Fox Theater

Criminal and beyond: Fiona Apple’s evolution


You could say Fiona Apple belongs to an endangered species. One of the heavyweights in a lineage of 1990s major-label iconoclasts, dedicated to the conceptual potential of the album format, (Bjork, Spiritualized, PJ Harvey, Nine Inch Nails) Apple has built a 15-year career on making approachable, yet arty, pop music with indie-label integrity, and an undercurrent of fringe appeal.

After making a big splash with the sultry music-video to her first hit single, “Criminal” (1996), she shrewdly abandoned any MTV-vixen ambitions, in favor of foregrounding her musical and lyrical ability, and her remarkably versatile, jazz-inflected vocal range; as a result, she’s one of the few artists of her generation to transition from stardom to cult status, and not the other way around.

Taking her sweet time between albums, Apple has also proven herself to be one of the more elusive singer-songwriters of her time. Released earlier this year, The Idler Wheel... marked the end of a seven-year hiatus, and in testament to her increasingly highbrow rank in the music world, it’s the most difficult, demanding work of her career thus far.

On Tuesday, Apple will return to San Francisco (she played Oakland’s Fox Theater earlier this summer) as she graces the Warfield stage with her bold new material, and (presumably) a retrospective of the equally distinctive records that came before. Read on for a rundown of Apple’s artistic progression throughout the years; each of her four albums marks a watershed, in an ever-changing, ever-complex musical evolution.

from Tidal (1996)

The album, the single, and the video that started it all. A story of the power and persuasiveness of female sexuality in a world full of horndogs, the video was right on mark, lyrically. Musically speaking, it’s a knockout, simmering with jazzy nuance, yet powering forward with the hearty chug of a great rock song. Producer Jon Brion’s “Strawberry Fields Forever” organ is applied liberally, (foreshadowing his increased presence on her next record) and the whole thing culminates in a funky, two-minute jam session, as unnecessary and impractical as it is generous and viscerally gripping. Singles like this don’t make their way to MTV anymore.

“On the Bound”
from When the Pawn… (2000)

Largely a defensive gesture against the sexed-up image generated by her MTV breakthrough, When the Pawn… is the record which firmly prioritized Apple’s art over her public persona. It’s the album that established her as an enduring musician in control of her own destiny, instead of a flash-in-the-pan curiosity, tethered to the ‘90s like Alanis Morissette. Opening track, “On the Bound” announces her intent forcefully, bolstering her earthy, overtone-rich vocals with a muscular piano riff, and beautifully layered production from Brion. When the Pawn… found Apple’s songwriting and vocal maturity growing into themselves, and dispelled any notions that her debut was just some teenage fluke.

“Red Red Red”
from Extraordinary Machine (2005)

If When the Pawn… found Apple transitioning from pop wunderkind to serious musician, Extraordinary Machine announced her artistic integrity like never before. However, the album’s actual content is largely upstaged by the Yankee Hotel Foxtrot-esque story of its creation. Initially produced by Jon Brion in 2003, the LP was scrapped by Epic Records, who wanted a Tidal retread, and expressed ambivalence surrounding its marketability. After re-recording from scratch, with a team of new producers, Extraordinary Machine finally saw an official release in 2005.

While not a game-changer to the degree of When the Pawn…, the record continued Apple’s bold evolution, sporting thicker arrangements and production, and a heightened emphasis on electronic textures. Above are two versions of “Red Red Red.” First is Brion’s production: dynamic, and hard-hitting, in contrast with the relatively muted, Brian Kehew-produced rendition that made the final cut. In the end, the narrative behind Extraordinary Machine’s tense creative process significantly shaped Apple’s current image as an elusive, Kate Bush-ian perfectionist.

“Left Alone”
from The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw, and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do (2012)

Gone are the cascading strings and richly textured compositions. Bone-dry, thorny, and more challenging than any other record she’s made, The Idler Wheel… is Apple’s King of Limbs moment. With her piano placed squarely in the center, the album’s production bears the simple sound of a band playing together in a room. This sparseness highlights Apple’s jazz tendencies more effectively than ever.

While the ornate, studio-sorcery of Extraordinary Machine never denied her vocals the ability to soar, The Idler Wheel’s emphasis on empty space puts the nuances, cracks, and overtones of Apple’s mighty voice under a microscope, imparting a level of vulnerability we’ve never heard from her before. “Left Alone” showcases the striking versatility of Apple’s pipes as well as any other track in her repertoire.

So, what’s next? Will Apple continue down the path of unadorned, austere textures introduced by The Idler Wheel…? Or, will she pull the rug out from under her loyal fanbase yet again, and embark on yet another daring reinvention? This uncertainty is one of the most compelling reasons to watch Apple: one of the shrewdest, most enterprising singer-songwriters of her time.

Fiona Apple
With Blake Mills
Tues/11, 8pm, $62-72.50
982 Market, SF
(415) 345-0900

President or no president, medical marijuana shows up in Oakland


So the President was late. Around the time the “Fire Melinda Haag” press conference (as it had been called in emails I’d received from the various cannabis advocacy groups) at downtown Oakland’s federally-threatened Oaksterdam University was starting, one attendee drily mentioned that Obama was reported to still be in Las Vegas.

“I mean, I know the private jets can get you places really quickly and all, but still.”

It didn’t matter — medical marijuana had assembled in Oakland, the world cannabis community was watching, and there was going to be a show of numbers, regardless of what Air Force One was doing or when the President’s scheduled appearance at the Fox Theater a block away would actually get going.

But first, the formal press conference at Oaksterdam. Grow lights warmed the pot plants on one side of the room as dispensary founders, politicians, and patients said their piece on stage. 

“Name the advantages of continuing the drug war,” said Oaksterdam University president Dale Sky Jones (OU founder Richard Lee on stage a few feet to her right.) “We continue the failed drug policy that targets young people of color.”

“This is simply not the right thing to do,” said Jim Gray, a retired Orange County superior court judge and former assistant US Attorney. “It will not result in less marijuana being sold or consumed in Oakland or anywhere else.” Later on, during the march that would take medical marijuana users on a lap around the Fox, some protesters were seen lofting signs with the ex-official’s name on it — he’s the Libertarian Party’s nomination for vice president. His crowd-pleasing efforts struck gold at Oaksterdam in the form of a quip. “I think going forward, the slogan should be ‘the hempire strikes back.”

Steve Deangelo, founder of Harborside Health Center, was adamant in his call for an immediate freeze on all enforcement actions until courts deemed them consistent with the Obama administration’s policy. Deangelo and the patients that depend on his dispensary have a lot to lose should their call go unheard: a recent letter sent to Harborside by US Attorney Melinda Haag ordered the collective’s closure based on the rationale that it is a “marijuana superstore.”

“If the US Attorneys can come after a dispensary like Harborside,” Deangelo told the assembled crowd, “No dispensary in this country is safe.” Commonly referred to as the best-known dispensary in the country, Deangelo’s dispensary and its staff were the subject of last year’s Discovery Channel reality series Weed Wars

Perhaps the most poignant voices from the day were those of the consumers who will be most affected by the loss of safe and accessible medical-grade marijuana. Yvonne Westbrook-White, a multiple sclerosis sufferer, credited cannabis with getting her out of the house that day and appealed to the President to keep his promise to leave state-legal dispensaries alone.

Jason David’s baby son has Dravet Syndrome, a rare disease with epilepsy-like symptoms. He told the crowd at Oaksterdam that a non-psychoactive cannabinoid tincture had made his boy go from acting like a zombie to being a bubbly kid that greets people at church and at home alike. His voice and hands trembled as he thought out loud about what he would do if Harborside went the way of so many other cannabis businesses in the Bay Area.

“What am, going to ask a drug dealer ‘do you have CBD?’ You’re going after the wrong drug.”

An hour later, feet from the massive Obama-as-cop “Dear Leader” design that members of Chalkupy had painstaking sketched out the same day, a crowd that police later estimated at 800 to 1000 people were ready to march for their cannabis rights. The route took us up Broadway, past the lines of Obama fans patiently waiting for their president to show, down 20th Avenue to San Pablo Avenue, and right back to Oakland’s City Hall.

Would things continue to go as peacefully through the President’s eventual visit? All signs pointed to yes when your Guardian journalist left around 4:30pm, but one protester put it rather succinctly. “Today’s not over yet,” he said. 

Heads Up: 8 must-see concerts this week


Total Trash’s bodacious two-day barbecue bonanza in Oakland tops the list of must-see live shows this week, but there’s plenty more to see, including synth heavy beach-pop created by an ex-choir boy, beat punk girl gangs, and some Adult Swim-approved indie rock.

Of course, Fiona Apple at the Fox Theater is long sold out, but if that wasn’t the case, Miss-Long-Album-Title would be here too. Enjoy it, ticket-holders. Or, squire your spots now for her Sept. 11 show at the Warfield.

