Fox Theater

Holy crap is there a lot of good new music coming out of the Bay this week


Looking for something to get you past the hump of Hump Day? Well put down that “which Disney princess is your dog” quiz right this second, for a straight-up ridiculous amount of good new music was unleashed upon the world this week, with a disproportionate amount of it coming from our very own home turf.

Listen up, burst with pride, and let us know what else you’re listening to.

The debut Rich Girls EP we’ve been waiting for all year, Fiver,  is finally out on Breakup Records (full record here) and the Luisa Black-led trio has a release show tonight (Wed/8) at the Rickshaw Stop. Here’s album-opener “Worse.”

The Bay Area punk forefathers in Rancid, to whom we must admit a highly specific regional allegiance, will put out Honor Is All We Know, their first record in five years, at the end of this month. Here’s the first studio track they’ve released, “Face Up.”

The chilled-out Afro-electro-future-soul-tastic sounds of The Seshen, a Guardian GOLDIE winner from earlier this year, are lush and plentiful on their EP Unravelstream the whole thing right here — with UK label Tru Thoughts. Release show this Sat/11 at Leo’s in Oakland. Here’s the first video, for “Unravel.”

We’ve listened to this bit of jangly lo-fi sweetness from SF’s The Mantles at least a half-dozen times since they premiered it yesterday; they’ll have it out on a 7-inch next month via Slumberland Records.

And The Tropics, fresh off a win at the Music Video Race (with a rather different sort of aesthetic), released this video for “Fireproof” — a shot-by-shot remake of Marky Mark’s “Good Vibrations.” More, please. The Tropics’ Wind House is out Oct. 28 on Breakup.

And, lastly: Do you need convincing to watch a new tUnE-yArDs video? Didn’t think so. Ms. Garbus just announced she’ll be home for a show at the Fox Theater Dec. 11, with opener Cibo Matto (!).


A show a day: Your fall music calendar


What’s going on in Bay Area music these next three months? Glad you asked. 

Like a daily multivitamin wards off the sniffles, getting the SFBG’s official recommended dose of live shows is crucial to maintaining optimal mental health, fun levels, and skin tone, especially as the days get shorter and the weather turns ever-so-slightly cooler.

Here’s your musical agenda from Labor Day through Thanksgiving, with highlights from our favorite fall festivals (see this week’s issue for lots more).

Aug. 28 Black Cobra Vipers with French Cassettes The Chapel, SF.

Aug. 29 Blind Willies Viracocha, SF.

Aug. 30 Mistah F.A.B. Slim’s, SF.

Aug. 31 LIVE 105’s Punk Rock Picnic with The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise, and more. Are you a late-thirties/early-forties punk rock guy or gal who can’t agree on much of anything with your 13-year-old these days? Doesn’t get much better than this lineup. Bonus points for screaming along to all the swearing on The Offspring’s “Bad Habit.” Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View.

Sept. 1 Hiero Day. Souls of Mischief, Del, and the rest of the guys have promised some pretty big guest stars at this week’s fest, but even without ’em — a free block party with beer from Linden Street Brewery and music from some of the Bay Area’s best underground rappers? Guests, schmests. Downtown Oakland,

Sept. 2 Ghost & Gale Brick and Mortar, SF.

Sept. 3 Joey Cape Thee Parkside, SF.

Sept. 4 Carletta Sue Kay Hemlock Tavern, SF.

Sept. 4-13 Mission Creek Oakland Music & Arts Festival. With a range of heavy hitters — from B. Hamilton and Bill Baird to Whiskerman — this is a showcase of the fertile ground that is Oakland’s indie rock scene right now, most with door prices you’re not likely to see from these bands again. Venues throughout Oakland,

Sept. 5 Sam Chase with Rin Tin Tiger Uptown, Oakl.

Sept. 6 Bart Davenport, Foxtails Brigade, more Block Party, downtown Oakland,

Sept. 7 Coheed and Cambria, Fox Theater, Oakl.

Sept. 8 The Rentals Slim’s, SF.

Sept. 9 Wild Eyes Knockout, SF.

Sept. 10 Kyrsten Bean New Parish, Oakl.,

Sept. 11 Sonny & The Sunsets Eagle Tavern, SF.

Sept. 11-14 Downtown Berkeley MusicFest. A range of bluesy, folky, dancey bands from all over the Bay — especially recommended: the First Person Singular presentation of Beck’s Song Reader Sept. 11 and The Parmesans at Jupiter Sept. 14. Venues all over Berkeley,

Sept. 12-14, 15th Annual Electronic Music Festival Brava Theater Center, SF.

Sept. 13 The Breeders Fillmore, SF.

Sept. 13-14 Forever Never Land, “California’s only 21+ music festival,” Avila Beach Golf Resort,

Sept. 15 Vulfpeck Brick and Mortar, SF.

Sept. 16 Lil Dicky Independent, SF.

Sept. 17 Anais Mitchell The Chapel, SF.

Sept. 18 Silent Comedy and Strange Vine Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Sept. 19 Blake Mills, The Chapel, SF.

Sept. 20 Old Crow Medicine Show The Masonic, SF.

Sept. 20-21 Berkeley World Music Festival All over Berkeley,

Sept. 20-21 Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival, with Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, more.

Sept. 21 Oakland Music Festival with The Coup, Kev Choice, more Downtown Oakland,

Sept. 22 La Roux Fox Theater, Oakl.

Sept. 23 Cello Joe The Chapel Bar, SF.

Sept. 24 Skeletonwitch, Black Anvil DNA Lounge, SF.

Sept. 25-28 Philip Glass’ Days and Nights Festival Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur; Sunset Cultural Center, Carmel-by-the-Sea,

Sept. 26 Bob Mould Fillmore, SF.

Sept. 27 Wu-Tang Clan Warfield, SF.

Sept. 27 Redwood City Sala Festival Courthouse Square, Redwood City,

Sept. 28 Sam Smith Fox Theater, Oakl.

Sept. 29 Motown on Mondays Legionnaire Saloon, Oakl.

Sept. 30 Pixies The Masonic, SF.

Oct. 1 Rhymesayers presents Brother Ali, Bambu Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Oct. 2 Lorde Greek Theatre, Berk.

Oct. 3-5 Berkeley Hawaiian Music Festival Freight and Salvage, Berkl.

Oct. 3-5 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Golden Gate Park, SF.

Oct 3-5 TBD Festival. Emerging Bay Area acts like 8th Grader mingle with the big kids (Blondie, Moby, Danny Brown, Kurt Vile) at this seventh annual celebration of “music, art, design, and food.” A low-key vibe and great chance to see some huge acts in a seemingly unlikely location. Riverfront, West Sacramento.

Oct. 4 Cibo Matto The Chapel, SF.

Oct. 5 Bombay Bicycle Club Warfield, SF.

Oct. 6 The War on Drugs with Cass McCombs Fillmore, SF.

Oct. 7 Thurston Moore Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 8 The King Khan & BBQ Show Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 9 Imelda May Fillmore, SF.

Oct. 10 Too Short Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View.

Oct. 11 Pomplamoose Fillmore, SF.

Oct. 12 Jack Beats Mezzanine, SF.

Oct. 13 Mutual Benefit Independent,

Oct. 14-15 Culture Collide. This new-to-the-Bay-Area party has been rocking LA for the past few years, but it seems to have taken on an appropriately Mission-esque flavor for its first Mission takeover: Local kids like Grmln alongside national acts like Cloud Nothings and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah alongside a whole host of buzzy Korean, Australian, and UK bands? Yeah, we’re there. Up and down Valencia in the Mission, with multiple stages including the Elbo Room.

Oct. 15 Of Montreal Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 16 Russian Red Independent, SF.

Oct. 17 Pup Brick and Mortar Music Hall,

Oct. 18-19 Treasure Island Music Festival, with Outkast, Massive Attack, more Treasure Island.

Oct. 20 Kimbra Independent, SF.

Oct. 21 Melvins Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 22 Kat Edmonson Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 23 The Blank Tapes Brick and Mortar Music Hall,

Oct. 24 Foxygen Fillmore, SF.

Oct. 25 Titan Ups and Carletta Sue Kay DNA Lounge, SF.

Oct. 26 Bridget Everett Independent, SF.

Oct. 27 Warpaint Regency Ballroom, SF.

Oct. 28 Broken Bells The Masonic, SF.

Oct. 29 King Tuff Great American Music Hall, SF. www.

Oct. 30 Tycho Fox Theater, Oakl.

Oct. 31 LIVE 105’s Spookfest with Chromeo, Alesso, more Oracle Arena, Oakl.,

Nov. 1 Stone Foxes with Strange Vine The Chapel, SF.

Nov. 2 Citizen Cope Catalyst, Santa Cruz.

Nov. 3 The Black Keys Oracle Arena, Oakl.,

Nov. 4 Frankie Rose with Cold Beat Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Nov. 5 Finch, Maps & Atlases Slim’s, SF.

Nov. 6 Bleachers Independent, SF.

Nov. 7 Slowdive Warfield, SF.

Nov. 8 Shovels & Rope Fillmore, SF.

Nov. 9 Mirah Independent, SF.

Nov. 10 Psychedelic Furs, Lemonheads Fillmore, SF.

Nov. 11 Mac DeMarco Fillmore, SF.

Nov. 12 Shakey Graves Independent, SF.

Nov. 13 Generationals The Chapel, SF.

Nov. 14 Deltron 3030 Catalyst, Santa Cruz.

Nov. 15 J. Mascis Independent, SF.

Nov. 16 Hot Water Music Slim’s, SF.

Nov. 17 Culture Club Fox Theater, Oakl.

Nov. 18 The 1975 The Masonic, SF.

Nov. 19 Har Mar Superstar Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Nov. 20 Minus the Bear Slim’s, SF.

Nov. 21 Seu Jorge Bimbo’s 365 Club, SF.

Nov. 22 Peanut Butter Wolf Brick and Mortar Music Hall,

Nov. 23 Lucero Slim’s, SF.

A show a day: Your fall music calendar


FALL ARTS What’s going on in Bay Area music these next three months? Glad you asked.

Here’s your musical agenda from Labor Day through Thanksgiving, with highlights from our favorite fall festivals.

Aug. 27 Terry Malts Brick and Mortar, SF.

Aug. 28 Black Cobra Vipers with French Cassettes The Chapel, SF.

Aug. 29 Blind Willies Viracocha, SF.

Aug. 30 Mistah F.A.B. Slim’s, SF.

Aug. 31 LIVE 105’s Punk Rock Picnic with The Offspring, Bad Religion, Pennywise, and more. Are you a late-thirties/early-forties punk rock guy or gal who can’t agree on much of anything with your 13-year-old these days? Doesn’t get much better than this lineup. Bonus points for screaming along to all the swearing on The Offspring’s “Bad Habit.” Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View.

Sept. 1 Hiero Day. Souls of Mischief, Del, and the rest of the guys have promised some pretty big guest stars at this week’s fest, but even without ’em — a free block party with beer from Linden Street Brewery and music from some of the Bay Area’s best underground rappers? Guests, schmests. Downtown Oakland,

Sept. 2 Ghost & Gale Brick and Mortar, SF.

Sept. 3 Joey Cape Thee Parkside, SF.

Sept. 4 Carletta Sue Kay Hemlock Tavern, SF.

Sept. 4-13 Mission Creek Oakland Music & Arts Festival. With a range of heavy hitters — from B. Hamilton and Bill Baird to Whiskerman — this is a showcase of the fertile ground that is Oakland’s indie rock scene right now, most with door prices you’re not likely to see from these bands again. Venues throughout Oakland,

Sept. 5 Sam Chase with Rin Tin Tiger Uptown, Oakl.

Sept. 6 Bart Davenport, Foxtails Brigade, more Block Party, downtown Oakland,

Sept. 7 Coheed and Cambria, Fox Theater, Oakl.

Sept. 8 The Rentals Slim’s, SF.

Sept. 9 Wild Eyes Knockout, SF.

Sept. 10 Kyrsten Bean New Parish, Oakl.,

Sept. 11 Sonny & The Sunsets Eagle Tavern, SF.

Sept. 11-14 Downtown Berkeley MusicFest. A range of bluesy, folky, dancey bands from all over the Bay — especially recommended: the First Person Singular presentation of Beck’s Song Reader Sept. 11 and The Parmesans at Jupiter Sept. 14. Venues all over Berkeley,

Sept. 12-14, 15th Annual Electronic Music Festival Brava Theater Center, SF.

Sept. 13 The Breeders Fillmore, SF.

Sept. 13-14 Forever Never Land, “California’s only 21+ music festival,” Avila Beach Golf Resort,

Sept. 15 Vulfpeck Brick and Mortar, SF.

Sept. 16 Lil Dicky Independent, SF.

Sept. 17 Anais Mitchell The Chapel, SF.

