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East Bay Beats



LEFT OF THE DIAL Dayvid Michael, a West Oakland native and member of the CaliMade hip-hop crew, clearly has some mixed feelings about his debut record, Frienemy.

“I mean, I wrote those songs when I was 18,” says the rapper, drinking boba milk tea during an interview in downtown Oakland. “I’m still proud of them, but I’ve learned so much since then.”

That album dropped the last week of December 2012 — which means Michael’s reminiscing at the ripe old age of 21. But, to be fair, the past couple years have been big ones for someone who calls himself a “reluctant rapper” (until about age 17, he mostly wanted to sing and play guitar).

With CaliMade, a loose collective of Oakland-born guys who’ve been friends from elementary school, as well as other young DJs and producers, he performed at Hiero Day, steps away from Bay Area hip-hop legends. He’s guested on a few songs by Iamsu, a rapper whom, Michael rightly notes, you will hear if you put on 106.1 KMEL for more than 15 minutes right now; CaliMade is now working closely with the (slightly) elder rapper’s own crew, the HBK Gang. And 2014’s shaping up to be a big one: He just got done recording a new project with Azure, an Oakland rapper poised for big things in his own right as well as being Iamsu’s DJ, and Clyde Shankle, another member of CaliMade. Michael’s also working on his sophomore solo album, which will be out by the end of the year.

In other words, he’s an Oakland kid to keep your eye on — which makes him a perfect selection for Oakland Drops Beats, a new free, all-ages, quarterly music festival that features some 30-plus East Bay artists, spread out over 10 different stages and venues in downtown Oakland; the kickoff festival is April 19.

Its lineup is, in and of itself, a testament to the range of music coming out of Oakland right now: From the jazz-hip-hop blend of the Kev Choice Ensemble to the underrated indie rock of Oakland mainstays B. Hamilton to the funk-soul dance party music of Sal’s Greenhouse — not to mention a distinctly family-friendly vibe courtesy of Bay Area Girls Rock Camp and the presence of Youth Radio — the music “crawl,” as organizers are billing it, aims to serve as both a celebration of the city’s established artists and a new platform through which up-and-coming musicians can get some stage time.

Inspired by the Venice Music Crawl in LA, musician-organizer-founder Angelica Tavella first began reaching out to Oakland event producers over the summer, with the idea in mind that there are lots of community organizers and promoters “already doing cool stuff in other parts of Oakland, but really doing their own thing,” she says.

“This was, here’s a space where we could all do that together, for a couple hours, on this one day. And I really had in mind that it should be downtown Oakland — specifically not in Uptown, which already has the Art Murmur…there are a lot of great small shop owners, a lot of great energy, and cool new things going on downtown. But there aren’t a lot of venues for something like a public music performance to happen.”

Tavella was quickly overwhelmed by the level of interest and enthusiasm from business owners and event producers — especially considering that the festival is all volunteer-run for now (including pro bono performances by musicians). The goal for the next one, which will take place in the last week of July or the first week of August, is to fundraise enough to pay musicians for their performances, while keeping admission free to the public.

Eventually, Tavella hopes to have the free daytime performances segue into a nighttime music crawl that would bring business to the venues in downtown Oakland. And with more and more musicians and artists getting priced out of San Francisco and heading East, organizers shouldn’t have too hard a time finding fresh talent to fill a bill every three months.

Dayvid Michael will be performing in the afternoon with the CaliMade crew at Le Qui Vive, a gallery at 15th and Webster. He feels at home there — it’s one of the first venues where CaliMade began performing a few years ago, and he says the folks behind it are part of the community that makes him feel so lucky to be calling Oakland home.

“When people from outside the Bay Area think about the Bay Area, they think of two things — we’re hyphy, we know how to have fun; and also the diversity of the city,” says Michael, who also does graphics work for Youth Radio (he basically “hung around” until they let him). “I feel like as representatives, the HBK Gang and Cali Made can fulfill both of those perceptions. And my personal goal is to show the world that we’re more than just party music. We can do that too — but we want to offer more than that.”

“This place is so rich in culture, intelligence, legacy. I love it here,” he says, and thinks for a minute. “If Oakland had waterfalls, I would never go anywhere else.” Fair enough.

Oakland Drops Beats
Sat/19, 2pm (all day), free
10 venues between Broadway and Harrison/14th and 19th St, Oak.


 Talk about “left of the dial.” If you’ve only been in the city a couple years, you might not be aware that there was a time when KUSF — that’s the student-run radio station of the University of San Francisco — wasn’t in exile. It’s been over three years since the university sold the station (which had been broadcasting since 1963 at 90.3 FM) without public input or comment, for $3.75 million, to the Classical Public Radio Network, aka CPRN, via a complex three-way deal between the University of Southern California, that station, and the corporate broadcasting giant Entercom.

Since that time, KUSF DJs and friends of the station have been operating the station online, 24 hours a day, from the Lightrail Studios, growing a registered nonprofit arm with a new name: San Francisco Community Radio. All the while, those who love the station have been embroiled in — to use the technical legal terminology — a bureaucratic shitshow, as they try to prove that the sale was illegal. They’ve had some small successes in proving certain aspects of the transaction were unlawful, and currently have an appeal before the FCC.

Then, at the end of 2013, the FCC began issuing low-power FM licenses for the first time in about a decade. KUSF-In-Exile has an application in for 102.5 — but they’re up against at least seven other groups, including, as KUSF members understand it, a mega-church. The central goal, say organizers, is simply to get back on the (non-internet based) airwaves, one way or another. But “It’s a lot of hurry up and wait,” says SFCR board member and treasurer Damin Esper of the situation. “Which, obviously, isn’t very satisfying to us or to our supporters.”

In the meantime, the station has been throwing fundraiser shows to help pay for ongoing legal fees, and the one this April 20, naturally, is the third incarnation of their annual stoner-rama affair. Oakland punks Violence Creeps, who’ll be opening for the current incarnation of Black Flag at Brick & Mortar in May, will be headlining, alongside psych-rockers Mondo Drag and plenty of other wild, weird, woolly favorites; visuals, should you happen to have ingested anything that would make you want to look at cool visuals, will be provided by veteran stock-footage auteurs Oddball Films. All of the funds raised will go to SFCR’s legal fight; there will also be members on hand to talk volunteer opportunities — college radio-loving grantwriters, are you out there?

When it comes to the original sale, Esper says, “It’s clear that laws were broken. It could be found to be illegal in court…but one of the reasons the big guys always win in situations like this is it’s hard to keep people engaged, reminded of the situation. This is bigger than just KUSF. This is happening all over the country. College radio is under attack.”


SFCR’s Blown-Out, Blowout Benefit III
Sun/20, 8pm, $7
Thee Parkside 1600 17th St, SF

Oh, one last thing: There’s also a little event called Record Store Day coming up, so get out that piggy bank — this is what people mean when they talk about having an “emergency fund,” right? Anyway: So much going on, so little space. Check the Bay Guardian’s Noise blog this week for special in-store events and one-day-only releases.

Mozart meets Method Man


By Micah Dubreuil


Sitting cross-legged on a pillow on the hardwood floor of a bare room in East Oakland, Korean-born, conservatory-trained composer JooWan Kim is doing two things that aren’t usually paired together: Conducting an elaborate, traditional tea ceremony and expressing his passion for N.W.A. Kim thrives on unexpected combinations: The composer, who spent seven years in Berkeley studying Zen meditation and Taoist internal alchemy (breathing exercises, he explains), has just finished his second of three arrangements of songs from Enter the 36 Chambers, the Wu-Tang Clan‘s seminal 1993 debut.

Kim leads Ensemble Mik Nawooj (his name backwards), a composer’s ensemble that could be termed a hip-hop orchestra, a chamber rap group, or maybe just the oddest band west of the Mississippi. Kim simply says: “We play pop music.” Of course, most people don’t imagine a pop group consisting of flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, a Soprano opera singer, upright bass, drums, and two MCs.

Most people are not JooWan Kim.

The result is a sound that juxtaposes the rapid-fire staccato of rap with the bombastic percussiveness and dramatic tension of western classical music. It’s unapologetic and truly like nothing else.

Kim, who moved to the US from Korea at age 20, had a somewhat different upbringing from your average hip-hop enthusiast. “My parents listened to classical music, and just like all Asian kids, I had the choice of playing piano or violin,” he says. ” I liked the piano.” He emigrated to study at Boston’s prestigious Berklee College of Music, then followed it up with a masters in composition from the SF Conservatory of Music. It was while at the Conservatory that Kim first began experimenting with a classical/hip-hop hybrid, presenting the first live piece “as a joke” in 2005. He began to consider doing it seriously when the performance received some unexpected attention from local press and musicians.

His first experience as a hip-hop listener, however, was less encouraging. “I hated them. I hated them so much, with a passion,” Kim says of the first songs he heard. Not a native to the language, he struggled to interpret the music. As his English began improving, however, his attitude towards hip-hop changed. “Once I realized the social context and the kind of things that they were saying, it blew me away. I could understand the necessity in the music — it’s a very sincere and powerful expression,” he says. “If you listen to concert music, it doesn’t have the same urgency,” says Kim, who has decided to prioritize making music for a broad audience (what he calls “pop”).

A broad audience is indeed front and center for EMN. The orchestra is returning to Yoshi’s Oakland on April 17 to preview the Wu-Tang arrangements, in addition to an upcoming residency at the Red Poppy Art House. The group has been performing in rooms normally considered rock clubs — Milk Bar, Brick & Mortar Music Hall, The New Parish — and are raising funds for their debut EP.

Kim’s hardly alone in his embrace of cross-cultural pollination. To celebrate their 21st anniversary, the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts commissioned the orchestra to arrange a total of six pieces for a November show called Clas/Sick Hip Hop II: 93 Til’ (a nod to local hip-hop legends Souls of Mischief, and the significance of the year 1993 in hip-hop). YBCA Director of Performance Marc Bamuthi Joseph affirms: “It is part of my gig to authentically recognize hip-hop as a great canonical American form.”

Joseph picked Kim as an arranger for his project in part because of his fresh perspective, coming from Korea and the conservatory — “there’s a playfulness that’s possible,” not being weighed down by certain historical precedents, he says. Though Joseph recognizes the s substantial history of both hip-hop and classical music in the Bay Area, he says he wasn’t entirely surprised that it took an outsider to fuse the two.

“When I came here, I realized it was very different in the sense that pop music was deeply associated with subcultures,” explains Kim. “Koreans don’t have that. Europeans don’t even have that either, in terms pop music. I thought that was weird, so I continued to listen to whatever I wanted to.” What marks EMN as unique is the marriage of classical techniques to this omnivorous disregard for cultural authority (a definitively hip-hop attitude).

mik nawooj

Indeed, JooWan Kim has a bit of a rebellious streak. “I decided to add drums and MCs to make people pissed off, and certainly I did,” Kim says of his first performance with the Ensemble. As he walks over to a grand piano to play selections of Wu-Tang’s “Shame on a Nigga,” there is a striking contrast between Kim’s clear delight in ruffling feathers and his calm, controlled demeanor, maintained through two to three hours of meditation each morning — a practice Kim began after studying with Taoist master Hyonoong Sunim at the Zen Center in Berkeley.

Kim believes meditating has transformed both him and his music. “It’s the most valuable thing I’ve ever done,” he says. “I don’t feel angry or depressed that often anymore. I’m at a point where I can let things pass.”

He reflects on the artistic potential that has opened up as he finishes his tea. “A lot of times people have it backward in terms of understanding art or music — that you’re learning all these techniques and then you’ll somehow write this great music,” he says. “It’s actually the other way around. All these qualities that you have, anger or depression or love: they come out in the music. That’s why people who didn’t learn anything about music can write great music, because they somehow overcame themselves.”

Ensemble Mik Nawooj

Thu/17, 10pm, $15
Yoshi’s Oakland
510 Embarcadero West, Oak.
(510) 238-9200


The Milkman delivers



LEFT OF THE DIAL It’s a question most musicians are all too familiar with. If you tell someone at a party that you’re a working musician, that person is inevitably going to ask — after a few polite questions about your hardcore band/classical jazz quartet/street-corner performance art where you alternate reading Blake passages with playing the accordion — “So, you have a day job?”

In a city like San Francisco, especially, the answer is almost always “yes.” And there’s no shame in that! Bartender, barista, Whole Foods cashier, teacher, graphic designer, marijuana dispensary employee — I’ve heard all of these in just the last month or so of musician interviews. A person’s gotta eat.

