We built this city?

Pub date July 10, 2007
SectionMusicSectionSonic Reducer

› kimberly@sfbg.com

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

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

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

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

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


Sat/14, 7 p.m., $8.50–$9.50

Roxie Film Center

3117 16th St., SF


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

9 p.m., $8

Hotel Utah Saloon

500 Fourth St., SF



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

12 Galaxies

2565 Mission, SF




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


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


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


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


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


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