Sept. 18 Silent Comedy and Strange Vine Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Sept. 19 Blake Mills, The Chapel, SF.

Sept. 20 Old Crow Medicine Show The Masonic, SF.

Sept. 20-21 Berkeley World Music Festival All over Berkeley,

Sept. 20-21 Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival, with Larry Graham & Graham Central Station, more.

Sept. 21 Oakland Music Festival with The Coup, Kev Choice, more Downtown Oakland,

Sept. 22 La Roux Fox Theater, Oakl.

Sept. 23 Cello Joe The Chapel Bar, SF.

Sept. 24 Skeletonwitch, Black Anvil DNA Lounge, SF.

Sept. 25-28 Philip Glass’ Days and Nights Festival Henry Miller Memorial Library, Big Sur; Sunset Cultural Center, Carmel-by-the-Sea,

Sept. 26 Bob Mould Fillmore, SF.

Sept. 27 Wu-Tang Clan Warfield, SF.

Sept. 27 Redwood City Sala Festival Courthouse Square, Redwood City,

Sept. 28 Sam Smith Fox Theater, Oakl.

Sept. 29 Motown on Mondays Legionnaire Saloon, Oakl.

Sept. 30 Pixies The Masonic, SF.

Oct. 1 Rhymesayers presents Brother Ali, Bambu Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Oct. 2 Lorde Greek Theatre, Berk.

Oct. 3-5 Berkeley Hawaiian Music Festival Freight and Salvage, Berkl.

Oct. 3-5 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, Golden Gate Park, SF.

Oct 3-5 TBD Festival, Riverfront, West Sacramento. Emerging Bay Area acts like 8th Grader mingle with the big kids (Blondie, Moby, Danny Brown, Kurt Vile) at this seventh annual celebration of “music, art, design, and food.” A low-key vibe and great chance to see some huge acts in a seemingly unlikely location.

Oct. 4 Cibo Matto The Chapel, SF.

Oct. 5 Bombay Bicycle Club Warfield, SF.

Oct. 6 The War on Drugs with Cass McCombs Fillmore, SF.

Oct. 7 Thurston Moore Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 8 The King Khan & BBQ Show Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 9 Imelda May Fillmore, SF.

Oct. 10 Too Short Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View.

Oct. 11 Pomplamoose Fillmore, SF.

Oct. 12 Jack Beats Mezzanine, SF.

Oct. 13 Mutual Benefit Independent,

Oct. 14-15 Culture Collide. This new-to-the-Bay-Area party has been rocking LA for the past few years, but it seems to have taken on an appropriately Mission-esque flavor for its first Mission takeover: Local kids like Grmln alongside national acts like Cloud Nothings and Clap Your Hands Say Yeah alongside a whole host of buzzy Korean, Australian, and UK bands? Yeah, we’re there. Up and down Valencia in the Mission, with multiple stages including the Elbo Room.

Oct. 15 Of Montreal Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 16 Russian Red Independent, SF.

Oct. 17 Pup Brick and Mortar Music Hall,

Oct. 18-19 Treasure Island Music Festival

Oct. 20 Kimbra Independent, SF.

Oct. 21 Melvins Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 22 Kat Edmonson Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 23 The Blank Tapes Brick and Mortar Music Hall,

Oct. 24 Foxygen Fillmore, SF.

Oct. 25 Titan Ups and Carletta Sue Kay DNA Lounge, SF.

Oct. 26 Bridget Everett Independent, SF.

Oct. 27 Warpaint Regency Ballroom, SF.

Oct. 28 Broken Bells The Masonic, SF.

Oct. 29 King Tuff Great American Music Hall, SF. www.

Oct. 30 Tycho Fox Theater, Oakl.

Oct. 31 LIVE 105’s Spookfest with Chromeo, Alesso, more Oracle Arena, Oakl.,

Nov. 1 Stone Foxes with Strange Vine The Chapel, SF.

Nov. 2 Citizen Cope Catalyst, Santa Cruz.

Nov. 3 The Black Keys Oracle Arena, Oakl.,

Nov. 4 Frankie Rose with Cold Beat Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Nov. 5 Finch, Maps & Atlases Slim’s, SF.

Nov. 6 Bleachers Independent, SF.

Nov. 7 Slowdive Warfield, SF.

Nov. 8 Shovels & Rope Fillmore, SF.

Nov. 9 Mirah Independent, SF.

Nov. 10 Psychedelic Furs, Lemonheads Fillmore, SF.

Nov. 11 Mac DeMarco Fillmore, SF.

Nov. 12 Shakey Graves Independent, SF.

Nov. 13 Generationals The Chapel, SF.

Nov. 14 Deltron 3030 Catalyst, Santa Cruz.

Nov. 15 J. Mascis Independent, SF.

Nov. 16 Hot Water Music Slim’s, SF.

Nov. 17 Culture Club Fox Theater, Oakl.

Nov. 18 The 1975 The Masonic, SF.

Nov. 19 Har Mar Superstar Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Nov. 20 Minus the Bear Slim’s, SF.

Nov. 21 Seu Jorge Bimbo’s 365 Club, SF.

Nov. 22 Peanut Butter Wolf Brick and Mortar Music Hall,

Nov. 23 Lucero Slim’s, SF.

Little Dragon roosts at The Fox


By Rob Goszkowski

Janet Jackson was in heavy rotation when Little Dragon went to work on Nabuma Rubberband, the album they released in May. That’s the Janet-era Janet — the sexy, sultry version of the R&B superstar — so it’s no coincidence that there are a few slow jams on the fourth record by the electro, soul, and synthpop quartet.

“I think we fit in right now at the moment. But we do love the ’80s and the sounds of that era have been a big part of our childhood soundtrack,” explains drummer Erik Bodin.

At the moment of this correspondence, he and the band, including vocalist Yukimi Nagano, bassist Fredrik Källgren Wallin, and keyboardist Håkan Wirenstrand, are “in Japan, trying out all the extra technical features everything has. Like automatic toilet cover lifts and such. We are also doing some shows at the Summersonic festival.” The lack of high-tech privies not withstanding, the band is excited about its return to the U.S. (They hit the Fox Theater for a sold-out show tomorrow, Fri/22.)

“We always felt love from California, and especially the Bay Area,” says Bodin. “People really seem to have an easy time getting down to our music.”

Indeed, much of Nabuma Rubberband is easy to dance to. It’s also restrained and mature in many respects, amid the bounce and clap of its soundscapes. It is — and feels like — an album recorded during winter months in Sweden. The beats can be sparse, the lyrics world-weary, yet they’re still fun. That dichotomy is well-represented in the album cover artwork by Chinese photographer Li Wei. It features a photo by of a little girl in a white dress in mid-air with her arms outstretched, the background a flat field of dormant, brown grass and traces of a smoggy/foggy city on the horizon.

And then there’s “Paris,” one of the album’s three singles, with its wonderful depth: a rollicking hi-hat and a danceable beat, but with somber chords and singer Yukimi clearly expressing that pulling away from the relationship in question.

It’s a workable songwriting strategy and they return to it over the course of the record. While there’s a solid groove in every track, the band may pair it with sober warnings about the greed (“blinded by the rubberbands”) or the risk in the pursuit of fame (“You’re aiming the royal scene/Fast luck /TV dreams/ Pretty girl, don’t get struck”) “It’s all up to each and everyone to interpret the lyrics … but of course we put a lot of consciousness into our lyrics and music,” Bodin says. “It’s nice to mix it up and pair dance music next to deeper, more-serious lyrics.” (Nagano breaks down the meaning of the title track here.)

The band has deliberately not abandoned what made them creatively compelling when they first formed the group as high school students in Gothenburg, Sweden. Youth provides energy and unpredictability, which is great for creativity, but it can also lead to bad decisions that can hurt the group and its career. The band’s name is reference to Yukimi’s feisty personality — she’s the youngest in the group. While the resulting tension has settled, Bodin contends that they haven’t changed that much since they started playing together in 1996.

“Fred is still the tallest. Yukimi still the smallest. Håkan is still the smartest (he thinks). Erik is still the smartest (actual fact). It feels like the circumstances have become different, though. We don’t have as much time as we used to just playing, fighting, painting and such. It’s both a good and sad thing. We feel it’s important to protect the childishness and playfulness.”

Their spurts of levity aren’t hard to find. In their music video for “Paris,” the band halts its road trip through the countryside in an orange VW bus at a small roadside deli. Håkan, repleat with a magnificent red beard, loses badly in an arm-wrestling match to a petite, straight-faced girl. Why is unclear. “That is a question we all wonder about,” Bodin says, maintaining the band’s dry humor. “He is not so strong after all, it turned out.”

Or they’ll apply a few less-serious words with a serious message. A trifling man playing games with his lover is called “smooth cat rider.” A pretty girl hung up on “the free fantasy” of easy fame?  That’s “Riding a unicorn through your Dali.” Bodin will neither confirm nor deny the accuracy of these interpretations during his interview with the Bay Guardian, only acknowledging that, “Fred wants to ride a cat, but the rest of us prefer the more reliable unicorns.”

Despite the diversion in opinion about which animal is more worthy of a saddle, the band is committed to being a single unit with the inevitable rise and fall of internal disagreement that accompanies it. “You get a buzz out of seeing all different wills and wishes clash and turn into a beautiful ‘trasmatta,’” Bodin says cryptically. “There is a hidden translation quest calling upon the reader in this answer.”


Friday, Aug, 22, 8pm, $29.50

1807 Telegraph, Oakl.


Elbow’s Craig Potter on iPads, tour fatigue, and hitting #1


By Andrew Blair

If you don’t know of Elbow by now, you should probably stop reading this and go spend some time under a tree, staring out into space, contemplating your existence up to this point. Unless, of course, you want to be brought up to speed and welcomed into a community of people who love the brooding baritone lyrical genius of lead singer Guy Garvey, sung over pulsing drums, spacey melodic piano, and topped off with anthemic triumphant sing-along choruses.

Manchster, England’s Elbow have quietly created an international following that stretches into the far corners of the globe (the band will be playing in Russia this week). Having recently released their sixth full-length album, The Take Off and Landing of Everything — which for the first time in their 20 year career debuted at #1 in their home territory of the UK — the band is now closing out a North American tour.

I had the pleasure of talking to keyboardist and arranger-producer Craig Potter before the band played a nearly sold out show at the Fox Theater, the second to last stop on a very successful North American Tour supporting their new LP.

San Francisco Bay Guardian How has the tour been thus far? Nearly every show has been sold out, and you just played the Sasquatch Festival. Any highlights? 

Craig Potter The tour has been really great, a huge success. We’ve been really happy, and the audiences have been really brilliant. Like you said, a lot of the shows have been sold out. It was really fun to sing “New York Morning” in New York; that was a highlight for us, I think.

SFBG This is your first time playing the Fox Theater. How do you like the venue? 

CP Oh wow, we just arrived actually. It is a beautiful room, big stage, really impressed with it so far.

SFBG So the new album debuted at #1 in the UK?

CP Yeah, we are very pleased about that. Our other albums have sold very well, but I don’t think we’ve ever got the #1 slot. We had a chance to [hit #1] with the last album, and it did really well in the first week, but it just so happened that Adele was selling millions every week so we kind of missed out. So this is our first one and we are very pleased.

SFBG Where did the majority of the songwriting happen for the album?

CP We are always writing a lot while we are on tour, and if we take big breaks it takes us awhile to get back into it. However, most of this album was written at home in Manchester. When we are home we all have different days off during the week. So what happened for this album was, we would get together with whoever was available, maybe one or two other band members, and work on the songs. Richard did a lot of the drums by himself, and we are all involved in the editing of the songs, but the lyrics are very much Guy’s lyrics.

SFBG There seems to be a travel or movement theme to a lot of the lyrics on this record, “New York Morning”  being one of the pillars of that theme. Was there something that Guy was going through that influenced the lyrical content of the songs?

CP Guy had recently broken up with a long time girlfriend and he was traveling to New York rather frequently, but the travel side of it is about touring as well. “New York Morning” is about Guy’s experiences there.

SFBG The song “Colour Fields” was created using mostly an iPad. Is that a process the band uses a lot?

CP There are loads of amazing apps out there and we don’t limit ourselves as far as hardware or technology — if it sounds good, it sounds good. The drum track for “Colour Fields” was created using an iPad.  There are lots of amazing things you can do with an iPad, so we definitely don’t shy away from it.

SFBG This being the second to last stop on this tour, are you all ready to go home, or being that it has been so successful, are you sad to see it end?

CP We try to keep these tours to about three weeks — by the time it gets to the end, it is nice to know you will be back home soon. Guy might give you a different answer, as he kind of is just getting going at this point and would like to see it continue a bit longer, but most of us have families now. I am certainly looking forward to going back.