And then there’s Tim Marcus. On a recent, rainy Tuesday afternoon, the guitarist was hunkered down in a small bedroom-turned-electrical engineering workshop in the Lower Haight apartment he shares with his girlfriend. Marcus, 35, is one of the most sought after steel guitar players in the Bay Area. He spent the latter half of the aughts with the now-defunct (but much loved) San Francisco Americana band Or, the Whale. A few hours after this interview, he’ll be playing Amnesia with alt-country rocker Tom Rhodes; two days later he’s heading out on the road for a three-week East Coast tour with San Francisco folk songstress Kelly McFarling. But right now he’s at his day job: Flanked by stacks of glass tubes, fuses, and various tiny metal parts whose purpose we can only guess at, he’s building an amplifier. And not just any amplifier. An amplifier of pedal steel dreams.


As the founder, owner, and sole employee of Milkman Sound, Marcus has created a living from building toys — and he’s the first to call them that — for musicians who are just as choosy as he is.

“I started playing guitar when I was 10, and played in bands all through middle school, high school, college,” says Marcus. “I started doing it professionally in the early 2000s. And there just wasn’t what I’d consider to be a boutique option [for amplifiers] for pedal steel guitars. If you drive a car, most people buy a Ford or a Subaru, but you have the option to buy a Ferrari. As a pedal steel player, in particular, you really wound up shoehorned into buying Fords and Chevrolets, things that are made for [regular] guitar players.”

He gained the technical know-how required to build amplifiers from a couple places. Back East, he worked for a company that did repairs on audio-visual equipment, where he’d hand off old or unused parts to a friend who built amps in exchange for his tutelage. After moving out to San Francisco, Marcus went to work for BBI Engineering, an SF company that installs AV and theatrical systems for museums “and other places that use automated amps, where you walk in, push a button and everything happens,” he says. “I learned a lot about making things that work well, that aren’t going to break if they’re subjected to kids poking at them day, in day out.”

Frustrated at being unable to get the clarity and quality of sound he wanted out of his guitar, Marcus started small, ordering the best parts he could find — some vintage, some new, with a priority on materials made in America — to build one amplifier for himself. He still has it (it’s sitting in a custom Milkman slipcover in the corner of the workshop, which, Marcus notes, is more easily navigated than usual — he just shipped out a bunch of amps) but he’s revamped that first one more times than he can count.

He’s an admitted perfectionist as well as a workaholic, he says, but it runs in the family: the name “Milkman” is a nod to his longstanding family business in Connecticut, starting with a small dairy farm his great-grandfather bought and built out. “The spirit of my great-grandfather was like ‘I’m going to sell something that I make,’ and my family’s always continued that,” says Marcus. “That definitely plays a role in my work ethic.”

Since he built that first amp four years ago, he’s been crafting custom amps for guitar and steel players all over the country. He does every part of production himself — friends have asked to help so they can learn, but he’s “crazy OCD about doing everything” with his own hands — and he builds each amp to a customer’s specifications, one at a time. He’s branched out into amplifiers for regular guitarists, and for bass players. Each amp takes him a couple of days to build, and then he tests it meticulously by (someone’s gotta do it) playing guitar through it lots of different ways.

Marcus still buys parts from small US-based companies where possible, including many in California, which he says is expensive but worth it for the quality. They don’t manufacture the glass tubes that go into amplifiers in the US at all, anymore, he explains, which is a shame, because the ones produced here in the ’50s and ’60s were great — they played an unsung role in creating what we think of as the early American rock ‘n’ roll sound. (Marcus can and will explain the history of amplifiers to you, as well as the differences between every iteration of each part that goes into them, at the drop of a hat.) The majority of his cabinets come from a revered one-man shop in Nashville, though Marcus has just begun working with a family business in Oakland to try to make the operation even more local.


The price for all this care and OCD-level handiwork? Milkman amps run from $900 for a five-watt “half pint” amp to $3000 for the more powerful models. But for the musicians Marcus is catering to, that’s well worth it — last year, he sold 40 amplifiers; this year, by the end of March, he’d already shipped 20. Milkman amps have been out on tour in Eric Clapton’s band, thanks to acclaimed steel player and producer Greg Leisz taking a liking to Marcus’ simple, vintage rock ‘n’ roll aesthetic and careful technical work; they can also be heard on the most recent Daft Punk and Norah Jones records.

Maybe most impressively: Marcus seems to have cracked a code. He’s surviving in San Francisco by doing something he loves — and something that allows him to stay here as a working musician. He stopped working for his old audio-visual company about a year ago.

“I know I’m extraordinarily lucky that I’ve figured out a way to have music be something I can make a living off of,” he says. “I mean, I don’t get rich playing pedal steel. I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent playing pedal steel. If I lived in Nashville, or even LA, maybe; not here.

“But there’s also pride in that,” he says. “That’s why it says ‘Made in San Francisco, USA’ on the front. It’s not easy to do things in San Francisco, so when you do I think it’s just that much more awesome. I kind of got into the pirate ship mentality, and working for myself is great. I get up early — but I haven’t set an alarm clock in a long time.”

Sweet, psyched-out, and dirty



LEFT OF THE DIAL Setting aside the darkly ear-wormy melodies, haunting vocals, and refreshingly crisp grunge-pop that goes into Everyone Is Dirty‘s sound, it’s singer Sivan Gur-Arieh’s violin — slicing sweetly above the chaos of a final chorus, adding a heightened sense of gothic romance to a bridge — that sets the Oakland art-rock quartet apart from the current fuzzy, grungey masses.

Good thing Gur-Arieh’s come to peace with the fact that she plays it.

“I’ve had a love-hate relationship with my violin since I was a kid,” says the singer, an Oakland native whose father taught her play when she was in elementary school. “I mean, growing up, you don’t always want to be staying home standing in front of a music stand, playing scales for two hours at a time. I’ve definitely put my violin under the bed and not played it…but it always came back out.

“I’m at a point where I realize it’s a tool, and it’s a tool I know how to use, and you don’t always get to choose that,” she says, earnestly, like someone speaking about a handicap. “Now, I’m just at, I play the violin. Whether it’s a nerdy instrument or not, I do it and it’s a part of me.”

It’s also a big part of the band’s charisma, an invitingness coming through music that technically should feel cold — sure, Gur-Arieh’s distinctive whisper-wail would be at home providing the soundtrack to an artsy vampire flick, but you also trust her, and the weirdness, in the same way you trust the Pixies‘ or Sonic Youth‘s weirdness; it doesn’t seem to be an affectation.

Then there’s a very ’90s sensibility about pop’s borders, reminiscent of SF’s own Imperial Teen, maybe Sleater-Kinney, and I want to say a more jagged Veruca Salt but maybe I’m just ridiculously excited that they’re reuniting so I’m hearing them everywhere? Regardless: Add in psyched-out guitar riffs from Christopher Daddio, a super warm, strong rhythm section courtesy of Tony Sales on drums and Tyler English on bass, and you start to understand why the four-piece, at just a year and a few months old, has earned serious devotees around the Bay Area as well as highly coveted free studio time at Different Fur via Converse’s Rubber Tracks pop-up — all before releasing a full-length record.

That’s in the works, Gur-Arieh assures me. This January marked both the band’s one-year anniversary (its first show as a four-piece rocked Cafe Du Nord, sigh) and another major milestone: They signed with Breakup Records, the husband-and-wife-run label, formerly out of Oakland (now out of Portland but with a heavy bias toward bands from their former hometown); the label will be producing EID’s first full-length at the end of May.

In the meantime, the band has been releasing teasers of what we can expect, like “California” — a full psych-rock sprint that gets undeniably reminiscent of the Dead Kennedys‘ “California Uber Alles” in its chorus, when the layers of sci-fi guitar drop out for Gur-Arieh to admonish “California, put your pants on/you’ve had too much to drink.” They just re-recorded that one for the full-length, at Daddio’s home studio, where they do most of their recording. “He’s an engineer, and he’s a perfectionist,” says the singer. “The fact that he’s able to make everything sound so good just using mic placement…it’s incredible to me.” On “Mama, No!!!” things take a turn for the Nirvana-esque, though the band keeps it dynamic by playing expertly with contrasts — the sing-song of Gur-Arieh’s voice with unrestrained drum crashes, the urgent peal of violin over fuzzed-out guitar.

She and Daddio, who met when Gur-Arieh was in film school in Chicago and New York (he did sound design for her thesis film), share primary songwriting duties; when the singer moved back to the Bay Area, they started seeking out the band’s rhythm section. Film still plays a big part in how the singer thinks about music, she says. “I make our videos for the most part,” she says. “They’re very connected to me. I’ve always been a musician, but I’ve also always been painting, writing poetry&ldots;film is kind of an extension of music, to me.”

Everyone Is Dirty will be sharing a bill on April 5 with a pair of similarly dramatic, cinematic, female-fronted bands: Rich Girls, the new(ish) gothy garage project from Luisa Black (formerly of The Blacks) opens, and Happy Fangs, whose contrasting male-female vocal dynamic, courtesy of Rebecca Bortman and Mike Cobra, has just been supplemented by the addition of Sacramento drummer Jess Gowrie. It’s the kind of lineup that has the potential to kick your ass, then wrap it up and hand it back to you with a sweet smile as an experimental art project. I mean this in an entirely positive way.

“I’ve been really into this violin player from Chicago named Leroy Jenkins lately,” says Gur-Arieh, when asked what she’s been listening to. “If you look him up on YouTube, his playing was so weird and messy and imperfect, and that’s super inspirational to me. That’s unique especially for violin players, because they tend to be so focused on perfection, on playing other peoples’ music perfectly, and he was an emotional player — not afraid to make the violin sound piercing,” she says, “and dirty.”

Happy Fangs w/ Everyone Is Dirty and Rich Girls
Sat/5, 8pm, $10
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF


While we’re riding high on the female-fronted band kick, a few other kick-ass ladies to look out for this month:

Given the current classic funk-soul revival — see Sharon Jones‘ sold-out stint at the Fillmore last week — there’s just no good reason why Wicked Mercies hasn’t blown up yet. Fronted by three seriously talented female vocalists, with a brass section that culls from the best of the old-school San Francisco soul scene, the band – which bills itself as “working class talent” that brings “the sound of San Francisco street soul to the people” — has been a dance party-starting staple at funk-friendly venues like the Boom Boom Room for a few years now, so there’s little doubt that a room as small as Amnesia is going to get sweaty very quickly. Remember to drink water.

Wicked Mercies
With the Go Ahead
Sat/5, 9pm, $8-$10
853 Valencia, SF

Forming a band when you’re in middle school that actually goes on to critical praise and some commercial success before you’ve graduated from high school means a few things. For The She’s, which the Bay Guardian ever-so-aptly identified as a band On the Rise in 2013, one thing it means is giving interviews about your upcoming second EP that involves quotes like this one, from singer-guitarist Hannah Valente in a recent Bay Bridged interview: “It’s going to sound a lot different. On our first album, there are songs that we wrote in eighth grade.”

All good-natured (and, let’s be real, envious) ribbing aside, there’s no question that The She’s have pretty much won the hearts of any red-blooded San Franciscan with an affinity for summery dream-pop; they’re also entering a stage of band-life reserved for artists who achieve a certain level of success while so young that their age becomes part of the shtick. This next stage is when they’re going to have to prove that they’re talented songwriters and performers, period, as opposed to being really, really good for a band made up of high school kids. For the record, I think the former is true, but their sophomore EP, Dreamers, due out April 15, will have to do the talking. Catch ’em for free at Amoeba on April 12, or the official (all ages!) release show at the Rickshaw Stop.

The She’s
With TV Girl, Lemme Adams, and Cocktails
April 18, 9pm, $10-$12
Rickshaw Stop
155 Fell, SF

The magic of Mark J. Mulcahy



LEFT OF THE DIAL To an ’80s baby, at this point, calling Nickelodeon’s The Adventures of Pete & Pete a cult favorite is a little like thinking your childhood love of The Labyrinth or The Neverending Story is somehow quirky or unique — it goes without saying that they’re excellent, but we’re gonna need a lot of Kool-Aid: These are some pretty big cults we’re dealing with.

Which doesn’t mean, of course, that there wasn’t an air of “giant secret club meeting” at the Sketchfest Pete & Pete reunion that took place at the packed Marines Memorial Theater in 2013. That live show marked, I will admit, the first time I realized how crucial a role music had played in constructing the show’s singularly surreal, hilarious, kid-centered universe. I’d had the show’s jangly, irreverent theme song, “Hey Sandy,” on my iPod for years, and had read about how Polaris — the show’s own house band — was a sort of one-off project for members of the early-R.E.M.-era college-rock band Miracle Legion, which dissolved under a heated label dispute; the show’s creators were simply fans of that band and asked lead singer Mark Mulcahy to chime in. I knew both acts were driven by bright, breezy guitar riffs and Mulcahy’s distinctive, sometimes erratic, Lou Reed-esque vocals.

