Tofu and Whiskey

Teen dream machine


YEAR IN TOFU AND WHISKEY Call it the Rookie Magazine trickle-down effect: Teen girl rockers ruled the world in 2013. Granted, some 20-somethings were in there too. But still, these young and fierce ladies — celebrated on either Rookie’s more polished site or eye-popping Tumblrs of a similar demographic — were the artists to take notice of this year.

The young majors of 2013 were 17-year-old New Zealander Lorde and Los Angeles sister trio Haim, all in their early 20s. There were also female rappers and soul singers, like Cameroon-raised Lorine Chia (20), and Brooklyn-based Angel Haze (22). Locally, there was teen surf pop quartet the She’s. On a smaller scale, there are emerging acts like Sacramento’s sister duo Dog Party, which, at ages 14 and 17, released its biggest record to date on Asian Man Records this August.

Rookie is the web magazine for young girls that looks more to the Sassy archetype than Seventeen, but so far beyond those bounds that it’s almost ludicrous to compare the two. Started in 2011 by now-iconic mini fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson, the website blends style, feminism, and culture into a Nylon-esque vision of rude glamour. More so, it’s become a casual, glittery hit-maker, simply by nature of showcasing exciting new talent early in the game, often before it’s been hungrily shredded by the widespread blogger industrial complex.

Musicians are featured in gushy profiles, or longer Q&As, often with more personalized questions than are found on standard music blogs. An early Rookie writeup on Lorde reviewed her full-length record Pure Heroine (Universal Music Group) in a typically conversational tone: “I first heard Lorde, when I was in the parking lot of a Target one night. It was 10:50pm and I was in the car by myself, listening to the radio; I had just been going through a breakup and was in an awful state of mind. Suddenly this song came on with a simple beat and this AMAZING voice that made me sit up straight and turn on Shazam, which told me it was Lorde’s song ‘Royals.'”

Can’t you too remember such a time? An moment in a youthful life, alone in your car or next to the stereo in your room, the disappointments of a confusing day rushing through your mind, and then the moment a song transformed that hurt into pure joy? It might not have been a pop song, but it certainly could have been.

Thanks to the thrill of that paradoxically anti-consumerist pop song “Royals,” Lorde (née Ella Yelich-O’Connor) was undoubtedly the biggest of the aforementioned bunch of teen girls who made it big in 2013. She became a bona fide pop star in black lipstick and a poof of untamed, grungy curls. And while her look and style are certainly endlessly dissected, she came to the pop charts when there was a specific need for her new breed of mainstream-yet-still-underground-enough-to-be-weirdish sound.

In her recent essay on Lorde and others of her ilk, NPR writer Ann Powers poetically described Lorde’s step away from pop stars of the tongue-out, twerked-out Miley variety we also suffered through in 2013: “Lorde is a phenomenon because of perfect timing. She came along just when listeners were craving what ‘Royals’ famously advocates: a different kind of buzz. After a few months as the new find of early musical adopters, this droll chanteuse became notorious for suggesting that some kids might prefer to stand apart from pop’s endless party.”

Angel Haze was another standout — a stunning, pansexual, artistically rare rapper who took Macklemore’s “Same Love,” and gave it meaning, singing of her own (real) struggles with sexuality. The young artist’s debut full-length, Dirty Gold, doesn’t even see release until January 2014, but her covers (she also took on Eminem’s “Cleanin’ Out My Closet”) made her a name to know in 2013.

Haze was featured on Rookie, as was soul singer Lorine Chia. A performer with a silky voice and tropical beats, Chia released an EP, Naked Truths (Make Millions Music), in October and frequently Tumbls her fascinating life and favorite musical finds. Like other young females who made their mark this year, she seems worlds apart from the sleek pop stars of yore, still enthralling but somehow approachable.

And then there was Haim, the crunchy, LA-based sister trio that hit it big with September-released Days Are Gone (Polydor Records, Columbia Records). The album went silver, selling nearly 90,000 copies stateside, which is big news in these unwieldy music industry days.

But apart from the pop and hip-hop charts, teen girls were also making waves in smaller local scenes. Case in point: The She’s. The talented, breezy-surf pop quartet started off the year playing Noise Pop and were on the cover of the Guardian, posed as a group to watch in 2013.

A few months later, there they were: life-sized on bus-stop posters plastered around downtown as part of that big Converse campaign that overran the city’s music scene this summer (not that we had anything to do with the leap). The She’s recorded a track for Converse’s Rubber Tracks popup station at Different Fur Studios, and also played a ton of shows throughout the year. Oh, and the SF natives all just graduated from high school.

As for Sacramento’s burgeoning Dog Party, the sister duo is still navigating those studious halls of yore. Singer-guitarist Gwendolyn Giles is a senior in high school, and drummer Lucy Giles is a 14-year-old sophomore. They started playing together at ages 9 and 6.

“Before [guitar] I played the flute, but that wasn’t for very long because I like guitar,” Gwendolyn tells me from their Sacramento home. “The flute made me dizzy. Also when I was in fourth grade, American Idiot came out and I was obsessed with Green Day.”

Lucy pipes up with her earliest inclination that she wanted to play rock’n’roll: “I was really into the White Stripes when I was in third grade. I like Meg White and so I just kind of decided I wanted to play the drums.”

Her dad picked up a drum set at a garage sale, and the girls soon began lessons, and then started writing songs — with angsty lyrics about worrisome BFFs and the like, and stories that were mostly autobiographical. In 2013, the Giles sisters released their third full-length, bratty pop-punk record Lost Control, on Mike Park’s legendary Asian Man Records. It stands with the Donnas, the Bangs, and a mix of other fun party punk acts before them.

Ty Segall tops their mutual list of favorite new (or new-to-them) acts of 2013, followed by the Descendents, the Babies, fellow SacTown locals Pets, and most of the Burger Records roster.

“My sister and I really love Ty Segall,” Gwendolyn gushes of the prolific rocker. “He’s amazing … my favorite artist of all time.”

Dog Party went on a full US tour with Kepi Ghoulie (of ’80s band Groovie Ghoulies) and just last week played with the Aquabats at Slim’s. Next up, they’ll play the Gilman Fri/20.

As with other female artists this year (and for the past decade), Dog Party has had to deal with web trolls intent on breaking them down.

“Now that we’ve gained a little bit of popularity, there have been some nasty things written about us on the Internet,” Lucy says. “But that doesn’t really affect us. We don’t like to listen to what they say because we don’t really care.”

While the Giles sisters hadn’t known about Rookie before they were featured on the site, they’ve heard a lot of feedback since the post, which urged readers to “stream the new album by our (and probably your) new favorite band.”

“We got a lot of attention from Rookie,” Gwendolyn says. “People have come up to us and been like ‘Hey, I heard about you from Rookie!’ It’s pretty cool.”

“Our social media sites had a pretty big boost off that article,” adds Lucy. 


Tofu and Whiskey’s top records (and sandwiches) of 2013

1. Weird Sister, Joanna Gruesome

2. In Dark Denim, Antwon

3. It’s Alive, La Luz

4. Run Fast, The Julie Ruin

5. Ionika, Metal Mother

6. Ride Your Heart, Bleached

7. Self-titled, Golden Grrrls

8. Mama’s Hummus sandwich, Bi-Rite

9. Tofu Banh Mi, Hella Vegan Eats

10. Vegan Reuben, Ike’s

Rattlin’ bones and sugar plums


TOFU AND WHISKEY The tuba comes quickly, bubbling over excitedly at the start of the wildly entertaining “That’s It!” — the title track off the Preservation Hall Jazz Band’s first record of all original compositions. The vivacious New Orleans jazz album, released earlier this year, was a long time coming. The Preservation Hall Jazz Band has been a staple of Louisiana for 50 years, and in its different variations has released more than 20 previous albums of covers, tributes, and reworked classics.

And there’s a reason the tuba stands out: It’s tooted by creative director Ben Jaffe, whose father and mother, Allan and Sandra Jaffe, created the revolutionary Preservation Hall jazz venue in the French Quarter in 1961. Allan organized the first incarnation of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band in 1963 and was the group’s first tuba player. Ben and his brother grew up around the corner from the venue and spent most of their time there, hanging out at the venue with the greats. “We literally grew up at the Preservation Hall at the feet of these pioneers of New Orleans jazz,” Ben tells me from his current home (he still lives just minutes from the hall). He seems still in awe of it all, genuinely impressed and appreciative of his past with the venue.

He took over the group and the venue in the early ’90s after graduating from college (Allan passed away in ’87). Along with managing the day-to-day operations of the hectic venue, he also plays tuba along with bass, and produces the band’s albums. This newest release was co-produced by Jim James from My Morning Jacket. The core group of eight musicians recorded That’s It! last year, blasting out Dixieland and New Orleans jazz tracks like spooky “Rattlin’ Bones” and slowing down for twinkly songs like “Sugar Plum” on percussion, banjo, piano, trumpets, tenor sax, clarinet, tubas, and the like. “All combined, out of eight guys, we probably play something like 300 instruments.”

The band will play select tracks off its original record this weekend at the Davies Symphony Hall, but there’ll be another tradition taking over most of that performance: peppy, jazzy holiday selections. The band’s on-and-off again (but mostly annual) Creole Christmas touring show lands in SF Sun/15 (Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness, SF.

The selections will include songs culled from the band’s storied past repertoire, holiday classics, and ditties that have a special meaning to the outsized group. The band’s “spry, charming” 81-year-old clarinet player, Charlie Gabriel, suggested one of the songs, “We Wish You,” which he heard in church as a young boy. The rest of the song list is under wraps for now, but don’t expect a gaudy Xmas spectacular.

“We’re not bringing the Rockettes, and we don’t have a light show. It’s really going to be an intimate evening of music,” says Jaffe.

But he knows the drill for upping the holiday charm, having performed a variation of Creole Christmas for the better part of a decade. Plus, he’s crazy for the holiday season — he loves to decorate and celebrates both Christmas and Chanukah.

“These Creole Christmas shows started at Preservation Hall and that’s when we decided it was something we should take on the road,” says Jaffe. “New Orleans music is a reflection of our community, and we have such a wonderful community of musicians and artists in New Orleans. Every time we play a concert, it feels like a family gathering.” And when they’re home from the road — they tour most of the year — the members of the Preservation Hall Jazz Band play the venue that bears their name two to three times as week.

They’ve long been the buzzing heart of venue, and the holidays are just another reason to celebrate with wailing horns.

When the boys were younger, Allan used to bring Ben and his brother around to different churches, senior homes, banks, and restaurants to perform live holiday songs, instead of sending out gift cards. “I still do it,” says Jaffe. “I wake up early on Christmas morning and go out with my horn and walk around the French Quarter to really remind me of my childhood.”

He adds, “Any reason to have a party in New Orleans, you know? If the wind blows we’re going to have a parade.”



San Francisco’s Happy Diving has that mid-’90s Weezer thing going for it, certainly, but there’s a fuzzier, punkier edge than anything off Pinkterton, like a lazier Rivers Cuomo on a slacker punk bender. The band plays this weekend with fellow Bay Area pack Cocktails, which features members of Dirty Cupcakes. It describes its sound as “slop-punk” but sounds closer to power pop on tracks like “No Blondes (in California)” off this year’s Father/Daughter Records-released debut EP, which Matthew Melton of Warm Soda recorded. Also cool to note: The opener for this grand occasion is Blood Sister’s first show. Thu/12, 8pm, $5. Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF.



Early LA punks the Weirdos (first active in that gritty hotspot ’76-’81) matched swagger to wit, chugging along thundering guitars and those gravelly, growly, depths-of-hell vocals and song titles like “We Got the Neutron Bomb.” They played with all the bands you might expect, given the time and place: Germs, Dead Boys, Middle Class. And more so, the legacy of the band and its ilk clearly influenced later SoCal bratty punks and snarling weirdos alike. And now, after a few revivals an oh-so-many decades later, that band of Weirdos is back again, arriving at Thee Parkside with VKTMS and the Re-Volts. Sat/14, 9pm, $18. Thee Parkside, 333 11th St, SF.



No relation to those Preservation Hall Jaffes we met earlier in Tofu and Whiskey (that I know of), Sarah Jaffe is indeed her own lady. Yet the Texas-bred singer-songwriter, who’s collaborated with Eminem, has the delicate whisper of Cat Power and the wild-woman howls of Fiona Apple. That’s just a longwinded way of saying her vocals are lovely and textured and worthy of live listening. She’ll make you feel something deep on songs like “Satire,” off 2012 release, The Body Wins. With Midlake. Mon/16, 7:30pm, $14. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St, SF.



Experimental Cleveland post-everything art rock group Pere Ubu only has one original member. That person, warbly singer David Thomas, gives the band its backbone of avant-garde oddness. Thomas’ vocals and the band’s echoing, effects-heavy guitars make Pere Ubu sound at once like it’s hovering in outer space and being shot down into the deep, dark, muddled waters of unexplored oceans. It’s always a trip, either way. Tue/17, 8pm, $16. Slim’s, 333 11th St, SF. *

Meat is murder


TOFU AND WHISKEY Of course Morrissey would name his long-awaited memoir Autobiography (Putnam Adult, 464 pp., $30). The legendarily morose British pop singer and former Smiths leader has always seemed a bit larger than life.

The book already came out in the UK (and France) in October and was a huge sensation, topping best-seller lists, but US audiences have been forced to wait for the precious tome, twiddling their thumbs for its arrival, much like the infrequent uncancelled Morrissey live performance. The hardcover finally arrives stateside Dec. 3.

That said, the book on the life of the “Meat is Murder” singer-activist is worth the twiddling, if only for morbid curiosity. It’s lengthy, uncanny, and packed with daggering insults toward other musicians (Johnny Marr), ex-presidents and royals (George W., Sarah Ferguson), and himself, along with drawn-out sections on his favorite poets, court cases, and desire to die. It covers his life from birth to present day.

People go crazy over Morrissey — there’s even a Mozipedia book, published in 2010, so clearly the desire to hear it all in his own voice is there. I’ll claim to be a Morrissey novice, comparatively. At least, I’ve never worn a bedazzled jean jacket to a fever-pitched Moz convention, so some revelations in the book were still eye-opening, though needing to be extracted from verbose prose.

The long-time vegetarian, proudly outspoken against the meat industry, writes instead mostly about his suicidal depressive past and his dreary youth — and he finally speaks to those rumors of his sexuality. Yup, he loved a man named Jake Owen Walters. Though he later released this statement about those sections of the book: “Unfortunately, I am not homosexual. In technical fact, I am humansexual. I am attracted to humans. But, of course … not many.”