Live review: Mastodon at the Fox Theater


They still exist: big metal bands that go on old-fashioned tours, rather than exclusively playing festivals or headlining package tours (aka shows that start at 4pm and are comprised of two bands you actually want to see and five others the label shoehorns in because that’s the only way they’ll get exposure). Also still in existence: a band that will tour between albums, in fact hitting the road less than two months before a new album drops, and play a set that contains two new songs (to give fans a taste of what’s to come), but is mostly composed of familiar back-catalogue tunes. 

Not, however, still around: actual Mastodons.

No worries, dudes — Mastodon the band shows no sign of going anywhere, and based on what drummer Brann Dailor said at the end of last night’s show at Oakland’s Fox Theater, they’ll soon be back in the Bay Area, pumping their sixth studio release, Once More ‘Round the Sun, which arrives in late June. Based on the two new songs heard last night (“Chimes at Midnight” and “High Road;” stream the latter via the band’s Soundcloud page, or check out the “Audio Visualizer” below the jump), your sludgy summer soundtrack awaits.

This between-albums tour was slightly more stripped-down than, say, shows supporting 2009’s Crack the Skye, which boasted a hypnotic visual component built heavily around the album’s astral-projection-meets-Rasputin-themes (in other words, it went well with the funny-smelling smoke that tends to waft around during Mastodon shows). Here, we just got a backdrop of a pair of psychedelic eyes, plus a light show with occasional Laser Floyd flourishes. But Mastodon is not a band that needs bells and whistles to enhance its crushing riffs. Nor does it spend a lot of time chatting up the crowd between songs, though it’s clear this is a band that appreciates its fans, evidenced by the huge array of t-shirt designs and other merch available in the Fox lobby. (Personal favorites: a shirt inspired by the “Come and play with us, Danny!” scene from The Shining, and a pair of gym shorts with “Asstodon” emblazoned on the booty. Perfect attire for the Bay Area’s recent heat wave, no?)

Opening the show for the Atlanta, Ga. foursome were a pair of heavy-hitting European imports: Kvelertaka personal favorite of the Prince of Norway — and Gojira (“We are Gojira from France!”, as the Bayonne-based band is fond of saying). The latter summed up the feeling of the crowd with its enthusiastic performance, and singer-guitarist Joe Duplantier’s frequent declarations of how fuckin’ stoked he was to be on tour with the mighty Mastodon. Us too, bro. Us too.  

One Lorde to rule them all: An evening at the Fox with one seriously royal 17-year-old


I woke up this morning wondering if I could pull off an orange jumpsuit. I wasn’t contemplating how I would fare in a state penitentiary, mind you, but rather whether or not I was as cool as Lorde.

It’s Wednesday night at the Fox Theater in Oakland and, clad in an wide-legged orange jumpsuit, Lorde looks like the newest addition to Orange Is the New Black. The oversized one-piece cinches at the waist and is cropped at the elbow and calf. It’s not particularly flattering, but Lorde rocks it. She marches on stage in her signature footwear: clunky black leather platform boots. When the singer turns around the suit reveals a horizontal cutout in the middle of her back — just a hint of sex appeal.

She’s not trying to impress the boys, though. The jumpsuit at times gives the singer a slight camel toe. In stark contrast to her peers, the Disney princesses and even the post-Disney Miley Cyrus, Lorde revels in darkness, growing pains, and awkward dancing.

When she’s performing on stage, it’s easy to forget that Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor is only 17 years old. The New Zealand singer known as Lorde was launched into international fame when her first single, “Royals,” became radio’s most played song last summer. What began as the summer’s catchiest tune quickly turned into an overplayed hit that even Lorde herself tried to ban from the radio.

From the first song of the set, Lorde commands her audience into a deep trance with “Glory and Gore.” She walks to the center of the stage, where she meets the microphone, and dives right in. A single spotlight shining from above shadows the singer’s face as she chants the opening verse. All you have is her voice, the silhouette of her long curly mane and hints of spastic movements. The awkward dancing is utterly relatable, a combination of an epileptic fit and teenage white girl dance that I’ve certainly been a victim of. In the split second that the bass drops, strobe lights shine directly onto Lorde’s face. When the strobes hit, she sings out to the audience, dramatically unveiling her signature pale complexion and dark lipstick.

Lorde. All photos by Charles Russo.

Curly-haired, black lipstick-sporting clones squeal in excitement after her opening song. The curtain rises as Lorde launches into “Biting Down,” the darkest track on the extended issue of her debut album, Pure Heroine. The trance-like song is layered with deep synths and repetitive vocals. “It feels better biting down,” she repeats over psychedelic instrumentals. Her two-person band sports an all-white ensemble. The keyboard player and drummer’s outfits resemble straightjackets, furthering the correctional institution feel. White kaleidoscope lights project out to the audience, onto the ornate walls of the Fox Theatre and onto the ostentatious chandelier balancing above stage. The monochromatic strobe lights and costumes put all eyes on the lady in red. Tonight, we are in the Dark Lorde’s world and she is the ruler.

“It’s so good to see you again,” she croons. Last time she was in San Francisco was for Not So Silent Night; this time, it’s for the last leg of her US tour. “Beautiful city by the way, so green.” A definite reference to the city’s favorite pastime.

With “Buzzcut Season,” three screens display a daze of water reflections. The poetic lyrics written by the singer herself builds imagery of serenity and solace. Lorde hides behind a sea of lights. Her silhouette sways back and forth in a dreamlike state. She brings us away from the dreariness of the world and into the beautifully twisted realm of her dreams. Lorde glides her hands through the air to the rhythm of the music. The deep trance sets in with “Swinging Party,” a track that exposes the natural vibrato of Lorde’s dark voice over soft synths. Mirrored projections of Lorde’s performance hit the screen, creating a kaleidoscope of her face.


The visuals build throughout the show, from all-white lights to rich purple, red, and orange hues that saturate the stage. Smoke machines create a dark playground for the young ruler. Lorde comfortably plays with the shadows, dances in the smoke, and hides from the light. She touches the security blanket that is her hair and whips it back and forth as she bends over in song.

The familiar horn of the opening of “400 Lux” signals my favorite song. The bass drops, and visuals of moving landscapes hit the screen as she belts out exceptional vocals. “We’re never done with killing time / Can I kill it with you?” The poetic lyrics dismiss any feelings of unworthiness — she likes you. The Lorde then covers Son Lux’s “Easy” as she sways in and out of the eerie smoke. Later, the spectacular rendition of “Royals” makes the song bearable, retrieving memories of summer bliss. The slight remix carries entrancing vocals and repetitive verses. Her voice echoes phenomenally through the hollow hall, and giant ornate digital crowns are displayed on the screen during the chorus, cementing Lorde’s title as our ruler.

“Oakland, you’re here,” the Dark Lorde hums affectionately. The crowd wails back in admiration. “You sold out this theater tonight, because you’re 17 or you’re 15 or you’re 22. You’ve gone through it. You understand what it’s like to feel like this. And I’m so lucky that every night I get to play in a different city, a different theater full of people who understand what I’m talking about…who get it. There is nothing more important that that connection.”


After singing “Ribs,” Lorde dives into her finale. She performs her third single, “Team,” which becomes a psychedelic rave. A rain of purple, white, and pink lights shower the stage and the singer sneaks offstage in a mesmerizing 30-second interlude of instrumentals and beautifully entrancing lights.

She reemerges, not in her plebeian jumpsuit but in an ostentatious metallic lamé number. Lorde opens her arms to reveal a gold gown with a long gold cloak attached to her hands. The cape gives her gold wings — only the best for our queen. Like a phoenix, the awkward teenager dies and is reborn into full-fledged royalty. She belts out the chorus to “Team” one final time. Shots of Lorde-stamped confetti jet into the air, floating majestically down to her worshippers.

Lorde closes the show fittingly with the final song from Pure Heroine, “A World Alone.” The stark guitar, dreamy beats, and symbolic lyrics bring the sublime performance to its end. “You’re my best friend and we’re dancing in a world alone,” she tenderly sings to the crowd. The 15-year-olds, 17-year-olds, the 22-year-olds gaze at the teenager onstage, mesmerized by her honesty, poetic genius, and ability to transcend puberty. If only we could all come out of our awkward teenage years in a gold lamé cape.

Pixies 2.0


There’s something to be said for recording four great, distinctive albums, and quitting while you’re ahead. This live-fast/die-fast approach worked wonders for the Velvet Underground’s legacy and influence, and one might say it served the Pixies’ notoriously frenetic rock explorations equally well.

While the renowned Boston group has been on the reunion circuit for nearly a decade now, coasting on the fumes of its brief, yet potent, back-catalogue, the prospect of new material has always seemed like an improbable dream of overeager fans. (After all, their last record, Trompe Le Monde, saw its release on the same day as Nirvana’s earthshaking Nevermind in 1991.)

But then, out of nowhere, one day last September, came EP-1, a self-released, digitally distributed four-song set that the blogosphere proceeded to pounce on and dissect instantaneously. While Pitchfork, among other tastemakers, complained of dubious quality, it was clear: With one bold move, the Pixies were no longer mere revivalists, but a full-on band once again.

Next Friday, at Oakland’s Fox Theater, will mark the Pixies’ first Bay Area show in support of fresh material in over two decades, in a performance that should test the band’s ability to blend the old and the new convincingly.

Characterized by the erratic vocals and twisty songwriting of bandleader Black Francis, the angular guitar-work of Joey Santiago, the rock-solid drumming of David Lovering, and the alternately sweet and snarly backing vocals of bassist Kim Deal (who left the band last year, without warning, during the EP-1 sessions), the Pixies remain one of the most impactful, singular groups from the transitional period between rock’s punk and indie movements.

From the initial jolt of the Come On Pilgrim EP (1987), to the devastating four-album punch of Surfer Rosa (1988), Doolittle (1989), Bossanova (1990), and Trompe Le Monde (1991), the band’s signature balance of abrasion and tenderness continues to permeate the rock world incalculably. Radiohead has repeatedly admitted their indebtedness to the Pixies’ sound, while Kurt Cobain contended that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” might not have been written without it. As Deerhunter, TV on the Radio, and the end credits to Fight Club continue to prove, the Pixies’ influence remains powerful as ever.

After calling it quits in ’92, the band regrouped in 2004 (to many a fan’s surprise) for a reunion tour that was only to last a year. After one year turned to five, and a front-to-back Doolittle tour stretched the revival to the seven-year mark, the four members came to a realization.

“We all looked at ourselves and said, ‘Wait a minute, hold on. We’ve been a band longer during this reunion than we were initially,'” Lovering told the Bay Guardian from a tour stop in Washington, D.C.

“There was talk of doing new material, but with all this nonstop touring, nothing came to fruition until maybe about two years ago. We stopped touring, started writing stuff, and then we went and did it.”

Just last month, the Pixies landed another sucker punch with EP-2, the band’s second release since last September, while rumors of an impending EP-3 have begun to circulate since then. Produced by Gil Norton, who’s worked on every Pixies release since Surfer Rosa, the newly released EPs bear a fuller, rounder, warmer sound than any of the band’s past work, while leaving Francis’ erratic songwriting and the group’s off-kilter dynamics largely intact.

“Blue Eyed Hexe” strongly recalls the cowbell-addled thump of “U-Mass,” while “Greens and Blues” brings to mind the zigzagging chord progressions of “Where Is My Mind?”. “What Goes Boom” evokes the surfy explorations of Bossanova, while “Indie Cindy” and “Andro Queen” approach the jangly sensibility of “Here Comes Your Man,” before going unpredictably down their respective paths.

“We just like to drop surprises, I guess,” Santiago explains, while on tour in Durham, N.C. “We just try and do something different out there. And I think we might be one of the first ones to do this…you know, doing a series of EPs.”

Speaking of surprises, the band was dealt a serious blow during the sessions for the EP series, when Deal left the band unexpectedly, for reasons she has declined to elaborate on in the months since. The former bandleader of the Breeders, whose bass lines and soft backing vocals proved integral to the Pixies equation in their contrast to Francis’ manic wail, Deal left a sizable void behind upon departing the group.

“When Kim did leave, we didn’t know what to do,” Lovering explains. “We were in a lurch, and we were thinking, should we get a guy bass player? Or should we quit the band? Or whatever. But, what the Pixies is is a masculine/feminine thing. It’s always been that yin and yang, especially with the vocals. That’s just part of the Pixies. So that’s what we had to do. We had to get a female, you know? We’re keeping with that.”

After hiring Kim Shattuck of the Muffs to assume Deal’s spot for a brief European tour, the three core members made the decision to move forward with Paz Lenchantin, the former bassist for A Perfect Circle.

“Paz is fantastic,” Lovering mentions. “She’s so good, she’s making me play better. I really have to watch how I’m playing, and keep it up. But it’s wonderful; it just sounds very powerful and precise. And her vocals are incredible, as well.”