But it wasn’t until hearing Mulcahy sing a few songs from Polaris’ oeuvre live that — enamored, nostalgic, weirdly emotional — I went home and promptly dove headfirst into his solo work, of which there are four complete albums. If you want to work backward, Dear Mark J. Mulcahy, I Love You, released in July of last year after a nearly eight-year hiatus, is a beautiful starting point. It’s a moody, introspective, but clear-thinking and meticulously arranged record, stamped all over with the Mulcahy trademark: Lyrics that veer toward magical realism, the intonation of a less-goofy Jonathan Richman, gently dark witticisms that don’t quite make sense but you understand their feeling in your bones, bleak stories that don’t really seem autobiographical, but then — who can be sure?


Mulcahy can, but he doesn’t owe us an explanation. The gentlest, happiest track on the record, “The Rabbit,” — on which the songwriter sweetly confesses “I’m a sucker for magic/where’s the rabbit?” — is punctuated with sleigh bells; it’s the sound of an artist almost surprising himself with how much hope and curiosity he still has for the world. That’s followed by “Where’s the Indifference Now?,” a bitingly cynical guitar opus about the media’s vulture-like coverage of Heath Ledger’s death. (“You could apply it to Philip Seymour Hoffman now, I guess,” says Mulcahy.) If he often deals in surrealism, his gift is in the  human honesty of that contrast, the recognizable sense of home base in the space between those moods.

“I was home most of the day, it’s a snow day,” is the first thing he says, however, when, after a bit of phone tag, I finally reach him at the Massachusetts home he shares with his two young twin daughters. “I’m looking out the window right now at snow, just as far as you can see…so it’s a bit strange to be thinking about playing in San Francisco [for Noise Pop].”

One reason for the extended hiatus: In 2008, Mulcahy’s wife passed away quite suddenly, and he’s been raising the kids on his own ever since. A tribute album to help raise money for the family, Ciao My Shining Star (named for a line in the obituary Mulcahy wrote her), was arranged almost entirely without his knowledge and released in 2009, with artists who happen to be Mulcahy fans — folks like Thom Yorke, Michael Stipe, Dinosaur Jr., Frank Black, The National, Elvis Perkins, and Juliana Hatfield — performing Mulcahy’s songs.


It didn’t make sense to be away from home for long, explains Mulcahy of the break; since the most recent record (which draws its title from a note someone gave him) came out last summer, he’s been navigating the balance between touring and his home life with kids who, he says, are still too young to really understand much about what he does.

“I hadn’t played in such a long time, when I first started again I almost couldn’t believe I was doing it. But it’s felt really nice,” he says of touring so far. “I don’t know how I would do with a month-long thing, but so far it’s just great and really surprising that [the record] has done as well as it has. When I was in Miracle Legion, we always did pretty well, and I kind of assumed I would do that well on my own…I didn’t really put it together until later that it wasn’t a built-in success story. This album, I’m playing shows that are crowded, and it’s just a pleasant surprise to be feeling like I’m back to a point where I was before.” He’s done short stints in Ireland and England, and opened for fellow Bay Staters the Pixies on their tour warm-up in Northampton, MA.

As for the record, which Pitchfork (among others) has called his best solo work yet, the distinct moods of the tracks are at least in part the result of Mulcahy’s studio process: He recorded each song in entirety on its own day, then thought carefully about order and narrative. “I definitely don’t think of anything I write as one song, and I’m not really a big fan of ‘shuffle,'” he says. “I guess I come from the old school of sequencing.” He’s old-school in other ways, he will admit; he doesn’t pay too much attention to what’s currently on the radio. Lou Reed and the ’90s Connecticut indie band Butterflies of Love are first on his tongue when asked what he’s been listening to as of late. He’s no snob, though: “I go easy on guys like him,” is his comment on Bruno Mars. “Pop music…I mean, you take Miley Cyrus. I really thought she was terrible for a long time, I just didn’t get it. And then I really listened to ‘Wrecking Ball,’ and that’s a great song! I’m not gonna hate her just because I’m supposed to.”

And if people still wind up knee-deep in his catalogue because of his most mainstream, cable-televised work, as I did — well, that’s OK too.

“Polaris was a really unexpected twist in my musical career, but it was just a band that existed in your TV,” he says. “We never really played any gigs, which was probably a mistake. To the point where, when we did the Pete & Pete reunion in LA and played with a full band, it was surprising to realize, ‘Wow, we could play shows!’ And it’s funny, I haven’t really found anywhere that wants to book us since then, but we definitely want to do it. I absolutely still enjoy playing those songs.”

Hear that, Bay Area bookers? You could make a lot of ’80s babies very, very happy.


Mark Mulcahy
With Mark Eitzel, Vikesh Kapoor, and Whiskerman
Thu/27, 8pm, $14
Brick & Mortar Music Hall
1710 Mission, SF

Pixies 2.0


There’s something to be said for recording four great, distinctive albums, and quitting while you’re ahead. This live-fast/die-fast approach worked wonders for the Velvet Underground’s legacy and influence, and one might say it served the Pixies’ notoriously frenetic rock explorations equally well.

While the renowned Boston group has been on the reunion circuit for nearly a decade now, coasting on the fumes of its brief, yet potent, back-catalogue, the prospect of new material has always seemed like an improbable dream of overeager fans. (After all, their last record, Trompe Le Monde, saw its release on the same day as Nirvana’s earthshaking Nevermind in 1991.)

But then, out of nowhere, one day last September, came EP-1, a self-released, digitally distributed four-song set that the blogosphere proceeded to pounce on and dissect instantaneously. While Pitchfork, among other tastemakers, complained of dubious quality, it was clear: With one bold move, the Pixies were no longer mere revivalists, but a full-on band once again.

Next Friday, at Oakland’s Fox Theater, will mark the Pixies’ first Bay Area show in support of fresh material in over two decades, in a performance that should test the band’s ability to blend the old and the new convincingly.

Characterized by the erratic vocals and twisty songwriting of bandleader Black Francis, the angular guitar-work of Joey Santiago, the rock-solid drumming of David Lovering, and the alternately sweet and snarly backing vocals of bassist Kim Deal (who left the band last year, without warning, during the EP-1 sessions), the Pixies remain one of the most impactful, singular groups from the transitional period between rock’s punk and indie movements.

From the initial jolt of the Come On Pilgrim EP (1987), to the devastating four-album punch of Surfer Rosa (1988), Doolittle (1989), Bossanova (1990), and Trompe Le Monde (1991), the band’s signature balance of abrasion and tenderness continues to permeate the rock world incalculably. Radiohead has repeatedly admitted their indebtedness to the Pixies’ sound, while Kurt Cobain contended that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” might not have been written without it. As Deerhunter, TV on the Radio, and the end credits to Fight Club continue to prove, the Pixies’ influence remains powerful as ever.

After calling it quits in ’92, the band regrouped in 2004 (to many a fan’s surprise) for a reunion tour that was only to last a year. After one year turned to five, and a front-to-back Doolittle tour stretched the revival to the seven-year mark, the four members came to a realization.

“We all looked at ourselves and said, ‘Wait a minute, hold on. We’ve been a band longer during this reunion than we were initially,'” Lovering told the Bay Guardian from a tour stop in Washington, D.C.

“There was talk of doing new material, but with all this nonstop touring, nothing came to fruition until maybe about two years ago. We stopped touring, started writing stuff, and then we went and did it.”

Just last month, the Pixies landed another sucker punch with EP-2, the band’s second release since last September, while rumors of an impending EP-3 have begun to circulate since then. Produced by Gil Norton, who’s worked on every Pixies release since Surfer Rosa, the newly released EPs bear a fuller, rounder, warmer sound than any of the band’s past work, while leaving Francis’ erratic songwriting and the group’s off-kilter dynamics largely intact.

“Blue Eyed Hexe” strongly recalls the cowbell-addled thump of “U-Mass,” while “Greens and Blues” brings to mind the zigzagging chord progressions of “Where Is My Mind?”. “What Goes Boom” evokes the surfy explorations of Bossanova, while “Indie Cindy” and “Andro Queen” approach the jangly sensibility of “Here Comes Your Man,” before going unpredictably down their respective paths.

“We just like to drop surprises, I guess,” Santiago explains, while on tour in Durham, N.C. “We just try and do something different out there. And I think we might be one of the first ones to do this…you know, doing a series of EPs.”

Speaking of surprises, the band was dealt a serious blow during the sessions for the EP series, when Deal left the band unexpectedly, for reasons she has declined to elaborate on in the months since. The former bandleader of the Breeders, whose bass lines and soft backing vocals proved integral to the Pixies equation in their contrast to Francis’ manic wail, Deal left a sizable void behind upon departing the group.

“When Kim did leave, we didn’t know what to do,” Lovering explains. “We were in a lurch, and we were thinking, should we get a guy bass player? Or should we quit the band? Or whatever. But, what the Pixies is is a masculine/feminine thing. It’s always been that yin and yang, especially with the vocals. That’s just part of the Pixies. So that’s what we had to do. We had to get a female, you know? We’re keeping with that.”

After hiring Kim Shattuck of the Muffs to assume Deal’s spot for a brief European tour, the three core members made the decision to move forward with Paz Lenchantin, the former bassist for A Perfect Circle.

“Paz is fantastic,” Lovering mentions. “She’s so good, she’s making me play better. I really have to watch how I’m playing, and keep it up. But it’s wonderful; it just sounds very powerful and precise. And her vocals are incredible, as well.”

“Not to diminish Kim,” Santiago says. “We miss her very dearly, but after a while, you know, life goes on. The hard reality is, good is good, and Paz is a real bass player. She’s a pro.” So how might Lenchantin approach Deal’s signature tracks like “Gigantic,” “Silver,” and “Havalina”? How keenly will Deal’s absence be felt? Aside from the prospect of hearing new material played live, Lenchantin’s introduction to the Pixies leaves more questions to be answered than any other element surrounding next Friday’s show.

Faced with a lineup change that smacks of uncertainty and transition, and the mixed critical response to their first new music in 22 years, Francis, Lovering, and Santiago have more to prove this time around than ever before. Yet Lovering contends that this unstable territory is just what the Pixies need after a decade of celebrating  past glories.

“I don’t think we could’ve toured anymore, just going on this reunion kind of stuff. We just needed to do something new.”

Fri/21: Pixies

With Best Coast

8pm, $55 (sold out)

Fox Theater

1807 Telegraph, Oak.

(510) 302-2250


A very Indy decade



LEFT OF THE DIAL If there’s one thing Allen Scott remembers from opening the Independent 10 years ago, it’s the rush. Not the emotional high (though surely that was a factor too), but the literal rushing around that was necessary to open a state-of-the-art live concert space with a capacity of 500 “on a shoestring budget.”

“We barely got open on time,” recalls Scott, the managing owner of the venue at 628 Divisadero — the latest in a long line of storied San Francisco clubs that have shared that address. “We had friends painting it right up until about the day before we opened. We’d moved the sound system in but didn’t have alarms set up, so we were taking turns sleeping on the stage overnight. People would come by and say ‘When are you opening?’ and we’d say ‘In a couple days,’ and they’d laugh, like ‘Good luck with that.’ The night we opened, the fire department signing everything off while the band was sound-checking.”

That band was I Am Spoonbender, and that show was the first of more than 2,500 that have taken place within the Independent’s walls since February 2004. If the space feels like it has a deeper history than that, it’s for good reason: In the late 1960s, it was home to the Half Note, a popular jazz club that saw the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk; the house band featured George Duke and a young Al Jarreau. In the early ’80s it became the VIS Club, and served as a hub for local punk, new wave, and experimental bands; by the late ’80s it was the Kennel Club, and hosted up-and-comers like Nirvana and Janes Addiction. In the mid-’90s, it was reborn as the Justice League, nurturing burgeoning electronic and hip-hop acts — Fat Boy Slim, Jurassic 5, the Roots, and plenty others all found enthusiastic crowds. To put it mildly, if those walls could talk, they’d tell a lot of good party stories. Next week’s lineup of shows will only add to the vault: From Feb. 19 through Feb. 26, the Independent will host Allen Stone, John Butler Trio, Beats Antique, DJ Shadow, Two Gallants (below), Rebelution, and Girl Talk in a series of special performances to celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary.

Two Gallants play The Indepednent Feb. 23

As the club has changed, San Francisco — as it is wont to do — changed around it. The formerly gritty Western Addition is now shiny NoPa (at least according to real estate agents); what was once a bustling center for the city’s African-American population and jazz scene is now more of a bustling dining destination for the upper-middle-class. Regardless, says Scott, there’s no question that the Independent is “in the heart of the city…being part of this neighborhood, this community, is so important to us.”

