An evening with Herbie Hancock and Nancy Pelosi at the SFJAZZ Gala


By Micah Dubreuil

If you were driving down Fell street last Friday, you might have come upon an unexpected detour. This would have been the block cordoned off for the first annual SFJAZZ Gala in their new facilities at 201 Franklin St. The building opened in January 2013, and in addition to featuring near-perfect acoustics in the main auditorium — arguably the best on the West Coast for jazz — it provides a sophisticated space for a social and fundraising event such as this one.

The Gala was officially honoring pianist and composer Herbie Hancock, and featured performances by Hancock himself in addition to the SFJAZZ Collective, Booker T., Charles Bradley and his Extraordinaires, Terrance Brewer, the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars, and a number of special guests. Standout performances were delivered by Avishai Cohen and Warren Wolf of the SFJAZZ Collective, in particular. And then of course there was Charles Bradley, whose emotional commitment is so thorough that he seems always to be on the verge of tears. Seeing Hammond Organ master Booker T. in a room as small as the Joe Henderson Lab was also a rare and unique experience.

Charles Bradley. All photos by Scott Chernis, courtesy of SFJAZZ.

The High School All-Stars played exceptionally well, highlighted by an inspired arrangement of Hancock’s “Eye of the Hurricane.” It must have been no simple feat for the teenagers (particularly the pianists) to perform mere feet from the legendary Hancock, but they acquitted themselves with distinction. It’d be easy to take the profoundly high level of youth musical achievement in the Bay Area for granted, if not for events like these reminding us that, you know, actual programs drive these accomplishments — programs like the SFJAZZ ensemble, the Berkeley High jazz program, the California Jazz Conservatory (formerly known as the Jazz School) and a number of others — and those programs take passion, effort, and funding. All told, their sweeping institutional support of this music is a remarkable achievement in its own right.

high school
The SFJAZZ High School All Stars, with Paula West

Presenting the SFJAZZ Lifetime Achievement award to Hancock was saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter, who was himself honored in 2008. After receiving the award, Hancock performed a solo interpretation of Shorter’s classic “Footprints,” which was followed by a SFJAZZ arrangement of the same tune. If I had one criticism, the night’s overall programming was extremely safe, featuring nearly all well-traveled (but beautiful) standards by Hancock (and one by Shorter), including Maiden Voyage, Watermelon Man, and Actual Proof. The only deep cut, as it were, was “And What If I Don’t” from Hancock’s 1963 release, My Point of View, performed by the SFJAZZ Collective. However, the programming reflected the nature of the event: A fundraiser aimed at gaining financial support from perhaps a broader audience than merely hardcore jazz fans — though, to be sure, plenty of those were also in attendance.

When the tally was in, SFJAZZ raised over $1.4 million for its educational and artistic programs, which is roughly in line with previous fundraisers. The event reflected this level of ambition, with a red carpet entrance and deliciously decadent food from local and national culinary artisans: Oysters from Tomales Bay, bacon-wrapped mochi, heirloom tomatoes topped with white chocolate. The statuesque models flanking the front doors with platters of champagne might have been a bit much, but otherwise the event was classy and dignified, with a crowd (which included House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi) dressed to impress; the invitation has read “black tie optional.” Master of ceremonies Robert Townsend, who directed Eddie Murphy’s stand-up film Raw (among other achievements) was jocular, jovial, and energetic. Even his (undeniably offensive) parody of sign-language interpreters received hearty laughter from the mostly-full auditorium.

Booker T. Jones

Watching Shorter and Hancock sit by the side of the stage, it was hard not to reflect on their 50-year history of close collaboration and friendship. Jazz is obviously a major cultural institution, now propelled by organizations such as SFJAZZ, but for decades it was driven primarily by the passion and fearlessness of musicians like Hancock and Shorter. Their personal achievements are nothing short of colossal, and jazz itself would not be what it is today without them. In his acceptance speech, though, Hancock intoned that the jazz spirit “was all about we,” not the individual. He complimented hishosts for continuing those values: “SFJAZZ is all about sharing.” Here’s hoping the coming years keep allowing them to do just that.

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger on going electric and the timeless combination of marijuana and Pink Floyd


By Rebecca Huval

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is out to topple everyone’s expectations. The two-piece band has rather public identities to overcome: Sean Lennon is the only child of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl is a world-class model who was the youngest covergirl on Britain’s Harper’s Bazaar.

With their latest release, Midnight Sun, Kemp Muhl has shown she has the pipes and songwriting chops to be taken seriously as a musician, and Lennon has proved he’s more than just his father’s ghost — rather, he’s the inimitable frontman of The GOASTT.

In the trajectory of Sean Lennon’s solo career and The GOASTT’s six-year history, Midnight Sun is their going-electric moment. Sean Lennon’s subdued and minimalist solo music paved the way for The GOASTT’s initial albums to be acoustic and saccharine in what Kemp Muhl now describes as “nerdy folk music.” This April’s album is oh-so-different. Inherited Beatlesque psychedelica meshes with modern-day indie à la Tame Impala and Deerhunter. Midnight Sun rocks in full-fledged electric, with synthy splashes and warped vocal reverb. The album ranges from trippy tracks such as “Devil You Know,” with prismatic texture and thick percussion, to thoughtfully orchestrated ballads such as “Don’t Look Back Orpheus” and Kemp Muhl’s graceful solo, “Johannesburg.”

Ahead of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger’s show at Great American Music Hall on Tue/20, I spoke with Charlotte Kemp Muhl about meeting Lennon at Coachella, the aha moment listening to Pink Floyd that triggered the band’s psychedelic shift, and how she balances jet-setting modeling and music careers.

San Francisco Bay Guardian You met Sean at Coachella in 2006. How did you strike up a conversation?

Charlotte Kemp Muhl I don’t remember which one of us struck up the conversation, but we were magnetized to each other. We were talking about things like Stephen Hawking, whatever random thing we’d read that week, and claymation. I just thought he was so eccentric and wearing this suit in the middle of the desert. He was with his friend Vincent Gallo, who told him, “Don’t go for that girl, she’s crazy.” I just remember he was really enthusiastic about things and unusual and childlike, even though he was much older than me [30 years old]. I was 17 at the time. We connected immediately.

SFBG Have you put a pause on your modeling career to concentrate on music?

CKM Kind of, it tag-teams. I have to do modeling to support doing music. I would never be able to afford collecting instruments, and unfortunately, it’s really hard to make money as a musician. You don’t! I have to do modeling to do music, but I can’t wait until I can retire and just concentrate on music. In a way the two careers are complementary. Fashion and music are connected like Siamese twins. In the sense that rock n’ roll has been influencing fashion and fashion, rock n’ roll for a long time. They’re incestuous industries.

SFBG Who are some of your musical role models?

CKM Hendrix, Syd Barret, and Bach.

SFBG What have you learned about music from working with Sean?

CKM The area in which I’ve most grown is rhythmically. He’s taught me a lot about being funky and syncopation. He’s an amazing drummer, and I’ve been teaching myself how to play drums by watching him. I learned a lot about arranging. We’ve both influenced each other a lot. It’s been fun.

SFBG Why did you wait until a year after you were dating to share your musical talents with Sean?

CKM I was shy. Everyday someone comes up to him with a demo CD. I didn’t want to be like that. I never thought we’d work together. I thought he’d do his solo career. I showed him one of the childhood songs I wrote, and he loved the melody and insisted that we work together. He quit his solo career to work with his mom and work with me. I hope he goes back to his solo career, fingers crossed for that, but he’s very shy. It’s been fun doing heavier rock music because it’s forcing him to be more of a frontman. We’re not just doing Sonny & Cher melodies. I really want him to be a frontman. He spent so much of his life being a sideman.

SFBG As a solo artist, Sean seemed very minimal and moody. Then, it seemed like The GOASTT started out very sweetly and softly with your acoustic album. Now, The GOASTT is more edgy, percussive, and textured. What do you contribute to his sound?

CKM I pushed us even further into a Pink Floyd, psychedelic direction. When we were doing a tour in France, I discovered the pairing of marijuana and [Pink Floyd’s] Live at Pompeii. We were at some cheap hotel in France, and it was freezing cold. Something just clicked in my mind, and I wanted to be doing psychedelic music and not nerdy folk music. Sean had always been into that shit so he was into that direction. That’s the ultimate cliche, marijuana and Pink Floyd, but it worked! We were opening up for Johnny Hallyday and Matthieu Chedid. He’s huge in France, like the Michael Jackson.

SFBG What was at like playing at Occupy Wall Street?

CKM It was fun. A lot of our friends were doing that at the time, and we were excited that people were getting together to protest because people are placated by their gadgets and they rarely show interest and support. We just came to support anti-fracking and we didn’t even think Sean would get flack for supporting OWS. People online were saying he’s the one percent, which is ridiculous, he’s not in the one percent. I mean technically, anyone with a color TV is in the one percent of the world. We performed a bluegrass version of “Material Girl,” by Madonna. It was supposed to be ironic.

SFBG Have you collaborated with Yoko Ono? What is like working with her?

CKM I played bass for her for a while for her festivals and her shows. We’re around a lot. She doesn’t really collaborate with people, she’s like a singular, visionary person. Sean is much more into collaborating and working with people. She’s more of a leader of an army. She’s like a visionary. You just do what she says kind of a thing.

SFBG What has been your favorite part of working with Sean?

CKM I’ve been working with other musicians without him around. Sean plays every instrument like a virtuoso. In the studio, it’s like a super weapon. I send him in to overdub instrument ideas, and then I’ll edit them all together. We can cover a lot of ground that way. I’ve noticed with other musicians, they’re very limited. They only play one of two instruments, and don’t have a bird’s eye view of songwriting. Sean always have great ideas about rhythm and harmony. We both have a million ideas, and it’s frustrating when you work with someone who’s not that inspired.

