Andre Torrez

Picture yourself gay dancing


SOUND TO SPARE For some gays the definition of a good night out dancing isn’t Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, or whatever else is making it in music’s top 40 these days. Instead, we go against the grain, defy the unwritten rules, and satiate our dance floor needs to more primal, aggressive tunes. Enter Erase Errata.

Listening to the San Francisco rock trio recalls a time in my youth when I transitioned out of baggy JNCO cargo pants and tingly, mind-numbing pills into the stark contrast of a much grittier, more realistic yet still liquor-soaked world of sounds. Through them I was encouraged to picture myself alive and dancing. Though I was thousands of miles away from the creature they so vividly described in the song “The White Horse if Bucking,” I somehow knew that greener pastures lay ahead, bucking and all.

Launched in Oakland in 1999, categorized as lesbian post-punk anthem-makers or no-wave revivalists, and responsible for some of the most contagious dance-rock albums (Other Animals from 2001 and 2003’s At Crystal Palace), Erase Errata is back, sharing a bill with longtime friends, local trio Bronze, at the Fri/12 release show for Bronze’s first full-length, Copper (RVNG Intl. Records), coming out September 13.

I recently sat with Erase Errata’s Jenny Hoyston and Bronze’s Rob Spector at the bustling Duboce Park Café, sipped tea at an outdoor tables. I imagined it must be a little weird for Hoyston, who just spent three years in Portland, Oregon living life as a full-time “upper-lower class accountant,” to return to music and live in a slightly different San Francisco. We touched on the recent changes the city has gone through since her absence — local music institutions like KUSF and the Eagle Tavern’s Thursday Night Live are either struggling for existence or have disappeared altogether. However, they both agree that there are too many creative types in the Bay for the scene to be successfully shut down.

They shared horror stories of Erase Errata’s otherwise triumphant reappearance at Public Works during San Francisco Pride, when New Orleans sissy bounce queen headliner Big Freedia was (not surprisingly) revealed to be a dressing-room diva who needed the backstage area cleared before entering. Even Hoyston got sissy bounced. Freedia then turned on the sound man, they said, nitpicking to the point where he was allegedly told to leave. The two witnesses could only cringe.

“People don’t care what you sound like,” Spector said. Hoyston agreed that it was unfortunate to “flip-out” on the sound guy. She should know, now that she’s running the sound board at El Rio, and on some nights playing the role of part-time DJ. When I asked if she had a secret-weapon jam in her arsenal that packs ’em on the dance floor, she shook her head and referred to the type of aforementioned top 40 hits. I joked that her moniker should be DJ Malice, since she admits to doing this to sort of torture her audience. (Alas, “Malice” was already taken by a stripper she recalls from her time in the Pacific Northwest.)

For now, we’ll just have to look forward to thrashing about as Hoyston and her band mates entertain us with relentless bass lines, swarms of guitars, and lyrics that alternate between simplistic and complex, delivered with Hoyston’s peculiar intonation.

Speaking of intonation and vocal delivery, I pussy-footed around a bit when it came to addressing what I consider to be Spector’s androgynous voice. I told him that when I first heard Bronze’s “One Night In Mexico” his genderless voice entranced me. He said he gets a lot of comparisons to Nico.

Bronze’s new album features that weird custom-built synthesizer that has caused a lot of fascination at live performances. As a bonus, the designers of the album’s sleeve actually incorporate a thin strip of copper that can be bent in the shape of a ring and worn. It’s pretty slick for rough and charming sounds, a bangle for a future recovered. 

BRONZE w/Erase Errata, Nature, Loto Ball

Fri/12, 9 p.m., $7

El Rio

3158 Mission, SF.


Foxy saves


SOUND TO SPARE Sweating in that crevice behind your knee? Notice more mesh tops in the Castro than usual? Or maybe you’re like me, pretending it’s Wimbledon but really just stinking up the tennis courts at Dolores Park. It seems the Bay Area is actually being blessed with some unusually above-average temperatures this summer. But even when the fog inevitably rolls back in, sticky-hot summer jams don’t necessarily have to be about weather. They can be a mentality. So allow me to stroll down Memory Lane with a fitting album for these should-be-sizzling times.

Chock-full of lyrical wit and endless one-liners, 1999’s Chyna Doll (Def Jam) by Foxy Brown is the downright filthiest album of all time. Brown (only 19 at the time) had me inappropriately quoting her ill flows all summer long. Stuff like “MCs wanna eat me, but it’s Ramadan” or “Gimmie some room, all I need is some dick up in my womb” are among the most graphic, but rate as some of my favorites. I probably appreciated them even more back then, when I was equally as young, angsty, closeted, and still living at my parents’.

The Brooklynite’s brazen delivery of FCC-unfriendly rhymes (every track drops the F-bomb) was probably a combination of marketing brilliance and dumb luck that made for her best-sounding album. On this sophomore effort, she received solid reviews from mainstream press. Even the British magazine Q weighed in saying, “There’s more to her than simply showing off and swearing.” And boy does she love swearing. On the track “4-5-6” she rhymes the word “shit” with “shit” 15 times.

Admittedly a huge part of the appeal for me was that such raw content was coming from a female. (Note: Jay-Z contributed heavily as did many other male hip-hop notables on writing and production). I guess I ignorantly found novelty in the manifestation of a female feeling need to prove herself to the industry. Sure, women curse — and there were other femcees before her. In fact, it was an era of stiff competition with the likes of Missy Elliot, Jean Grae and Brown’s legendary rival and cohort Lil’ Kim. But it was Brown who titillated me with her confidence and cockiness, asking, “Do you know how many words I’ve flown past?” She was the undisputed queen of hardcore.

The song “My Life” explains this black girl’s ordeal, struggling with the price of fame while explicitly chronicling the falling out between her and former friend Lil’ Kim. Here we get the depth that Q must have been referencing with lines like “I ain’t asked to be born.” Whether she intended it or not, she reveals an existential vulnerability, one that queer youth could certainly relate to. Her descent turns darker, more chilling, and profoundly plain to see with the line, “Sometimes I wanna slit my wrists and end my life y’all.” It’s clear she had a lot more on her plate than her beef with Kim.

Foxy also calls out gender’s double standards when she raps, “If I was a dude, they’d all be amused. But I’m a woman, so I’m a bitch — simple as that,” pointing out how femininity can be a hindrance to achieving success in hip-hop. With clever wordplay she takes on the theme of inequality, sometimes through simple metaphor (“My bullets hurt same as yours”), other times with more lyrical prowess (“Talk slick, suck dick for money in ya hand, I’m like bitch …I got mo’ money than yo man!”)

This isn’t to say that Chyna Doll isn’t littered with the materialistic clichés common in mainstream hip-hop. But there’s a refreshing air of entitlement involved that is unapologetic. After all, it was released at a time when rap reigned supreme and MP3 downloading hadn’t yet collapsed the industry’s marketing model. There was plenty of money to be made. Brown tells us exactly what she wants written on the license plate of her Lexus as she rides in a decade later to light up another summer.

Cryptic cave wave


SOUND TO SPARE “What show are you here for?” asked what looked like a curious 10-year-old as I took care of business at the urinal. “I’m here to see Uzi Rash,” I answered matter-of-factly. But I wasn’t so sure he was curious about the bands by the way he stared at what makes it the men’s room. Apparently Oakland’s the New Parish ( took the phrase “all ages show” to heart.

After that somewhat disturbing run-in, I settled into the bar excited for a night of firsts. It would be my first time at the venue, as well as my first time seeing openers Terry Malts. They were fine, but like I told the tiny Peeping Tom, I wanted to check out the East Bay’s Uzi Rash ( I hadn’t seen them since they did a memorable night of Monks’ covers on Halloween, where their performance included theatrical embellishments like shaved monk-like heads and makeshift robes.

This night’s scene was different. The onset of a rare heat wave was kicking in while the murky, cave-wave sounds of the mutable band — these days, a seven-piece stage outfit — took charge with a commanding and cacophonous presence. The Rash seems to be sitting on a backlog of sludgy, lo-fi treasure: current LP Palmwine Rumpus Vol. 2 (Party Ngg! Records) precedes a September release on Volar Records titled I Was 30 in 2012. Next month the band plans to start recording another full-length album, Whyte Rash Time — not a play on “white trash,” but a reference to the Monks’ Black Monk Time — which will hopefully see the light of day before the year’s end and they embark on a West Coast tour.

I caught up with Max Nordlie, the band’s toenail-painted, jorts-wearing guitarist and vocalist. He gave me a peek into his philosophy on degeneration and premonitions. (With song titles like “Bag of Dirt” and “I’m a Trashbag,” it’s tempting to see Uzi Rash as emblematic of the self-deprecating sounds I often notice oozing out of Oakland.)

Nordlie directly references 2012 as the year of the band’s apocalyptic demise, and explains how the Rash players were “born grown” four years ago. “The band sound was much more the same of itself than it could possibly be now,” Nordlie says cryptically, going on to cite a permanent need for regression. I hear that yearning for regression in the music — at times it reminds me of an unpolished version of Devo’s de-evolution.

That night, the ensemble’s delivery of what Nordlie calls “beach party squelch and shimmy” included electro-sax, keys, and cool-looking guitars. The band looked sort of like a low-budget version of Sly and the Family Stone: keyboardist Thee Whyte Bitch in her long white wig hammering out some discord and bassist Mateo Luv looking svelte in his long johns.

Their performance is raw and charged, and while the front man looks as if he’s working out some serious emotion, Nordlie assures me that he’s aiming at “getting it right” in an expressive sense — he just wants a playfully spirited “twist-and-shout-up.”

I asked Nordlie if the constant revolving door of musicians in the band dizzies him. “Stability, much like ability, is overrated,” he replied. “We seek to compensate for the traditional rock spectacle of ritual with monstrous unpredictability — even to ourselves,” he said, before quipping that the forthcoming Volar record is simultaneously “sophisticated and appalling.” That sounds like a great introduction to 2012, end times or no.