Scott was just a young San Francisco promoter with an impressive track record when he was approached in 2003 by Gregg Perloff and Sherry Wasserman — proteges of Bill Graham and owners of the scrappy, barely-year-old concert promotion/marketing team Another Planet Entertainment — to run booking and promotions at the unopened venue.

“The name ‘The Independent’ came up through some discussions with music industry friends,” Scott told SF Weekly at the time of the club’s opening. “The whole idea of the Wal-Marting of America applies to the music industry as well. We wanted to stand alone: independent thinking, independent music. We’re an independent company. Of course, it was also an elbow in the side of the corporate giant out there.” (Perloff had just parted ways with Clear Channel under less-than-friendly circumstances.)

A decade later, of course, APE runs a couple of the biggest festivals in Northern California, and functions as the exclusive promoter for Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, Oakland’s Fox Theater, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, among others. And Scott’s now the vice president of APE. But The Independent, now the smallest APE operation, is still his baby.

“We wanted a utilitarian room that had great sound, great lights, and perfect sight lines,” he says. “And because it’s a box, the sight lines there really are perfect — no matter where you’re standing in the room, you can make eye contact with the performers and vice-versa. I think it’s the best-sounding room in the city. And I’d say it has the best lights of any venue underneath the size of the Fillmore.”

Nicki Bluhm is among the local artists who now regularly pack larger venues (see: her sold-out Fillmore show Jan. 25) but maintain a soft spot for the Independent. “[The club] treats their artists with so much respect,” she says, adding that the atmosphere there has led to some of her band’s most memorable shows. Also memorable, says Scott: Obama’s first presidential win, when the club held a free results-viewing party with live music. “When he won, the place erupted, and everyone spilled out into the streets…so there was a band playing inside and people just raging outside,” he recalls. “Very San Francisco.”


What does a quintessentially Brooklyn-loft-party-post-punk band sound like when two of its principal members relocate to LA? Judging by VoyAager, the lush, layered, immersively and epically spacey new album from experimental stalwarts Aa (“big A, little a”), it sounds like someone sent an assortment of synthesizers, samplers, and drum sets into the future, and the future is an industrial cityscape full of curiously advanced life forms who don’t communicate in a narrative sense, but they sure have lots of energy, and they like writing melodies (though not the kind you’ll likely hear on the radio anytime soon). Life sounds rough around the edges on this planet, but you kinda don’t ever want to leave. (Give the first track a listen at the end of this story.)

John Atkinson, the drummer-heavy band’s main vocalist and one of said members who relocated to the West Coast about three years ago, said the album — the band’s first in seven years — is actually the culmination of nearly seven years of recording. “We all work on songs together even when we’re not in the same place,” explains Atkinson, who lived (and recorded some of his parts) in France in the mid-aughts. Though Aa’s lineup and instrumentation seem to be constantly in flux (at this point, says Atkinson, there’s something of an East Coast lineup and a West Coast one), the band’s sound is distinctly more cohesive and melodic than on its 2007 debut, gAame.

Aa perform, with Lil B looking on.

“We don’t want to be making straight-ahead pop songs, but at the same time, I’d say the sounds of pop music have broadened our palette, while sticking to the way we like to put songs together,” says Atkinson. The changing lineup has helped the band’s sound evolve, as well: “Everyone listens to different music…dark industrial heavy stuff, electronic stuff, metal, punk, another drummer is into Samba, world music and jazz…everyone brings something different, so it’s great to watch that kind of stew congeal into something that still sounds like us.”

Playing the Hemlock on Feb. 15 will be the second stop on a weeklong West Coast tour that will take the guys up to Seattle, after which Atkinson will be making a point to stop at every basketball stadium he can on the way back down — the Jersey native is a fairly new appreciator (not a bandwagon fan, he wants to be clear) of California basketball.

As for the NYC/LA transition in general: “New York’s always gonna be home to me, but every time I go back, so much has changed about Brooklyn — all these condos, cookie-cutter new restaurants, and the vibe of the city is just not what it used to be,” he says, “LA is a really hard city to get to know, but that also means there’s a ton of interesting new stuff to discover all the time. It’s starting to feel like home.”

Last but definitely not least: Don’t forget to check out the first Bay Area Record Label Fair, (or B.A.R.F., which is funny whether or not you are 12, admit it), at Thee Parkside on Feb. 15, the brainchild of SF promoters Professional Fans and the city’s own Father/Daughter Records. Some 18 different labels will be represented at the daylong affair, plus live performances from Cocktails, Dog Party, and others TBD. Oh yeah, and it’s free — so bite your tongue the next time you find yourself saying that everything in this city has gotten too expensive.


The Independent’s 10th Anniversary Celebration
Feb. 19 – Feb. 26, show times and prices vary
628 Divisadero, SF

With Alan Watts, Wand, and Violent Vickie
Saturday, Feb. 15 9pm, $8
Hemlock Tavern 1131 Polk, SF

Saturday, Feb. 15 12pm – 5pm, free
Thee Parkside
1600 17th Street, SF

The return of Pyno Man


LEFT OF THE DIAL As legend has it, there was a time when you couldn’t walk the streets of Berkeley without running into him. He accosted you from posters adorning bar bathroom doors; he lurked around corners, plastered to telephone poles. He was mischievous, sometimes foul-mouthed, usually up to no good, but he always meant well. He wanted you to rock out. He was Pyno Man, and he was everywhere.

“Pyno Man was basically just the dream anybody has of being great, but instead of working a regular job and having fantasies about doing crazy rockstar things, he’s actually trying it all the time and failing. So he’s out there on the street acting like a rockstar, but everyone just thinks he’s crazy,” explains John Seabury, artist, creator of Pyno Man, and bass player for the relatively short-lived but locally legendary East Bay garage-punk outfit Psycotic Pineapple, for which the wild-eyed, mohawked, anthropomorphized pineapple served as mascot. “To me, that was logical.”

A staple of the East Bay punk club scene of the late ’70s, Psycotic Pineapple held court at the Keystone in Berkeley, sometimes playing SF’s fabled Mabuhay Gardens with friend bands, like the (underrated) power-pop maestros the Rubinoos. PP songs were about youth and drugs and sex, and you could count on them for an insane live show. But something in the band’s demeanor set them apart from the prevailing punk attitudes of the time: There wasn’t much they took seriously — least of all themselves.

“We didn’t really call them punks at that time, because that just wasn’t what we would call people who played music like them. They were just outlaws in a way, because they brought this sort of pop aesthetic to punk music. They were thumbing their nose at it and wrapping their arms around it at the same time,” says John Cuniberti, a producer, mastering engineer, and longtime friend of the band who helped the guys finally re-issue Psycotic Pineapple’s sole album, Where’s the Party?, on CD in 2012 — something that led to the band playing its first live show in more than two decades, which inspired Cuniberti to make a documentary about the band in the process.

There was something determinedly fun about Psycotic Pineapple, says Cuniberti. “I was working with the Dead Kennedys at the same time [’70s], and it was political, straight-up social commentary, songs about death and war and all these things. These guys played pop songs about relationships — really well-written pop songs, the songwriting was always very compelling to me — but they were rowdy, and they did it with an ‘I don’t care if you like us or not’ kind of attitude. There was an outrageousness to it.”

The band put out its lone record 1980, packed with 11 gleefully irreverent tracks that ran just over 25 minutes altogether. In 1981, something happened that no one could have predicted: Guitar player Henricus Holtman suffered a brain aneurysm, hindering his dexterity on his right side. The band stopped playing live. While most members remained involved in the local music scene — Seabury’s art adorns posters and t-shirts for a ton of other bands — Psycotic Pineapple mostly became the stuff of Bay Area folklore. But the fans were still out there. More than 30 years after PP disbanded, about a year after the band’s official reunion show at Bottom of the Hill, the music somehow doesn’t sound dated at all. They’ll headline the Gilman this week for the first time, with Pinole’s own Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits (whom could be said to follow in PP’s footsteps in terms of ethos, if not sound) opening.

“I don’t think the music feels old, but I’ve always thought that,” says Seabury, whose art fills a booklet that accompanies the re-issue CD. “By the time we broke up a lot of bands were starting to imitate that kind of attitude — Camper Van Beethoven, some others. I think we would have fit right into the alternative rock scene. We were kind of like these New Wave clowns making fun of punkers&ldots;which, as far as bands we gigged with go, their fans didn’t really like it. I remember opening for 999 and the Dickies, and both of their fans just hated us. They were booing us already, so we decided to close the set with ‘We’re an American Band,’ and that’s when the bottles started flying.”

They haven’t gotten to play together too often since the official reunion — for one, keyboard player Alexi Karlinski lives in Eastern Europe for most of the year. But while he’s back in the Bay for this stint, the guys plan to record a few new songs.

Maybe don’t call it a comeback just yet, says Cuniberti. But “I think they’re worth listening to, and there’s a lot of music being made that I can’t say that about. The songwriting is so good, and it’s timely, it still sounds fresh. You can hear in this record that they really love what they’re doing.”

While we’re immersed in the warm glow of East Bay punk history: 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, the independent record store, label, and all-ages venue housed in a deceptively small couple of rooms on 40th Street in Oakland, is expanding into the recently vacated space next door. From their crowdfunding campaign:

“A few weeks ago we were told our next door neighbors would be leaving and we could take a section of their space for an expansion. The catch is that we need to take the space by February 1st or it would go to someone else. As a small business with employees to take care of and regular bills to pay we don’t tend to have a lot of extra expansion capital on hand, especially on short notice. So we come to you, the good people who have supported us all these years and ask for you to join us in bringing the store to this next level and to continue to offer the great music and art we have been in our venue space.

In order to complete this expansion we need to do the following;

Knock out the adjoining wall.

Paint the interior and exterior to match our existing space

All new lighting that will stretch the length of both spaces.

Build additional custom fixtures; record bins, shelving etc.

Purchase new product; Records, books, supplies, turntables etc.

Purchase new Mic’s, Cords and Stands for the venue.

Close the store for 7 to 14 days (oof!)

Our plan is to have our Grand Re-Opening on March 15th to coincide with our 6th anniversary. We will have a sale during the day and a private event from 7pm to 10pm with food, drinks and music for supporters who come in at the $50 and above level who RSVP.”

As of this writing they have just under a week to go and still need to raise about $7,000. Want your as-of-yet unborn kids to know what actual record stores are? You know what to do: 1234gorecords.com.

Back here on this side of the Bay, A Million Billion Dying Suns — the psych-rock project of busy guitar virtuoso Nate Mercereau, who tours with Sheila E., among others (last week he was backing Dave Chappelle at the SFJazz Center) — have embarked on a mini-residency of sorts at the Knockout, starting with a Feb. 11 show. They recently had a song featured in a GoPro commercial, accompanying Shaun White as he blasts through snow-covered hills, but the band’s had my attention for about a year now, especially since the arrival last November’s Strawberry EP, with its slow-building, expertly crafted wall of spaced-out guitar fuzz, particularly on “Strawberry Letter 23,” a cover/homage to Shuggie Otis.

“I record a lot of stuff by myself, and Shuggie Otis has been a huge inspiration in that respect,” says Mercereau, who recently moved to LA, though he finds himself back in SF “every two weeks or so” — the band’s studio is still here. “Though it was also for our friend [manager and friend to many an SF musician] Steve Brodsky, who passed away last year. He really loved that song, and it felt like a way to do something for him.”

The Knockout feels a little small for the seriously powerful five-piece, Mercereau will acknowledge, but he wanted a residency at “a place our friends can walk to, a down-home punk rock spot that’s in the neighborhood.” If all goes well, he says, AMBDS will have another few shows here shortly, regardless of his new home base. “It’s easier than you might think,” he says. “We just live on Highway 5.”

With Rock N’ Roll Adventure Kids, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, and the Gregors
Friday, Feb. 7, 7:30pm, $10
924 Gilman Street
924 Gilman, Berkeley

With What Fun Life Was and Lemme Adams
Tuesday, Feb. 11, 8:30pm, $6
3223 Mission, SF

Young at heart


LEFT OF THE DIAL “Why are some songs so perfect in a way that never happens again in our lives? What is it about music and being older than 12 but younger than 20?”

Those are the lines of narration capping the final panel of one of my favorite Lynda Barry comic strips, an autobiographical story in her collection One Hundred Demons. In it, our teenage protagonist is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the radio in a manner immediately recognizable to anyone who has ever been a teenager. The mood is: I am surely feeling feelings and thinking thoughts no one ever has before. As I recall, this is what being a teenager is. Every emotion, positive or negative, however fleeting, is all-consuming, and often you have no choice but to lie in your room, crushed by the weight of it, headphones drowning out the world. The idea that “this too shall pass” is impossible to understand, because you can’t even see past the econ test you’re surely going to flunk tomorrow, or that guy in biology who barely knows your name. This is why teenagers always seem so sluggish: That shit’s exhausting.