SFBG I know you’re a multi-instrumentalist: What instruments do you play on Midnight Sun?

CKM On the record, I play bass, keyboard parts, guitar, percussion, and arranged harmonies. The main instrument I play is Pro Tools. I do all the editing and all that stuff.

SFBG It seems like the album switches between different settings: Xanadu, a missed flight to Johannesburg, traveling to the underworld with Orpheus. Where were you when you wrote these songs? What was your process for collaborating?

CKM I wrote the words for Johannesburg when I was in Johannesburg with a Pirelli shoot for Peter Beard. “Xanadu” and “[Don’t Look Back] Orpheus” we wrote upstate on his farm. We would stay up all night writing acoustic songs in his bed. We would walk down to his studio, which is by a lake, and jam it. Other than “Johannesburg,” I write a part and then he writes a part. It’s like one of those drawings when you fold up a napkin and each of you draw part of a monster.

With Syd Arthur
Tue/20, 8pm, $15
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF

Thick as blood: Sibling duo Broods are the next kiwis on the rise


“Kiwis tend to hold back and be too humble. They don’t want to be over-confident, but I think people are starting to realize that a little bit of confidence can go quite well,” says Caleb Nott, the elder brother of the sibling sensation from New Zealand known as Broods. He sits comfortably next to his sister, Georgia, in the back of The Independent, several hours before their show.

The brother-sister electro-pop duo didn’t get that confidence until the release of their first single, “Bridges,” on SoundCloud, created waves on the world wide interwebs last October. “Bridges” became a hit in the blogosphere and in this hemisphere alike, earning over 200,000 streams in a week.

“It all happened at once,” says 19-year-old Georgia. The singer has an innocent face, giving her the appearance of a much younger teenager. “We went from nobody really knowing us to people on the other side of the world wanting to meet us.”

Later that night, the band starts the night off with “Never Gonna Change,” a deep-synth track with correspondingly morose lyrics. “You’re pushing down on my shoulders, and emptying my lungs,” sings Georgia, lyrics reminiscent of a certain internationally-acclaimed Kiwi. Georgia moves slowly around the stage while Caleb creates layered synths and hypnotic beats. The two remain relatively reserved both on stage and in private. Georgia’s voice is sweet and breathy to the likes of Imogen Heap and Romy Madley Croft of The XX. Caleb brings more energy during the upbeat tracks, bouncing up and down behind his keyboard while Georgia skips around stage in a printed corset crop top and white billowy shorts.


Georgia, a self-proclaimed depressing music lover (“I love sad songs,”) falls deeply into “Taking You There,” a personal favorite and one of the strongest songs from the self-titled EP. Caleb gently strums an acoustic guitar and offers deep vocals to accompany his sisters’ silvery, dream-like hums. The audience moves to the soft beat and sings along. Most of the audience knows the words to every song on Broods’ EP, which the siblings admit to still be adjusting to.

“Seeing people wearing our T-shirts in the crowd,” says Caleb before the show. “That’s so weird and crazy, you’ve got my face on your T-shirt.”

Since October, Broods — the name obviously referring to the band members’ blood relation but also the melancholic nature of their songs — has played two US tours, spent a brief stint touring with Haim, and is scheduled as the opening act for Ellie Goulding’s Australia/New Zealand tour this summer.

“Over the last couple of years, people have started to look over to Auckland and to New Zealand as a whole for new music.” Caleb explains. From LadyHawke, to The Naked and Famous, Lorde and now Broods, the New Zealand music scene is a treasure trove of indie talent. Caleb says the music scene remains relatively tight-knit where everyone supports each other in their own music genre but doesn’t reach out beyond, reminiscent to a private high-school. “It’s pretty cliquey, because it’s very small.”

“This one’s for Lorde,” says Georgia in between songs. She dives into the gentle lullaby “Sleep Baby Sleep.” The mesmerizing beat and soft vocals is characteristic of Lorde’s debut album.

The band is clearly following in her footsteps, from the grassroots release of the Broods EP, to the dark coming-of-age tones, to the producer who discovered them. Joel Little found Caleb and Georgia while a judge for a music competition in 2011 but the band wasn’t formed until early 2013 in Auckland. After producing Lorde’s Grammy Award-winning debut album, Joel Little began work on “Bridges.”


Broods closes the show with its first single, “Bridges,” a moody track about broken relationships. Georgia starts out with muted piano chords and an ethereal voice that builds into Caleb’s rich synth soundscape. Georgia’s voice is exceptionally developed for her age. She plays a soft version of a song from their upcoming album. She’s most comfortable behind the piano, her instrument of choice. “And I’m trying hard to make you love me, but I don’t wanna try too hard,” she sings moodily about falling in love with the perfect man.

Broods has played in San Francisco twice now but has yet to play a show in New Zealand. The siblings will head home next week to work on their debut album with Joel Little. Then, they will play their first proper show in their hometown of Nelson with their 17-year-old sister, who is set to open with her folk band. Clearly, talent runs in the family.

Gimme 5: Must-see shows this week


Is it hot in here, or is it just — sorry, no, that’s all of San Francisco, doing that delightfully freakish 85-degree Actual Summer thing while the East Coast is still clawing its frost-bitten way out of the 60s.

In addition to skipping work to drink margaritas on patios and texting your Boston-based friends pictures of your feet on the beach just to be a dick, there are quite a few rad, summery shows going on this week — so make some new cut-offs, fill up your water bottle, and go get sweaty with some strangers. Try not to get into any fights in elevators. And enjoy it while it lasts! By June we’ll all be wearing hoodies again.


Cool Ghouls

SF’s own Cool Ghouls make some of the most unpretentiously happy, jangly, beach-brat garage pop you’ve ever heard; they’ve been on many a “why-aren’t-they-bigger-yet” list for a while now. Last year’s self-titled debut was a pretty perfect drive-down-the-coast soundtrack, and the dudes say their second full-length is in the works — chances are there’ll be some new stuff to hear at this Chapel show, which is the first of a few local dates this summer before they head down to Monterey in August to support Beck, The National, Best Coast, et. al. at the First City Festival on August 23. — Emma Silvers
With Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel and Mane
8pm, $12
The Chapel
777 Valencia, SF

Anti-Nowhere League and T.S.O.L.

British hardcore punk stalwarts the Anti-Nowhere League have made a name for themselves over the past three decades with an unabashedly aggressive and in-your-face approach, as evidenced by their signature songs “I Hate People” and the profanity-laced “So What” — the latter was even notoriously covered by Metallica. In a perfect pairing, Southern California punk icons T.S.O.L (True Sounds of Liberty), who became infamous for the police riots that would break out at their shows, and the tune “Code Blue,” an ode to the joys of necrophilia, join the bill for what promises to be one hell of show. — Sean McCourt
With The Riverboat Gamblers and Dime Runner
9pm, $18-$20
DNA Lounge
375 11th St, SF
(415) 626-1409


Zion I

Last time Zion I was at the Independent was for a guest appearance during the venue’s 10th anniversary celebration, but this time, the stage will be all theirs. Baba Zumbi and AmpLive of Zion I have been making music together for over 15 years. AmpLive brings the electronic dance beats that vacillate between reggae and drum ’n’ bass, while Zumbi carries the vocals with socially conscious lyrics. Originally formed in Atlanta, the Berkeley-based duo creates a  sound that’s difficult to define — neither West Coast hip-hop, nor East Coast rap, the band’s musical influences remains deeply engrained in songs that deliver messages of unity and hope. — Laura B. Childs
9pm, $25
The Independent
628 Divisadero, SF
(415) 771-1421


A Minor Forest

One of the best-loved melodic math-rock bands of the ’90s, San Francisco’s A Minor Forest probably made lots of fans pee their pants last year when they announced their reunion. Then came the re-issue of two iconic albums, Flemish Altruism and Inindependence, for Record Store Day. And then, just for good measure, a national tour. They’ll be coming home this week, and a hometown show to close out a tour is always a fun one — they’ll be tired, sure, but they’ll be happy to see us. Bonus: You can go give Andee, the drummer and co-owner of Aquarius Records, an in-person review of the show at his Valencia Street record store. Maybe just give him a day or two to catch up on work. — Emma Silvers
With Phil Manley’s Life Coach, Golden Void
8pm, $15
The Chapel
777 Valencia, SF


Iggy Azalea

First things first, she’s the realest. The Australian beauty and hip-hop performer, Iggy Azalea, has been making waves in this hemisphere since her Clueless-inspired music video for her hit single “Fancy.” With sassy raps and catchy hooks about the glam life, Azalea’s sound is reminiscent of the “it” girls of the early 2000s. Think Gwen Stefani’s vocals and Lil’ Kim’s beats, but this former model adds personal flair with her zero-fucks-given charisma and unabashed obsession with America. She’s opened for household names such as Beyoncé and Rita Ora, but since the release of her debut album, The New Classic, Azalea is on the prowl with her Monster Energy Outbreak Tour. — Childs
8pm, $35
The Fillmore
1805 Geary, SF
(415) 346-6000

Some fans are bigger than others


How big of a Morrissey fan are you?

Would you do anything for a Morrissey hug?

Would you shut down a Morrissey show for a Morrissey hug?

If not, you have nothin’ on these folks at last night’s Morrissey show in San Jose. Watch the video below for a primer on exactly how to piss off lots of people — people who paid a lot of money to see their idol, a singer who finally made it to the Bay Area last night after six consecutive show cancelizations over the past few years — by ending a show early with your needy, demanding, insatiable drive for hugs.

Check it out: The affection-assault, which provided an abrupt end to show’s encore, starts at about the one-minute mark.