So Steven Patrick Morrissey, as he was known at birth, recounts a dark and uncomfortable childhood in Manchester, much of which was spun into early Smiths songs. But if we’re comparing horrific childhoods, another recent memoir might outweigh every aspect of Morrissey’s sad complaints: that of D.H. Peligro, whose own bio, Dreadnaught: King of Afropunk (Rare Bird Books, 280 pp., $13) came out in October.

Peligro — the complex, wild-man drummer of SF’s Dead Kennedys, as well as (briefly) Red Hot Chili Peppers, and guitarist in his own band, Peligro — grew up “dirt poor” in St. Louis, Mo., where he was born in 1959. (He literally eats dirt as a punishment in one section.) Like Moz, he now eats a veg-heavy diet. “All that food we had growing up in the ghetto was poison, drained of any nutritional value. Being forced to eat that food was one of the reasons that later in life, even when I was strung out on heroin, I remained a fanatic vegan,” he writes.

While the book opens with an extremely upsetting and grotesque strung-out hospital stay in a room with “puke green walls,” one of many incidents for the drug-addicted musician, it quickly falls backward in time to his beginnings as a “Satan’s Child,” the name by which he was known as around town. He never met his father, was mercilessly beat by his oft-drunk stepfather, and lived in a hotbed of violence and racial segregation in his early years.

And yet, despite all this, growing up in St. Louis also greatly influenced Peligro’s interest in music, and fostered a space in which to learn rhythm and blues. His beloved Uncle Sam Carr, who introduced him to musical instruments, was the son of blues guitarist Robert Nighthawk (who supposedly was the first to play slide guitar). Peligro recalls playing Carr some Dead Kennedys music years later and Carr “really listening” and nodding his head along to the noisy, Jello Biafra-led punk band.

Written in a poetic and reflective yet conversational style, Peligro’s tale stands out above most fast-living memoirs. The stories are vivid and disturbing, and the experiences run the gamut from the epicenters of Southern blues, to the influential early SF punk scene, to the costumed LA rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. And yet, Dreadnaught still follows much of the standard course for the musician’s book tale: grew up poor, found shining beacon influencer, rose above, partied too hard, came down, and reflected.

And while there have been countless rocker memoirs in the past, only a small handful are worth your time — and there’s no time like now: It’s Thanksgiving week, and you’re likely itching for some quiet downtime, away from TVs filled with screeching sportscasters and your aunt asking you (if you’re in line with Moz and Peligro’s dietary habits) one more time: “Just how do you get protein?”

The top of any list should be Patti Smith‘s 2010 Just Kids. It’s eloquent and nonetheless gritty, with sinuous stories tumbling from her recollections and minute details beautifully recounted. The end made me ugly-cry crocodile tears while on Muni.

Like Smith, some musicians take the more introspective approach to their writing, revealing inner strength through the written word. For more of that nature, see Ronnie Spector‘s 1990 memoir, Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts, and Madness; or Bob Dylan‘s 2004 Bob Dylan: Chronicles, Volume One.

And then there’s Pamela Des Barres‘ groupie classic I’m With the Band. Oh, the torrid, gushy love tales within that book, of Ms. Pamela’s exploits with famous rock ‘n’ rollers from the 1960s right on up through the decades. Many years ago, over breakfast at a diner in Haight-Ashbury, Des Barres told me: “As far as wanting to meet the guys, I just couldn’t sit in my room and get all horny over Mick Jagger … it was just inside me to see where all that amazing stuff was coming from, that music.” If you’re in the mood for more scandalous tales of sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll, these memoirs come highly recommended as well: Slash‘s Slash or Keith RichardsLife.

If you’re looking for an ironic, jokey, or food-based story, there’s Ian SvenoniusSupernatural Strategies for Making a Rock ‘N’ Roll Group, which I reviewed in an earlier column — noting that the book holds séances with dead rock stars to glean important information for the reader — and Cookin’ with Coolio: 5 Star Meals at a 1 Star Price, which includes a section called “How Coolio Became the King of Kitchen Pimps.” (Hint: his mom.)

Or there’s this year’s insta-classic “cookbook” — which really came as a download with the B.O.A.T.S 2 #Metime albumCooking With Two Chainz. It includes cooking tips like, “Put on your Versace apron.”



Here’s all I know about Life Stinks: The band has a great name, was described as “brutal and mysterious” after SXSW last year; and makes throwback snotty punk songs. It also just released a self-titled debut LP on S.S. records. Listen to “Cemeteries” off said album for more reasons to see the live show. That’s all you need to know. This album release gig is the Friday after Thanksgiving; you’ll be stuffed, sick of family, and most definitely ready to shake along. Plus, one of the openers is messy and awesome high-pitched SF band Quaaludes — they sound like ’77 punk on helium meets ’92 riot grrrl, which is perfect. With Dancer. Fri/29, 9:30pm, $5. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF;




I was discussing the upcoming Kathleen Hanna doc The Punk Singer with a musician pal, and we got on the topic of the very real healing power of music. While Hanna is certainly not playing this event (sorry), that power translates broadly. Bread & Roses is a Northern California-based organization that knows this well, producing hundreds of free shows a year at hospitals, nursing homes, shelters, and treatment centers. This benefit is full-circle, benefiting the org so it can put on more shows, and offering up live local talent for you: sparkly piano rocker Marco Benevento (of Tea Leaf Green), acoustic folk singer-songwriter Megan Slankard, along with her band, the Novelists, and (((folkYEAH!))) Presents DJ Britt Govea. Sun/1, 8pm, $20–<\d>$50, Chapel, 777 Valencia, SF. *

Alive, not well


[Update: La Luz was in a car accident during its tour and will no longer be playing these shows. The accident totaled the van, destroyed the gear, and band members suffered injuries. To donate, click here]

TOFU AND WHISKEY Sometimes the unexpected can rip you apart. It can gnaw at your insides, leave your stomach in knots, and twist your thoughts into a confused, messy blur. And sometimes, those rare unanticipated moments can inspire you anew. All the hurt and bewilderment and dark emotions reconfigure and morph into a project, such as an album.

La Luz guitarist-vocalist Shana Cleveland felt this molten wave firsthand and the end result is a striking, blackened surf rock album with four-way doo-wop melodies and churling riffs smacking against the seawall. It’s the full-length debut from the Seattle all-lady quartet: It’s Alive (Hardly Art). The group tours to SF this week, opening up for of Montreal (Fri/8-Sat/9, 9pm, $21. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF.

It’s Alive was built from death. “When something that dramatic happens, it could either crush you or give you a crazy energy,” Cleveland says. “For me it was like, after I came out of just being really depressed for awhile I was really inspired to….I don’t know exactly how to phrase it. It’s kind of a weird thing to talk about, I guess. It’s so heavy.”

That heavy moment took place May 30, 2012, when a deranged shooter burst into a Seattle café — Café Racer, where Cleveland and her friends routinely hung out — and killed five people. Around the corner from her house, it’s where she first met La Luz bassist Abby Blackwell. On that spring day last year, it’s where her friend Drew Keriakedes (otherwise known as “Shmootzi the Clod”), a vaudeville-style singing circus clown, died, slain in the rampage.

She describes him as always giving open, honest performances that made everyone fall in love with him — that performance style informed her own artistry. And the months after the shooting informed her songwriting. Though she also notes an intuition affected the record.

“It’s weird because a lot of the lyrics I wrote before the shooting happened and then a lot of them I wrote after. But then when I looked back…I kept seeing these weird premonitions. It just seems like the air was really heavy with this insane event and I was sort of channeling this crazy shit that was about to happen. This sounds kind of New Age-y. But when I looked back over the lyrics I was just like, ‘holy shit!’ I think I just felt something in the air.”

That gloom bled into It’s Alive, a record equally inspired by legendary surf guitarist Link Wray, who also lent a darker edge to the style.

“So it’s sort of a haunted album. It’s kind of cool that it’s coming out around Halloween, it seems fitting.”

It’s the band’s first real record, though before it played a single show, it recorded a demo tape called Damp Face. Both were recorded with the group’s friend Johnny Goss, who was living in a trailer park on the outskirts of town at the time. Goss, who “accumulated all this really cool old recording gear,” took a leisurely approach to It’s Alive, hanging out with La Luz and working together to add new vocal overdubs or extra fuzz.

Cleveland describes it as a highly collaborative process between Goss and the rest of La Luz — bassist Blackwell, drummer Marian Li Pino, and keyboardist Alice Sandahl — though she wrote the bulk of the lyrics before they started playing together. Once La Luz came together, the group altered the music and included everyone’s input.

But Cleveland is also comfortable making art on her own. In addition to La Luz, she’s also a poet (she actually majored in poetry at Columbia College in Chicago) and a visual artist, known for drawings and paintings of other bands and singers, often with big retro hairstyles or matching vintage suits.

“I found this record in a thrift store once and someone had done like, a ballpoint pen drawing of Buffalo Springfield. It was tucked inside of the record and I was really fascinated by it..and I kind of became obsessed with it. I’ve [always] been kind of obsessed with bands I guess, because my parents were both in bands too so it’s my whole life.”

Her dad plays in country and blues bands, her mom sings and plays blues harmonica. They met on tour, in fact — her dad was traveling with a band and stopped in her mom’s Colorado town, then she joined him on the road.

Cleveland grew up playing the instruments her parents — since divorced — had strewn around the house in Kalamazoo, Mich. She picked up guitar around 15 and began playing Veruca Salt songs.

After college, Cleveland headed west to LA but says she hated living in the San Fernando Valley. One day her mom brought her a copy of Seattle alt-weekly, The Stranger, and on a whim, she decided to move there.

“I packed up my Oldsmobile and moved. I don’t know if [The Stranger] knows that yet! I kind of want to tell them.”

Seattle became home and she has since ingrained herself in the local music scene, ticking off favorite Seattle acts like Rose Windows — “They’re doing this like, ’60s psych Jefferson Airplane kind of thing, they’re all really amazing players” — blues combo Lonesome Shack, and Pony Time.

For now, La Luz is touring on It’s Alive, and revving up for a first ever European jaunt in early 2014. While the songwriting began on a darker note, Cleveland is now seeing brightness in the future, at least when I pry out her band goals: “I really want to tour with Ty Segall. That’s just a dream of mine because I would like to see him play every night. I hope that happens. I really want to play with Shannon and the Clams too, because we’re all huge fans of theirs. And the Growwlers. We just played with them but I think it’d be fun to play more shows with them in the future too. They’re one of our favorite bands.”



Two decades is a long lifeline for a DIY record label — especially one known for such short songs. Six Weeks Records, founded in ’92 by Athena Kautsch and Jeff Robinson, has distributed dozens of grimy grindcore, breakneck punk, and loud-as-hell hardcore albums from bands around the world. Clearly dedicated to the art of deafening music, the label also publishes the Short, Fast & Loud fanzine. This two-night anniversary fest features acts of the Six Weeks Records family including LA powerviolence legends Despise You, Tokyo’s Slight Slappers, NY’s Magrudergrind, Capitalist Casualties, Backslider, Coke Bust, P.L.F, and more.

Fri/8-Sat/9, 7pm, $17 each ($30 two-day pass). Oakland Metro, 630 Third St, Oakl.



With Matthew Caws of Nada Surf and Juliana Hatfield of guest-starring-angel-on-My So-Called Life fame forming an intricate new pop band together — Minor Alps — it’s clear the ’90s resurgence beats on. The guitar-swelling, melodious new act, which just released debut LP Get There (Barsuk), plays the Independent Mon/11. And with it comes openers Churches, whom we previewed here at the Guardian before. The Nirvana-loving Bay Area band just released two new tracks: “Pretty in Black” and “Goths on the Boardwalk.” Says frontperson Caleb Nichols, “‘Goths on the Boardwalk’ is the culmination of my two years of living in Santa Cruz. It’s been weird — goths everywhere. [It’s] an ode to my love-hate with this place.” The angst continues.

Mon/11, 8pm, $20. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF.



Local Nintendo-blasting electro rock group crashfaster released the track “Beacon,” the first single of its forthcoming sophomore LP, Further, this week. Like its earlier work, “Beacon” is a bouncy, nostalgic, digi-ride through ’80s video game culture, backed by motorcycle revving guitarwork and sound effects, in rock’n’roll chiptune style, which looks good for the rest of Further. Recorded at Different Fur Studios, that new full-length sees release Nov. 19 — but before that there’s a show at DNA Lounge. With Bit Shifter, Trash80, Unwoman.

Nov. 14, 9pm, $15. DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF.


Girls like us


TOFU AND WHISKEY Before Le Tigre but after the demise of Bikini Kill, Kathleen Hanna created a mystical lo-fi electropop solo project called Julie Ruin. It was a difficult time for the riot grrrl icon; having recently flown the Pacific Northwest coop for Brooklyn, she let the ache out in song.

More than 15 years after that record and a whirlwind of life changes later (Le Tigre hiatus, Beastie Boy husband), Hanna and a newly assembled band of cohorts — Kathi Wilcox, Kenny Mellman, Carmine Covelli, Sara Landeau — reformed that project as the Julie Ruin. The Julie Ruin released its first group full-length, Run Fast, last week on Dischord.

A dancey new wave record bursting with head-bopping beats, lightning bolt electric guitars, and empowering lyrics, it’s set to be another chant-along feminist anthem album. But it’s a small miracle Run Fast was even made. Before she returned to music, Hanna was laid up with a then-mysterious illness for half a decade and this was her first effort back.

In the midst of a massive media blitz, including a live appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon last week, Hanna and I discussed the Julie Ruin’s new record, struggles with neurological Lyme disease, why Photoshop is better than beer, and her young spirit sister, Tavi Gevinson, feminist teen editor of Rookie Magazine:

SF Bay Guardian Why did you decide to return to an earlier project, but with an entirely new band?

Kathleen Hanna I guess because I was starting from a similar place. I was coming up with loops and melodies and instead of just working on them myself, I brought them to the band and expanded on them. When I listen back to the Julie Ruin solo record, I hear kind of demos more than a fully finished record — which I think is great, and I’m proud of that record — but I was like “what if I start with the same idea but it was totally fleshed out?” So musically that was a big part of the project from me.

Also a big part of the project for me was starting from the same emotional place, of, you know, I was leaving Bikini Kill when I did the Julie Ruin solo project and that was a really big change in my life. And then I’m having this other really big change in my life, which is that I haven’t really made music for [nearly] 10 years. And instead of isolating and making this very private thing in my apartment by myself and feeling like I had to go it all alone, I reached out to my friends and said, “Hey, will you help me?” And luckily they said yes.