But in the meantime, here are your must-see Bay Area concerts this week/end:

Crystal Stilts
Someone commented on the video below, “The Doors mixed with The Velvet Underground calling from the grave!” And yeah, that’s pretty much it for the Brooklyn-based jangle-pop five-piece.
Wed/25, 8pm, $15
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750

St. Lucia
Synthy beach-pop? Holidays on molly-days? Futuristic yacht rock? Sun-baked dream-pop? Yes, St. Lucia is all that, and then a little sprinkle of white sand more. There are sax solos over synth and pinging calypso beats here, people. Sip a fruity cocktail at the show at the show, and soak in the warmth of shiny former choir-boy Jean-Philip Grobler.
Thu/26, 9:30pm, $14-$15
Rickshaw Stop
155 Fell, SF
(415) 861-2011

The Ettes
The Ettes are like a black-leather clad girl (and token dude) gang. And bone-rattling garage revival is the name of the game for the Nashville-via-LA crew. Or wait, they call it “beat punk.” Whatever. The perpetual openers – for stadium rock bands like the Black Keys, Dead Weather, and Kings of Leon – get some deserved spotlight/headline time at Thee Parkside. Here’s a weird video they made with Patton Oswalt.
Thu/26, 9pm, $10
Thee Parkside
1600 17th St., SF
(415) 252-1330

King Tuff
A few years back, before he made the move from Vermont to LA’s Laurel Canyon, sleazy garage guitar wonder King Tuff recorded 30 demos in the middle of the night. It just pours out of him. The result was a self-titled Sub Pop album that stood out as something only Tuff could create. He later told me, “If I’m into something, it’ll bleed into my music…so sometimes, I don’t listen to anything.”
Thu/26, 9pm, $12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St., SF
(415) 621-4455

Wye Oak
“Baltimore rockers Andy Stack and Jenn Wasner make up indie rock duo Wye Oak, a band with a folk foundation but contrasting distortion and dream pop leanings. Recently commissioned to write and record a song for the Adult Swim Singles Program — a series of summertime freebie downloads — Wye Oak came up with “Spiral,” a swirling, poppy and decidedly darker track than previous tunes.” – Julia B. Chan
With Dirty Projectors
Fri/27, 8pm, $25
Fox Theater
1807 Telegraph, Oakl.
(510) 302-2250

Total Trash BBQ Weekend
Paint your face with tangy barbecue sauce – it’s Total Trash BBQ Weekend! What better way to celebrate summer – and all things sticky and American – than with your friends from Total Trash? Night one, do the Watusi on the swanky Continental Club dancefloor with garage doo-woppers Shannon & the Clams, surf-punks Guantanamo Baywatch, and more. And on day two (Total Trash Barbecue Bonanza), invade Eli’s Mile High Club with Oakland priestess Mom, fuzzy punks Pangea, colorful art-rockers Sam Flax, and so-many-more. Plus, there’ll be a corn-eating contest and grills for cooking. As always, bring a napkin.
Sat/28, 7pm, $8-$10
Continental Club
1658 12th St., Oakl.
Brown Paper Tickets: Night One

Sun/29, 5pm, $8-$10
Eli’s Mile High Club
3629 MLK Jr. Way, Oakl.
Brown Paper Tickets: Night Two

The Psychic Paramount
“Spiritualized minus the spacecraft? Tortoise as a bar band? Post-rock without all the drama? The Psychic Paramount is a record collector geek’s dream band, reflecting countless sub-genres as it hammers away at a relentlessly Krautrockian insistence on mechanical groove.” — Taylor Kaplan
With Phil Manley Life Coach, Barn Owl
Sun/29, 8pm, $12
Brick and Mortar Music Hall
1710 Mission, SF
(415) 800-8782

SF duo Tidelands returns with even more flugelhorn


We’ve Got a Map boasts the title of experimental folk band Tidelands’ upcoming sophomore album – and do they ever. You may remember seeing Tidelands’ stunning animated music video for their song “Holy Grail” last summer off debut album If….

Well Gabriel Montana Leis and Mie Araki are back this summer, with a relatively minimalistic follow-up to that orchestral introduction. And a show this week at Bottom of the Hill.

For the new album, which drops Aug. 7 (check track “The New Black” now on Bandcamp), Leis and Araki decided to play more of the instrumentation themselves, so they wouldn’t have to depend on a big backing band this time around. They wanted to conjure those immense sounds on their own. This gave them a chance to experiment with learning new instruments and therefore expand their creative endeavors.

Leis’ voice has the deep and theatrically clear pronunciations that bring to mind Colin Meloy of the Decemberists. Araki is a badass drummer from Osaka, Japan. A classically trained pianist and percussionist, she also plays the Moog synthesizers for Tidelands. Their music is certainly elaborate, but their newest album offers more simplicity. While their sound is still intricate, the two artists have taken it upon themselves to treat our ears to exotic sounds and old favorites such as the flugelhorn.

Beyond that stunning animated video, you may have heard the name Tidelands due to their collaboration with Magik*Magik Orchestra. The SF-based Magik*Magik Orchestra – currently on a world tour supporting Death Cab for Cutie – joined Tidelands for three songs on the new album, along with producing and arranging one of the tracks, “Twin Lakes.”

I wanted to find out just how the tides were rising for this local duo as their late summer album release approaches, so I spoke with them over a cup of tea at Revolution Cafe in the Mission this week prior to the show:

SFBG Has learning to play different instruments always been a strength for both of you?

Gabriel Montana Leis I have fallen in love with the flugelhorn – it would be easier to not do it, it is a physically challenging instrument, but I just can’t stop. I want to be better. I do have plans for improving my basic knowledge of other instruments, I would love to explore them more fully.

Mie Araki I would like to put a huge explanation mark, and underline to this point – it definitely helps to play other instruments. Leis has become way better than before, it comes from playing flugelhorn. We spend more time thinking, feeling what is going on. When I play classical instruments, there is not enough time to practice, because there are so many different styles and it gets confusing, but it does help you to learn more as a musician.

SFBG I read that Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead provided you with his first guitar, can you elaborate?

GML My dad was a friend and business acquaintance of Weir’s. He was someone that was around, who I knew. If I saw him we would certainly say hi and have a conversation.

SFBG Who are some of your inspirations and why?

MA Beethoven, Bach, Mozart, those are the guys [I grew up with]. Then I began to know the MTV people – Michael Jackson – the pop musicians. I also studied jazz – John Coltrane, Miles Davis, they are huge inspirations to me. Sigur Ros, Wilco, and M83 are current influences, so I have a lot of old and new inspirations.

GML Even our inspirations from when we were teenagers affects who we are now. Kurt Vile is a huge inspiration to us, as well as a Danish musician by the name of Efterklang. Their use of horns has really informed our work – it’s grandiose and glorious sounding, with happy choruses. St. Vincent is amazing too.

SFBG Did Death Cab’s tour with Magik*Magik Orchestra lead you to consider who you would like to collaborate with, if you could choose from any musician?

MA It would be our dream to have [Magik*Magik Orchestra tour] with us actually. We know them through John Vanderslice and his Tiny Telephone Studios in SF that we record in. It would be amazing to play at a venue like the Fox Theater, with a full orchestra like Death Cab did – that was a great show! We have a lot of people around the Bay Area that we would love to work with for collaborations, if we have that chance.

GML Minna Choi of Magik*Magik is part of Vanderslice’s world, his success is that he brings people together. With Choi, we understand each other musically really well.

SFBG Where did the inspiration for the album title come from?

GML We pulled the line We’ve Got a Map from one of the songs. It is about searching for a meaning, and the feelings surrounding it. It makes a statement for where we are at, what we are trying to achieve.

SFBG You mentioned that when you initially recorded the songs, you did not know how you were going to perform them live, what was the process of figuring that out like?

MA We start with a segment, phrase, motif and then Leis adds layers.

GML We actually did that at the recording studio this time, but we will take hours just figuring it out. It’s trial and error, and takes time, you just get better through effort and force of will.

MA  It’s tricky, it is an orchestration, a choreography. Sometimes the music comes first: but then we have to figure out how will we make it happen.

With Voxhaul Broadcast, Bad Veins
Thu/24, 9pm, $10
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th, SF
(415) 626-4455

Live Shots: Childish Gambino and Danny Brown at the Fox


It can be hard to take comedians and comic actors seriously as musicians. Particularly when you consider the questions posed by earlier models. Did Eddie Murphy’s girl really want to party all the time? (And if so, why didn’t he?)

In his last few albums as Childish Gambino, Donald Glover, the writer-actor best known for portraying lovable goof Troy Barnes on NBC’s cult sitcom Community, has combated the typical skepticism with a self-aware, post-Kanye confessional style of hip-hop. His show at the Fox in Oakland last Thursday made it clear that no matter how funny Childish Gambino’s lyrics are, as a performer, he’s serious.

Glover’s opener for the night was Detroit’s Danny Brown, whose latest release on Fool’s Gold Records, XXX, has been billed as an obscene concept album. It’s not the most thought-out idea, though, and lacking the inventiveness of concepts like Deltron 3030, Madvillainy, or Dr. Octagonecologyst, it seems more of an excuse to revive a 2 Live Crew Style of hedonism. (A common topic for Brown is eating pussy, and the MC, amusingly, has a habit of sticking his tongue out for emphasis.)

There’s definitely a perverse humor at work, but with lyrics like “Fuck bitches like AIDS don’t exist, I’m a young ruthless nigga on some Eazy-E shit,” your mileage may vary.

As with OFWGKTA, it can be hard to tell where the joke begins and ends, and as Brown’s DJ repeatedly played a “Swag!” vocal sample, I couldn’t help but wonder if it was done ironically. But Brown’s voice – like a strange hybrid of Dr. Octagon and Larry Blackmon – has a unique trill to it and an appealing cadence, and from the start of his set there were noticeably quite a few people in the front row mouthing along and shaking the floor boards like they didn’t give a fuck.*

Brown finished his set noticeably tired, which is understandable, since the Fox is a large venue for a solo rapper to energize. At one point I had the same concern with Childish Gambino, but Glover was backed by an impressive band.**

It wasn’t a surprise, as my expectation had been primed from videos of the first week of Coachella, where Glover gave a lively, physical performance despite wearing a large black boot on one leg, stemming from a fractured foot that caused him to cancel performances earlier in the year.