There will be a few more local opportunities to catch Uzi Rash this summer — most notably the 1-2-3-4 Go! Records 10-year anniversary show July 22 at Oakland Metro Operahouse ( — before it goes on tour with Unnatural Helpers.

The ol’ Vic-trola


SOUND TO SPARE The potential closing of Haight Street’s Red Vic Theater has unsettled me. With one less place to go out and enjoy, what’s a shut-in-prone type like me to do?

Fortunately, when I spoke to Sam Sharkey, one of the co-op’s managing partners, he offered a ray of hope by saying that the Red Vic Movie House is here, organized — it just partnered with the Haight Street Fair and the California Jug Band Association for a benefit — and best of all, still screening movies, some of them music-related.

Let me take a breath for a minute to reflect and appreciate some of the carefully curated films I’ve encountered at this fine establishment. I’ve transcended the mundane through Ziggy Stardust’s gender-bending, screwed-up-eyes stage persona in Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars. Director D.A. Pennebaker, better known for documenting Bob Dylan in the 1960s, tried his hand at capturing the Bowie in full glam garb during a 1973 tour. Mick Ronson shreds on guitar to undeniably comical proportions. I recall the audience cracking up, something you just don’t get when you’ve opted to Netflix at home.

The less acclaimed — but equally gorgeous — somber sounds of a pop-star- turned-recluse proved to be quite a treat. Scott Walker: 30th Century Man (2006) was one of those films I didn’t know I needed to see, until the rainy day someone sent me a YouTube link to his song “It’s Raining Today.” The opening atmospheric sounds alone on this track are enough to captivate, but as it moves forward into Walker’s commanding crooning voice, you realize that he has the ability to convey dread and beauty at once. The film is a concrete testament to his influence on contemporary musicians.

Later I was given the soundtrack to boxing’s “Rumble in the Jungle,” set in early 1970s Zaire, where a showcase of mostly familiar soul artists pulled off a hugely successful stadium concert. Soul Power (2008) sort of serves as a musical counterpart to 1996’s When We Were Kings, which was the cinematic predecessor dealing with the same Ali vs. George fight. The symbolic implications of the event for African and African American pride are brought to the fore, and the concept of power is examined, whether it is achieved physically, politically or even musically.

Sharkey said that declining attendance was the Red Vic’s main obstacle. Single-screen theaters aren’t as much of a sustainable business anymore, as evidenced by the number that have closed in the last 10 to 20 years. The Castro Theatre and the Roxie in the Mission seem to be surviving, though — I wondered why people weren’t coming out for movies in the Haight anymore. Was it a bad rap from all the sit-lie buzz? Sharkey didn’t seem convinced on that argument, trusting that his patrons wouldn’t buy into that hype. He leaned toward more technology, calling this an age of competition and noting that the accessibility of movies via broadband Internet is just too convenient.

If you’re a music fan who wants to help curb the trend against local establishments falling by the wayside, then the no-brainer is to hit the Red Vic for the following music films. Rock out for the cause — or you may end up drowning in a sea of Whole Foods.

June 26-28, Phil Ochs: There But for Fortune. The unsung 1960s antiwar folksinger (who doesn’t mind taking a backseat to Dylan) gets the full doc treatment.

July 14, The Hippie Temptation. Vintage 1967 footage of the Haight-Ashbury scene in its glorious heyday as seen through the eyes of CBS News. Originally aired on TV, this “hilariously biased” take on flower power should have you craving the street peddlers’ wares immediately after the show.

July 15-16, Stop Making Sense. Classic Talking Heads circa 1984 at L.A.’s Pantages Theatre. Watching a jittery David Byrne working the crowd in his oversized boxy white suit should be worth the price of admission alone.

July 19-20, The Last Waltz. This one’s cool for a couple of reasons. First, it’s directed by Martin Scorsese and, second, it captures The Band’s final show at San Francisco’s old Winterland Ballroom, a place I’ve often dreamed of seeing a show.

Finding the funk


SOUND TO SPARE Every time I’d call Bootzilla Productions, the same sexy-voiced female would intercept the answering machine and say, “You’ve reached the office of Bootsy Collins.” This was after Collins — in his unmistakable, almost cartoon-character voice — doing a weird little recorded skit at the beginning. My last-ditch effort to phone chat was a simple request to talk about “The Funk” with the Ohio-based funkateer, who’s now pushing 60 and coming to the Fillmore Saturday, June 4 for his first Bay Area performance in seven years. I’d have to go elsewhere for answers.

I needed a funk expert, if you will. But my question was: Is there a department for such a thing? It turned out I needed to look no further than Berkeley writer and legitimate funk historian Rickey Vincent. Vincent was able to explain how Collins and his genre-defining space bass is the glue that holds the funk together. It’s easy to get lost in the who’s who of P-Funk All Stars, which saw many incarnations from its roots in the late 1960s — when George Clinton and his doo-wop group the Parliaments found their way to Detroit but ended up as Motown rejects — to the infancy of the 1980s. By then, Parliament-Funkadelic was a full-blown recording and touring enterprise. What I didn’t know was that before he had donned the star shades and outlandish costumes, Collins honed his chops with a man known for running a tight ship when it came to stage performance: it was James Brown himself who would have Collins hold the rhythm down “on the one.”

For your own funkology, the easiest way for me to explain “on the one” is via the chorus to “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker).” We’ve all heard it, and its samples in hip-hop have been well-documented. When the Parliaments sing, “We want the funk,” the emphasis is on the we. This is the same technique Brown already had employed in the mid- to late 1960s when he started crafting infectious beats on songs like “Say it Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud.” By 1970, after Brown’s back-up band had walked out on him over pay, Collina stepped in for a short time, lending licks to some of Brown’s most notable funk tracks.

“The James Brown Revue had to be replaced,” Vincent says. “[Brown] had a highly disciplined approach that had an impact. But Bootsy was a free spirit.” In a short time, according to Vincent, Collins learned the business, including booking, costumes, and organization. “Later on [Collins] became known for outrageousness, but it was always a polished set,” he says. Collins came from the same Ohio funk tradition that produced the likes of Zapp, Lakeside, Slave, and the Ohio Players — who all demonstrated unity in their sounds and color-coordinated looks.

But for all that Collins learned under Brown as his temporary, bass-playing protégé, he flourished even more under the free-form tutelage of George Clinton, who allowed for creativity and experimentation. On Parliament’s 1975 Chocolate City (Casablanca), the writers updated Brown’s anthem of black pride, expanding the notion into a full-fledged theme of black power in places you wouldn’t normally expect. They ask us to envision a black president, complete with a cabinet consisting of secretaries Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder. Fortunately this premonition for Washington hasn’t been completely off-base, but I suspect the cabinet is still a bit vanilla for the Mothership’s tastes. (Side note: Washington’s Smithsonian acquired a replica of the Mothership stage prop, which will be a part of its National Museum of African American History and Culture, opening in 2015.)

Vincent was one of those fortunate enough to have been in attendance at the Oakland Coliseum when the Mothership landed during Parliament-Funkadelic’s 1977 tour. He admires Collins’ longevity, calling him one of the only musicians from the original funk era who is not starving. He attributes Bootzilla’s viability as an artist to having such great teachers and for having kept track of publishing rights and royalties. Now, almost 35 years later, he doesn’t exactly expect to see a return of the iconic space prop on the Fillmore’s relatively small stage, but he did say this: “Bootsy is a spectacle in himself. He doesn’t have to rip the thumpasaurus riffs for four hours. Just one slap will have you hooked.”

Bootsy Collins

Sat/4, 9 p.m., $46


1805 Geary, SF<


So much soul


Before he’d excuse himself to dance the boogaloo on stage, Soul Brother No. 1 would quip into the mic, often saying things like, “So much soul, I got some to spare!” So in case you’re wondering, James Brown is pretty much the inspiration for the name of this column. As for my intentions, I hope to keep the parameters somewhat loose, but focused on celebrating our local music scene. However, sometimes these Bay Area bands want to celebrate elsewhere.

Take Bare Wires, for example. On my recent trip to Portland, Ore., I unexpectedly caught one of their shows at a bar. Not that I haven’t seen them play here numerous times. It was more of a pleasant surprise, sort of like the tulips that were in full bloom everywhere, but not like the great scrutiny my nearly expired driver’s license went through. Most bartenders would normally just wish me a happy birthday, but nine times out of 10, I’d get discerning looks and these stern words of caution: “You know this expires in a few days?” I conclude that Portland hates birthdays but loves flowers and the way Oakland’s Bare Wires, decked out in ’70s garb, straggle out of their van, a virtual Mystery Machine. It was a solid performance with an engaged audience, complete with an attendee who stole the mic at the end of the set for some shrieking. Way to represent.

Speaking of ’70s-inspired, I was listening to KUSF in Exile’s web stream — which has been available thanks to WFMU for about two months now — and I heard a song that sounded familiar in more ways than one. I didn’t recognize it as a Marc Bolan song at first, until the chorus gave way. The DJ read the playback and the singer was revealed to be Ty Segall. The song, “Fist Heart Mighty Dawn Dart,” was from Tyrannosaurus Rex’s 1970 Beard of Stars album. Segall’s limited edition 12-inch of all T. Rex covers, appropriately titled Ty Rex (Goner Records), is a bold move that almost addresses taboo. The idolizing of Bolan is up-front and out in the open. It’s kind of like saying ‘Screw it, I wanna sound like T. Rex, so I’m just gonna do a bunch of their songs.’ And the result is pretty right on.

“Woodland Rock” — a song I’m less familiar with — is reminiscent of “Go Home,” the opening track from Segall first self-titled album. The explosion of fast-paced energy sounds like fun or the discovery of one’s creative self.

I was glad he chose to cover “Salamanda Palaganda,” partly because of its absurd title. Here Segall chooses to slow down what was once a hyper-frenzied acoustic Tyrannosaurus Rex workout and puts his own twist on it, which consists of lots of fuzz and reverb that was the prevailing affect on 2009’s Lemons (Goner Records). His version of “Elemental Child” is full of distortion and there may even be a slight mimicry of Bolan’s trademark warbled vocal.

