Live Shots: Phono del Sol 2014


So, what did you get up to on Saturday?

From an abundance of flamingo decorations to the sight of skateboarders with a penchant for performing dangerous acrobatics off stage barricades, July 12’s Phono del Sol — the hometown pride-filled music festival thrown with a new level of fervor each year by the Bay Bridged at Potrero del Sol Park — showcased a variety of genres and kept the musical midsummer blues at bay.

Here’s the best of Phono del Sol 2014.


Best dark horse: Yalls
Hands down, sickest set of the day — literally. Berkeley-based musician Dan Casey battled a bout of bronchitis but delivered a powerful performance, taking the microphone as if there were no tomorrow for his bronchial tubes. Admittedly, I was a little wary of his set before it began. I first saw him perform as an opener for chillwave superstars Small Black back in March. Yalls reigns as king in venues such as the Rickshaw Stop, where the smoky stage and club lighting complement his beats well. However, he successfully conquered the unfamiliar territory of a sunny, outdoor stage in the middle of the day. I was impressed (his doctor probably isn’t) — not even his slightly nasally vocals could detract from his songs.

tony molina

Best ’90s throwback: Tony Molina
Tony Molina’s biggest strength can easily backfire on him and become his biggest weakness. Making the perfect mixtape for a friend is tough — even tougher when you had to work with an actual cassette tape without the help of iTunes’ drag-and-drop features. It’s important to include a varied selection of songs that also flow into each other. Local musician Molina only halfheartedly hit the mark on Saturday. While he found the delicate balance between grunge and pop in each song, he seemed like he’d simply forgotten to spice his set up a bit. He’s known for exceedingly short songs (none of the tracks on his latest album exceed two minutes) that all flowed into each other a little too well during his afternoon set. Oftentimes, it was difficult to figure out when a song would end and when a new one would begin, which wasn’t a problem when I listened to his 2013 EP Dissed and Dismissed.


Best dressed: Blackbird Blackbird
Blackbird Blackbird’s Mikey Maramag has come a long way since he opened for Starfucker in 2013, when I overheard someone in the audience murmur “It’s a wall?” after he asked us to sing along to his song “It’s a War.” Although security cut his set off, Blackbird Blackbird was a notable highlight due to his impeccable sartorial splendor, persistence in trying to connect with the audience, and ethereal vocals. Effortlessly clad in a Hawaiian shirt, he alternated between requesting that “everyone get fucking closer” and enveloping the crowd with dreamy vocals that occasionally battled for dominance over the synth.

das bus
(Das Bus photo by Amy Char)

Best German thing (Das beste deutsche Ding): Das Bus
Two disappointments: the World Cup final took place the day after Phono del Sol and Sportfreunde Stiller’s unofficial World Cup anthem from years past is far too trite to appreciate unironically. Otherwise, the German national football team could’ve claimed this title as well. Das Bus is the Bay Area’s mobile Volkswagen photo booth. In this modern age, we’re both obsessed with photos of ourselves and anything vintage, so Das Bus is simply a rad match made in heaven. A chalkboard outside the van even proclaimed that the experience was pet-friendly, so the family dachshund can jump in with you.


Best audience participation: Nick Waterhouse
Watching this set from a distance while enjoying the food trucks’ offerings, my friend and I marveled at the wall of audience members who swung their bodies along to Nick Waterhouse’s soulful, old-timey tunes. We were impressed by how the number of participants grew steadily throughout the set and the demographics of the dancers. Coachella gets a bad rap these days because some of its most notorious attendees are rich college kids in hipster headdresses. But because Phono del Sol takes place in a small, neighborhood park, it caters more to music aficionados of all ages — ones who don’t pretend to recognize “bands … so obscure that they do not exist” à la Jimmy Kimmel Live. The toddler swaying to Nick Waterhouse’s “This Is a Game” in his mother’s arms and the multitude of well-behaved dogs should remind us that we’re damn lucky to have an annual festival like this just a mere Muni or BART ride away from our neighborhoods. 

Best snippets of stage banter: Bill Baird
As the first act of the day, Bill Baird’s sense of humor was appropriately low key and easy to miss if you trickled into the park late. “We’re Bill Baird,” he announced, in a deadpan voice, before a spiel about the presence of deodorant as one of his stage decorations and how heavily he himself relies on deodorant. (Practical, yes, but I never knew deodorant could be trendy.) Introducing the second lo-fi song, “Your Dark Sunglasses Won’t Make You Lou Reed,” he confessed that the song was originally about talking shit about himself, but the meaning evolved over time; the track now talks shit about one of his bandmates. He may not confess this (if he did, I missed it because I wandered away early to catch the Tiny Telephone tour) but he could very well be talking shit about a pretentious festival-goer…

(Marvin the studio cat photo by Amy Char)

Best hidden gem: Tiny Telephone tour and Marvin the studio cat
Musical magic happens in a small, unassuming corner tucked away behind the park the other 364 days of the year. I couldn’t tell if the Tiny Telephone recording studio tour was poorly advertised or capped at a certain number of people, but it was worth sacrificing the opportunity to see a couple of artists. We explored the studio with owner John Vanderslice, who must be one of the most genuine professionals involved in the music business. His enthusiasm was infectious — he spoke about the difficulties behind monetizing art, the aesthetics of reclaimed wood, and his preference for analog recording (as opposed to something computerized, which is commonplace today).

We even met Marvin the studio cat, who snoozed on top of the console in studio A’s control room. (Adorable, but not affectionate.) I quickly forgot about the studio’s proximity to 280; it felt like I was walking around a cozy cabin in the woods. Still, the studio was weird enough to justify its location in the city — studio B used to be the home of a weed-selling auto shop before it went out of business amidst the rise of dispensaries. 


Best all-around: Thao & the Get Down Stay Down
Hometown heroes Thao & the Get Down Stay Down kickstarted their headlining set with Thao Nguyen’s sincere welcome: “Hello, my hometown.” From the 50-minute-long set alone, I could tell that she’s one of the most talented and down-to-earth modern indie musicians, from her expertise on at least three instruments (not including her impromptu takeover of the drums and her beatboxing prowess) to her introduction of John Vanderslice, “a.k.a. the nicest man in indie rock — it’s a fact.” (The band recorded its last album at Tiny Telephone.) Thao’s energy and stage presence was intoxicating; it was evident how much all the band members love what they’re doing when they lost themselves in the music. The set easily transcended genres even within the first two songs of the set, with a folkier emphasis on the violin on “Know Better Learn Faster” and a louder, rock sound on “City.”

phono crowd

Best festival ending: A little boy’s jam session on the drums under Thao’s helpful eye

“There’s a lot to be proud of living in San Francisco and I hope we remember that,” Thao remarked in between songs. As the crowd slowly dispersed after the band’s encore, I ruminated on her words as I watched her lead a little boy from backstage over to the drums, where she grabbed two pairs of drumsticks: one for her and one for him. She taught by example; whenever he successfully imitated whatever she had done, Thao joyfully raised her arms up and cheered. What was left of the audience quickly followed with an enthusiastic round of applause. I overheard someone behind me mention how this must be the most adorable festival ending ever.

Clutching the setlist I requested from Thao as temperatures steadily returned to normal San Francisco averages, her words rang true. All Phono del Sol attendees should be proud that a festival like this, whose inaugural event was free just three years ago, happens right in our very city…not to mention that it’s a steal compared to Outside Lands.

(Set list photo by Amy Char)

phono crowd

Your Treasure Island Music Festival lineup: Outkast, Massive Attack, and more


Thanks to a glitch in Ticketmaster’s system (or a human who works for Ticketmaster who is now having a very bad day), we got the lineup for this year’s Treasure Island Music Festival (Oct. 18 and 19) a little earlier than promoters Another Planet Entertainment were planning on announcing it. [Update as of noon-ish: The lineup’s now on the festival’s official website, too.] Here we go:

Massive Attack
TV On the Radio
Janelle Monae
The New Pornographers
Washed Out
St. Lucia
White Denim

The Growlers
Chet Faker
Ryan Hemsworth
Ana Tijoux
Painted Palms

With the exception of Painted Palms and Waters (good on ya, boys), it’s a pretty non-local crowd — but otherwise a pleasant mix of electronic and indie/garagey kids, which is of course in line with the crowd the festival usually draws. And if you missed Outkast at Coachella and BottleRock (where they were somewhat disappointing and excellent, respectively), well, here’s your next chance. At this point, honestly, we just hope it’s warmer than last year, because the chilled-to-the-bone memory of chugging overpriced wine and wondering if our hands would ever regain feeling again while waiting for Beck to come on is still alarmingly fresh.

Tickets go on sale this Thursday at 10am. Other thoughts on the lineup, folks?

Gettin’ festy


LEFT OF THE DIAL Earlier this month, Oakland singer-songwriter Ash Reiter was at Hipnic, an annual three-day music festival in Big Sur thrown by promoters folkYEAH!, featuring Cass McCombs, the Fresh & Onlys, the Mother Hips, Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, and plenty of other Bay Area folky faves. Held at the Fernwood Resort and campgrounds, with families gathering under the shade of redwoods, it’s one of the cozier, more homegrown summer festivals in the greater Bay Area — there’s nary a Coachella-esque VIP section in sight — but a three-day pass still comes in at a cool $240.

Looking around, Reiter saw how the ticket price had shaped the crowd.

“There was obviously some great music, but that kind of boutique festival thing is so expensive that a lot of the audience seemed like older, well-off folks, parents — I mean, those are the people who can afford to go to these things,” she recalls. “I’m sure a lot of the bands playing wouldn’t be able to go to that festival, if they weren’t playing.”

It was that kind of thinking that sparked the idea for Hickey Fest, a three-day festival now in its second year and named for its location in Standish Hickey State Park in Mendocino County, “where the South Fork of the Eel River shimmers against the backdrop of the majestic redwoods,” according to the fest’s flyers. Born of the desire to curate a “musical experience outside of just your average festival, a chance for musicians to actually hang out and talk to each other and get to know each other that’s not just in a loud rock club,” Reiter launched Hickey Fest over Memorial Day weekend last year, with a lineup of friend-bands like Warm Soda, Farallons, Cool Ghouls, and Michael Musika. The goal: A festival her musician friends would actually enjoy, in an atmosphere that wouldn’t be “as overwhelming as a BottleRock or an Outside Lands.” She estimates some 500 to 600 people attended in total.

This year’s festival, which runs June 20-22 in the same location, includes another local-love lineup, including Papercuts, Sonny and the Sunsets, Black Cobra Vipers, and more. A $60 ticket gets you three days of music and camping. “I wanted it to be about community, about putting the fun back in music,” says Reiter, who will also perform. “So I did intentionally try to make it as cheap as possible.”

It’s a sentiment rarely heard from music promoters, especially as the days get longer and the work-ditching gets ubiquitous and the college kids are all turned loose for the summer. Festival season is upon us, Bay Area, and make no mistake: It’s a great way to see touring bands from all over the country. It’s a great platform for local bands, who get the chance to play bigger stages and reach new audiences. And as a music fan, it’s a great way to spend a shit-ton of money.


In the summer of 1969, when Woodstock was changing the meaning of “music festival” on the East Coast via Jimi solos and free, mud-covered love, plans were taking shape for a San Francisco festival that, had it actually taken place, would have been legendary: The Wild West Festival, scheduled for Aug. 22-24, was designed as a three-day party, with regular (ticketed) concerts each night in Kezar Stadium, while other bands performed free music all day, each day, in Golden Gate Park.

Bill Graham and other SF rock scene movers and shakers worked collaboratively on organizing the festival, which — had it happened — would have seen Janis Joplin, the Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Sly and the Family Stone, Santana, Country Joe and the Fish, the Steve Miller Band, and half a dozen other iconic bands of the decade all taking the stage within 72 hours.

Why’d it fall apart? According to most versions of the story, too many of those involved wanted the whole damn thing to be free. Graham, among others, countered that, while the free music utopia was a nice idea, lights, a sound system, and other basic accoutrements of a music festival did in fact cost American dollars. The plans collapsed amid in-fighting, and the infamous Altamont free music festival was planned as a sort of make-up for December of that year — an organizational disaster of an event that came to be known for the death of Meredith Hunter, among other violence, signaling the end of a certain starry-eyed era.

