• No categories

Sonic Reducer

School blues


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Roll over and let MF Doom give you the news: even during the soporific, sunlit waning days of summer, you needn’t wander far before tumbling headlong into a deep ditch of gloom. And is it any surprise, when even the top 10 is capped with hand-wringing, ditsy throwback-pop ditties like Sean Kingston’s suicide-dappled "Beautiful Girls" — just a few skittish dance steps away from Amy Winehouse’s anxious revamps of sweet soul music?

So when Danville-raised Film School headmaster Greg Bertens made the move away from the Bay to Los Angeles last September to be with his girlfriend and get some distance from 2006, his splintered group’s annus horribilis, it doubtless seemed like dour poetry that he ended up living just a few doors down from punk’s crown prince of dread, Glenn Danzig.

"Oh yeah, Glenn and I go way back!" Bertens said drolly from LA, describing Danzig’s lair as ivy covered and encircled by a gate topped with an iron fleur-de-lis. "Once in a while I see him walk by in a big, black trench coat. LA in general is a big amusement park, and Glenn Danzig happens to be an attraction close to my house."

That new home was where Bertens rediscovered his will to make music — and lost the old, jokey misspelling of his first name, Krayg. There he wrote and recorded Film School’s forthcoming album, Hideout (Beggars Banquet), alone at home with only a guitar, a keyboard, and a computer equipped with Pro Tools, Logic, and assorted plug-ins, while listening to old Seefeel, Bardo Pond, and Sonic Youth LPs. Guest contributions by My Bloody Valentine vet Colm O’Ciosoig, who also lived in the Bay Area before recently moving to LA, and Snow Patrol bassist Paul Wilson filled out the lush, proudly shoegaze songs that Bertens eventually took to Seattle for a mix with Phil Ek (Built to Spill, the Shins).

The recording is "the closest so far to what I’ve been trying to get to since Film School began," Bertens told me later, but it came at a price, following the release of the San Francisco group’s much-anticipated, self-titled debut on Beggars Banquet. Poised to become one of the first indie rock acts of their late ’90s generation to break internationally, after opening tours with the National and the Rogers Sisters, Film School instead found misfortune when Bertens was jumped outside a Columbus, Ohio, club.

Then the group’s instruments and gear were lost in Philadelphia when thieves stole their van, audaciously driving over the security gate of a motel parking lot. Despite benefits and aid from groups like Music Cares, the loss magnified band member differences, leading to the departure of guitarist Nyles Lannon (who also has a solo CD, Pressure, out in September), bassist Justin Labo, and drummer Donny Newenhouse, though longtime keyboardist Jason Ruck remains.

"Understandably, it kind of compounded any difficulties we might have had," Bertens recalled, still sounding a little tongue tied. After such events, he continued, "you definitely tend to reevaluate what is important in your life setup."

The loss of certain key pedals was particularly felt, although, he added, "ironically, after a year or so, one of the instruments showed up on eBay, and it was traced back to a pawnshop in Philly." The entire lot of gear had apparently come in three weeks after it was stolen, but though the store claimed it had checked with the local police department, and the band and Beggars had furnished the police with serial numbers and descriptions, no one made the connection. "We found a general unorganized response to the whole event," Bertens said with palpable resignation.

Yet despite the negativity Bertens associates with 2006 — "I think it was a heavy year globally as well, and Hideout comes a little from that, the impulse to hide out when external and internal factors are unmanageable" — he did find an upside to Film School’s downturn: the response to the theft "kind of restored my ideas about the music community within indie music. We’re a small band, and all these people — people we knew and people we didn’t know and other bands — all kind of came to our aid. I kind of knew that community existed, but I never experienced it." As a result, he said, the new CD’s notes will list the names of more than 150 people "we feel completely indebted to." Something for even Danzig to brood about.

ARTSF STRESSED What would we do without Godwaffle Noise Pancakes brunches and raucous noise shows stories above Capp and 16th Street? Let’s not find out, though word recently went out that the venue for those events, the four-year-old ArtSF, is being threatened. Allysun Ladybug Sparrowhawk has been handling art and music shows at the space for more than a year, and she e-mailed me to say she hadn’t been informed of an approximately $4,000 yearly building maintenance fee until the space received an eviction notice. "When there is a repair on the building, most of the cost is put on us," she wrote. "It should be split equally between all the tenants but most of the other floors are empty."

Since a slew of the organization’s art studio spaces is empty, she continued, "we are struggling to make the rent as it is. A fee like this has really threatened our existence." Does this mean even more artists and musicians are going to be priced out of this already-too-pricey city? Keep the pancakes coming: contact artmagicsf@yahoo.com and visit FILM SCHOOL

With Pela and the Union Trade

Wed/15, 9 p.m., $10

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 621-4455




Girls really do love breakcore — and Journey reworks — by this son of a Taiwanese rocket scientist. With the Bad Hand and Bookmobile. Wed/15, 9 p.m., $10. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


Look out — no wavy cacophony and apelike yelps. With the Go, Bellavista, and Thee Makeout Party! Fri/17, 9 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com. Also with the Frustrations and the Terrible Twos. Sat/18, 6 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Tarentel’s Danny Grody sails in, following the release of a limited-edition 12-inch of remixes by Four Tet and Sybarite. Sun/19, see Web site for time and price. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


The SF-by-way-of-Brooklyn synth poppers toast their new Paper Trail (Clairaudience Collective) with contemporary dance by peck peck. Aug. 23, 9 p.m., $8. Space Gallery, 1141 Polk, SF. www.spacegallerysf.com

Chin music, pin hits


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Drifting into a coma at last week’s lethargic Oakland A’s–<\d>Los Angeles Angels game, I suddenly woke with a snort, dropped my bag of peanuts, and realized what was missing. No, not some bargain-price rookie flamethrower, though that wouldn’t hurt. It was too quiet. I needed some screeching Queen songs to drown out the deranged A’s fans screaming behind me.

But it wasn’t just me — the A’s and their fans were suffering from a dearth of head-bobbing, fist-punching at-bat music, in addition to a real game. One lousy Nirvana snippet does not inspire high confidence or achievement, making it hard for the team to compete with the sleek multimedia machine of, say, the Giants, the Seattle Mariners, or heck, any other ball team out there blasting tunes at top volume to work up the crowd into a bubbling froth whenever a hometown hitter saunters to the plate or whenever the action lags. Of course, the selections have fallen into predictable patterns: Barry Bonds has tended to favor Dr. Dre minimalist power hooks to usher in his home-run hits. There are the inevitable Linkin Park, Metallica, and T.I. tunes as well as "Crazy Train," "Yeah!" and, naturally, DJ Unk’s "Walk It Out," beloved of so many athletes and audio staffers — although sometimes musicians have their say, as when Twisted Sister asked John Rocker and the Atlanta Braves to stop playing "I Wanna Rock" after the player’s racist, homophobic, and sexist mouth-offs back in 2000.

Maybe we’re just damaged, in need of a perpetual soundtrack to go with our every activity and our shrinking attention spans — though some might argue that baseball, like so many sports, needs an infusion of new but not necessarily performance-enhanced energy. We can all use some style to go with our substance, which might explain why presidential candidate John Edwards was said to be pressing flesh at the still-unfolding, long-awaited Temple Nightclub in SoMa last week. And why it wasn’t too surprising to get an invite on a bisected bowling pin to Strike Cupertino, a new bowling alley–<\d>cum–<\d>nightclub down south in Cupertino Square, a withering mall off 280 where the venue has planted itself on the basement level. Its neighbors: a JC Penney, a Macy’s, a Frederick’s of Hollywood, an ice-skating rink, an AMC 16-plex, and lots of darkened store spaces. I stopped to admire the wizard-embellished pewter goblets and marked-down Kill Bill Elle Driver action figures at the sword-, knife-, and gun-filled Armour Geddon — still open for all your raging goth armament needs.

Strike, however, was raging all on its own, without the skull-handled dagger it never knew it needed. In a wink toward the Silicon Valley work-hard-play-hard crowd Strike’s owners hope to attract, Angela Kinsey from The Office threw out the first ball in the black-lit, modish alley. A luxe bar dreamed up by Chris Smith, one of the team that designed Nobu, was swarming with guests clamoring for free Striketinis.

Apparently Strike Cupertino isn’t original: the first one sprung, after a full makeover, from Bowlmor Lanes in Greenwich Village, New York City, in 1997, and went on, according to the press literature, to become the highest-grossing bowling alley in the world. Others are located in Bethesda, Md., Long Island, and Miami. But what, no Vegas? Strike seems perfectly suited for Sin City, with its bright, flash, well-upholstered decor — equal parts retro ’50s and ’60s, both American Graffiti and Goldfinger — and multiple massive plasma screens distractingly flickering the Giants game, ESPN, any game, above the lanes, the lounge, and every surface. Peppy, poppy ’80s rock and R&B — "Hey Mickey" and "Little Red Corvette" — coursed from the DJ booth next to the raft of pool and air hockey tables and the game arcade as upscale clubbish figurines, blue-collar bowling diehards, and Asian and Latino kids tried out the lanes and tables and some fair American and Asian finger food.

I stuck a kiwi into a chocolate fountain and spurted sticky brown stuff all over my white shoes and shirt and wondered, could this be the future of clubbing — or sports? Amusement parks for adults, lubricated with fruity but muscley cocktails? Or maybe this is as hellacious as it gets in drowsy Cupertino.

Still, I thought Strike was worth swinging by, if only to play on a sparkling, well-waxed, seemingly nick-free lane for the first time, in fresh, BO-free shoes, with immaculate, grimeless balls. Also, knowing how many miles per hour your ball is traveling is a trip, if somewhat discouraging for featherweights like yours truly. Yes, I know the $5 cover after 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays seems excessive for, well, a bowling alley, but Monday evening seems a deal with all-night unlimited play for a flat $14. Word has it that the nightspot also enforces a dress code — and that even Bonds would have to leave his cap at home — but I say perhaps just cut back on the supershort bowling-shirt dresses and fishnet stockings on the teenagey waitresses. We’re not in Vegas yet, Toto.


Cupertino Square

10123 Wolf Road, Cupertino

(408) 252-BOWL




The Los Angeles buzz band generates scratchy, acidic melodic rock with plenty of post-punk seasoning. With Boy in the Bubble and 8 Bit Idiot. Wed/8, 9 p.m., $7. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Veering from tree cities to familial familiars, the NYC combo come with Grand Animals (New Line). With the Wildbirds and the Old-Fashioned Way. Thurs/9, 9:30 p.m., $8. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


Melodic pop for modern-rock romantics. With Comas and Twilight Sleep. Sat/11, 9 p.m., $13–<\d>$15. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com


Driving punk tumult meets salacious death disco. With Mika Miko and Twin. Sun/12, 8:30 p.m., call for price. 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakl. www.21grand.org


The Windy City instrumentalists skew shorter — seven minutes at most — and focus on songs on their new City of Echoes (Hydra Head). With Clouds and Garagantula. Sun/12, 8:30 p.m., $13–<\d>$15. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.musichallsf.com

MIA way


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER "This sucks."

Nope, we weren’t talking about Kelly Clarkson’s pandering public apology to Clive Davis — there’s an American idol to kowtow to. Or the minisnippet of the new Britney Spears single, "Get Back," all over YouTube, its title alluding oddly to a song by Paul "Latte Rock" McCartney’s old beat combo. Or Spears’s hoochie-widow getup for the tune’s video or her now widely reported dissolving personal boundaries, as she allegedly went pee-diddy with the bathroom door open, allegedly used designer fashion as an impromptu pooper scooper, and then allegedly absconded with enough borrowed photo-shoot finery to inspire the feel-good tab OK! to declare the pop star’s comeback moves totally "NOT OK!" in print. Get back? Why not get weirder and make like Cock ESP or Iggy Pop and start rolling around in glitter, broken glass, and mayo onstage?

Nay, sucking was the vibe as one MIA head nodded to the other, crunched in the aisles at Berkeley’s Amoeba Music, trading grime, and losing the buzz that had been building since fans started milling around the store the afternoon of July 28. MIA was in the house, but only a portion of the approximately 400 tanned, big-earringed, curly-headed baby Maya Arulpragasams, newsboy-capped dudes, arms-folded indie kids, and bobbing clubby-kins could see the Tamil Tiger spawn’s lavender cap bob in the distance — or even hear Arulpragasam’s politely low-volume raps skating over samples of the Clash’s "Straight to Hell" in Amoeba’s jazz room.

I’m straining to make out words, which are drowned out by the girl behind me, who’s complaining about the sound to a friend on her cell, and before you know it, four or five tunes and 15 minutes later, it’s all over, sent softly into the simmering Saturday sun with a toned-down little sing-along "Yah, yah, hey!" — a glance back to her first single, "Galang." Time for one of the most ethnically diverse audiences you can imagine in this, one of the most ethnically diverse places in the world, to queue up to have MIA sign their 12-inch or CD single of "Boyz," her new frenetic diss-ode to boy soldiers, stylish swashbucklers, and wannabe warlords.

About 15 minutes later, the beauteous Arulpragasam slips quietly behind a table. Her unruly pageboy is streaked blond — a far cry from the bright blue wig sported in the promo pics for her forthcoming album, Kala (Interscope), the playful new wave counterpart to Gwen Stefani’s Scarface coke-ho look of late — and her enormous eyes are open way wide, ready to take in her people, though she still needs periodic "Let’s give it up for M-I-A!"s to keep her signing hand strong as the line snakes through the aisles.

How relevant is MIA two years after her acclaimed Arular (XL/Interscope) emerged with its highly combustible, overtly politicized fusion of hip-hop, baile funk, grime, electro, and dancehall, seemingly unstopped by visa issues and MTV’s censorship of her "Sunshowers" video thanks to its PLO reference?

While Spears and Clarkson threaten to transform pop into one of the most embarrassing exercises in public self-flagellation imaginable, artists like MIA issue genuinely imaginative responses to the daily news, beyond dropping trou and racing into the surf. We actually need her voice — as slammed as it gets for clunky flow — more than ever now. And we need it for the masses who showed up at Amoeba rather than reserved for the few who managed to jump on the Rickshaw Stop tickets early on. Props to the store and MIA for making this brief appearance possible and free, but isn’t Arulpragasam breaking beyond club-size confines?

Because MIA’s appearances have been so scaled down, you have to wonder about Kala, as I did when I learned that previews have been kept for the few who can hear it at the Interscope offices in New York City or Los Angeles: does it suck too? A quick cruise online yields a clattering and polyrhythmic, wittily clucky "Bird Flu," a driving "XR2," and her infectious collabo with Timbaland, "Come Around," as well as the not-bad "Hit That," now trimmed from the disc. So why the secrecy? I thought the point of this revolution was to make it available to the people. And they continue to get it out there, regardless of the gatekeepers. *


True West founding guitarist Russ Tolman ain’t bitter about the route his old Paisley Underground band took back in the day: breaking up and then re-forming without him, which is never a nice trick. He’s just happy the ’80s UC Davis combo can fire up its duel-guitar glory once again, fueled by the release of Hollywood Holiday Revisited (Atavistic). "I think some of the stuff is a little timeless," demurs Tolman, now the director of content programming at BitTorrent in San Francisco. "I’ve heard some people say, ‘Oh, is this a contemporary band?’ "

The reissue and the reunion took root last year when, Tolman says, "on a whim" they decided to play some shows. "The other guitarist, Richard [McGrath] — I thought he’d be the last guy who’d want to play with me again. He’s a great player, and I’m an OK player. But I think my role was to be the bee in his bonnet…. [Later] he said, ‘When Russ was out of the band, I was so glad that terrible guitarist was out, but then we sucked. All the chaos was gone.’ "


Sat/4, 9 p.m., $29.50


1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-6000



Suicide Squeeze sweethearts make tender indie pop on their new Page France and the Family Telephone. With Bishop Allen and Audio Out Send. Wed/1, 8 p.m., $12–$14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


Ushered in by bird chirps, these critters protest extinction with a flurry of noise on a recent self-titled Brah LP. With TITS, Big Nurse, and Ettrick. Thurs/2, 8:30 p.m., call for price. 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakl. www.21grand.org


Radness happens with the Brooklyn experimental twosome, backed by the fiery Lucky Dragons, Black Dice alum Hisham Bharoocha’s Soft Circle, and the Bay’s Breezy Days Band. Sat/4, 9 p.m., call for price. 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakl. www.21grand.org


All-girl punk fury barely contained by a cute moniker. Sun/5, 8 p.m., $8. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


Once King Cobra, now a two-piece progressive metal combo with the Need’s Rachel Carnes on vocals and drums, Twin come to Frisky for a once-a-year visit. Erase Errata vocalist Jenny Hoyston also unleashes her latest feminist band of exes, Lesbians. Tues/7, 8 p.m., $5. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. www.elriosf.com

Dirty truth bombs


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Been around da block as Jenny and I have? Then you’re all way too familiar with that cad Hoochie Coochie Man, that bogus Boogie (Chillen) Man, and — natch, Nick — that Loverman. But hey, who’s this new game, Grinderman? This grind has little to do with a full-bodied Arabica, the daily whatever, or the choppers that go "Clink!" in the night. It’s all about that which is toppermost of the poppermost on young men’s minds, always skirting young men’s fancies. Namely, sex, sex, and more sex. Oh yeah, and sex.