I guess it’s interesting that the six tracks chosen on this album seem so carefully picked from a period where the lyrically long-winded and acoustic Bolan would transform his mystical, musical image and persona by going electric and abbreviating the band’s name. Segall even takes on two tracks from the iconic Slider album where Bolan, by then glamorous, had perfected his craft, tapped into the industry, and attained mass appeal.

I managed to get my hands on the record at one of those last packed Eagle Tavern shows in April which doubled as a Save KUSF benefit (Segall being an avid Save KUSF supporter). I saw Segall by the merch booth after his set while Thee Oh Sees were playing and jokingly asked how he’d feel if Marc Bolan covered his songs. He just kinda smiled and said something like “That’d be it.” As fate would have it, Bolan wouldn’t boogie past 1977. 


Dinner with the Clams


MUSIC “This is where the heartbeat is. Does that sound cocky?” Shannon Shaw, bold-voiced singer and bassist from Oakland’s Shannon and the Clams, is cautious how she answers my question. She’s in a booth, finishing up her fries at Grubstake, just off of Polk Street. The eatery is my suggestion for a pre-performance chat about the band’s new album, Sleep Talk (1-2-3-4 Go! Records), slated for release April 5.

Amid the bustling dinner-time sounds of the restaurant, Cody Blanchard, the guitarist, eats something vegetarian, while Ian Amberson, the group’s drummer, opts for the more traditional caldo verde soup. In a few hours Shannon and the Clams is playing a show at the nearby Hemlock Tavern, along with openers Guantanamo Baywatch — a Portland, Ore., band they admire — and Uzi Rash.

The heartbeat Shaw refers to is the Bay Area and its seemingly tight-knit music scene. I’d asked if the group’s members if they thought their success could have been achieved anywhere, or if it’s something particular to their Oakland stomping grounds.

“The Bay Area is defined by its history of fun punk — stuff like the Mummies, the Trashwomen, and the Bobbyteens,” Cody says, in acknowledgment of our locale’s rich garage rock history. But as much as they’re influenced by the “weird and wild people” they consider like-minded allies, and the strange beauty of Oakland’s abandoned neighborhoods, Shannon and the Clams’ inspiration also comes from a place in the past, no less strange, sort of dark, yet innocent. Their music is the sound of teenage despair.



I first encountered Shannon and the Clams live at Oakland’s Stork Club in early 2009. I’d seen their ridiculous name around before, but didn’t know what to expect. They’d been categorized as everything from queercore to surf punk to the downright nauseating term retro-billy. “I think the people feel a kinship with us,” Cody says, discussing the group’s fan base. “People become really comfortable letting their freak flag fly.”

Still, Cody doesn’t think some of the labels assigned to the band were the best fit. “I’d rather musical genres have more to do with sounds instead of politics, gender, and sexuality,” he explains, while acknowledging that it isn’t how things often work.

On that night two years ago, Shannon and the Clams turned out a solid performance that incorporated oldies elements such as late-1950s, early-1960s vocal styles and instrumental sounds. The group even covered Del Shannon’s “Runaway,” which was the moment of confirmation for me. I knew I was hooked and wanted more.

The group’s version of “Runaway” is a keeper, but Shannon and the Clams isn’t just recycling rock ‘n’ roll hits from a repressive American era when feelings were bottled up, not talked about. The group’s songs and sound possess an individual spirit and personality that ranges from playful to feral, calm (a clam anagram) to cuckoo. Both shine through on Sleep Talk, the follow-up to 2009’s I Wanna Go Home, also on 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. The new collection of songs was written and recorded in three weeks.

The Bay Area’s most recent wave of psych and garage bands draws from the acid-soaked late-1960s, with results that often come out drone-y, druggy, and dreamlike. But the Clams obviously take note of the less-altered dawn of that same decade, before psilocybin and its closely associated synthetic cousin became the remedy reaction of youth and counterculture. Melodramatic songs of angst and lost love were common.

Shannon, a self-described square-but-morbid kid, admits to loving Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” “Any teenager death ballad, I was all over,” she says. A tragic mood is conjured on Sleep Talk‘s “Half Rat,” where the incessantly repetitive lyric longs for a soul mate’s return. It’s almost like when a loved one dies and you dream about them being alive, only to be disappointed when you wake up to the heartbreaking reality that nothing will ever bring them back. It’s no wonder that without a release other than singing, so many of the voices from the past were compelled to do some amazing things.



Raspy and powerful, Shannon’s voice has become a signature trademark. She shreds words, wails, and lets loose with an extended growl on “Done With You.” Her vocal delivery is raw, real, and out of control — one of a kind. Her vocals are one reason that it’s misleading to tag Shannon and the Clams as simply retro — it’s hard to imagine a June Cleaver-type belting out songs in this fashion, though maybe someone like Wanda Jackson would be up for the task.

“I think it’s out-of-body,” Shannon, says when asked about singing. “I just sometimes feel kind of possessed on stage, or like I’m excreting odd toxins or something.” She notes that other dynamic vocalists like Tina Turner, James Brown, and Irma Thomas bring a similarly unique intensity to live performance.

Wanda Jackson is a queen of rock ‘n’ roll, but it was another Jackson who inspired Shannon to get up on stage sing in public for the first time, at a karaoke bar during her “lowest of lows.” She performed a ballad famously delivered by a little boy who, sadly, was adult ahead of his time. “I didn’t sing publicly at all till I started playing [music] around three years ago, and I just knew I really needed to sing “Ben” [by Michael Jackson], and I needed to sing it right away,” she explains. “I didn’t care about being self-conscious.” After being accepted by her “grizzled karaoke comrades,” she found the strength and confidence to perform her own songs.

Cody, the Clams’ co-songwriter, is also no slouch behind the mic. On Sleep Talk‘s “Old Man Winter,” he sounds brilliant doing his rockabilly best, exaggerating the whooping, keening sounds Buddy Holly could make with his voice. He’s pretty keen on the originality of vocalists Hasil Adkins, Joey Ramone, and Marc Bolan, preferring sound over lyrical content.

“Amazing singing is something that feels to the singer like a compulsion or a nervous tick, as if that singer can’t do anything to keep themselves from crying out,” he says. “They must do it or they’ll go nuts, and they just invent these bizarre sounds.”



On the subject of songwriting, Cody uses vivid imagery to describe a T-Rex- that “kidnaps” him and takes him away to a “glittery, horny, spaced-out fantasy world.” I guess Clam nation can’t all be doom and gloom. Indeed, a typical Shannon and the Clams show finds the band in colorful costume, making inventive use of capes, fast-food outfits, and other assorted disguises. This past Halloween they even dressed as Devo for a night of cover songs.

Shannon and the Clams’ affinity for cartoons, jingles, and campy commercialism is apparent. On Sleep Talk‘s cover art, photographed by Keith Aguiar, Shannon and Cody are buried in what looks like a landfill of stuffed animal nostalgia and familiar characters. The imagery is indicative of their bubblegum side and love of Jim Henson’s Muppets. Cody points out that the people behind those Muppet tunes were pretty solid songwriters. On “The Cult Song,” listeners might even detect a vocal tribute to the Cookie Monster, if not Keith Moon circa “Boris the Spider.”

The name Joe Meek pops up more than once in conversation. “I love how Meek’s records sound, so inventive and strange,” Cody says, regarding the innovative Space Race-era producer behind “Telstar,” an instrumental No. 1 hit by the Tornados. “And he seemed totally nuts.”

Shannon and the Clams haven’t yet rocketed to the moon, but a trip to South by Southwest and a tour with Hunx and His Punx are part of their immediate travel plans. I ask what comes after that. “I feel like something [currently] brewing in Oakland is much weirder caveman-type music,” Shannon says, in anticipation of the scene’s next wave of creativity. “Can we just be weirdo, other rock ‘n’ roll?”

Cody is convinced that the dedication of the Bay Area music scene is unique and undying. “I can’t think of any other cities that are so enthusiastic about [music],” he says. “It just keeps coming. Waves of all kinds come and go.” If you think Shannon and the Clams are riding the wave for teenage kicks and landing in tragic territory, you’re partly right — and it’s working. Right now, with Sleep Talk, you’ve got a second dose.

Not for sale: An insider’s look at the battle to save KUSF


MUSIC/CULTURE Normally, Irwin Swirnoff’s demeanor is upbeat, and I’d consider him to be one of the friendliest people I know. But from the expression on his face, I thought someone had died. Even before walking into the room, I felt there was a weird vibe. “What’s wrong?” I asked.

“We just got sold and were taken off the air,” he replied.

Immediately and instinctively, without even really processing his words, I fired back, “Well, what are we gonna do about it?” Within minutes we worked ourselves into a frenzy, sending e-mails, texts, tweets, and phone calls to let everyone know that the nonprofit station where we volunteered, KUSF, had unfairly been ripped from us without any fair warning.

That morning, Jan. 18, was a blur of bad news. My parents were staying with me, and I had the day off. I needed a brief escape and turned to my volunteer work. It doesn’t really feel like work. I consider it more of a hobby, but calling it that would be selling it short. It’s like you can’t even have a hobby anymore without someone taking it away, selling it for $3.75 million and making it corporate. That’s exactly what the University of San Francisco did by attempting to sell out KUSF and the community in a veiled deal involving Entercom, America’s fifth-largest radio conglomerate; the University of Southern California; and Classical Public Radio Network (CPRN). We now know some of the details and overall shady manner in which these events transpired.

When I step back to think about our battle to save KUSF, one thing I find interesting is the current micro- and macro- momentum of power-to-the-people movements and how they can become contagious. It’s been said that tragedy brings communities together in astounding ways. Maybe the attempt to dismantle KUSF was the wake-up call some of us needed to pay attention to the behind-the-scenes politics of how, in radio, conglomerates are swallowing the little guys. This isn’t the first time this has happened — and it won’t be the last. But so many people were moved, inspired, and outraged enough to incite action, myself included. Maybe this is what we needed to get organized.

