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Sonic Reducer

Iran here


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER One can tumble into the disconnect between the reactionary brouhaha last year regarding then-candidate Barack Obama’s proposed engagement with Iran, and the reality, as Iranian-born, Indian-raised vocalist Azam Ali knows it.

"I always tell my American friends, ‘People love America so much in Iran, you wouldn’t be able to pay for a meal — they love Americans that much,’" says the Niyaz frontperson by phone from Los Angeles, where she lives with her husband and bandmate Loga Ramin Torkian and their year-old son Iman Ali. We talk days before Vice President Joe Biden proffers an olive branch to Tehran during the Munich Security Conference. "The one thing that the majority of Americans should realize is that the only country where people are pro-U.S.A. in the Middle East is Iran. The government, of course, is something very different."

"I hope this administration will start some kind of dialogue with the government of Iran," she adds. "It’s really unfortunate that my country is where it is. I’d like to see it flourish and become a part of the world."

Springing from the ashes of Ali’s old band Vas and Torkian’s former ensemble Axiom of Choice, Niyaz is doing its part in bringing together a few seemingly divergent communities: fans of electronica awash with Eastern beats, trance heads, and listeners of traditional Persian, Indian, and Turkish sounds. Their most recent double album, Nine Heavens (Six Degrees, 2008) is the ideal musical unifier for all those parties. One disc unfurls nine electronic originals ornamented with Sufi poetry in Farsi, Urdu, and Turkish, including several by 13th-century mystic and poet Amir Khosrau Dehlavi — who’s credited with inventing the Qawwali and, like Ali, was born in Persia and raised in India — and renditions of Persian and Turkish folk songs. The second, my favorite, delivers acoustic versions of the first disc’s tracks — eons away from the ecstatic pop of Googoosh, but as lush and appealing as the recordings by influential ’80s world-music crossover stars like Najma.

For her part, Ali clearly opens the emotional floodgates on numbers like "Tamana" — something to anticipate when she performs with her multi-instrumentalist husband, oud virtuoso Naser Musa and tabla player Salar Nader at Palace of Fine Arts Feb. 13.

It’s a talent she may not have been able to offer to her native country — "women are not allowed to perform there," she demurs — though Niyaz has played in Dubai and Turkey, where Ali and Torkian plan to relocate soon, and it’s made her popular with soundtrack composers looking for a sonic dose of the so-called Orient. Ali has sung on scores for films like The Matrix: Revolutions (2003) and TV shows such as Alias — all of which was accomplished without an agent.

"You really can’t support yourself doing the music we do," she confesses. "You don’t do world music for money. I’ve been fortunate. I’m not proud of all the projects I’ve worked on, but it has worked for me, though I don’t get to express myself doing that work. For the most part [clients] want the flavor — they don’t want something that is culturally specific. What a lot of Eastern music brings is just that kind of emotional intensity, that depth, they’re looking for."

Instead she looks to Niyaz for that artistic fulfillment. "We work totally backwards from people who do most electronic records," she explains. They record all their acoustic elements, then deliver the tracks to producer-collaborator Carmen Rizzo (Coldplay). "Sometimes we’re not able to incorporate all the acoustic elements because there’s not enough sonic space for them." The group realized halfway through the making of Nine Heavens that they had a rich acoustic album as well an electronic one. "A lot of times when you add electronics it seems like you’re trying to mask something that’s not there," says Ali. "But this reveals us."


Fri/13, 8 p.m., $27–$53

Palace of Fine Arts Theatre

3301 Lyon, SF.



Brian Jones imbued the maestros with rock ‘n’ roll glamour, but it was the mesmerizing music that made an impact on figures like Ornette Coleman and William S. Burroughs. Live Volume 1 (Jajouka) ushers in the forthcoming films The Hand of Fatima and Boujeloud on the music, the musicians, and their influence. Wed/11–Thurs/12, 8 and 10 p.m., $30–$35. Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore, SF. www.yoshis.com. Also Sat/14, 2 p.m., free. Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. www.amoeba.com


Party with them, punkers, in honor of the SF band’s 25th anniversary. The problem: getting into these sold-out blowouts. Wed/11, 8 p.m., $23. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com; Fri/13, 8 p.m., $22.50. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. www.livenation.com; Sat/14, 8 p.m., $22. Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF. www.theeparkside.com; Sun/15, 8 p.m., $23. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com


The Bay’s honky-tonk and old-time honeys bring out the uke and spoons for the SF Bluegrass and Old-Time Festival. Thurs/12, 9 p.m., $12–$14. Café Du Nord, 170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


"Kryptonite Pussy," anyone? Giving that electro a good hard God-fearing, out, and feminist twist, Shunda K and Jwl B will accept your tributes now. Fri/13, 10 p.m., see Web site for price. 103 Harriet, SF. www.hacksawent.com


A haunted symphony comprising singing saw, old-time banjo, magic tape organ, euphonium, and an NBA-size metronome materializes on Music Tapes for Clouds and Tornadoes (Merge). Tues/17, 9 p.m., $12. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

Married with band


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER They play together yet dislike each other — that’s Fucked Up. Literally. The Toronto legends of hardcore — add as many "post-"s as you like to that descriptor — and their grew-up-together-but-grew-apart relationship may sound like the tale of so many other long-running rock bands, sticking it out for the big checks, groupies, coke binges, and Courvoisier. Instead the Fucked Up folks appear to be more interested in putting together albums that will stand up against the punk singles on Kill by Death and Dangerhouse that made major indents in their consciousness.

"We were obsessed with those records and wanted to put ourselves in that continuum," says vocalist Pink Eyes, a.k.a., Damian Abraham, 29, sometime TV writer, onetime-reality TV star ("There were some choice moments of me going record shopping juxtaposed with my wife eating a cheap hotdog on the street, me going to an expensive dinner and her going home and doing laundry," he says of Newly Wed Nearly Dead), and frothing, rabid record collector. Eventually, he adds, "we realized that as much as we don’t get along and hate being on the road together, this is the most exciting, most creative thing that any of us will ever do. So we’ll see how it goes."

For their trouble, the group managed to make one of the best rock, punk, or what-have-you releases of ’08 with its second full-length, The Chemistry of Common Life (Matador).

But all that’s natural, normal, and Fucked Up. "We’ve been a band a long time," confesses Abraham. He’s known guitarist Mike Haliechuk, a.k.a., 10,000 Marbles, for about 14 years — since they were 16 — and grew up in the same neighborhood, played in bands, or shared radio shows with the rest. So does familiarity breed hatred? "A lot of us don’t have any shared interests anymore," the vocalist says by phone on the way to a New Orleans show. "But we’re still held together by this thing that is Fucked Up."

After all, "I’m diagnosed with mental problems," Abraham continues with the barest hint of mirth. "But I think there are several people who have undiagnosed mental problems. So we have a bunch of people who are undermedicated and one guy who is overmedicated. People who have crippling record-buying addictions and people who have crippling tastes in techno.

"We do all like sushi."

That search for commonality had to happen after the combo’s first album, Hidden World (Jade Tree, 2006), which made Fucked Up "transition into a quote-unquote real band," explains Abraham. "Prior to that we did a band that was mainly putting out 7-inches and playing the odd show, but then we put out Hidden World and we had the responsibilities of touring and actually playing full-length shows! It wasn’t just kids paying to see a show — it was kids paying to see us, which we weren’t really used to before that."

With Chemistry the members all retreated to their corners to work on lyrics and music separately. "No one person’s voice silenced any one else’s," Abraham says. "I think it was a survival method." The result was a kind of call and response between extremely different makers, a strategy that resolved into a shockingly rich recording that draws from the clean, epic qualities of classic rock as well as the bodyslamming force of hardcore.

"From my perspective [Hidden World] was about identifying social ills," offers Abraham, "and this record was more about trying to understand those social ills, trying to accept and work with the world around us, the forces of nature, government, and religion especially."

And in some ways, among the resonant instrumentals and pummeling rock-outs — music that scrambles the "conventions of punk," as Abraham puts it, much like the sound of Mind Eraser, Cold World, and No Age — Chemistry is about the search for that hard-won community among hardheaded, hardcore individuals. Call these anthems of a kind of togetherness for lone wolves who might wear "Jesus Should Have Been Aborted" T-shirts. "Hands up if you think you’re the only one," the frontman hollers during "Twice Born." The response: "We all got our fucking hands up!"

Still, the fights over the van radio must be monumental. "Mike is the techno fan," Abraham says. "It’s unfortunate because he’s very persuasive and he’s convinced several other members of the band to like it too. I’m resistant, as well as Jonah [Falco, a.k.a., drummer Guinea Beat]. All I can say is thank god for the invention of personal music players."


Sun/8, 8 p.m., $13


628 Divisadero, SF





Switchfoot’s Jon Foreman plus Nickel Creek’s Sean Watkins equals dreamy pop. Thurs/5, 8 p.m., $20. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


The local label gets down with new CDs by Trevor Childs and the Beholders, Hey! Brontosaurus, and Cyndi Harvell. Fri/6, 9 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Wu-Tang’s five-year-planner breaks out his latest digi-snack, the Afro Samurai Resurrection OST soundtrack (Wu Music/Koch). Sun/8, 8 p.m. doors, $20–<\d>$26. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com


The Minneapolis rapper takes his blend of rock and hip-hop up a notch to Never Better (Rhymesayers). Mon/9, 9 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

Revved up on garage rock


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Grease monkeys gotta scratch their coconuts and wonder: why have the words garage rock become so dirty? Especially when a garage-rock explosion of sorts seems to be going off all around us.

Few want to be tagged as such — though their affection for three chords; adoration of the square-one pleasures of guitar, bass, and drums; and love of a classic pop hook are out there for all to see. Does retro spell lame-o in a year beset with cultural, economic, and political change?

Not if you recall the last late-’90s/early-’00s garage rock resurgence, which arrived on the heels of a boom in tech-sector/dot-com creativity and coincided with a burgeoning home-recording underground — a rough, eerie corollary of the ’60s-era moment when British Invasion bands sparked a zillion garage-rock combos. No coincidence, I believe, that as digital home recording and online musical dissemination made it possible for every guy’s and girl’s band to reach a wide audience, so too did a world open up for vinyl and analog lovers of the most hidden and once-unheard-of musical niches, who were suddenly able to find newbie listeners.

So perhaps change, of the most DIY variety, is the very reason why so many bands in the Bay Area — and out past our waters where Wavves, Vivian Girls, and Jay Reatard ripple — are tapping into the garage-rock vein that oldsters like Legendary Stardust Cowboy (who bunks down in the South Bay) would recognize as similar to their own. Do you have an affinity for the early blues-based rock ‘n’ roll that can be traced from Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins to the Rolling Stones and the Kinks to their alternately upbeat and haunted progeny the Troggs, the Seeds, the 13th Floor Elevators, and San Jose’s Chocolate Watchband, then onto ’80s revivalists like the Lyres, the Scientists, the Cynics, and the Fuzztones, and further on to late-’90s wavers like the White Stripes, the Dirtbombs, the Detroit Cobras, and the Von Bondies?

Noisy, psychy, punky, gay, straight, sweet or grating — however you twist it, the current nu–garage rock explosion in the Bay is nowhere near as easy to tag, bag, and classify. How do you reconcile the ear-burning blast of Mayyors with the sweetly contrarian kicks of the Nodzzz’s "I Don’t Wanna (Smoke Marijuana)"? The latter’s parentheses are crucial here because theirs is a cry against easy conformity, really, rather than drugs ("I don’t wanna smoke marijuana… I just wanna get high / On another drug!"). Subverting the white-straight-boy paradigm also seems to be part of the plan for outfits like Hunx and His Punx, and the LaTeenOs.

Eric Friedl — owner of esteemed Memphis garage rock label-shop Goner Records and ex-member of the Oblivions — has noticed the rock ‘n’ roll energy surge coming off of SF: Sic Alps and the Oh Sees played 2008’s Gonerfest, and Goner releases by Ty Segall and Nobunny are on the horizon. "For whatever reason we like the bands coming out of there," Friedl says of the Bay. "In the ’90s there seemed like a lot was going on, and then it kind of died out, but yeah, I think it goes in cycles. People got tired of the garage-rock bands in the late ’90s, and it took ’em another five or six years to get back to straight-ahead rock ‘n’ roll."

Geoffrey Ellis, who puts out the zine Sadkids and documented Bay Area bands’ excursions out to Gonerfest, agrees. "It seems like in the last few years [garage rock] has hit its stride where it hadn’t existed for a while and was pretty relegated to undergroundish types of scenes," says the graphic designer whose garage rock images will be exhibited as part of "Rock Show," a group photo exhibit. "But now it’s just taken off everywhere."

Still, for all the new activity and faces, one of the pleasures of garage rock remains the breaking out of musty ole vinyl and listening to the San Jose–born Count Five’s "Psychotic Reaction," the Standell’s "Try It," and the Human Beinz’s "Nobody But Me" — and wondering where my Music Machine LP is. The last so-called garage-rock revival gave you the impression that the bands weren’t so much listening to the, er, originals as much as each other — many of those groups’ general raw sound seemed to be the main reason why they were dubbed garage rock, apart from some true believers and record collectors in Detroit. Garage rock was a somewhat commercial brand last time around. But this current surge seems content to ride tides far from marketable shores, melding garage rock’s ruff ‘n’ tough joys with surf riffs, hardcore aggression, proto-metal heavitude, or psychedelic exploration.

These bands seem closer to the scenario that Don Waller wittily sketched out in the liner notes to a Nuggets ’80s reissue: "The typical punkadelic band came from some suburban Anywheresville and consisted of one kid who’d grown up copying Chet Atkins licks on his uncle’s hollow-body, another who’d had 10 years of classical piano lessons, a hyperactive woodshop dropout on drums, a lead singer with a range of three and a half notes, and a bass player brought in for his ability to attract girls."

The garage may be gone, if altogether nonexistent, for many in the densely populated Bay Area. But considering that even the purportedly first garage-rock combo, Tacoma, Wash.’s fresh-faced Wailers (who made a big impression on the Kingsmen with their own "Louie Louie"), wryly made a big deal of recording in a "proper environment … namely a recording studio," in the liner notes of Out of Our Tree (Etiquette, 1966), the hands-on wherewithal of today’s bands isn’t so far from that of yesteryear’s ensembles.

"Pushin’ Too Hard"? For a while there "everyone was too self-conscious," opines Carlos Bermudez of Photobooth and Snakeflower 2, "but now there are a lot of bands that are doing well and playing sloppy again — all the garage stuff that people seemed to have grown out of. Schlocky fun party music is starting to happen again."