So yeah, money has always been a sticky part of live music festivals. But the industry has boomed in a particularly mind-boggling way over the last decade; never before have ticket prices served as such a clear barrier to entry for your average, middle-class music fan. Forget Hipnic: In the days after Outside Lands sold out, enterprising San Franciscans began plonking their three-day festival passes onto the “for sale” section of Craigslist at upwards of $1,000 each.

The alternative? The “screw that corporate shit, let’s do our own thing” attitude, which is, of course, exactly the kind of attitude that’s birthed the bumper crop of smaller summer festivals that have sprung up in the Bay Area over the past few years, like Phono del Sol (July 12, an indie-leaning daylong affair in SF’s Potrero del Sol Park, started by hip-kid music blog The Bay Bridged in 2010, tickets: $25-$30) and Burger Boogaloo (a cheekily irreverent punk, surf, and rockabilly fest over July 4 weekend in Oakland’s Mosswood Park — weekend pass: $50). Both pair bigger, buzzy acts with national reach like Wye Oak (Phono del Sol) or Thee Oh Sees and the great Ronnie Spector (Burger Boogaloo) with a slew of local openers.

“I’ve played a few festivals, and when it’s a really big thing, you realize there are just so many other huge bands that people would rather see,” says Mikey Maramag, better known as the folk-tronica brains behind SF’s Blackbird Blackbird. He’ll be sharing a bill with Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, Nick Waterhouse, White Fence, A Million Billion Dying Suns, and others at Phono del Sol — which, judging by last year’s attendance, could draw some 5,000 to 6,000 people.

“I think at smaller festivals you have more people who take the time to really listen, appreciate the music more, really big fans,” he says. “There are fewer artists on this bill [than at large festivals] but they’re all great ones — I’m especially excited to see Wye Oak.”

Maramag will be debuting some songs from his new album, Tangerine Sky, out June 3; the show will serve as a welcome-home from a quick national tour to promote it.

Then there are the even more modest summer offerings, like SF Popfest, which takes place over four days (May 22-25) at various small venues in the city. It’s not exactly a traditional festival — you’re not likely to find slideshows online of the “BEST POPFEST FASHION!!1!” the way we’ve unfortunately become accustomed to from Coachella — but for the small contingent of super passionate ’90s indie-pop fans in the Bay Area (hi!), this is one not to miss.

“I’ve been getting a lot of calls from people who think it’s a very different kind of festival than it is. App people. This one guy had some kind of offer about a parking app for festivals, I think? Which would really not make any sense at all,” says Josh Yule, guitarist for SF jangle-pop maestros Cruel Summer, who received the mantle of SF Popfest organizer from his predecessor in the mid-aughts (older history of the festival is a little hazy, as it’s always been primarily organized by musicians for musicians — for fun and, says Yule, absolutely no profit whatsoever). There was talk of getting some beer sponsors at some point, but he decided against it. “We have friends working the door at most of these things. I was a punk kid in high school, I guess, I tend to stay away from things that would make this go in a more corporate direction.”

This year’s fest is centered around reunions of bands who’ve been broken up for a while, like cult-favorite Sacramento popsters Rocketship, who haven’t played together in at least a decade; the band will be at the Rickshaw Stop Fri/23 for a Slumberland Records showcase. Dressy Bessy, Dreamdate, the Mantles, Terry Malts, and plenty others will all make appearances throughout the fest, as well as a few newer bands, like the female-fronted Stockton garagey-punk band Monster Treasure.

“Obviously it’s not gonna be thousands of people, it’s not going to be outside — it’s going to be 100 to 200 like-minded individuals who all enjoy the same thing, and they all get it,” says Yule. “We got these bands back together to play and they’re all excited about it even though there’s no [financial] guarantee…It’s that community that I’ve always been involved in and sometimes I feel like it’s not around anymore. So it’s nice to go ‘Oh wait, there it is. It’s still there, and it’s still strong.'”


For local bands just starting to make a name for themselves, of course, there’s nothing like a larger and yes, very corporate festival for reaching new audiences. Take the locals stage at LIVE 105’s BFD, the all-day radio-rock party celebrating its 20th year June 1 at the Shoreline: Curated by the station’s music director, Aaron Axelsen — aka the DJ who’s launched 1,000 careers, thanks to his Sunday night locals-only show, Soundcheck, as well as booking up-and-comers for Popscene — the locals stage at BFD has a pretty good track record for launching bands onto the next big thing. The French Cassettes, one of SF’s current indie-pop darlings, sure hope that holds true for them.

“Aaron Axelsen has been really generous to us. I think we’re all clear that none of this would be happening without him,” says singer-guitarist Scott Huerta. The band will be playing songs from its newest album, out on cassette (duh) at the end of May. “But we’re super excited just to be in there. Hopefully we make some new fans. I know I used to find out about new bands by going to BFD and just passing by that stage. It’s by all the food vendors, so as long as people are hungry, we’ll be good. Don’t eat before you come.”

For the Tumbleweed Wanderers, an Oakland-based soul-folk-rock band that’s been hustling back and forth across the country for the past year, hitting the stage at Outside Lands (Aug. 8-10) — that festival everyone loves to hate and hates to love — will be the culmination of years of playing around the festival, quite literally.

“In 2011, we busked outside, and I think that’s the year [our keyboard player] Patrick almost got arrested?” says Rob Fidel, singer-guitarist, with a laugh. “Then the next year we got asked to play Dr. Flotsam’s Hell Brew Review, which is this thing in the park just outside Outside Lands, and we did that for an hour and a half every day for free. And then busked outside. I like to say we played Outside Lands more than any other band that year.

“But to be on the other side of that all of a sudden is awesome,” he says, noting that the band will be playing some tunes from a new record set for release later this year. “It was the same when we played the Fillmore for the first time — we used to busk outside of there and the venue would get super pissed, and now, oh look, that same guy’s carrying our amps…but I think the experience of working our way up like that has kinda taught us you’re gonna see the same people on the way up as on the way down. And we’ve worked really hard these past few years. It’s nice to feel like we’ve earned it.”

It’s only a slight exaggeration to say there are roughly 1,000 other music festivals happening throughout the Bay Area this summer — at the Guardian, our inboxes have been filling up with press releases and show announcements since February; check out the roundup below for a mere smattering of what’s going on. And, ticket price hand-wringing aside, you don’t need to be rich to rock out: Stern Grove’s free Sunday lineups, with heavy hitters like Smokey Robinson, Andrew Bird, Rufus Wainwright, and the Zombies, are among the best we’ve seen. In the East Bay, the Art+Soul Festival is always a source of up-and-comers in hip-hop, funk, and more — this year for the whopping price of $15.

So, yeah, we never got that Janis and Sly and Jefferson Airplane show. So be it. As a music fan in the Bay Area, there’s no better time than summer to smack yourself, remember that you’re super lucky to live here, grab a sweater (because layers), and get out to hear some music. Call it your own damn three-month-long Wild West Festival. We’ll see you in the bathroom line.



SF Popfest, May 22-25, locations vary throughout SF,

Audio on the Bay, Craneway Pavilion, Richmond, May 23-25,

BottleRock Napa Valley, Napa, May 30-June 1,



LIVE 105’s BFD, June 1, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View,

Not Dead Yet Fest, June 7, Thee Parkside, SF,

OMINODAY Music Festival, June 7, McLaren Park, SF,

The San Francisco Jazz Festival, June 11-22, locations vary.

Reggae in the Hills, Calaveras County Fairgrounds, June 13-15,

Hickey Fest, June 20-22, Leggett,

San Francisco Free Folk Festival, June 21-22, Presidio Middle School, SF,

Berkeley World Music Festival, June 22, People’s Park, Berk.,



High Sierra Music Festival, July 3-6, Quincy,

Burger Boogaloo, July 5-6, Mosswood Park, Oak.,

Phono del Sol, July 12, Potrero del Sol Park, SF,

Northern Nights, July 18-20, Mendocino/Humboldt,



Art + Soul Oakland, Aug. 2-3, City Center, Oak.,

Outside Lands, Aug. 8-10, Golden Gate Park, SF,

First City Festival, Aug. 23-24, Monterey,


Throughout the summer: Stern Grove Festival, Sundays,; People in Plazas, dates vary, throughout downtown SF,

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger on going electric and the timeless combination of marijuana and Pink Floyd


By Rebecca Huval

The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger is out to topple everyone’s expectations. The two-piece band has rather public identities to overcome: Sean Lennon is the only child of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, and his girlfriend Charlotte Kemp Muhl is a world-class model who was the youngest covergirl on Britain’s Harper’s Bazaar.

With their latest release, Midnight Sun, Kemp Muhl has shown she has the pipes and songwriting chops to be taken seriously as a musician, and Lennon has proved he’s more than just his father’s ghost — rather, he’s the inimitable frontman of The GOASTT.

In the trajectory of Sean Lennon’s solo career and The GOASTT’s six-year history, Midnight Sun is their going-electric moment. Sean Lennon’s subdued and minimalist solo music paved the way for The GOASTT’s initial albums to be acoustic and saccharine in what Kemp Muhl now describes as “nerdy folk music.” This April’s album is oh-so-different. Inherited Beatlesque psychedelica meshes with modern-day indie à la Tame Impala and Deerhunter. Midnight Sun rocks in full-fledged electric, with synthy splashes and warped vocal reverb. The album ranges from trippy tracks such as “Devil You Know,” with prismatic texture and thick percussion, to thoughtfully orchestrated ballads such as “Don’t Look Back Orpheus” and Kemp Muhl’s graceful solo, “Johannesburg.”

Ahead of The Ghost of a Saber Tooth Tiger’s show at Great American Music Hall on Tue/20, I spoke with Charlotte Kemp Muhl about meeting Lennon at Coachella, the aha moment listening to Pink Floyd that triggered the band’s psychedelic shift, and how she balances jet-setting modeling and music careers.

San Francisco Bay Guardian You met Sean at Coachella in 2006. How did you strike up a conversation?

Charlotte Kemp Muhl I don’t remember which one of us struck up the conversation, but we were magnetized to each other. We were talking about things like Stephen Hawking, whatever random thing we’d read that week, and claymation. I just thought he was so eccentric and wearing this suit in the middle of the desert. He was with his friend Vincent Gallo, who told him, “Don’t go for that girl, she’s crazy.” I just remember he was really enthusiastic about things and unusual and childlike, even though he was much older than me [30 years old]. I was 17 at the time. We connected immediately.

SFBG Have you put a pause on your modeling career to concentrate on music?

CKM Kind of, it tag-teams. I have to do modeling to support doing music. I would never be able to afford collecting instruments, and unfortunately, it’s really hard to make money as a musician. You don’t! I have to do modeling to do music, but I can’t wait until I can retire and just concentrate on music. In a way the two careers are complementary. Fashion and music are connected like Siamese twins. In the sense that rock n’ roll has been influencing fashion and fashion, rock n’ roll for a long time. They’re incestuous industries.

SFBG Who are some of your musical role models?

CKM Hendrix, Syd Barret, and Bach.

SFBG What have you learned about music from working with Sean?

CKM The area in which I’ve most grown is rhythmically. He’s taught me a lot about being funky and syncopation. He’s an amazing drummer, and I’ve been teaching myself how to play drums by watching him. I learned a lot about arranging. We’ve both influenced each other a lot. It’s been fun.

SFBG Why did you wait until a year after you were dating to share your musical talents with Sean?

CKM I was shy. Everyday someone comes up to him with a demo CD. I didn’t want to be like that. I never thought we’d work together. I thought he’d do his solo career. I showed him one of the childhood songs I wrote, and he loved the melody and insisted that we work together. He quit his solo career to work with his mom and work with me. I hope he goes back to his solo career, fingers crossed for that, but he’s very shy. It’s been fun doing heavier rock music because it’s forcing him to be more of a frontman. We’re not just doing Sonny & Cher melodies. I really want him to be a frontman. He spent so much of his life being a sideman.

SFBG As a solo artist, Sean seemed very minimal and moody. Then, it seemed like The GOASTT started out very sweetly and softly with your acoustic album. Now, The GOASTT is more edgy, percussive, and textured. What do you contribute to his sound?