There was something really satisfying, in an old-school way, about a large group of people coming together to chant, clap, and scream “Shame!” in unison and really mean it. That’s how it went down Jan. 19 during the ill-conceived Q&A-style meeting staged by USF and its president, Father Stephen A. Privett. There was real energy in the air that night; it was sad, inspiring, and exciting all at once. It felt like I was going to a rumble, and I even dressed for the occasion, donning my leather biker jacket. When I got to the scene of the rally, I wasn’t disappointed by what I saw: sheer numbers, picket signs, “Save KUSF” hats and T-shirts, all materializing within hours. Most important, we had supporters willing to get vocal, with the passion to stand up and fight those who had wronged us.

At the end of February, the very community that USF and Privett sold out had raised more than $15,000, which is partly going to legal fees for what could be a precedent-setting denial of the station’s sale by the FCC. I think a lot of us were high on adrenaline in those first days after the station’s sale, especially because of the way it happened. Our cause has since garnered support from San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors. The majority of our supervisors seem to understand what the station meant to the community. You can’t just sell 33 years of independent radio, culture, and rock ‘n’ roll history. It never should have been for sale.

30-minute ride


MUSIC Imagine being an artist-musician type and juggling all your favorite things just to stay afloat. Considering the Guardian’s demographic, it’s probably not too hard to imagine. This could be you. I’m not saying I feel sorry for you; it actually sounds fun if you can make it work. But at the same time, it’s got to be a constant hustle. That’s exactly how it goes for KIT, a band that — with members based out of Los Angeles and Oakland — has the California coast on lockdown.

KIT’s new album Invocation is out on Upset the Rhythm. Admittedly, sometimes I judge albums by their covers, and on this one, the colorful heap of junk, outdated toys, and discarded household items by Jessalyn Aaland could certainly read as foreshadowing to the dissonance of the sounds inside. Guitarist George Chen’s clashing and self-described “burly” sound is apparent throughout the collection, a follow-up to 2007’s Broken Voyage (also on Upset the Rhythm). In its entirety, the record clocks in at about 30 minutes.

Producer Phil Elverum, fresh from working with Mirah, gave the album a more “linear and organic” approach, according to Chen, helping them shift away from the digital tinkering and overdubs of their first effort. “I really liked how he did heavy guitar rock on [Mount Eerie’s] Black Wooden Ceiling and got it into my head that he would be an interesting choice to work with,” says Chen.

The band agreed on its new Pacific Northwest producer, known for his unorthodox recordings with Mount Eerie and the Microphones. Previously KIT had employed its drummer, Vice Cooler, as producer, while bringing in an engineer or two. This time around, the band goes analog. Bassist Steve Touchton says the album was recorded in less than one week.

Comparisons between KIT and bands such as Erase Errata and Deerhoof (who they shared a split 7-inch single with) do make sense. The chanting repetition of the word destiny on “Golden” is pretty infectious. Overall, that track stands out as a winner. “Sharks” is for extended listening and will make you stagger with its penetrating, drone-like, single-note guitar lick. The mood to hear the cacophony near the end may not always strike you, but the song conveys a sense of urgency.

“Cloud Chaser” is about creating your own sunshine on a cloudy day. I’m not joking. Kristy Gesch, KIT’s vocalist, sings about seeing someone, who I can only imagine is her boo, during a dreary day, and how when they’re happy, she’s happy. The song’s chief strength is its haiku-like simplicity — the lyric is four lines long.

At times, the album’s drenched-in-sunshine sound is juxtaposed with darker lyrical content. “Broke Heart” sounds more like the death of a loved one than the kind of heartbreak you experience from a breakup. Gesch wails about a nightmare that is both unfortunate and permanent. Perhaps this is one of the reasons Invocation finds KIT in a more reflective and inward state. I can’t confirm what exactly went down in the band’s personal lives.

I have a feeling KIT is one of those bands that sounds even better live. I don’t mean this in an insulting way and am not saying they don’t translate well to record. Given the sheer energy of its sound and knowing the types of places it plays, KIT’s all-inclusive philosophy is a stance that says nay to the ageist outlook that only 21-and-ups should enjoy this kind of music.

“It does turn out that all-ages shows by their nature are more fun than bar shows,” says Chen. “The younger kids are more amped on hearing music and not just having it as a soundtrack to drinking.”


With No Babies, Black Widow, Forked

Sat/20, 3–5 p.m.;

all ages, $5

Artists’ Television Access

992 Valencia, SF

(415) 824-3890

GOLDIES 2010: Hunx and his Punx


It should come as no surprise that a gay 30-year-old male living in the Bay Area who borrows elements of his fashion-forward look from Freddie Mercury is putting out the “gayest music ever.” He’s a Pisces who rocks a switchblade comb and blends leather daddy duds with a 1950s-meets-1980s juvenile delinquent touch.

Seth Bogart, a.k.a. Hunx, has been devoted to rock and trash pop culture for years. He made zines as a teen in Arizona when riot grrrl was happening, and has essentially created a life from his variety of enthusiasms.

“I do it for myself, to have fun. It makes me feel better being constantly creative. As cheesy as it sounds, happiness is doing what you want to do,” says the rather butch-looking Bogart over tortas at a 24th Street restaurant. His eyes are piercing, he’s wearing a torn biker jacket, and he’s sporting a few days more than a five o’clock shadow.

Probably tired from having just gotten back from New York City, where he spent eight days recording the next Hunx and His Punx album for Sub Pop’s subsidiary label Hardly Art, Bogart appears happy to be home. After years living in Oakland, he currently resides in the Bayview District.

Thematically, Bogart describes the first proper Hunx and His Punx album as being similar to this year’s compilation Gay Singles (True Panther) in that it deals with love and teenage heartbreak. “It sounds like a dream,” he exclaims. But the upcoming album delves deeper into a sadness he said he’s never really written about before. His father committed suicide when he was just a teen, and with his mom left “out of it and depressed” in the immediate aftermath, it’s no wonder he grew up fast and was on his own by 17.

Bogart found catharsis in freedom of expression. As the tale goes, after his previous group Gravy Train!!! disbanded, friends such as Nobunny and Christopher McVicker helped pen some of the early Hunx and His Punx songs. On the new album, Bogart more fully takes the reins, writing half the album’s tracks himself, with his bold bassist and bandmate Shannon Shaw also contributing a few numbers. As for Hunx’s flirty and quick-witted onstage candor, Bogart attributes some of his brazen confidence to old pal and former roadie Nobunny, who instilled in him that you only have one chance in life. This attitude has led to a colorful album insert of Hunx in the buff, as well as an awkward moment when his Internet-browsing mom unexpectedly saw his boner in a Girls music video.

If you think Bogart’s skills to pay the bills begin and end with music, guess again. He happens to co-own Down at Lulu’s, a popular Oakland vintage boutique and salon, with Tina Lucchesi (of Trashwomen, Bobbyteens, and now Midnite SnaXXX). The shop has been open four years, and Bogart, a licensed cosmetologist, cuts hair there three days a week. He and his friend Brande Baugh are also developing a TV talk show.

Although owning his own shop and contributing to the local music scene are two obvious ways Bogart serves the Bay Area community, it’s what he stands for on a larger scale as a unique gay personality in the still hetero male-dominated genre of punk — and broader realm of rock — that makes him bold and noteworthy. You can call him bubblegum and outrageous, but the fact remains that Hunx exudes an image of strength and confidence. He fills a void in garage rock that isn’t quite clean enough for the Castro and maybe too queer for some fans of harder sounds. He blurs the lines, breaks down boring boundaries, and stays true to himself all the while.;


(All Night Long)


MUSIC Of course they want to listen to T.Rex into the night. I’ve done it myself many times, and I’m sure plenty of you have devoted late-night marathons to Marc Bolan’s musical mysticism. His lyrics, and his ridiculously long album titles from the early days of Tyrannosaurus Rex, always had a flair for weird wordplay, leaving the listener equally captivated and confused by lush, descriptive imagery. Bolan and his Tolkien-named percussionist Steve Peregrine Took started out playing the part of an enchanted underground acoustic duo, catering to fried-out hippies and London’s latter-day mods at the notorious Middle Earth Club. But I have a feeling that when San Francisco’s own Burnt Ones pledge “Gonna Listen To T. Rex (All Night Long),” they’re referring to Bolan’s full-blown boogie period during the heyday of T. Rex-tasy. The song’s opening guitar lick sears every bit as much as the one in “Buick Mackane,” but of course it’s not nearly as recognizable.

This isn’t to say Burt Ones don’t borrow from Bolan’s early days of drone-zone bliss. “Burnt to Lose” closes the A-side of their debut album Black Teeth & Golden Tongues (Roaring Colonel Records) on a slow note. The track is full of chant-like vocals and finger-symbol sounds that a yoga instructor might use to commence a class. The tune hints at the atmospheric qualities of “The Children of Rarn” off the 1970 album T. Rex, where Bolan had by then calculated an abbreviated name for his band and added a full rhythm section, including new drummer Mickey Finn.

“Sunset Hill” is every bit as upbeat and fuzz-tone driven as its Visconti-produced predecessor, “Metal Guru” from 1972’s critically acclaimed Slider, and “Bury Me in Smoke” is straight out of the ’70s with its use of ooh-la-la backing vocals. Let’s face it, lead singer Mark Tester sometimes sets out to duplicate Bolan’s trademark warbled and often shaky vocal technique. But while the four-piece psych outfit, who found their way to the Bay Area by way of Indianapolis, has a glam-rock shtick that would make Gary Glitter proud, Burnt Ones also draw from other sources of inspiration.

“Bring You All My Love” gives a nod to the girl groups of the early ’60s and is reminiscent of the Shangri-Las’ 1964 hit “The Leader of the Pack”, where an echoed “down, down” response vocal is employed. Though “Famous Shakes” song should not be confused with a Wall of Sound production, the influence of Phil Spector and his layers of instrumentation is clear. Lyrically, the group revisits the nonsensical chorus of the Crystals’ “Da Doo Ron Ron”, and even explores territory commonly conquered by soul troopers, most notably Wilson Pickett’s “Land of A Thousand Dances”, where a catalog of past dance crazes (i.e. the mashed potato, the twist, and the alligator) are shouted out in remembrance and paid tribute.

