoma County theaters as actors and directors. Argo Thompson was instrumental in launching the 6th Street Playhouse in Santa Rosa.

Snake Walk has been busy playing both club dates and larger festival gigs.

'Over the summer, we played the Rivertown Revival in Petaluma,' said McCollum, 25. 'Then we played the All Halloweds' Eve show on Halloween at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa.'

Snake Walk will perform 7-11 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 8, at 755 After Dark in Sebastopol. $5-10. 829-2722. facebook.com/aubergine.sebastopol, snakewalk.bandcamp.com

Timothy O'Neil Band

Led by lead singer and guitarist Timothy O'Neil, 30, of Cotati, this Americana-style quintet aims to create what O'Neil calls 'some boot-stompin,' whiskey-drinkin' music.'

O'Neil has been active with his own band for the past four years, and also plays mandolin and banjo with the North Bay country group Frankie Boots and County Line. O'Neil performed with Boots and company at Napa's first BottleRock music festival in 2013. The O'Neil band played Petaluma's Rivertown Revival.

The O'Neil Band is known for having a good time onstage, but the group also has ambitions.

'Life is about living. We want people to have a beer and a good time,' O'Neil said, 'but we need to start upping our game. We're stepping out of the bar scene more now.'

The group also includes Brian Crites on bass and vocals, Tony Gibson on mandolin and vocals, Andrew Hobbs on pedal steel guitar and Eric Or Sweden on banjo and vocals.

The Timothy O'Neil Band will perform at 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 20, at Murphy's Irish Pub (free, sonomapub.com, 935-0660) in Sonoma and 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27, at Spancky's Bar (spanckysbar.com, 664-0169) in Cotati. timothyoneilband.com

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. Read his Arts blog at arts.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.

Dan Taylor

Arts & Entertainment, The Press Democrat

Do you take fun seriously? I know I do. Tell me what you want to know about arts and entertainment in the North Bay to make the best use of your leisure time and money. As a longtime local arts journalist, I have learned where to look and who to ask.

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