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Sonic Reducer

The Death of me


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Wanna know the surest way to mortify me or send me skulking into the shadows? Bludgeon me with praise. Single me out with love. It just makes the misanthrope in me squirm like a worm at the end of hook. That was the sweet but unintentionally sinister sensation at the “Girls Just Wanna Have Chun” show at the Stork Club on Aug. 5 with Pillows, Liz Albee, and other all-girl bands, inspired by, I’m told, my recent cover story [“Where Did All the Girl Bands Go,” 7/19/06]. I feared some sort of roasting and de-ribbing until one of the organizers, Suki O’Kane, reassured me her intentions were honorable. “I hear you cluckin’, big chicken,” she helpfully e-mailed. Yup, fightin’ words got me to the club on time, but that didn’t stop an acute sense of self-consciousness from washing over my sorry PBR-swilling self.
You realize then that on some off-days you were just never psychologically prepared to leave home. Even indie rock pros like Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie and Postal Service know what I’m blathering on about. I spoke to the DCC guitarist-vocalist while he lounged in a bus outside the big ole barn he was scheduled to play at Penn State that night, and he fessed up to the struggle to deliver when he wasn’t feeling it. “I’ll be perfectly honest — there have been times when I can be a little bitch on stage,” he said. “I’m trying to always harness my inner Wayne Coyne. Y’know, WWWCD — what would Wayne Coyne do?”
The spunky Death Cabbies I first caught at the Bottom of Hill have truly made the leap from “shows” to “concerts,” as Gibbard put it, something he jokes about with his bandmates. “We started touring in ’98, playing to nobody and eating mustard sandwiches,” he explained. “You go out a year later, and there’s maybe 50 people there, and then the next time there’s 150 people there…. It’s been such a gradual kind of build that it doesn’t feel outlandish to me. I can’t imagine what a band like the Arctic Monkeys must feel like, and I’m glad this is happening to us five records in rather than one or two records in. I think we were one of the last generation of bands to develop pre-Pitchfork, pre–blog culture, and that’s fortunate.”
Chatty, thoughtful, and up for analyzing this crazy little thing called the music biz, Gibbard has obviously given quality thought time to blogatistas’ impact on his musical genre. “It’ll be interesting to see what happens, because I have this horrible premonition that blog culture will turn the United States into the UK,” he added. “You know how the NME is this awful, horrific publication that before a band even has a single out lauds them as the greatest thing since sliced bread and then as soon as their full-length comes out says they’re past their prime?
“I’m just so kind of over fashion rock and all its different forms. Coming out of the last three or four years of dance punk and bands that want to be Wire, it’s kind of exciting to see a band that’s just really rocking out in earnest ways.”
But what about Postal Service (which Gibbard said he plans to revisit sometime next year, before DCC begin work on their next album) — aren’t they dance punk? “I don’t think if I’m involved in it in any way that it can be in any way … punk, at all,” he said with a laugh.
FASHION LASHIN’ CSS (of Sao Paulo, Brazil), a.k.a. Cansei de Ser Sexy or Tired of Being Sexy, would know a wee bit about fashion, blog jams, ad nauseated. Gibbard’s Postal Service labelmates on Sub Pop have managed something nigh impossible to our Electroclash-crashed consciousnesses: they manage to reference Paris Hilton on their new self-titled album and not sound like shopping-damaged sluts whom you want to slap.
It helps that the mostly femme ensemble kicks off its new album with the self-explanatory chant “CSS Suxxx” and goes on to charm with überdanceable joints like “Artbitch” (“Lick lick lick my art-tit … suck suck suck my art-hole”). Vocalist Lovefoxxx is one earthy, superenthused, helpful mama to boot. CSS met through common friends and photo logs. “We had daily jobs, so we’d spend all day in front of the computer,” the 22-year-old ex–graphic designer rasped from Houston. She’s since moved on. “Silly teenagers started to join it.”
The lady has an endearingly visual way of describing the band: “It’s like if you have a dog and you get your golden retriever to go with a Labrador and then you get weird puppy sex.” So help me with this picture: what is an “art tit”? “Art tit was like artist, and art hole sounds like asshole,” she explained patiently. “It doesn’t get deeper than that, Kimberly.” SFBG
With Spoon and Mates of State
Fri/11, 7 p.m.
Greek Theatre
Gayley Road, UC Berkeley, Berk.
With Diplo and Bonde do Role
Thurs/10, 11 p.m.
444 Jessie, SF
(415) 625-8880
The Valley is alive with the sound of … art. In conjunction with the ZeroOne San Jose/ISEA gathering, the Bleeding Edge Fest presents Yo La Tengo, Black Dice, Brightblack Morning Light, the Avett Brothers, Skoltz Kogen, Sunroof!, the Chemistry Set, and others in tony Saratoga. Matmos and Zeena Parkins collaborate on an original work, as do Isis and Tim Hecker. Sun/13, noon–10 p.m., Montalvo Arts Center, 15400 Montalvo Rd., Saratoga. $50. (408) 961-5858, www.bleedingedgefestival.org.
Arcade Fire player Owen Pallett puts his love of D&D to song as Final Fantasy, while ex-Deerhoofer Chris Cohen collaborates with Nedelle Torrisi in Curtains. Fri/11, 10 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 621-4455.
Brightblack Morning Light dream up an un-air-conditioned dreamscape starring Lavender Diamond, Daniel Higgs, and a special Ramblin’ surprise. Fri/11, 4:20 p.m.–12:45 a.m., Henry Miller Library, Hwy 1, Big Sur. $25. www.henrymiller.org.
Open-mic regs toast Playing Full Out! 2006 Hotel Utah Compilation Album. Thurs/10, 8 p.m., $3–$5. Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF. (415) 970-0012.

Ramblin’, man


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER He’s been at home on the range, in the skies overhead, on the South Pacific sea, and on the streets of Greenwich Village. He was taken under the migrant wing of Woody Guthrie, read to Jack Kerouac, backed up Nico, was called the sexiest man in America by Cass Elliott, thieved Allen Ginsberg’s girlfriend, married James Dean’s ex, and was ensconced in the heart of Bob Dylan’s 1975 Rolling Thunder Revue. Mick Jagger said he purchased his first guitar after seeing him play, and his “San Francisco Bay Blues” was one of the first songs Paul McCartney learned to play. ’Nuff said — Ramblin’ Jack Elliott is a legend and would be even if Bill Clinton hadn’t dubbed him an “American treasure.”
I caught up with the singer of cowboy songs, working stiffs’ ballads, salty sailor chanteys, sad songs of the blue, down and out, and lonesome, near his Marshall home, at a Petaluma watering hole, on the occasion of his forthcoming 75th birthday on Aug. 1.
“I don’t like to think about it,” says Elliott of his age. Still sharp, superarticulate, and a consummate flirt, the Brooklyn-born cowboy digs into his Caesar salad — don’t hold the anchovies, man — in the shade of the restaurant, then pokes at our shared plate of fries with his fork. Despite the heat, his hat remains clamped on his head, a bandanna around his neck. “I like to say, in 17 days and 25 years I’m gonna be 100.”
He isn’t quite ready to hang up his boots and sit at home accepting accolades: The still-riveting interpreter of America’s folk songs attended bull-riding school at 47, still harbors an abiding fondness for ponies and long-distance trucks, and hasn’t given up a dream of someday, well, writing songs on a regular basis. “I’ve only written about five songs in 40 years,” he says, proudly sticking to that story. “I’m not a writer. I want to learn to write, I really do. I’m incredibly lazy, though. I can spend 15 days just sleeping after an airplane trip.”
But much travel is on the horizon for this singer of other folks’ songs — he’s now in demand with the release of a wonderful, spare new album of seldom-played tunes, I Stand Alone. David Hidalgo, Corin Tucker, Flea, Nels Cline, and DJ Bonebrake joined him on the Anti- album, in studios of their choosing. Turns out the man truly stood alone — though you wouldn’t be able to tell from the palpable tough love and hardscrabble synchronicity evident on “Careless Darling,” his gritty-sweet pairing with Lucinda Williams.
I tell him I saw him perform five years ago at the Guardian-hosted “Power to the People” show at Crissy Field, put together, incidentally, by I Stand Alone producer Ian Brennan. “Outdoors!” Elliott exclaims. “Right by the bay. I don’t like performing outdoors because I feel nooo connection with the audience. I can see them getting up or eating a sandwich. I want them to be able to be focused on me, because I’m focused on them and I’m trying to focus on what the heck the song is about. Like, what does it mean?”
But let’s wander back to I Stand Alone. “I’ve never been with a hip company before,” Elliott says of Anti-. “My daughter [Aiyana, who directed the 2002 documentary The Ballad of Ramblin’ Jack] wanted to call it Not for the Tourists. Her husband asked, ‘Why don’t you sing those songs in your show, Jack?’ And I said, ‘They’re not for the tourists.’” The songs were long gone from his set simply because he tired of them, having sung them so often in his early years. Yet they possess a taken-for-granted ease found in things that are so worn and familiar that they’re second nature.
“It’s like what Woody told me one time. I asked him to show me how to play a certain cowboy song. I loved it, and Woody had a very unusual way of singing that song and playing it on the guitar,” says Elliott, recalling the year as 1951 and Woody as a hard-drinking 39 to his 19 years. “I said, ‘Woody, can you show me how to play that song ‘Buffalo Skinners,’ and he said, ‘That’s on the record, Jack, and you can go listen to it.’ I listened to it about a hundred times, and I pretty much learned what he was doing, but I never could quite do it exactly the way he did it. He just wasn’t in the mood to be teachin’ guitar.”
Those days of shadowing Guthrie around the country and following his every move, which often got Elliott pegged as a mere imitator, are now “like a dream. I think it was one of the happiest times of my young life because I got to hear all his stories. I’m sorry,” he says, pointing to my recorder, “I didn’t have one of these to record with.” SFBG
Sausalito Art Festival
Sept. 2, call for time and price
Marinship Park, Sausalito
(415) 331-3757
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival
Oct. 6–7, visit Web site for schedule
Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF
Manchester reunited? The punk-pop progenitors are still snarly — just check their latest, Flat-Pack Philosophy (Cooking Vinyl). Thurs/27, 9 p.m., Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. $20 advance. (415) 625-8880.
OK, I’ll give it up if you do: I’m a stone-cold junkie for karaoke. This time you can skip “Rock of Ages” and head straight for “My Adidas” at this launch event hosted by the SweatBox. Fri/28 and the last Friday of every month, 10 p.m.–2 a.m., Bar of Contemporary Art, 414 Jessie, SF. $5. (415) 756-8890.
Two once and former Holy Rollers come down to earth. Thurs/27, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $10. (415) 621-4455.