Simple in design, the packaging of Black Teeth & Golden Tongues is consistent with Burnt Ones’ sound, in that it dips into the past while incorporating contemporary art. The pastel-colored cover is adorned with a cartoon of a cracked skull drawn by William Keihn, who some may recognize as the artist from Thee Oh Sees’ album covers. On the back side we’re reminded of two iconic Stones’ albums, Exile on Main Street and Some Girls, which perhaps coincidentally sandwiched the glam era, with release dates of 1972 and 1978. “Spins” even has a bluesy Keith Richards riff.

As much as Burnt Ones rely on the past, it’s easy to forget that this band is pretty much new and likely aims to be part of the pantheon of Bay Area lo-fi, psych, and garage rockers. The group’s contemporaries include Hunx and His Punx, who updates the tried and true androgyny and gender-bending nature of glam by updating it to serve his own homoerotic needs. Burnt Ones’ “Soft City” is a well-produced number that displays a kinship with Hunx’s teased vocals as it confronts topics such as saved souls and the cold outdoors. 


With Pierced Arrows, Bare Wires

Fri/22, 8:30 p.m., $12 (all ages)

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011

Nobunny unmasked!


MUSIC The morning of our scheduled interview, he sends me a text message, asking me to push things back a bit. Because he says he’s been up until 5:30 a.m., I figured he’s spent the previous night out being a bad bunny. But my assumptions are incorrect: the self-professed early bird known as Nobunny has stayed up late getting work done. The masked man, who now lives in Oakland, is out and about in San Francisco. I remain patient, knowing that he has plenty on his plate, including the release of his new album and an imminent European tour.

Nobunny’s First Blood (Goner Records) is more polished in production than previous efforts, including Love Visions (1-2-3-4 Go! Records), his breakthrough from 2008. He’s been at it for nearly 10 years now, but our hometown hero’s ascent to garage-rock stardom hasn’t come easy. Before getting off the phone with me, he speaks of darker days in Chicago, where he went from two-time Bozo Show visitor to “lying and stealing heroin addict,” only to be saved by a heartbroken sister and a pre-Hunx and His Punx member of the now-defunct Gravy Train. And by the time I finish interviewing him, he shares some information that I didn’t expect him to delve into, giving me glimpses of original obsessions, addictions, and future ambitions.

Still, at about the 30-minute mark, our first conversation comes to a sudden halt when Nobunny alerts me he has to put money in his parking meter. My time is up. After all, Blag Dahlia of Dwarves fame is expecting him for a radio interview. (Nobunny takes a page out of that fellow Chicago-to-Bay Area transplants’ book by shedding his threads on stage with the exception of the mask.)

I have the sense that Nobunny is holding back a little, like there is a wall. Is he guarded? Maybe a little nervous? He’d publicly admitted to shooting heroin before, but it isn’t until after our initial phone call that he begins to be genuine and upfront about his humbling experiences and the struggle that made him who he is today. All the while, I feel he is in complete control of our interactions, and imagine that’s probably what it’s like to work with someone so self-critical in the studio. The dichotomy of the man behind the mask begins to unravel.

We initially speak through a dodgy cell phone connection, interrupted by distracting wind and disruptive sirens. I’m in the TL, and he’s in the Mission. Both environments are worn down, sort of like the mangy Muppet-looking mask Nobunny wears during show time. He’s lived through misery before. He spent one winter in Chicago with a trash bag serving as his front door, and worked the graveyard shift at a highway gas station during his last year in the city. “I lived in a cage in a squatted grocery store that had become a shooting gallery-crack house,” Nobunny says. “Things were not all right.”

Just a week earlier, I’d seen Nobunny at the Total Trash Fest. He did what he does best: live rock ‘n’ roll, delivered sweaty and in briefs, with some crowd-surfing. The one new song worked into the set hinted at First Blood‘s tone. The album itself clocks in at a short but very sweet 26 minutes. Nobunny rips through the tracks, playing guitar, bass, and drums himself. He gets some assistance from his pal Jason “Elvis Christ” Testasecca, who’s aided him with home recordings in the past, and a couple of other musicians who get honorable mentions in the credits.

“Blow Dumb,” First Blood‘s first single, has been described as “Velvet-y” sounding. Perhaps because the Velvet Underground is associated with New York’s high-art scene by way of Warhol’s Factory, Nobunny points out that the track is a love song to California. It gives a special nod to the Bay Area and hyphy, but also shows some love for SoCal, with a possible Burger Records shout out. The end result is ideal for a groovy road trip with friends, riding down Highway 1 with nothing better to do than smile in the sun.

Content-wise, not everything on First Blood is so buoyant. Elsewhere, Nobunny’s lyrics confront sexual desire, unbalanced relationships, inner weakness, and the self improvements necessary to pull yourself out of the proverbial gutter and see the world. Plenty of lustful longings are laid out as he expresses exactly what he wants in the twangy-sounding “Pretty Please Me”: a noncommittal fling, no questions asked, just as long as it feels right.

The blatant “(Do the) Fuck Yourself” conjures up perverse images straight from Nobunny’s stage show, where his masked persona goes public, employing ball-gags while prancing around scantily-clad. When we finally meet in person, I ask him where these antics come from. His answer is quite simple, and makes sense coming from a rabbit, “I’m just horny,” he says. All the while, in order to maintain a “shred of anonymity,” he wears his favorite deranged-looking mask. It never seems to come off.

“I don’t think I’d like to deal with being in an un-masked band at, say, Hunx’s or Thee Oh Sees’ comparable level of popularity.” Nobunny says, when asked about the get-up. “Knowing eyes are on you when you are not on stage sounds maybe not always fun.” Nonetheless, a fruitful creative partnership with Hunx has been vital to Nobunny’s survival: “Seth [Bogart, a.k.a. Hunx] has been a very supportive friend, and, yes, in some ways I feel he saved me, or at the very least vastly improved my living situation.”

Though Nobunny often expresses the wish to record and play alone, he’s no stranger to collaboration, including a recent live session with Jack White at Nashville’s Third Man Records. Not all dream teams come true, though — since childhood he’d hoped to work with another master of disguises, the famously introverted King of Pop. “Michael Jackson was my first obsession, ” he says. “I wanted to be him. I still want to be him. According to Rocktober’s History of Masked Rock ‘n’ Roll, MJ was a masked musician with all his surgeries and what not. We all wear masks, some are just easier to spot than others.”

Speaking of costumed camouflage, First Blood‘s final track, “I Was On (The Bozo Show)” is a psyched-out, swirling down-tempo dirge with many levels of dedication. One could read it as homage to the late clown-god Larry Harmon (a.k.a. Bozo), as Nobunny hazily recalls his lost innocence and how he sat in the back row of a Chicago television with his little brother to meet the world-famous archetype on two separate occasions. Yes, Nobunny was on The Bozo Show — twice.

But behind its showbiz facade, “I Was On (The Bozo Show)” is also an agonizing confession from a former addict. “It’s for my blood brother and sister as well as my friends who struggle with drug addiction,” Nobunny says. “In another time, clowns made children happy and the circus was fun, but now they’ve become just another relic of past, tarnished by the more common association that their images are horrifying and that they are to be feared. I’m pretty sure no Juggalo ever went to clown school.”

A mythical creature from garage rock’s underbelly, Nobunny has earned his success, even securing a gig at the Playboy Mansion in L.A. as part of his 10-year anniversary celebration next Easter. But he’s no stranger to the addictions he sings about on First Blood final track. “My sister had been buggin’ me a bit to come visit her in Arizona, and I finally decided to take her up on it before I killed myself,” he says, still discussing “I Was On (The Bozo Show)”‘s origins. “I drove across the country shooting dope the whole way to the desert west of Tucson. She didn’t even know I was using. She nursed me back to health out there all alone in the desert. Our only neighbor was an 80-something yogi from India who was out there on a 30-day silent meditative prayer.”

If that sounds like material for a boulevard of broken dreams tell-all, in all seriousness, Nobunny has come out of the experience stronger, poised for new adventures, but most of all, grateful. “I am thankful to have enough fans to make touring worthwhile,” he said. “While I’d still be writing and recording and performing with no one looking, it’s really nice to see people at our shows dancing and singing along and smiling.”

Mom was a mess (and then she rubbed all up on me)


Going in to Thee Parkside on Fri/5, I didn’t know what to expect from the show’s openers. Considering Mom’s antics, it’s probably best that I didn’t do any pre-show research. In a nutshell, Mom was a mess.

Mom slithered and writhed around on- and offstage (mostly off). She wore a red dress that ended up beer-soaked, while she sort of sang into a microphone with heavily distorted cartoonish effects. It was like a demonic version of Minnie Mouse (she had the ears and everything). The whole experience was surreal. Maybe nightmarish is a better word. Mom’s trashed red dress would slide up over her waist, exposing all of her, since she wore no panties. Her one ruby red slipper slid around the floor while the other foot remained bare and got all gunked up from cement during some staggered dance moves.

If shock value was what Mom was going for…then mission accomplished. Just when I thought the spectacle was winding down, I went to the smoking patio to answer my brother’s phone call. I figured I’d chat him up about my parents’ upcoming visit from the Midwest. Immersed in conversation, I was suddenly interrupted by a sweaty, messy Mom, who accosted me and began to rub herself on me as I laughed and backed away while onlookers got an eyeful. Considering that the ‘Loin is now my home base, it didn’t phase me much. I continued talking on the phone, giving my brother the play-by-play. Mom quickly lost interest and stumbled away. I have a feeling real Mom wouldn’t approve.

After the onslaught, I hung out a bit longer on the patio. I was offered some sympathy by a certain unmasked someone who may or may not have been the show’s headliner. He asked if Mom had gotten any blood on me. I replied “No,” adding that I actually had gotten egged. Apparently she threw one at the ceiling and got some yolk and shell on me. Another audience member initially thought it was the sound of breaking glass.

