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Good things, small packages



MUSIC In 2004, shortly following the Napster-fueled revolution of file-sharing, the preeminence of the album as popular music’s default narrative device was endangered. And forget vinyl; the medium had been left for dead a generation earlier. That year, though, David Barker had an idea.

In his capacity as an editor at Continuum, a modestly sized academic publisher in London, Barker launched 33 1/3: a proposed series of portable, novella-sized volumes, named for the speed of a record album, with the purpose of giving writers of all stripes an outlet with which to ruminate on an LP of personal significance, allowing plenty of room for experimentation and creative freedom.

Fast-forward to 2014, and Bloomsbury — the imprint that bought Continuum in 2011 — is celebrating 33 1/3’s 10th anniversary. Coinciding with the publication of its 100th volume, Susan Fast’s take on Dangerous by Michael Jackson, a big party at Brooklyn’s Powerhouse Arena on Oct. 2 will feature discussions with past writers, all to commemorate the series’ now-sweeping archive of critical analyses, making-of’s, memoirs, and even fiction.

In a musical landscape that has learned to embrace vinyl all over again (sales have more than quadrupled in the last decade), the series has single-handedly built a market for long-form music journalism that hadn’t existed before its arrival.

The impetus for 33 1/3’s creation came shortly after Barker, who “grew up in the 1980s on a hardcore diet of the NME and Melody Maker,” moved to NYC from London, and found himself deeply underwhelmed by the music sections at even the most world-class independent bookstores.

“There seemed to be such a lack of anything approaching interesting analysis,” Barker told the Bay Guardian. “Lots of decent biographies, lots of mediocre ones, and not much else. So the series was really an attempt to create a space where writers and readers who love music could meet to express and share opinions and try out different ways of writing about music.”

Reaching far beyond the dry, biographical style of most music-oriented bookstore fare, and mass-market publishers’ tendencies towards major artists like U2 and Jimi Hendrix, Barker set out to address canonized albums (The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds; James Brown’s Live at the Apollo) and niche classics (Van Dyke Parks’ Song Cycle, Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats) alike, written with a rabid fervor that the record-collector contingency could get behind.

It’s worth noting that although Continuum and now Bloomsbury have thrived on a scholarly reputation, the selection process for new volumes in the 33 1/3 series — an annual, monthlong open call for proposals — is quite egalitarian in its approach.

“It’s just amazing to read proposals from such a massive range of people,” Barker said. “High school students in the US, scholars in Australia, musicians in Scotland, journalists in Canada, and so on.”

Encompassing critics, superfans, and musicians such as The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy (who dissected the Replacements’ Let It Be) and John Darnielle of the Mountain Goats (who took on Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality), 33 1/3’s base of writers has come to resemble a group of music-lovers more than a pack of scholars. In addition to producing some first-rate accounts of crucial albums and their respective recording processes, this approach has resulted in some volumes that’ve ventured off the deep-end of “criticism” into something else entirely.

Kevin Dettmar used Gang of Four’s Entertainment! as a springboard from which to explore Marxist theory, while Darnielle took his favorite Black Sabbath album into fictional territory, with the account of a 15-year-old boy trapped in a mental institution. LD Beghtol responded to the Magnetic Fields’ 69 Love Songs with an encyclopedic, alphabetical rundown of paragraph-long snippets, while Douglas Wolk framed James Brown’s Live at the Apollo with Cold War politics, flipping between that legendary night in Harlem, and the peak of the Cuban Missle Crisis.

“It was always intended to be experimental,” Barker said, “and for the pool of writers to include journalists, novelists, musicians, broadcasters, and anyone else who had a story to tell about a record they loved.”

However, according to Ally Jane Grossan, who assumed the duty of series editor after Barker moved back across the pond, the 33 1/3 series is set to take on its first non-album entry, opening the door for a whole new set of possibilities.

“Andrew Schartmann proposed a volume on the ‘Super Mario Bros.’ soundtrack (yes, the video game) during the last open call,” Grossan said, “and my first thought was ‘That’s not exactly an album.’ I quickly banished that thought and replaced it with, ‘Actually, this book is going to be amazing. Here’s a musicologist and passionate composer writing about one of the most important and revolutionary pieces of music in the 20th century.’ If that’s not a ’33 1/3,’ I don’t know what is!”

Thanks to the relative success of independent booksellers (with large chains disappearing), and the new resurgence of vinyl heightening the cult appeal of small record stores, the 33 1/3 series has found a proprietary niche in between the musical and literary worlds over the past 10 years, delivering a level of in-depth analysis and reflection that Internet-based writing has mostly failed to reach.

Just as Barker and now Grossan have approached the series as a love letter to the ritual of record collecting, and to the narrative cohesion of the album format, a certain breed of music-lover has come to fetishize the 33 1/3 brand in a similar way — stacking the sleekly packaged volumes on his or her bookshelf with the same care and sentimentality that defines a lovingly curated record collection. In a culture of music driven by the immediate, if ultimately insubstantial, delivery system of the Internet, 33 1/3’s arrival at the 10-year mark is a testament to the collector in us all.

A show a day: Your fall music calendar


FALL ARTS What’s going on in Bay Area music these next three months? Glad you asked.

Here’s your musical agenda from Labor Day through Thanksgiving, with highlights from our favorite fall festivals.

Aug. 27 Terry Malts Brick and Mortar, SF. www.brickand-mortarmusic.com

Aug. 28 Black Cobra Vipers with French Cassettes The Chapel, SF. www.thechapelsf.com

Aug. 29 Blind Willies Viracocha, SF. www.viracochasf.com

Aug. 30 Mistah F.A.B. Slim’s, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Aug. 31 LIVE 105’s Punk Rock Picnic with The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise, and more. Are you a late-thirties/early-forties punk rock guy or gal who can’t agree on much of anything with your 13-year-old these days? Doesn’t get much better than this lineup. Bonus points for screaming along to all the swearing on The Offspring’s “Bad Habit.” Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. www.theshorelineamphitheatre.com

Sept. 1 Hiero Day. Souls of Mischief, Del, and the rest of the guys have promised some pretty big guest stars at this week’s fest, but even without ’em — a free block party with beer from Linden Street Brewery and music from some of the Bay Area’s best underground rappers? Guests, schmests. Downtown Oakland, www.hieroday.com

Sept. 2 Ghost & Gale Brick and Mortar, SF. www.brickandmortarmusic.com

Sept. 3 Joey Cape Thee Parkside, SF. www.theeparkside.com

Sept. 4 Carletta Sue Kay Hemlock Tavern, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com

Sept. 4-13 Mission Creek Oakland Music & Arts Festival. With a range of heavy hitters — from B. Hamilton and Bill Baird to Whiskerman — this is a showcase of the fertile ground that is Oakland’s indie rock scene right now, most with door prices you’re not likely to see from these bands again. Venues throughout Oakland, www.mcofest.org.

Sept. 5 Sam Chase with Rin Tin Tiger Uptown, Oakl. www.uptownnightclub.com

Sept. 6 Bart Davenport, Foxtails Brigade, more Block Party, downtown Oakland, www.mcofest.org

Sept. 7 Coheed and Cambria, Fox Theater, Oakl. www.thefoxoakland.com

Sept. 8 The Rentals Slim’s, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Sept. 9 Wild Eyes Knockout, SF. www.theknockoutsf.com

Sept. 10 Kyrsten Bean New Parish, Oakl., www.thenewparish.com

Sept. 11 Sonny & The Sunsets Eagle Tavern, SF. www.sf-eagle.com

Sept. 11-14 Downtown Berkeley MusicFest. A range of bluesy, folky, dancey bands from all over the Bay — especially recommended: the First Person Singular presentation of Beck’s Song Reader Sept. 11 and The Parmesans at Jupiter Sept. 14. Venues all over Berkeley, www.downtownberkeleymusicfest.org

Sept. 12-14, 15th Annual Electronic Music Festival Brava Theater Center, SF. www.sfemf.org

Sept. 13 The Breeders Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Sept. 13-14 Forever Never Land, “California’s only 21+ music festival,” Avila Beach Golf Resort, www.foreverneverland.us

Sept. 15 Vulfpeck Brick and Mortar, SF. www.brickandmortar.com

Sept. 16 Lil Dicky Independent, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Sept. 17 Anais Mitchell The Chapel, SF. www.thechapelsf.com

Sept. 18 Silent Comedy and Strange Vine Bottom of the Hill, SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

Sept. 19 Blake Mills, The Chapel, SF. www.thechapelsf.com

Sept. 20 Old Crow Medicine Show The Masonic, SF. www.masonicauditorium.com

Sept. 20-21 Berkeley World Music Festival All over Berkeley, www.berkeleyworldmusic.org

Sept. 20-21 Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival, with Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, more. www.russianriverfestivals.com

Sept. 21 Oakland Music Festival with The Coup, Kev Choice, more Downtown Oakland, www.oaklandmusicfestival.com.

Sept. 22 La Roux Fox Theater, Oakl. www.thefoxoakland.com

Sept. 23 Cello Joe The Chapel Bar, SF. www.thechapelsf.com

Sept. 24 Skeletonwitch, Black Anvil DNA Lounge, SF. www.dnalounge.com

Sept. 25-28 Philip Glass’ Days and Nights Festival Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur; Sunset Cultural Center, Carmel-by-the-Sea, www.daysandnightsfestival.com

Sept. 26 Bob Mould Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Sept. 27 Wu-Tang Clan Warfield, SF. www.thewarfieldtheatre.com

Sept. 27 Redwood City Sala Festival Courthouse Square, Redwood City, www.redwoodcity.org

Sept. 28 Sam Smith Fox Theater, Oakl. www.thefoxoakland.com

Sept. 29 Motown on Mondays Legionnaire Saloon, Oakl. www.legionnairesaloon.com

Sept. 30 Pixies The Masonic, SF. www.masonicauditorium.com

Oct. 1 Rhymesayers presents Brother Ali, Bambu Bottom of the Hill, SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

Oct. 2 Lorde Greek Theatre, Berk. www.thegreektheatreberkeley.com

Oct. 3-5 Berkeley Hawaiian Music Festival Freight and Salvage, Berkl. www.thefreight.org.

Oct. 3-5 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.hardlystrictlybluegrass.com

Oct 3-5 TBD Festival, Riverfront, West Sacramento. Emerging Bay Area acts like 8th Grader mingle with the big kids (Blondie, Moby, Danny Brown, Kurt Vile) at this seventh annual celebration of “music, art, design, and food.” A low-key vibe and great chance to see some huge acts in a seemingly unlikely location. www.tbdfest.com.