Ask any teenager what helps them get through it — and here I realize I’m starting to sound like adolescence is an inevitable six-year-long disease of sorts, or perhaps a heroin detox you just have to sweat through, but whatever, it kind of is — and near the top of the list, I bet you’ll find music.

“I would have ended up as a drug dealer, no question,” says John Vanderslice, the musician-producer-owner of SF’s storied Tiny Telephone studios, of what he might have become without music as a young person. “I would currently be residing in prison.”

Lucky for him, “My mother forced me by gunpoint to take piano lessons,” he says. “And this was the dirty South. I was in public schools, where the arts meant, you know, coloring. But I got really interested in music, and that became a huge open door for me. I think it would have been a lot tougher to do what I do now if I hadn’t had that music theory kind of shoved in to my brain when I was seven, eight, nine years old, even if I didn’t know it was happening at the time.”

Vanderslice is just one in a who’s who of Bay Area artists who were invited to think about what music meant to them when they were young — how and when and which music shaped their formative years — in preparation for a Friday, Jan. 31 show celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Magik*Magik Orchestra at the Fox Theater in Oakland. The orchestra, a group of more than 50 musicians who have provided “made-to-order” support on records and tours with Death Cab for Cutie, Zola Jesus, How to Dress Well, and Nick Cave, to name a few, is raising money for Magik For Kids, their nonprofit arm that throws hands-on music education events for school-aged kids in the Bay Area.

“When We Were Young,” presented by Noise Pop, will showcase bands — Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, the Dodos, Geographer, and a dozen others — collaborating with a 30-piece orchestra and the 30-piece Pacific Boychoir on songs that the artists themselves selected. The prompt: Pick a tune from your childhood that’s close to your heart.

“It was really interesting to see what people chose — I was expecting more ’80s given the age range, but you realize you’re not always listening to what’s new when you’re little,” says arranger, conductor and Magik*Magik founder Minna Choi, a Berkeley-born, classically trained 32-year-old colleagues refer to as a dynamo. (Vanderslice — who will be performing a Simon and Garfunkel song — agreed to Magik*Magik becoming the house band at Tiny Telephone after Choi cold-emailed him five years ago: “Minna’s the kind of person who can and will do absolutely anything she wants to do.”) Choi will conduct most of the show, with Michael Morgan, conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, appearing on a couple pieces.

In designing music programming for children, says Choi, “We’re trying to create ways to expose younger kids not only to music, but to a music career and what that looks like.” The orchestra has organized instrument “petting zoos,” taught kids to build their own string instruments, and run a summer camp where children learn to conduct.

Many players in the orchestra also teach private music lessons, and some had to cancel a few lessons in order to rehearse for the show. “But the point of this show is music education,” says Choi. “So we came up with a kind of ‘Bring your student to Magik work’ day and had them reach back out to parents saying ‘I can’t do a traditional violin lesson Tuesday, but you’re welcome to bring your son or daughter to the studio, we’ll have it set up for them’…there’s so much to learn there, whether it’s rehearsal technique, or just how to communicate when you’re working with 40 other people.”

Diana Gameros, a staple of the Mission’s indie-folk scene — she’s been called “the Latin Feist” — chose an original song from her most recent album, a song she wrote for her hometown of Juárez, Mexico.

“I grew up listening to very traditional Mexican songs, because my grandparents lived on a little farm and that was what there was,” she recalls. “And I didn’t like it when I was young. I wanted to be hip, I wanted to be cool. I liked really poppy songs, which you could hear on the radio because we were so close to the border. What was that band that sang ‘I Saw the Sign’? That’s what I wanted.”

She moved to the States as a teenager, and began writing songs as a young adult. And that’s when she realized that the traditional Mexican music she’d disliked as a child “was embedded in me…it’s in my blood.” She chose “En Juárez” for this show in part because it’s written from a mother’s perspective: “If I had children, this is a song for them — explaining the realities of Juárez, the violence, but also talking to them about what’s possible, about dreams and the hope we should have regardless of problems,” she says.

“I was just honored to be asked to be part of this show, honestly. It’s going to be a magical night.”

A handful of scattered thoughts, while we’re on the topic of music that helped when you needed to lie on your bed blasting music through a Walkman:

  • Green Day’s Dookie was released Feb. 1, 1994 — 20 years ago this Saturday.
  • I’ve listened to that album from start to finish more recently and more frequently as an adult than I should probably admit. If “When I Come Around” starts on the radio when I’m driving, I will turn it all the way up.
  • Miley Cyrus. Skrillex.
  • My grandfather, in the last stages of Alzheimer’s at age 95 and unable to keep family members’ names straight, would sing along if you brought him tapes of Big Band songs from the 1930s.
  • Sherman Alexie: “Your generation’s music isn’t better than any others. It’s just inextricably linked to your youth.”


When We Were Young
With Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, The Dodos, Diana Gameros, Geographer, How To Dress Well, Zoe Keating, The Lonely Forest, Maestro Michael Morgan, The Pacific Boychoir, Rogue Wave, Two Gallants, and John Vanderslice

Fri/31, 8pm, $29.50 – $45
The Fox Theater
1807 Telegraph, Oakland





























Meat is murder



TOFU AND WHISKEY Of course Morrissey would name his long-awaited memoir Autobiography (Putnam Adult, 464 pp., $30). The legendarily morose British pop singer and former Smiths leader has always seemed a bit larger than life.

The book already came out in the UK (and France) in October and was a huge sensation, topping best-seller lists, but US audiences have been forced to wait for the precious tome, twiddling their thumbs for its arrival, much like the infrequent uncancelled Morrissey live performance. The hardcover finally arrives stateside Dec. 3.

That said, the book on the life of the “Meat is Murder” singer-activist is worth the twiddling, if only for morbid curiosity. It’s lengthy, uncanny, and packed with daggering insults toward other musicians (Johnny Marr), ex-presidents and royals (George W., Sarah Ferguson), and himself, along with drawn-out sections on his favorite poets, court cases, and desire to die. It covers his life from birth to present day.

People go crazy over Morrissey — there’s even a Mozipedia book, published in 2010, so clearly the desire to hear it all in his own voice is there. I’ll claim to be a Morrissey novice, comparatively. At least, I’ve never worn a bedazzled jean jacket to a fever-pitched Moz convention, so some revelations in the book were still eye-opening, though needing to be extracted from verbose prose.

The long-time vegetarian, proudly outspoken against the meat industry, writes instead mostly about his suicidal depressive past and his dreary youth — and he finally speaks to those rumors of his sexuality. Yup, he loved a man named Jake Owen Walters. Though he later released this statement about those sections of the book: “Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humansexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course … not many.”

So Steven Patrick Morrissey, as he was known at birth, recounts a dark and uncomfortable childhood in Manchester, much of which was spun into early Smiths songs. But if we’re comparing horrific childhoods, another recent memoir might outweigh every aspect of Morrissey’s sad complaints: that of D.H. Peligro, whose own bio, Dreadnaught: King of Afropunk (Rare Bird Books, 280 pp., $13) came out in October.

Peligro — the complex, wild-man drummer of SF’s Dead Kennedys, as well as (briefly) Red Hot Chili Peppers, and guitarist in his own band, Peligro — grew up “dirt poor” in St. Louis, Mo., where he was born in 1959. (He literally eats dirt as a punishment in one section.) Like Moz, he now eats a veg-heavy diet. “All that food we had growing up in the ghetto was poison, drained of any nutritional value. Being forced to eat that food was one of the reasons that later in life, even when I was strung out on heroin, I remained a fanatic vegan,” he writes.

While the book opens with an extremely upsetting and grotesque strung-out hospital stay in a room with “puke green walls,” one of many incidents for the drug-addicted musician, it quickly falls backward in time to his beginnings as a “Satan’s Child,” the name by which he was known as around town. He never met his father, was mercilessly beat by his oft-drunk stepfather, and lived in a hotbed of violence and racial segregation in his early years.

And yet, despite all this, growing up in St. Louis also greatly influenced Peligro’s interest in music, and fostered a space in which to learn rhythm and blues. His beloved Uncle Sam Carr, who introduced him to musical instruments, was the son of blues guitarist Robert Nighthawk (who supposedly was the first to play slide guitar). Peligro recalls playing Carr some Dead Kennedys music years later and Carr “really listening” and nodding his head along to the noisy, Jello Biafra-led punk band.

Written in a poetic and reflective yet conversational style, Peligro’s tale stands out above most fast-living memoirs. The stories are vivid and disturbing, and the experiences run the gamut from the epicenters of Southern blues, to the influential early SF punk scene, to the costumed LA rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. And yet, Dreadnaught still follows much of the standard course for the musician’s book tale: grew up poor, found shining beacon influencer, rose above, partied too hard, came down, and reflected.

And while there have been countless rocker memoirs in the past, only a small handful are worth your time — and there’s no time like now: It’s Thanksgiving week, and you’re likely itching for some quiet downtime, away from TVs filled with screeching sportscasters and your aunt asking you (if you’re in line with Moz and Peligro’s dietary habits) one more time: “Just how do you get protein?”

The top of any list should be Patti Smith‘s 2010 Just Kids. It’s eloquent and nonetheless gritty, with sinuous stories tumbling from her recollections and minute details beautifully recounted. The end made me ugly-cry crocodile tears while on Muni.

Like Smith, some musicians take the more introspective approach to their writing, revealing inner strength through the written word. For more of that nature, see Ronnie Spector‘s 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness; or Bob Dylan‘s 2004 Bob Dylan: Chronicles, Volume One.

And then there’s Pamela Des Barres‘ groupie classic I’m With the Band. Oh, the torrid, gushy love tales within that book, of Ms. Pamela’s exploits with famous rock ‘n’ rollers from the 1960s right on up through the decades. Many years ago, over breakfast at a diner in Haight-Ashbury, Des Barres told me: “As far as wanting to meet the guys, I just couldn’t sit in my room and get all horny over Mick Jagger … it was just inside me to see where all that amazing stuff was coming from, that music.” If you’re in the mood for more scandalous tales of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, these memoirs come highly recommended as well: Slash‘s Slash or Keith RichardsLife.

If you’re looking for an ironic, jokey, or food-based story, there’s Ian SvenoniusSupernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘N’ Roll Group, which I reviewed in an earlier column — noting that the book holds séances with dead rock stars to glean important information for the reader — and Cookin’ with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price, which includes a section called “How Coolio Became the King of Kitchen Pimps.” (Hint: his mom.)

Or there’s this year’s insta-classic “cookbook” — which really came as a download with the B.O.A.T.S 2 #Metime albumCooking With Two Chainz. It includes cooking tips like, “Put on your Versace apron.”



Here’s all I know about Life Stinks: The band has a great name, was described as “brutal and mysterious” after SXSW last year; and makes throwback snotty punk songs. It also just released a self-titled debut LP on S.S. records. Listen to “Cemeteries” off said album for more reasons to see the live show. That’s all you need to know. This album release gig is the Friday after Thanksgiving; you’ll be stuffed, sick of family, and most definitely ready to shake along. Plus, one of the openers is messy and awesome high-pitched SF band Quaaludes — they sound like ’77 punk on helium meets ’92 riot grrrl, which is perfect. With Dancer. Fri/29, 9:30pm, $5. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF; www.hemlocktavern.com.




I was discussing the upcoming Kathleen Hanna doc The Punk Singer with a musician pal, and we got on the topic of the very real healing power of music. While Hanna is certainly not playing this event (sorry), that power translates broadly. Bread & Roses is a Northern California-based organization that knows this well, producing hundreds of free shows a year at hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, and treatment centers. This benefit is full-circle, benefiting the org so it can put on more shows, and offering up live local talent for you: sparkly piano rocker Marco Benevento (of Tea Leaf Green), acoustic folk singer-songwriter Megan Slankard, along with her band, the Novelists, and (((folkYEAH!))) Presents DJ Britt Govea. Sun/1, 8pm, $20–<\d>$50, Chapel, 777 Valencia, SF. www.breadandroses.org. *

War of the roses



TOFU AND WHISKEY Rock ‘n’ roll guitarists do not typically have the opportunity to play with full, live orchestras. Though legendary avant-punk composer Rhys Chatham has long challenged that notion.

“I thought it would be nice to write a piece for a literal orchestra of guitars, both for its unique sonority, as well as for the social element of massing so many guitarists together, to give them the experience of playing in an orchestra, the way classical musicians do,” the 61-year-old writes from his home in France.

His first piece for multiple electric guitars was back in ’77 — Guitar Trio — and by ’84 he upped the number to six. But this is where the electric guitar orchestras of Chatham took a huge leap: 100 guitars, wailing, riffing, battling, rising in unison and twisting on their own windy paths.