Through April 7; reception Sun/1, 6 p.m.

Rite Spot Café

2099 Folsom, SF




The former plunges fists-first into ’00s-y sing-along fun and an ’80s synth-sensitivity vibe; the latter duo into grrrly lo-fi. With Railcars. Thurs/29, 9 p.m., $5. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Where’s the dance party? It’s wherever the pair’s primal pop is hopping. Their new Grand (Fader) sneaks up on you with its larger-than-life lowdown. With Hawnay Troof. Mon/2, 8 p.m., $10. Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


Fresh jam


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER The perfectly passive postmodern approach to pop nostalgia? Allow the milky waves of 1970s, ’80s, and ’90s retro navel-gazer rehash to simply wash over you — like so many warm, narcotic jets of synthetic baby formula. The opposite tact is the one that San Francisco trio Mi Ami takes: reject the rockist, retread trappings of the old and stale and make new and likely original sounds from a place of authenticity and openness. Breathe. Good. An excellent example might be Mi Ami’s recent spasm of songwriting after the completion of their debut, Watersports, out Feb. 17 on Quarterstick: the jams weren’t quite "up to snuff," as vocalist-guitarist Daniel Martin-McCormick puts it. But the essential flow was restored after drummer Damon Palermo spoke up in favor of letting the songs flow and allowing the changes to happen naturally rather than getting clogged with details.

"We started opening the songs up and started letting the changes happen naturally," explains the clear-eyed Martin-McCormick on this clear-skied, brilliant, balmy winter day in the Mission District. "I feel like when it works, it’s really great because it doesn’t seem like something locked in by something like repetitions of four. But at the same time, when it doesn’t work it can be kind of frustrating because it’s just like trying to have a conversation when you’re just not feeling it. It has to be like a lived experience. You can’t fake it."

You might not know it from glancing at the tall, lanky, check-shirted bandmates stalking down Alabama Street in search of coffee and nutrients at Atlas Cafe, but Martin-McCormick — a former member of Dischord punk outfit Black Eyes along with Mi Ami bassist Jacob Long — and the soft-spoken Palermo are pop philosophers of sorts: amiable, laid-back, yet ready to hold forth politely and passionately on their favorite disco singles and free jazz LPs, the multiple meanings one might glean from the title Watersports, or the role African funk guitar might play in, say, pulsing workouts like "The Man in Your House."

It’s easy to get lost in Martin-McCormick’s high-pitched, keening vocals, equal parts no wave nervousness and androgynous nerve; his bursts of scratched-out guitar skronk; Palermo’s primal-power beats; and Long’s reassuringly melodic bass lines. But Mi Ami never over-thinks its lengthy forays into that anxious and pleasure-strewn interzone between improv and noise, space-is-the-place dub and neverending party jams. Like groups such as !!! and the Rapture and locals à la Tussle and Jonas Reinhardt, which Palermo also drums for, Mi Ami sounds as if it was bred on hardcore’s aggression and reborn on a seething dance floor.

Martin-McCormick and Palermo met two years ago, after relocating from the East Coast and Vancouver respectively, while performing at an Adobe Book Shop art opening. The one thing they were sure of: they didn’t want to be a rock band. "Boring!" blurts Martin-McCormick.

"We are a rock band," says Palermo mildly in Atlas’ noisy back patio. "But you know what we’re talking about. There’s a lot of cool bands that are rock bands but a lot of it is a default setup, the structure of the songs and instrumentation."

"I think we came to be a guitar, bass, and drums trio very much on our terms," Martin-McCormick offers. "I didn’t want to play guitar when I started, but I realized that was what I’m best at and began to find ways to play it that suited what I was looking for." Their resistance to rock habit was helped by the fact that Palermo didn’t own a drum set: at first the duo had only two drums between them. They acquired bits as they progressed, while relying on a janky drum machine prone to crapping out at crucial moments — like their September 2007 opening date for No Age at Bottom of the Hill.

The turning point arrived when the twosome ditched the drum machine and put out a Craigslist ad for a bass player in ’07. "We got a few responses," says Martin-McCormick. "One was super confrontational. I wrote that we’re into disco, gamelan, and no wave — and no old people. We wanted someone who was kind of our age-ish. I just didn’t want an 48-year-old dude who was like, ‘I just need to jam!’ This guy wrote back and said, ‘How do you think gamelan musicians learn? They respect their elders, blah-blah-blah. You should go fuck off and die!’ Whoa!"

The second response: a hip-hop producer working with an "awful singer-songwriter." The third: Long, who happened to be roaming Craigslist during his day job.

"There was no going back after that," says Martin-McCormick. Listening to the forward-facing future-rock of Watersports, I’d say there’s little fear of that scenario. *


Fri/23, 10 p.m., $10

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF




The primal beat band got theirs — where’s yours? Thurs/22, 8 p.m., $10. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com


One-man massive energy generator Anthony Petrovic rouses himself from dormancy. With Wooden Shjips and Hank IV. Thurs/22, 9 p.m., $7. Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF. www.sfeagle.com


Going big with bristly, lo-fi garage rock. Fri/23, 9 p.m., $16–$18. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com


The sprawling fusion combo including Pete Escovedo and Sheila E. rocks for autism awareness. With War, El Chicano, and Los Cenzontles. Sat/24, 7:20 p.m., $45–$75. Warfield, 982 Market, SF. www.goldenvoice.com


The selfless Oakland space-rockers dish out For All Mankind (Springman). Sat/24, 9 p.m., $13. Slim’s, 33 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com


He’s watching you watching him. With Nobunny and Bare Wires. Sun/25, 9 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

Mo Biggie


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Wait for it, wait for it: the moment when Jamal Woolard as Notorious B.I.G., a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. Big Poppa, utters, with admirable understatement, "Mo money, mo problems." The woman he married three days after he met her, vocalist Faith Evans (a sad-eyed Antonique Smith), is pregnant but estranged; his spunky protégé Lil’ Kim (Naturi Naughton) is hopping mad that her lover-protector-mentor has dropped her and is instead bossing her in the studio; his original baby mama is miffed that his daughter gets zero Big Poppa time, and his ex-BFF Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie) thinks Biggie is out to get him, and the East Coast vs. West Coast beef is now fully fired up. ‘Nuff said.

"Mo Money Mo Problems" is the obvious alternate title for Notorious, which has the ring of a men’s cologne by Sean "I Am King" Combs, aka Puff Daddy, aka P. Diddy, aka Diddy, the film’s executive producer. It’s certainly more glammy — and feeds into the mythmaking that Combs has been so adept at when it comes to his Bad Boy artists — than Unbelievable: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Notorious B.I.G. (Three Rivers, 2004), the title of the book by Cheo Hodari Coker that this biopic is based on.

The drive-by shooters who killed the legendary rapper, born Christopher Wallace, at the far-too-young age of 24, remain cloaked in mystery, despite the attention given the MC’s murder in Randall Sullivan’s 2002 book, LAbyrinth (Grove/Atlantic) and Nick Broomfield’s ’02 doc Biggie and Tupac, and his death is still embroiled in knotty intrigue, having triggered multiple wrongful-death claims against the Los Angeles Police Department. But of course, history is written by the winners — and those happen to be Combs and Notorious‘ producers, Biggie’s mother Voletta Wallace and Biggie managers Wayne Barrow and Mark Pitts — and in the end, they prefer to skip the speculation and allegations of conspiracy surrounding the rapper’s unsolved murder and focus on the love.

So much like recent musicmaker biopics à la 2007’s Control, which privileged the perspective of Joy Division frontperson Ian Curtis’ wife over his bandmates’, there’s an element of noticeably selective memory-picking to Notorious — even as it tries to play fair with those outside the equation, such as Shakur and Lil’ Kim. The latter has slammed the movie, according to MTV: she believes it hews to the version of history as written by Biggie’s mother and wife and portrays her inaccurately.

Still, director George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honor, Barbershop) seems to have thrived on the tension between a mother who adored Biggie but disapproved of his criminal activities, and label heads and managers aware that the dope-dealing, dues-paying gangsta grind girding Notorious B.I.G.’s lyrics must be shown to authenticate the first-person experiential honesty the rapper was known for. Thus we get a multidimensional Biggie — the big-kid vulnerability he showed to his moms and his "Faith-Faith," as well as the tough, rock-slinging-to-pregnant-crackheads, money-making front. Plenty of respect is also given to the MC’s art, which this rags-to-riches/gats-to-bitches tale (with much due given to a kind of golden-age of hip-hop label patronage in the form of Puffy [Derek Luke] and Biggie’s friendship) reverently visualizes on the street, in the basement, in the studio, and on the arena stage.

Putting his interest in street-level soul, characters less than well-represented in mainstream Hollywood, and his touch with rappers to work, Tillman subtly injects more cinematic interest into his already-dramatic material than it might have had on the page. Biggie’s childhood is washed with glowy, golden hues, while his time dealing on the street is leached of hues and clad in corroded grays, blacks, whites, and browns, until the MC battles another rapper on the sidewalk and color begins to enter the picture.

And unlike 2008’s Cadillac Records, which bought into the overt displays of bling that talent can bring, Tillman and company give adequate shrift to the musicmaking that built Biggie’s renown: the mic is shot as if it’s a grail, swathed in a silvery aura. The symbols of power — such as the Big Daddy Kane–like throne Biggie mounts — speak louder than his kicks, cribs, or cars. And the scenes in which Woolard actually raps — particularly in a basement scene after he emerges from prison and a bout of lyric writing and soul searching — are believable and compelling: flecks of his spit shimmer in the harsh light. Woolard, who grew up blocks from Biggie’s original hood and had a promising career until a shooting in front of NYC’s Hot 97, is the perfect choice to portray the man.

Notorious‘ melodramatic, overly amped conclusion may ring a bit artificial with its drawn-out return to the opening scenes: as "Hypnotize"’s "Rise" sample ripples through the dancers, Notorious B.I.G. says, in flashback, that he’s finally found peace, he’s become a man, and, well, he’s Ready to Die (Bad Boy, 1994), to crib the title of his classic debut. But I dare anyone to not get choked up by Notorious‘ coda, as Voletta Wallace, portrayed with grand-dame grit by Angela Bassett, looks out on the crowd surrounding her son’s NYC funeral procession, playing his music and flinging their arms, and realizes that, though she never quite trusted the easy money and fast friends surrounding her son, Biggie will always be remembered for his way with words.

NOTORIOUS opens Fri/16 in the Bay Area




It’s not a hologram: the roving musicmakers return to the region they once called home. Wed/14, 8 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


They’re dark-eyed and infatuated with gypsy, Yiddish, and Manouche jazz. Wed/14, 8 and 10 p.m., $20–<\d>$25. Yoshi’s SF, 1330 Fillmore, SF. sf.yoshis.com


Cutie-pie pop oozes from the Aussie charmer who once studied acting with Cate Blanchett. Thurs/15, 8 p.m., $13–<\d>$15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


We’re lost in an all-girl punk rock wilderness. Sat/17, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


The popsters go acoustic with tunes from an album-in-progress. Sun/18–Mon/19, 8 p.m., $25. Café Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com.


The acclaimed live performer taps Obama samples for his new single, "No War." Tues/20, 9 p.m., $28. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

So Fox-y


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Wow, 80 years old and such a beauty: I took a peek at Oakland’s Fox Theatre — yes, a distant relation to San Francisco’s late, lamented Fox — before the holiday break and, whoa, wolf whistles. The friendly rival to the Paramount around the corner is definitely beginning to feel like her glam self once more, decked out in a fabulist fantasia of Indian-Moorish finery, and in December, positively glowing beneath the hands of the workers intent on restoring her to her rightful splendor — and upgrading her in key spots with new bathrooms, dressing rooms, balcony seats, and a new Meyer sound system.

The now-2,800-capacity live-music venue operated as a movie house from 1928 until it closed in 1965. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979, the Fox was purchased by the city of Oakland in 1996 — after undergoing the threat of being turned into a parking lot and the indignity of arson, water damage, and neglect — and is now under the aegis of developer Phil Tagami and Another Planet Entertainment, readying to reopen Feb. 5. Its first show is on Feb. 6 with Social Distortion.

According to Another Planet VP Allen Scott, "We have been working on this project for close to four years and there has been a lot of blood, sweat … and now cheers." The Fox will be APE’s flagship venue — showcasing everything from rock to soul to Latin.

Great expectations, yet from the mere look of it, the Fox’s prospects are as marvelous as its beauteous shell. It’s safe for me to say — after walking by the magnificently lit-up neon marquee, tiled towers, and faux-sikhara for years and wondering what was inside — the Fox will not disappoint anyone who wants an eyeful of glorious, orientalist movie-palace exotica. Two Hindu gods look down on shining new floors from the sides of the gold-hued stage, styled to resemble the temples of Palitana, below a highly ornate star-splashed ceiling. The mezzanine: a magic-carpet ride of tiled niches and stenciling patterned after Persian carpets. The venue itself will be topped by Oakland School of the Arts and be flanked by a restaurant and bar that will keep the corner lively when shows aren’t scheduled.

It’s a miraculous save — long coming — for Fox followers like Patricia Dedekian, founding board member of Friends of the Oakland Fox. "Every time I go in there now I start crying because it’s so exciting and emotional," Dedekian said. She hopes to raise money for an endowment for the Fox’s continued preservation and upkeep.

"I used to describe the Fox Oakland as the black hole that sits in center of Uptown," she continued. "It was clear this was a big project waiting to happen. Now I can believe it when I see it."

ZAP! After a horrible fall on Landers Street during a drunken stumble home on the rainy eve of Nov. 1, San Francisco underground artist S. Clay Wilson, 67, is drawing again, reports his partner Lorraine Chamberlain.

Chamberlain is still trying to track down the Good Samaritan — or guardian checkered demon — who found Wilson with a fracture and gash in his head lying between two parked cars, made the 911 call, and waited with the artist till the ambulance arrived — an act that saved the cartoonist from perishing from hypothermia. "He was like a block of ice," Chamberlain told me. "If he had been there a couple more hours they would never have been able to stabilize him." But right now she’s glad that after spending his first two weeks in a semi-coma with a bout of pneumonia, Wilson is attacking his colored pencils and vellum with gusto, making drawings that don’t quite resemble the super-maximalist, sensory-overload, iconoclastic pieces of Zap Comix, though Chamberlain added, "they’re quite good."

Word has it the cartoonist is cracking wise in his room at Davies Medical Center, though he still suffers from aphasia and impaired short-term memory. "He called me in the morning and said he was doing a drawing of hobbling zombies — he said it three times. He meant, rotting zombies," explained Chamberlain, an ex of Frank Zappa’s who coined his nickname, Lumpy Gravy. "He talks on and on about things that aren’t based in reality, and I realized he was doing a verbal drawing, just talking a drawing rather than doing it."