Oct. 4 Cibo Matto The Chapel, SF. www.thechapelsf.com

Oct. 5 Bombay Bicycle Club Warfield, SF. www.thewarfieldtheatre.com

Oct. 6 The War on Drugs with Cass McCombs Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Oct. 7 Thurston Moore Great American Music Hall, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Oct. 8 The King Khan & BBQ Show Great American Music Hall, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Oct. 9 Imelda May Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Oct. 10 Too Short Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. www.shorelineamphitheatre.com

Oct. 11 Pomplamoose Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Oct. 12 Jack Beats Mezzanine, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com

Oct. 13 Mutual Benefit Independent, www.theindependentsf.com

Oct. 14-15 Culture Collide. This new-to-the-Bay-Area party has been rocking LA for the past few years, but it seems to have taken on an appropriately Mission-esque flavor for its first Mission takeover: Local kids like Grmln alongside national acts like Cloud Nothings and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah alongside a whole host of buzzy Korean, Australian, and UK bands? Yeah, we’re there. Up and down Valencia in the Mission, with multiple stages including the Elbo Room. www.culturecollide.com

Oct. 15 Of Montreal Great American Music Hall, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Oct. 16 Russian Red Independent, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Oct. 17 Pup Brick and Mortar Music Hall, www.brickandmortarmusichall.com

Oct. 18-19 Treasure Island Music Festival

Oct. 20 Kimbra Independent, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Oct. 21 Melvins Great American Music Hall, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Oct. 22 Kat Edmonson Great American Music Hall, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Oct. 23 The Blank Tapes Brick and Mortar Music Hall, www.brickandmortarmusichall.com

Oct. 24 Foxygen Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Oct. 25 Titan Ups and Carletta Sue Kay DNA Lounge, SF. www.dnalounge.com

Oct. 26 Bridget Everett Independent, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Oct. 27 Warpaint Regency Ballroom, SF. ww.theregencyballroom.com

Oct. 28 Broken Bells The Masonic, SF. www.masonicauditorium.com

Oct. 29 King Tuff Great American Music Hall, SF. www. slimspresents.com

Oct. 30 Tycho Fox Theater, Oakl. www.thefoxoakland.com

Oct. 31 LIVE 105’s Spookfest with Chromeo, Alesso, more Oracle Arena, Oakl., www.live105.cbslocal.com

Nov. 1 Stone Foxes with Strange Vine The Chapel, SF. www.thechapelsf.com

Nov. 2 Citizen Cope Catalyst, Santa Cruz. www.catalystclub.com

Nov. 3 The Black Keys Oracle Arena, Oakl., www.coliseum.com

Nov. 4 Frankie Rose with Cold Beat Bottom of the Hill, SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

Nov. 5 Finch, Maps & Atlases Slim’s, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Nov. 6 Bleachers Independent, SF. www.theindependent.sf.com

Nov. 7 Slowdive Warfield, SF. www.thewarfieldtheatre.com

Nov. 8 Shovels & Rope Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Nov. 9 Mirah Independent, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Nov. 10 Psychedelic Furs, Lemonheads Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Nov. 11 Mac DeMarco Fillmore, SF. www.thefillmore.com

Nov. 12 Shakey Graves Independent, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Nov. 13 Generationals The Chapel, SF. www.thechapelsf.com

Nov. 14 Deltron 3030 Catalyst, Santa Cruz. www.catalystclub.com

Nov. 15 J. Mascis Independent, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Nov. 16 Hot Water Music Slim’s, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Nov. 17 Culture Club Fox Theater, Oakl. www.thefoxoakland.com

Nov. 18 The 1975 The Masonic, SF. www.masonicauditorium.com

Nov. 19 Har Mar Superstar Bottom of the Hill, SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

Nov. 20 Minus the Bear Slim’s, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Nov. 21 Seu Jorge Bimbo’s 365 Club, SF. www.bimbos365club.com

Nov. 22 Peanut Butter Wolf Brick and Mortar Music Hall, www.brickandmortarmusichall.com

Nov. 23 Lucero Slim’s, SF. www.slimspresents.com

Summer sounds



The debut full-length from this SF-based trio, out Aug. 26, is full of dance-worthy electro pop with what feels like a surround-sound wall of synth, recorded, layered, and perfected at our own Different Fur Studios. Jumpy, bright, but not too cacophonous for a hungover late August day at the park; it’d pair well with DIY mimosas, come to think of it. Catch ’em at a free in-store at Amoeba Aug. 23, or at the album release party at Bottom of the Hill Aug. 29.

Fake Mirror

Self-recorded using an 8-track tape over the course of four years, The Aerosols‘ sophomore record calls to mind bootleg recordings of your favorite sing-songy indie or punk bands getting weird and stoned and psyche-y in someone’s college house basement. I’m thinking here of a particular Weezer rarities compilation, but The Aerosols seem more committed to their weirdness than that, with a distinct, sneering Brit-pop overlay that never feels forced. Get far out at the album release show Aug. 31 at the Make-Out Room.

Dying Is Fun

We’ve been waiting on this one a long time — ever since this Oakland art-rock quartet started dropping darkly entertaining singles, with cut-above-the-rest grunge operatics thanks to singer Sivan Gur-Arieh’s stage presence and creative interpretation of the violin as a tool for punk rock. The band just signed to Tricycle Records for this debut LP, so we’re excited to see what’s next. Their next wild and woolly live show will be an album release party Sept. 5 at the Rickshaw Stop.

Uncle John Farquhar

The second full-length from this Americana four-piece — which draws its name from the town that’s equidistant between frontmen Avi Vinocur and Patrick Dyer Wolf’s homes in SF and North Carolina — is saved from falling down the alt-country cliché rabbit hole by seriously smart, cinematic songwriting. If Civil War stories and stomp-along choruses and lullabies for bank robbers are in your wheelhouse, you’re in luck.


Local boy makes good…moves to LA. Despite the Bay Area’s reigning king of effortless psych-garage-pop melody having recently abandoned the fog for sunnier (cheaper) pastures, we’re going to claim him as our own for at least the next decade — especially since this record, with its ’70s glam-rock, space-age guitar and lush T-Rex-esque vocals, is probably Segall’s best, most three-dimensional record yet. If we have to take a brief road trip to see him more often, so be it (sniff).

Ensemble Mik Nawooj: A Hip-Hop Orchestra

That album title might seem to say it all, but you really can’t understand what it’s like to hear Wu-Tang songs reimagined by a classical orchestra until, well, you’ve heard ’em. JooWan Kim, a Taoist Bay Area composer born in Korea and educated at Berklee, didn’t start listening to hip-hop until he was in his 20s, and the result is fresh, funky, disorienting, and interesting from start to finish. The orchestra will celebrate its debut album with a free release party at Intersection for the Arts on Sept. 6.

Snap sounds



Hypnotic Eye


Of all the rock singers who could truly be considered “legends,” Tom Petty is perhaps the least oligarchic. His records under his name alone are producer-driven affairs that put his voice at the center, but with the Heartbreakers, he’s merely a frontman, a central cog in a machine that’s been churning out unpretentious rock for almost forty years. On this latest Heartbreakers record, he’s even more understated than usual. For much of the album, he sings through a tinny, almost Strokes-like filter that serves to both give his voice an appealing grit and bring out the sounds of the band around him.

But aside from that, Hypnotic Eye is almost devoid of producerly interference. It sounds above all else like a garage jam, cycling through rock, blues, psychedelia, and even some peaceful ballads. The album’s worst moment, the overwrought “Shadow People,” is the only one that sounds like a conscious effort to make something “good.” But it’s the only bad song here, and the fact that Petty can still make good music with so little effort gives me an odd kind of hope for this rock institution whose best albums should, by all logic, be long behind them.




(People’s Potential Unlimited)

Moon B makes largely the same sort of proudly analog neo-boogie as Dam-Funk, but while Dam-Funk’s music is starry-eyed and optimistic, Moon B’s is dark and unsettling. His music has never been gnarlier than on II. Though the universe B conjures on his second album is contained within only 31 minutes of music, it seems huge and labyrinthine, filled with darkened streets and dimly lit windows. The drums beat cautiously like nervous footsteps, and the ghostly synth chords that form the melodic core of the music seem to watch you from the shadows. A good aesthetic reference point is the Simpsons episode “Bart Sells His Soul,” in which Bart wanders panicked through a deserted, beautifully rendered labyrinth of quiet skyscrapers.

Though this might make II sound too scary for everyday listening, it’s surprisingly great chillout music. The music is never frightening, just spooky, and it’s got a Boards of Canada-like ability to fade into the background while still keeping you on your toes. Its length also prevents the album from devolving into monotony — all the songs follow the same sonic template, but not to their detriment. This is some of the best mood music I’ve heard this year so far.



Part 6 EP


Matthew Herbert’s ability to write great songs is almost a liability. Under the mononym Herbert, the British producer released the holy trinity of Around The House, Bodily Functions, and Scale between 1998 and 2006, each containing a phenomenal, almost absurdly good second track. These songs — “So Now…,” “It’s Only,” and “The Movers And The Shakers,” respectively — cast long shadows not only over the rest of their parent albums but the increasingly conceptual work Herbert’s been producing under his full name lately. In dropping his first name from his new Part 6 EP, he’s made things a lot harder for himself given how much he has to live up to. Part 6 doesn’t quite live up to those albums, but it’s still exemplary house music. Its vocally-oriented track “One Two Three” would be maybe the fifth-best song on any of his great Herbert albums, and perhaps the second-best on most decent-quality house albums. The others are pummeling club bangers that would sound great in the club but aren’t quite as hospitable for casual listening as most of Herbert’s work. But each track is layered with peculiar, welcome details that remind you one of house’s all-time greats is back in action. (Daniel Bromfield)

Locals only: Outside Lands edition



LEFT OF THE DIAL Can you smell it in the air? It’s that late-summer, chilled pinot grigio-tipsy, organic ice cream-sticky scent of Outside Lands, just around the corner.

Yes, it’s that time in our fair city’s annual trip around the sun when we get the chance to show Austin and Indio and those warm summer New York nights exactly what we here in San Francisco are made of when it comes to music festivals: Namely, expensive, gourmet food, wine, and beer stands, a commitment to slapping the word “green” in front of everything; and a beautiful, natural outdoor venue in which, should you forget to bring three extra layers in an oversized bag, you will absolutely freeze your ass off by nightfall.