“Not to diminish Kim,” Santiago says. “We miss her very dearly, but after a while, you know, life goes on. The hard reality is, good is good, and Paz is a real bass player. She’s a pro.” So how might Lenchantin approach Deal’s signature tracks like “Gigantic,” “Silver,” and “Havalina”? How keenly will Deal’s absence be felt? Aside from the prospect of hearing new material played live, Lenchantin’s introduction to the Pixies leaves more questions to be answered than any other element surrounding next Friday’s show.

Faced with a lineup change that smacks of uncertainty and transition, and the mixed critical response to their first new music in 22 years, Francis, Lovering, and Santiago have more to prove this time around than ever before. Yet Lovering contends that this unstable territory is just what the Pixies need after a decade of celebrating  past glories.

“I don’t think we could’ve toured anymore, just going on this reunion kind of stuff. We just needed to do something new.”

Fri/21: Pixies

With Best Coast

8pm, $55 (sold out)

Fox Theater

1807 Telegraph, Oak.

(510) 302-2250

A very Indy decade


LEFT OF THE DIAL If there’s one thing Allen Scott remembers from opening the Independent 10 years ago, it’s the rush. Not the emotional high (though surely that was a factor too), but the literal rushing around that was necessary to open a state-of-the-art live concert space with a capacity of 500 “on a shoestring budget.”

“We barely got open on time,” recalls Scott, the managing owner of the venue at 628 Divisadero — the latest in a long line of storied San Francisco clubs that have shared that address. “We had friends painting it right up until about the day before we opened. We’d moved the sound system in but didn’t have alarms set up, so we were taking turns sleeping on the stage overnight. People would come by and say ‘When are you opening?’ and we’d say ‘In a couple days,’ and they’d laugh, like ‘Good luck with that.’ The night we opened, the fire department signing everything off while the band was sound-checking.”

That band was I Am Spoonbender, and that show was the first of more than 2,500 that have taken place within the Independent’s walls since February 2004. If the space feels like it has a deeper history than that, it’s for good reason: In the late 1960s, it was home to the Half Note, a popular jazz club that saw the likes of Miles Davis and Thelonius Monk; the house band featured George Duke and a young Al Jarreau. In the early ’80s it became the VIS Club, and served as a hub for local punk, new wave, and experimental bands; by the late ’80s it was the Kennel Club, and hosted up-and-comers like Nirvana and Janes Addiction. In the mid-’90s, it was reborn as the Justice League, nurturing burgeoning electronic and hip-hop acts — Fat Boy Slim, Jurassic 5, the Roots, and plenty others all found enthusiastic crowds. To put it mildly, if those walls could talk, they’d tell a lot of good party stories. Next week’s lineup of shows will only add to the vault: From Feb. 19 through Feb. 26, the Independent will host Allen Stone, John Butler Trio, Beats Antique, DJ Shadow, Two Gallants (below), Rebelution, and Girl Talk in a series of special performances to celebrate the club’s 10th anniversary.

Two Gallants play The Indepednent Feb. 23

As the club has changed, San Francisco — as it is wont to do — changed around it. The formerly gritty Western Addition is now shiny NoPa (at least according to real estate agents); what was once a bustling center for the city’s African-American population and jazz scene is now more of a bustling dining destination for the upper-middle-class. Regardless, says Scott, there’s no question that the Independent is “in the heart of the city…being part of this neighborhood, this community, is so important to us.”

Scott was just a young San Francisco promoter with an impressive track record when he was approached in 2003 by Gregg Perloff and Sherry Wasserman — proteges of Bill Graham and owners of the scrappy, barely-year-old concert promotion/marketing team Another Planet Entertainment — to run booking and promotions at the unopened venue.

“The name ‘The Independent’ came up through some discussions with music industry friends,” Scott told SF Weekly at the time of the club’s opening. “The whole idea of the Wal-Marting of America applies to the music industry as well. We wanted to stand alone: independent thinking, independent music. We’re an independent company. Of course, it was also an elbow in the side of the corporate giant out there.” (Perloff had just parted ways with Clear Channel under less-than-friendly circumstances.)

A decade later, of course, APE runs a couple of the biggest festivals in Northern California, and functions as the exclusive promoter for Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, Oakland’s Fox Theater, and the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium in San Francisco, among others. And Scott’s now the vice president of APE. But The Independent, now the smallest APE operation, is still his baby.

“We wanted a utilitarian room that had great sound, great lights, and perfect sight lines,” he says. “And because it’s a box, the sight lines there really are perfect — no matter where you’re standing in the room, you can make eye contact with the performers and vice-versa. I think it’s the best-sounding room in the city. And I’d say it has the best lights of any venue underneath the size of the Fillmore.”

Nicki Bluhm is among the local artists who now regularly pack larger venues (see: her sold-out Fillmore show Jan. 25) but maintain a soft spot for the Independent. “[The club] treats their artists with so much respect,” she says, adding that the atmosphere there has led to some of her band’s most memorable shows. Also memorable, says Scott: Obama’s first presidential win, when the club held a free results-viewing party with live music. “When he won, the place erupted, and everyone spilled out into the streets…so there was a band playing inside and people just raging outside,” he recalls. “Very San Francisco.”


What does a quintessentially Brooklyn-loft-party-post-punk band sound like when two of its principal members relocate to LA? Judging by VoyAager, the lush, layered, immersively and epically spacey new album from experimental stalwarts Aa (“big A, little a”), it sounds like someone sent an assortment of synthesizers, samplers, and drum sets into the future, and the future is an industrial cityscape full of curiously advanced life forms who don’t communicate in a narrative sense, but they sure have lots of energy, and they like writing melodies (though not the kind you’ll likely hear on the radio anytime soon). Life sounds rough around the edges on this planet, but you kinda don’t ever want to leave. (Give the first track a listen at the end of this story.)

John Atkinson, the drummer-heavy band’s main vocalist and one of said members who relocated to the West Coast about three years ago, said the album — the band’s first in seven years — is actually the culmination of nearly seven years of recording. “We all work on songs together even when we’re not in the same place,” explains Atkinson, who lived (and recorded some of his parts) in France in the mid-aughts. Though Aa’s lineup and instrumentation seem to be constantly in flux (at this point, says Atkinson, there’s something of an East Coast lineup and a West Coast one), the band’s sound is distinctly more cohesive and melodic than on its 2007 debut, gAame.

Aa perform, with Lil B looking on.

“We don’t want to be making straight-ahead pop songs, but at the same time, I’d say the sounds of pop music have broadened our palette, while sticking to the way we like to put songs together,” says Atkinson. The changing lineup has helped the band’s sound evolve, as well: “Everyone listens to different music…dark industrial heavy stuff, electronic stuff, metal, punk, another drummer is into Samba, world music and jazz…everyone brings something different, so it’s great to watch that kind of stew congeal into something that still sounds like us.”

Playing the Hemlock on Feb. 15 will be the second stop on a weeklong West Coast tour that will take the guys up to Seattle, after which Atkinson will be making a point to stop at every basketball stadium he can on the way back down — the Jersey native is a fairly new appreciator (not a bandwagon fan, he wants to be clear) of California basketball.

As for the NYC/LA transition in general: “New York’s always gonna be home to me, but every time I go back, so much has changed about Brooklyn — all these condos, cookie-cutter new restaurants, and the vibe of the city is just not what it used to be,” he says, “LA is a really hard city to get to know, but that also means there’s a ton of interesting new stuff to discover all the time. It’s starting to feel like home.”

Last but definitely not least: Don’t forget to check out the first Bay Area Record Label Fair, (or B.A.R.F., which is funny whether or not you are 12, admit it), at Thee Parkside on Feb. 15, the brainchild of SF promoters Professional Fans and the city’s own Father/Daughter Records. Some 18 different labels will be represented at the daylong affair, plus live performances from Cocktails, Dog Party, and others TBD. Oh yeah, and it’s free — so bite your tongue the next time you find yourself saying that everything in this city has gotten too expensive.


The Independent’s 10th Anniversary Celebration
Feb. 19 – Feb. 26, show times and prices vary
628 Divisadero, SF

With Alan Watts, Wand, and Violent Vickie
Saturday, Feb. 15 9pm, $8
Hemlock Tavern 1131 Polk, SF

Saturday, Feb. 15 12pm – 5pm, free
Thee Parkside
1600 17th Street, SF

Young at heart


LEFT OF THE DIAL “Why are some songs so perfect in a way that never happens again in our lives? What is it about music and being older than 12 but younger than 20?”

Those are the lines of narration capping the final panel of one of my favorite Lynda Barry comic strips, an autobiographical story in her collection One Hundred Demons. In it, our teenage protagonist is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the radio in a manner immediately recognizable to anyone who has ever been a teenager. The mood is: I am surely feeling feelings and thinking thoughts no one ever has before. As I recall, this is what being a teenager is. Every emotion, positive or negative, however fleeting, is all-consuming, and often you have no choice but to lie in your room, crushed by the weight of it, headphones drowning out the world. The idea that “this too shall pass” is impossible to understand, because you can’t even see past the econ test you’re surely going to flunk tomorrow, or that guy in biology who barely knows your name. This is why teenagers always seem so sluggish: That shit’s exhausting.

Ask any teenager what helps them get through it — and here I realize I’m starting to sound like adolescence is an inevitable six-year-long disease of sorts, or perhaps a heroin detox you just have to sweat through, but whatever, it kind of is — and near the top of the list, I bet you’ll find music.

“I would have ended up as a drug dealer, no question,” says John Vanderslice, the musician-producer-owner of SF’s storied Tiny Telephone studios, of what he might have become without music as a young person. “I would currently be residing in prison.”

Lucky for him, “My mother forced me by gunpoint to take piano lessons,” he says. “And this was the dirty South. I was in public schools, where the arts meant, you know, coloring. But I got really interested in music, and that became a huge open door for me. I think it would have been a lot tougher to do what I do now if I hadn’t had that music theory kind of shoved in to my brain when I was seven, eight, nine years old, even if I didn’t know it was happening at the time.”

Vanderslice is just one in a who’s who of Bay Area artists who were invited to think about what music meant to them when they were young — how and when and which music shaped their formative years — in preparation for a Friday, Jan. 31 show celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Magik*Magik Orchestra at the Fox Theater in Oakland. The orchestra, a group of more than 50 musicians who have provided “made-to-order” support on records and tours with Death Cab for Cutie, Zola Jesus, How to Dress Well, and Nick Cave, to name a few, is raising money for Magik For Kids, their nonprofit arm that throws hands-on music education events for school-aged kids in the Bay Area.

“When We Were Young,” presented by Noise Pop, will showcase bands — Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, the Dodos, Geographer, and a dozen others — collaborating with a 30-piece orchestra and the 30-piece Pacific Boychoir on songs that the artists themselves selected. The prompt: Pick a tune from your childhood that’s close to your heart.

“It was really interesting to see what people chose — I was expecting more ’80s given the age range, but you realize you’re not always listening to what’s new when you’re little,” says arranger, conductor and Magik*Magik founder Minna Choi, a Berkeley-born, classically trained 32-year-old colleagues refer to as a dynamo. (Vanderslice — who will be performing a Simon and Garfunkel song — agreed to Magik*Magik becoming the house band at Tiny Telephone after Choi cold-emailed him five years ago: “Minna’s the kind of person who can and will do absolutely anything she wants to do.”) Choi will conduct most of the show, with Michael Morgan, conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, appearing on a couple pieces.

In designing music programming for children, says Choi, “We’re trying to create ways to expose younger kids not only to music, but to a music career and what that looks like.” The orchestra has organized instrument “petting zoos,” taught kids to build their own string instruments, and run a summer camp where children learn to conduct.

Many players in the orchestra also teach private music lessons, and some had to cancel a few lessons in order to rehearse for the show. “But the point of this show is music education,” says Choi. “So we came up with a kind of ‘Bring your student to Magik work’ day and had them reach back out to parents saying ‘I can’t do a traditional violin lesson Tuesday, but you’re welcome to bring your son or daughter to the studio, we’ll have it set up for them’…there’s so much to learn there, whether it’s rehearsal technique, or just how to communicate when you’re working with 40 other people.”

Diana Gameros, a staple of the Mission’s indie-folk scene — she’s been called “the Latin Feist” — chose an original song from her most recent album, a song she wrote for her hometown of Juárez, Mexico.

“I grew up listening to very traditional Mexican songs, because my grandparents lived on a little farm and that was what there was,” she recalls. “And I didn’t like it when I was young. I wanted to be hip, I wanted to be cool. I liked really poppy songs, which you could hear on the radio because we were so close to the border. What was that band that sang ‘I Saw the Sign’? That’s what I wanted.”