Since then, Chatham has launched multiple pieces based on 100 to 400 electric guitarists, including An Angel Moves Too Fast to See (1989), and A Crimson Grail (2005). His newest piece, A Secret Rose, is back to 100 and will have its Bay Area premiere Sun/17 (7pm, $10–$75. Craneway Pavilion, 1414 Harbour, Richmond. otherminds.org).

The difference? A Secret Rose was a piece intended to be learned quickly, without placing “unreasonable demands” on the participating musicians’ time.

“An added plus as far as ease of mounting the piece is concerned is that I wrote the piece for guitars in a standard tuning, so the musicians can simply arrive with the strings they normally use, cutting down on the time it takes to restring the guitars, not to mention the purchasing of special strings for 100 guitarists!”

Like much of his other work, A Secret Rose is informed by Chatham’s strong connection to the roots of the ’77 punk scene, a world the minimalist composer cracked open in his early 20s. He says at the time he was trying to find his voice as a composer.

He grew up in New York City playing his father’s harpsichord, which he first picked up at age six. By age eight he was playing clarinet, and at 12, he switched to flute. “Luckily, my flute teacher was a contemporary music specialist, so she taught me Density 21.5 by Varèse, Sonatine for flute and piano by Boulez, and many others.”

In his early 20s, he first became entranced with the burgeoning loft jazz scene in NYC.

“I switched to tenor saxophone because the fingering is almost the same as flute, also because it was louder.”

There, he studied alongside the greats, including La Monte Young — he even sang in his group, the Theater of Eternal Music — along with Terry Riley. He was an early member of Tony Conrad’s the Dream Syndicate, and played alongside Charlemagne Palestine.

Around this time though, there was the punk awakening. Everything changed with an electrifying Ramones concert in 1976 at CBGB.

“I had never seen anything like it in my life. Wow! I felt that I had something in common with their music. I mean, as a hardcore minimalist composer, I was only using one chord in the music I was doing at the time — the Ramones were using three — but I loved the repetition, and that’s when I decided to embrace this music into my own.”

He dropped the sax and picked up a Fender Telecaster guitar, and he was soon playing minimal music in a rock context at Max’s Kansas City and CBGB.

The classic Fender is still integral to his performances more than three decades later. For A Secret Rose, each guitarist will bring her or his own electric guitar. Says Chatham, “The piece was written for a Fender kind of sound…so we ask the guitarists to bring guitars that have a Fender type of sound.”

As for finding those 100 talented guitarists to join the orchestra? It was a collaboration with the Other Minds new music community nonprofit, which is presenting the West Coast premiere of A Secret Rose, and Chatham’s manager Regina Greene. The application process was wide open, so the end result is a batch of musicians from all over the world, including the UK, Argentina, and Canada. The Richmond performance in the dramatic waterfront Craneway Pavilion includes musicians from Guided by Voices, Akron/Family, Tristeza, Hrsta, Sutekh Hexen, and Girls Against Boys.

Many of the guitarists are also local: Other Minds received a grant from the James Irvine Foundation that focuses on “nonprofessional and professional musicians from low-income and ethnically diverse communities in Contra Costa and Alameda counties” to help put the event on. After the applications came in, Other Minds and Chatham went to work mixing in musicians with backgrounds in jazz, folk, noise, psych, metal, experimental, classical, and punk.

The final blend includes Oakland’s Carolyn Kennedy, Alameda’s Kurt Brown, Berkeley’s Becky White, and more, plus Chatham alumni (who’ve played in different electric guitar orchestras with him) including John Banister of San Francisco and Brian Good of Walnut Creek.

All those guitarists will be backed by electric bassist Lisa Mezzacappa, and drummer Jordan Glenn, both from the Bay Area. In a much smaller scale preview of A Secret Rose earlier this year, Mezzacappa and Glenn did Guitar Trio (version for eight musicians) with Chatham at the Lab in the Mission. “They are excellent musicians. Well, they’d have to be to accompany 100 electric guitars,” Chatham says. “They are the rhythm section, the wind, indeed the hurricane that lights the fire of the playing of the guitarists!”

The performance itself is structured similar to a symphony, starting with an introduction and slow prelude, followed by an allegro movement

“[And] then I break with sonata form and have a structured aleatory movement, followed by an adagio section, ending with a brisk allegro, although having a vastly different character than the first one,” explains Chatham.

“All the music is notated, even the aleatory section has specific prose instructions. When we mount the piece it will probably be one of the few times the guitarists make use of a music stand!”


For this third annual Friends of Tricycle Records comp release show, the favored local indie label brings out Oakland lady trio Hot Toddies. The Toddies make sunny though rough-edged beach pop with sugary multipart harmonies, and released their Bottoms Up EP on Tricycle earlier this year. The Tricycle Records comp, produced by Julie Schuchard, includes the slow-burning Hot Toddies’ track “Summertime Blues,” along with songs by James & Evander, Happy Fangs, Swiftumz, WOOF, and more. With Tambo Rays, Kill Moi, Odd Owl, Blaus (DJ set).

Wed/13, 8pm, $6–$9. Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission, SF. www.brickandmortarmusic.com.


Melt-Banana has always been a curious subject: rapid, triumphant grindcore matched to yelpy staccato vocals tinted with Japanese accents, like Spazz meets Deerfhoof. And with each album, the group — formed in 1993 — has proved itself still endlessly fascinating, complex, even fun. Its latest, Fetch (A-Zap), is its first in six long years, and it comes speeding back to the present, not a moment of chaos lost. Check “The Hive” — it’s like riding a terrifying roller coaster on acid with a screeching sprite on your shoulder. With Retox. 

Sat/16, 8pm, $15. Oakland Metro, 630 Third St, Oakl. www.oaklandmetro.org.






Years Latyr(x)



When the last Latyrx album, The Album, came out in August 1997, hip-hop was still trying to figure out its footing in a post-Biggie and Tupac world. The duo, made up of East Bay rappers Lyrics Born and Lateef the Truthspeaker, was one of the first conscious acts to make waves in that world before the actual subgenre of conscious or progressive hip-hop solidified.

But 16 years is almost half the lifespan of hip-hop and every cultural aspect associated with it. Countless micro-genres, fads, and rappers have emerged, disappeared, and assumed their position in the annals of style during the years after The Album and before Latyrx’s follow-up. Though the game has changed between the last time they collaborated and the release of 2013 full-length The Second Album (Latyramid), Lyrics Born and Lateef have still been putting work in the hip-hop industrial complex. Combined, they’ve put out more than a couple dozen solo albums, remix records, EPs, live albums, and mixtapes.


So why get the band back together? Lyrics Born puts it simply “[The Album] was such a milestone in our lives and careers. It was something we always planned to revisit but never had the opportunity to do so. It was definitely one of the top five questions I was always asked by fans. ‘When are you guys gonna do the next Latyrx album?’ It was just sort of time.” A second Latyrx album was announced on Lyrics Born’s website back in early 2007, but there was little movement until a few years later. The duo realized it better finally get cracking on the follow-up record when it was invited to do a show in 2010 with local jazz maestro Adam Theis of the Jazz Mafia group at the Mezzanine — and witnessed the immensely warm reaction to its set the following year at Outside Lands. Following those two performances, it was apparent that another Latyrx record needed to happen: “The window was right, so we got in the studio” says Lateef.

The most striking element of The Second Album is the feeling that each track comes from a different album. “It’s Time” features Zion I incorporating whizzing Transformers-like synths. “Gorgeous Spirits” is a booty-shaking clubbanger. The two tracks featuring tUnE-yArDs’ Merrill Garbus — “Watershed Moment” (also featuring longtime collaborater Blackalicious’ Gift of Gab) and “Deliberate Gibberish” — each shine in uniquely differing ways. “Deliberate Gibberish” sounds like it was culled from a fast-paced spoken word album and “Watershed Moment” percolates with a bouncy and eccentric flow. “There’s really no reason why a song like [‘Deliberate Gibberish’] should exist. It’s like the anti-song, the anti-hip-hop song in the sense that there’s no drums, it’s just Merrill from tUnE-yArDs doing these weird voices in the background,” says Lyrics Born, on working with the indie-art pop crooner.

The seemingly out-of-nowhere appearances of Garbus on the LP is due to an artist retreat in New Orleans. The conference put on by the Air Traffic Control (ATC) organization (which put on the Tibetan Freedom Concert series) is described by Lyrics Born as “an effort to coordinate artist with nonprofits.”

“We were there looking at the aftermath and recovery with the Gulf oil spills as well as the recovery from Katrina. We spent a lot of time in the gulf and different neighborhoods connecting with other musicians and orgs to get involved there. It was amazing to see the spirit that the city has.”

Those drawn to Latyrx for its conscious aesthetic will find its progressive expectations satisfied. Its signature wordplay ricochets throughout the album, railing against crass commercialism, gun culture, and the overall desolate situation faced by many struggling Americans today.

Some may argue that progressive hip-hop is a relic from another generation, but for Lyrics Born, being an artist in 2013 is no different than in ’97. “It means what it’s always meant: I can’t do today what I did yesterday. That’s really how we approached this record and all my records. Neither of us is interested in covering ground that’s already been covered.”

Things are going well on the underground alt-rap stalwarts’ current tour together, and in the next year, Latyrx will be doing a larger world tour. As for the now-looming question about a third Latyrx album, the duo says: “We just hope the third one doesn’t take another 16 years to create. This last album was a chance for us to get back to doing what we do best. We got a lot of our solo stuff out of our system. The world needs unusual records right now.”


With Forrest Day, DJ Aaron Axelsen

Nov. 20, 9pm, $25


628 Divisadero, SF



Alive, not well


[Update: La Luz was in a car accident during its tour and will no longer be playing these shows. The accident totaled the van, destroyed the gear, and band members suffered injuries. To donate, click here]

TOFU AND WHISKEY Sometimes the unexpected can rip you apart. It can gnaw at your insides, leave your stomach in knots, and twist your thoughts into a confused, messy blur. And sometimes, those rare unanticipated moments can inspire you anew. All the hurt and bewilderment and dark emotions reconfigure and morph into a project, such as an album.

La Luz guitarist-vocalist Shana Cleveland felt this molten wave firsthand and the end result is a striking, blackened surf rock album with four-way doo-wop melodies and churling riffs smacking against the seawall. It’s the full-length debut from the Seattle all-lady quartet: It’s Alive (Hardly Art). The group tours to SF this week, opening up for of Montreal (Fri/8-Sat/9, 9pm, $21. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.slimspresents.com).

It’s Alive was built from death. “When something that dramatic happens, it could either crush you or give you a crazy energy,” Cleveland says. “For me it was like, after I came out of just being really depressed for awhile I was really inspired to….I don’t know exactly how to phrase it. It’s kind of a weird thing to talk about, I guess. It’s so heavy.”

That heavy moment took place May 30, 2012, when a deranged shooter burst into a Seattle café — Café Racer, where Cleveland and her friends routinely hung out — and killed five people. Around the corner from her house, it’s where she first met La Luz bassist Abby Blackwell. On that spring day last year, it’s where her friend Drew Keriakedes (otherwise known as “Shmootzi the Clod”), a vaudeville-style singing circus clown, died, slain in the rampage.

She describes him as always giving open, honest performances that made everyone fall in love with him — that performance style informed her own artistry. And the months after the shooting informed her songwriting. Though she also notes an intuition affected the record.

“It’s weird because a lot of the lyrics I wrote before the shooting happened and then a lot of them I wrote after. But then when I looked back…I kept seeing these weird premonitions. It just seems like the air was really heavy with this insane event and I was sort of channeling this crazy shit that was about to happen. This sounds kind of New Age-y. But when I looked back over the lyrics I was just like, ‘holy shit!’ I think I just felt something in the air.”

That gloom bled into It’s Alive, a record equally inspired by legendary surf guitarist Link Wray, who also lent a darker edge to the style.

“So it’s sort of a haunted album. It’s kind of cool that it’s coming out around Halloween, it seems fitting.”

It’s the band’s first real record, though before it played a single show, it recorded a demo tape called Damp Face. Both were recorded with the group’s friend Johnny Goss, who was living in a trailer park on the outskirts of town at the time. Goss, who “accumulated all this really cool old recording gear,” took a leisurely approach to It’s Alive, hanging out with La Luz and working together to add new vocal overdubs or extra fuzz.

Cleveland describes it as a highly collaborative process between Goss and the rest of La Luz — bassist Blackwell, drummer Marian Li Pino, and keyboardist Alice Sandahl — though she wrote the bulk of the lyrics before they started playing together. Once La Luz came together, the group altered the music and included everyone’s input.