All snark aside, one thing I’ve always appreciated about OSL in its six short summers is that, nestled amongst the sometimes overwhelmingly corporate feel of the thing — something that was maybe inevitable, as Another Planet Entertainment grew from little-promoter-offshoot-that-could into perhaps the most influential promotions company in the Bay Area music biz — is a commitment to bringing local bands along for the ride whenever possible.

Sure, everyone’s excited to see Kanye. I’m excited to see Kanye. Anyone who’s going to see Kanye and tries to say anything more intellectual about it than “I’m really fucking amused in advance and very excited to see Kanye” is lying. But nothing fills me with more hometown pride than watching a band I’ve been rooting for since they were playing living rooms or parklets take the stage in Golden Gate Park in front of thousands of paying, attentive potential new fans.

With that in mind, here’s your guide to a few of our favorite local folks representing the Bay Area at this year’s fest. Show up for ’em. In most cases, they’ve been working toward this for a long time. And if you don’t have the funds to make it to this year’s OSL? Lucky for us — unlike Kanye — these kids play around the Bay all year round.

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers

The unofficial queen of Bay Area alt-folk has had a good year since August 2013, when her band’s debut LP took to the airwaves and then to the national stage, with Bluhm’s killer vocals and long, tall mishmash of Stevie/Janis appeal at the helm. Fri/8 at 4pm, Sutro Stage


SF’s own Scott Hansen has also been riding high this year, since the release of Awake in March propelled him from bedroom artist to something else entirely with its lush, ambitious landscapes of color and sound. We still think we prefer him in headphones to outdoor festival-style, but we’ll take it. Sat/9 at 3:40pm, Twin Peaks Stage

Mikal Cronin

If you don’t know his solo stuff (and you should; last year’s MCII was one of the best local records of the year), you probably know him as Ty Segall’s right-hand man. Either way, Cronin is one of the most authentic voices in the Bay Area’s indie scene right now, with just enough power-pop sweetness and strings coloring even his scratchiest garage-punk anthems. Fri/8 at 4:30pm, Panhandle Stage

Christopher Owens

Did you love Girls (the SF indie powerhouse, RIP, not the HBO show)? Of course you did. Did you love Christopher Owens’ solo debut, Lysandre? We did too. He’s giving us another one in September; now’s your chance for a sneak preview of some likely highly emotional and lushly orchestrated songs. Sat/9 at 2:30, Sutro Stage


This 27-year-old rapper and SF University High School graduate has been gaining attention with his whiplash-inducing flow, which he honed in his teens as a slam poetry champion. His most recent album, June’s All You Can Do, is poised to take him from Internet and Ellen-famous to just famous-famous. Sun/10, 2pm, Twin Peaks Stage

Trails & Ways

Bossa nova dream pop, Brazilian shoegaze, whatever you call it: This Oakland quartet (and Bay Guardian Band on the Rise from 2012) draws inspiration from all over the globe for its undeniably catchy, never predictable, harmony-drenched melodies. Sat/9 at 12:40pm, Twin Peaks Stage

Beso Negro

“This is not your father’s gypsy jazz,” warns Beso Negro’s bio, which — while we’re pretty sure our dad doesn’t have a kind of gypsy jazz — does a pretty good job of explaining the modern sounds infused into this Fairfax five-piece’s musical vocabulary. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days, check the website for details

Tumbleweed Wanderers

As if we didn’t have a big enough soft spot for this East Bay alt-soul-folk outfit already, there’s the fact that they got their start busking outside of festivals for their first few years — including Outside Lands. Seeing them on the inside will be sweet. Sat/9 at noon, Sutro Stage

El Radio Fantastique

With horns, theremin, and just about every kind of percussion you can think of, this Point Reyes-based eight-piece is a mish-mash of everything dark and dancey and nerdy and weird, describing themselves as “part rumba band in purgatory, part cinematic chamber group, part shipwrecked serenade.” Serious cult following here. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days

Slim Jenkins

Sultry, jazzy, rootsy — we’re excited to see what this mainstay of “voodoo blues” nights at small rooms like Amnesia can do on a bigger stage. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days

Marty O’Reilly & the Old Soul Orchestra

O’Reilly, a singer-songwriter who’s clearly done his Delta roots, gospel, and traditional folk homework, played OSL last year — well before putting out a debut studio album, the aptly titled Pray For Rain, in March of this year. This is a three-piece with arrangements that make the band seem much bigger. Hell Brew Revue Stage, all three days

Snap sounds



I Never Learn (LL/Atlantic)

Lykke Li is a pop star who surrounds herself in clouds of reverb, so the obvious reference point for her music is Phil Spector’s ’60s girl-group productions. But strip away the layers of sound and her third album I Never Learn is essentially a set of adult-contemporary ballads that would slot nicely into any KOIT lineup. These songs are personal rather than universal, introverted rather than extroverted, subtle and slight rather than big and dumb — though there are some pretty shameless hooks on this album, readymade for festival sing-a-longs.

Li and her production team took a gamble on taking the brutally-short approach to this album; it’s only nine songs over 33 minutes, and music this fluid usually needs more room to splash around. But these songs are rich enough in content that each one feels like an event. “Just Like A Dream” and “Silver Line” have great choruses, while “Gunshot” and “Heart of Steel” feature neat production touches (slinky organ and twangy Morricone guitar, respectively). The album’s highlight is undoubtedly “Love Me Like I’m Not Made Of Stone,” a great acoustic ballad that could make it onto the charts with a bit more exposure.


Angel Guts: Red Classroom (Polyvinyl)

Xiu Xiu has always been a bit silly. Though Jamie Stewart’s long-running project is often brutal in its emotional honesty, there’s no denying how over-the-top Stewart’s gasping vocals are, how absurd their lyrics can be are. Angel Guts: Red Classroom continues this trend, and it’s more theatrical than ever. And while this is the first Xiu Xiu album in about ten years that still might have the power to shock people, it also has more ill-advised moments than usual.

The main edge Angel Guts has musically over past Xiu Xiu albums is the change in Stewart’s voice. The vulnerability and hurt remains, but it’s overshadowed by a commanding deepness. The porn ode “Black Dick” wouldn’t be effective if he didn’t sing it with such power. But then we have him screeching “IT TASTES LIKE A COOKIE” for no reason, opening and closing the album with shameless noise, delivering monologues that scan as melodramatic even by Xiu Xiu standards. Though Angel Guts is flawed, it’s their most engaging listen in a decade, and it also features two of their best songs to date: the Michael Jackson-like “Stupid In The Dark” and “Adult Friends,” the most terrifying aging ballad I’ve ever heard.



Three Love Songs (Orchid Tapes)

There are 12 songs on this album, none of them are really about love, and if you put this on during an acid trip you’d probably be in ultimate entrapment by track four. Sam Ray’s ironic streak has always been pretty obvious — he’s got a folk project called Julia Brown (he’s not really a girl, haha) and previously performed under the name Teen Suicide. But as annoying as indie-rock irony can be, Ray can get away with it simply on the virtue of how sincere his music is. As on his wonderful Julia Brown debut To Be Close To You, Three Love Songs evokes the mundane but beautiful — empty rooms, road crews working late at night, light filtering through curtains.

As such, it’s a great all-purpose ambient album. Just about any situation could easily be soundtracked by a track on this album; while the first half of the record is a bit melancholy and might ruin your day in the wrong context, the second half is playful and almost goofy. There are better ambient albums for specific situations, but if I can’t think of the proper music pairing for a certain environment, I’d feel safe turning to Three Love Songs.

Of borders and love songs



LEFT OF THE DIAL The way in which Diana Gameros first came to America is a world away from the heart-wrenching images we’re currently seeing in the news media of children who’ve been sent, on their own, to the U.S. border from Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. At 13, she arrived on an airplane from her home city of Juarez, Mexico; the plan was to stay with an aunt who lived in Michigan for the summer. When Gameros visited her cousin’s school there, and saw that it had a swimming pool, among other luxurious-seeming facilities, her aunt asked if she wanted to go to that school and learn English. Gameros couldn’t say yes fast enough. She wound up staying three years, returning to Mexico for the second half of high school, and then moving back to the U.S. for college.

So no, no one ever sent her out on foot for the border, hoping that on the other side lay someone or something that could mean a brighter future.

And yet: “I’m kind of a fanatic when it comes to following this country’s immigration system and its history,” says Gameros, a fixture in San Francisco’s singer-songwriter scene for her thoughtful, melodic story-songs that contain both English and Spanish (she’s been referred to as the Latin Feist).

“I think there’s a lot that most American people don’t know. You hear people judging, calling these parents irresponsible…it’s so much more complicated than that,” she says. “People don’t know how the U.S.’s actions have affected these countries. People are risking their children’s lives because they need to be here. It’s not for the American dream, they’re not here to buy a nice car, a big house. They’re here because they want to eat, have a roof over their heads, fulfill basic necessities. It’s frustrating. There’s so much ignorance.”

Her unique perspective on border issues is one reason Gameros was selected to perform at MEX I AM: Live It to Believe It, a nearly weeklong festival organized by the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in conjunction with SF’s Consulate General of Mexico. Bringing together musicians, actors, visual artists, and academics from throughout Mexico from July 31 through Aug. 5, the festival includes classical, indie, and pop music and dance, lectures and discussion of Mexico’s achievements and challenges, and a meeting of minds around border issues.

The program in which Gameros will perform, on the evening of Friday, Aug. 1, is called “Ideas: North and South of the Border,” and aims to explore innovation in the sciences, arts, and culture in Mexico. Among the other speakers: astronaut Jose Hernandez, who grew up in the Central Valley as the son of immigrant farmers; he’ll discuss his journey from childhood (he didn’t learn to read or speak in English until he was 12) through getting a degree in electrical engineering and eventually being tapped by NASA. Rosario Marin, the first Mexican-American woman to serve as Treasurer of the United States, will also be present, along with Favianna Rodriguez, a transnational visual artist whose work “depicts how women, migrants and outsiders are affected by global politics, economic inequality, patriarchy and interdependence” and the director of CultureStrike, an arts organization that works to organize artists, writers, and performers around migrant rights.

On the afternoon of Saturday, Aug. 2, actress-dancer Vicky Araico will perform her award-winning monologue Juana In a Million, which chronicles an undocumented immigrant’s quest to find home.

The other musical performances throughout the week run the gamut from Natalia Lafourcade, a two-time Latin Grammy winning pop singer, to Murcof + Simon Geilfus, an electronic audio-visual collaboration, the award-winning percussion ensemble Tambuco, renowned composer and jazz musician Hector Infanzon, and more.