CKM I pushed us even further into a Pink Floyd, psychedelic direction. When we were doing a tour in France, I discovered the pairing of marijuana and [Pink Floyd’s] Live at Pompeii. We were at some cheap hotel in France, and it was freezing cold. Something just clicked in my mind, and I wanted to be doing psychedelic music and not nerdy folk music. Sean had always been into that shit so he was into that direction. That’s the ultimate cliche, marijuana and Pink Floyd, but it worked! We were opening up for Johnny Hallyday and Matthieu Chedid. He’s huge in France, like the Michael Jackson.

SFBG What was at like playing at Occupy Wall Street?

CKM It was fun. A lot of our friends were doing that at the time, and we were excited that people were getting together to protest because people are placated by their gadgets and they rarely show interest and support. We just came to support anti-fracking and we didn’t even think Sean would get flack for supporting OWS. People online were saying he’s the one percent, which is ridiculous, he’s not in the one percent. I mean technically, anyone with a color TV is in the one percent of the world. We performed a bluegrass version of “Material Girl,” by Madonna. It was supposed to be ironic.

SFBG Have you collaborated with Yoko Ono? What is like working with her?

CKM I played bass for her for a while for her festivals and her shows. We’re around a lot. She doesn’t really collaborate with people, she’s like a singular, visionary person. Sean is much more into collaborating and working with people. She’s more of a leader of an army. She’s like a visionary. You just do what she says kind of a thing.

SFBG What has been your favorite part of working with Sean?

CKM I’ve been working with other musicians without him around. Sean plays every instrument like a virtuoso. In the studio, it’s like a super weapon. I send him in to overdub instrument ideas, and then I’ll edit them all together. We can cover a lot of ground that way. I’ve noticed with other musicians, they’re very limited. They only play one of two instruments, and don’t have a bird’s eye view of songwriting. Sean always have great ideas about rhythm and harmony. We both have a million ideas, and it’s frustrating when you work with someone who’s not that inspired.

SFBG I know you’re a multi-instrumentalist: What instruments do you play on Midnight Sun?

CKM On the record, I play bass, keyboard parts, guitar, percussion, and arranged harmonies. The main instrument I play is Pro Tools. I do all the editing and all that stuff.

SFBG It seems like the album switches between different settings: Xanadu, a missed flight to Johannesburg, traveling to the underworld with Orpheus. Where were you when you wrote these songs? What was your process for collaborating?

CKM I wrote the words for Johannesburg when I was in Johannesburg with a Pirelli shoot for Peter Beard. “Xanadu” and “[Don’t Look Back] Orpheus” we wrote upstate on his farm. We would stay up all night writing acoustic songs in his bed. We would walk down to his studio, which is by a lake, and jam it. Other than “Johannesburg,” I write a part and then he writes a part. It’s like one of those drawings when you fold up a napkin and each of you draw part of a monster.

With Syd Arthur
Tue/20, 8pm, $15
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF

California, from scratch


I was 12 years old in 1996, which is the year Jawbreaker, the punk band that’s been (somewhat controversially) called “the sound of the Mission,” disbanded for good. I started listening to them about four years later, and really only started listening-listening to them, in the way that Jawbreaker fans listen to Jawbreaker — obsessively, open-veined, with every part of your body engaged — a few years after that, when I was in college in San Diego, 500 miles from the ’90s Bay Area punk scene that I had only just begun to realize was special once it (and I) was all but gone.

I suspect, however, and a few friends’ Jawbreaker-love stories have confirmed this, that it doesn’t matter how old you are when you start listening to Jawbreaker, because Jawbreaker songs — in the universality of their lyrical angst, wedged as they are in that the puzzle-piece-shaped sweet spot between well-crafted pop and sore throat-inducing (in singer Blake Schwarzenbach’s case, throat polyp-causing) punk rock — will make you feel like a teenager. And not in the hopeful, peppy way people usually mean when they say something “made them feel like a teenager.” I mean, really, confused, hormonal, nostalgic, angry, in love, frustrated, drunk, fist-in-air triumphant, wistful about something you can’t quite place, and generally just fucking waterlogged with feeling.

The band’s enduring popularity and the reverence with which it’s still treated among the ’90s punk/emo-loving population — Google image-search “Jawbreaker tattoo” if you don’t believe me — is certainly, in large part, thanks to that: As an adult, that mood gets harder to access; you don’t often stumble onto art which opens a portal into that level of emotion. Jawbreaker picks you up and hurls you down it before you know what’s happening.

Drummer Adam Pfahler, the driving force behind the past few years of remastered re-issues of Jawbreaker’s iconic albums (on his own label, Blackball Records) has been plenty busy since that band met its demise. He opened Lost Weekend Video on Valencia, and still works there a few days a week. He lives in Bernal Heights; he has two teenage daughters. He’s played in at least a dozen other bands, including J Church and Whysall Lane. So does it bug him that people still mainly associate him with Jawbreaker, some 18 years after they broke up?

“Not at all — I’m totally grateful for that band, and the fact that people still feel that strongly about it is insane,” says the drummer, during a phone interview in which he multi-tasks impressively: He has about 20 minutes before it’s time to run to an evening practice with his new band, California, and he’s making pasta for his kids while answering questions.

“I’m definitely not running from that legacy. I love it, and so do Blake [Schwarzenbach] and Chris [Bauermeister, Jawbreaker’s bassist],” he says. “It is a little funny because I’ve been playing all along…it’s just that certain things take hold or get seen better than others.”

Of course, certain things, like this new project, have the benefit of being able to attach the words “Ex-Jawbreaker/Green Day” to a flier or listing, as the Rickshaw Stop has advertised California’s April 24 show — the band’s third official outing — though Pfahler’s a bit uncomfortable with using his star power that way. Hopefully, he says, the band will be earning that buzz on its own soon enough.

After all, California, a three-piece, is something of a Bay Area punk supergroup: On guitar and vocals you have Green Day‘s Jason White, who, despite having played lead guitar on the band’s tours for the past decade or so, only “officially” became a member in 2012; he also shares guitar and vocal duties with Billie Joe Armstrong in the long-running side project (and supergroup of its own, in a way) Pinhead Gunpowder. Bass and backup vocals are courtesy of Dustin Clark of The Insides; Pfahler is on drums.

“I’d kind of been starting to do stuff under my own name in 2011, just to try writing my own songs again,” says White, noting that Green Day is on an “indefinite break” — though he did just get off the phone with Armstrong, who called to tell him about how crazy it was to play with the Replacements at Coachella the previous night. (White, with a laugh: “I hadn’t wanted to go at all but now I’m super jealous, and bummed that I wasn’t there.”)

White started playing out acoustically about three years ago, at places like the Hotel Utah. When he was asked to play a friend’s 40th birthday party, he invited Clark to play bass; Clark asked Pfahler, whom he’d been playing with (they’re old friends — also SF experimental rockers Erase Errata, featuring Clark’s wife, Bianca Sparta, on drums, used to play in the basement of Lost Weekend). All three are veterans of the scene; all three were excited about trying something new.

“I’m at a place where I just want to try any and everything, stretch out on my own, experiment with some different ideas,” says White, who says he’s also a huge Jawbreaker fan. “And all three of us have pretty distinct individual tastes, which has made for a really nice mix of the three, I think.”

California at the Hemlock Tavern earlier this month. Photo by Greg Schneider.

There’s no music online for fans to listen to or buy just yet — and thanks to a name cribbed from a novella by Pfahler’s friend, the writer Amra Brooks, the band’s virtually un-Googlable — but a handful of demos they’ve recorded suggest a leaning toward the poppier end of the spectrum than you might expect from these three. White’s vocals are clean, earnest, not trying too hard to be too much, reminiscent of the Promise Ring, or of the days (day?) before “emo” became code for whiny and tossed around like a dirty word; tight, punchy, early Green Day-esque bridges and hooks are grounded, kept from being overly sugary by the heft of the rhythm section.

“This is very much a new band, in the garage band sense of the word — I’m happy to pester people with texts and emails to get them to come see our shows, because I’m really proud of this one,” says Pfahler. It’s an especially collaborative band, he says, which tend to be the kind he enjoys — as opposed to “just being the guy back there, being told to count to four.” They have plans to record in the next few months, but right now is the best part, says Pfahler: seeing what works and what doesn’t after hours of practicing, seeing how people react at live shows, when the songs are still malleable. “It’s a little like the early, fun part of a relationship,” is how White puts it. Pfahler: “If you’re fortunate enough to have the opportunity to play them out this early on in the process, once you record it’s almost like the death of those songs.”

Pfahler does feel fortunate, in a number of ways. As a longtime Mission District resident and business owner, he’s had a front-row seat for the neighborhood’s drastic changes over the past two decades. Is he tired of the conversation about gentrification?

“I am a little tired of it, but I’m no less passionate about how I feel,” he says. “It’s harsh. It limits things. We’re feeling that in the shop in a very real way, and certainly people are buying fewer records — but they’re paying for high cuisine, organic wine, you know. There’s no shortage of new bands screaming about this stuff, and they definitely have something to be mad about. It’s good fodder for angry music. When Jawbreaker settled here it was a pretty fertile time; you could get things going back then. I mean, the practice space I use now is shared between 13 people, and it costs more than my first apartment did. And there’s no bathroom! It would definitely be tough to be a kid trying to make music here.”

“At the same time, I think my kids are lucky to be here,” he says, as he beckons one of them to the stove to test the pasta. “Even with this craziness going on. They get around on public transportation, they go to shows. They’re going to be the backlash. They’re smart kids and they have really good bullshit detectors.

“That generation, I have a lot of hope for.”

With El Terrible and Vela Eyes
Thu/24, 8pm, $10
Rickshaw Stop
155 Fell, SF

Also: We’d be remiss to not mention the musical offerings the SFIFF has planned this year: Thao and the Get Down Stay Down and Stephen Merritt of the Magnetic Fields will each be performing live original scores during film festival offerings, on Tue/29 and Tue/6, respectively, at the Castro Theatre. Cross-media creative pollination never sounded so sweet. For tickets:



SUPER EGO Whoever decided to pack Disclosure (charging $50 for a DJ set!), the adorable Martinez Brothers, Easter with the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, 420 in the Park, two insane undergrounds, and 200 bottomless mimosa brunches into one blurred weekend deserves to be packed into a giant pastel plastic egg and rolled down Mt. Tam. My head feels like a gargantuan green Bunnyzilla hopped upon a ketchup packet, not cute. So here are some brief items of interest before I lay down for just a minute.

Stylish Portrero-ish club and gallery Project One is no more. Longtime party people Sean and Isabel Manchester of Wish, Mighty, and Chambers have snatched it up, rejiggered it with a chic vibe, programmed lots of Bay-favorite DJs, and christened it Mercer (251 Rhode Island, SF., a lounge and “micro-club” named for the famous street in their beloved native Soho, NYC. The space is still bumping the Turbosound system inherited from 222 Hyde (RIP) Check it out.

Time to cue up — the 2014 DMC San Francisco Regional DJ Battle and Scratch Competition (Sat/26, noon-7pm, $15 advance, $20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF. will fill Mighty all day long with epic pyrotechnics. The Bay Area holds intimate acquaintance with the all-powerful DMC World DJ Championship title: We’ve won it several times in the past 30 years — once, in fact, with this year’s host, DJ Apollo. This is the first time in three decades that there will be “test run” of a separate scratch competition (scratching was introduced to the DMC in 1986), so I’m itching to see who steps up.

Two new killer fancy cocktails for your face. SF’s been exploding with mezcal bars and

classic Negroni cocktails — combine the two for a knockout mescal Negroni ($11) at the awesome Lolo (3230 22nd St, SF. And, at my new favorite Thai spot, downtown’s Kin Khao (55 Cyril Magnin, SF., grab the zesty, incredible Kathoey Collins, a.k.a. the “ladyboy” ($12). Flavored with traditional Thai blue flowers, it changes color before your very eyes to a lovely lavender, “for something you don’t quite expect,” says jovial owner Pim Techamuanvivit.



Aw, known this LA bass-head darling since he was a wee glitcher, chopping up slabs of raw atmosphere and layering on pretty discombobulations. Now he and his sound are all blown up, coming straight from Coachella for two days at Great American. With Purple, Jim-E Stack, and Chad Salty.

Wed/23 and Thur/24, 8pm doors, 9pm show, $20–$25. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF.



We love our hometown queer hip-hop heroes and their party crowd of radiant children. Rump-pumping duo Double Duchess will take the floor at this throwdown, with Guardian cover star Micahtron motormouthing on the mic.