At the Fox there was no boot in sight, and Glover appeared entirely unburdened, bounding around the stage, breaking out a silly step between verses, and generally hyping the crowd up as he split his time performing tracks mainly from last year’s Camp and 2010’s Cul-de-sac, with a confidence that seemed well beyond the few tours he had under his belt.

Combined with a slick stage production – consisting of some minimal pup-tent/tree decorations and well timed, follow-along visuals – Glover seemed entirely in control of the show, which managed to come off as intimate and sincere. If it is a joke, I get it.

-Fire Fly
-Freaks and Geeks
-Do Ya Like
-I’m On It
-I Be On That
-Rolling in the Deep (Adele cover/John Legend version)
-All The Shine
-You See Me
-That Power
-Lights Turned On

*Although, one of the guys that seemed to know all the lyrics was also wearing a Davy Crockett coonskin cap. So there’s that.
**One of the members – alternating between keys, guitar, and violin – looked particularly familiar, until I recognized him as the impressively talented Ray Suen, who performed with the Flaming Lips at Bimbo’s.

Even more from the tUnE-yArDs interview


Despite a relentless touring schedule, and an intense side-project, scoring the upcoming SFIFF-presented evening of Buster Keaton shorts at the Castro Theatre with Oakland-based guitar virtuoso Ava Mendoza, Merrill Garbus, the artist otherwise known as tUnE-yArDs, gave us a great interview, and not all of it could fit in this week’s print feature on Garbus and St. Vincent.

While currently living in Oakland, Garbus hails from the East Coast, and has also lived in Kenya and Montreal, a combination of influences that allows her and her singular, quixotic music to avoid falling into a trap of regionalism or simple categorization. Catch tUnE-yArDs with Ava Mendoza at the Castro on April 23, and at the Fox Theater April 24, in concert with St. Vincent.

SFBG: You spent time studying music in Kenya, what elements of your current musical style do you attribute directly to that experience? What are some of your other influences?

Merrill Garbus:
I mostly was very humbled in my study of music there. I studied taarabu (Taarab music) and I was a pretty weak student at the harmonium. So much of that music is based on the Swahili poetry, which was so complex linguistically that I hardly understood it.

But studying any music is a way of absorbing it, as well as a way of practicing those basics of musicianship: playing by ear, repetition on an instrument, playing with other people.

It was also the experience of listening to the popular music in Kenya at that time that really influenced me, specifically pop music from Congo, which they called Lingala in Kenya. I had never heard music like that, and especially that kind of music that compelled a person to dance so instantaneously.

SFBG: What made you decide to use the uke as your primary instrument instead of the fiddle or guitar or something more “traditional” as a lead?

MG: The ukulele is so unassuming; it sounds nice when you’re not even trying – it even has a charm when it’s really out of tune, I think. It makes a space for itself. As a guitar player one has to really prove themselves, to stand out among all the other guitar players of the world and of the past. The ukulele made the songs the focal point, instead of putting pressure on me to be particularly virtuosic on an instrument.

Tell me a little about your previous vocal training.

MG: I studied a bit of classical singing in high school, and sang with a madrigal group which taught me a lot about blending with other voices. I sang in a college a cappella group which was great performance training and is more about belting and volume, which has certainly helped me; and I took some opera lessons when I wrote a puppet opera.

Theater training gave me a lot of vocal skills, too, particularly studying with members of the Roy Hart Theater and doing work with Viewpoints and Suzuki (Theater Suzuki, different than the musical training.) Through the theater work, I learned to expand the palette of vocal sounds that were accessible to me.

SFBG: I’d love to hear a little more about your theatrical background, and how you think it influences your approach to staging.

MG: I think it’s more than staging, although recently we’ve been talking about stage props and lighting and all of these other things that bring me right back to undergraduate theater studies…I know a lot of bands who struggle with live performance because it’s a secondary thing to writing songs, and for me I’m realizing how primary it is to consider the performance. Even in the studio, even in front of my computer doing busy-work editing, it’s a kind of performance, an improvisation of sorts, following my instinct in the moment.

SFBG: You have a fondness for creative spelling, not just with alternating caps, but also with dropping the “r”’s at the end, adding “z”’s, etc. What’s your intention there?

MG: I like to play with spelling because poor spelling is, most of the time, associated with ignorance and being wrong, but as we learn from Black culture, misspelling and screwing around with language is often an intentional reappropriation, to turn the language of the over-powering forces into a language of one’s own.

In Swahili, there are certain words, like “taksi,” which are Swahili spellings of things that didn’t exist before the language of the colonizers appeared, so what’s left is a British/Western idea, a British/Western word, with an African spelling.

I tend to use spelling and pronunciation as a humbling force, for instance, people feel slightly stupid every time they say, “Pow-a.” It makes people uncomfortable, and there’s a sense the friction: they have to make a choice. Do I say, “Pow-er” or “Pow-a?” Which makes me look like less of the asshole?

SFBG: You take a playful approach towards video-making, especially in regards to face-paint/costuming. But are you ever afraid people will misinterpret your style as some sort of cultural appropriation? Do you think worries about “cultural appropriation” are even still relevant in this hyper-connected, global-mashup day-and-age?

There have been instances where tUnE-yArDs was associated with a kind of cultural appropriation that I wasn’t cool with, such as when an artist used a Native American-style headdress on a poster for one of our shows. It wasn’t my decision, and I didn’t see the poster before it went out, but of course, there’s my band’s name on the poster, and the well-intentioned artist who didn’t think hard enough about that particular choice, and a whole bunch of offended people. However, I try to concern myself less with being politically correct and not stepping on anyone’s cultural toes, and more with righting things, in the limited ways I have to do that…

(But) yes “cultural appropriation” is an important thing to consider carefully for an artist like me…I, as a white woman with a college education and access to the world of pop music and all of its resources, have a lot of power. I can rip off not only the style but the note-for-note music of another culture, and get away quite easily without having to justify or explain that. It’s really up to me: will I use these tense moments of cultural appropriation, which I believe are inevitable in this time we live in, to draw attention to those with less power and less of a voice, or will I skirt the issue completely?

SFBG: Who are some of your favorite Oakland/Bay Area-based artists at the moment?

MG: Beep Trio is my favorite Oakland band. It is but one example of the brilliant, creative, avant-garde, jazz-influenced bands in the area. Dominique Leone and Ava Mendoza are a couple of others. Mwahaha and Kapowski are great friends of ours and great up-and-coming bands, more on the pop end of things. And V-Nasty.

Alter egos


MUSIC At first blush the music of St. Vincent, the alter-ego of accomplished guitar hero Annie Clark, and that of live looping sensation tUnE-yArDs, born Merrill Garbus, don’t appear to have a lot in common.

Sure, they share a gender, a label, and an impulse for quirky alias and chimerical shape-shifting, but Clark’s complex guitar-and-synth driven compositions and Garbus’ polyrhythmic ukulele and percussion spree emerge from completely different musical impulses and backgrounds.

Even so, their upcoming double-header at the Fox Theater promises to be a thrilling combination, as both ladies share a reputation for explosive stagecraft and are currently creating some of the most uniquely stylized pop music in the country.

Annie Clark aka St. Vincent, may have hit the cover of Spin‘s “Style” issue, but in interviews Clark is more likely to refer to herself not as fashionista but as a “nerd”. As in, a prog-rock-loving, guitar-shredding, architecture of music kind of nerd.

Her third solo album Strange Mercy (4AD, 2011), an oblique reflection on old traumas and fresh starts is characterized by contrast. Bell-clear vocals edging towards the ethereal, meaty guitar riffs ricocheting in from unexpected directions, and soaring organ and mini-Moog fills contributed by acclaimed gospel musician, Bobby Sparks, (easily the second most striking musician on the album).

A study in contraposition both as a musician and as a media personality,Clark admits to a fondness for playing with character — further evidenced by her stage alias and deceptively delicate off-stage physicality, which belies the raw power of her live performances — but is equally quick to assert ownership of all of her public faces.

“Whenever you walk onto a stage you are fundamentally yourself,” she explains over email. “It’s just that you hold a mixing board to your personality and turn up some aspects and turn down others.”

It’s almost impossible to speak of Oakland-dwelling Merrill Garbus, or tUnE-yArDs, without referencing the time she spent studying Taarab music in Kenya. The frenetic, border-blending polyrhythms on w ho k i l l (4AD, 2011) transport the listener into an experiential space in which music and body are inextricably enmeshed.

In the current ranks of American pop-makers it’s difficult to find an act to compare her to, though TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe does occasionally rise to mind, particularly in the context of vocal phrasing and politicized lyrical content.

No less of an onstage powerhouse than labelmate Clark, Garbus’ personal aesthetic skews more towards that of performance artist than rock star. With a fondness for facepaint, explosive vocalization techniques, and the rubber-mask facial tics of Lily Tomlin, Garbus’ previous training in the theater arts still serve as a springboard for her approach to performance, as well as composition.

“The music stems from how I can envision myself performing it,” she explains. “I like to think of the music in terms of…altering space, and transformation, and the experience of the group.”

Whether onstage or in the studio, Garbus flows smoothly between laying her own rhythm tracks, pounding fiercely on her uke, and charging into the musical fray with her battle cry vocals, but her personal fascination is with uncomfortable moments — highlighting them as absurdities and working thorough them with her audiences. Her other proclivity — that of an almost exaggerated playfulness — is less a spontaneous expression of id than an intentional construction of a persona who unifies the many strands of Garbus’ transcontinental influences and obsessions into one cohesive force.

