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Rattlin’ bones and sugar plums



TOFU AND WHISKEY The tuba comes quickly, bubbling over excitedly at the start of the wildly entertaining “That’s It!” — the title track off the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s first record of all original compositions. The vivacious New Orleans jazz album, released earlier this year, was a long time coming. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been a staple of Louisiana for 50 years, and in its different variations has released more than 20 previous albums of covers, tributes, and reworked classics.

And there’s a reason the tuba stands out: It’s tooted by creative director Ben Jaffe, whose father and mother, Allan and Sandra Jaffe, created the revolutionary Preservation Hall jazz venue in the French Quarter in 1961. Allan organized the first incarnation of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 1963 and was the group’s first tuba player. Ben and his brother grew up around the corner from the venue and spent most of their time there, hanging out at the venue with the greats. “We literally grew up at the Preservation Hall at the feet of these pioneers of New Orleans jazz,” Ben tells me from his current home (he still lives just minutes from the hall). He seems still in awe of it all, genuinely impressed and appreciative of his past with the venue.

He took over the group and the venue in the early ’90s after graduating from college (Allan passed away in ’87). Along with managing the day-to-day operations of the hectic venue, he also plays tuba along with bass, and produces the band’s albums. This newest release was co-produced by Jim James from My Morning Jacket. The core group of eight musicians recorded That’s It! last year, blasting out Dixieland and New Orleans jazz tracks like spooky “Rattlin’ Bones” and slowing down for twinkly songs like “Sugar Plum” on percussion, banjo, piano, trumpets, tenor sax, clarinet, tubas, and the like. “All combined, out of eight guys, we probably play something like 300 instruments.”

The band will play select tracks off its original record this weekend at the Davies Symphony Hall, but there’ll be another tradition taking over most of that performance: peppy, jazzy holiday selections. The band’s on-and-off again (but mostly annual) Creole Christmas touring show lands in SF Sun/15 (Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness, SF. www.sfsymphony.org).

The selections will include songs culled from the band’s storied past repertoire, holiday classics, and ditties that have a special meaning to the outsized group. The band’s “spry, charming” 81-year-old clarinet player, Charlie Gabriel, suggested one of the songs, “We Wish You,” which he heard in church as a young boy. The rest of the song list is under wraps for now, but don’t expect a gaudy Xmas spectacular.

“We’re not bringing the Rockettes, and we don’t have a light show. It’s really going to be an intimate evening of music,” says Jaffe.

But he knows the drill for upping the holiday charm, having performed a variation of Creole Christmas for the better part of a decade. Plus, he’s crazy for the holiday season — he loves to decorate and celebrates both Christmas and Chanukah.

“These Creole Christmas shows started at Preservation Hall and that’s when we decided it was something we should take on the road,” says Jaffe. “New Orleans music is a reflection of our community, and we have such a wonderful community of musicians and artists in New Orleans. Every time we play a concert, it feels like a family gathering.” And when they’re home from the road — they tour most of the year — the members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play the venue that bears their name two to three times as week.

They’ve long been the buzzing heart of venue, and the holidays are just another reason to celebrate with wailing horns.

When the boys were younger, Allan used to bring Ben and his brother around to different churches, senior homes, banks, and restaurants to perform live holiday songs, instead of sending out gift cards. “I still do it,” says Jaffe. “I wake up early on Christmas morning and go out with my horn and walk around the French Quarter to really remind me of my childhood.”

He adds, “Any reason to have a party in New Orleans, you know? If the wind blows we’re going to have a parade.”



San Francisco’s Happy Diving has that mid-’90s Weezer thing going for it, certainly, but there’s a fuzzier, punkier edge than anything off Pinkterton, like a lazier Rivers Cuomo on a slacker punk bender. The band plays this weekend with fellow Bay Area pack Cocktails, which features members of Dirty Cupcakes. It describes its sound as “slop-punk” but sounds closer to power pop on tracks like “No Blondes (in California)” off this year’s Father/Daughter Records-released debut EP, which Matthew Melton of Warm Soda recorded. Also cool to note: The opener for this grand occasion is Blood Sister’s first show. Thu/12, 8pm, $5. Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. www.theknockoutsf.com.



Early LA punks the Weirdos (first active in that gritty hotspot ’76-’81) matched swagger to wit, chugging along thundering guitars and those gravelly, growly, depths-of-hell vocals and song titles like “We Got the Neutron Bomb.” They played with all the bands you might expect, given the time and place: Germs, Dead Boys, Middle Class. And more so, the legacy of the band and its ilk clearly influenced later SoCal bratty punks and snarling weirdos alike. And now, after a few revivals an oh-so-many decades later, that band of Weirdos is back again, arriving at Thee Parkside with VKTMS and the Re-Volts. Sat/14, 9pm, $18. Thee Parkside, 333 11th St, SF. www.theeparkside.com.



No relation to those Preservation Hall Jaffes we met earlier in Tofu and Whiskey (that I know of), Sarah Jaffe is indeed her own lady. Yet the Texas-bred singer-songwriter, who’s collaborated with Eminem, has the delicate whisper of Cat Power and the wild-woman howls of Fiona Apple. That’s just a longwinded way of saying her vocals are lovely and textured and worthy of live listening. She’ll make you feel something deep on songs like “Satire,” off 2012 release, The Body Wins. With Midlake. Mon/16, 7:30pm, $14. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St, SF. www.bottomofthehill.com.



Experimental Cleveland post-everything art rock group Pere Ubu only has one original member. That person, warbly singer David Thomas, gives the band its backbone of avant-garde oddness. Thomas’ vocals and the band’s echoing, effects-heavy guitars make Pere Ubu sound at once like it’s hovering in outer space and being shot down into the deep, dark, muddled waters of unexplored oceans. It’s always a trip, either way. Tue/17, 8pm, $16. Slim’s, 333 11th St, SF. www.slimspresents.com *




MUSIC Fans of the Dismemberment Plan may have found initial listens to Uncanney Valley (Partisan Records), the group’s new post-breakup album and first original material in a dozen years, a little jarring. For a band that built its reputation upon jittery post-punk freakouts and raw, cathartic lyrical output, the more streamlined approach could take a little getting used to.

But from the nervous angst of 1999’s Emergency & I, to the more somber and reflective comedown of 2001’s Change, the four-piece has always managed to hold a mirror to the time and place its members were in at the time. Now, they’re in (or approaching) their 40s, and are spread all over the East Coast with marriages and full-time jobs occupying their time. The new material is a flawed but ultimately rewarding reflection of the Dismemberment Plan, now.

Formed in 1993 and steeped in the Washington, DC post-hardcore and art-punk traditions of bands like Fugazi and Jawbox, the Dismemberment Plan’s success came slowly but surely over the following decade. The band’s signatures — including its inventive rhythm section (propelled by the manic drumming of Joe Easley), injection of synthesizers, and erratically sharp vocals of frontperson Travis Morrison — came into perfect alignment on Emergency & I, one of the finest indie rock albums of the 1990s. When the band called it quits soon after touring to support its follow-up, Change, it all felt a little premature — though there certainly weren’t any expectations by fans or the band itself for an eventual reunion. That all changed in 2010, when the group got back together for a brief tour to commemorate Barsuk Record’s reissue of Emergency & I.

Though the band had previously reunited for a couple of one-off shows in 2007, something about the lead-up and aftermath of this tour was different.

“In rehearsals we started jamming more and more, and we really liked what we were coming up with,” Morrison said. “That led us to continue getting together to play when we didn’t have any shows booked, where we’d have to be rehearsing old songs, making sure we know them and stuff like that. So that was the impetus.”

That this led not only to more touring, but also to an album full of new material was extra surprising, considering Morrison, after a couple of post-Plan solo albums, claimed to have “retired” from music in 2009. With a move to New York City, a full-time gig at the Huffington Post, the co-founding of a music start-up (called Shoutabl), and a marriage all coming within the past five or so years, some time off from music definitely made sense, though Morrison has obviously since backed off of the finality that retirement represents.

“I just wanted to take a year off after moving to New York where I didn’t have any shows, didn’t have any bands, no records coming out … I just wanted to live,” he said. “I wanted a sabbatical — but ‘retired’ is so much more fun to say than sabbatical.”

For all of its shimmery pop leanings and at times perhaps overly-comfortable grooves, Uncanney Valley isn’t without many of the strengths and idiosyncrasies that make the Dismemberment Plan the Dismemberment Plan. Synths are expertly layered throughout, Easley’s drumming and Eric Axelson’s bass playing are as locked in as ever, and Morrison can still surprise you with odd little one-liners that wind up rattling around in your head for days. Lyrically, the album is all over the map and ventures into a lot of uncharted territory for the band: the sacrifices of fatherhood (“Daddy Was A Real Good Dancer”); the comfort found in long-term, post-infatuation relationships (“Lookin'”); the anxiety and loneliness of moving to a new city (“Invisible”). This is grown-up shit, being explored admirably. Still, you have to wonder how this will juxtapose in a live setting with all the older material, which feels like a lifetime away from where the band is now. Morrison for one, isn’t worried.