Fri/25, 10pm, $10. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF.



The Guardian’s hosting a roaring ’20s evening knees up at the de Young Museum, grab your favorite flapper and hightail it over. With live Parisian speakeasy band Trio Zincalo, Decobelles dance troupe, our very own astrologer Jessica Lanyadoo giving live readings, a full bar, and oodles more.

Fri/25, 6pm-8:30pm, free. De Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., Golden Gate Park, SF.



So excited to hear Edu again. Valencian hero of Spanish techno, he added some much-needed swing to the Berlin sound of the late 2000s with the classic “”El Baile Alema” (along with another Spanish favorite, Coyu). He easily slips crowds under his spell.

Sat/26, 10pm-late, $10. Audio, 316 11th St., SF.



Craig Smith and Graeme Clark (a.k.a. The Revenge) are quality re-edit hypnotists from the UK, introducing new audiences to very deep soulful disco, Latin funk, and deliciously strange grooves via their quick-handed cut-and-pastes.

Sat/26, 9:30pm-3am, $10–$15. Monarch, 101 Sixth St, SF.



The sweet, eccentric Chicagoan may still be revered here mostly for his sassy electroclash output in the early 2000s, but he really does have banging house running through his veins. With the funky pastiche-master Todd Edwards and Australian Tornado Wallace (whose beard rivals our own Jason Kendig’s).

Sat/26, 9pm-late, $15–$20. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF.



Kenny Dope and Mr. V’s beloved NYC party debuts in SF — and will surely show us some masters at work, bopping from soulful house to disco classics, funky hip-hop to Latin jazz and beyond.

Sat/26, 10pm-late, $15–$20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF.


Motörhead delivers a classic ear-beating at the Warfield


There’s something special about seeing the name Motörhead, umlaut and all, mounted on that grand Market Street marquee, next to a strip club and at the intersection of one of San Francisco’s seediest streets. If you know anything about the band, its history, and iconic frontman Lemmy Kilmister, it just feels right.

The black-clad masses had congregated outside the historic Warfield Theater well before showtime and the mood was noticeably high, as show-goers were surely thankful for either a first chance, another chance, but hopefully not last chance to see and hear the true king of metal live and in-person.

The room was about half-full for opener Graveyard’s set and those in attendance were engaged and impressed.  The Swedish ’70s revival rockers played a solid set consisting mostly of songs from their first two albums, peppered with a few from Lights Out, their third and decidedly less metal offering. Motörhead’s Phil Campbell would later describe them as “the only good thing to come out of Sweden.”

Graveyard. All photos by Brittany Powell.

As the main event neared, the room packed up quickly and the mood felt like what one might expect at an appearance of the Pope at a monster truck rally, with the latter being a bit closer to the beating that our ears were about to take.

With the predictability of the tides, the loudest band in the world emerged and delivered the standard greeting:

“We are Motörhead, and we play rock and roll.”

They immediately lunged into “Damage Case,” Lemmy’s head craned upward towards his trademark high mic, where it would remain for most of the show.  He doesn’t move around much these days, but did he ever?  Nonetheless, at 68, his gravelly snarl is still a force to be reckoned with. The floor got rowdy pretty quick and security could be seen ushering, quite roughly, more than a handful of audience members off the floor and presumably out the door. This is the effect that Motörhead has on people, and it has some significance at the Warfield, which used to have seats that went all the way to the front, until the first three rows were ripped out in 1984 at — you guessed it — a Motörhead show. 


After the second number, “Stay Clean,” Lemmy took a moment to address the dipshit (or dipshits) in the crowd who were hurling water bottles at the stage. “Please don’t throw shit at us and we won’t throw anything at you,” he said in a polite deadpan, before Campbell threatened  to walk off if it continued. One final item, a pink lighter, whose hurler Campbell called “a real star,” hit the stage — and the barrage was finished, probably thanks to crowd or security intervention, or perhaps a combination of both. 

Despite the disrespect, Lemmy twice told the crowd that we were the best on the tour and that “Coachella definitely isn’t giving [us] any competition.”  Maybe he was just being nice, but I believed him.  


The remainder of the show went smoothly enough, with the band playing most of the live favorites punctuated by Campbell’s glowing (like, actually glowing) guitar solo and Mikkey Dee’s bombastic, elevated drum solo, bookended by blasts of smoke, both of which felt a little dated, but this is real rock ‘n’ roll ,and modern-day gimmicks  weren’t needed. The guys didn’t waste much time between songs, except for the occasional intro, and a moment to dedicate “Just ‘Cos You Got the Power” to the “politicians who are stealing all of our money.” 


The regular set ended with “Ace of Spades,” during which nobody missed their chance to scream “That’s the way I like it baby, I don’t want to live forever,” all the while probably wishing that Lemmy would live forever, so they would’t have to wonder how long it might be before they’re reminiscing about the times when rock gods still walked the earth. 

Damage Case
Stay Clean
Over the Top
The Chase is Better Than the Catch
Rock It
Lost Woman Blues
Doctor Rock
Just ‘Cos You Got the Power
Going to Brazil
Killed By Death
Ace of Spades

Happy hump day music news!


Hiatus, schmiatus: Thee Oh Sees have been added to an already-dreamy Burger Boogaloo lineup. Catch ’em alongside OFF!, Shannon and the Clams, Nobunny, Terry Malts, and of course the inimitable Miss Ronnie Spector herself, July 5-6 at Mosswood Park in Oakland.

Who needs Coachella anyway? In between their two weekend stints at that shitshow of a music festival down south, Waxahatchee is playing a free show at UC Berkeley’s Sproul Plaza today at 5pm. Are you in Berkeley? It’s goddamn beautiful out. You should go.

Start your itinerizing: Outsidelands just announced each day’s lineup and put single-day tickets on sale. Are you in more of a Kanye-Disclosure-Warpaint-Mikal Cronin kind of mood? Or a Tom Petty-Tycho-Big Freedia head space? These are the tough questions.

Cocktails grow up: Don’t worry, one of SF’s favorite fuzz-power-pop bands hasn’t gone and gotten lame, though. This new track, “Tough Love,” off Adult Life, suggests the five-piece has gotten a little tighter and just a little slicker, in a good way. That record won’t be out until June 17, but you can probably hear a lot of it at the Rickshaw Stop this Fri/18, when they open at the EP release party for The She’s.

“My brain is a little addled in terms of my long-term memory.” That’s Courtney Love, in an excellent oral history of Hole’s Live Through This, in honor of the album’s 20th anniversary. No matter what you think of her or her Dave Grohl reconciliation or her mediocre missing airplane-finding skills, this album is still gorgeous and important and yes I will fight you about that.

Also, this interview.

Shot of Coachella


In case you were on some kind of self-imposed social media hiatus last weekend (early, tech-centered Lent ritual?), you’re probably aware of a little music festival called Coachella that comes around this time of year like a bass-thumping, hashtag-happy harbinger of Spring.

The festival’s first weekend (Fri/11 through Sun/13) wasn’t short on memorable moments: Solange bringing big sister Beyonce onstage for a choreographed dance routine on Saturday; Arcade Fire’s Win Butler putting the festival grounds’ VIP section and increasingly moneyed atmosphere on blast — before being joined by Debbie Harry, Pharrell and his hat seemingly welcoming the years 1998 through 2002 onstage on Sunday, by way of guests Gwen Stefani, Nelly, and Snoop Dogg. Then again, we hear OutKast’s reunion was met with an underwhelming response from the audience — we’ll have to wait for BottleRock Napa in May to find out for ourselves if that’s on them, or had more to do with an overheated, EDM-leaning crowd.

As is often the case with big festivals like this one, a lot of the best sets came from smaller acts whose names you’re not likely to see in the tabloids anytime soon. We sent photographer Eric Lynch to capture some impressions of everyone’s favorite hot, dusty, celebrity-filled, dance-until-you-can’t-feel-your-feet-oh-wait-maybe-that’s-the-drugs party, and boy did he deliver. Check ’em out, and feel free to send us your own snaps and stories if you’ve got something cool to share:

A few last thoughts from Coachella


Words and photos by Eric Lynch.

If Friday was about jorts and flower crowns and Saturday was about sandstorms and solid “lesser” acts, then Sunday was about Coachella babies and big performers who totally brought it.

Arcade Fire played to their 80,000 lost souls with a world of possibilities ahead of them, introducing one of their tour de forces, “There’s a lot of kind of like fake VIP room bullshit happening at this festival and I just want to say that sometimes people dream of getting in places like that and it super sucks in there so don’t worry about it.  This song’s called ‘The Suburbs’…”


Debbie Harry and Regina Chassagne sang “Heart of Glass” then Harry stood there looking shell-shocked and awkward during Chassagne’s “Sprawl II.”

There is an obvious predecessor to Pharrell’s (stupid) Vivienne Westwood hat — you know, the hat that contained all his friends that showed up to bounce around the stage with him on Saturday: Nelly, Diddy, Busta, Snoop, Gwen, et al. Beck’s hat is senior.

Much to the glee of the crowd, Beck took us on a mind-journey in his Hyundai during “Debra,” giving shout-outs to SoCal cities along the way.  Tongue-in-cheek, sure, but the masses loved it as they “stepped inside the passenger door.” He played, along with his son Cosimo on tambourine, until the Golden Voice clock-watchers turned out the power.


AlunaGeorge gave a great performance, despite an outfit that included comfortable/restaurant worker-appropriate shoes. Shape-Ups? Troubling opening with an overwhelming bass line (she opened with “Attracting Flies”) but she adjusted very well. 


DARKSIDE: Probably the best performance of the weekend. Nicolas Jaar (who played a solo DJ set on Friday in the Yuma tent) and Dave Harrington consecutively constructed and destroyed throughout their set. Plus Nicolas Jaar is dreamy.


Despite Neutral Milk Hotel’s lo-fi output, devoted fans worshipped every  spangle-jangled second. Sing-alongs aplenty and clapping 30-somethings and mid-life couples with one and a half babies. 

The 1975 brought fun and a bit of realness to the festival early on Sunday. Hot skinny slim-mustachioed gay boys and white jeans with matching boat shoes-sporting straight feys regaled.

Ty Segall gave the longest and loudest sound check in the history of outdoor festivals. They know we’re standing ring here, right?!  The band’s energy was palpable.


CHVRCHES apologized for having to wear sunglasses because “we’re really not from here.” But their performance was anything but apologetic. Polished and clean.


Future Islands: I thought Black Flag front man Henry Rollins had been reincarnated as a less punk, more enraged white guy, mugging for the crowd, bleating and blathering with testosterone force.

Warpaint had the most crowded photographer’s pit. Full of 20-something bloggers and middle-aged stock photogs. The ladies did not disappoint. 


As a photographer, I’m always hoping for a performance and a persona like Solange. She can just electrify with her presence. Not knowing at the time who she was, I actually snapped some great shots of her last year at Coachella, while  watching the Jesse Ware performance — simply because I could not take my eye off of her adorable sundress covered in bright yellow lemons.  This year onstage, she teased and taunted us in an orange shorts suit.  At one point she jokingly admonished the YouTube videographer to get out of her crotch as she writhed and pined in front of his lens. Something for the gays, the girls and the bros! Yes, and big sis Beyonce showed up, duh.


Overall: Blood Orange, Holy Ghost, Warpaint, The Knife, Solange, DARKSIDE, the 1975 and Arcade Fire were absolute standouts.

Like brothers do


SUPER EGO I’ve been a huge, squealing, panty-tossing fan of the Bronx-born Martinez Brothers since they were 14 and 17. Don’t call NAMBLA: If you’ve ever seen Chris and Steve work their supreme magic on the turntables, you know these two bopping, smiling dudes have wise old souls and an infectious spirit of musical joy.

When the brothers burst onto the scene, a new generation was rediscovering disco and house via the Internet: here, suddenly, like Athena springing from Zeus’s brow, appeared two vinyl wunderkinder versed fluently, it seemed, in Warehouse, Loft, and Paradise Garage — thanks, in part, to their club-hopping dad. Now they’re barely in their 20s, have gone through their globetrotting headliner and Ibiza-residency phases, tuned their style to a deeper post-minimal vibe (including some ace hip-hop), and started digging more extensively into their roots.