Flame on


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER To the naked eye — and deep-fried, extra-crispy spirit — working fast food is a lot like what the Flaming Lips call the “sound of failure” on their latest album, At War with the Mystics (Warner Bros). It’s the worst of times … and the worst of times. And I can feel the pain — I once broke my back and suffered hypothermia of the right hand for Häagen-Dazs.
That’s probably why I found it so poignant when, in the recent Lips doc by SF filmmaker Bradley Beesley, The Fearless Freaks, Wayne Coyne went back to the Long John Silver, the spot where he’d donned a ludicrous pirate getup and tossed salted bits of seafood as a fry cook for more than a decade. And it was inspiring — because Coyne, now 45, is so shameless and proud about his contributions to our fast food nation. “I think that kind of mindless manual labor really does save the world in a way because you’re just busy doing stuff,” he told me over the phone from his Oklahoma City home in April. “Being busy keeps you out of trouble — keeps you away from too much existential doubt.”
Who’d’ve thunk that grease monkey in the plumed hat would become the blood-spattered, bubble-riding, balloon-shoving ringleader to a Flaming Lips nation? Certainly not me when I caught their brave but somewhat ineffective Walkman experiment at the Fillmore in ’99, during their Music Against Brain Degeneration/Soft Bulletin tour. Tuning into the selected radio channel, I could barely hear anything of the show through the flimsy headsets. But I guess word spread because the scene at this year’s Noise Pop opening show with the Lips was beyond standing room.
The opening moments of the show were worth it — the band tore into the stirring, trebly melody of “Race for the Prize,” Coyne whipped a lit-up sling around his head, smoke poured off the stage, and Santa-suited techs threw far too many balloons into the sold-out crowd. The punks had taken acid, to paraphrase the title of the 2002 Lips compilation, and it was a genuine spectacle, replete with darkness (in the form of Coyne’s monologues critiquing the Bush administration) and light (the cute animal costumes) and sing-alongs to Queen’s seemingly uncoverable “Bohemian Rhapsody.” The key to regime change lay with each individual, declared pop philosopher Coyne, suggesting that his audience make it “popular to be gay, smoke pot, and have abortions” throughout the country, not just in San Francisco.
“Maybe I’m a fool, maybe I’m embarrassing, maybe it’s humiliating, but at least it opens it up to say, ‘Well, you speak your mind,’” Coyne said later. “In San Francisco, you guys don’t grapple with the same problems that you would in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City doesn’t have a tolerance of smoking pot, and gay people are on the verge of having all their rights taken away. You almost wonder, will people at some point try to reverse the civil rights movement.”
Speaking about the Lips’ 1983 inception, Coyne told Staring at Sound biographer Jim DeRogatis that “he’d like to be in a band like the Grateful Dead, throw big parties with people coming to them and having a great time.” DeRogatis said, “[Coyne] also said, ‘We’d like to be different; we’d like to still make records that don’t suck.’ They have elements of a jam band following, they have people from the indie rock ’80s. They have people who’ve discovered them in the alternative era. They have new Gen Y fans that downloaded The Soft Bulletin and think it’s incredible. Their audience is all over the map — they don’t fit into any demographic in terms of the way that corporations are slicing up the audience.”
The trick, said Coyne, is to never get too comfortable. “We always force ourselves to do something new, even if we’re not comfortable with it. I don’t think we really have any agenda other than to freak ourselves out.”
Ushered in with The Fearless Freaks; 20 Years of Weird: the Flaming Lips 1986–2006 (a collection of live recordings and oddities), their current tour, the DeRogatis book, the Fearless Freaks documentary, and next year with luck Christmas on Mars (Coyne’s feature film debut as a director), At War turns out to be, indeed, a war album, questioning uses and abuses of power with the opening track, “The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song.”
But that’s not to say Coyne shies away from the band’s evangelical tendencies. “We’re using drama and music and sort of heightening the whole experience to be somewhat of a religious experience,” he explains. “I think all good rock ’n’ roll has that. But hopefully the agenda is that you, as an individual, at the end of the day, decide what’s great about your life instead of looking to some rulebook or some invisible force up in space somewhere. Music is just one part of it, and at the end of the day, to me, it’s dumb entertainment.” Aye, aye, matey? SFBG
With Ween and the Go! Team
Sat/22, 6:30 p.m.
Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley, Berk.
Get down with these pulsating Northern Cali indie darlings. Just do it. No questions. Wed/19, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923.
The lovely Bay Area indie rockers’ album is coming out on Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic’s label, Gnomensong. Thurs/20, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $7. (415) 861-5016.
Midwestern rock supergroupies meet the Detroit native–SF vinyl diehard (who was pals with Brendan Benson back in the day). Sat/22–Sun/23, 8 p.m., Warfield, 982 Market, SF. $29.50–$37.50. (415) 775-7722.
Enter It’s a Bright Guilty World (Future Farmer); then enter the dragon. The Kingdom and Junior Panthers also perform. Sun/23, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 621-4455.
Legendary gospel-soul sister communes with the eucalyptus. Sun/23, 2 p.m., Stern Grove, SF. Free. sterngrove.org.

One Lives to live


By Kimberly Chun
› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER I fell in love with the recent Ray Davies solo album, Other People’s Lives (V2). Face it, I fall in love all the time — with records, of course — but I think I truly did love about three-fourths of the Kinks leader’s solo debut for the first four listens. Then I stopped listening and just coasted on the afterglow.
But you fall out of love. The fifth or sixth listen comes around and little things start to break down for you. The way those coveted hot pants always give you gnarly cameltoe.
In the case of Other People’s Lives, it was the song’s overblown arrangements — for which Davies completely takes the blame — complete with unintentionally cornball sax and a production sensibility that sounds like modern music really did stop with the last humongoid Kinks album, 1983’s State of Confusion (Velvel). When even the quirks annoy, like the half “yar,” half yawn that ushers in the record’s otherwise fine opener, “Things Are Gonna Change (The Morning After),” and the throwaway Ricky Martin–style Latin pop treatment given to the media-lashing title track, you know love’s a goner.
An American album, conceived mainly during Davies’ stay in New Orleans, Other People’s Lives resembles Morrissey’s You Are the Quarry (Attack), another disappointingly produced and arranged album of even better songs by a great wordsmith and sometime US transplant. Perhaps you’re so happy to hear those familiar voices again, at your doorstep, that you overlook the details — the tacky suit, wilting flowers, wrongheaded arrangements — the first five times around.
Still you have to hand it to Davies — whose recent travails, like being shot in January 2004 after chasing the thief who snatched his girlfriend’s purse, have been well documented — when he decides to make a bold gesture. That’s what inspired some to call the Kinks the first indie band. “I prefer that to being called the originators of heavy metal,” says a sincere and thoughtful Davies from London. “Yes, I like that. We have a very independent spirit…. We took chances, and we failed a lot. Really, other acts’ careers would’ve been ended by some of the bold and stupid things we did on record. I’ve got a 9-year-old daughter now, and she wants to hear my music when she visits me. I find it really hard to explain some of the weird diversions I’ve taken in my music over the years.”
Bold and stupid?
“The Bold and the Stupid. It sounds like…”
A soap opera?
“Yes, stuff like Preservation, Soap Opera,” he free-associates. “You know, at the time, when Rod Stewart and Elton John were doing conventional tours and, you know, big stage-entry things… and there we are. We go indoors with a musical farce onstage. You know, it was a rock Punch and Judy show. It was a totally wrong career move, but it worked brilliantly. I mean, sometimes those things pay off really well.”
Davies obviously still can write a song — that was why Other People initially seduced me. And he knows he’s really got me — and everyone else. “I think I’ve got a fairly good fix. I can hone in on detail with people all right. You know, it’s like little things people do, habits that people have, the way they walk. I have that sort of observation with my writing, which leads it to be sometimes a bit quirky. I think I know how far to take something when I’m writing a song, and I think that’s probably one of the sort of skills I’ve developed, although I wouldn’t say you ever learn how to write songs. I think that’s one of my skills — knowing that it’s always a new inner palette, a new landscape, every time I write a song, and I think experience has taught me to be aware of that fact, that I can’t just phone them in.”
Sounds like the archly self-aware narrator of “The Tourist,” which appears to center on New Orleans slumming, is a lot like the songwriter within Davies — and that songwriting and stepping into other people’s lives is a kind of imaginative tourism.
“It is,” replies Davies. “I’m somewhat of a tourist. I also write on different levels. Obviously with ‘The Tourist’ it’s not just somebody going for a holiday somewhere. It’s someone who’s in a sense a tourist, an emotional tourist… and is probably not such a good person because of it.”
“It’s a different kind of writing when you write a pop single,” he confesses. “Writing on this record — there’s a long span to it and it’s a slow burn…. So it’s going to have a certain amount of depth to it to hold my interest because maybe as a writer I need to be fired up by the subject matter…. Maybe I write for listeners who probably want to dig and delve into it and realize there’s a bigger picture there, bigger story there.”
And perhaps, being a creature of little faith, as the Other People song goes, I should keep listening for the bigger story and fall back in love.
NO TEARS Speaking of Nawlins’s musical dwellers, Quintron and Miss Pussycat have been firing on all pistons and Drum Buddies since Katrina flooded their Spellcaster Lodge. Phoning from Los Angeles, Quintron says the rebuilding is almost complete on the lodge but they’re going to wait for the hurricane season before finishing work because the city’s infrastructure isn’t quite together yet. “I don’t wanna do this shit twice,” he offers.
Since the pair lacked insurance, the rebuilding was funded by benefits around the country organized by other musicians. “All our fucking friends are rebuilding our house. It just blew my mind,” says Quintron. Their first show at the Lodge is scheduled for Sept. 15 with a promise from bounce king DJ Jubilee to perform — and don’t expect Quintron to get bogged down in blustery sentimentality. “I’ve already written a song called ‘Hurricane,’” he says. “At this point I can’t do a maudlin blues record, like ‘O Katrina.’ It would be so cliché and stupid. . . . That’s not what’s coming out — I’m making more and more happy songs now, musically.” SFBG
Thurs/13, 8 p.m.
Warfield Theatre
928 Market, SF
(415) 775-7722
Fri/14, 9 p.m.
12 Galaxies
2565 Mission, SF
(415) 970-9777