No pretense, prenups, or prenatal care here. "An overriding theme of mine is, I guess, a man and a woman against the world," Grinderman’s primo romantic, Nick Cave, murmurs. "But for this record, the woman seems to be down in the street, engaged in life, and the man is kind of left on his own, with, um, y’know, a tube of complimentary shampoo and a sock."

It’s the rough, sordid, inelegant, dirty-old-man truth, youth — and judging from Grinderman’s self-titled debut (Mute/Anti-), it sounds awfully good to me. Consider the configuration of Cave on vocals and guitar along with three Bad Seeds (violinist and electric bouzoukist Warren Ellis, bassist Martyn Casey, and drummer Jim Sclavunos), his solo band set free to create music collaboratively, loosely tethered to Cave’s mad songwriting skills. There’s sex, yes, but Grinderman is also about finding fresh, new positions and approaches to the old rump roast of rock ‘n’ roll, copping new moves to old blues, and finding new grooves for honest old dogs. After all, Cave will have been on this blighted speck for half a century this year. "Look, I’ve been turning 50 for years, so it’s kind of academic at this stage," says the polymath who won over critics with his screenplay for the 2005 Aussie western The Proposition. "I think there’s an old man’s anger behind this record and a sense of humor about it as well, I guess, that you only get with age, really. Where all you can do is kinda laugh. But I do think there’s a sort of rage that’s 50 years old."

It’s there in "Go Tell the Women": "All we want is a little consensual rape in the afternoon<\!s>/ And maybe a bit more in the evening," Cave coos. Scenes abound of balding devils treating themselves to lonely hand jobs in the shower or restlessly flipping channels, fondling the changer, on universal remote; on "Love Bomb," Cave grumbles, "I be watching the MTV<\!s>/ I be watching the BBC<\!s>/ I be searching the Internet." He’s aware of the "mad mullahs and dirty bombs" out there ("Honey Bee [Let’s Fly to Mars]"), but instead of succumbing to death and devastation, Grinderman gets lost in the life force, a many-monikered lady, the old in-and-out, monkey magik — real Caveman stuff.

The band wisely avoided choosing the latter label. But amid testosterone, no one lit on the charm. Congenialman doesn’t have quite the same ring, though the Cave I speak to from his home in Brighton, England, is definitely a lighter, brighter, wittier, and much more charming creature than I ever imagined. Searching for a lighter midinterview, Cave is in fine spirits — Grinderman had only done three shows and an in-store, but he and Sclavunos were pleased with the reception to their collective nocturnal emission.

At the larger Bad Seeds shows, Cave explains, "the audience is a long way away. It’s just been really good to kind of … see what an audience looks like again."

The four first came upon the idea of starting a new group when, while performing as the Bad Seeds, Sclavunos says, "we’d catch glimmers of it in rehearsals or sound checks. Someone would make some awful noise, and we’d all get excited and start playing along with it."

The sole American member of Grinderman and the Bad Seeds — and a onetime member of the Cramps and Sonic Youth — laughs abruptly when I ask him to describe his dynamic with Cave: "Hah! Complicated!" They talk a lot, about matters beyond music. "There’s such a tendency, such an anti-intellectual streak in rock ‘n’ roll music," Sclavunos continues. "Such a fear of seeming to know things and such a tendency to dumb things down for the sake of trying to make it seem more real or give it more integrity. Don’t let it get too complicated or it starts smacking of prog rock or something! But Nick’s not afraid of ideas, and he’s not afraid to try out ideas, and in that sense we’re all of the same mind."

Grinderman is likewise as collective minded as possible. "We do it in very much the traditional democratic manner of bands," Sclavunos offers. "Whoever can be bossier in expressing an opinion about something has the opportunity to speak up, and if there’s anything really objectionable going on, you can certainly count on people raising a fuss!"

The idea was to try something different, Cave confirms. "I asked Warren Ellis what I should sing about lyrically because we had a pretty clear understanding what the music was going to be like, and he said he didn’t know but just don’t sing about God and don’t sing about love," Cave details. "A piece of information like that initially throws me for a six, but it’s actually enormously helpful for me as a writer because it kind of cuts down your options and pushes you into another place." Contrary to belief, the idea was not to re-create Cave’s cacophonous early combo, the Birthday Party. "The Birthday Party were actually way too complicated," Cave says mirthfully. "We don’t have enough brain cells left to be able to cope with that kind of thing."

Sooo … what with all the "No Pussy Blues" and the odes to "Depth Charge Ethel" shoved down Grinderman’s trou, one wonders what Cave’s wife, Susie Bick, must think of the lyrics? She likes the band and the shows, he says, then sighs, "Um, yeah. You know, I think there may have been a certain confusion to begin with, but I cleared that up." As in, who exactly you were writing about? "Yeah. Exactly. Yeah."<\!s>*


Thurs/26, 9 p.m., $26 (sold out)

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF


Also Fri/27, 9 p.m., $26 (sold out)


333 11th St., SF




UK punk pop with enough energy — and provocation, thanks to the Femlin-perpetuated sex and violence in the video for "Men’s Needs," off their new Men’s Needs, Women’s Needs, Whatever (Warner Bros.) — to shiver your baby bunker’s timbers. With Sean Na-Na and the Hugs. Wed/25, 8 p.m., $11–<\d>$13. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com


Another kick inside for Kate Bush lovers? Vocalist Natasha Khan is an ethereal ringer for the lady. I dug the all-girl folk-and-art-song combo when they played South by Southwest — and the affection is catching: Bat for Lashes’ Fur and Gold (Caroline) was recently short-listed for UK’s Mercury Prize. Mon/30, 8:30 p.m., $10–<\d>$12. Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com

Sweet Youth


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER "It was a period where you thought anything could happen," Thurston Moore once told me, talkin’ ’bout the early ’90s alternative rock scene spawned by Sonic Youth’s widely regarded masterpiece, Daydream Nation (DGC, 1988).

One might say the MTV-coined catchphrase "Alternative Nation" went as far as to take its cues from SY’s double disc, which was self-aware enough to dub a track "The Sprawl" and heady enough to venture into the big-statement two-LP turf also being hoed by once–SST kindred Minutemen and Hüsker Dü. Honestly, back in those hazy days, I recall giving it a handful of spins, sensing the distinct odor of a masterpiece, and immediately stopping playing it. Daydream was much too much, too rich for my blood, too jammed with the brainy, jokey pop culture ephemera that had riddled Sonic Youth’s LPs up to that point — positioned as the polar opposite of a hardcore punk 7-inch, which was short, sharp, and built for maximum speed. Yo, you’d never catch Minor Threat doing a double album. Instead Daydream thumbed its nose at the closeted cops in the mosh pit and unfurled like a dark banner announcing: We can’t be contained by your louder, faster, lamer rules. We’re gonna speak to a imaginary country — off Jorge Luis Borges’s and Italo Calvino’s grids — of naval-gazing, candle-clutching misfit visionaries looking for clues in trash cults, Madonna singles, and the burned-out butt end of the Raygun-era ’80s.

Now nearly 20 years old, Daydream — recently given the deluxe reissue treatment with an additional disc of live tracks — brings back memories of prophesy and triggers reminders of mortality. Around the time it first came out, I recall ranting to kindred record store clerks — and anyone who stumbled into my predated High Fidelity daydream — how everything will change when Sonic Youth meets Public Enemy. And it sort of did on Daydream, coproduced by Nicholas Sansano, who engineered PE’s ’88 masterwork It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (Def Jam).

Apparently we were also talkin’ ’bout nation building back then, finding a face and a place for a generation still living at home and struggling for an identity. Imagining a meeting of the most powerful forces in American rock and hip-hop seemed like the next best thing to moving out — and it foreshadowed Goo and touring collaborations to come. Little did I — or Moore — realize that a dozen years after Daydream Nation, the meeting of rock and rap would degrade into what Moore described as "negativecore" and rap-metal units like Limp Bizkit and debacles like Rapestock 2000. Daydream Nation offered a whole other, embracing view of a youth revolution with its opening track and college radio hit "Teen Age Riot." Sonic Youth had dared to write an anthem for a new age of kids, tagged with Kim Gordon’s "you’re it!" — and everyone was on the same page, stoned on Dinosaur Jr.–style Jurassic distortion and thinking-Neanderthal riffs and racing as fast as they could through dreamlike pop pastiche, as embodied by the accompanying video, a kind of decades-late Amerindie response to "White Riot" or "Anarchy in the UK."

On Daydream pop hooks emerged for the first time alongside the ever-coalescing SY aesthetic, with euphoric, charging chord progressions seemingly unrooted to the blues, and the way the group would open into intentionally pretty passages, flaunting the delicate uses of distortion and a feminized rock sensibility. We were all dreaming of Nirvana, a fringe seeping into the pop marketplace. Honestly though, listening to that Daydream again, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. Its brute approach has become a part of ’90s rock’s wallpaper — as Moore confesses in the reissue notes, black metallists have even owned up to copping licks from " ‘Cross the Breeze" — and therefore perhaps sounds more pedestrian. The triptych of "Hey Joni," "Providence," and "Candle" now sounds more charged than "Teen Age Riot" and "Silver Rocket," and I can’t help but think that Sister may be a stronger, more concise album. Perhaps we’re still too close to the stalled staling of the Alternative Nation, though maybe the faded nature of Daydream Nation is tagged to its very status as a classic — how does one pump life into, say, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band?

It does help, however, to play it loud. *


Thurs/19, 8 p.m., $35

Berkeley Community Theatre

1900 Allston Way, Berk.



There was a time when the Bay’s Lovemakers looked like they were going to get all the love nationally — an Interscope deal tucked neatly into their back pocket and a heavy-breathing following around town. So what happened?

"Interscope asked us if we wanted to do another record," vocalist-guitarist Scott Blonde says from Oakland, "and we said no, because our A&R guy was obviously really into us and he and his assistant worked really hard for us, but it didn’t seem possible to get Brenda Romano, who runs the radio department, to get into it enough to put it ahead of 50 Cent and Gwen Stefani." He chuckles.

These days, the band members are focusing on making love on their own terms: their Misery Loves Company EP comes out July 24, the first release on San Francisco’s Fuzz label.

"Obviously we got more cash dollars’ support on Interscope," vocalist-bassist-violinist Lisa Light adds from the Mission District. "But the thing is the way it gets spent. Interscope would spend $5,000 doing stupid things — in bad taste a lot of times too. Not only were you embarrassed by the dumb posters they did, they weren’t in the right places. We’ve been able to hire a radio promoter and a cool PR company. It’s all about finding the people who actually care. You cannot pay for that at all."

"We’re looking at the future of music a lot, and selling CDs isn’t really part of the future seemingly," Blonde continues. "So it’s kinda about coming up with really innovative ways of getting our music out there in the biggest way possible." He says the Lovemakers have already gotten more radio ads on stations like Los Angeles’s KROQ for the first single off Misery than anything off their major label release: "We thought Interscope was going to be our ticket."


Sat/21, 9 p.m., $18

Bimbo’s 365 Club

1025 Columbus, SF




Are more listeners seeking out music’s edgier tones? Edgetone New Music Summit mastermind Rent Romus believes that’s the case. "I’ve been running the Luggage Store series for five years now — last night we had 70 people," he told me. "It’s not about the hit song but about performance and performers." His fest has that critical mixture of daring performers: SF trumpeter Liz Allbee and bowed-gong player Tatsuya Nakatani, Wobbly, Darwinsbitch (sound artist–violinist Marielle Jakobsons), instrument inventor Tom Nunn, High Vulture (with MX-80 guitarist Bruce Anderson), Hammers of Misfortune vocalist Jesse Quattro, Eddie the Rat, and the Gowns. July 22–28. See www.edgetonemusicsummit.org for schedule


The noisy Boise, Idaho, bass-drum duo waxes darkly on Sea of Sand (Olde English Spelling Bee). Wed/18, 9:30 p.m., $5. Edinburgh Castle Pub, 950 Geary, SF. (415) 885-4074, www.castlenews.com


Sept. 11’s Our Ill Wills (Merge) is unveiled by Sweden’s shouters. Wed/18, 9 p.m., $15. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. www.rickshawstop.com


Rilo Kiley keyboardist Shana Levy charts a sweet indie pop course with her debut, The Chaos in Order (Yardley Pop/GR2). With Oh No! Oh My! and the Deadly Syndrome. Wed/18, 8 p.m., $12–$14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


Three number one albums strong, the tuneful Aussie rockers muscle onto the US scene with Convicts (Yep Roc). Wed/18, 8 p.m., $13. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. www.slims-sf.com


The blues vocalist and harp player bubbles up with Magic Touch (Blind Pig). Fri/20, 8 and 10 p.m., $15. Biscuits and Blues, 401 Mason, SF. (415) 292-2583, www.biscuitsandblues.com


The Mission’s Jazz Mafia collectivists bring out the big guns for their CD release get-down. With Crown City Rockers. Fri/20, 9 p.m., $15–$18. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. www.theindependentsf.com


Love Jill Olson’s "I’m Not the Girl for You" off the SF C&W combo’s new We Never Close (Ranchero). With Big Smith and William Elliott Whitmore. Sat/21, 9 p.m., $15–$17. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. $15-$17. www.gamh.com

We built this city?


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Can the Big Apple rightfully claim the cheese without "New York State of Mind" or even "New York City Cops"? How can we motor through Mobile without an anthemic blast of "Sweet Home Alabama"? Even boosters would have a tough time mustering a jones for El Lay if not for "I Love LA." Hometown pride is a construct, built on ballpark anthems, puny hot dogs, and bizarre caps with too many buttons. But even as we cringed at the Live Earth lineup, the idea of Antarctica musical antics intrigued. How to map the mysterious interchange, linked by a network of highways and folkways, between geography and music? I always associated indie rock’s connection to place with the fragmentation of the pop marketplace and the rise of regional powerhouses like ’80s college radio; if you knew where a band was from — be it Athens, Ga.; Chicago; Olympia, Wash.; Minneapolis; Boston; or Seattle — you could, at times, make a blurry mental chart of their sound, as if the brute soil, air, and water added up to a kind of aural terroir.

So when music fans with movie cameras attempt to encapsulate a town and its music scene, I usually unplug the ears and peel the film off the eyeballs. The Burn to Shine series, produced and curated by Fugazi drummer Brendan Canty, does it particularly well, with an unassuming eloquence infused with natural light and a poetic approach; in each, a series of local groups is captured playing one song, in sequence, in an abandoned house before it is burned to the ground. The first of the series was shot in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 14, 2004, and it’s steeped in fiery performances by Ted Leo, Q and Not U, the Evens, and Bob Mould, as well as a bittersweet, archetypally punky melancholia — as if to say these glorious seconds will never quite come again.

Likewise, I was hankering to view Rural Rock and Roll, Jensen Rule’s grainy snapshot of the Humboldt music scene, which will be screened as part of the Frozen Film Festival on July 14. The 60-minute doc revolves around Eureka and Arcata bands playing in the area in the summer of 2005. Rule’s technique is rougher than that of the Burn to Shine project, the narration tends toward the hyperbolic, and the music is rawer (and context free; forebears like Comets on Fire, Dieselhed, and Mr. Bungle are never mentioned), but the video is still worth taking a peek, especially for the grindingly heavy Lift, with an all-contractor lineup. "I believe we’re the only band in the country that can build you an entire home," one member deadpans.