“You know, we just want to play good music, to treat music as an adventure again for everybody, not play to any tired expectations,” Chris told me over the phone as he headed from the brothers’ studio in Queens back to his house. “But we also want to bring our cultural background into it, keep repping where we and the music are from.”

To that end, the brothers have launched their own label Cuttin Headz, and paired with Detroit’s Seth Troxler for another label, Tuskegee, devoted to releasing dance music from black and Latino origin.

Cuttin’ Headz (the name’s cribbed from an ODB Wu-Tang demo) “is all about freedom for us,” Chris said. “We put so much care into each release, and now we’re taking that to a new level, learning some new skills to put it all in place.” As for Tuskegee, it’s bringing a necessary corrective to the pale, pale dance scene, as well as unearthing some surprising roots.

“Our point of view right now is coming from that moment in the ’90s right before house music became taboo to young kids into hip-hop. We want to bring the ‘urban environment’ feel back into house, real deep house and real techno that feels like the city.”

Meanwhile, they’re hitting Coachella before making it up here. “San Francisco has such a place in my heart,” Chris gushed. “We wish we were there back in the day when SF was so crazy, but luckily there’s still remnants of that spirit to be found. Hang in there, we love you!”

AS YOU LIKE IT WITH THE MARTINEZ BROTHERS Fri/18, 9pm-4am, $20–$25. Monarch, 101 Sixth St, SF.



My favorite “emotive techno” Israeli wizard returns to up things to another level with his stylish musical chops. Prepare for liftoff. At the Base party.

Thu/17, 10pm, $10. Vessel, 85 Campton Pl., SF.


Excellently deep electronic grooves with an intelligent, psychedelic glow from this Swedish duo. This party’s being put on by the Symbiosis folks, so there’ll be a little burner fairy dust in the air.

Thu/17, 10pm-4am, $20. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF.



Another brother act, Andrew and Daniel Aged from LA come on like “Black-winged angels of nu-R&B” and head up an evening of pretty darkness at the fantastic 120 Minutes monthly. With Brogan Bentley, S4NtA_MU3rTE, and Chauncey_CC. Fri/18, 10pm, $15 advance. Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF.



Looking back, 2009 was a year of epic (as in actually epic) house records. The dancefloor-devastating treatment these two remixing Australians visited upon the Lowbrows’ “Dream in the Desert” was a high point. They make their own lovely, hugely popular tunes as well.

Fri/18, 9pm, $20. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF.



No matter where you fall in the polarizing debate about what she represents in terms of the current state of DJ stardom, Russia’s Nina Kraviz is defintely kinda weird and also definitely kinda magic. And she will make you dance.

Sat/19, 9pm-3am, $25 advance. Harlot, 46 Minna, SF.


Coachella pics! Saturday


Saturday brought a huge sandstorm to the festival grounds but didn’t diminish the excitement in the crowd, according to our guys in the field.  “Head scarves turned into face masks.” Slideshow above, more below. All photos by Eric Lynch.


More Solange.







pet shop boys

Pet Shop Boys.

pet shop boys

Pet Shop Boys.


Coachella pics!: Friday



The Knife performed Fri/11 at Coachella. Guardian photos by Eric Lynch.


Coachella for agoraphobics: How to do the festival without leaving your house


Fun fact: I’m bad at festivals. It’s not that I don’t enjoy them, per se: there’s live music, the outdoors, fried food, great people-watching.

It’s just that — well, okay, I lied, I usually don’t enjoy them. I’m not 22 anymore. I don’t like waiting in long lines for disgusting Port-a-Potties. The sound is often unpreventably terrible. Trying to see all the bands you really care about becomes a headache-inducing feat of scheduling Sudoku. And the people-watching, while entertaining, often devolves into being so annoyed at/dismayed by the people around me that I’m too distracted to enjoy the music.

I’m great at parties, I promise!

Here’s the thing: I truly love a lot of the acts on the lineup at Coachella this year. OutKast, The Dismemberment Plan, come on. And the fact that I’m not going to see the Replacements tonight makes me feel all kinds of superfan failure feelings (see: the name of my column).

I can’t be alone in my competing excitement about this year’s artists and total lack of desire to physically be on the hot, crowded premises for their shows. Thus, without further ado — before your social networks start blowing up with pictures of your friends having The Time of Their Lives there — a step-by-step guide to doing Coachella this weekend from the comfort of your own home.

Step 1: Get dressed. Ladies, you’re gonna want one of these.


On the bottom, go for the timeless, comfortable class of cutoff shorts that let the entire bottom half of your ass hang out the leg holes (you can Google image-search that one yourself). Pair with tall, furry boots. If you’ve been working out lately — or even following the Coachella diet — and really want to show off your complete lack of self-awareness, try appropriating the rich, storied culture of a persecuted people with your headgear. Guys, you can do this one too.




Step 2. Hit the hardware store and garden supply center. You want a high-powered space heater and several bags of very dry dirt — we’re in a drought here, after all. On the way home, collect a full trash bag of empty beer bottles, used condoms, and other detritus from the street. (Optional, depending on personal preference: Buy drugs.) When you get home, turn the heater on full blast and close the windows; then scatter dirt and garbage everywhere.

Step 3. Invite some friends over. You’re not into big crowds, but come on, you’re not anti-social. Bonus points if you can get a local celebrity, like John Waters, Rider Strong, or the Tamale Lady. Instagram the shit out of everything they do, such as taking selfies, taking more selfies, and sitting on their bodyguards’ shoulders, smoking blunts.




Step 4. Put on some tunes. To get that special “festival” sound, try turning the volume and bass up until every single element is distorted, then wrap your speakers in heavy blankets. Follow up by either standing with your ear smashed against them or walking half a mile away. Here’s a playlist featuring all of Friday, to get you started:

Step 5. Sometime around 5am (your mileage may very depending on drugs of choice), try going to sleep. Hey, look at that — you’re in your own bed! If you want to get that authentic camping feeling, make your friends stay over and sleep in super-cramped positions next to you. Ideally, you’ll wake up to the sound of someone vomiting five feet away from your head. I’m lucky enough to have a bedroom window facing 16th Street; again, YMMV.

But don’t think about that now. Get a little bit of rest. Drink some water. Tomorrow’s another long, glorious day of the best music festival you’ve ever been to, and if you want to have document the Time of Your Life, you’re gonna need your energy.

[More seriously — we do have a photographer at Coachella this weekend, check back here for cool photos that are not the result of me gleefully Google image-searching “Coachella headdress terrible.”]

Locals Only: The American Professionals


Locals Only is our shout-out to the musicians who call the Bay Area home — a chance to spotlight an artist/band/music-maker with an upcoming show, album release, or general good news to share.To be considered, email

With all the CDs that come across my desk, the American Professionals‘ latest, We Make It Our Business, caught my attention for a rather weird reason — it looked incredibly boring. At first glance, it seemed like a software or PR company had accidentally sent me some sort of business portfolio in disc form. Upon further review (i.e., actually reading the accompanying materials and listening to the music…this is why they pay me the big bucks) I realized it was anything but. The SF-based trio makes danceable, upbeat but never overly slick power pop with a little gravel in it; the new record should please anyone who can’t afford to see the Replacements at Coachella this year (or even those who can). The band also licenses its music to a couple of shows on Nickelodeon, via a process lead singer Chuck Lindo (also of Noise Pop veterans Action Slacks) still finds mysterious. Ahead of the American Professionals’ record release this Wednesday, we checked in with Lindo to hear about his influences, the music biz, and how he gets his seafood fix.

SF Bay Guardian: How long have you been in San Francisco? How did the band form?

Chuck Lindo: Cheryl [Hendrickson, the bass player/vocalist and also Lindo’s wife] and I moved here from St. Louis in 1991 with my old band, The Nukes. We left behind the humidity, crappy wintertime produce, and a pretty impressive fan base for the possibilities and romance of this freakshow of a place. Still here, but for a brief four year stint in Los Angeles 2003-2007. We got a chance to dry our bones out and re-learn how to drive cars. We met Adam White through another band I play bass and sing with, The Real Numbers. He had just moved out here from Indianapolis and we hit it off like crazy. There’s something about those midwesterners that just feels right. I think there’s some kind of code or dog whistle in there. It’s hard to describe.

SFBG: How would you describe your sound? There are obviously a lot of power-pop influences, some post-punk stuff going on. 

CL: There is a lot of power pop in there, but we do come from the “power” side of that spectrum. I’ve always had a deep desire to hear Black Sabbath playing Squeeze songs. Somebody said we sounded like Cheap Trick on the Foo Fighters’ instruments playing Smithereens’ songs. I’ll take that. My first “real” band, The Nukes, was pretty damn close to being punk really, but not quite. I could never wear the attitude comfortably, but I do like it loud, fast,  and crunchy. Cheryl and I have a funny mixture of influences. We both love heavy rock stuff, but she’s an Elton John freak and grew up on the Monkees and all those musicals like “Oliver!” and “Bugsy Malone.” I got into things like The Descendents and Dead Kennedys and The Clash in my teens and early twenties , but I have a gooey soft spot for early ’70s singer-songwriter stuff, and I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs about Stevie Wonder.

SFBG: How did the “business” aesthetic come about? Where does the band name come from?

CL: There’s an endless  trough of funny stuff in the the faceless corporate ogre world. A lot of the aesthetic comes from observing my sister Nancy’s work. She’s a good old-fashioned family doctor in Wisconsin, and I’ve witnessed the evolution of how big pharma reaches physicians and now the general public itself. At first, I think they couldn’t say exactly what some of these drugs were intended to do, so they used all sorts of evocative imagery to produce the warm-fuzzy take-away. So much of that stuff was just pure creative genius, it’s impossible to not be impressed, even if it is sort of insidious. I just think it’s funny to overlay that ethos on a little three-piece rock band.

The name “The American Professionals” was coined by our friend David Reidy. He was a charter member of the band when I first started writing songs back in the late 1990s. He’s Irish and was working on getting his US citizenship at the time, and he was thoroughly enamored with the gumption, optimism, and resilience of the American people. We were backing an amazing singer-songwriter, Pamela Martin, and at a live show, right before soundcheck, he pointed back at his guitar rig and said something like “Chuck, you see that? That’s the American professional setup right there.” He had his spare guitar, rack tuner, slide, combo amp with road case, pedal board, extra strings, a white towel, the whole deal. It became this sort of rallying ethic: “How do we do it? Think ‘what would The American Professional do?’, and that’s what you do.” So, of course it became the name of the band. That’s what “The American Professional” would do. David’s a partner at Reed Smith now. Not even the least bit surprising.

SFBG: How did you start licensing your music to TV shows? Does it change your writing to be thinking about the possibility of a show wanting to use a song? Are there bands whose model you’re following here? I’m thinking about They Might Be Giants, who’ve done stuff for The Daily Show and Malcolm in the Middle but not, say, beer commercials.

CL: I get to approach that from two angles. We’ve licensed our existing music to several indie films and network TV shows, but I also founded a boutique music house (we call it a “music cottage” sometimes) Jingle This! with my longtime friend John Schulte. We make bespoke music for all sorts of stuff. I love hearing a well-thought out placement, especially when it’s a semi-obscure song or a deep album track, but I do tire of people attaching really famous, popular songs to products. I totally understand the power of it, but it makes me sad to hear people relying on the spectrum of emotions that accompanies a particular song and then sort of jump its train. I think it’s much more challenging, and if it works, rewarding, to make an original piece.

They Might Be Giants are a perfect example of doing it right, yes. They’re so insanely creative and versatile, but there’s always a thread of their sound in there, however intangible that may be. I like the way The 88’s music gets used. They do the theme for Community and they’ve had a ton of stuff licensed, all to great effect, I think.I still don’t know how we initially got approached by Nickelodeon to use our stuff in Zoey:101 and Drake and Josh. It was kind of like manna. Very mysterious. Very, very nice, but still mysterious. So that said, I don’t feel like it serves anybody to go chasing after licensing opportunities by attempting to make music that you think will be in demand. I feel like if you keep your head down, dig in, and make something that truly is a reflection of your own take on things, even if it’s done in character sometimes, it’s going to resonate with somebody, somewhere, and that will make it attractive for total, mind numbing, wealth-creating exploitation.

SFBG: Do you think there’s such a thing as “selling out” anymore, as a musician?