SFBG What was it like picking up instruments and working on music again after such a long hiatus?

KH It was great [and] it was weird! It was immediate chemistry with my bandmates. It felt like I was getting back to my old self.

I’d been sick for many years and my illness and kind of taken me out of things. I started doing a lot of archival stuff behind the scenes, but I hadn’t played music. It’s funny that I chose to do it when I was really, really sick but part of the reason was I needed some kind of hope to go on. And I didn’t know if we would record or tour or any of that. I just told them, “I want to play music, do you guys want to meet once a week and see how that goes?”

But a lot of times we couldn’t even meet, because I’d be sick. So it was a very slow process. But when I felt well enough to get to rehearsal I would forget I was sick, I would forget any pain I was in, I would forget I was fatigued. It would all come back to me. It was really important in my recovery process because you become all about the illness, especially an illness like Lyme disease, where there’s so much work you have to do to stay well or to get well, constant pills and IVs and specialist appointments.

I saw footage of Bikini Kill in the movie The Punk Singer that was being made about me, and I felt like I was light years away from that. I could barely walk up the stairs. And then I would write a song with my new band and feel like, “I still am that person.”

SFBG Did battling this disease directly inform any of the tracks on Run Fast?

KH I have a form of Lyme disease that affects my brain, neurological Lyme disease, so during a lot of the record I was having a hard time with language, so I would often say the wrong word. So when I was writing lyrics, I sort of just let that go, I didn’t try to go back, it was so much more stream-of-consciousness than I’ve [ever done]. I was like, why does it have to be a total narrative for every song? Why can’t it be abstract?

There are parts of the record where I just go “blah blah blah!” I would go back and fix that when I was feeling better but people would say to put it back in. It sounds alive, it sounds like you. I let that go.

SFBG How collaborative was the songwriting process for the album?

KH In the very beginning when we were writing I would bring in little loops I had made with me singing over it. And I’d be like, “oh, I really like this melody for a verse.” And then they would be like, let’s have that be the starting point. They really wrote all the music and I wrote the lyrics except for [keyboardist] Kenny [Mellman]’s song, “South Coast Plaza.”

SFBG Where did the album art [of a hot pink stuffed creature] come from, and what is it referencing?

KH That cover was made by artist Allyson Mitchell. I went to an art show and saw some of her pieces…[The creature on the cover] is a “familiar” — you know how a witch has a “familiar?” It’s from a large project called Ladies Sasquatch, of these huge, 10-foot-tall lesbian sasquatches and then each of them has a familiar, like a tiny doll, that goes with it, and that’s what’s on the cover.

SFBG It brought up to me the importance of album covers. People don’t seem to care about cover art as much anymore, but it is something that has always come up in your back catalogue. [Ed. note — I resisted the urge here to tell her I have one of her album covers tattooed on my upper arm]

KH If I haven’t made the actual album cover myself…I’ve been very instrumental. I made all the Bikini Kill covers beside the very last one. I did all the drawings and graphics for the zines. I’ve always been really involved. They’re really important to me because I started as a visual artist, and I’m addicted to Photoshop. Like, instead of going to a bar and drinking beer, I sit at home with Photoshop. If I would’ve had Photoshop in the ’90s, I would have been a total crazy person.

But I think it’s really important to set the tone of the record. There’s something really fun and upbeat about [Run Fast] but then there’s something really sinister lurking behind it, maybe it’s my illness, the fact that Kenny writes a really happy-sounding song about euthanasia, “Party City” is about me confronting death, so it really made sense that we picked this kind of adorable yet creepy character for the cover of the record.

SFBG How did you meet teenage editor Tavi Gevinson, and later end up playing a party for her online magazine, Rookie?

KH I sent her this sweater that someone made for me that said “Feminist” on it. It shrank and I was like, “I don’t know anybody tiny enough to fit in this!” I heard about her before Rookie — I sent it to her and she wore it in stuff [for her previous blog, Style Rookie]. So it was this mutual admiration society. People were giving her shit at the time so I reached out to her. You know, she’s a kid. And she’s doing this amazing work. I just think it’s so important that young people take over culture and create their own. She’s really smart and she really wants to be inclusive.

Playing [Rookie’s] party was like a dream come true. It was kind of our first show and it was only for like, 100 kids at this weird outdoor area in a mall. It was one of the weirdest first shows a band can have.


With La Sera

Tue/17, 8pm, $18


333 11th St, SF




TOFU AND WHISKEY The moody “drag-pop” songs on Alexis Blair Penney‘s debut album, Window, were written with an ex-boyfriend in mind — Seth Bogart, aka Hunx — yet in a cruel twist of fate, they’ll come to memorialize the death of another man, a best friend, collaborator, and roommate.

Known for his prolific appearances at club nights across San Francisco, including his own High Fantasy night with Myles Cooper, Penney moved to New York in the middle of the record-making progress, in part to live with Grant Martin, of the band Icewater, who also contributed all the guitar lines to Penney’s record. Martin, age 26, unexpectedly passed away on July 26, two weeks before the release of Window (Aug. 6, Ecstasy Records).

Penney’s first single from the album, emotion-packed dance track, “Your Eyes,” came with a stunning video, which premiered last Friday on, showing Penney and friends at home, in the dressing room, in the mirror, and out on the dancefloor as the synth beats wobble and Penney soulfully coos. And there on the floor is a glimpse of Martin with his band, followed by the final thought: the video is “for Grant.” Truly heartbreaking stuff for the tender, creatively bursting artist.

“It’s this really crazy time because it’s like, I’m here, I’m in our house that we shared together, and I’m promoting this record he worked on with me, but he’s no longer here,” Penney says during a phone call from Brooklyn. “I’m in this manic post-grief moment, where I’m just going forward, charging ahead. I don’t know what else to do.”

“I’m going to miss this person for the rest of my life, but I can’t dwell on that now.”

Penney began working on Window, the record (there’s also a debut book called Window, which comes out on Peradam Press on Sept. 6), in the spring of 2011, while living in a Mission District apartment. He moved to Brooklyn in April 2012, but before that he converged on LA with collaborators singer-songwriter Jamie Crewe of Poisonous Relationship and Teengirl Fantasy’s Nick Weiss to write the bulk of the record.

The idea for the book came about later, when he met publisher Elizabeth Jaeger of Peradam. Penney had a mess of stories, and mentioned so while making small talk with Jaeger at a party. She loved his ideas and paired him with editor Michael Zelenko, who’s also from San Francisco.

They finished up the final manuscript for the book around the same time he was wrapping up the mixing of the record, at the start of this year. “I definitely didn’t plan for them to be companion pieces but they evolved that way. The main narrative arc of the book is this relationship, the dissolution of which is what this record is about,” he says.

That relationship, later revealed to be the one with Hunx’s Bogart, is what brought Penney originally to San Francisco from his home town, a suburb outside of Kansas City. He’d initially met Bogart when he was touring with SSION and they opened for Gravy Train!!! He and Bogart dated long distance, then Bogart moved Penney to the Bay Area, where they dated for a few more years before breaking up. “I’m actually going to see his band tonight, they’re in town,” Penney mentions. (Hunx, a fellow former SF-er who now lives in LA, was in New York on a tour promoting his newest release, Street Punk, described as “Darby Crash on helium,” which he’ll bring back to the Bay Oct. 21.)

“[Seth] read the book and was like, ‘oh it makes me seem so mean,’ and I was like, ‘you were mean, but it also makes me seem crazy, so…'”

“Its kind of all about me being accountable for how crazy I was.”

Some of the craziness he experienced while in SF can be chalked up to excessive drinking and other drugs — from which Penney now abstains. He’s stopped drinking, and says he sees life much more clearly now. And being able to write books and songs about it all has been a part of that process, airing all his dirty laundry. He interviewed Traci Lords last year for V Magazine, and she ingrained this mantra: nobody can say anything about me that I haven’t already put out there. He plans to come back to SF for a few shows in September, including a guest spot at High Fantasy. “That will be my first time back since I quit drinking, I’m excited to see it all with the newfound clarity that I have.”

His New York life seems slightly different from his known SF persona, mainly as he’s doing a lot less drag, and focusing more on these newer projects. “[Weeklies I’ve done here] just didn’t have the same kind of magic as High Fantasy. There’s something special about Aunt Charlie’s. It’s kind of really hard to compare to that.” He also hosted the Hot Boxxx Girls drag weekly at the Tenderloin’s Aunt Charlie’s, after Vicki Marlane passed away.

But he does have a new crew out there in NY, a kind of drag, multidisciplinary girl-group (drag En Vogue is the inspo), doing monthly reviews, called the House of Chez Deep. They feature heavily in that video for “Your Eyes.” The performers shown in the video alongside Penney are his two crews out there, the House of Chez Deep, and the band Icewater. “I have like, four drag queens on one side, then four — now three — incredible, super sweet straight guys who are musicians on the other side.”

“That’s where I’ve always been in between,” he says, “These super outré artists and these super intense music people. I hope my music resonates like that, this weird moment between all these different slices of culture.”

His personal sound influencers are just as broad. When he first started working on Windows, he was really into house music and poppy ’90s club tracks, but he also is long-inspired by late ’70s and early ’80s new wave and experimental albums like Marianne Faithfull Broken English, and Grace Jones’ Nightclubbing, along with the works of David Bowie, Yoko Ono, Massive Attack, even Madonna’s Ray of Light. “I really like these genre-blending anachronistic figures that make people want to draw a line in the sand.”

Ray of Light seems to be particularly close to Penney’s heart. He was given the record in his Easter basket as a the child by his music-loving and religious parents. His dad is a classical pianist, and his mom was a theater major and is a singer who liked Ella Fitzgerald, Joni Mitchell, and Heart. It was a “’70s-meets-old Hollywood aesthetic in a suburban home,” as Penney describes it.

He also discovered more weirdo music through religion, though tangentially. A kid brought Cibo Matto’s Viva! La Woman to his youth group one day. “I was really into anime then,” he says, “[Cibo Matto] kind of just felt like this Japanese export, anime soundtrack, but also just this so-crazy, in-your-face, and also really pretty sound too.” He found the song where Le Tigre name-checks Cibo Matto (“Hot Topic”) on the Internet, and that opened him up to Kathleen Hanna. “That was like this landslide into this whole crazy world of punk and these women making it, all of it.” He fell into electroclash and joined an “ill-fated electro-rap group in high school.”

But despite his voracious intake of music, he didn’t start singing live until a few years into his stay in SF, and says he didn’t really have anything to write about until the demise of his relationship with Bogart, which eventually grew into Window.

Penney’s looking forward to people hearing the record, especially since many crowds seem only to have heard his earlier single, “Lonely Sea” (2011). He says he’s been heckled in the past while performing songs from the then-unreleased Window, but crowds perk up at the dancey notes of “Lonely Sea.” “I don’t really know who my audience is. Because it’s not this trendy college audience that’s like, only listening to gay hip-hop, but I do get really cool opportunities to play for more band-centric music crowds.”

“[With Windows] I’m trying to bridge that gap as well because, on some level, these are experiences everyone can relate to. Everyone has lost someone,” he notes. “It’s weird because the album is about losing a boyfriend and a love, but now it’s taken on this whole other dimension for me where it’s about losing my best friend as well.”

It takes a village


TOFU AND WHISKEY Paige & the Thousand is the new solo project from singer-songwriter Lindsay Paige Garfield. Or wait, she has also gone by just Lindsay Garfield professionally, as with her former seven-piece indie-folk group Or, the Whale. But what’s in a name?

“I kind of didn’t realize how confusing it was going to be when I decided to name my band after my middle name. But I just thought it sounded better than Lindsay & the Thousand,” Garfield says. “And I really wanted to use ‘& the Thousand.’ She cheerfully adds that I may call her whatever I like.

The thousand part of the band name is a literary reference from one of her favorite books, Watership Down, a 1972 adventure novel about rabbits forced from their farm because their farmer is trying to kill them, and the journey they undertake. (It’s an allegory about struggle against tyranny and the corporate state.) For her part, Garfield says she doesn’t personally identify with that narrative but for her, it brings to mind her Jewish vaudeville ancestors and relatives who emigrated to the States from Eastern Europe. And she wanted to honor their memory and struggles with her new music.

The sound she’s been working on as Paige & the Thousand has roots similar to Or, the Whale but also travels to different offshoots of twangy folk, country, and Americana, even dipping into Celtic traditions, and shows similar chord progressions to her own rich history of Jewish music, which she long ago sang in synagogue choir as a child.

That “& the Thousand” also refers to “all the people that guided me along my musical path, believed in me, supported me.”

Garfield, who lives in Pacific Heights after half a decade in the Mission, tapped into that support for her debut EP, We Are Now The Times, which she self-released late last year. She wrote the songs for it solo, usually coming up with lyrics based on literary or cinematic references, made-up tales, or true-to-life villains, but recorded the EP in a highly collaborative, two-part process. While working on the basic tracks at Magnolia Records in Novato with engineer Jeremy D’Antonio, she enlisted friends from Or, the Whale to come in and layer additional instrumental sparkle. That included bassist Sean Barnett, and Dan Luehring who played drums, along with a handful more.

She then sent the tracks down to LA’s Zeitgeist Studios, to her cousin Mike Feingold, who is also in Erika Badu’s band. Long working with R&B artists, Feingold’s first Americana record was Garfield’s EP. “I sang at his Bar Mitzvah, that’s the last time we worked together,” she says.

Feingold’s fingerprints are all over We Are Now The Times, with production, and with a variety of instruments including baritone guitar and tuba. And he solicited the help of his friends Blake Mills (Band of Horses, Norah Jones) and pianist Patrick Warren (Bob Dylan), along with a musician in New Orleans playing pedal steel, and another friend from Boston on banjo and mandolin.

So the recording of this four-song EP was indeed a national group effort, but the songs at the core of it began with Garfield, alone in her room.

The album closer, twinkling piano ballad “Let’s Descend,” with which you picture barefoot dancing in the dewy summer grass at midnight, was written about a German film called Wings of Desire. It’s one of Garfield’s favorite flicks, which is in turn based on the poetry of Peter Handke. It seems the album title, We Are Now The Times, is also taken from dialogue in Wings of Desire. And she even got permission from the director’s publishing company in Germany to license some dialogue from the film in the song.

So she’s inspired by films and novels, but also the story-song custom inherit in classic folk music. “I’m not a traditionalist, but I do like the idea of telling stories,” she says.

