Amber Schadewald

Thrifting for the the perfect song with tUnE-yArDs


The deep piles of used goods can be a bit daunting at some of the best thrift stores, but when you find that shimmering prize, the fuzzy feeling is relative to winning a race or seeing your worst enemy trip into a puddle. For the sole member of tUnE-yArDs, musician Merrill Garbus— playing Sat/20 at Bottom of the Hill— her ultimate find was a white purse with row after row of luscious beads.

“I was in high school, living in Connecticut and we’d take trips into New York City to shop at thrift stores,” she recalls, talking to me over the phone while walking in her Oakland neighborhood. “I used to collect purses, even though I never used them.”
Recently she bought up a desk and an entire wardrobe of tour clothes, all without spending more than 20 bucks. Garbus says she uses thrift stores as a way to try on different personalities and I’m guessing she finds a little inspiration in there, too.

Plainly stated, Garbus’ music is lo-fi, indie-folk, but beneath the glorious yodeling and ukulele strumming are lyrical melodies, strong heart beats and interesting percussion made from banging and clanking on found objects. Her latest album, BiRd-BrAiNs (Marriage, 2009) was recorded through a hand-held voice recorder and mixed on her laptop— total DIY style.

Dig through her multitude of songs and you’ll find outside sounds, children talking about fruit and all sorts of one-of-a-kind clips that wear just like your favorite Goodwill-adopted sweatshirt. She’s a one-woman version of Yeasayer and you can hear Garbus’ love of African music, more specifically notes borrowed from her visit to Swahili.

As I talked to her, Garbus was getting ready for the launch of the tour— the car needed an oil change and she needed to get rid of a nasty cold.

“I’m struggling with being human right now— sick, tired and overworked,” she said with a cough. “But I think I’ll be fine and remarkably, my singing voice comes from a different place.”

Still thinking about thrifting and the old white purse, I wondered if Garbus had ever thought about who was the bag’s previous owner. I like to imagine who bought the item new and I always hope to channel some sort of energy through the garment– to see if I can stake out any secrets from its past life. I asked Garbus if she puts subliminal messages into her music for a similar effect.

“I don’t think so,” she laughs. “But maybe a really cheesy message of love? These songs take time and sort of fold and unfold, exposing miniature worlds inside each of them. They’re a labor of love and I guess that’s the message. Yes, love…. Sorry to cheese out.”

tUne-yArDs w/Xiu Xiu
Sat/20, 8:30pm, $12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th Street, SF

Oakland’s Camaron Ochs may inspire folk-pop Barbie


Big blonde hair, rosy cheeks, and an adorable little frame … folk-pop songstress Camaron Ochs — who’ll be performing Wed/17 at Cafe Du Nord — is a doll. Coincidentally, she is also being stalked by one— the Oakland singer-songwriter has seen quite a lot of Barbie in the past year, the long plastic limbs have been spotted at two East Bay venues where Ochs took the stage: the Stork Club, where the bar is decorated with stacks of cased holiday Barbies and Mama Buzz, the coffee shop/art gallery that hosted an art exhibit of the dolls in adult-style dioramas.


“There’s a Bat Girl Barbie at the Stork Club and I want it,” she says with a warm smile. “And I really liked the Barbie on the unicorn at Mama Buzz.”

Besides the constant grin, Ochs has nothing in common with her 11.5-inch stalker. An extensive travel record and a day job as a lab manager for emotion research means this pretty lady’s personality is far from plastic. Ochs’ brand of folk-pop is light and sweet, with genuine lyrics that ask listeners to live with their “heartforward”; a term Ochs coins as her philosophy on life and the title of her debut album. 


“I came up with the term when I was living in Nepal. I was learning all about the seven chakras— the heart is the fourth,” she explains at a coffee shop in her sunny Temescal neighborhood. Skipping a few details, Ochs summarizes that being ‘heart forward’ literally means setting yourself up to take in the endless possibilities that surround us. “It’s about putting yourself out there, not just in a romantic sense, but in a life-sense.”


Bright guitar strums and a beautiful, rich voice flutter throughout Ochs’ songs, lyrics exploring relationships and offering insightful snapshots into lessons she’s learned while visiting cities around the world. Inspiration stems from other indie-folk blends, like The Weepies and yet also carry a more country tone, like that of her other favorite artist, Patsy Cline. There’s an audible optimistic bliss in her music and an honest indication that the woman behind the strings is a solid, well-rounded being. 


Born a California girl, Ochs grew up with an interest in music, taking notes from her grandparent’s love of classic country and learning to sing in multiple languages. In college Ochs started her own A Cappella group, but it wasn’t until her study abroad experience in the Netherlands that she picked up a guitar. 


“I decided to do the college thing— get a guitar. But I wasn’t any good at it. I would play on the streets of Amsterdam and then I even tried to sell it on the street, but no one wanted it.”


Eventually she gave it to a boyfriend and headed back home. A few months later, Ochs realized she missed her box of strings. 


“So I borrowed a backpacker, basically just the neck of a guitar without the body, and brought it with me into the mountains of Nepal.” The trip included a flight over Kathmandu, a six-hour bus ride, five hours in a taxi and a ten-hour walk straight up into the mountain to where she would take residency for the next six weeks. 


A girl on her own in a foreign land, Ochs had no choice but to keep an open mind and her ‘heartforward.’


“The first two weeks, I cried and cried. All I could focus on was how much different everything was there,” she says recalling the trip. “And then I realized that when you strip away everything you’ve ever had in your entire life, that’s when you see what you really are and who you really want to be.”


She met a couple of traveling Canadians and together they would play music, battling the inconsistent electricity with late night guitar parties. Building on that experience and developing her own relationship with the instrument once she returned home, Ochs is now playing confidently and taking on stages across the Bay with a full band. She couldn’t have been happier when her CD release party sold out. 


“I think I’m really lucky. But I’m working really hard, so I guess it’s really not luck afterall.”