Gameros, whose 2013 album Eterno Retorno (Eternal Return) features a song called “SB 1070” (after the racist Arizona law designed to prosecute undocumented immigrants), says she thinks her music can be a subtle form of education, an artistic entry point for people who might not know or think much about immigration issues.

“It’s a topic that touches me deeply, so my protest music is my offering, my way to say I’m with you and I stand with you,” she says. “Though if you listen to my lyrics you might think many [songs] are love songs, or written to a lover who didn’t treat me right.”

Gameros adds that she hopes the Latino community in San Francisco will embrace the festival and show up, a sentiment that carries a particular weight as housing prices in areas like the Mission are changing the local face of the local Latino population. “Unless its the symphony doing something with a Mexican artist, we don’t really have access to events like this that are mainstream cultural celebrations, normally,” she says. “And there’s such a fascinating group of people all here for it — I just hope as many people as possible take advantage of it, that they come and hear these stories we have to tell.”



July 31 through Aug. 5, prices and times vary

Most events at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF

(415) 978-2700


Snap sounds



Why Do The Heathen Rage? (Thrill Jockey)

How can you love music that hates you? Drew Daniel grapples with this question throughout his third album as The Soft Pink Truth, which seeks to reconcile his homosexuality with his love of black metal — a genre with a history of hatred and violence. His thesis: Black metal is already pretty gay. Why Do The Heathen Rage? consists of 10 disco covers of black metal songs, and in this context, the “blasphemers” and “fornicators” who inhabit these songs could easily be gay men as seen through a prejudiced lens. It’s a powerful thought, but it’s also kind of funny.

Why Do The Heathen Rage? is an admirable project, not least because Daniel is making himself a walking target for those who add to black metal’s hateful reputation. But it’s also a great listen. Humor is key to the album’s appeal, especially when Wye Oak’s Jenn Wasner puts on her best diva voice to sing about penetration and desecration. But there are also some gorgeous moments — the slow house chord that surfaces at the end of “Sadomatic Rites” is nothing short of breathtaking. This is one of the most audacious experimental albums I’ve ever heard, and easily one of the year’s best albums.


It’s Kiwi Time EP (Granted Access)

There are a million indie pop bands in the world, and it’s becoming increasingly obvious that most of them are just in it for the money. It’s increasingly rare to hear an indie pop band that sounds like it actually wants to play indie pop, and Kiwi Time is one of these. The San Francisco-via-Belarus quartet’s debut EP, It’s Kiwi Time, showcases a style that’s anything but original but nonetheless possesses a certain passion and respect for pop music history that’s all too rare in this field.

Opener “Butterfly” starts out sounding like a Spotify commercial, but the disco-esque vocals quickly lift the song to another plane. “Be My Love” uses the Beatles-pioneered trick of ending much faster than it should, and it’s a relief to hear a band use this tactic in a post-club era where songs often stretch far too long for anywhere but the dancefloor. Both of the album’s guitar solos are seamlessly integrated and lack any irony or tastelessness. Though It’s Kiwi Time is unlikely to elevate its creators above their countless ilk, it’s refreshing in that it fits as comfortably into the universal pop tradition as the indie-pop trend.


Sea When Absent (Lefse)

Shoegaze is one of those genres that seems spent if only because it’s easy to just slap the term on anything. Just as any garage band without a singer can be “post-rock,” any band with a shy vocalist and a lot of pedals can be “shoegaze.” Now more than a quarter of a decade after My Bloody Valentine dropped its debut, A Sunny Day In Glasgow is still pushing the style’s boundaries on their new Sea When Absent. The secret to the band’s success is viewing shoegaze as an approach rather than a genre, and as such, members are not picky about what they slather in reverb.

Rock, dance, hip-hop, and metal sounds swirl around in the maelstrom of this album, never settling but tearing by at thrilling speeds. Sea When Absent‘s kitchen-sink approach most likely owes to the fact that the band members mostly assembled this album via e-mail chain. (The slowed-down coughing at the end of “Double Dutch” suggests kind green buds may also have been involved, especially in tandem with the track’s name.) Though Sea When Absent is uneven and messy, it’s never dull — a rare quality in a genre that anyone with enough cash to blow on pedals can play.

A hard look at ‘A Hard Day’s Night’



More than any other Beatles album, A Hard Day’s Night — which turned 50 last week — embodies the clichés surrounding the band’s early period. The cheesy harmonies, the “whoa”s and “yeah”s, the sappy love songs: All are there in abundance. It’s also the most obvious manifestation of the John/Paul dichotomy. Though the idea of John as the bad boy and Paul as the balladeer is largely accepted as a myth by Beatles fans, that dynamic is a lot closer to the truth than folks give it credit for, and on no album is it clearer than A Hard Day’s Night.

Paul’s songs are a bit silly, but spectacularly well-crafted. “And I Love Her” repeats the word “love” incessantly, but the twinkling background makes it seem transcendent. You’re more likely to come out of it remembering the four-note guitar riff that frames the song anyway. Better yet is “Can’t Buy Me Love.” The song’s chorus looks absurd on paper (“can’t buy me love/everybody tells me so/can’t buy me love/no no no no”), but it’s so catchy it’s hard not to ignore the lyrics.

John’s love songs are far more bitter and sarcastic. But it’s important to remember that John Lennon was more than just a media-ready “bad boy.” His reputation as a peacenik and a member of the most (supposedly) infallible paragon of pop music in history has sadly clouded his history of alleged neglect and abuse toward his children and various lovers. Knowing the latter gives an unpleasant context to the Lennon songs on this album.

I find “You Can’t Do That” unlistenable for this reason. The song is told from the perspective of a man whose girlfriend has been talking to another boy. He warns her that if he catches her doing it again, he’ll “let her down” and “leave her flat.” It’s hard not to interpret those as a reference to domestic violence, given that Lennon’s first wife, Cynthia, was a victim of such abuse. And the theme of the song evokes Lennon’s own worries concerning his second wife, Yoko Ono, whom he often dragged into the studio out of fears she would abscond with another man if left alone.

Another prominent theme is Lennon’s pride and his fixation on the shame of having had his girl cheat on him. This theme surfaces on “You Can’t Do That” (“if they’d seen you talking that way they’d laugh in my face”). It’s as bad on “If I Fell.” John asks his potential girlfriend if she’d “hurt my pride like her” then bluntly tells her how much he’d enjoy his ex’s misery at seeing the two of them together.

It’s less rational to believe that these songs are told from the perspective of an abuser so much as they illustrate Lennon’s own viewpoint as a real-life abuser. There’s nothing in these songs to suggest he’s playing a role of any sort. On one song, he does. “I’ll Cry Instead” finds Lennon simulating the illogical thoughts that come in the wake of anger and sadness. His girl left him, and he’d like to go out and “break hearts all ’round the world” as revenge, but he can’t, so he’ll cry instead.

The point of this song isn’t that he’d like to hurt her, but that he’s thinking irrationally — he’ll feel better once he’s had a good cry. Thus, I find it easier to separate this song from its creator. Nonetheless, A Hard Day’s Night is one of those albums — at least for me — where art and artist are too firmly entwined for the album not to suffer.

It would be ridiculous to accuse anyone who enjoys this album of being a misogynist. But I would object to anyone denying these issues are present. If these moral questions inhibit you from enjoying the art, so be it. But to dismiss these issues in order to preserve your prior appreciation of the music would be tantamount to ignoring those issues in the first place.

There are two Lennon songs that truly warm my heart on this album. The first, “When I Get Home,” is an ecstatic love song that finds its protagonist rushing home to be with his girl. That he has “a whole lot of things to tell her” suggests he’s actually interested in conversing with the girl, not just having sex. And he’ll love her the next day too, and accordingly make the same voyage. Now that’s love.

Second is the title track. On no other Beatles song is the interplay between John’s voice and Paul’s more effective. It’s difficult to even notice that the vocalist has shifted until the end of the first chorus. But it’s the gradual build in emotion that makes this song so brilliant. By the time the chorus is about to transition back into the verse, Paul is emoting relentlessly — and then in comes the verse again, with John’s dry voice snapping satisfyingly into place and contrasting icily with Paul’s catharsis. This song elevates the album substantially by itself, though A Hard Day’s Night remains my least favorite of the Beatles’ “great albums” (i.e. the ones with only original songs).

Though I generally avoid discussing my own sentimental attachment to albums in reviewing them, I’ll close this review by saying A Hard Day’s Night is by far the most important album in my life. As the first rock album I ever listened to, it ended my 12-year streak of aversion to music due to my sensory processing disorder. But I haven’t gone back to it much — simply because I listened to eight other Beatles albums immediately afterward, and every single one of them puts A Hard Day’s Night to shame.


Start your engines



Everyone knows that true artists do their best work right before deadline. [Ed note: I may or may not be writing this an hour or so before mine.]

Now in its third year, the Music Video Race is an annual San Francisco tradition that takes this dictum to heart, pairing 16 different musical acts with 16 filmmakers for a challenge that makes that “find a flag in the middle of this big fake nose filled with green goop” thing on Double Dare seem like a cakewalk: Conceive, film, and edit an entire music video in 48 hours.

After accepting applications from both filmmakers and musicians for roughly two months, MVR organizers matched up pairs by random drawing at 7:30pm on Friday, July 11, turning the teams loose around the Bay Area, with a final deadline of 8pm on Sunday, July 13. This year’s bands include SF’s Rin Tin Tiger (which will cap their participation with a headlining spot at the video release party, held at The Independent Sun/20), Oakland’s Bill Baird (fresh from rocking Phono del Sol), Rich Girls, Lemme Adams, and bed. [Another ed note: Yours truly will be helping to judge said videos, and I’m rather excited about it.]

“We try to pick a diverse group of bands — we don’t want 20 garage bands or folk acts, etc. There’s so much variety in the Bay, and we really ant to respect that,” says Tim Lillis, an MVR founder, of how they select the participants. “But beyond that, we’re mostly just looking for flexibility, a willingness to roll with the punches, a sense of adventure.”

New this year: We Bay Area-dwellers aren’t so special anymore. The MVR is expanding to Austin and LA, over the weekends of Sept. 5-7 and Nov. 7-9, respectively.

“We’ve had a few really expansive years here, and I think this will help people understand that this isn’t just a San Francisco thing — we’re stoked to help local scenes build themselves,” says Lillis.

For an extended version of this interview, check out the Noise blog this week (www.sfbg.com/noise) and for more info or tickets to the premiere party, visit www.musicvideorace.com.