Ra, Ra rah-rah


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Wassup Lauryn Hill? Well apparently she’s been busy morphing into Sun Ra.
A staight-skankin’, massive fro–sportin’, partyin’-with-Method-Man-at-the-Clift-Hotel, “la, la, la, la”-ing Sun Ra.
The lady had about 13 people onstage at Great American Music Hall on June 29 for two last-minute “rehearsal” sets: two drummers, two keyboardists, at least three guitarists, the works. Because the lady clearly wanted to play a bandleader from a galaxy far, far away — and frankly, I haven’t been so interested in Lauryn Hill in years.
She was an artist in her own little world, all right — miming Bitches Brew, turning her unrehearsed Arkestra into an engorged rock-steady big band, and at around 2 a.m., at the end of the second show, launching passionately, stubbornly, into her most popular tunes.
The lights went up. The stage lights flicked off. The power to the mics finally ebbed. And Hill had found her own power trip of a groove — in the dark, where it’s safe — and the audience was in deep doo-doo in love, shouting, “One more! One more! Lau-Ren! Lau-Ren!” At about 2:15 a.m., after much shushing, she began singing “Killing Me Softly” a cappella. Softly. Then she descended into the crowd like an empress to meet her biggest fans.
FISHIN’ MUSICIAN But enough Arkestra-ted diva tripping, we gotta work together, so follow the lead of Aesop Rock and longtime Bay Area artist Jeremy Fish, who have done an ace job in collaborating on a new book playing off those golden children’s record-and-storybook combos. The release of their The Next Best Thing book–7-inch comes with a mini-multimedia promo juggernaut July 6: Fish (who has a load of product in the works, including a new vinyl toy and a board series and short film for Element Skateboards titled Fishtales with a soundtrack by Rock) will show his paintings at Fifty24SF Gallery. And then later that night Aesop Rock will bump up against Rob Sonic, DJ Big Wiz, Murs with Magi, and producer Blockhead at a benefit concert at the Independent for 826 Valencia.
The pair met through a mutual friend and discovered that they’re mutual fans: Rock owned a Fish piece, and the artist had been an avid Rock listener for years. “I saw a lot of his work had cute stuff mixed with evil stuff, which is a lot like what I write about,” says the jovial Rock.
Aesop Rock, of late, has found his work skewing toward the more narrative side of hip-hop: He already has about five “really linear stories” for his next album, expected in 2007. That recording is likely to include more instrumentation by musicians like Parchman Farm, which includes Rock’s wife, Allison “the Jewge” Baker.
Rock moved from New York City to San Francisco to be with her. Romantic — not many superstar underground rap bros will drop everything and uproot for their, um, ho, no? As a result, the music has definitely become “reflective in the sense that I moved out of New York City, turned 30, and got married all in the same year,” he explains. “Those three things all have me doing stories about random childhood stuff, super-folktaley story songs that are almost like the stories you’d read to a child.”
CORE CREW Director Dick Rude was enlisted to make Let’s Rock Again, a documentary of his friend Joe Strummer’s time with the Mescaleros around the time of 2001’s Global a Go-Go. And he captured Strummer in deep working-musician mode. “Having done the Clash and having reached that height of stardom, he was really just consumed with getting his music heard and not reaching that level again, so there was a real humility and passion to his approach on the tour,” says the LA videomaker. “It became about breaking the record so he could have a chance to record another record.”
Rude, who met Strummer while he was working as an assistant to director Alex Cox on Sid and Nancy, calls the film — which will be screened one time in San Francisco and is now out on DVD — more of a “memoir of that time” than a biopic of Strummer. As for Strummer’s posthumously released music on Streetcore, Rude believes, “There are tracks on that record that rival any Clash tune. There is no pretension, nothing to prove, just straight-out passion.” SFBG
Opening Thurs/6, 7 p.m.
Fifty24SF Gallery
248 Fillmore, SF
(415) 252-0144
Thurs/6, 9 p.m.
626 Divisadero, SF
Wed/5, 7 p.m.
Roxie Cinema
3125 16th St., SF
(415) 863-1087
Sweetness from the Cape Verdean–Portuguese vocalist. Wed/5, 8 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $25. (415) 771-1421.
Bookish by day at last year’s ArthurFest. Howling and riding seated audience members in performance. Thurs/6, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $8. (415) 923-0923.
Don’t turn your back on these indie experimentalists. Thurs/6, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $8. (415) 861-5016.
Did you eat the Dots — and their glowering psychedelia? Sat/8, 9 p.m., Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. $16–$18. (415) 522-0333.
Members of Secret Chiefs 3 and Estradasphere create likely the first metal unit bearing down on the Japanese instrument. Mon/10, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $8. (415) 861-5016.
Let’s talk about (((GRRRLS))) — with exploding viz-art mover–rad dude BARR. Mon/10, 6 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $6. (415) 923-0923.

Lust for life


› kimberly@sfbg.com
SONIC REDUCER Ah, spring — it seems like a distant memory in June as we get socked an SF summer’s weaving, one-two punch of Westside fog and SoMa heat. But spring is the thing when we think about love. Love that picks us up, brings us down, lifts us back up to where we belong, then bitch-slaps us about the face and neck until we’re ready to trade in our valentines for matching straitjackets and a tray of stiff drinks. Pull up a chair and tell it to Jolie Holland, who dredged up her own love–gone–sour mash life lessons for her latest lovely, lithely limned album, Springtime Can Kill You (Anti). “Yeah, it was just one pretty horrible set of emotional circumstances,” she drawls from Salt Lake City while on perpetual tour. “Just a terrible accident of communication–slash–long distance relationship–slash–my life totally changing due to the music taking off.”
Holland knows of what she speaks: She tried to settle down in San Francisco with her Stanford-jobbing scientist, dubbed the “Moonshiner” in song on Springtime, until he went off on a scholarship to Russia for 10 months. “I was tryin’ to basically be married to a nice, normal guy who had a job and all that, which I’d never really sincerely tried before,” she says. “I thought, this is normal — I’ll try this. But the relationship had a vitamin deficiency. Anyway, that’s what “Springtime Can Kill You” is about — trying to make something work that’s not functional.”
Now she’s back to what a friend calls “the buckshot version of romance. I’m dating people who have fucked-up lifestyles like me — I’m dating other traveling musicians.”
Dub it the bitter, beauteous fruit of Springtime and its absinthe-hued wedding of new grit, olde art, and lightly borrowed blues. The full-length’s ballads of sexual codependency and earthy comradeship sound creamy and sensually nostalgic, yet never self-consciously musty, in the lily hands of coproducers Holland and Lemon DeGeorge. Springtime is haunted — by faraway lovers (“Moonshiner”), outright specters (“Ghostly Girl”), smashed hopes (Riley Puckett’s “You’re Not Satisfied”), old jazz records (“Springtime Can Kill You”), and a certain intoxicating insanity (Holland’s old hip-hop collaborator CR Avery’s “Crazy Dreams”) — though it’s far from a relic.
Likewise, Holland is far from antique. In contrast to the sometime Be Good Tanya’s recent femme fatale photo stylings — complete with Bellocq–Belle Epoque cleavage and Veronica Lake peekaboo locks — she’s still a girl’s girl. She worries over the aforementioned image making, laughs like a hungry bird of prey, dishes band politics, sprinkles her speech with “fucked-up”s, shops vintage like a hipster magpie, drops references to a friend’s “psychic power,” and — true to form for the lusty lady who dedicated a song (“Moonshiner”) to Memphis Minnie and Freakwater — gets creeped out by Mormontown. “Oh, thank God, we’re leaving!” the redheaded vocalist says with a relieved, panicked laugh of her current stop, Salt Lake City. “I just walk down the street and people stare and yell stuff at me. And, like, weird shit was happening. Yeah, I don’t like this town, and people are definitely treating me like a freak here. My hair is a particularly unnatural color, right now.”
Still, life — even one far from her ex’s arms — appears to be swinging much smoother these days for Holland, who now considers New York City, Vancouver, and Portland home. “I’m actually being pretty productive. The other day I wrote two songs in a hotel room.” Even quickie genre classifiers don’t matter. The New York Times may have plopped her into a recent splashy “freak folk” feature — amid Vetiver and Espers, a crowd she’s seldom associated with — but that’s OK. “Yeah, it said nothing about me, but it did say my name, like, three times,” she says with her ah-ah-ah laugh. “It’s interesting because we’re Bay Area people, so we can see the fine details of who’s actually associated with who. But from the East Coast, it probably looks different, y’know. My picture looks really funny in there, right?! It looks totally stuck on.
“The thing is … it actually sounds really fun to have a scene!”
Hey, it may be summer, but we can keep those fresh, dewy buds springing eternally, within. Holland is on her way to Cheyenne, where she says her band has heard rumor of a pond they can dip their wings in, and after that there are collaborations lined up with Michael Hurley and Sage Francis, among others. “It’s so great to be not pretending to be a housewife anymore!” says the singer. “I don’t have to stay home and clean the floor.” SFBG
Sat/1, 9 p.m.
Bimbo’s 365 Club
1025 Columbus, SF
(415) 474-0365
Come for the corn — stay for the cool-ocity. Shee-it, Eddie Money and Nelson play Sat/1, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and Ricky Skaggs perform Mon/3, and Beausoleil and Preservation Hall Jazz Band bring New Orleans to the North Bay Tues/4. Civic Center Drive, San Rafael. $11–$13. (415) 499-6800, www.marinfair.org.
The “acoustic trio” incarnation of the English folk-rock maestros — including founder Simon Nichol — soldiers on. Wed/28–Thurs/29, 8 p.m., Freight and Salvage, 1111 Addison, Berk. $19.50–$20.50. (510) 548-1761.
Abraham Gomez-Delgado cuts his zany out-jazz with Cuban-world fusion. Wed/28, 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakl. $10–$14. (510) 238-9200.
An Extraordinary Machine rolls onward with a headlining tour. Thurs/29, Sleep Train Pavilion, Concord. Fri/30, Mountain Winery, Saratoga. For times and prices, visit www.ticketmaster.com.
The new Billie — or Sade? The gorg Brit plays it smooth like Karo, but does she have the songs? Thurs/29, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $12. (415) 861-5016.
DIY performance art plus your roommate at Evergreen College equals Blow. Blowster Joan Bechtolt also breaks away for a heaping helping of positivity as Yacht. Fri/30, 6 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $6. (415) 923-0923.
A Pushcart Prize nominee folks up. Sun/2, 9 p.m., Hotel Utah, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300.
The Congolese supergroup dusts off the effervescent ’60s sound of Cuban rumba melded with African rhythms. Mon/3, 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakl. $20. (510) 238-9200.



> kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER You can keep your majestic soundscapes, your rewrites of “Rocky Raccoon,

Blinded by Scientists?


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER It may be yet another sign of a time-space-buckling rock apocalypse. Or a chilling harbinger of imminent, sonic-subtlety-be-damned deafness. Or simply a case of sudden, acute perceptiveness. But you had to wonder, watching We Are Scientists and Arctic Monkeys at the Warfield on May 31, how two such different bands (at least on record) could blur together into one indistinctive, loudly guitar-oriented mass. And I like that fetchingly raucous and hook-slung Arctic Monkeys album. I enjoy the forceful post-punk rock of We Are Scientists, live wisecracks about dead dads, babes up front, and all.

Both bands work hard for their money though I can’t speak for the second half of Arctic Monkeys’ set. I had to flee because of my lumbago, left charring in the oven. But as I was racing to my vehicle, I did wonder about the so-called ’00s rock revolution: Could it have gotten stalled somewhere around the time the Arctic Monkeys decided to jettison their straight-forward approach at Great American Music Hall earlier this year and reach for the shadows, smoke machines, and drum-triggered, classically trite rock light show?

Perhaps they’re trying too hard, and if the bands aren’t, then someone is, be it their stylists or marketing departments. What they and other nouveau rock heads should realize is that some arts are beyond science. It’s too easy to slag We Are Scientists, as so many have, starting with a tone set by wink-wink song titles like “This Scene Is Dead” and “Cash Cow” and gamboling forth to the canny exploitation of cute kittens on the cover of With Love and Squalor (Virgin). The cellular building blocks of a fun, poppy, and even harder rock band are there, once you start hacking away at the thick, waxy snark buildup. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about the bad new good times of bands like We Are Scientists and the Killers but whether they dig deeper and darker into the not-so-secret life of hotties or step back (rather than up, to a privileged perch) and develop a sense of songcraft, they need to make me wanna walk on their wild side.

Killers and bad dudes Speaking of Killers, word has it the Hundred Days show at Bottom of the Hill June 3 was buzzing with A&R types because the SF band’s demo was mixed by Mark Needham, who also worked with the Killers. Colin Crosskill e-mailed me to confirm that Killers producer Jeff Saltzman has expressed interest in working with Hundred Days on their next album, based on the recordings…. Shoplifting’s name, unfortunately, proved too prescient: The Seattle band’s gear was lifted from their van parked on Guerrero Street before their May 29 SF show. They’ve posted a list of stolen gear at www.myspace.com/shoplifting for sharp eyes at Bay Area shops and swap meets…. In other thieving matters, Annie of Annie’s Social Club had a green-and-white guitar autographed by X stolen from her premises; if you have info, contact anniesbooking@gmail.com.