She moved to the States as a teenager, and began writing songs as a young adult. And that’s when she realized that the traditional Mexican music she’d disliked as a child “was embedded in me…it’s in my blood.” She chose “En Juárez” for this show in part because it’s written from a mother’s perspective: “If I had children, this is a song for them — explaining the realities of Juárez, the violence, but also talking to them about what’s possible, about dreams and the hope we should have regardless of problems,” she says.

“I was just honored to be asked to be part of this show, honestly. It’s going to be a magical night.”

A handful of scattered thoughts, while we’re on the topic of music that helped when you needed to lie on your bed blasting music through a Walkman:

  • Green Day’s Dookie was released Feb. 1, 1994 — 20 years ago this Saturday.
  • I’ve listened to that album from start to finish more recently and more frequently as an adult than I should probably admit. If “When I Come Around” starts on the radio when I’m driving, I will turn it all the way up.
  • Miley Cyrus. Skrillex.
  • My grandfather, in the last stages of Alzheimer’s at age 95 and unable to keep family members’ names straight, would sing along if you brought him tapes of Big Band songs from the 1930s.
  • Sherman Alexie: “Your generation’s music isn’t better than any others. It’s just inextricably linked to your youth.”


When We Were Young
With Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, The Dodos, Diana Gameros, Geographer, How To Dress Well, Zoe Keating, The Lonely Forest, Maestro Michael Morgan, The Pacific Boychoir, Rogue Wave, Two Gallants, and John Vanderslice

Fri/31, 8pm, $29.50 – $45
The Fox Theater
1807 Telegraph, Oakland





























Get to the show, weirdos


FALL ARTS There are so many things competing for your precious time: long lines for pricey gourmet coffee, civic responsibilities and volunteer work, actual work, glazed fake cronuts or whatever the kids are into these days. Make live music a priority as well — your days will float by on a pink cloud of fuzzy, hangover-fueled memories.

As we’re lucky enough to live in a region stuffed with musicians and venues that take in touring acts, the options for every week are damn near endless. Here are some shows to take note of this season, one for (nearly) every day of the upcoming months. (Note that dates and locations are subject to change, so always check the venue site.)


Plug them in to your Google Calendar. Better yet, stick this list to your wall with chewed-up bubblegum. Either way, impress your friends with superior show knowledge:

Aug. 30 [UPDATE: postponed due to illness] Icona Pop: As silly as it’s always been, bubbly Swedish electro-pop duo Icona Pop is in the running for the arbitrary media-hyped “song of the summer” (or as Slate puts it, the yearly “Summer Song–Industrial Complex”) thanks to party track, “I Love It,” featuring fellow up-and-comer Charli XCX. And, get this, the album from which “Love It” springs, This Is… (Record Company Ten/Big Beat Records), isn’t even out until Sept. 24. Squeeze out the last bits of this very poppy season and hold out for the recorded versions by taking in this live set. Fillmore, SF.

Aug. 31 [Here’s another to make up for that cancellation above] Rin Tin Tiger, French Cassettes Great American Music Hall, SF.

Aug. 31 Sonny and the Sunsets, Shannon and the Clams Chapel, SF.

Sept. 2 Ty Segall Great American Music Hall, SF.

Sept. 3 Superchunk and Mikal Cronin Fillmore, SF.

Sept. 4 Zomby (live) Public Works, SF.

Sept. 5-6 “UnderCover Presents Bob Dylan’s Highway 61 Revisited:” For this event, the UnderCover Presents collective dives deep into the introspective, folk-rock world of Bob Dylan’s ’65 gem (which gave us “Like a Rolling Stone”) with covers by Carletta Sue Kay, Quinn DeVeaux, Whiskerman, Beth Lisick, and guest music director Karina Denike, among others. Freight & Salvage. Also Sept. 8, Contemporary Jewish Museum.

Sept. 6 Mission Creek Oakland: The month-long fall music and arts festival packs a punch with dozens of local bands playing 15 East Bay venues, including the Uptown, the Stork Club, and Children’s Fairyland (!). It kicks off with a free opening party tonight at the Uptown with Naytronix, Clipd Beaks, YNGBMS, and Safeword. Various venues, Oakl.

Sept. 7 Push the Feeling with Exray’s Underground SF,

Sept. 8 Lil Bub book signing with Nobunny: So Lil Bub is this famous Internet cat and Nobunny is the infamous IRL punky masked Bunny-Man; together they’ll claw through the Rickshaw Stop all day and night. This multipart Burger Bub Mini-Fest includes a Lil Bub book signing and doc film screening, plus live sets by Nobunny, Colleen Green, the Monster Women, and the Shanghais. Paws up, everyone. Rickshaw Stop, SF.

Sept. 9 Sex Snobs Elbo Room, SF.

Sept. 10 Bleeding Rainbow Rickshaw Stop, SF.

Sept. 11 Moving Units DNA Lounge, SF.

Sept. 12 Julie Holter Great American Music Hall, SF.

Sept. 13 120 minutes presents Death in June Mezzanine, SF.

Sept. 14 Rock the Bells: the annual touring hip-hop fest returns, headlined by Kid Cudi, A$AP Mob. feat. A$AP Rocky, E-40, and Too $hort, Common, and Bone Thugs-N-Harmony on Sept. 14; Wu-Tang Clan, Black Hippy feat. Kendrick Lamar, and Deltron 3000 on Sept. 15. Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mtn View.

Sept. 16 Kate Boy Rickshaw Stop, SF.

Sept 17 Julie Ruin: Kathleen Hanna returns to her pre-Le Tigre output but beefs it up with a full band including fellow Bikini Kill bandmate Kathi Wilcox and is set to release bouncy feminist dancepop record Run Fast Sept. 3. A few weeks later the Brooklyn band lands in SF. Slim’s, SF.

Sept. 18 Berkeley Old Time Music Convention Various venues, Berk.

Sept. 19 Hard Skin 1-2-3-4 Go!, Oakl.

Sept. 20 Foxygen Independent, SF.

Sept. 21 Tape Deck Mountain and Battlehooch El Rio, SF.

Sept. 22 “Radio Silence presents: Doe Eye performing Arcade Fire” Brick and Mortar Music Hall, SF.

Sept. 24 Wax Tailor Mezzanine.

Sept. 26 Zola Jesus Palace of Fine Arts, SF.

Sept. 27 Peter Hook and the Light Mezzanine, SF.

Sept. 28 “Station to Station:” This train-travelin’ art and music experiment, organized by artist Doug Aitken, pulls a stop in Oakland with live performances by Dan Deacon, Savages, No Age, Sun Araw and the Congos, Twin Shadow, and more. And the train itself is designed as a moving kinetic light sculpture, so expect a bright show. 16th St. Station, Oakl.

Sept. 30 Chelsea Wolfe Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 1 Peach Kelli Pop Hemlock Tavern, SF.

Oct. 3Brick and Mortar Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 4-6 Hardly Strictly Bluegrass: Bonnie Raitt, Bettye LaVette, Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, Devil Makes Three, Chris Isaak, Mark Lanegan, First Aid Kit, Sallie Ford & the Sound Outside. As the free annual fest releases lineup names in glorious song medleys, this is who we know for sure will fill GG Park with folk-country-hardly-strictly-bluegrass notes this year, as of press time. There will be more added in the coming weeks, so check the site. Golden Gate Park, SF.

Oct. 5 Har Mar Superstar Bottom of the Hill, SF.

Oct. 7 No Joy Brick and Mortar Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 8 Fucked Up Terror Oakland Metro Opera House, Oakl.

Oct. 9 Iceage Rickshaw Stop, SF.

Oct. 10 Thee Oh Sees Chapel, SF.

Oct. 11 Extra Action Marching Band Mezzanine, SF.

Oct. 12 Marky Ramone with Andrew W.K.: Is this pairing crazy enough that it just might work? While Joey Ramone has sadly passed on to punk rock heaven (lots of leather and skinny jeans), drummer Marky Ramone is carrying on the legacy by enlisting pizza guitar-having party rocker Andrew W.K. as his frontperson. The band known as Marky Ramone’s Blitzkrieg performs classic Ramones songs. Independent, SF.

Oct. 13 Legendary Pink Dots DNA Lounge, SF.

Oct. 14 Langhorne Slim Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 15 Tim Kasher Rickshaw Stop, SF.

Oct. 16 Dustin Wong Great American Music Hall, SF.

Oct. 17 CHVRCHES Fox Theater, Oakl.

Oct. 18 Robert Glasper Experiment SFJazz Center, SF.

Oct. 19 Treasure Island Music Festival: the forward-thinking two-day fest out on windswept Treasure Island includes Atoms for Peace, Beck, Major Lazer, Little Dragon, Animal Collective, James Blake, Holy Ghost!, Sleigh Bells, and more. Giraffage, and Antwon are the locals on the bill. Treasure Island, SF.

Oct. 20 Goblin Warfield Theatre, SF.

Oct. 21 Hunx & His Punx Chapel, SF.

Oct. 22 Brian Wilson and Jeff Beck Paramount Theater, Oakl.

Oct. 23 Oh Land Independent, SF.

Oct. 24 Woodkid Regency Ballroom, SF.

Oct. 25 The Blow Bottom of the Hill.

Oct. 26 Airfield Broadcasts: For this large-scale event, composer Lisa Bielawa will turn Chrissy Field into a giant “musical canvas” in which listeners can interact with broad sounds floating through the area with the help of nearly a thousand professional and student musicians including orchestras, choruses, bands, and experimental new groups. The musicians will begin in the center of the field then slowly move outwards, playing Bielawa’s original score. Chrissy Field, SF.

Oct. 29 The Jazz Coffin Emergency Ensemble El Rio, SF.

Oct. 30 Save Ferris Regency Ballroom, SF.

Oct. 31 Danzig Warfield, SF.

Nov. 1 Janelle Monáe: Futurist soul crooner Janelle Monáe has had a big year, releasing “Q.U.E.E.N.” with Erykah Badu in the spring, and more recently she fired off Miguel duet “PrimeTime.” The last time the pompodoured singer made it to SF she was dancing down the aisles at the SF Symphony’s Spring Gala (earlier this year), but a darkened venue is much more her speed. Think she’ll be wearing black and white? Warfield Theatre, SF.

Nov. 7 Wanda Jackson: The stylish rockabilly queen, and former real life Elvis paramour — and crackling vocalist behind tracks like “Fujiyama Mama” and “Let’s Have a Party” — is still brash and still touring at age 75. And she’s still putting out new tunes too, with her own 2012 LP Unfinished Business, and just before that a collaboration with Jack White on The Party Ain’t Over (2011). Yes, the party continues. Chapel, SF.

Nov. 8 Of Montreal Great American Music Hall, SF.

Nov. 13 Those Darlins Chapel, SF.

Nov. 14 Kayhan Kalhor and Ali Bahrami Fard SFJazz Center, SF.

Nov. 16 Melt Banana Oakland Metro Opera House, Oakl.

Nov. 17 Rhys Chatham: This is vastly bigger than your average rock concert. See, avant-punk composer Rhys Chatham will perform the West Coast premiere of his “A Secret Rose” with an orchestra of 100 electric guitars. That’s right, 100-times the shred. The Other Minds-presented hourlong performance will include musicians from Guided By Voices, Akron/Family, Tristeza, and more. Craneway Pavilion, Richmond.

Nov. 18 Misfits Oakland Metro Opera House, Oakl.

Nov. 22 Kate Nash Fillmore, SF.


Outside Lands 2013 winners (Paul McCartney, Chic, Bombino) and losers


Hall & Oates, or Trombone Shorty? Willie Nelson, or Vampire Weekend? This year’s Outside Lands presented its 65,000 attendees with some perplexing choices, resulting in what might’ve been the festival’s most eclectic lineup of its now six-year run. As always, Golden Gate Park was a most picturesque venue, with patches of sunlight punctuating the heavy fog, great nighttime atmosphere provided by the purply-lit trees, and a generous smattering of what Grizzly Bear’s Edward Droste called, “the bougiest food stands I’ve ever seen at a festival.”

Now, without further adieu, here’s a rundown of several acts that’ve left me beaming in the days since Outside Lands came to a close:


Paul McCartney
“How many people have learned to play that one on guitar?” Paul McCartney asked his enraptured audience after a beautiful solo performance of “Blackbird.” (A sea of hands went up, of course.) Watching the crowd’s reactions to McCartney’s most indelible songs, ranging from ecstatic to reflective, it was obvious: this music really means things to people.

Much like Stevie Wonder last year, Sir Paul delivered an unrelenting hit parade on Friday night, delving into the Beatles and Wings back-catalogues for three hours (!) of immediately recognizable songs, pulled directly from the audience’s collective consciousness, and relayed back again. Sure, McCartney’s stadium-ready backing band has largely sterilized the exploratory wildness of the Beatles’ post-mop-top sound, but what a joy it was to be serenaded by the elder statesman of rock ‘n’ roll, giving it his all at the ripe old age of 71.