Camaron Ochs

Wed/17, 8:30pm, $12

Café Du Nord

2170 Market, SF


Music for all those left behind by SXSW


The rapture that is South By Southwest has taken all that’s good and pure to Texas for Austin’s week of non-stop music, showcasing bands that have descended from the heavens themselves. Reading this post means you too have been left behind, your friends, family, music store clerks and critics disappeared over the weekend and didn’t even bother to leave you a mix-tape. Thou shall not fear, my friends. Austin may be wining and dining some of your favorite bands this week, or maybe each and every goddamned one, but thank the Lord San Francisco has your best interests at heart with plentiful options for entertainment.

Cheer up, my child and in the name of SXSW, expand your horizons and enjoy a new genre each night of this week. Amen.

Get Hustle
Passionately chaotic, Portland’s Get Hustle lets their guitars run wild, tearing up the neighborhood with sharp, scissor-like vocals, psychedelic keys and erratic percussion. They are slightly scary, possibly foaming from the mouth, and definitely ready to bite. 9pm, $10, Elbo Room

Shotgun Wedding Quintet
This week’s Jazz Mafia night at Coda features The Shotgun Wedding Quintet, a 5-piece blend of jazz and rap that pays homage to the art of improvisation and the days when San Francisco was Mob-run and wild. 9pm, $7, Coda

WED/ 17
Madam and the Ants
The night is intended to be a salute to Irish Bands of the ‘80s and this San Francisco Adam and the Ants tribute band will bring you right back to the new-wave, post-punk era with a sassy front woman and band of fury. 7:30, $5, Make-Out Room

My Barbarian
Somehow this L.A.-based band promises a rock opera of choreographed dances and finely tuned numbers about cross-dressing sailors, mermen, pagan rites in the desert, and all kinds of politics with flamboyant flair. 9pm, free with museum admission, SFMOMA

Groove Armada
An electronic music duo that isn’t afraid to mix in a little funk. It’s been over a decade for the UK DJs and they’re still hard set on making you dance in slow-motion form. 9pm, $30, Fillmore

Rosin Coven
Rosin Coven are the ‘World’s Premier Pagan Lounge Ensemble” hailing from Oakland with a small string orchestra, a few horns, lots of hats, great mustaches, and feather embellishments. A carnival full of kink. 9pm, $15, Café Du Nord

Marabelle Phoenix
Marabelle Phoenix strums light and sets the perfect Sunday night mood with rusty tones and porch-friendly lyrics. 9pm, Bluesix Acoustic Room

Take off your clothes! World Naked Bike Ride, spring edition


Strap on your helmet and strip down to your skin— it’s time to ride bikes in the buff. San Francisco regularly participates in the ‘Northern Hemisphere’ World Naked Bike Ride each summer, but Saturday (3/13) marks the city’s first inclusion in the Southern Hemisphere’s jaunt. Spring or summer, the ride aims to expose the dangers bicyclists and pedestrians face in a car-dominated culture and to protest against “indecent exposure to vehicle emissions.”  

Bay Area bicyclists will join pedaling nudes in Sydney, Cape Town, Lima, and other Southern parts of the globe this weekend, flashing their junk on two wheels for a “critical mass with a lenient dress code.” The crowd will cruise from Justin Herman Plaza to Golden Gate Park, stopping at City Hall for a photo shoot. Because this is the virgin spring fling, the group may be small, but definitely not shy.

Interested in joining but feeling a little insecure about disrobing? Here a few tit-bits of advice from bare-skinned veteran, George Davis.

1. Wear sunscreen— sunburned genitalia isn’t sexy or fun.
2. Wear a bike helmet; decorate it and the rest of your exposed self.
3. Think of your unclothed body as freedom from speed-slowing textiles.
4. Revel in the thumbs up from police and bask in the rock star status you’ll receive while cruising through Fisherman’s Wharf.
5. You are “natural gas powered”— to hell with oil dependency.

And a few more sensitive items to consider:

1. Shoes are good. Pedals are rough on bare toes.
2. Smile! People may photograph you. Be proud and confident. Slouching is never flattering.
3. If you’re hesitant about putting your pussy on the seat or getting your long schlong caught in the chain, wear some cute undies.
4. Children are allowed— non-sexualized nudity is not harmful to young eyes.
5. Worried you’re not ‘hot enough’ to bare all? Damn Gina, everyone looks good when they’re riding green.

Southern Hemisphere Naked Bike Ride
Sat/13, Noon
Meet at Justin Herman Plaza, just North of the huge fountain with all the cubic shapes
(Market and Steuart)


Snap Sounds: Yeasayer


Odd Blood
(Secretly Canadian)

A creepy terminator-type robot dude rolls up to the hottest party in a cage you’ve never even been privileged enough to attend. Damn, I wish I could stumble upon a get-down like Yeasayer throws — swimming ninjas, neon martinis, laser orgies, and magical board games would definitely be something I could get into on a regular weekend basis.

It’s hard to remember you’re listening to “O.N.E.,” a track off the Brooklyn psychedelic band’s second release Odd Blood, put out earlier this year; the video is just that good. Odd Blood is lined with crazy beats, a melting pot of genres — “O.N.E.” is no different. African, disco, electro-tropix will squeeze your inner parts and beg you to groove alongside the web of lasers and glowing windbreakers featured in this stellar video.

Sat., April 17, 9pm
The Fillmore
1805 Geary, SF

Hump Day headliner: Six reasons to revisit Thee Oh Sees


So maybe you’ve seen them before and maybe you haven’t. Thee Oh Sees — performing at El Rio tonight (Wed/10) with Ty Segall, The Fresh & Onlys, and The Baths — are no doubt a San Francisco garage-rock, lo-fi staple that demand you re-sample, swish, and spit for a full taste.

The sound is vintage rock and roll, psychedelic, and ratty. If you’re contemplating staying home on Wednesday night, find someone to give you a swift kiss in the ass and aim for El Rio. Did you really just ask why?

1.    Vocalist John Dwyer’s semi-psychotic lurching and mic swallowing always entertains.
2.    Hot rock chicks with sweat on their brow.
3.    Similar to an ideal one-night stand: Rough. Loud. Vicious. Dirty.
4.    There’s a chance Dwyer could bust out a flute.
5.    You’ll have a legit excuse to skip yoga (or work) in the morning.
6.    Cheap whisky and cheaper beer taste so much better mid-week.