Running in the streets Paranoia, punch-ups, temper tantrums, spread-betting losing sprees, and banging cracked-out, nameless pop stars nope, that wasn’t the scene at Sonic Reducer’s recent birthday splashdown. Instead that’s all on the new album from the Streets (a.k.a. Mike Skinner), The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (Vice/Atlantic), a riff on the trials and tribulations of fame that has divided many who have heard it.

“Honesty has always been what I’ve been good at,” says a subdued Skinner, calling from his London home. Making Machiavelli look like a po-faced naïf, one crack at a time, he adds, “People have definitely not liked it as much. But on the whole I think it’s gone down really well.”

I spoke to Skinner when his first CD, Original Pirate Material, came out stateside, when neither of us was completely sure his brand of hip-hop would go over well in the United States. Even now, Skinner says, “I didn’t expect anyone outside the UK to give a shit about it,” so sidestepping the gangster game seems easy. These days, he believes, “it’s a competition to be the hardest. Who’s the most credibly tough. I do think it’s very difficult to stand out against that.”

Why get rich and die trying? Worse, you can stiff like 50 Cent in his own biopic. Instead, Skinner sounds like he’s going the Jay and Em route and concentrating on running his own label, the Beats. “I just want to stay busy and hopefully never work at Burger King again.” SFBG

The Streets with Lady Sovereign

Fri/9, 9 p.m.


1805 Geary, SF


(415) 346-6000


Cat Empire

Putf8um-selling Aussie Latin-jazz-ska-hip-hop fusion purveyors make the Latin-jazz-ska-hip-hop kittens purr. Fri/9, 9 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $15. (415) 771-1421.

Oakley Hall

Back-to-the-garden refusniks? Cali-fucked-up dreamers? Brooklyn’s mega ensemble can’t stop putting out music this year; their latest is the bejeweled Gypsum Strings (Brah). Fri/9, 9 p.m. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $12. (415) 861-5016.

Soundwave Series

Its first Live Play show at ATA will be documented by KQED’s Spark. Myrmyr, Luz Alibi/Mr Maurader, and Moe! Staiano’s Quintet with guest curator Matt Davignon improvise to previously unseen videos culled by 21 Grand’s Sarah Lockhart. Fri/9, 8 p.m., Artists’ Television Access, 992 Valencia, SF. $6–$10. www.projectsoundwave.com.

James Blackshaw

The young UK guitarist grabbed Wire and Fakejazz’s attention with last year’s O True Believers (Important) — and now has ours. Sat/10, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $10. (415) 923-0923.

Howlin’ at the sun


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Something wicked this way came, right in the middle of last week’s spate of strangely beautiful, beastly hot days, as I sipped a pint on El Rio’s back patio with Comets on Fire vocalist-guitarist Ethan Miller. You can bet with 6/6/06 plastered all over town, prophesizing an ominously large marketing onslaught for The Omen that wickedness probably involved horror movies. And you’ll be right. Because Miller is happy to talk about the fruits of Howlin’ Rain, a solo project aided and abetted by Sunburned Hand of the Man’s John Moloney and childhood Humboldt County pal Ian Gradek. But Miller gets really "fanned out" when the subject of mind-gouging, low-budg cinematic howlers like his all-time faves Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Beyond, Maniac, Suspiria come up. I can dig it, but do all rockers really bond over the joy of having their eyeballs violated?

"My wife doesn’t want to watch it with me," he says jovially. "I’m, like, ‘Babe, I just got my copy of Cannibal Holocaust in the mail! And she’s just, like, ‘No! Fuck that! No! No! You have to watch that after I go to bed.’

"I had this one friend, I thought he and I had the same taste, and he just wasn’t really speaking up, and I kept giving him films to watch, and he was, like, ‘Dude, I told you. I hate that. That was fucking traumatizing.’”

For all his movie-collector madness, Miller can be reasoned with and likewise is perfectly reasonable. The Comets’ de facto leader and cofounder tells me their fourth full-length, Avatar (Sub Pop), is ready to go after what sounds like a grueling but fully democratic process recording with Tim Green at Prairie Sun in Cotati. "It’s hard to know if you’re in control of the macro-organism or if it’s in control of you," Miller muses. "Like a minidemocracy, you can’t steer it more than your one-fifth influence. These are real social people wed to each other through their art and music and now through a band."

The Howlin’ Rain project, meanwhile, was quick and dirty, spat out in about eight days, and driven solely by Miller, relying on two trustworthy friends from far-flung parts of the country, with Moloney in Massachusetts and Gradek in Kauai.

Dust demons of fuzz and growling guitar tone still crop up, but here Miller has conjured his own ’06 version of early-’70s "mellow gold" rock ’n’ roll, pulling from the Allman Brothers, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Neil Young without resorting to outright … cannibalism.

"I tried to pack it full of the psych you could have from this vantage point right now," he says. "Not make a record that’s, like, ‘Fuck, that sounds just like Sabbath. I mean, just like Sabbath.’”

Keep your bloody Sabbath instead a laid-back, sun-swept blues-rock vibe, edged with moments of darkness, comes in as clear as a rushing river. You can hear Miller’s relatively effects-free voice, for once not screaming over the maelstrom as if flesh were being ripped from his bones, cushioned by the occasional harmony, which he describes as "Simon and Garfunkel on a bad trip or something."

Nonetheless, Miller isn’t ready to forsake the power jams of yore. He sees Howlin’ Rain and Comets as populist entertainments, much like those beloved horror films. "The best ones succeed in an absolute emotional manipulation that’s kind of a ride, like listening to Queen or Mahavishnu Orchestra, music that’s made for an absolute thrill ride. It’s just so dense and thrilling, and they don’t make you sit around waiting for something to happen. Though maybe Mahavishnu wouldn’t appreciate that because their shit is supposed to be more spiritual …"

Stinky no more What’s it like growing up rock? Ask XBXRX, or Gaviotas’s Simon Timony, who had his share of alterna-cool attention at a very young age: The 22-year-old San Franciscan led the Stinkypuffs which included his onetime stepfather Jad Fair of Half Japanese, his mother Sheenah Fair, Gumball’s Don Fleming, and Lee Ranaldo’s son Cody Linn Ranaldo. Fronting and writing for the most notable child-centered supergroup of the early-’90s alt-rock scene, Timony learned guitar from family friend Snakefinger, was home-schooled by his parents, who ran Ralph Records (his father Tom was in the Residents), and eventually befriended Nirvana when Half Japanese opened for them during the In Utero tour. "I was actually trusted to go wake up Kurt before a show," Timony says wonderingly today.

After notably performing with Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, together for the first time after Cobain’s suicide, at the 1994 Yo Yo a Go Go fest in Olympia, Wash., Timony grew disillusioned with music at around age 13. But he picked up his moldy guitar again after discovering Korn and now he’s making Gaviotas his full-time job. He performs at a suicide-prevention benefit May 31. "My dad and my mom were, like, ‘If this is what you want to do …,’” Timony explains. “‘As long as you don’t suck!’ My dad is a very honest person too honest sometimes." SFBG

Howlin’ Rain

Thurs/1, 6 p.m.

Amoeba Music

1855 Haight, SF

(415) 831-1200

Also with Citay and Sic Alps

Sat/3, 9:30 p.m.

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF


(415) 923-0923


Gaviotas with Crowing and Habitforming

Wed/31, 9 p.m.

Annie’s Social Club

917 Folsom, SF


(415) 974-1585



Play nice with Chloe and Asya, those übertalented but otherwise normal preteens in Seattle’s Smoosh. Their new album, Free to Stay, is here to stay June 6. Eels headline. Wed/31, 8 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $25. (415) 346-6000.


Frontperson John lays down his Foucault — and likely won’t set himself on fire — for a few choice shows celebrating the release of Scrape the Walls (Alternative Tentacles). Fri/2, 10 p.m., Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. $7. (415) 974-1585; June 9, 8 p.m., 924 Gilman, Berk. $5. (510) 525-9926, www.924gilman.org.

Cave in


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER Pop styles of the oh-so-rich and silly!

Britney Spears nearly drops her infant son, baby in one hand, drink in the other, while angling through an NYC crowd! And so soon after being bitch-slapped by the paparazzi for misusing her infant car seat! Oops, she can’t do anything right!

Blaming "media intrusion" for his marital breakup, prenup-less Beatle Paul McCartney promises to hit the charts with the most costly divorce in Brit(pop) history at an estimated $188 to $376 million. Most referenced Beatles lyric: "Can’t buy me love"!

Gossip so slight it’s surreal comes and goes. What remains are the exclamation pointfree, consistently sinister talents of Nick Cave now back in form as the screenwriter of John Hillcoat’s bloody, lyrical Australian western, The Proposition. His red right hand extends to yet another film opening this week in the Bay Area, Olivier Assayas’s Clean, which features sometime Bad Seed James Johnston playing a simian-mugged ’80s rock star you rang? whose death by overdose leaves the addict mother of his child, Emily (Maggie Cheung), high and struggling to dry out.

Bathing in bloodshed and unflinchingly embracing the visceral, The Proposition immediately brought to mind the other recent movie by another rocker with punk, metal, and underground roots who hit a commercial peak in the early ’90s and found a temporary home in the arms of an Alternative Nation: The Devil’s Rejects, by Rob Zombie. The two movies might be seen as spiritual kin if not responses to each other and might even be read as thinly disguised metaphors for life on the road in a rock band: Cave’s bespattered, greasy, tangled-haired outback outlaws would blend in fine at Lollapalooza, while the do-you-want-to-stop-for-ice-cream-or-to-disbowel-passing-strangers repartee between Zombie’s killer hillbillies on the lam smells like a kind of sociopathic teen spirit, circa ’92. The fact that the Rejects the very title of the film sounds like a band name torture a C&W band reads as uncensored rock ’n’ roll ribaldry to me.

Cave, on the other hand, takes hellfire, carnage, and, once again, torture scenes seriously: His is a morality play, with a fatalistic acknowledgment of the way race and class operate in an Australian frontier injustice system. Likewise, rather than relying on crowd-pleasing rock akin to that in Rejects, Cave and Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis unveil a shockingly restrained, elegiac, occasionally screeching score for The Proposition, now available on Mute.

Clean wasn’t written by Cave, but his dark yet redemptive residue is all over it. The main flaw in this otherwise graceful tale of a jet-set junk-bird’s descent, flight, then ascent is the fact that the finale falls flat: This movie is all about the hangers-on, the incidental characters orbiting an absent, dark hole of a star, so when Cheung finally takes the mic and dares to fill the void left by her dead lover, her performance should have hit some Marianne Faithfullesque lowlife high. Still, amid Assayas’s detailed, obvious pleasure depicting ex-wife Cheung floundering after her man’s passing, Cave look-alike Johnston gets in a few of the most memorable, candid lines in Clean when he tells Cheung that his latest album is simply mediocre, and while he may make better once again, he’ll settle for whatever he can get to put it out now.

Why Cave now? Perhaps the culture is finally ready for his plain, unpleasant truths; his horror stories; and his scary, survivor’s revisioning of reality. Dubbing him goth is too easy; calling him Johnny Cash’s black-suited successor, facile. He’s proof that one can go to hell and back.