CL: I can’t conjure up what would constitute “selling out” these days, especially for somebody just hitting the scene now. I guess if a band got sponsored by Eli Lily and started writing songs cryptically about the benefits of Cymbalta and passing it off as a real band, that might be a little screwed up. Actually, that kind of sounds like fun to me. Don’t steal that idea.

I do, however, get a little sick of hearing The Who’s songs in every version of CSI, but hey, that’s their business.

SFBG: What’s next for the American Professionals? Touring?

CL: Yes. We like to take little quick and dirty regional excursions. We’re hitting the midwest in the spring, and then up and down our lovely coast after that.

SFBG: What other SF/Bay Area bands do you admire?

CL: There’s an insane amount of world class music here right now. Even just in the circle we run in we have The Real Numbers, The Corner Laughers, The Bye Bye Blackbirds, Agony Aunts, and my band crush, Trevor Childs and the Beholders. Those fuckwads are so ridiculously good, and they keep getting together, breaking up, blah blah blah. It’s maddening. It’s hard not to get puffed up with pride that we have Chuck Prophet walking among us here. I got all fanboy on him and clammed up when I was standing next to him at the Great American a few months ago. I had just been on a Temple Beautiful jag and was in awe.

SFBG: What’s the #1 San Francisco meal you couldn’t live without?

CL: Oh, that’s a toughie. I used to be in food and bev so we ate out a lot. I have so many food memories seared into my brain, it’s hard to pick even ten of those. We live right up the street from Swan Oyster Depot. If I had to nail it down to one experience, it’d have to be just plopping down at that little corner of heaven and strapping on the feed bag. Cheryl doesn’t like any seafood at all (nothing! zip!) so any time we have out of town guests and she’s at work, I grab them by the collar and drag them down there.
The American Professionals
With Felsen and the Tender Few
Wed/29, 8:30pm, $10
Bottom of the Hill

Chillwave’s poster boy grows up



by Kyle O’Brien

It’s been an adventurous four years for Ernest Greene. In 2009, the musician now known as Washed Out was producing music in his childhood bedroom, considering law school, and planning his wedding. Perry, Ga., is not widely known for its indie/electronica scene, so Greene posted music to his MySpace page and recorded it on a few cassette tapes for road trips. It was a low-key type of thing — until blogs like Pitchfork started paying attention.

This is about the time I became a fan. I was a freshman in college, brand-new to San Francisco, and Washed Out sounded like the future. Most mainstream electronic production at the time seemed made for rappers, or was heavily drum-and-bass influenced. Washed Out was all ’80s influences, hazy, and chilled out. “Retro lo-fi,” “dream-pop,” “synth-pop.” Chillwave is the genre most seem to have settled on — but two EPs, two studio albums, international tours, a deal with Sub Pop, and a Letterman appearance later, Greene doesn’t seem like he’s settling in any other way anytime soon.

“It really took me a couple of years to figure out my own approach to live shows, how to make them happen in a controlled way,” says Greene, 31. He’s currently touring in support of 2013’s Paracosm with a five-piece band (including his wife, Blair, on synth and vocals) — a notable departure from his beginnings as a bedroom artist with a DJ setup. He’ll bring the show to the Fillmore Jan. 28 and 29. “There were a couple of technological breakthroughs I had…where [earlier] some of the things I was doing in the studio, I wasn’t able to figure out how to accomplish live.”

Coming out from behind the computer screen has had its challenges, he says, but he’s committed to creating live music with a band rather than simply pressing play — a move that’s shifted his focus to vocal performance.

“In the studio, I could double my voice 100 times if I wanted to,” he says. “But if we’re on stage and it’s just five of us, by necessity it’s kind of stripped-down, and the live shows definitely have a different vibe because of that.”

“But harmonies have always been a pretty important part of the Washed Out sound,” he says. “When I first started the Washed Out project, actually, I wasn’t really thinking about singing myself — I was going to bring in someone else to sing, and I was just recording myself as a holding place. I didn’t feel like my voice was very good, so part of the process was layering a ton of different vocal takes on top of each other just to make it sound better. After a long period of doing that, it became the sound, and the music was discovered, and it kind of took on a life of its own.” Most of the vocals on the new record are still layered several times over, he says. Vocals, to Greene, are “just an instrument in the mix.”

A longtime friendship with electronic artist Toro Y Moi — Greene and Chaz Bundick met in school in Georgia — has also meant a like-minded artist to bounce ideas off of.

“He’s probably the most talented musician I’ve ever worked with — just a super creative guy,” says Greene. “We were really lucky that we started getting recognition around the same time, and eased into doing this professionally together…I didn’t have any contacts in the music business [starting out], and I remember having phone calls with him where we would catch up, [talk over] what we were going through. I didn’t have that with anyone else.”

“His music just keeps getting better and better,” Greene adds. “Plus all the guys in my band grew up with the dudes in the Toro Y Moi band, so it’s kind of like a big family.”

The first half of 2014 will see Washed Out touring nearly non-stop, including an appearance at Coachella. He’s ready for it. He’s energized by Paracosm, with its warm, lush instrumentation, its constructed sense of escapism — the album’s title itself refers to the concept of a fantasy world. That correlates heavily with the newer record’s vibrant visual art, he says, as opposed to the stark white design of 2011’s Within & Without.

“This newer stuff is a lot more vibrant-feeling, so the colors seem to suit it well,” he says. “It’s all about the music. That will lead the way most of the time.”

Washed Out
With Kisses
Jan 28-29, 8pm $25
1805 Geary, SF

Undocumented and unafraid


Business as usual means buses depart from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement building in downtown San Francisco every weekday, ferrying deportees from throughout the region to federal detention centers or the airport. Even in San Francisco, a Sanctuary City where local law enforcement agencies have limited cooperation with ICE authorities, life can be filled with uncertainty for those who lack legal citizenship status.

In recent years, many immigrant activists have taken the step of publicly revealing themselves to be “undocumented,” to sound a call for immigration reform and to push back against the fearful existence that the looming threat of deportation can create.

But the young people who are profiled here have taken things a step further, going so far as to risk arrest by protesting deportations and pushing for immigration reform, all while identifying themselves loud and clear as undocumented.

In the same vein as protesters who marched for civil rights, gay rights, free speech, or in anti-war movements before them, the undocumented youth are putting themselves on the line. Their mantra, chanted at top volume, is “undocumented and unafraid,” highlighting the ever-present possibility that they could face stiff penalties for their actions.

Nationwide, an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants remain in limbo as a push for federal immigration reform, which would create a pathway to citizenship for people in the country illegally, remains stalled in Congress. While community-led campaigns have yielded legislation that creates safeguards against deportation for young people who arrived with their parents as children, bureaucratic nightmares and forced deportations continue unabated.

Nearly everyone we interviewed for this article mentioned their grandparents while sharing their personal stories with the Guardian. While the politics and policy surrounding immigration reform are tremendously complex, the impact the current system has on people’s lives often boils down to problems like not being able to take a flight to visit an ailing grandparent because it would be impossible to return.

“It’s intense,” says Nicole Salgado, an American citizen who lives with her foreign-born husband in Mexico. “Because you know, it’s essentially an issue of trespassing, and so it seems to me like it’s a really harsh penalty for a civil infraction. No harm was done to a person, and that’s the case for the vast majority of people who are in this situation.”


Alex Aldana is nervous.

He’s stopped making eye contact, which is strange, because Aldana doesn’t normally break eye contact, and isn’t the nervous type. Since 2012, he’s been arrested seven times.

All seven arrests stemmed from acts of civil disobedience, each carried out to protest the same issue: immigration laws that he views as unjust, because they lead to forced deportation.

Aldana, 26, is an undocumented immigrant. He entered the US legally from Guadalajara, Mexico, in February 2003 on a work visa, but when the time on his visa ran out, he was left undocumented. It coincided with the departure of his father, a man Aldanda says deceived his family.

Like many other undocumented immigrants, he has been trying to give a largely misunderstood population a face. Unlike many others, he’s doing so in a way that carries a great deal of risk.

He’s part of the growing contingent of undocumented immigrants who are, as they say, “undocumented and unafraid.” And when they say it, they shout it.

Aldana participated in a sit-in inside Gov. Jerry Brown’s office. He’s faced the Ku Klux Klan at pro-immigration reform rallies in San Bernardino. He’s been a key link in a human roadblock created to halt a deportation bus in San Francisco. He’s been detained by ICE and local police departments. He normally comes across as fearless, but not on this day.

“This is probably the last crazy thing I’ll do,” Aldana says. “I have thought about it, I have planned it.”

Sometime in late November, he and an intrepid band of humanitarian crusaders plan on taking their fight to the southern US border for the first action of its kind.

The details — which they’re keeping intentionally vague — involve a group of activists crossing the San Diego-Tijuana border legally (many are still Mexican citizens, after all), before ferrying previously deported people back over the border into the United States.

Their hope is to create a spectacle to raise awareness, and even mentioning the planned action makes Aldana squirm a bit. He’s hesitant to disclose specific information; the wrong statement could end his journey before it begins, he explains.

And the timing isn’t perfect for community support, he adds. The last act of civil disobedience he engaged in — a human blockade that halted an ICE bus (see “On the line,” Oct. 23) — didn’t garner universal backing within the immigrant activist community.

“[Some] people are really backlashing the immigrant youth movement right now,” says Aldana. “They consider us harmful.”

But on the flip side, Aldana considers that community’s apathy toward deportation harmful. He doesn’t think that any approved immigration reform should even include deportation as an option.

“In the immigrant community, if you mention ‘immigration reform’ — not ‘conscious,’ not ‘comprehensive,’ just ‘immigration reform’ — then you hear, ‘Yeah, I support it,'” he says. “But what kind of immigration reform are we supporting? Are we supporting militarization? Are we supporting massive deportation? Because word by word, that’s what it says right now.”

The immigration reform package now being pushed by President Obama includes beefed up border security, a crackdown on the hiring of undocumented immigrants, and streamlined deportation procedures, along with a path to citizenship.

Aldana’s confidence in his activism belies a background drenched in fear.

“I never learned how to drive because of that fear [of being deported]. I never traveled because of that fear,” he says. “One of the reasons I never went to college was because ICE was in every bus stop, at least where I come from. When you lose fear, you do incredible things. I’ve been to like 30 states now.”

He started on the activism trail when he was still in high school in Coachella, advocating for women’s rights after watching his mother suffer through domestic abuse, but he didn’t start advocating for immigration reform until years later.

“I was very open about my sexuality and my gender identity very early on,” says Aldana, who identifies as queer. Yet he felt more self-conscious about sharing his immigration status. “Ten years after that, even when I was working for a nonprofit [in Southern California], I was really afraid saying I was undocumented, because my family depended on that job.”

More recently, Aldana has struck a balance between activism and bread winning, a lifestyle that will be put to the test in the coming month. He says he isn’t planning on coming back to the US for a little while after the protest at the border, but not for legal reasons. He just wants to have peace of mind for a moment, to be treated like any other American.

“My grandmother is dying, and I’m not gonna wait for any policy to deny what I couldn’t do with my mom’s mom,” says Aldana. “I think that when what makes us human is that vulnerability, that we really need to have those rights.”

He adds, “I really dislike when people say, ‘I’m gonna visit so-and-so because they’re really sick and they’re on the other side of the world.’ To me it’s like, why can’t I do that?” (Reed Nelson)



May Liang, a 23-year-old campaign organizer who accompanied her parents to the United States from China as a child, remembers the moment she realized there were other undocumented Asian families in her midst.

She was at a conference on issues surrounding the Asian Pacific Islander community at the University of California Berkeley campus, where she was a student. “Outside of each workshop, there’s this poster. This one said ‘undocumented Asian students.'” It struck a chord as she realized she wasn’t the only one.

It was one of the first meetings of ASPIRE (Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights through Education), a small but growing organization where Liang is now the first paid staff member. Her first undertaking was to plan out last month’s ICE bus blockade.

Now, she’s in the middle of preparing for a Thanksgiving Day vigil to be staged with others outside the West County Detention Center in Richmond, where undocumented immigrants are held in federal custody. Many in her community won’t get the chance to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with loved ones, she says, “because their families have been ripped apart by deportation.”

Liang wasn’t always an activist. She didn’t become aware of the barriers her immigration status presented until she became a teenager and started pursuing part-time jobs and a driver’s license, only to discover she lacked a Social Security number.