McCartney was shrewd to forgo his newer material (honestly, who came to hear that anyway?), in favor of Beatles and Wings songs, ranging from black-tie pop ditties like “Eight Days a Week,” and “Paperback Writer,” (performed on the very guitar he wrote it on), to the explosive, technicolor invention of “Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” and “Magical Mystery Tour,” to wistful ballads like “Yesterday,” (which featured the Kronos Quartet on strings, no less) to the giddy excess of “Helter Skelter” and “Live and Let Die.”

It was surreal to be in the presence of such a towering cultural figure, especially as he rattled off casual anecdotes about hanging with Hendrix and Clapton. Despite his stature, though, McCartney’s stage presence was utterly charming, and the rousing singalong he initiated to his ultimate anthem, “Hey Jude,” was the festival’s most communal moment.

Faced with the unenviable task of filling a D’Angelo sized void (the neo-soul comeback king cancelled his Friday night appearance at the last minute for unspecified health reasons), Chic hopped onstage with an arsenal of disco-funk party jams, and drove the crowd wild. On any Outside Lands bill before this one, Chic might’ve been disregarded as a throwback novelty act, but considering bandleader Nile Rodgers’ high-profile rhythm guitar work on “Get Lucky,” Daft Punk’s “anthem of the summer,” the entire crowd, young and old, had something to be excited about.

Dressed in white, head to toe, Rodgers’ impeccably tight backing band ripped through a number of Chic originals (“Good Times,” “Le Freak”) as well as a handful of his productions for other artists: most notably Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out” and David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.” Rodgers’ ultra-syncopated rhythm guitar cut through the fabric of each song, and fascinatingly, the looming shadow of “Get Lucky” seemed to place his ever-modular approach to the instrument in a new, fashionable context.

Much like Tinariwen, another group from the Tuareg region of West Africa that’s garnered intercontinental attention, Bombino of Niger injects the skipping rhythms and flickering melodies of their homeland’s folk music with a dose of unmistakably Western groove: namely, psychedelic rock and American blues. Bandleader Omara Mochtar hardly spoke a word to the audience, but his lively, smiley stage presence was endearing, especially as he delivered flaming guitar licks that would perk up Hendrix’s ears.

While Bombino’s hooks and melodies were certainly involving, the real magic was in those woozy, hypnotic grooves, often suggestive of the Grateful Dead at its most transportive. Dressed in traditional garb, and reveling in the power of extended jams, Bombino’s set was a welcome departure from the indie rock/EDM same-yness Outside Lands is prone to suffer from.

Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor is totally buff now. He looks like the kind of gym-rat who might bully the creator of Pretty Hate Machine for his lunch money. But more notably, he’s sober, happily married, and seems invigorated by the prospect of revisiting his ’90s project that introduced industrial music to the pop mainstream. Reznor and Co. took the stage with great conviction on Saturday night, making an assertive case for NIN 2.0’s relevance in the restructured music world of 2013.

Sure, Reznor’s dream-team touring lineup didn’t quite materialize (King Crimson guitarist Adrian Belew and Eric Avery, the bassist of Jane’s Addiction dropped out early on, citing creative differences), yet his backing band was airtight and incredibly versatile, folding marimbas and even Chinese violins into the usual rock band instrumentation, and resulting in some of the most compelling sonics of the whole weekend. With computer guru Josh Eustis (formerly of Telefon Tel Aviv) on board, NIN’s electronics were richer in detail than ever.

The band’s forceful renditions of bangers such as “Head Like a Hole,” “The Hand That Feeds,” and “Closer” channeled the catharsis that runs through Reznor’s music like a freight train. “Something I Can Never Have,” was the subdued ballad of the night: dramatic and moodily lit, but never contrived or unintentionally goofy. “Hurt,” put the entire audience in singalong mode, suggesting a twisted spin on Pink Floyd’s communal anthem, “Wish You Were Here.” New songs, “Copy of A” and “Come Back Haunted,” were engaging and strong, portraying a band too inspired to lean on its past achievements.                   

As far as spectacle goes, NIN trounced any and all competition. Constantly wheeling instruments and projection screens around, the band utilized the depth of the stage unlike any festival band I’ve ever seen.

It’s always inspiring to see a band return to form with such strength of purpose; between the fantastic visuals, the band’s versatility, and Reznor’s newfound vigor, NIN initiated an astounding return on Saturday night, maybe even turning a new generation of EDM kids on to their brand of industrial menace.


Jurassic 5 made an explosive comeback after more than five years off the radar. Rappers Chali 2na, Akil, Zaakir, and Mark 7even laid down verses that bounced effortlessly off each other, with DJs Nu-Mark and Cut Chemist providing a thick, but minimal, backbone. The LA-based group delivered one of the most downright fun sets of the entire festival, filling Outside Lands’ glaring hip-hop void with boundless energy.

Willie Nelson was warm and welcoming as ever, with his family band in tow, and a rasp to his Lou Reed-ish speak-singing delivery that’s only grown more endearing with age. “Always On My Mind,” was especially tender, and made me want to give the ponytailed icon a big hug.

Grizzly Bear has a tendency to take the stage with an off-putting sense of self-importance, like the fastidious pastel-wearers their critics accuse them of sounding like. Unlike their uptight performance at the Fox Theater in Oakland last year, the Brooklyn quartet seemed to let loose in the festival environment. The results were fiery, especially on Shields’ dynamic closer, “Sun In Your Eyes.”

Hall & Oates took the stage authoritatively with their signature brand of agreeable soft rock, but more interesting was the crowd’s reaction: many older audience members seemed to take their music at face value, while younger attendees seemed torn between sincere and ironic appreciation.

Jessie Ware‘s vocal prowess, and the quality of her nu-R&B productions, suggest a self-serious performer, but her jokey, self-deprecating stage persona resulted in a disarming, hugely engaging set. A cover of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” thrown in the middle of her groove-laden “No To Love” was an especially nice surprise.


The National delivered some heartfelt ballads on rust-belt hopelessness, and alcoholism, among other things, and went so far as to bring the Kronos Quartet and Bob Weir on stage. While their set might’ve been incredibly involving in a smaller, indoor venue, something about the band’s intimate songs being performed in the social-media-playground environment of the Lands End stage felt very off.

Vampire Weekend has noticeably beefed up its sound, and grown less insufferably twee since debuting in 2009, but the cutesy, Ivy-League preppiness that continues to draw fans to Ezra Koenig and his Columbia brethren still repels me. Like this year’s much lauded LP Modern Vampires of the City, their set wasn’t exactly “bad,” but that’s the most I have to say for it.

Rudimental surely meant well. The nine-piece, UK based, drum ‘n’ bass-inflected pop ensemble brought infectious energy to the stage, but the result was overwrought and heavy-handed, resembling a busy plate of fusion food with too many sparring elements to result in anything coherent.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs aren’t a low quality band by any means, and songs like “Heads Will Roll” and “Maps” were smartly written, and well delivered, but vocalist Karen O’s incendiary presence made her backing musicians come across as expendable, by comparison.

Red Hot Chili Peppers certainly amped the audience up with their signature Cali vibes, but my overall impression was of a band whose brand-name status has far surpassed its creative potency. Chad Smith and Flea provided a blistering funk-punk rhythm section, especially on bangers like “Higher Ground,” their iconic Stevie Wonder cover, but vocalist Anthony Kedis looked withdrawn, and not quite stoked to be doing his job. The band can certainly fill stadiums in 2013 (and hey, more power to ’em), but at this point, the Chili Pep empire seems to have lapsed into the zone of diminishing returns.

Heads Up: 8 must-see concerts this week


Sorry, readers. Modest Mouse at the Fox Theater and Foals and Alt-J at the Fillmore are all sold out shows, plus Lou Reed canceled his Warfield appearance (it was supposed to take place Sunday).

But there are plenty of other shows you should be checking out this week including Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester at the SFJazz Center, long-running legends like Sparks (squee!) and the Skatalites, club-ready 2 Chainz and Ewan Pearson, along with (separate) album release parties for TOKiMONSTA and Burnt Ones.

All said, it’s a rather theatrical bunch; no shoegazing here. And as of press time, there are still tickets to each show listed here, rewarding you laggers with awesomeness.

Here are your must-see Bay Area concerts this week/end:

Sparks are experimental, futuristic, and powerful new wave freaks from the weird world of 1970s Los Angeles. Otherwise known as brothers Ron and Russell Mael, who together have released 22 rock solid yet wildly ranging albums of pop pleasures. Required listening includes Angst in My Pants, Kimono My House, In Outer Space, Lil’ Beethoven, and The Seduction of Ingmar Bergman. The Mael brothers will be going through the whole back catalog during this Two Hands One Mouth tour stop. PS: Sparks also play the Chapel Wed/10, but that’s long sold out. PPS: check out my interview with Russell here.
Tue/9, 9pm, $40
777 Valencia, SF

Vijay Iyer Trio
“Jazz fans recognize Vijay Iyer as one of the genre’s reigning superstar composer-pianists. Iyer lends a bold and dynamic style to both his original productions and live performances, an approach that stems from teaching himself to play the piano as a child and picking up works by legends like Thelonious Monk by ear. With bassist Stephan Crump and drummer Marcus Gilmore, Iyer’s trio earned critical acclaim for 2012’s Accelerando, which features clever reinterpretations of tracks by Michael Jackson, disco group Heatwave, and electronic DJ Flying Lotus.” — Kevin Lee
Wed/10, 6:30pm, $20
Hotel Rex
562 Sutter
(415) 413-4708

Is there a ska revival going on? God I hope so. More likely a nostalgia wave. At the very least, classic Jamaican and second wave 2-tone ska acts have been skanking around again as of late. The Specials played the Warfield a few weeks back. Tonight, early Jamaican ska-rock steady band the Skatalites (b. 1964) play the Boom Boom Room and next Tue/16, the Selecter and Lee Scratch Perry hit the Regency Ballroom ($29.50).
Wed/10, 9:30pm, $20
Boom Boom Room
1601 Fillmore, SF

Classically trained pianist TOKiMONSTA – a.k.a. LA’s Jennifer Lee – whipped those early technical skills into electronically enhanced R&B singles, dreamy pop mixes, and trippy soundscapes. Tonight, she plays live at the party for her new album, Half Shadows (out Tue/9). Drip drip drip, check first single “Go With It’ (feat. MNDR, a.k.a formerly Bay Area based noise artist Amanda Warner).
With MNDR, Astronautica, DJs Dials, Balance, Freefall
Wed/10, 9pm, $20
DNA Lounge
375 11th St., SF

Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester
“Steeped in the seductive and sumptuous sounds that grew out of Germany’s Weimar Republic era, Max Raabe and the Palast Orchester take the songs, styles, and instrumentation of the 1920s and ’30s and bring them into the 21st century. Performing with a clever, coolly detached demeanor, Raabe at times wows the listener with his vocal abilities, and then forces laughter at others with his deadpan riffing between songs. The elegant orchestra plays both traditional German pieces and classics such as “Singin’ In The Rain,” as well as tongue-in-cheek covers of more contemporary pop tunes.” — Sean McCourt
Fri/12, 7:30pm; Sat/13, 7:30 and 10pm, $35–$85
SF Jazz Center
201 Franklin St., SF

Burnt Ones
Here’s another record release party for your weekend. The psychedelically inclined SF-via-Indianapolis garage rock trio Burnt Ones will celebrate the drop of new beyond-garage-rock Burger Records LP/cassette You’ll Never Walk Alone tonight at the Brick and Mortar Music Hall. Note that Burnt Ones will return to Brick and Mortar next weekend for White Mystery’s 4/20 Psychedelic Meltdown.
With Cosmonauts, Violent Change, Garden
Fri/12, 9pm, $8
Brick and Mortar Music Hall
1710 Mission, SF

Ewan Pearson
“English-born, Berlin-based DJ and producer Ewan Pearson has been rejiggering tracks for two decades for the likes of Depeche Mode, Chemical Brothers, and Junior Boys. He’s also produced for Everything But The Girl’s Tracey Thorn, the Rapture, Ladytron, and M83. Pearson pumps synth stabs and grizzled basslines into a number of his mixes and productions, a culmination of his old-school acid house, new-school electro and techno influences. Last year, he co-founded new record label, Machinists, which skirts away from the digital and dips back into analog.” — Kevin Lee
As You Like It with Iron Curtis, Conor, P-Play
Sat/14, 9pm, $10 (before 10pm, $20 after)
Public Works
161 Erie, SF
(415) 932-0955

2 Chainz
“Let’s pretend that this College Park, Georgia rapper’s hit single “I’m Different” is real-for-real his ode to doing the game in an innovative manner. How different is the player formally known as Tity Boi (he changed his handle to be more family-friendly, although you’ll notice he rarely keeps the neck bling to two pieces)? Well, the song goes on to explain, he makes tons of money, will totally fuck your bitch, and drives convertibles. So yeah, not different at all. That being said, the Fox Theater is gonna go collectively ham when “Birthday” comes on (of “all I want for my birthday is a big booty ho” fame) and it’s sure to be a bad bitch contest. Ya may as well be in first place.” — Caitlin Donohue
Sun/14, 8pm, $35
Fox Theater
1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

Live Shots: Soundgarden at the Fox Theater


It took Soundgarden a full 10 songs before it began to flex its muscles at the Fox Theater on Tuesday night, before the band dialed in and proved what out-and-out Badmotorfingers the four musicians can be. I doubt that the enamored (and now half-deaf) crowd leaving the Fox would have agreed with me on this point about the band’s early setlist sluggishness. Soundgarden delivered in a big way, and you would have been hard-tasked to find an audience member complaining after the dynamic, eardrum-crippling, 27- song performance.

