St. Vincent

All together now


As she stares down the remainder of what’s sure to be the busiest year of her career, Angel Olsen’s new digs are helping calm any potentially frayed nerves.

“It’s so mellow here, and people just don’t give a shit,” says the indie-folk singer about her new home of Asheville, N.C. “They build campfires and go to softball games or DJ nights. It’s nice after so much traveling to go somewhere that’s not a huge city.”

For example: Chicago, where Olsen spent the previous seven years developing a devoted following for her striking vocals and emotional songwriting. Although she cherishes the city for helping her hone her craft, the move to a smaller, more rural home was long overdue. It makes sense, then, that Burn Your Fire For No Witness, her excellent second full-length, was born in the spirit of her new surroundings.

Strange Cacti, Olsen’s 2010 debut EP, was a lo-fi and spare batch of songs built entirely upon simple guitar strumming and loads of reverb. The biggest draw, however, was her voice, with its distinctive blend of influences: echoes of Roy Orbison’s pained runs and Patsy Cline’s plaintive twang, among others. She upped the ante for her first LP, 2012’s Half Way Home, enlisting the help of Emmett Kelly (The Cairo Gang), who fleshed things out with bass, drums and a cleaner production sound. By the time she was beginning work for Burn Your Fire For No Witness, the collaborative bug had fully taken hold.

“The new material I was writing was different than what I’d done previously,” she says. “It was more electric and I had a vision for a louder sound with more going on between the singing. The idea was to create an album that sounded not just like Angel Olsen, but that sounded like a band.”

In putting together a group, Olsen looked to a pair of musicians she’d worked with during her Half Way Home tour. Joshua Jaeger and Stewart Bronaugh are strong and tactful in their contributions, adding color with keyboards, pounding drums and something entirely new to Olsen’s music — distorted guitars. The new approach molded her songwriting in unexpected ways.

“Working with the band and experimenting with my voice made me interested in making music that can breathe, instead of it continually being so focused on the words,” she says. “I can see people being concerned that the sound is coming from a producer or someone else making the changes, but really I’ve just been changing myself.”

Of course, for someone used to shaping her music on her own, having extra hands in the studio took some getting used to.

“I suddenly felt a lot of pressure by having all these people now involved in what I was doing, so I wanted to be very particular about my choices,” she says.

Luckily it didn’t take long for her to build a strong relationship with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, The Walkmen, Rogue Wave). Songs were arranged and rearranged until everyone was happy with the result.

For all the bells and whistles, however, the standout of Burn Your Fire For No Witness is still Olsen’s vocals. Whether singing a stripped-down acoustic ballad (“Enemy”), belting out pop hooks (“Hi-Five”) or pulling off haunting restraint (“White Fire”), she’s never sounded more self-assured. The rubber-band vocal flexibility allows her to shade the album’s 11 tracks in a variety of moods that still work harmoniously as a whole.

“I wanted to take what I’d learned with Strange Cacti being so lo-fi and with Half Way Home being kind of dry, with no reverb or affect, and use both those sounds and apply them to each song depending on what it called for,” she says.

Like many singer-songwriters who have transitioned to the full band format, Angel Olsen is kicking off the next stage of her career. It’s a rare treat, however, to see it handled with such surefooted poise.

“When you’re with a band, you can listen back and after the show talk about what parts you like or what parts need work,” she says. “When you’re on your own you don’t experience it that way. So the whole idea of sharing it with people has been really fun and interesting.”


Angel Olsen

With Cian Nugent

Mon/3, 8pm, $15

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

Boxes in space


On a recent weeknight, a group of volunteers met up at a warehouse space in SoMa to hash out plans for The Learning Shelter, a project that has attracted hefty donations and enthusiastic volunteers but lacks a permanent home base. The brainchild of Marc Roth, a maker-movement enthusiast, the idea is to give homeless people a boost toward a brighter future by teaching them how to make things with 3D printers, and other useful skills.

Eight large shipping containers, on loan from supportive organizations, are currently sitting in a gated lot adjacent to the 14,000-square-foot warehouse, which housed a community-based project called [freespace] in June and July.

Roth and his core group of volunteers have plans to retrofit each container to be a “shop in a box” — a mobile classroom, outfitted with whiteboards and enough juice to power the Cubes (a brand name for 3-D printers), CNC routers, laser cutters, and other maker toys. The vision is to use those retrofitted shipping containers to lead three-month intensives in technical skill instruction for up to 30 adult students without homes at a time.

Roth is currently working at a laser company startup, but it wasn’t long ago that he was among his project’s target population. He moved to San Francisco from Las Vegas in September of 2011 and slept in his car (which was “part of the plan,” he explained) while struggling to piece together a new life in the Bay Area.

After one job opportunity fell through, he landed a gig cooking pizzas on Treasure Island. But the long shifts kept him on his feet all day, and aggravated a health condition that causes nerve damage. With few options and a disability sending his health into a downward spiral, it was only a matter of months before he hit rock bottom and checked into a homeless shelter run by the St. Vincent de Paul Society.

It was near 5th and Bryant streets in SoMa. Just a few blocks away, Roth discovered TechShop, a do-it-yourself community workshop that describes itself as being “on a mission to democratize access to the tools of innovation.” An atypical member of the homeless population, Roth had worked as a programmer in the past, and had an itch to learn laser cutting. So he shelled out some of his last dollars for a TechShop membership.

At first, he was grateful just to have found a place where he could tinker for about 10 hours a day while sitting down, since his health problems were still sapping his energy. “I’d never heard of any of these machines,” Roth said. But soon, he was voraciously teaching himself to use them. “When they showed me what a water jet was and what it could do, the hair on the back of my neck stood up,” he said of the device that uses high-pressure water for cutting. “This was Disneyland, multiplied.”

Today, Roth is housed (for now, but he’s still seeking a permanent place to rent) and teaches multiple workshops at TechShop. Yet he’s acutely aware that there are others who were under the roof of St. Vincent with him who still wake up every day to a harsh and destitute life on the streets.

During his time there, he said he befriended several people and got a sense of their innate curiosity and creativity. “I was dragging people with me to the TechShop,” Roth recalled. “In my little group of five to six people, we had a couple ideas for inventions.” With the skills that could be mastered at the community workshop, “they could actually go out and get a part-time job.”



Of course, there are obvious barriers preventing the vast majority of San Francisco’s homeless population from following Roth’s example of just going out there and doing-it-yourself.

People who lack income generally cannot afford training programs to learn new skills. Nor is shelter ever a sure bet: Homeless advocates have reported that it can take eight hours of waiting around in line just to reserve a shelter bed through the lottery system, making it difficult even for would-be job hunters to devote time to much else — let alone the challenges presented by addiction, behavioral health problems, or a lack of access to nutritious food or bathing facilities.

Roth’s vision is to combine temporary housing with a 90-day training program, so that up to 30 individuals can participate in intensive trainings in how to use maker tools. His plan is to partner with homeless service providers who already offer basic computer-training courses, and enlist their help in screening for candidates who’ve demonstrated an interest in technical skills and stand to benefit the most.

To date, Roth has collected several Cubes donated by 3D Systems, eight shipping containers loaned by ReAllocate and Ekology, and struck a partnership with a similar project that seeks to convert retired Muni buses to bathing facilities for the homeless.

But things are still coming together, and the looming question (“the elephant in the room,” as one meeting participant put it) is location. The use of shipping containers as the basis for classroom design is intentional and a key element of the plan, Roth said, because the only surefire guarantee for viability in astronomically pricey San Francisco is to build something that can be taken apart and transported somewhere else if necessary. When economic barriers prevent cash-poor idealists from carving out a physical space, they find ways to adapt.

High on Roth’s wish list is finding a church to partner with, since he believes religious establishments can more easily gain residential permitting. And it almost goes without saying that there is a crowd-funding video pitch in his future.

“When I moved into the homeless shelter,” Roth said, “I thought it would be my secret until I died.”

Now, in a city where the idea of harnessing a powerful narrative to fuel crowd-funding campaigns is practically a way of life in some circles, he’s relating that experience to anyone willing to listen. Venture Beat, a magazine that chronicles tech culture, profiled Roth in an article that ran earlier this year (“Homeless to Hacker,” May 16, 2013).

Ilana Lipsett, an organizer who helped launch [freespace], read about Roth’s project and sent the article around to her co-conspirators, saying it seemed to complement their endeavor perfectly. Soon Roth was dubbed a “[freespace] fellow,” his shipping containers had found a home in the lot next door, and one of [freespace]’s final acts before its lease ran out at the end of July was to host a hackathon for The Learning Shelter.



The buzzy word hackathon is sometimes used to refer to different things; in this case, it was an extended brainstorming session organized over the Internet. Some 40 volunteers attended that event one July weekend, and wound up forming committees dedicated to tasks like promotion, workshop instruction, or soliciting donations.

The foundational reason for [freespace]’s existence was to host a series of hackathons under the umbrella theme “civic hacking,” to inspire a kind of extended collaboration-fest that would produce projects to benefit civic life in some way.

Its doors were open to all, “and you had people who had lived on the street interacting with people who worked in tech companies,” Lipsett recalled of some events hosted at the 14,000-square-foot warehouse space.

Can something with staying power emerge from this short-lived experiment? The concept behind [freespace] was to show what could be accomplished if a dedicated space was provided, and permission granted, for the civic hackers to run wild with their ideas. Emerging from the 60-day experiment was a community garden, a bike-sharing project, a plethora of visual art and a core of volunteers committed to making The Learning Shelter a reality.

[Freespace] came about when the landlords who own the spacious warehouse, a former sewing factory, agreed to rent it to the core group of volunteers for $1 during the month of June. (For the month of July, the tenants crowd-funded $24,000 and used $10,000 of it to pay the rent.) But now, [freespace] is technically homeless, because the space isn’t really free. In fact, the 14,000-square-foot SoMa warehouse is downright unaffordable to the group of makers and idealists who fervently believe they can better the lives of homeless people by teaching them skills that are in demand in the Bay Area’s changing economy. Lipsett says [freespace] will continue in some form, and Roth is still looking for collaborators to help elevate The Learning Shelter, but it’s struggle in a city where the economic forces unleashed by big tech is making things harder for little tech.