The 34-year-old director moved from Humboldt in 2001 to work as an editor on what he calls "bad reality-TV shows" like The Simple Life, but he remained fascinated by Humboldt’s eclecticism — influenced by the college, the Twin Peaks–ish witchiness of the redwoood curtain, the cultural collision between hippies and loggers, and the many local pot farms round the birthplace of Big Foot. "It’s so far away from the big city, so to speak, there are no expectations of what each of the bands up there is supposed to sound like," he says from Los Angeles. "Isolation is a blessing."

PANACHE TO GO And even so-called big cities like San Francisco can’t hold Humboldt hellions like Michelle Cable, who is all over Rural Rock and Roll, started her Panache zine in Eureka, and later fostered Panache Booking in SF. She’ll be moving to Brooklyn on Aug. 1 after her July 21 farewell show at 12 Galaxies with Black Fiction, Aa, the Husbands, Sword and Sandals, and Health. Recovered from a broken back suffered in a tragic van accident with DMBQ, Cable plans to expand her booking agency on the East Coast, and in January 2008 she’ll relaunch the zine as an SF- and NYC-focused online publication. Why the move? "The Mall moved there this summer, and they’re good friends of mine," she tells me. "I thought it would be fun to all congregate there. It’s a change of scenery and pace. I love San Francisco, and I’m gonna miss it a lot. It’s a big move for me." But not too giant a step — Cable is originally from D.C. Burn and shine. *


Sat/14, 7 p.m., $8.50–$9.50

Roxie Film Center

3117 16th St., SF


After-party with the Ian Fays, the Lowlights, and others

9 p.m., $8

Hotel Utah Saloon

500 Fourth St., SF



July 21, 9:30 p.m., $5

12 Galaxies

2565 Mission, SF




Inspired far and wide, these NYC jazz swells swing through on their way to the Stanford Jazz Workshop. Wed/11, 7 p.m., free. Shanghai 1930, 133 Steuart, SF. www.shanghai1930.com; Thurs/12, 8 p.m., free. Bistro Yoffi, 2231 Chestnut, SF. www.bistroyoffi.com; Mon/16, 7:30 p.m., $10–$20. Braun Music Center, Campbell Recital Hall, 541 Lasuen Mall, Stanford University, Palo Alto. www.stanfordjazz.org/index.html


Now firmly transplanted in SF and wafting between Greenwich Village folk songs, hillbilly picking, and Eastern Euro gypsy brass. With Parasol and This Frontier Needs Heroes. Fri/13, 9 p.m., $12. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com.


Names like Monoshock and Liquorball get thrown around deliriously when Grady Runyan’s growling psych–navel gaze stumbles into the room. With Mammatus and Tryptophan. Sat/14, 9:30 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Whimsy’s just another word for an ambitious 11-piece Morr Music combo from Iceland — in the States for the first time. With the Otherside and Radius. Mon/16, 9 p.m., $8. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. www.bottomofthehill.com


"Countrygrass"? The Swervedriver mood-music maker rhapsodizes Cannery Row and other shadowy byways. Mon/16, 9 p.m., $10–$12. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. www.cafedunord.com


We want those stinkin’ uniforms. With Jesca Hoop. Tues/17, 8 p.m., $22. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. www.gamh.com



› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Knowing felines the way I don’t, I’d venture that most pussies squander a life or three every time they step out the door and off life’s balcony railing in search of their next fleshy plaything. But San Francisco vocalist Mark Osegueda of Death Angel is giving all those fur balls a run for their Meow Mix: the self-described "pretty resilient cat" — who quit the music game and moved to New York City after Death Angel’s fateful 1990 tour-bus crash in Arizona — was in the studio June 24 with his other, punk rock project, the All Time Highs, laying down scratch vocals at Fantasy Recording Studios in Berkeley when he got a hit by a bit more than a scratch.

"Holding a scream for a long time, you get a head rush because of the lack of oxygen. You almost feel really woozy, but usually my adrenalin is going so much onstage that I’m OK," the affable Osegueda, 38, tells me from Sun Valley, Idaho. "Instead I was standing in a little isolation booth in the studio, I had a head rush, and I passed out and fell forward, and a mic stand caught my eye."

The micless pole tore into Osegueda’s eyeball. "I was really, really fortunate that it didn’t hit the center of the eye — it hit the white area of the eye and took out a big chunk of it," he says. "So I’m dealing with pain and discomfort instead of vision problems, which is nice because, had it hit the center of the eye, we’d be having a different kind of conversation now!"

When he came to, Osegueda grabbed his eye out of panic, knowing he had done something "pretty severe and pretty wrong." Delirious and separated from his bandmates, who were continuing to play through the song elsewhere in the studio, Osegueda confesses that he was tempted to just take a nice little nap right where he fell, before he stopped himself, thinking he might have suffered a concussion.

Leaping up, he ran to the bathroom to splash water on his eye, worrying all the while about the All Time Highs’ show that night at Merchant’s Bar at Jack London Square ("I didn’t want people bumping into my face!") and unable to make out exactly how wounded he was. Once the rest of the group took a look at Osegueda’s peeper, they immediately took him to the hospital, where he had the bizarre experience of attempting to explain his gouge: "So I’m holding this high note, right … ?"

On the phone from the land of the spud, Osegueda is in shockingly high spirits for a guy who has experienced such trauma to his eye (if I were in his boots, I’d never look at mic stands quite the same way again). But the vocalist says the eyeball, while still really red, is getting "way better already" as he recuperates among his bandmates in Death Angel — the group he’s been in, on and off, since age 15 — with pen and paper in hand, writing lyrics for the band’s next Nuclear Blast long player and letting the healing continue.

Moreover, the entire experience is nowhere near as horrific as Death Angel’s 1990 bus crash, which derailed the career of a band set to become Bay Area thrash’s next Metallica. "To this day, that bus accident was one of the most traumatic days of my life," remembers the singer, who injured his foot — though he was nowhere near as badly hurt as drummer Andy Galeon, who had to undergo major reconstructive surgery for a year.

Galeon, thankfully, "now looks wonderful and plays like a workhorse!" says Osegueda, who plans to make like the aforementioned beast and hurl himself back into the thick of the two-year-old All Time Highs with a show at Annie’s Social Club on July 6. "The best description of us is AC/DC meets Minor Threat," he says gleefully. "Onstage we’re madness, flying and bumping into each other."

One ATH MySpace pal hailed Osegueda with "Heal well, ya knucklehead," but I’ll keep it simple with a "Watch out for low-flying projectiles — at all times."

SWEET HOME CHARLESTON Or rather, Mount Pleasant. Band of Horses vocalist-guitarist Ben Bridwell, 29, has relocated from Seattle to that town along with his bandmates, also South Carolina natives. The former Carissa’s Wierd member decided to make the move amid writing his upcoming, untitled Sub Pop album. "Definitely two fighting little forces there, happiness and sadness," he says, attempting to describe the recording, to which he still feels far too close. "I’m not trying to say I’m a tortured artist or depressed kinda dude," Bridwell adds. "Being affected by the Seattle weather had some effect, and relationships falling apart and falling in love again or being around my family."

But did he have any hesitation about getting close to the land still living down Hootie and the Blowfish? "I’ve heard about it since the day I was born!" Bridwell says of South Carolina’s rep. "You mean for starting the Civil War and continuing to fly the [Confederate] flag over the state Capitol? There’s definitely some stigma attached to my home state, but every place has some good people and bad people and ignorant people. I love South Carolina. I love my beautiful house, though of course I don’t really get to hang out in it. But I can walk to my dad’s house, have some beers, and stumble home." Schweet, indeed. *


With Bimbo Toolshed and Seize the Night

Fri/6, 9 p.m., $8

Annie’s Social Club

917 Folsom, SF

(415) 974-1585



With A Decent Animal and Stardeath and White Dwarfs

Thurs/5, 8 p.m., $20 (sold out)

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750


Rock ‘n’ read


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Anyone who’s thumbed through the oodles of zany organ, squealing chipmunk, and queasy-listening albums from the ’50s onwards knows this to be true: every generation has its version of Muzak, whether its members like it not — thanks to clueless parental units. And the class of 2025 will undoubtedly have vibe ‘n’ synth instrumental renditions of "About a Girl," "D’yer Mak’er," and "Cherub Rock" dancing in their heads — no thanks to the Rockabye Baby! series on Baby Rock Records that appears to be multiplying like bunnies monthly. What next — sleepy-time Mentors? But what would baby lend an ear to once he or she started dabbling in books, student-body politics, and witchcraft? In other words, WWHPLT — what would Harry Potter listen to?

Boston’s Harry and the Potters have been working off that premise for the past three years, touring the country’s finest libraries. After outgrowing San Francisco’s main library and drawing several hundred to their show at the Civic Center last year, they’ve decided to get booked, adult-style, at Slim’s, alongside Jurassic Park IV: The Musical, which dares to pick up where the last dino blockbuster left off.

So, I tease, you’re doing a real tour this time? "Why is playing libraries not a tour?" the older, seventh-year Harry, Paul DeGeorge, 28, retorts by phone as he hauls T-shirts into the cellar of the Tucson Public Library, the site of that night’s show. "It’s actually a lot more work, because we set up our sound system every day."

He may be playing in a basement, but DeGeorge and his brother Joe, who appears as fourth-year Harry, aren’t playing to our baser instincts. "I thought this would be a great way to play rock to a whole new audience that doesn’t experience that," he explains. "If Harry Potter had the cool effect of getting kids to read more, maybe we can get kids to rock more too!"

The proof is in his now-20-year-old sibling. DeGeorge started feeding his younger brother Pixies, Nirvana, They Might Be Giants, and Atom and His Package CDs when the latter was nine, and apparently the scientific experiment paid off. "I could see the effect immediately. By the time Joe was 12, DeGeorge says, "he was writing songs about sea monkeys that referenced the Pixies" — and popping up in the Guardian in a story about early MP3.com stars.

And what about the silly kid stuff on Baby Rock Records? "I’d rather hear the original songs," DeGeorge opines. "Instead of Nine Inch Nails for babies, I’d just make a good mixtape for my baby. You can do ‘Hurt’ and just lop off the ending. It’s supereasy — anyone can do it!" Read it and weep, Trent.

SERPENT SPIT "So the proctology jokes remain." Thus came the news from filmmaker Danny Plotnick that Nest of Vipers, his freewheeling podcast highlighting the wit and storytelling chops of such SF undergroundlings as Hank VI’s Tony Bedard, the Husbands’ Sadie Shaw, singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet, and Porchlight’s Beth Lisick, was now officially off the KQED site and fully independent (and available through iTunes). "I had a contract for six episodes to be distributed by KQED," Plotnick e-mailed. "Ultimately they released eight episodes. They didn’t renew the contract because the show was too edgy for them."

Unfortunately, that also means the customer-service episode that triggered those treasured proctology-convention yuks, which was supposed to go up on the public station’s Web site on June 15, has been delayed till July 1 as Plotnick figures out new hosting.

But at least the assembled vipers will continue to writhe unchecked. Inspired by Plotnick’s favorite sports talk shows, Nest of Vipers aims to issue a weekly breath of venomous, randomized air in an ever-constricting radio landscape. "So often on radio there’s a bunch of experts pontificating about whatever," he told me earlier. "This is more about real people talking about real experiences," or like hanging with the gritty raconteurs at your favorite dive bar. The next episode, for instance, sounds like a doozy: Bucky Sinister talks about working the phones at PlayStation on Christmas morning, and Bedard has a yarn about biting into a Ghirardelli chocolate bar and finding a maggot — thinking it’s his big payday, he returns it to the company. You have been served! *


With Jurassic Park IV: The Musical

Fri/29, 8 p.m., $12

Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF

(415) 522-0333







Seattle Matador starlets break out the rustic initial Invitation Songs. Wed/27, 9 p.m., $8–$10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com


Jamin and J-Dubber combine protest gangsta with ye olde funk and minihyph on Grind Pays (Organized Grind). Thurs/28, 10 p.m., call for price. Fourth Street Tavern, 711 Fourth St., San Raphael. (415) 454-4044


Partake in the Hot Jet’s imagescape of "visual music." Fri/29–Sun/1, 8 p.m.–2 a.m., $20–$25. Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF. (415) 978-2787, www.ybca.org


Incoming Korg attack! James LaValle’s gorg dream orchestrations cavort with Lee and Nancy–esque vocals. With Under Byen. Sat/30, Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. (415) 522-0333, www.slims-sf.com


The Oakland combo parties over its new CD — after vocalist Ryan Karazija spent a very unlucky Friday the 13th in April being brutally mugged and left in a pool of blood with a fractured skull after a Minipop show at Mezzanine. Sat/30, 10 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com


On Behold Secret Kingdom (Release the Bats), the night critters generate a fine squall of free jazz, noise, drone, and jungle psychedelia. Knocking over trash cans never sounded so intentional. Tues/3, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923, www.hemlocktavern.com

Pay, pal


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER "Fuck Lars Ulrich — he can play drums on my balls with his teeth!" Them’s fighting words from the beefy bruiser in a tinsel page-boy wig, perhaps provoked only by four wannabe skids’ burning need to cover Metallica’s "For Whom the Bell Tolls" at last week’s first but — fortunately for your inner and outer sketched-out Priest hooligan with a nonironic mullet, prematurely weather-beaten mien, and herbally truncated short-term memory — not last "Hesher" night at the Parkside, where it’s now semiofficially installed after starting its smokin’ life at Annie’s Social Club. Still headbang or nod out to "Sweet Child o’ Mine"? All is forgiven and even drunkenly applauded at "Hesher," a metal karaoke and air guitar contest. Yet as delightful as it is to rock out with your crock out to such unrepentant cock-rock versions of "Eye of the Tiger" and "Round and Round," I couldn’t help but think that all of us ruddy walleyes were just cruising upstream against a current zeitgeist hell-bent on nailing culpables caught with their greasy paws in the cookie jar. How else to explain the crowds crowing to punish Paris or throw the book at I. Lewis "Lemme Scoot" Libby? Why else were latently Catholic viewers so outraged that Tony Soprano didn’t go down in a hail of bullets rather than simply cutting to black? After years of the Bush and Cheney show, the hordes have become less hesher than harsher.

Maybe we’re waiting for justice, answers, something to believe in — and perhaps the once-wronged and now recognized and fully redeemed Spoon’s Britt Daniel is ready to give it to us, just as he and other indie savants like Feist turn in their subtlest, slowest-growing recordings to date. In fact, the opening track of Spoon’s Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga (Merge), "Don’t Make Me a Target," could serve as the theme song for a rockin’ version of Chicago starring the most hated Hilton in America: it soft-shoes the bristly snarl of "Waiting for the Kid to Come Out," off last year’s reissued Soft Effects EP. In spite or perhaps because of the troubles he saw when he was pushed off Elektra, griping loudly all the way, Daniel has always sounded like one of the angriest dogs on the lot, barely leashed to those leathery pop hooks.

With Ga Ga Ga Ga Ga, Daniel ventures into other textures and tempos, moduutf8g his bark and bite with plangent pings and drastic pressure drops, floating in an echoey "The Ghost of You Lingers" and snapping suavely to the hand-clapping "Don’t You Evah." Though the infectious brass, Daniel’s streetwise taunts, and the band’s pugilistic punch conjure up memories of a certain cheesy piano man, as Sasha Frere-Jones of the New Yorker has pointed out, aligning "The Underdog" with Billy Joel’s "Only the Good Die Young," I’d venture that Daniel is less conjuring stereotypically cornball urban bluster pop straight out of some tourist fantasy of a Little Italy than continuing the same cranky conversation that began back around the hard-assed, grunge-era Soft Effects, now aged artfully into a modern-day Bobby Darrin–y hep cat. Much like the album’s cover girl, sculptor Lee Bontecou, Daniel’s finding new mettle — and much softer metals — with which to channel his rage.

FOLKLORE LURE Court and Spark and Hiss Golden Messenger honcho and teacher MC Taylor is answering the siren call of higher education and leaving the Mission digs he shares with his wife, Abby, to move to Chapel Hill, NC. "We both wanted a change of scenery, wanted to live in the country and have a garden. I got accepted to the grad program in folklore at UNC, so everything worked out perfectly," he e-mailed on the eve of a moving sale that promised "the craziest set of Dungeons and Dragons role-playing game books that you’ve probably ever seen — seriously." Taylor will continue the more improvisational HGM in his sweet home North Carolina, though sadly C&S will probably call it a day — but not before a finale July 6 at Cafe du Nord.