July 20, 7pm, $14-$16

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF


Burger Boogaloo Breakdown


Thee Oh Sees

Hiatus, schmiatus. Less than six months after the prom kings of SF’s garage scene declared they’d be taking an “indefinite” break from playing — inciting local blog warfare, while they were at it, with frontman John Dwyer’s move to LA signalling that the trickle of SF musicians down south had actually become a downpour — Thee Oh Sees dropped Drop, nine tracks of reassuringly heavy, noisy, psyched-out reverb. Fans know their maniacal live show is not to be missed, and BB marks the band’s first public return to our stages (or parks, as the case may be). Can we hug and make up now? Sat/5 (Day 1), 8pm.


The Muffs

Of all the bands riding the current wave of ’90s nostalgia, The Muffs are one we’re a-okay with hearing from again. If you’ve seen Clueless, you probably know their cover of “Kids in America,” but with Kim Shattuck’s rough-hewn, little-girl-gone-bad vocals and charisma at the helm, we’ve always thought they deserved much more. This time last year, Shattuck was playing bass for the Pixies; if getting booted from that band was what it took to produce The Muffs’ first record in 10 years, Whoop De Woo (out July 29 ), we’re fine with that too. Bust out your pink Converse for this one. Sun/6 (Day 2), 6pm.



Aside from maybe hot dog-eating contests and firecracker-related injuries, perhaps nothing says “America” like a barely-clothed adult man throwing himself around on stage in a terrifying bunny mask, a coat made of garbage, and a ball gag. Luckily, we have Nobunny, the endearingly insane alter ego of veteran punk madman Justin Champlin, who promises to make this all-ages affair just a little bit of a darker experience than you’d probably want unaccompanied children to have on their own. Just like our founding fathers would have wanted. Sat/5 (Day 1), 5:15pm.

Summer spins





Boris have been dabbling so much in pop lately it’s tempting to look at the band’s latest album, Noise, as a return to their sludge-metal glory days. There are only eight songs, its title is appropriately hostile, and the dark gray cover looks formidable compared to the white-hued, glamorous art on the last few Boris records. But remember: This album is called Noise. Not Metal, not Amps Up To 11. Not even Heavy Rocks, the name given to two of Boris’s most metallic albums. Noise.

And noise is what it offers. These songs are loud, but not in a metallic way — the guitars don’t confront or cut into the red, preferring to simply churn away in the background. Yet this is the only thing really connecting these songs. Noise veers from J-pop to shoegaze to something fairly close to metal, charting a path that ends up sounding more like overly ambitious hardcore punk. Accordingly, it suffers from an identity crisis. As another chapter in the capricious experimental period the band’s been stuck in for the last half-decade, Noise is an interesting curiosity. But if you choose to view it as a return to form, you’re likely to come out of your listening experience very depressed.





Lana Del Rey embodies the trashiest, most cartoonish version of American iconography. Her music reeks of Gatsby, guns, Hollywood, star-spangled banners, Marilyn Monroe, and just about every other cartoon of superficial American glamour. It thus makes sense on paper that she should pair up with producer Dan Auerbach for her second album, Ultraviolence; his band the Black Keys excavates a different patch of the same oilfield, dredging up Route 66 rock reveries rather than Pepsi-Cola pop mythology.

But their respective worlds don’t collide as often as they should on this album. When Auerbach’s bluesy licks bubble up from the background, it’s intensely satisfying, putting Del Rey’s mythology in the context of his own and casting her as another great American cliché: a rock star. But for the most part, Auerbach leaves Del Rey to languish in a bath of reverb. There’s no subtlety to this production: It’s as if Auerbach cranked up a crude GarageBand “reverb” setting on all the master tracks and declared them finished. Del Rey’s persona is as monolithic as the Empire State Building — but obscured behind all the production fog, you might as well be looking at Big Ben.





Mish Way has a lot of good things to say. She’s one of America’s most engaging music critics, incorporating her personal experience into her pieces without making them too subjective to interest readers. Much of her writing is filtered through a feminist lens, something far too rare in rock criticism — especially as the misogyny of yesteryear’s rock becomes increasingly stale and obvious. She extends a lot of these sentiments to her gig as the singer of punk band White Lung, whose third album Deep Fantasy addresses sexual assault, body image, and abusive relationships. Apparently. You’d have a hard time doing much more than guessing what these songs were about without the help of a lyric sheet, because most of Way’s lyrics are incomprehensible. I’d be okay with this if not for how pristine everything else sounds. The guitars and drums are punchy and full, but Way’s vocals are so quiet in the mix that her shouting seems less of a deluge of expression as a desperate attempt just to be heard. This music should confront the listener — but ultimately, the listener ends up having to confront the music just to understand what Way is on about.

Dirty, sweet, and far from down low



LEFT OF THE DIAL/QUEER ISSUE Take the sexual braggadocio of Lil Kim, the rapid-fire flow of Twista, and a fashion sense that combines Nicki Minaj with, depending on the day, Bjork, Ma$e, or, say, the board game Candyland, and you have a close approximation of Cakes da Killa. The Brooklyn-based, baby-faced musician is both a rising star and, unfortunately, something of an oddity, just by virtue of being a gay man and a rapper.

His participation in one of the most homophobic quadrants of pop culture as an out gay guy aside, however, Cakes — born Rashard Bradshaw — doesn’t see what’s so shocking about some of his lyrics, even when he’s rapping matter-of-factly about how he’s going to fuck your boyfriend (actual song title: “Fuck Ya Boifriend”).

After making a name for himself with two mix tapes in 2011 and 2013 (Easy Bake Oven and The Eulogy, respectively, with the latter receiving a positive mention from Pitchfork), his latest EP, Hunger Pangs, reveals a darker, harder sound. He’s still X-rated and super funny, but he also sounds like he’s ready to fight.

We caught up over the phone ahead of Cakes’ appearance at Public Works Sat/28, as part of the club’s “House of Babes” Dyke March after-party.

SF Bay Guardian You grew up in Jersey. How did you start rapping?

Cakes da Killa I always wrote when I was young, whether it was poetry or something else. But I started rapping as a joke in high school, because I saw a bunch of straight guys doing it and getting lots of attention. And me being an attention whore, it was “I can do that.” In college I started making videos of me rapping over instrumentals on YouTube, and after people saw those videos I started getting asked to record on projects.

SFBG How did the straight guys respond to it when you were younger? Did you get any backlash for being an out gay kid, trying to get into something that’s so associated with straight, heteronormative culture, or did they just notice how good you were? 

CK You know, they noticed. I came out in the third grade, and I’ve always been the gay boy that was so comfortable in myself I didn’t make straight people insecure or uncomfortable. I think I’m still that way.

SFBG The mixtape before this, when you started getting noticed, was called The Eulogy. Why’s that?

CK Honestly, I thought it was going to be my last project. I just didn’t see the longevity in rapping — it’s weird to think of yourself as a rapper, because I’m so not that. Not even just because I’m gay, but also I don’t have a rapper’s ego.

SFBG I think maybe the ego comes after you make a ton of money? 

CK Yeah, but then my friends would all hate me. I just want to do it until it’s not fun anymore. So far, though, it’s still fun.

SFBG You’re so young, though. You’re, what, 22? Didn’t you just graduate from college? 

CK I’m 23. And in gay years. We age like dinosaurs, so I’m basically a fossil. I graduated last May, and I moved out of my mother’s house. I’m living in Bushwick now; I’m a fully realized member of society.

SFBG You have a pretty big fan base in Europe. Where have you toured? How are audiences over there different from stateside? 

CK I’ve been to Europe three times on kind of mini-tours. Mostly Berlin, Paris. I’ve been to Australia twice too. I think I have a bigger fan base overseas because it’s just harder to break [out] in the States; the way the music business works, it’s just harder to get attention here.

When I do a show overseas, I think the main difference is Europeans think, “If we’re gonna pay five euros to see you, you better be on stage for two hours.” In the States we pay way more to see someone for a few minutes, then it’s back to the bar, or a DJ or something…we have ADD here. When I tour overseas, I have to some cardio before the show.

SFBG You’re known for some pretty filthy lyrics. Does that come naturally to you? 

CK You know, I didn’t realize the fact of me being filthy until people started saying that — it’s just that the things I talk about aren’t talked about. I grew up with my mom, and I came out in the third grade; we talked about sex pretty openly in my house. When I make a song about giving blowjobs, I’m not thinking “Let’s make a song about giving blowjobs.” This isn’t breaking news. Everyone likes blowjobs. It’s just not really filthy to me; people have sex. I am conscious now though of, you know, not becoming “the blowjob rapper.”

SFBG Do you see homophobia in the rap world getting better? What is it going to take for the culture to change? 

CK I think it’s going to take an openly gay person who can really sell in the black media, do a world tour. But people that run black media right now clearly don’t see it as a marketable thing. And it’s all about money. That’s the fucked up thing about the situation, it’s not about how talented the person is, it’s ‘How can we sell this situation?’ And if you’re not marketable and a bunch of people can’t make money off you, you’re just gonna be, you know, living in Bushwick.

SFBG Musically, do you see yourself heading in any particular direction with Hunger Pangs?

CK Yeah, if I compare myself to the boy who was rapping in high school in the cafeteria, I’m definitely not the same person. I make music off of touring, experiencing things. I’m having a butch moment right now. And for my next project, I think I’m making more depressing songs.

SFBG Did that come out of anything in particular? 

CK Living life. Dealing with dumb boys. Instead of being all sad about it, I’m like, let’s write an album about it. At least make some money!


With Junglepussy and Lisa Delux

The House of Babes Presents the Dyke March After-Party

Public Works

161 Erie, SF


Jazz jams in Brisbane


By Jeff Kaliss


Sunday evening is bringing a nearly imperceptible chill to the warm air off the bay, flowing through the open doors at the 7 Mile House on Bayshore Boulevard. Dennis Cummings, the roadhouse’s attentive food and entertainment manager, has just taken a dinner order from a quartet of jazz players, who are bringing their first set to a close with a Brazilian bossa, “Chega de Saudade,” translated in our language as “No More Blues,” and neatly matching both the benign springtime climate and the sentiment of the smiling, seated fans, some of whom are already munching through their plates of lumpia, quesadillas, or salpicao steak.

While visionary bebop alto saxophonist Andrew Speight, bassist Michael Zisman, and keyboardist Ben Stolorow repair to the rear of the establishment to consume a complimentary meal during their break, drummer and session leader Vince Lateano walks the floor with a small tip bucket. “I always preface my solicitation with, ‘Are you enjoying the music?’,” Lateano reveals. “And I’d say, 80 percent of the time, even people who aren’t there for the music will want to put something in.”

That includes the venue’s many sports fans, who’ve been eyeing the bank of large-screen TVs behind the bar, where the San Francisco Giants have tied the Atlanta Braves in extra innings. There’s always been lots to do at the 7 Mile. Travelers have been dropping in ever since the property was developed as a stagecoach stop a century and a half ago, seven miles south of San Francisco’s Union Depot and Ferry House. By the latter part of the 20th century, it had become something of a trucker and biker bar.

More recently, trumpeter Al Molina came in en route to his home and studio in nearby Brisbane and convinced current co-owner Vanessa Garcia to let him establish the venue’s first successful jazz night, on Tuesdays. When fellow horn man Dave Bendigkeit began sitting in on those sessions, he had a sense of the place’s historical diversity.

“I saw, there are people here just for the jazz,” Bendigkeit recalls. “But there are people here just for the food, people that had no idea there was music until they walked in the door, and people here for the sports. I’ve been brought up to read the audience and try to make ’em happy. But how you gonna read this room?” A couple of weeks after starting his own weekly Monday gig with his Keepers of the Flame band earlier this year, Bendigkeit realized, “We should just do what we want, and everybody’s happy.”

What’s making jazz fans happy at the 7 Mile is also the continuation of a high standard of jazz in an accessible and supportive setting — something that’s become harder to find in the Bay Area over the course of the past decade. The Sunday sessions are dubbed The Doghouse Jazz Jam, in recognition of their origin at the erstwhile Dogpatch Saloon on San Francisco’s Third Street. Speight, Zisman, Lateano, and others had been jamming there since escalating rents closed down Jazz at Pearl’s in North Beach in 2003 (where Lateano had served as de facto music director) due to escalating rents. The Dogpatch attracted a dependable crowd of mostly middle-aged jazz fans, who were dismayed last year when owner Mike Apicelli, himself a devoted jazz buff (he rang a ship’s bell behind the bar for every good solo), decided to retire and sell to new, younger entrepreneurs. Thus, Sundays were transplanted to the 7 Mile, where frequent Dogpatch visitor Molina was already hosting “Jazz On the Mile: The Horace Silver Project,” every Tuesday.

“At Dogpatch, Apicelli and Bob and Jim [bartender Brown and doorman Yarbrough, respectively] were family, and it’s like that at 7 Mile, with Dennis and Vanessa,” testifies Lateano. “And they’ve totally warmed up to having jazz music. When I first started playing there, [Dennis] just appreciated the musicianship, and the more he heard, the more he started to understand it, especially the Horace Silver stuff, because I think of all the jazz, Horace is closest to R&B.”

“When I try to do too much rock, attendance is down,” notes Cummings, who plays electric bass. “But when I go with jazz, R&B, and blues, attendance is up.” He’s expanded the 7 Mile into seven-days-a-week music bookings in a variety of genres, including karaoke, blues, R&B, and some rock. “But I figured out that my favorite night to work was Tuesday, because they’re into the music, they’re older folk who come for the music and respect the musicians, buy entrees and wine, and tip well.”

Younger folk, including families with kids, find themselves grooving to the spirit of the music — even if the kids are multitasking with the crayons provided by waitstaff and their parents are keeping watch on the home teams, whose touchdowns and home runs sometimes coincide with a pyrotechnic drum solo. In the tradition of jazz, younger players are also invited to stand alongside the veterans during the second set, and to converse with them during breaks. It’s the sort of learning experience which reminds Lateano of his own youth in Sacramento: “There are older guys, and you get up there, and you’re scared to death. But nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

On Mondays, singers are welcomed and ably supported by the Keepers of the Flame. “Usually, I’ll sing a song myself, it breaks up the total instrumental thing,” says bandleader Bendigkeit. “I’ll try singing one or two funny songs like ‘I’m Hip’ or ‘Cloudburst,’ and then I’ll say, ‘Now here’s a real singer.’ I think it creates a bridge for folks who might want to join us.”

Tuesdays, in addition to serving as a showcase of joyful Latin-tinged jazz composer Horace Silver, are a vital opportunity for bandleader Molina “to stretch myself,” to read through his carefully prepared and rehearsed transcriptions, and to keep company with his peers. “All these musicians grew up during that period of the ’50s and ’60s, when jazz was king,” says Molina. “We create the same kind of environment that was going on in those times.”

Cummings notes that there’s considerable cross-pollination over 7 Miles’s jazz program. Molina guests at Sunday jams (as he did at the Dogpatch) and on Mondays, and Lateano serves both as leader on Sunday and drummer on Tuesday, and will be subbing for the formidable Akira Tana next Monday. He hopes there’ll even be hopping from jazz to R&B, and in the opposite direction. It seems like the right place for that sort of thing to happen.

“That’s the thing about Vanessa and Dennis, they understand the importance of longevity,” says Bendigkeit. “And I have no instructions of ‘you gotta play this way’ from either of them. I can’t say it enough times: these people actually get it.”

The shaman, the oracle, and the engineer



MUSIC Two bra-clad figures peek through a shroud of fog onstage that’s every bit as thick as the shrieking white noise at Oakland’s Night Light. The sound is a perfect accompaniment for the sadomasochistic display before the audience. One woman’s lips press against another’s flesh, but if you lower your glance, you’ll notice among the chaos that one is slicing a blade across the other’s stomach like a ritualistic-looking sacrifice. Blood is drawn, even though they seem to be intimately embraced.

This was how Replicant, the live music/performance/visual art series with a penchant for the weird, chose to kick off the new year at their January showcase; Bad News, an industrial duo consisting of Sarah Bernat and Alex Lukas from Los Angeles and San Francisco, respectively, headlined. On this night, they had also invited experimental conspirators Greer McGettrick (formerly of The Mallard) and Shannon Madden (Chasms) to join them during the performance. Madden said just a day before this gig that her relationship with Bernat had ended.

So was this arousal, anguish, or both? The audience, mostly in frozen silence by this point, was left to their own devices and had to interpret the definitive sensory overload for themselves. “We were bouncing a lot of ideas off each other, like ‘What can you do besides karaoke to your own music; make it transformative?'” said Madden, referring to conversations with Bernat, during a recent interview.

Bernat writes lyrics and plays guitar in her band and is usually tethered by her instrument, but she seemed possessed enough to become unleashed during this set. Somehow she maintained a straight-faced gaze throughout the cutting, even if she trembled a bit.

“It was totally emotional. We both knew that the only way to say goodbye was to do it on stage. I think there’s a reason why Chasms and Bad News are connected and I think it has something to do with suffering.”

pMadden said this was her last real interaction with her ex, but the two bands (who are on the same labels) will share a bill May 10 at Thee Parkside when Sleep Genius, the independent record label “born of the San Francisco fog” throws a showcase of its acts: Five mostly-local bands will give their own intimate and brooding examples of how new music is emerging from the underground — and what they’re doing to manifest a new direction.

There was nothing subtle about the bodies on stage that night in Oakland, nor the heavily-processed sound that came with it. Along with her collaborator, Jess Labrador, Chasms has a new LP, Subtle Bodies, due this June. Their live show is taking on a slightly different direction, sounding more blown-out and less concerned with pop-song sensibility time constraints. They’ve upped the ante on noise elements and are beefing up on drone.

“I’m using Alex [Lukas]’s gear. There’s a reason,” Madden said. “Alex is my shaman, oracle, and engineer.” She explained that the pedals she’s been using are not meant for her bass guitar. “It’s the first time Jess has ever kept a live take of mine and not edited it.” Labrador is the songwriter, vocalist, guitarist, and sometime drum programmer in this dark duo. “I could never do any of that without experiencing Alex or Sarah.”

Alongside a DX7ii synthesizer and other assorted gear, we’re huddled — Lukas, Madden, and I — inside his tidy Bayview District trailer. Other like-minded artists reside on the property, but his studio hasn’t been completely set up since he was priced out of his old 18th and Mission space, after his landlord raised the rent by 40 percent.

“The cost of living here is so high. People funnel so much of their money into rent,” he said. Having weathered two tech booms as an artist in the Bay Area — he’s been here since 1998 — Lukas knows what it’s like to sell CDs at Amoeba for “a brick of cheese.”

His dwelling is, nevertheless, a cozy hideaway, well-stocked with cassettes and a pretty chill black cat. We chat about how his ties with Madden run deeper than just his influence over how she plays. For one, they spent much of 2013 together at the helm of The Lab, a long-standing visual and performance art space near 16th & Mission that has seen many incarnations over the years.

“There aren’t a lot of spaces like [The Lab] in San Francisco anymore. When Sarah and then [Shannon] kept it active with shows and performances, it sort of compromised The Lab’s role as a venue for visual art, but made it more important than ever as a performance space,” he said.

Under their collective watch, The Lab hosted a variety of underground or emerging acts, like Wreck & Reference, Some Ember, Austin Cesear, Marshstepper, Disappearing People, and Dorian Wood.

Madden claimed the types of shows she was booking weren’t “artsy enough” for a visual arts space to be left alone by the city’s Entertainment Commission. Finding a platform for these types of acts is, she says, the bigger concern in the current “cultural economy” in San Francisco.

“People work high-paying jobs that require their brain. When they get off work, they wanna get shitfaced and hear Toro Y Moi. They don’t wanna go deep in some experimental avant, industrial shit. They want their brains to be massaged and they want to go to sleep, wake up, do it again and eat some fuckin’ food-truck food.”

She notes Oakland is sustaining as an impressive platform for the underbelly of electronic music. “They have a fortified interest in outsider stuff.” She hopes the culture in San Francisco shifts underground again, but in the meantime is happy to book at more traditional venues including Brick & Mortar, The Night Light and Elbo Room.

“It’s not about the space, even as intimate as it was. I want to give the local bands the best deal that I can and not risk it getting broken up. Lots of rad shit’s going to have to happen in a bar space.”

Sleep Genius Presents: Ringo Deathstarr with Sleep Genius artists Bad News, Chasms, Never Knows, and Cry

May 10, 9pm, $10-12

Thee Parkside

1600 17th St, SF


A musician grows on Market Street



If you’ve spent time in downtown San Francisco, chances are you’ve seen him: thin as a rail but dressed to kill, light on his feet in squeaky-clean dress shoes amidst the grey monotone of Market Street, he takes a deep breath in — and when he breathes out, into the mouthpiece of his trumpet, the sound is pure confidence, come to sonic life.

Then he starts tap-dancing while he plays, using the staccato clack of his feet as a rhythm section, swinging his trumpet like a baton every now and then just for show. Depending on the day, he might stop after a few songs and take out a microphone and, armed with the backing tracks of some current Top 40 favorites, belt out a tune or two, all while dancing, grooving, jumping; it’s a rarity to catch him being still. Busy businessmen stop and stare and listen despite themselves. He winks at women and they get the giggles.