The Christmas artwork he gave her was "pretty hideous. A couple of ugly guys, one guy in a gray suit and a little guy standing there with a muffin tin of steaming piles of shit, and a big ugly guy with a shovel with holes in it and it says, ‘Merry Ex Mass.’"

Wilson is on Medicare, Chamberlain said, but needs continuing care. Thus checks are being sent to S. Clay Wilson, POB 14854, San Francisco, CA 94114, from all over the country — the Jan. 11 fundraiser comes courtesy of his friends in Brutal Sound Effects (a blues benefit happens Jan. 24 at Mojo Lounge, Fremont). Meanwhile Chamberlain can’t wait for Wilson to come home. "I miss him," she said. "He’s a pain in the ass, he’s hard to live with, but I got used to it!"


S. CLAY WILSON BENEFIT, with Anvil Encephalopathy, Liz Allbee/Agnes Szelag, Skullcaster, Loachfillet, Heartworm, Heule/Dryer, and others. Sun/11, 6 p.m., $7–$20 sliding scale. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com




Ex-!!! vocalist John Pugh pushes it further with Madeline Davy in their DFA project. With Landshark. Fri/9, 9:30 p.m., $10–$20. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF. www.dnalounge.com


Claude VonStroke, Justin Martin, Christian Martin, and Worthy get filthy at their first quarterly at the venue. Fri/9, 10 p.m., $10–$15. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com

Prophet sees


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER "I’m going to start smoking again. I’m going to start eating bad and quit working out."

Here, have a few determinedly daft new year’s resolutions from an old hand at San Francisco music-making from Chuck Prophet, who happens to be headlining the old year out at Starry Plough Dec. 31. Don’t say he never gave you anything. But seriously, our Prophet?

Actually ’09 vows are the last thing Prophet wants to be burdened with. "I’m just lazy," the singer-songwriter confesses from his South of Market mini-HQ. "Why would I put any more assignments on myself?"

You know what he means. New Year’s resolutions — what better way to hang an albatross round the old oak tree and set yourself up for FAILblog? Still, ’tis the season, and I have a few ideas on how to institute change in this recession-wracked music scene, inspired by the last time the pink slips flew round the turn of the century, post-tech boom. Call these my "Keep the Scene Strong Goals for ’09," all related to stamping out the scourge of many a creative milieu: passive consumption. Though, hell, who even has the time and cash to consume very much these days?

— Engagement. It’s as simple as talking to the performer after the show. And no, I don’t mean hit on the band. Instead, start a dialogue — of either the positive or constructively critical ilk — with your friendly neighborhood musicmaker. Who wants to play into a void, to a passive, glazed-look blank generation? Feedback ain’t just a whole lotta noise. If the spirit moves you, feel free to buy those hard-working musicians and DJs a round of drinks. The Hemlock’s $1 bag of hot peanuts is a nice gesture.

— Dance. OK, the early ’00s saw a rock crew shook it up at shows, but San Francisco is slipping, regaining that bad reputation of resembling zombie-like, arms-folded slabs of tofu. Hold up your end of the bargain and get a move on.

— Stretch. Yes, stretching before dancing helps with muscle aches. But I mean listen to new sounds. If you’re a metal dude, lend an ear to weird new America-style folk — think about Zep’s connections betwixt loud and languorous. If you’re an indie rock chippie check into Fania salsa reissues; a gangster rap head, a bit of death metal or a dab of indie-literati-pop.

— Prepare yourself for the worst — and possibly the best. Everyone’s wondering if they’re going to be laid off or face a work drought in ’09. Instead resolve to put that anxious energy and restless imagination to good use. Come up with some nice, meaty, beaty post-layoff projects. Take up an instrument, even if it is simply a shareware synthesizer. Switch up your recorded listening by swapping records or MP3s with pals — or dive into an affair like KUSF-FM’s Rock ‘n’ Swap on Jan. 11 (www.kusf.org/rocknswap.shtml). Throw a show at your abode, or better yet, put on a free music happening in a public space (i.e., the Toxic Beach throw-downs, mobile Flag Day jamboree).

Sure, everyone knows resolutions are made to be broken. Even Prophet spurned his faux resolutions after we spoke, via e-mail: "So last night after eating cereal for dinner, passing out watching the Food channel, I’ve decided my NY resolution is to cook more often. Taking up smoking is a bit daft, I have to admit." Tasty words — and food — for thought.


Wed/31, 9:30 p.m., $26.50

Starry Plough

3101 Shattuck, Berk.


For more from Chuck Prophet, go to Noise blog at sfbg.com.


"Budget Rock-er, zine scribe, lover, drunkard"

1. Hank IV, Refuge in Genre (Siltbreeze) They’ve made SF home to Earth’s greatest punk band once again.

2. Nothing People, Anonymous (S-S) They only play great shows, release great records, etc.

3. The Hospitals, Hairdryer Peace (Stonehouse) Ear-splitter of the year, without question.

4. Buzzer, Disco Kiddz EP (Douche Master) Glam, proto, pub — it’s all here.

5. Nobunny, Love Visions (Bubbledumb) Punk parody is always a winning concept.

6. Colossal Yes, Charlemagne’s Big Thaw (Ba Da Bing) Piano pop-psych crafted in a totally winning fashion.

7. Wounded Lion, "Pony People" 7-inch (S-S) Pop that is both brainy and fun.

8. Mayyors, both 7-inches (self-released) Mayyors wow with sheer force of volume.

9. Scarecrow and the Shuckers at the Stork Club

10. Thee Oh Sees, The Hounds of Foggy Notion CD/DVD (Castle Face) I’ll take this over their recent hit LP.



The Bay Area original makes the leap from his longtime NYE venue at the Fillmore. With Zappa Plays Zappa and Tim Fite. Wed/31, 8 p.m., $69–<\d>$126. War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness, SF. www.goldenvoice.com


NYE Hemlock reg This Bike is joined by the SF troupe Kelley Stoltz describes as "fun SF weirdness without the Burning Man remorse." Wed/31, 9 p.m., $10. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Most definitely "Sneakers Required" with DJs like Apollo and Sake One. Wed/31, 9 p.m., call for price. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787.


Funny fellahs W. Kamau Bell, Bucky Sinister, and Nato Green issue their response to all the ‘WHOOOOOOHOOOOO!’ that typically goes down on NYE. Wed/31, 7:30 and 10 p.m., $30 (friendofkamau discount code for $10 off). Phoenix Theatre, 414 Mason, SF. www.brownpapertickets.com/event/50525

Crystal magic


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Light a candle, burn a wand of sage, and singe your bangs. Then fondle a frosty pink hunk of rose quartz and ask the goddess, "Are crystals the new wolves — or at least the new bears? Maybe even the new alps/mountains?" ‘Cause I swear, I’m not a miner — ’49-er, tweenie-bopper, or otherwise — but I can almost smell the crystals everywhere. Especially when it comes to artist-band names like Crystal Castles, Crystal Stilts, Crystal Waters, and wow, now juxtaposing crystal with defensive head-growths, Crystal Antlers.

I clash gently this sparkling SOMA morning with said smiling, scruffy, shambolic Long Beach combo — half chimney sweeps by day and all capable of metamorphosing magically into fierce psych-garage warriors by the light of a mountain-wolf-bear moon. The obvious question goes to tousled vocalist-bassist Jonny Bell, his hoodie bunched over his brow in the very un-Cali cold and just roused from his slumber at Closer Recording where the band is completing its first full-length: what is it about crystals that resonates? Is this a conspiracy (of beards)? And more importantly — the goddess craves a response after spotting those vaginal folds on the cover of Crystal Antlers’ recent self-titled Touch and Go EP — do you believe in crystal magic?

"Yeah, well, we came up with the name three years ago, so we didn’t know about those other bands," mumbles Bell, weary of being given the crystal shit. "We’ve done a lot of interviews where they ask about that, and I’ve given a lot of sarcastic answers." The non-sarcastic rejoinder? "It sounded fragile."

No wonder the band leader is a wee bit wary about conjuring a name for the Crystal Antlers’ album, due out in April, which he says sports mellow and ambient musical percolations as well as "more of a soul influence." Crystal Antlers have been gobbling up old soul from ’60s Miami like Della Humphrey and George McRae and spilling out their own revamp — strained through the filter of their punk background and miles away from the well-inked and -oiled Daptone/Mark Ronson new-old-school. Judging from the EP produced by Mars Volta’s Isaiah "Ikey" Owens, Crystal Antlers roam another neck of the woods altogether: a noisier, more distorted dead meadow where hirsute beasties like Comets on Fire and Mammatus roam near Holy Mountains, where Andrew King’s careening guitar skirts squalling psych-cacophony and Victor Rodriguez’s textural, low-screaming organ revels in a garage-goth parking lot, out behind the rock ‘n’ roll wilderness preserve.

"We wanted to try to play beyond our abilities," Bell says of the recording. "I think we’re always trying to push our limits, and a lot of stuff on the EP was really difficult for us. None of us have any formal training." Noisy, dark matter far from the manic weekday traffic tearing down Howard Street as the Crystal Antlers tuck into eggs and bagels at a café near the studio.

It’s the kind of recession-strapped, pre-Christmas week — a ruthless admixture of hope and fear — that brings out the take-that holiday light displays in the Mission and makes it a great moment to get your fill of your friendly neighborhood Bay Area bands, as the clubs stock up on local talents choosing to staycation. Instead Crystal Antlers are here, forsaking primo chimney sweep season ("I can write songs while laying bricks," explains Bell. "It’s a nice contrast to sitting in a van") to record with engineer Joe Goldring (the Enablers, Touched by a Janitor). Today they’ll track keyboards, saxophone, and vocals, though Bell caught a cold from bunking down in their veggie-oil van during last week’s hail.

At least they’re out of the vehicle — now convalescing on a SoMa byway — though Bell is proud that it got the band out and on tour on a single tank of diesel. "Ten thousand miles and we only used one tank of diesel fuel the whole time. We were able to find vegetable oil all around the country," he says. "We filled up when we were leaving for the tour. We didn’t go to a single gas station the whole time on the way back." The group’s recent Fuck Yeah tour with Monotonix, Dan Deacon, the Death Set, and others was similarly veggie-oil-fueled, though somewhat nuttier from the sound of the stories of smashed vans and spilled instruments that drummer and kindred chimney sweep Kevin Stuart regales me with. There was also that time when Crystal Antlers were in Oakland, touring with Canada’s Fucked Up, and Bell offers, munching, "Kevin forgot to lock the trailer."

"Hey, I didn’t forget it!" Stuart protests. "That was Fucked Up’s fault!"

"We started driving," continues Bell, "and all their stuff started falling out onto the freeway." Word from the goddess: unlock that Crystal power — with limits. *


With Two Gallants and the Tallest Man on Earth

Fri/26, 9 p.m., $20


1805 Geary, SF




Hamsters unite! The Invisibl Skratch Pikl re-emerges. With Mochipet and Joyo Velarde. Fri/26, 9 p.m., $20. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


The Meters percussion mainstay whoops it up for his b-day. With Bhi Bhiman. Sat/27, 9 p.m., $20. Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


Gift of Gab’s Mighty Underdogs project weighs in at this hefty indie hip-hop hoedown. Sat/27, 9 p.m., $26.50. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. www.livenation.com


Having a cracked Cracker-Camper Christmas comedown — and how good it is. Sat/27, 9 p.m., $23. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


The Brooklyn-by-way-of-SF wolf king grows starry-eyed with the winsome Brittany-born Beam warbler at an Antenna Farm convo. With the Naked Hearts. Sat/27, 9:30 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Skating, designing, music-making — Tommy Guerrero veers off from Jet Black Crayon with his birthday bash band at this SF Food Bank benefit. With Marc and the Casuals. Tues/30, 8 p.m., $6–$10 sliding scale. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com

Club hubbub


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER You don’t have to look back very far to find those purple waves of nostalgia lapping at your heels — just take a glance at Beyoncé’s drippy gloss on Etta James in Cadillac Records. Knowles’ star power may have got the Chess Records story made, sorta, but isn’t Oakland homegirl Keyshia Cole better suited to play Fillmore-tough girl-gangster James? Still, sometimes the new is an improvement over the old, such as my fave iPhone toy-app, Brian Eno’s and Peter Chilvers’ music-making "Bloom." So preferable to Eno’s recent studio collabo with David Byrne, the app allows me to generate my own piano-note ambient beauties, which blossom and fade like ephemeral flowers.

And nostalgia was what washed over me when I dropped in on the first of San Francisco’s brave new clubs on a hectic holiday-soiree-strewn weekend — and I mean brave because these nightlife believers have to be to launch a nightspot during this economically rocky era. Oh, the shows and the tales surrounding the old Paradise Lounge! A particularly poignant yarn about Kiss’ Ace Frehley drowning his sorrows solo at the bar in the early ’90s came to mind while I checked out the venue’s latest iteration at 1501 Folsom (www.paradisesf.com). Lo, few were waxing wistful on Friday night as the club’s holiday party went into overdrive in the ex-Above Paradise space. Raucous club-scene working stiffs scooped up Oola nibbles and $1 well drinks to what sounded like favela funk, and a solid lineup of DJs including Omar, Robot Hustle, and Safety Scissors was set to fill the decks serving the two dance floors. If these walls could talk, they’d ramble like the countercultured bastard offspring of Bucky Sinister and Penelope Houston.

The downstairs central bar, one of four throughout the club, has been done up with moodily futuristic LED lights. Outfitted with velvety booths, the mezzanine includes a crow’s-nest-style DJ booth that can move anywhere — all this after about eight months of permitting and remodeling, director of marketing Erik Lillquist told me. Since then the venue — subtly changed yet comfortingly the same with a certain scuffed, been-there-done-that quality — seems to be starting to establish its DJ-dominated identity: Honey Soundsystem holds down Sundays with special soirees planned a là the Dec. 20 date with Legowelt. "We’re taking the economy into consideration," said Lillquist, citing the club’s drink specials and discounted entries. "We’re just trying to create a good vibe and fit into the neighborhood, not be a velvet rope club."