A tUnE-yArDs phone date from the road


Being weird in a good way seems like a more difficult status for artists to attain than it used to be. We can tell when you’re trying too hard — the Gaga meat dress, the Miley tongue-wags felt ’round the world — and it’s straight-up unappealing. Thanks to Ye Olde Internet, we’re also genuinely harder to shock than we used to be. At the same time, the acceptable box that artists seem to need to fit into to be marketable, to achieve anything like mainstream success, feels smaller all the time.

Enter tUnE-yArDs: Even if you count yourself in the camp of people who “just don’t get” the music, there’s no denying that the delightful weirdness that spews forth from the brain of Oakland’s Merrill Garbus has never felt anything but authentic. On her new album, Nikki Nack — out today on 4AD — she seems more than ever like she’s receiving musical cues from sort of secret invisible wood nymph from the future, and also that wood nymph has been listening to a lot of drumming and hand-clapping videos and maybe some Janet Jackson lately. She (Garbus) keeps you guessing, and you get the sense that that’s due, in part, to keeping herself guessing. All of this is good. It’s good for music.

Garbus debuted some new songs last month at The Chapel, then hit the road for a national tour, including several dates opening for the Arcade Fire. She won’t be back in the Bay until two Fillmore shows (June 6 and 7, with Sylvan Esso and The Seshen opening, respectively), but she gave us a call from the road to chat about the new record’s Haitian influences, how tour is going so far, and The Arcade Fire’s culinary prowess.

San Francisco Bay Guardian Thanks for talking! Where are you right now?

Merrill Garbus I’m in a hotel room in Nashville, Tennessee. We just drove all the way from Columbus and now we have a night off, which is nice. But I’ll probably spend most of it on the phone, doing interviews.

SFBG I’m so sorry.

MG No, it’s great! It’s your job! (laughs) I’m excited that people want to talk about the record.

SFBG I do love the new record. Can you talk a little about how heavy it is on the drums, and some of its Haitian influences? I know you traveled to Haiti not too long ago.

MG Thanks so much. As far as the Haitian influences, I would say it was less about the trip than a community I got involved with at home, at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts in downtown Oakland, which is a center for African arts, and the culture of Africa and the diaspora. It’s an incredible place. So for about a year I was studying with Portsha Jefferson, who is an amazing American woman who has devoted much of her life to studying Haitian folklore and dance, and Daniel Brevil, a Haitian-born drummer who teaches drum classes. This company they’ve created in Oakland is a community of people who are studying and immersed in Haitian culture, to see how it’s affected people around the world, especially as the first independent black republic that’s been an inspiration for generations of people. 

For me it was, oh my gosh, music and revolution and cultural history, and folk music versus pop music, all of those [topics] were really present in studying with these two people. And it was important to me that I wasn’t just going “Oh, that sounds cool, give me that cool rhythm” — I was a student of those drums. And there are definitely through lines of Haitian drumming in a lot of the songs that, lyrically, deal with the relationship between the quote-unquote developed world and the developing.

SFBG Your last album, 2011’s w h o k i l l, brought you to such a bigger platform (the national stage, really) than your first one had. Did you feel pressure with this album to follow that up with something even bigger, or to try to reach the people who still don’t “get” you?

MG I really do everything I can to not think about what how other people are going to receivewhat I’m making while I’m making it, because it just kills it right away. It’s something I have to practice, just like I have to practice singing or practice things with music, I have to practice not considering what other people think. Especially when you feel like you’re failing, because there are always moments when you’re making something going ‘This is not good.’ Or ‘people are not gonna like it.’

It’s the same thing with reading reviews or interviews — unless someone tells me “Oh, I think this one would actually really be helpful for you to read.” Otherwise it’s kind of poison, regardless of it’s good or bad. Because there’s a sense of being outside of yourself, and I always want to get really inside myself. I kinda shut down on the social media.

SFBG How’s Oakland treating you these days? Have you reached the point where you feel like a a kind of famous person, or is life pretty much business as usual?

MG You know, people say hi at the farmer’s market, but no one really cares. Which is great. Oakland’s been really good for my head, and I feel like there are a number of factors that keep me grounded. My relationship, the ways I’ve started to ground myself. It helps to remember that it’s all a mirage — I mean, if I give [press and publicity] any more weight than that, it’s kind of entering into the fictional world.

SFBG How’s tour been going so far? What’s it like opening for the Arcade Fire?

MG It’s awesome. One of them the other day was like, “If you want to sit in on anything, let us know,” and I was just like — I don’t even know what that would be, or mean (laughs). They’ve been so nice to us. I knew some of these guys from Montreal, and what they want to do is nerd out about music. Which is exactly what I want it to be about. They’re crazy, too; they play for two hours.

Tour in general — I love seeing new places around the world. Driving from Denver to Nashville is such a cool way to see this country, and we got to go to Australia this year, Europe several times. I do have to navigate my extreme fear of getting ill on the road, and it’s not so emotionally easy to be with seven people riding in a van for so long, but that’s why I feel so lucky that all the people with me are really dedicated to the project — Nate [Brenner] and I wrote a lot of this music together and then asked these people to play it with us for the next few months of their lives, and there’s no way I could do it without them. I’m also really excited that we sold out the Fillmore.

SFBG Best thing you’ve eaten on this tour?

MG When we were in Kansas City, the Arcade Fire guys got these huge things of barbecue backstage, and they knew what they were doing. Let me think…yeah, definitely that.

Happy Hour: The week in music


— The 2014 Music Video Race, the competition that pairs local bands with filmmakers for the 48-hour speed-creation of music video magic, is now accepting applications from musicians and filmmakers. The filmmaking weekend is July 11-13, and the screening/party, due to popular demand, has been upgraded to The Independent on July 20. Yours truly will be one of the judges, so, er, make this tough for me.

— The Stern Grove Festival, AKA one of the few summer festivals that delivers killer live performances without killing your hopes of ever sending your unborn kids to college, announced this year’s lineup of Sunday afternoon shows. For the low price of zero dollars, you’ll get such heavy hitters as Smokey Robinson, Rufus Wainwright, Andrew Bird, Darlene Love, Allen Stone, and plenty of other local stars, like LoCura, Vetiver, and, of course, the SF Symphony. Pack a picnic, bring a jacket (this is summer in San Francisco, after all) and get there early if you actually want to see the stage.

— Here is an insane new video from A Million Billion Dying Suns:

— The women of Warpaint stuck their feet in their pretty mouths, calling out Beyoncé and Rihanna for dressing like “sluts,” then they apologized. Some people had some smart things to say about it.

— Best rap feud ever.

Live review: Mastodon at the Fox Theater


They still exist: big metal bands that go on old-fashioned tours, rather than exclusively playing festivals or headlining package tours (aka shows that start at 4pm and are comprised of two bands you actually want to see and five others the label shoehorns in because that’s the only way they’ll get exposure). Also still in existence: a band that will tour between albums, in fact hitting the road less than two months before a new album drops, and play a set that contains two new songs (to give fans a taste of what’s to come), but is mostly composed of familiar back-catalogue tunes. 

Not, however, still around: actual Mastodons.

No worries, dudes — Mastodon the band shows no sign of going anywhere, and based on what drummer Brann Dailor said at the end of last night’s show at Oakland’s Fox Theater, they’ll soon be back in the Bay Area, pumping their sixth studio release, Once More ‘Round the Sun, which arrives in late June. Based on the two new songs heard last night (“Chimes at Midnight” and “High Road;” stream the latter via the band’s Soundcloud page, or check out the “Audio Visualizer” below the jump), your sludgy summer soundtrack awaits.

This between-albums tour was slightly more stripped-down than, say, shows supporting 2009’s Crack the Skye, which boasted a hypnotic visual component built heavily around the album’s astral-projection-meets-Rasputin-themes (in other words, it went well with the funny-smelling smoke that tends to waft around during Mastodon shows). Here, we just got a backdrop of a pair of psychedelic eyes, plus a light show with occasional Laser Floyd flourishes. But Mastodon is not a band that needs bells and whistles to enhance its crushing riffs. Nor does it spend a lot of time chatting up the crowd between songs, though it’s clear this is a band that appreciates its fans, evidenced by the huge array of t-shirt designs and other merch available in the Fox lobby. (Personal favorites: a shirt inspired by the “Come and play with us, Danny!” scene from The Shining, and a pair of gym shorts with “Asstodon” emblazoned on the booty. Perfect attire for the Bay Area’s recent heat wave, no?)

Opening the show for the Atlanta, Ga. foursome were a pair of heavy-hitting European imports: Kvelertaka personal favorite of the Prince of Norway — and Gojira (“We are Gojira from France!”, as the Bayonne-based band is fond of saying). The latter summed up the feeling of the crowd with its enthusiastic performance, and singer-guitarist Joe Duplantier’s frequent declarations of how fuckin’ stoked he was to be on tour with the mighty Mastodon. Us too, bro. Us too.  

Kitten Grenade on why you shouldn’t underestimate the ukulele


By Rebecca Huval

Kitten Grenade takes the ukulele seriously. Katelyn Sullivan picked up the instrument when she was lonely and unhappy in Los Angeles, jonesing to be back in San Francisco. Now the instrument adds chiaroscuro to her self-titled debut EP released this January: the lilting chords contrast her brassy voice and its message of heartbreak.

“It’s got a deep soul, the ukulele,” she says ahead of her Friday, May 2nd show at the DNA Lounge. People unfairly pick on the instrument for being silly, Sullivan says, and she laughs when she reveals that she now has eight of them. Like a defensive cat lady, she says, “Each one has a different sound and personality.”

Her band, started in January 2013, is built on the idea of contrast. She named it Kitten Grenade after her art illustration thesis about juxtaposition: “Something cute and fuzzy, and something destructive. That idea captures a lot that’s in the music and my life.”