Stealin’ and Gilman Is anyone beginning to feel like Jack White’s voice is a little like squeaky tires doing donuts on chalkboard? No? Excellent, because the Raconteurs, his current band with other mad Midwestern too-cool-for-schoolies, have put out a pretty swell rock record, digging into late-’70s to late-’80s sounds, be they Romantics-style new wave or AOR hair-band histrionics. And by gum, don’t they look like the Replacements in the above promo pic miming a much reproduced Let It Beera ’Mats photo? A tribute to off-the-cuff randomness? … The rock never quite stops Bay Area party starters Rock ’n’ Roll Adventure Kids are back, recording a new album and playing shows once again. This week’s is a doozy: 924 Gilman’s annual Punk Prom for students who can’t afford the high price of dull high schoolapproved entertainment. Costumes, dancing, and like-minded souls sounds like a rock ’n’ roll adventure worth crashing. SFBG


July 23, 8 p.m.

Warfield, 982 Market, SF.


(415) 775-7722

Punk Prom

Fri/26, 8 p.m.

924 Gilman, Berk.



Quit moping

Kultur Shock

Gypsy-inspired punk mixes it up with bilingual thrashers La Plebe. Wed/24, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $10. (415) 621-4455.

Tough and Lovely

Garage rock, ’60s soul, and girl group are all within groping distance. Thurs/25, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $6. (415) 923-0923. Sat/27, Stork Club, 2330 Telegraph, Oakl. Call for time and price. (415) 444-6174.

Grind and Glory hip-hop conference

15- to 25-year-olds are invited to get down and throw their hands in the air at this DJ Project music conference with Dead Prez, Amp Live, and Jurassic 5’s Chali 2Na. Sat/27, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., 425 Market, SF. Free. www.grindandglory.com.


That’s Mr. Beast to you. Turge-rockers Earth open. Sat/27, 9 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $22.50. (415) 346-6000.


The band takes punk to the jagged cliffs where politics and art meet and dance a jig. Tues/30, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8. (415) 621-4455. SFBG




Three guitars plus Yaphet Kotto vets equals a rock-out record release party. Fri/19, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923.


Charming pop straight from Sweden. Sat/20, 9 p.m., Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 885-0750.

Fucking Ocean and Fuckwolf

A good fucking time for all? Sat/20, 9 p.m., El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. $8. (415) 282-3325.

Susana Baca

Luaka Bop’s Peruvian diva draws from memories of her father playing serranitas. Sun/21, 8 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $25. (415) 771-1421.

Rogers Sisters

No wave meets new wave nostalgia? NYC art-rockers settle down with the best band name in Austin, Texas: I Love You But I’ve Chosen Darkness. Mon/22, 8 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $12. (415) 771-1421.

Clue to Kalo

The Australian Mush indies team with their down-underish pals Architecture in Helsinki. Tues/23, 8 p.m., Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. $14. (415) 885-0750.

Toubab Krewe

Hippie drum circle with faux-hawks and mad West African guitar and percussion skills. Tues/23, 9 p.m., Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $8. (415) 861-5016.

Free kitten?



SONIC REDUCER Mother’s Day: the primo time to think about reasons why mom rules. So why did I spend it listening to Grandaddy’s new, possibly last album, Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2)? I also lost about four solid hours watching Amon Duul, MC5, and Scott Walker videos on YouTube and thinking back to my adolescent years, when my household chores fell by the wayside and dear ole mum would threaten to spirit away a sackful of our 20 or so semiferal "fambly" cats and kittens and abandon them by some desolate roadside pineapple cannery. Thanks, ma!

Really, Hallmark and the assorted commercial pressures that guilt you into shuffling to the post office with an annual tribute to motherhood bring out the absolute worst namely, inappropriate memories in me. Though that certain special someone never carried out those acts of probable feline-cide, it’s clear not all of us come psychologically, emotionally, and financially equipped to be parents just as many of us were not well kitted out to be pet owners. We try: Glance through the approximately 17,000 cat videos on YouTube John Lennon’s scant 415 refs are no match against the cuddly-wuddly, flea-bitten hordes. The majority are amateurish, dull, full of "aw-isn’t-she/he/it-cute quick get it on the cameraphone" tumescent adoration.

Still, between the anticlimactic "Puppy vs. Cat" snippets, music fans can kill an entire Mother’s Day watching Magma serenade Catholic padres in some strange French B-movie or study a drowsy Velvet Underground supposedly writing "Sunday Morning" ("They all look so fucked up. Heroin is bad for you," comments one viewer) or check out the most viewed music-related vid that day (perhaps related to the new service that started last week allowing users to upload footage directly from a phone or PDA): a blurry, too-loud, obviously cellie-derived clip of Guns n’ Roses blasting out "Welcome to the Jungle" at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom on May 12.

How perfect then that I stumble across a few Grandaddy videos on my YouTube travels, including a slightly oogy bit showcasing, as its maker puts it, "a slug on a cucumber listening to Grandaddy." A comment on the lysergic lethargy embedded in the Modesto band’s tunes? Animals, or rather people in animal suits, operate as stand-ins for nature in the group’s shared videos, representing a star-crossed love for the junky delights of an infinitely disposable, shareable information culture, as well as the earthly attractions of the Central Cali natural world. I can totally relate, dudes.

Sluggish Grandaddy fans who can’t break away from waxing their own cucumbers will be pleased to know that Just Like the Fambly Cat is a suitably great, elegiac outro for the disbanding band (so says songwriter Jason Lytle). A pop symphony to that final solution to dissolution and aimlessness: death. If Grandaddy always seem to teeter betwixt stoner listlessness and slacker lack of focus, the threat of imminent nonexistence and looming loss has brought a sense of purpose, opening with a child’s repeated, lisping, "What happened to the fambly cat?" and closing with Lytle’s grandiose finale, "I’ll never return!" The act of recording melts into biography, as Lytle angrily mourns his broken engagement with all the infectious pop trappings ("Jeez Louise") and then gets lost in dusty, hermetic yet elegant reveries reminiscent of such peers as Air ("Oxygen/Auxsend"). There are, as Lytle sings, about "fifty percent less words" here, breaking from pop formulae, but the writing is more than up to providing the mental visuals for Fambly Cat‘s aural invocation of the last, sad days of summer.

Nonetheless, YouTube comes through with some Fambly Cat imagery, as Lytle has come out from behind the animal costume on a lo-fi video for the "single" "Where I’m Anymore." He bicycles down orchard and suburban lanes, bridging Modesto’s agri and aggro environs, as a papier-mâché cat head jumps into the frame for the slow-jamz chorus of lost-pussy meows. This shy number may have emerged after Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s similar catcentric number, but Grandaddy’s easy, sensuous paw tracks promise to stick with you longer, even after Lytle supposedly says good-bye to Modesto, a place tied tightly to another dubbed Grandaddy. After all, Magnet magazine recently reported that Lytle has sold his Modesto house and is moving to Montana, with no plans to perform Fambly Cat songs live ("If we go on tour, somebody’s gonna fucking die"). But perhaps this media-lavished long good-bye isn’t what it seems and Grandaddy fans can dry their tears because it appears Lytle will play those tunes after all, at Amoeba Saturday. Like a cat that always comes back, all may not be lost. SFBG


Sat/20, 6 p.m.

Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF


(415) 831-1200



› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER I used to think of myself as the ultimate freak magnet, fending off moist-haired gents with a fetish for girl bands. Damp palms. Foam bubbling at the corners of the mouth. Barely discernable vertigo spirals in their bloodshot eyes. Cute, huh?

But the Court and Spark have me beat. We were sitting around the high-ceilinged kitchen of their Alabama Street Station studio/flat and talking about making their new album, Hearts (Absolutely Kosher), when vocalist-guitarist MC Taylor and guitarist Scott Hirsch suddenly leapt to their feet and started pawing through a drawer by the stove. Drummer James Kim bolted down the hallway. Was it something I said or … ate?

No, they all simply hit on their most memorable piece of fan mail, which Kim pulled from his shadow files. "This is classic," Taylor said, forking the letter over. "This explains to you what the Court and Spark journey is all about."

The script on the wide-rule binder paper was large, loopy, and ever so shaky, and its author told of hearing a song from the band’s last EP, Dead Diamond River, then embarking on his own river of no return: "My life is rough. In May my mom died after having colon cancer surgery. I lost my dad months earlier to lymphoma. For 41 years I’ve been struggling since a child living with severe type 1 diabetes. Not having any health insurance is difficult. My yearly medical expenses are now over $5,000, not including doctor and lab costs. I do without. I hope you will seriously consider sending me a promo copy of your new amazing CD to brighten my life at this difficult time." The missive closed with a San Jose address and came with a checklist of meds.

Of course, the soft hearts of C and S sent the letter-writer the disc and never heard from their diabetic sad case in the South Bay again.

Score one crazy diamond for C and S, but what’s the attraction? Are the crazies seeking the healing qualities in the band’s shimmering Cali rock ’n’ soul? Are they looking to levitate alongside the group’s increasingly psychedelic yet still hard-to-quantify sound. Am I asking the wrong people? Not for nothing did Taylor first consider titling the new album I Want to Be a Gallant Rider Like My Father Was before Me, after a line in Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kasper Hauser. Like Herzog, C and S seem to draw, or be drawn to, those blurry border towns between Insanity, Texas, and Epiphany, Mexico.

Despite Hirsch’s disbelief that their audience actually comes to see them perform rather than the other bands on their bills, C and S are 50 times more comfortable in their collective skin than the first time I spoke to them, around 2002, shortly after the release of their lovely 2001 second album, Bless You.

"We’ve always been the lone wolves out there," Taylor ponders. "But we’ve also played on every kind of possible bill you can possibly imagine, and on good nights, actually, we’ve been able to make it work. We’ve played with everyone from Devendra to Bob Weir."

It’s at home, however, that the onetime UC Santa Barbara students found a sense of freedom last year, tinkering with Hearts to their hearts’ content, experimenting with instruments like harp and hammered dulcimer, and falling in love with Farfisa organ and throwing it, along with a wah pedal, over everything all while also working on Michael Talbott and the Wolfkings’ new album and the beginnings of Willow Willow’s record. They’d rent, say, a really good, $10,000 mic and then cram everyone into their space to share costs. "We’d wake up earlier than anybody else, since we lived here, and we’d set up and drink coffee and do it," says Hirsch, who also teaches recording at Bay Area Video Coalition.

It may sound too pat for these courtly Mission dwellers, but it looks like they got out of their musical comfort zone by digging deeper into their literal one. "It’s like that Steely Dan quote, ‘We used to spend five months just trying to figure out what chair we were going to sit in in the studio,’" Hirsch says with a laugh. "That’s the kind of freedom that we like and that we found for ourselves and that maybe they had too, because they would also record a million things and pick just one thing from that. That’s why their records sound so good, I guess." SFBG

Court and Spark

With Jason Molina, Black Fiction, and the Finches

Fri/12, 9 p.m.

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF


(415) 885-0750

Worst album of the week


› kimberly@sfbg.com

"A strange new sound that makes boys explore."

Will and Grace‘s Eric McCormack singing Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s "The Greatest Discovery"

SONIC REDUCER Not one of El’s greatest moments of songcraft. A lot of strange, new sounds regularly leak through the CD cat door just how many albums have the C*nts made? We get more than our share of musically ho-hum benefit recordings, amateurish anti-Bush anthems, and those almost quaintly, obliviously sexist Ultra dance comps. But the fundraising comp the aforementioned track was drawn from, Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars (Rhino), is oddly, exquisitely … painful. This showcase of film, TV, and theater actors is almost as cringeworthy as contemputf8g that Tom Cruise DJ set rumor floating round Coachella last weekend.