That velvet rope, however, was in full effect — with nary a nostalgic wrinkle in the house — at ultra-lounge Infusion (www.infusionlounge.com), attached to Hotel Fusion at 140 Ellis and set for a grand opening New Year’s Eve. I got a sneak peek at the 6,000-square-foot, quasi-Chinese-themed crimson, ebony, amber, and ivory decor, dreamed up by Hong Kong designer Kinney Chan, with its tasteful but dramatic sectional lounge area beside a downlow DJ booth and elevated meditation pool. Columns dappled in scarlet light were swathed by electrical-volt-like geometric screens. A 2,000-square-foot lounge deeper within the club was lined with low couches and frosted glass columns — ready for a private party or fashion show. A fusion, true, of Pacific Rim exoticism and sleek contemporary design — and ultra with a capital "u": NYE VIP bottle service with a reserved couch, a bottle of Veuve bubbly and Ciroc vodka, and four tickets goes for, whoa, $950. Here’s hoping the life-sized animated interactive hologram is cooler than CNN’s election-day Will.i.am. Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.

On to Atmosphere (www.a3atmosphere.com) at 447 Broadway, where I’m feeling no throwback pangs for the Amusement Center that once filled the now weathered-wood-brick-faux-grass lofty space. The Salon, a lady-pulling party with makeup demos and complimentary champagne, is on, and though Atmosphere appears to be ironing out a few kinks — the masseuse who was supposed to give gratis rubdowns was absent — the relatively new nightspot was popping with a diverse Asian, white, black, and brown crowd while DJ Solomon mashed up techno and New Order. As I inhaled a bubble or two, a clutch of women attempted to shake it on the dance floor as a growing cadre of guys looked on, seemingly terrified to leave their spot beside the glowing bar decorated with waterfall sculpture-paintings. Nostalgia? I felt like I was at a high school dance — c’mon, people, dance together. Still, the crowd outside — looking for fun amid the onetime Barbary rollercoaster of North Beach — and the flood of new faces pouring into Atmosphere made me give the space a double-take. Just when you relinquished the neighborhood to the tourists …


How to describe the comedy magic these men called Stella — Michael Showalter, Michael Ian Black, and David Wain — make together? "It’s the nature of three friends who’ve been working together for 20 years now and our own slightly weird chemistry," Wain, 39, told me from Chicago, where the comedians, who met at NYU and found renown thanks to their online shorts, were readying to perform to a sold-out crowd. The sweet-tempered Wain recently gathered raves as the director-writer of Role Models, but now he was "kind of beyond belief," having driven late into the night in the freezing cold from Minneapolis. The payoff has been the shows, which include "silliness, laughing, some singing and dancing, a slide show, and audience participation," in addition to a new short about Showalter’s birthday. It seems like Stella is successfully persevering years after Comedy Central brought its series to a quick end. "On one hand I can’t blame them [for canceling the show] because it was really low-rated," said Wain. "But on the other hand I do blame them because it clearly had a vocal and obsessed following. Only after 10 episodes did we get a chance to figure out how it worked."

STELLA Fri/12, 8 p.m., $29.50. Wheeler Auditorium, Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley, Berk.


Streetlight serenade


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER ‘Tis the season to max out with shopping merriment, and San Francisco still being a record-picking spot of worldwide renown, it’s bittersweet to flip through this year’s handsome UK gifty-paperback, Old Rare New: The Independent Record Shop (Black Dog), and spy the "hi-de-ho"-ing Cab Calloway logo of the late, lamented Village Music in Mill Valley. Such an overflowing vinyl goldmine till it shuttered last year — another victim of high rents and a wildly fluctuating music marketplace. The book is far from perfect: was Amoeba Music ever called Amoeba Records, and why isn’t Grooves listed in the US store directory?

But Old Rare New has its heart in the right place in its offhand celebration of brick ‘n’ mortar music trolling, filled out with short Q&As with collector-head artists like Chan Marshall, Quiet Village’s Joel Martin, and Cherrystones’ Gareth Goddard. It’s refreshing to get an eyeball of Byron Coley’s contrarian ‘tude: if independent music stores are going bye-bye, he writes, "Don’t blame me or my record scum buddies. We’re still as idiotically interested in fetishizing vinyl product as we ever were, but we’re all getting goddamned old, and we’re not being replaced in a fast and timely manner."

Nonetheless, it’s sad to see Open Mind Music in the US store directory, still listed at 342 Divisadero even though owner Henry Wimmer closed that locale long ago, reopened at 2150 Market, and then — argh! — closed that storefront at the end of October to concentrate on online sales (a small Open Mind record enclave, however, remains within the collective-run Other Shop II at 327 Divisadero). Also not listed — and why not with such reissue jewels as Brigitte Fontaine and Areski Belkacem’s L’Incendie (Byg, 1974) and Humble Pie’s Town and Country (Immediate, 1969)? — is Streetlight Records in Noe Valley, set to close on Jan. 31.

Codgers in the know will recall the days when Aquarius sat a few doors down from Streetlight, making the spot a twofer destination for serious LP trawling. Streetlight took up the indie and avant slack in the area when Aquarius moved to Valencia Street: amid its substantial vinyl selection, you can dig up Les Georges Leningrad’s Deux Hot Dogs Moutarde Chou (Les Records Coco Cognac, 2002) on red vinyl and TITS’ and Leopard Leg’s estrogen-athon split-LP Throughout the Ages (Upset the Rhythm, 2006). Deals can be had with the 10 percent-off-everything sale that kicked off on Black Friday.

The ever-increasing gentrification of the street — the mob in front of Starbucks was nutty on a recent Sunday morn — has definitely had an impact on the shop, according to manager Sunlight Weismehl, who has worked at the 32-year-old flagship store for more than two decades. "I believe over the years the area has become a destination for high-end houses," he says, "and the artists and working class have been pushed aside as they have in many neighborhoods. Because of that we don’t get as many people coming in during the day." The San Jose and Santa Cruz Streetlights are doing fine, and the Streetlight at Market and Castro reaps the benefit of better foot traffic.

One twist concerning the 24th Street store’s demise: Streetlight isn’t getting kicked out by greedy out-of-town landlords — they’re closing themselves down. Streetlight owner Robert Fallon owns the Noe Valley shop’s building. "I believe he feels that the rent in the neighborhood is higher than what we’re paying," explains Weismehl.

In an effort to stay afloat and pay its way, the manager says the store tried to "touch on everything. We certainly tried to have strong international, jazz, and roots sections and to try to serve the neighborhood as much as possible. Half crazy obscure things and half whatever the neighborhood is looking for."

And Noe Valley music mavens have reacted in kind. "We’ve been getting a lot of responses ranging from writing letters to the owner to just saying they’ll be sad when we’re gone. Some say it’s the last thing they came down to the street for," Weismehl says, adding that with Real Foods gone and the neighboring video store closed, "it’s a question of how much [the remaining] shops serve the neighborhood." Not to mention the fact that there’s one less accommodating spot that will keep on a touring musician: Weismehl recalls such staffers as Rova’s Bruce Ackley, Comets on Fire’s Noel Harmonson, Sebadoh’s and Everest’s Russ Pollard, and Unwritten Law’s Pat Kim. And after Jan. 31? I’m going to have borrow a baby stroller to feel even remotely at home in the hood.



ShockHound music site parties up its launch with a free show by the LA noise duo and the Glen Rock, N.J., rock five-piece, now signed to XL. Thurs/4, 7 p.m., free with RSVP at www.shockhound.com. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com


SF indies give it up for this Talking House CD of carols. With the Trophy Fire, the Heavenly States, and more. Fri/5, 8:30 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Expect a jammed club for the prescient Murs for President MC. Fri/5, 10 p.m., $15–<\d>$20. Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck, Berk. www.shattuckdownlow.com


The now-NorCal-dwelling soul-OG Darondo is spreading the deep magic. With Wallpaper and Nino Moschella. Fri/5, 9 p.m., $16–<\d>$21. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com


Energy 92.7’s takes off for the fourth year with Cyndi Lauper, Michelle Williams, Lady GaGa, Morgan Page, and others. Sat/6, 8 p.m., $36–<\d>$46. Grand Ballroom at Regency Center, 1300 Van Ness, SF. www.ticketmaster.com


The SF garage-punk scrappers return from their luminary-littered East Coast tour and join the souped-up Sacto rock unit. With Traditional Fools. Sat/6, 9 p.m., $7. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com


Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart produced the SF band’s Cities vs. Submarines EP (Gold Robot) in his kitchen. With Religious Girls and Halcyonaire. Tues/9, 9 p.m., $8. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com

Kickin’ ‘bot


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER A mashed-up stock market and credit-crunked fiscal outlook be damned — just what does the music industry have to do to make you part with your overly stretched entertainment dollar? Pay you to buy, Joe Deflation? Bookended by the double-B bombshells — Beyonce’s Nov. 18-released I Am … Sasha Fierce (Sony) and Britney Spears’ Dec. 2-scheduled Circus (Jive) — this week is likely major-label ground zero for pre-holiday CD releases — ready to tantalize us, peering through Pepto Bismol-smeared turkey goggles, with toothsome collaborations, tempt us with superstar potential, and dazzle with gleaming newness.

I’m taking a cue from a future-focused Kanye West and feeding a few Nov. 24 (Island Def Jam got a jump on the traditional Tuesday release date) and 25 releases to the trusty Micro-Reviewbot, our neutral yet far from neutered critical assessment generator, which will hold these discs up against infuriatingly fuzzy expectations and objectively critique said recordings. The exception: Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy (Interscope) — because it’s hard to review an album when, at press time, the label allows Micro-Reviewbot to listen to only two tracks. But hey, why spoil the shock and awe? Careful now, Micro-Reviewbot can’t not tell the truth. Micro-Reviewbot only knows how to speak truth — to power and powerless alike. All systems go, Micro-Reviewbot!


Anticipation level: Smokin’ high, tempered with likely some ambivalence about Graduation‘s Daft Punk-Takashi Murakami-Chris Martin alliances. Has West hitched his wagon to one too many trendoids? Still, we are spared the faux drama of a 50 Cent feud with the advance of 808s’ release date.

Micro-Reviewbot’s pop-psych diagnosis: Frankly, Kanye sounds depressed. I know the self-proclaimed genius of rap is working through some deep shit: he broke up with his fiancée, and his mom died a year ago during cosmetic surgery.

Witness the way West has dug himself so deeply into his Afro-futurist themes and coolly digitized sonic landscape. This space-age ice-cold killer is taking the next spaceship from reality, pronto, while yodeling through a thicket of effects, "See you in my nightmares, suckers!" You wouldn’t know that the political/cultural change is breaking out all over this month — straight from the 808, a.k.a., native-born Barack Obama’s Hawaii, where West recorded this album using, a-ha, a Roland TR-808 drum machine. Instead, Kanye has taken refuge in something he can rely on: the love between a man and his Vocoder — or rather, a man and his Auto-Tune plug-in. Still, the songs on the dampened-down 808s and Heartbreak continue to grow on Micro-Reviewbot.

Alternative: Ludacris’ take-that, mob-inciting Theater of the Mind (Disturbing Tha Peace) — with a guest cast including TI, T-Pain, Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, Nas, the Game, Rick Ross, Chris Rock, Jamie Foxx, and Spike Lee — also out Nov. 24. It’s as if Ludi hadn’t ever abandoned the rap game for the cineplex — even if his references tend to ride a pop culture loop of I Hate Chris and Any Given Sunday more readily than anything resembling clichéd gangbanger reality.


Expectations: Fall Out Boy feuds and suits by ex-managers aside, it’s hard to gauge, considering their paean to Wal-Mart moms, Sam’s Town, surprised everyone by taking a left turn from the guilty-pleasure deca-dance-pop of "Somebody Told Me" toward Broooce-fearing Freedom Rock, a then-untapped ’80s retro vein — and shocked further by going Putf8um.

Micro-Reviewbot’s stays-in-Vegas assessment: are the Killers trying to tell us something by opening with a track titled "Losing Touch"? Somebody told the Sin City band they had to drop that Broooce crush that made them look like the girlfriends they had in February 1983. It’s not confidential. They’ve got potential, so they mixed touches of anthemic melody lines, glockenspiel, and sax appeal with more nods to the dance-pop crowd (the cringe-inducing "Joy Ride"). These new-new rock romantics want to have their epics (thundering "A Dustland Fairytale") and eat, too (U2-y pop hit "Human").

Alternative: Look for further throw-away kicks from English-New Zealand trash pleash Ladyhawke — not to be confused with stateside indie vets Ladyhawk — and her weird combo of DIY-rock trappings (the new self-titled Modular/Interscope CD sports rough sketches of a head-banded hipster chick and kittens) and slick electro-pop odes to lovers jetting over the Atlantic, whizzing synth details, and artificial hand claps.


Waxy critical buildup: a quiet storm has been building among graying ’80s-era fans and young ‘uns cognizant of the renewed relevance of the pair’s Talking Heads work and their last co-written full-length, My Life in the Bush of Ghosts (Sire, 1981).

Micro-Reviewbot’s "I Am … Fierce" take: the ironic-naïf act is wearing thin. Micro-Reviewbot wants to like Everything, but finds its attention consistently drifting, mid-listen. Likely the best Byrne album in years, though the promise of bitingly ironic opener "Home" and the C&W-laced "My Big Nurse" soon degenerates with obvious Radiohead dig, "I Feel My Stuff," a jab at the crit darlings’ chilly electronic bricolage, which goes terribly wrong in a Midnite Vultures-style Pro-Tools-is-crack kind of way. Except Midnite Vultures is actually more listenable. Sonically songs like "Everything That Happens" are lovely — scattered with plangent piano tinkles and aquatic guitar lines — but perhaps it’s too much to ask elders like Byrne and Eno to eschew the non-Viagra-like sax and trudging tempos on tunes such as "Life Is Long" and find some genuine energy.

Alternative: Shhh, how about giving Micro-Reviewbot a little quiet digestion time for a change? *

Clean and saber


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER All allusions to Guns ‘N Roses much-contemplated, way-overthought, über-delayed ejaculation Chinese Democracy (Interscope) aside — is there such a thing as being too brainy or geeky to rock? Some might have pegged the cerebral, multi-syllable-slinging Decemberists as such: with its Brit-wave and Elephant 6 pop-literati influences, the band seemed to herald an aughtsy-totsy wave of archly smart indie pop (e.g., Arcade Fire) that drew from both stage-y American standards and college-radio playlists — theirs was less college rock than a college-educated rock. Add in the renown surrounding Decemberists’ 2005 San Francisco show, which cut "Chimbley Sweep" with a light saber duel, and eventually touched off playful competition with Stephen Colbert, and you’ve gotta wonder, how nerdy can one band get?