Even though Sullivan is engaged to her boyfriend of eight years, she says she’s dealt with her share of tragedies and unrequited loves that have wormed their way into her lyrics. Just recently, Sullivan has been coping with the death of her fiance’s 24-year-old brother, who fell off a balcony. Grief enters her songs through a “heartbreak filter.” In the first track on her EP, “Anomaly,” she sings about a lovers’ quarrel: “Touching fingers, eyes linger everywhere they’re not supposed to be/Said I’m sorry, no you hurt me, or were you not listening.” Her minimal orchestration, with mournful harmonies and light percussion, set the stage for her clarion voice to deliver these confessional lyrics.

Not every track is a tear-jerker. The surprisingly upbeat “Death Song” uses catchy, syncopated ukulele strumming to accompany Sullivan’s dreamy melody. The song begins quietly, “We started out without our lungs and somehow learned to breathe,” and builds to a shout, “the dust that we create is all that’s left of our dreams.” Her track “Gray,” with some vaudevillian-tinged vocals, uses ethereal background singing and the higher registers of the ukulele to seem reminiscent of Yael Naim. With musical role models from Fiona Apple to tUnE-yArDs, Sullivan reflects the range of their difference in her broad palette of styles.

Her lyrics are uniquely San Franciscan as Karl enters: “Oh these starry eyes get misty, fog rolls in and hides the misery.” Originally from Maryland, Sullivan has lived in San Francisco for 10 years. She adores the music scene here and playing with fellow band Halcyonaire, “the freaking sweetest guys.” But given the recent tech boom, she advocates that music supporters see shows regularly to keep artists from leaving the city. “I make that a goal to make a band’s week by seeing their Wednesday 11 o’clock show. It means a lot to me, so you have to pass it forward.”

She’s seen San Francisco from both sides: before as a retailer on 16th and Valencia Streets, and now as a tech worker for the karaoke app StarMaker. “I get to sing all the time,” she says. “I love my company — they’re down-to-earth and they’re all about getting people to sing.”

Sullivan herself needed some coaxing before singing in public. She started her musical life in middle school through opera and musical theatre, and her training shows up today in her voice’s creaminess and smooth projection. But she went through a period in high school when she was too shy to sing. She abandoned music for art school, where she met her current fiance.

“He helped me find my confidence,” she says. “If I hadn’t met him, I wouldn’t have the confidence to go up on stage and sing these personal songs. The path of life is so interesting. If I hadn’t lost my confidence, I wouldn’t have gotten into art and illustration, I wouldn’t have met my fiance, and that’s how I regained my confidence. Life wouldn’t have been the same if I hadn’t had that hiatus.” Contrasts formed Kitten Grenade and continue to give it a full-bodied sound, with ukulele playing that is both sweet and seriously soulful.

Kitten Grenade

With Electric Strawberry and The Stand Out State
Friday, May 2
7pm, $10
DNA Lounge
375 11th St, SF
(415) 626-1409

Hurray for the Riff Raff grow up at the Independent


By Avi Vinocur. Photos by Avi Vinocur and TJ Mimbs.

So as we speak I’m crammed between an NPR listener, a Louisiana native longing to be home for Jazz Fest, and a cool dude with lensless glasses awaiting the gospel of a Puerto Rican girl from the Bronx, who found her home in New Orleans singing mountain music. I love America.

Her name is Alynda Lee Segarra — short, cute, Aubrey Plazaesque (but smiley) with an incredibly evocative voice not quite like anything I’ve heard. fHer songs are simple and short in a way you might find at the Grand Ole Opry in 1950. Currently she is standing on the side of the stage swooning over the opening band Clear Plastic Masks.

I get her attraction. These songs are good. I can tell that Andrew Katz — the Mick Jagger-lipped lead singer — is a closet stand-up comedian. Not to mention they have the most exciting bearded drummer since Meg White. The guy, Charles Garmendia, can’t even stay seated. It’s tough to do so when the guitar tone is this good. I also immediately realize that their song “When the Night Time Comes” contains one of the, if not the, best uses of the phrase “too cool for school” in show business. All in all I’m liking this band. Their energy level is high. How will a girl with a stripped band and an acoustic guitar feel after this?

Clear Plastic Masks photo by Avi Vinocur.

Alynda Lee Segarra, the soul of Hurray For the Riff Raff (who are playing on Conan tonight, Tue/29) takes the stage alone, in her sequin country nudie suit and begins with her own “The New SF Bay Blues” — a slow picked ballad with an epic seventh note that gets me every time. For a crowd rocking out moments ago, they are silent, respectful and focused. The line “If you love her, she’ll give you all she’s got, and buddy, that can be an awful lot,” sails over the sold-out room, and over most of our heads. But I think I get it. This set has a stark simplicity that feels both effortless and like she’s giving San Francisco “all she’s got.”
Fiddle player Yosi Perlstein, upright bassist Callie Millington, drummer David Jamison, and slide/keys player Casey McAllister join Segarra on the stage and dive into “Blue Ridge Mountain” the old-timey fiddle laden opening track from their phenomenal new record “Small Town Heroes”. I find myself relating to her immensely. Born of the big city, but feeling at home in the humidity with simple, calm, accepting people — playing music, living cheap and easy.
Hurray for the Riff Raff photo by TJ Mimbs.

“The Body Electric.” Finally. I was waiting for this song. It strikes me in such an honest earnest way. Maybe it’s the profound simplicity of the song itself — being only two and half chords. Or maybe it’s the fact that this murder ballad, with a titular nod to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, (Whitman too left New York for New Orleans) is one of the few semi-political songs our over-saturated generation can still stomach. I think truly its success is in her delivery of this beautiful poem. Like she is listening to herself say every word and intending every annunciation to be understood by the crowd. Like suddenly she is singing into the eyes of the audience instead of into darkness. This is the song that proves single-handedly that this band has much more depth to uncover as they continue to develop.

The set comes to a close with the fun and vibrant “Little Black Star,” the breezy yet lonesome “St Roch Blues” and a cover of Lucinda Williams’ “People Talkin’.” The excitement with seeing this band isn’t necessarily the show itself, but knowing you are witnessing this group turning into a timeless American band. And buddy, that can be an awful lot.


Photo by TJ Mimbs.

Listen: Yesway’s “Howlin’ Face”


Emily Ritz and Kacey Johansing aren’t exactly strangers to the Bay’s indie-folk scene — Johansing’s second solo LP, 2013’s Ghosts, has spread like lush acoustic pop wildfire around the city since its release, while Ritz is part of the Oakland-based experimental “noir pop” outfit DRMS, which put out the ambitious American 707 earlier this year, a hypnotically weird and weirdly delightful short film and accompanying soundtrack.

But together, they make something else entirely: Dreamy harmonies layered with guitar are shaped by odd time signatures, beats that sound like they’ve stopped by to visit from the electronic/chillwave world, and vibraphone apperances (they’re often accompanied by Andrew Maguire, who also backs Thao Nguyen); it’s music for the last hazy hour of a party, when the stragglers decide to watch the sunrise, or a long slightly stoned solo walk with a lot of things to think about, maybe, or if you have the technology to listen to music underwater, it’s also be great for a swim. The duo’s debut album’s not out until June 3, but this single should tide you over.

Check Yesway online here.

José James on Ice-T, moving forward, and stone-cold jazz


By Micah Dubreuil

You might not be alone if you do a double-take when hearing José James’ new single for the first time. The song, “EveryLittleThing,” off the singer’s forthcoming album on Blue Note Records (While You Were Sleeping, out June 10), recalls a grinding club hit more than the effortless mix of jazz and neo-soul that made him famous. It is a surprise, to say the least — the driving, electric sound is nothing like the mellow and easy cool of his previous record, No Beginning No End, released in 2013.

And that’s just fine with James. The 36-year-old singer is a perpetual denier of expectations. He was born and raised in Minneapolis, maybe not the first city that comes to mind when you think of jazz. After appearing as a finalist in the prestigious Thelonious Monk International Vocal Competition in 2004, James released two albums with a heavy influence of electronic house music, produced by British DJ Giles Peterson. His third album was a duo set of jazz standards with pianist Jef Neve, but it wasn’t until he recorded the groove-based single for No Beginning No End that he was signed to the legendary Blue Note Records.

That album and platform brought him to a broader audience worldwide, compelling listeners with its sophisticated grooves and his rich tenor voice. The presence of some of the modern messiahs of cool (the band included Grammy-winning keyboardist Robert Glasper and bassist Pino Palladino — the later revered for his work on D’Angelo’s Voodoo), cemented James’ place at the forefront of the hip young jazz and soul scene.

But even on that album there were hints of a broader agenda. Landing right in the middle of the record was a track that could only be described as guitar-driven acoustic pop, a left turn in a career of left turns. Perhaps the defining trait of his generation is the habitual rejection of genre boundaries, and James has no intention of letting up. As part of his tour to promote the new record, James will hit The Independent Saturday, April 26. We spoke over the phone while he was in Chicago.

San Francisco Bay Guardian You’re on tour previewing your new album which, based on the single “EveryLittleThing,” has a very different sound from your previous work. What was the inspiration to go in this direction?

José James A lot of people don’t understand the lifespan of a project. It was three years from the start of writing No Beginning No End to the last tour. By that point we had gotten really comfortable with the material. I wanted more energy. I love neo-soul and R&B, but I wanted to go back to how I used to feel about music as a teenager, when it was all about the Beastie Boys, A Tribe Called Quest, and Nirvana.

SFBG For this album you’ve started writing on guitar. What sparked that decision?

JJ The guitar came back into my life when I was recording the song “Sword + Gun” in Paris with Hindi Zahra (off No Beginning) because we didn’t have a band at that session. It’s how we came up with the initial riff. From that moment on I thought: “I should play guitar again.”

SFBG What’s different about the band on this tour?

JJ No horns, just keys, bass, drums and guitars. Almost everybody is doubling. If they’re not alternating on two instruments they’re singing as well. It really feels like a band now, instead of just a jazz band.