“There aren’t too many of our older songs that are solely based on adolescence or adolescent issues,” he said. “There are very few songs where we accused someone of not understanding us, which is a very young thing to do. I think there’s a lot of philosophical distance or perspective, where when I sing those songs now, I think, ‘Wow, we must have been little old men when we were like 23.’ The fact that there aren’t many accusatory songs makes it easier to convey the older stuff now at 40 years old.”

Whether Uncanney Valley represents an official final chapter in the Dismemberment Plan’s career or the first in a series of new band happenings remains to be seen. The group is taking it all one day at a time, and Morrison certainly wouldn’t want it any other way.

“Someone told me once that Bill Murray tells everyone that he’s retired, but then just comes out of retirement whenever there’s something exciting or interesting to do and I really like that attitude,” he said. “So whatever Bill Murray does, I do.” *


Tue/10, 8pm, $28


1805 Geary, SF


Gray days



TOFU AND WHISKEY New DIY record labels? Minimalist two-person ukulele bands? These are not the signs of fast-paced, modern, glossy hi-tech lifestyles. While San Francisco is at a crossroads, on the verge of an identity crisis splintered throughout many a start-up, at least a few of SF’s musicians (and likely plenty more) have made an artist’s leap farther north to even grayer Portland, Ore.

Magic Fight’s Alex Haager is one of those expatriates. He started a new indie label — Breakup Records — and moved to Portland with his partner, Sierra Frost, another musician, from the bands clintongore and Downer Party. “It’s a great place for music and a great place to live if you make less than 200k a year. And we like the rain.”

They started the label last month with an indeterminate interest in dreamy, brainy pop acts. There are already plans to release records by Frozen Folk, Magic Fight, Jesus Dude Mom, and a few more in the next six months or so. Right now, the roster of acts soon to be rolled out is all from the Bay Area.

“We each have tight relationships with some great independent bands whom we have worked with in different capacities over the years,” says Haager, from his newish home in Portland. “Our goal is to help grow the bands that inspire us — especially musicians with approaches and aesthetics that we find interesting within the realms of what can be considered pop.”

“Frankly, we’re both underwhelmed by garage rock. We plan to release records that offer an alternative to the overly nostalgic, blasted out stuff that has become so prevalent in California in the last 10 to 15 years. We want to showcase what the West Coast sounds like to us.”

One of the label’s first releases will be the debut EP of Kitten Grenade, a deceptively named duo made up of old-timey vocalist-ukulele player Katelyn Sullivan and drummer Ben Manning. Breakup previewed it with a single release a few weeks back, for a song titled “Gray.”

The minimalist pop track is arresting — occupying a space between bright and dark, it’s both melancholy and lightly fluttering over heavier vibes, with much of those emotions pinned to Sullivan’s jazz-inflected vocals. “That was very intentional,” says San Francisco’s Sullivan, who lives in the Mission. “‘Gray’ started out being about my inability to make decisions, and is another play on opposites; it felt like a great song to pick as our first single.”

The video for the track, shot in black and white, similarly plays with light and dark shadows. It features crisp repetitive images cropped in closely around Sullivan’s face and bare shoulders, and dancing orchids and roses twirling around her. Like Georgia O’Keeffe’s storied paintings, the close-ups of the flowers can resemble female sexual organs, in particular the still from the video that was chosen for the cover of the single.

“In a way, the orchid in the image — with its vaginal undertones — could represent purity, which then fades into the muddled gray of the real world in the background. Using it as the cover wasn’t so much planned as it was a happy accident. It’s an image that happened to be in our video that really resonated with me,” Sullivan says.

The full four-track debut EP, Nice Day, on Breakup is coming in January 2014. Sullivan — who calls Philz Coffee, the Phone Booth, El Rio, and Hog and Rocks her favorite local spots — says the album title references her experience with drummer Manning when they were recording during the “beautiful San Francisco summer we had this year.”

So why go with a label full of SF ex-pats? Turns out Sullivan played music with Frost before, in her previous ukulele band, Hate Factory. “[I] have always admired her smarts and knowledge when it comes to music,” says Sullivan of Frost. “Both Alex and Sierra are working musicians, but they’re also excellent at playing a supportive creative role. In terms of building my band, they’ve really helped me realize what’s in my head when on stage, in the studio, and representing myself out in the world, which can be hard and weird. It’s wonderful to be a part of something during its beginning stages.”

Sullivan, whose long-running influences are Fiona Apple and Joli Holland, got her own start doing musical theater on the East Coast. She came to California to study visual arts and later began writing music. She met Frost around then and they formed Hate Factory, another charming act with a defiant name: “Although most people who hear the name Kitten Grenade imagine shredding guitars and screaming metal ballads, it really does fit the theme of our little indie folk band. The name has actually been with me for a long time, and was the name of my thesis project in art school. Kitten Grenade in itself is all about juxtapositions and opposites. I really like names that trick you.” she explains. “I mean, when you hear the name Hate Factory, you don’t think of two cute girls playing ukuleles.”

While Sullivan and Manning await the release of their EP on Breakup, they’ll play a few local shows including opening the BFF.FM launch party for the new local radio station Best Frequencies Forever, with the Happy Hollows next week (Nov. 27, 9pm, $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com.)

“If you haven’t seen Kitten Grenade yet, you definitely should,” says Haager. “She’s basically an angel.”

As for Haager’s concert schedule, he’ll flee the life of Portland comfort momentarily for the Bay Bridged’s annual Bay Brewed festival Dec. 7 at Public Works. Also, he too is looking forward to a new release through Breakup: a split cassette EP with Oakland-based Frozen Folk. And of course, he’s excited about Kitten Grenade’s debut.

“It’s simple and elegant and will encourage you to fall in love.”



Longstanding global music-mashers Dengue Fever (of LA) and New York City’s Balkan Beat Box (originally from Tel Aviv) both arrive in SF on extended tours this week. Led by Cambodian singer-songwriter Chhom Nimol and guitarist Zac Holtzman, Dengue Fever will release its Girl from the North EP Dec. 3 — its first release in more than two years, on its own label, Tuk Tuk Records. It plays the Independent this Thu/21 with locals Seventeen Evergreen (8pm, $18. 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com). BBB is releasing new videos, including one for “Suki Muki,” a single off 2012’s Give (Nat Geo Records), and a remix of “Suki Muki” by Ori Kaplan’s alter ego DJ Shotnez. It plays with Canadian Bhangra-Celtic fusion act (really) Delhi 2 Dublin at the Regency Fri/22 (8:30pm, $27. Regency Ballroom, 1300 Van Ness, SF. www.theregencyballroom.com).


House party



MUSIC It was decided — my BFF-roommate and I would host a rock ‘n’ roll show, and like many of our favorite activities (feasting, boozing, twirling), we became set on throwing said party from the comfort of our own home. Denying our fears of venue hunting, financial commitments, and general hassle, we focused on the power rewarded to the classic hostess with the mostest; the ability to control all elements of a dirty bash and adjust them to our liking.

What bands will play? Ones we like, who also like each other. What kind of liquor will be present? Whiskey, no exceptions. What kind of snacks might we serve? None, people should bring us burritos (or in my case, homemade kimchi and quinoa — a foul smelling food for a social event that did wonders for curbing my potential hangover). Not only was this party to be at our house, but this little rock shindig would blast from our backyard on a (hopefully sunny) Sunday afternoon. Day drinking to shredding guitars? The neighbors were going to love it.

We nailed down a date and who would play, rounding out the bill with some hip DJ acquaintances. A buddy drafted a flier and the process of inviting humans began. The presence of close friends was expected and offers for help were not denied. Then we cast the net, awkwardly approaching yoga teachers, favorite baristas, local celebrities, and secret crushes. The boyfriend promised to roll deep with eligible males of various sexualities and I may have plotted some (later to be discovered unsuccessful) matchmaking. We urged bands to cart along their musician homies and peed at the thought of John Dwyer or Wymond Miles walking up our stoop in the halo of afternoon light.

Of course we had no legitimate way of predicting who would actually show up. Expect everyone who confirms to flake and everyone who rejects to bring a pack of wingmen. We crossed our fingers and braided our hair, then calmed our nerves by remembering that even if all bailed, the bands were confirmed. A show in our yard is still a show in our yard. Guaranteed win. Oh yes, and we had a fuck-ton of beer — free of charge. We miraculously managed to get the party “sponsored,” which allowed us to collect donations for the dudes on stage. Major bonus.

While party planning seemed to be sailing, our biggest concern loomed: the noise complaint. A similar party we hosted in June garnered 22 calls to the SFPD — thankfully our only injury was a slap on the wrist and some sneers. In anticipation of upset, I baked a batch of chocolate chip cookies from mom’s recipe and skipped up the stairs of the neighboring stoop, treats in tow.