“There is power in the facepaint, and in the performance, and of a warrior stance of sorts,” she opines. “I’m not using ‘tribal fashion’ in an ironic, disconnected and aloof way. I’m a freaking badass. And I wear face paint.” *


Can’t get enough of that tUnE-yArDs character? Look for extended interview highlights with Merrill Garbus online at



Mon/23, 8pm, $20–<\d>$25

Castro Theatre

429 Castro, SF

(415) 621-6120



With Kapowski Tue/24, 7:30pm, $29.50

Fox Theater

1807 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 548-3010

Neutral Milk Hotel’s Jeff Mangum adds Great American Music Hall show


The elusive Jeff Mangum – he of reverentially adored experimental folk act Neutral Milk Hotel – rarely  tours. This, compounded by his strangely personal and dream-provoking lyrics, has caused a boiling fervor over the singer-songwriter that’s rarely seen outside of Morrissey and teen pop stars.

In a recent AV Club article (that also mentions Morrissey and teen pop stars), an author who is somewhat lukewarm on the band, but nonetheless attends a show on this recent tour – to see what all the fuss is about –  describes NMH fans as believing the band’s 1998 album Aeroplane Over the Sea is “the sacred masterpiece or apex of ’90s indie-rock” (For the record, it’s both, thanks.)

For the counterpoint, the other author in the article sums up the obsession from the start: “This Jeff Mangum tour wasn’t meant for you, the casual fan. It was meant for the diehards who snapped up all the tickets immediately when they went on sale, who fell deeply in love with a record over the years and never thought they’d get the chance to see any of its songs performed live, because its creator was notoriously reticent about performing.”

That said, Mangum has had a double set of shows locked down at the Fox Theater for months now, and yes, most of those tickets are now snapped up (see Picks this week).

And yet, as of this morning, there is a brand new show added to this tour: this Sunday, April 8 at Great American Music Hall. Tickets go on sale today (Mon/2) at 3pm. That’s right, after all that waiting, all that obsessed fan countdown, you’ll now also have the chance to see him in San Francisco proper, at a stunning venue half the size.

Jeff Mangum
With Andrew, Scott & Laura (members of Elf Power & The Gerbils)
Sun/8, 8pm, $36
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF
(415) 885-0750

The Magnetic Fields play ’69 Love Songs’ and then some at the Fox


While the Magnetic Fields’ newest album, Love at the Bottom of the Sea, recaptured the group’s love for synthesizers and electronics, Saturday night’s Fox Theater performance was a testament to the timeless quality of its stripped-down acoustic format.

Using a charming setup of mandolin, acoustic guitar, accordion, piano, and cello, the band burned through 25-plus songs from various points in its two decades-strong career. The first plucks of opener “I Die” quickly established Stephin Merritt’s morose rumble of a voice — which sounded just as drolly beautiful and unbelievably deep as it does on record — and quickly hushed the impressively diverse crowd populated with theater geeks, punk rockers, old-timers, and lovey-dovey hipster couples.

It didn’t take long for the band to begin tackling songs from its landmark 1999 album, 69 Love Songs. Tracks like “A Chicken With Its Head Cut Off” and “Busby Berkeley Dreams” elicited giddy responses amongst the audience and led to more than a few people lightly singing along. An unexpected treat came when Merritt took lead vocals on “Come Back From San Francisco,” a track that was sung by member Shirley Simms on the album.

Speaking of Simms, vocal duties were shared among her, Merritt, and Claudia Gonson all evening, which helped keep things lively and unpredictable. Just as Merritt had taken over for her on “Come Back From San Francisco,” Simms reciprocated with a rousing rendition of his “Fear of Trains,” from the country-influenced The Charm of the Highway Strip.

With such a big catalog to compose a setlist from, nearly every album was represented, from the baroque sounds of Realism (“You Must Be Out of Your Mind), to the noisy Distortion (“Drive On, Driver”) and early favorites like Distant Plastic Trees (“Tar-Heel Boy”). Arrangements of all of these were simple and elegant, and a real testament the talent and attention to detail of each member.

Merritt’s well-documented prickly personality shone through at times in agitated comments to the crowd about flash photography and unnecessary hooting and hollering. And, if basing an opinion strictly off of body language, it really seemed like he’d have rather been anywhere else than on stage all show. None of that took away from what was a wholly fun, engaging and heartwarming show, however, which even at a packed 90 minutes felt all too brief.

Spanning time with the Flaming Lips


I ran into a temporal anomaly while driving. My first warning sign was the police cruiser with one headlight flashing its sirens behind me. Wrong place at the wrong time? Well, I was getting pulled over in Sebastopol on the way to Richmond from SF, but when the cop told me I was doing 78 in a 55, it suggested one thing —speeding.

And speeding isn’t spatial — location is irrelevant — you are precisely where you should be, just too fucking soon. The cop seemed hopeful that he could help me, but as he took my papers and ran back to his car I knew he had abandoned me to the crush of an impending temporal singularity, as time began to move in slow motion.

Slow motion. Some refer to it as time dilation. The sensation that a certain duration lasts longer than it should. The Flaming Lips have a song about it, called, obviously, “Slow Motion.” It goes like this:

Hey, come on over.

You know the day is going slower.

It takes a year, to make a day.

And I’m feeling like a float in the Macy’s Day parade.

Or like a boat, out on the ocean. 
I’m drifting round in slow motion.

LSD and other narcotics aside, time generally doesn’t work that way. Compared to your life so far, each additional day is a smaller proportion. Time telescopes, you speed up, it goes faster. Slowing down is the opposite, unnatural. Sitting in a car waiting for the cop to come back (Is he going to search me?) or laying on a couch with friends trying not to cry — whenever time slows down — it’s unnerving.

You only know this much about “Slow Motion” — an alternate track from The Soft Bulletin not released in the US — because you saw the Flaming Lips play it once. But which time? Not at that fair in Santa Rosa. That one had a rave after. Not at the Fox Theater. That was the one where you slow danced with your girlfriend (at the time) until the staff asked you to leave. At Sasquatch, there in the Gorge? They did play The Soft Bulletin then, but it was rushed. That guy stood behind you — when Wayne Coyne was recounting Steven Drozd almost losing his hand and Michael Ivins being in a car crash — screaming “Play-a-song!” No, there just hadn’t been time.

And time, for the Flaming Lips, is important. Because as a band — one that has been through all sorts of well documented shit — the Flaming Lips know the value of time (particularly borrowed) and have made it their work to not just create music but get into the complete manufacture of moments. Which is a tricky business, because moments are bastards. Take all the pictures you want of the blinding lights, the beautiful costumed kids, the confetti cannons or all the other individual weapons that the Flaming Lips use to wage musical psychedelic war on time, and the moment still might not fit in a shutter, no matter how you slice a second.

It was at Bimbo’s. Not the time they played Noise Pop a few years back, but more recently. They were playing The Soft Bulletin, and taking their time. Hitting every single track from every single version of the album. Not quite slow motion, but close. When was that?

It was the night after the couch. When you were watching Blade Runner on TV, just the end part. Where the maniac with white hair is running around, trying to knock some sense into the other idiot character, who hardly even realizes he’s alive most of the time. And it starts getting heavy. Meaningless inevitability; the crushing force of time. Fucking tears in the rain. Before you know it, you’re happy it’s basic cable, because sometimes a commercial interruption is all that’s keeping you from crying.

It was the night after that. The Lips were going slower for sure, but still way too fast. The moments going by before you’re ready. Before you know it, they are on to other songs, and “Slow Motion” is somewhere in the past, back there with your best friends on the couch, never to return.

The band is getting ready to play something else, Steven readying both miraculous hands on another instrument while Michael stands ready, as ever, on the bass. You want to reach into your bag to take the camera out again, but you resist the urge. It won’t capture the cold press of the air canisters at your back anyway. Or, for that matter, the hookah scented air from the smoke machines. And anyway, if you’re taking pictures during “Feeling Yourself Disintegrate,” you’re probably irretrievably lost.

And suddenly, everything has changed. The cop comes back to the car. Tells me my record is clear, that he just marked 65 on the ticket, because I was didn’t know where I was. He gives me some directions, regarding the roads. I don’t really listen (but do thank him and let him know about his broken headlight.) I drive forward, knowing exactly where I am. I was at a Flaming Lips show, and now I’m driving home.  

Morrissey’s show at the Fox is canceled


It is with a heavy heart that we must give you this news, Morrissey’s show at the Fox in Oakland tonight has been canceled.

If you read this week’s issue, you know that we were worried this might happen, given his track record here, yet remained positively optimistic that he’d show. No excuse for the cancellation was given as of yet, but we’ll update as we learn more.

UPDATE: The cancellation was due to an eye injury sustained by Morrissey’s drummer, Matt Walker.


The ones you love


MUSIC There are certain people in your life that you will always forgive. No matter how noxious or unreasonable their actions, you’ll always find the silver lining, like a delusional Sam Spade. They could be responsible for defiling a gaggle of farm animals, and you’d convince yourself that the roosters were asking for it.

Generally, you are either bonded to these people by blood or have been friends with them for years. However, if you are tragic enough, sometimes this extends to people that you have never met. These are not symbiotic relationships. They don’t care about you, but for whatever reason, you care enough about them to defend them to the death. It’s called being a fanatic.

In April of 2009, I made an absurd decision. When roughly 60% of your monthly income goes into paying for your crappy apartment, spending $100 dollars on a concert ticket — ANY concert ticket — is an impossibility. If Jesus Christ and Alexander the Great were in town performing In The Aeroplane Over the Sea in its entirety for a hundred bones, I’d probably settle for watching the clips on YouTube. But this was different. The Moz was in town, and I had to go. Even if it meant eating nothing but ramen for the next 47 days, I had to go see him.

Those who had tickets to that Oakland show know what happened next. The day before the gig, Morrissey canceled, claiming that he had returned to England because he had been “sickened” at the smell of barbecue at his recent Coachella performance. As absurd as that excuse was, it turns out that it wasn’t even true. He was photographed hanging out at the DNA Lounge the night of the scheduled gig. Reports later surfaced that he really bagged the show because the Fox Theater wasn’t close to sold out. Maybe it was because tickets were 100 FUCKING DOLLARS a pop. I don’t know. I’m not a concert promoter.

As angry as I should have been about this, I wasn’t. In fact, I kind of understood. This is Morrissey. As he’s said a million times over, he’s not sorry. And, you know what? He shouldn’t be. How dare the brutes at Coachella infect his air with the smell of murder? How dare the unwashed masses criticize where the great Mozilla spends his evenings? He will play for us when he’s damn well ready.

And ready he is (we hope). And like a battered wife, here I am again, prepared to make the exact same absurd decision. Maybe he’ll break my heart again, but I’m willing to take that risk just to see the frontperson from my favorite ever band roll through a couple of his old classics (even if it’s just a couple). Why? It’s because I am a fanatic. And I’m not sorry either.


Thurs/1, 8 p.m., sold out

Fox Theater,

1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

(510) 302-2277

Shrouded in black, Lykke Li makes eye contact with us at the Fox


Lykke Li doesn’t want you. Let’s just get that straight.

Lykke Li wants me. Or at least I think so. Because even though it’s a cliche to say that it sounds like someone is singing just to you, that’s what she does. Particularly when the most common word in her lyrics is the word “you,” and you’re standing in the pit at the Fox Theater on Wednesday night, and you (you!) seem to make eye contact right when she says it, so that suddenly it’s not the royal “you,” it’s you, as in “Hey you. You in the tan coat. Hi.” And you – or at least I – blush, for a moment, not caring at all who this Jerome guy is, although he may just be her noisy upstairs neighbor.

Lykke Li doesn’t want anyone. At least not you (royal “you.”) She hardly can even stand to have you look at her. That’s why she’s draped in black. That, and because it’s a funeral. A funeral for her love. Or a celebration of heartbreak, but those are same thing.

Lykke Li is in control. A few of the songs from her first album, particularly “I’m Good, I’m Gone,” still have the heavy stamp of producer/co-writer/collaborator Björn Yttling, but otherwise these songs are Lykke Li’s. The band is Lykke Li’s, and they steamroll through every track from the latest album, Wounded Rhymes, in an emotional arch that roughly seems to go from collapse to strength, culminating with a Kanye West infused version of “Youth Knows No Pain” and “Get Some.”

Aside from what Lykke Li calls “really indulgent cover song,” “Unchained Melody,” (it kind of was, but let’s still blame the movie Ghost for that) everything goes off according to a clear plan, particularly the extra theatrical lighting and slow building dugga-dugga-da beat around “Rich Kid Blues.” From there to the end, they just smash it.

Lykke Li comes back on stage for an encore, the sparsely accompanied slow doo-wop number, “Unrequited Love.” A few minutes later, there’s a bottleneck in the lobby of the Fox, people clamoring around the merch table. Among the swag were a number of t-shirts, a couple screenprinted with her face, but the majority just have text, a message which reads: “LYKKE LI LOVES YOU”. Someone once said you “can’t buy me love.”  They were wrong. You can buy it on a t-shirt. Lykke Li loves me.

1. Jerome
2. I’m Good I’m Gone
3. Sadness Is A Blessing
4. I Follow Rivers
5. Dance Dance Dance
6. Silence My Song
7. I Know Places
8. Unchained Melody (Righteous Brothers)
9. Little Bit
10. Love Out Of Lust
11. Rich Kid Blues
12. Silent Shout (The Knife)
13. Youth Know No Pain / Power (Kanye West)
14. Get Some
15. Unrequited Love

Also: Maybe it was just all the fabric flapping in the fog, but I had some weird Stevie Nicks moments during the night. Particularly during openers, First Aid Kit, Swedish sisters Johanna and Klara Söderberg. Tremendous voices on those two, who have a second album, The Lion’s Roar, coming out next year. But the Fleetwood Mac feel may have just been when the drummer leaned away from folk to rock drumming.

Weird Al Yankovic never misses a beat at the Fox


For someone who got his start in the music business by recording his first single in the men’s room, “Weird Al” Yankovic has certainly come a long way. Forging a wildly successful career that has lasted three decades and counting, the master of musical parodies hit the stage at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Sunday night, proving that while his act is hilarious, his talents for showmanship and performance are no joke.

Throughout the nearly two-hour show, Yankovic was a tornado of comic energy, leading his band through selections from his entire catalog, starting with “Polka Face,” a medley of contemporary pop parodies from his latest record, Alpocolypse, which includes spoofs of current radio stars such as Lady Gaga, Katy Perry and Justin Bieber, among others. Fan favorites like “Eat It,” “Amish Paradise,” “My Balogna,” and “White and Nerdy” drew wild applause from the audience, while lesser known, but equally gleeful tracks including “I Want A New Duck” and “Lasagna” were welcome additions to the set list.

When he first appeared on stage, Yankovic was dressed in his trademark Hawaiian shirt, but he and the band quickly began a series of fast-paced costume changes, running backstage between various songs while a series of videos were shown on giant screens above the stage. Entertaining clips of various pop culture references to Yankovic and from the likes of Johnny Carson and The Simpsons, mixed with segments cleverly edited to look like zany interviews between Yankovic and pop culture heads such as Eminem, Madonna, and Jessica Simpson.

Al and company wore a vast and dizzying array of costumes and grabbed props to match his iconic music videos, wardrobe included spot-on wigs and sweaters for “Smells Like Nirvana,” and headbands and a keytar for the Dire Straits take off “Beverly Hillbillies.” Yankovic even managed to pull off the look in the original clip of Michael Jackson spoof “Fat,” charging out in an over-the-top fat suit, and still somehow jumped around stage, singing and dancing without missing one uproarious beat.

While he is mainly known for direct parodies of specific songs, Yankovic has also comically mastered the art of synthesizing a band’s general sound and parlaying it into a
witty and humorous send up. Two of his best and more recent examples were “CNR,” his ode to actor Charles Nelson Reilly, done in the vein of the White Stripes, and “Craigslist,” a Doors-esque tune where he channeled his inner Jim Morrison, complete with leather pants and dark baritone intonations.

For the encore, Yankovic and band came back dressed as Jedi, and were flanked by a line of Stormtroopers and Darth Vader for a rendition of “The Saga Begins,” which tells a tongue in cheek tale of the life story of Anakin Skywalker set to the tune of Don McLean’s “American Pie.” When the song started, the Imperial troops and Sith lord stood at fast attention, but as the song picked up tempo, they broke character and started dancing about to hilarious effect.

Continuing with the Star Wars theme for his last song, Yankovic ended the entertaining show with “Yoda,” his tribute to everybody’s favorite Jedi master,
encouraging the crowd to chant along during the chorus.

Beirut brings the county fair to the Fox


We teased you with the show mention in the Hangover column,  now here’s the goods:

With flickering string lights strung from the center of the grand ballroom and splayed out brass instruments across the stage, Beirut’s performance at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday warmed liked a fancy indoor county fair. The sound, which can be bass-problematic at the Fox, was good this evening, near perfect for the otherworldly folk-marching band from Santa Fe. Ringleader Zach Condon switched back and forth from ukulele to his beloved trumpet, singing in deep baritone throughout, once stepping to his newly rediscovered favorite, the keys.

The setting was such that you could almost conjure a sea of couples waltzing in calico, Condon with a bolo-tie and trio of fiddles. However that was just a daydream while I waited in a very long line for the ladies room. In truth, hip couples were smashed against one another at the sold-out show, raising cups of beer and whooping for nearly every song, Condon wore his typical Communist-muted button-up and slacks, and sang backed by a trio of powerful horns — not fiddles — and a talented accordionist. As Condon pointed out via our conversation a few weeks back, “my accordion player can run circles around me blindfolded, so there’s kind of no point” (…in picking that up mid-performance in addition to all the other instruments he plays).

A few crowd-pleasers (excessive applause and energy): Gulag Orkestar‘s “Scenic World” and  “Postcards from Italy,” The Flying Club Cup‘s “A Sunday Smile,” the tuba-heavy, mariachi-oom-pah of “The Shrew.” The best moments of the night came when all horns would swell together, like the aforementioned Shrew. But those slow, melancholy songs were perked up by the shorter cuts off new album The Ripe Tide. A new favorite, and the first single off The Ripe Tide, “Santa Fe” garnered less of an enthusiastic response than I expected, though some hollers nonetheless. In a few years, it will gain even more claps. Though Condon did remark, “There must be a few Santa Feans here.” At least, I think that’s what he said, his few words were muffled in my corner of the room.

After a tight, hour-and-some-change-long set, the band returned, as expected, for a requisite encore (side note: can someone please explain to me why the encore has become so requisite?). After playing two songs they again retreated. This time, for the second encore, Condon came out on stage alone, holding just a uke, spotlit and beaming. This is, after all, where Beirut started. A man alone with his instrument. Really, pretty epic stuff. He knows how to work a crowd, but minus the schmaltz. While the songs sometimes hint maudlin, Condon maintains a cool-cucumber presence of stage.  After his moment alone, the rest of the band swarmed around him again and we were treated to a satisfying tuba solo.

True story: the next night, after Beirut played a far more intimate set at the Independent that I did not attend, the tuba player stood out on Divisadero blowing his horn at near midnight. I woke up from the sound, threw on a peacoat and slippers and hazily asked “where did you come from?” (It was the only sentence my deep sleep-addled brain could form.) He cocked an eyebrow and said “My mother’s uterus.” He, and a few stray musicians, then marched off to another corner, still playing.

The lights go on, the lights go off.

Note: I did not shoot this video, clearly, but I do love it:

The Hangover: Sept. 30-Oct. 2


Jounce with us, if you will, through the Guardian staff’s frenzied weekend. Here’s our live reviews, hot raging, random sightings.

**The wonderfully energetic (and wonderfully tall) Robin Simmons puts on an occasional gig in the middle of Dolores Park called the Boombox Affair, hooking up a wall of old boomboxes as turntable speakers and letting disco-minded DJs go nuts with their all-vinyl obsessions. On Friday’s Odyssey party at Deco Lounge, he went indoors and at night hosting a three-hour set by DJ David Harness that reminded of those ancient “back in the day” days. Just 30-40 freaks, many of whom were previously unfamiliar to each other, jacking all night in the dark to some heavy tunes as the walls sweat and pounded. Hopefully the party will come back around soon. (Marke B.)

**I was not acquainted with the work of dOP before I attended Friday night’s Liaison Showcase at Public Works — the French techno trio has some excellent grooves and an absurdly over-the-top “sexy” aesthetic that would make their hits like “Horny” hilarious, if they weren’t actually very, very horny. Example: the chain-smoking boys are just fine wiggling around onstage half-naked, and the singer-rapper-screamer is one of the hottest little tattooed bear cubs I’ve ever seen. He spent most of the set playing with his nipples and shaking sweat from his shoulder hair. The crowd ate it up. (Marke B.)

**Saturday at the Warfield for Amon Tobin’s ISAM tour was like entering the 22nd century, except surrounded by young Pixar workers who couldn’t stop screaming, “Amaaazing!” everytime one of the realtime 3-D effects of the stage set was unveiled. Why? Because it really was amaaazing. Opener Eskmo did an entrancing job live-sampling cookware and plastic Coke bottles to build left-field grooves that weren’t afraid of floor-bending tempo changes. (Marke B.)

**With flickering string lights strung from the center of the grand ballroom and splayed out brass instruments across the stage, Beirut’s performance at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Saturday warmed like a fancy indoor county fair. The sound, which can be bass-problematic at the Fox, was good this evening, near perfect for the otherworldly folk-marching band from Santa Fe. Ringleader Zach Condon switched back and forth from ukulele to his beloved trumpet, singing in deep baritone throughout, once stepping to his newly rediscovered favorite, the keys. Here’s our interview with Condon from last week. (Emily Savage)

**What else is there to say about Saturday’s Hard French party besides the fact that Scott Weiner got to express his gratitude to us for his official Guardian ass towel? The queer patio shakefest at El Rio (theme: “Hardly Strictly French.” Overalls.) featured hand-wagging talents of many of the candidates for November’s city elections. Plus, Sups. Weiner and Jane Kim tagged along for the ride and they aren’t even running for anything. (Caitlin Donohue)

**The crowd at Odd Future’s show at the Warfield on Friday may have looked like Warped Tour cool kids, but you couldn’t fault them on their choice in music. The crew from Compton bug-eyed and jello-kneed through and generally crushed their set, although we were all out of their by 11 p.m. What Warfield, not into bands hurling their most enthusiastic devotees back into the crowds spine-first? Here’s the full review, btw. (Caitlin Donohue) 

**So we only made it to Sunday of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, but damn if that afternoon’s Devotchka set and red wine from the bottle wasn’t a welcome entree to sunny banjo strumming. Even the crowd itself was hotter than ever (where did all these surfer-hippie hotties come from and to whence have they now returned?) — and in contrast to Outside Lands’ frenzied crowds, filtered through the fenceless areas calmly and happily. Yay free concerts! Happy birthday, Mr. Hellman. (Caitlin Donohue)

The instruments of my life: Q&A with Beirut’s Zach Condon


Zach Condon, the pied piper of Beirut, is known for a great many things – his quavering voice and heart-tugging music (watch the new video for “Santa Fe” and try not to weep, I dare you), the global journeys on which he embarked to gain such a worldly sound, and, perhaps above all else, his skilled takes on an array of string and horn instruments. He employs their use to enable listeners an audio-vacation: the far corners of Eastern Europe and the Balkans, to the chateaus of French chansons, to his mariachi-filled hometown of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

As Beirut’s two Bay Area shows this weekend (at the Fox Theater in Oakland and the Independent in SF) are very, very sold out, I’m assuming there are a few of you out there grasping tickets as you read this. And if not, there are always scalpers (note: we do not condone buying from scalpers).

In a phone call a few weeks back from his current home of Brooklyn, Condon gave me the rundown on the instruments of his life:

San Francisco Bay Guardian: What’s the first instrument you ever played?
Zach Condon: I have to be honest, even though it makes for a jarring twist in the story. It was actually a guitar. When me and my two brothers were really young, my dad bought us an electric guitar. A Peavey Raptor if I remember correctly – it’s kind of a generic Stratocaster or something? I don’t know, I really don’t know guitars very well. And then some sort of cheap amp for it. Then he signed us up for some lessons. And I just remember thinking distortion was really funny and interesting but hating the lessons that I was taking.
SFBG: Why weren’t you interested?
ZC: I guess I’ve always had some sort of problem with authority. But it also felt like I hadn’t chosen the instrument. My dad, it’s really great that he did that, but he was really intense about us learning to play an instrument because his grandfather was a multi-instrumentalist. My dad was an obsessive guitar player so it always felt like, oh I don’t want to do that, that’s what my dad does.
SFBG: So what was the first instrument that you chose?
That’s the funny part, I was also supposed to play saxophone, which is what [my dad] also played. My older brother and I signed up for band – this was probably about fifth grade – and I walked in the first day and they asked me what I was going to play. I said trumpet. I went home and told my parents some bullshit story about how they had too many saxophone players and they wanted a trumpet player. I don’t think they believed me but you know how when you’re a kid you kind of think that you got away with something? I think they were just like ‘well if he wants the instrument whatever, let’s just get him an instrument.’ They took me to a shop and I bought a pawn shop box student model trumpet That was an immediate love.
SFBG: What specific instruments did you play on 2006’s Gulag Orkestar?
I played my grandmother’s accordion. She had died three or four years before that, and I had asked my grandfather to send me all her instruments that he could pack, which ended up only being the accordion. But she also played bagpipes, piano, organ. She was a good singer too. So he sent me her accordion and I had it fixed up a little, and I had a better trumpet at that point. At this point the family had finally gotten a real piano in the house and I had first bought a ukulele a year before that. Just this really janky little soprano uke from a guitar shop. I bought it as a joke at first then I totally fell in love with it.
Outside of that I had some percussion that I’d assembled from friends and neighbors – weird things. I remember thinking at the time, if I’m going this route then I probably shouldn’t use a general rock drumkit. So I was collecting tambourines and little hand drums. My neighbor in Santa Fe had this really funny conga djembe drum, which ended up being the basis for most of the percussion that Jeremy Barnes didn’t play on the record. Every songs is like eight tracks of me hitting the conga drum and then a bunch of tambourines.
SFBG: And 2007’s The Flying Club Cup?
A bunch of the songs were written on this organ that someone had actually donated to me. There was a movie theater I worked at for quite a while, and I ended up developing a relationship with the people there. They were also attached to a theater that would have these weird traveling acts and there was this faux-circus cabaret act that had come through at some point and while they were there, they were taking this beautiful Farfisa organ which had broken down in Santa Fe and the guy just left it. They said, ‘if you can fix it, you can have it.’ I was able to fix it just enough. There are still notes on there that don’t work, so I had to write every song around certain notes, the entire album is almost in the same key. The rest was me picking up new brass instruments, phoneom and French horn, trying to open up on the brass front a little bit. And of course my grandmother’s accordion, although I bought a new one later that year from this mariachi shop, I don’t even remember the brand, because my accordion player can run circles around me blindfolded, so there’s kind of no point.
SFBG: Most recently, on The Rip Tide, what were some of the instruments you picked up for that?
Not so much picked up, but went back to. The main one there would be the piano. I actually bought my first piano –I’d never had one of my own. I bought this Yamaha upright from this guy in Jersey and I had it shipped to upstate New York where I was writing, and I just spent a lot of time with this piano, writing these loops and chord progressions and melodies. A lot of this was based on me hammering around on the piano until I felt like I was sufficient. There’s just something cool about the piano, being next to it, it just wraps you up like a warm blanket. It’s such a big instrument. When you start playing the big chords on it, the acoustics are so interesting.
SFBG: Which instrument stands out as the most important to you? Your grandma’s accordion?
To an extent yes, because it’s part of me writing songs. But I can’t help but feel like it was the trumpet that made me fall in love with writing and making music in the first place. As a kid it was the first instrument that I connected with. It was the first time I was proud of making a new note. There were a few false starts, between guitar and saxophone, it may never have happened if I hadn’t just randomly stumbled upon an instrument that immediately spoke to me.

Sat/1, sold out
Fox Theater
1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

Sun/2, sold out
The Independent
628 Divisadero, SF

Live Shots: Ke$ha, Fox Theater, 9/14/11


Neon lights, glitter, and balloon drops certainly made for a bedazzled set, as Ke$ha took the stage, wearing the most glitz of all.

She worked her infamous bad-girl ‘tude and got as raunchy as possible for her very own “Get $leazy Tour.” Add in her troupe of zoombie-fied dancers and the whole vibe was gritty pop, circa the end of the world. (Did you know that she co-wrote that jam for Britney? Word.).

You can tell that Ke$ha thrives in the spotlight, but she’s a new pop princess and her voice needs some time to develop and mature. But the whole “stage drama plus musical mash-up” works together to create that perfect concert concoction. And if Ke$ha is reading this … she’s probably saying “Oh please! Blah, blah blah!”

Our Weekly Picks: September 14-20




Fake Your Own Death

A few years back, local indie rockers Elephone received an infusion of new life via a teenage singer. Unfortunately, the procedure didn’t stick and the band met its demise. But if someone has to die, let it be the group. At least then the members can go on to new lives like the Downer Party and Kill Moi. Elephone guitarist Terry Ashkinos has found a survivor’s group in Fake Your Own Death. “Open my mouth to speak, but it’s old technology. Fake your own death, watch it on TV,” the band sings on one listless, sonorous track recalling the National. Dying is easy, what comes after is harder. (Ryan Prendiville)

With Bruises, Excuses for Skipping, DJ Neil Martinson (SMiLE!)

9:30 p.m., $10

Cafe Du Nord

2170 Market, SF

(415) 861-5016



Set your head to banging as Kylesa returns to San Francisco. The Savannah, Ga. double-drummed metal titans have taken music to its heaviest extremes, defying genre boundaries in favor of sheer crushing aggression. Formed by members of 90s sludge innovators Damad, Kylesa obliterates the boundaries between punk and metal, drawing fans of loud and heavy from all over the spectrum — its Pushead-designed logo is practically required adornment on black denim vests worn by crusties and longhairs alike. Last year’s Spiral Shadow, the band’s fifth full length album, proves that Kylesa shows no sign of mellowing out, even as they explore new horizons and incorporate increasingly psychedelic twists to their booming Southern sound. (Cooper Berkmoyer)

With Deafheaven and Castle

8 p.m., $15

859 O’Farrel, SF

(415) 885-0750



“Extinction Burst: a dance of lost movement”

How refreshing! For once we don’t have to feel guilty about contributing to the extinction of so many threatened species. Think those bottom-of-the-ocean crawlers who will be gone before we have even discovered them. Thank you, Chris Black. Her latest five-person dance installation, “Extinction Burst: a dance of lost movement” brings back to life — sort of — animals who are gone. She is a smart, experienced choreographer who can peek below of just about anything and twist her findings into dance theater that smiles as it informs. (Rita Felciano)

7:30 p.m., $10–$12

California Academy of Sciences

55 Music Concourse, Golden Gate Park, SF

(415) 379-8000


Bonny Doon Press Club

Attention local oenophiles! As part of Press Club’s Visiting Vintner Series, Randall Grahm, the founder of Bonny Doon Vineyards (located just to our south in Santa Cruz County) will be on hand tonight for a meet and greet — and to lead tastings of his outstanding wines. The independent owner and author of Been Doon So Long (University of California Press, 2009) has gained a well-earned reputation for innovative ideas in several areas of his business, including the introduction of screw cap bottles and unique labels. His delicious wines, however, remain the real reason for his success, and he’ll be bringing along several limited production varieties for aficionados to enjoy. (Sean McCourt)

6-9 p.m, free admission, tasting flight $21

Press Club

20 Yerba Buena Lane, SF

(415) 744-5000


Part Time

Part Time, San Francisco’s lo-fi darling of the moment, is a visitor from another time, a dimension in which the early 80s never soured and the party lived on forever. The debut album What Would You Say?, released by Mexican Summer earlier this year, plays like some fabled bedroom pop gem, thought lost for decades until rediscovered one sunny day at a flea market, wedged between a Barbra Streisand Christmas album and The Return of Bruno. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just a novelty band, though. The vintage aesthetic belies Part Time’s innovation on a retro template and the captivating pop goodness it crafts — danceable tunes that sound like home recorded Prince demos with a teenage goth edge. (Berkmoyer)

With Pamela, Surf Club, and Permanent Collection

9 p.m., $5

Thee Parkside

1600 17th St., SF

(415) 252-1330


Project Bandaloop A vertical dance floor ain’t no thing for Project Bandaloop. They’ve been soaring across mountains, skyscrapers, and other breathtaking sites for two decades with work inspired by the possibilities of climbing and rappelling. For the group’s 20th anniversary season, it will take on the Great Wall of Oakland in Bound(less), a multimedia event, synthesizing years of creativity under the direction of Amelia Rudolph. The free performance features a live band in addition to fearless physicality and grace. After years of interacting with environments and audiences around the world, Project Bandaloop’s aerial dance brings a daring artistic edge to the notion of climbing as the vertical ballet. (Julie Potter)

Thurs/15-Sat/17, 8:30 p.m., free

The Great Wall

West Grand Ave. at Broadway, Oakl.

(415) 421-5667





On a cold San Francisco summer night in a Bayview recording studio, Bayonics were talking about when they knew they’d made it big. It happened on Craigslist actually. Members of the Latin-hip-hop-soul-funk-reggae-country (yeah, it goes there) big band spotted an ad from an SF high school bandleader that was looking for new musicians “with a Bayonics-style sound.” Such a tale could only come from a crew with a strong sense of place — and the group (which shares tonight’s bill with Samoa-via-Compton island reggae smoothie J. Boog) sure enough struts its Bay cred during its live shows. Guaranteed to be an ass-shaker, the long-awaited release party for the new album Mission Statement celebrates urban SF sound. (Caitlin Donohue)

With J. Boog 9 p.m., $25


444 Jessie, SF



Rock Make Street Festival

There are so few things in this life that are truly good and free without some sort of hitch. The Rock Make Street Festival — now in its fourth year — is a genuinely fun (and free) outdoor party in the Mission, presented by the Bay Bridged blog, the band Tartufi, and accessory makers Cookie and the Dude. Live bands this year include mainstay Tartufi, along with Birds & Batteries, Bare Wires, Battlehooch, Cannons & Clouds, and more ampersand-less acts. There also will be not-free food truck eats and crafts made by local merchants. True story: I bought my brother a heather gray shirt with a huge California screen-print at the first Rock Make Street Festival and he’s worn that thing into the ground — it’s nearly threadbare. (Emily Savage)

Noon-7 p.m., free

Treat at 18th St., SF


Bring Your Own Queer

You can either load your favorite rainbow-flavored, gender-hopping, sexually transgressive buddy into your bright red Radio Flyer wagon and haul zhim down to this wild free daytime outdoor dance party and arts festival at the Golden Gate Park bandshell — or you can just polish the unicorn horn on your own inner Q until it becomes a blinding beacon and go mingle with a planetload of other fabulosities. (Say, is “Planet Unicorn” retro yet?) In any case: come here, be queer, get shoes for it. DJs Juanita More, the Honey Soundsystem queens, and very special person DJ Bus Station John will provide diverse sounds. Appearances by Adonisaurus, Chica Boom, Philip Huang, the Vagine Regime from Bay Area Derby Girls, and Titland will surely tickle. There will be a fashion forest OMG hi. (Marke B.)

Noon-6 p.m., free

Golden Gate Park Music Concourse

50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Dr., SF


Peter Hook and the Light performing Closer

The odd thing about New Order’s disintegration in 2007, with Peter Hook leaving seemingly for good, is that he would tour on Joy Division material. Perhaps it’s simply a commentary on the state of affairs: Hook has attributed illegal downloading to shrinking royalties and live performance are the way to work the back catalog. In any case, his band will perform Joy Division’s final album Closer, a highly acclaimed, darker work that appears on t-shirts less often than Unknown Pleasures, which he played to a packed crowd last year. Obviously, it’s no more Joy Division than upcoming New Order dates without Hook will be New Order, but it will be a showcase for the man’s influential bass style. (Prendiville)

With Oona, DJ Tomas Diablo (Strangelove) 9 p.m., $22


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


Basscenter III

Tempo-mashing electronic artist Bassnectar returns to the Bay Area for the first time since last year’s sold out show at the Fox Theater. This time, however, he’s bringing his Basscenter event started in 2010, previously held in Broomfield, Colo. and Asheville, NC. Bass-ically it’s a three ring circus (no really — the Vau de Vire Society will be performing) with an eclectic lineup of support. With a more straightforward electro sound, it should be interesting to hear how Wolfgang Gartner works the crowd. And while I don’t generally think of wobbly bass when I think of Dan Deacon, his Tim and Eric musical aesthetic brings a certain ADHD liveliness that only the headliner can match. (Prendiville)

With Bassnectar, Big Gigantic, Wolfgang Gartner, Dan Deacon 7 p.m., $40

Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

99 Grove, SF




Listening to Rorschach is like being held down and methodically punched in the face. The powerviolence progenitor from New Jersey paved the way for the last two decades of hardcore, alternating between breakneck blast-beat assaults and almost unbearably heavy breakdowns. The 1991 Rorschach/Neanderthal split is a classic of the genre: four songs in under five minutes that helped launch the race to make the meanest music in the world. Although Rorschach called it quits in 1993 after only four years, the band’s varied catalogue has remained an important influence in both the punk and metal scenes; after jumpstarting 90s hardcore, Rorschach went on to lay the foundations of metalcore. Reformed in 2009 for a short East Coast tour, Rorschach is making its way to the bay for what’s sure to be a memorable, if brutal, night. (Berkmoyer)

With Early Graves, Kowloon Walled City, and Kicker

9 p.m., $10

Thee Parkside

1600 17th St., SF

(415) 252-1330




Laudanum is the East Bay king of doom and gloom, a four piece of the most crushing proportions that features members of Asunder, the other heaviest band in the bay, as well as the now defunct Graves at Sea. If a regent of hell ever enslaved the earth, or a zombie monarch rose to reclaim its throne, it would make sense for Laudanum to compose the coronation march. The slow atmospheric drone is notably more sinister sounding that most contemporaries, drawing black metal influences into the rigor of stoner metal with tortured vocals and dissonant progressions. It’s what an evil bearded wizard riding on the shoulders of a club wielding giant puts on his iPod to jam out to as he lays waste to his enemies and slaughters the innocent. Or, ya’ know, it could be a Zune: evil wizards don’t have brand loyalty. (Berkmoyer)

With the Body and Braveyoung

9 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

Earth mover


MUSIC I didn’t mean to bring the earthquake to Eleanor Friedberger’s Brooklyn — it just felt that way when I rang a few weeks ago, minutes after her ‘hood shivered and shook like it was attempting a weak imitation of, well, San Francisco. “Actually it sounded like someone was stomping on my roof,” she says wryly, phasing in and out over the line as if spirited away by unexplained forces.