SFBG Every album you make sounds really different. Is this an intentional decision or product of musical exploration?

JJ I think it’s both. I would never be happy just doing the same thing. Whatever I release an album I have to tour it for a year, maybe two, which is a long time. Coming from a jazz background I really need things to be fresh night after night, so it has to be material that can grow.

After working on No Beginning No End for three years, I had explored every option in a hip-hop/groove/neo-soul/jazz project that I wanted to do. It was the same with Miles and Coltrane: they would exhaust all the possibilities of a certain style, so moving on wasn’t really a choice. It’s not like I’m sitting there thinking “I’m going to mess up people’s heads with the next one” — it just kind of happens like that. For me it’s such a natural progression, but when you release a single or album it takes people by surprise, especially if they haven’t been with you for the journey.

SFBG How has the response been so far?

JJ It’s been really great. I think people are surprised by the sound and hearing me in that sound on Blue Note Records. It was cool of them to drop “EveryLittleThing” as a single. People are curious when they hear it — it makes them more interested in what the album’s going to sound like. I think honestly it’s the best album I’ve ever made. The songwriting and production are way above anything I’ve ever done, so I’m super excited.

SFBG So Blue Note has been supportive of your decision to make this kind of music?

JJ There are a lot of people who work at Blue Note. Don Was is super supportive and he’s the president, so that energy flows from the top down. There are definitely some stone-cold jazz people, both at the label and in the community, but honestly Blue Note hasn’t been a stone-cold jazz label for a long time. I think the single took everybody by surprise, especially because they were so in love with “No Beginning No End,” which is an easy album to fall in love with.

SFBG There’s a young generation of Blue Note musicians (yourself, Robert Glasper, Derrick Hodge, Takuya Kuroda, etc.) that are redefining the terms of modern jazz. Do you feel like you guys are part of a community, in terms of exploring and expanding what jazz can be today?

JJ Yeah, absolutely, we all help each other along. It’s just a generational shift. It’s not such a huge deal for us; I don’t even know if it’s expansion. Hodge and Glasper play with Maxwell, and they play with Mos Def, and then they play their own stuff. It’s just the normal reality of musicians of that level now. We just want to play music. It’s different for me, because I’m not an instrumentalist, so it always comes under my name and that brings a little bit of pressure, you know what I mean? But it’s a cool scene and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.

SFBG Do you expect to reach a wider audience with the new sound?

JJ I mean, that’s always the goal for anything, really. I think there’s a core José James fan who understands I’m going to do something different on every album. With each album I definitely hope to bring in different people. When I did Blackmagic, I connected with Flying Lotus and other DJs and producers. It’s not necessarily a conscious effort but the music takes it in different directions. We’re still playing some jazz clubs in the US — which is kind of funny, hearing a song like “EveryLittleThing” in a jazz club. You’d be surprised: we played at a jazz club in Boston two nights ago and people loved it. It’s all in the presentation. I don’t start with that song. I lead people to it so they understand it musically.

SFBG What shows did you go see when you were growing up?

JJ Mostly I would see any hip-hop show I could get to, like Das EFX or De La Soul or basically anybody who came through Minneapolis. It was a good music city to grow up in; First Avenue was still pretty fresh and Prince had a club downtown where he would play sometimes. I remember seeing Ice-T perform “Colors,” and he came out for the second set and did the Body Count stuff. It was cool to see Ice-T do heavy metal. I think people forget about that because now it’s so straight-laced: bands just do one thing. But back then people were really mixing it up in cool ways. I remember Digable Planets touring with horn players.

SFBG Did you listen to jazz?

JJ I didn’t see jazz live, but once I discovered the archives – Blue Note, Prestige, impulse! – I turned into a crazy record-buyer. I bought everything I could and became obsessed with getting the whole catalogue. It was something that nobody else knew about at my school, and I thought I was that much cooler because I was checking out all the music that Q-Tip and those guys were sampling.

SFBG What do you think about the future of jazz?

JJ Jazz is a at place where it’s going to be firmly museum-music, and there’s something to be said that as much as people can hate on new music, it’s music that people like. It speaks to them. This is the point where jazz artists need to decide whether we are going to be keepers of the flames or we’re going to stay current. I know that people like Herbie Hancock or Quincy Jones were able to take their jazz skills and make amazing music. Anytime I listen to “Off The Wall” or any of the Al Green stuff I think to myself: a jazz mind is responsible for this.

SFBG Do you have any influences that might surprise people?

JJ Kurt Cobain. I know it’s the anniversary of his death, but he’s one of the artists who really had an impact on me at an early age. His influence is like a John Coltrane or a Marvin Gaye. I think the unplugged album that Nirvana made shows what a great band they were and what a great songwriter he was.That’s what I’m focusing on right now. More so than a sound I really want to write great songs that have meaning and really mark a time and place.

José James
With Moonchild
9pm, $18
The Independent
628 Divisadero, SF

Juana Molina on the value of repetition and how music is like cooking with an audience


By Rob Goszkowski

In the past, Argentinean singer-songwriter Juana Molina took her time to craft carefully looped and layered beatscapes before her audiences. Her approach has changed, per the artistic demands of her most recent release, Wed 21. The songs are more condensed, but the aesthetic is the same.

There is a primal quality to her music, like she is tapping into a great heartbeat and proceeds to drape the sounds of whatever instrument has ahold of her attention at that moment. Her experimental pop has gained acclaim from world music fans and critics at prominent publications alike. The performer, who is still known for her successful career in comedy back home as well as her music, will be at The Independent with her band tomorrow night, Thu/24. We caught up with her before the show.

San Francisco Bay Guardian I understand that Wed 21 was recorded only by you in your apartment. Are you self-taught on all of these instruments that appear on the album?

Juana Molina Yes, I suppose. But let me make a little clarification: All of my records were done on my own at home. There is some misunderstanding there because everybody is asking me the same thing! When I’m recording and I find a new sound, figuring out what to do with it is the key. I’m not looking for or seeking anything. There is something that happens between the sounds and me.

SFBG As a listener, it is easy to go into a kind of trance while hearing your music, you can get lost in it.

JM That’s exactly what happens to me! It’s true! I just get lost and I let the sound take me for a ride. I just do whatever the sound tells me to do and I follow. Sometimes it’s so long — and I hate it a little bit. Because I think, “Oh, I can’t have a 45-minute song that does the exact same thing the entire time.” But I’m so into it when I get there. That’s probably why some people, like you in this case, get the same effect. It is the sound that is leading the ride.

SFBG You have talked about the value of repetition, of playing something over and over again. What is that about?

JM I think the answer comes from the idea that I loop things in my recordings, which is something that I don’t do. I very much enjoy playing the same thing over and over. Because I am taken by it. So I make very long recordings because sometimes, even if it sounds like the same thing — it is not the same thing. If you put one on top of the other, you hear the difference. When it’s really nice and I want to keep it, I need to go through it part by part, step by step, because everything needs to fit with what was played at that time. Putting it together can become a nightmare because sometimes I play for hours and hours.

SFBG Does this approach make playing before an audience with a limited amount of time difficult?

JM No. Because the process of putting sounds together for a live show is a completely different process. You know what the song is about, because you worked on it for months. And then what you need to do is to figure out sounds are essential to it, what makes the song a song. This record was especially hard to put together live because of the dynamics. For previous records, where I built up layers up layers on to layers — that was easy to do in the live show. The dynamics are so different on this one that it took me forever to translate it for the live show. Now that we’ve managed to put it together, we don’t understand why it took us so long. Now it is easy, it’s obvious.

SFBG So you and the band had a breakthrough.

JM It seems so easy now. When we compare this tour to our previous one in Europe, we can’t believe the difference. Now it’s so tight — and I say this now when it risks making the next show a mess — but there’s confidence we have gained over the months. The previous record had very long songs. I would play one loop and add layers upon layers. It was like cooking for the people, in front of the people. Waiting for the onions to be a little more brown, now I add a little bit of salt, then let’s go with tomatoes — mmm, tomatoes! What else to add? And at the end of the song, we have the dish ready. But these songs are so short, that they need to be ready as soon as you start them. The energy must be completely different, it has to be there from the beginning. That is something I had to learn.

With Emily Jane White

8pm, $15
The Independent
628 Divisadero, SF

Motörhead delivers a classic ear-beating at the Warfield


There’s something special about seeing the name Motörhead, umlaut and all, mounted on that grand Market Street marquee, next to a strip club and at the intersection of one of San Francisco’s seediest streets. If you know anything about the band, its history, and iconic frontman Lemmy Kilmister, it just feels right.

The black-clad masses had congregated outside the historic Warfield Theater well before showtime and the mood was noticeably high, as show-goers were surely thankful for either a first chance, another chance, but hopefully not last chance to see and hear the true king of metal live and in-person.

The room was about half-full for opener Graveyard’s set and those in attendance were engaged and impressed.  The Swedish ’70s revival rockers played a solid set consisting mostly of songs from their first two albums, peppered with a few from Lights Out, their third and decidedly less metal offering. Motörhead’s Phil Campbell would later describe them as “the only good thing to come out of Sweden.”

Graveyard. All photos by Brittany Powell.

As the main event neared, the room packed up quickly and the mood felt like what one might expect at an appearance of the Pope at a monster truck rally, with the latter being a bit closer to the beating that our ears were about to take.

With the predictability of the tides, the loudest band in the world emerged and delivered the standard greeting:

“We are Motörhead, and we play rock and roll.”

They immediately lunged into “Damage Case,” Lemmy’s head craned upward towards his trademark high mic, where it would remain for most of the show.  He doesn’t move around much these days, but did he ever?  Nonetheless, at 68, his gravelly snarl is still a force to be reckoned with. The floor got rowdy pretty quick and security could be seen ushering, quite roughly, more than a handful of audience members off the floor and presumably out the door. This is the effect that Motörhead has on people, and it has some significance at the Warfield, which used to have seats that went all the way to the front, until the first three rows were ripped out in 1984 at — you guessed it — a Motörhead show. 