Our Weekly Picks: July 17 – 23, 2013




Nerd Nite SF

Did you ever watch Bill Nye (the Science Guy) as a child and think “man, I want to get that guy drunk and watch him drop knowledge live from a stage”? Me neither, but reread that sentence and tell me with a straight face that’s not something for which you would pay $8. Friends, that’s the gist of Nerd Nite, an institution in Boston, New York, Austin, Washington DC, Munich, and as of 2010, San Francisco. The Bay Area, especially as of late, is known for two things: rampant drunkenness and scientific innovations. The synthesis of these two in one monthly event represents where SF is at right now as a community. Past Nerd Nite SF events have included themes like “Paper Airplanes, Zombies and Space Hacking!” where the 2012 Guinness Record holder for paper plane flight distance came to teach plane-making and discuss the previous record holder’s attempts at sabotage. This month’s theme is “Yeast, Science Beer Tasting, and Games User Research!” which promises to teach about fermentation’s 5,000 year influence on the world and why it’s not your fault that you’ve killed all the bad guys on Level 7 and there’s no clear direction where to head next. (Ilan Moskowitz)

7:30pm, $8

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell Street, SF

(415) 861-2011



Bandaloop: Harboring

There is a lot more to Bandaloop than daredevilry on mountain cliffs and skyscrapers. Over the years, Amelia Rudolph has developed a vocabulary in which climbing and rappelling become tools for poetic purposes, creating a genre appropriately called “vertical dance.” Watching the company in that delicate moment when it transitions from the floor to where ever it is rising up to, often offers thrills almost equal to hanging 30 feet above where mortals tread. Harboring is both an exploration and a tribute to the physicality of Fort Mason’s Pavilion as well as its history and the memory it keeps generating. Master Designer Jack Carpenter will provide the art direction; the trio of Gideon Freudmann, Mark Orton and Jesse Olsen Bay the music. (Rita Felciano) Thu/18-Sun/21, 8:30pm (also Sat/20, 2pm), $20–$35

Fort Mason Center Pavilion

Two Marina, SF

(415) 421-5667



Bay Area Playwrights Festival

From over 400 submissions, six were chosen — so you know the getting’s gonna be good at the 2013 Bay Area Playwrights Festival. In its 36th year, the Playwrights Foundation presentation contains works by authors from both the Bay Area and New York. Frequent theatergoers may recognize the names of the locals: Erin Bregman, who contributes metaphysical drama Before & After; Prince Gomolvilas, whose The Brothers Paranormal is about a pair of Thai American siblings who launch a ghostbusting business; and longtime SF Mime Trouper Joan Holden, whose FSM takes on UC Berkeley’s student protests. Other programs include Laura Schellhardt’s The Comparables; Kimber Lee’s brownsville song (b-side for tray); and Jiehae Park’s Hannah and the Dread Gazebo. (Cheryl Eddy)

July 19-21 and 26-28, $15

Thick House Theater

1695 18th St, SF



“Sights and Sounds of Mexico”

There’s likely nary a genre as energetic as Son Jarocha, a regional jazz and pop fusion that originated in Veracruz, Mexico. This Friday Nights at the de Young event includes a performance by Son Jarocha music-makers Ilan Bar-Lavi and Sonex. Together, Bar-Lavi — an accomplished Mexican-Israeli guitarist — and Mexican band Sonex blend jazz, pop, and funk with Middle Eastern influences and flamenco, a rather broad reach of cultural sounds. The event also includes a lecture on poet Rose Mandel, and painter’s studio activities in celebration of painter Richard Diebenkorn’s “passion for light, color, and shapes.” That means there’ll be a colorful pop-up show of local painters of Mexican descent, and tips on the Maugard method, named after Adolfo Best-Maugard’s idea to teach children to draw and paint focused on simple forms in nature. (Emily Savage)

5-8:45pm, free


50 Hagiwara Tea Garden, SF



Blind Willies

Alexei Wajchman is one worldly fellow, and this translates in his live performances. His vocals are tame and collected at times, but his lyrics can range all over the map. As a whole, the group’s sound is more than straightforward rock’n’roll. The introduction of horns on some tracks gives a surprisingly fitting kick, and there’s also some stand-up bass, cello, and mandolin filling out the guitar-heavy sound. You might have trouble pinpointing the exact style you’re listening to, but Wajchman makes it extremely easy not to care. Live, the show should be an enjoyable experience if you value the unpredictability of the open road. (Hillary Smith)

With Supermule and James Nash and The Nomads

9pm, $13

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750



“A Celebration of Fela Kuti” featuring Tony Allen

If Afrobeat is a sound born out of the African Diaspora — Afropop highlife combined with funky jazz rhythms and James Brown soul — it’s fitting that the legend of its Godfather, Fela Kuti, is still spreading. More than 15 years since his death, Kuti’s figure and influence looms larger than ever with the recent success of the Fela! musical. Here, the legacy lives on with a live performance from Tony Allen with Najite and the Olukon Prophecy, a massive 16-piece ensemble featuring Kuti-collaborator Allen. The source of Afrobeat’s beat, and “perhaps the greatest drummer who ever lived” according to Brian Eno, Allen has recently worked with Damon Albarn, Charlotte Gainsbourg, and Sébastien Tellier. (Ryan Prendiville)

With Rich Medina, Lagos Roots Society, Afrolicious, Damon Bell, King Most, Izzy Wize

10pm-3am, $10–$20

1015 Folsom, SF



Lia Rose

Lia Rose is one of those performers who you won’t fully appreciate until you see live. And when you do, you’ll most likely become transfixed upon the tiny singer with hauntingly rich vocals. Rose’s pure vocals lingering alongside acoustic guitar and steel pedal make for a dreamy setting. One that is very easy to get lost in. By far the most compelling aspect of her sound is how she translates the moods of her songs in every note — her tunes are often laden with themes of true love, loyalty, and nostalgia. Note her troop of band members on the steel pedal guitar, percussion, and acoustic guitar, whose craft carries the songs to new heights. Rose is a beautiful, delicate balance of acoustics and angelic vocals. And she is beyond engaging on stage. (Smith)

With We Became Owls, Annie Lynch, and Michaela Anne

9pm, $15


777 Valencia, SF

(415) 551-5157



David Byrne and St. Vincent

This is a match made in weird pop heaven (how great would it be if that actually existed?). When David Byrne, the experimental rock king with a four-decade reign, slipped into the audience at one of Annie Clark’s early shows as St. Vincent, he fell under her spell. In their subsequent meetings, the boundary-testing artists came up with the idea to write together for a brass band. Why not? What emerged in Love This Giant (2012) is a seamless collaboration that is sometimes dark, sometimes humorousness, and of course, always delightfully bizarre. Though weird pop heaven is only a fantasy, it will feel very real Sunday night at the Fox. (Laura Kerry)

8pm, $45–$55

Fox Theatre

1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

(510) 302-2250



Shady Maples

Self-described as Latin folk rock, the Bay Area group Shady Maples straddles the lines between rock, folk, and all the ground in between, in the cleanest possible way. The vocals are haunting, the slide guitar creates an almost human voice, and the songs themselves become a smooth concoction of harmonies, mandolin, electric guitars, and percussion. The balance of acoustic, lap steel, and electric guitars in the hands of Shady Maples band members makes for a great live show. Often transitioning from a soft, melodic Latin number to an explosive rock tune, frontperson Owen Roberts takes the audience for a scenic ride on stage. (Smith)

With Roadkill Ghost Choir, Anjus Pale Blue Eyes

9pm, $10

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 626-4455



Colleen Green

Stoney LA rocker Colleen Green has the basics down: “sparse electric guitar, a tinny drum machine, and Green’s gorgeous voice,” as her official bio reads. The DIY rocker also has a clear reverence for lo-fi sounds and early punk music, and has recorded some great covers of Descendents songs, but slowed down to a California chill ride. Check paradoxically pleasant “Heavy Shit” off March’s Sock It To Me (Hardly Art), for a good starter course in the study of all things Green. Then go back and listen to 2011’s Cujo — it’s even got a crudely markered cartoon on the cover of Green, in the vein of the Descendents’ Milo (as does Green’s cassette Milo Goes to Compton) — to hear how her sound has evolved. (Savage)

With SISU, Burnt Palms

8pm, $12

Café Du Nord

2170 Market, SF



Black Flag

Legendary punk band Black Flag blazed the path for underground American music in the 1970s and ’80s with its rigorous work ethic, groundbreaking recordings, and relentless touring that built a network and foundation for independent artists that still exists today. Recently resurrected by Greg Ginn, the founder-guitarist-primary songwriter and sole continuous member, the new lineup also features Ron Reyes, who sang on the Jealous Again EP, and isn’t to be confused with that other group of former members out on the road these days calling themselves “Flag.” You’ve seen the iconic “bars” logo everywhere out there — now see and hear what it stands for live and in person. (Sean McCourt)

7pm, $25–$28

Oakland Metro

630 3rd St., Oakland

(510) 763-1146


Live Shots: Rich Kidd, Young Galaxy, tween angst, and barbecue at SXSW, Day 3


Photos and words by Bowerbird Photography

The surrealists employed a method of drawing called the exquisite corpse, where an artist would create an image on a section of paper, fold it back to conceal the image, and then pass on the paper for another artist’s contribution. The beautiful monstrosity wasn’t revealed until everyone was finished and the paper unfolded.

Walking down South Congress Street during SXSW 2013 yesterday felt like the musical version of an exquisite corpse. Nearly every block had its own outdoor stage, with an alternative country performance across the street from a hard rock band, indie pop music next to honky-tonk, and street musicians in between. It was sonic mayhem.

While some find it enjoyable to be able to sing along along to a familiar band, there is unequaled pleasure and pride in “discovering” a new one – the more obscure, the better. We left our frustratingly fathomless festival handbook at the hotel, letting fortune be our guide, and made for S. Congress. The street is aptly named because it seems that everything comes together there, and has the gentrified, bohemian feel of Valencia Street, with vintage shops, craft fairs, and a good ice cream parlor.

While musicians are turned away at larger venues downtown, it’s virtually open mike in SoCo. That’s not to imply that the music is worse. On the contrary. It is here that we stumbled upon a standout band called Residual Kid, from Austin, with Max Redman (12-years-old), Ben Redman (14), and Deven Ivy (14). Teen/tween angst doesn’t get better than this.

At the Music by the Slice stage, Telekinesis lead singer Michael Lerner sat front and center, singing over the cymbals of his drumset to hipsters holding pizzas. Young Galaxy, from Canada, also performed, it with a ’80s synth-heavy sound, snappy beats, and open-throated vocals.

Moseying down to the St. Vincent De Paul parking lot, Canadian country music band Corb Lund played to a crowd lounging on overstuffed sofas, reminiscent of an impromptu porch concert. Singing straight country with a storytelling bent, he twanged about speeding on the highway with a foot “heavy with redemption” and a “bible on the dash.”

Down another block, adorable duo, Kelly Willis and Bruce Robison, got folks dancing at the South by San Jose stage with romantic country ballads.

While the music may be eclectic, the food is less so, despite the ubiquity of food trucks. While most restaurants serve any combination of Tex Mex (fried burrito anyone?) and BBQ (Austin’s staple food is shredded pork in a white bun), it is possible to find some fresh greens. At the non-profit, Casa de Luz, we sat down to a hippie-cafeteria style prix fixe lunch, piled high with kale and homemade kraut.

But the siren smell of smoked meats is too alluring, and we couldn’t help but splurge on an artery-clogging, three meat BBQ sandwich from the food truck, La Barbecue. Delicious. There was also an offshoot show behind the BBQ parking lot, called the SX704 Showcase, with hip-hop performances by SL Jones from Atlanta, and Rich Kidd from Toronto.

As we walked over the Congress Avenue Bridge in the evening, the famous bats started to leave their hiding places beneath, swarming in search of their sunset meal. They made thousands of shotgun holes in the sky, and moved in tandem like a starling murmuration, adding just one more sight to the wonderful weirdness this town has to offer.

Navigating the wild landscape of music, parties, and food at SXSW is exhausting, but in the end, we’re rewarded with great memories. And it’s a good thing we took photos too, because our eardrums are shot.

Localized Appreesh: Magic Fight


Localized Appreesh is our thank-you column to the musicians that make the Bay. To be considered, contact

Magic Fight has got fangs. More precisely, the newly formed Oakland “post-indie” band — led by Florida born singer-ukulele player Alex Christopher Haager — just released its very first single, “Fangs” off its forthcoming debut album, Wooden Swords & Stolen Echoes.

And if the first single is any indication of what’s to come (and I think it might be), this record is going to be one to watch. The charming indie pop song begins with a few Casiotone twinkles and a youthful sample, followed by shakers and shimmering harmonies, and the lyrics, “I showed you my fangs and my animal ears/You showed me your scar and your Hollis tattoo/I wanted a bit more than I could chew/So what else is new?”

It’s the kind of song that instantly grabs ahold of your pleasure center, then shakes your shoulders a little to let you know it’s real. 

Magic Fight recently recorded a Daytrotter session (so keep an ear out for that) and will play the Brick and Mortar Music Hall this week, opening for the Lawlands, but first it sprinkled some magic spell dust on Localized Appreesh:

Year and location of origin: 2012 Oakland, California!

Band name origin: I had this name floating around in my head as far back as 2008 but I didn’t have a proper project to put it to. I think it was supposed to be some sort of electro-dance band at some point. Apparently there is still a Myspace page under this name with weird, random demos I made when I was living in Berlin.

Band motto: I wouldn’t say we have a motto as such, but when we are practicing and playing, we end up just saying “Yeah!” a lot. So I suppose that could be a motto of sorts. Constant positive self-affirmation?

Description of sound in 10 words or less: Tender-footed rumblesongs overheard escaping a polychrome cabin overlooking the sea.

Instrumentation: These songs and this band were formed around the combination of sounds produced by amplified ukulele, singing human voices, distorted casiotone keyboards, bass, drums and other random percussive items.

Most recent release: We just released a single called “FANGS” that is taken from a forthcoming seven-song album that will (likely) be called WOODEN SWORDS & STOLEN ECHOES. As of this moment, we are planning on self-releasing the album.

Best part about life as a Bay Area band: Aside from the fact that it simply means that we are living in such a great place on Planet Earth, I would say the best thing about it is that there are actually really great musicians and song-makers doing really great things in the Bay Area.

Worst part about life as a Bay Area band: The worst part is that it is often difficult to find those musicians and song-makers. Also everyone seems to be kind of high most the time, which doesn’t always result in high ambitions.

First album ever purchased: The first cassette I was ever given was the self-titled debut from glam gods Winger. But the first album I remember buying for myself was Sense Field’s 1996 record Building. So I have seen my way around the genre-block a few times, to say the least.

Most recent album purchased/downloaded: A good time for this question, because after personally waiting for about 16 years, I downloaded the new LP from My Bloody Valentine a couple weeks ago. Worth the wait. I think. It’s quite lush and good, in any case.

Favorite local eatery and dish: At this moment, I would say the most exciting food I have had recently was at St. Vincent in the Mission and the most exciting beer I have had was at Social Kitchen & Brewery in the Inner Sunset. 

Magic Fight
With the Lawlands, the Disposition
Thu/14, 9pm, $5-$8
Brick and Mortar Music Hall
1710 Mission, SF

Appetite: New year sips


Ringing in the new year is all about celebratory imbibing, but the sometimes dreary days of January likewise call for a cheering pour. It’s a month of planning towards a new year, reaching out for fresh horizons… good reasons to have something quality in the glass, whatever the category. Here are a few worthy bottles, from sake, wine, whisky, even cocktail bitters.


Medicinal and mixable, the glut of bitters released the last few years has all but assured oversaturation. But Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters ($21 per bottle) stands out. Made in Brooklyn, the focus is on seasonal flavors like popular Meyer lemon, rhubarb or Sriracha. Heat radiates from their savory-sweet blackberry mole or spicy charred pineapple bitters, or a brisk, bitter chill from Icelandic bitters. These are some of the more inventive, elegant bitters on the market. 

A couple additional stand-out bitter flavors: The Bitter End’s vibrant curry bitters ($24) made in Sante Fe and put to perfect use by  Mike Ryan at Sable Kitchen and Bar in Chicago in his Short Circuit cocktail with cachaca, manzanilla sherry and Kalani coconut liqueur. From Canada, Bittered Sling’s plum root beer evokes a sweet sarsaparilla.


Nikka Whiskey is blessedly and finally distributed in the US through San Francisco’s Anchor Distilling, just releasing two new Nikka imports – hopefully many more to come. My favorite of the two, Yoichi Single Malt ($129), is a splurge-worthy, 15 year old whisky distilled on the island of Hokkaido from pot stills heated with finely powdered natural coal, a rare traditional method. Though more akin to a Highland-style Scotch, it nods to Islay with a hint of peat alongside a balanced brightness. On the more affordable side is Taketsuru Pure Malt ($69.99): a 12 year pure malt whisky blended in vats from Yoichi and Miyagikyo distilleries. The mountain air and river water humidity of the northern Honshu region where Miyagikyo is produced adds silky, ripe pear dimensions.

This November’s Single Malt and Scotch Whisky Extravaganza in San Francisco (held in 13 major markets), offered tastings of expected Scotches. A few special drams were the fabulous Scotch Malt Whisky Society‘s 8 year Ardbeg Cask No. 33.113, a salty, smoky Scotch young with exotic fruit. The Single Malts’ Auchriosk 20 year Scotch exhibits tropical vividness, though a classic beauty. It was a joy to taste The Balvenie Tun 1401/Batch #6, the youngest whisky in its blend being over 20 yrs old. This rarity expresses layers of fruit, vanilla and spice, lively despite age.


Sake produced in a town outside Portland? SakeOne is a range of affordable sakes (those mentioned below $13-15)  made from rice grown nearby in Sacramento, CA. There’s Momokawa organic sakes, like a clean Junmai Ginjo or creamy Pearl Sake redolent of banana and coconut, or the smooth, balanced G Joy Sake.


Despite low quality bottled sangria you may have tried before, Eppa (found at Bay Area Whole Foods and numerous shops across the country, $12 a bottle) is a refreshing mix of pomegranate, acai, blueberry and blood orange juices with Mendocino Cabernet and Syrah. Trying it chilled over fresh cut fruit this holiday season with family, it tastes homemade,  lush and dark, not too sweet, but just right.


It was the best year yet at the San Francisco Indy Spirits Expo this November. A number of newcomers merely await West Coast distribution but are available online. With a slew of “craft” tonics released lately, each using real cinchona bark (quinine) without the natural color removed, Tomr’s Tonic is one of the better I’ve tasted. 100% organic and made in New Jersey, Tom Richter’s lively tonic combines citrus, herbs, cane sugar, with cinchona. The tonic mixes beautifully with a number of gins I sampled it with at home.

Fabrizia Limoncello is produced in New Hampshire with California and South American citrus by two Italian-American brothers. Balanced, fresh, tart (unlike their sweet Blood Orange liqueur), this limoncello is a step up from most. SW4 London Dry Gin, produced in the Clapham neighborhood of London and imported through Luxe Vintages in Florida, is a smooth, solid gin made from 12 botanicals, including lemon peel and cassia.


Craving the sparkling especially at this time of year? Two great value bottles ($15 each) are Nino Franco’s Rustico Prosecco, dry yet lively, clean and tight, and Coppo’s Moscato d’Asti  from Piedmont, Italy, its vivd effervescence cutting through intense sweetness, vibrant with brunch or spicy food. For after-dinner dessert wine, Donnafugata’s “Ben Rye” ($45 for half bottle) from Sicily, gives off a rich, raisin-like hue in the glass, made of Zibibbo grapes from the island of Pantelleria. To taste it’s lushly elegant, with a balanced sweetness and nuttiness.

At an industry tasting this fall with Sommelier David Lynch at his restaurant St. Vincent, we explored wines of the fascinating, warm-weather Consorzio Tutela Morellino Di Scansano region of southernmost Tuscany (established as a D.O.C.G. in 2007). I learned the region requires its wines be made with a minimum of 85% Sangiovese grapes. A 2010 Tenuta Pietramora di Collefagiano stood out, unusual at 100% Sangiovese. Its pleasantly funky nose gave way to cherry, even chocolate/earthy notes, balanced by soft acidity.
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Haley Zaremba’s Top 10 Concerts of 2012


For our annual Year in Music issue, I asked local musicians, rappers, producers, and music writers to sound off on the year’s best songs, album releases, shows – pretty much anything they wanted, music-wise. For the next few days, I’ll be posting them up individually on the Noise blog. You can also check the full list here.

Haley Zaremba, Guardian
Top 10 Concerts of 2012

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

Dishing 2012


APPETITE The past year saw a number of openings I hope will be around for years to come — here is my list, in order, of my favorites. As ever, my goal is to include more affordable spots alongside midrange or upscale openings, considering range and uniqueness. It being December, I cannot strictly cover the calendar year so, with each choice open at least two months, the opening date range goes back to October 2011 for a full year.


1. AQ

The one California restaurant nominated for Best New Restaurant in the US at this year’s James Beard Awards, AQ is my top selection for “the whole package.” While I find the food at the next two restaurants listed below equally inspiring, AQ combines food from talented young chef Mark Liberman, reinvented in delightfully surprising ways (think flavors of a pastrami sandwich turned on its head as shaved lamb heart “pastrami” with zucchini bread and house Thousand Island dressing), alongside an inventive cocktail list and accomplished bar staff. I’m still dreaming of this summer’s Maeklong Market Cocktail with a base of peanut-infused mekhong — a sugar cane, molasses, and rice-based Thai spirit — creamy with coconut milk, lime and kaffir lime leaves. As if this weren’t enough, the wine list shines and decor is the crowning touch in a two-level space with sexy downstairs lounge for private parties, plus greenery, glassware, and a bar top that changes with the season. When I’m asked (constantly) where to go by locals and visitors, AQ easily fits the bill for delicious, forward-thinking cuisine with warm service: a destination for both food and drink, with thoughtful attention to the environs.

1085 Mission, SF. (415) 341-9000,



Since Bon Appetit named State Bird Provisions best new restaurant in America this year, none of us can get a reservation in the small, modest space with pegboard and stone walls (like dining in a funky family garage). What makes State Bird so special, besides efficient, engaging service and husband-wife team Stuart Brioza and Nicole Krasinski’s genuine welcome (they often greet diners themselves as they pass by the kitchen in the entrance), is that it’s something truly different. Affordable, unique, and imaginative plates flowing out dim sum-style on carts and trays, ever playful and satisfying — a prime example of what makes SF’s dining scene so exciting right now.

1529 Fillmore, SF. (415) 795-1272,



From another husband-wife duo, Evan and Sarah Rich’s Rich Table could easily be number one for food alongside State Bird and AQ. All three restaurants boast an uncommon vision in their cooking — Rich Table’s is one of an upscale nature in comfort food garb. Presentation can be exquisite, but the dishes gratify and assuage rather than feel fussy. Getting past the (worthy) din about those sardine-laced potato chips to start, pastas are unexpectedly one of the restaurant’s highlights, a duck lasagne layered with braised duck, light béchamel, and tart Santa Rosa plums, easily standing out as one of the best dishes of the year. Though short and sweet, the 4-5 cocktails on offer (now being updated by brand new bar manager Jason “Buffalo” LoGrasso from Cotogna) are clean, simple-yet-vivid stars in their own right.

199 Gough, SF. (415) 355-9085,



A neighborhood diner and soda fountain, Ice Cream Bar deserves accolades for bringing us the kind of soda fountain menu unmatched in the country, yet sure to be copied. Recipes and practices date back to the 1800s with modern sensibility, showcased in drinks like the Bonne Vie No. 2, a citrus-garden delight of basil leaves, basil ice cream, and pink grapefruit, its sour-fresh qualities glorified with citric acid. There are boozy fountain drinks (like a perfect Angostura Phosphate), ice cream (the tart cherry remains my favorite), and darn good sandwiches (egg salad and tuna) on house brioche, with the soda fountain manned by gifted, friendly soda jerks who live and breathe the history of the craft.

815 Cole, SF. (415) 742-4932,



With the food world in Scandinavian mode the last few years (the cuisine to take over where the El Bulli world of Spain ruled for so long), it’s a shame we haven’t had much Scandinavian food to speak of here, particularly of the nouveau wave à la Fäviken or Noma. Pläj (pronounced “play”) is gourmet-traditional Scandinavian fare with modern sensibilities from chef-owner Roberth Sundell, a Stockholm native. In the mellow Inn at the Opera, it’s a respite of a dinner with sincere service, shining particularly bright with seafood in the menu’s Fjord section. Herring trios, Swedish meatballs, Norwegian salmon belly gravlax and rounds of aquavit… I’ve been waiting for this one and hope it opens the door for more.

333 Fulton, SF. (415) 294-8925,



Don’t just call it a bakery. Craftsman & Wolves is a heightened sort of cafe where baked goods push boundaries and desserts are works of art. William Werner’s artistic eats, alongside sandwiches and salads, Sightglass Coffee, Naivetea, and dreamy drinking caramel made with salted butter, ensure this is an extraordinary addition to the SF food scene, standing apart from other cafes. Skylights, brick and clean lines make for a modern cafe setting, while items like the Rebel Within, an herb, cheese, sausage-studded muffin with a sous vide egg hidden inside, are already cult classics.

746 Valencia, SF. (415) 913-7713,



This sushi duo isn’t perfect, nor will either be the best sushi meal of your life. But in their infancy, they both represent the ideal neighborhood sushi outposts: friendly, laid back, almost hip, with spanking fresh fish and consistently interesting maki, nigiri, sashimi, tasting spoons (at Saru), and sizzling mango seabass (at Elephant). With a glass of sake, try firm-yet-silky squid in yuzu juice at Saru or bananas draped beautifully over Elephant’s Boom Box roll with scallop, avocado, and cucumber. Those lucky souls who live near either restaurant have themselves exemplary neighborhood sushi bars at which to unwind.

Saru: 3856 24th St., SF. (415) 440-4510

Elephant: 1916 Hyde, SF. (415) 440-1905,



Mission Bowling Club (MBC) is significant: until now no bowling alley served food this good. Hipster, even upscale for a bowling alley, the open, industrial space, large front patio, and downstairs and upstairs dining rooms (the latter oversees the action) add up to a striking setting for Anthony Myint — he of Mission Chinese Food and Mission St. Food, no less — to unleash his beloved Mission Burger, a rich, granulated patty, lathered in caper aioli. Entrees like blackened salmon on a potato latke marked by salmon roe, cucumber, and horseradish are listed alongside a juicy sausage corn dog dipped in habanero crema. Bowling never tasted this sublime.

3176 17th St., SF. (415) 863-2695,



Despite being open only three days a week for lunch, with just-added Saturday night dinner service (reserve ahead!), FuseBOX is my favorite East Bay addition this year because of its unique approach to Asian cuisine. Such limited hours in a remote West Oakland block makes it a meal you have to work to get to, but the fusion of Korean and izakaya-style Japanese from Sunhui and Ellen Sebastian Chang is a welcoming, tiny haven (with large front patio) for creative Asian fare often in bite-size format allowing ample tasting. There are rotating robata bites or kimchee from bok choy to kale, interesting panchan/banchan (mini-dishes often accompanying a Korean meal), hamachi tartare topped with lime caviar, Tokyo po boys, and an unforgettable bacon mochi. And who else offers kimchee and coffee service with Korean beignets?

2311A Magnolia, Oakl., (510) 444-3100,



Gioia Pizzeria (2240 Polk, SF. (415) 359-0971, for bringing Berkeley’s best NY pizza to SF; CatHead’s BBQ (1665 Folsom, SF. (415) 861-4242, for some of the better BBQ in our city (“real deal” Southern BBQ being difficult to come by outside of the South); Abbott’s Cellar (742 Valencia, SF. (415) 626-8700, for one of the best beer menus anywhere and elevated food to accompany it in a sleek-rustic dining room; Orexi (243 West Portal, SF. (415) 664-6739, for daring to bring satisfying Greek food to our Greek-deficient dining scene; St. Vincent (1270 Valencia, SF. (415) 285-1200, for a wine and beer geek’s dream menu partnered with forward-thinking interpretations of regional American dishes; Machka (584 Washington, SF. (415) 391-8228, for a chic take on Turkish food.

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Aria Korean American Snack Bar (932 Larkin, SF. (415) 292-6914)

Cat Head’s BBQ (1665 Folsom, SF. (415) 861-4242,

Craftsman and Wolves (746 Valencia, SF. (415) 913-7713,

Gioia Pizzeria (2240 Polk, SF. (415) 359-0971,

Hot Press (2966 Mission, SF. (415) 814-3814,

Ice Cream Bar (815 Cole, SF. (415) 742-4932,

Marcella’s Lasagneria and Cucina (1099 Tennessee, SF. (415) 920-2225,

Market and Rye (68 West Portal, SF. (415) 564-5950; 300 De Haro, SF. (415) 252-7455,

Mission Bowling Club (3176 17th St., SF. (415) 863-2695,

903 (903 Cortland, SF. (415) 678-5759)


Abbott’s Cellar (742 Valencia, SF. (415) 626-8700,

The Corner Store (5 Masonic, SF. (415) 359-1800,

Elephant Sushi (1916 Hyde, SF. (415) 440-1905,

FuseBOX (2311A Magnolia, Oakl. (510) 444-3100,

Honor Kitchen and Cocktails (1411 Powell, SF. (510) 653-8667,

Local’s Corner (2500 Bryant, SF. (415) 800-7945,

Machka (584 Washington, SF. (415) 391-8228,

Namu Gaji (499 Dolores, SF. (415) 431-6268,

Orexi (243 West Portal, SF. (415) 664-6739,

Pläj Scandinavian Restaurant and Bar (333 Fulton, SF. (415) 294-8925,

Rich Table (199 Gough, SF. (415) 355-9085,

Saru Sushi (3856 24th St., SF. (415) 440-4510)

State Bird Provisions (1529 Fillmore, SF. (415) 795-1272,

St. Vincent (1270 Valencia, SF. (415) 285-1200,


Adam’s Grub Truck (428 11th St., SF. (650) 440-7956,

All Good Pizza (1605 Jerrold, SF. (415) 846-6960,

Casey’s Pizza (

Cosmic American Voodoo Van (2250 Jerrold, SF. (415) 341-7203)

Del Popolo (

Old World Food Truck (


Live Shots: David Byrne and St. Vincent at the Orpheum


David Byrne opened his show with St. Vincent on Monday night by thanking the Orpheum for breaking its run of The Lion King for their performance. The David Byrne-St. Vincent show wasn’t too far off from the theater’s regular selection though. The eight piece brass band doing choreographed marching behind the duo had a theatrical effect, feeling somewhere between a Stop Making Sense-themed halftime show and an instrument-bearing ensemble in West Side Story.

The 60-year-old musical giant and 30-year-old indie star brought out a diverse crowd. Byrne was carrying on the legacy of art-school punk-turned-pop band, the Talking Heads, but some in the crowd seemed to be wondering “who is this pretty young talent helping espouse his eccentric philosophies?” The scalpers outside were only selling Byrne’s name on the tickets and there was an overabundant amount of “we love you David” cries from the audience.

You’d figure, though, that St. Vincent’s three studio albums of incredibly independent and experimental style, projects with diverse artists including Andrew Bird and Kid Cudi, and wide eyes on the cover of Spin magazine might have tipped these guys off as to who she is. Though St. Vincent did call Byrne at one point, “the resident preacher of the evening,” it was clear they were in equal limelight.

The two took turns performing songs from their collaboration, Love This Giant, as well as their own numbers, occasionally fitting their voices in for the harmony. The songs they picked from their respective catalogs carried themes from their joint album, including Byrne’s dilemma of trying to be human in modern America and St. Vincent’s struggles for freedom.

Though at times incredibly personal, the show had a broader message to its audience; one about people coming together despite their differences to figure out the strangeness of life. This was clearly illuminated in Byrne’s lines, “maybe someday we can stand together/ not afraid of what our eyes may see/ maybe someday I’ll understand it better/weird things inside of me.” Byrne even mimed some of these lyrics from “I Should Watch TV” so you couldn’t miss the point.

Everything about the show fit together like the perfect duet: each one had a distinct personality when you tried to focus on them but usually they flowed together seamlessly. When St. Vincent dropped her voice to fit with Byrne on the album and they gave it the egocentric sounding title, Love This Giant, (a reference to Byrne) a lot of the indie fans might have panicked that she would be overshadowed, but in fact this created really great tension.

It allowed St. Vincent to show off her tough core, like when she stood alone, legs apart, rocking on guitar and belting a cry for help in the song “Marrow” from her album Actor. Meanwhile, the band kept the energy up by standing behind her in two opposing lines, bobbing like the Sharks and Jets preparing to rumble.

Surprisingly, the two didn’t use their collaboration to develop from each other musically in the experimental way that Byrne has worked with others, like with Brian Eno. Aside from the brass band, which functioned more as a fun, symbolic decision, we saw the two employing a lot of styles from their previous work. It seemed like they knew already what they wanted their relationship to be: two people standing together despite their differences. And they pulled it off well (thankfully, without a hint of sexual tension).

In this nature, the two swapped soul-sharing moments throughout the show. It began with St. Vincent’s cries for support among flashing lights and dramatic staging while Byrne’s numbers were much more casual, with the musicians lounging around the stage.

As St. Vincent stepped into a more confident role later in the evening, Byrne began to open up with his self-mocking, “Lazy.” By the end though, both performers emerged from their calls to action and got the house on its feet for a small dance party to a few Talking Heads and St. Vincent solo hits, a rare treat in the formal theater setting.


All photos by Bennett Cox.

Our Weekly Picks: October 10-16



Happy Hour at 251 Post

Stumbling on 251 Post Street feels a lot like clicking on a square in Minesweeper that opens up an awesome chunk of mine-free space. The entrance is nudged between a designer sunglass shop and high-end French clothing store, but it leads to six floors full of innovate artwork. Granted, the art might be in the same price range as the surrounding stores, but hey, admission is a lot cheaper than a museum. The happy hour will feature artist talks at four of the six galleries, including the Bay Area painter Brett Amory, whose simple but beautiful paintings are evocative of my lonelier dream visions. His work, focused on figures and buildings he encounters in Oakland and San Francisco, reduces everything down to the essence, creating empty spaces where buildings and figures seem to recede and appear before your eyes. (Molly Champlin)

5pm, free

251 Post Street Art Galleries, SF

(415) 291-8000


Dinosaur Jr.

We don’t need to tell you that Dinosaur Jr was one of the most influential alternative rock bands of the 1990s or that these dudes can really shred. We’ll just let their 28-year career attest to that. What we will tell you is that their new album is not to be overlooked or underestimated. These Dinosaurs have aged well. I Bet on Sky, their 10th full-length, is a loudmouthed snarl of a record. It features all the best quirks of Dinosaur Jr’s extensive catalogue: frightening amounts of fuzz, weirdly engaging hooks, and deep dark lyrics in J Mascis’ disengaged nasal yowls. Don’t forget to bring earplugs. (Haley Zaremba)

8pm, $32.50


1805 Geary, SF

(415) 346-3000



Lenora Lee Dance

The history of Chinese Americans in the Bay Area is not exactly a closed book. Over the years many artists — including dancers — have opened a few of its pages, but I can’t think of any choreographer who has taken an approach as simultaneously intimate and large scale as Lenora Lee. In her work, the personal and the political intertwine inextricably. As part of her fifth anniversary celebration she, and some very fine visual, musical and text collaborators, are presenting a triptych that is still in the making. “Passages: For Lee Ping To” is the most personal — based on Lee’s grandmother’s story; “Reflections” looks at conflicting ideas of maleness; and “The Escape”, a work on immigrant women. (Rita Felciano)

Fri/12-Sat/13, 8pm, $15–$25

Sun/14, 3:30pm

Dance Mission Theater

3316, 24th St., SF



The Raveonettes

The collaboration of Sune Rose Wagner and Sharin Foo feels like 1950s and ’60s rock’n’roll overlaid with electric noise and coupled with darker, more introspective lyrics. Their sound recalls grunge and captures a shoegazy moodiness that’s both mysterious and lyrical. The Danish duo has been making music together as the Raveonettes since 2001, has developed a cult following along the way, and has been credited with spawning somewhat of an American indie rock renaissance. Wagner relates Observator, the group’s recently released sixth album, to “a heavenly dream that you slowly realize is actually taking place in hell.” (Mia Sullivan)

With Melody’s Echo Chamber

9pm, $25


1025 Columbus, SF?

(415) 474-0365



Morbid Angel

Time was that Morbid Angel could do no wrong. Tampa was bursting with bands in the later Reagan years, but few combined brutality with complexity as well as guitarist Trey Azagthoth, drummer Pete Sandoval, and bassist-vocalist David Vincent. With the release of 2011’s Illud Divinum Insanus, however, that time officially ended. Industrial and electronic textures alienated fans, leaving them uncertain about the band’s new direction. Thankfully, having missed the Illud… sessions while recovering from back surgery, Sandoval is now back in the fold, which bodes well for a return to death metal roots on the band’s current tour. (Ben Richardson)

With Dark Funeral, Grave

9pm, $31


333 11th St., SF




Life is Living Festival

Even in the season of street fair, Marc Bamuthi Joseph’s Life is Living Festival stands out. The overarching theme for the fests — they take place in ‘hoods across the country, from Houston’s Emancipation Park to Chicago’s South Side to the Bronx — is bringing green to the black community, uniting the sustainability movement with a hip-hop sensibility. The fest overflows with hip-happenings: Oakland’s first youth poet laureate Stephanie Yun will take the stage, there’ll be a street art contest, a show by a local team of dunk artists, vegan Filipino food, free breakfast (a park tradition started by the Black Panthers), youth science exhibition, dancing, hip-hop cipher — oh, and Talib Kweli will DJ. The fest prides itself on being an uber-positive, multi-generational show of strength. You won’t go home frowning. (Caitlin Donohue)

10am-6pm, free Defremery Park 1651 Adeline, Oakl.


Alternative Press Expo

Besides, of course, the sweetly self-conscious parade of Optimus Prime, Misty from Pokemon, and Clockwork Android costumes, my favorite part of the dearly-departed Wonder Con was the sociology nerd comics panels. “Women in Comics,” “Social Justice in Comics,” the list goes on. Graphic novels present the perfect, neurosis-friendly media in which to delve into alternative culture, which is why the Alternative Press Expo will make you forget all those Hollywood blockbuster star panels. Go this year to delve into the best scribblers of alt culture, like the Hernandez brothers of Love and Rockets Latino punk fame, a queer cartoonist panel moderated by Glamazonia’s Justin Hall, and the chance to connect with a gajillion like-minded indie comic freaks. (Donohue)

11am-7pm; also Sun/14, 11am-6pm; $10 one day, $15 two day pass Concourse Exhibition Center 635 Eighth St., SF


Yerba Buena Night

Art allies in the Yerba Buena district are rallying together for another installment of Yerba Buena Night. The neighborhood will be full of people getting their musing-spectator on during the gallery walk, rocking out at the three main performance stages, and chatting with class at the champagne reception hosted by Visual Aid. Be sure to stop by 111 Minna to see surreal graffiti and pen artist Lennie Mace, who operates in both America and Japan, as well as some of Mike Shine’s paintings and props from Outside Lands (minus the live carny folk, unfortunately). Or visit Wendi Norris Gallery for beautifully bright but often gruesome narrative paintings by artist Howie Tsui: think pop-surrealist Mark Ryden with a Chinese influence. (Champlin)

3pm, free

Yerba Buena District

701 Mission

(415) 541-0312



David Byrne and St. Vincent

Old and young, man and woman, beauty and beast (albeit a hip beast with now slick, silver hair), David Byrne and St. Vincent make quite the unlikely pair. Despite, or maybe in light of these differences, their respective talents fit together like puzzle pieces in their joyously poppy and horn-laden collaboration, Love This Giant. The album, released in September, rings in like a call to action and touches on issues of wealth, prescribed and individual culture, love, and forgiveness. Aside from the fact that everyone loves a rock show backed with an eight-piece brass band, this is set to be a memorable night.(Champlin)

8pm, $63.50–$129

Orpheum Theater

1192 Market, SF

(888) 746-1799


The Sheepdogs

If you’re itching for some classic rock nostalgia but aren’t in the mood for the full-on experience (i.e. Dark Star Orchestra), check out The Sheepdogs. This Canadian quartet looks like they were pulled straight out of the ’70s and has been sonically influenced by rock icons like The Grateful Dead, Credence Clearwater Revival, and Steely Dan. These guys released a self-titled, debut album with Atlantic Records last month. (They released their first three albums independently.) The Sheepdogs thrive on three-part harmonies, produce extremely catchy tracks, and have been rumored to put on fun, blissful shows. (Sullivan)

With Black Box Revelation

7:30pm, $15

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011


Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin

Not quite nu-jazz, math-rock, or classical minimalism, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin attacks Reichian time signatures with the borderline robotic technical skill of a group of Juilliard grads, the undeniable groove of an airtight funk band, and the Steely Dan-worthy production values inherent to ECM, the venerable European jazz label to which they’re signed. Bärtsch’s piano playing is remarkably dynamic, flowing between resonant, open tones and muffled, percussive hammering, while generously layered drums, agile bass-plucking, and exotic woodwinds (contrabass clarinet, anyone?) create a dark, steely backdrop. Considering the Swiss ensemble’s masterful ability to anchor soulful acoustic instrumentation with a relentlessly electronic pulse, Nik Bärtsch’s Ronin is as compelling, and unmissable, as any live ensemble currently working. (Taylor Kaplan)

8pm, $20

Yoshi’s Oakland

510 Embarcadero West, Oakl.

(510) 238-9200


Vampyr with live score by Steven Severin

Get your Halloween on a little early this year with Steven Severin, founding member and bassist of Siouxie and the Banshees, who comes to haunt the city tonight with two special live performances of his new score to the classic 1932 horror film Vampyr. The third installment in Severin’s ongoing film accompaniment series “Music For Silents,” the darkly moody synthesizer score perfectly matches the surreal scenes on the silver screen, working in conjunction with the somewhat unorthodox style of filmmaker Carl Theodor Dreyer, who continued to use elements of the silent era, including dialogue title cards, even though the film was made at the advent of the talkies. (Sean McCourt)

7 and 9:30pm, $15

Roxie Theater

3117 16th St., SF


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Beer for dinner


BEER + WINE Craft beers are in their heyday, alongside craft everything else — it only makes sense that they would begin to take prominence on local menus next to intricately prepared and finely sourced dishes. San Francisco beer luminary Dave McLean has been brewing Magnolia beers, among my favorites anywhere, at his Upper Haight brewpub for nearly 15 years, now expanding to a new Dogpatch location. Like Magnolia, modern classic Monk’s Kettle in the Mission has focused since its 2007 opening on serving food to match its beer offerings, and new Maven in Lower Haight is innovative in its extensive beer-food pairings menu. (And we haven’t forgotten more casual beer-and-sausage options like Gestalt and Toronado-Rosamunde.) Now, two new restaurants arrive where food is equally important to beverage, with exciting beer slants.



Opened in May with great wine world buzz, St. Vincent is owned by sommelier David Lynch, known for his impeccable wine list at Quince. Accordingly, the wine list at St. Vincent (named not for the popular indie musician but for a third-century Spanish deacon known as the patron saint of winemakers) is global and excellent, with many bottles in the $30–$50 range, plus affordable by-the-glass pours like a crisp, floral 2011 Domaine de Guillemarine Picpoul de Pinet.

Wisely, Lynch brought on beer director (and certified cicerone) Sayre Piotrkowski, whose brings his beer knowledge and keen eye for the unusual from his former position at Monk’s Kettle. Piotrkowski has made spot-on drink recommendations on every visit, and the friendly staff are well-versed on the menu. I’ve tasted many of the eight rotating beers on draft, like those from Oakland’s Linden Street and Dying Vines breweries, or delightful beers from tiny Pasadena micro-brewery Craftsman Brewing Co., including a Triple White Sage Belgian-Style Tripel or a 1903 Lager, pre-Prohibition style. Splurge for a $22 bottle of fascinating Birrificio del Ducato’s Verdi Russian Imperial Stout, spicy with hot chile from Parma, Italy. ($11 if you can find it at liquor store extraordinaire Healthy Spirits, btw.)

New Jersey native Chef Bill Niles (most recently of Bar Tartine) exhibits a strong dose of New Southern in his California cooking. Although dishes like she-crab soup ($14), utilizing sea urchin, sugar snap peas and Carolina gold rice in a corn-lobster chowder, or rabbit burgoo ($24), a mélange of white turnips, baby green okra, white corn grits, and rabbit loin sausage with unusual lamb’s quarter herb, are nothing like the she-crab soups I’ve loved in South Carolina or the burgoo stews I’ve dined on in Kentucky, Niles has reinterpreted the regional dishes with care — and a distinctly West Coast ethos.

Beet-horseradish or curry pickled eggs ($3 each) are a predictably a good time, while a hand-rolled pretzel with mustard and butter ($5) is a bit small and forlorn. I searched for the listed clothbound cheddar in the baked Vidalia onion soup ($9), where even onions didn’t impart the hoped-for flavor intensity. Rarely-seen, ultra-salty Welsh laverbread ($18) is a hunk of Tartine wheat bread lathered in Pacific sea laver (seaweed), Manila clams, and hen of the woods mushrooms, ideal with beer. Entrees like roasted duck leg ($22), surrounded by buttered rye berries, griddled stonefruit, celery, and pickled mustard are heartier, but, unexpectedly, I preferred a vegetarian entree: an herb-laden spring succotash ($18) of butter beans, white corn, and dandelion, perfected with padron peppers.

Though St. Vincent’s food voice feels like it’s still finding itself, I appreciate that it is not the same iteration of gastropub food we’ve seen a thousand times over.

1270 Valencia, SF. 415-285-1200,



Abbot’s Cellar opened in July and is Monk’s Kettle sister restaurant. The Lundberg Design (Moss Room, Quince, Slanted Door) space immediately impresses with 24-foot ceilings illuminated by skylights, and a long, 3000-square-foot dining room marked by reclaimed woods for a rustic, urban barn feel. A two-story stone cellar houses beer at proper temperatures, listed in a book that pulls out from the side of each table.

The volume lists more than 120 rotating beers — curated by co-owner and cellarmaster Christian Albertson with co-beer director Mike Reis — grouped by style (sours, saisons, etc.), with two pages dedicated to drafts. There’s a wall of glassware suited to every type of beer served, whether Jolly Pumpkin’s Madrugada Obscura Sour Stout from Dexter, MI, or Italian 2004 Xyauyu Etichetta Rame. A pricey ($14.50 for a six-ounce pour) Belgian Brouwerij De Landtsheer Malheur Brut is a dry, elegant Champagne-style beer served on the stem, one of ten offerings in a by-the-glass selection from large beer bottles rarely available by the pour.

As a temple dedicated to beer, the Cellar succeeds immediately. The bar and chef’s counter are ideal perches from which to sip, accompanied by hand-pump cask engines (sample Firestone Walker’s Unfiltered Double Barrel Ale from these classic pumps), and a reading shelf lined with Dulye’s collection of cookbooks.

Chef, co-owner, and experienced craft beer restaurateur Adam Dulye explores flavors optimal to brews. Dishes — a la carte options or tasting menus: three course $45, $60 with pairing; 5 course $65, $90 with pairing — are well-crafted and artful. As at St. Vincent, some dishes stand well above others, although there’s generally promising possibility. A coon-striped shrimp salad ($11) makes a dramatic presentation but, similar to crawfish, you’ll struggle to pull a tiny bite of meat from the shrimp. Cumin-roasted heirloom carrots ($11), elegantly displayed with quinoa, oyster mushrooms and sprouts, lack distinctive flavor.

Alternately, braised rabbit on tender handkerchief pasta ($23), dotted with English peas and hen of the woods mushrooms, is heartwarming, particularly with beer. “Wow factor” is in play with a unique beef bone marrow ($12) dish. The bone is topped with crispy house pastrami, alongside spicy greens, more pastrami, pickled mustard seeds, and rye croutons — one of the more exciting of countless bone marrow dishes I’ve had. While roast pheasant ($24) with lacinato kale and non-existent (but listed) cauliflower puree was too dry, a generous pork chop ($25) is insanely juicy and satisfying over chewy caraway spaetzle, topped with grilled peaches. A dessert of warm, roasted parsnip cake ($9), co-mingling with whipped cream cheese and a ginger molasses cookie, is a homey highlight, lovely with the coffee-almond malt of Great Divide’s Yeti Imperial Stout.

742 Valencia, SF. 415-626-8700,



Ever since savoring a fantastic New England cider pairing with each course of a fall dinner at NYC’s Gramercy Tavern years ago, I’ve wondered when we might witness the arrival of urban cider bars. SF’s new Upcider and Bushwhacker in Portland are it thus far.

Two aspects of Upcider jump out immediately: Ozgun (Ozzie) Gundogdu and his sister’s warm welcome — Ozzie opened the bar with former roommate and co-worker Omer Cengiz — and a second story upstairs space with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Polk Street. One can sit at the windows, gazing below at a busy street scene, enveloped by low-ceilings and a cozy glow, transported to a European bar or maybe even one in Turkey, Ozzie and Omer’s homeland.

The bar, lined with rustic, reclaimed wood, houses a range of bottled ciders — 19 producers, 40 varieties of cider (and growing) at $5–$26 a bottle, the most expensive being a 750ml of Etienne Dupont Brut De Normandie from Victot-Pontfol, France. You’ll find big brands like Magners or ones we’ve seen often in SF like Fox Barrel, Crispin, and Two Rivers. But you’ll also discover three ciders from Wandering Aengus Ciderworks in Salem, OR, or J.K. Scrumpy Organic, a sweeter cider from Flushing, MI. On the dry side (there’s also a medium-dry option), I liked Hogan’s Cider from Worcestershire, England. A new discovery was Julian Hard Cider from Julian, CA, a small Gold Rush town inland from Escondido and San Diego.

Its tart, dry Cherry Bomb ($11 for 22 oz. bottle) is a fascinating cider with a funky finish. There are Basque ciders, mead, wines, and beers, and bar food from chef Tony Carracci (Cha Cha Cha). For the time being there are no ciders on tap, but that is due to the intensive plumbing rebuild necessary to meet city requirements. Hopefully, there will be a way to provide draft ciders in the future.

Whiling away summer evenings in Upcider feels like traveling. I noticed the neighborhood’s Middle Eastern community gathering below for friendly banter, a refreshing alternative side of a street lined with raucous partiers and bar-hoppers.

1160 Polk, SF. 415-931-1797,

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APPETITE A fledgling new restaurant is a work in progress, evolving. Often I’ll visit restaurants in their opening week, then return three to four weeks later, noticing a marked improvement in rhythm and flow, if not a dramatic change in food (often first food impressions prove to be consistent).

Returning a few months into a restaurant’s life, if things are heading the right direction, a distinct voice emerges, reflected in service and menus. Other times, one still searches for a point of view, a compelling enough reason to return. Opening in May with big vision and standouts on the plate, Dixie in the Presidio struggles to find cohesion after three months of visits.

The Southern intention of chef Joseph Humphrey (a Florida native) is just the sort of thing I get excited about: California-fresh with a New Southern ethos, not dissimilar to some of the Southern-influenced mashups I find at the likes of Maverick, the new St. Vincent, or in the best food cities of the South. Humphrey cooked at Michelin-starred Meadowood and Murray Circle, and in New Orleans with none other than Dickie Brennan & Co. South truly meets West in Dixie.

In the former Pres a Vi, Dixie hints at Southern plantation feel on the roomy veranda — ideal for the just-launched brunch — clearly the best area in the roomy restaurant. Though dreamily set in the Presidio, surrounded by trees, the Palace of Fine Arts standing majestically across the lawn, the inside remodel hasn’t quite covered up the space’s corporate feel. Rich wood grains and musical instrument art installations warm slightly, but neutral tones and a subdued air communicate “bland.”

Nearly condescending, cold service on my first visit had me actually dreading a return. Dread should never be on the menu, especially at this price. In another visit, I dined in the back space where at 7:30pm on a Saturday night more than half the tables were filled with thankfully well-behaved children. Here service improved: sweet if unsure.

Humphrey’s skill shines in chicken-fried quail on garlic waffles ($15), a twist on my soul food favorite, with cabbage and kale slaw and a subtle kick from Thai chilies in the syrup. Another excellent dish is chicken and dumplings ($24). “Dumplings” are melting-soft ricotta gnudi surrounding tender cuts of chicken draped with baby carrots. This reinterpretation does what it should: it makes you rethink, but still thoroughly enjoy, a classic.

Red miso black cod ($23), silky in apple and bourbon-tinged foam, was so good it was the one dish I reordered. Accompanied by lobster mushrooms, only a mound of farro was flavorless and forlorn. I couldn’t help but long for 4505 Meats and Ryan Farr’s unparalleled, dissolve-in-your-mouth chicharrones when chomping on the harder, overly-salty version ($6) with nori salt here. Abalone and pickled jalapeno peek out of creamy corn soup ($14), while horseradish deviled eggs ($7) are smartly topped with fried chicken liver. Despite the promise of shaved tasso ham (I adore tasso), a Dixie chopped salad ($12) is almost banal, the ham more like two big slices of deli meat draped across an otherwise unadorned salad (merely lettuce in creamy shallot dressing with a smattering of radishes), rather than sliced up and in the mix.

Wine or a pour of whiskey were the more gratifying drink choices. On the cocktail front, a pricey Terroir Fizz ($14) utilizes amazing, local St. George Terroir gin with lemon, lime, Cointreau, lemon verbena, and egg white for froth. Though I commend the move away from sweet, it was so sour (and I’ve been to known suck on lemons, that’s how much I crave sour), balance was lost in what could have been a beautiful aperitif — a bigger blow when this town is packed with excellent cocktails in the $8–$12 range. Dixie Triple S ($12) fared better in balance of sweet-smoky-spicy (the triple “S”) with Espolon silver tequila, lime, watermelon-jalapeno puree, and a hickory-smoked salt rim. 2 Bens is a playful tribute to “what dad and granddad drank” — a pint of Guinness and shot of Jack Daniels — but I cannot fathom paying $16 for a pour of such basic brands.

Dixie’s musical, New Southern vision is among my dream restaurant concepts but in actuality feels incongruent and out-of-sync despite supreme moments of taste. After the bill arrives at well over $100 for two, walking out into misty Presidio air before a green expanse leading to the Bay, our first thought is where to go next to fill up.


One Letterman Dr., SF

(415) 829-3363




APPETITE Opened on July 13 way back in 2005, Maverick is a longtimer by modern day restaurant standards. I’d posit that it’s better than ever with new executive chef Emmanual Eng, brought on last year by owners Scott Youkilis and Michael Pierce (who is also the general manager and wine director). In contrast to its more casual, younger sister Hog and Rocks, Maverick’s food has grown more sophisticated and focused over the years.

The menu delights and has evolved slightly at each visit, with whispers of Southern influence (and beyond) married to forward-thinking culinary vision. Traditional Southern ingredients and dishes are a springboard for cutting-edge “New Southern” cuisine, the likes of which I’ve seen in cities such as Charleston and Atlanta in recent years or at San Francisco newcomers like Dixie and St. Vincent.

Maverick hasn’t slowed down with age and, especially with talented young Chef Eng on board, to continue challenging itself. An artist and Portland native, Eng boldly walked into SF’s Indigo in 2000, offering to work for free to learn the ropes. He eventually became line cook at Aqua, Quince, and Foreign Cinema, then sous chef at Boulevard and Sons and Daughters. His experience at some of our top restaurants shows in his bold-yet-refined cooking.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: the signature fried chicken ($24) is as fantastic as ever. Juicy inside, crispy outside, and not at all greasy, the batter is touched with cinnamon, cayenne, and white pepper. It was recently served with blackened patty-pan squash, succotash, pickled watermelon rind, and cornbread croutons — with ham hock and mustard gravy tying it all together, eliciting sighs of delight. It’s hard not to want to return to this one over and over again — and many diners do.

But you’d be remiss not to branch out. There’s nothing Southern about a squash blossom stuffed with brandade ($10), rosso bruno tomatoes, Calabrian chilis, and basil, but it’s delicious. Italian spirit is also present in burrata cheese, made nearby on 16th Street ($12), but rather than being leaving it as another burrata starter, Eng layers flavors with ashed rind from corn husks, baby leeks, arugula pisto, pickled fiddlehead ferns and zucchini. Just before the foie gras ban — which I am not happy about — a duck butcher plate ($16) impressed with foie, tasso-cured duck breast (there’s your Southern touch: fantastic tasso ham), strawberry mostarda, white peach, lime, and duck rillette croquette. Summery as it was rich, it’s the mostarda I craved more of.

Another inspired Southern reinterpretation is porcini mushroom and Anson Mills grits ($12.50). It’s not remotely a traditional grits dish, in fact, there’s only a smattering of creamy grits amid tender porcinis, pearl onion, snap peas and a smoked soft-poached egg running over ingredients when punctured. For a vegetarian dish, it’s almost meaty and soulful. Massachusetts Dayboat sea scallops ($13) are seared just right, but accents of compressed watermelon, pineapple mint, Padron peppers, dotted with lipstick pimento sauce and ancho chile-pumpkin seed pesto making it memorable. Lobster bread pudding draped in smoked cod ($26) is a brilliant twist on traditional New Brunswick stew — in this case, a creamy mussel chowder touched with jerky-like strips of linguica, clams, corn, and sea beans (seaweed). Dessert is no afterthought. In fact, a chocolate Samoa truffle ($9) feels like vacation, a chocolate mound spiked with chocolate bark in a pool of caramelized coconut accented by crumbled shortbread.

Pierce’s wine pairings and frank, engaging welcome are another key part of what makes Maverick special. (We share a New Jersey past, and you can still sense some of that state about him.) His love of wine has grown since his days at Sociale. The thoughful wine list is inclusive of some of California’s more interesting small labels like Wind Gap and Le P’Tit Paysan. A 2009 Cru Pinot from Monterey is perfection with the grits. The anise hyssop dotting tasso-cured duck “prosciutto” pops when paired with a floral, crisp 2011 Domaine de la Fouquette Grenache-Cinsault-Syrah-Rolle rose from Provence. Ask Pierce about his Junk Food Wine Pairing series — he’ll pair wines with the likes of Slim Jims and Doritos.

I appreciate that even sans hard liquor license, Maverick attempts creative cocktails ($9) using vermouth and sake in low alcohol aperitifs. Some work better than others, but the attentive use of local products like Sutton Cellars vermouth is something I wish more wine and beer only restaurants would do. The most consistent drink is a ginger lemon fizz, utilizing Sutton’s dry vermouth, bright with ginger, Meyer lemon, and dreamy honey foam.

At Maverick, attentive staff, intimate dining room, and unique explorations of a well-known regional cuisine exhibit what makes Southern cooking so beloved in the first place: heart.


3316 17th St., SF


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Halcyon days


MUSIC Half a decade after their last album release, Two Gallants are back. As you might recall, the folk-punk duo made up of childhood pals guitarist-vocalist Adam Haworth Stephens and drummer-vocalist Tyson Vogel was already something of a legend in San Francisco — known for playing both BART stations and arenas — when it took an unexpectedly lengthy break. There were three years between them playing together, five years between records (their last being 2007’s self-titled LP on Saddle Creek).

That time apart proved both dramatic and fertile, with new side projects and solo records, personal struggles and rebirth. “Refreshing” is the word Stephens uses most frequently as he readies for a plane flight to Germany in the morning to play a few European festivals with his old friend.

After they return to SF from Deutschland, they’ll have a moment to relax in their hometown, and then will head back out on the road for their first official tour in years, hitting both Outside Lands and an Outside Lands night show at the Rickshaw Stop along the way, followed by, presumably, world reintroduction.

Before the hiatus, the duo was on a never-ending roller coaster of van-venue-van, five years of “incessant, grueling” touring, as Stephens describes it. “So I think we just needed a break, some time from each other and from the whole repetitive cycle of it — refreshing.”

Last year, they were back in the recording studio, spending two weeks at Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, then another week at Tiny Telephone. The new album was created with the help of John Congleton, a musician and producer-engineer wizard who NPR last year declared “Indie Rock’s Unsung Hero Of 2011,” thanks in part to his work on records with St. Vincent, Wye Oak, the Mountain Goats, and others.

Towards the end of last year, in late November, Congleton began work on yet another record — Two Gallants’ The Bloom and the Blight, due for release Sept. 4 on ATO Records.

“Making a record can be pretty trying at times, there’s a lot of dark moments when you’ve been working on something too much and you get caught up in it, you go in this wormhole of indecisiveness but he had a refreshing view on making records,” Stephens says lightly. “He brought out a little more levity, and a little more fun, which I think made the record much more enjoyable than anything we’ve done before.”

You can hear his touch on The Bloom and Blight. While it’s more aggressive, grungier than past Two Gallants output, it’s also more lively, despite the heavy subject matter at hand.

The record begins with a slow-burning, bluesy guitar-led ballad “Halcyon Days,” which bursts open cathartically with Vogel’s thumping bass drum and Stephens’ scratchy howl. The first single, “My Love Won’t Wait,” begins with a similarly exciting build-up — both voices, a capella, harmonizing “You can try/but ain’t no use/I’ll lose it if you cut me loose.” It builds to a crackling garage anthem.

“Our songs have always been pretty dark, but I think these have more of a light-hearted nature to them,” says Stephens. “I think we’ve gotten to the point where we still take the craft very seriously and music very seriously, but we don’t take ourselves quite as seriously.”

The band lifted the veil of the dark, brooding romanticism of the art, but were still able to convey their pain, just without that adolescent pretension. It’s an expected cycle from a long-running band, or really, any long-term relationship. People change, grow, fail to jump back on those horses, or learn to do it their way. In the album closer — folky acoustic ballad “Sunday Souvenirs” — Stephens pines “Memories of what I gave away/lost love/all the love that’s lost along the way/slow down/let me hold you once before you fade.”

“I think we’ve grown up a lot,” he says during our phone call. “[The songs on The Bloom and the Blight] have more perspective of experience and maturity and coming from the perspective of someone that sees the beauty and tragedy in things but doesn’t get as caught up in it.”

Certainly they’ve seen their fair share of beauty and tragedy in the past few years. Relationships have bloomed and crumbled, personal projects have achieved widespread if lesser acclaim. In likely the most tragic events in recent memory, in 2011 Stephens was involved in two separate accidents, a horrific van crash out on tour in Wyoming and a collision on his bike with a car while riding to his practice space in the Mission.

But he’s moved forward. He’ll get back on that touring horse, and is happy to soon be back in the van with his childhood pal, Vogel.

“I am actually really looking forward to going on tour again; We’re both really looking forward to playing new songs, and seeing people’s reactions,” he says, adding, “It’s not like we’re expecting everyone to fall in love with it, but at least people know what they’re getting into. We’re playing all the new songs — so the set’s pretty foreign to anyone besides us.”


Aug. 8, 7:30pm, $20

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF (415) 861-2011


Aug. 10, 1:50pm, $95 (one-day pass)

Outside Lands

Golden Gate Park, SF

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



MUSIC Van Pierszalowski’s story writes itself: musician finds love in picturesque European city, swims in fjords, writes a fuzzy grunge-inflected record about it and his travels, and calls the band WATERS (appearing Thu/10 at the Fillmore). “I met a girl,” he says from the road. “And I just wanted to get back over there. It was a place to work on songs, refocus.”

Even his story before the present wrote itself: young man travels to Alaska to fish with his father and creates chilly, acoustic folk soundscapes, names the band Port O’Brien after an Alaskan Bay.

This all happened. Only life isn’t all one big linear story, and Pierszalowski isn’t nearly so precious as implied within these tales. He never stopped writing songs between the break-up of Port O’Brien and formation of WATERS. He was bouncing back and forth between Oslo and San Francisco for two years, with stops here and there in New York and Alaska, also Dallas in spring of 2011 to record a full-length with producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Bill Callahan).

His first and latest album for WATERS — Out in the Light — came out last September to a flurry of positive reviews, tales of rebirth, etc. The record produced anthemic “For the One” (and its trippy dreamcatcher-based video), which kicks off with a slow buzz breaking into a chainsaw pop guitar line, and Pierszalowski pleading, “Oh my god I thought I was a free man out on road,” later in chorus, “when I wake up/and I take you with me/I’ve seen too much of old/And I’m not waiting.”

So what happens after the initial burst of new-band hype? Pierszalowski is still in love, and touring much of the year. When home in the Bay Area for brief snippets of time, he and the girl — Marte Solbakken — live together, and frequent Dynamo Donuts for sustenance. “I live up there on Potrero Hill. Everything’s there, that’s our home.”

While Pierszalowski is ringleader and songwriter, the current incarnation of the band — drummer Nicholas Wolch and bassist Alexander Margitich, both from Santa Rosa, guitarist Aaron Bradshaw, and Solbakken on keys and singing — has been touring the States together for some time.

This summer they’ll be back in Oslo briefly, and before that, more tours, including an opening slot for Delta Spirit, which brings the band to the Fillmore this week. Following that, there’s another tour with Nada Surf in June.

They’ll traverse the wide-open plains and rather familiar coasts of the U.S. — when not fishing in Alaska, Pierszalowski was raised in tiny coastal Cambria, just south of the Hearst Castle.

He wasn’t a surfer like many of the locals, so he found solace in music, taking inspiration from a long line of iconic guitarists and singers, starting with Billie Joe Armstrong in junior high, moving up to Joey Ramone, Thom Yorke, Neil Young, Will Oldham, and his most consistant inspiration, Kurt Cobain.