Act two was traditional by comparison, considering it involved drum, bass and guitar. I didn’t think I had seen them before, based on their name, but once I went back inside to check them out I recognized the front man of the Outdoorsmen. They had improved. They did Misfits covers and it was sort of endearing how the lead singer/ guitarist would crack bad jokes into the mike. He mostly cracked himself up. The highlight of their set was a Standells-sounding number dedicated to “cock suckers of the middle of the night”. He was referring to cops.

The outstanding performance of the night came from Indiana’s TV Ghost. The Midwest was represented well here when they took to the stage. Their lanky lead man twitched about with great presence; his guitar in tow and a Dwyer-esque oral fixation with his microphone (inserts into mouth). I guess it sounded like Link Wray meets post-punk, or maybe the Cramps in surf style. In any event it was good to see them again. The first time I witnessed their live act was at the Hemlock, where they played to a nearly empty hall, but they had performed as if they the bar was at capacity or like it was for a televised performance. Such showmanship.

Last but not least, Nobunny seemed to have a stash of new material and it was stage antics and comical-shtick as usual when the costumed “boys and squirrels” played rock and roll that had the crowd eating it up with a spoon. All in all it was a good night — even if Mom took me by surprise.

(Lack of) grace at EpiscoDisco


It was bound to happen. Some girl in a white coat tagged Grace Cathedral.

One thousand flowers were suspended from above as an art installation while I watched Nodzzz run through a collection of songs. The band described the outing as the first time they had ever held a microphone in church. I took that as confirmation they weren’t pastors or priests in their previous line of work. As soon as their set was done someone, maybe the event’s organizer, got on the microphone and had a startling announcement to make. He informed us that this may have been the final installment of EpiscoDisco because the woman in white, who he accused of “probably tripping on acid,” had vandalized the church. The man on the mic rhetorically told us that in the event’s one-year history, no such disrespect had ever occurred up until now, and that the future of the monthly get-together was now in doubt, as the church’s leadership would likely frown upon that night’s incident. He described what she had done and what she was wearing. To be honest, I sort of feared for the girl, because it sounded as if this guy was hoping for a lynch mob or at least some sort of immediate repercussions for her actions. He seemed pretty pissed, and if he was to be held responsible, I’d say rightfully so.

The church is one of those buildings a San Francisco resident is likely to take for granted. Grace’s occupation would normally be limited to parishioners or tourists, but its gothic majesty opens engraved chamber-like doors once a month on Saturday evenings, allowing a curious bunch of unlikely visitors to roam freely, seemingly unsupervised. Maybe it’s my Catholic upbringing, but something about the whole thing just seems so backwards. Disco scenesters mix it up with the garage rock crowd with drinks in their hands and stained glass windows in the background? Same-sex couples sharing intimate secrets littered among long rows of pews? Hipsters dressed (in their Sunday best?) ogling a giant crimson version of the holy bible all within the Episcopalian version of the house of the lord? It was madness. It seemed so wrong. Really, what would Jesus do?

Who could blame the girl? Before the culprit’s act was publicly announced, I myself was tempted to do something drastic in iconoclastic fashion. In fact, I did voice my fantasy out loud to my friend, saying I wanted to tag or at least tip something over. I’m sure some of those feelings were just residual teenage angst from the aforementioned upbringing of religion’s expectations of conformity and control. However, whereas I was a talker, the woman in white was a walker. Without inhibition she let loose in the form of either spray paint or maybe one of those Magnum markers. One friend thought she smelled something funny, but figured someone had light up a cig indoors. I never saw (nor smelled) her work of attempted ecclesiastical immortalization, but her sacrilegious act made her instantly notorious and got her bounced. We could only wonder what compelled her to do it. What did she have to say? My guess was “666,” even if it is a bit cliché, while another friend suggested she graffiti-ed “This church rulz.” In any event and quite unceremoniously, she attempted to re-enter the place of worship, but to no avail.

People filtered out of the cathedral slowly, just as they had been asked, while flamboyantl men with interesting haircuts decked out in leopard-print ensembles continued to berate the alleged vandal on their way out. As far as they were concerned, their EpiscoDisco was to suffer an uncertain future. So much for the church’s youth outreach program, but it was nice while it lasted. I guess we’ll just have to stay tuned.

Komeback Kink


MUSIC MLK’s and Bobby Kennedy’s assassinations, shaken confidence in Vietnam after a bloody and vengeful Tet Offensive, Haight-Ashbury’s rapid dissolving into a breeding ground for lost and burned-out hippies pathetically clinging to the idyllic notion of a "Summer of Love," and a free Charles Manson settling in Laurel Canyon to plot the perverse and gruesome murders his "family" would soon commit. Yes, 1968 was the year the darkness had arrived. Certainly flower power had gone wrong, wilting its way toward a strong sense of paranoia that not only seeped its way into society’s psyche and politics, but into popular music as well.

Stripped in tone and oftentimes more raw-sounding than the overly-produced psychedelia that dominated the previous two years, the Kinks’ masterfully produced November 1968 classic The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society is a prime example of Ray Davies’ maturing writing skill. It especially shines as an artist’s profound expression of his own insecurities. Village Green is loaded with accounts of Davies’ vain obsessions and his fears. It’s a document of the human condition — in particular, people’s longings to leave a lasting legacy and be remembered.

Thematically, Davies works himself into a frenzy, unable to live for the moment, facing the pressures of fading British tradition (on the title track) and changes in technology ("Last of the Steam-Powered Trains"), both of which symbolize a changing of the guard and uncertainty about how the album’s protagonist fits into the world. Don’t underestimate Davies’ fears of growing old. The bitterness on "Do You Remember Walter?" is almost too much to bear. It fits well, though, making Village Green a cohesive unit. Here he criticizes an old friend who he assumes has grown old, boring, and out of shape. But his disdain stems from Ray’s fear of being Walter (i.e., washed up), and is connected to the fact that Walter has moved on in life and perhaps wouldn’t even recognize or remember his dear old friend.

With its simple and bucolic flair, "Sitting by the Riverside" seems familiar enough. The ditty should be relaxing, with its nice, easy-going melody, but Ray even corrupts something seemingly innocent with a manic "la-da-da" that chimes in on occasion before bursting to a near crescendo during the song’s outro, sounding like a bad drug experience.

Listening to Village Green‘s "All of My Friends Were There," I’ve always imagined it playing at someone’s birthday party, with — of course — all their friends present. But it seems to be more of a performance with all eyes on Davies, because he’s built it in his head to be the biggest day in his life. Once again we see his sick longing to feel love, attention, and validation, this time through the power of numbers. Unfortunately, his gathering backfires to disastrous results. It’s just as well. Somehow I have a feeling that no matter how many people were present, he still feels alone and empty.

Two Village Green songs, "Picture Book" and the album-closing "People Take Pictures of Each Other," focus on how photographs are supposed to fill some sort of void, making us seem more important than we really are — as if a photograph is necessary to validate our feelings of love for one another and emotions from our past. Davies argues that we take pictures of one another to prove our existence. At the same time, he’s caught up in paranoid visions of what his own photograph will look like when he’s an old man: "Picture yourself, when you’re getting old." Finally a bit of optimism peeks through, but in an unsure way, when he sings, "People often change, but memories of people can remain." That is to say, I can remember you however I choose.


Thurs/12, 8 p.m., $40–$57

The Warfield

982 Market, SF

Davila 666, Mannequin Men, NoBunny, Bridez


PREVIEW Working its way through the ranks of punk rock’s prestigious pantheon, Puerto Rico’s Davila 666 is held in the same regard as King Khan and Black Lips, even sounding kinda Ramones-ish at times. Its debut self-titled release is on the label that can do no wrong, In the Red. Expect an onslaught of guitar fuzz, jangle, and theatrics, sung entirely en Español!

Co-headlining for the night is the Midwest’s own Mannequin Men. With a fresh summer release under their belt, Lose Your Illusion (Flameshovel), the boys take time out from "professionally" DJ-ing various Chicago bars and clubs to join the tour. According to the guy who books them, they like to spin in their downtime. Notorious for having an appetite for destruction all their own, the quartet should be in rare form on stage. They have a song called "WTF LOL" dedicated to the kids and their computer lingo. At first I wasn’t sure if I should be annoyed or amused. I’ll let you be the judge.

Not to be outdone, Oakland’s nomadic NoBunny is East Bay garage rock’s answer to the Jim Henson-esque perverse puppets from the 1989 film Meet the Feebles. The sleaze rocker’s mangy Muppet-like mask probably smells as rotten as it looks. But it’s his sound that’s oh so sweet. He’s got a soft spot for oldies and does campy, quirky lo-fi homages. Check out his filthiness, cuz he’ll (probably) sing in his undies. In contrast, SF’s Bridez will add a "lady’s" touch to the evening. It’s hard to imagine the walls of Thee (tiny) Parkside containing all this rawk. Somehow I think it’ll manage.

DAVILA 666, MANNEQUIN MEN, NOBUNNY, BRIDEZ Copresented by Thee Parkisde and KUSF. Wed/2, 8 p.m., $10, 21 and over. Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF. (415) 252-1330.

Split decisions


Sexo y Violencia. It’s a fitting tag for the L.A.-born spectacle known as Lucha VaVoom. Combining the traditional Mexican art form of lucha libre with a titilutf8g burlesque show, this unique blend of entertainment has definitely found its niche audience.

The marriage of sex and violence (in varying degrees) has always found its way into the squared-circle’s storyline, whether it be Hulk Hogan’s alleged lusting after Miss Elizabeth in the 1980s, or the more suggestive eye candy that the WWF/E (World Wrestling Federation and World Wrestling Entertainment) began parading around when the "Divas Campaign" kicked off in the 1990s.

Pro wrestling has always found a way to reflect mainstream and pop culture, even if its fans are considered to be on the fringe of society. The sport’s two major peaks in late 20th century popularity are defined and clear-cut. In the 1980s, rock ‘n roll, notions of good vs. evil, and the onslaught of mass consumerism ushered in the era of Hulkamania. In the 1990s, as the lines that defined heroes became more blurry and edginess and exaggerated sexuality took hold, cable television’s Monday Night Wars and Austin 3:16 catered to the era of the intelligent fan.