Thee Oh Sees w/The Fresh & Onlys, Ty Segall, The Baths
Wed/10, 8pm, $7
El Rio
3158 Mission Street, SF

iPod Voyeur: Holly Miranda’s top 10 most-played artists


A single moment of Holly Miranda’s voice has the capacity to freeze each and every muscle in your body for a good three to 35 minutes, causing your current plan of action to come to a furious halt, steering your concentration solely toward contemplating how on earth you haven’t been listening to Miranda’s music Monday to Sunday and back again.

The New York solo artist is currently on tour with Canadian sisters Tegan and Sara, but will be making a solo stop at the Café du Nord tonight (Tue/9), a perfect opportunity to have your mind blown by beauty. Formerly of the band The Jealous Girlfriends, Miranda is bringing her solo project The Magician’s Private Library (XL) to eager listeners, reminding them of the butterflies anxiously fluttering in their stomachs the first time they heard Nina Simone or Cat Power.

Delicate whispers of slumber and tangled dreams, abstract lyrics rising to an emotion-driven falsetto: Miranda’s music was made for your lungs, to be breathed in and out, fully entering your body as one element and leaving as another. Curious to know where the songstress derives her current inspiration, I asked Miranda to offer up the artists on her iPod’s Top Ten Most Played:

1.    Little Dragon
2.    The Antlers
3.    Sade
4.    Nina Simone
5.    The xx
6.    Fela Kuti
7.    Neon Indian
8.    Lee Hazlewood
9.    Jenny Wilson
10.     Eferklang

It’s a lot to take in, but shows the ravenous breadth of this up-and-comer’s interests.

Holly Miranda
w/Foxtail Somersault and Tortured Genies
Tues/9, 8:30pm
Café Du Nord
2174 Market Street, SF

Laura Veirs gets excited for summer


Classic finger-picking and Laura Veirs’ girly vocals characterize the feather-light songs she’s written about sweet summer days on her seventh album, July Flame. The songs explore desire and happiness in stripped-down folk form, caressing questionable emotions with scents of firewood smoke, extended sunshine, and humid mid-summer evenings – all named after a variety of peach Veirs spied at her local farmer’s market. After 10 years in the music business, touring is nothing new to the Portland artist, but the trip supporting this album is different for two reasons: first, this album is being called her best; and second, Veirs is eight months pregnant. I caught Veirs on the phone on a Sunday afternoon, when she was taking a break at her parents’ place in Colorado, to chat about the album and the experience of touring while expecting.

“I’ve been really tired,” she says, noting she’s made lots of time for rest and good food. “And I can’t lift the amps.” Also, her huge baby bump pushes her guitar out at an awkward angle. Otherwise, though, the mom-to-be says touring prego hasn’t been much trouble. As for the album, she offered a few thoughts, compiled below in list form:

  • Veirs listened to The Beatles, The Shins, and lots of country-blues while writing July Flame.
  • Veirs isn’t a fan of writing expeditions, but she does like to “go out into the world and be awake.”
  • Her favorite place to visit: The Gorge for seagazing and Forest Park for an inner-city woodsy retreat
  • She and the band are currently covering Fleetwood Mac’s “Never Goin’ Back Again.”
  • July Flame is being called her best work and she agrees. “It’s taken me a long time to feel comfortable singing,” she says, “but I think there’s finally an underlying relaxed quality to my voice.”
  • The album often references smoke and flame, and nighttime creatures like bats and moths that fly around in the night pollinating.
  • Although summer is the overarching theme, the album’s mood isn’t all smiles. “It can be melancholy any time of year,” she says. “This album features a variety of emotions, not all just happy.”
  • Veirs wrote songs for July Flame on a variety of instruments, including a baritone guitar, banjo, and piano. She says, “It’s like changing colors or mediums as an artist, or switching to watercolors instead of oil paints.”

Laura Veirs w/Halls of Flames

Wed/10, 9pm


Café du Nord

2174 Market, SF

Live Shots: El Perro Del Mar and Taken By Trees, Café du Nord, 3/2/10


Back in the early ’90s, when MTV played video after video and I was still a kid, I remember seeing tall, hot chicks like Sarah Assbring, the sole member of El Perro Del Mar, flash across the screen, dancing to Axl Rose and Aerosmith. Taking the stage, Assbring immediately struck me as a rock video model, her bright blonde hair chopped off with a stiff asymmetrical edge, lips dark with black-red lipstick, and lids full of smoky shadow. I was immediately envious of her black silky jumper, stitched with an oversupply of fabric under the sleeves that made for the perfect raven wings whenever she lifted her arms.

The sounds of El Perro Del Mar are always sweet and shy, much like the musician herself. She said very little and smiled even less, and yet had me wrapped around her every breath. When she sang, her eyes focused intently on an unknown object in the back of the room, with her eyebrows at a constant downward angle. Often she would raise her hands into the air or send them straight out in front of the mic, nearly reaching the fans in front. She was intense.

Highlights were “A Change of Heart,” which was as delightful live as it is on Love is Not Pop, and “Gotta Get Smart.” After singing the lyrics to the breakup anthem,, Assbring posed a question to the crowd: “Have you ever had your heart broken?”

“Two times,” a man in the front row answered.
“Will you ever be able to love again?” she asked him directly.
“I already have…thanks to you.”

The crowd giggled and awed; Assbring blushed and started “A Better Love” almost immediately. Near the end of the set she covered The XX’s “Shelter,” giving the song a smoky, jazzy twist that continued to build and build until its rushing end. When the set finished, the crowd cheered and yelped, hoping that the double-headliner show would still allow for an encore. Assbring and the band returned,  thanking the crowd for requesting their return with an ABBA-esque number, setting the perfect mood for Taken By Trees.

A multitude of drums and mallets filled the space with African beats, inviting Victoria Bergsman, the solo singer who takes on the name Taken By Trees onto the dark stage. After the first song finished and the crowd cheered, Bergsman’s wild eyes searched the room. A naughty smirk swept across her lips.

“I heard a wolf in the crowd and now I know where you are.”

In terms of energy, Bergsman’s songs were a stark contrast to El Perro Del Mar. Reminding of Lion King, with feel-good micro melodies galloping left and right, I wanted to dance and leap.