The best example of that on the EP is the made-up story of “Billy’s Blues,” a travelin’ country-hooked blues ditty. “I just wanted to write like, a Bobbie Gentry, ’60s rhythm and blues kind of song, because I really love that stuff,” adding, “I’m definitely working on a bunch of songs that are in that vein now.”

The album opener, “Baby It’s Time,” is a more personal tale about a breakup, a relationship gone sour. On the upbeat countrified track, Garfield sings oh-so-sweetly, “Baby, baby, it’s time/time for you to say you’re mine/baby, baby it’s time/say you want me/and if you don’t just let me go.”

The backstory on plucky “Play the Martyr” most surprised me, and then required a fresh-eared listening. It’s about a cocaine-addicted former boss in the restaurant industry (an industry in which Garfield still happily works, without the asshole). He was a sadistic megalomaniac — a “complete monster” she says — who chased her down and singled her out with his rage. One day she’d had it and quit, so affected by the entire experience that she wrote a song about it. Now go back and listen to that track again.

Music is clearly her release. The Boston native has been writing songs since grade school, but got serious about it in college, while in the music program at the University of Miami. She was endlessly inspired by all the music geeks surrounding her there. Though she eventually moved out to San Francisco in 2002, with the hopes of working in the music industry here, but quickly realized she’d rather be playing the music. So she started a band and began playing little coffeehouse shows. “It taught me about how to treat people [in bands], being good to people who are inspired enough to play my music with me.” She collected experiences, got better, and formed new acts.

She met Alex Robins from Or, the Whale in the mid-aughts through Craigslist. “At that point I was really ready to do something more collaborative,” she says. The seven-piece country collective eventually saw midlevel success, playing shows with groups like Fleet Foxes, the Dodos, and Two Gallants, and performing on Good Morning America. But with seven people, comes seven different needs and ideas. People needed to agree on songs, which made it difficult. And eventually, members wanted to move on, have children, expand.

So all those experiences led Garfield to where she is now: Paige & the Thousand. “Creatively, I wanted it to have fewer boundaries, I wanted to be able to play songs I liked and not have anyone tell me that I couldn’t.”

Paige & the Thousand plays Awaken Café this weekend with fellow ampersand-lovers Robb Benson & the Shelk, EarlyBizrd & the Bees. Fri/9, 8pm, $7. Awaken Café, 1429 Broadway, Oakl.



Ew, gross, Icky Boyfriends are back. JK, each successive grave-rise from the trashy ’90s-born Bay Area “noisefuck” band is worth mentioning because the local band is just that entertaining live. To get the full lo-fi freakout inherent in the Icky Boyfriends experience, listen to 2005’s 61-track career retrospective A Love Obscene, which features tracks such as “Burrito,” “Passion Assassin,” “Kids in Fresno,” and “King of Zeitgeist.” You might also note the band features current Hemlock booker/guitarist-singer of Hank IV, Anthony Bedard, on drums. Also, I’ve recently uncovered the fact that Bedard and burlesque legend Dixie Evans once went on the talk show Maury, for the episode “My Sexy Lover Is My Complete Opposite.” YouTube it, immediately.

With Wet Illustrated, Violent Change. Thu/8, 9pm, $8. Eagle Tavern, 3981 12th St., SF.

Rotfest IV with 3 Stoned Men, Cameltoe, UKE Band. Sat/10, 5pm, $10. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF.



Too-cute Australian quartet San Cisco is riding on a wave of bubblegum indie-pop and garage guitar hooks, with comparisons to Vampire Weekend, new Bible of Teendom single “Awkward” off its self-titled debut LP, and a cover of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.” And then there’s swinging pop track “Fred Astaire” outfitted with the cherry red-lipped and pompadoured retro dance hall video you might expect. Abandon hope of true grit all ye who enter here, because this particular track is pure Velveeta cheese, and it tastes great between two slices of soda bread. With Smallpools.

Mon/12, 8pm, $15. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF.


Boom boom


TOFU AND WHISKEY Rye Rye went underground for a blip there. Discovered at 15 in a Baltimore club by Blaqstarr, then later introduced and signed to MIA’s Interscope imprint, N.E.E.T. Recordings, the burgeoning dancer, colorful fashion icon, and hip-hop artist seemed destined for immediate stardom. Then she got pregnant, and her debut album, originally slated for release in 2009, was delayed.

After a great many guest spots and collaborations, she came roaring back solo in 2012 with the release of that debut, Go! Pop! Bang!, and an acting gig in the film remake of 21 Jump Street. She popped up again in 2013 with her spring-released track “After Party” off casually impending mixtape RYEde or Die, and this June as a guest star on Asher Roth’s “Actin Up” (which later ended up also including Justin Bieber and Chris Brown).

She’ll be back in the Bay Area this week, after swinging through Oakland as the opener for Scissor Sisters last year at the Fox. This Hard French after party with Micahtron, however, should be a much more intimate, Rye Rye-centric event (Sat/3, 9pm, $20. Public Works, 161 Erie, SF.

The 22-year-old’s style is bold and her voice positively bursts with energy and sonic Funfetti on tracks like the aforementioned frenzied dance single “After Party,” which includes call-backs to both MIA and Missy Elliott (whom she calls her main inspirations, in addition to Kanye West). She’s equally tough and confident on aggressively fun songs like Go! Pop! Bang!‘s “Dance.” And in the video for tender club hit “Boom Boom,” also off Go! Pop! Bang! — which samples the ’90s Vengaboys’ pop hit “Boom Boom Boom” — Rye Rye stars in a live action video game, showcasing both her dance skills and multihued lavender, sky blue, and pink bangs. Plus, she’s been known to tear up the dancefloor in person, at her own shows.

Yet on the phone, she’s quiet, coy, and talks in a girlish tone. Though she does mention several times that she’s a generally shy person, so this likely accounts for the tiny voice I hear whispering through the phone line from a hot day in Baltimore. She talks to me while watching cartoons with her young daughter, who she says likes her mom’s songs and already dances to them. “She knows it all,” Rye Rye says.

In talking about her own early days, as a teen going out with her older sister, Rye Rye says hip-hop was king, but there was some club music and R&B at the spots they’d hit up. At the time, she was in a group that used to dance all over Baltimore, which is what led to her making her own music. Fortuitously, her sister was friends with Blaqstarr, and she met him in a club then later rapped on his answering machine. “I saw him in the club that night, and he asked me to spit it for him and I was like, being shy so I told him no. But we started working in the studio together then eventually met MIA and Diplo.”

Those sessions led to her first mixtape, and eventually, Go! Pop! Bang! For RYEde or Die, she’s still in the midst of working on new tracks, but says she’s taking her time on this one because she’s not quite sure the direction she wants to go in just yet. “I’m deciding if I want to base it on things I deal with, you know? So I’m just still writing on it, trying to plan it out.”

In between writing new tracks and taking her daughter to the pool (her favorite spot this summer), Rye Rye says she’d also be open to more acting gigs, after enjoying her brief stint on the 21 Jump Street set. She got hooked up with the part when MIA told her the directors of the film were fans of her music and wanted her number, then pulled her in for an audition in LA with Jonah Hill, without a script. She and Jonah just riffed in front of casting directors, and she was picked for the role. The casual sentence that eventually ended up being her most memorable moment in the film? “Meanwhile you two were standing around, finger-popping each other’s assholes.” She says it dressed as a cheerleader with bleached bangs, putting emphasis on the word “popping,” and somehow manages to make the line sound cute.

Similar to how MIA’s “Paper Planes” later became synonymous with Pineapple Express — a track on which Rye Rye also contributed — the 21 Jump Street film theme was a bouncy electro-pop club banger by Rye Rye and Esthero.

Now, the rapper is courting meetings and looking ahead to some sporadic gigs until a proper tour at the end of the year, but says she isn’t too concerned about the future. “Everything for me is always just kind out of the blue,” she says. “You know I just go with the flow.”



As first reported by the Bay Bridged, Different Fur Studio owner and engineer Patrick Brown and Robert Pera have come together to release a beat-heavy electro hip-hop album under the name WOOF. The record, Thrill of it All, is the debut LP from the duo, and was released a couple of weeks back on Bandcamp. It began as an instrumental record, then grew to include guest vocals handpicked by the duo from a broad reach of zeitgeist-y rappers and emcees including locals like Nanosaur, A-1, and Richie Cunning, along with Mykki Blanco, Mistah F.A.B., and Chicago MC Show You Suck. There’s also a Matrixxman remix of the song “Pretend,” which features Bird Call.



Experimental electronic producer Al Lover has been quoted as saying “the psych music of today is what the producers of tomorrow will sample.” So the local music-maker recently cut out the middle man, and went straight to the source, creating his own tripped out electro-psych tracks. That meant collaborating with Tim Presley aka White Fence on this month’s seven-inch “Snake Hands,” released through the UK’s PNKSLM Records, which is Lover’s first ever solo vinyl release. (Note that White Fence also has a show coming up Aug. 7 at the Rickshaw Stop.) “Snake Hands” is a single from his forthcoming LP Space Magick. Consummate beat-fiend that he is, Lover also flipped the switch back the other way this summer and put up a collection of remixes, recorded over a one-year period. That includes trance-ready instrumental mixes of tracks by fellow (or former) locals like Nick Waterhouse, Fuzz, and Burnt Ones, along with a standout take on Grinderman’s “Bellringer Blues.” He’ll be showcasing a live beat set at Bottom of the Hill tonight. With Coo Coo Birds, Face Tat, Bubblegum Crises.

Wed/31, 9pm, $8. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF.



You guys, Space Vacation is like SF’s own Spinal Tap, distilling the many aspects of theatrical heavy metal into an entertaining metal act you must see live. The group plays actual sing-along heavy metal (in the vein of Iron Maiden and Def Leppard) but also brings along show-enhancing efforts like smoke and lasers. The quartet plays the all-day, all-ages Summer Throwdown event at DNA Lounge this weekend with Son of a SuperCar, Systemic Decay, Look a Flying Pig, Dammit, Serville, and a handful more. Lean in and throw the devil horns during the daylight.

Sun/4, 4:30pm, $15. DNA, 375 11th St, SF.



There seems to be an uptick in occult fascination lately, or am I just now really paying attention? This whole lineup — a free show through Wood Shoppe — has the witchy vibe, with Vancouver’s Lightning Dust and Louise Burns, and SF’s own Spells. Lightning Dust’s Amber Webber (of Black Mountain) and Josh Wells began as a whispery folk duo in 2007. However, their spooky third LP, June’s Fantasy (Jagjaguwar), is said to be inspired more by “skeletal synth pop, modern R&B beats, the films of John Carpenter and…absolute minimalism.” Louise Burns has that chilled ’80s darkwave thing down. And Spells, the newest project from songwriter Jennifer Marie, incorporates synth and vintage organs into eerie, lovely nightmarescapes (check locally appropriate “Fog”).

Tue/6, 8pm, free. Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission, SF.

Damaged goods


TOFU AND WHISKEY Jello Biafra could be your theatrical political science professor. The still-charismatic frontperson and song-composer has long spewed knowledge deep from the underbelly of political theater, from his influential early 1980s Bay Area punk band Dead Kennedys, and projects like the band Lard, through his nine dense spoken word albums, and up to his newest musical endeavor, louder than ever in his 50s, Jello Biafra and the Guantanamo School of Medicine.

That band, which also includes Victims Family guitarist Ralph Spight, plays the Uptown this weekend with D.I., the Divvys, and Gir-illa Biscuits — an excellent local Gorilla Biscuits tribute act (Fri/26, 9pm, $15. Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl.

Given Biafra’s affinity for weaving news-worthy (though oft-overlooked) scandals into contextual lyrics, I have often wondered from where he gathered his news. “Why, the Bay Guardian, of course! Where would a local voter be without your fine rag?” Biafra tells me from his San Francisco home, while finishing up making a juice of apples and greens. Is he mocking me? “I just hope the new ownership and staff goes pedal to the metal to keep up the standard of muckraking and ethics. There’s so much corruption to dig up in this area.” No, his tone is just often sarcastic.

“Locally, we have you folks, among others. And then you know, the Nation, Progressive, Mother Jones, interesting things people send me in the mail, digitally or otherwise, putting two and two together — trying to write songs about stuff that no one else has. Or at least, not in the same way.”

He continues: “It’s just filling in the gaps with what’s interesting. I’m proud that no two of my music albums sound alike. Not even the Lard albums sound alike. From Dead Kennedys onward my mission as the main lyricist and composer of the damn tunes, I kind of stick to my punk core — whether I intend to or not, it’s just who and what I am —but widen the base of the pyramid to what you can do with that energy.”

Guantanamo School of Medicine’s White People and the Damage Done (Alternative Tentacles, 2013) is the group’s most recent album. A semi-concept album, Biafra says it’s about “grand theft austerity, and how unnecessary it is.”

He explains, “People have asked me…what I think is the biggest problem in the world today and they expect me to say something like ‘climate change’… or inequality, or war, or whatever. I say you know, there’s a worse one, it’s corruption. Because that is what’s blocking anything constructive from being done about all those other problems.”

The title track of White People and the Damage Done, a pounding, guitar-heavy, Dead Kennedys-esque song, explicitly points a finger toward attitudes of the higher-ups in the US and EU regarding countries run by people of color, and the need to step in and take control.

Anthemic single “Shock-U-Py!” has a chantable chorus, and moment-in-time impact. In it, Biafra howls “Wake up and smell the noise/We can’t take it any more/Corporate coup must go/We will Occupy/We will Shock-U-py.” The Occupy movement may have left the mainstream radar for now, but Biafra’s song commemorated the moment, much like he did in early career chants calling out yuppies and atrocities in places like Cambodia, in the early ’80s. His lyrics are typically both rooted in the present, and packed with historical references.

A fast-paced earlier released track (still with that Biafra-esque carnivalian breakdown), “Dot Com Holocaust,” recorded at the time of the The Audacity of Hype EP (AT, 2009), touched on problems more local to Biafra and this rag, of gentrification and a new class of tasteless techies coming in to the Bay. Dripping with satire, the song seemed to have touched a nerve when first released, and garnered scores of angry, faceless Internet comments.

“I had this funny feeling we weren’t done with the Dot Com Holocaust. Sure enough, now it’s more aggressive and obnoxious than ever. Dot Com Monte Carlo — that’s kind of what Willie Brown’s puppets are trying to turn this city into, yet again,” he says. “It has been really sad for me to see so many cool people and artists and service-workers and people of color just bulldozed out of this town to make room for more mini little yuppies who treat San Francisco as a suburb of Silly-clone Valley.” Yes, Biafra talks like he sings.

When we discuss newer bands, he notes many acts are fleeing SF for the East Bay, something bands across genre styles and influences have brought up with me during casual conversations and interviews.