Jan. 20, 1984: during the height of the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan’s Secretary of State Charles Shultz designates Iran as a sponsor of international terrorism. Three days later, Hulk Hogan beats the Iron Sheik in Madison Square Garden to claim his first WWF world title. This was no coincidence. In fact it was destiny.

Vince McMahon, arguably wrestling’s most savvy promoter, had been aggressively buying out smaller independent and regional promotions, building the monster that would become the WWF/E. With his tanned Venice Beach body-builder’s physique and peroxide blond locks (and presumably with steroids coursing through his veins), Hogan was touted as the all-American hero. It totally made sense to play up current events by having the Sheik, with his curl-toed boots (somehow implying that he’s Arab or evil) drop the title to Hogan, a symbol of our patriotic righteousness.

By no means was this a new formula. But never before had pro wrestling marketed it so successfully. The battle lines were drawn, and much like in neoconservative propaganda, any Russian or Arab in wrestling was clearly the bad guy.

In the 1980s, wrestling had a facade of innocence — the fans knew whom to root for, despite darker dealings behind the scenes with the steroid scandal about to explode. But fast-forward to wrestling’s peak years in the 1990s, and things didn’t exactly read as "family entertainment" anymore.

Midway into the ’90s, the Monday Night Wars were in full swing. WCW (World Championship Wrestling), a rival promotion, had begun to give Vince McMahon a run for his money. WWE’s Raw and WCW’s Nitro were consistently cable’s two top-rated shows, and they played off each other competitively, giving way to a more adult product. Wrestling had become cool again. Storylines became intricate and good guys played bad.

During the Clinton era, Hogan’s real American image wasn’t cutting it anymore. Wrestlers jumped ship between promotions in dramatic fashion, depending on where the better deal was or simply because they’d burned a bridge. "Stone Cold" Steve Austin’s beer-drinking common man persona as the quintessential badass provided an opportunity for universal identification with someone who rails against authority, gives his boss the middle finger, and basically lives the dream by kicking ass and taking names.

Wrestling’s popularity comes in waves, and like politics, it vacillates between conservatism and unbridled, graphic mayhem. At the moment, McMahon’s WWE is experiencing a "family entertainment" renaissance — he’s trying to steer away from blood and sexual innuendo, keeping things PG. It might not have the same type of exposure as the big leagues, but Lucha VaVoom keeps wrestling’s sex and violence solidly intact. No heroes necessary.

Citric acid rock



MISSION CREEK There he was, all cherubic, eating a "beej" — the nickname I’ve affectionately given the burgers at BJ, a.k.a. Burger Joint. Moments before show time, I spotted Ty Segall in the greasy eatery’s Mission District location. He was about to take to the stage at Amnesia, on the eve of an ambitious second solo tour that ventures through the East Coast and the South, even invading Canadian territory for a night in Toronto.

After my own greasy foray into a Popeye’s a few blocks away, I was ready to see the wunderkind, who is freshly graduated from the University of San Francisco. Once upon a time, Segall was a one man band, but he’s expanded his outfit to a three-piece. Clearly the night’s headliner at Amnesia, he packed the joint. After sets by openers Snakeflower 2 and the Rantouls, he mostly played familiar songs from his 2008 self-titled release on CastleFace Records. However, he also delivered a few examples of his self-described "sludgier" work on the brand new Lemons (Goner Records).

Sludge or no sludge, Segall’s solid work ethic is evident. He’s constantly playing gigs at bars like the Knockout, the Hemlock, and the Eagle Tavern — basically anywhere flannel is the prevailing fashion, alongside those straw fedora hats favored by the fixed-gear crowd. Despite his omnipresence on SF’s dive bar scene, he’s pretty modest about his dedication to his music. "There are a lot of ways that I am a slacker," he explains over the phone a month after the fateful Amnesia show as he and his band drive to New Orleans. "But if I’m not doing music, I feel like I’m wasting my time."

Segall’s music is part of a current collective lo-fi/neo-psych/garage rock movement. (I hate to label, but if you’re gonna do it, you might as well go all-or-nothing). At times it’s hard to decipher which bands from this rubric are legit and which are simply riding the wave of a trend. Segall’s contemporaries include his current tour mates Charlie and the Moonhearts, Strange Boys, Gris Gris, Thee Oh Sees, and Memphis’ Magic Kids. Some of these groups lean more toward pop, while others favor punk. But they all seem to draw on the past (particularly sun-dazed stretches of the 1960s) for inspiration and direction.

One highlight of Lemons is the wisely-handpicked Captain Beefheart cover "Dropout Boogie," a countercultural should-have-been anthem from the group’s 1967 release, Safe As Milk (Buddah). Recorded in a mere 20 minutes, Segall’s version of the freakout favorite — and especially its pounding bass line — has a rallying call effect, taking its cue from Timothy Leary’s infamous phrase, "Turn on, tune in, drop out." When I ask Segall why he chose to cover this particular song, especially since he just earned a degree in media studies, his answer is simple: "Beefheart rules." He can’t give the psych-blues band enough praise, citing them along with the Pretty Things and Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era Pink Floyd as major influences on his current reverb-rich sound.

Compared to Segall’s debut album, Lemons has a looser, more experimental sound. Less reliant on melody and catchy hooks, it delves deeper into psych and garage, slowing down Segall’s riff-happy original style. The distortion is still there, but you can tell how different effects and levels were employed on a track-to-track basis. One new song, "Like You," is brilliantly melancholy in tone and lumbering in pace. Basically, it’s a beautiful downer. The varying volume levels can probably be attributed to the use of vintage reel-to-reel equipment and Tascam quarter-inch tapes. "It gives it that blown-out sound," Segall explains. "But in a clean way."

As if to incite hip-hop beef, Spin‘s enthusiastic review of Lemons warns Jay Reatard to look out, calling Segall’s garage rock "scuzzier." Just for kicks, I jump on the beef-wagon and ask Segall who would win if he and Reatard had a fist fight. "I’m a total wuss. I’d probably just sit there and let him punch me," he says, adding, "I actually met him at a party. He was pretty cool." So much for placing your bets. It appears Segall’s a peaceful soul, and that a single encounter at a keg quelled any potential garage rocker-on-garage rocker crime.


with Thee Oh Sees, Meth Teeth, Buzzer, Fresh and Onlys

Thurs/16, 9 p.m., $7

The Eagle Tavern

398 12th St., SF


Michael Jackson, 1958-2009


It was a strange day. It didn’t start normally, nor did it end that way. It began with a disturbing run-in with one of my roommates. I was getting ready to work at 6 a.m., while he was trying to hook up after pulling an all-nighter. After that awkward encounter, I made my way into work with an uneasy, ill feeling. It was inexplicable. My sour mood took twists and turns and like the onset of what I imagine feels like a nervous breakdown. Something was wrong. Everyone knows peripheral, typical job frustrations, but I had a scowl on my face for my entire shift. I work in a newsroom at an all-news radio station.

Early on, the death of Farrah Fawcett was announced. Hmm, that’s too bad, I thought to myself. I heard it was cancer. She was very much an icon and sex symbol, but her bout with the disease was lengthy, much publicized, and we all saw it coming. Let’s see … Ed McMahon, Farrah … uh oh. Famous people die in threes, right? Something bad was going to happen.

After leaving work, I wanted to stop at a few record stores before going home. In between Rasputin and Rookie Ricardo’s, I got a text from a friend who had dressed as Michael Jackson along with me a few Halloweens ago: "MJ in the hospital!"

My previous inkling about trios of death had now become more of a dark premonition. I thought it was strange that the story had completely evaded the wires in the newsroom. I was off the clock, and I had been scooped. Things soon took a dire turn when the friend called to say she got an IM that TMZ had confirmed his death. Yet I remained skeptical. It was a bit much to process so quickly.

Once I was inside Rookie’s, people came out of the woodwork via text message and I started to believe the unbelievable. I’m not usually one to make a fuss or bring attention to myself, but this was one instance where I just had to know: Did Michael Jackson really die? I was more than moved, compelled even, to make a public announcement. Actually it was more of a question. So I went ahead and shouted out in despair to the clerk and all four customers, "Did you guys hear about Michael Jackson?" Everybody sorta perked up and looked at me strangely. "I think he might be dead." A patron checked his iPhone and the sad truth was revealed. I left soon after. I was in no mood to look at the old soul records that were the primary foundation of Michael’s musical roots.

In the early 1980s, MJ just looked cool. The jherri curl, aviator shades, and that mysterious sequined glove were all signs that someone special was about to do something great. Up on stage (the place where, like many icons, he claimed to be most comfortable), his tall, slender body was perfect for much of the angular choreography he created. He took inspiration from and expanded on the stage moves of his hero, James Brown, to create his own repertoire. He popped and locked in the ’70s to the Jackson 5’s 1973 "Dancing Machine," doing the robot with such precision, I’m convinced to this day that he must have been at least part alien. I don’t need stock footage or YouTube to remember when he debuted his mind-blowing moonwalk at the Motown 25 TV special. His voice had a flair for high notes, but could also make the walls resonate like thunder. Listen to him shudder toward the end of "The Lady in My Life," on Thriller (Epic, 1982), or as the Scarecrow in The Wiz (1978) during his opening number "You Can’t Win." So deep. Quintessential soul. He will probably always be every bit as enigmatic as he was charismatic.

No one will ever truly know the inner turmoil of Michael Jackson. But his decaying exterior over the years is a good clue. People tend to disregard his creative efforts post-Bad (Epic, 1987). But there is much to be said about MJ’s latter-day lyrics. His mood and tone can be cold, agonized, and despairing. On "Will You Be There" from Dangerous (Epic, 1991), almost crying instead of singing, he assures us that he’s only human (despite the monster that we’ve made him out to be) and prone to mistakes — essentially, a child that needs to be held. The lyrics are of a shocking introspective nature, most poignant during a spoken passage at the song’s close where he expresses loneliness and violent frustration. Clearly it is gospel-influenced. He’s singing for salvation.