Bergsman dedicated a song to a dear friend, encouraged the crowd to clap, and consistently closed her eyes while she sang, often folding her hands in front of her. She was still and mischievous, always looking like she was planning her next cat attack.

Telling the crowd of her tour of San Francisco earlier that day, she explained that she was falling in love with the area.

“I’m thinking about moving here. Should I move here?” she playfully asked the crowd. Without a delay, the place burst into a mess of encouragement.

Noise Pop 2010: Loquat at BOTH; Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Bimbo’s


Loquat at Bottom of the Hill

The San Francisco band started their set with a request for more blue lighting at the Bottom of the Hill Friday Feb. 27, half-joking and half-hoping to make things look “cooler” and more “ocean-like.” Loquat has been playing their brand of electro-pop in the Bay Area for almost a decade and therefore I was expecting some really sweet synth action as a precursor to headlining band, Memory Tapes. Instead, racing guitars and strong bass muddled all of my most favorite parts of Loquat’s soun: the subtle waving melodies and vocalist Kylee Swenson’s floating lyrics. Their newfound heavier sound translated into a rock version of L.A.’s Bitter:Sweet, with tons of energy that twinkled over the crowd like the venue’s vintage Christmas lights.

Throughout the set, Swenson’s voice was crisp and beautiful as always, trading between songs from their 2008 release, Secrets of the Sea and older tracks revived from years passed. “Harder Hit” and “Sit Sideways” were definitely the highlights of the show, a promising couple of songs that never fail to sting and caress simultaneously with Swenson’s solid range and complimentary smooth guitars. The dainty piano plunks and slight echoes were exactly the details I had been longing to hear. And just before I closed my eyes, I noticed all four members of the band had already done so, concentrating and enjoying the moment just as much as the packed crowd. 

Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros at Bimbo’s 365

Ten people and double the number of instruments cluttered the stage as Los Angeles’ Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros began their set of folk-rock revival. The smell of sweet grass wafted over the sold-out crowd on Feb. 28, trumpet melodies, accordions, tambourines, and all the rest blaring triumphant anthems as the group of musicians jumped and danced around in circles. The room was overflowing with endorphins, everyone smiling and bouncing around like we had collectively discovered the fountain of youth.

I was filled with butterflies while watching vocalists Alex Ebert (a.k.a. the fictitious character Edward Sharpe) and Jade Castrinos interact, reminding me of the romantic fuzzies I felt when watching the fairytale love story between Titanic’s Jack and Rose. The winking, smiling and flirtatious affection was constant between the two and it really hit during “Home”, their whistle-laden love duet.

The vocal couple could have been the mom and pop of the Magnetic Zeros; a group that could have easily been one that stumbled out of a Portland farming co-op. Ebert’s scruffy beard, dangling red scarf and strangely patterned pants (which he said were a present from a friend that came “pre-dirted,” just the way he likes) fit right in with the rest of the group’s sweet vintage duds. Miss Castrinos looked like a charming child from the ’30s, her pixie cut paired perfectly with pinned-up oversized dress, complete with white bib.

The set list included lots of slow, ’60s style rock ballads, of which Ebert prefaced by shouting “It’s time to get serious”, the disco ball slowly casting reflections over what should have been a dance hall in a Western canyon. The show was equal parts sexy and like being with one huge Mormon family, with a sense of community, peace, and love sewn into every note.

My only complaint: not enough from Castrinos’ beautiful vocal cords. She is fantastic and it’s hard to believe such a rough, Joplin-esque voice bellows from that little body. She did sing one song on her own that was pure delight. “Isn’t it nice to be in San Francisco,” she asked Ebert, in her shy speaking voice. “It’s so magical here.” The set ended with Ebert asking a few people to come up on stage and sit down. Then he convinced the entire crowd to also take a seat— he suggested on one another’s laps so that no one would have to sit on the floor. An entire room of people together, hugging, humming and holding hands. I’ve never been to a show that quite mastered the feeling of togetherness that Edward Sharpe did. San Francisco is magical? I think they brought a little magic of their own…

Five Questions: Sara talks, minus Tegan


It’s been 12 years and the two adorable Canadian Twins are still making perfectly pleasant, political pop. Their latest album, Sainthood, is a stellar collection of matured, electronically hinged tracks that never fail to get stuck in your head. The sassy duo plays at the Fox in Oakland Friday and are sure to reign in a full crowd of Bay Area queer ladies.

It’s hard not to fall for Tegan and Sara, their cute haircuts, charming smirks, and songs that seem to nuzzle up to any mood. And these ladies put on an awesome show with mouthfuls of quirky conversation and honest, adorable blabbing about all sorts of intelligent topics.

Before setting up shop at venue in Austin, Sara took a few minutes to let me in a few tour secrets and proved that her hilariously eccentric stage presence isn’t an act in the slightest.

Name a song you’ve had on repeat this week.
SARA: Four Tet, “Angel Echoes”

The most impressive meal you’ve had on the tour?
SARA: New Orleans, duck and sausage jambalaya

Your must-visit spot in San Francisco?
SARA: City Lights Bookstore

A recent exciting addition to your wardrobe?
SARA: I’ve stopped wearing jeans recently, but when I was in New York I had a moment where I couldn’t figure out why I didn’t have any jeans. Like, who did I think I was fooling? So I bought a pair of jeans and I’m wearing them right now.

Any new tattoos? Or plans for a new tat?
SARA: I’m planning. I have an appointment with my favorite artist in Portland to finish up a piece that will take up nearly half of my arm. Sometimes I want to get rid of them all, and other times I want to finish them. An ex-girlfriend keeps telling me I’m just over analyzing myself because I’m single—I’m dating myself. When you’re dating someone, you get positive affirmation from someone who loves you. Do you like my tattoos? Yes. Am I a bum? No. But now, I have to tell myself I’m not a bum in the mirror.

Tegan and Sara

Fri/5, 8pm


Fox Theater

1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

To hurl or not to hurl


MUSIC Keep your panties on and your polka dot bras in the drawer — they may be flattered, but Tegan and Sara have enough lingerie to last a lifetime. The Canadian twins are on the road for a tour of their latest release, Sainthood (Sire/WEA, 2009) and were proud to receive not one, but two, animal print brassieres on an Austin stage last week.