MICKI ON THE MEND? Many know Stork Club owner Micki Chittock as the Oaktown stalwart who moved the Stork from its cubby near the Tribune tower to its current Telegraph Avenue clubhouse. But how many, booker Joel Harmon wonders, have come through for Chittock since her serious van accident in April? Suffering from a broken femur, pelvis, back, and ribs, Chittock has three weeks left in intensive care before she’s transferred to a recovery room, Harmon e-mailed me, after doctors gave the club owner a 50 percent chance of recovery. Harmon has put together two benefit shows to ease the medical expenses, and he’s working on more because, he writes, "I’m thinking that in order for the Stork to survive, Micki has to survive." *



Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll sweethearts sweat it out with kindred Northwestern miscreants. Wed/20, 9:30 p.m., $5. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923, www.hemlocktavern.com


The SF singer-songwriter whoops it up in honor of Flowering Spade, which found him in a groove with Etienne de Rocher. Thurs/21, 9 p.m., $18. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 885-0750, www.musichallsf.com


Crown City Rocker Headnodic breaks out hip-hop, soul, and dancehall alongside Raashan Ahmad. Thursdays, 10 p.m., $5. Shattuck Down Low, 2284 Shattuck, Berk. (510) 548-1159, www.shattuckdownlow.com


Load Records rodents bite headliner Skinny Puppy’s butt; don’t be surprised if they also gnaw their way onto a bill at the Bakery in Oakland. Thurs/21, 9 p.m., $27.50. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000, www.thefillmore.com


Turn-of-the-century wolf moniker and contemplative songcraft. Fri/22, 9 p.m., $10–$12. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016, www.cafedunord.com


A Wu-Tang dance party ensues after the twisted pop eccentrics couple with the experimental-theater ensemble fixated on dance, politics, and illness. Fri/22, 9 p.m., sliding scale. 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakl. (510) 444-7263, www.21grand.org


Elliot Bergman’s free-funk, Afrobeat, and noise eight-piece fires up the mbira, gamelan, and glockenspiel. Tues/26, 9 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455, www.bottomofthehill.com


The ex-Peaches sidekick issues a subdued, ambitious, and multitextured Reminder (Cherrytree/Interscope). June 26–27, 8 p.m., $25. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000, www.thefillmore.com

Eat on the beat


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Once upon a strange, overly prepared, possibly paranoid post-9/11-related time not so long ago, I’d bring my lunch to shows at Shoreline Amphitheatre, then–Concord Pavilion, and all those other mammoth Sleep Train–sponsored yet intrinsically antisnooze behemoths. I’d pack a heaving Dagwood of cold cuts and assorted cheeses and energy bars into a backpack for random spates of balls-out rockin’ in burbs and office parks. What was I thinking? Guess I felt goofy partaking in those pricey, once-no-frills concession stands o’ paltry choices. Will it be a $7 Bud or $12 Corona, milady?

My only point in this pointless universe of sunburn, service fees, and loud, loud music is that it looks incredibly silly to come too correctly sometimes, especially when one takes in all-day musical twofers like the Harmony Festival and BFD in one fell weekend, hoping to study the cultural disconnect.

Still, the disjunction started way earlier, while at Harmony, cruising the many-splendored superwheatgrass concoctions, nut ices, and organic brown-rice-and-veggie-bowl stands (here somewhat more affordable than making a meal at a movie theater) and sticking out like a black-garbed Trenchcoat Mafiosa amid the dreadlocked sk8ter bois and Marin wealth gypsies with perfectly crimped hair. So too at BFD, playing arcade basketball backstage, studying Interpol and the Faint as they attempted to summon dark magic in broad daylight, and feeling peckish and jaded for noting the all-male standard-issue modern-rock lineups dominating the main stage.

I just didn’t go far enough in packing num-nums for all-day summer music lovin’ — after all, when in Rome and paying Rome’s hefty ticket prices, why not dress, smell, and quaff like those kooky Romans do? (And why not get a brain transplant while you’re at it?) As author Kara Zuaro might say, "I like food, food tastes good," but I also like saving nonexistent moolah and embedding myself seamlessly clad in average fan camouflage.

Hence a modest proposal for blending in at and sneaking grub into this summer’s shed performances:

THE SHOW: The Police, the Fratellis, and Fiction Plane. Wed/13, 6:30 p.m., $50–$225. McAfee Coliseum, Oakl. www.ticketmaster.com.

THE LOOK: Blond wig, placenta facial, an afternoon in the spray-tanning salon, tantric sex charm bracelet.

THE FLASK: Guinness-laced nut milk shake to please the food police.

THE SHOW: Gwen Stefani, Akon, and Lady Sovereign. Tues/19, 7:30 p.m., $25–$79.50. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000.

THE LOOK: Blond wig, stunna shades, ab-baring lederhosen, and a pout.

THE LUNCH BOX: A single Ricola in sympathy with Stefani, who claims to have been dieting since she was 10.

THE SHOW: Vans Warped Tour, including Bad Religion, the Matches, Flogging Molly, Pennywise, and Tiger Army. July 1, noon, $29.99. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000.

THE LOOK: Black T-shirt, faux-hawk, and black low-top Converse or checkerboard Vans — why not one on each foot?


THE SHOW: Ozzfest, including Ozzy Osbourne, Lamb of God, Static X, Lordi, Hatebreed, Behemoth, and Nick Oliveri and the Mondo Generator. July 19, noon, free. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. www.ozzfest.com

THE LOOK: Black T-shirt, stunna shades, floppy shorts.

THE FANNYPACK: Seitan, cheddar cheese Combos, a quart of Gorilla Fart No. 666.

THE SHOW: Bone Bash VIII, with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Pat Traves, and Laidlaw. July 20, 5:45 p.m., $10.77–$59.50. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000.

THE LOOK: Uh, blond wig, floppy shorts, ab-bearing lederhosen.

THE TRUNK: Rice Chex and raisins, leftover tuna noodle casserole, Arkansas Buttermilk.

THE SHOW: Projekt Revolution Tour, including Linkin Park, My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday, HIM, and Placebo. July 29, 12:45 p.m., $24.50–$70. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000.

THE LOOK: Floppy shorts and tantric sex charm bracelet.

THE PLASTIC SACK: Fried ramen with faux duck, Kit-Kat, Sparks, and Tylenol.*


Pills and purists might accuse Sean Rawls of appropriating Aislers Set for his reggae-scented SF party supergroup Still Flyin’ — or simply appropriating Jah lovers’ rock sans the spirituality — but that doesn’t bum out the ex–mover and shaker of Athens, Ga.’s Masters of the Hemisphere on the June 5 release of an EP, Za Cloud (Antenna Farm): "Some people hear Still Flyin’ described to them and automatically think that it’s such a horrible idea for a band, which I can understand. But what we’re trying to do is just have a good time. Most bands aren’t into that."

When Rawls moved to SF in 2003, he simply asked everyone he knew — including AS’s Yoshi Nakamoto, Alicia Vanden Heuvel, and Wyatt Cusick — to join his new band. He didn’t think 15 unlikely suspects from groups like Maserati would accept.

After an East Coast tour this fall, Rawls aims to record an album of even dancier material, provided more instruments don’t get stolen by fans, as they have been in Sweden. "They also steal our beer. Either way it sucks," Rawls says. "We’re partying hard, and beer is a vital ingredient."

STILL FLYIN’ WITH ARCHITECTURE IN HELSINKI Sat/16, 9 p.m., $16. Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. (415) 474-0365



The Bay’s metal maidens meet the Totimoshi spinoff group, as the latter toast a new EP, The Swarm (No Options). Fri/15, 9 p.m., $7. Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. (415) 974-1585


Following the sad passing of drummer San Fadyl, the Brooklyn nostalgia rockers carry on, twanging sweetly on Can’t Wait Another Day (Merge). Fri/15, 10 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455


The Docs are in with their third album, Origin and Tectonics. With Wooden Shjips, Fuckwolf, and Sic Alps. Fri/15, 10 p.m., $6. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. (415) 552-7788


The SF combo skipped pants at BFD. Fri/15, 9 p.m., $13. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422


The Chicago duo kick out the streamlined boom-bap. Tues/19, 8:30 p.m., $8–$10. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016


No creeps — just poignant, eerie rock from the Thunderstick-wielding Brooklyn trio. Tues/19, 9 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com

Gunning for Boots


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Where have all the outlaws gone? Now that Paris Hilton seems like the highest-profile sorta-one-hit wonder to run afoul of the law, it’s easy to believe that pop’s rep for rebellion is seriously in question. (And with Warner Bros. jettisoning the overexposed jet-setter, who knows if she should even make the tally?) Yet just how disturbing or subversive is it to glom on to corporate punks like Good Charlotte or hitch your fortunes to soaking-in-it onetime gangstas like Snoop "Soul Gravy Train" Dogg? How revolutionary is it to play music your parents might approve of, à la white-bread soul poppers Maroon 5?

But those petty pop-crit worries wane on hearing about the Coup mastermind Boots (né Raymond) Riley’s Memorial Day misfortune. In the early-morning hours, long before most locals were firing up the grill and chugging microbrews, Riley was looking down the wrong end of a San Francisco Police Department gun barrel while innocently attending a get-together at a friend’s warehouse in SF’s Dogpatch-Waterfront zone. Why? Likely for nothing more than driving while black.

Riley had just parked his car near the warehouse when he was blinded by flashlights, and he realized that he was surrounded by cops. "They were saying, ‘Don’t fucking move, don’t fucking move,’ and came straight at me," Riley told me from his Oakland home, where he had just fed his kids their Sunday breakfast. "They put my hands above my head, searched me, and searched my car, even though they were looking for someone who was stealing tires. You know, if they had a description of a light-skinned black man with a big Afro and sideburns, maybe they should have taken me in. But they were yelling, ‘Are you on probation? Do you have a warrant?’ And every time I said no, they said, ‘Don’t lie to us. Don’t fucking lie to us.’"

Neighbor Hoss Ward had been walking his dog by the warehouse when he spied officers with flashlights lurking between parked cars amid the trash on the street. "I thought that was weird. They didn’t question me, but I’m a white man," he said later, verifying that Boots parked, got thrown against his car, and had guns pulled on him. "It’s not unusual for someone to pull up in a beater car," Ward said. Yet this incident smelled like racial profiling: "That’s what the vibe felt like."

"I walked over there and said, ‘What the hell is going on?’" recounted Riley’s friend Marci Bravo, who lives at the warehouse. Eventually Riley was released, but, Bravo continued, "It was really messed up. We fire off fireworks, burn things in the street, and there’s been no problems with cops. They’ve actually come and hung out before.

"It’s just a nasty case of police profiling."

In the end, Riley said, the officers didn’t even check his ID. At press time, police representatives had not responded to inquiries about the incident, and Riley was planning on filing a grievance with the city watchdog agency the Office of Citizens Complaints, a process that the longtime activist is, unfortunately, familiar with. After a 1995 Riverside performance with Method Man, Riley and kindred local hip-hoppers Raz Caz, E-Roc, and Saafir were pulled over and pepper-sprayed in their car seats following a yelling argument at a club. Then there was the incident during the Coup’s 2006 tour around, ironically, their Epitaph album Pick a Bigger Weapon. Shortly after the tour manager urinated next to a semi at a Vermont rest stop, the tour vehicles were stopped by plainclothes officers who claimed to be surveilling a cocaine deal in the truck. "Half the band woke up with guns in their faces," the Coup leader recalled.

Riley’s experiences in and out of our enlightened — for some — city bring home the ugly, everyday reality behind the entertaining anecdote with which the Arcade Fire’s Win Butler regaled the Greek Theatre crowd June 2: he was almost arrested for the first time that day when Berkeley police dragged him out of a rec facility for arguing over the use of a public basketball court. "They called for backup and everything," Butler marveled onstage.

"There are stories all the time," Riley offered matter-of-factly. "Everyone knows you used to get fucked with in San Francisco and Berkeley."

"Usually it’s not anything with me specifically being a rapper," he continued. "I might have even more protection because of that. Like at this get-together, somebody came up and said, ‘Don’t you know who this is? This is Boots Riley.’ They might not have known who I am, but they realize this isn’t the regular case where they can do whatever they want." *


Talk to underground trance DJs, and they’ll point to the Harmony Festival as the hot spot forest ravers will be orbiting. Indeed, one of the main organizers, Howard "Bo" Sapper — who, along with Sean Ahearn, Scott McKeown, and Jeff Kaus, is putting on the 29th music and camping fest — agrees that a healthy, fire-breathing portion of the expected 40,000 at the three-day event will be die-hard burners drawn to the seven-year-old techno tribal night. Sapper also points proudly to the diversity of the musical lineup, including Brian Wilson, Erykah Badu, Rickie Lee Jones, the Roots, Common, moe., and Umphrey’s McGee. "I’m not sure if we’re going mainstream or the mainstream is coming to us," Sapper said, listing the green exhibits and this year’s theme, Promoting Global Cooling. "It’s part of the paradigm shift going on in America."



Air mattress

Plenty of water



Fri/8–Sun/10, $20–$500

Sonoma County Fairgrounds

1350 Bennett Valley Road, Santa Rosa


Grape loss


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER As the Summer of Love turns 40 with a whiff of the haven’t-we-been-here-before birthday blues and a soupçon of marketing bluster — if you can’t trust anyone over 30, as one boomer so succinctly put it, well, doesn’t 40 seem beyond the pale? Look out, big five-oh! — one wonders less about where all the good times went than how we can look ourselves in the eye while we try to resurrect a past, now conveniently viewable through the rosy-hued granny glasses of nostalgia, after writing off the real thing. ‘Cause the reality isn’t always as pleasant, sexy, or sensationally deadly as, say, the post-’67 summer bummer of Altamont.

Witness the real final years and quiet death of Skip Spence, now considered the Bay Area’s Syd Barrett and one of the most notorious songwriters in Moby Grape, still regarded as the best combo from the SF rock scene to meet the least success — the overly hypey simultaneous release of five singles from their self-titled ’67 debut (San Francisco Sound/CBS) is said to have damaged their cred. What kind of fanfare did Spence, the original Jefferson Airplane drummer and onetime member of the Quicksilver Messenger Service who inspired Beck, Robert Plant, and Tom Waits to cover his music on More Oar: A Tribute to Alexander "Skip" Spence (Birdman), receive around the time of his South Bay death in 1999? On the occasion of the release of Listen My Friends! The Best of Moby Grape (Legacy) — the title cribbed from the rousing, flower-strewn Spence-penned boogie anthem "Omaha" — and a tentative Grape date at the Monterey Pop 40th-anniversary event in July, I spoke to Spence’s youngest son, Omar, from Santa Cruz to get an idea.

"My dad drank, but he wasn’t doing heavy drugs," says the longtime private investigator who now works construction when he isn’t playing guitar, singing, or leading worship at Calvary Chapel. When, in 1994, Omar got reacquainted with his father at the urging of his two older brothers, Skip was living as a ward of the state in a Santa Clara halfway house with a 10 p.m. curfew and was suffering from schizophrenia. According to Omar, Skip’s everyday routine at the time consisted of panhandling on street corners in order to get beer and cigarettes. "He would buy a quart of beer and nurse it all day," his son adds with a chuckle. "He just wanted a trophy."

Whisked out of a chaotic life with Skip by his mother when he was about three, Omar, now 39 and with a family of his own, readily confesses that he harbored a lot of anger toward his father. Still, he confesses, "When I saw my dad, it broke my heart. I loved him instantly. My brothers brought him to Santa Cruz and took him to lunch — he had a bad leg, and we bought him a cane. But he was very sick. There were moments of clarity when he was genius smart, and then he’d wander off having a conversation with himself. Here’s a homeless guy that most people would walk past and pity, and he’d say, ‘I’ve been working on a song,’ and he’d scratch out some bar chords and musical notes on a napkin."

Omar tried to get involved in Skip’s life and rekindle their relationship, though his father couldn’t live with him because of Omar’s children and the care Skip required — this was, after all, the man who legendarily interrupted the recording of the Grape’s second LP, Wow (Columbia, 1968), by taking an ax to the hotel room door of guitarist Jerry Miller and drummer Don Stevenson, a supposedly acid-triggered episode. "I tried to get him to move here so I could be closer to him, and then I found out he was seeing a gal. I was, like, ‘I hope he doesn’t start a family. He’s not the daddy type,’" Omar says, sounding like the little boy whose father used to lead the kids in alarming wake-up serenades aimed at Mom. (Fortunately, the girlfriend turned out to be a "sweetheart lady" who wanted Skip to live with her in a Soquel mobile-home park.)