After the second number, “Stay Clean,” Lemmy took a moment to address the dipshit (or dipshits) in the crowd who were hurling water bottles at the stage. “Please don’t throw shit at us and we won’t throw anything at you,” he said in a polite deadpan, before Campbell threatened  to walk off if it continued. One final item, a pink lighter, whose hurler Campbell called “a real star,” hit the stage — and the barrage was finished, probably thanks to crowd or security intervention, or perhaps a combination of both. 

Despite the disrespect, Lemmy twice told the crowd that we were the best on the tour and that “Coachella definitely isn’t giving [us] any competition.”  Maybe he was just being nice, but I believed him.  


The remainder of the show went smoothly enough, with the band playing most of the live favorites punctuated by Campbell’s glowing (like, actually glowing) guitar solo and Mikkey Dee’s bombastic, elevated drum solo, bookended by blasts of smoke, both of which felt a little dated, but this is real rock ‘n’ roll ,and modern-day gimmicks  weren’t needed. The guys didn’t waste much time between songs, except for the occasional intro, and a moment to dedicate “Just ‘Cos You Got the Power” to the “politicians who are stealing all of our money.” 


The regular set ended with “Ace of Spades,” during which nobody missed their chance to scream “That’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever,” all the while probably wishing that Lemmy would live forever, so they would’t have to wonder how long it might be before they’re reminiscing about the times when rock gods still walked the earth. 

Damage Case
Stay Clean
Over the Top
The Chase is Better Than the Catch
Rock It
Lost Woman Blues
Doctor Rock
Just ‘Cos You Got the Power
Going to Brazil
Killed By Death
Ace of Spades

Record Store Day: Where to get your (musical) high tomorrow


You did it! It’s Friday!

This weekend will see a convergence of two holidays that, come to think of it, overlap rather nicely given their impact on chocolate sales. Whether you’re celebrating the resurrection of Christ by donning an elaborate hat for church or the recent renewal of your medical marijuana card by finding new and creative ways to mainline THC (word to the wise: be careful in public this year), Sunday, April 20 is shaping up to be a fine day for people-watching in this city.

But hey, fellow music nerds: We all know both of those pale in comparison to what’s going down on Saturday. Yes, like the first esoteric, vinyl-collection obsessed, possibly slightly-condescending-at-times robin of Spring, Record Store Day is upon us once again. Tomorrow, Sat/19, will be a pretty good day to visit just about any (actual, brick-and-mortar, non-Internet-based) record store in the Bay Area. Now in its seventh year, the holiday — which, its website notes, was kicked off in 2008 at San Francisco’s Rasputin, by none other than the boys from Metallica — is celebrated at stores on every continent except Antarctica.

No need to pack your bags though: Here’s what’s going down at a few Bay Area establishments that sell music in all its excellent tangible, physical forms.

From the Mission’s Aquarius Records, owner (and Minor Forest drummer) Andee Connors wrote us the following when we asked what he was stoked on this year:

1. A Minor Forest, Flemish Altruism / Inindependence, 4 LP reissue on Thrill Jockey, both albums from this nineties math/post/noise rock band [acknowledgement of personal bias here]

1. The Ghostbusters‘ glow-in-the dark 10″

3. Ron Jeremy, Understanding and Appreciating Classical Music With Ron Jeremy, 7″ (only a 7″??)

4. Cardinal 2/t LP, vinyl reissue of this seminal baroque indie-pop classic

5. Scharpling & Wurster, Rock, Rot & Rule LP, vinyl reissue of maybe the funniest record ever, especially for music nerds

I think our customers are probably excited for those, but they’re / we’re also looking forward to the Heatmiser (Elliott Smith’s old band) LP reissues, the four soundtrack LPs on Death Waltz, Pussy Galore reissue, Rodion G.A. reissue, the Space Project compilation…also, we have a new release from local band Twin Trilogy, featuring Sean Smith, the first in a series, ONLY available at aQ on RSD, and on Sunday, Twin Trilogy will be playing a special in-store at aQ. Record store day part 2!!! [Ed. note: Should pair well with your other Sunday celebrations].


Across the Bay at Oakland’s 1-2-3-4 Go!, a full-day party will kick off when the store opens at 8am. “Last year people started lining up around 4:30am, to give you a heads-up if you plan on coming for the opening,” advised owner Steve Stevenson, adding that they’ll have coffee from SubRosa and donuts from Pepples (while supplies last) for those of you who line up early.

Giveaway: A test pressing of the Green Day Demolicious 2xLP, autographed by Berkeley boy Billie Joe Armstrong. The first 100 people in line will get a raffle ticket; once the 100th person has handed in their ticket, the drawing will commence.

James Williamson of The Stooges will be doing a signing and chatting with fans from 10am to 11ish. (Ed. note: !!!!)

Hella Vegan Eats will be on hand making breakfast and lunch throughout the day. “Not free, but well worth it even if you’re not vegan,” says Steve. They’ll also have a couple of kegs from Linden Street Brewery for over-21 folks, for free, after noon.

Bands: Ghoul will be playing a very special “surf” set from their RSD Hang Ten 10″ out on Tank Crimes at 3pm, with Occultist opening. 


An entirely non-comprehensive list of what’s happening at other stores:

Amoeba Berkeley — In-store DJ sets from Jonah Nice and DJ Inti; 20 percent off all turntables, posters, and some other accessories; giveaways TBA.

Amoeba SF — Same sales as above, plus live silk-screening from 11am to 2pm with special RSD 2014 designs, one by Zach of Saintseneca; t-shirts and totes available for purchase, with all proceeds going to the San Francisco Rock Project. Plus a full day of guest DJs, including folks like Andy Cabic of Vetiver and Ezana Edwards and Ryan Grubbs from Blood Sister.

Rasputin Berkeley: Free acoustic show by Phillip Phillips.

Groove Merchant Records (Haight): Cool Chris’ hand-picked “batch of 300+ Rock, Soul, Jazz, Italo Disco, and Post-Punk records (LP’s, 12”s, & 7”s),” selected especially for RSD.

And now a word from your Record Store Day 2014 ambassador, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, whose duties coincide with an RSD reissue of a very fine 1988 album. Happy crate-digging!

Happy hump day music news!


Hiatus, schmiatus: Thee Oh Sees have been added to an already-dreamy Burger Boogaloo lineup. Catch ’em alongside OFF!, Shannon and the Clams, Nobunny, Terry Malts, and of course the inimitable Miss Ronnie Spector herself, July 5-6 at Mosswood Park in Oakland.

Who needs Coachella anyway? In between their two weekend stints at that shitshow of a music festival down south, Waxahatchee is playing a free show at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza today at 5pm. Are you in Berkeley? It’s goddamn beautiful out. You should go.

Start your itinerizing: Outsidelands just announced each day’s lineup and put single-day tickets on sale. Are you in more of a Kanye-Disclosure-Warpaint-Mikal Cronin kind of mood? Or a Tom Petty-Tycho-Big Freedia head space? These are the tough questions.

Cocktails grow up: Don’t worry, one of SF’s favorite fuzz-power-pop bands hasn’t gone and gotten lame, though. This new track, “Tough Love,” off Adult Life, suggests the five-piece has gotten a little tighter and just a little slicker, in a good way. That record won’t be out until June 17, but you can probably hear a lot of it at the Rickshaw Stop this Fri/18, when they open at the EP release party for The She’s.

“My brain is a little addled in terms of my long-term memory.” That’s Courtney Love, in an excellent oral history of Hole’s Live Through This, in honor of the album’s 20th anniversary. No matter what you think of her or her Dave Grohl reconciliation or her mediocre missing airplane-finding skills, this album is still gorgeous and important and yes I will fight you about that.

Also, this interview.

A few last thoughts from Coachella


Words and photos by Eric Lynch.

If Friday was about jorts and flower crowns and Saturday was about sandstorms and solid “lesser” acts, then Sunday was about Coachella babies and big performers who totally brought it.

Arcade Fire played to their 80,000 lost souls with a world of possibilities ahead of them, introducing one of their tour de forces, “There’s a lot of kind of like fake VIP room bullshit happening at this festival and I just want to say that sometimes people dream of getting in places like that and it super sucks in there so don’t worry about it.  This song’s called ‘The Suburbs’…”


Debbie Harry and Regina Chassagne sang “Heart of Glass” then Harry stood there looking shell-shocked and awkward during Chassagne’s “Sprawl II.”

There is an obvious predecessor to Pharrell’s (stupid) Vivienne Westwood hat — you know, the hat that contained all his friends that showed up to bounce around the stage with him on Saturday: Nelly, Diddy, Busta, Snoop, Gwen, et al. Beck’s hat is senior.

Much to the glee of the crowd, Beck took us on a mind-journey in his Hyundai during “Debra,” giving shout-outs to SoCal cities along the way.  Tongue-in-cheek, sure, but the masses loved it as they “stepped inside the passenger door.” He played, along with his son Cosimo on tambourine, until the Golden Voice clock-watchers turned out the power.


AlunaGeorge gave a great performance, despite an outfit that included comfortable/restaurant worker-appropriate shoes. Shape-Ups? Troubling opening with an overwhelming bass line (she opened with “Attracting Flies”) but she adjusted very well. 


DARKSIDE: Probably the best performance of the weekend. Nicolas Jaar (who played a solo DJ set on Friday in the Yuma tent) and Dave Harrington consecutively constructed and destroyed throughout their set. Plus Nicolas Jaar is dreamy.


Despite Neutral Milk Hotel’s lo-fi output, devoted fans worshipped every  spangle-jangled second. Sing-alongs aplenty and clapping 30-somethings and mid-life couples with one and a half babies. 