Even still, the band languished a bit in that first third of the set, partly a result of a muddy sound mix that rendered hard-charging classics like “Flower” and “Jesus Christ Pose” to just a massive rumble. But mostly, it was the stream of tracks off of its painfully tepid new album, King Animal, that kept the early set surprisingly disjointed. 

Yes, you’d be inclined to think that a Soundgarden album titled King Animal might infer some epically heavy songs, the growl of some primordial beast lurching forth from the muck of Puget Sound. Instead, it’s a creature without teeth, a ho-hum late career effort (think Jane’s Addiction’s Strays or the Stooges’ The Weirdness), with long odds on breaking its rusty cage.

So it wasn’t until Soundgarden delved into the snarl and sludge of “Nothing to Say” – off its fledgling 1988 debut Screaming Life/Fopp album – that the band tapped into its nerve center, of biting Black Sabbath riffs hooked around a punk mindset, to the sound of a band formed by a city with a heavy heroin addiction and a weather forecast of perpetual rain. 

“Nothing to Say” stood out as the tipping point, and the band soon gained its momentum, mostly from a big section of Down on the Upside crowd pleasers that took the lion’s share of the spotlight during the latter part of the set – “Pretty Noose,” “Burden in My Hand,” “Ty Cobb,” “Blow Up the Outside World,” and the lesser known “Tighter and Tighter.”

Nearing the end of its North American tour dates, Soundgarden is in serious fighting form these days, a spectacle to watch from song to song, from individual members to the collective sum: Kim Thayil’s livewire guitar work amid Ben Sheperd’s hefty bass lines, all set against Matt Cameron’s furious backbeat. At 48, Chris Cornell’s voice is still (amazingly) in formidable shape, seeming to gain greater strength as the night wore on.

The band closed with a stunning five-song encore of classic tracks – “Black Hole Sun,” “Mailman,” “Hands All Over,” “Superunknown” – that brought the place to a fever pitch by the time it reached “Rusty Cage” to end the night. 

Cornell sang the final verse in a wailing falsetto that tested the limits of the house sound system, as the band pushed and pulled the song to its crashing close, finally driving home what it really means by King Animal.


Live Shots: Santigold at the Fox Theater


Santigold was barely a full song into her sold-out performance at the Fox Theater Wednesday night when she began to stoke the lovefest with her Bay Area fans. “You know you’re my favorite place to perform…you guys have so much energy!” In a different room to a different crowd it may have come off as a cheaply-pedaled stage sentiment, but the show that ensued lived up to her assessment: the crowd never stopped dancing and Santigold never stopped smiling.

At just 80 minutes, the show was short but sweaty…a scorcher of a live performance that rendered the ornate theater a tightly packed dance party well into the upper reaches of the balcony.

Working through her two albums of material, the Brooklyn-based singer showed off her vocal range as she was backed by a trio of Devo-looking musicians who kept the sound beat-heavy in one instant, loose and textured in the next. More notably (and often scene-stealing) was Santiold’s stage dancing duo: a matching pair of hype women gracing the stage with all sorts of rump shaking antics and too-cool-for school posturing (complementing Santigold’s ear-to-ear Cheshire stage presence to a ying yang-like perfection).

“L.E.S. Artistes” and “Hold the Line,” (her collaboration with Major Lazer) proved crowd-pleasers early in the set. Later, the stage was swarmed with fans as Santigold worked through “Creator” amid an ecstatic bustle of concertgoers.

Santigold had scarcely left the stage for an encore break before the crowd responded with a foundation-rattling ovation. They kept dancing as she returned for two more songs, and then, as she said farewell with the house lights coming up and Prince beginning to blare through the speakers, they just kept dancing. Santigold was no longer in view, but I’d have guessed that somewhere backstage she was still smiling.

YEAR IN MUSIC 2012: Top 10s Galore


YEAR IN MUSIC Local musicians, rappers, producers, and music writers sound off on the year’s best songs, album releases, shows, personal triumphs, and local acts.





TOP 10 OF 2012

1. Starting our own label HLR and releasing our own record (Internal Logic)

2. Total Control’s LP

3. Touring with the Raincoats and singing “Lola” with them every night

4. Getting obsessed with Silver Apples

5. Hollywood Nails

6. Wymond Miles LP

7. Scrapers (band)

8. Sacred Paws (band)

9. Making eight music videos and losing my mind

10. Wet Hair’s LP




TOP 10 2012 RAP JAMZ

1. DJ Nate, “Gucci Gogglez” 2. Chief Keef, “Ballin” 3. French Montana, “Shot Coller” 4. Chippy Nonstop, “Money Dance” DJ Two Stacks remix 5. Cash Out, “Cashin’ Out” 6. Future, “Turn on the Lights” 7. Gucci Mane, “Bussin Juggs” 8. Juicy J, “Drugged Out” 9. Lil Mouse, “Don’t Get Smoked” 10. Lil Reese, “Traffic” feat. Chief Keef







1. Les Sins/”Fetch”/12″ (Jiaolong)

Run, fall, catch your desire.

2. The Soft Moon/”Want”/Zeros (Captured Tracks)

Infinite want, can’t have it. O, ye of bad faith.

3. Frank Ocean/”Pyramids”/channel ORANGE (Def Jam)

Pimping Cleopatra, whoring the pyramids.

4. Daphni aka Caribou/”Ye ye”/Jiaolong (Jiaolong)

Affirmation on repeat.

5. Grimes/”Genesis”/Visions (4AD)

Whatever, you know you like it.

6. Todd Terje/”Inspector Norse”/It’s the Arps (Olsen/Smalltown Supersound)

Inspecting never felt so good.

7. Burial/”Kindred”/Kindred (Hyperdub)

Kindred outcasts, jealously desiring their solitude.

8.John Talabot/”Estiu”/Fin (Permanent Vacation)

If a permanent vacation wasn’t hell, this might be its soundtrack.

9. Purity Ring/”Obedear”/Shrines (4AD)

Nothing pure in this abject need.

10. Kendrick Lamar/”A.D.H.D.”/good kid m.A.A.d city (Interscope)

Crack babies: she says, distracted, endless desire.





1. Toro Y Moi 2. Christopher Willits 3. Blackbird Blackbird 4. Jessica Pratt 5. Sam Flax 6. Ty Segall 7. Yalls 8. Doombird 9. Little Foxes 10. Dusty Brown





1. Dawnbringer, Into the Lair of the Sun God (Profound Lore)

2. Asphyx, Deathhammer (Century Media)

3. Woods of Ypres, V: Grey Skies & Electric Light (Earache)

4. Uncle Acid and The Deadbeats, Blood Lust (Metal Blade)

5. Pallbearer, Sorrow And Extinction (Profound Lore)

6. Windhand, Windhand (Forcefield Records)

7. Omens EP

8. Hour of 13, 333 (Earache)

9. Gojira, L’enfant Sauvage (Roadrunner)

10. Lord Dying, Demo





1. The Shins, Port Of Morrow (Amazon — forgive me, I had a gift card.)

2. The Walkmen, Heaven (Urban Outfitters clearance — yeah, I know, but you can’t beat brand-new vinyl for $10.)

3. Various Artists, Death Might Be Your Santa Claus (Boo Boo Records, San Luis Obispo. My hometown record store.)

4. Ella Fitzgerald, Live at Montreaux (Boo Boo Records, San Luis Obispo)

5. Mahalia Jackson, Christmas With Mahalia (Abbot’s Thrift, Felton, CA — Great thrift store in the Santa Cruz Mountains.)

6. Benjamin Britten/Copenhagen Boys Choir, A Ceremony Of Carols (Abbot’s Thrift, Felton, Calif.)

7. Thurston Moore, Demolished Thoughts (Urban Outfitters clearance)

8. The Hunches, Exit Dreams (1234Go! Records, Oakland)

9. Various Artists/Angelo Badalamenti, Wild At Heart OST (Streetlight Records, Santa Cruz)

10. Tijuana Panthers, “Crew Cut” seven-inch (Picked up at show — Brick and Mortar Music Hall, San Francisco)





1. Sleepy Todd

2. Tommy McDonald of The Range of Light Wilderness

3. Emily Ritz of Yesway and DRMS (biased opinion, I know)

4. Kyle Field of Little Wings

5. Alexi Glickman of Sandy’s

6. Michael Musika

7. Bart Davenport

8. Indianna Hale

9. Jeffrey Manson

10. Sonya Cotton





1. El Ten Eleven at the New Parish

2. Good Old War at Slim’s

3. Girls at Bimbo’s

4. St Vincent and Tune-Yards at The Fox

5. Bomb the Music Industry! at Bottom of the Hill

6. Fucked Up at Slim’s

7. Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra at the Fillmore

8. Ariel Pink at Bimbo’s

9. Conor Oberst at the Fillmore

10. Titus Andronicus at the Great American Music Hall




BEST OF 2012

1. “See All Knows All,” A Thing By Sonny Smith at The Lost Church.

2. “Silent Music” music ephemera show at Vacation (651 Larkin) curated by Lee Reymore, opening party set by the Fresh and Onlys, after -party pot cookie monsters invade the Gangway.

3. Dusty Stax & The Bold Italic Present: “Summer Soul Friday Night”.

4. Wax Idol’s Hether Fortune fronting the Birthday Party cover band at Vacation.

5. Jessica Pratt’s debut LP (Birth Records).

6. Bambi Lake at the Museum of Living Art.

7. Pruno Truman, aka Heidi Alexander from the Sandwitches “Sleeping with the TV on” b/w Carletta Sue Kay “No, no” (Weird World).

8. Opening for Baby Dee at Brick & Mortar Music Hall.

9. Kelley Stoltz’s cover of “Sunday Morning” on Velvet Underground and Nico by Castle Face & Friends (Castle Face).

10. Christopher Owens premiers Lysandre live at the Lodge.

11. Mark Eitzel’s Don’t Be A Stranger (Merge) and its accompanying promo video series. Featuring Grace Zabriskie, Neil Hamburger, Parker Gibbs et al.





1. “Spinning Centers” Chelsea Wolfe: Unknown Rooms

2. “Who Needs Who” Dark Dark Dark: Who Needs Who

3. “Oblivion,” Grimes: Visions

4. “Old Magic” Mariee Sioux: Gift for the End

5. “Apostle” Marissa Nadler: The Sister

6. “In Your Nature” Zola Jesus: seven-inch (w/ David Lynch Re-Mix)

7. “Silent Machine” Cat Power: Sun

8. “Moon in My Mind,” Frankie Rose: Interstellar

9. “Serpents,” Sharon Van Etten: Tramp

10. “Video Games,” Lana Del Rey: Born to Die





1.Moons, Bloody Mouth

2.Patti Smith, Banga

3.Mykki Blanco, Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss Mixtape


5.Kendrick Lamar, Good Kid m.A.A.d city

6.Shady Hawkins, Dead to Me

7.Howth, Newkirk

8. Bikini Kill EP (reissue)

9. Sharky Coast, Pizza Dreamz demo

10. FIDLAR, No Waves/No Ass seven-inch





1. Air, Le voyage dans la lune

2. Naytronix, Dirty Glow

3. I Come To Shanghai, Eternal Life Vol. 2

4. Beak, >>

5. Steve Moore and Majeure, Brainstorm

6. Clipd Beaks, Wake

7. Brian Eno, LUX

8. Neurosis, Honor Found in Decay


1. Pulp at the Warfield: Think that was this year. Cocker sings sexy

2. Red Red Red: just saw this guy play at a warehouse in Oakland…live house music made with actual hardware!

3. Flying Lotus at the Fox was pretty epic….. insane visuals.

5. Lumerians at the Uptown

6. Neurosis at the Fox: Fuck!

7. Deerhoof at SXSW ….. maybe the best live band in the universe

8. Indian Jewelry at the Terminal …. strobe light universe





1. Feb. 14: Black Cobra, Walken, Yob at New Parish

2. Feb. 23: Budos Band and Allah-Lahs at the Independent

3. March 30: Hot Snakes at Bottom of the Hill

4. April 10: Jeff Mangum at the Fox Theater,

5. July 21: Fresh and Onlys and La Sera at Phono Del Sol Music Fest

6. July 28: Total Trash BBQ Weekend at the Continental Club

7. Aug. 11: Metallica at Outside Lands

8. Aug. 31: Eyehategod at Oakland Metro

9. Oct. 9: Saint Vitus at the Independent

10. Oct. 27: Coachwhips and Traditional Fools at Verdi Club



1. Grass Widow, Internal Logic (HLR)

2. Cloud Nothings, Attack on Memory (Carpark)

3. Ty Segall, Slaughterhouse (In the Red)

4. Dum Dum Girls, End of Daze EP (Sub Pop)

5. Frankie Rose, Interstellar (Slumberland)

6. Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Alleluja! Don’t Bend! Ascend! (Constellation)

7. The Fresh and Onlys, Long Slow Dance (Mexican Summer)

8. THEESatisfaction, awE naturalE (Sub Pop)

9. Terry Malts, Killing Time (Slumberland)

10. Guantanamo Baywatch, Chest Crawl (Dirtnap Records)





1. Hiatus Kaiyote: Tawk Tomahawk (self-released) I could tell you that a bunch of white Australians somehow merged the sound-worlds of Erykah Badu, J Dilla, and Thundercat into a 30-minute, self-released debut LP that rivals the best work of any of those musicians, but you just might have to hear for yourself:

2. Lone: Galaxy Garden (R&S) This is the Lone album we’ve been waiting for. The British laptop producer’s past efforts, while exquisitely lush, were inhibited by a sense of hollow simplicity; Galaxy Garden, his danciest effort yet, shows improvement on nearly every front, from generously layered percussion, to a nuanced, bittersweet take on melody and harmony. A gorgeous fulfillment of Lone’s hedonistic vision.