I suspect Unexpected Dreams‘ cause is a decent one: Music Matters, a Los Angeles Philharmonic music outreach program for school kids. But I can’t imagine inflicting this disc on the youngsters that producers Wayne Baruch, Charles F. Gayton, and "vocal coach to the stars" Eric Vetro supposedly intended it for, although Baruch thoughtfully adds in the liner notes that the creators considered including a sticker saying, "Warning: Parents with children may experience drowsiness; do not operate machinery. For those without children … this may cause children."

Yuck. Don’t get me wrong I can take the corn, cheese, anything you want to poke in your bowtie-and-top-hat aural burrito. But disregard the vanity backslapping commentary and try to suffer through the actual renditions themselves: They make Shatner’s silly spoken-word symphonies look visionary; Lindsey Lohan’s pop pachyderms, cerebral; J-Lo’s albums, stone-genius.

Oh, the vanity, the vanity of actors who think they’re singers. Faring best: Scarlett Johansson singing a smoky blues-jazz version of the Gershwins’ "Summertime" (in the CD notes, Vetro claims "lightning struck the room" when Johansson lay into the helpless tune), her Island costar Ewan "O Obi-Wan" McGregor wrapping his Moulin Rouge round Sade’s "The Sweetest Gift," and Teri "Close encounters with Desperate Housewives poltergeists" Hatcher’s relatively unembellished rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s "Goodnight." Hatcher and vocalists like John C. Reilly rate lower on the icko-meter simply by sounding like themselves rather than affected high-school glee club achievers Alias‘s Jennifer Garner, for instance, sounds like all the variety show choristers I’ve been happily not missing since those endless, mind-numbing days of school assemblies. In fact, you can imagine a lot of boys and girls discovering that the "strange new" sounds on this album make them want to trash all their parents’ well-meaning children’s albums and explore some quality Slayer recordings.

Taraji P. Henson (Hustle and Flow‘s hook-warbling hooker) does bring some soul to her song but it’ll be hard to pimp tracks by the otherwise fine actor Jeremy Irons, who never should have been allowed to try his all-too-white gimp hand at Bob Dylan’s "To Make You Feel My Love" from Time out of Mind. And there are the many others who look at their songs as a license to overemote, like the worst rankamateur karaoke contestants, in love with the fact that they can even hit the notes. Onetime warrior princess Lucy Lawless bludgeons her quasi-Christian Vetro original. Nia My Big Fat Greek Wedding Vardalos unleashes the feta on an overwrought, taste-free stab at Lennon and McCartney’s "Golden Slumbers," and Hairspray‘s Marissa Jaret Winokur makes one gag with a cloying, faux-childlike Vetro number. "Who wouldn’t want Hollywood’s biggest stars to sing them to sleep?" the album’s press release states. Yeah, I guess that would be all right but if John Stamos is one of ’Wood’s biggest stars, I think Tinseltown is in trouble. Hint: I could be convinced to donate to any cause Rhino chooses, if they just, please, stick to reissues. SFBG


Watch it this time


The budding art star was recently feted in Artforum. Modern Reveries and F-Hole also perform. Wed/3, Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 923-0923

The Herms

What’s this about the porn written by one of the he-men in the solid indie-rockin’ Herms, here celebrating their CD release? Loquat and the Husbands also perform. Thurs/4, Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 885-0750

Rainer Maria

The Brooklyn indie-rock romanticists return. Thurs/4, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $12. (415) 621-4455

16 Bitch Pileup

All female, all noise, all hands on deck when the Bay Area band plays with LA’s Crom and Goldie winners Total Shutdown. Fri/5, 8 p.m., 924 Gilman, Berk. $6. www.924gilman.org. 16 Bitch Pileup and Crom also play Sat/6, 5 p.m., Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. $6. (415) 552-7788


Soulful vocals meet aggro rock. Play nice. Boyjazz and Turn Me on Deadman also perform. Fri/5, 10 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $10. (415) 621-4455. Also Sat/6, 2 p.m., Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. Free. (415) 831-1200

Drive-By Truckers

The Southerners set up camp with Son Volt. Fri/5–Sat/6, 9 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $28.50. (415) 421-TIXS or (415) 346-6000

Doug Gillard

The Guided by Voices guitarist took his time, getting last year’s addictive solo release out in front of breathing humanoids. Richard Buckner also plays. Sat/6, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $13–$15. (415) 621-4455

Secret Machines

The buzz band was no secret at SXSW. Sat/6, 8:30 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $20. (415) 771-1421

Blood on the Wall

Flannel, ’80s art rock, and a certain groove. Physic Ills and the Death of a Party open. Mon/8, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8. (415) 621-4455


The English duo dig into T-Rex–drenched electro with Supernature (Mute). Mon/8, 8 p.m. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $22.50. (415) 421-TIXS or (415) 346-6000

Starlight Mints

Your indie-pop hop happens with Dios and Octopus Project. Tues/9, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 621-4455  SFBG



Film School Benefits

Local artists band together for the SF rockers, who recovered their stolen Econoline but lost their gear. Nuke Infusion, Cheetah Speed, and Henry Miller Sextet perform Wed/26, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8 sliding scale. (415) 621-4455. Lovemakers, Oranger, and Boyskout play Fri/28, 10 p.m., Bottom of the Hill. $15 sliding scale. www.filmschoolmusic.com.

Amadou and Mariam

You have to be, er, deaf to be immune to the sight-free duo’s vocal charms. Local mixologist Cheb i Sabbah opens. Fri/28, 9 p.m. Bimbo’s 365 Club, 1025 Columbus, SF. $25. (415) 474-0365.

Pirate Cat Radio 87.9 FM 10-Year Anniversary

Yar — Insaints, Mr. T Experience, and others get on board. Fri/28, 8 p.m., Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. $6–$20. (415) 974-1585.

A Mighty Ruckus

Check the chrome on custom cars and clear the (ear) wax with Fabulous Disaster, Black Furies, Fleshies, Grannies, Teenage Harlets, and others. Sat/29, 2 p.m., Bay Area Motor Club, 1598 Custer, SF. Free. (415) 756-6409.

Half-Handed Cloud

The Oakland church-sitters loop you in with Halos and Lassos (Asthmatic Kitty). Tues/2, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $5. (415) 923-0923. SFBG

ABCs and Rubies


SONIC REDUCER A passionate music fan friend recently laid some curious medicine on me as we were hunkered down at Doc’s Clock, watching our inexplicably enraged lady bartender toss one of our half-full beverages: My friend’s musician ex had already written off his barely released singer-songwriter-ish album, because according to his veteran estimate, "people are only interested in bands these days."

Maybe that’s why Vancouver‘s indie-esque artist and sometime New Pornographer Dan Bejar rocks under the name Destroyer. Still, it’s hard to scan the music news these days and avoid single, solitary monikers like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young, both breaking from their associations with bands and recording protest songs old and new. Bejar’s fellow Canadian Young just last week offered up the quickie, choir-backed Living with War, which includes a song titled "Let’s Impeach the President" and streams for free at www.neilyoung.com starting April 28 (leading one to wonder if the Peninsula’s Shakey is responding to the calls at his onstage SXSW interview for a new "Ohio"?). Perhaps in an instantly downloadable, superniched, and highly fragmented aural landscape, there remains a certain heroic power in creating and performing in the first person, under your own name, while reaching for a collective imagination, some elusive third person.

Chatting on the phone, over the border, Bejar might not easily parse as a part of the aforementioned crew, though he musically cross-references urban rock ’n’ rollers, stardusted glitter kids, and louche lounge cats, explicitly tweaking those "West Coast maximalists, exploring the blues, ignoring the news" on "Priest’s Knees," off his new full-length, Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge). Some might even venture that the late-night, loose lips and goosed hips, full-blown rock of the album, his sixth, marks it as his most indulgent to date.

And Bejar, 33 and a Libra, will readily fess up to his share of indulgences, in lieu of collecting juicy tour adventures. On tour he says, "I tend to go and then kind of hide backstage, get up onstage, try and play, get off, and continue to hide backstage.

"I’m not super into rock clubs," Bejar continues. "I just don’t feel a need to make a home of them."

Just back from the first part of his US journeys ("We played 12 or 14 of 16 dates. That’s hardly any. I think most bands would think that’s psychotic"), Bejar does feel quite at home in Vancouver and will reluctantly theorize about Canadian music. "I think there’s a certain outsider perspective that people might say comes with Canadian songwriters, like the states would never be able to produce a Leonard Cohen or a Joni Mitchell or a Neil Young just kind of idiosyncratic characters." But then he brakes and reverses. "But I don’t know if I believe that."

Bejar could be talking about his own amiable, idiosyncratic self. Most of his sentences end with a little, upward, questioning lilt, giving his responses a way-relaxed, studiedly casual, postgrad quality, clad as they are in contradictions, at times inspiring detailed analysis, but more often triggering mild arguments and arriving at good-humored dead ends. In other words, the man can talk complete paragraphs or monosyllables. Rubies‘ last track, "Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever," for example, has been kicking around for five years. "It’s kind of like the first song I tried doing, to break out a certain mold of Destroyer songs that I had unconsciously set up in the late ’90s," Bejar explains. "It was a style of song where the language was mostly based on political or economic rhetoric and social expression and the occasional personal aside. ‘Sick Priest’ is kind of an exercise in a more free-flowing, imagistic song, which I was dead against back in my younger days, and I’ve since completely embraced that style of writing."

Maybe it’s the sax, I venture. To these rust-belt-weaned ears, the new album sounds like urban East Coast rock of the ’70s à la not only Bowie but Springsteen and, say, the J. Geils Band.

"Wow, Peter Wolf," he sighs. "That’s cool. That’s funny. I mean, I kind of have a soft spot for, uh, that kind of sounding band, though I don’t have a soft spot for the songs that those people wrote. I like the ’70s bar-rock feel, especially the laid-back afternoon variety."

Yeah, like when you’re sitting at the bar, drinking cheap beer, watching the sun shoot through a vinyl padded door.


Bejar can go for that scenario: Despite the fact that he will be playing All Tomorrow’s Parties in England shortly after his SF date, you get the impression he can take or leave Destroyer and even the New Pornographers. (Since he moved away to his father’s homeland of Spain a few years ago, he says, "My involvement is pretty minimal. I don’t go to practices. I don’t tour.") Who knows, when he gets some time off after ATP and the Pitchfork music festival in Chicago, he might even take his own "bad advice," the kind that’s ingrained in Destroyer songs’ "little pep talks," and fall back on a career shelving books at the public library. "Something part-time, maybe, that doesn’t involve too much dealing with the public," he ponders playfully. "I’m good at alphabetizing stuff." SFBG


May 8, 9:30 p.m.

Cafe du Nord

2170 Market, SF


(415) 861-5016


Rankin’ Reykjavik


› kimberly@sfbg.com

SONIC REDUCER I love the fact that whenever you leave this country, you immediately come to the discomfiting realization that … you’re such a damaged by-product of capitalist America. Case in point: Last week I gazed upon the beauteous, barren, and treeless expanses of Iceland, miles and miles of rock, scrubby grass, and mirrorlike pools of ice. Iceland in the spring is the chill, brown-white-and-blue equivalent of the Southwestern desert, austere yet fragile in the face of certain global warming, and barely containing an undercurrent of volcanic energy reminiscent of Hawaii’s Big Island. So why do I look at these moonscapes and wonder where all the people are and why there aren’t any houses, strip malls, or ski resorts out here? Why do I look at untrammeled land and see real estate?