Reviving Skip’s musical career, however, didn’t seem to be an option, although Omar says his father found a way to play at Grace Baptist Church in San Jose. "People would give him a guitar, and he’d give it away," his son explains. "You’d give him a jacket, and he’d give it away. He was just a very giving guy. It was really humbling in a way. You could see the side of him that people loved."

The old Skip, who bounced around onstage and was "most vulnerable to being out of control," would probably have gleaned the irony that his conscientious youngest son was the one to step into his shoes now that, after decades of legal battles, the Moby Grape have won the right to use their name from their old manager Matthew Katz. With much encouragement from Skip’s ex-bandmates, Omar has been practicing with the Grape, playing and singing his father’s parts. "I wish my dad was here right now to experience the fruit of this," Omar says. Nonetheless, he adds, "My dad knew they really had something, even when he was sick at the end of his life. He had a cockiness about him. He knew he was good and they were good. And they can still play." *


"We saw baby owls on the fence outside a gig in Ashville, North Carolina. Cutest thing you’ve ever seen — little tufts coming out of their ears," says singer-songwriter Laura Viers, who was tempted to snap a photo for her favorite site, Cute Overload. Tues/5, 9 p.m., $12. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016



Fierce psych jams meet crooked folkies. With Spindrift and Greg Ashley. Wed/30, 8 p.m., $14. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1421


After dropping much Philip K. Dick and Scooby-Doo, the Portland, Ore., dystopian deconstructofolkies came up with the forthcoming shaggy dog of a good-bad-time album, Wild Mountain Nation (Looker Cow). With the Hold Steady and Illinois. Wed/30, 8 p.m., $15–$17. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. (415) 255-0333


The white witch of the east reveals The Shapes We Make (Kill Rock Stars). With the New Trust and Pela. Thurs/31, 9 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455


Battle raps don’t get any funnier than when the LA comedian attempts to beat down the Burmese vet. Sat/2, 9 and 11:30 p.m., $10. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923


Not chicks but a polished, androgynous all-female pop-rock band from Toronto. Sun/3, 8:30 p.m., $10. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016


When they’re not putting the mental in experimental Muzak, the local noise lotharios of Sergio Iglesias and the Latin Love Machine mess with out-of-towners like Monterrey, Mexico’s Antiguo Autómata Mexicano. With Evil Hippie. Sun/3, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923

Show me


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER I may have gotten straight Cs in critics’ college, but I can’t tell you what works for you. You are the only one who knows what makes you put down the channel changer, sends thrills down your spine, sets your disco ball spinning, and brings that mischievous sparkle to your eye. Or do you?

When it comes to e-mail subject line come-ons, one man’s "Ciali$ CHEEEP" is another woman’s "Ever wanted a bigger penis, Kimberly?" and one stud puppy’s "Are you smarter than a fifth grader? Cum to my cam! Buy OEM software CHEEEP!" is my "I could probably make the SF show too if I drove for about the same price as taking the train to Seattle." Last week a certain server masquerading as "Blanchard Christian" fired off that latter missive, an oblique snippet of pseudocrucial poetry to my ears — who cares that ole Blanche du Blah’s masters were ready to announce their plans to bilk — whoops, I mean, "address the huge influx of immigrant workers into the US that need banking solutions that they otherwise would not qualify for"? Pavlov’s e-mail robot knows what gets me salivating — aside from those wolf beach towels on Amazon.com (wintry wolves and hot sand go together about as well as infants and live grenades): namely, live music. Drive blearily into the Mojave for Coachella, jump through hoops to get to Seattle for Bumbershoot, make the red-eye to Austin for South by Southwest, take the midnight train to Tennessee’s Bonnaroo, hock yourself for England’s All Tomorrow’s Parties, hazard reindeer sashimi for Reykjavik’s Iceland Airwaves — take note of the chart; I have a history of doing anything for a life-altering show.

So I could immediately relate to the scribblers of The Show I’ll Never Forget: 50 Writers Relive Their Most Memorable Concertgoing Experience (Da Capo). Some keep it short like notes or cockeyed haiku, punctuating eccentrically ’cause they didn’t get enough of that in grade school (Thurston Moore on Glenn Branca, Rudolph Grey, and Wharton Tiers). Others find their key note on the "me-me-me-me" and skew confessional (Dani Shapiro revealing that she was beaten by Courtney Cox in the dance-off to be the archetypally lucky audience member pulled from the crowd by Brooooce Springsteen in his "Dancing in the Dark" video). And some make you want to beat them over the head with their next pretentious footnote (yes, Rick Moody, I’m looking at your Lounge Lizards essay — we too were once forced to use the MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, but we recovered).

Attribute it to sheer wordsmith chops or an all-permeating passion for music, but most entries tend to tell you more about a writer, time, and place than, say, a set list. I know I felt like revisiting my own memorable shows: Iggy Pop in ’80s Hawaii; Elliott Smith, Sleater-Kinney, Modest Mouse, Unwound, and Karp at Yo Yo a Go Go in Olympia, Wash.; Sufjan Stevens borne by butterfly wings in Berkeley. These essays’ mood music is liable to send you a bit more alertly braced for baby epiphanies into your next show. You may even be inspired to take notes.

Because I bet all those precious details are pretty sketchy at this point. Hence, some of my favorite essays were hung up on the "memorable" part of the anthology’s title. Was it the songs, the scene, my sweetheart, or my failing gray matter? We all feel vulnerable in the face of the power of music and love, art and memory loss, and in a remembrance (sort of) of all things Rush in 1985 Portland, Maine, Heidi Julavits hits a sad, clear-eyed note that embraces the factual pitfalls of a "memorable concert … about which I remember little," except for her low-life boyfriend who worshipped the sticks a certain drummer sat on. "Neil Something was a stratospherically gifted drummer," she continues, "who, if memory isn’t supplying ghoulishness to a situation that otherwise failed to interest me at all, had lost an arm. Or maybe he was blind."

Likewise Jerry Stahl’s once, twice, three times a David Bowie glance-back sails by on bad TV and reminiscences of rehab before "Rehab" was cool. After first glimpsing Bowie, departing fabulously from a Sunset Strip book shop, the "boundary-challenged" Stahl breaks down into the man who fell to earth’s arms midinterview with "I haven’t shot dope in a month." Lastly, the writer drags his teen daughter to a 2004 Los Angeles show: after embarrassing her by "waving twenties around like Spiro Agnew — a reference no one reading should rightfully comprehend," the two head in, but once Bowie appears onstage, Stahl demurs, "Hey I’m old enough to get junk mail from AARP. I can’t remember everything." He does remember, amid "Rebel Rebel," that he is alive: "My own good luck scares me. David Bowie saved my life, inspired me to scrape enough psychic ganglia off the sidewalk to still be here." Makes you want to get the old diary out and start reassembling the old memory banks — or making new memories.

WRITING WRONGS Electrelane guitarist Mia Clarke has done her share of scribbling about music for the Wire, among other pubs, but that ability to step back and assess, analyze, and appreciate didn’t help when the Brighton-born members of the all-femme band seemed to be on the verge of breaking. After the group made its excellent 2005 Axes (Too Pure) and embarked on a year of touring, Clarke said from her current home in Chicago, where Electrelane are launching their current series of US shows, "we were really sick of each other. When you spend that much time with each other, it gets a bit much, and we all have other things going on in our lives" (bassist Ros Murray, for example, is working on a graduate degree from King’s College while on the bus). Fortunately, Electrelane reconvened in vocalist-keyboardist Verity Susman’s then-home in Berlin during the World Cup and, buoyed by the welcoming vibe in the town, found it in themselves to write and record the nautically themed No Shouts, No Calls (Too Pure), a lighter take on their kraut rock of yore, embellished with ukulele, and Chamberlin keyboards, and sailors’ knots in the CD art. Some ties somehow always bind. *


With the Arcade Fire

June 1–2, 8 p.m., $31.50

Greek Theatre

UC Berkeley

Gayley Road, Berk.




Once a Tarantula AD, now a Priestbird — make up your mind, NYC drama trio. Chicago’s Pit er Pat keep working that exploratory vein. Wed/23, 9:30 p.m., $10. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


An arse-wigglin’ time emerges from the garage when the SF headliners get with the Seattle sickos. Fri/25, 9:30 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Tender, bare tunes and rockin’ piano electrify the Brighton band’s No Need to Be Downhearted (Better Looking). Sun/27, 9 p.m., $8. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455


New folk forms — taking shape as Almaden, Barn Owl, Adam Snider, Misty Mountain, Mass at Dawn, and Messes — scurry from the woods. Sun/27, 9 p.m., $6. Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF. (415) 546-6300

You are free



SONIC REDUCER Afraid to leave home? Worried about breaking away from the pack? Terrified of alarming the animals? Don’t be baaah’d.

Now that the few days of spring heat have descended on the Bay, baking our brains and filling our tenderized minds with thoughts of possibility, freedom, and escape, we begin to contemplate new adventures, new paths, a new life without you.

Yes, you. I’m speaking to the you perched morosely on that porcelain throne, lined up at the bus stop ready and unsteady with workaday abuse, desperately reaching for yet another Advil, another sutra, a 12th step.

What makes you make that leap from the everyday, the norm? What makes you go from belonging — being a part of the gang, a member of the band — to stepping out and up on your own: solo, al dente, au jus?

Sprinkle as much cheap restaurant Latinate on the idea as you like, but you too can break rank and make it, meaning art, on your own. You too can be free.

"If you’re sincere about being an artist, you have to follow your heart, trite as it sounds," Victor Krummenacher recently wrote me in an e-mail. The ex–Guardian art director now flies freelance — he’s still playing with his groundbreaking teen band Camper Van Beethoven and has just released his fourth solo album, The Cock Crows at Sunrise (Magnetic), a proudly "grown-up" disc of full-blown, handmade, blues-based rock songs rooted in his St. Louis family lore. But back to the solo question: "Camper is a joy because I grew up playing with those guys, and we’re very powerful together. But it is a very hard relationship and not always easy or fun. Playing solo is hard work but seldom a chore."

It can be more than OK, judging from, say, the solo debut by Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr., Yours to Keep (Rough Trade/New Line), released here this spring after trying its wings overseas. It’s a fun recording, full of sweetness and light, pop hooks and happy storybook critters — and cavity-inducing ’80s rewrites such as synth pop charmer "In Transit" and the "Love Vigilantes"–cribbing "101." Those two — coupled with buoyant rhythms that sound infinitely more innocent and heartfelt in Hammond’s hands than on the Strokes’ recent albums — will make ex-cheerleaders and frustrated go-go dancers twirl around the room on the balls of their feet, bouncing to the beat and frightening the cat.

In his Manhattan digs, Hammond sounded loogey but resigned to the fate of his songs as he girded himself for his US tour, kicking off in San Francisco this week. Yours to Keep began as an attempt for Hammond to get out of his, well, home (read: his comfort zone). "It started out with me just wanting to leave my apartment and go somewhere else," he explained. He began with the album’s opening track, "Cartoon Music for Superheroes" (a lullaby, as Hammond described it, though he knows no kids to sing it to; "I’m my own child," he claimed, citing Bugs Bunny as a favorite cartoon character). Then he ventured out from there, he added: "We basically built up our confidence. You don’t just walk into Electric Lady Studios and do good work."

Still, Hammond went from almost no input on the Strokes’ songs — "I did find my own guitar tone," he confessed — to putting himself out there in a disarmingly artful, if not artless, way. As Krummenacher wrote, "You better be resolved. On a good night, I get maybe 10 to 20 percent of the crowd that Camper would get, and you have to have a certain kind of ego to try to rock out in front of 50 people when you’re used to much more."

But you listen to the songs, the spring, and you know you gotta start all over again, whether you’re 27, like Hammond, or 42, like Krummenacher, who has been playing for almost as long as the former has been alive. The fear is, of course, that you won’t find anything out there worth keeping or hanging on to and you won’t succeed in "creating your own world," as Hammond repeatedly said. All told, everything from Yours to Keep‘s title, coined from the words Hammond would write on demos, to the solid songwriting sounds like a tentative baby step from buzz-band-dom toward longevity. "Only time will tell about that," Hammond said. "And time will be able to tell about me as well, whether I create something that lasts." *


Sun/20, 9 p.m., $18


628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421



With the Knitters

Sat/19, 9 p.m., $25

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750




Who’d’a thunk that 14 years along, the band that seemed to be busy aping Built to Spill would produce its most musically intriguing recording, We Were Dead before the Ship Even Sank (Epic)? With Man Man and Love as Laughter. Wed/16, 8 p.m., $35. San Jose State University Event Center Arena, S. Seventh St. and San Carlos, San Jose. www.ticketmaster.com


Local electronics-dappled dream poppers turned out a lovely disc, We Are Wyoming (Redbuttons), a few years back. With Snowblink and the Spires. Thurs/17, 9 p.m., $8. Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-2888, www.makeoutroom.com


The NYC neg heads ice up our drinks, then threaten to rape our ear holes. Mon/21, 8 p.m., call for price. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923, www.hemlocktavern.com. May 23, 9 p.m., $7. Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 451-8100

Not Coachillin’



SONIC REDUCER “I can’t believe you slept through the police helicopter above the tent at 3 a.m. and the megaphone going, ‘Disperse immediately or you’ll all be arrested,'” tentmate Fluffy marveled the day after another ear-busting night of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival’s unofficial after-party scene in the campgrounds. It was only 8 a.m., though the sun was already beating down relentlessly like our heedless neighborhood drum circle.

I’ve snoozed through my share of lousy plays, bad bands, and crappy circuses, but I never thought I’d slumber through the 24-7 thrills at the Empire Polo Fields. And the chopper was just the chaser to April 28 trance headliner Tiesto, who began his loud set, pompously booming out over our not-so-fair tent city of spring breakers and Euro tourists, with “In the beginning there was the earth….”

We’re gonna have to sleep through the history of the planet, was my last thought as I drifted off.

O Coachella, don’t you cry for me, ’cause I’ve come from Alabama Street with a heat rash on my knee — and doubts about making the scene at the festival despite the fact that about 160,000 brave music fans were expected to face down the desert swelter as the event swelled to three days.

At this juncture, Coachella might be described as a music festival on steroids: it’s a carnival for 18 and overs with rides, art installations, dancers, and completely insane people wearing full-body chicken costumes in the 110-degree heat, though still boasting a comprehensive bill of today’s so-called hot bands. It’s your one-stop smorgasbord for music lovers, who will happily chat you up about the performer they deemed the most mind-blowing the previous night or the last Rage Against the Machine show they caught.

And they got what they came for: the Björk shroom headdress; the crazed buzz rising from such festival circuiteers as Amy Winehouse and Klaxons; solid pop from Jarvis Cocker and Peter Bjorn and John; show-stopping performances by DJ Shadow, CSS, Arcade Fire, and Konono No. 1; and the rattle of reunion bones by an amped and antic Rage Against the Machine, glowering and balding Jesus and Mary Chain, and, er, Crowded House. You couldn’t go amiss if you stuck to the desert to-do’s rave roots and entrenched yourself beneath the mirror ball, video screens, and pink and blue lights of the Sahara tent: the performances there by Justice and LCD Soundsystem connected with the crowd with a screw-it-all exuberance.

But the untold story lay far away from the press tent and Palm Springs love nests — in the crowded, brutal heat of the campgrounds next to the performance area. Is it possible to review a camping trip? In what seemed like a dusty, straw-strewn football field with thousands of other wake ‘n’ bakers? I spent far too much time taking refuge from the nonstop heat at the campground’s cybercafé, where hundreds of shirtless boys and bikinied girls would miserably crouch, recharging their cells at a bank of outlets, sit stunned watching the Coachella film on a loop, or lie on the ground like clammy, comatose dead fish, waiting out the morning before the acts began in early afternoon.

The southerly discomfort led most campers on a lengthy hike from the tent city, past the obscenely grassy country clubs surrounding the polo grounds, to find refrigerated refuge and 40s at Ralph’s, the nearest supermarket, where people were literally chillin’ on store lawn furniture. Coachella: the fest that inspired global warming — and a post–<\d>Earth Day longing for air-con.