With the oldies next door sugared up, I called the SFPD for the lawful scoop and learned that cop arrival is completely tattletale-based. Officers can only issue a citation if the party pooper signs a citizen’s arrest. This is why you ALWAYS INVITE THE NEIGHBORS. If the uniforms still rap on your door: answer it, shoot the shit, and promise to cool it, ASAP. Our biggest takeaway: short sets. By the time the doorbell rings, they’ll be singing the encore. “It’s their last song, officer. I promise,” perfectly compliments a drunk wink.

So, after weeks of planning and a morning full of chaotic setup, we were crazy high on anticipation. I forgot to shower. I drank everyone’s coffee. I zoomed down the block for incense — “to set the mood,” I shouted. And then all we could do was wait for the madness to begin.

Heads banged. Hair was tangled. Happiness was found at the bottom of countless empty cases. People climbed the fire escape for a better view of the bands, while my exes pleasantly mingled in the garden below. The cops dropped by, as anticipated, but left without trouble. My dream of getting a mug shot will have to wait.

The freedom of a privately hosted show put everyone in a tender mood and it felt overwhelmingly blissful to support local music in independent fashion. The party was a complete success, depending on how you measure extreme happiness and unfathomable coolness. And OK, we were hammered. Everything is a delightful blur and I ended up wrestling in the gravel. You can do what you want at your own house — people can’t say shit. All the more reason why we’re already planning the next round. See you there.




The home base for SFJazz was decades in the making, but the popular nonprofit jazz organization finally got its own permanent home this year — and the SFJazz Center‘s sparkling new glass building is a marvel of modern sound. The $63 million, state-of-the-art facility includes balconies, perches, a fancy restaurant, and a smaller performing space for up-and-comers. But the main bowl-shaped auditorium deep inside the venue is where all that jazzy action comes alive, a circular space with platforms that can accordion and retract to make room for different kinds of setup. Resident artistic directors like Jason Moran have made good use of that unique space; during his stay, Moran opened up the bottom level for an actual skateboarder’s half-pipe with live skating demos, and also widened it up for a Fats Waller dance party. And of course a diverse roster of jazz greats — McCoy Tyner, Eddie Palmieri, Esperanza Spaulding, Hugh Masekela, Bill Frissell — have reached the new rafters with their flights of sound.

201 Franklin, SF. (866) 920-5299, www.sfjazz.org



Jaunty East Bay rapper-producer IamSu! has released a barrage of clever mixtapes and collaborated with the likes of big-timers like 2 Chainz, Wiz Khalifa, Juvenile, E-40, and Roach Gigz — but his career can be traced back to Youth Radio, a nonprofit media center based in Oakland. Like so many others before and since, the talented 23-year-old MC got his start there at age 15 and learned all about the art of beat making. Fast-forward a decade and IAmSu! (born Sudan Ahmeer Williams) is getting some serious love for attention-grabbing lyrics, bold beats, and his casual return to hyphy, not to mention team efforts with his crew HBK (Heart Break Kids) Gang. He still reps his hometown even while sending it up in hits like “Goin’ Up” feat. Khalifa, nonchalantly tossing out rhymes like “Ask around I got hell of love in the Bay/Get money give a fuck what a hater say” over a wobbly beat in a video directed by Kreayshawn and featuring cameos by locals like Gigz. He may be bursting outside the bounds of the Bay, but his output remains a family affair.


Porn, punked?



SEX + MUSIC Girls put out for bands. Thrashing drums and driving bass have been known to leave a babe or two with autographed cleavage, missing panties, and a backstage pass. Sacramento band Get Shot!, the self-proclaimed “sleaziest punk band in the world,” decided to reap more than the usual rewards from its crew of exhibitionist groupies, starting a porn site — GetShotGirls.com, of course — that combines its members’ greatest loves: naked girls and rock and roll.

The idea isn’t exactly radical at its core. Sites like SuicideGirls, God’s Girls, and BurningAngel all encourage masturbation to the same platter of “alt” women: tattoos, piercings, short bangs, and thick eyeliner, usually with few diverse options in terms of shape, size, and ethnicity.

But GetShotGirls is a great PR move — visit the site and you get a few girls, plus a lot of Get Shot! And bandleader J.P. Hunter argues GetShotGirls has a fresh perspective: women sans airbrushing paired with hard-to-discover NorCal punk music. He swears there’s more to it than horny male rockers capitalizing off willing fans and their own egos. But the proof is in the porn. We called him up to pry for more details.

SFBG: You say rock is too serious today. Is there as much stimulation during your live shows as your site offers?

J.P. Hunter: Yeah, there’s stimulation all right. I cum on the crowd during the last song.

SFBG: Wait, what?

JPH: We’re not a gimmick band, but during our last song I do end up wearing a four-and-a-half foot long penis that shoots whipped cream. People start licking it off each other and everything. Feels great. Feels really great. I especially like to aim for couples.

SFBG: Sounds like you’ve got a great thing going onstage. Why move to Web porn?

JPH: I’m capitalizing on having fun. Porn is a fun, interesting industry. I’ve been doing a lot of research on what’s out there and over the years corporate backing has gone up while quality has gone down. But we’re all natural, with little-to-no editing. We’re committed to keeping girls in natural settings and giving them full creative control. Then we feature unsigned bands in our movies. Soon we’ll have a radio station. We’ve already got music from about 50 bands ready to go. We’re not just promoting ourselves, we want to promote all unsigned artists. We want to be just as rock and roll-oriented as we are porn-oriented.

SFBG: So who are the girls on the site?

JPH: Some are friends. We’ve also put up ads. Started getting girls for band photo shoots and met girls coming to shows. We start a friendship with them, they dance for us, and then we take their pictures. Some do it for their own personal portfolios. Some like the female empowerment, power over men through seduction. And they like us. We’re nice and fun to hang out with.

SFBG: Let’s be real: Are you doing this to get laid?

JPH: Actually no. I’ve been in a relationship for a couple years now. My girlfriend, Jilian Haze, does makeup and hair for all the models.

SFBG: You have a new female bass player, Laura Lush. What does she think?

JPH: Laura is a sexually open person. She contacted GetShotGirls about modeling for the site. Shortly after, she saw that we were looking for a bass and ended up being a great fit. She’s a tough chick — she broke both her legs at a Death Angel concert. And she’s bisexual.

SFBG: What about including some naked boys for the ladies and gay boys who like punk? And how about adding more diversity? So far all your ladies are pretty similar…and white.

JPH: We just did a photo shoot with a Mexican girl. And there’s an Asian girl on the site. But yeah, we definitely want to expand on that. I don’t think we’ll go the gay route because we don’t have to, marketwise. And we’re a heterosexual band. But we do want to add more girl-on-girl action. Straight women like lesbian porn.

SFBG: Once you get more cash flow, what’s your next step for the site?

JPH: A movie with a band getting fucked after their show, behind stage, by groupies.


Functional hyphy



MUSIC Here, in the depths of the pot smoke-drenched green room of Slim’s, the muffled chants of an insatiable gathering of Bay Area hip-hop fiends grows louder and more forceful by the second. The crowd is brazen in its vocal yearning for the show’s main act of IamSu! and Compton rapper Problem.

This show, which took place at the end of last month, was a de facto homecoming spot on the Million Dollar Afro mixtape tour and the leader of the HBK (Heart Break Kids) Gang was keen to give his fans what they wanted, and then some.

After a quick team prayer, IamSu! and Problem make their way up the back stairs towards the stage, giving the ceremonial daps to the homies along the way. Then amid a torrent of blaring horn drops courtesy of HBK Gang DJ Azure, IamSu! and Problem leap out on stage like they’re t-shirts being launched from a cannon, the kind you’d traditionally see at baseball games.

IamSu!’s lumbering 6-foot-something frame is rocking a dashiki and a slim leather jacket. The duo commandeers the performance with the skills of a group of season veterans and dutifully maintains the hype level two clicks above organized calamity for the majority of the show. Between each track, someone or some group out there is getting a shout-out, but the biggest shout-out of them all is reserved for the completely unexpected appearance of Juvenile, who is trotted out to perform his verse on “100 Grand.”

If IamSu! had followed the conventional hip-hop career path, he would have quickly spat out an album following his 2011 potty-mouthed, Gold-certified single “Up” and filmed the all-too-common hip-hop club music video with Lil Wayne. But for all his youthful cheerfulness, IamSu!, or Su for short (his real name is Sudan Williams), embodies a dexterous patience when it comes to decisions regarding his budding career.

He has plans for an album but no specific date. He frankly would rather kick it in the studio with his HBK crew laying down tracks on tracks on tracks than strut it out on the national stage, at least for the time-being. Su cheerfully remarks that “with or without music, HBK Gang would be having fun together,” but, almost conversly, holds high aspirations for his crew: “I want it to be a brand like Nike and you see our logo and you already know it’s from the Bay Area. That bond is what keeps us so humble right now, the fact that people will check me when I’m being an asshole, I’ll check somebody else and vice versa.”