“Now you don’t see people like me when I was 19, just moving out to San Francisco [from Boulder, Colo.], chasing a dream. There was a time when the vitality of the underground was maintained by entire bands moving here as a unit. Everybody from MDC and the Dicks to DRI and later, Zen Guerilla.”

But as an underground label owner (Alternative Tentacles) he knows times are tough for both bands and music fans, with a poisonous combination of the crashed economy and rampant file-sharing affecting all involved. “I wonder how many people save up money from their shitty jobs for years in order to make some really cool piece of music only to find that nobody actually gives anything back,” he says. “Maybe the solution for people who want to get their friends into really cool music, don’t just send them the whole album, pick some favorites and send them a little teaser package, a little file to inspire them to check out them more.”

For the complete Jello Biafra Q&A, see



Counterpoint, there are still some bands and artist types heading way out west to San Francisco in these turbulent, high-priced times: Yassou Benedict. This band is not in the slightest akin to Biafra’s people, though it is a group of hopeful young dreamers.

The shoegazing dreampop four-piece formed at a small high school in Upstate New York. While most bands from the area would migrate south to New York City, Yassou Benedict made the “fairly random” decision to head to SF. “We all got into a Subaru Forrester with a Great Dane in the back and all our stuff in a trailer and drove across country,” says guitarist James Jackson, who traveled with singer-bassist Lilie Bytheway-Hoy, guitarist-keyboardist A.J. Krumholz, and drummer Patrick Aguirre.

Now in the Bay, they work as servers at Outerlands, a cook at Beauty Bagels and Wise Sons, a bartender at the Boxing Room, and a pizza-dealer at Lanesplitter Pizza and Pub.

But more importantly, the group of 20-somethings recently released its debut EP, In Fits in Dreams, a moody, complex, emotionally fraught record that leaves the listener itching for a full-length, and touches on themes of “anxiety, and wanting to be weightless, the desire to run through wide open spaces.” The album release party was actually a few weeks back, but you can catch the band this week at Milk Bar with Beautiful Machines, Hotel Eden, and NVO (Fri/26, 8:30pm, $10. Milk Bar, 1840 Haight, SF.

Led by Bytheway-Hoy’s dramatic, high-ranging vocals, and unconventional song structures (like shifting time signatures) In Fits in Dreams also features guest vocals by Hole’s Melissa Auf Der Maur on track “Cloisters.”

The subtle beats and rolling vocals of “Cloisters” feels like a doomed march toward the unknown, while closer “Last Cicada” ventures more into Radiohead In Rainbows territory (the band has been known to cover “Jigsaw Falling Into Place”). There’s also the church-like pop hymn of “Back Roads that Dead End,” which begins as an anxious vocal solo with faraway chimes, the beats and guitars slowing filtering in.

It’s surely been noted elsewhere on the blogosphere, but there’s something strangely seductive within Yassou Benedict, which I mention to Jackson. “I am not sure why that is. If we are making people feel, whether it is the desire to make love, or children or anything else, than we are succeeding. It is kind of strange though. Our music is fairly depressing. Now I’m just imaging people holding each other and crying while they listen. Lilie’s voice probably has a lot to do with that.” Bytheway-Hoy’s voice is indeed both haunting and captivating.

There’s also a cinematic quality to In Fits in Dreams, likely driven by that high emotional tug. Given the soundtrack capabilities, I asked Jackson what type of film would best be suited to Yassou Benedict and he picked a future Wes Anderson film, also noting that a dream opening slot would be an imaginary Radiohead show in an intimate venue (no arenas!).

While the record was recorded and produced back in Hudson, NY (with Steve Durand at Dioramaland Studios), the band is touring on it from its new homebase in the Bay.


Rise and snack


TOFU AND WHISKEY Listening to infectious Terry Malts track “I Do” on a blissed-out drive across the bridge to Oakland last weekend, I was struck by how the song has grown so ingrained in my psyche.

With its driving hook and repetitive “I do/I do/I do/oh-oh” chorus about young punks in love, it’s like an underground college radio hit earworm, or the song you methodically skip to with a carful of friends on a sweaty sojourn to the beach, triumphantly pushing play on the old tape deck. It has that timeless, enduring quality. It feels like its always been in my collection.

And yet, the upbeat punk song is less than two years old, created by the San Francisco trio for its debut 2012 LP Killing Time (Slumberland). It’s got this nostalgic pull inherent in the band, and might be the best example of such among its back catalog. Returning to Killing Time left me wondering what was next for the group. Lo and behold, Terry Malts just announced the sophomore follow-up: Nobody Realizes This Is Nowhere, which will be released Sept. 10 also via Slumberland Records. The announcement came with a first single, driving, noisier, “I Was Not There.” Sensing a theme here?

Terry Malts were featured in my inaugural “On the Rise” cover story, in 2012 (it’s now a yearly tradition in the first couple months of the year), and it made me wonder how the others were doing.

As luck would have it, there was also news last week that chilly synch duo Silver Swans (Jonathan Waters and Ann Yu) returned with new track “Sea of Love,” off upcoming album Touch.

Likely the group I’ve most followed since the story, rockers Dirty Ghosts have grown tighter and louder in the past year or so, and have played both the Treasure Island Music Festival and a raucous, shred-worthy Noise Pop slot opening for the Thermals.

And then there’s multi-instrumentalist Jhameel, who has since moved to LA, but has kept up with a steady stream of beat-friendly R&B and pop releases, music vids, and drunk YouTube clips for fans, most recently collaborating with Giraffage and DWNTWN on the track “Move Me,” which showed up on the Kitsuné America 2 compilation.



For those who’ve yet to experience “symphonic ambisonic soundscapes” deep down in the coral reefs: Soundwave SonicLAB, MEDIATE, and the Bold Italic present this sound-heavy Cal Academy Nightlife event with electronic composer-musician Christopher Willits (owner of experimental label on the soundscapes, and local garage pop act the Mantles playing live among the fishies. And for the more scientific angle, there’ll be a talk by oceanographer and National Geographic Explorer-in-Residence (best title ever) Dr. Sylvia A. Earle.

Thu/18, 6-10pm, $12. California Academy of Sciences, 55 Music Concourse Drive, Golden Gate Park, SF.


Vintage children’s tales always seem to take on a slightly creepy quality, and the same can be said for experimental folk songstress, Miwa Gemini. The Brooklyn singer-songwriter makes moody narrative lullabies that sound like campfire tales, told in a crisp singsongy voice over pah-pum drums and guitar lines that bend from Western twang to plucky surf. With Zoe Muth, Margaret Glasby.

Thu/18, 9pm, $10. Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF.


That blissful drive last weekend? It was the route to Burger Boogaloo, the punk rock summer camp in Oakland’s Mosswood Park. Put together by Burger Records and Total Trash Booking, the fest boasted noisy punks, retro-inspired doo-wop groups, and sloppy surf-rock bands mostly from the Bay Area, LA, and Portland, Ore.,plus Jonathan Richman. There was great warm weather, a fenced off beer plot, vintage clothes and records for sale, and the sugary vegan donut burger made by Hella Vegan Eats.

Summer ghouls


TOFU AND WHISKEY In these past three years, Phono Del Sol has built itself up into a tastemaker midsummer’s indie music fest — and it’s one to watch. It makes sense: the one-day fest is curated by on-the-pulse local blog, the Bay Bridged.

And beyond the interesting (and mostly local) band choices — the first year featured Aesop Rock and Mirah, last year the Fresh and Onlys and Mwahaha, and this year Thee Oh Sees, YACHT, Bleached, and K. Flay will headline — there’s something about the approach and atmosphere that calms the nerves.

It’s in the Mission’s Potrero Del Sol park, a hilly, grassy area bordered by an active skate park. During the fest, skaters whizz by near the bands, and street food vendors offer salty snacks on the other side of the stage.

The event tends to inhabit a particular San Francisco garage scene vibe of yesteryear, apart from current complications brewing in the nearby neighborhood between the old and new, the tech workers and SF lifers.

One of the newest bands on this year’s bill fits this feeling as well, the young garage pop four-piece Cool Ghouls. The psych-inflected group is relaxed and gracious, perhaps not yet jaded by the outlying music community or industry. And they’ll be bringing a horn section to Phono Del Sol this year. (Sat/13, 11:30am-7pm, $20. Potrero Del Sol Park, 25th Street at Utah, SF.

Cool Ghouls, named after a phrase George Clinton used in a Parliament Funkadelic concert film, are a bit giggly during our conversation from lead guitarist Ryan Wong’s Duboce Park area apartment. They seem new to this whole recognition thing, and thusly, speak candidly, and nearly in circles. Singer Pat McDonald, bassist Pat Thomas, and Wong all grew up in the Bay Area, attending high school in Benicia together, and met up again in San Francisco after college. Alex Fleshman met the others when he went to San Francisco State University.

They formed in early 2011 and began playing shows almost immediately — in early spring of that year, showing up at brick-and-mortar spots, house shows, even Serra Bowl before it closed, and at Noise Pop. That’s where they first crossed my path, as they began popping up at shows on a frequent basis. “Now, we’re being asked to play more local shows then we can play,” Thomas says. “Pat McDonald seems to know a lot of people somehow, maybe it’s his hair? Or he’s just like, really nice.”

Their self-titled debut full-length, recorded by Tim Cohen of Fresh and Onlys and Magic Trick, saw release this April on Empty Cellar Records. “We thought we could record a whole album by ourselves, so we recorded 90 percent of it on an eight-track recorder,” Wong says. “We showed Arvel [Hernandez], who runs Empty Cellar Records…he told us ‘the songs are really good but the recording is just shitty.'”

He enlisted Cohen to record it, and said he’d release it on Empty Cellar. They were ecstatic with the revelation, and excited to work with the talented Cohen. They spent a few days in his Western Addition home, rerecording the full album while crammed in Cohen’s bedroom at the top of a towering Victorian near Alamo Square.

Cohen’s since become a de facto advocate for the band, writing a glowing press release about Cool Ghouls and the album, in which he defiantly explains “First things first: Cool Ghouls are not a retro act… Truth be told, this being their first official release, they may even be a bit naïve in their dogged pursuit of the true-blue, home-spun, rock and roll lifestyle.”

Though he later concedes, “If one were to ascribe to them a ’60s-reverent description, as one often does in the case of San Francisco bands, one would most likely find an artistic kinship with some of the most inimitable, idiosyncratic, yet unmistakably influential bands of the retro-fitting oeuvre. The Troggs, The Monks, Sir Douglas Quintet come to mind immediately. (Save your Kinks and Rolling Stones references.) Like the aforementioned, the Ghouls are natural heirs to the folkloric lineage which precedes them, adding dashes of weirdness where needed.”

The group laughs when I bring up the Cohen praise, “it’s so funny things people take away from press releases…but he did a really good job of writing that, I didn’t even know he understood us that well,” Thomas says. “He doesn’t give you that much in person, he’s a pretty stoic guy, so it’s been really cool to see that through all of that, he was digging us.”

“We were all kind of intimidated, then that came out, and I didn’t have any idea he was even writing anything,” Wong adds.

The Ghouls are democratic, and all are multi-instrumentalists, with each group member writing songs and bringing the skeletons to the group to flesh out. And many of the tracks on the album do evoke that garage pop weirdness Cohen identified, and also a casual self-awareness.

Thomas wrote joyful first single “Natural Life” quickly and brought it to the band. The perfectly corresponding video by his film student brother Rob Thomas features the band frolicking in the Marin Headlands and Sutro Baths. “That whole organic approach, natural approach, putting your pieces in place and then just winging it, is something that we generally do — it keeps it collaborative,” Thomas says.

Another standout, is mid-tempo “Witches Game,” which singer McDonald wrote, starting with the fuzzy guitar riff that rides strong through the track.

Woozy, surfy “Grace” was one of the first songs they ever played together, and usually closes out their live sets. And they agree that jangly psych-pop “Queen Sophie” was one of the more collaborative songs. There’ll be a proper video for that one out soon too.

“The whole album was a group effort. I think of it as a specific piece of where we were at when we recorded it,” Wong says.

The album artwork is worth noting as well, a collage-painting made by Thomas with a big glittery sun, swirly watercolor images of clouds, snowy mountaintops, red-yellow fire, and a colorful rooster. The images weren’t meant necessarily to reflect the songs on the album, but ended up having some meaning after the fact.

“I was just trying to represent what I lean toward anyway, like if it’s a painting I make, it’ll probably evoke the music I make, just because I’m making both of them,” Thomas says. “But liked the rooster image because I was thinking about the way roosters strut, and this is our first album.”

Wong pipes up, “I feel the way the album is with these songs, [it’s about] the morning, and the ideas of the natural life. It’s appropriate because it’s our first album, but maybe I’m looking too much into it?”

Cool Ghouls will move on soon anyway — they’re currently prepping new songs and plan to record a second album this August.



Fillmore District-raised emcee DaVinci plays this free show alongside fellow burgeoning local rap duo Main Attrakionz, Young Gully, Shady Blaze, Ammbush, and Sayknowledge. DaVinci has been releasing tracks for a few years, in late 2012 dropping full-length The MOEna Lisa with an ode to SF in track “In My City” with the telling lyric, “Trying to push us out of the city/but we ain’t leaving,” in a hoarse whisper, but also referencing favorite spots like the waffle house at Fillmore and Eddy (Gussies).

Wed/10, 9pm, free. Brick and Mortar Music Hall, 1710 Mission, SF;



The elegant yet spooky old-world-carnival act Japonize Elephants — noted for drawing sounds from eclectic styles like gypsy jazz, bluegrass, and klezmer — will celebrate the vinyl release party for newest album Mélodie fantastique, this week at Amnesia. Go, and witness all the instrumentation you can handle (fiddle, banjo, glockenspiel, vibraphone, accordion, percussion, surf guitar), along with four-part vocal harmonies. A group of waltzing ghosts, like the ones you find on the Haunted Mansion ride, wouldn’t seem out of place here.

Thu/11, 9:30pm, $7–$10. Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF.


Devil may care


TOFU AND WHISKEY Unlike most anticipated albums these days, Austra‘s sophomore LP, Olympia (June 18, Domino Records), came out in gleaming little drops. There were no leaked full downloads — at least, nothing massively widespread. But the sparkly bits that did trickle out, namely first single “Home” and its follow-up, “Painful Like,” were enough to build interest.