A coincidence, too, that she closes her first, wonderful solo long-player, Last Summer (Merge), with a number titled “Early Earthquake,” a minimalist love song that evokes early solo Lou Reed and spins from those ground-bending emotions that hit far too soon, far too hard. “It was an early earthquake and my heart’s trembling just for you / And when the walls came crumbling down / You know I was waiting right here for you,” she sings with her charmingly verbose hipster-priest phrasing, in a feather-light voice.

“Early Earthquake” ends with a sliver of exotica culled from an optigan. “It’s almost like a toy for adults,” Friedberger says of the ’70s-era instrument. Her brother, Matthew, used one on a song for their band, the Fiery Furnaces, and, she adds, “I said if I ever found one I’d buy it.” That she did, from “an expensive music store in Brooklyn — not very cool,” she murmurs.

That brand of disarming, hyper-self-aware honesty — dotted with a dry, playful sense of irony — runs like a startling thread throughout Friedberger’s conversation, making me wanna be instant BFFs. I can see us now: telling the truth about birthdays (“Always bleak,” Friedberger declares of her Sept. 2 birthday, though she’ll be in the Bay Area that week, so bring her a gift), laughing that she’d make the perfect Patti Smith in the film version of Just Kids, scaring ourselves with the spooky effects in “Inn of the Seventh Ray,” pondering the puzzle of Google-ing dates in “Scenes from Bensonhurst,” and cruising through the borough with the rubbery-bass-bumping “Roosevelt Island” blaring. The latter is the closest thing to a genuine summer song on Last Summer; Friedberger agrees — it’s built to be pouring out of “a Buick, definitely an American car, if there are any of those left,” she says.

Last Summer is the solo record she’s always wanted to make — and when she had the time and summoned the confidence that comes with age and experience, she did, writing the songs last summer and recording them that fall, in Brooklyn. “I felt it was now or never. I always thought I’d regret if I didn’t do something myself,” Friedberger says. “There was no lightning bolt of inspiration—I don’t believe in that.

And in contrast to all those who refuse to ‘fess up to the autobiographical nature of their work, Friedberger offers, “All of it is drawn from my personal life — no imagination used. I’m trying to decide if it’s lazy or brave, I don’t know.”

In the same spirit of full disclosure, she opens the album with an infectious ditty called “My Mistakes,” climaxing with a gloriously cheesy tenor sax solo. “I was trying to copy a Van Morrison-sounding saxophone solo,” she freely admits, though it was a fight trying to get sax player Dylan Heaney to agree. “He has a jazz school background and wanted to do something new or original. I don’t believe in that, though — I’m all for copying.”

Yet Friedberger, whether solo or with the Fiery Furnaces, still manages to have one of the most original voices of her generation. Perhaps it stems from the creative support of a sib. “We have this musical language that I just don’t have with anybody else,” she says of Matthew. “But at the same time, we constantly feel like we need an excuse to do something together — because we’re not a normal band. There has to be an elaborate thought process that justifies it.”

“That’s getting tiring. So it’s liberating to make something that’s small and personal. For me, it’s more about expressing my tiny pathetic feelings.” Slight pause. “I’m kidding.”


With the Kills and Mini Mansions

Fri/9, 8:30 p.m., $29.50

Fox Theater

1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

(510) 302-2277


Feelmore510 is bringing sexy back to Oakland


The Bay’s east side can seem a little prudish, especially when compared to its slutty sister city. Until February, Oakland’s only retail resources for sex were a couple of trashy adult “superstores.” Those places can be fun and functional, but it’s safe to bet the cashier probably isn’t too concerned about answering a list of questions and making you feel comfortable with your purchase. Nenna Joiner, the owner of Oakland’s new sex-positive shop, Feelmore510, is quite the opposite and simply can’t wait to start friendly conversations about sex with everyone in her community.

Joiner, a sex educator and adult film director, has been dreaming about opening an Oakland shop for years, but her ideas go far beyond retail. From terminology to etiquette, Joiner says her community needs to start at the beginning, birds and bees style. “I love talking to people. People teach me new things everyday. I’m open and not judgmental. I’ll talk about anything,” she says after ushering a couple ladies out the door who had spent their lunch break browsing. 

From basic questions to the personal, Joiner is educating from the inside out. “A guy came by the other day asking if it was gay for him to want to play with his girlfriend’s butt,” she says. “San Francisco takes its sexual openness for granted — the community there is so exposed, probably overexposed,” she laughs, a playful swipe at the close-knit kink communities and accessible sex-positive resources she loves.

Joiner says Oakland residents may attend erotic events like Folsom or shop for dildos west of the bridge, but when they return home, the conversation goes flaccid. She puts partial blame on years of serious bedroom talk: preventative health and safe sex practices have been a priority due to the high number of HIV cases in the area. No one is contesting the importance of these topics, but in terms of fast, slutty fun they can be total Debbie Downers. Joiner wants to put the spunk back into conversations about sexuality. 

Before the shop opened, the surrounding neighborhood seemed nervous about the addition of a sex shop on the block, but Joiner has been extra careful to make sure people understand that her intentions are purely rooted in the revitalization of Oakland. She keeps up on local politics, attends city meetings, directs tourists to other neighborhood businesses, and even watches high school band concerts. She waves at people from across the street and welcomes anyone inside to chat and enjoy the space. Joiner feels supported by the city around her, which she thinks is happy to recognize her role as a successful business owner. She regularly gets friendly calls from the Alameda Small Business Association, casual check-ins to make sure she’s doing well.

“They know I’m a young woman of color, working my ass off. Maybe they don’t watch porn or have interest in the products I sell, but they support me because they know how hard I’m working.”

Nestled between downtown office buildings on Telegraph Avenue, Feelmore510 lures in its share of curious customers during the day with a modest store front that looks more art gallery than porn hub. Inside the store, Joiner loves to play her late grandmother’s vinyl collection, including Sinatra and Perry Como, which perfectly compliment the space’s glowing chandeliers and velvet curtains. The shop stays open until midnight, way past the bedtime of most of her neighbors’, but with the Fox Theater nearby and a collection of bars and clubs in walking distance, Joiner likes providing the night owls some after-party options.

“I stay open late because I want to help more people have great sex.” Getting people off the streets and under the sheets with body-safe, pleasurable accessories– now that’s community activism!



1703 Telegraph Avenue, Oakland

(510) 891-0199


Live Shots: Queens of the Stone Age, Fox Theater, 4/11/11


Racing up and down the pavement on Telegraph Avenue, the scalpers were grinding hard outside the Fox Theater on Monday night, perhaps with an inkling that the venue might not be standing by the time the Queens of the Stone Age left the stage in a few hours. True to form, Josh Homme and crew all but blew the Fox to pieces with a monstrous rendering of their debut album, as well as two hefty encores that showcased the stoner age rock royalty in all of their primal glory.

Winding down a ferocious “Walkin’ on the Sidewalks” behind their Mongol-on-a-warpath drummer Joey Castillo, keyboardist Dean Fertita (recently of Dead Weather fame) dialed up the intro for Homme to lay into the sleazy start-and-stop riff of “You Would Know.”  They were barely a half dozen songs in, but it was apparent that the juggernaut assault of the Queens’ self-titled debut was offering the audience a glimpse into the band’s nerve center, to the raw and infectious source of one of the best rock outfits of the past decade.

Though his has been dubbed stoner rock, Homme seems to have delved deeply into his Southern California music environment, with traces of Jane’s Addiction-channeling-Zeppelin against Hollywood glam and a dark dose of Doors psychedelia. Songs like “Mexicola” and “You Can’t Quit Me Baby” matched live wire energy against stunning musicianship. 

The following encores included a great cross section of the band’s more recent material, with radio hits “Little Sister” and “Go With the Flow” receiving the biggest ovations. But it was a pair of fan favorites – “Better Living Through Chemistry” and “Song for the Dead” – that capped off the performance with proper might, and caused you to wonder why so few live shows these days ever achieve such sonic magnitudes.

The crowd spilt out of the theater half dazed and nearly deaf, but mostly satisfied. Although this show at the Fox showcased the Queens at their beginning, it left you anxious for what they will do next.



Regular John


If Only

Walkin’ on the Sidewalks

You Would Know

How to Handle a Rope


Hispanic Impressions

The Bronze

Give the Mule What He Wants

I was a Teenage Hand Model

You Can’t Quit Me Baby



Monster in the Parasol

Burn the Witch

Make It Wit Chu

Little Sister


Encore 2:

Better Living Through Chemistry

Go With the Flow

A Song For the Dead