“I’ve always gone on record as saying In Utero is my favorite record of all time,” he says. Nirvana was an influence on Port O’Brien’s sound and a huge influence on WATERS.

So what’s next? Pierszalowski is feeling the pressure to start creating new music again, has written a few songs on the sly, and is already fantasizing about the next record — he’s hoping to get back in the studio at the end of the year. It’s his life on the road with the one that he loves, but it’s not just a simple fairytale. There are donuts involved.


With Delta Spirit

Thu/10, 8pm, $20


1805 Fillmore, SF

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

Coachella Day 2: All about Azealia (and Radiohead)


All photos by Eric Lynch

If Friday was about the weather and a few stellar performances, Saturday was all about the music. Larger, happier crowds with pants rolled higher and enthusiasm to match.

Azealia Banks broke it down 1980s style for what she said was her largest crowd ever.  Love the nails Azelia!

Annie Clark, aka St. Vincent, belted it out soon after the sun went down and managed to change guitars four times. 

There were so many Radiofans camped out at the Coachella Stage during the Shins I wondered if SBTRKT could host a nice crew. But the Gobi Tent was bursting with amped Gen Zeders ready for one of the funner performances of the day.

And then Radiohead‘s polished master stroke hypnotized the willing. I couldn’t get over Thom’s wall of recycled plastic bottles reinvented as a 30-foot-high light wall. 

Our Weekly Picks: December 25-31



Doe Eye

When Maryam Qudus — sole member of local indie-pop project, Doe Eye — sings “I Hate You,” it’s hard to believe her. It’s cute as hell. But the point of the song is indeed that. She doesn’t hate the faceless “you,” but is tortured by the affection. It’s that kind of thoughtfulness with an added ear for pop charm that makes Doe Eye a project you can espouse. Doe Eye released the EP, Run, Run, Run, in August, and sure, it’s about as radio-friendly as you can get. But the instrumentation, with its orchestral and wavy synth touches, is undoubtedly inspired by indie-rock acts around today, be it Beach House or St. Vincent. (James H. Miller)

With The Trims, Pounders, and Miles the DJ

9 p.m., $8

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 621-4455


Mara Hruby

Michael Jackson doing “Ain’t No Sunshine.” Al Green doing “Light My Fire.” Nina Simone doing “Rich Girl.” (Yeah, Hall and Oates, look it up.) While a cover rarely make the original irrelevant, a good one should make it the artist’s own. On From Her Eyes, a free EP she reportedly sang, arranged, recorded, and engineered, Oakland’s Mara Hruby lent her sweet, soulfully agile voice to tracks by Mos Def, Andre 3000, Bob Marley, Jamiroquai, and others, rendering each different and new. Since then Hruby has been at work on her debut album, teasing songs “Lucky (I Love You)” and “The Love Below” online, and will be including new material at this show. (Ryan Prendiville)

With Chris Turner

8 p.m., $15

Yoshi’s Oakland

510 Embarcadero West, Oakl.

(510) 238-9200


The Umbrellas of Cherbourg and A Woman is a Woman

A double bill of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964) and A Woman is a Woman (1961) at the Castro is the stuff cinephilia is made of. Those sweet on The Artist should be sure to check in with these earlier Gallic interpretations of Hollywood razzle dazzle. The first, Jacques Demy’s Umbrellas is the purer confection in many ways, but the film’s tender sentimentalism and radiant color design flow towards a soulful poetry of the everyday. The second, by Jean-Luc Godard, is an early distillation of his complex movie love and a poignant offering to actress Anna Karina. Both films feature scores by Michel Legrand, so they carry their complex register of emotions with a lightness that escapes words. (Max Goldberg)

3:25 and 7 p.m., $10

Castro Theatre

429 Market, SF

(415) 621-6120



What do you get when you cross a gutter punk b-boy with a space goth? Sprinkle him with a little MDMA and you’ve got Travis Egedy, a.k.a. Pictureplane. Egedy works clubby ’90s vocal samples and celestial beats into infectious pop songs, which he sings over in a breathy, lusty moan. With effervescent dance anthems like “Black Nails” and “Trancegender,” Egedy gives goths something to freak to. And you’re just as likely to shake it as you are to wind up in the center of a mosh pit. We should all thank our lucky stars for the weird amalgam of personas that is Pictureplane. Speaking of stars, did I mention he’s really, really into space? (Frances Capell)

With Popscene DJs

10 p.m., $12

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011


Asher Roth

Let’s face it. A lot of us love rap, but many of us can’t relate to carrying guns or moving kilos of cocaine. Luckily there’s Asher Roth, a gifted 26-year-old MC who raps about things the everyman can identify with — like partying with friends and soaking up sunshine. Roth may be a college bro, but he’s legit enough to have earned props from the likes of Ludacris and Slick Rick. Roth prides himself on his live performances and makes them unforgettable by bringing along a full band. If that’s not incentive enough, Thursday is the release show for Roth’s fresh new Pabst & Jazz Sessions mixtape produced by Blended Babies. (Capell)

10 p.m., $25

330 Ritch, SF

(415) 542-9574


Wizard Of Oz

For more than 70 years and counting, The Wizard of Oz has entertained and fascinated viewers; at the time of its original release, the film’s breathtaking color sequences enthralled audiences still stuck on black and white, and the soundtrack’s beloved songs introduced the world to the talents of Judy Garland. For the majority of us who have grown up watching the movie on television, we are in for a special treat tonight when the grand old Paramount hosts a screening, a rare chance to see such a classic piece of cinema on the big screen, the way it was meant to be viewed. Just watch out for flying monkeys! (Sean McCourt)

8 p.m., $5

Paramount Theatre

2025 Broadway, Oakl.

(510) 465-6400



Taking the same searing energy that propelled its contemporary punk counterparts then add the rock solid drumming of DJ Bonebrake, the guitar virtuosity of Billy Zoom, and the poetic lyrics and intimate vocal interplay of John Doe and Exene Cervenka. Legendary Los Angeles punk rockers X have always distinguished themselves from the other bands of the genre. This holiday season finds the band celebrating with “The Xmas Traveling Rock & Roll Revival,” where fans are sure to hear all of their favorite iconic tunes, and probably a couple of revved-up holiday favorites as well. (McCourt)

With Sean Wheeler & Zander Schloss, and the Black Tibetans.

8 p.m. Fri.; 9 p.m. Sat/31, $33–$50

Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF

(415) 255-0333


Agent Orange

In the mid through late 1970s, Southern California was one of the hubs of hardcore punk, with bands like Black Flag, Circle Jerks, and Wasted Youth all forming in the region. It was also a center of skateboarding, thanks to — among other things — a newly developed polyurethane wheel and a drought that left scores of pools empty. The band Agent Orange was a by-product of both of these phenomenons. Formed in Orange County in 1979 by lead singer and guitar player Mike Palm, bassist James Levesque, and drummer Scott Miller, the band took a Dick Dale spin on hardcore and became synonymous with early incarnations of “skate punk.” Skateboarders needed an identity of their own, and Agent Orange helped with that task. Now, 30 years later, you don’t need to know how to do a kick flip to understand why they were so essential. (Miller)

With Inferno of Joy, Tokyo Raid, The Nerv, Suggies

8:30 p.m., $15

330 Ritch, SF

(925) 541-9574


Gavin Russom

“I hear you’re buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator.” James Murphy tipped his hand when he wrote that a decade ago, but while would-be musicians could have gone straight past the irony to eBay, one thing they wouldn’t have was Gavin Russom. The ace up the sleeve, Russom is the tech wizard, creating analog synths for LCD Soundsystem and others. But more guru than a Radio Shack hobbyist, Russon has performed, DJ’ed, and created music on his own and under the aliases of the Crystal Ark and Meteoric Black Star. His latest “Night Sky,” is an epic, speedily slow building, sexually suggestive track that proves, as usual, he knows what you really want. (Prendiville)

With LA Vampires, Bobby Browser, Magic Touch, and Pickpocket

9:30 p.m., $10

Public Works

161 Erie, SF

(415) 932-0955



Is one of your New Years’ resolutions to go Sailing The Seas Of Cheese? Do you plan on serving up some Frizzle Fry? Imbibing in some Pork Soda? Well, any way you look at it, the two club shows this week by musical boundary-busting Bay Area rock favorites Primus are a rare treat for local fans to see the band up close and personal. You can choose to ring in the New Year with Les Claypool and company on Saturday, or if you prefer, you can work off your holiday hangover on Sunday with the band, which will be performing two sets each night at its Hawaiian Hukilau-themed parties. (McCourt)

9 p.m.; 8 p.m. Sun/1, $50–$65

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell St., SF

(415) 885-0750

Thee Oh Sees

There’s no shortage of New Year’s Eve events taking place in the city, but you’re hard-pressed to find a more definitively San Francisco way to spend the evening than with local psych-pop darlings Thee Oh Sees. Though many a band has hopped on the fuzzy garage train in recent years, these guys have been blazing the trail for well over a decade (under various monikers). Each new release, including the spanking new Carrion Crawler/The Dream (In The Red) finds Thee Oh Sees shredding harder and better, but its live shows will melt your face clean off. Enjoy some gnarly guitar riffage, kiss a stranger, and partake in the vices you’ve resolved to quit come sunrise. (Capell)

With The Fresh & Onlys and White Fence

9 p.m., $15–$20

Brick & Mortar Music Hall

1710 Mission, SF

(415) 371-1631


“Sea of Dreams NYE 2012”

Part carnivale, part circus, part burn, part Halloween, part massive: the annual Sea of Dreams event takes the promise of a wild New Year’s Eve and adds more. In part it has to do with the crowd, drawing some serious do-it-themself-ers with fantastically creative outfits. But whatever distractions are off stage, there will be hard competition from a triple bill of headliners including local favorites Beats Antique, infectious dance MC Santigold (who has new material to debut live), and the return of Amon Tobin’s deafening, eyeball melting ISAM set. (Prendiville)

With Claude VanStroke, MarchFourth Marching Band, An-ten-nae, Diego’s Umbrella, and more

8 p.m., $75–$145

SF Concourse Exhibition Center

635 8th St., SF


Eliza Rickman

With her little toy piano Eliza Rickman makes bewitching alternative folk rock. Listening to her EP, Gild the Lily, is like walking through a life size dollhouse and feeling not sure whether to be frightened or enchanted. There’s something about the nature of the toy piano — its sparkling sound can be at once blood curdling and tender (like John Cages’ Suites for Toy Piano, which popularized the instrument). Similarly, Rickman’s voice has a plucked from the garden pleasantness, but her words tend toward the tragic. This balance between adorable and dreary can even be seen in the titles of her songs, like “Black Rose” and “Cinnamon Bone.” In any event, whether she’s cinnamon, bone, or both, the toy piano under her hands is more than a novelty. (Miller)

7 p.m., free


853 Valencia, SF

(415) 970-0012

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