Not having an ID posed problems, but she’s quick to note that she had it easier than some of her fellow activists. “I walk around, and nobody suspects me because I’m Asian. In the media we see a lot of Latino people,” she explains. Nevertheless, “It was just like hiding a secret. I was trying to pass as something I knew that I wasn’t.”

One day, just as she was gearing up to go to college, her father called a family meeting. Their immigration status had been “pending” ever since they’d arrived on tourist visas and applied for green cards. But he’d just been notified that their applications had been denied.

“As soon as you get denied, you can’t be here,” Liang notes. “And so we were also ordered deported.”

They decided to fight it out in court, and the case dragged on until after she’d entered college.

“My family’s first court date was on the same day as a midterm,” she recalls. “It was really early in the morning, at the immigration court on Montgomery. I was in the waiting room, reading and studying. And then right afterward, I got on the BART and took my anatomy midterm. It felt really surreal.”

In the end, they were able to avert deportation, yet remained undocumented. As a full-time activist, Liang is thinking big. “For me, it’s like we need to change the system of immigration. One of the most important things we need is sort of a cultural shift as to how we treat people.”

Her first priority is to call for an end to deportations as long as federal immigration reform remains pending in Congress.

Liang is big on being inclusive. Laws such as the California DREAM Act, which aids undocumented students, and the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals can help youth like herself. Yet she doesn’t understand that piecemeal approach.

“Why is there a distinction being made, just because we’re younger?” she says. “These narratives were given to us. We did not create them. And it becomes divisive, because it really puts our parents under the bus.”

She’s also critical of the notion that immigration laws should treat people differently based on their nations of origin. “We like to say immigration is a Latino issue,” she says. “But it is also an Asian issue. It’s an American issue, because we are immigrants of America.”

Along those lines, Liang regards the work that she and other undocumented youth are engaged in as being a kind of patriotism, for a country that hasn’t yet accepted them as citizens.

“We actually love this country,” she says, “because it does have this sort of mentality of fighting for your rights, social justice, freedom of speech, and that stuff. In all that has happened in the history of this country, there are so many examples of things having been changed because of the people.” (Rebecca Bowe)



On July 21, 2008, David Lemus arrived in the United States at the age of 16.

He’d spent the previous two days marooned in the pick-your-poison expanse of desert spanning the southern border of the US.

All told, his El Salvador-to-California journey lasted a month, and he did the final two-day leg of the passage solo, carrying nothing more than a water bottle, tortillas, and beans.

He had no identification, he said, and no other personal items; nothing that could tie him to an existence he was supposed to be leaving behind. The goal was to be invisible, both to Border Patrol and any computers storing records.

He made the trip with his father and two younger brothers, but he’d last seen them in Mexico; the coyote guiding them across the border had informed Lemus and his family that they stood a better chance of making it if they split up. Lemus got in one car, next to a Honduran teenager who was roughly the same age, and his father and brothers got into another one.

He didn’t see his father and brothers again until October 2008. They were detained at the US-Mexico border and were deported back to El Salvador; their second trip took over four months, but they finally made it.

Lemus, his father, and his brothers were trying to reunite with his mother and sister, who had successfully completed the journey earlier that year. But as things went, Lemus was ferried across the border, let out in the desert, and traveled across a desert known for its potentially fatal landscape, all without his family.

It was a remarkable journey — hot, rugged, impossibly arid — made even more remarkable by the fact that Lemus, along with the rest of his family, is among the millions to complete it. Yes, millions.

But now, as a UC Berkeley student and member of the East Bay Immigrant Youth Coalition, Lemus is a key player in the “undocumented and unafraid” wave of activism that is under way in California, and he’s a long way from donning the invisible mask he felt he had to wear while crossing the desert.

“Undocumented and unafraid is probably the only thing owned by the undocumented community, where we can say, ‘This is our thing,'” Lemus said.

Lemus and his peers have been making waves in California since 2011, when an anti-ICE action in San Bernardino made national headlines. He was arrested alongside six other students in the demonstration, which he refers to as “coming out of the shadows.”

It was his first action of civil disobedience, and the rush of activism overwhelmed him. The second time he was arrested for civil disobedience was this past summer, while protesting President Obama and the slow pace of immigration reform.

“The first time was scary, because we didn’t know what was going to happen,” Lemus said. “But I also feel that that is the moment when you really wake up, because you see it for the first time.”

Lemus is a born agitator, someone who can’t sit idly by while an injustice is being committed. His face, almost eternally placid, contorts when he mentions things like the public perception of undocumented immigrants.

“People say that we are not only the shit stirrers, but that we created the shit,” said Lemus. “And that’s not fair. The way I see it is that most immigrants are here because of a lot of actions the US has taken in Latin America; military interventions in Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Columbia, Venezuela. You know we don’t even have a currency in El Salvador anymore? We have dollars.”

Lemus doesn’t consider himself a DREAMer, a word used to describe students brought here as children who would receive protection from deportation under the federal DREAM Act, were it signed into law. He was born in El Salvador and remembers it well, in stark contrast to the DREAMers — and doesn’t know if he would even want to become a US citizen should the opportunity present itself, since he says he’s witnessed too much injustice at the institutional level.

What he won’t stop fighting for is what he calls, “not civil rights, but human rights. It would be unfair for us to want civil rights right now, because we need to get human rights first.”

For Lemus, that distinction is about valuing our basic humanity more than our citizenship.

“I don’t think a lot of people realize the amount of risk it takes to come here,” he said. “We leave everything behind in the process, and a lot of times we don’t get it back. We just want a better life.” (RN)




Siti Rahmaputri, who goes by Putri, was 19 when she risked arrest by joining a handful of classmates in disrupting a meeting of the University of California Board of Regents.

A petite, soft-spoken UC Berkeley student, she hardly comes across as an agitator. Yet she joined the July protest to voice anger about the selection of Janet Napolitano, former secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, as head of the UC system. For undocumented students like Rahmaputri, Napolitano is synonymous with deportations due to her former post as head of the agency that oversees ICE.

When they got word of Napolitano’s appointment, Rahmaputri and fellow activist Ju Hong joined with some students from UC Irvine and UC San Diego to call attention to the secretary’s role in deportations.

“We started chanting, ‘undocumented unafraid,’ ‘education not deportation,’ ‘no to Napolitano.’ Unfortunately, two of my friends got hurt — they were tackled down by the UC police. And at the end, the four of us stood there and really linked arms. We were screaming and screaming,” she recalls. In a matter of minutes, “everyone left except for us, the media, and the UC police. The UC Regents were just outside the door.”

She was charged with two misdemeanors, placed in handcuffs for several hours, and then released. But the whole time, Rahmaputri said she felt encouraged by supporters from ASPIRE and others.

“I heard people chanting from the outside: Let them go. Let them go. I didn’t want to seem scared, I wanted to seem confident, like here I am, getting arrested, so what?” she says. “I’m just standing for the things that I feel is right.”

Originally from Indonesia, Rahmaputri attended middle school and high school in San Francisco after coming to the United States with her parents at age 11. Not long ago, she and her parents narrowly averted deportation.

“They never really told me exactly that I was undocumented, but they gave me hints,” she says of her upbringing.

A couple years ago, not long after she’d enrolled in Diablo Valley College, her parents were notified — six months late, due to an incorrect address — that their green card applications had been denied.

“I lost a lot of hope. I didn’t really know what to do,” she remembers. “I talked to my counselor and asked, ‘should I keep going in school or should I start working instead to save money to go back to Indonesia?'”

In the end, they were able to defer deportation through letters of support and legal assistance from the Asian Law Caucus, but their immigration status continues to hang in the balance, and the possibility of eventual deportation still looms.

In early October, Napolitano agreed to sit down with Rahmaputri and nine other UC students to discuss policies affecting undocumented university students. The activists urged her to shore up sanctuary protections, by providing campus resources and incorporating better sensitivity training for UC police.

But it was a little awkward, Rahmaputri thought, because Napolitano’s office had made it a lunch meeting.

“She was just there eating her lunch, listening to our stories and our struggles and why we think she should not be here. And here she is, enjoying her meal. It was a weird conversation. She said okay, ‘I will look at it thoroughly. Give me time to look at it.’ So, she’s basically not giving us any answers.”

She and others plan to keep the pressure on by staging rallies whenever Napolitano makes public appearances, and they were planning an action for the Nov. 8 inauguration of the new Berkeley chancellor, Nicholas Dirks.

When her family was fighting deportation, Rahmaputri caught a glimpse of detainees in the ICE facility in downtown San Francisco when she was there to be fingerprinted. She was impacted by the sight of them being led around in shackles.

“It was time for me to reflect, that I have this privilege to be free, to be out here where I can speak my mind, and I am able to go to school and get educated,” she says of that experience. “At the same time, I want to represent others who cannot.” (RB)


Agitating in exile

An American citizen who was born and raised in the United States, Nicole Salgado holds a master’s degree, is a published author, and previously held jobs in the Bay Area as a high school science teacher and urban gardener. While she might seem like an unlikely person to be directly impacted by immigration laws, she’s essentially been living in exile in Queretaro, Mexico, for the past seven years.

She’s there because Margo, Salgado’s husband and the father of their daughter, is prevented from returning to the US from Mexico due to immigration laws.

“It really boils down to some pretty strict technicalities,” Salgado explained in a Skype interview. “There’s really not any way around it. My husband has a permanent bar that lasts 10 years, and we’re in year seven of that. And if there was no reform in the next three years, we would not be able to apply — just apply — for his return until 2016.”

They met in 2001, when she was 23.

“I worked for the San Francisco League of Urban Gardeners. I was working on a project down the peninsula, in La Honda, and I met Margo through friends. We got really close really fast, and got engaged within a few months,” she said.

Salgado knew he was undocumented, “but I didn’t know what it entailed.” Simply getting married, it turned out, wasn’t going to put them in the clear.

As long as they remained in the US, Margo’s status was a source of anxiety. He didn’t have a driver’s license, but nevertheless had to drive in order to work.

“I was always really petrified when he would be working more than half an hour away from the house,” Salgado said. “Because I always knew that if there was just one little bit of racial profiling, or something wrong with the taillight or something, then he could get pulled over.”

They closely monitored the progress of proposed laws that could offer protection for undocumented immigrants, and went to immigration rallies. But in the end, they opted for joining his family in Mexico, because they did not want to live in fear.

Salgado co-authored a book with Nathaniel Hoffman, Amor and Exile: True Stories of Love Across America’s Borders, which explores the role that American citizens who are married to undocumented immigrants might play in the larger immigration reform efforts in Congress.

She’s also been organizing online. “We got together and we formed a sort of loosely organized forum of women, like myself who were in exile, or were separated from their spouses in the US,” she said. “We called ourselves Action for Family Unity.”

She acknowledges that adults who knowingly crossed the border illegally might have a harder time winning over the public at large than youth who were brought to the US as children. Yet she still believes the laws that have placed her in this situation are in need of reform.

“My basic premise is, you know, the US is a nation of immigrants, and we depend on immigrants every year as part of our economy and part of our society,” Salgado says. “And as an American citizen, I believe that it’s my right to be able to determine where I want to live, regardless of who my choice of spouse is.” (RB)

For whom the bell rocks: hologram rap edition


This year’s Rock The Bells really is the Costco of hip-hop festivals. Pretty much anyone who’s anyone in the hip-hop world (plus some dead rappers) will be at Mountain View’s Shoreline Amphitheater this weekend. There is literally something for every kind of hip-hop fan out there, with more artists packed into those two days than weed in a Juicy J blunt.

Perennial RTB performers Wu-Tang Clan, Doug E Fresh & Slick Rick, Rakim, Bone Thugs N Harmony, and KRS-ONE will holding it down for the old school. Meme-rap stars Riff Raff, Danny Brown, and Trinidad James will bring their WTF-brands of rap. On the rise Brooklyn youngsters Flatbush Zombies and Joey Bada$$ will be present.

And even though the backpack era is over, mid-aughts underground luminaries such as Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, Brother Ali, and Tech Nine will transport you back to a not so distant 2005. Headliners Kid Cudi, the entire A$AP and Black Hippy crews, hyphy super duo E-40/Too $hort, and Girl Talk (who might throw down a more hip-hop influenced set) will cap off the long weekend.