The 1975 brought fun and a bit of realness to the festival early on Sunday. Hot skinny slim-mustachioed gay boys and white jeans with matching boat shoes-sporting straight feys regaled.

Ty Segall gave the longest and loudest sound check in the history of outdoor festivals. They know we’re standing ring here, right?!  The band’s energy was palpable.


CHVRCHES apologized for having to wear sunglasses because “we’re really not from here.” But their performance was anything but apologetic. Polished and clean.


Future Islands: I thought Black Flag front man Henry Rollins had been reincarnated as a less punk, more enraged white guy, mugging for the crowd, bleating and blathering with testosterone force.

Warpaint had the most crowded photographer’s pit. Full of 20-something bloggers and middle-aged stock photogs. The ladies did not disappoint. 


As a photographer, I’m always hoping for a performance and a persona like Solange. She can just electrify with her presence. Not knowing at the time who she was, I actually snapped some great shots of her last year at Coachella, while  watching the Jesse Ware performance — simply because I could not take my eye off of her adorable sundress covered in bright yellow lemons.  This year onstage, she teased and taunted us in an orange shorts suit.  At one point she jokingly admonished the YouTube videographer to get out of her crotch as she writhed and pined in front of his lens. Something for the gays, the girls and the bros! Yes, and big sis Beyonce showed up, duh.


Overall: Blood Orange, Holy Ghost, Warpaint, The Knife, Solange, DARKSIDE, the 1975 and Arcade Fire were absolute standouts.

Diamonds on the soles of their shoes: Bay Area artists start a dance party in the street with ‘Graceland’ tribute


By Jeff Kaliss

For Paul Simon’s 1986 hit album Graceland, both its production and its long-time success moved across boundaries of space, time, and genre. The movement continued this past weekend inside the San Francisco Jewish Community Center’s Kanbar Hall, where the quarterly UnderCover project and Faultline Studios presented a tantalizing tribute to Graceland, with each of 11 groups/artists performing one of the album’s 11 tracks.A bit about the album: Simon, recovering from an artistic slump and a failed marriage to Carrie Fisher (aka Princess Leia), had been turned on in the mid-1980s to the black South African pop music genre known as township jive, an infectious stew of early rock, jazz, and tribal syncopation. The songwriting and arrangements on Graceland formed an homage to a variety of South African music, and to that nation’s musicians, including Zulu Sipho Mchunu and his white bandmate Johnny Clegg. Simon traveled to the source of those sounds, recording input to the album from the a cappella township men’s choir Ladysmith Black Mambazo and others. As on his future albums showcasing world music, Simon had no problem integrating material and musicians from his own country, who on Graceland included jazzmen Randy Brecker and Steve Gadd, the Everly Brothers, Linda Ronstadt, the Rubin family of Zydeco fame, and members of Los Lobos.

Fely Tchaco. Photo by Steve Roby.

Following Simon’s example, the Oakland-based Rob Shelton, serving as music director for Friday and Saturday’s Graceland tribute concerts, culled an eclectic array from the Bay Area’s xenophillic talent pool; they were emceed throughout the evening by ebullient UnderCover founder Lyz Luke. As on Simon’s Graceland, horns and vocals played major roles throughout the evening. First up was Fanfare Zambaleta, a Balkan brass band who buoyed “The Boy in the Bubble,” the album’s opening track, on bursts of trumpet and euphonium. By contrast, the album’s title tune was given to guitarist and singer John Vanderslice, the closest thing to the songwriter’s solo act. Also changing from act-to-act throughout the evening were the projections on a large screen behind the performers, assembled by Elia Vargas. Zambelata got pulsing patterns; Vanderslice was backed by scenes of a road trip.

Fely Tchaco took “I Know What I Know” to a different but sympathetic corner of the vast African continent — her native Ivory Coast — dancing as well as singing, with booty-shaking impetus from conga player Paul Sonnabend and rest of her band. Mexican-born Diana Gameros put a folksy, slightly Latinized tinge on “Gumboots,” the song which first turned Simon towards South Africa and one of the few on the album not written by him. Music director Shelton appeared on keyboards with DRMS in their somewhat loungey version of “Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes.” Bill Baird, rather resembling Dana Carvey in a poncho, did “You Can Call Me Al,” but I wouldn’t know what to call his mixture of musical madness and madcap theater.

John Vanderslice. Photo by Don Albonico.

The Afrofunk Experience put “Under African Skies” under their soulful spell, with Sandy House and David James trading vocals. Sung by the thrilling, all-male, all-adult Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the album, “Homeless” had been co-written and arranged by that group’s leader, Joseph Shabalala. For UnderCover’s tribute, it was rearranged by Kevin Fox, Deke Sharon, and Eric Hagmann for the wide-ranged voices at various of points of puberty, constituting Fox’s Oakland-based Pacific Boychoir. They preserved the heavenly magic and the partly Zulu lyrics of Ladysmith, and brought tears to the eyes of proud parents and others.

Guy Fox and his quartet kept the “crazy” in “Crazy Love,” rocking up a storm. But it wasn’t they who triggered the fire alarm which temporarily drove audience and musicians onto the sidewalks Saturday evening. It was, reportedly, a rabbi, “kosherizing” the premises with a blowtorch. Outdoors, the pre-Pesach spirits stayed high, even among the goyim, and the music continued in informal festival mode.
After a blessing from the fire department, everyone returned to the Kanbar, where the Trio Zincalo, with vocalist Katie Clover, evoked the Hot Club de France with their take on “That Was Your Mother.” The Midtown Social closed the show with their soul-shaking send-up of “All Around the World Or the Myth of Fingerprints,” summoning the rest of the evening’s performers to join them on stage and the audience to dance in the aisles.

Afrofunk Experience. Photo by Steve Roby.

The Graceland tribute will hop across the Bay to the Freight & Salvage this coming weekend, Sat/19 and Sun/20, performances added after the JCCSF shows quickly sold out. There’s also a recorded album of the tribute, mixed and mastered by Faultline Studios’ Yosh! (an UnderCover co-presenter) — but for any vital fan of Paul Simon and the vast menagerie of Bay Area talent, seeing this live is highly recommended.

Ed note: San Francisco journalist Jeff Kaliss, author of I Want to Take You Higher: The Life and Times of Sly & the Family Stone, has been a fan of UnderCover since consulting on their Sly tribute show in January.

Watch: Can you spot all the East Bay locales in this new Atmosphere video?


Okay, so maybe I’m a little biased because how often does a music video shoot take place in yours truly’s little podunk hometown of Albany, California — which is where the dollar-beer-covered racetrack glory that is Golden Gate Fields technically lies, friends, not Berkeley — but this new Atmosphere video for the song “Kanye West,” which the hip-hop duo premiered today on Noisey, does feel a little like a “spot the East Bay shooting location” rendition of Where’s Waldo.

There’s plenty else to like, though: That’s also Oakland writer-superstar Chinaka Hodge in the role of leading lady, and local comedian/erstwhile Guardian opiner Nato Green as a scared-shitless corner store worker. Check it out below.

The duo’s new album Southsiders drops May 6 on Rhymesayers; this song will also be on The Lake Nokomis Maxi Single, released exclusively on vinyl for Record Store Day (that’s next Saturday, April 19, kiddos). They’ll be in town in August for Outsidelands



Coachella pics! Saturday


Saturday brought a huge sandstorm to the festival grounds but didn’t diminish the excitement in the crowd, according to our guys in the field.  “Head scarves turned into face masks.” Slideshow above, more below. All photos by Eric Lynch.


More Solange.







pet shop boys

Pet Shop Boys.

pet shop boys

Pet Shop Boys.


Coachella pics!: Friday



The Knife performed Fri/11 at Coachella. Guardian photos by Eric Lynch.


Punk-rock veteran Cheetah Chrome is still full of surprises


As the guitarist for Rocket From The Tombs and The Dead Boys, Cheetah Chrome helped write the sonic blueprint for punk rock — and after four decades in the music world, he continues to create his art with an uncompromising and independent attitude. The incendiary axeman, born Gene O’Connor in Cleveland, Ohio, recently released his first studio solo record, a seven song EP that finds him traversing some familiar aural terrain, while exploring some new sounds and different approaches at the same time.

The collection of tunes is made up of tracks recorded at three different recording sessions, two of which were recent efforts, while one actually dates all the way back to 1996.

“When I had first gotten cleaned up and was wanting to get back into playing again, Hilly [Kristal, the late owner of CBGBs] hooked me up to record some songs, and we were just about done when he started insisting that he wanted to put it out on ‘CBGB Records’ — and I was like, ‘Well, there is no CBGB Records!’ So we got into a tiff, and the masters ended up sitting around until after he died — we had settled our differences, the record just didn’t get talked about,” laughs Chrome over the phone from his home in Nashville.

“After Hilly passed away, his daughter called me up and said she found the masters, and asked if I wanted them, and sent them down to me. At the time I was working on a record with Batusis, and our record label decided they were going to go on hiatus, and gave us the masters free and clear.”

With a collection of both new and old material to work with, Chrome sat down with producer Ken Coomer and sorted through the tracks, some of which had multiple versions of the same song, and decided which ones he liked the best, and which ones he didn’t feel so strongly about anymore.

The resulting EP features some guitar sounds that will be instantly recognizable to fans of Chrome and his stint in one of the most infamous punk bands of all time, but also showcases a variety of other musical styles, as well as his prowess for writing strongly personal and emotional songs that should break any stereotypical misconceptions one might have about him. Kicking off with “Sharkey,” an instrumental reminiscent of the early surf guitar sound of the 1960s, the track takes on a more ominous tone with a layer of organ hovering over the guitars, an addition that came almost by accident while in the studio.

“If you had heard the way that song started out you wouldn’t believe it — it was acoustic. I was messing around with an organ, and started paying those chords, and the next thing you now, it turned into that!”
Apparently, that transition from acoustic to rock is not unusual in Chrome’s world — and although much more of the acoustic sound has remained in some form or another on the solo EP, many of his earlier songs started out life on an acoustic guitar — a fact that might not be so clear to admirers of his searing playing on an electric guitar.

“A lot of the Dead Boys stuff was written on an acoustic guitar — when we first started, I had a Gibson SG that I was using, I was pretty poor, I only had one other guitar, an Epiphone 12 string. One night at rehearsal I was messing around and did something stupid and cracked the neck on the SG,” says Chrome.

“So all I had for a little while was this acoustic 12-string — so Stiv and I wrote a lot of songs on that, ‘Not Anymore,’ a lot of the stuff on the first album was written acoustically.”

On the new record, two of the songs, “Stare Into The Night” and “No Credit” were actually written around the time that the Dead Boys were breaking up — and “East Side Story” and “Rollin’ Voodoo” have been kicking around for a while as well, they had just never been recorded the way that Chrome says he had heard them in his head.

After the record was finished the way he wanted it, the EP was finally released late last year on Plowboy Records out of Nashville, a company that Chrome now works for as creative director and director of A&R; it’s a position that he sees as being able to try to right some of the wrongs that he had to deal with when the Dead Boys were screwed over by record labels in the early days. “We’re probably one of the most artist friendly labels out there right now!”

On the current short run of West Coast tour dates, Chrome says fans can expect to not only hear songs from the new record, but also tunes spanning his entire career.

“We’re going to throw a couple of unexpected ones in there, a couple I haven’t done on previous tours, so it should be fun.”
Cheetah Chrome
With The Street Walkin’ Cheetahs, Jack Killed Jill, The Vans
Sat/12, 9pm, $12
Thee Parkside
1600 17th St, SF

Coachella for agoraphobics: How to do the festival without leaving your house


Fun fact: I’m bad at festivals. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, per se: there’s live music, the outdoors, fried food, great people-watching.

It’s just that — well, okay, I lied, I usually don’t enjoy them. I’m not 22 anymore. I don’t like waiting in long lines for disgusting Port-a-Potties. The sound is often unpreventably terrible. Trying to see all the bands you really care about becomes a headache-inducing feat of scheduling Sudoku. And the people-watching, while entertaining, often devolves into being so annoyed at/dismayed by the people around me that I’m too distracted to enjoy the music.

I’m great at parties, I promise!

Here’s the thing: I truly love a lot of the acts on the lineup at Coachella this year. OutKast, The Dismemberment Plan, come on. And the fact that I’m not going to see the Replacements tonight makes me feel all kinds of superfan failure feelings (see: the name of my column).

I can’t be alone in my competing excitement about this year’s artists and total lack of desire to physically be on the hot, crowded premises for their shows. Thus, without further ado — before your social networks start blowing up with pictures of your friends having The Time of Their Lives there — a step-by-step guide to doing Coachella this weekend from the comfort of your own home.

Step 1: Get dressed. Ladies, you’re gonna want one of these.


On the bottom, go for the timeless, comfortable class of cutoff shorts that let the entire bottom half of your ass hang out the leg holes (you can Google image-search that one yourself). Pair with tall, furry boots. If you’ve been working out lately — or even following the Coachella diet — and really want to show off your complete lack of self-awareness, try appropriating the rich, storied culture of a persecuted people with your headgear. Guys, you can do this one too.




Step 2. Hit the hardware store and garden supply center. You want a high-powered space heater and several bags of very dry dirt — we’re in a drought here, after all. On the way home, collect a full trash bag of empty beer bottles, used condoms, and other detritus from the street. (Optional, depending on personal preference: Buy drugs.) When you get home, turn the heater on full blast and close the windows; then scatter dirt and garbage everywhere.

Step 3. Invite some friends over. You’re not into big crowds, but come on, you’re not anti-social. Bonus points if you can get a local celebrity, like John Waters, Rider Strong, or the Tamale Lady. Instagram the shit out of everything they do, such as taking selfies, taking more selfies, and sitting on their bodyguards’ shoulders, smoking blunts.




Step 4. Put on some tunes. To get that special “festival” sound, try turning the volume and bass up until every single element is distorted, then wrap your speakers in heavy blankets. Follow up by either standing with your ear smashed against them or walking half a mile away. Here’s a playlist featuring all of Friday, to get you started:

Step 5. Sometime around 5am (your mileage may very depending on drugs of choice), try going to sleep. Hey, look at that — you’re in your own bed! If you want to get that authentic camping feeling, make your friends stay over and sleep in super-cramped positions next to you. Ideally, you’ll wake up to the sound of someone vomiting five feet away from your head. I’m lucky enough to have a bedroom window facing 16th Street; again, YMMV.

But don’t think about that now. Get a little bit of rest. Drink some water. Tomorrow’s another long, glorious day of the best music festival you’ve ever been to, and if you want to have document the Time of Your Life, you’re gonna need your energy.

[More seriously — we do have a photographer at Coachella this weekend, check back here for cool photos that are not the result of me gleefully Google image-searching “Coachella headdress terrible.”]

Giving thanks: On growing up with Nirvana


For all of the world-wide media attention surrounding the induction of Nirvana into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight and the 20th anniversary of the death of Kurt Cobain this week, there is one very simple, yet pivotally important aspect of the band that seems to be getting somewhat neglected in the frenzy of coverage.

There’s plenty of talk about how influential the band was on the mainstream music scene and the commercial record industry, and even more on the tragedy and tortured soul of Cobain; yet in all of the discussions, dissertations and analysis of the Nirvana phenomenon, if that’s what you want to call it, it almost feels that one key component has been left on the backburner — the fact that the band made some absolutely amazing music, and has touched multiple generations of fans with that gift.

Sure, Nirvana moved millions of units in record stores, and they knocked Michael Jackson out of the number one spot in the Billboard charts. For people like me, however, those are secondary accomplishments, footnotes in what the band meant to us. I didn’t hear about Nirvana by watching MTV or keeping track of what was hot in the Billboard 100. I was 12 years old when Nevermind came out. I was turned on to them by a friend at a sleepover in junior high school, a personal connection that I doubt is seldom done anymore in the age of the internet.

This was when I first heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit” — it was late at night, and after we had been told to go to sleep. After we turned out the lights, my friend turned on a small flashlight and got out his Walkman — that’s a portable cassette tape player, for you youngsters — from underneath his bed and passed it over to me. He told me that he had heard this new song by some new band, and that I needed to hear it — but he hadn’t wanted to play it earlier out loud with his kid brother and parents around for some reason.

He told me that I would probably feel like jumping up and running around the room, and that it had this crazy energy about it.

I put on my headphones, and hit play.

I haven’t been the same person since.

When the first chords came out of the headphones, I wasn’t sure what to think — by the time the distortion, drums, and bass kicked in and had gone through about two bars, I was hooked. My friend was right, after the subdued verse, the musical anticipation was palpable from the build-up of the pre-chorus; by the time the “hello, hello, hello, how low” burst into the all-out aural assault of “With the lights out, it’s less dangerous,” I was practically jumping out of bed, mad with an energy I had never known before.

Nirvana became the soundtrack to my life, and while they opened up the doors to so much more music for me in the ensuing years, they remain my favorite band, the lynchpin for what I’ve become as an adult. I’ve been covering music professionally for almost a decade and a half now; I wouldn’t be doing so if it wasn’t for Nirvana. While I am excited that the band is getting the recognition they so rightly deserve now with the Hall of Fame induction, it is with bittersweet emotions that they are doing so, being so close to the anniversary of the death of their driving force, their heart and soul, Kurt Cobain.

There is a quote from Cobain that has been repeated often over the years, but I think it might sum up best the feelings and attitude that I took away from Nirvana and their music. As the band was starting to catapult to fame in late 1991, he was asked what the name Nirvana meant to him. He replied, “The word that has come up in every definition that I’ve read is freedom. So we kind of like to think of our music as musical freedom.”

I think that is what I and so many countless fans around the world took from Nirvana. A sense of freedom. Not just musically, but artistically, culturally, and personally. A gateway to being your own person, regardless of what those around you or what society as a whole might think of you. The blurry photo of the band in the liner notes to Nevermind features Cobain flipping the bird to the camera. I think that attitude of “Fuck you, I’ll do what I want” has transcended generations, and is part of what keeps Nirvana a force to be reckoned with.

kurt cobain

I consider myself very lucky to have seen Nirvana live in concert once; that experience, in 8th grade, at the age of 14, further cemented the impact that the band would have on my life. The raw energy and emotion of the show makes it the one to which all others that have come after have been held up to. Some have come close, none have ever matched it.

In Septembe rof 2011, I made the pilgrimage to Seattle ito visit an exhibit celebrating Nirvana’s legacy and impact on popular culture and the 20th anniversary of Nevermind at the Experience Music Project museum, “Nirvana: Taking Punk To The Masses.” It featured a treasure trove of artifacts and interactive installations; seeing the actual instruments that were used to create the music that has had such a profound effect on my life was awe-inspiring; as was gazing at hand-written lyric sheets,  original demo tapes, artwork, family photos, stage props, and more.

In an article I wrote about the experience, I noted that when my friend and I came to the end of the exhibit, we both commented that while it was an amazingly touching experience to see what was there, it somehow seemed too short, that there really should have been more to it. It was then that we looked at each other and came to what should have been an obvious realization; for all their influence and impact on our lives and the lives of millions of fans around the world, Nirvana only existed for a mere seven years. Their career, like Kurt Cobain’s life, was cut much too short. In that short time, however, they made an incredible impression on their fans, myself being one of them.

It’s hard to sum up more than 20 years worth of feelings and emotions in one simple article; I’ve done my best here for now. Kurt, Krist, and Dave: Congratulations on your induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. And more importantly, thank you for the music.