A handful of major labels have courted Su and he has rejected generous offers from at least one. In fact, he’s still residing at home because he admits he “just hasn’t had the time to find a new spot”, but he did confirm to me that his pockets “are on sumo.” It was there in his childhood room/makeshift studio that he recorded his incredibly slippery and jolting verse on E-40’s “Function,” while recovering from a cold.

Su, who raps and talks with an undeniable East Bay twang, is just as adept in the studio as he is on the mic and just like the Kanye-model, Su produces nearly every track he raps on. Like East Bay hip-hop stalwarts Trackademiks and Kool A.D., Su explored and absorbed the craft of beat-making at the Oakland nonprofit media center, Youth Radio. Starting at the age of 15, he spent three days a week immersing himself in knobs, keyboards, and drum pads. The first poignant moment of his time there — and of his rap career — occurred when he performed for his peers at Youth Radio, which was the result of a weeklong competition. Su fondly recalls it was “one of the best feelings ever” when he observed the positive reactions of the crowd at Youth Radio.

Su now does the bulk of his production at a small and almost claustrophobic studio tucked away in a nondescript office on the border of Emeryville and Berkeley. There in that studio, I caught a glimpse of the process of constructing a slap.

Starting with a simple synth riff and voice sample, Su gradually and artfully added layers of drum hits, hi-hats, and bass jabbed while twisting and warping the voice sample. Operating the keyboard drums with his left hand, Su maneuvered the mouse to dig in the sample database and drop in instrument clips, all while methodically bobbing his head like a metronome. It wouldn’t be an IamSu! joint if he wasn’t also testing out some indistinguishable lyrics under his breath. Around 15 minutes later, the result was a rough draft of what will likely be a banger, which had the overwhelming approval of his crew present in the studio. Though Su affirmed for me that this joint won’t be hitting speakers “for at least a while”.

While in the studio, Su couldn’t help but bug out with giddiness every time he listened to one of his unfinished tracks, he seemed playful yet focused, relaxed yet determined. That brimming combination of curiosity and enthusiasm remains the driving force behind his dozen or so mixtapes.

Overarching questions pertaining to the status of hyphy or Bay Area hip-hop don’t apply to Su. Whether or not he brings back hyphy or becomes the first rap superstar of the decade from the Bay Area, the self-described “laid back friendly kid who likes to make music, go shopping, and listen to ’80s music,” is going be having the time of his life in the studio, with the full support of his crew.


Punk democracy



MUSIC When the going gets tougher in the music biz, scrappy little South Bay punk label Asian Man Records has kept on going, downsizing yet sticking to its guns. That means standing by bands that have a chance to jump ship to a bigger imprint — by wishing them well.

Such might be the case with San Francisco’s Wild Moth, which came heavy with its sprawling, epic post-punk on the Mourning Glow EP released by Asian Man last summer, plays this week’s showcase, and has recently completed a full-length. “There’s some bigger labels that might be interested,” says Asian Man’s main man Mike Park, 43, on a recent morning in the office in his mom’s basement garage in affluent, arcadian Monte Sereno, right where it’s been for the past 16 years. “Our thought pattern is we want what’s best for the band. We’re here for you, but we want you to get the best deal.”

DIY, book-your-own-life punk has always hinged on that kind of support to Park, no slouch when it comes to both music-making and community-building. I last spoke to the vet of the South Bay ska scene and linchpin of Skankin’ Pickle about eight years ago when he was embarking on his “Bike For Peace” tour, cycling down the coast along with others to play and raise funds for a local youth center. Five years along from the opening of the first drug- and alcohol-free arts-focused Plea For Peace center in Stockton, Park continues to keep the faith — and to keep Asian Man out of the red — by staying small, though over the years he’s sold more than a 1 million albums by artists as disparate as Alkaline Trio, Andrew Jackson Jihad, the Queers, Kepi Ghoulie, the Lawrence Arms, and Slow Gherkin.

“A lot has to do with, when the music industry started to tank, I had a big jump-start on it,” says Park today. “I felt there was going to be a big turn and I started cutting back quite a bit. Bigger labels were still spending a lot of money and doing well in 2000, but I’ve always been able to turn a profit and, with the present-day music industry, I cut back even more.”

“We’re really upfront with the bands as far as our limitations — and we don’t do much at all!” he continues, chuckling. Yet despite the fact that Asian Man doesn’t harbor a major’s or major-indie’s marketing team (Park employs only one full-time employee besides himself) it does what it can, fostering a space that helps everyone help themselves. “Mostly the bands want to be part of this community. A lot of bands come over and hang out, help us pack records, lend a hand. We try to go to each other’s shows, and bands help out other bands when they tour.”

Park clearly took the lessons of Ian MacKaye’s Dischord Records to heart: keep prices low, maintain integrity, the works. The upcoming show with Wild Moth, the Exquisites, and Shinobu might be considered a good example of punk democracy in action: “They’re all on the same level,” Park says of the groups. “We’re just hoping we get a decent crowd. It’s a test to see how many people we can get out with no real headliner!” He got SF’s Great Apes on the bill because he’s known member Brian Moss since he was a teenager playing music: “He’s a super-talented guy and very supportive of all bands. You can tell some people are into it for what can further their careers, but instead with him, it’s ‘how can I help others?'”

Sounds a little like someone else we know. Still, punks mature, get married, and have kids, much like Park, who, despite an upcoming reunion show for his combo the Chinkees at a ska festival in Las Vegas in May, seems most excited about his latest project: his album of kids music and his kids label, Fun Fun Fun, which aims to release children’s music by punks. So far, the imprint’s Play Date, composed of Greg Attonito of Bouncing Souls and wife Shanti Wintergate, has shown up on NPR, and Park himself won a spot as the “Super Music Friend” on this winter’s Yo Gabba Gabba! Live! tour. “Other than the fact that we try to put out music that isn’t dumbed down, musically, it can pass for any of the records we normally put out,” he explains of Fun Fun Fun’s sounds, “only more G-rated and more educational lyrics.”

Whether he’s teaching kids when it’s safe to cross the street via ska or learning about new hardcore genres from the high schoolers that come by the office to help out, Park certainly can’t be accused of turning into a cranky punk nostalgist, grumbling about awesome mosh pits long gone.

“Punk’s evolved like everything. Things can’t stay the same with technology and the social media tools that artists have,” he says optimistically. “Let’s say there’s an underground show, and it gets canceled. Someone says, ‘Let’s do it at my house and here’s the address,’ and after a social media blast, you have 100 kids in a house in an hour. I remember pre-Internet you’d have to call people, and no one would have a cell phone, and someone would camp out at the old location and say the new location is here. I think it’s kind of cool, to be honest.”


Sat/20, 9pm, $9

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 621-4455


GOLDIES 2012: The Mallard


GOLDIES You always hear of those artists that simply must keep creating, regardless of location, monetary resources, health, or free time. It’s the urge, the craving, something deep in the pit of their being. Idle hands and all that. I get the feeling this is just how it is for Greer McGettrick, the Mallard’s lead vocalist-guitarist. There’s a fire in her belly, and it burns from a sonic tinder.

Let’s take just this year as a case example. The Mallard released its psych-garage influenced debut full-length, Yes on Blood, in March on John Dwyer’s Castle Face Records to increasingly rave reviews. The band opened for Ty Segall, Thee Oh Sees, Shonen Knife, Hot Snakes, and countless others, at shows at places like the Verdi Club, Slim’s, and Bottom of the Hill. It toured with the Fresh and Onlys’ Wymond Miles. It put out a split seven-inch with Thee Oh Sees. It’ll have a plexi seven-inch out later this month. It contributed a stirring cover of the classicaly morose track “There She Goes Again” to Castle Face Records’ Velvet Underground and Nico tribute album. Oh, and McGettrick has had a few art shows around the city, showcasing her intricate woodcuts.

In addition to all that, the fuzzy San Francisco four-piece is now working on its follow-up to Blood. “I’m still writing a lot, but I feel like it’s more of a record for me,” says McGettrick, sitting outside the coffee shop-video store where she works. “I feel like Yes on Blood was more of a record for San Francisco, an homage, where it was like, ‘These are the bands that I love and I’m drawing from them’ — there’s the Thee Oh Sees song, the Ty Segall song, the Intelligence song.”

Or, as she’s been know to describe it, the band makes “inside-out-echo-laser-garage-psych-rock.”

“This is more of an album for me in that it’s a lot weirder, a lot darker, more personal,” she says. “I’m learning how to use my voice versus yelping.”

Live, that yelping comes across as more of a gritty punk plea, an emotional core tumbling out, backed by McGettrick’s noisy guitar work; “boy” Dylan Tidyman-Jones on guitar, keys, and backing vocals; “girl” Dylan Edrich on bass; and Miles Luttrell on drums.

This current formation of the Mallard is here after a few false starts. When McGettrick first moved to SF three years back, she gathered friends to start a new band, but it quickly fizzled. So she started again. “I just needed to keep playing songs, keep playing shows,” McGettrick says.