The Canadian synth-pop six-piece already had a built-in audience, thanks to 2011’s Feel It Break, mostly created by darkly operatic lead vocalist Katie Stelmanis, former Trust vocalist Maya Postepski on drums, and bassist Dorian Wolf, and made almost exclusively on a computer. Now a more fully realized unit using live instrumentation, the group, which also includes keyboardist Ryan Wonsiak and supernatural twin backing vocalists Sari and Romy Lightman, created the lush, full-bodied second record together in a studio. And it shows: there’s a richness to the sound. There’s a steady dance beat throughout the record, with the addition of sounds like cowbells and even more barreling percussion underneath all those moody vocals wailings and subtle piano keys.

“We have so much percussion on the album, I had days where I would just play all day,” Postepski says from Switzerland, on the group’s brief tour through Europe. “I think it added to the richness to it, and the realness of the sound. As much as it is an electronic record, we wanted it to have a balance with real instruments.”

That first released track “Home” seduced critics earlier this spring with a more upbeat style than typical of Austra, yet the lyrics are again deeply personal for Stelmanis, about someone not coming home at night because they’re out getting wasted, and the desperate feeling of waiting for that person to return.

Sonically, second single, “Painful Like” gets more to the core of what the group does best, meshing gothy dancefloor-ready beats and bubbly synth with crashing drums and Stelmanis’ otherworldly vocals on display.

The lyrics were inspired by “the disillusionment of growing up gay in a small town and finding solace in the arms of a lover.”

Stelmis told Spinner in 2011, “Indie music is funny. It’s really not as queer positive as you would think. In a lot of ways, it’s very centered around white men, basically. I just want there to be space for gays.”

She seems to have taken that to heart on Olympia, including even more of herself than on Feel it Break.

“The lyrics on the new album are personal, intimate reflections of what Stelmanis is going through,” Postepski says.

The new record contains hints of other moody synth-based projects like former tourmate Grimes, the Knife, and Zola Jesus, though Postepski says she almost exclusively listens to music made before 1995, specifically Grace Jones and David Bowie. She does make an exception for British techno producer Andy Stott. “That’s where all the super low bassy stuff comes from,” she explains.

While many of the tracks follow the same formula, Olympia is packed with emotional dancefloor moments. It’s the kind of record that could soundtrack a crying fit in a dark club bathroom, mascara bleeding down the face, strangers surrounding the mirror, all of the drama inherent in nightlife, then follow the main character triumphantly back out onto the floor.

“As much as it is a serious album, there’s a lot of playfulness as well,” Postepski says. “I think we struck a good balance.”

Austra, which has toured internationally with groups like the XX, Grimes, and the Gossip will test the balance on a quick jaunt through the States, only stopping in a few major cities. One lucky enclave is San Francisco — the group plays here this week (Wed/26, 8pm, sold out. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF). Noted for its creative use of stage layout and synchronized twin dance movements (“they’re kind of like our cheerleaders!”), Austra has a lot to live up to at its live shows. Postepski tells me this very short tour includes a massive, beautiful new backdrop, rented from the Chinese Opera Group in Toronto.

“People are having fun at the shows. I just want it to be a dance party, you know?” Postepski says.

There’s another group traveling to San Francisco this week that also will likely be filling up the dancefloor — and, coincidentally, also has toured with the Gossip — Magic Mouth. To get a taste of the explosive energy Magic Mouth exudes, check the YouTube video “MAGIC MOUTH LIVE: MISSISSIPPI STUDIOS,” it’s like watching James Brown front a garage-punk band. The lively Portland, Ore. queer soul-punk quartet will play Hard French Hearts Los Homos (an event described by DJ Carnita as “an intergalactic Pride Party for all the gayliens who love to dance in outer space”).

Magic Mouth will open for fellow Northwesterners, Seattle’s THEESatisfaction at the event hosted by Lil Miss Hot Mess (Sun/30, 4-11pm, $20. Roccapulco, 3140 Mission, SF; This will be the band’s second time in SF, after stopping by El Rio last fall. But other tours have taken the group around the country opening for the Gossip, and JD Sampson’s MEN.

Magic Mouth has a glut of reasons to be keyed up for the SF show.

“I’m really looking forward to playing with THEESatisfaction. We’ve been admirers of theirs from afar for a minute and in kind of the same music community,” says frontperson Chanticleer Trü. “And also to celebrate at Hard French, because we love what they do.”

Guitarist Peter Condra adds, “And I’m excited to play a party that’s dedicated to a political cause, which is Bradley Manning. With what went down in San Francisco Pride, I think that fueled the organizers’ enthusiasm about the topic and I want to help them create awareness in any way we can as a band. I think it’s cool they took a stance on that.”

A crash course on those events: The LGBTQ community was torn apart when the SF Pride Board rescinded the election of Wikileaker Bradley Manning to the position of Community Grand Marshal at this year’s Pride celebration. There are planned actions and marches in support of Manning (see pTK) at the Pride parade, June 30.

So yes, Magic Mouth comes to us on a mission of both solidarity and fun. And likely, to gain new fans.

The group’s electric Believer EP saw release in 2012, and now it’s in the process of finishing up another, Devil May Care, which was funded with $10,000 raised through Kickstarter. The foursome worked on the record with Nathan Howdeshell and Hannah Blilie of the Gossip, who walked the band through the process, gave feedback, and connected Magic Mouth with a producer. Devil May Care will be released on vinyl in late summer.

“I’m really proud of this record,” Trü says.

Drummer Ana Briseño says, “Yeah, I think it’s taking us into the next level, a little more grownup, of taking this band seriously. The quality of the recording, and getting to put it out on vinyl, and being able to be involved in the artwork — I think we’re really lucky and not a lot of bands make it to that point.”

“In comparison to our first EP, which we recorded like, between two of our friends’ bedroom studios,” Trü says. “It’s definitely been an evolution, and this time around I feel like we really captured the type of energy we bring to a live performance.”

The band formed in 2010 when Briseño and guitarist Peter Condra met and started talking about music — Nina Simone being the uniting interest. Briseño and Condra started playing garage rock versions of Simone songs, and eventually created their own, which brought them to Trü and bassist Brendan Scott (Condra and Scott had played together before in a cover band). “And Trü was definitely feeling the Nina Simone thing we were channeling,” Condra says.

The group says it’s now actualizing its influences. The band members have already played with one influence in the Gossip and is about to play with another in THEESatisfaction, but future goal spots would be alongside Erykah Badu or Blood Orange. I mishear Trü, thinking he mentioned Beyonce also, so ask for clarification. He laughs and says, “no, but you must be reading my mind.”



Some background: local Southern fried rock group (“by way of Atlanta, Jakarta, and two Midwest podunk towns”) the White Barons includes members of Thee Merry Widows, Winter Teeth, and Whiskey Dick Darryls, and SF’s Wild Eyes recently opened for King Khan and BBQ Show at Slim’s. This Bender’s show is a party for a few things: it’s the birthday of Bender’s doorperson and Subliminal SF booker Mikey Madfes, it’s a split seven-inch release celebration for the White Barons and Wild Eyes, and lastly, there’s a band vs. band chili cookoff (if you buy a record, you’ll get a chili sample). So you know it’s going to be a messy mix of raucous rock’n’roll and tender cooked meats.

Sat/29, 10pm, $5. Bender’s Bar and Grill, 806 S. Van Ness, SF;


Have love, will travel


TOFU AND WHISKEY Trails and Ways have zigged when others zagged. Though in reality, the band’s process is becoming more in line with the path many underground musicians take to create and distribute work in 2013. It’s avoided traditional labels, instead choosing to release a record through a Tumblr-based community project, and before that generated intense web interest with original singles, clever covers, and inspired remixes, building a reputation as a talented crew of globally inspired dream poppers.

And that windy route has paid off. The melodic Oakland quartet, which was named one of the Guardian’s Bands on the Rise earlier this year, will play its biggest headlining show yet this week, Fri/7 at the Independent (9pm, $12, 628 Divisadero, SF. It’s part of its first full US (and Canadian) tour. All of this is in celebration of a record that’s been buzzed about since the first hints were dropped a year or so ago: the Trilingual EP is here.

If you’ve been following the band’s trajectory, you’ve heard many of the tracks before. Five-song Trilingual begins with faraway wind chimes and sturdy hand-claps, kicking off new single, “Como Te Vas,” which then builds into a electronic dance pop track with catchy guitar hooks over island synths and layers of echoing Spanish vocals. It bleeds directly into championed early released “Nunca,” lovely and moody “Tereza,” which ends with the sounds of rolling waves, along with previous single, the bossa nova beat driven “Border Crosser” (which supports the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights) and bubbly “Mtn Tune.” A few of the tracks showcase that two female-two male vocal counterpart dynamic of Trails and Ways, others spotlight and highlight one or two voices — all strong in their own right.

“Some of the songs we put out last year but had never given them a home. It’s our debut of songs written and recorded together as this band,” guitarist-vocalist Keith Brower Brown tells me. “Working as this four-piece changed how and what we do to the core. Before we went on this first major tour, we wanted to bring together our work so far — and new material — into this physical object to tour behind, a declaration of who we are and what we’ve done as a band.”

Although the foursome — Brower Brown, bassist Emma Oppen, drummer Ian Quirk, and guitarist-synth player Hannah Van Loon — initially considered expanding Trilingual into an LP, they decided not to force the additional tracks, to let the work settle and grow organically. “We realized that we never want to rush a full-length out the door. A lot of things have happened really fast for us — especially given that we’ve just been doing all this on top of demanding jobs and other projects.” (That ends soon; two of the four quit working full-time jobs on May 31, so when they return home from tour, they’ll be spending “infinite time” on their music.)

“If you’re too deep in the echo chamber you can feel this pressure to kick out new material every week. But when we put out a debut LP we want it to be as good as the albums that inspire us to make this music.”

It’s this kind of careful attention to detail that draws listeners in to Trails and Ways, the delicate layers of sound, the snippets of additional beats and instruments. Each track tells a story, and is intended to take a listener on a journey. As Brower Brown points out, that intension is right there in the band’s name. These joint interests in both traveling and exploring other cultures came from the time Brower Brown and bassist Oppen spent living in Brazil and Spain. “When you’re traveling in foreign space, wrestling with language and identity to express yourself takes you — by necessity — to the most creative place I know…and a lot of our songs and musical obsessions were sparked in those moments at the raw edge of translation and incomprehension.”

The band will release the EP through Non-Market, a brand new East Bay based DIY community label in which Trails and Ways are very involved. “We hope [it] will transcend the market of music promotion and distribution, by just having Bay bands write about other Bay bands,” Brower Brown says. “So it’s a open, principled, non-commercial music community.”

Along with being a stop on the band’s “Trans-American Trilingual Tour,” the Independent show is also kind of the label kickoff. The band’s San Francisco openers are local pals, Social Studies — and Astronauts Etc., which has also been a core part of the Non-Market dream.

The tour will take the travel junkies through much of the US and Canada. They’re “looking forward to 8,000 miles of time together in the minivan,” along with the hopes of popping off the road for hikes and lake swimming. The band is also itching to meet Drake in Toronto, and will play the same stage as both Kendrick Lamar and Tom Petty at the Firefly Music Festival in Delaware, plus a show in Chicago with its Portland, Ore. friends Radiation City. Even without the release of a proper full-length LP, the group will be headlining most of its US tour.



If you somehow missed killer 2012 LP Henge Beat, Total Control is an Australian punk supergroup of sorts, featuring members of Eddy Current Suppression Ring, UV Race, and more. The band, which recently put out a split with Thee Oh Sees, sounds like a mix of Suicide and Joy Division, with lyrics aimed at sci-fi curiosities and paranoid guitar lines doused in just the right amount of doom and gloom.

Sat/8, 8pm, $12. Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF. With Thee Oh Sees, Fuzz.

Sun/9, 8pm, $10. Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. With Grass Widow, Neon Piss, Synthetic ID.



It’s been awhile since we’ve seen the Lumerians out and about in San Francisco, as the five-piece spacey, psychedelic wanderers (also recently described as a “Oakland stoner quintet”) reminded fans on social media this week. They also claim to have some secrets in store for the crowd at this show, which opens with fellow locals Wax Idols, at SF’s newest music venue, the Chapel. With this group, it’s got to be something cosmic.

Sat/8, 9pm, $15. Chapel, 777 Valencia, SF.



Local record and book shop the Explorist International (which specializes in rural American music, jazz, international pop and folk, and electronics) is curating shows at Amnesia for the month of June, this week bringing out Sub Pop’s NVH, a.k.a. Noel Von Harmonson of Comets on Fire. With this solo project, the experimental knob-twister and guitarist blasts out mind-numbing soundscapes. With Diego Gonzales, DJs Special Lord B and Phengren Oswald. Upcoming Explorist International-curated shows at Amnesia include free-jazzists Aliacensis (June 18) and Nordeson/Shelton Duo (June 25).

Tue/11, 9:30pm, $5. Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF.



Here’s yet another show at the newly re-opened Eagle Tavern: the record release party for Sonny and the Sunsets’ newest, Antenna to the Afterworld. The confessional record, which hints at Modern Lovers and Silver Jews (a shift from country break-up record Longtime Companion), opens with Sonny Smith talk-singing a call-and-response conversation, “Something happened/I fell in love/but it was weird/Real weird.” “Good weird?” the voice on the other side implores. With Burnt Ones, Cool Ghouls.

Tue/11, 8pm, $7. Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF.

What we do is secret


TOFU AND WHISKEY Bay Area garage pop quintet the Mantles will release Love Enough to Leave on Slumberland Records next month (June 18) and play the Rickshaw Stop a few short days before that (June 14). The breezy group formed in 2007, but sounds like it could just have easily been hanging out at Vesuvio in Jack Kerouac Alley or across the street at Specs Bar in 1968, grasping stiff drinks and talking politics and fashion with local drunks.

Although, singer-guitarist Michael Olivares, wife and drummer Virginia Weatherby, and their new dog Jumbo moved to Oakland’s Temescal neighborhood last year thanks to rising rents in Bernal Heights, where they formerly lived. So that old-time SF scenario isn’t quite as picturesque as conjured. But the band still bleeds Bay Area. Olivares and Weatherby frequent nearby 1-2-3-4 Go! Records for vinyl, and the Night Light, the Hemlock, the Knockout, and El Rio for live shows. The band recorded its new album with local legend Kelley Stoltz, and the other three band members — keyboardist Carly Putnam, bassist Matt Roberts and, newish lead guitarist Justin Loney — live scattered throughout SF, in the Tenderloin and the Mission.