"I don’t even know what to say about ladies wearing leopard print bras — but I can say I would never have to buy another bra again," says Sara Quin, recalling the outrageous number of undergarments that she and her sister receive on a regular basis. Long-haired rocker dudes and R&B artists with six-packs seem the obvious targets for women’s personal attire, but cute little lesbians from Alberta?

"There are always bras and underwear backstage at venues, and I always wonder, who gets these?" Sara says. "Then I remember— we do."

Their stylish haircuts alone have switched ladies to the other side, not to mention their adorable turned-up noses, intelligence, feminist opinions, and six albums of pure pop genius. It’s been 12 years of music-making for the siblings, and they’re still surprised by the forward, and forceful, signs of affection some fans offer.

"I’m used to boys screaming ‘Take your shirt off!’ That’s common and annoying. But when a girl does it, I have to ask, ‘What are you thinking?’<0x2009>" The catcalls and Mardi Gras-style requests have always been hard for Sara to swallow. "My God, I’m not a stripper."

Baffled, she tries to deconstruct why women feel the urge to yell such absurdities. "Maybe they’re just excited to participate in a social custom?" she hypothesizes. A shy girl herself, she gives props to those ladies who have confidence. "Sometimes we have to suspend our logical, cultured brains and just enjoy the fact that people objectify you — take it as a sign of affection and roll with it."

Tit-show requests aside, Sara says she and Tegan couldn’t be happier with their dedicated fan base. Audiences sing along, pay attention, and eat up the witty banter the ladies are known to dish out between songs.

"We don’t feel like we’re a buzz band anymore and it’s not such a question about whether or not people will leave the show as a fan," she says, taking a break from set-up at a venue in Dallas. "Our audience has grown, and I’ve really been feeling an energy of oneness."

So if fans are shunned for catapulting linens, what would the ladies like to see land at their feet? Letters are nice, but Sara can’t fathom why people crumple and chuck them onto stage. "Call me romantic — or meticulous — I’d probably arrange for a carrier pigeon to send someone a note. But I’m a musician and I put a lot of thought into the packaging and delivery of how people receive things."

In recent years, books became a popular, yet potentially dangerous gift idea. "I love books, but people’s aim is far too accurate," Sara laughs, noting her near escapes from death. "I totally appreciate any gift. But if you’re going to throw a book, pad it with a towel."


Fri/5, 8 p.m., $35

Fox Theater

1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

1 (800) 745-3000

Lucky 7: Listening in on the Strange Boys


The Strange Boys (playing at the Elbo Room on Sat/27) are as brave and cocky as their music would suggest, an obvious product of the southern state they call home. Hailing from Austin, Texas, their “don’t mess” attitude harmonizes perfectly with wailing garage rock and humid twang. Ryan Sambol’s nasally vocals remind me of a young Bob Dylan and complement the band’s ’60s sound. 

The four Texans started making music together in high school and have since developed a sound easily categorized alongside The Monks, The Seeds, The Black Lips, and San Francisco’s Girls. The tracks off their debut full length, The Strange Boys and Girls Club (In the Red), were recorded at their friend Orville’s house in Denton. They scratch and squeak, transmitted through an AM radio style filter, instructing listeners to throw back a few brews on the porch and let cigarettes burn down to their lips.

The Strange Boys don’t want to be the next hipster trend. They strive to be an outlet for escaping all the horrible shit that surrounds our daily lives: war, a rotting economy, and a twisted government. Standing atop their rusty soap box, the boys demand you stop your bitching and moaning long enough to hear what their guitars have to say.

I was curious about their sources of inspiration. Bassist Philip Sambol was kind enough to scribble down some items from of the member’s current playlists:

1. Abner Jay, various songs on some tapes

2. A mix tape a fan gave Ryan

3. Townes Van Zandt, Live at the Old Quarter, Houston, Texas (Tomato, 1977/ Fat Possum, 2009)

4. John ‘Bloodcut’ Joseph, The Evolution of a Cro Magnon (PUNKHOuse) audiobook

5. It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, season four

6. The Savage Love podcast

7. CCR

The Strange Boys
Sat/27, 9 p.m., $10
Elbo Room
647 Valencia, SF.

No pixels, please — we’re plastic


Film and prints, like dinosaur bones and fossilized treasures, seem like ancient artifacts blown to the wayside in our digital age. We lost the mystery in photography when we introduced the point and shoot, erasing not only the physical labor but the ugly smiles, blinky eyes, and embarrassing angles. Where are the mistakes? The light leaks and fuzz on the lens? They’re making a comeback.

Obscure, eerie, and beautifully whimsical images galore will be on display starting Fri/26  at the RayKo Photo Center, as part of the third annual Plastic Camera Show.

More than 100 images from Bay Area artists, national and international photographers will have you yearning to get out there, grind that advance gear, and capture a local critter with some old fashion film.

A fascination with old school cameras is growing, with updated versions of the Diana and Holga plastic models showing up at Urban Outfitters and antique versions trading online faster than they can click. A backlash to our digital photo machines, it’s invigorating to see a picture lacking today’s high standards of “perfection”, allowing the camera to steer and our imagination to follow.

Cloudy, out of focus bridges and water towers clash and mingle with oddly colored figures and landscapes. Advanced photographer and amateurs alike can find success with the plastic gadgets, yielding photos with a quality unlike any produced by the futuristic models.

The work of Czech artist, Michael Borek, will be highlighted in the exhibit, shots of hot air balloons (see above) and lazy summer days harnessing the Holga’s unpredictability with gorgeous light leaks and inspiring angles.

RayKo’s 3rd Annual Plastic Camera Show
Fri/26-April 17 (Opening reception 6-9pm)
RayKo Photo Center
428 Third St., SF

Noise Pop: A last-minute slacker’s guide


An exhausting week of show after show has arrived, and it’s hard to say no to such a thick lineup of interesting indie. That is, if you had a choice. If you’ve already got your tickets, my mother would be proud. If you are among the league of last-minute fools, be forewarned — you are officially SOL (insert Debbie Downer “whaw whaw” here). Lots of shows are sold out, including almost everything I had my eye on: Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zones, Loquat, Best Coast, Zee Avi, Atlas Sound, Four Tet, Mirah… So, if you’re like me and staggering to find your place in Noise Pop, here’s a guide to what’s best of what’s left.


The Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger (Sean Lennon, Charlotte Kemp Muhl w/Cornelus)

Sean Lennon has always put me to sleep — not because he’s boring, but because his voice is pure lullaby. When he’s not helping out his mom, Yoko Ono, or playing sweet songs on his own, Lennon has put his heart into singing with his sweetie, hottie model Charlotte Kemp Muhl. The members of Cornelius will join the lovebirds on stage for pure ambient, twinkling folk everyone should eat with a spoon. 7pm, $20, The Independent

Foreign Born

Four guys and lots of galloping, hustling, clanking percussion, all kept up with audible aptitude. Foreign Born is low key, lyrical indie that knows when to tap into its intimate side and explore the more subtle jems. Think Vampire Weekend with a dash of folk rock. With The Fresh and Onlys. 8pm, $14, all ages, Rickshaw Stop
Film: P-Star Rising

Priscilla is nine years old, totally adorable, and totally badass. The tiny MC grabs the mic with no fear, rapping about her single dad, dead-beat mom and the joys of being a rap star before puberty. From kid to underage celeb status, the family struggles to keep it real while chasin’ the dream. 9:15pm, $10, all ages, Roxie Theater



Film: The Heart is a Drum Machine

Nearly everyone is at least semi-obsessed with music and this feature documentary attempts to discover what it is about notes and tones that feel so good. The film has quite an impressive stack of celebrities and scientists, all offering their opinions and personal love affairs with the art form, including Elijah Wood, Jason Schwartzman, and crazy woman Juliette Lewis. 9:30pm, $10, all ages, Viz Cinema




A Portland trio of whistles and wonderful sounds, Nurses craft songs with the leaves and sticks and stones they find in every corner. Looping and sampling these oddities, they make beautiful and inquisitive melodies that remind one of owls and environmentally friendly attitudes. With John Vanderslice, Honeycomb, Conspiracy of Venus. 7pm, $15, Swedish American Hall
The Art of Noise, Soiree featuring Shlomo

Heavy bass means weighty pours, right? The Art of Noise will surely light up your Friday night, with deep dance sounds and nods of hip hop. Shlomo is California based and full of genre bending material, poorly categorized as experimental, with full on low tones, synth kicks and lazer bites. 5pm, free, Project One



Pop ‘n’ Shop

Gotta look hot for the rest of Noise Pop weekend! More than 40 local designers, snacks and booze for all your perusing. 12pm-5pm, free, all ages, The Verdi Club

Music For Animals

They’re local and totally weird in a good way. Music for Animals is slightly funny and yet remains to be musically sound with sparky guitars and pop-friendly choruses. The quartet loves keeping it cool with their SF musical comrades and love to please their Bay fans. With Nico Vega, The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and Imaad Wasif. 7pm, $16, The Independent
!!! and My First Earthquake

It doesn’t matter if you’re not sure how to pronounce the band’s punctuation happy name (chk-chk-chk), they’re damn good and full of electronic, relentless energy. Bring a bandana for that embarrassing sweat dripping down your nose and you’ll be a happy dancer. San Francisco band My First Earthquake is equally stellar synth-pop, sewn with catchy lyrics and a perfectly feisty front-woman. With Maus Haus and Sugar and Gold. 7pm, $20, Mezzanine

All about Amazon Eve


SEX Leg, leg, and more leg — the 6-foot, 8-inch model Amazon Eve is one tall glass of water who’s become the drink of choice for an entire population of men. Thirsting for a romp with the busty blonde, Amazon fetish lovers beg Eve to throw them around, hold them like a baby, and dominate their puny bodies. There’s no sex and no nudity, just some good ol’ fashioned rough-housing with a giant, hot chick.

“I pick up guys for a living — it’s the oddest job in the world. And I love it,” she says.

Originally from Oakland and currently in the midst of a worldwide tour packed with interviews, photo shoots, and client visits that leave her exhausted, bruised, and totally stoked, the imposing Eve met me at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art for a quick tour of the gallery — and an explanation of what it means to be an Amazon woman.

I immediately spotted her at a table in the back of the museum’s cafe. Her elongated arm reached out and to my surprise, offered one of those dainty-lady, totally limp handshakes. All that talk about warriors and power must be reserved for impressing dudes. But then she stood up, immediately grabbing the attention of patrons and towering over my 5’6″ frame. She pointed at her feet. “I finally got a pair of Uggs! I could never find my size until I went to Australia,” she gushes, beaming. People, this Amazon wears a size 14.

We cruised through SFMOMA’s extensive “75 Years of Looking Forward” anniversary exhibit, her shoulders nearly grazing the tops of several large sculptures, and eventually found a bench in a room full of 1950s typewriters to sit on and talk. A strange place for a chat with this kind of working girl, but Eve paid no mind and busted out the November 2009 issue of Australia’s Zoo Weekly. In a feat of obvious yet still striking incongruity, she’s featured on the cover next to a 5-foot, 1-inch model. With huge perky breasts, flat abs, and those neverending limbs, Eve looks like an oversized Playboy cardboard cutout any Midwestern man would love to have in his garage.

“I’m owning the fact that I’m no longer an ugly duckling,” she said, flipping her long hair over her broad shoulders.

amazon eve

Amazon, with art. Photo by Amber Schadewald

After majoring in theater in college, Eve worked as a paralegal, but the position drained her creativity and added the pounds. Looking for a way out, she started an ambitious workout regime, telling herself, “Supermodel or bust!” Quickly, however, she grasped that she would never achieve runway-thin frailty. “I can never be small and I can never be weak,” she said.

So she became a personal trainer. At the gym, she was introduced to a woman working as a pro domme. She tried it herself, “But I quickly realized that I didn’t want to wear that skimpy leather costume. I don’t like floggers, whips, and cuffs. So I started taking martial arts and wrestling classes and finding my own fetish niche.”