She’d already been in bands for years before her move to the Bay Area. The Studio City, Calif. native was part of the Fresno music scene for five years after college. “I kind of got stuck there, but it was good for me. There are some great people there, some really talented musicians, there’s just not a lot to do. A lot of people move away once they realize there’s something else out there.”

Once in SF, she clicked with the booming garage rock scene, and fortuitously met Dwyer. She played him some of her raw home recordings and he told her to go record more, and he’d put them out on Castle Face.

“It’s a really great scene,” McGettrick says. “Living in Fresno for five years — where it was just such a struggle to get other bands to play from out of town, and it was hard to get any momentum there. People moved away, bands broke up — it got me to work a lot harder. I moved to San Francisco and it kind of seemed easy. There’s all these bands, all these shows, people go to shows. It feels nourishing. We’re really lucky to live in this city.”

Dream of the ’90s



MUSIC By now, Antwon’s mug has probably nestled somewhere in your brain. It’s hard to take your eyes off him in the Brandon Tauszik-directed video for Antwon’s song “Helicopter,” slowly spitting rhymes over a screaming alarm of a beat, wandering Oakland, drinking on porches, pouring hot sauce on breakfast in between scenes from the classic film, Bullit (1968). Or as one media outlet breathlessly noted, “Malt liquor, Steve McQueen, and Sriracha!”

There he is in the Mission District, in the flesh, taking time out to chat with me; the San Jose-based rapper (who’s more often found in Oakland) travels to the city twice a week to work at vintage clothing shop New Jack City, an eye-popping gem of a store, stuffed with letterman’s jackets, button-downs, and gently worn Mickey Mouse sweatshirts, mostly plucked from the 1980s and ’90s.

Now here’s his sturdy frame — which, along with his voice, has inspired not-inaccurate comparisons to Biggie — in a warped movie clip run through a VHS player in yet another music video, this time looking straight out of a ’90s positive hip-hop video for his song “Living Every Dream.”

The track, produced by witch house term-coiner Pictureplane, is on Antwon’s newest mixtape, End of Earth. It’s his third since last September’s Fantasy Beds, which produced “Helicopter.”

“Living Every Dream,” the wobbly reworking of Suzanne Vega’s a capella cinematic earworm, “Tom’s Diner” (Christian Slater with the baboon heart!) is doubtless one of the standout tracks on End of Earth, an album frankly full of surprising turns.

“I had been wanting to sample that song to make a hip-hop song for really as long as I can remember, [since] high school maybe,” says Travis Egady a.k.a Pictureplane. “It is just a great tempo and loop. I wanted to hear Antwon’s voice on it.”

“He is really relatable… no bullshit artist,” Pictureplane says of Antwon. “[He’s] a rapper you want to be friends with. He is a hip-hop everyman.”

Another side of the everyman comes out on End of Earth‘s more playful “Diamond and Pearls,” produced by his longtime DJ Sex Play (formerly Bad Slorp), who produced all of Antwon’s December 2011 release, My Westside Horizon.

Other tracks on End of Earth such as “Laugh Now,” produced by Wounderaser, and Rpldghsts-produced “Cold Sweat” more recall the hardcore scene Antwon grew up in. A scene he credits with teaching him how to perform. “I learned how to play shows by going to hardcore shows,” he says from his post in New Jack City. There are indeed mosh pits and sweaty dogpiles at his shows, which is unexpected at traditional hip-hop club nights, though those lines seem to be blurring across the board.

In particular “Laugh Now” blurs genre and scene, with themes of isolation, anxiety, and personal demons, tethered by actual howls and dragged out vocals growling “La-a-a-gh now,” and lyrics like “This for the people that talk shit about you/But when they see you they walk around you.”

Antown grew up in Sunnyvale — his mom’s from the Philippines and his dad is from Fresno. In middle school he recorded mixtapes with a friend through a karaoke machine, and sold them at school.

He later performed as his own one-man noise act, warping sound on a SP-303 and running his vocals through distortion pedals. In 2009 he traveled to Philadelphia to join the punk band Leather, but he then returned to his roots. He had rapped before, but really got started again when he came back to California. “It really kind of like, took on a life of its own.”

While for now he’s still based in San Jose, he’s most often found in Oakland, where he hangs out with Trill Team 6 (a loose crew of Oakland DJs, producers, and musicians, including figurehead Mike Melero) who rifle through jackets at New Jack City as we talk. He points to the shoppers and says he’s a part of the East Bay scene, “because of those dudes.”

“I played shows in San Jose, but it was really boring,” he adds, eyes widening. “I like the energy more in Oakland. It feels like when I was younger and just threw parties and it was about having fun and shit. It seems like that same energy is in Oakland now.”

While he’s clearly more connected to the East Bay, some of his biggest and most memorable shows yet have been in San Francisco — he opened last month for Theophilus London at the Mezzanine (flashiest) and played in the sandy Sutro Baths caves earlier this summer (unforgettable) as part of the Ormolycka Cave Series.

“That was my favorite,” he says of the beach cave show. “It was real crazy.”

Up next is his first ever show with Pictureplane — the two will play a Future | Perfect and #Y3K-presented show at Public Works. (The first time they met in person was at a massive EDM fest in the Bay Area, says Pictureplane: “We walked around and took pictures of all the teenage ravers. We watched David Guetta along with like, 50 thousand people together”).

After that Public Works date, a Mission Creek show at the Uptown in Oakland with Cities Aviv, Friendzone, and Chippy Nonstop. But then he may go back underground, or at least, play less frequently in the Bay Area for a bit. His mug might be less on your radar for a hot minute, while he gathers tracks for another full-length, just him and DJ Sexplay this time around.


With Pictureplane, Chippy Nonstop

Fri/14, 9pm, $15-$20

Public Works

161 Erie, SF (415) 932-0955



Evil genius



MUSIC Mark Mothersbaugh wants to devolve. “I would love to be 20 right now. Kids now have cell phones that have more power than the Beatles had when they recorded their first album. You don’t have to go through the whole gauntlet of getting on a record company.” We’re looking back since Mothersbaugh’s band Devo is currently touring again with Blondie. The two bands haven’t played shows together since 1977, when Devo — on the East Coast for the first time, at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB’s — was an unsigned, pop avant-garde band fresh out of Akron, Ohio.

“As a kid, I’d wondered, how do you get on the other side of the moat? How do you get to be on the side with the castle that has the recording studio? It seemed so impossible when i was a kid and now it’s a non issue.” Mothersbaugh is speaking from his own “castle,” his Mutato Muzika production company on the Sunset Strip.

A multimedia artist, Mothersbaugh has made a solo career in soundtracks. Pee-wee’s Playhouse started the trajectory, and his work on Rugrats and most Wes Anderson films cemented a reputation as a go-to-guy for quirky, slightly off-center scores. (Rivaled only by Danny Elfman.) It’s a different lifestyle, being in the studio, chasing a lot of deadlines for film companies. His recent work includes 21 Jump Street, Safe, and Hotel Transylvania. Evaluating the success of a project, he seems to look to the box office. “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” he says, “was Lionsgate’s follow-up to The Hunger Games, so it wasn’t as big as their other one.”

If Mothersbaugh looks at the industry shrewdly, it’s for good reason. For much of the last two decades — while still performing at cherry picked festivals and events — Devo was on a recording hiatus. “Dealing with record companies, quite honestly, just became a burn out and made it not fun to be an artist,” Mothersbaugh says.

“At the time cassettes came out, I went to Wexler, the President of Warner Brothers and said, ‘I read something in Variety, it costs you guys more to make an audio cassette than to make an LP, but you deduct 35 percent of my royalties when you make a cassette instead of an LP, instead of letting me share the profit. Why is that?’ He just smiled and said ‘Because that’s the way it is.'”

It’s fairly telling about how labels treated musicians that this is coming from Mothersbaugh. Formed in the aftermath of the Kent State shooting — where the idealism of the ’60s suddenly devolved — Devo took a decidedly anti-punk approach, trying to change the system from within. Mothersbaugh recalls seeing Pachelbel’s Canon turned into a Burger King jingle and being inspired. “I just remember thinking that was evil genius at work. Rebellion isn’t how you change things. It’s through subversion in this country. And who did it best? Madison Avenue.” (Devo would in turn appropriate the BK jingle as lyrics to “Too Much Paranoia.”)

A band that wanted to be a brand, part of Devo’s strategy has been embracing commercialism and infecting it. “For us every time one of our songs got in a commercial we thought there was a chance that some kid would hear the song later on somewhere else and think, what is that song actually about?” An early plan (taking cues from Andy Warhol’s factory) was to send out groups of kids to perform. It actually came about in 2006, as Devo 2.0 on Walt Disney Records, but in the pre-MTV era, it just puzzled execs. “It was hard enough to talk them into letting us make our short films,” Mothersbaugh says.