Organizers Golden Voice had a clue: they gave away free water sporadically and provided campers with free Internet use and showers. But there were too few laptops, the wi-fi was too erratic, and the showers were locked down too early — and you knew there was too little shade in general when audience members broiled in the sparse shadows of lemonade stands.

The crowd — weighted with Rage Against the Machine fans eager to see the band’s first concert in more than five years — was also heavy on the testosterone. But maybe that’s just the state of Rage love: the band never really seemed too underground to me but has historically worked to surface activist subversion via modern rock radio. And their audience was still boiling — and amazingly good-natured despite the sleepless nights. As for myself, I finally woke up hours after the helicopter early April 29 to the sound of a random dude shouting, “Whoo!” and yammering loudly in Portuguese to the tentizens the next flap over. Later I was tempted to put my own spin on Zack de la Rocha’s onstage suggestion that Bush and Cheney be “tried for war crimes and shot.” I know the 12-hour roller coaster ride of quality hallucinogens can be a bitch — but then, so can I: is it so wrong to want the early morning shouters and the dude with the air horn to be tried for crimes against humanity’s sleep schedule and shot? I’d settle for finding out where they were dozing it off and delivering a special whoo-gram of my own.

BOB DYLAN STUDIED HERE That’s the rumor, anyway, at the Blue Bear School of Music, which has seen Tracy Chapman and more than 20,000 other musicians come through its doors in the past 36 years. Executive director Kevin Marlatt told me the nonprofit’s second annual fundraiser — showcasing 2007 Grammy Lifetime Achievement winner Booker T. Jones as well as Blue Bear staffer Bonnie Hayes and Sista Monica — will include an appearance by the James Lick Middle School Band, the result of the organization’s efforts in the last year to get more involved in public school music education. Since it took over the James Lick music program and brought in 30 guitars, he says, more than a dozen bands have popped up at just that school. So Stax around for a good cause. *


Sat/12, 8 p.m., $45–$125

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF



Future prefects


> kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Try this out for size: "ELO, the other band that matters." Electric Light Orchestra bulb changer Jeff Lynne would probably prefer that handle to "ELO, the other white meat" – the former sentiment is probably about as good as it gets, emanating from a member of Klaxons, the Brit buzz bomb and neu-rave crossover pop phenom of the moment.

Isn’t ELO, like, your parents’ guilty pleasure, the LP they tuck away when the hep seniors wheel over for low-carb hash brownies? "I actually think they’re quite cool right now," counters Klaxons vocalist-keyboardist-bassist James Righton, on the phone shortly after touching down in Los Angeles for Klaxons’ first US tour. "The Pussycat Dolls used a sample of ‘Evil Woman.’ I think people are looking again at Jeff Lynne’s work and the great, inventive pop music that ELO made. We haven’t experimented with strings sounds like Jeff Lynne has.

"I dunno, Jamie is getting to be a big Roy Orbison fan. I might become a huge Traveling Wilburys fan."

High praise – and heady irreverence – coming from one of the freshest-sounding UK bands accompanied by much blog hum and Euro chart action. Dusting off and sexily propagating rave siren honk, disco flash, and propulsive beats, Klaxons come off less like nostalgia hounds stuck in the acid house’s broken-down Hacienda – Simian Mobile Disco and Soulwax remixes aside – than like a spastic-elastic, at times noisy, at times infectious, synth-driven rock unit ready to embrace the harsh urgency of dance punk (changing it up like restless, simulacra-sick toddlers picking up, suckling, and tossing off one reference after another) and sci-fi postmodernism (bidding semper fi to J.G. Ballard with the title of their debut, Myths of the Near Future, on Geffen/Polydor, and Thomas Pynchon with their first single, "Gravity’s Rainbow").

Add magic, psychedelia, and a Web community devoted to guitarist Simon Taylor’s hair to Klaxons’ recipe, and one wonders, could this be the future – once again with that dehydrated feeling (time to unearth those glowsticks) – if not the present? Flying right like a good, recycling-conscious meta-zen from Planet Baudrillard, Righton owns up honestly that the band would never dare to consider themselves – um, gag! – truly unique. "I think it’s hard to create something truly original, especially if you’re in the traditional guitar-bass-drum format. We just stole a lot from other people. We just weren’t picking from the usual Dylan, Stones, Beatles, Led Zeppelin," he drawls. "We picked a lot of Brian Eno, Bowie, Gang Gang Dance, a lot of noise, Faust, ELO…." As above so below, as Aleister Crowley and Klaxons go.

THE GOOD, THE GOOD, AND THE GOOD Former Clash bassist Paul Simonon is all too familiar with the anxiety of influence – and the dilemma of surpassing personal bests. The onetime low-end linchpin of the first group marketed as the only band that mattered, Simonon graciously took time from a camping trip with his son to chat in the English woods ("not really Sherwood but quite close") about his latest project with Blur boy Damon Albarn, Fela Kuti drummer Tony Allen, and the Verve guitarist Simon Tong: the hypnotic, elegiac Danger Mouse-produced full-length The Good, the Bad and the Queen (Virgin).

"I’m sort of finding I’m sympathetic to the problems that a musician has when they’ve been very successful, to come up with another album or possibility," he told the trees and me, describing his empathy with Notting Hill neighbor Albarn (after Albarn rang up, Simonon says, "we got chatting and discovered we were neighbors by two streets") and the way their collaboration materialized. "It’s very easy to fall into the trap of sort of doing what we did the last time. It’s sort of different, but with the Clash we moved around: the first album is no comparison to the second, the second was no comparison to the third, and I find that’s Damon’s approach too. Otherwise, it’s really boring, and you might as well get a job and move into another field, rather than just clodding on."

True to his word, Simonon made his own career switch a while back, making and showing grimly realistic paintings of the Thames over the past few years. "The great thing about painting is that you don’t have to discuss it with anybody," he explains. "It’s difficult because if it doesn’t seem to pass the test, you have to destroy it. I don’t find it easy. It’s trial by error."

Simonon had stopped playing until this album – "’Retired’ sounds like I’m in a wheelchair or something!" – but he won’t make the error of trying to blow air into the Clash’s still elegant cadaver. It’s one punk reunion you shouldn’t hold your breath for. "I never entertained the idea, really, seemed like a backward step, really," he says matter-of-factly. "We went on solidly for seven years nonstop. I think it would do no good to re-form – no matter how much money is offered. My calculations are pretty bad, really – a million here or there is all just toy money from my own personal perspective. It meant the Clash – it didn’t mean the cash!" *


With Amy Winehouse

Thurs/26, 9 p.m. doors, sold out


330 Ritch, SF



Sun/29, 8 p.m., $32.50

Grand at the Regency Center

1290 Sutter, SF


Eco trip


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER So you wanna live clean, go green, and leave a low-impact footprint on this embattled Earth — yet you also want to bring the noise, bust a move, and get the rock out? It’s worth wondering about on Earth Day, when everyone seems to be looking to what they can change while the powers-that-be hold their apocalyptic course. Some might argue that a decadent pop lifestyle clashes with the color green — and even those who want to tour consciously must pay a price.

"It is a lot of work," said Oakland musician John Benson, whose veggie oil–fueled bus and curbside shows are a model for ecopunks who want to burn less petroleum and more french fry grease. He has converted vehicles for about five bands so far and plans to attend the Version Festival in Chicago to demo veggie-run vehicles, but Benson and his converts are learning that culling free fuel from oil Dumpsters behind truck stops can be dirty and time-consuming work.

"Bands that are really glamour conscious get really bummed out," he explained. "There’s a time loss and a filth factor, and when you’re on a tour, you’re conscious of making the next show." Also with used oil, "you get dead rats, sweet and sour sauce, and the occasional ball of hair," he added. "You have to be prepared to pull over and pull it out. Be prepared to get your favorite suit covered with rat droppings. It’s a fashion hazard."

Still, creating a cleaner planet doesn’t have to be a filthy business, despite the fact that even green-minded musos such as Smog Veil Records honcho Frank Mauceri admit, "Traditionally, the music industry has not been a green industry. It’s not a business that’s been sensitive to the environment."

Nonetheless, Mauceri, who fought Chicago’s city hall to install an electricity-producing wind turbine and solar panel system atop his new headquarters, and others are trying to buck tradition. San Francisco singer-songwriter Kelley Stoltz’s recent Below the Branches (Sub Pop, 2006) sported a Green-e label, tagging the full-length as the first to be recorded with all-renewable energy purchased through offsets from the Bonneville Environmental Foundation. Pink Floyd guitarist David Gilmour similarly created a climate-neutral solo album, On an Island (Sony, 2006), through an arrangement with the CarbonNeutral Co., planting trees in response to the carbon emissions produced during the disc’s making.

But what can you, humble musicmaker and fan, do? I did a little chatting, Web searching, and non-ozone-depleting cogitating for just a few suggestions on how to green your music enjoyment.

THE TROUBLE WITH CDS Are digital downloads the real green deal for music consumers? Part of Smog Veil’s green initiatives involves eliminating jewel cases and using all-paper Digipaks, eventually moving to solely digital downloads. But the digital divide continues to be an issue — so the nonwired music lover might want to purchase music from bands such as Cloud Cult who have packaged their CDs in 100 percent postconsumer recycled paper with nontoxic soy ink. And those still attached to the shiny plastic discs can turn to Green Citizen (1-877-918-8900) for recycling. Meanwhile old-school DIY-ers such as Benson make a plea for analog: "People are finding bulk tapes in thrift stores and recording over them in the spirit of recycling."

DELIVERY SYSTEM BLUES You’ve proudly purchased that ecofriendly download, yet what to do when the trusty iPod breaks? Apple has a recycling program: any US Apple store will accept old iPods and offer a 10 percent discount on a new player. Nonetheless the highly toxic e-waste generated by all MP3 makes and models continues to worry environmentalists. Cart those busted players to the aforementioned Green Citizen or call pickup artists such as E-Recycling (1-800-795-0993).

LIVE WASTE "Music is a catalyst," Perry Farrell recently told me from London. "It can bring people together and make change fashionable. I’d love to see everyone buying recycled paper and buying hydrogen fuel cell cars." Farrell has done his part with Lollapalooza, which introduced solar-powered stages and came up with fun ways to encourage recycling (audience members gathering the most recyclables have scored backstage passes). Bonnaroo and the Vans Warped Tour have powered stages, generators, and buses with biodiesel. Still, efforts can be as simple as the Green Apple Music and Arts Festival (not to be confused with the SF bookstore). Founder Peter Shapiro is using the fest to promote Earth Day with shows in San Francisco, Chicago, and New York City this year while providing city venues with environmentally friendly paper products, garbage bags, and cleaning materials and offsetting the carbon dioxide emissions produced by the festival, making it the largest carbon-neutral event in the country. He told me that he hopes "we’ll get people to think about it for 30 seconds, maybe go buy an energy-efficient lightbulb, maybe carpool or walk to the next show."

GET IN THE VAN Not all young bands can afford to buy carbon dioxide emission offsets and convert to biodiesel when they go on tour, like Barenaked Ladies, Pearl Jam, Gomez, and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young — let alone slap their name on a biodiesel company the way Willie Nelson has with BioWillie. But that doesn’t mean musicians have to stop spreading the green love. Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin’s Philip Dickey says his Springfield, Mo., group is aiming to convert its touring van to veggie oil someday, but until they can afford it, they’re trying to do their part. "No one in the band has a car. We all ride bikes when we’re in town, and when we’re touring, there’s five of us in a van. Pollution sucks, and pollution coming out of our van sucks. But it’s not like one person in an SUV. We also have a new song called ‘Bigger Than Your Yard’ about how everyone has to have a car." *


With Bob Weir and Ratdog, Stephen Marley, the Greyboy Allstars, and others

Sun/22, 11:30 a.m., free

Golden Gate Park

Fulton and 36th Ave., SF

Other events run Thurs/19–Sat/21

For a schedule, go to www.greenapplefestival.com


Tues/24, 8 p.m., $14–$15


333 11th St., SF

(415) 255-0333


Six ed


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Conventional wisdom — chew before swallowing, hang on to your nine-to-five, the safety of the passengers depends on keeping conversation with the driver to a minimum — usually suffices eight days a week. But along march catastrophic events, and the rules fly out the window. Luckily, agile industry vets such as Six Degrees founders Bob Duskis and Pat Berry know how to respond to fate’s highs and lows. For instance, the label was universally warned not to release its Arabian Travels comp post–Sept. 11.

"Everybody told us, ‘You are crazy if you put this record out. People are going to be angry. Retailers aren’t going to carry it,’ " Duskis recalls at Six Degrees’ sizable Mission District office. "And we thought, you know, this is the perfect time to put this record out! More than ever people need things that transcend stereotypes — a positive representation of what comes from the Middle East." That, on top of evidence that Americans were suddenly ravenous for any information about a world they had once largely ignored, convinced them to go ahead. Turns out "it’s one of our best-selling compilations!" Duskis delivers the kicker, chuckling. "And we got a lot of mail from people of Middle Eastern descent who live in this country saying, ‘Thank you very much!’ Obviously, we feel like music is a great connector."

On the cusp of Six Degrees’ 10th anniversary celebration, sitting in a conference room atop some 20,000 CDs in the company’s downstairs warehouse with his 14-year-old hound Scout by his side, Duskis, 47, is feeling ever more optimistic about the future. On April 18 the label head will be joining the imprint’s Bombay Dub Orchestra, Jef Stott, and r:sphere of Zaman 8 on the steelers’ wheels — as he often does online via the label’s monthly radio show and occasionally does at one of many nights sponsored by Six Degrees at Supperclub, Madrone Lounge, and elsewhere. Part of the party: Backspin: A Six Degrees 10 Year Anniversary Project, which finds roster artists covering their faves (Karsh Kale takes a tabla to the Police’s "Spirits in the Material World").

Six Degrees has plenty to toast, while providing a lesson in indie survival techniques. After hitting it big with licensed bossa nova royalty Bebel Gilberto’s Tanto Tempo (2000) and subsequently downsizing amid the industry’s early ’00s doldrums, the imprint has been busily undertaking new projects, expected for a company that has always looked forward: a digital-only Emerging Artists series including Bay Area artists Stout and Zaman 8 as a way of breaking new performers with lower overhead, and a new partnership with Starbucks Entertainment to play and promote the debut by the silky-voiced, groove-obsessed, and cute-as-a-bug Brazilian singer-songwriter CeU, the first non-English-language artist to break into the chain’s Hear Music Debut series and find exposure to java junkies everywhere. "Hitting that consumer that’s outside the traditional pathways, which have been closed to us or just aren’t working anymore, it’s the kind of thing we need to do," Duskis explains. "All signs are pointing for this to be a big breakout."

Breaks and smarts have gotten Duskis and Berry this far: the two met at Palo Alto new age independent Windham Hill. Duskis had worked his way up to become the head of A&R; Berry, VP of sales and marketing. Both were united in their belief that the label should explore more global sounds, and they eventually departed to create Six Degrees under the umbrella of then-Polygram-owned Island at the behest of their genre-crossing hero Chris Blackwell, who asked the two to market the "weird stuff, all the nonpop stuff."

After Blackwell left, Duskis and Berry got out of Island with their masters in the nick of time before being entangled in yet another monstrous merger. With an infusion of venture capital, they relaunched the label as a true independent in ’98 before hitting it massive with Tanto Tempo. "From the start we treated it not like this was going to be some weird, little world-electronica record but as something for a wide range of people, from young club audiences and electronica fans to older people who had hit the first bossa nova wave to pop and Sade fans. Sure enough, it became the coffee-table world music record of that year," Duskis says. (Gilberto’s latest, Momento, comes out April 24).

The success of that album pegged Six Degrees as a world fusion label, but the founders always saw the imprint as more than that, releasing artists as varied as Michael Franti, Cheb i Sabbah, and the Real Tuesday Weld — more a global content provider with a highly eclectic palate and fingers dipped in digital distribution; podcasts; music blogs; and licensing to film, TV, and commercials before anyone else. "One thing I’d say we’ve never tried, as a label," Dukais quips, "is to be so hip it hurts." *


Fri/13, 9 p.m., $15


628 Divisadero, SF

(415) 771-1421


April 18, 10 p.m., $10


657 Harrison, SF

(415) 348-0900



Gone are the days when Jeff Chang churned out columns for the Guardian, but my Hawaii bud can be excused for burying himself in books such as his award-winning Can’t Stop Won’t Stop and his compelling new volume, Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop (Basic, $18.95). Total Chaos emerged from discussions on the future of demographics and aesthetics in the arts about three years ago and found Chang editing playwright Danny Hoch, artist Doze, and DJ Spooky, as well as essays on hip-hop and queerness. It’s a wide-angle take on hip-hop’s impact on the arts, triggering what Chang calls "crosscutting debates within the book." And without: "I’ve seen a review in the National Review complaining that there’s no center to this," Chang says on the road. "But hip-hop is about call-and-response. It’s not necessarily about people having a consensus." Expect a hot back-and-forth when Chang gathers Marcyliena Morgan of Stanford’s Hip-Hop Archive and contributors such as Adam Mansbach for a hip-hop aesthetics talk April 17 (and later on May 8).


Tues/17, 6:30 p.m., free

Yerba Buena Center for the Arts

701 Mission, SF




Balazo KO?



SONIC REDUCER Once upon a time in the Mission, there was a gallery named Balazo. Not quite old enough to know better and a ways from 18, or 18th Street, the little walk-up art space that could blasted into many a local indie fan’s existence in the early ’00s with wall-rattling, hot ‘n’ clammy punk jammies overlooking the 24th Street and Mission BART station. From the beginning, this space was anything but Snow White pristine: noise kids littered the pavement outside with butts, and upstairs the humidity was high and the audience shank-to-elbow deep, packed into a onetime living room for bands like the Mae-Shi and the Lowdown who made it way loud for the crowd. Trailing into adjacent rooms were beer drinkers and art lovers, gazing at massive blowups depicting disappearing SF industrial buildings or paintings praising pubic pouches. Peddling metal too raw for larger stages, punk en español, and local ear bleed avant-gardians, Balazo proved the prince of the underground, Latino-run and Mission-bred, sweeping in on its black charger after Epicenter and Mission Records packed it in and keeping it all relatively under the radar, even as it hauled its bad self down the street to a space at Mission and 18th streets still greasily redolent of the past Chinese chop suey tenant. Rechristened Balazo 18 Art Gallery, the joint has hosted bands ranging from Beijing punkers Brain Failure to SF indie rockers Caesura, and artists including Michael Arcega and Liz Cohen — opening its doors to parties of all flavors.

But every fairy tale has an ending — whether Balazo 18’s is happy or not remains up in the air.

Guardian ears pricked up when we heard the gallery was forced to cancel an event planned for the relaunch of GavinWatch.com. Further, Guardian reporter G.W. Schultz obtained a letter sent to acting director Amy Lee of San Francisco’s Department of Building Inspection from a resident living on Dolores Street who complained of "drug sellers and prostitutes hanging around all day and night" in the area. Though the author seemed to be attributing the activity to the general vibe of the hood, she did bemoan a "torn canopy" and "boarded up windows" at Balazo’s current 2183 Mission location.

Records show the city opened a file in mid-March, but an inspector noted the building’s "sign appears safe," and no apparent building violations were found. But we continued to scratch our collective heads, since Balazo’s online events calendar only lists dates through February. Was San Francisco about to lose one of the remaining all-ages venues for emerging hardcore, metal, and rock acts?

We finally got a hold of Juan Villanueva, who runs Balazo along with founder Txutxu Pxupxo, for a lowdown on the laid-low gallery. On his way to the first in a series of benefits for Balazo at Dolores Park on April 1, Villanueva explained that a neighbor had been complaining about the murals and denizens on the street, claiming the space was "bringing property valuation down," but it’s unclear whether that brought building inspectors to the gallery to check on the renovations that had been going on to make Balazo’s entrance and restrooms wheelchair accessible.

Unfortunately, at the same time the police began visiting Balazo, asking for an entertainment license, which Pxupxo and Villanueva don’t possess but have subsequently applied for. The $1,500 permit cost, the more than $2,000 needed for the construction, and the required month needed to post the permit application sign have caused the venue to cease shows for fear of incurring thousands in fines.

It sounds like a case of when it rains, all hell breaks loose. "Yeah, it’s a hassle," Villanueva agreed. "We pay rent from shows that come in. But right now we’re desperately in need of funds." Contrary to popular belief, Balazo is not a nonprofit, regardless of its work establishing a DIY community space in the area. Villanueva hopes that favorable letters will be sent to the Entertainment Commission by April 25 supporting Balazo’s application and that the community turns out for the May 1 entertainment-license hearing. But the gallery also has to find a way to pay its monthly $8,200 rent.

Perhaps the villagers will step up to rescue the hero this time around: Villanueva says bands such as La Plebe and Peligro Social have already volunteered to play benefits and the 924 Gilman Street Project has offered to host a throwdown. But we in the peanut gallery are all hoping other, more stealthy forces don’t snatch this independent space away. "Time influences our capability of whether we can make it," Villaneuva warns. "If it takes three months and we can’t get three months’ worth of rent, that would really affect us." *


Additional reporting by G.W. Schulz.



Something ecstatic this way comes from the synth eccentrics of Modular Set, the electric bongo beaters of Ascended Master, and the free-psych natureniks of Three Leafs. Thurs/5, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Making music that can be startling sublime, Scorpio McCombs plays tag with the golden, Will Oldham–esque Arbouretum and Fat Cat experimental roots wrecker Karsten Daniels. Fri/6, 9:30 p.m., $10. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


Mind-frying volume, a frenzied punk psych attack, much spilled sweat, and a whirlpool of quasi moshing made up the scene at the last Lightning Bolt show at Verdi Club a few years back. The Brians have been busy since then, generating a split import CD, Ultra Cross V. 1 (Sony), with Guitar Wolf. Brian Chippendale pulls out percussion on the next Björk disc, kept up his Black Pus side project, and whipped up a book of eye-blisteringly bright Ninja comics for Picturebox. And Brian Gibson recently birthed Barkley’s Barnyard Critters: Mystery Tail, an animation DVD. But résumé builders aside, you really must sink your teeth into LB’s ass live. Mon/9, 9 p.m., $7. LoBot Gallery, 1800 Campbell, Oakl. www.lobotgallery.com. Also Tues/10, 9 p.m., $8. 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission, SF. (415) 970-9777 *

Digging the roots


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Whinny, moan, or emote weakly, if you will, at the prospect of so many bland acoustic guitars — singer-songwriters have it rough, warbling softly alone on a big stage, so often the first to get slapped with the "you suck" stick. The worst scenario is too easy to picture: cliché love ballads about the lady or lad up front with the wine spritzer, uncompelling bellyaching about dead pets, lame chord progressions, an unexamined affection for James Taylor and Simon and Garfunkel. You’ve got a friend — who wears khakis. So consider it a good fight when singer-songwriters and those who love them wanna bust the stereotypically sensitive mold à la Jay Farrar, Britt Govea, and Marc Snegg. The last started Nevada City’s Grass Roots Records and is sincerely trying to shine a light on songsmiths succored by the rocky, roaring shores of the sweet South Yuba River with, this week, a traveling songwriters revue including Mariee Sioux, Lee Bob Watson, Alela Diane, and Casual Fog.

Can one expect thin song stylings from clotted brains? "That’s not what’s going to be going on at our show!" Snegg protests on the horn from up north. "Each of these songwriters has strong songs, though I guess singer-songwriters sort of get a bad rap.

"The original thing came up because I’m looking around and seeing what’s happening here, what people are doing anyways. I’m trying to congeal and coalesce it into a thing that’s a tour or a record, something that’s a lasting picture of a moment."

You can’t blame the dude, with all the talent pouring out around his hometown, from Joanna Newsom and Noah Georgeson to Hella and the Advantage, many of whom are not only solo artists but bandleaders as well, as Snegg puts it. The ex–UC Berkeley art major heads his own Sneggband, has already had Watson and Hella vocalist Aaron Ross into Dana Gumbiner’s Brighton Sound studio for new albums, and plans to pull in Sioux by April. His latest project: partnering with Nevada City promoters to bring touring and Bay Area bands to the town.

FOLK YOU Snegg isn’t the only wild-eyed seer bringing together two different NorCal scenes with, in his words, "musical momentum" and a few acoustic guitars. Folk Yeah Presents’ Govea has been putting on quiet and increasingly louder shows at Big Sur’s leafy Fernwood Resort and the woody Henry Miller Library for the past two years. The Crime in Choir performance on March 24 laid the heavy down at the first show of the ’07 season, continuing the move toward the harder psych-rock that closed the series last year. "I didn’t want to barge into Big Sur making a big ruckus, but as it turns out, the locals really like to head-bang," the Monterey promoter says as he hurtles down the coast, promising a pair of Chris Robinson shows and a big outdoors bash with as yet unnamed German electronic artists. He’s also folked up about a Mt. Tam performance around the time of Monterey Pop’s 40th anniversary, a very rad, free Earth Day concert at the Henry Miller Library on April 22, and more shows in "exotic" locales closer to San Francisco, including his first in the city with Howlin Rain and a Mission Creek Music Festival night that should have Red Hash heads humming.

"What keeps it unique is the marriage of LA and San Francisco that comes — an interesting mix. The metaphysical fight goes back to Laurel Canyon and Haight Ashbury, but once everyone gets to Big Sur, it’s nothing but hugs. And other things," Govea adds merrily before breaking up amid the pine needles.

FARRAR OUT Also unfurling a louder, prouder sound is Farrar, who’s been working the other side of the folk acoustic spectrum and mining a kind of Midwestern country-soul for years, in Uncle Tupelo and solo and now once again with Son Volt. The band he cultivated while former UT cosongwriter Jeff Tweedy nurtured his Wilco has birthed an admirably multitextured new CD, The Search (Sony/BMG), full of songs seeking insight amid post-9/11 wartime ("The Picture"), soullessness ("Automatic Society"), drugs ("Methamphetamine"), and other trad forms of escape ("Highways and Cigarettes").

"I probably read too much current events in the paper," Farrar, 40, says from St. Louis. "And some of those topical issues do find a way into the writing. ‘The Picture’ is a song like that. There’s a line — ‘War is profit / Profit is war,’ and that’s kind of being borne out by companies like Haliburton moving to the Middle East where the money is being made."

The title song seemed to best tie together his thoughts about this moment. "I mean, I didn’t want to call it Methamphetamine!" he says, gracefully allowing that, yup, Uncle Tupelo once lived together, subsisting on ramen, and contrary to rumor, their house did not have dirt floors.

Farrar isn’t working "Handy Man" territory yet, but it’s safe to say his partying days are behind him. He’s currently reading S.T.P.: A Journey Through America with the Rolling Stones, about the band’s somewhat infamous 1972 tour, though not for inspiration for his own travels. "Heh-heh, it can definitely be used as a reference point. I think most people who have done as much touring as I have tend to get that out of the way the first couple years. Eventually, you find rhythm that works."

What’s working for him now is playing with a band, a new lineup that includes keyboardist Derry deBorja, who can replicate everything from a banjo to a flute. "I guess having a band," Farrar says with no little irony, "is the one true way to make sure that no one mistakes you for someone that came from American Idol." *


Fri/30, 7 p.m., $5 suggested donation

Mama Buzz

2318 Telegraph, Oakl.

(510) 465-4073


With Spindrift and Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound

Sat/31, 9 p.m., $12 advance

Fernwood Resort

Hwy. 1, Big Sur



Fri/30, 9 p.m., $25


1805 Geary, SF



SxSW rocking, mocking


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Every spring I wing toward Austin, Texas, and the South by Southwest conference and music fest like some PBR-swilling, Lily Allen–aping mockingbird, in the hope of getting my imagination kick-started by some mysterious band of outsiders from Leeds, Helsinki, or Cleveland, armed with only guitars, samplers, or taste-testing facial hair. Little did I realize I’d be clocked in the noggin instead by This Moment in Black History’s Chris Kulcsar at the Blender Balcony at the Ritz. Last I recall, the spazztastic singer had just dashed up the stairs into the audience, nodding approvingly at TMIBH’s righteous thrash. I felt the heel of his kicks against my skull moments later. "Did he just jump over me?" I asked a bespectacled Joe Indie Rocker beside me. "Well, actually, he kicked you in the head," he answered. Glad to be a part of the spectacle — spare me the head trauma next time.

Oh South by — more than 10,000 participants strong, more than 1,400 acts bringing their all and driving $24.9 million in revenue to the self-proclaimed "Live Music Capital of the World." Oh me (oh my) — little slumber, one missed jet, a new zit every hour (just call me Stresstradamus), and drawn by the promise of cool sounds, cold beer, hot barbecued pork and brisket-taco brunches by the cold, gray light of a hangover, industry hugging and mugging, wheeling and dealing, and special guests who just might not be that, er, special at this point ("Every time you see those words on the schedule, just insert ‘Pete Townshend,’ " one wag claimed after Townshend dropped in at both his girlfriend Rachel Fuller’s acoustic show and a Fratellis gig). Oh, the rumored celeb-actor sightings — Kirsten Dunst, Owen and Luke Wilson, Michael Pitt doing a Keanu with his neogrunge Pagoda. Oh, the surreal parties — bunnies getting jiggy with indie at the eighth annual Playboy "Rock the Rabbit" after-hours wingding with bunnies, Ghostland Observatory, and popscene’s Omar, as well as the usual Blender (showing "the stupidest rock movies ever" at its slick, MTV-ish clubhouse), Spin, Jane, Filter, and Fader fort exclusivity rites, filled with guest-listlessness, Fratellis performances, and gratis Absolut peartinis, Heinekens, and mini–Vitamin Waters. If you’re a glutton for hard-drinking pleasure or heavy metal punishment (see the free Mastodon by the Lake show, the Melvins’ Stubbs-packing powerthon, and some two dozen Boris performances), then SXSW is for you.

But for a three-time SXSWhiner like myself — and a very random sampling of festgoers accustomed to challenging Elijah Wood to rasslin’ matches — the fest generally underwhelmed this year. It’s still the biggest cross-the-board overview of the music biz around. But demanding party people with insectlike attention spans wanted to know, where were the Bloc Parties? (Oh, naturally they were there, playing oodles of shows, but did anyone give a bloc?) Tellingly, the Horrors were here, but where were the thrills (and I don’t mean the Irish combo)?

Yesteryear’s exciters such as the Gossip and Hella showed, and Spank Rock, Girl Talk, Simian Mobile Disco, and Flosstradamus repped, yet seriously, is Amy Winehouse all that? Sure, she could croon a ’50s R&B-inflected pop tune and rock a Ronettes-style beehive, but her performance was more memorable for the number of times she hiked up her low-riding jeans than her songs. "I’m dwunk," she slurred during her packed show at La Zona Rosa. "It’s not funny." Are Razorlight and Albert Hammond Jr. truly godhead? Caveat: I caught neither, but fess, when thin-blooded popsters like Peter, Bjorn, and John and Pete and the Pirates are vaunted as the hottest shit to stream from the cultural Sani-Jons, then something is very wrong. The fact that the Black Lips were on so many lips is perfectly understandable: they’re a fine garage punk band — onstage heaves or no — and worthy of the humps they’re getting years along, but we all know that. I wanted my mind blown as well as punted.

Barring that, where were Arcade Fire, Of Montreal, LCD Soundsystem, TV on the Radio, Deerhoof, OOIOO, and so many others currently touring — but perhaps too sensible or established to play a seemingly requisite dozen times? Whither MIA, the Hives, Queens of the Stone Age, Feist, Marilyn Manson, and others with anticipated 2007 albums to hawk? Are Coachella and its Rage Against the Machine reorientation giving SXSW a run for the splashy reunion buck (sorry, RATM guitarist Tom Morello’s Nightwatchman show with Slash, Perry Farrell, etc., doesn’t cut it)? Are SXSW’s sideshow and party scenes undercutting the panels and showcases? Perhaps the coastside cynics are spoiled because we think a Hoodoo Gurus gathering just doesn’t measure up to recent no-shows like Whitehouse.

Still, the ole rocks do get off, if when you least expect it, wandering past a bar, ears caught by some new emanation. That happened to me, when I stumbled on inspired, powerful performances like those of Toronto’s stunning, vibes-focused Hylozoists at Habana Calle and the Björkish–Kate Bushy lady band Bat for Lashes. And then not so unexpectedly, when you brave the puke and garage smells of the Beauty Bar Patio for an all-Bay hyphy throwdown with an energized Federation, packing their stunna glasses at night, an ebullient Saafir, and a speaker-mounting Pack. The fact that you have to go all the way to Texas for the latter makes SXSW the beloved monster that it is — it’s just getting harder to cut through the noise.

Back in black: Black Lips, Black Angels, This Moment in Black History, Black Fiction.

Some words never stop being fun: Holy Fuck, Holy Shit!, Shitdisco, Fucked Up, Psychedelic Horseshit.

All ze buzz: Paolo Nutini, Earl Greyhound, Pop Levi, Albert Hammond Jr., and Cold War Kids. *

For more on South by Southwest, click here.

Big wheel


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Perhaps Fall Out Boy said it most succinctly: this ain’t a scene — it’s an arms race. Joe Boyd — Hannibal Records founder, producer, general 1960s-era scenemaker and welcome arm for many an intrepid musical tourist, and now author of White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960s (Serpent’s Tail, $18) — has seen battle on the front lines of UK rock. He knows when to drop his fascinating bombs, when to jump into the fray — such as when he stage-managed Bob Dylan’s landmark electric Newport performance — and when to step back and let nature or L. Ron Hubbard take the course — like the time his discoveries the Incredible String Band glommed on to Scientology. Battle-scarred but unbroken, Boyd has soldiered on down the road with Muddy Waters and Coleman Hawkins, scored early production credits overseeing Eric Clapton and the Powerhouse’s “Crossroads” and Pink Floyd’s first single, discovered Nick Drake and Fairport Convention, and gone on to make records for songwriting enlistees ranging from Toots and the Maytals and REM to Billy Bragg and Vashti Bunyan, in addition to organizing inspired scores for films such as McCabe and Mrs. Miller. So trust that Boyd knows whereof he speaks when he says that when it came to writing his first book, it was best to take a long view.
“Of course, I have read a lot of music books in my time,” the 64-year-old says on the phone from London, “and there’s a lot of books that I’ve read that are full of interesting information, but they’re very stodgy, and they’re very crammed with information that only guys who live alone with 8,000 LPs really want to know about. So I was very conscious of wanting to write a book that, every once in a while, occasionally, a young person or a female might want to read.”
Is Boyd trying to say that most music books seem to cater to male collectors? “Yeah, I’ve done a lot of book signings, and I can tell you what the queue looks like. There’s a lot of beards. There’s a lot of bald pates. There’s a lot of gray hair, and every once in a while there’s a twentysomething woman in the queue, and then you kind of make sure your hair is combed straight,” Boyd says mirthfully. “Then she comes up to the head of the queue and says, ‘Will you please sign it “To Peter”? It’s for my father for his 60th birthday.’<\!q>”
Of course, in attempting to dodge the earnest fan, Boyd has taken fire from the obsessives who say he didn’t include enough about, for instance, John Martyn. And some women, as luck and long lines would have it, have griped that he didn’t include enough about his love life. Guess they didn’t get to the end of a chapter deep in where, almost as a punch line, he allows that his on-and-off girlfriend Linda Peters — who was with him when he was producing his sole number one hit, “Dueling Banjos,” for Deliverance — eventually married Fairport Convention guitarist Richard Thompson.
Telling his tales plainly as if, he confesses, he’s “sitting at a table with a bottle of wine, dominating the conversation,” Boyd throws out his take on the fetal ABBA; the quasi-resident combo at his UFO Club, Pink Floyd; artists less known stateside, such as the Watersons; and crazy diamonds in the elegant rough such as the painfully shy Drake. Boyd produced 1969’s Five Leaves Left and 1970’s Bryter Layter (both Hannibal) and witnessed some of Drake’s sad decline, going as far to write, “There is certainly a virginal quality about his music, and I never saw him behaving in a sexual way with anyone, male or female. Linda Thompson tried to seduce Nick once, but he just sat on the end of the bed, fully clothed, looking at his hands…. Yet Nick’s music is supremely sensual: the delicate whisper of his voice, the romantic melodies, the tenderly sad lyrics, the intricate dexterity of his fingers on the guitar.”
“I don’t really say anything that isn’t already out there,” Boyd says now. “In a way what I’m saying is his privacy remains inviolate.” Boyd’s ear has also remained inviolate, as seen with the ’90s attention to Drake, whose “Pink Moon” Boyd licensed to Volkswagen, although “by the time the commercial came out, the records had been selling more and more,” from the initial 3,000 to 100,000 a year. “My feelings are best described as ‘what took you so long?’<\!q>”
Regardless, he continues, “I never made the sort of records that you put into the normal process. You had to come up with original strategies and eccentric ways of presenting a group in order for the kind of records that I made to sell.”
These days Boyd prefers to battle the page (his next book is on world music) rather than run a label after all he has been through with Rykodisc, which bought Hannibal, and Palm Pictures, which in turn swallowed Rykodisc. Still, the feisty music lover isn’t above a parting volley. “I’m optimistic about the music industry,” he says, equal parts wag and curmudgeon. “I think the dinosaurs will go to the tar pits and that will be fine. And all their distant cousins will turn into birds.”<\!s>SFBG
Tues/20, 7:30 p.m., free
Black Oak Books
1491 Shattuck, Berk.
(510) 486-0698
Also March 21, 7 p.m., free
1644 Haight, SF
(415) 863-8688
We All Belong (Park the Van) finds the Philly psych-swamp canines breaking out some toothsome songcraft. Thurs/15, 9 p.m., $10–<\d>$12. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016
Gnarly SF psych rockers caterwaul alongside paisley-drenched Kyoto kids — all hail garage skronk, mademoiselle. Sun/18, 8 p.m., $10–<\d>$12. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455
Does this highly touted sprawling ensemble boil down to Denmark’s Bjorkestra — with kalimba, strings, and tuba? Mon/19, 8 p.m., $13. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 885-0750
Matthew M. Melton (Memphis Break-ups, the River City Tanlines) was stranded by his bandmates in San Francisco but has managed to peel out the muy groovy reptilian garage punk once more. March 26, 8 p.m., $5–<\d>$20 (Mission Creek fundraiser). 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission, SF.

God chillin’


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER O brother, where art thou, blog-worthy, buzz-besieged bands? Whither the classes of 2004 and ’05? As memory fades and fads pass, the Klaxons and Beirut had best look to the respective fates of Arcade Fire and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, both of which have spawned second albums at a time when Britney Spears’s postpartum-postbreakup cue-ball cutes (uh, was she actually a musician, mommy?) score almost twice as many hits as Beyoncé or any ole artist who has actually issued fresh tracks in the last four years. How has blogosphere-borne hypey held up? Can the viral gospel survive, with or without fast-buck comps with the word "Hitz" in their titles? (Was I dozing through Now That’s What I Call Indie! Vol. 23?) Was there any substance to the sound of the mid-’00s when it comes to Arcade Fire and CYHSY — two indie taste sensations that musically mimed Talking Heads and, in their number, resembled villages more than singular villains? Can they bring sexy back sonically, even though they never bumped billiard balls with the naked-noggined queen of pop?

From the sound of the last CYHSY show I caught at the Warfield, the Philly–New York sprawl seemed well on its way to sell-out-by staleness. Out were the frothy, Afropop-derived David Byrne–ing campfire rhythms. Enter monotonous, monochromatic indie rock.

Yet although CYHSY’s new (and still bravely self-released) ‘un, Some Loud Thunder, peters to a dull roar by the time "Five Easy Pieces" rolls around, the full-length still impresses with its sense of aural experimentation. Flaming Lips producer Dave Fridmann throws fuzz, shmutz, and the noise equivalent of cat fur and tumbleweed over the proceedings, futzing the opening, title track into a cunning combo of foregrounded murk and tambourine-shimmy clarity. CYHSY cut through the fog of pop with the dissonance-laced sweetness of a cockeyed, choral "Emily Jean Stock" and the Dylanishly titilutf8g manifesto tease of "Mama, Won’t You Keep Them Castles in the Air and Burning?" Some Loud Thunder is a freakin’ busy record — with the emphasis happily on the freak — and it’s almost as if CYHSY were trying to reach beyond the easy, cumbersome cool of their name (always suspected to be a major part of their appeal) and toward, hoo-boy, depth. Too bad the lyrics aren’t often up to the musical intrigue on such songs as "Satan Said Dance" and "Goodbye to Mother and the Cove," making CYHSY sound like the E.E. Cummingses of indie, for whatever that’s worth. "Gravity’s one thing and / Gravity’s something but / How about coming down …," Alec Ounsworth whinnies. "Weird but you’re back talking." Wonderfully weird, yes, though is it unfair to ask if you have anything to say?

Back also, in priestly black, are Arcade Fire, who have plenty to tell in the three years since Funeral was unveiled. Amid the majestic choral sheen, synth pop flock, and Tijuana brass of their new album, Neon Bible (Merge), Win Butler and party have unearthed and dusted off the lost threads of connection between the teary tough-guy sentimentality of Gene Pitney and Roy Orbison, the jittery junked-up teardrops of "Little Johnny Jewel" and Suicide, and the quavering, coaguutf8g pop syrup of the Cure and OMD. Arcade Fire have crawled through a creaky, darkened looking glass and found a lost, perhaps losing world populated with forlorn soldiers, urban paranoiacs, rough water, guiding lights, lions and lambs, and idling vehicles.

Cloaked in increasingly trad folk and ’80s pop-song structures, engineering by Markus Dravs (Björk) and Scott Colburn (Sun City Girls), and contributions by members of Calexico, Wolf Parade, and Final Fantasy, Arcade Fire thankfully put lyrical clichés to work during Neon Bible‘s clamorous service, to the end of genuine storytelling. They’re preaching the gospel of transcendence through music and art — something that now seems unique to rock, in contrast to rap — questioning a holy war in "Intervention" ("Working for the church while my family died / Your little sister is going to lose her mind / Every spark of friendship and love will die without a home / Hear the soldier groan / He’ll go it alone") and the god-fearing hysteria of "(Antichrist Television Blues)" ("Don’t want to work in a building downtown / I don’t know what I’m going to do / Because the planes keep crashing, two by two"). Arcade Fire are far from the first to fire artful shots in response to wartime, but Neon Bible — as bold and beautiful, as hysterical and hopeful, as corny and acute as a rockin’ soap opera or Jesus Christ Superstar — feels like the best album of 2007 so far. *


June 1–2, 8 p.m., $31.50

Greek Theatre

UC Berkeley, Gayley Road, Berk.




The Portland, Ore., upstarts with mighty fine shaggy rooster cuts step up with ’70s-style glitter pop. With Time Flys and Apache. Wed/7, 9:30 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


K Records’ wrecking crew just might find a deity at the bottom of a beer stein. With Tussle and the Weasel Walter Quartet. Wed/7, 10 p.m., $5. Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. (415) 550-6994


CocoRosie’s girly rapper protégé freestyles with a thumb-sucking bounce. Is her Lovers and Crypts (Voodoo-Eros) for reals? With Tha Pumpsta and Bruno and the Dreamies. Thurs/8, 8 p.m., $6. 21 Grand, 416 25th St., Oakl. (510) 444-7263. Tues/13, 9:30 p.m., $7. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com


A new self-titled EP finds the Bay Area moodniks waxing gothily. With Worship of Silence and This Isn’t It. Sun/11, 9 p.m., $6. Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF. (415) 546-6300

Can’t explain


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER What’s the difference between the Who and other boomer–classic rock combos hauling their bones out on the road these days? The fact that onstage at the cozy Reno Event Center on Feb. 23, midway through the kickoff for his group’s cockeyed US tour, Pete Townshend interrupted his own between-song hawk for the Who’s generally ignored recent album, Endless Wire (Universal), with a defiant disclaimer that went roughly like this: "We don’t care if you do buy it. Roger and I will soon be gone, and you won’t need to see us or buy anything because soon we’ll be dead. But now we’re here, and this is what we’re doing right now."

Then the black-clad Townshend, vocalist Roger Daltrey, drummer Zak Starkey, guitarist Simon Townshend, keyboardist John Bundrick, and bassist Pino Palladino launched into Endless Wire‘s "Wire and Glass: A Mini-Opera," which Pete Townshend ironically referred to as his band’s "Green Day moment." The centerpiece of "Wire and Glass" ‘s pocket rock opera, "We Got a Hit," rang with nostalgia and evoked, of all things, "Substitute," and Townshend sounded like both the angry young pop star he once was and the cranky old curmudgeon who would just as soon grumble "fuggit" than flog product.

And in the process Townshend sounded realer than most of the fossils buttressed by pricey pyrotechnics found in the last Stones tour. Is this an accomplishment? Perhaps, because Townshend was always one of the more ambitious and artful rockers of his g-g-g-generation and one of the most bare-faced and vulnerable (tellingly, the Who’s official site these days is the man’s own homespun blog at www.petetownshend-whohe.blogspot.com). Also, I don’t know about the old hippies who came out of the woods for the Who that night, but when you’re accustomed to the spectacle, dancers, rotating sets, and multiple costume changes that dramatize the majority of today’s arena pop shows — from Justin Timberlake to the Dixie Chicks — a straight-forward band performance is downright refreshing.

But I wasn’t sure what to expect when I fiddled around, making my way up to Reno, Nev. — home of the proudly gooberish National Bowling Stadium, hicks-run-amok comedy Reno 911!: Miami, and the neon-poisoned Last Days of Disco décor of kitschy-cute Peppermill Casino. Why start your tour in Reno, bypassing the Bay Area with a date in Fresno? Bad memories of Vegas, the site of bassist John Entwistle’s death during their 2002 tour kickoff? I’d never seen them live before: Keith Moon–era Who was way before my time; the late Entwistle epoch, too much for my music store–clerk blood. So it was the Daltrey-Townshend Who for me — along with a mix of gleeful, graying long-haired boomers in top hats and polo shirts, indeterminate Gen Xers, and a handful of youngsters — all much more male than a Stones, Robert Plant, or even Sex Pistols reunion show. Perusing the Ed Harris look-alikes, I’d venture there’s still something about Townshend — and maybe Daltrey’s ready-for-a-brawl manly rasp — that always spoke most directly to the smart art-nerd boys, at least in my high school. The Who always seemed to mirror men more acutely than women, despite those tributary pictures of Lily. Even now they work "Real Good Looking Boy" into the set, accompanied by an onscreen montage of Daltrey’s inspiration, Elvis Presley, and Townshend’s awkward intro: "It’s about being a little kid and looking at a big boy and having the courage to admire him as good-looking without any weirdness going on. Not that it is weird!"

But what’s vaguely weird is the fact that a once proudly forward-looking band such as the Who would sprinkle their set so liberally with favorites such as "The Seeker," "Anyway Anyhow Anywhere," "Baba O’Riley," and "Behind Blue Eyes," almost reluctantly putting forth new songs such as "Fragments," "A Man in a Purple Dress," "Black Widow’s Eyes," and those in "Wire and Glass," which cannibalize melodies, devices, and arpeggioed synth lines of songs such as "Who Are You" and baldly lift the curtain on a kind of nostalgia with tunes such as "Mirror Door," which hails sentimental, uncool icons like Doris Day. Even their opening song, "I Can’t Explain," was accompanied by target symbols, band insignia and posters, old photos of the band in Union Jack garb, and The Who Sell Out imagery — the latter once primo examples of pop art exploded, literally, in a rock ‘n’ roll context. The effect was powerful but somewhat of a disservice: the band itself is still hard-hitting enough to deliver its songs with absolute conviction, without the crutch of yesterday’s reminders, filled out by Ringo Starr’s competent though far from unhinged son Zak Starkey’s drum work; a husky-voiced but valiant Daltrey, who mastered his mic-swinging rotary-blade moves by the time the encore rolled around; and Townshend, windmilling and leaping, though with less athleticism than he might have had in the past.

Two hours into the show, all doubters were probably ready to push aside memories of the Who’s dead rhythm section, ravaged vocal chords, kiddie-porn controversy, unsmashed guitars, and a commercially stillborn album — and stand up for the "Pinball Wizard" encore. Though you wonder what it means when you’re in your late 50s and still singing "Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss" or "It’s only teenage wasteland. They’re all wasted!" and doing it, as Pete Townshend shouted jubilantly, "out in the fields of Nevada." The song remains the same, but now the band’s tone can’t help but have shifted. Perhaps you sound put out to pasture, a bit bitterer than you did as the angry know-it-all who was almost too smart for Top of the Pops. Or maybe a bit like Mr. Wilson, shaking his fist at Dennis the Menace and growling, "They’re all wasted!" You might sound more wise than nihilistic — can you explain how inspired you once were? *