Well, attribute it to roving minds and too much drink, according to ever-cogitating, multi-tasking band leader Colin Meloy, 34. "I try not to be totally static onstage," drawls the songwriter by phone from his Portland, Ore., home as his 2-year-old son freaks out. "Typically if I go see a rock show, I just want to see a rock show and have the songs speak for themselves. But we’ll do gags, audience participation. Stuff born out of boredom and drunkenness."

Meloy and company’s restive imaginations most recently spawned a series of three singles titled Always the Bridesmaid, composed of tunes recorded last March but which weren’t quite right for the group’s March 2009 Capitol album, The Hazards of Love. The first 12-inch included "Valerie Plame," a jubilant shout-out, bustling with feisty accordion and brass, to the all-too-exposed CIA operative. "I would be listing to the radio and making dinner and hearing about Valerie Plame and what struck me was how perfectly the cadence of her name was for a pop song," Meloy explains. "’Valerie’ has been used in a lot of pop songs — there’s something about the first stressed syllable in a three-syllable name and the cadence onward, and the beautiful punctuation of the last name. It was just screaming to have a pop song written around it."

The last single — with the prettily melancholic, banjo-bedecked "Record Year" and the wistful, acoustic guitar-glittered "Raincoat Song" — comes next month. "I think it might be the only thing we ever released in December," quips Meloy.

As for the long-awaited LP, which the combo will likely play in its entirety on tour next spring, Meloy describes it as an "experimental narrative" forged after listening to a lot of old folk songs as filtered through ’60s-era British revivalists. "I noticed common elements were popping up and I thought it would be interesting to take those individual elements and throw them together in an extended song and see what sort of narrative it would create," he says.

"These days, to be a musician and to be constantly immersed in music, your outlook on music changes drastically," continues Meloy. "I find I rarely get the spine-tingling moments from music anymore. I think I’m jaded and immersed — you know how you work in a pizza place and get sick of pizza — and the spine-tingling moments are few and far between, but I find I’m rediscovering those moments in old folk songs. I find it in songs that make me weepy but have been around for centuries." *


Tues/25, 8 p.m., $30


982 Market, SF



The comedy duo didn’t go entirely up in smoke with the ’80s: so-called "grumpy old stoners" Cheech and Chong return to the Bay for their first show in SF in, like, forever (Chong said manager Lou Adler’s feud with Bill Graham led to their blackballing), with a concert film in the works. How has the gray matter been, retaining the routines? "It’s all body memory," says the personable Chong, 70, from his Arizona stop. He attributes his skills and timing to writing and playing music. "I got my early comedy training with black jazz musicians. They are, without a doubt, the funniest people on the planet." Meanwhile the pair doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to each other. According to Chong, Marin initially pulled out of their act because "he wanted to play golf and get fat and get invited to parties," whereas Marin, 62, says he visited Chong once in the pen, but never got close to incarceration himself: "I’m smarter than that." So Martha Stewart is paying tribute to the twosome at their forthcoming roast? "She’s an ex-con," Marin wisecracks. "She relates to Tommy because she was in the joint."

Sun/23, 8 p.m., $39.50–$59.50. Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California, SF. www.livenation.com



I like their math, class. Wed/19, 8 p.m., $20–$22. Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. www.bimbos365club.com


The Dead Hensons, TopR, the Missing Teens, and others make the chemistry happen. Sat/22, 8 p.m., $12 (free with project). Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. mighty119.com


You like to watch — and watch you will: the only way to catch Akon, Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em, Spinto Band, and other YouTube stars at Fort Mason is online. Sat/22, 5 p.m., free. www.youtube.com/live


This burner-centric booty-shaker raises moolah for the Hookahdome camp. With Cheb i Sabbah and others. Sun/23, 2 p.m., $20–$30. Kelly’s Mission Rock, 817 China Basin, SF. www.kellysmissionrock.com


"S.O.S." — NYC hard rocker alert. Mon/24, 8 p.m., $13–$15. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com


Dig the moody Life Like (Merge). Mon/24, 8 p.m., $12–$14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422. www.theindependentsf.com

Real Deal


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Been down so long that the initial whooping, joy-drenched Obama-phoria of Nov. 4 felt — at least before learning of Proposition 8’s passing — like that moment during the flannel-flying whirl of the early ’90s, when the world finally seemed like Kim’s playground. When everywhere I looked, ultra-cool Kims like Kim Deal, Kim Gordon, and Kim Thayil seemed to signal the primacy of the K Word. Kim was the kid with perpetual Christmas morning going on. The universe seemed to smile down on us as we made art and did what we pleased, as if to say, "Whatever, dude, I mean, Kim. It’s your day."

But what did we do with our Kimdate apart from starting clothing lines, burning out like a black hole sun, and simply keeping on? The moment passed, though it was still thrilling to finally talk to one of those crucial Ks — namely Deal, on the occasion of her surprisingly revitalized, multi-hued new Breeders album, Mountain Battles (4AD) and her forthcoming two-fer at Slim’s — and to dig her breed of Midwestern rock ‘n’ roll realness. I mean, would anyone concerned with conjuring cool or projecting power really say she was bummed out and rocking the chub duds when asked about her typical day?

"I think I’m actually a little depressed," said the sometime Pixies bassist in deliberate, Kim-to-Kim tones from Dayton, Ohio. "I’ve been sleeping in really late and I don’t know why. I gained weight — maybe because I quit smoking a year ago. I’ve gained weight, and you know, I feel fat. So that’s an odd feeling for me. I’m not very confident, and I feel kinda stupid, so I dress really bad and I just wear sweats. You know, when you’re looking good and feel good, you have a spring in your step, and then when you’re heavy for some reason, you’re just like, ‘Ah, lemme just get these sweats on and do what I have to do today.’"

Chin up, Kim — at least you have the Steve Albini-recorded Mountain Battles with insinuating, melancholy songs like the doo-wop-inflected "We’re Going to Rise" and the dreamily minimalist "Night of Joy." "Can’t stop the wave of sorrow," Deal coos in the latter alongside Deal’s twin sister Kelley, Jose Medeles, and Mando Lopez. "This night of joy follows — oh, everywhere you go." That and at least Deal has vaulted past her smoker days of getting winded after running up stairs. With the help of a prescription medication that altered her brain chemistry, she managed to kick the nic fits. "I felt a bit like a sociopath taking it for three months last year," Deal said. "Now it’s worn off and I’m just fat." She chuckled. "It’s better than being a skinny sociopath! There’s far too many of those wandering the streets right now."

But back to the average Deal day. Long after all our Kim Kristmases, Deal told me that when she isn’t touring or planning, say, the Breeders-curated May 2009 All Tomorrow’s Parties in England, she continues to spend her spare hours helping her father care for her mother, who has Alzheimer’s: "She’s doing pretty good. She knows who I am and stuff, but she can get on a loop and repeat some crazy shit! But it’s like, ‘OK, mom, whatever.’" So there is a morning after — full of earthy laughter straight from Planet Deal. *


Fri/14–Sat/15, 9 p.m., $27
333 11th St., SF


"I feel like the leader of the band, but that’s taken 12 years to acknowledge out of false humility," confesses Daniel Smith, mastermind of that fluid project dubbed Danielson. "But in terms of song and the music and where it’s coming from, I’ve always emphatically said it comes from somewhere else." It’s easy to believe that the spirit provides, listening to Danielson’s wonderful new two-CD retrospective of rarities, remixed tunes, and live material: Trying Hartz (Secretly Canadian). Years before Polyphonic Spree fused gospel-y indie rock with performance art, Smith was finding true, genuinely genius inspiration among his "Famile" and in his Rutgers University vis-art studies. These days, the new father is "just trying to enjoy the process even if there are difficulties. I feel like you can’t separate the struggle with the making. Inspiration, the creative process, the questions, marching up the hill, sweating, and putting things on your credit card — it all relates."

With Cryptacize and Bart Davenport. Fri/14, 10 p.m., $10–$12. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com



The Brooklyn combo made Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Wed/12, 8 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


The ex-Soft Boy tackles his brilliant I Often Dream of Trains (Midnight Music, 1984) live. Wed/12, 8 p.m., $30. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com


The old school meets one of the Bay’s new school. Fri/14, 9 p.m., $25. Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck, Berk. www.shattuckdownlow.com


The Iranian fusion group parties up its Bagh e Vahsh e Jahani (Global Zoo). Fri/14, 8:30 p.m., $35–$55. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com


Welcome to the truth-teller’s terrordome. Sat/15, 9 p.m., $15–$20. Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. www.uptownnightclub.com


The jazz giant is joined by Ceramic Dog’s Marc Ribot. Tues/18–Nov. 22, 8 and 10 p.m.; Nov. 23, 2 and 7 p.m.; $5–$35. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero W., Oakl. www.yoshis.com

Bonjour joie


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Zut alors, where is the joie, mademoiselles? Judging from the current pop charts, rage is all the rage: girls just want to "start a fight" is the message from Pink, Brit, and Katy Perry, even as pop’s queen Beyoncé, a.k.a., Sasha Fierce, chooses the somber rather than ferocious path with "If I Were a Boy."

Maybe it’s too much to ask for a recession-wracked America to find a battered vein of real happiness. And perhaps that’s why I’m looking for bliss overseas. You have to be a crusty old croissant to not succumb to the wholesomely sexy, gallic-girls-just-want-to-have-fun charm of Yelle, née Julie Budet. In a year when every pop thang coming out of Francophone music-makers seems to exude a freshness that escapes rage-aholic American pop, along comes Yelle with the cutest bob this side of Rihanna and those prep-cool dancing boys in "A Cause Des Garçons." Not for nothing does Budet’s acronym nom de plume stand for "You Enjoy Life." Could this be the new yé-yé?

Resembling a sprightly Feist onstage, the jeune fille also coughed up the catchiest bit of whistle(-along) bait since Peter Bjorn and John’s "Young Folks": "Ce Jeu." Yelle’s palpable ’80s-throwback aesthetic crossed with the twirly-girly, smiley-faced nouveau-rave dancefloor vibe in the "Je Veux Te Voir" video — squeaky-cute aerobics, girl-gang dance moves, and a crayon-bright pop aesthetic, oo-la-la — evokes the seemingly last microsecond of dance-pop innocence when Her Madgesty, Salt-N-Pepa, and J.J. Fad ruled the school canteen. Who needs to speak the language when confronted with the inexorable, happy-sad-but-mostly-happy sizzle of "Tristesse/Joie," given a Reebok commercial makeover this past summer?

So why France and why now? According to Budet, "maybe because France is well-located between English pop, German electro, and American production! It’s geography!"

Mais oui, Budet enjoys life — and exclamation points! Though our trans-Atlantic phone tête-à-tête didn’t materialize, I managed to connect via e-mail with the Bretagne-born vocalist, who’s more comfortable answering questions in writing when she isn’t slinking around onstage like a T-shirted electro-pop whippet. Of course, she isn’t quite as wholesome as she might appear: her first MySpace hit — "Short Dick Cuizi," a poke at Cuizinier of French hip-hop group TTC and an early incarnation of "Je Veux Te Voir," famously samples the bassline of "Short Dick Man." "The songs are about our lives and our productions," she writes. "I think about everything in Pop Up [her new debut on Source Etc/Caroline/EMI]: dildos, but death, too."

Some fans might be taken aback by Budet’s live appearances, which are low on the diva-esque antics and high on the every-girl bounce. "We naturally worked hard on our show," she writes, predicting ghosts onstage for her Halloween appearance. "It’s normal for us to give a real show, not only the songs like on the album. Drums bring a lot of energy, and we build our live set like a DJ set, mixing the songs together, adding production. We have a compromise that seems to work: we rock the dancers and we dance the rockers!" So get your fill of Yelle because 2009 will be "the year of the break," Budet suspects. "We have to take time at home or people are gonna hate us, ahah!"


With Passion Pit and Funeral Party

Fri/31, 9 p.m. doors, $20–$25


444 Jessie, SF



Forget Uncle Sam: the post-punk superstar among us, Blixa Bargeld, needs you. The Einsturzende Neubauten frontperson, onetime Bad Seed, and current San Francisco resident has a new project — this after his wonderfully wry, dry-humored Rede/Speech performance here in 2006: The Execution of Precious Memories. Bargeld composes a new libretto for each performance, using memories gathered from questionnaires filled out by anonymous denizens of the performance site. To create this piece in its tenth iteration — and for the first time since 2001 — Bargeld plans to collaborate with the musicians of Nanos Operetta and the dancers of Kunst-Stoff. "It’s a poetical process," says Bargeld by phone. "There’s something fictitious about memories. The moment you give away a memory and fix it in a form and have it seen by someone else it becomes a piece of fiction. It’s not connected to yourself any longer." So let go and risk seeing intimate memories transformed: Bay Area residents are invited to go to www.blixa-bargeld.com/VKESF to fill out the 50-question survey — give it at least 30 minutes, cautions Bargeld — before the Nov. 1 deadline.



The revered indie rockers definitely weren’t sprinting when it came to getting out Moonwink (Park the Van/Fierce Panda). Sat/1, 10 p.m., and Sun/2, 9 p.m., $12–$14. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Eclecticism? OK! The "Mad Decent" tour mixes the DJ-producer with NorCal’s art-punks, Brooklyn art-dreamers, and a London minimalist beatmaker. Mon/3, 8 p.m., $16. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com


How do you turn a backlash around? Give a listen to the ambitious new space-psych Secret Machines (TSM). And the Dears continue to endear with Missiles (Dangerbird). Mon/3, 8 p.m., $22. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.independentsf.com


The blues guitar legend made a lasting impact on rock thanks to his work with Howlin’ Wolf. With Mitch Mitchell and Billy Cox, Buddy Guy, and others. Mon/3, 8 p.m., $45–$79.50. Masonic Center, 1111 California, SF. www.ticketmaster.com



› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Why so glum, Chun? Well, for starters, the economy is sucking about as hard as an insecure groupie attacking her/his fave-rave rocker head-case, and the stock market is making me more nauseated than the time I mixed deep-fried Twinkies and the Giant Dipper roller-coaster ride at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Oh, sure, we’re all gonna die giggling with sheer, unrepentant delight when the Barack Star pulls it off come Nov. 4. But in the very lean meantime, we gotta scrimp ‘n’ scrape to find the joy.

So why not mix good times and sound — arf! — financial advice from those adventurers in fabulously gritty lo-fi sonics and rock ‘n’ roll derring-do at Budget Rock Seven music fest?

Yes, I may be high. Ask rockers — oft dismissed as guitar-collecting, ramen-chawing spendthrifts lacking in fiscal acumen — for budget suggestions? Don’t you know that the sweaty, loud ‘n’ danceable rawk gathering has little or nada to do with tightened (white, skinny) belts during tough times — having plucked its name from a Mummies long-player, not its accountants? Sho’ ’nuff, impecunious stuff. Nevertheless, if a truly depressing nu-depression-style bottoming-out occurs — B-Rock or no — it can’t hurt to look to grassroots rabble-rousers for tangibles on living it up on little scrill.