But the talk of the festival is not anyone listed above or anyone who has a heart beat. Hologram versions of Easy-E and Ol’ Dirty Bastard will appear in intangible 3D form. To catch a preview of their set you can watch performances of E and Dirty from last weekend’s Rock The Bells LA.

It’s easy to snark or scoff at a somewhat preposterous idea, but as someone who was witnessed hologram Tupac the first weekend at Coachella, I can fully attest that hologram rappers is as awesome as it sounds. I distinctly remember one guy in the crowd who literally thought Tupac had come back from the dead — granted he may have been tripping hard. So make sure to circle the two hologram shows on your setlist.

If you’re planning to travel via Caltrain, know that trains only leave from SF at the 15 of the hour. More importantly, the last train to leave Mountain View on Saturday is 10:49 and the last train on Sunday is at 9:19. Plan accordingly as you sure as hell don’t want to pay for a $120 cab back to the city.

Saturday recommendations:
Tyler The Creator, Chief Keef, Supernatural, Action Bronson, Pusha T, Flatbush Zombies, A$AP Mob, E-40 & Too $hort

Sunday recommendations: Juicy J, Deltron 3030, Rakim, Riff Raff, Earl Sweatshirt, Trinidad James, Danny Brown, Joey Bada$$, Black Hippy, Wu-Tang Clan.

2013 Rock The Bells Festival
Sat/14, Sun/15, $65.50-$239
Shoreline Amphitheater
1 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View

The Selector: August 28-September 3, 2013



The Troublemaker

Hey, daddy-o! While other outdoor movie nights program known crowd pleasers (and hey, nothing wrong with that — who doesn’t love 1980’s Xanadu under the stars?), trust the Pacific Film Archive to dig a little deeper. Directed by Theodore J. Flicker (it was the perfectly-named filmmaker’s first feature; he was also an improv comedy pioneer and directed dozens of 1970s TV episodes) and co-written with Saturday Night Live stalwart Buck Henry, 1964’s The Troublemaker offers a bouncy throwback to the beatnik era. A chicken farmer dreams of opening a coffeehouse in Greenwich Village; the Mob doesn’t agree, but the finger-snapping cool cats have his back. Wear your beret and come early for the pre-film poetry reading. (Cheryl Eddy)

8:30pm, free

BAM/PFA Sculpture Garden

2575 Bancroft, Berk


Resident Artist Workshop: Victor Talledos, Joy Prendergast, Rachel Elliot

A couple of years ago, Mexican-born and trained ballet dancer Victor Talledos landed in the Bay Area like a comet — fiery, fierce, and impossible to ignore. Joy Prendergast is part of a hotbed of budding women choreographers nourished by the SF Conservatory of Dance. Rachel Elliot, a recent graduate of the Dominican University/LINES Ballet program, spent her study abroad time traveling and watching dance in China. This trio of artists is the latest crop of choreographers showing work in progress they have developed at the Garage’s all essential RAW (Resident Artist Workshop) studio space — 12 weeks of four to six hours free rehearsal time with two scheduled performances.” Small is beautiful” was a mantra in the 1970s. It’s still valid. A little bit of support, consistently offered, can create wonders. (Rita Felciano)

Through Thu/29. 8pm. $10–$20.


715 Bryant, SF


“Root to Stalk Cooking” with Tara Duggan

Omnivore Books often outdoes itself with inventive workshops and tasty food contests. Still, “Root to Stalk Cooking: The Art of Using the Whole Vegetable” should truly be one for the books. Author Tara Duggan, a James Beard award-winning independent journalist and cookbook author, will talk trash. Well, technically, she’ll talk roots, stalks, tops, ribs, and other pieces of vegetables that tend to get scratched. And she’ll discuss recipes that included those too-often discarded veggie elements. The workshop is not only a unique opportunity to meet an insightful SF native author, but also to learn how to cook delicious meals while still being frugal. Stop wasting and start cooking. (Hillary Smith)

6-7:30 pm, free

Omnivore Books

3885a Cesar Chavez, SF



Café Tacvba

There are parts of the world where ska music is still valued. “Las Flores” is a rude boy-baiting uptempo Café Tacvba song that seemed right at home in 1994, when lead singer Albarrán Ortega was sporting his Coolio-styled hair on an early episode of MTV Unplugged. But how does a song like that hold up almost 10 years later at an epicenter of up-and-coming sounds like Coachella? Well, the Coachella crowd’s enthusiasm for the ska tune spoke volumes about truly heartfelt and infectious rhythms shattering the limitations of what is currently considered cool in music. A lot of genres come and go, but groups like Café Tacvba, which has gone without member changes since its inception in 1989, will continue to motivate listeners with just about any style it plays. Expect the unexpected. (Ilan Moskowitz)

8pm, $37.50–$52.50


982 Market, SF

(415) 673-4653



LA-based garage-punk band FIDLAR creates a mess of distortion-heavy guitar lines, scratchy vocals, and angry percussion, which makes for a wild show guaranteed to permit letting loose. And there may even be some reckless flailing of the arms, if you’re lucky. The group seems to attract more than the typical garage rock fan who simply loves to go batshit in the pit. Enthusiasts stalk their social media pages, pour over their every Tumblr post, and even tattoo themselves with the group’s name, all proving one thing — FIDLAR has made a serious mark in a brief amount of time. And with this almost cult-like following, the four young musicians are touring through the UK and the States until November, tearing up stages with their rambunctious, exhilarating performances. And the band’s relationship with its fans seems to be symbiotic. I suspect the fans are so die-hard and loyal because that’s exactly what the group puts out there on stage: a straightforward, honest, in-the-moment show. (Smith)

With Meat Market

9pm, $14

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St.,SF

(415) 626-4455




Witches, betrayals, violence, madness — no wonder Shakespeare’s Macbeth is so popular among both theater troupes and audiences. Case in point: two local companies are mounting adventurously staged versions of “the Scottish play” (does the curse count if your theater is outdoors?), opening on practically the same day, with lengthy runs and non-clashing show times that’ll make it possible for Bard diehards to catch both. Tonight, We Players — who did The Odyssey on Angel Island and Hamlet on Alcatraz — kicks off its production amid historic Fort Point’s foggy, windy, toil-and-trouble-friendly environs; tomorrow, another part of the Presidio, the Main Post Parade Ground Lawn, hosts Free Shakespeare in the Park’s production of the same. No doubt a drama-crazed town like SF has room for both. (Eddy)

We Players’ Macbeth

Through Oct 6

Previews Fri/30-Sun/1, 6pm; opens Sept 5, 6pm; runs Thu-Sun, 6pm, $30–$60

Fort Point, end of Marine Dr, Presidio, SF

Free Shakespeare in the Park’s Macbeth

Through Sept 15

Opens Sat/31, 2pm; runs Sat-Sun and Mon/2, 2pm, free

Main Post Parade Ground Lawn, Presidio, SF



Hitcher, a movement play based off Jim Morrison’s original, unproduced screenplay, The Hitchhiker, is making its debut tonight. Hitcher combines cinema, movement, and new music from San Francisco bluegrass band dinnerwiththekids. In this production, writer and director Alex Peri tells the story of Billy, a hitchhiker accompanied by an imaginary trio of hobos making his way on the road to be reunited with a prostitute he fell in love with in Mexico. The cast features up-and-coming local artisans Derek Caplan, Michelle Hair, Earl Alfred Paus, Malia Rapisarda, and Kelly Sanchez. This should be of interest to people who worship at the altar of the “Lizard King” and those who enjoy theater and rock ‘n’ roll fusion. If you’re not able to attend its debut, there will be showings of Hitcher through Sept. 8. (Erin Dage)


8PM, $15


1695 18TH ST., SF

(415) 401-8081



Handsome Hawk Valentine’s “The Hop”

You don’t need a DeLorean tricked out with a Flux Capacitor driven by Marty McFly to head back in time to the good ol’ 1950s tonight — just head down to the Mission where Handsome Hawk Valentine presents “The Hop,” a blast from the past party with a special “Ladies’ Night” theme. Featuring bands such as local favorites Thee Merry Widows and the Rumble Strippers, the fête also boasts burlesque performances, DJs, a “beefcake contest” sponsored by Bettie Page Clothing, along with free retro styling by Peter Thomas Hair, free photo sessions, and more. Slick back that pomp or strap on those stilettos and get going! (Sean McCourt)

9pm, $13

Elbo Room

647 Valencia, SF

(415) 552-7788



Major Powers and the Lo-Fi Symphony

Major Powers and the Lo-Fi Symphony is a raucous, humorous, piano-driven trio that sound like Queen playing symphonic punk rock. Sort of like a light-hearted, more jangly Muse. I cannot recommend its album We Created Monsters enough. It is all free on its website and worth $10 to see live. Freddie Mercury would be proud. Hell, so would Andrew W.K. Not to say that headliner the Greening doesn’t have its own merits — it’ll even give you a free shirt and a bunch of other swag if you buy advanced tickets to this show — but when one of your opening acts sounds like a mix between Madness and Queen and the other is a Latin mod band that sings catchy, upbeat tunes about telenovelas, the star slot in the show is only a scheduling formality. (Moskowitz)

With the Greening, Dot Punto

8:30pm, $10

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 626-4455


Duane Peters Gunfight

Legendary pro skateboarder and eternal punk rocker Duane Peters has rightfully earned his nickname “The Master of Disaster” — it was hard won over decades of pushing the limits on wheels and decks (not to mention his own battered and bruised body) and inventing a slew of tricks now considered an essential part of skate culture. He quickly approached playing music with the same anything-goes attitude, and has been slamming stages with several bands (U.S. Bombs and Die Hunns) ever since. He comes to the city tonight with Duane Peters Gunfight. Are you ready to drop into the bowl and the pit? (McCourt)

With White Barons, Rock Bottom, Dime Runner

9pm, $10

Thee Parkside

1600 17th St., SF

(415) 252-1330



Oakland Pride

Yes, yes, “we are family.” But in that case, San Francisco Pride is that loud, messy, half-dressed, downright crazy family — kind of a Kardashians without the Porsches — while younger Oakland Pride hails more from plucky, hardy, loving Little House on the Prairie stock, but with a whole lot more people of color. Not that Oakland Pride’s out in the middle of nowhere, of course, but it’s a much more down-to-earth, self-produced affair that really feels like a family picnic. Everyone’s freaking out that ’90s R&B sensation En Vogue is performing, but don’t miss the big-big Mexican-Chicago sound of Grupo Montez de Durango or the high-energy drag king shenanigans of the Rebel Kings of Oakland. Did we mention that everyone at this thing is smokin’ hot? Not to judge by looks or anything, but whoo-wee. (Marke B)

11am-7pm, $10

20th Street and Broadway, Oakl.



Ty Segall

If you want to beat a case of the Mondays: Bay Area Lo-fi favorite Ty Segall is playing the entirety of his new album, Sleeper, with experimental folk artist David Novick and that guy from Sic Alps — Mike Donovan. On his new album, Segall is deconstructing his typical sound and going for a more stripped-down approach. For this show (as well as the whole tour), Segall will only be playing Sleeper, and will have a decidedly different setup, featuring two acoustic guitars, electric bass, drums, and the occasional electric guitar. The show should be a great indicator of how fans receive Segall’s new album, and whether or not the old boy still has it. If you like raw, energetic live shows — this performance is not to be missed. (Dage)

With David Novick, Mike Donovan

8pm, $18

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750



Audra McDonald

What’s that you hear? It’s the sound of every Broadway maven, cabaret jazz aficionado, “Glee”-ful gay man, and fan of incredible music breaking piggy banks, shaking out gowns, and fluffing tuxes to glimpse the effervescent glory of show tune-blues soprano Audra McDonald at the SF Symphony Opening Gala. Singing selections from the American songbook like “Somewhere” and “I Could Have Danced All Night,” McDonald will highlight a jazzy night’s program, which includes George Antheil’s fracture-happy “A Jazz Symphony,” George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris” and tons of free drinks, treats, and people-watching. McDonald’s hilarious, house-rocking performance at the Tonys with Neil Patrick Harris this year brought a new generation of Audra acolytes into the fold; expect the same wattage to light up Davies Symphony Hall. (Marke B.)

7pm-11pm, $160

Davies Symphony Hall

201 Van Ness, SF.

(415) 864-6000