Now, 80 percent of Eve’s sessions are spent lifting and carrying her male clients, or performing a series of height comparisons. The other 20 percent are played out with wrestling, boxing, and physical domination. Typically her clients are “small” guys (less than 5-feet, 8 inches) who are educated, professional, and located all over the world. They often pay for her to fly to them. When she walks into the room, they bow. “Amazon women like me are rare, and the guys who like us are plentiful. It’s like a built-in celebrity.”

Most often her sessions revolve around a theme, from the naughty schoolgirl to the cowgirl who knows how to hogtie. She’s held a powerful oil executive in her arms while he muttered “Mommy, mommy!” She’s wrestled with her legs tied together with a paralyzed Danish man. And her next hurdle: wrestling a 465-pound professional wrestler in Dallas. “I need to start training immediately,” she said. “He wants me to perform a very particular scissor move, so it’s my job to figure out how to get my legs around him.”

At $400 per hour, it seems crazy that guys would spend such a large amount of cash without the promise of a “big finish.” But Eve reminds me that fetishes aren’t necessarily sexual: “Fetish is about a heightened sense of awareness and sexual stimuli, not necessarily sexual acts themselves.”

Our tour of the museum is cut short so Eve can make it to a session with a new client. She pulled me in for a hug, my face pressed directly into her soft breasts. I immediately understand why little guys like Eve.

And off to work she goes — extra-large schoolgirl outfit in her purse.

Live Shots: Best Coast and Vivian Girls, Bottom of the Hill, 02/09/2010


The vintage starburst lights were tinted red and Bottom of the Hill was packed with hipsters toting hand-me-down apparel: ratty old sweaters, torn hats and grandma’s old prescription glasses. Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino let out the first words to “When I’m With You,” and the crowd anxiously listened to each note echo through the mic, paired with her slow, distorted guitar strums.

I couldn’t help but wonder if anyone else in the room felt like we had just stepped into a time machine and shot straight back to a 1960’s dive bar on the beach. A little bit Beach Boys and part Ronnettes, the antique sounds were innocent and as gold as Cosentino’s sandy locks.
The L.A. duo was so calm, Cosentino strumming and singing with her pink lips parted as wide as a Charlie Brown caroler. “Love, of Love” she cried in perfect harmony, closing her eyes and showing her light brown eye shadow. Guitarist Bobby Bruno was a true shoegazer, his long black hair hanging over his strings and glowing with shades of pink from the stage lights above.

Playing through their EP Something in the Way (RCRD LBL), they made each song float over the crowd in waves, heads and bodies bobbing up and down like buoys in a tide. This show was Best Coast’s first in San Francisco and Cosentino said she was a little worried that people wouldn’t show up until after 10, thereby missing a part of their set.

“Did anybody watch Lost?,” she asked the crowd. “We were joking that people wouldn’t come in until after the show, but you guys are troopers — here, right at the beginning.”

Ali Koehler of Vivian Girls (who had earlier shared their iPod playlists with me) stepped in as the drummer for Best Coast’s set and the trio played two new songs, both of which were more upbeat, with lots of cymbal action and heavy bass drum solos. Cosentino promised we would find them on the new album soon.  At the end of the set, Bruno threw on a black sweatshirt, complete with cat ears affixed to the hood.

Vivian Girls took over at 10:45, hitting it hard and urging the crowd for a little more action. “You guys should dance more,” bassist Kickball Katy said with a grin, the same of which stayed glued to her face throughout the entirety of their show. The crowd happily responded with a small, male mosh pit in front of the stage.

Cassie Romone’s lips were bright red to match her red blouse, skirt and the carpet on the stage. Mid-show Koehler approached the mic and pointed out her and Romone’s nearly identical ruffly, red shirts. Apparently this happens a lot.

Costentino joined the trio of Brooklyn ladies for a song, creating a stage billowing with womanpower. Totally normal girls rockin’ hard, Vivian Girls put out some stellar garage songs for the packed house, but my absolute favorite was their A cappella rendition of “He’s Gone”, which they dedicated to the opening band, “The bananas.” Their voices quietly squeaked and peaked, totally exposed in a not-so-perfect harmony but all together delivered an incredible gem that only live shows like that can offer.

Live Shots: VV Brown and Ebony Bones, Popscene, 02/04/10


Outside, the night was horrid and pouring sheet after sheet of chilled rain. Inside, Popscene at 330 Ritch’s stage was blazing with bold UK women and their undeniable vocal prowess. The evening started with Brit babe VV Brown, a young singer/songwriter — on tour to promote her recent Travelling Like the Light (Universal, 2009) — who qualifies as the indie version of the Adele and Duffy types.

The set started shy, with VV Brown (born Vanessa Brown) hiding behind a glamorous Mardi Gras mask of shimmering silver, adorned with a fan of black feathers and peacock accents. Song one, “Game Over,” was spent with her vocals streaming into a small megaphone pointed towards the mic. The sound quality was a displaced and muddled, similar to an old record player. Her tiny frame was decorated in a shiny gold swimsuit top and red-plaid tapered pants, cinched tight at the waist.

When the mask came off, Brown’s face was painted with a red blindfold, her trademark bouffant standing tall and proud. She was full of energy, hopping around stage, singing with full facial expressions, banging on the drums and pounding the bongos.

Brown happily announced that the show was her first gig in San Francisco and only her 2nd show in the U.S. “And I wrote this song while sitting on the toilet,” she said as a preface to “Back in Time.” “It’s about Einstein, love, and betrayal.” Hitting the gong with four solid swings, her voice chimed in with an eerie echo and not three seconds later, cut short when her mic cord fell onto the floor.

“Isn’t that what we all love about live music? We just keep going,” she smiled with a confident grin. She played through a majority of the songs on her freshman album, “Traveling Like the Light”, including her most recognizable tracks, “Crying Blood” and “Shark in the Water.”

Brown’s cover of  “The Best I Ever Had” by Drake was quite impressive — the girl can rap! Totally sexy and 100 percent more badass than one would assume, Brown sang the lyrics “You’re the fuckin’ best” with her fist pumping and voice creamy smooth.

Afro-punk-electro-pop songstress Ebony Bones didn’t hit the stage until midnight, but took it over by storm with a full band decked out in color, makeup, wigs and beads. I managed to drool over the awesomeness of the first song and snap a few photos, but I regretfully had to pull myself away in order to catch my train. There’s no way it wasn’t amazing.

Hip-hop and chaotic beauty, Minneapolis-style: Eyedea & Abilities with Dosh


Five years was far too long a break for most fans, but thankfully the Minneapolis hip-hop duo Eyedea & Abilities pulled things together just the way we like for 2009’s By The Throat (Rhymesayers Entertainment), the follow-up to the beloved sophomore album E&A released way back in 2004. They play Wed/10 at Bottom of the Hill, promising to spit their rude, ripping guitars, iron heavy bass beats, and surprisingly melodic choruses in your face.

Eyedea is among the best when it comes to freestylin’ in rush of the gun battles and these skills definitely transferred to his recorded performances. The Throat tracks are raw and scratchy, with lyrics like “Empathy is the poor man’s cocaine,” all spun between clawing riffs and smashing cymbals. DJ Abilities shows off in-between vocal streams, mixing and scratching like his hands are machines themselves.

Straying off the rap road, Dosh is all about multi-tasking and master-mixing.  Another Minnesota native, Dosh will open the evening’s show with his crazy, diverse skills on the drums, piano, xylophone and a host of sounds concocted from mallets, buttons and keys, all operated by himself and then looped, reversed or modified via live recording devices.

Dosh: don’t forget the xylophone

He’s like a musically inclined octopus; eight limbs outstretched to produce beautifully complicated melodies that blink on and off. His fifth album, Tommy (anticon), is set for release on April 13, meaning his show will be filled with all kinds of new tricks and treats. Dosh is a one-man show filled with mysterious illusions and while at times things may at first seem chaotic, satisfaction is only a loop away.

Eyedea & Abilities

w/ Dosh and Cubik and Origami

Wed/10, 9pm, $12

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF



iPod voyeur: Vivian Girls


Brooklyn lady trio The Vivian Girls, are back in town for an evening of girl-studded surf guitar, opening for Best Coast tonight at Bottom of the Hill. The Girls have been buzzing since their first album two years ago, a lo-fi garage rock favorite offering friendly reminders of surf and turf, skipping through town in high-waisted shorts, and being honest about the small things. Since the Guardian has interviewed them in the past, it was time for the Vivian Girls to spill some real secrets — their iPod’s top 10 most-played lists. Guitarist Cassie Ramone and drummer Ali Koehler agreed to give up the goods. (Bassist Kickball Katy doesn’t have an iPod. She just kicks ass). 

Ali’s top 10:

1. Meneguar, “House of Cats”

Also used to be Cassie’s most played song before she got a new computer, so you know it’s Vivian Girls approved.

2. Woods, “Be Still”

I think this song has the absolute perfect fidelity. Woods is my favorite band making music today and take up most of my top played songs on iTunes.

3. Lemuria, “Origamists Too”

This song is so sexy. For fans of Leatherface, Lemonheads, Superchunk.

4. Yellow Fever, “Culver City”

Our label, Wild World, just released a full length by this band. I haven’t been this excited about a new band in ages.

5. The Babies, “Meet me in the City”

This song is such a fucking HIT. The Babies are Cassie’s side project with Kevin Morby of Woods. They wound up sounding like the Pixies in the best way possible.

6. Happy Birthday, “Girls FM”

If Pitchfork doesn’t give this band Best New Music they are fools.

7. Daniel Johnston, “Some things last a long time”

I defy anyone to write a more sincerely heart-wrenching breakup song. I’m not even heartbroken and I want to cry listening to this.

 8. Best Coast, “When I’m With You”

I think Bethany (of Best Coast) described this song as sounding like Miley Cyrus, produced by Leslie Gore or something, which is exactly what I want to hear.

9. Hefner, “The Hymn for the Cigarettes”

I’ve always wanted to cover this song. It’s by Hefner, a John Peel-approved sloppy British pop band from the late 90s, and romanticizes smoking. I don’t smoke but this song sort of makes me wish I did. It also has the best line ever, “How can she love me when she doesn’t even love the cinema that I love?”

10. Cub, “My Chinchilla”

My now boyfriend put this song on a mixtape for me when we first started hanging out and it was insta-love.


Cassie’s top 10:

(Keep in mind that I got a new computer 3 months ago, so my top 10 list is pretty weird because of that).

1. Cassie Ramone, “Dance If You Wanna”

This is a song I demoed for Vivian Girls. It’s pretty embarrassing that it’s at the top of my list, but that’s life. It’s a weird song about dancing and crying that sounds kind of like the early Beatles to me.

2. Washed Out, “Belong”

I’ve always had a strange relationship with conformity, and this song perfectly encapsulates my struggle with it.

3. Ariel Pink, “So Glad”

I love that it’s called “So Glad” yet the chords make it feel so dismal and hopeless.

4. Heavy Hawaii, “Sleeping Bag”

These guys make perfect music that sounds like the Beach Boys on acid, or a soundtrack to you being stoned on the beach all day.

5. Pearl Harbor, “California Shakedown”

This song is really beautiful and sad. Pearl Harbor is one of the raddest new bands.

6. The Chantels, “The Plea”

My favorite Chantels song other than “He’s Gone.” It has one of my favorite bass lines ever, also used in “Oooh Baby Baby” by the Miracles and “It’s Gonna Take a Miracle” by the Royalettes and Deneice Williams.

7. Happy Birthday, “I Wanna Stay (I Runaway)”

Kyle Thomas from Happy Birthday told me that the melody for the verse of this song was inspired by Vivian Girls, which I consider one of the highest compliments I’d ever been paid.

8. The Bitters, “Can You Keep A Secret?”

When we were on tour with Fucked Up, I discovered that Ben Cook is as big a fan of Burt Bacharach as I am. That might be the reason the Bitters have some of the best-written songs of any of the “lo-fi” (I quote because I don’t approve of the term but I don’t see an alternative name for it) scene today.

9. The Chantels, “He’s Gone”

Self-explanatory. We’ve been covering this song, because it’s the best song ever.

10. Yellow Fever, “If I Never Find My Way”

This song has an amazing jam part in the middle, reminiscent of Steely Dan or Neil Young.