"I have nothing to offer but bad tips," Darin Raffaelli — ex-Supercharger member and now in Budget Rock bands the Baci Galoopis and supa-group Mersey Wifebeaters — apologizes in a recent e-mail. "Go to the taco truck and don’t be afraid to get face meat if they run out of the standard meats. Don’t be a deadbeat weefie and carry your own load. Doesn’t matter how big your carriage is — just fill it to the tarp with whatever you can and the goodhearted folk will make sure you get by. Don’t get tattoos, and take care of your feet.

"Hope that helps."

It’s like pouring loose change, slugs, and paper clips into those supermarket counters: every little bit helps. Brian Girgus, who drums for rising Mantles-spinoff proj Personal and the Pizzas, has more low-dough advice: "Sneak a flask of whiskey in. Drink during Happy Hour. Make your pizzas at home. Roll out the dough really thin to make the pizza seem bigger. Buy used vinyl at the thrift stores."

"Budget? I’m not an expert on that. I’m up to my ears," opines festival co-founder and co-organizer Chris Owen by phone. He’s got more important things on his mind, like convincing Budget Rock performer Roy Head — renowned as "the white James Brown" for his crazy-agile dance moves, and his 1965 hit, "Treat Her Right" — to record "Just Head" by the Nervous Eaters and "Teenage Head" by the Flamin’ Groovies for his Hook or Crook Records. The dynamic Head — who Owen says is still amazing (The 67-year-old "is like Iggy Pop in the way he puts himself out there") — just might play those tunes live, if we’re lucky, when he performs here for the first time since the ’60s.

Owen says there was an attempt to move Budget Rock back to San Francisco — where it first laid down a beachhead at Thee Parkside — but, as we laugh, "the city wasn’t having it!" With assists from Bobbyteen Tina Lucchesi, Guardian staffer Dulcinea Gonzalez, and others, Owen threw the bash together again at the Stork Club. "Sometimes it’s worth it to just have a blowout in a smaller place," he explains. "At a smaller place, they’re happy to have you. I can’t imagine anyone drinking more than the people who go to these things!"

Budget planning? I got my BR grandma-panties in a bunch to catch In the Red combo the Lamps, Bare Wires, Nodzzz, Thee Makeout Party, the Pets, Hunx and his Punx, Ray Loney and the Phantom Movers, Sir Lord Von Raven, Hypsterz, Christmas Island, and Russell Quan’s 50th Birthday Party. As for Owen, he’s especially psyched about Human Eye (a Clone Defects variant that rarely plays Bayside), Haunted George, Seattle band Head (I see a theme emerging), and Personal and the Pizzas ("A MySpace band that suddenly became a real band — basically they wrote two of the catchiest songs I’ve ever heard"), as well as the Top Dog-sponsored hot-dog-eating contest and the pancake breakfast aided and abetted by ex-Parkside honcho Sean O’Connor’s Batter Blaster invention.

"When I first announced the lineup people were, like, ‘Who the fuck are these bands?’" Owens says of the eclectic nature of this year’s festival. "There are a whole lot more bands that are more difficult — more influenced by New Zealand pop music and not necessary garage rock and punk."

But seriously, back to budgets? "I would say, don’t take any advice I’d give you — that’s the best advice," Owen says. "But with this thing: $5 beer and cheap food, 34 bands in four days. That’s pretty good. If you’re trying to maximize your dollar, that’s less than a dollar a band." *


Preview with Lover! and Nobunny

Wed/22, 5:30–8 p.m., free

Eagle Tavern

398 12th St., SF

Festival runs Thurs/23-Sun/26, various times, $10–<\d>$30

Stork Club

2330 Telegraph, Oakl.





Maybe after Barack Obama wins, the Load combo can change its name to THE USAISINRECOVERY. Fri/24, 9:30 p.m., $8. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk St., SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Whoa, Nellie: Band of Horses is the latest add to the benefit helmed by Neil Young and family. Sat/25, 5p.m., and Sun/26, 2 p.m., $39.50–$150. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. www.livenation.com


Do the Florida punks have a persecution complex? Mon/27, 8 p.m., $22.50. Grand Ballroom, Regency Center, Van Ness and Sutter, SF. www.goldenvoice.com *

Writing on the Wallpaper


SONIC REDUCER Everyone knows sex sells. But who knew, so many years ago, when hip-hop was still reporting from the streets and dance music revolved round the love and stardust thrown off those glittering mirrored balls, that overt consumption itself would sell just as well? So much of today’s mainstream pop and hip-hop continues to hobble along on the crutch of an all-glam, imagination-free, Benjamin-flaunting, daydream-stoking, showroom/showoff mentality, which masquerades as genuine energy and originality. Check, for instance, T.I.’s Cinderella-fantasy "Whatever You Like" video. Still, is Britney Spears ushering in a recession-era pop backlash against gimme-gimme materialism with her recent "Womanizer" clip? Its up-to-the-millisecond, dashed-off put-down of Wall Street traders ‘n’ traitors is delivered nekkid from a detoxing, rehab-ready sauna.

And you know the East Bay’s dance-pop provocateur Wallpaper is on that tip — with his own ironic-hip-cat zazu. The Wallpaper project itself, says mastermind Eric Frederic, is "a device to critique pop music but also popular culture, and I think things are getting exponentially worse — as far as consumer culture, cell phone culture, the culture of me goes. Even for those of us who think we understand it and are separate from it."

Take, for example, texting — my least favorite thing to watch in a dark movie theater and the subject of Wallpaper’s "Txt Me Yr Love" off its T Rex EP (Eenie Meenie). "That song is obviously a knock on text-obsessed people," Frederic continues. "But I probably send 100 text messages a day. I do it way more than I want to and way more than I’m comfortable with, and that represents, again, an inner struggle with this kind of stuff."

Fighting, thought-provoking words from a sharp, very funny mind. I first caught Wallpaper a while back at Bottom of the Hill, and Frederic’s uncanny pop hooks and cheesy-hilarious way of styling his performance — delivered in character, from a vinyl La-Z-Boy, as the egocentric would-be-superstar Ricky Reed, alongside drummer Arjun Singh — made me bookmark him for better or worse. Whether you catch the two live or Frederic in one of his wittily clueless video blog entries, you’ll find that Wallpaper brings that sense of humor so sorely missing from local pop, dance, and indie rock scenes.

And rest assured, the tousled-haired songwriter, who just graduated with a degree in composition from UC Berkeley, is nothing like his satirical persona.

"The character is a real jerk, and I don’t want to be anything like him or embody him in my daily life at all," says the Bay Area native while tackling a turkey sandwich at Brainwash Cafe. "He’s arrogant, and he’s chauvinistic, and he’s material-obsessed. He just represents everything that bums me out." Frederic laughs. "He’s not very bright. He doesn’t really get it, and he doesn’t realize that the joke’s on him half the time." Hence the surprised reactions from fans — apparently Wallpaper blew minds during their ’08 Brooklyn and Philadelphia shows — when they approach Frederic. "Usually the first response is, ‘I didn’t think you were going to be so nice to me!’"

He’s nice and hard-working apparently: Frederic toiled on the EP, played alongside party-starters like Dan Deacon, and did some requisite remixes while completing work on his degree, and now he’s deep into making an album, a form that he’s studying intently.

"It’s definitely hard because with today’s music culture or climate, you have to do remixes and video blogs and stuff just to keep people’s attention. Making a really intensive, really smart full-length record while doing all that stuff with a short period of time is really challenging," he says. Frederic’s happy with what he has, but "I put a lot of pressure on myself," says the songwriter who, in one hilarious video blog, threatened to quit the biz if Wallpaper’s EP was outsold by Grand Theft Audio IV. "I’ve been listening to Thriller about every other day. If you don’t set your goals to be the best, what are you going to do? Just be mediocre or halfway to the median? There’s no reason why anybody should not be trying to make timeless records." And who would get the last laugh if this semi-joke band made one of those? *


Fri/17, 10 p.m., $10–$15

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF



Wipe…out! The Finnish surf combo bids, "Aloha," with this farewell tour. With Pollo Del Mar and the Go Going Gone Girls. Thurs/16, 8 p.m., $12. Rickshaw Stop.

Austin’s funky jamkins meld reggae, cumbia, and salsa grooves to a great din of buzz. With Boca Do Rio. Fri/17, 9 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.independentsf.com

More drama, puleeze. With Robin Thicke. Sat/18, 7:30 p.m., $33.75–$119.75. Sleep Train Pavilion, 2000 Kirker Pass, Concord. www.livenation.com

Love’s got everything to do with it when it came to adding another show to the leggy legend’s San Jose stand. Sun/19-Mon/20, 7 p.m., $59.50–$150. HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara, San Jose. www.apeconcerts.com
Will the upcoming Day and Age (Island) be another Bruce’s — I mean —Sam’s Town (Island, 2006)? Tues/21, 8 p.m., $37.50. Warfield, 982 Market, SF. www.goldenvoice.com

Mashed up


› Kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Remember the bad ole days when giving a damn about food was uncool? When it was all about toughing out the gurgles in the gut — or snatching sheer, pleasure-free sustenance by grabbing a cheapie, microwaveable green burrito from 7-Eleven and shoveling it down the gullet before racing to the hardcore show at the Vet’s Hall.

Well, M.F.K. Fisher be praised and pass the white truffle oil and broccolini. Times have changed, and the signs of the shift in this chow-fixated city of biodynamo-organo-locavores have even seeped into its musical crannies, from shakuhachi player Philip Gelb’s organic, vegan cooking class-feast-performances and curator Brianna Toth’s dinner shows in her Mission District kitchen to Hawnay Troof/Vice Cooler’s mini-vegan cook-zine and Godwaffle Noise Pancakes brunches that gird gingerbread griddle cakes with quality noise. We won’t even mention all the musicians who also cook or wait for a living. Jesus Christ in a chicken basket, even big pop shots like Alex Kapranos have license to poop out tomes like Sound Bites: Eating on Tour with Franz Ferdinand (Penguin, 2006).

So when I smelt Lost in the Supermarket: An Indie Rock Cookbook comin’, I had to try some recipes and find out how this collection of treats from this oddball yet provocative assortment of music-makers came about. Authors Kay Bozich Owens and Lynn Owens were clearly indie fans of the most eclectic variety. Belle and Sebastian’s and Fugazi’s chosen eats are paired with Japanther’s and USAISAMONSTER’s. Some recipes tickle the taste buds like Icelandic experimentalist Mugison’s — say wha? — Plokkfishkur, a.k.a., fish stew. Others resonate like a zen koan (see Xiu Xiu’s take on tofu — "3. Eat it with a fork. 4. Stare out the window"); test one’s, erm, taste like 16 Bitch Pile Up’s "Birthday Cundt Cake," an anatomically correct, iced red-cake interpretation of a dismembered torso; or tease the imagination as with Carla Bozulich’s "Recipe for a Melodramatic End."

Lynn Owens attributes the hearty response that he and wife Kay received to the pervasiveness and renewed cool of foodie culture, the mindfulness with which people are paying attention to food and its origins, and the low-cost and creative side of cooking-it-yourself. "The kitchen is a place for creativity," says Owens, who teaches sociology, concentrating on radical politics and social protest, at Middlebury College in Vermont.

"And it is cool again: dinner party culture is big now." Additionally, he says, many musicians saw it as yet another outlet: "To an extent, cultural producers are branching out — now you don’t just do one thing anymore."

The project kicked off when the couple moved to Connecticut a few years ago: Lynn — who once made pizzas in SF alongside his friend, Deerhoof founder and 7 Year Rabbit Cycle leader Rob Fisk — was teaching at Wesleyan, and the bored and unemployed Kay began e-mailing bands about their favorite recipes, not expecting anyone to write back. But they did — with at times startling passion. "The Country Teasers, who actually have a reputation of having music that’s super-misanthropic, were super-duper helpful," Lynn marvels. "Almost everyone in the band sent recipes, and they introduced us to other bands who wanted to participate, and then when they played in Providence, R.I., they invited us to come to the show." Lynn went so far as to pull rank as a Wesleyan instructor in order to get alumni Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls to cough up a chocolate zucchini cake recipe. Students were enlisted as test kitchen guinea pigs.

Piqued by Lost‘s inclusion of multiple chili and mashed potato recipes, I decided to try my hand with the taters, a band favorite, natch, because they’re "filling and relatively cheap," as Lynn puts it. Black Dice’s Eric Copeland, another active contributor with multiple recipes and advice, forked up a relatively simple mashed potato recipe made of potatoes, sour cream, and "spices," which meant seasoned salt, pepper, and other mystery add-ins. Decent, but not as imaginative as I’d like from a Black Dicer.

The real revelations were Gris Gris member Oscar’s "Jalapeño Mashed Potatoes" and Solex’s "Amsterdam Mashed Potatoes with Sauerkraut." The former’s combo of almost-carmelized, hot-sweet jalapeños and onions combined with mash and chunks of queso fresco was an outright oral fiesta. The latter Dutch doozy was comfort food Eurostar deluxe, juxtaposing bland creaminess with sour ‘n’ savory sauerkraut, onion, and buttah. You won’t find Alice Waters or Thomas Keller level cooking in Lost, but fans of, say, starving college student cookbooks or quirky compendiums of Spam or ramen recipes will find plenty of tasty notions here — as delectable as all the aforementioned potato heads’ music. As the Rae-monster might roar, "Yummo." *



The Michigan acid-rockers and the Brooklyn avant explorers kick out the jams. Wed/8, 9 p.m., $8. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Oakland vocalist John McCrea and company put the rock into their politics — and raise money for Proposition H. Fri/10, 9 p.m., $49.50–$99.50. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


Whoa, these guys look like the alternate cast of Entourage. Fri/10, 8 p.m., $37.50–$77.50. HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara, San Jose. www.livenation.com


Quintron makes an appearance in Lost in the Supermarket with a lemon meringue pie recipe. Sat/11, 9 p.m., $15, Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


UK soul diva Duffy teams with ex-Eureka-ite Sara Bareilles. Sun/12, noon–5 p.m., $25. Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.radioalice.com



› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Sweet home Europa — be it central, eastern, or so southerly that you’re smack in the Amazon, shooting the rapids like Aguirre and grabbing inspiration from the jaguar guts of the jungle. Call the recent Balkan music invasion on virginal indie hearts and minds the stealth revenge of new, weird Old World sounds on arrogant Amerindie rockism — just listen to the brainy, brassy blast of Beirut or the fiddle-borne shakedowns of A Hawk and a Hacksaw or the gypsy, or Romany, mess-arounds of Brass Menazeri — I dare you not to jig. Yet the rip-roaring, marrow-slurping, living end of all fiddlin’-round roma punks are the longtime "Think Locally, Fuck Globally" champeens Gogol Bordello.

Larger-than-life Gogol vocalist Eugene Hütz adores the fact that Romany sounds are finding new audiences — "It clicked for me one day," he says from New Orleans, "that gypsy music is going through exactly the revolution that reggae went through, from being a regional phenomenon to being a much larger music section in the store — much bigger visibility because if you’re not visible, you’re fucked." But trust the man to set me straight on sloppy assumptions regarding that same music, especially regarding Gogol Bordello’s next album, which was influenced by Hütz’s move this year to Rio de Janeiro. Will the recording — about which, Hütz promises, "people are going to shit in their pants when they hear it, because we’re already shitting in our pants" — give off a heady, flowery whiff of tropicália, and sound like the Pogues and Os Mutantes in steel-cage match?

"Forget that!" he retorts. "It’s like being in Spain and saying there’s only flamenco, or there’s nothing in Eastern Europe except polka. It’s what every tourist knows." Hütz was initially lured to Brazil by a lady, but he says, "the next thing I knew there was a huge gypsy community to discover. Next thing I knew I was traveling through Brazil with Manu Chao and seeing the other side of it, and the next thing I knew I was calling my mom to send all my shit over.

"I love New York City and I always will," Hütz continues. "It gave me everything, gave me understanding and initial recognition. But I feel like the road is still calling me. It ain’t no time to settle."

The allure of unexplored vistas could go a little way in explaining the appeal of Gogol and its brethren to New Worlders like ourselves. What fan girl or boy isn’t tempted to have their blasé, boring butt kicked by the very unironic, passionate Gogol Bordello — not for nothing is the band’s 2002 album titled Multi Kontra Culti vs. Irony (Rubric) — which takes nothing for granted, and while it’s at it, takes no prisoners.

PLASTIC FANTASTIC Czech Republic underground OGs Plastic People of the Universe, who perform with promising Budapest band Little Cow this week in San Francisco at Slim’s, are all too familiar with incarceration. The group will also make a Q&A stop at the American Conservatory Theatre production of Tom Stoppard’s Rock ‘n’ Roll, a semi-bon mot to the band who were forbidden to perform, whose fans were beaten, and members were eventually imprisoned by the Czech government in the ’70s for their dark, "antisocial," Velvet Underground- and Frank Zappa–inspired art-rock psychedelia.

Guitarist Joe Karafiát tells me by cellie, as the many in the seven-piece snoozed their way to Burlington, Vt., that Plastic People of the Universe didn’t set out to be activists or the initial inspiration for the human rights petition Charter 77 (which landed Václav Havel in jail) — much like they didn’t set out to be such diehard Zappa or Velvets heads. "If we didn’t understand what [those bands] were saying," Karafiát says, "we kind of felt what those guys were talking about."

PPU’s untamed shenanigans led to, for example, the jailing of freejazz sax player Vratislav Brabenec for a year. As he states via translator by e-mail, "Most of our adventures were crazy, as you can imagine. After the arrests in 1977, most of our concerts were suicidal. We didn’t know if the secret police would come and kill us or put us back in jail. But we had a lot of support from [future President] Havel and the underground culture. Trying to record albums in Havel’s barn under our situation — no real power source, police lurking around — it was all an adventure." Eventually, Brabenec was forced to flee to Canada.

It’s remarkable to think that PPU and their compelling skronk still persists, years after the Czechoslovakian government tried to grind them down and despite their continued underground status in their homeland. "We are on the edge," says the guitarist with a chortle. "Most Czechs are consumers. They consume TV, McDonald’s, and there’s just small group of people looking for something different." Those unusual suspects could find it at the slew of PPU sets before and after Rock ‘n’ Roll performances in the Czech Republic.

But perhaps that’s another reason we’re feeling that Old World sound: maybe we’re looking for the type of resilience integral to powerful, affecting art forged during tough times. With those survival skills, slipping onto the bill of bluegrass and country at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 8 is a cinch. "Speed metal bills, jazz bills, traditional Egyptian music bills," Hütz says. "We’re entirely inappropriate everywhere!"


Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Sun/5, 4:15 p.m., free

Star Stage, Speedway Meadow

Golden Gate Park, SF


Also benefit for Muttville

Sun/5, 9 p.m., $30


333 11th St., SF



Reception and CD signing Oct. 9, 7 p.m., free admission for Slim’s ticket holders and past and future holders of Rock ‘n’ Roll tickets

American Conservatory Theater

405 Geary, SF


Performance Oct. 9, 9 p.m., $15–$20, Slim’s

No peace, so Justice


>>Justice for all? Read club snob Marke B.’s response to this essay here.

› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Is it wrong to like Justice as much as you like your iPhone? Can a rocker adore Justice as much as they love AC/DC? What’s wrong with the fist-pumping, head-banging reaction the French duo inevitably pull when their pop bombast hits your brainwaves?

There’s no denying that the duo of Gaspard Augé and Xavier de Rosnay go for the drama, even while piling on the classical melodicism, teasing with sonic textural interest and gently provoking with image and concept. In play are the detached yet still loaded signs and symbols of a de-centered, post-nationalist, millennial Europe — where the virtual village square, an imagined common ground, is littered with logos and branding detritus like corporate trademarks (à la their sparkling ’80s font-anime fete of a vid for “DNVO”) and crosses (a.k.a., the title of Justice’s 2007 Ed Banger/Vice/Downtown debut), the latter of which might be read at various points as a crucifix, a space-galleon, or a coffin with wings.

But perhaps that common ground is also the beat — a constant that shifts intriguingly. The beat doesn’t possess the primacy one would imagine from an outfit so associated with disco, the so-called nouveau French touch scene, or anything resembling dance music culture, if there was ever such an animal. Instead, Augé and de Rosnay are ciphers: the friendly, unobtrusive absence at the center of Justice, as identifier-free and countenanceless as they are in their Grammy-nominated “D.A.N.C.E” video. These children of Jean Baudrillard dare you to deny their ball-busting bounce, ear-bleed volume, and bloodless hooks, sans even the cartoon/anime-cool, featureless, anti-human “faces” of Daft Punk, or the too-cool-for-school ‘tude of, say, Death From Above 1979. As with their recently banned video for “Stress,” Justice are tinkering with pop violence, devoid of true gore, a.k.a. passion.

So is it wrong to think of Justice as a user-friendly lil’ post-modern contemporary performing unit (CPU), right there along with my favorite multi-tool and time-wasting-toy iPhone — generating content that doesn’t burden me with biography, calculated ways of winning my dollar, or even, despite the iconography, religion, politics, or deep thoughts designed to program or convert me. “Justice is music without a message and without politics,” de Rosnay told Pitchfork this year. “We don’t want to tell people what to think.” Regardless of whether I buy ‘s Christian allusions — “Genesis,” “Let There Be Light,” “Waters of Nazareth,” and even divinity or “DVNO,” I believe de Rosnay’s, ahem, sincere. Like any tool, the Net, or any number of platforms available online, Justice provides a blank for me to fill in like the animation-bedecked T-shirts of the “D.A.N.C.E.” video. “T,” here, stands for tabula rasa, ready to be doodled on, graffitied or defaced — even while cheekily offering, for one millisecond, “Internet Killed the Video Stars,” this gen’s knowing rejoinder to the first video aired on MTV.

And despite the adoring masses, Augé and de Rosnay came off as far from superstar DJs in their shadowy absence-presence at Coachella in April 2007, where I first, er, saw Justice deliver what they’ve described as their first live music performance, non-reliant on turntables or CD mixers. Chalk it up to the cool relief of the evening after the blistering heat of the day, the locale of the relatively chill dance tent at the far end of the festival grounds, the gorgeously retina-searing, candy-colored hot neon and cross-flashing light show, or the duo’s own excitement, but their set — epic, melodious, and full of those big, fat, dumb beats that detractors love to slam — turned out to be the sweet spot of the entire event. By comparison, the duo’s MySpace-sponsored turn at the SF Design Center this spring tapped a slightly menacing Nuremberg rally–style vibe with its impenetrable black wall of Marshall stacks centered on a crucifix, above which the duo worked like two hipster Ozs cloaked in darkness. Even without the pastel flash, the kids punched the air with joyful anguish up front as latecomers skipped toward the stage. Justicemania.

But as Chinua Achebe promised and Justice referenced in their party’s-over “We Are Your Friends” video, things fall apart. All five-alarm strings and raver-y emergency broadcast system wail, “Stress” was the least likely track Justice could have chosen. The vérité smash-up of La Haine (1995), Costa-Gavras dynamism (The clip’s director, Romain-Gavras, is his son), and the media-savvy Medium Cool revolves around a multiracial gang of Justice cross-jacketed toughs committing senseless acts of violence in a collision between the two Parises: an alienating, multicultural and cosmopolitan urban milieu, and the quintessentially old-world City of Light. Was this rough Justice? Mais non, considering the injection of irreverent wit when one gangbanger kicks out a car radio bleating “D.A.N.C.E.” Concluding with a fourth-wall-busting scene as the boom operator’s arm catches fire and the gang descends on the camera-wielder, the video appears to be literally turning the easy thrills of the soundtrack-sourcing music on its head.

“Stress” segues with this year’s DJ Mix Leur Selection (Tron) from Justice, which shows off the pair’s puckish humor by aligning Dario Argento collaborators Goblin along with their heroes Sparks, supposed rivals Daft Punk, SF metal abstractionists Fucking Champs, and — who said the French lack wit? — Frank Stallone. The DJ Mix‘s finale — Todd Rundgren’s “International Feel” — gives you a taste of what the twosome might have in mind to follow ‘s tonally varied orchestration of older tracks, dance pop, and more stately instrumentals — as Rundgren wails to his time-traveling synths, “And there is more / International feel … interplanetary deals … interstellar appeal … universal ideal.” After the tantalizing whirl of signs and symbols — hinting at everything and nothing — is there more to Justice than what dazzles the ear and eye?

Justice performs at 9:15 p.m., Sat/20, at the Bridge Stage.

Too hot


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Turn down the grill, puleeze — last week felt like a little time-traveling trip to Nellyville (Universal), a throwback to ’02, as in "I’m getting too hot / I wanna take my clothes off." That snatch of "Hot in Herre," Country Grammar king Nelly’s collabo with the Neptunes, could have been the recurring refrain throughout the 80-degree-plus Indian summer sizzle engulfing San Francisky. And frankly I prefer Nelly’s get-nekkid vision of toasty times to the heat that seems to be driving the kids on my street to shoot each other up. Nightlife shouldn’t mean a fight for your life, and who can blame the Mission District teens who want to get out of their suffocating family apartments? Still, you wonder drowsily, when roused at 4:45 a.m. to the sound of five gunshots and some murder-minded creep speeding off: why do the shooters have such ready access to firearms?

I say, let’s cut the vengeance-minded, pistol-packing heat and up the glammed-up, sexy swelter instead. We can use a little more ye olde "Hot in Herre" and less hot-under-the-collar shoot-’em-ups. So the timing was perfect to check in with Nelly, a.k.a. Cornell Haynes Jr., about his latest album, Brass Knuckles (Derrty/Universal), on the verge of an intimate national tour alongside his chums St. Lunatics.

The finished product took a great deal of tweaking — hence the multiple delays, says the soft-spoken rapper, fashion impresario, and collaborator with everyone from T.I. (Creatively, "he’s a beast," swears Nelly) to Tim McGraw. Though Nelly’s intent on trying out new sounds, fans seem to prefer the rapper’s smoother R&B side, as exhibited by the popularity of his Suit disc over his hip-hoppier Sweat full-length (both Derrty/Universal, 2004). And the third single off Brass Knuckles, "Body on Me," which brings the St. Louis rapper together with Akon and rumored squeeze Ashanti, has done considerably better than his fun-loving, shout-along foray betwixt crunk and hyphy, "Stepped on My J’z" ("My ode to the joy of the sneaker," he says).

But all that doesn’t mean the Charlotte Bobcats co-owner wants to skew toward safe choices amid industry uncertainty and his own tussles with Universal ("Definitely I was unhappy with the situation," Nelly says of the negotiations that led him to make the 2007 throwaway "Wadsyaname" single. "Sometimes I think the only leverage that entertainers have is the music."): after all, he did try to assemble a vocal threesome with Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson for Brass Knuckles as well as a bro-down with Bruce Springsteen.

"Don’t be afraid of change," he tells me over the phone. "I think that’s the thing that scares people the most. You can’t tell fans what they should buy. You can’t tell fans what they should like. It looks funny! ‘Yo, don’t buy that — buy this. You’re wrong!’<0x2009>" The still-budding thespian within — Nelly will appear in the CSI: NY season opener — rears its head as the rapper imagines a bullied fan. "’But, but, it’s my money!’

"That’s something you don’t want to get into," he continues, reassuming his proper role. "You’re always a student."

This time around, Nelly says, "I wanted to do things a little differently — bring an energy to the album that I maybe haven’t in a while as far as tempos and selection of people that I used." To support that he wants to spend this tour "just explaining the songs and explaining what went into the album."