Plus, it’s really more the sound that evokes those vintage tastes, those early Nuggets-esque psych-pop ideals. Olivares gets the comparisons and appeal, though hopes his band does not come off as just a carbon copies of the past (it doesn’t). “We definitely like all of that music and other things from that era, that culture,” he says. “We’re aware enough though that I hope to not become just a blatant revivalist band that’s trying to wear tie-dye shirts and bell-bottoms or something.”

But still, the favorable comparison is applicable, “Most of the music I listen to is from that era, the ’60s and ’70s, so I’d say we’re pretty heavily influenced by it.”

This may come as no surprise to listeners still besotted with the Mantles’ self-titled 2010 debut (Siltbreeze), with its nimbly Byrds-like appeal. Yes, three years later (and EP Pink on Mexican Summer in between) the mood remains upbeat, but like the musicians who created it, there’s an older wisdom to the approach.

There’s a seen-it-all-before strength from tracks off Love Enough to Leave such as “Brown Balloon” and only slightly more solemn album closer “Shadow of Your Step.” It’s like the group time-warped and took those free-wheeling early folk popsters back to the garage with them, plugged in and showed them proto-punk, then had a serious conversation about what would happen to the Bay Area in 2013: housing prices will rise again, there will be this thing called the web that changes everything.

When asked what’s changed since he first moved to SF a decade ago, Olivares says it seems like bands have gone poppier (including his own), but also notes there’s been a shift in the sheer number of house shows in SF proper.

He says their migration to the East Bay loosely influenced title track, “Long Enough to Leave,” and “Don’t Cross Town.”

Conversely, there are some more character-based tracks inspired by books and films like Mike Leigh’s comedic camping ode Nuts in May (1976), including jangly opener “Marbled Birds” and the illusory single “Hello,” which initially seems like a pleasant conversation. Cheery to begin with, it feels like candy and turquoise rotary telephones in teenage bedrooms (a ruse, the band members are all actually in their early 30s). But then, it gets to the line, “Hello/Maybe you can help me get out of here.” Ah, the hook, and out comes the reverb. Olivares told me it was actually about a time when his friend in France was sending postcards and he kept forgetting to respond.

While the Mantles may evoke vintage San Francisco, there’s something moving in this week that’s entirely new to the area and musical landscape. The America’s Cup Concert Series at the America’s Cup Pavilion (between Piers 27/29), stricken by neighborhood complaints, finally soldiers forward (but now down to 30 concerts from 40). It’ll be SF’s largest venue — holding up to 9,000 classic rock fans in an outdoor concert bulb connected to the equally maligned America’s Cup. Teamed up with Live Nation, the Pavilion will host a barrage of top 40 acts including Imagine Dragons this weekend, Fri/31, (already sold out).

Then there’ll be Sting, the Steve Miller Band, Counting Crows with the Wallflowers, 311, Train, Sammy Hagar, and it goes on. It’s a rather stale line-up, perhaps best suited for those legitimately excited for the boat races. The youngest group is the Jonas Brothers, after that Fall Out Boy and Panic! At the Disco (all well into their 30s). Perhaps the only really interesting additions are Weezer and the symphony. Here’s hoping the neighbors don’t keep complaining.



And now, a little spring-cleaning for Tofu and Whiskey. Some Bay Area bands are killing it in late May and June. Dreams in the Rat House (Hardly Art), the explosive new full-length from Oakland trio Shannon and the Clams dropped last week. As noted when the single “Rip Van Winkle” was released, the kings and queen of surfy doo-wop have kept up their hip-shaking guitar lines and voracious vocals with a joyfully trashy edge. There’s also now a mini doc on the band, OutofFocus TV’s “American Music Episode 6: featuring Shannon and the Clams,” which you can check on Youtube and Vimeo.

In it, Shannon Shaw, Cody Blanchard, and drummer Ian Amberson (who quit sometime during filming apparently) struggle to describe their band, which leads to a great video edit that includes snippets of each saying words such as “fantastical, ballads, cozy, weirdo, Muppet, punk, oldies.” Song to check: “Rip Van Winkle”

After what seems like an eternity (three years and a brief hiatus) Rogue Wave will release new record Nightingale Floors Tue/4 on Vagrant Records. It’s the band’s fifth studio album, and newest since 2010’s Permalight. On Nightingale Floors, bandleader Zach Rogue and longtime drummer Pat Spurgeon battle out demons (death, personal tragedies) and come out the other end with trusted jangly guitars, Rogue’s delicate vocals that still sound like an old friend telling stories, and Spurgeon’s expert off-time drumming — a sharp new release produced by John Congleton (who also produced Rogue’s solo effort, Release the Sunbird). In addition to Rogue and Spurgeon, Nightingale Floors includes contributions by bassist Masanori Mark Christianson, guitarist Peter Pisano, vocalist Jules Baenziner (Sea of Bees) and Mwahaha’s Ross Peacock on synths.

The record seems to take listeners on a narrated life trip, through “College” and “Figured It Out” to the “Siren’s Song,” finally settling on the inevitable with twinkly “When Sunday Morning Comes” and unhurried “Everyone Want to Be You.” Rogue Waves plays the Independent July 13. Song to check: “No Magnatone”

And then there’s Oakland’s Mortar and Pestle. On its self-titled new full-length, the band projects a vibe akin to a trippier Little Dragon. There are bouncy keyboard lines and scattered found-sound touches boosted by the lush, dreamy vocals of lead singer Janaysa Lambert. On first single “U.V” there’s even the familiar ping-ping-ping of a classic pinball game, forcing you to picture the full Mortar and Pestle set-up placed neatly between games in a 1980s arcade. The synth-pop trio is also one of the first acts to see release on Metal Mother’s new label-collective, Post Primal, so you know it has her stamp of approval. Song to check: “Pristine Dream.”

Psycho beach party


TOFU AND WHISKEY Why don’t more surfers listen to surf music? I found myself in one of those fuzzy-eyed, web-based black holes, frustrated, rhetorically asking the question through the endless prism of social media a few months back. And furthermore, why don’t surfer-musicians play authentic surf rock? While the sound was born in Southern California in the early 1960s, most of the early musicians who incorporated it weren’t active participants in the sport for which it was named, save for Dick Dale. The oft-repeated story is that Dale wanted to reflect the sounds he heard in his mind while surfing. And around that time, Santa Ana, Calif. based guitar-maker Fender even ran ads with beach babes and the tag “Fender makes music to surf by.”

But in the past few decades at least, the more prominent surfer-musicians seem to mostly vacillate between producing pop-punk, reggae, or more commonly, your ubiquitous, folky, banana pancake-loving Jack Johnson boredom block.

Tom Curren is in an elite class, a world champion surfer and son of legendary big-wave rider Pat Curren, he’s an athlete who took all his souped-up energy, and left his sport to pursue…folk rock. He released first album In Plain View in March.

During an ancient ritual in which I participated last week — that would be my honeymoon on Oahu — the bus drivers, tour leaders, cabbies, and general friendly tourist industry folks kept offering up slice-of-life songs for our listening pleasure. You like music? Well, get a load of this beach-ready sound. Cue soft rock (Hawaiian-born) Jack Johnson, or, the late Honolulu singer-ukulele musician Israel “Iz” Kamakawiwo’ole. We heard Iz’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World” medley no fewer than 15 times in seven days. I asked my husband, who grew up surfing on the Central Coast, what was up with the surfer/surf rock divide and he quietly responded, “I’ve never participated in surf culture, I have no idea.”

When I returned to work this week, I asked local surf musician Donald Bell of Aloha Screwdriver a similar question, and he shut it down more academically, “I can’t speak for surfers. I don’t surf. I grew up skateboarding. I don’t know a single one of our fans who surf. What’s funny is that our biggest fans live in the gloomiest climates. We have a bunch of fans in Seattle.” He added, “I think that Californians have a kind of cultural cringe when they hear surf music, because it’s the kind of thing that always gets played in the background whenever a California beach scene is shown on TV. It can feel cliché. But once you get outside of California, that baggage tends to disappear and you get treated like an exotic import.”

Bell got it though, what I was after. I wanted the explosive electric guitar of Dale and the Trashmen, the wet noodling power of ’90s revival acts like Phantom Surfers and Man Or Astro-Man?, or powerful throwback shock of Guantanamo Baywatch or Trashwomen (those last two, by the way, will play the Burger Boogaloo fest July 6-7 in Oakland). OK, so Hawaii wasn’t technically the place to find the thriving surf rock stuff; if I’m being fair, I knew the style I desired wasn’t based there. Plus, I didn’t exactly plow through underground punk shows while visiting, being buried deep in the sand and fruity alcohol-based beverages and all.

So maybe it doesn’t matter if professional surfer-musicians are out there playing the music of their cultural ancestors, there’s still an avid fan base.

A week earlier, the husband and I walked down the aisle to the Ventures, “Walk Don’t Run” (“Pipeline” was considered but ultimately dismissed). See, this was the music I grew up loving. The vroom-vroom-vroom of wild guitar riffs, heavy reverb, Eastern scales, rapid and escalating drumming peaking, crescendoing, wiping out. Proto-beach punk.

“People forget that before the Beatles hit, surf music was once pop music in this country. Right now, pop music is very focused on a synthetic sound, but everything comes back around,” Bell says.

And there will be a fix of the good stuff nearby this weekend, at radio station KFJC’s Battle of the Surf Bands benefit (Sat/18, noon, $10, all ages. The Surf Spot, 4627 Coast Hwy., Pacifica. Bell’s Alameda-based trio will play the yearly event for the second time. And the 16-band battle also includes Beachkrieg, Deadbeats, Mighty Surf Lords, Tomorrowmen, Frankie and the Pool Boys, Meshugga Beach Party, and more surf acts with cheeky names. The event benefits the station itself, and also will be broadcast using Live Cam.

Given that it does often feel like a maligned art form, the abundance of traditional surf bands participating every year at KFJC’s event (now in its sixth year) seems surprising.

“There are probably more surf rock groups in the Bay Area than any other location in the world,” Bell says, naming off many that will play the battle, and beyond. “A lot of that has to do with the continued support of KFJC and DJs like Phil Dirt and Cousin Mary who really championed the genre…I formed my first surf band when I was 16, and Dirt brought us into the studio to play live on the air for 30 minutes. It was crazy to have that kind of outlet. It’s unheard of.”

Now in his early 30s, Bell has continued to play in surf bands with his musician friends from high school — drummer Steve Slater and bassist Grant Shellen. They grew up together in Fremont and that’s where they formed that first band: Chachi, Boba Fett and the Wookiee. Bell says he initially found the genre through the surf revival acts of the ’90s like the Phantom Surfers and Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet, but then, once he was hooked, he tumbled backward toward the Ventures, Link Wray, the Shadows, and of course, Dale.

Aloha Screwdriver began in ’09, and the trio plays all instrumental music. “Sometimes it veers into rockabilly or like a Ennio Morricone spaghetti western vibe, or even like a Disney Haunted Mansion feel, but I’m always holding our songs up to this idea that they could carry a Tarantino-worthy action sequence.”



Listen to Myron and E’s single “If I Gave You My Love” and you’ll start to feel some involuntary movements, your head bouncing in agreement, shoulders shimmying side to side. It’s the nature of the solid gold soul beast. The duo was recently signed to tastemaker Stones Throw, and will release newest album Broadway, backed by Timmion Records house band the Soul Investigators, on the label July 2. With a handful of 45s already out there, the two — Bay Area bred Myron Glasper and Eric “E da Boss” Cooke — have successfully maneuvered an authentic soul sound that’s at once smooth and celebratory (with the help of some well-placed horns). The duo, which met on tour with Blackalicious, stops by Berkeley this weekend for the East Bay Soul Stomp 2. With Bang Girl Group Revue, New Love Soul Revue, DJ Derek See, DJ Der.

Sat/18, 8pm, $9–$12. Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck,



The first thing you need to know about Black Pus is that it’s just a looping Brian Chippendale — he of Lighting Bolt fame. For this project, the madman drummer (and forever art-school kid at heart) uses percussion, a triggered oscillator, and those echoing, distorted Lightning Bolt style vocals you’d expect. Most tracks sound like a spaceship lifting off and exploding into starry darkness, repeatedly. With CCR Headcleaner, Reptilian Shape Shifters.

Sat/18, 9:30, $10. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF.


Love spells trouble


TOFU AND WHISKEY The twin star driving forces behind Bleached ( have been around. Not in a cruising with delinquents kind of way, but that’s probably where their music is best blasted — careening down the California coast in a shiny convertible with a shitty ex-lover or two, rooftop down, an open bag of Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, lipstick-stained cola can, and the stereo crackling.

Really though, being around more refers to the basic facts that singer-guitarist Jennifer Clavin and bassist Jessie Clavin have been playing music together for a long time, since junior high, and have toured nearly as long. More so, they’ve been connected since birth — they’re sisters who grew up together in the sleepy San Fernando Valley and reached for instruments partially out of boredom and isolation.

Their first notable band was early Aughts-born Mika Miko, which became known for its near-residency at formerly grimy downtown LA venue the Smell — and its frenetic live shows on tour with bands like the Gossip and No Age.

“Mika Miko was a mutual breakup,” younger sister Jessie says with a casual Valley girl affect from the dusty tour road between El Paso and Austin, Texas. “It ended because everyone wanted to do something else, go different directions. But me and Jen still wanted to play music together.”

They began slowly picking up the pieces for Bleached shortly after Mika Miko’s 2010 breakup and released three well-received seven-inches, but had yet to debut a proper LP until just recently. On April 2, they unfurled a melodious, punks-in-the-sun full-length, the punchy pop Ride Your Heart on Dead Oceans. On tour promoting the new record, Bleached will be in San Francisco Sun/5 at the Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF.

So while Jen and Jessie are blood-related and forever sonically entwined, there’s an exhilarating feeling of something new afoot at this very moment in time. “I feel like it’s a new little chapter right now for us,” Jessie says. “For so long we were just like, playing live shows with songs from the seven-inches, and that’s basically all people really knew. So now that it’s out, this tour just feels really exciting — people are going to have the record, they’ll know what to expect.”

“At the beginning [of Bleached] everyone was comparing us to every current girl band, but not anymore, maybe now that our record came out, that’s why it’s changed.”

The rock’n’roll record hints at early punk like the Ramones around its edges on opener “Looking for a Fight,” but that’s washed away with cooling waves of jangly California surf pop melodies and mid-century teen dream vocals on songs like “Dreaming Without You” and “Dead Boy.” And despite the inherent upbeat nature of the tracks, much of the lyrics in songs like “Love Spells” and “When I Was Yours” reflect a somewhat darker time for singer Jen, who moved to New York briefly between the fall of Mika Miko and rise of Bleached. Suffice to say, she’s not singing about her cats or whatever.