The opening lines of "Stranger in Moscow" (a new track on the 1995 Epic compilation HIStory) couldn’t have been more clear. I was wanderin’ in the rain / Mask of life feelin’ insane, swift and sudden fall from grace. At that point, MJ was aimless — having achieved uncharted greatness, but the glory behind him. In a sense, his mask, or face, was both his fault and ours. We are the ones who put him on the pedestal since childhood and gave him the fame that would eventually eat him alive, whether he liked it or not. We saw him grow up then blow up and couldn’t get enough. Maybe he didn’t want to be recognized anymore. Maybe he wanted to become a monster so that we would leave him alone. If so, it all backfired and made "Jacko" a laughingstock to the mainstream media for the remainder of his life.

The same song also contains the line "Armageddon of the brain." Those four words always resonate with me when it comes to analyzing MJ’s psyche. They paint a picture of an explosion inside his head, a virtual inferno of the mind. Perhaps a reference to the moment he snapped or reached his breaking point.

Yeah, I am a genuine fan of Michael Jackson. His musical gift, contributions, and accomplishments are unfathomable. I don’t blame people for calling him a freak. I know he’s misunderstood, and if I were in his shoes I’d probably have slit my wrists long ago. I don’t know what he was guilty or innocent of in his private life, but I do know that in death, he’s free of persecution. If anyone believed in magic, it would be MJ, so maybe he knew I was having a shitty day and gave a true fan a final parting gift. He knew I needed all those texts from people checking on me to see if I’d heard the news, showing they cared. I guess you know who your true friends are when Michael Jackson dies. God bless tortured souls.

Shannon and the Clams


PREVIEW Enough about Thee Oh Sees already. Let’s talk about Shannon and the Clams. John Dwyer’s new outfit is great and all, but Shannon is bodacious. She’s a peroxide-haired, punk-rock pin-up who gets real mean on her Danelectro bass.

I caught the classic beauty out and about last week with an unmasked Nobunny. They were catching a glimpse of those pretty Black Lips performing at the Great American Music Hall. A few months earlier, I saw Shannon and her Clams doin’ their thing for the hometown crowd at Oakland’s Stork Club. For sure, the highlight of the night was their rendition of Del Shannon’s "Runaway." I can’t get enough of that song. Anytime I hear it, it’s embedded in my brain for days. I enjoyed the guitarist’s mimicry of whatever high-pitched instrument is used in the bridge of the original recording. Surf rock interpretation at its finest.

Shannon’s gnarly, gruff-sounding wail conveys the angst of an exhausted teenage wreck (see "Cry Aye Aye"). She’s somewhere between a woman possessed by Little Richard and the vocal huskiness of the Gossip’s Beth Ditto. Another standout track, "Blast Me To Bermuda," is pure teen-punk energy, with a slicing riff that propels the Clams’ late-1950s, early-’60s style into a more contemporary garage rock sound.

Shannon is worthy in my book. Good ol’ rock ‘n’ roll!

SHANNON AND THE CLAMS With Thee Oh Sees, Sonny and Sunsets, and the Mystery Lights. Fri/15, 9 p.m., $8. Amnesia, 853 Valencia, SF. (415) 970-0012.

Booker T. and Bettye LaVette


PREVIEW In the 1960s Booker T. and the MG’s served as Stax/Volt’s house band, much like the Funk Brothers were for Motown. Playing alongside Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, and the Staple Singers, among others, they beat Love and also Sly and the Family Stone to the racially-integrated rock-band punch. It was 1962’s "Green Onions" on the Memphis-based soul label that put them on the map. The song’s recent omnipresence at sporting events has given it a bit of a "jock jam" tag, but it isn’t tarnished completely.

Today Booker T. Jones is letting his signature Hammond organ sound sing alongside "the Great Lady of Soul," Bettye LaVette. After hearing her humbling rendition of the Who’s "Love Reign O’er Me" at that group’s Kennedy Center Honors, I knew LaVette’s tag was legit. Even Barbra Streisand — in attendance that night — recognized it. She turned to Pete Townshend in disbelief, asking if he’d really written that song. LaVette gives the rock opera ballad a gut-wrenching, soulful treatment. She owns it.

For most of her career, the Detroit native has struggled, but she’s steadily built an audience, touring with late legends including James Brown and a young Mr. Pitiful along the way. LaVette’s had one-off singles released by Atlantic and Motown. It seems she is finally getting her due, having had the honor of dueting on a song at President Obama’s inauguration ceremony — even if it was with Jon Bon Jovi.

Now LaVette’s career has paralleled Booker T’s. Both are signed to Anti- Records. Booker’s new album for the label, Potato Hole, features Neil Young and includes a playful version of Outkast’s "Hey Ya," Expect covers aplenty — and some surprises, too — from this bill’s soulful one-two punch.

BOOKER T. AND BETTYE LAVETTE Fri/8, 8 p.m. Independent, 628 Divisadero, 415-771-1421.

A six-pack of rock picks



Fuzz is the new black — at least according to the gospel preached by Thee Oh Sees and Eat Skull. The two West Coast combos will take the beer- and noise-soaked pulpit at the Eagle Tavern to bang out hazy sermons of garage wit and wisdom. (L.C. Mason)

With Grant Hart and the Fresh and Onlys. Thurs/26, 9 p.m., $5. Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF. (415) 626-0880.


Dark Dark Dark released its debut album in 2008 on Rhode Island’s Supply and Demand label. The group’s folky, rootsy instrumentation and female-to-male vocal tradeoffs take over the Caretaker’s House. (Andre Torrez)

Fri/28, 8 p.m.


Imagine you’re in high school: Trans Am are the electronics nerds who jam to Rush, Anthony Petrovic of Ezee Tiger is the misunderstood indie guy who is into the Flaming Lips and Lightning Bolt while you’re still spinning Sublime, and Futur Skullz are the long-hairs who know metal is cool five years before you will — and who just got busted for stealing Dad’s whiskey. (Mason)

Sun/29, 9 p.m., $14. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455.


A hard-drinking, potty-mouthed blues legend with a rap sheet long enough to impress any modern thug, wizened oldster T-Model Ford has been rolling around the Deep South since the early 20th century. But he isn’t a walking geriatrics case — backed by Gravel Road, he can stomp the blues till the stage caves in. (Mason)

With the Ferocious Few and Ramshackle Romeos. Sun/29, 8 p.m., $10. Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., S.F. (415) 252-1330.


Wooden Shjips bring straight-outta-1971 fuzz rock. Earthless boasts the drummer from Rocket From the Crypt and Hot Snakes, and shares the Shjips affinity for retro sounds — with a knack for the Sabbath- and Zep-tinged blues. (Torrez)

With Eyes. Sat/28, 9:30 p.m., $10. Café du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. (415) 861-5016.


More trance-inducing psychedelia from a seemingly endless supply of West Coast bands pumping out the experimental sounds of the other and extra-ordinary: Barn Owl creates dark chamber-like atmospheres, while Holly Caust specializes in over-modulated guitar assault. (Torrez)

With Tecumseh and Oaxacan. Sun/29, 9 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. 415-923-0923.


Festival for Freedom


PREVIEW It doesn’t take six degrees of separation to link the new breed of local bands performing at the University of San Francisco’s Festival for Freedom benefit show. They’re an interwoven clan of West Coast outfits with garage rock tendencies and psychedelic leanings. And they’re just about all in each other’s MySpace top eight. If I had to label, I’d consider the term "flower punks" for ’em. I mean, c’mon, San Francisco has a huge Haight-Ashbury legacy to live up to. So, in the spirit of hippiedom and smiling on your brother, the undergrads from the university’s Erasmus Community has decided to take on the cause of fighting modern-day slavery and is planning an immersion trip to Uganda and Rwanda, where they will focus their efforts on rehabilitating child soldiers.

This benefit show for that trip is a culmination of the group’s efforts in social justice awareness and activism, combined with a dose of peacenik-punk rock. Taking the stage on campus: Ty Segall, Man/Miracle, and a very Birthday Party-era Nick Cave sounding Depth Charge Revolt, among others. The bands will bring the noise, so you should bring your bucks to help support this worthwhile cause for the marginalized children of Uganda.

FESTIVAL FOR FREEDOM: USF BENEFIT FOR THE REHABILITATION OF UGANDAN CHILD SOLDIERS With A Quantum Visionary, Depth Charge Revolt, Travis Hayes, Ghosttown Refugees, the Vox Jaguars, James Rabbit, Ty Segall, and Man/Miracle. Fri/6, 6:30 p.m., $5–$8. McClaren 250, Phelan Building, University of San Francisco campus, SF. (831) 588-3537

Chris Hillman and Herb Pedersen and John McEuen


PREVIEW Country-rock pioneer and original Byrds bassist Chris Hillman prepares to throw down some bluegrass with longtime friend, banjo player Herb Pedersen, at Yoshi’s SF this week.

As a founding member of the Byrds and later the Flying Burrito Brothers, Hillman was a staple of California’s fabled Laurel Canyon music scene during the late 1960s. Although the musician’s roots are steeped in bluegrass, it wasn’t until meeting his eventual Byrds bandmate Gram Parsons in 1968 that the group took on a significantly unique direction. The Byrds’ critically acclaimed Sweetheart of the Rodeo (Columbia, 1968) was a product of the outfit’s expansion into country even if it failed to chart. Hillman’s full-fledged emergence into the genre has inspired a spectrum of artists, including collaborators such as Emmylou Harris and fans like Beck. I don’t think the pedal steel sound heard on Beck’s "Rowboat" was even possible without the Burrito Brothers paving the way.

Throw into the mix multi-instrumentalist and Nitty Gritty Dirt Band veteran John McEuen, a.k.a. "America’s instrumental poet," and expect Pedersen, who played with Hillman in the Desert Rose Band and paid his dues picking five-string banjo with the likes of Jerry Garcia, to do just that: play some banjo. After all, this is bluegrass we’re talking about. Just remember, it’s all about the twang.

CHRIS HILLMAN AND HERB PEDERSEN AND JOHN MCEUEN Mon/2–Tues/3, 8 p.m., $30. Yoshi’s SF, 1330 Fillmore, SF. (415) 655-5600,