Gabriel Angelo is the ultimate entertainer, and he is 14 years old. Known as “the Trumpet Kid,” Angelo, an Oakland native, been playing trumpet and dancing since he was six, at a level that earned him an appearance on the Ellen Degeneres show in 2012, among other publicity, as well as the adoration of one of the toughest audiences in the city: harried FiDi pedestrians.

In honor of our “streets” issue, on a recent Thursday afternoon, I caught up with Angelo when he was playing on the traffic island outside the Ferry Building, serenading appreciative tourists and farmer’s market-goers. His voice has changed. There’s a whiff of cologne about him. Look out, San Francisco, the Trumpet Kid is growin’ up.


San Francisco Bay Guardian How did you get your start in music?

Gabriel Angelo My mom sent me to take piano lessons when I was six years old, but when I set foot in the music room, a few feet away from me there was this shiny brass trumpet. And I reached out and grabbed it and it was love at first sight.

Since I was really young, I always wanted to be an entertainer — my family watched a lot of old movies, like with Fred Astaire, and they inspired me a lot. My two older sisters were also very musical — they sang, danced, played the cello, piano, and violin. Our church was very heavy on the arts.

SFBG How often are you out here? Are you in school? 

GA I’m out here most Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, more if my schedule allows it. I try to get at least four hours of practice a day, usually more like six or eight. I’ve been home-schooled my whole life, and I actually already completed high school. Now I’m working on degrees in music and business through a program called CollegePlus.

SFBG What do you think you’ve gained from performing on the street from such a young age opposed to going the academic route with studying music?

GA This is my stage. There are so many people here, and I get to practice my stage and speaking skills, make connections, meet awesome people. I’ve learned a lot by talking to the homeless people in San Francisco, especially — they tell me their stories and experiences and that’s given me a whole new understanding. And I like feeling like I can help people with music. I’ve had people come up to me and say ‘Oh, I just had a person close to me die, and you put a smile on my face.’ With singing, my goal is just to inspire people. And also to make women feel beautiful.

SFBG To make women feel beautiful?

GA Yeah, because a lot of people don’t have fathers to tell them that, parents who make them feel good, and that one little thing affects their whole life. I know I wouldn’t have achieved anything without my mother’s support, without mentors in my life. And life comes from women.

SFBG Amen. Are you tight with other street musicians downtown? Are there turf wars?

GA No, we all have a lot of respect for each other. It’s whoever gets there first. But if someone ever really wanted me to move, that wouldn’t be [a big deal].

SFBG How much do you make on a given day?

GA It really depends. Anywhere from a penny to $100. It’s all going to help fund my career: paying for costumes, music videos, etc.

SFBG Any big projects coming up?

GA Well, I’m excited that I just signed with Journey’s manager. And I’m going to be playing the 2015 Super Bowl halftime show in Arizona. And I met someone who wants to make a movie about me, called “Swaggy.” (I’m Swaggy.) So yeah, it should be a fun year.

Stalin: Darkness Visible



I remember the day I met J.Stalin, 10 years ago. He bounced into the Mekanix’s East Oakland studio, walked up to me, and shook my hand.

“I’m J.Stalin. I write and record two songs a day,” he said proudly. Rail-thin, barely 5 feet tall, he looked like a middle-schooler. While he’s thickened somewhat in adulthood, the pint-size rapper retains an air of adolescence that’s one of the keys to his enduring success. Kids in the hood love Stalin because he seems like them and his music speaks to them. He looks like what he once was, a d-boy on the corner slanging rocks. Yet his music is versatile, with a profound undercurrent of melancholy to his storytelling and a huge streak of ’80s R&B in his sound, both of which appeal to adults. Even without radio support, this potent combination has made him one of the most popular rappers not simply in Oakland but in the Bay Area, period, and when I hear a car roll up playing a local artist, more often than not these days, that artist is J.Stalin.

“Make sure you put that in,” Stalin says. “I’m the most played person on the streets in cars.”

It reminds me of our first meeting — but only a little, for, despite his youthful appearance, it’s hard to discern the eager youngster of a decade ago in the somber adult he’s become in his late 20s.

We’re sitting poolside in a middle-of-nowhere suburb where J’s tucked himself away with his girlfriend and 2-month-old son. I couldn’t imagine living out here, but it’s the perfect retreat for a rapper, away from the distractions of the hood. Coming from the cramped public housing of West Oakland’s Cypress Village, Stalin can appreciate the surrounding blandness in ways I can’t. And, of course, he’s on the road frequently, fresh from a sold-out West Coast tour with Husalah and Roach Gigz and about to embark on a series of appearances for his new album, S.I.D. (Shining In Darkness) (Livewire/Fontana), which will take him as far afield as Ohio.


Named for his cousin, Sidney Malone, who died in 2008 at age 25 after suffering cardiac arrest during pacemaker surgery, S.I.D. showcases a different side of Stalin’s music than previous releases, even as it leans heavily on production from his longtime producers, the Mekanix, in addition to tracks by Mob Figaz maestro Roblo and HBK member P-Lo.

“With this record, I wanted to get back to making fun music,” he says. “When you come from the streets, and done been through hella shit, sometimes that’s all you want to talk about. It ain’t even like you rappin’. You just expressing your emotions. I love making street music, but my own music be depressing to me sometimes. I’m always going to give you that classic Stalin, but that’s the difference between this album and the last album: I wanted more uptempo tracks you can dance to.”

“I didn’t want to just name it, ‘In Memory of Sid,’ so I came up with Shining In Darkness, because that’s where the Bay at,” he continues. “We shining over here but the industry don’t put a spotlight on it. It’s just a darkness to the rest of the country. The more I started recording on it the more the meaning unfolded to me. Like when you hear it, you’re like, ‘Why don’t the world know about this nigga?’ But at the same time I just wanted to keep Sid’s memory alive; that was my biggest fan.”

In another departure, S.I.D. is Stalin’s first disc since July of last year, when he released his DJ Fresh-produced double-disc Miracle & Nightmare on 10th Street (Livewire/World’s Freshest), his first project to crack the Billboard rap charts, at #60.

“It’ll be like nine months since I dropped a project,” he says. “I’ve been focusing on putting out dope albums instead of flooding the music with quick mixtapes and shit.”

It’s a sign of how much rap has changed since the analog era, when E-40’s innovation as an independent artist was to drop an album “like a pregnant beeyatch, every 8 or 9 months,” compared with the lethargic, every year or two pace of major-label acts. Raised in the generation of the laptop studio, Stalin was among the innovators delivering a constant stream of music to his fans in the form of mixtapes, collaborations, and side projects in between proper solo albums. Waiting nine months between projects is almost unheard of for J, who has something like 30 discs to his credit at this point.

“I’ve been trying to work more strategically,” he says. “Work smarter, not harder. I’ve been doing more of the clothing line, selling Livewire Clothing at all my shows. Been doing a lot of pop-up stores in stores selling them, plus we got the online store. I popped off my website; I be giving away free music on there. My new artists Lil June and L’Jay, you can download they albums on my website.”

This is another key to Stalin’s success: He’s always thought of himself not simply as an artist, but as the CEO of Livewire Records, a company he has conjured into existence through sheer force of will, his own talent, and an uncanny ability to form alliances and develop artists. Even the short list of Livewire artists — Shady Nate, Philthy Rich, Stevie Joe, Lil Blood — is impressive, and Stalin is constantly building the roster. He still talks to major labels from time to time, but the decline of their business model, coupled with his success going through Universal’s independent distribution channel, Fontana, there’s not much the majors can offer him these days.

“Really, if ain’t nobody trying to give me money to put out multiple artists and projects, there’s not really no point. We at the position now where all the things that the label is talking about, we damn near can do ourselves,” he concludes. “Unless they giving out some millions — not one million, millions.”


Love rumbles



MUSIC Like some bastard love child of Link Wray and Johnny Thunders, Berlin-by-way-of-Israel rock ‘n’ roller Charlie Megira has mastered the art of blending 1950s-style rock guitar and spooky, blood-curdling howls. In his newest incarnation (though not as new as it may seem, but we’ll get to that later), the Bet She’an Valley Hillbillies, he takes those building blocks and adds a vroom-vroom rockabilly twang.

It’s a sound he describes in a typically poetic — and esoteric — word dump: “The beginning of the end of music…dealing with the local in an exotic manner. It don’t mean a thang if it ain’t got that twang…Rings of Fire that burn like love.” Got it.

Bigger news: After a long battle to obtain the proper visa, Megira will head to the United States for his first ever stateside tour, beginning Mon/28 at Vacation SF, then Tue/29 at the Nightlight in Oakland. In a travel loop, he’ll stop by the Austin Psych Festival in Texas and head back to the Bay for a pop in at the Makeout Room on May 14. During the tour, Megira and the Bet She’an Valley Hillbillies will be selling a cassette called The End of Teenage (Guitars and Bongos), a mix of original rockabilly and surf.

That Bet She’an Valley Hillbillies name is a nod to his childhood. He was born and raised in the northern Bet She’an region of Israel, obsessed with Algerian and Moroccan music like Salim Halali and Joe Amar. There was also the excellent record collection of his father, who once upon a time was a musician as well. “They told me that my father used to have a trumpet when he was a kid. I guess he didn’t stick with it,” says Megira. “But he used to play a number on family occasions like weddings. It was great.” Through his father’s vinyl stash, Megira absorbed the likes of Elvis, James Brown, Santana, and 1960s Israeli folk-pop star Esther Ofarim.

Later, a cousin introduced him to “popular music like Rod Stewart,” and hair metal legends White Snake.

“I used to ask him while watching the [White Snake] videos, ‘why are they wearing ripped clothes and torn jeans?’ I thought that they were poor or something,” he says.

He began a succession of his own bands, including perhaps the most well known, at least in Israel: The Modern Dance Club. Before MDC there was the Schneck, Naarey Hahefker, Oley Hagardom, Los Tigres, The Wall of Death, No Hay Banda, The Tralalala Boys; the list goes on.

I first caught on to the Modern Dance Club through its cheeky, perfectly ’60s-aping beach-blanket-bingo encapsulated video for “Dynamite Rock,” off second full-length Rock-n-Roll Fragments. (It was originally released in 2002 and rereleased on Birdman Records in 2009.) The song sounds like a fuzzier, Israeli “Teenager in Love.” It was hard to believe Megira was a modern-day musician, as the Modern Dance Club name hinted at and a quick Google search confirmed. He looked and sounded of another era, a toothy, pompadoured rocker with western motif style and hip-shaking guitar lines. Rock-n-Roll Fragments also contains a song called “Bet She’an Valley Hillbillies,” which informed his next act.