Reykjavik: I’m here on a press trip with other media field operatives from BPM, OK!, Nylon, and Vapors, studying the club culture, seeing the sights, taking in gutfuls of fresh, fishy air by the wharf, gazing at snowcapped mountains, and perusing menus in shock. I just couldn’t help blurting a culturally insensitive, "Omigod, that’s My Little Pony!" when I saw the roast Icelandic foal with a tian of mushrooms, caramelized apples, and calvados sauce on the bill of traditional Icelandic restaurant Laekjarbrekka.

Likewise, the Icelanders probably can’t help turning those cute puffins and herb-fed lambs into meaty main courses to warm them through those long, dark winters. The real, long-haired, sweet-faced Icelandic horses turned out to be more engaging and curious than I’d ever imagined, strolling up to our group out in the wilds near Thingvellir to examine the hipsters (and hip-hoppsters) and be ooohed over. "They’re more like dogs than horses!" our Icelandair rep, Michael Raucheisen, exclaimed.

After a scrumptious Asian fusion meal at the elegant, cream-colored, deco Apotek (started with kangaroo tartare and finished off with a mistakenly ordered $125 bottle of Gallo cab; travel tip number one: Reykjavik is not the spot to sample California vino), our wild bunch was more into checking out a local strip club than settling in with a good book like Dustin Long’s charming Agatha Christie parody, Icelander (McSweeney’s), or the catalog for the National Museum of Iceland’s current photo exhibit of fishing village life in the southeast, "Raetur Runtsins" ("Roots of the Runtur"). We were more likely to price the local, ahem, pharmaceutical offerings ("$175 for a gram of coke is not cheap!" was one assessment) at the city’s nightclubs than shop for runic love charms or grandmotherly woolens.

One reason for the aforementioned vast, unpopulated expanses: There are only 300,000 people in the entire country albeit well educated, well employed, relatively youthful, and wired. (Is it any wonder this isle has the highest concentration of broadband users in the world?) Most of the youth culture was happening in the capital, where about a third of the population lives it up, sucks down Brennivin and macerated strawberry mojitos, dances with compact little hand motions that resemble a funky elfin hand jive. I must confess that, watching Deep Dish’s Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia skillfully work Iceland native Björk into his house mix at NASA, I’ve rarely seen more hot, seemingly straight men dancing, en masse, on the floor, on the mezzanine, in the booths, every damn where. Where did they get the energy from a geothermal pipeline or those mischievous sprites called Julelads?

As we piled into the van to steep at the sulfur-scented but soul-soothing Blue Lagoon and study the brand-spankin’ Icelandic Idol Snorri Snorrason (I kid you not) serenading the soakers lagoonside with Jack Johnsonlike tunes, I could only sit and plot my next visit possible when Icelandair resumes its summer flights from SF in May? It’ll be too late to catch late April’s new Rite of Spring alt-jazz and folk music festival, but not for October’s Iceland Airwaves music fest (Oct. 18 through 22, www.icelandairwaves.com), where big tickets like the Flaming Lips have filled the city’s venues alongside Icelanders such as Sigur R??s. I’ll have to catch these new Icelandic rock artists:

Ampop, My Delusions (Dennis)

This trio was getting the royal hype in Reykjavik posters were plastered everywhere. How nice to find that their jaunty yet dramatic English-language orchestral psych-rock traverses the dreamier side of Coldplay and Doves.

Mammut, Mammut (Smekkleysa)

Polished though quirky, this bass-driven, all-lady post-punk fivesome takes a bite of the Sugarcubes, Siouxsie Sioux, and the Raincoats, with plenty of all-Icelandic lyrical histrionics.

Storsveit Nix Noltes, Orkideur Havai (12 Tonar; to be released on Bubblecore)

Last glimpsed at South by Southwest’s Paw Tracks/Fat Cat showcase, these Animal Collective tourmates draw inspiration for their instrumentals from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and the Balkans.

Mugison, Mugimama — Is This Monkey Music? (12 Tonar)

The Mark Linkous of Icelandic rock digs into the raw stuff on this acclaimed full-length. He also recently scored Baltasar Kormakur’s film A Little Trip to Heaven, reinterpreting the Tom Waits track of the same name.

For the real folkways, check out Raddir/Voices: Recordings of Folk Songs from the Archives of the Arni Magnusson Institute in Iceland (Smekkleysa/Arni Magnusson Institute), which includes a great booklet on the music, collected between 1903 and 1973 and revolving around Icelandic sagas and cautionary fables of monsters, ogres, and child-snatching ravens. SFBG


Anthony Hamilton, Heather Headley, and Van Hunt

Hamilton killed, from all reports, at SXSW, and we all know how good that Hunt album is. Wed/19 and Mon/24, 7:30 p.m., Paramount, 2025 Broadway, Oakl. $39–$67.75. www.ticketmaster.com

M’s and the Deathray Davies

Chicago cock-rockers meet quirk poppers. Wed/19, 8 p.m., Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. $8. (415) 861-2011


The chairs are pushed back when this band of Tuaregs, the indigenous people from Eastern Mali, break out the guitars. Wed/19, 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakl. $14–$20. (510) 238-9200

Keyshia Cole

The gritty girlfriend that might be the next Mary adds a late show. Fri/21, 11:30 p.m., The Grand, 1300 Van Ness, SF. $32.50. (415) 864-0815

Kronos Quartet

The ensemble premieres a collaboration with Walter Kitundu, takes on a Sigur R??s number, and teams with Matmos on "For Terry Riley." Fri/21–Sat/22, 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF. $18–$35. (415) 978-ARTS

Maria Taylor

Saddle Creek’s electro-folk-pop sweetheart steps out from Azure Ray. Sat/22, 9 p.m., Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $10. (415) 861-5016 SFBG

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, all right already


SONIC REDUCER In the best of all music fans’ worlds, an album will grow on you like lichen, excessive body hair, or a parasite à la guinea worm, only with more pleasure and less arterial spray, I pray. You like it more and more as you play-repeat-play. It starts with an ear-catching opening track or appetite-whetting overture, as that well-worn pop recipe goes, and builds momentum until track three or four. That one should sink its little tenterhooks into you and refuse to let go until you listen to it once again or upload it to your iPod or whatever musical delivery system serves the addiction.

That analyzed, it’s amazing how some bands, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, can go from compulsively listenable to annoying with one album, Show Your Bones (Interscope). Too bad because the YYYs still stand out, like a slash of smeared red lipstick, as one of the few female-fronted groups to emerge from that much hyped, new-rock New York music scene of the early ’00s. That barely sublimated burden of representation, the YYYs’ association with the Liars and the more artistically ambitious NYC crew, as well as the heightened critical expectations after the strength of 2003’s Fever to Tell hasn’t helped Show. Once the flurry of screeching, obscuring noise and rockabilly riffs are stripped away and the songs are spruced up in the studio, the poppier YYYs sound deathly similar to peers like the Strokes at their most singsong (“Dudley,” “Mysteries”). O’s slight lyrics are exposed as the slender vehicles they are her piercing tone, which cut through the distortion in the past, simply seems affected.

Even when O toys with teasing double entendre on “Cheating Hearts,” confutf8g the act of taking off a ring with a sexed-up strip (“Well I’m / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And she’s / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And he’s / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And we’re / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off”), the story doesn’t go anywhere beyond the (again, repeated) lines “Sometimes / I think that I’m bigger / Than the sound.” The entire enterprise gives up the reheated, ego-stroking aroma of Zep knockoffs like Heart. That wouldn’t necessarily be bad, if those commercial rock invocations seemed to serve more than an ego that seems “something like a phenomena, baby” (see the key fourth track, “Phenomena”). This album feels like a grandiose, strident, ultimately airheaded mess all Show, no go.

“Fab Mab” flap

I was a humongoid Flipper fan back in the day, but, truthfully, I wasn’t thinking too hard about the imminent “Fab Mab Reunion” show featuring the SF dadaist-punk legends and Mabuhay Gardens regulars the Dead Kennedys, the Avengers, and the Mutants. The reunion part of the show’s name brought out ex-DK vocalist Jello Biafra, who issued the statement, “No, it is not a Dead Kennedys reunion. Yes, I am boycotting the whole scam. These are the same greedmongers who ran to corporate lawyers and sued me for over six years in a dispute sparked by my not wanting ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ sold into a Levi’s commercial. They now pimp Dead Kennedys in the same spirit as Mike Love suing Brian Wilson over and over again, then turning around and playing shows as the Beach Boys.”

I was curious about the pimping notion. The idea can’t help but cross one’s mind with the crowded pit of punk reunion shows (including the Flesh Eaters; see “Zombies Are Back!” page 35), all within spittin’ distance of each other in the past few years. So I spoke to Flipper drummer Steve DePace, who put together the “reunion” after the band’s first performance after a “10-year hiatus” (Bruno DeMartis sitting in for the late Will Shatter) at a CBGB’s benefit last year. Following that, they answered a request to play LA’s closing Olympic Auditorium. “I thought to myself, in the spirit of the funnest days of my career back in the late ’70s and early ’80s at the Mabuhay Gardens when that scene was flourishing and that club served as the hub to the punk rock scene that developed in SF what if we were to do a show with that vibe?” says the 49-year-old exanimation industry project manager, who now lives in LA. “What are the bands around that are still playing from back in those days?

“Listen, Flipper is not making a ton of money,” he continues, adding that Flipper has reformed because they still have a passionate audience. To DePace, the most famous of those Flipper fans was likely Kurt Cobain, who wore his homemade Flipper T-shirt on TV and magazine covers. Of course, there were no official Flipper shirts, he says. “Back in those days we were not into the commerce,” he explains. “No one thought about selling merchandise nowadays it’s the biggest thing. People gobble it up.” Just keep feeding.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

April 28 and 29


982 Market, SF

Call for time and price.

(415) 775-7722

“Fab Mab Reunion”

Sat/8, 9 p.m.


1805 Geary, SF


(415) 346-6000


After supporting his buddies the Shins and finding inspiration on Fleetwood Mac’s Future Games (Reprise, 1971), ex-Califone side guy Eric Johnson made one of the loveliest, most underrated indie pop LPs of 2005, Spelled in Bones (Sub Pop). Images of blood injury (the legacy of cutting his head open as a five-year-old and, later, one auto accident too many) crop up, as does a ref to that distinctively northern Midwestern “land of sky blue waters” from the old Hamm’s beer commercial. Johnson’s obviously comfortable listening in the past, judging from these items in the iTunes library on his new computer:

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (Bizarre/Straight/EMI)

Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde (Columbia)

Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies (Rhino/WEA)

Steve Martin, A Wild and Crazy Guy (WEA)

Meat Puppets, Meat Puppets II (SST/Rykodisc)

Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story (Polygram)

Kelley Stoltz, Below the Branches (Sub Pop); “Favorite thing I’ve heard this year so far.”

T. Rex, The Slider (Rhino/WEA); “I listen to it when I clean house.”

Fruit Bats play Mon/10, 8 p.m., the Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $10–$12. (415) 771-1421


Dada Swing

Italy’s punky musical absurdists swing through town once more, after last year’s power-packed Hemlock and Cookie Factory dates. SF experimentalists the Molecules also reunite. Fri/7, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923

Levi Fuller

The Seattle musician makes moody folk songs with a bleeding edge; check his second album, This Murder Is a Peaceful Gathering (Denimclature). Jean Marie, the Blank Tapes, and 60 Watt Kid also play. Thurs/6, 8:30 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300

Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani

The Trieste trumpet-player and Bollani back up their recent album, Tati (ECM), while collaborator, drummer Paul Motian, remains in NYC. Enrico Pieranunzi fills out this il Jazz Italiano bill. Fri/7, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF. $25–$51. (415) 621-6600, www.sfjazz.org

So Sic


Rock giveth and rock taketh away. Hearing loss — give or take a pound of flesh, hunk of hair, chunk of gray matter, or a tooth or two — seems like a fair trade when there’s so much pleasure to be gleaned from the volume and insight, good drunks and bad trips. And Mike Donovan (Ropers, NAM, Big Techno Werewolves, Sounds of the Barbary Coast, Yikes) and Matt Hartman (Henry’s Dress, Total Shutdown, Cat Power, Coachwhips) of SF’s downlow supergroup Sic Alps are here to remind you of the upside of rock’s stubbly downside. They’ve been there, done that, heard it, and are "embracing the damage," as Donovan puts it.

No damage today though: Sic Alps and I are tucked into Hartman’s Spartan, tidy bedroom — small Who photo on the wall, Kit Kat bar on the stereo, pink-cheeked stuffed animal on the pillow. It’s a sane, sober scene. He’s fiddling with his laptop, preparing to play unmastered tracks from the duo’s sorta super, four-song, vinyl-only, home-recorded EP, The Soft Tour in Rough Form, on mt. st. mtn. The April 15 release is just the first roughed-up pebble in what will likely become a Sic avalanche of music. Judging from the tunes jetting out of the speakers, their rumble parallels that of Royal Trux and Ariel Pink, high on the Who and Soft Machine rather than the Stones and AOR, pushed through a crusty filter of Led-en tempos, prickly fields of distortion, and solid walls of respectful disrespect. "Love the Kinks, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and then I run out of names. Those are the three heavies," Hartman says. "The Beatles are pretty good. You heard those guys? They’re not bad."

If we were all scarred by the music we loved at a certain impressionable age, then you can trace Sic Alps’ top 10 scrapes to Donovan’s Hall and Oates cassettes and Hartman’s Kiss records.

"I remember posters on my wall — the Police, the Doors, the Stones — those 11-by-17 posters you got at Sam Goody," Donovan recalls. "At 18, my friend Nick turned me onto Can, the Fall, and that was it …"

"I was not that hip," Hartman drawls. "I had some cousins who for Christmas bought me Bad Company’s first record when I was listening to Sabbath-Ozzy-Scorps–Iron Maiden–Priest-they-all-rule — that kind of thing. I gave it a five-minute courtesy listen, and I was, like, ‘Ffttt, whatever, dude.’ But I think I still have the record, because now I can listen to it. It’s kinda cool. It’s got some riffs."

The late-afternoon sun is stumbling toward the horizon, and the twilight of the rock overlords is falling on Hartman’s Potrero Hill house. We contemplate the record needle and the damage done as his laptop plays the Stooge-y "Speeds" and the Anglo death rattle "Making Plans." Half the yarns Hartman tells are off the record — "I have been around, that’s true. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It’s worth its weight in feathers!" he says — but no matter. Between low-pressure name-drops, the Sic Alps story emerges, like the pop kernel peeking out from beneath the tissue of noise, sleigh bells, and recorder on the Sic Alps song "Arthur Machen."

"The unofficial story is that you just e-mailed me and you’re like, ‘I’m in your band, dude,’" Donovan says, lounging on Hartman’s bed. Donovan first formed the mostly conceptual group with the Hospitals’ Adam Stonehouse in 2004, inspired by obscurist labels like Hyped to Death. "Adam brought his aesthetic, just kind of destroy rock ‘n’ roll," Donovan remembers. Erase Errata’s Bianca Sparta briefly joined, Sic Alps put out a "Four Virgins" split single with California Lightning, recorded the as-yet-unreleased Pleasures and Treasures album, and then fell apart.

Donovan’s pal for all of a decade, though never a bandmate, Hartman had witnessed one of the two Sic Alps shows in the Bay Area. "It was, like, ‘Oh, I wish I thought of that.’ At its core it was pop music, but it had all these other layers to it, where it was like just a little dark, a little deranged. There was something unhinged about it," he says now. "Whether it was an unusual chord progression or just a really, really inappropriate guitar tone. I always find it more interesting if something sounds kind of broken."

Shortly after they started playing together — with Donovan on guitar and vocals and Hartman on drums and other instruments, sometimes at the same time — the pair decided to perform last November at Ocean Beach, loading the drum kit and their "freestanding tower of sound" into Hartman’s creaky Volkswagen Bug. "Surfers did come up to us when we were setting up, and they were, like, ‘Are you guys going to play out here?’ They were like, ‘Awesome!’" Donovan recalls happily.

Still conceptual but steadily gaining visibility, the band is preparing for its first extensive US tour — with recordings by Tim Green, a track on a comp on Japan’s 777 Was 666, and a cassette on Animal Disguise Recordings on the way. So perhaps it’s time for the Alps to trade the Bug for their "power animal," a Volkswagen bus. After all, they have already selected the cover art for their debut: that of a rotting bus with the band name spray-painted on its spotted rump. "There’s something about this," Hartman says, gazing at the image on the laptop. "It’s made in the ’60s, a little rusty but still kind of beautiful and gets the job done." *


April 14

Peacock Lounge

552 Haight, SF

Call for times and price.

(415) 621-9850



Acid-drenched Southern boogie rock? The Atlanta combo did well at SXSW. Wed/29, 9 p.m., Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF. Call for price. (415) 503-0393


He’p! Farfisa organ and jet-black hearts. LA’s motorpsychos celebrate their latest Gearhead LP, Lords Have Mercy. Fri/31, 9 p.m., Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. $7. (415) 974-1585


The Bay Area avant-rock transplants keep those "T-Bone" joints coming. Le Flange du Mal and Clip’d Beaks also perform. Fri/31, 9 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300


Frontperson Michael Flynn is said to have won a John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship at his Boston music school. The New Amsterdams also play. Fri/31, 8 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $12. (415) 474-0365


Ralph Carney whoops it up with Kimo Ball and Scott Johnson, giddily breaking out the swing, Dixieland, jazz, and pop in honor of a self-released EP, Extended Play from 12 Galaxies. Sat/1, 9 p.m., Argus Lounge, 3187 Mission, SF. Call for price. (415) 824-1447. Also Sun/2, 2 p.m., Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. Free. (415) 831-1200

Our Picks for 2006



No, they’re not a black-and-white duo that’s read all over, like the White Stripes: Dax Riggs wears floppy T-shirts, emotes vocally, and thrashes away at the guitar. Tessie Brunet bashes the drums. Together they have slain critics throughout the land. Ex-Boyfriends, Rum Diary, and Stephen Fretwell also perform. 9 p.m. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $10. (415) 861-5016. (Kimberly Chun)


Feist’s lilting hit “Mushaboom” (from 2004’s Let It Die) has been stuck in my head for days. It’s easy to see why

Stone cold cooking

 Sonic Reducer Wonderful, unforeseen taste combinations are everywhere you look — and they go beyond the mundane peanut butter and chocolate, Tom and Katie, horse and donkey paradigms. Take, for instance, cooking shows and stoner rock. Sure, you wouldn’t trust Ozzy in the kitchen with an electric knife and a puffer fish — that only seems like a recipe for pain, with, I’m sure, Ozzy "I not only bark at the moon; I also act psycho on TV" Osbourne on the receiving end. But hey, dope smoking and the munchies — together they’re both natural and expected. And they can even be good for your reputation — even my crap cooking tastes palatable after a few medicinal MJ snickerdoodles.

Nonetheless, it was a revelation to finally get a looky-loo at the recently released Hot Chick Hot Rod Stoner BBQ DVD (Stroker Productions, www.stonerrock.com), the straight-to-DVD-in-all-its-glorioski sequel to Hot Chick Stoner BBQ. Both projects star Hot Rod Honey — the charismatic, witty, and much more likeable rock ’n’ roll alternative to Rachael Ray.

The latest disc picks you up, throws you in the backseat, and gives you a smokin’ ride to Ace Junkyard in SF, where HRH gently but firmly takes you through the gutbucket basics of barbecuing, from starting a flame to cooking some beer can chicken, while hep, cute, but grittily real-looking metal and stoner rock chicks mill about, show off their shh-weet hot rods, chow down, and get buzzed. HRH lays down the grillable wisdom, urging hot-rodders to "put some time into your ride and some time into your food" before quipping that she’s making her food mild for the party because "I know some folks here have a bad case of honky mouth, so I don’t want anyone’s asshole to blow out."

Between barbecue tips, hip chicks (one, Vicki, works as a mechanic at Oakland Ford and is said to be married to a Drunk Horse) show you how to do elementary work on your machine, like changing the spark plugs. An added bonus: a solid soundtrack by local heavies like Om, Hightower, High on Fire, Acid King, and Dirty Power and cameos of familiar Bay faces and their rides, including Leslie Mah of Tribe 8, Meg of Totimoshi, and Windy Chien, former owner of Aquarius Records (showing off her now-departed Porsche). Toss in some shots of hot girls hot-boxing it and a recipe for "potcorn" with "pot butter," and you can imagine rock kids in Peoria drooling over the high times, good eats, and hip crew in SF.

Hot Chick Hot Rod Stoner BBQ looks that cool, as conceived and directed by Tina "Tankdog" Gordon, drummer of onetime Guardian Goldies winner Lost Goat. The video production teacher, who now drums in Night after Night, found the impetus for the series in Hot Rod Honey herself. "Hot Rod Honey is an old friend of mine. She’s been cooking for rockers for years," says Gordon over the phone. "In fact, she was the reason I stopped being a vegetarian. My old band was playing at Pondathon [in Mendocino County], and she was sitting at the edge of the pond surrounded by a pack of dogs. I said, ‘What are you cooking?’ And she said, ‘Beer Boat Sausage. It’s good. You should try some.’ It was like she put a spell on me. I said, ‘OK,’ and I ate it, and then I ate rattlesnake and steak."

The project took form because, Gordon says, Hot Rod Honey (who apparently not only works on her hot rods but also rides horses, shoots guns, bartends, and barbecues like a bad ass) "needed to be appreciated and kind of honored. I see all these cooking shows, but none of them are interesting to me, y’know. So I wanted to do something I was interested in, in this genre. In general, the stuff I like to document are things that aren’t generally documented. I’m not excited by most of what I see in TV and popular culture; so when you don’t like what you see and you’re someone who makes stuff, you gotta make the stuff you want to see. It’s just like music."

For the Hot Rod shoot in fall 2004, Gordon assembled pals who could understand the project and the vibe "and are down with barbecue." Even her vegan hot chick friends could get with the spirit of the series. "The love of hard rock is a huge thing," Gordon says. "There’s a cross section in there who can appreciate hard rock and who are hungry for that right now." Chomp chomp, there go those crunchy guitars.

Gordon tells me the next DVD will be titled Hot Chick Backwoods Stoner BBQ, and I’m probably not outta line to make a wise crack about seeing a pattern here. But after that, who knows? Gordon and HRH have been invited to film in Mississippi in May with the boys of Yokel, a Jackass-related redneck hipster pride TV series on the Turner South network. Nashville Pussy lovin’—Nascar Nationals meet NorCal hottie headbangers? Bring it on.