3. Scott Walker: Bish Bosch (4AD) Difficult as it is to proclaim Bish Bosch 2012’s best album, (its hulking weight and unyielding grimness renders casual listening a difficult proposition) no LP this year has matched its gutsiness and sonic adventurousness, or consolidated so many ideas into a singular space. An array of musical possibilities as dense, thorny, and encyclopedic as a Pynchon novel, with Walker’s quivering, operatic baritone as its sole, anchoring force.

4. Zammuto: s/t (Temporary Residence) Former Books member Nick Zammuto’s solo debut impresses with its vitality and strength of purpose. Despite the heightened emphasis on conventional songwriting this time around, Zammuto strikes that divine balance between bewildering sound-collage and pop approachability that made the Books such an endearing project in the first place.

5. Tame Impala: Lonerism (Modular) Kevin Parker’s first LP as a lone, multitracking solo artist under the Tame Impala moniker, is a bubbly, golden pop album, despite its pervasive theme of existential dread. Its hooks achieve a weird form of transcendence, befitting the Beatles and Britney Spears in equal measure.

6. Laurel Halo: Quarantine (Hyperdub) Much like Oneohtrix Point Never’s Replica (2011), Quarantine is ideal soundtrack material for those late-night, marathon web-surfing sessions that seem to transcend time and space. Halo’s cold, glassy electronics are anchored by dry, straightforward vocals on an album that occupies a mysterious void between vocal pop and ambient electronica.

7. Field Music: Plumb (Memphis Industries) Less a song-cycle than a series of hooks, Field Music’s latest is the work of a band with a hundred wonderful ideas up its sleeve, and only 35 minutes to communicate them. Channeling the impulsive energy of Abbey Road‘s second half with proggy dexterity, Plumb cements this vastly underrated British outfit as one of the most visionary songwriting duos around.

8. THEESatisfaction: awE naturalE (Sub Pop) Splitting the difference between progressive hip-hop and neo-soul, this Seattle duo’s breakthrough record zips through its 30-minute run-time with remarkable tenacity and economy. Bearing the exhilarating energy of J Dilla’s rip-roaring beat-tapes, and shrewd lyricism that effortlessly balances the political, the personal, and the cosmic, awE naturalE feels urgently, confrontationally NOW.

9. Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin: Live (ECM) Not quite nu-jazz, math-rock, or classical minimalism, Swiss ensemble Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin is as compelling, and innovative, as any live band around, tackling Reichian time signatures with the borderline robotic technical ability of Juilliard grads, and the undeniable groove of an airtight funk band.

10. d’Eon: LP (Hippos In Tanks) Approaching the tongue-in-cheek meta-pop of James Ferraro’s Far Side Virtual with a twisted mythology of Christianity and Islam vs. iPhones and the Internet, and a bizarrely heavy dose of Phil Collins’ influence, d’Eon’s LP‘s totally dubious backstory is redeemed by solid songwriting, lush synths, killer keyboard solos, and a ’70s big-time art-rock sensibility. The most convoluted release to date from the prankish Hippos In Tanks imprint.

Honorable mention: Farrah Abraham: My Teenage Dream Ended (self-released) You can’t make this shit up: the year’s weirdest, most haunted and terrifying album wasn’t brought to us by Swans or Scott Walker, but the star of MTV’s Teen Mom. Trapped between the real world, and a web-based alter-reality, it’s the sound of an All American girl, brought up on The Notebook and Titanic, finding herself imprisoned in a Lynchian nightmare.


Live Shots: Crystal Castles at the Fox


Arriving early to the Crystal Castles show Monday at the Fox Theater, discovering that one opener, HEALTH, had canceled its performance, and that the photo pit would be off limits for the other, Kontravoid, I was left with some unexpected time on my hands. Time that I spent trying to recall where I had seen the eerily familiar image hung over the stage, of a veiled figure cradling a fragile, vulnerable looking man in their arms.

Presented without context, it could be potentially tenderly romantic or gothically morbid, an ambiguity which seemed to typically invite the sort of let-me-Google-that mystery that recent bands have found so chic.*

But all that gets into a realm of meaning that is largely irrelevant here, because that’s not really what was on display at the Fox last night. Ask someone about a Crystal Castles show and they will mostly recount the spectacle. A woman walked out into the crowd supported by the hands of her fans, in a messianic rock move, or alternately crowd surfed in their arms.

All the while, she was performing with a near epileptic frenzy, mouth agape, spitting words that were largely drowned out by the barrage of beats produced onstage by her partner and a tour drummer. If singer Alice Glass were ever actually sent into a fit by the painful amount of strobes accompanying the show**, it is likely that her cries would go unnoticed.

The tradeoff with such pounding intensity is that there isn’t a whole lot of variety. The music drives and drives, largely due to the production of Ethan Kath, but rarely opens up (“Not in Love” a track featuring clear vocals from the Cure’s Robert Smith remains the exception in this regard) as Glass’s primary mode is a wrenching scream. New tracks, including one instrumental that had both of the main members at the controls, only seem to further the band’s hard, caustic edge.

I imagine that there are few casual Crystal Castles fans, and only two extreme ways to appreciate them: either in a drunken fury or with a finger twitching, phone tapping obsessiveness***. When I went home I immediately opened my laptop, to find that picture, and to look up the new songs.

* And perhaps Crystal Castles more than any other. It is after all – as anyone with a search engine could tell you – a band that emerged so rapidly from the internet underground that even the singer was late to find out about it.

** “Shoot between the beats,” the band’s handler told the photographers as he lead us to the side of the stage. “Otherwise you won’t get anything.” Quite helpful advice, really. He could be seen later in the show at the front of the pit, pulling Alice off of the audience, and he promised to give us a heads up if the singer was about to throw a mic stand in out general direction.

*** Remember watching Lost and then immediately going online to talk about the smoke monster or the map in the hatch? This is the musical equivalent of that.

Beach House lets its music do the talking


Do you remember the museum scene in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986) where Sloane and Ferris kiss, while Cameron is off by himself, getting lost in a Seurat painting? There’s no dialogue. Just a particularly contemplative Dream Academy cover of a Smiths song, the museum awash in blue light. It’s a quiet, slow spot in the movie, but it had a big impact – partly because it was so simply done.

There was a moment like that at Beach House’s sold-out show at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Friday. Maybe a few moments.

The dream pop duo of Victoria Legrand and Alex Scally is all for simplicity – they’ve kept to the same musical palette for the whole of their career, restricting themselves to a hazy organ, shoegaze-y electric guitar, tom-tomming drums, and Legrand’s androgynous, smoke-and-honey voice. But they use these things to great dramatic impact – moody, contemplative melodies give way to lush, hope-filled soundscapes, the contrast between the two making for emotional, intimate moments.  It’s slow music, carefully constructed, and sometimes drone-y, tight pop melodies notwithstanding; to be honest I wasn’t sure that I’d stay entertained, watching them for an entire set.

But the duo has toured extensively for the past few years, and the show was pretty smooth, the music confidently played, and despite their introverted approach to showmanship, there was enough theatrics to keep things moving, relying on simple changes to the stage, to their body language, to keep things interesting.
Legrand, her face hidden behind a birds-nest tangle of hair, was a brooding presence onstage. Her voice soared, but she never moved from behind the keyboard, her fingers locked to it even as she was sometimes seized by fits of headbanging. Her stillness, her unique voice, the complete lack of eye contact made her mesmerizing, the focal point of the stage. Meanwhile, guitarist Alex Scally didn’t say anything at all to the crowd and bounced in his seat, reminding me of a Muppet-like character.

Their stage set up was raw, black and white striped panels and stark white lights. But this slowly developed as the show progressed, into floods of deep red and blue color, constellation-like scatterings of twinkling lights — each minimalist change well-timed, as leisurely as Scally’s delicate guitar playing. And they were long into their set before any film was introduced, or strobes, or multi-colored lights.

When I say long into the set, I do mean long – they played for an hour and a half. Legrand’s voice almost tireless, save for a few glitches here and there – a slightly flat harmony, a catch in her throat. Almost every song drew a yell from the crowd as they stuck to their poppier, upbeat songs, drawing mainly from their most recent, and most successful albums – Teen Dream, and Bloom.

But they did toss out a Scooby snack for the die hards —  “Auburn and Ivory” from their first, self-titled album. Legrand said they hadn’t played it in four years, but they did so admirably, the guitar twirling around the steady waltz of Legrand’s organ like a one twirls a finger in their hair.

They played well to their sold out crowd, maintaining their shy distance, yet giving us what we wanted.

Opener: Dustin Wong, formerly of Ponytail, was rad. He had a lot in common with Beach House, preferring a limited palette of instruments as well – in his case, a guitar and scads of pedals. Layering guitar line over guitar line until the piece hit the sublime chaos of a fugue, Wong didn’t talk much to the audience at all, save for his facial expressions as he played. The two acts together made for a night of quiet people who wanted the work to speak for itself.

The Tallest Man on Earth throws down his pick


On a long BART ride to Oakland after a longer day at school, I thought I probably couldn’t stay awake at a punk show, much less an acoustic folk concert. When I arrived at the Fox and saw that the Tallest Man on Earth show was seated, I was sure that I was doomed.

The stage setup was minimal, with one chair, a circle of monitors, and one keyboard. I stifled a yawn as Kristian Matsson, a.k.a the Tallest Man on Earth, skipped onto the stage in a white tank top and black skinny jeans, looking ironically small on the large, sparse stage. Matsson picked up his guitar, strummed, and wailed out his first note, sending the audience into hysterics.

As Matsson began to bounce and stomp around the stage, I perked up. By the halfway point of the first song, sleep was the furthest thing from my mind. Matsson’s fiery body language matches the incredible dynamics of his songwriting. He filled the stage with kinetic energy, crouching, hopping, and skipping as his voice, at once full-bodied and reedy, soared over his deft finger-picking.

Playing with an incredible degree of comfort and ease, Matsson handled the guitar like an extension of himself, looking as though his body was crafted just to hold the instrument. As he sang and stomped, Matsson strummed with enough vigor to break strings. At the end of each song, he threw his pick down as if to punctuate the end of the song not with an ellipse but with the exclamation point it deserves.

The extent of Matsson’s guitar prowess makes it strange that he has taken a turn to piano on significant portions of his most recent album There’s No Leaving Now. When Matsson set down the guitar in favor of the keyboard, the songs lacked an energy and ingenuity essential to Matsson’s style.

The second that Matsson sat down at the piano bench, my fatigue returned. The songs are no less beautifully written and his voice is no less compelling, but tied down to one location and without the lush instrumentation of his masterful guitarwork, the Tallest Man on Earth takes a sharp decline from folk deity to average singer-songwriter.

Sadly, Matsson seems to be unaware of this effect. The last song of the night was scored by the keyboard, leaving a lot to be desired. Despite the milquetoast conclusion, Matsson remains one of the most exciting players in contemporary folk. If he can stick to his strengths, Matsson will have something truly great on his hands.