But Cleveland is also comfortable making art on her own. In addition to La Luz, she’s also a poet (she actually majored in poetry at Columbia College in Chicago) and a visual artist, known for drawings and paintings of other bands and singers, often with big retro hairstyles or matching vintage suits.

“I found this record in a thrift store once and someone had done like, a ballpoint pen drawing of Buffalo Springfield. It was tucked inside of the record and I was really fascinated by it..and I kind of became obsessed with it. I’ve [always] been kind of obsessed with bands I guess, because my parents were both in bands too so it’s my whole life.”

Her dad plays in country and blues bands, her mom sings and plays blues harmonica. They met on tour, in fact — her dad was traveling with a band and stopped in her mom’s Colorado town, then she joined him on the road.

Cleveland grew up playing the instruments her parents — since divorced — had strewn around the house in Kalamazoo, Mich. She picked up guitar around 15 and began playing Veruca Salt songs.

After college, Cleveland headed west to LA but says she hated living in the San Fernando Valley. One day her mom brought her a copy of Seattle alt-weekly, The Stranger, and on a whim, she decided to move there.

“I packed up my Oldsmobile and moved. I don’t know if [The Stranger] knows that yet! I kind of want to tell them.”

Seattle became home and she has since ingrained herself in the local music scene, ticking off favorite Seattle acts like Rose Windows — “They’re doing this like, ’60s psych Jefferson Airplane kind of thing, they’re all really amazing players” — blues combo Lonesome Shack, and Pony Time.

For now, La Luz is touring on It’s Alive, and revving up for a first ever European jaunt in early 2014. While the songwriting began on a darker note, Cleveland is now seeing brightness in the future, at least when I pry out her band goals: “I really want to tour with Ty Segall. That’s just a dream of mine because I would like to see him play every night. I hope that happens. I really want to play with Shannon and the Clams too, because we’re all huge fans of theirs. And the Growwlers. We just played with them but I think it’d be fun to play more shows with them in the future too. They’re one of our favorite bands.”



Two decades is a long lifeline for a DIY record label — especially one known for such short songs. Six Weeks Records, founded in ’92 by Athena Kautsch and Jeff Robinson, has distributed dozens of grimy grindcore, breakneck punk, and loud-as-hell hardcore albums from bands around the world. Clearly dedicated to the art of deafening music, the label also publishes the Short, Fast & Loud fanzine. This two-night anniversary fest features acts of the Six Weeks Records family including LA powerviolence legends Despise You, Tokyo’s Slight Slappers, NY’s Magrudergrind, Capitalist Casualties, Backslider, Coke Bust, P.L.F, and more.

Fri/8-Sat/9, 7pm, $17 each ($30 two-day pass). Oakland Metro, 630 Third St, Oakl. www.oaklandmetro.org.



With Matthew Caws of Nada Surf and Juliana Hatfield of guest-starring-angel-on-My So-Called Life fame forming an intricate new pop band together — Minor Alps — it’s clear the ’90s resurgence beats on. The guitar-swelling, melodious new act, which just released debut LP Get There (Barsuk), plays the Independent Mon/11. And with it comes openers Churches, whom we previewed here at the Guardian before. The Nirvana-loving Bay Area band just released two new tracks: “Pretty in Black” and “Goths on the Boardwalk.” Says frontperson Caleb Nichols, “‘Goths on the Boardwalk’ is the culmination of my two years of living in Santa Cruz. It’s been weird — goths everywhere. [It’s] an ode to my love-hate with this place.” The angst continues.

Mon/11, 8pm, $20. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com.



Local Nintendo-blasting electro rock group crashfaster released the track “Beacon,” the first single of its forthcoming sophomore LP, Further, this week. Like its earlier work, “Beacon” is a bouncy, nostalgic, digi-ride through ’80s video game culture, backed by motorcycle revving guitarwork and sound effects, in rock’n’roll chiptune style, which looks good for the rest of Further. Recorded at Different Fur Studios, that new full-length sees release Nov. 19 — but before that there’s a show at DNA Lounge. With Bit Shifter, Trash80, Unwoman.

Nov. 14, 9pm, $15. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF. www.dnalounge.com.


High fidelity rockers


MUSIC Everyone knows the best way to music idolatry is a solid education in the school of rock (or pop, or hip-hop, or goth, Madchester, shoegaze, techno, et. al). And what better way to soak up the sexy, jagged history of music than to work at one of the few brick-and-mortar stores left that sells it exclusively.

Yes, we’re talking about the classic record shop clerk/artist dichotomy. It’s alive and well in San Francisco and the Bay Area beyond. We see it in Andee Connors of Aquarius Records and his bands like A Minor Forest [see full story]. And also bubbling over elsewhere in sound city thanks to still-vibrant music purveyors and lovers of all things sonic:

Perhaps the most well-documented record shop employee is SF’s darling garage rocker Kelley Stoltz, who works at Grooves on Market Street (he has done so for 12 years), and who released his latest full-length, Double Exposure, last month on Third Man Records.

There’s also Amoeba’s Upper Haight location, which is a hotbed of worker-musicians, including Fresh & Onlys bassist Shayde Sartin, whose formerly fuzzy band a few months back released latest EP Soothsaver on Mexican Summer, a shiny vintage pop gem. In that Golden Gate-adjacent mega-shop (which also has locations in Berkeley and LA) there’s also Andrew Kerwin of Trainwreck Riders, Luciano Talpini of Ceiling Eyes, Rory Smith of Death Pajamas, Steve Peacock of Pale Challis, and David James, who plays in many a band (Afrofunk Experience, Beth Custer Ensemble, Curtis Bumpy, David James’s GPS).

Brand-spanking-new record store RS94109 in the Tenderloin is brimming with vinyl dance music — and dance music talent. Twin owners Askander and Sohrab Harooni both make tracks upstairs, while close associate Oliver Vereker is rising through the dark techno ranks with eardrum-challenging DJ sets and hyped new L.I.E.S. label releases “Rosite” and “Fear Eats the Soul.”

The main man behind Explorist International, Chris Dixon, is currently in a few bands, including duo tujurikkuja, and a synthy electronic drone-psych project called Earth Jerks. He’s also finally remixed some Death Sentence: Panda! (remember them?) recordings from 2011 that will probably be released on cassette.

Punk-friendly Thrillhouse Records on the border of the Mission and Bernal hosts staffers who are also members of Apogee Sound Club, Dead Seeds, C’est Dommage, Dead Seeds, Pig DNA, Robocop 3, New Flesh, and Fantasy World.

Oakland’s newest record shop, Stranded, has Sam Lefebvre, a music writer himself who also plays in Pure Bliss and Cold Circuits.

And Rob Fletcher at 1-2-3-4 Go! is in Beasts of Bourbon-influenced rock band MUSK.

Some shops are breeding grounds for bands. Streetlight Records’ San Jose and Santa Cruz locations, for instance, harbor members of nearly a dozen different bands including death metal acts Abnutivum and Infernal Slave (both Matt DeLeon), Churches (Caleb Nichols), Cat & Shout (Cat Johnson), Folivore (Kyle Kessler), and Doctor Nurse (Jeff Brummett). There’s also Stiff Love, which includes four Street Light Santa Cruz co-workers: Raul Medrano, Rey Apodaca, Chelsea Cooper, Cherene Araujo.

Of course, there are plenty more budding musicians behind those shop counters. Do yourself a favor and talk to your local record store clerk. Get the dirt on his or her own musical project then dig deeper through the vinyl crates for the inspirations. And feel free to add your favorites in the comments.

Finally, lest we forget the archetypal, faintly satirical pop culture reference: there’s High Fidelity‘s band of jaded collectors who are also sort-of musicians and DJs on the side. “We’re no longer called Sonic Death Monkey. We’re on the verge of becoming Kathleen Turner Overdrive, but just for tonight, we are Barry Jive and his Uptown Five.”




MUSIC To locals, Andee Connors is perhaps best known as the longtime co-owner of Aquarius Records, an independent record shop in the Mission. Aquarius, which specializes in obscure underground releases, is a landmark vinyl provider in SF that first opened its doors in 1970 to a group of stoners in the Castro, as the story goes.

Connors began working at aQ in 1994 (the shop by then long settled in the Mission), and became co-owner a decade ago. These days, he can still be seen behind the counter.

And yet, for math rock enthusiasts, Connors is recognized for a different music-related profession: He was the drummer and vocalist behind 1990s San Francisco rock band, A Minor Forest.

“Some people come in to the store and recognize me from A Minor Forest,” Connors says from his post in aQ. “It’s amazing when people in their early 20s tell me that they like the band. I’m like: ‘Holy crap, you were probably two years old when we were touring!'”

With noisy and jam-packed intricate time signatures and musical arrangements, A Minor Forest (AMF) stuck out in the Bay Area music scene years ago, taking on a post-rock sound in a community with a simplistic punk tradition. And on Sat/9, the band is reuniting to play its first show in 15 years — at Bottom of the Hill with Barn Owl, fellow labelmate of Chicago’s much-loved Thrill Jockey Records.

It all began in the early ’90s, when Connors left his home and school in San Diego to play music in the Bay Area. Shortly thereafter (’92), he teamed up with bassist John Trevor Benson and guitarist and fellow vocalist Erik Hoversten to “make the most difficult music possible.”

According to Connors, A Minor Forest took on a higher calling early on: making weird art and fucking with audiences as much as possible.

“A lot of our early shows were 45 minutes of nonstop repetition,” Connors says. “Over time, we drifted away from that and became less overtly annoying.”

Along the way, some people caught on to A Minor Forest’s “weird art project.” One such person: Legendary Nirvana producer Steve Albini, of Big Black and Shellac fame, who recorded AMF’s album Flemish Altruism (Constituent Parts 1993-1996) on Thrill Jockey in 1996.

With that, the band toured relentlessly and built a fanbase across the country, picking up friendly connections along the way.

“A lot of people I know now go back to my time in A Minor Forest,” says Connors. “When I look back on my life, it’s one of the coolest things I did.”

Though AMF hasn’t been active for the past 15 years, members Benson, Hoversten, and Connors have hosted their own musical projects. Currently, Connors lends his talents to four different bands: pop group Imperils, Ticwar, and Crappy Islands (respectively) with Benson from AMF and Common Eider, King Eider with Rob Fisk of early Deerhoof. Hoversten, meanwhile, was a touring guitarist for Pinback.

No matter what band he plays in, whether it be pop-punk or post-rock, Connors keeps it within a similarly complex, often calculated drumming style, whether he intends to or not.

“I think probably because of the bands I grew up listening to, and the era AMF was active, a lot of my drumming ended up being pretty mathy,” Connors says. “[It] became sort of permanently ingrained — and thus it seems like most bands I play with, I end up making them sound more mathy, whether I mean to or not.”

Weird time signatures, intricate arrangements, and long songs are a few of his favored sonic techniques. And Connors embraces math rock bands of yore like Polvo or Slint and newer bands that take on that same tradition.

“I loved math rock back in the day, and I still do,” Connors says. “I tend to dig bands that do whatever they do, pop, metal, whatever, in a way that’s…complex and weird. I also still dig that old ’90s style…and love the new bands that channel that sound.”

Although no longer active, AMF has long been embraced by enthusiasts of the fallen genre. So the question of the reunion remains: Why now? It goes back to A Minor Forest’s early supporters, Thrill Jockey, also known for releasing albums by bands such as Tortoise, the Sea and Cake, Wooden Shjips, and Barn Owl.

“We live in an era where many bands are reuniting, and though it’s great to hear that your favorite act is getting back together, I’ve been reluctant with the trend,” Connors says. “When Thrill Jockey expressed interest in reissuing our albums as a Record Store Day release recently, we thought that it would be weird and fun to play together again.”

Adding, “I’m psyched.”

And according to Connors, AMF will only be playing the finest and intriguingly named tunes like “…But the Pants Stay On” and “So Jesus Was at the Last Supper…”

“I know the frustration when an old band plays and is like ‘Hey we’re only going to play stuff from our new album!” Connors says. “We’re just sticking to the songs that people like and want to hear.”


With Barn Owl Sat/9, 9:30pm, $15

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St, SF

(415) 626-4455



Cover me bad


MUSIC Halloween’s like Christmastime for crafty weirdoes. But for me, crudely sewn, elaborate costumes are only half the fun. Around these parts, creativity seems to peak during what is arguably the most wonderful time of the year. The Bay Area particularly steps it up by honoring the punk band tradition of the Halloween cover show (where legendary bands are paid tribute through song and dress).