Years later, I learned of Modern Dance Club’s connection to Bay Area-based record label, Guitars and Bongos (Greg Ashley, Dancer), which released its double LP Love Police. It was the small Oakland label’s very first release after forming in 2011. More recently Guitars and Bongos released that tour tape, The End of Teenage.

“I read about [Megira] in an Israeli newspaper and heard him on Israeli radio,” says Guitars and Bongos co-founder Eran Yarkon, who lived in Israel for a year before moving to Oakland. “I never thought I would have a label. But of course I was a big fan, and so is my friend Julie Cohen, so we thought of ways to put out Charlie’s music in the US on vinyl. Julie came out with the name of the label, which is based on a Lou Christie song.”

Others might have found Megira through Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman’s follow-up to his wildly popular (and Oscar-nominated) film Waltz with Bashir (2008). The film, sci-fi epic The Congress (2013), included music by Megira and also an animated version of the rocker. “It was great seeing my cartoon character alongside Elvis and Yoko Ono.”

Folman had heard Love Police and tracked Megira down to be in his film. In it, Megira’s cartoon performs his own original song — haunting, slow-burning “Tomorrow’s Gone,” off an early releaseand also plays guitar on covers of Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” and Leonard Cohen’s “If It Be Your Will,” sung by actress Robin Wright in the film.

Appearing in Folman’s film was a coup, no doubt, but the move from Israel to Berlin with his wife and young son a few years back was an even bigger milestone, an epic journey north leading to a prime creativity peak. “It all felt a bit like The Flight Into Egypt theme you find in Gothic paintings. Germany is now our Egypt.”

In Berlin, he revived a sound he first visited in his Rock-n-Roll Fragments days and formed a band by the same name as that aforementioned track: Bet She’an Valley Hillbillies, with a bassist who goes by the Dead Girl (also a member of the Modern Dance Club) and bongo player named Corso, whom Megira met while doing integration classes at a college in Berlin.

For the Bet She’an Valley Hillbillies US tour, however, Michael Beach (Electric Jellyfish, Michael Beach, Shovels) and Alexa Pantalone (Pang, Penny Machine) will back Megira. No matter, he’s long been the songwriter and main driving force behind his bands, fronting with cool abandonment and a sweltering connection to vintage rockers of yore.

Like his sonic ancestors, moody rockers with greasy pomps and snarling attitude, he seems to be on the rebellious, rock ‘n’ roll trip — roaring with fuzzed-out ’50s riffs that still pummel like Link Wray, growling like Johnny Thunders — yet bound to family, home life, and even self-improvement.

However serious, Megira claims, “I want to finally learn how to sing and dance like a serious entertainer and to communicate with people like a normal person. Maybe I should take some courses or something.” But then he’d be a so-called normal person, and what fun is that?

Charlie Megira

With Dancer

Mon/28, 9pm, free


651 Larkin, SF


With Andy Human, Dancer, Big Tits

Tue/29, 9pm, $7

Night Light

311 Broadway, Oakl


All (really, all) are welcome


By Whitney Phaneuf


Mark Growden had a passion for jazz and classical music from a young age, growing up in the small northeast California mountain town of Westwood. So he set out to be a composer. He only learned to sing as an adult — out of necessity, when his instruments were stolen — and only then did his rich baritone vocals become a way to book gigs and get his music heard.

Now he’s teaching others to sing — often, amateurs who have never sung before — and writing original songs for them to perform. His Calling All Choir, now in its second season, is a 150-person choir made up of singers who, for the most part, have never taken the stage before in their lives.

Growden has always found inspiration in unexpected places. His take on American roots music blends his love of jazz with influences as varied as Appalachian folk, cabaret, and prison work songs from the old South. He started out composing for local dance companies, mainly on saxophone, before learning to play more folk-oriented instruments such as banjo and accordion. He’s spent the last 20-some years nomadically touring the country as a one-man band and in ensembles. In between shows, he’d stick around a city long enough to hold a singing workshop, which was as much about technique as it was about playful exercises that opened people up to music. Soon, Growden was known for both his songwriting and teaching abilities.

“The people in SF [in particular] kept coming back to the workshop,” said Growden, now an Oakland resident. “They asked ‘why do we have to stop for two months while you go on tour?’ I had it in my mind that I had to be on the road to make money.”

In September of last year, having just moved back to Oakland to settle down, Growden told his San Francisco workshop members, “Let’s try it.” He studied the community choir model, in which members pay dues to compensate the director, and started designing a program around his original compositions. He knew from the beginning that there would be no auditions; to reinforce its inclusive nature, he called it The Calling All Choir.

Growden spread the word online and through his previous workshop attendees, forming chapters in Sonoma and the East Bay, in addition to San Francisco. He set the dues on a sliding scale, ranging from $0 to $500 per person for the 18-week season. The inaugural season last year kicked off with about 40 members in each location. The three groups rehearsed separately — once a week for two hours a night — before coming together in January for dress rehearsals and final performances at The Sebastopol Center for the Arts and The Crucible in Oakland. The choir also performs at local hospitals and retirement homes.

First season member Gianna Smart had never heard Growden’s music before joining, but it ended up being part of the appeal.

“I imagined I’d find a Christmas choir in a church basement somewhere, and was okay with that, but when I met Mark and discovered that he wrote all of his own original compositions, I was really excited,” said Smart, who lives in Healdsburg. “The choir is a safe place to explore your own voice and be a part of a bigger sound. You don’t have to hit all the notes because you’re supported — someone always has your back.”

The second season is already five weeks under way, with 150 members. They’re set to perform four compositions by Growden in the coming weeks, plus a 1936 cantata by Ralph Vaughan Williams called “Dona nobis pacem.”

“It’s a classic round that the older generations know,” Growden said. “It’s important to keep those rounds alive in our culture.” So how do amateurs go from zero experience to singing in Latin? Growden said it usually comes down to practice: “There were people who couldn’t match pitch, but I kept having them come in early to work with them one-on-one or with a buddy,” he said. “People who I thought absolutely couldn’t sing, end up being able to sing.”

During a recent rehearsal, his patience seemed endless and his energy infectious. When the choir formed a circle grouped by vocal ranges — sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses — Growden sprinted from section to section, signaling with his arms and voice when and how to sing. He encouraged them “to lean” into their next notes, reminded them not to bury their heads in their black binders filled with sheet music, and even stopped them when they sounded flat. Sure, there were a few off-key, cringe-worthy moments.

But there was also something beautiful in those imperfections. “I don’t like to use the word spiritual – it’s way overused – but there is something sacred in people singing together. Even if they’re just drinking together,” Growden said later by phone.

Each rehearsal begins with vocal exercises, many of which Growden borrowed from theater, and usually some form of dancing to encourage people to use their entire body as an instrument. The rehearsals also end with a dance party, for which Growden lowers the lights and blasts everything from hip-hop to ABBA. For the rehearsal he let us sit in on, it happened to be James Brown.

The second season will culminate with a finale June 20, at a venue TBD, and the third season will begin in September 2014. The choir accepts members within the first three weeks of the season, though Growden said he makes exceptions for experienced singers who know how to read music.

“When you’re writing for amateurs, it’s harder. I’ve got to set them up for success,” he said. “But as a composer, I am really lucky. Vivaldi was a music teacher at an all-girls orphanage, Duke Ellington had his band…I mean, do you know how hard it is for composers to have their music made?”

For upcoming shows and more information: www.callingallchoir.org

On the Rise: Avalon Emerson


That delectable boom you hear on dance floors across the city and SoundCloud mixes throughout the cloud-cosmos, overlayed with an earworm diced-diva sample and frenzy-inducing keyboard clang? It’s “Pressure,” the January release from DJ and techno wiz Kahley Avalon Emerson (who goes by her last two names) on local label Icee Hot.

“Pressure’s” a seven-minute beast, and B-side “Quoi” is even deeper, with a smooth acid tune-up mix from the Tuff City Kids. The entire epic shebang has been invading parties like Honey Soundsystem, As You Like It, Icee Hot itself, and Emerson’s own monthly blast, Play It Cool.

And although “Pressure” has been hitting hard in the UK and Australia as well, Emerson is all about transmitting her electronic savvy with a distinctly San Franciscan sensibility. “My next release will drop March 25th on another SF (by way of Paris) label called Spring Theory,” she told us. “It’s called ‘Church of SoMa,’ affectionately named after a big 12-room house in that neighborhood, where I lived and learned to DJ when I first moved here in 2009. It’s more dubby and deep, and it features me singing and playing the Fender Rhodes.”

Emerson came here “to work in tech and get out of Arizona,” but she’s always expressed herself musically. “I’ve been a songwriter since I was a little girl. I was first bit by the studio bug in high school when I bought a few different kinds of microphones, pirated Cool Edit Pro, and recorded my friends’ garage bands. I always liked recording and producing much more than ‘jamming.'”

Heady electronic and house artists like dark-dubby Berliner Shed and Detroit mad scientists Theo Parrish and Carl Craig inspired her to explore more experimental production techniques, and she’s been working with expressionistic, pioneering guitar-software performer Christopher Willits “who has helped me engineer my tracks in his beautiful studio in the East Bay.”

‘Church of SoMa” will help cement Emerson’s emergence on the world techno scene, but she’s got plenty of tunes – and local inspiration — in the vault to keep her momentum going. “For the most part, my music is made to be listened to on a big club sound system — it’s a playful expression of my interests.”

How do you survive here as a musician? What’s the best and worst thing about being a musician in the Bay Area?

SF is not really a place people move to in order to pursue music, and since we’ve been in quite a bit of national news lately, it’s somewhat exotic to be from here. Other than that, it’s so far away from Europe and the East Coast that it’s a little harder to tour. Being a DJ in a 2 o’clock shutdown town with a dwindling selection of alternative music spaces can be a drag, too. But there are venues here like Public Works that have a great sound system and staff, and impressive artists like Matrixxman, Aria Rostam, and Some Ember (who have a killer live show). Also, I love the pho here.

Weirdest thing that’s happened at a show?

Well, last month in Seattle the drugged-out asshat playing after me dropped his Traktor laptop on my record just as I was finishing up my set. I then punished him by playing the entirety of Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U,” which is not an easy song or vibe to follow up.

Avalon Emerson on SoundCloud