Today Devo is re-energized. In addition to finding time to tour, it picked up where it left off with 2010’s return to formula, Something for Everybody, a candy-coated pop album with a cynical filling. The timing was right and everybody — the two sets of brothers that make up the band — wanted to make another record. “And probably more than anything, it was Alzheimer’s,” Mothersbaugh says. “We forgot what it was that made us stop.”


With Blondie

Mon/10, 8pm, $39.50–$92.50


982 Market, SF

(415) 345-0900


Eternal return



MUSIC Those were days of mystery, when a rare album would come to you like a message from alien shores, a spectral cryptogram, the crackle of the plastic wrap as you tore it open subbing in for ghostly static. Especially if that album found its serendipitous way to you (breathtakingly arty gay older coworker, amazing cool girl from another high school who lived in her parents’ patchouli-scented basement, astronomical sum plunked down at unerring record store clerk’s slightly condescending suggestion) from willfully obfusc label 4AD, its releases so calculated to transcend earthly bonds that you could barely figure out the lyrics, let alone what possessed angelic being those mouthfuls of gothly warbled vowels belonged to. The label was notoriously recalcitrant about exposing its artists to mundane promotional hoo-haw. Pre-Internet, this often insurmountable unknowing became almost erotic.

And more than any other act on 4AD’s roster in the 1980s — more than Cocteau Twins or Throwing Muses, more than the vague amalgamated entity known as This Mortal Coil — Dead Can Dance (appearing Sun/12 at the Greek Theatre) embodied and perpetuated this exquisitely agonizing inscrutability. You knew they were an Australian-British duo that traded in deep musico-anthropological investigations worked up into stately, chthonic pop, you knew their names, you even saw a picture or two. But that was a close as you’d get to any kind of intimacy. The music (and of course the iconic cover art — I still dream of the imagery for albums Spleen and Ideal and Within the Realm of a Dying Sun) had to stand for everything.


So it was a bit unsettling for me to be on the other end of the phone from DCD’s high priestess of eerie glossolalia, Lisa Gerrard, as she dished about her tumultuous relationship with her musical partner, Brendan Perry.

“Oh, we had such fights, such awful fights — wrecking things, really, in the studio, and often we’d just have to separate ourselves,” she told me, her wonderfully animated voice ringing clear with a certain pastoral mysticism.

“But you see, darling, it was all in service of the music, this powerful force that we tap into together, that comes through us into the world. We had to learn that we just can’t force it, the power must emerge when it’s ready. You must be very patient and wait for the unlocking to begin — the great unlocking that connects all literature and art, and shines through in our shared humanity.

“We can’t weave the specific threads of this underlying magnificence if the loom isn’t there. You must have the loom. Now, we feel we’ve found it again.”

Specifically, Gerrard was referring to the fact that solidly pleasurable and Middle Eastern-tinged return to form, Anastasia, to be released on August 12, is the first Dead Can Dance album in 16 years. The pair has kept themselves very busy in the meantime. Gerrard produces highly acclaimed soundtracks for movies like Gladiator and The Insider and Perry, the more somberly bucolic of the pair, has converted a mid-19th century church in central Ireland into a studio, Quivvy, where Anastasia and several of his solo albums were recorded.

After a focused but exhausting reunion tour in 2005, the pair found it wasn’t the right time to reconnect in the studio and headed back to separate lives in different hemispheres. (Prominent in the pair’s press materials is the fact that their physical relationship ended in the early ’90s.) But a couple years ago, Perry commented on his online forum that the two were talking, and sure enough Anastasis, the Greek word for resurrection, was born.

The album weaves Platonic and Ayurvedic philosophical sentiments into esoteric folk-derived rhythms and eerie chant-like vocals — although they’ve left 4AD for the more, er, familiarly named Play It Again Sam label, they’ve retained the occultish fabric of the 4AD DCD sound, with its usual deliciously shivery rewards.

“Working on the album, we relished the opportunity to work with new instruments like the hang [a UFO-shaped Swiss instrument that crosses a steel drum with a gamelan gong] and a host of other percussion that we’ll be talking on the road with us,” Gerrard said about the tour, “as well as another fantastic singer who we’ve trained to double my vocals so we can really bring out the sounds of our older catalogue. I can’t wait to uncork those songs for everyone at the beautiful Greek Theatre in Berkeley. They’re just the right vintage now, they’re so ripe for the ears, if you will.

“And our new ones, we’re working in 6/8, 9/5 time signatures in these lovely Sufi and Eastern traditions. It really is going to be a show — but we’re putting so much practice into it, it’s not just feeding everything into a digital machine.”

About that digital machine: how does Dead Can Dance feel in a world of instant access — and a lot less mystery when it comes to musical artistry?

“Connection is both the key and the mystery, darling — it depends where its coming from. We try to locate ourselves within the connective tissue of an ur-culture that can free us from the suffocating membrane of mediocrity.”


Sun/12, 7:30pm, $39.50

Greek Theatre

2001 Gayley Rd, Berk.




Check it out! With John C. Reilly


MUSIC He’s an actor so versatile he can handle serious drama (2011’s Carnage and We Need to Talk About Kevin) and screamingly hilarious comedy (especially, but not necessarily, when paired with Will Ferrell). But John C. Reilly is also an accomplished musician, a talent he’s turned into a flourishing side gig that’s now on tour. Read on for Reilly’s best (so far!) musical moments to date.


Feel My Heat,” Boogie Nights (1997) With a candy apple red leather get-up and an iconic Flying V guitar resting casually on his sturdy thigh, Reilly (as porn star-budding musician Reed Rothchild) matches wits and near notes with Mark Wahlberg’s well-endowed aspiring coke head Dirk Diggler on their own ’80s power ballad creation, “Feel My Heat.” The result is shaky at best. But Reilly’s character feels it’s good enough to print and asks the recording engineer if he was “rolling on that rehearsal.”

Mr. Cellophane,” Chicago (2002) This is where Reilly’s perfectly sculpted, rounded-scoops-of-sherbet cheeks get to shine. They’re buffed up with rosy pink as a dusty clown of a man — poor Amos — makes his way to the spotlight with some downtrodden vaudeville jazz. It’s one of the few slower paced songs in the production — that is, until that fantastic orchestral swell at the climax, Reilly’s voice rising “never even know I’m there…” Not true. Chicago, the musical-turned-movie-turned musical, is likely when mainstream audiences first recognized his true vocal ability.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story (2007) The whole movie really is Reilly performing music, lampooning dramatic biopics (with particular relish in sending up 2005’s Walk the Line). He does so with humorous aplomb, letting his greasy curled pomp shake vigorously with each Elvis-esque guitar-and-hips swing. The star was even nominated for a Grammy for his performance of the titular song, “Walk Hard.” The lampooner becomes the lampoonee. In an interesting coincidence, songwriter Marshall Crenshaw, who was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Original Song for writing the “Walk Hard” track — and who years before portrayed Buddy Holly in 1987’s La Bamba — is also in town this week, at Yoshi’s SF Mon/30.

79th Annual Academy Awards, with Jack Black and Will Ferrell (2007) Opening with the tinkling of piano and frequent Reilly co-star Ferrell (holding a rose) crooning “A comedian at the Oscars/is the saddest man of all” alongside Jack Black. More sad clown. Then from the crowd, in a low octave, Reilly sweetly sings back, “You can have your cake and eat it too. Just look at my career!”

Prop 8 — The Musical (2008) Reilly portrays a slick-haired Bible-thumper (“Sodomyyyyy!”) in Marc Shaiman’s mini-musical, a star-studded protest posted to Funny Or Die after the passage of Proposition 8.

Step Brothers (2008) “Boats n’ hos!” Also, don’t you dare touch his drum set.

John C. Reilly and Friends Despite all the jests and subtle winks, the man can sing. And with his John C. Reilly and Friends group, including Tom Brosseau and Becky Stark (a.k.a. Lavender Diamond), he harmonizes on lovely old-timey country folk. As a true-blue artist, Reilly recently released a few Third Man singles — produced by entrepreneurial troubadour Jack White — including a plucky duet with Brosseau (a cover of the Delmore Brothers’ “Gonna Lay Down My Old Guitar”) and a satisfying match-up with Stark on “I’ll Be There If You Ever Want.” So sweet and twangy, it goes down like cool spiked lemonade on a sticky summer afternoon.



Sat/28, 9pm, $20

Bimbo’s 365 Club

1025 Columbus, SF www.bimbos365club.com

Destination unknown



MUSIC From classically trained conservatory graduates and seasoned performers to self-taught beginners, the musicians that play throughout the city’s transit stations claim it’s one of the best places to earn a living busking.

“The people here really cherish music,” said longtime jazz musician Don Cunningham, who played in several other cities before settling in San Francisco over three decades ago. Now a recognized faced within the BART music scene, Cunningham has regulars who look forward to hearing him play familiar tunes on his clarinet, even if only for a brief moment on the way to work.

While the stage might not be glamorous, many underground performers are talented musicians. And with oftentimes uninterested audiences and unsteady pay, they’re taking a risky shot at doing what they love.