This year’s Total Trash Halloween Bash (www.totaltrashproductions.com) offers some of the usual suspects when it comes to rockers delivering camouflaged covers. However, with Nobunny channeling Bo Diddley as “Nodiddley” and Russell Quan joining Shannon and the Clams as Los Saicos, we step out of the box that usually brings us Cramps and Misfits covers. While those shows are completely appropriate (along with the typical homage to bands like the Ramones, the Damned, and Alice Cooper) and have proven popular, Oakland’s sentimental-grunge act, Yogurt Brain, has opted to take on Weezer this year. Rest assured — fans of the Blue Album and Pinkerton won’t be disappointed.

“I can’t wait to hear them do ‘Buddy Holly’ live,” Nobunny emails back in anticipation. Figuring it’s not the masked-man’s first time at the rodeo, I asked him and a few others about the origins of this tradition. No one seemed to be able to pinpoint exactly when and where it started, but Mark Ribak from Total Trash Productions quipped Thee Oh Sees’ John Dwyer “probably invented it” as an alternative to seeing the Cramps on Halloween (Bill Graham Presents booked an annual Cramps Halloween show in SF starting in the mid-1980s).

Ironically, Nobunny’s first, full-cover set would be the Cramps back in 2009; the same year front man Lux Interior died. I asked far and wide and got scattered remnants of Halloween parties past (like the time a member of Chicago’s Functional Blackouts recalled his previous band dressing in drag, billing themselves as Pretty Pretty Pretty Princess, and doing Bikini Kill songs in 1999).

“Here it definitely seems like more of an event than other cities I’ve lived in, but cover shows seem to happen everywhere in every city,” says Stephen Oriolo, Yogurt Brain’s guitarist and songwriter. He’s gotten into the theatrical spirit so much that by press time he’ll already have done a couple of shows as TRAWGGZ (a Troggs cover band) with members of the now defunct Uzi Rash. “Halloween is a time to be something you’re not. Merging that idea with parties or shows naturally makes sense to do a cover set.”

LA Burger bands like Pangea and Audacity have covered Nirvana and Adolescents respectively. Closer to home, the Clams, who are repeat offenders, have done Devo and Creedence Clearwater Revival (which by all accounts was something you had to see to believe), and Uzi Rash made minds melt with a searing interpretation of Monks songs, shaved heads included (Thee Parkside’s Hallorager II, another Halloween show, will have a different Monks cover band this year. www.theeparkside.com).

As for some of Nobunny’s favorite Halloween tricks: “I like the pranksters, like Ty Segall doing the Spits when they were scheduled to be the Gories. Or my absolute favorite was when Uzi Rash, who were scheduled to play as the Fall, soundchecked as the Fall, and then came out at showtime and performed as the Doors. Great swindle!”

So put on your costume (you might even win a contest if it’s good) and have an old fashioned sing-along with a room full of equally pumped people at one of these shows. I just pray my chances of hearing “The Good Life” live doesn’t end up being a prank. The room is sure to erupt as the tradition thrives in the Bay.





MUSIC It’s entirely debatable what year this current wave of the garage rock revival broke out.

But for all intents and purposes, let’s just say the genre came back into vogue yet again around 2009: the year&nbsp;Total Trash Productions&nbsp;came into existence. For the past five years, the booking company has served up dozens of garage rock shows and fests in the Bay Area.

And this year, on their fifth anniversary, the folks behind Total Trash are bringing a relic from the first wave: The seminal Washington-based 1960s garage rock band, the Sonics, will play a string of shows for the annual Total Trash Halloween Bash.

The Sonics were there in the very beginning. They got their start in a time when the British Invasion was in full swing. Rejecting sugary-sweet mop-topped bands, the Sonics idolized Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.

“We thought, to heck with wearing suits and neckties,&quot; keyboardist-vocalist Gerry Roslie says. &quot;Playing love songs felt wrong &#151; we could only play music with power. We played loud and we played how we felt: like animals.”

The band released a string of albums in the ’60s, with a mixture of rock n’ roll covers such as &quot;Have Love Will Travel,&quot; &quot;Louie, Louie,&quot; and &quot;Roll Over Beethoven&quot; and edgier, screaching original numbers like “Strychnine” and “Psycho.”

Many credit the Sonics as a proto-punk band of sorts, but Roslie says he saw the band as an outlet to live out his rock ‘n’ roll fantasy until the grips of adulthood came.

“I didn’t know we were garage rock or proto-punk, because those terms didn’t exist at the time we were playing,” Roslie says. “I just knew that we liked being crazy and wanted to play something different than what was out there at the time.”

Roslie left the band in 1967 and started an asphalt-paving business. For decades he had no idea of the influence that his band had left, with future acts such as the Cramps, the Mummies, and the Fall all performing Sonics covers at one point or another.

During that time, Roslie lived a quiet life. That is, until the band was approached in 2007 to play&nbsp;Cavestomp!, a garage rock festival in Brooklyn. That was the first time the band played in well over 30 years.

“We were so nervous — we decided that we would only start playing shows again if people still liked us,” Roslie says.

And sure enough, the Sonics were received with great fanfare, and continued on to play shows in Europe. The one thing that still amazes Roslie is the enthusiasm of new and old Sonics fans alike.

“We’re still scratching our heads going ‘wow’ — I feel that we’re finally getting the attention we deserved,” Roslie says. “We played for teenagers and 20-somethings back in the day, and we’re still playing for that kind of audience. A lot of the kids look the same as they did back then.”

Like many bands that reunite, the Sonics are playing songs made when they were quite young themselves, for the most part covering issues surrounding teenage culture. But as it stands today, all of the members of the band are old enough to be card-carrying AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) members.

“I’m a teenager inside of some wrinkled old body,” says Roslie. “The songs that we made back then are still relatable because we’ve maintained our attitude. We’ve still got that.”

And the Sonics mojo is still intact. So much so that the band is creating a new album. According to Roslie, fans can expect it around late December or early 2014. The release isn’t titled yet, and the label is yet to be determined.

“We didn’t want to go off in a different direction like many bands that have been around for a while do,” Roslie says. “We’re keeping to what we know and do best &#151; loud, crazy rock n’ roll.”

Perma-teenagers or not, the Sonics still have attitude and candor aplenty, spreading the underground rock ‘n’ roll gospel (actively or not) since before you were born.

With Phantom Surfers, Legendary Stardust Cowboy
Fri/1, 7:30pm, $35
New Parish
579 18th St, Oakl.

With Roy Loney, Dukes of Hamburg, Wounded Lion, Chad & the Meatbodies
Sat/2, 7pm, $35
Rickshaw Stop
155 Fell, SF
(415) 861-2011

In the year of worms



TOFU AND WHISKEY That voice. Those eerie, singular vocals that are somehow both alien and intimately familiar. They sound like electric Tesla coils wrapped in whipped silk. San Francisco’s Hannah Lew is most often heard harmonizing by three with her striking post-punk trio Grass Widow. With newer project Cold Beat, it’s her vocals alone above the needling guitars and anxious synths of a different band.

Lew has been writing songs as Cold Beat for some time, in between Grass Widow releases and tours, but this week she releases her first EP under the moniker: Worms/Year 5772, with songs inspired by the trauma of Lew’s father passing away a few years back. While Cold Beat is mainly a Lew production, she enlisted many local rock ‘n’ roll luminaries to both play on the album and back her up at shows.

The record’s sound is rounded out by guitarist Kyle King, drummer Lillian Maring, and Shannon and the Clams’ Cody Blanchard on guitar and synths. The live band features King, the Mallard’s Greer Mcgettrick on guitar, and Erase Errata’s Bianca Sparta on drums. That live version will celebrate the release of the EP with a show at the Night Light in Oakland Tue/5.(Cold Beat also plays Great American Music Hall on Nov. 14.) But before that, Lew spoke with the Bay Guardian about the origins of Worms/Year 5772, her DIY record label and music video projects, and the songs she played at her wedding last week:

SF Bay Guardian What inspired you to write new music as Cold Beat, outside of Grass Widow?

Hannah Lew I always write songs and sometimes they just didn’t totally feel like Grass Widow songs. I just kept collecting them and not really knowing if I should release them. As the tunes started accumulating I decided I should get a band together and figure out a way to share the songs. When Kyle King and I started playing — his energy really enabled the songs to come to fruition.

SFBG Can you tell me a bit about the songwriting process with Worms/Year 5772 and how the themes of “death, Internet surveillance, paranoia and science fiction” translated into the music?

HL “Worms” was written as a response to my grief about my father’s death in 2009. I couldn’t help but imagine worms eating his corpse — which was a very visceral image I couldn’t get out of my head…I think the horror of this was something I couldn’t really share with anyone, and in taking time to write more songs on my own I started realizing that it was good for me to have an outlet for some other concepts that were a bit more personal.

I always turn to science fiction when I am trying to understand or relate my feelings. It gives me a change to explore depths of doom and hope that I can more easily imagine not on this earth. In writing all the lyrics alone for Cold Beat there is a little more of me just in my own head which can be great and sometimes paranoid or depressed. I get really bad insomnia and many Cold Beat songs were demoed at 5 or 6am.

Grass Widow lyrics are always more of a conversation where as Cold Beat lyrics are more like an interior dialogue. It’s kind of like describing a dream to someone.

SFBG Does “Year 5772” refer to the Jewish calendar? Why did you make this connection?

HL My late father was a rabbi and I was raised very religious. I was writing Year 5772 about a dystopian post-apocalyptic dream I had that seemed to take place in some distant future and I started thinking about how the Jewish calendar is already in Year 5772 — actually a couple years later now since the song was written a few years ago — and how our concept of the future is based in what point in time we imagine ourselves in — but the concept of linear time is very relative.

I guess being Jewish is kind of futuristic and ancient simultaneously. I like the idea of collapsing time and writing a song that takes place in a landscape outside of time. I also like thinking about existing in many times simultaneously.

SFBG Did you find the solo songwriting process freeing or more complicated without the group’s input?

HL Some of the Cold Beat songs were written during the time Grass Widow was writing our last record — Internal Logic. Somehow they just seemed more personal and better spoken from one voice instead of related by three people. I think the complicated part for me was deciphering which songs were Cold Beat songs and which ones to give to Grass Widow.

Grass Widow is a great space where the three of us would relate and abstract our feelings and dreams together. But there were some things I was going through that I couldn’t synthesize with anyone else and just had to express on my own. I like having conversations about concepts with bandmates, but I also like working alone.

Luckily I can do both! I think it is important to be able to do things on your own so you know who you are and have something to offer a collaborative project. Just like in love.

SFBG You got married last weekend — what key songs were on your playlist? Are you willing to give up any other details?

HL It’s all kind of a blur. but it was so much fun! Some friends of ours put together a wedding band with Kyle King as the band leader. My husband (whoa!) and I put together a set list for the band to play of all our favorite dancing songs. I think the party really went crazy during the Dick Dale version of “Hava Nagila” and we got lifted up in chairs and everything, but also [the Flamin’ Groovies song] “Shake Some Action” was pretty epic too.

My friend Henson Flye made giant clamshells and Raven Mahon made a moon photo backdrop. We had a choir of friends sing “I’ll Be Your Mirror” while I walked down the aisle. It was really beautiful and a beautiful way for all our friends to express their love and friendship and show us support and for us to throw a fun party for everyone. We’re lucky to have a lot of love. Still buzzing from it!

SFBG As with Grass Widow (HLR), you’re putting Cold Beat out on your own label, Crime On The Moon. Can you tell me about the label, and why you’re sticking with DIY?

HL I really enjoy doing everything myself. HLR has been a great experience and we really took the time to make critical decisions about how we wanted to do business. I figured I could easily do it myself with Crime On The Moon since I had the experience of putting out the last few Grass Widow releases. One drawback is that when you put music out on a label you have an instant fan, publicist, and advocate — so when you’re on your own you have to manufacture your own confidence for what you are doing. But having good bandmates and support from your friends goes a long way!

SFBG You also make music videos — will you make any for Cold Beat? Are you working on any others currently?

HL Mike Stoltz, who made the Grass Widow “11 of Diamonds” video and collaborated with me on “Give Me Shapes,” is in the process of editing a Cold Beat video for “Worms.” So that will be out in the next couple of weeks! I am always updating my site (www.hannahlew.com) with new finished videos I make for other bands.

SFBG Anything else you want people to know about Cold Beat or about other upcoming projects?

HL Well I’m excited for our EP to be released November 5. We’ll have copies at our record release show at the Night Light in Oakland with Screature and Pure Bliss. Then we’ll be touring the West Coast to follow that.

I’m also releasing a seven-inch [that] Raven and I recorded with Jon Shade on drums under the name Bridge Collapse. We recorded with Kelley Stoltz and I’m looking forward to releasing those songs along with a compilation of SF bands writing songs as a response to the tech boom. So a lot of exciting Crime On The Moon projects ahead!


Tue/5, 9pm, $6

Night Light

311 Broadway, Oakl.