SONIC REDUCER The cormorants know, the red-winged blackbirds have heard, and the quail would wail: the Marin Headlands and surrounding environs are imbued with more than a little magic. You don’t need to spend much time there to know this, rolling through pebbly Rodeo Beach or tromping down Tennessee Valley Road, soaking up the sagey scents and painting the digits dark red with crushed blackberries, as little girls wander by talking on seagull-feather faux cellies.
They will testify, as will Will Oldham a.k.a. Bonnie "Prince" Billy, a.k.a. ace Palace Brother, singer-songwriter, and star of Old Joy (2006) and Matewan (1987) to the area’s healing properties and the way its fresh breezes, rippled clouds, and hills in every hue of green ignite the imagination. After all, until recently Oldham was squirreled away at the Headlands Center for the Arts as an artist in residence. In one of the few interviews he’s consented to lately, Oldham told me he ended up doing much songwriting, including a commissioned piece with his Superwolf partner Matt Sweeney intended for a new Wim Wenders film.
"I felt super-fortunate," said the jovial, easygoing Oldham from Louisville, Ky., where he’d driven to from the Bay Area only three days previous. No matter that tornado warnings were all over the local media as he cast his mind back. "It was kind of a dream situation, because out there in the Headlands, there’s no cell phone reception. And once you cross through that tunnel, you’re in something you can imagine as wilderness and by the sea, and there’s a fair amount of wildlife snakes and skunks and turkeys and deer and coyotes and bobcats and seals, which, if you choose to, you can see more of than you see any human being on any given day."
He’ll be back in the Bay after touring Europe and playing a handful of US dates, ending in San Francisco. The occasion is Lie Down in the Light (Drag City), Oldham’s worthy, rootsier follow-up to the transcendent The Letting Go (Drag City, 2006). If the latter is colored by the otherworldly ambience of its Icelandic origins, then the new album is touched by the tender humidity of its Tennessee recording site, encompassing, according to Oldham, "a couple songs that sort of address using terms of love, devotion, and even lust songs themselves."
"I think," he offered, "at the end of the day, sometimes it can be the truest form of comfort, especially if you’re a singer. You can find in music just about any ideal emotional landscape you crave, whether it’s angst or rebellion or celebration or union or dissolution. It’s all there, and none of it’s going to call you back or text you at four o’clock in the morning or blame you for anything you did or didn’t do or slap you with a paternity suit."
Not that Oldham can speak on paternity suits. "My lawyer says I can’t answer questions like that," he demurred mirthfully. Meanwhile there’s some heavy weather to consider. "I do have a cellar," he said, not worried at all. "But I’m not the hiding kind. I want to see it if it comes. I think I can run faster than a tornado." *
KICKING, LICKING, GOOD
LOWER CLASS REVOLT
Kicking it blue-collar style, the comp celebration includes Rademacher, Tigers Can Bite You, and Light FM. Wed/25, 10 p.m., $4. Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. www.theknockoutsf.com
Kicking it Krautrock, the Citay collaborator’s Kranky release promises near-exotica grooves. Wed/25, 9:30 p.m., $5. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com
Kicking it old-school, the Los Angeles underground hip-hoppers unleash The Release Party DVD in July. Thurs/26, 9 p.m. doors, $20 advance. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. www.mezzaninesf.com
Kicking it Vivaldi styley, if the composer wore Converse. The ethereal Sub Pop indie-rockers get with their folk label mate Sera Cahoone. Sat/28, 9 p.m., $13. Slim’s, 333 11th., SF. www.slims-sf.com
Kicking it free-noise mode with such Oakland exploratory musical surgeons as Moe! Staiano, Ava Mendoza, and Liz Allbee. Sun/29, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. www.hemlocktavern.com
ALL THAT GLITTERS: LADY GAGA
It takes a lot of g-g-guts to name your act after the Queen tune "Radio Gaga," ‘fess up to the fact that you attended Catholic school alongside Nicky Hilton, and make it your personal mission to make pop cool once more. Lady Gaga, 22, has the moxie to undertake all of the above, having gone from setting hairspray afire on fringy NYC stages and attending Tisch School of the Arts at NYU to hammering out songs for Britney Spears, and making her own brazen dance-pop à la "Beautiful Dirty Rich." Why did she name her debut, The Fame (Streamline/Interscope)? "The concept is that it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you have, as long as you can embody a sense of inner fame and value of your own ideas, you can really be whoever you want," Lady Gaga opined huskily on her way to a Raging Waters gig in San Dimas. "I was nobody, and I’ve been jerking people for years into thinking I’m somebody I’m not. I used to get into clubs like when I was 16. I’d usually just walk right in because of the way I carried myself, the way I dressed, the way I spoke to people."