Making minimum wage can take several months, said violinist Christa Schmid, who has played in San Francisco for about four years. “When I first started playing in the city people tried to kick me around because I was new and younger,” she said. “I get a certain amount of respect now — people know me.”

Like Schmid, all underground musicians — whether busking for a living, supplementing their income, or simply playing for publicity — must learn how to operate in a system full of unspoken rules.

Every morning and afternoon during rush hour, musicians must race to secure a corner or hallway in the busiest downtown BART stations. While some attempt to stake out the same spot every day, others prefer mixing it up — and sometimes they don’t have a choice either way. The most important rule is setting up far enough from another musician.

On average, most musicians play for two to three hours per day in one location, as anything more is disrespectful to others vying for a spot. But just like the musicians themselves, theories vary on what times and which spots are the most lucrative.

Cunningham said the trick is finding a stable location so that “people know where to find you.” On most days, he can be found playing in the same spot at the Embarcadero station.

Newcomers, Cunningham added, tend to head straight to the Powell BART station because it’s teeming with tourists and constantly busy. “I started out there — everyone does,” he said. “But you learn after a while that quieter spots can be better for making money.”

While the musicians might be as transient as the crowd at Powell, there are a few that claim the station is their sweet spot. Schmid, for example, is “guaranteed at least $50 a day” at the busy station, where she has been playing for a year.

Playing in BART stations has some obvious advantages, such as shelter from the rain and cold and a somewhat captive audience. According to several musicians, the biggest draw is the underground’s great acoustics.

There are some restrictions on equipment and noise levels, and musicians are allowed only in the stations’ non-paid areas. All performers also are supposed to carry a free expressive activities permit, but enforcement is rare and it seems many don’t even realize it exists.

On the other hand, playing in the BART arena can be dangerous, as many musicians have to fend off aggressive beggars. As a woman playing alone, Schmit said she’s particularly vulnerable.

If successful at navigating the system, the payoff can be huge. “I can’t remember the last time I was this happy,” said young violinist Danica Hill, who quit her nine-to-five to give full-time busking a real shot six months ago.

Hill used to be terrified of playing in public by herself and took to BART to overcome her stage fright. Playing in the underground “can give you a bit of anonymity,” she said, adding that her confidence as a musician has grown tremendously and she has even landed a few gigs.

Weird me out



MUSIC Here is a partial list of not quite idioms, butchered sayings, and quasi heartfelt beliefs the Melvins’ Buzz “King Buzzo” Osborne peppered throughout a conversation during a phone call last week from his home in Hollywood.

“We can’t be lion tamers all the time.” “You can accuse me of a lot of things, being lazy isn’t one of them.” “When in fear, or in doubt, run in circles, scream and shout.” “Treat me right, I’ll be your best friend. Treat me wrong, you don’t exist.”

At least one of those deserves to be crocheted on a throw pillow. Or screenprinted on a Melvins backpatch.


Singer-guitarist Osborne met his longtime collaborator, drummer Dale Crover, in 1984, Aberdeen, Wash., one year after the Melvins had formed and were performing mostly Cream covers. Crover was also in a bad cover band, but Osborne knew he could play well, so he invited him to join his band.

“There’s a fine line between genius and stupidity for both of us. I like playing with him, one way or another,” Osborne says of their continued relationship. “And it seems to work, no reason to quit — until he gives me a reason, then that will be it.” Osborne’s speech patterns raise often with sarcasm; in person that signature fuzzy grey ‘fro of his is likely shaking, punctuating each joke.

After that first shaky year, the Melvins got an early foothold in the blending of punk and metal, influenced by first round Black Flag (The band would go on to influence scores of musicians itself, recently, Mastodon).

“Somehow I realized even then that I needed to work on writing my own music, not relying on playing cover songs — even though we love to play cover songs, and we still do. But I started writing music pretty quickly. Sometimes we still play those first songs I ever wrote.”


In the past some 29 years, the Melvins — which is made up of a rotating lineup, save for Osborne and Crover — have recorded 19 full-length albums, and that’s not counting countless other releases (singles, EPs, comps).

Since the end of December, the band recorded more than 50 songs, Osborne notes proudly as his Jack Russell Terriers scream in the background. Included in that batch is The Bulls & the Bees EP, released for free download through Scion last month and the Freak Puke LP, which will be out in June on Ipecac.


The head bang-worthy The Bulls & the Bees is five classic Melvins cuts, thundering drums, doomy guitar, and Osborne’s low octave howl, it’s drum-happy sludge rounded out by frequent Melvins players Jared Warren and Coady Willis from stoney LA band Big Business.

Up next, there’s the upcoming Freak Puke, which is being touted as Melvins Lite. In this record, the band is a trio: Osborne, Crover, and Trevor Dunn of Mr. Bungle and Fantomas fame on stand-up bass.

Freak Puke is similarly dense and dark, so that’s not the reason for the ‘Lite’ attached to the name. Is it? Osborne explains: “You be the judge. We’ve always done lighter stuff. I’ll just say it’s Melvins lighter in weight, as in, our weight is less with three guys in it, as opposed to four. That record just has a different vibe.”

He’s, of course, right, it’s more the vibe of the record that sets it apart. The frenzied plucking of strings that kick off “Baby, Won’t You Weird Me Out” take the Melvins even further down the strange hybrid wormhole they’ve long been building out of mud — yet not so far that we can’t recognize their inimitable sound.


After Osborne moved from Aberdeen, but before his trek to LA to be with his wife (and now, their many dogs), he lived for seven years in the Richmond District of San Francisco, near the Presidio. And while he claims to not be sentimental about the past (“I’m more of a ‘what have you done lately’ type of person”) he mentions that he remains loyal to the promoters at Slim’s and Great American Music Hall, where the Melvins four-piece/non-lite will be performing all the tracks off the new EP later this week. “As long as those people want to continue doing shows with us, we’re there.” 


With Unsane

Thu/12, 9pm, sold out

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750


In the SXSW green room



HERBWISE DIY pop star Lisa Dank doesn’t smoke marijuana to help with her art — smoking weed is her art. The Seattle singer-producer — known for her florid, handmade costumes and gonzo stage presence — crafts odes to cannabis (check out her aural fixation at www.soundcloud.com/lisa-dank), and has a day job at 4Evergreen Group, a patient network that supplies legal and educational resources to its members, as well as physician recommendations for medical marijuana.

Dank was headed down to South By Southwest to do shows at house parties and on the street with the aide of a PA system jacked into her car, but she managed to snag an artist wristband and also logged in hours in the green room chatting with performers about weed culture today. She’ll be publishing her findings in 4Evergreen Group’s new bi-monthly lifestyle magazine — but first, we got her to share her favorite snippets from South By.



1. My Omicron hash oil vaporizer pen. Didn’t leave my side. Not even on the airplane. ‘Nuff said.

2. Austin loves pot. Especially at the Wells Fargo. Every time I went to withdraw cash, the point was brought up that I work in the medical marijuana industry. These boys couldn’t get enough! They sang the praise of medical pot (literally — shouting and fist-pumping.) They even brought out their camera-phones to show me the NORML cop car rolling around town.

3. MPP (Most Popular Piece): Quartz glass pieces are popular amongst locals and musicians for their affordability, cleanliness, and durability. Local glass pieces were a close second. Note: My all-star award goes to the editor of UC Berkeley’s student newspaper, who pulled out a gorgeous hand-blown, sandblasted Sherlock similar to the work of glass artist Snic. The editor had bought it at the smokeshop across the street from campus on Bancroft Way. We loaded bowl after bowl of Sour Diesel and Grape Ape six feet from Diplo in the VIP section of Speakeasy’s rooftop patio all Tuesday night, as Teki Latex and the Sound Pelligrino team did their thing.

4. Let’s just say Talib Kweli and his crew are fortunate that I have such a good weed connect in Texas.

5. Chali 2na smokes joints! Hemp extra-long! He had his own stash but took my number just in case. You can never have enough weed connects in Austin. He’s also a sweetheart because he let me use one of his papers.

6. Shiny Toy Guns does not smoke pot.

7. Bands on the run: Brick and Mortar (from New Jersey), Fox and the Law (Seattle), and The Sundresses (Cincinnati) stocked up on buds at home and drove slow all the way down to Austin.

8. Sub-pop recording artists Spoek Mathambo and Thee Satisfaction enjoyed the relief brought forth by the herb after a long walk and checking out Sub Pop’s great showcase at Red 7 on Friday night.

9. Strain trend: Sour Diesel. My guy had it. When he was out, the pedi-cab that I tried to buy from told me he had Sour Diesel too. Just hours later on the official SXSW artist’s deck-lounge at the Austin Convention Center, some locals pulled out two grams of S.D. to roll up in our blunt.

10. Underground future-super-producer Dubbel Dutch had a quandary for me: “I can’t smoke weed anymore! I used to smoke weed every day when I was younger, but now I take one hit and I’m done!”

