LEFT OF THE DIAL Is there any problem more thoroughly modern, more reflective of the way we currently measure the value of our experiences, more completely indicative of a charmed First-World life than that of FOMO?
The fear of missing out on a good time is, of course, hardly generational. If all our grandmothers had, at age 16, discovered their friends were throwing a giant party without them, they’d likely be a little hurt — but then they’d be like, “Wait a minute, I’m a garment worker and I make three cents an hour in terrible conditions and women still don’t have the right to vote, maybe I have bigger things to worry about.” More importantly, they never would have known said party took place unless one of their coworkers at the garment factory said something directly to them about it — which, what gives, bitchy garment factory coworker?
Now, of course, we have The Internet. And in the prevailing social economy of the times — under whose rules it didn’t happen if you didn’t Instagram it — an event like South by Southwest has all the right conditions for a perfect FOMO-inducing storm.
Yes, we’re bringing you SXSW coverage this week on our website — and so will roughly one-third to half your friends on Facebook. Yes, those breakfast tacos look delicious. Hey, cool, that’s you and Lena Dunham taking a selfie together, with Edward Snowden in the background making bunny ears via satellite. Of course we’re incredibly jealous that you’re seeing [insert band that will be considered cool for the next two years and then become “too mainstream” and then you can tell everyone you saw them way back when at SXSW].
You know what else is cool? Staying in San Francisco. At the risk of sounding like the least-fun person in the world, it’s tough for me not to wonder during events like this — weeks when half the young white-collar people in town defect from the Bay Area en masse — what would happen if half these folks were to spend even half of what they’re spending elsewhere on the arts scene in San Francisco.
With that in mind, here’s a handy guide to musical happenings for those of who are staying in the Bay Area this week. And remember: Staying home is the new hitting the road.
Oakland’s moonbell makes heady, moody, psyched-out shoegaze that doesn’t skimp on the requisite wall-of-reverb. There are obvious nods to My Bloody Valentine, but there’s also a modern, melodic sensibility here, in no small part thanks to the guitar fireworks layered over floaty vocals that don’t sound disaffected so much as they seem to be transmitting emotions — or the soundtrack to a hazy afternoon bender of some kind — from outer space. The band’s new LP drops April 1, but it’ll have some cassette copies available at this show, as bands that record at Tiny Telephone are wont to have.
Barbecue pairing: A slab of ribs from Everett & Jones. Alternatively, one too many greyhounds at Cafe Van Kleef.
With That Ghost and White Cloud
579 18th St, Oakland
The Kenyan-born, longtime SF-based singer-songwriter-producer Sila Mutungi uses the term Afrofunk to define his music, but the list of influences that announce themselves on his new record, SuperAfrican, is an impressively long one: There’s Sly Stone-esque funk, to be sure, but there’s also jazz, more than a little R&B, Latin-infused guitar, bright, big band horns, almost maniacally shouted choruses, and a vibe that pays homage to the country of his birth. This record release show will also mark the release of a comic book by the same name, written by Eric K. Arnold, that “focuses on a young African superhero who takes on villains in African settings, from refugee camps to diamond mines” — African kids should have a superhero that looks like them, Mutungi explains. All proceeds from the comic book sales will go to onemama.org, a non-profit funding a self-sustaining medical clinic in Uganda.
Barbecue pairing: Rotisserie chicken, Pete’s BBQ.
777 Valencia, SF
The Record Swap at the Knockout has, one would like to imagine, a vibe that would have been in place at the first few SXSW festivals: that of a room full of people who really want to nerd out about music, and have a found a tiny little corner of the world to do it in. Unlike the current state of SXSW, you probably won’t find any tech talks or marketing gurus; it’s not known for inciting social media mayhem. (They have a Facebook page, but that’s about it; if anyone wants to start hashtagging things #rsatk with me next week, you’re more than welcome.) This pseudo-monthly party is completely free, and comes with the benefit of Taqueria Cancun next door. Say what you will about breakfast tacos; I’ll take San Francisco Mexican food any day of the week (and at any time of day).
Barbecue pairing: Nope. See previous sentence. Super veggie burrito, black beans, extra hot sauce, please.
3223 Mission, SF
We Became Owls is the name for the musical output of Oakland’s Andrew Blair and Ross Warner, Orinda natives and guitarists who’ve been writing songs together since middle school, plus a cast of rotating supporting characters on the banjo, cello, upright bass, piano and drums, with lap-steel and sing-along, sit-around-the-campfire-with-a-bottle-of-whiskey choruses front and center. Call it alt-folk, Americana, what have you — these kids have listened to their Bob Dylan, and there’s a depth to their songwriting, a level of genuine soul in their sound that’s not just easy on the ears; they mean it, and that makes all the difference in the world.
Barbecue pairing: Why, the kitchen at BOTH of course. A cheeseburger, plus copious amounts of PBR.
With decker., TaughtMe8:30pm, $12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF
If you’re among the brave souls who will actually be venturing into North Beach during this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day tomfoolery (socially-sanctioned, Jameson-fueled screaming in large groups), you could do a lot worse than to catch the lineup at O’Reilly’s annual block party. The Quiet Men is an eight-piece that takes the structure of traditional Irish folk music and adds elements of rough-hewn, forward-charging punk rock, with half the members taking turns on the writing and lead vocals. Think The Pogues, sure, but with less-shitfaced vocals (singer Erin Vogel’s clear voice, in particular, sounds like it can rise above a lot of chaos), plus members who have clearly taken more of their cues from the Against Me! side of the spectrum. Still darn good drinking music.
Barbecue pairing: I really have to tell you what thematically appropriate foods and beverages to put in your body at a St. Patrick’s day block party? Didn’t think so.
With Fergus & Michael, The Hooks, The Guverment, more
O’Reilly’s Irish Pub & Restaurant
622 Green, SF
The Parmesans are a string trio that somehow, over the course of the last year, became the secret favorite local band of every musician I know. It’s not hard to see why: Their sense of showmanship is matched by a game-for-anything, lyrical sense of humor, but they’re all too damn good at their instruments for any of it to actually be a joke. Throw in tight vocal harmonies layered over mandolin, acoustic guitar, and trumpet, and you get a live band experience that somehow manages to seem like far more than just three dudes on a stage. Their debut LP last year was a bright moment on the SF musical landscape, but we also hear they’ve been in the studio recently, so this show should have some newly-birthed gems.
Barbecue pairing: Think about how much money you saved by not going to SXSW — not to mention this show being free. Now try to eat that amount of tater tots and consume that amount of whiskey and beer on the back patio, in the sunshine, surrounded by zero celebrities and, accordingly, zero gawkers, with nary a VIP pass nor a viral marketing scheme in sight. Later (if you are not dead from attempting this — YMMV), go sleep it off in the sunshine at Jackson Park.
Fear of missing what, now?
With Sunny Jim Brown, Hay Babes
1600 17th St, SF