Apparently there’s more than a little of the down-home Midwesterner in the rapper, who continues to reside in his hometown of St. Louis. There, keeping it real — and cool — means knowing when to lay low. Having finally finished the album a week and a half ago, he’s now in the middle of promotions, marketing, and tour preparations, and his typical day can mean doing interviews at four New York City radio stations in one fell swoop, or "a good nap all day because I’m exhausted," he sighs. "Because I’ve probably been up for four or five days in a row. No exaggeration. It’s something that stays on you." *


With St. Lunatics and Avery Storm

Sat/13, 9 p.m. doors, $40–$55


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 820-9669




The native Australians — and onetime San Franciscans — hammered out a fascinating Signs of Life (Logicpole/Thrill Jockey, 2007) at Tiny Telephone studio. With one f and the Healing Curse. Wed/10, 9 p.m., $6. Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF. www.hotelutah.com


Wreak havoc with Roxy Monoxide alongside Gravy Train!!!!’s punk poobah and Brontez’s ever-lovin’ latest. With No Gos and Bridez. Sat/13, 8 p.m., $5–$7. 924 Gilman Street Project, Berk. www.924gilman.org


The Brooklyn chamber-folk experimentalists are on critics’ short lists for On and Off (Skirl). With Xiu Xiu, Evangelista, and Prurient. Sat/13, 9 p.m., $12–$14. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Jacko may have snubbed his sis at her BMI lifetime achievement ceremony, but she continues to "Rock Witchu" despite turmoil with Island Def Jam. Sat/13, 7:30 p.m., $37.50–$123.25. Oracle Arena, 7000 Coliseum, Oakl. www.livenation.com


The trip-hoppin’ hip-hopper delves into his tough council estate upbringing with Knowle West Boy. (Domino). With Sonny. Sun/14, 9 p.m., $30. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com

The grateful undead


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Looking back at Outside Lands and ahead to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and the last lingering Indian summer sighs and huzzahs of the festival express season, I’d say we all have plenty to be grateful for. At Outside Lands, I was thankful for Sharon Jones’ sass, Radiohead’s nu-romantic lyricism (amid two moments when the sound cut out and Thom Yorke’s jesting "OK, who put beer in the plug?"), Beck’s persistent pop groove as fence jumpers leapt the barriers, Regina Spektor’s and Andrew Bird’s old-time songcraft, Los Amigos Invisibles’ and Little Brother’s bounce, and Primus’ pluck. No doubt the bison are grateful for the quiet betwixt gatherings — and we all envy them after those night strolls through the cool, darkened park, passing kids listening to the music echo through the arboreal cathedral.

I could go on about how gratified I am for a somewhat chiller city now that burner getups on Haight Street are discounted and their would-be buyers are happily grilling on the playa. But the most grateful of all has gotta be Sam Adato, who I chatted up last week on the eve of practice with his hard rock band Sticks and Stones. The group has a Sept. 5 show at Slim’s, for which he’s likely grateful, but most of all he’s happy to be alive and not buried beneath some beater. He was on his way to his store, Sam Adato’s Drum Shop, July 31 when, he says, a woman driver running a red light at Ninth Street was hit by another car heading down Folsom. "The impact made her swerve and go directly into my shop," he says. "It had to be quite fast to crash through the storefront." Adato usually gets to the store by 11 a.m. — he missed colliding with the driver by about 15 minutes. "Thank god," he marvels. "I probably would have been dead." His wife rushed over thinking he was in the store when the crash occurred, and their tearful embrace outside was captured by at least one photo-blogger. "Thank god no one was hurt," Adato adds. "Walking on the sidewalk or in the shop — it could have been a bloodbath. Things can be replaced — people can’t."

Adato’s alive, but half the storefront was wiped out, and he estimates that about $10,000 in inventory was destroyed. Now everything is in storage, the store is boarded up, and repairs have begun. Meanwhile he’s been producing a CD for his other band, The Bridge, which opened for Deep Purple at the Warfield last summer. "That’s been keeping me busy, but the ironic thing is Oct. 12 will be my 15-year anniversary — it just might be the grand reopening, 15 years after I first opened," he says wryly. At that time he was at a crossroads. "Rather than audition for touring bands, which is great but it’s hard to make a living and more often than not you’re just a hired gun, I decided to open a drum shop. I had no doubt in my mind it would succeed," he says firmly. "There are no drum shops like it anywhere. A drummer can come in and say they need their drum fixed, and I’ll fix it right there and then."

Until a certain car crash, he was living the drummer’s dream. Though Adato now throws down his sticks in South San Francisco, he actually resided in his SF shop for its first two years. "It was great," he recalls. "Stay up late, get up, take a shower, turn on the lights, open the door, and you’re ready for business, surrounded by drums day and night. Thank god for giving me this life." *


Fri/5, 9 p.m., $15


333 11th St., SF





Will Johnson unites his two groups on the release of a two-CD set on Misra. With Sleepercar. Wed/3, 8 p.m., $10–$12. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com


The Olympia, Wash., combo on K Records jangles brightly at the end of a dreamily desolate echo chamber. With Family Trea and Ben Kamen and the Hot New Ringtones. Wed/3, 9 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Reunited and it feels like Mommy is home. After the 2007 passing of drummer Jann Kotik, the ‘heads decided to track old and new songs for the revitalized You’re Not a Dream (Bladen County). With Brad Brooks and The Mumlers. Wed/3, 9:30 p.m., $12. Café Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


Taz Arnold of Sa-Ra and rapper Paperboy make it onto the LA beat-R&D specialist’s new Love to Make Music To (Ninja Tune). Thurs/3, 7 p.m., free. Apple Store, 1 Stockton, SF. Fri/5, 10 p.m., $5–$10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. www.elbo.com


You know you like it — the pathos and chuckles of reading oh-so-private love letters and diary entries in public. Fri/5-Sat/6, 8 p.m., $12–$15. Make-Out Room, SF. www.makeoutroom.com


Certainly one of the more unexpected pairings of late: the determinedly independent Trent Reznor meets the persistently raucous Bradford Cox. Fri/5, 7:30 p.m., $39.50–$55. Oracle Arena, Oakl. www.apeconcerts.com


DV’s heartfelt folk meets its ideal match in SF’s DS, whose Andrew Simmons is planning to drop a haunting solo EP, Tabernacle Word, Pioneer (Ghost Mansion). With Micah Blue Smaldone. Sat/6, 10 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com
The über-versatile Oakland MC recently cometh with Prince Cometh (7even89ine). With Bambu and DJ Phatrick, Do D.A.T., Power Struggle, EyeASage, and Emassin. Tues/9, 9:30 p.m., $10–$13. Café Du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com

Raphael’s “Way”


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Who can turn the Dogfather’s head with a tune, bring a melody to Mary J. Blige’s lips, and get Stevie Wonder out of bed in the wee hours? Raphael Saadiq, that’s who. And with good reason: the Oakland-born-and-raised vocalist, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and producer not only found substantial fame back in the day singing alongside bro Dwayne Wiggins and cousin Timothy Christian in Tony! Toni! Toné!, he’s kept his chops honed over the years by lending his ear for stellar R&B and soul. He’s produced Joss Stone, 2Pac, the Roots, John Legend, Kelis, Mos Def, D’Angelo, and the Isley Brothers, among others. He’s collaborated with a who’s who of pop putf8um, including Blige, Snoop Dogg, Whitney Houston, the Bee Gees, Ludacris, and John Mellencamp.

Damn. Little wonder a legend like Wonder will rouse himself at short notice to assist on Saadiq’s fab, hip-shaking old-school soul disc, The Way I See It (Columbia). The way Saadiq, né Charlie Ray Wiggins, tells it — over the phone during a late-morn breakfast in Los Angeles — his protege CJ had just finished singing his part on the sinuous, ready-made hit "Never Give You Up," when he announced, midtrack, "I’d like to invite Stevie Wonder to my album." So Saadiq decided to call Wonder and ask for a harmonica solo: "[Wonder’s] usually traveling around the country, and he asked, ‘When do you need me?’ I said, ‘An hour.’ He goes, ‘An hour?’ And he showed up an hour and a half later at one at night."

Easy for him to ask since Saadiq had already worked with the rock ‘n’ soul icon and Beyoncé on a Luther Vandross tribute, but it’s clearly Saadiq’s down-to-earth charm, disarming ease, and all-too-evident talent that keeps those friendships alive. Oh yes, and Wonder is "his Taurean brother" — born May 13 to Saadiq’s May 14.

That casual vibe runs throughout Saadiq’s immaculately assembled, long-awaited followup to 2004’s Ray Ray (Pookie). "For the most part, I kind of played everything myself on the whole album, but I bumped into certain people," he says. He plucked Rocio Mendoza, the sensuous lead vocalist for "Calling," from his favorite LA breakfast spot and gave her a star turn. Stone — to whom Saadiq has been linked romantically, though he demurs, "We’re just friends" — also guests, on the creamy, dreamy, string-stung mélange "Just One Kiss." But star turns aside, what fully emerges from Way is its sweet, sweet soul songs — living, breathing throwbacks to ’60s Motown, as fleshed-out and vital as anything by current soul revivalists like Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, and Duffy, and crafted by a luminary of the genre’s last resurrection. The cover image of Way, with a besuited, Marvin Gaye–like Saadiq, for instance, was taken two years ago at Oakland’s Sweets Ballroom.

The new album — out Sept. 16 on the heels of Saadiq’s Sept. 11 appearance at KMEL’s House of Soul show at Ruby Skye — began to come together two years ago. "Being away from home so long, on an island [the Bahamas, where he was producing Stone] — the next thing you know, you look down, and the album is done," Saadiq drawls. "But I’ve always heard music like that, since I was seven years old. Some of the first music that ever really opened me up was that music, so it wasn’t a stretch for me."

The R&B vet can also step back and break down why a new gen has gravitated toward old-school bounce. "For artists it’s coming back because a lot of DJs spin a lot of vinyl, and that’s all they’re really listening to," he explains. Nonetheless, he continues, "it never really went away. It’s the only thing that don’t leave the shelf. It’s always been in my player." And that’s the player without and within: "I hear music all day and all night," Saadiq says. "I hear music in my dreams." To get the songs out of his head, he says, "You go through the chords and progressions, play drums. I jump on all the instruments until I hear something I like."

Such mental agility — and such a work ethic — must come from his now-70-something guitar-player father, speculates Saadiq. "He was working two or three jobs since he was 10," says the songwriter, who regularly gets back to East Oakland to see family. "Now he owns some buildings, and he’s always trying to work on them and be helpful to tenants. He’ll say, ‘I gotta get back to Oakland, so I can take out the garbage,’ and I’ll say, ‘What garbage? Are you crazy!?’ He’s a different kind of guy." It goes without question that his pops must be able to relate to Way‘s sound? "It’s music," Saadiq comes back, "that anyone who lives under the sky can relate to right now."


Wed/20, 8 p.m., $22

Bimbo’s 365 Club

1025 Columbus, SF


Fated to annihilate


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER To get the grimy lowdown on East Bay hard rock combo Annihilation Time, you don’t have to look very far: try the party-starting band’s Oakland townhouse.

"Yeah, it’s barely standing," says guitarist Graham Clise with a chortle. Apparently the best party had to be New Year’s Eve two years ago, he recalls from San Diego, where the group is taking a break at the beach while on tour with its new third album, Tales of the Ancient Age (Tee Pee). "I wake up in the morning, and the entire place is smashed — like all the drawers are smashed out. I look out the window, and in the backyard the couch is on fire.

"It’s still like that, unfortunately."

How much more rawk fun can you have? Hailing from a speedier, hellbent-for-lather breed of ’70s-era metal à la Priest mixed with the set-to-pulverize tendencies of SoCal hardcore, Tales of the Ancient Age is all about the sloppy good times, rug burns, and all-business dual lead guitars as it stumbles through passes at skinhead chicks on public trans ("Bald Headed Woman") and bouts of lousy hygiene ("Germ Freak [I Ain’t No]"). Could Annihilation Time be the seriously anti-sobriety, hard-rockin’ fun-metalists we’ve been waiting for? Contemplate their comic-book vision of apocalyptic Oaktown rendered by former guitarist Shaun Filley on the cover of Tales, and the band seems to slip right in between the politically tinged rigor of High on Fire and the pagan brooding of Saviours, who once lived in Annihilation Time’s raging HQ. Exhibit one: Annihilation Time’s "Jonestown," far from a righteous wail of despair against groupthink. Instead the band embraces a punkily perverse, Ramones-ish, kicks-first perspective — would Clise partake in the Kool-Aid? "That’s my philosophy," he yelps. "I’d give it a try, sure."

The seven-year-old band moved to O-town from the Ventura, Oxnard, and Ojai area about two and a half years ago because "we all decided we were sick of it down there," Clise says. "It seemed like a pretty cool, happening spot. We wanted to try it out. You can get away with anything, too. That’s the other cool thing. You’re kind of free to do whatever you want, and nobody is going to fuck with you too much. It’s kinda like one of the last free places — where you can be a shithead and get away with it!"

Unfortunately a group also runs the risk of finding their music flying under the radar — into obscurity: Tales comes after two other self-released albums and two 7-inches. So this time the band looked to licenser Tee Pee for help. ("We always have big plans of having our own label and getting our shit out there and working hard at it. But the reality is, it’s a lot of work and we’re kind of sick of having to deal with it. We just want to play music.") The next career move? Annihilation Time may just up and move their party to Pittsburgh, following their relocated vocalist Jimmy Rose. They’ll obviously do anything for a ripping yarn — hence the less-than-nostalgic album title. "We chose the name because it sounds all serious and epic," Clise explains. "But we also chose the name because there’s a whiskey called Ancient Age — really cheap, really awful stuff. But it always makes for a good night, and there’s always a story afterwards." Pittsburgh should watch itself. *

Annihilation Time’s Aug. 16 show at Thee Parkside has been canceled. For future dates go to ww.myspace.com/annihilationtime.


Last week brought more than one hit of sad news, along with the sorrowful tidings of Isaac Hayes’ passing. 12 Galaxies owner Robert Levy phoned to tell me that his Mission District venue is closing Aug. 28: "Financially we’re no longer able to sustain the business. It’s a very competitive city as far as booking live music is concerned." The 500-capacity venue — which spent about $60,000 on soundproofing when it was hit with neighbor complaints a few years ago — will be sorely missed for its offbeat events, boffo parties (such as the Guardian‘s Goldies), and memory-searing shows by Lightning Bolt, Black Dice, Comets on Fire, Kelley Stoltz, and many others.

Why now? "Our lease is up at the end of the year," Levy says. "Our landlord wanted more than we could conceive doing." Levy now hopes a new face will buy the business. In the meantime he’s looking forward to the club’s remaining awesome-sounding shows, including SF Indie message board’s 10-year anniversary party (Aug. 21) and Parkerpalooza (Aug. 23). "I think," Levy continues, "in a lot of ways we succeeded in what we were trying to do," namely, supporting the local music scene. "We just didn’t succeed financially."



The ex-TV comedian plies an arrestingly loopy acoustronica with folk elements plucked from her native Argentina. Wed/13, 8 p.m., $18. Yoshi’s, 1330 Fillmore, SF. sf.yoshis.com


The quivering Britpopsters just might break down Rihanna’s "Umbrella." Wed/13, 7:30 p.m., $15. Swedish American Hall, 2174 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


Samplers are pitted against guitars, and they’re all winners. With the Hot Toddies, Sassy!!!, and Diagonals. Sat/16, 9 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Junior Senior’s tall, gay hunk jumps out solo. With Gravy Train!!!! and Hottub. Sun/17, 9 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Primo experimento-psycho drone from the Kill Shaman Records founders. With Wooden Shjips and Arp. Tues/19, 9:30 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com