I explained to him the brain schematics of cannabis, how we have cannabinoid receptors built into our brain but don’t produce cannabinoids endogenously. I hypothesized that his adult brain’s super-sensitivity to THC was due to his excess smoking during the formative years of his brain’s development. I told him he’d trained his brain to be extra-receptive to cannabinoids.

11. Smoking joints throughout my house party set. And for that I thank you, kids of Wilson House.

Garage troubadour



MUSIC “I did something really stupid,” was pretty much the first thing Ty Segall said to me as we walked to Philz Coffee in the Mission. Originally the plan was to sit at El Metate, but that got nixed as we agreed an afternoon jolt of caffeine was more important.

I asked what he had done that was so stupid, but it wasn’t specifically clear which act he was referring to. On the defensive, he went off on a tangent about how he perceives his guitars almost as talismans. “It’s like voodoo,” he said. That’s how he explains his behavior when he gives a guitar away to somebody. Other times he goes with the more cliched rock ritual of destroying one on stage. This also led to his purchase of a 1965 sea-foam green Mustang Fender. The excitement in his voice as he described his new toy was apparent. Music is what makes him tick.

I interviewed him in 2009 when Lemons (Goner Records) came out, but that was forever ago considering his well-documented abundance of releases. Now that Goner is putting out a double LP, Singles 2007-2010 (out this week), it seemed like an appropriate time to catch up and see how constant touring may be taking its toll on the 24-year-old garage rock answer to a troubadour.

We settled at a picnic table at a nearby soccer park where Segall, clad in Ray Bans and a brown cardigan, explained his fatigue from life on the road. He had just wrapped up a slew of local gigs, including a Halloween show where he and his band performed as the Spits. There, they struggled for the spotlight as an unruly woman from the audience — who was allegedly “humping everything” — stole a purse, and had to be bounced. Then it was off to Austin for a couple of dates where he performed alongside Thee Oh Sees, who he considers the best live band San Francisco has to offer, Black Lips and the Damned at the three-day Fun Fun Fun Fest.

“We never really stop touring. I wonder how we’re still here,” he said in bewilderment of both the physical and mental drain bands endure. “Everybody hits a wall.” He was referring to breaking points, but was also responding to my prodding about a previous interview he gave to Spinner.com where he commented on the fragility of one’s mind, and how you can “lose it at any moment”.

Just as he was admitting his own sensitivity, three pugs walked over to him, as if on cue. I watched him pet the triplets in a moment of adorably comforting symbiosis. It appears he’s learning his limits, coping with an over-analytical brain and growing a thicker skin.

But that’s not to say his creative well is running dry any time soon. While the singles compilation is a retrospective, along with some unreleased material, Segall said he’s still “psyched” to record something new. 2012 promises to be fruitful as his booking agent claimed the native So Cal. surfer has three records coming out next year.

While he doesn’t see himself as being in a “party band”, he’s been given the unique opportunity to partake in the second annual Bruise Cruise. It’s a three-day cruise to the Bahamas loaded with garage bands, their fans, and 75 percent regular ol’ tourists, according to Segall. The concept seems a bit ridiculous in the sense that trash rockers will converge with such decadence. This year he’s joining a super group of sorts called the Togas with Shannon Shaw of Shannon and the Clams, Phillip Sambol from Strange Boys, and Lance Willie (drummer from the Reigning Sound).

But for now Segall can hold off and breathe for a second before setting sail. He can enjoy what he considers the vacation of just being home, doing his laundry, and all the other domestic yearnings that come with wanting a house with a yard and a basement.




MUSIC Row after row of sentimental — sometimes kitschy, sometimes renowned — vinyl albums are lining pristine white walls in a small storefront, waiting for the opening of a record store that will exist for just one month.

Quite possibly the world’s first Jewish pop-up record shop, it’s in San Francisco on the edge of Mission and Bernal, in rotating art-music space, Queens Nails.

Like flashes of nostalgic dreams, each cardboard cover at the shop is its own piece of art: there’s the colorful impressionist style square enclosing Fred Katz’s trippy 1958 klezmer-meets-folk record Folk Songs for Far Out Folk, the shelf above holds Johnny Mathis’ breathtaking Kol Nidre, along with the campy Mickey Katz album, Mish Mosh — the cover of which depicts the artist as a (hopefully kosher) butcher posing with both meat-links and brass instruments.

There also are brand new copies of the recently released Songs for the Jewish American Jet Set, a compilation of wildly varying tracks (surf rock from the Sabras, deep soul Morrocan-born singer Jo Amar doing “Ani Ladodi”) culled from the archives of now-defunct Tikva Records, a Jewish label that was around from 1950 through 1973.

The Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation released Songs for the Jewish American Jet Set, and is hosting the pop-up store, also dubbed Tikva Records. The group, whose mission focuses on preserving the 20th century Jewish experience through recorded sound, also has put out a number of reissues and hosted live music events in the past — this store will encompass both.

“When we initially did the reissues, we went out and found a lot of the artists on these records and we realized we really wanted to tell the stories of the music,” explains David Katznelson, the music biz veteran behind Birdman Records, president of the San Francisco Appreciation Society, and one of four Idelsohn Society co-founders.

So, in addition to selling vintage records and reissues, the store also will play host to a series of Jewish and Hebraic-themed live acts. Beginning Dec. 1 with the official opening party, artists will drop by for free, by donation performances: on Dec. 2, founding Los Lobos member Steve Berlin will original score a silent film, Los Angeles band Fool’s Gold will celebrate the release of its second LP with an in-store performance Dec. 7, classic duo the Burton Sisters will perform live for only the second time in the past five decades on Dec. 8, members of Dengue Fever will play live Dec. 10. And plenty more follow.

The Chanukah candle lighting ceremonies will begin with a performance by Zach Rogue — the leader of Oakland’s Rogue Wave who recently released Come Back To Us under the name Release the Sunbird. While some of the others acts were a natural fit in the Tikva lineup, Rogue was one that surprised me — his music has always seemed rather secular to me, so I asked him about it. Turns out, it will be his first time playing a Chanukah event. So will he play Rogue Waves songs, Release the Sunbird jams, or traditional Chanukah melodies? “I’m trying to figure that out now. I wouldn’t say that Chanukah songs are necessarily the top my repertoire.”

He explained his reasoning for participating in the event, “When I think back in terms of what got me into wanting to play the guitar, my parents raised me on psychedelic, ’60s British invasion stuff, but in terms of the actual acoustic guitar, a lot of it was Jewish summer camp — Camp Swig in Saratoga,” adding, “I was fascinated with the song leaders and the cadence of Jewish folk songs and Eastern European sound.”

Weaving around the ’50s epoch furniture (solid hand carved shelves and credenzas that look like wet bars, record players) of the newly constructed pop-up shop with “Tikva Records” in red lettering on the window front, I got a sense of a cozy, hangout for record lovers, Jewish or not, which lead me to again question: what exactly makes music Jewish?

Vibrant, and clearly enamored with these albums, Katznelson was on hand with some helpful thoughts. “I think, like all music, it’s open to interpretation. What we do is use this music to look at Jewish history — it’s beyond Jewish music, it’s music that has affected the Jewish experience.”

Jewlia Eisenberg, leader of SF group Charming Hostess, was also previewing the store — it was her first time taking a peek around too, and she seemed ecstatic, slipping records out of the shelves and commenting, “oh my god, look at this one!” Along with the help of a few volunteers, Eisenberg will be running the shop during the month of December.

Katznelson and Eisenberg pulled out records to examine, including the classic Fiddler on the Roof, but more so albums that recently came back to light, like the Latin-tinged Bagels and Bongos — another album the Idelsohn Society reissued. Says Katznelson, “Hybrids happened, and it created new sounds — so what are those new sounds called?”

An example of the modern Jewish hybrid: Jeremiah Lockwood, New York-based bandleader of the Sway Machinery and grandson of legendary cantor Jacob Konigsberg, who will light the final two nights of Chanukah candles at the store, and perform live.

During his second appearance, Ethan Miller of Howling Rain and Luther Dickinson of the North Mississippi All Stars will join Lockwood in performance. He met Dickinson back in 1998 when they worked on a friend’s album together. Says Lockwood. “It was my first trip to the South after spending my adolescence obsessed with country blues and it made a big impression on me.”

The rest of his performances will be a mixed bag, reflecting decades of the Jewish — and American — music experience. “I’m most comfortable playing blues-oriented material when I play solo, but I definitely plan to hit some tunes from the new Sway Machinery album,” he says, “I will certainly dig out some of my family’s Chanukah standards…very beautiful bits of Jewish folklore I grew up on and that were a part of the family Chanukah lighting ceremony.”

And just like that, after a month of record-selling and live performances culminating with holiday revelry, the pop-up will end, and it’ll be on to the next great idea for the Idelsohn Society. Like it was all some nostalgic, far-out folk dream. 


Dec. 1-Dec. 28, times vary, free (donations suggested)

3191 Mission, SF