In NYC she joined the band Cold Cave, desperately missed her sister, dated the wrong kind of boy, and wrote breakup songs for the band she’d soon reform back on the West Coast. “I was going through a really rough time,” Jen says as Jessie passes her the phone. “I moved back to LA and stayed in [our] parent’s house in the desert for a month…and locked myself in my room, kept myself distracted by writing a bunch of songs.”

Ride Your Heart was recorded and produced last fall in various studios in Burbank and at Bedrock LA in Echo Park. At the time, Jen was listening to a lot of Blondie (there’s a song on the album called “Waiting By the Telephone”), and both sisters survived on a steady diet of Bowie — Ziggy Stardust era — along with the the Stones, Velvet Underground, and the Kinks. “We communicate better when we know exactly what we’re listening to,” Jessie says.

And communication is key to any relationship, particularly the mythic sibling-bandmate dynamic. Though this one seems far less tumultuous then those widely discussed rock’n’roll brotherhoods. “We’ve been doing this for so long. It helps to work through it and get stronger,” says Jessie. That connection was tested when Jen was in New York. While she was with Cold Cave, she was still occasionally working on songs for an early version of Bleached, but the distance was too great. “We were trying to still write back and forth, but it was just difficult, it wasn’t the same as when we’re in the room together and start playing and Jen starts singing and has the melody. It just didn’t work out.”

Now, Jen lives in Hollywood, walking distance from the Universal backlot, and Jessie lives in Silverlake. The local LA bands they listen to are most frequently their friends’ acts, including Pangea and Audacity, and they like Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams, and other Burger Records acts. As is the current zeitgeist, Jessie says Bleached might soon be doing a tape with Burger too.

“We grew up with mixtapes. I definitely remember first hearing the Germs [that way],” Jessie says. “I was transitioning from listening to like, KROQ alternative to like, underground, but then I’d go to school in a Germs shirt and think I was really cool.”

Laughing, she adds, “Well I wouldn’t say cool, but definitely different.”



Oui! The multilingual French-German power-pop duo Stereo Total is back with a new album, Cactus Versus Brazel on Kill Rock Stars, packed with the expected adorable electro ditties, and a rejuvenated je ne sais quoi. With Super Adventure Club, Giggle Party.

Wed/1, 8pm, $15. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF.



Crystalline psych-folk crooner Mariee Sioux’s twinkly followup to debut Faces in the Rocks (2007), Gift for the End was released a whole year ago, but there was never a proper SF release party (and there was some drama with the label it was supposed to be on going defunct) so the local songwriter is celebrating now. It’s a haunting, whispery, tender album, like a less annoying Joanna Newsom selection, and deserving of attention — no matter if that’s taking place on a much later date. With Alela Diane, Conspiracy of Venus.

Thu/2, 8:30pm, $16. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF.



Experimental contemporary live music always seems to creep its way into the SF International Film Festival. And who better to bring weirdo sound experiments than the current king of such things: Mike Patton. The operatically inclined Patton, perhaps best known as the debonaire genius behind Faith No More and Mr. Bungle (and recently as songwriter for the film The Place Beyond the Pines), will appear alongside three percussionists: Scott Amendola, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum’s Matthias Bossi, and William Winant at the Castro. The quartet, which has never before performed in this arrangement, will play an original score to 1924 German expressionist silent film, Waxworks.

Tue/7, 8:30pm, $22–$27. Castro Theater, 429 Castro,


Vinyl addicts


TOFU AND WHISKEY “Rock and roll has never been remotely monolithic,” early Rolling Stone columnist Greil Marcus writes in the introduction to the 1978 book he edited, Stranded: Rock and Roll for a Desert Island (Da Capo Press). “There have always been countless performers to pin your hopes on; though one may have found identity as a member of an audience, one also found it by staking a place in that audience, defining one’s self against it.”

He recalls a time when all rock fans simply had to have an opinion about the Beatles, about Elvis, but notes there’s is no longer a single figure that “one has felt compelled to celebrate or denigrate.”

“The objects of the obsessiveness that has always been a part of being a rock and roll fan…are no longer obvious,” he continues, “which means, for one thing, that while one’s sense of the music may not have perfect shape, it’s probably a lot richer.”

Marcus wrote these words in Berkeley in the late ’70s, though they ring truer today. For Stranded, Marcus invited rock critics such as Lester Bangs, Ellen Willis, and Nick Tosches to answer the basic parlor game question in essay form: “What one rock-and-roll album would you take to a desert island?” He’ll read from the book this Thu/14 at 6pm at a new record shop, also called Stranded, 6436 Telegraph, Oakl. (

The brick-and-mortar Stranded opened about five months ago (in November 2012) and is run by Oakland’s Steve Viaduct, the 36-year-old founder of Superior Viaduct records, an archival label that focused on reissues and archival collections of Bay Area punk and post-punk for its first year and is now in the process of expanding its output. One of those releases was MX-80 Sound’s ’77 album, Hard Attack, which is the record Viaduct says he‘d take to a desert island.

Since the Stranded opened, there have been a handful of shows and author appearances, along with the everyday bustle of record obsessives. “We had pretty modest goals [for Stranded]. We wanted a cool place to hang out and meet other vinyl enthusiasts. With no budget for things like advertising, our biggest milestone has been that we are breaking-even financially and we are having fun doing it.”

I asked Viaduct what bands best exemplified the ethos of the label and shop, and instead he chose a book: “That is a tough question because Superior Viaduct is very much a work in progress. Perhaps the best example of the label’s ethos is our first book, From the Edge of the World: California Punk 1977-81, by photographer Ruby Ray. The photos are amazing. Ruby captures a moment that barely existed in the first place, yet still resonates today.”

Marcus’ appearance came naturally. A noted lover of vinyl, he’d stopped by Stranded a few times and gave the owners of a copy of his book. When Viaduct found out his friend had chosen the book for her Rock N’ Roll Book Club, he decided it was time to invite Marcus to speak at the store. After that, the next events at the shop are Dawn McCarthy and Bonnie “Prince” Billy performing live in-store (March 31), then Rock and the Pop Narcotic author Joe Carducci reading May 3.

Given the crumbling of big box music chains and the US economy as a terrifying whole, it’s a particularly troublesome time to open a store of any kind, let alone one mostly focused on physical music — though there are shining examples to the contrary, such as Burger Records and Amoeba Music — so I was intrigued by the store’s arrival.

“Buying records in stores is more fun for customers and shopkeepers,” Viaduct says, shrugging off the concern. “The personal contact really makes a difference. There is nothing better than to recommend something and a day or two later the person comes back and says, ‘Thanks! That record is great.’ Of course, we know that folks can buy records online, so we do not even try to compete with that.”

1-2-3-4 GO!

One of those shining star examples of making it work in the name of the music you obsessively collect — fellow East Bay record shop and label, 1-2-3-4 Go! ( is this month celebrating five years in Oakland.

Also noteworthy: the label will be 12 come August (time for a Bar Mitzvah?). It’s notable for discovering and releasing records by trash, thrash, psych, punk, garage, surf, doo-wop, whatever local acts along the lines of Nobunny, Shannon and the Clams, Personal and the Pizzas, Lenz, and Synthetic ID.

With its move to a bigger space, the store is now also noted for its all-ages shows, with many of the above frequenting the location along with out-of-towners from LA and beyond. For the five-year marker, the shop is having a big sale on March 23 and 24, and will celebrate further with its second annual the Go! Go! fest May 16 through 19.

I asked label-store owner Steve Stevenson, a 33-year-old Oakland resident, the same question as Viaduct regarding the problems with opening a store such as this. Stevenson perhaps had it rougher, as his doors first opened in that very tumultuous year of ’08.

“2008 was brutal but there was a ton of support. I had no money to advertise but for the first three weeks I was packed with people who had heard about this record store that was barely bigger than a walk-in closet,” he says. “Honestly, the store struggled for the first three or so years; always making it but always just barely. Since moving in to this new space, things have really taken off. I’m able to hire employees so I don’t have to do everything myself which gives me time to do even more cool stuff for the store and book shows outside of it at places like New Parish.”

“We’re one of the very few record stores in the East Bay and we exist through the support of this community and our mail order customers around the world,” he adds. “We’re always growing, expanding, and trying new things because of this support and there’s no way I can say how much I appreciate it. It’s massive.”


Is Afrolicious the hardest working world band in the Bay Area? It seems to pop up everywhere. The 12-piece Latin soul-tropical Afrobeat act met at Elbo Room’s energetic weekly Afrolicious party, and is this week playing the Great American Music Hall in celebration of its debut full-length album California Dreaming, released on its own label, Afrolicious Music. With Midtown Social Band, Afrolicious DJs Pleasure Maker and Senor Oz.

Fri/15, 9pm, $15. Great American Music Hall, 850 O’Farrell, SF.

Freak show


TOFU AND WHISKEY As Homer Flynn describes to me the Bay Area musical landscape during the time when iconic, experimental music-arts collective the Residents first rolled into town in 1966, I can’t help but picture a tiny gold hammer cracking the earth wide open like it was a piñata, with glitter, powdered wigs, freakish masks, oversized eyeballs, and gingerbread men spewing out in a magnificent tangle.

“A lot of what attracted the Residents to the Bay Area was the psychedelic music scene of the mid-to-late ’60s,” he says, with a pleasant Southern drawl. “What was so interesting about that era, was that it was wide open. Because the money was not as big, there was a lot more freedom.”

Flynn’s talking to me as a van carrying the current members of the Residents careens through the New Mexico desert on their first tour in two years, their 40th anniversary tour, which crawls to San Francisco on Feb. 24 (8pm, $35. Bimbo’s, 1025 Columbus, SF.

Looking back at the beginning of the band’s career, he includes early FM radio as part of that equation: “FM radio was really getting its start, in terms of broad exposure, and it was wide open. You would turn on KSAN Radio at that time, [and] you could hear Mozart, the Grateful Dead, Bob Dylan, swing music. It was very eclectic, and that’s what made it interesting.”

He could be describing the Residents themselves with that last descriptor. The mysterious band (always covered in the face, often in whimsical dada-tastic costumery) might have been lured to the Bay by the psychedelia scene, but they took cues from far broader reaches of sound. There was cosmic jazz composer Sun Ra — “I mean, Sun Ra said he was from the planet Saturn.”

“There was a lot of mystery about Sun Ras…and when he spoke, everything was all poetic and enigmatic. He was a huge influence on the Residents, in terms of style and music presentation, although, they never really tried to emulate him in terms of music. But there was a lot of respect and influence.”

Musically, and composition-wise, there was influence from Captain Beefheart, more on the fringes of psychedelia, and far weirder than the acts that made it exponentially bigger by decade’s end. But the Residents have staying power — releasing 60 albums and multimedia CD-ROMs over four decades, including first single Santa Dog (1972), and milestone records like Eskimo (1979) and Freak Show (1990).

This is probably a good time to point out that we the listeners don’t exactly know who the band members are, or who Flynn is.

This much is true: the Cole Valley neighborhood resident is part of the band’s two-person management team, Cryptic Corporation. He’s also the art director who created most of their album covers, and who ushered in the concepts for the Residents’ many memorable faceless looks (specifically, and most well-known, the eyeball masks, though his original concept for that was giant silver globes).

The heavy globes were a no-go, so someone suggested eyeballs (the better to see you with).

“It was like, well if you have an eyeball, what goes with that? At this time it was still hippie to some extent. What was in for bands was sloppy and slovenly — which, of course, it still is at this time — so the idea of tuxedos they thought, that’s cool and classy. And then the top hat was just the perfect compliment to the eyeball and the tuxedo.”

He may also be in the band, and the band’s main lyricist, but claims to this day otherwise. It’s been a long debate, as to who is actually a member of the Residents, because, again, they all wear masks.

However Flynn’s connected with the group, he’s certainly been along for the journey — the Shreveport, La.-native has long been in that bumpy Residents bus, not least for this tour, the 40th anniversary special, which began a day before our conversation.

The live show this time around is a retrospective of the Residents entire career, laying out the colorful story of the band, with monologues and musical bits throughout. The show kicks off — where else? — with “Santa Dog.” Flynn says it’s meant to paint a broad and entertaining picture of the band.

To add a punctuation mark to the anniversary, the group is offering an ultimate box set: a 28 cubic-foot refrigerator containing releases from the group’s entire career, 100 different first pressings including 40 vinyl LPs, 50 CDs, DVDs, and a signature eyeball-with-top-hat mask. Asking price? A cool $100,000 to the lucky buyer.

On the road, the group is also bringing more practical merch, such as t-shirts and commemorative coins. Hopefully there’ll be plenty left at the Bimbo’s show near the end of the tour. While there will still be a couple more dates after it, Flynn considers the SF show to be the big return home.

“I’ve traveled around quite a bit, I’ve seen a lot of places that I like, I’ve never seen any place else that I’ve wanted to live. In terms of the Residents, best thing I can say is that they’ve been happy to call the Bay Area home.,” Flynn says dreamily. “I know it will feel really good to pull up in front of Bimbo’s and take all our stuff in, our well-worn crew at that point, coming to play the show.”



Are you familiar with the term “tropical grit-pop.” Neither was I, but listen to the NYC band Ghost Beach’s Modern Tongues EP, and it should all come together. Or better yet, see it live this weekend. It’s all electronic burps and yacht rock vocals, from a pop duo (possibly?) named after a Goosebumps book, with ’90s-baiting lyrics, and ’80s synth layers. With ONUINU, popscene DJs.

Thu/7, 9:30pm, $10. Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF.



If you’re celebrating Mardi Gras without Big Freedia, you’re doing it wrong. Lights Down Low is bringing the New Orleans bounce queen out especially for you, the sexy people. Oh, and don’t forget to twerk. With MikeQ, Hard French DJs.

Fri/8, 9pm, $16 (advanced tickets). Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF.



Beak> is at one once unsettling and charming; its Krautrock backbone and angular guitars create eerie, paranoid grooves, à la Silver Apples — you know the itchy, building beats — but those hushed, mumbly vocals soothe the senses. Drummer-singer Geoff Barrow, keys-guitarist Matt Williams, and bassist Billy Fuller, are all members of other bands (including Barrow’s Portishead), so they split their time between acts, but have already released two albums in the few short years they’ve been able to get together, including critically-lauded 2012 full-length, >>. And their albums are all live recorded improv sessions in the same room, which translates well to shows, making the appearances mesmerizing extensions of previous jam sessions. With Vex Ruffin, Peanut Butter Wolf.

Feb. 13, 8pm, $20. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF.