Chris Sabbath

To Serge, with love


"Some people have their hang-ups about making music on a computer," opines tech house DJ and producer Serge Garcia, a.k.a. Greco Guggenheit. "Then again, some cinematographers during the silent era believed that the introduction of sound to films was fraudulent."

A relatively fresh face in the Bay Area, the 24-year-old Los Angeles native Garcia has more than a few bass monsters he’s itching to unleash. Wielding the Detroit techno scene and its forefathers as his beacon, he compounds elements from minimal house and peak-time techno into one banging track after another.

Garcia spent part of his youth in Mexico City, then Barcelona, where he played a lot of soccer (his "first love," he confesses). His introduction to electronic music began thanks to what he describes as "random CDs with the label ‘Techno/House Music’" that his older sister would mail to him. "Juan Atkins, Kevin Saunderson, Kerri Chandler, Derrick May," he incants, when asked about some of the DJs and producers who appeared on these CDs. "Basically, dance music that came out of Detroit and its surrounding areas in the 1980s and early ’90s."

In the last year, Garcia has split his time between San Francisco, Stockholm, and Berlin. He plans to make Berlin his home base later this summer, citing record label interest in and around Germany and an aversion to SF’s 2 a.m. curtain calls as motives for his move. "After visiting Berlin and experiencing places like Panorama Bar, Cookies Club, and Watergate, I remember coming home and feeling very alive and creative," he explains. "Here in the states, electronic music isn’t part of mainstream culture [the way] it is in many parts of Europe."


With Buttercream Gang, Magnanimous

Wed/10, 9 p.m., $6

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

Rock, B.C.


PREVIEW I have yet to touch down upon the streets of Vancouver, B.C., but was advised recently by Jexxe Taylarr of Twin Crystals that if I ever do make the pilgrimage, I should stop by the Emergency Room — a hole-in-the-wall performance space where in addition to Taylarr’s band, the likes of Shearing Pinx, Sex Negatives, White Lung, and Gang Violence tear shit up on a regular basis.

"The music scene is unbelievable," Taylarr says via e-mail. "There was a lack of places to play, so a bunch of our friends opened this DIY warehouse space and it instantly seemed to take off," he continues. "Never have we seen shows with so many rad bands."

Count Twin Crystals as one such band. With synthist Jeremiah Heywood and drummer Jordan Alexander in tow, Taylarr and company wreak serious havoc. "Punk Heart" is a tried-and-true anthem that nods back to the blown-out alt of the Screamers and Wipers. Brimming with harsh, electric current and buzzsaw electronics, the song has a J. Mascis-like lead that’ll wrap around your face and scorch you. "Witness" is one helluva of an afterburner: as Taylarr unloads into the mic with unchecked rabidity, its raw primitive roots and sludgy demeanor rattle the speaker cones.

A few years after inception, Twin Crystals has stocked its vault with a collection of self-made vinyl, cassette, and CD-R releases on banners like Needs More Ram and SLU. The trio plans to issue more classics on the Gilgongo and Split Tapes imprints in the coming months. Taylarr credits the group’s bulky catalog in part to his trusty record lathe. "I have a bunch of black 10-inch acetates from 1940 that we release little jams and ideas on," he explains. "The digital format will die and all these great jams we have will be lost forever, so we just make these lathe-cut records to preserve the audio. It’s a great art project."

TWIN CRYSTALS With Long Legged Woman, Modern Creatures. Thurs/21, 9 p.m. $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923.

Her direction



On the collection of platters Liz Harris has put out over the last four years as Grouper, the Portland, Ore., resident sounds like she’s exorcising many ghosts. A new self-released, 7-inch split single with City Center echoes with the sort of psych-drone incantations you’d expect to hear while lurking about a dark forest after midnight. On "False Horizon," accompanied by the murky strum of a guitar, Harris’ vocal loops seep through the cracks of a lost canyon, ricocheting from wall to wall of bedrock.

Big pictures. Yet over the course of her last couple of releases — particularly 2008’s acclaimed Dragging A Dead Deer Up A Hill (Type) — Harris has stripped away sonic elements. Gone are the amp currents, haunting drones, and tape hiss of earlier explorations like her full-length debut Way Their Crept (Free Porcupine Society, 2005) and 2007’s Cover The Windows and the Walls (Root Strata). In their place are more lulling compositions that have drawn comparisons to late-1980s and early-1990s recordings on the 4AD label. Chatting over the phone, Harris reveals that she doesn’t like to think of herself as "a drone artist," but can see why people categorize her songwriting in that light. She admits she was worried about Dead Deer at the time of its release because she thought it was "too poppy" and thus likely to be "fully rejected."

"I think what I’ve done hasn’t changed so much as the medium or packaging," she explains. "The stuff before was [also] very song-based, it’s just thicker at times and [the song structures] are underneath a lot. Initially I was trying to figure out how to use pedals and playing with sounds, and that’s just what came out."

Raised in the Marin County community of Bolinas, Harris describes a childhood spent "growing up in my own world," running around the woods, contemputf8g the idea of ghosts, and drawing or reading. Although she did take piano lessons for a short time in junior high, the 28-year-old didn’t think of putting her songs down on tape until she was in the late stages of college. "My piano teacher wasn’t really teaching me piano — he was just helping me learn how to write songs," she says. "That was the first time I can remember trying to write my own music. Outside of that, I’ve always been like everyone else, just had songs in my head and had to sing them and work them out."

Aside from a short U.S. tour with Animal Collective in May, Harris is spending the bulk of the coming months re-releasing old material on her own yet-unnamed label and focusing on songwriting. Fans can expect to see a re-pressing of Cover the Windows and a silkscreen edition of Dead Deer. A 3-inch CD-R originally put out by the Collective Jyrk imprint in 2006 titled He Knows, He Knows, He Knows is getting the re-release treatment, too. "I want to do [the releases] so there isn’t some kind of [outside] pressure going on," she says. "I’m still figuring out the logistics, but that is the direction I’m heading."


With Sic Alps, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, and Paul Clipson

Sat/25, 9:30 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

Alloy trio


› a&

It’s another typical afternoon at Zeitgeist: mid-’80s punk rock roaring from the jukebox, the constant clang of beer bottles, the pervasive smell of burgers. "I like these industrial dudes over here," says Brian Hock, the drummer of SF three-piece Bronze. He looks at a gloomily outfitted bunch a few tables away in the gravel pit. "They’re fucking rocking it hard style."

On hearing Hock’s keen observation, I confess to his bandmate Joe Oberjat that when I arrived to meet Bronze on this semi-overcast Saturday afternoon, I initially mistook him for someone at that picnic table — a surly-looking, gothed-out version of Mickey Rourke sandwiched in the middle of the pack.

"Which one? The industrial dude?" Oberjat asks.

"He looks a little pissed off," says vocalist Rob Spector. "But he’s about to pound a double shot of whiskey."

While this is my initial in-person meeting with the band, I first caught Bronze last summer, when they gave an unprecedented performance at a July 4 CELLspace event, cleverly titled "Born on the Fourth of Julive." That day, the trio was an unknown element of an awesome bill that included the likes of Death Sentence: Panda!, No Boss, Sic Alps, and Tussle.

Bronze’s set commenced with Hock, Oberjat, and Spector garbed in matching military suits and sitting side-by-side with their heads tilted downward. Three friends then sheared the trio’s locks while a patriotic number spouted over the speakers. After what seemed like nearly 15 minutes of clipping and cutting, the band members finally rose to their feet and played a knockout batch of tunes. The sound: seriously blissed psych drone-scapes and kraut goodness, à la Can and Harmonia, with smatterings of Flowers of Romance-era P.i.L.

"July 4 was definitely a very strategic-type thing," Spector says, laughing. "The haircuts took a really long time — I knew [they] were going to take longer then we expected."

"It was also our drunkest show," Oberjat adds.

Drunk or not, the band — which formed from the remnants of groups like Fuckwolf, the Vanishing, and Night After Night — has a knack for performances that please the eyes as well as the ear. It’s possible to get a sense of this by checking out some of the YouTube videos on Bronze’s MySpace page ( During one clip, shot in Big Sur, Spector teeters back and forth in a crazed manner, his Dave Thomas-tuned warble getting locked in a groove between Hock’s kinetic beats and Oberjat’s jacked-up, skittering synth sounds. A flood of bright colors spills over the group as Oberjat lurches about in the forefront, toying with his signature custom-made boxed-shaped instrument while swooping down occasionally to joust with a heap of floor pedals.

"We enjoy being a bit theatrical sometimes," Hock explains. "We’ll always [do] slight things that maybe no one will notice, but once in a while we ham it up a little bit. If we play, we want to put on a show in some fashion."

Though Bronze has yet to put out an official release, that’ll change in 2009. Queen’s Nails is set to drop the band’s 10-inch self-titled debut, and Hex will issue a 7-inch single. The band is also deep into recording a full-length for Tigerbeat6, which they hope to have ready before heading out for a European tour in the fall.


with T.I.T.S.

April 1, 9 p.m., $5

The Stud

399 Harrison, SF

(415) 863-6623

Only the hits


Philly’s Kurt Vile, a self-described homebody and "total record head," has been bashing out one jam after the other ever since his bluegrass-crazed father bought him a banjo for his 14th birthday. Born and raised just outside city limits in a town called Lansdowne, Vile got bitten by the music bug early on, listening to "bluegrass shit like Doc Watson" in his dad’s car while also being "way into acoustic, weird Beck, Pavement, and Sonic Youth and all that" before schooling himself on the likes of Brian Eno, John Fahey, and Neil Young.

"I’ve always been obsessed with a ton of bands — just buying lots of music — and always wanted to play guitar," he explained by phone from the brewery he works at in Fishtown, a section of Philadelphia he characterizes as the "Williamsburg of Philly." "I’m kind of like a sponge and read a lot of rock bios too, so once I get obsessed, I just buy everything by whoever I’m really obsessed with, and it just turns into an influence."

Already seven self-issued CD-Rs deep, Vile’s official debut, Constant Hitmaker (Gulcher), finally came last February, and spent much of the year as a buzz album. A compilation of Vile’s faves among his batch of CD-Rs, the album opens with "Freeway" — a true rock anthem that’s got all of the psych-pop and classic-rock fixings in all the right places. Constant Hitmaker also has neat little rustic-sounding fingerpickers like "Classic Rock in Spring" and "Slower Talkers" and includes plenty of tripped-out fuzz rockers for those who hail Spacemen 3 as godhead.

"There’s definitely a classic rock influence there," Vile said of Hitmaker. "I’m a fan of the song, and certain artists on classic rock radio have that thing where everything they do is great. ‘Freeway,’ for instance, sounds like Tom Petty and has that American pop feeling, but I also like to think that I make it my own, too."

Heading down the coast this week for his first West Coast tour, Vile is looking to having a prolific 2009: he plans to release both solo material and music from his band Kurt Vile and the Violators and unleash a whole stack of wax on banners like Mexican Summer, Skulltones, TestosterTunes, Woodsist, as well as a new full-length he’s currently shopping around to majors.


With Meg Baird, Sean Smith, and the Jazz Band

Sun/15, 9 p.m., $7–$10


853 Valencia, SF

(415) 970-0012

Seeing starzzz


› a&

Pitchfork Media has sort of become synonymous with junk-food news in recent years, sensationalizing almost every aspect of the independent music world for the hungry masses through dirt-dishing bites on the latest breaking headlines and scale-tipping — or dipping — album reviews. While some may see the Chicago online music publication as a rock-snob tabloid, there’s no denying the influence it’s had upon some independent musicians: artists such as Animal Collective and No Age have collared a kind of A-list celebrity status almost overnight thanks, in part, to the site of music sites.

But when I met with San Francisco group Nodzzz at drummer Eric Butterworth’s Upper Haight apartment, the three seemed averse to any hype they may garner from Pitchfork. When I mentioned that the publication had just reviewed the band’s self-titled, 10-song long-player on What’s Your Rupture? that very morning, the three met my remark with silence. Then Butterworth opined: "Pitchfork is lame, and it doesn’t even matter because that shit is stupid. If you base your musical interests on Pitchfork — fuck yourself."

Fair enough. While Nodzzz managed to capture an above-average 7.6 rating for its efforts, the outfit agreed, as vocalist-guitarist Anthony Atlas put it, that "[Pitchfork] reviews are always kind of contradictory" and "a positive review would be just as problematic as a negative review."

"It’s pretty fucking crazy how many people that goes out to," guitarist and backup vocalist Sean Paul Presley added. "It makes you feel pretty nervous because you already hold your own material pretty close to yourself and you wonder what’s gonna happen when you get a review like that, because Pitchfork is single-handedly responsible for making bands, what bands do well, and what bands sell records. It’s been an auspicious day not knowing what it actually means. I’m on the fence about whether it means anything more than just another review."

This review does come at a point not long after Nodzzz’s "I Don’t Wanna (Smoke Marijuana)" single, issued on Butterworth’s Make a Mess imprint. That release ended up on quite a few best-of-2008 short lists. But while the group’s name has amassed a wave of chatter on the blogosphere, Nodzzz have obvious convictions concerning the objectification of its image and the commercialization of its sound — even going so far as to turn down an opportunity to play at this year’s South by Southwest festival.

"I like pop and punk music when they cater to an audience and to fun," said Atlas, who formed the band with Presley and original drummer Pete Hilton in the fall of 2006 after relocating from Olympia, Wash., to the Bay Area for school. "Something about SXSW seems too market driven — kind of like a rock ‘n’ roll tradeshow. There’s a ton of fantastic bands playing, and I’m sure it’s a fun time, but I don’t feel like asserting ourselves in this broader rock ‘n’ roll market is what we’re all about."

Released in November 2008, the album channels the slapdash garage-pop urgencies of ’80s groups like the Feelies and Great Plains. "Is She There" opens the recording with a burst of amp crackle and drum jolt that’s over before you know it. On songs such as "In the City (Contact High)" and "Controlled Karaoke," the bright-eyed harmonies of Atlas and Presley bait you with nagging, sing-along choruses that get lodged in your skull for days on end, while "Highway Memorial Shrine" and "Losing My Accent" smother you in fuzz and chaos with a scrappy, twin-guitar assault of chiming hooks and jangly lo-fi, as well as Hilton’s trash-can rumble.

As Atlas sees it, his band’s fortunes can be chalked up to simply "tunneling through the fog" as each of its "little goals" are accomplished.

"I have no agenda with this band, but I do have goals, and I just see them as they become possible," he explained. "I feel like we have to have a healthy relationship with it because it can just end quickly. It’s so rewarding, but yet it’s a rock ‘n’ roll band — it’s a project with three people. You can’t stake a life on it."


It’s a hit


› a&

I’m glad I finally got my mitts on the self-issued CD-R from San Francisco titans High Castle: I feel like I’m back in ear-bleeding country with the trio’s Unwound-ishly, damaged style of noisy rock, nursing an insatiable appetite for more tinfoil-scorched guitar scuzz, blown-out low end, and full-tilt drum thwackage. As each song unloads, three howling voices punctuate the maelstrom. Try if you can to pass on this seven-song album after just one spin. If the punked-out oomph of "Soloman" and "No Mind" don’t bite you hard in the ass, then the annihiutf8g whomp of "Small Town Gay Bar" will certainly dish out the finishing touches.

As surprising as it may sound, this shower of pandemonium comes from three individuals who had their hearts set on becoming a pop group when they first convened in the summer of 2007. I yapped it up with the threesome over bowls of fideo and garlicky steak fries in drummer-vocalist Shaggy Denton’s SoMa apartment, while bassist-vocalist Wilson Drozdowski explained that High Castle aimed at becoming an actual band within the trio’s large circle of noise-making friends.

"We were like, ‘let’s start a rock band,’ because I felt I hadn’t seen a drum-bass-guitar band with songs in a long time," he disclosed. "It seemed like it was either improv or noise, so we wanted to do the opposite of that to see what would happen."

"We actually wanted it to be a pop band," said guitarist-vocalist Erin Allen with a laugh.

"None of us knew how to write pop music, so what ended up coming out was the closest we could get to doing that," Drozdowski continued. "Even when we try to write something that we think is poppy, it’s not poppy in the traditional sense. We always try and make the vocals very apparent by singing together."

"I guess that’s the one pop element that surfaces," Allen added. "But it’s not like the Mamas and the Papas."

Before HC, all three resided in Southern California, meeting through tours in bands such as Duchesses, Saviors, and Child Pornography. As Drozdowski, Denton, and Allen became jaded with the SoCal lifestyle, each separately trekked up to the Bay Area because, according to Denton, "the option was LA or here — and it was not going to be LA."

Reuniting in San Francisco with each member’s respective group in limbo, the three formed HC, but not before putting the collaboration on hold because of an unfortunate encounter between Allen and a car.

"We had to take a break because this one got hit by a car," Denton joked, pointing to Allen. "He was supposed to come over to my house and have some fideo and play PlayStation. I was worried because I kept getting the answering machine, and then somebody from General Hospital calls me and is like, ‘Um, do you know an Erin Allen? He told me to give you a message: he got hit by a car.’"

Aside from Allen’s slight dinger, the combo has been very active during the past year and a half, playing in just about every performance space dotting the Bay Area underground music scene with the likes of K.I.T., Stripmall Seizures, and Death Sentence: Panda! HC is currently in the mixing stages of its 12-inch debut for the Zum imprint, and after embarking on its first national tour last summer, the group hopes to hit the road once again this year. Whatever avenue this threesome decides to explore in the future — be it noisesome or poppy — I know I’ll be all ears.


With Stress Ape, Didimao, and the Dawns

Fri/23, 9 p.m., call for price


1351 Polk, SF

(415) 885-4535

At his Beck and call


› a&

The year 1994 was when Beck Hansen finally went electric. Prior to Mellow Gold (Geffen), he lodged in a shed, made homespun cassettes of lo-fi recordings, and busked on the streets of Los Angeles. Panned by critics as a novelty for slacker-minded Gen Xers, Beck epitomized the slack, flannel-draped, messy-haired ethos of most teenagers at the time — myself included — and his post-grunge anthem, "Loser," catapulted him to buzz clip status on MTV faster then you could spell Porno for Pyros. Shortly afterward, K Records quietly released One Foot in the Grave — an album’s worth of folk songs recorded before Mellow Gold that pretty much fell upon deaf ears while Beck rode his commercial wave of fame.

Mattey Hunter of the Portland, Ore., psych-folk-noise duo Meth Teeth, however, took notice. The vocalist-guitarist revealed through an e-mail that he purchased the album when he was 12 because "Loser" was "all over the radio," and he still considers it to be at the one of his favorite records.

"It’s just Beck and some friends, a trash-can acoustic, and him playing the songs he wants to play, totally stripped down," he pointed out. "He covers blues songs and sings sad love songs. I’ve never gotten into the other stuff he did, but that one blows my mind."

Meth Teeth’s folky inclinations are foreshadowed on the CD-R Hunter sent me in the mail. The disc comprises songs from the group’s February self-titled seven-inch on the Sweet Rot imprint as well as a handful of tracks from their forthcoming debut, Taking Dude Mountain by Strategy. It’s raw, yet Hunter and drummer Kyle Raquipiso jack up the din so that the needles kiss the red. The tunes are ultra-catchy with a psych-pop garagey tang. The amplifiers sound fried and blown out with fuzz and hiss while Raquipiso bangs away at his kit, and Hunter’s drawls are syrupy and monotone in delivery. You can hear Syd Barrett and the Kinks at once, but Hunter claims he started Meth Teeth in reaction to his past musical experiences, "coming from a long line of punk bands and dealing with shitty band politics."

"There is a great to deal to be said about someone who writes about what they think or feel rather than doing that post-punk lyrical thing that sounds like you’re trying to rip off David Byrne’s ideas," Hunter writes. "I love David Byrne, but you gotta change it up every once in a while. All styles wear out their welcome, as they should."


Sun/6, 9:30 p.m., $6

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

Noise Pop: Tossers


I want to live the Scott Reitherman life: from his harmony-soaked, listener-baiting songwriting to his skittering, synth-driven zeal, the Seattle multi-instrumentalist seems to be leading the pack in Throw Me the Statue through perfect days at the beach year-round.

Since Reitherman’s college days in upstate New York, he’s been hammering out a surplus of catchy, experimental pop recordings like a regular Robert Pollard. The fruit of his toils finally found its proper release when Reitherman issued TMTS’s debut, Moonbeams, on his Baskerville Hill imprint last summer. Since then TMTS has become an overnight buzz sensation in the blog community, a feat that caught the ears of several larger record labels before Reitherman decided to partner with Secretly Canadian for last fall’s rerelease of Moonbeams. Abounding with pinging beats and foamy electronics, "Yucatan Gold" could be Reitherman’s love poem to Stephin Merritt, while "Lolita" glows with chiming allure and sun-rich resonance. A full band will accompany Reitherman for this tour, so expect an engaging, magnified performance. (Chris Sabbath)


With Stellastarr*, Birdmonster, and the Hundred Days

Feb. 28, 8 p.m., $18

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750

>>Back to Noise Pop page

Resort recollections


Welcome to Mi Ami — where the only hint of tropical exposure is the stifling humidity of an all-night dance party. Here in Mi Ami, there are no arced palms, hungry crocs, or pesky tourists getting in the way of all the sheer nastiness shaking and stirring about. Within its pulsating realm — a world-beat machine of tireless, congalike aerobics — delayed and jangly guitars, dirty bass, and skronky electronics fill the dank atmosphere as sticky, gyrating bodies press up against one another and ripple to and fro. The sweat beads will probably sting your eyeballs, and you might even collapse from near exhaustion, but perhaps that’ll just indicate that your body is kicking into overdrive. At least you’ll know the noisesome dub punkers of San Francisco’s Mi Ami have put a dent in your psyche.

Daniel Martin-McCormick, the group’s lead vocalist and guitarist, confessed to me over the phone that his involvement with Mi Ami began as a result of his frustrations and technical limitations as a musician. Raised in what he described as a "very conservative" Washington DC, Martin-McCormick spent most of his time there playing in punk bands with current Mi Ami bassist Jacob Long, one of them the explosive dance-punk outfit Black Eyes. After that combo fizzled, the discouraged Martin-McCormick — who cited free jazz and modern composition as primary motivations to advance his guitar playing beyond punk rock — relocated to the Bay Area to study classical guitar at San Francisco State University in January 2005.

"At a certain point I felt like I was trying too much to fit into a box of what I thought my music probably should be and I wasn’t spending enough time on it," he explained. "I started to get into free jazz, which had a big impact on me because I was thinking, ‘Wow, this is insane,’ and it got me thinking, ‘Well, what am I doing with my life?’

"Not too many people playing punk are going to get beyond three good records, or whatever. So I felt I needed to take this a step further and start pushing myself in this kind of abstracted, rigorous way," he added.

After he chanced on Damon Palermo at a summer 2006 noise show where they were both playing sets, Martin-McCormick said, the two agreed that "playing in the improv genre wasn’t quite taking us to the places we were hoping to get to." So the pair decided to start their own project together.

"I’d gotten too far away from the original feeling of inspiration and more into wanting to imitate things I admired but couldn’t necessarily play," Martin-McCormick revealed. "I felt I needed to get back to something more personal and was listening to a lot of dance music, so I thought, ‘Well, I don’t know if this is a place to stay, but it’s a place to start. Here’s a beat — I can at least borrow this beat for a second, and maybe that’ll resuscitate me.’<0x2009>"

Since reinserting the beat into their life, Mi Ami played the hell out of the Bay Area DJ circuit before regrouping and handing bass duties to Long this past fall. Martin-McCormick is hopeful the band’s White Denim–issued 12-inch debut, African Rhythms, will see the light of day before Mi Ami embark on an East Coast tour in February, but in the meantime this dance party is just getting started. And it will never be the same again.


With Short Hair, Planets, and Manacle

Sat/12, 9:30 p.m., $5

Edinburgh Castle

950 Geary, SF

(415) 885-4074

“Why not do something really special?”


› a&

DIY fever is raging right now, racing across bridges like a maddening epidemic here in the Bay. It’s so damn thick that I can feel it leeching onto the back of my throat and sticking there like the unpleasant stench of some urine-soaked thrash pad where 20-odd squatters, each with a dog, are hiding out. But times are tough, as the Bay Area underground music community discovered earlier this month when 21 Grand, the Oakland grassroots platform for experimental art and music, shuttered its doors. It was a shocking blow — proving, after the closures of Mission Records and Balazo 18 Art Gallery before it, that the outlook continues to be challenging when it comes to maintaining an all-ages performance space without the unfriendly rap on the window.

The members of Didimao — three San Francisco transplants from different parts of the globe — make up a minute fraction of those mourning the perhaps temporary loss of the East Bay arts hub. In fact, they seemed somewhat reluctant to talk about their two-year-old project, instead filling in the spaces left by my questions by glorifying the old Mission punk scene or changing the subject and plugging away at their favorite local band at the moment.

During our two-hour conversation at the Inner Richmond ice cream shop where bassist Matt Chandler works, the trio continuously stressed the impact outfits such as Dory Tourette and the Skirt Heads, Curse of the Birthmark, and TSA have had on Didimao. Guitarist-vocalist Sergey Yashenko must have name-dropped Stripmall Seizures — a group Chandler plays with — at least 15 times and at one point even proclaimed that the Seizures are the best band in the country.

As our discussion unfolded, however, at least one thing became pretty clear: Didimao simply aspire to share their music, which works an unconventional vein similar to that of their predecessors yet feels out of touch with the current Bay Area music scene. "Scenes get so specialized in this city. If you go to a noise show, it’ll be strictly noise. If you go to a free jazz show, it’s only free jazz," Chandler said. "There’s so much shit going on that it almost acts against itself. I come from a small town in Indiana, and all the people who make noise or who are in a weird rock band are forced to hang out together and influence each other. Here it seems like people who are into noise are into nothing else. And they’re fascist about it."

Noise — at maximum abrasiveness and volume — nonetheless happens to be the key ingredient in Didimao’s repertoire. On its self-titled debut on the Cococonk label, the group heavily recalls the Butthole Surfers at their most acid damaged, mixing cow-punk riffs with improvised moments of dark, tripped-out electronics and pummeling tumult. Yashenko’s guitar buzz-saws harshly with loose, Middle Eastern–inspired arrangements and feedbacked clatter, while his buried Slavic yodel sounds as animalistic as a howling dog. Chandler musters hasty, fuzz-prone bass lines to match the breakneck tempos of drummer Miguel Serra, and the two of them fluctuate from slam-dance explosiveness to free-rock noodlings to western rhythms and back again.

Serra clued me in that Didimao’s songwriting process is informed by both their limitations and how they’d like to sound. "I feel like a lot of our songs right now are dictated by what we don’t want to sound like as much as what we do want to sound like," he explained. "None of us are virtuosos by any means, so it’s kind of hard to have an idea of what you want to sound like and just pull it off.

"We come up with something and try and make it as acceptable to our standards as possible," Serra continued. "Recently, we’ve really wanted to be kickass, so on a lot of our new songs we’re, like, ‘How do we make this song kick more ass?’<0x2009>"

In addition to all of the ass kicking in the recording studio, Didimao have one other goal they would like to tackle in 2008, an ambition Yashenko returned to repeatedly throughout our chat.

"In the future, what we really want to be doing is playing mainly all-ages shows outdoors for free, because we all have jobs and don’t really need the money," he said. "In the end you probably end up doing all kinds of different shit, but after doing it so many times you want the shows to be this special event. So why not do something really special, you know? Like start doing shows in Ocean Beach at 3 a.m." *


With Trainwreck Riders, Stripmall Seizures, Tinkture, and People Eaters

Fri/4, 8 p.m., $6

924 Gilman Street Project

924 Gilman, Berk.

(510) 525-9926

Year in Music: Throwback or keeper?


I was born at the dawn of the 1980s, and as I’ve gradually climbed the aging ladder, the remnants of what I recall from my childhood have slowly faded into a dim star set to expire in some far-too-advanced digital-age contraption. I’ve been pretty hungry of late for an endless helping of nostalgic pop culture, and nothing satisfies an empty stomach more than watching The Making of Thriller or catching a five-second clip of Hulk Hogan leg-dropping Mr. Wonderful. You see, when I was a wee youngster, I channeled many of my fantasies from TV debauchery: I wanted to be the Karate Kid and yearned to live on the set of Pee-wee’s Playhouse. I started watching MTV before kindergarten, and the thought of soaring from a wire above the sea of 10,000 screaming fans in Bon Jovi’s "Livin’ on a Prayer" music video seemed like heaven to me. I longed to spike a volleyball in some drunken beachgoer’s face during the weeklong episodes of MTV’s Spring Break, but the closest I ever came to a beach was the grungy kiddie pool in my backyard. Sadly, I was never able to find another means of capitalizing on my fool’s paradise, but I remain convinced in my adulthood that something will eventually creep up and take me back to the Cosby generation.

YouTube finally answered my prayers in the beginning of 2005. Then I had the entire 1980s at my fingertips, and I’ve been hooked ever since. It’s been nothing but talking cars, pastel-clothed coppers, and cat-eating aliens from the planet Melmac in my tiny universe. I can now explore and eat up all of the catchy theme songs from old faves such as Pinwheel, Hey Dude, and Hickory Hideout, or scratch my head and wonder why I found Punky Brewster so compelling in the first place. I’m able to watch Alanis Morissette getting slimed on You Can’t Do That on Television, and then I can immediately point and click on a poor-quality money shot of Mr. T flexing his muscles in front of a burning helicopter. It’s so damn bad, but it’s addicting. I’ve come to realize that most of these flashes from the past should have stayed in my childhood, simply because they seemed so much cooler back then. Just last week I watched the first two segments of The Decline of Western Civilization, but they didn’t do it for me, because I just didn’t identify with those lifestyles as a toddler.

Much of my compulsion of wanting to relive the ’80s stems from the fact that all of my idols from that period — from Luke Skywalker to the Lost Boys — were larger than life. And I suppose I’m seeking an escape from the perpetual yawn of reality TV. I might not be Marty McFly, but if I ever find myself behind the wheel of a time-traveling DeLorean DMC-12, I will probably set the flux capacitor to the year 1989 and put it in park.

TOP 10

Britney Spears loses it

The Spits at the Great American Music Hall, Oct. 15

No Age, Weirdo Rippers (FatCat)

Christian Fennesz and Ryuichi Sakamoto, Cendre (Touch)

Calvin Johnson at the Rickshaw Stop, June 15

Black Dice, Load Blown (Paw Tracks). Someday they could become a really great pop band.

Paula Abdul’s drunken interview on the Fox News Channel

Japanther at the Hemlock Tavern, May 30

Aa, GAaME (Gigantic)

Kanye West, Graduation (Roc-A-Fella). My favorite album of 2007. I hear he’s remixing a Michael Jackson song for the 25th-anniversary rerelease of Thriller.

Rock on the sidelines


› a&

Did Ian Hunter kill rock for Cleveland? Growing up in that blue-collared grime zone of fiery rivers and industrial blur, I never saw much rock rolling through my old haunt, and I never really understood what drove the former Mott the Hoople frontman to patronize us with "Cleveland Rocks" and provide my hometown with a surefire anthem for our flawed sports teams. While the city does get cited for a lot of proto-punk activity (the Electric Eels, Rocket from the Tombs), its influence on the rock world abruptly screeches to a halt there. If there’s any truth to Hunter’s rallying cry for the Mistake on the Lake, I’m pretty certain he wasn’t getting loud and snotty with the likes of the barflies and crusty punks at a Pagans show, or fostering a soft spot for the quirk-ball nerdiness of Devo, for that matter. "It’s all bollocks," as you might say, Mr. Hunter, so thanks, but no thanks.

If anything, "no one gets out of this town alive" seems like a more applicable rock slogan for this northeastern Ohio hub. While I rapped over the phone with fellow Clevelander Chris Kulcsar, the throaty lead vocalist of This Moment in Black History, that notion recurred as he discussed some of the disadvantages that come with being in a Midwestern band. For one, according to Kulcsar, there’s nothing glamorous about Cleveland, so a lot of music critics tend to ignore its scene.

"I feel like people from outside the city never take bands from Cleveland seriously," he explained from his parents’ house. "It’s so hard for bands from here to get a booking agent to be interested in you, and if you want to get beyond playing at peoples’ DIY spaces and basements — which is fine; it’s great doing that — I find it’s really tough.

"It’s killed a lot of bands from around here," Kulcsar continued, "because they’ll try and tour, and there’s nothing more demoralizing than spending six weeks playing to 10 people every night."

But Kulcsar’s not that bent out of shape: his band’s already sizable following in the underground punk community has swelled in the past year due to the release of its sophomore full-length, It Takes a Nation of Assholes to Hold Us Back (Coldsweat, 2006), and a much-acclaimed performance at this year’s South by Southwest conference.

TMIBH’s roots trace back to a housewarming party that Kulcsar threw in the fall of 2002, but its members are seasoned vets of the garage and punk scenes who have served time in such outfits as the Bassholes, the Lesbian Makers, the Chargers Street Gang, and Neon King Kong. Recorded in two 12-hour sessions at Steve Albini’s Electrical Audio studio in Chicago, It Takes a Nation explodes with a raw, art-punk aggressiveness that’s both innovative and open-ended, offering an honest portrayal of the group’s run-down Middle America surroundings with lyrics that touch on alienation, humor, oppression, and rage. Guitarist Buddy Akita paws out filth-driven noise in minute-long bursts from one tune to the next, while Kulcsar frantically screams like a rabid lunatic and noodles with a detuned keyboard. The rhythm section of bassist Lawrence Daniel Caswell and drummer Lamont "Bim" Thomas thunders noisily in the background, alternating between brutal avidity and blues-driven backbone.

Though It Takes a Nation comes across as full-on garage punk, it should be viewed as more of a celebration of interracial assimilation and interaction within music, no matter what the genre. And while not all of TMIBH’s members are African American, the band explicitly emphasizes the theme throughout the recording’s 35-minute run. According to Kulcsar, TMIBH are focused on stressing the significance of black culture and its advancements in rock music.

"People forget a lot of the time that rock music is actually black music, and I think that’s important to all of us in the band, but especially to Bim and Lawrence — this idea that rock music came out of a blues and R&B tradition and now it’s just viewed in this really homogenized, white culture," he opines. "A lot of it comes from wanting to just get back to the idea that there can be black rock music or black people involved in punk."

And Kulcsar is conscious enough to step away from the role of spokesperson for black rock. "I feel like out of all the people in the band, I’m the least apt to speak about it, because sometimes I get weirded out saying I’m in a band called TMIBH and I’m a white singer," he confesses. "There’s just baggage that goes along with that I’m sometimes weighed down by…. But I guess it’s too late now." *


With the Late Young and Epic Sessions

Dec. 12, 9:30 p.m., $6

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

Death balm


Thurston Moore–ites still absorbing the noiseless acoustics of Trees Outside the Academy, his sophomore full-length released last month on his Ecstatic Peace imprint, may be unaware of another basement romp from the Sonic Youth guitarist, which the Los Angeles label Deathbomb Arc put out as a vinyl-only split in August. Delivered white hot and fresh to your record player at 33 rpm, Thrash Sabbatical includes three slabs of glossy vinyl designed and packaged by the artists of Not Not Fun Records in a large pizza box spray-painted in fluorescent hues of pink, orange, and yellow. The box set highlights Moore at varying degrees, ranging from the calming, breezy sensations of the acoustic instrumental "Petite Bone" to the free-noise guitar slayings of "Creemsikkle," and pairs him in three separate instances with the clattery lineup of Barrabarracuda, Men Who Can’t Love, and — gasp! — Kevin Shields?

Uh, no, not that Kevin Shields. The My Bloody Valentine leader’s name also happens to be the nom de plume of LA native Eva Aguila, a harsh-noise soloist whose crushing bursts of blackened tumult have, for the past three years, exceeded Shields’s drone-layer-and-loop blueprint at hair-raising volumes. Aguila started KS as a means to document her work and tour as a solo musician after graduating from college but has frequently collaborated with guest player Amy Vecchione under the KS moniker, and together the duo supply two powerful-sounding tracks to Thrash Sabbatical that merge roaring feedback and unrelenting chaos with shrill gadgetries. Aguila — who is also a member of Gang Wizard and just started an electronic-dance outfit called Winners — revealed over the phone that she’s into "aggressive music, even when listening to other genres," but is put off when people criticize harsh noise for being, well, just a bunch of goddamn noise.

"Lately I’ve really gotten into the idea that you can have abrasive music and still have it be beautiful," she explained. "Like, it can be kind of blissful, especially because a lot of people that are into harsh noise think that it can only be this one thing, and I strongly disagree with that. You can have different emotions from it and get other things out of it." She laughed. "I don’t know if it makes a difference that I’m a woman or something, but I’ve always been into it. It’s what gets me pumping."


With Sword Heaven and 16 Bitch Pileup

Sat/20, 9:30 p.m., $7

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

Eat skull


I knew I was getting into some trouble when I first discovered that Eat Skull — a noisome bunch of skuzz rockers from Portland, Ore. — has two members who used to bring the motherfuckin’ ruckus alongside Adam Stonehouse in the Hospitals. But I knew I was in for a treat as well. I was certain the band would have no problem channeling the Hospitals’ cathartic weirdness and crackling dissonance, and the scorched intro of "Stuff Reverse," off ES’s self-titled 7-inch debut (Meds), assured me the end result would be painfully loud.

Flushed with crunchy guitars, galloping fuzz bass, and psych-fried organ, the record’s three bustling numbers blatantly scream, "Garage rock revival!" even as the music also finds the outfit tapping into its hardcore and no-wave influences. Though bristling with gravelly resonation, organ gives "Seeing Things" an ultrasunny vibe, turning it into the four-piece’s closest brush with pop, while "Things I Did When I Dyed My Hair" sounds like a tribute to "The Cowboy Song" by PiL. Groups like DNA and Teenage Jesus and the Jerks come to mind too.

The recording quality sounds bottomless, as if ES is trapped in a well. Vocalist Rob Enbom’s hollers echo in and out of tune, the drums are barely audible, and the entire thing sounds messy most of the time. Enbom revealed through an e-mail that the band’s recording techniques are "four-track, eight-track, and Radio Shack" and that "the garage thing results from recording the album three weeks after we started playing together on a four-track, drunk." He also disclosed that ES dubbed their songs over some old Chinese opera tapes, which probably factors into the filthy sound — and the authentic basementlike feel. If this recording is a sign of things to come, I would suggest stocking up on plenty of earplugs before trotting down to the Hemlock.


With Scout Niblett and Monster Women

Thurs/11, 9:30 p.m., $8

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

All the rage


Los Angeles two-piece No Age — ex of Wives — ply a grimy, low-tech hybrid of fuzz-prone guitar loops, surfy psych-noise, and ear-shattering skate rock that’s been hell-raising the SoCal music scene since the band’s April 2006 debut.

When they’re not generating a shoegazey yet Ramones-channeled noise punk, vocalist-drummer Dean Spunt and guitarist Randy Randall use the band name as an umbrella under which to display their talents as visual artists. Firmly ingrained within their city’s underground art community alongside punk diehards like I’m a Fucking Gymnast, Abe Vigoda, and Silver Daggers, NA frequently perform at and curate art exhibits for the Smell, the all-ages downtown LA performance space dedicated to promoting DIY art and music. The pair also like to sport their own rainbow-colored T-shirts, and over the phone from LA, Randall recently revealed that they were hard at work silk-screening bandannas for their fall US tour.

"I’ll let you know that Dean just printed an amazing pink bandanna with gold ink on it. It’s metallic gold that’s sparkly," he exclaimed. "It looks fucking awesome."

Sharing their band name with a 1987 SST compilation of instrumentals, NA recently embarked on a similar path — sort of. In March the two dropped five limited, vinyl-only EPs on five different record labels on the same day. NA’s first full-length, Weirdo Rippers (Fat Cat), compiles cuts from those releases — it’s a remarkable documentation of Randall and Spunt’s progress as musicians since Wives went their separate ways in late 2005. Interchanging drumstick-splintering hysteria and seedy feedbacked blasts ("Boy Void") with ambient garage ("Neck Escaper") and Christian Fennesz–styled guitar squalls ("Escarpment"), NA (who recently signed to Sub Pop) sound aggro-driven without coming off as bombastic — something Randall admitted the group has avoided since its birth.

"I think Wives had a bit of a macho-guy complex, and that’s certainly something we didn’t want to work with in No Age. Hence maybe the rainbow T-shirts," he said with a laugh. (Chris Sabbath)


With KIT, Mi Ami, and Party Fowl

Tues/18, 9 p.m., $8

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 621-4455

Against them!


› a&

So the members of Rage Against the Machine are having themselves a little reunion outing, eh? What a great reason for a massive flock of shirtless, chest-bumping frat boys to jump in place with middle fingers extended while screaming, "Fuck you — I won’t do what you tell me!"

It should come as no surprise that the politically charged rap-rock foursome caved in for a supposed one-off performance — their first in almost seven years — at the recent Coachella Festival. Since 2001 the festival’s organizers have been shelling out the bling for such iconic alt-rockers as Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Stooges, and the Pixies to kiss and make up for one stifling day in the desert. Now Rage-oholics have a machine to rail along with again — at least until October.

So far the group has only committed to a string of scattered festival appearances around the country, including four dates headlining the "Rock the Bells" tour, the annual hip-hop festival including performances from the Wu-Tang Clan, Public Enemy, Nas, Mos Def, and EPMD. According to RATM, there are no plans for a new album; guitarist Tom Morello stated in a May interview that recording a follow-up to their last studio disc, Renegades (Epic, 2000), would be "a whole other ball of wax right there" and "writing and recording albums is a whole different thing than getting back on the bike and playing these songs."

But why play these songs now? Is it only a coincidence that the RATM realliance followed the dissolution of Audioslave in February? Morello confirmed this with in March, revealing that "the Rage rebirth occurred last fall when it was clear that there was not going to be any Audioslave touring in the immediate future." In addition, sources for the Los Angeles Times disclosed that Coachella’s quick sellout and the ticket scalping that followed factored into the band’s decision to add more dates after that appearance.

RATM, however, have spun their reunion to as a response to the "right-wing purgatory" that this country has "slid into" under the George W. Bush administration since the group’s demise in 2000. As Morello additionally told, "These times, I think, demand a voice like Rage Against the Machine to return" and "the seven years that Rage was away the country went to hell. So I think it’s overdue that we’re back."

So what took RATM so long, and why listen to a leftist band that’s earned its salary from a subsidiary of a corporate media conglomerate, namely Sony Records? And who’s willing to listen — the decider in chief? Efforts ranging from the worldwide protests against US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to legislation to cut off war funding crafted by the Democratic-led Congress have failed to move the Bush camp. It’s doubtful that a band known for its aversion to both the Democratic and Republican parties is going to have any impact.

Since RATM’s so-called "Dixie Chicks moment" at Coachella, corporate media has definitely scrutinized the group’s defiance of the Bush regime. During a performance of "Wake Up," Zach de la Rocha made a speech stressing that the current administration "should be hung and tried and shot." The band members quickly came under fire, and on a segment of Hannity and Colmes, Alan Colmes pegged them as "anarchists," while Sean Hannity suggested that they should be investigated by the Secret Service. Guest Ann Coulter scoffed, "They’re losers, their fans are losers, and there’s a lot of violence coming from the left wing." In rebuttal, de la Rocha deemed the three "fascist motherfuckers" and reiterated that the band believes Bush "should be brought to trial as a war criminal," then "hung and shot." Thanks for clearing that up, Zach.

RATM’s songs have more significance today then they did 10 years ago, but if RATM choose to have a voice now, will their cause be served come November should they dissolve again? It’s likely de la Rocha would retreat to the rock he’s been hiding under for the past seven years if the band decides to part ways a second time. Even if the rap-rock pioneers’ material is tagged as anarchist propaganda for the masses, they definitely have something more to offer listeners than does, say, a Smashing Pumpkins reunion. A reassembled RATM couldn’t come at a better time — and these songs are meant to be played and heard now. Perhaps this time we’re ready to listen and stand up with them. *


Rock the Bells Tour

Sat/18, 1 p.m., $76–$151

McCovey Cove Parking Lot

24 Willie Mays Plaza, SF

(909) 971-0474

Party with me, Oh My God


› a&

The Toxic Avenger pawing ferociously at his slime-dipped guitar while an army of redneck zombies feasts on a moshing drove of punk rockers — now that’s a cool visual. Maybe Giuseppe Andrews — Cabin Fever star and an independent filmmaker who’s had a number of his movies distributed through Troma Entertainment — can keep Toxie and his flesh-eating pals in mind for his next music video for Chicago prog poppers Oh My God. With one director’s credit for the quartet already under his belt, Andrews recently added a second by helming the video for the title track off the band’s fifth full-length, Fools Want Noise (Split Red). Andrews’s vision for the song might not be a gore-packed freakfest typical of the Troma catalog, but there’s no denying the oddball humor and sicko charm exhibited within his art. As the video opens, a grizzly, bronze-tanned old-timer dressed in a thong shimmies in place to vocalist Billy O’Neill’s rabid whine and snapping fingers. "Two eyes swimming in a sea of fat / A liver drowning in a vodka vat / You want more of that / Do you want more of that? / Well the TV is on and the radio is on cuz nobody can make a choice / Fools want noise," O’Neill proclaims between random shots of a lip-synching cheeseburger puppet and trailer trash conga-dancing around a swimming pool. Just as the song erupts, Andrews — clad in a bathrobe and flaunting a set of horse-size wax choppers — pops up onscreen and slams his body around a living room.

From his Chicago apartment, OMG synthesizer player Ig said he was a bit puzzled by the video’s kooky imagery on initial viewing but has since warmed up to it. Andrews’s actors, he explained, are "the mostly elderly people who live in his Ventura trailer park, where he lives along with his dad. He chooses to live in this trailer park and to use his fellow residents as actors — many of whom are ex–drug addicts, Vietnam vets, etcetera.

"Basically, he makes John Waters’s films look like Disney movies."

But enough about Andrews. Playing a mash of disco, glam, and hard rock, OMG has garnered plenty of fans of its own through its flamboyant live shows and relentless tour schedule since forming in 1999. Uniting bustling organ, bassy grooves, and Bish’s propulsive drumbeats with a heap of distortion, the group sounds like the musical spawn of Robert Fripp and Gary Richrath, that guy from REO Speedwagon. Somehow work in a jealous Bob Mould, and the result is Fools Want Noise, a guitar-laden punk onslaught ripe with devil-horned salutes and tempos jacked up by adrenalin.

The album also finds the combo joined by friend and Darediablo guitarist Jake Garcia. Though all of OMG’s previous endeavors were accomplished without the use of guitar, Ig said, the three didn’t have a "prior plan to get punky or guitary. We just jumped at the chance to record with Jake." Then again, the added guitar really shouldn’t be a shock to fans — it just adds to OMG’s ever-teetering dynamic.

"I have an organ sound that’s very distinctive, and no matter how pliable Billy’s voice is, he’s still such a Billy," Ig said. "Bish too has a drum sound style I could pick out of a lineup.

"And somehow, once Billy’s background, mine, and Bish’s get poured into a beaker, the result consistently is the unique chemical called Oh My God." *


With the Faceless Werewolves

Thurs/12, 9:30 p.m., $5

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0925

Free William


› a&

William Hooker is feeling good right about now. The voice of the 61-year-old composer, drummer, and seasoned kingpin of the free-jazz world doesn’t betray an inkling of wear and tear. His utterance is eloquent in delivery and animated in expression and possesses a rather youthful quality coated in optimism. During a phone call from his Hell’s Kitchen apartment, Hooker lightheartedly raps about his enduring tenacity in hammering out art as an artistic director, musician, and poet and touches on life in New York City: his love for the theaters in his neighborhood, his hand in codeveloping the nonprofit Rhythm in the Kitchen Festival, and even the friend who gave him a rare copy of a silent film by Oscar Micheaux. As Hooker stresses frequently during the conversation, "It’s a good thing."

But the one thing that surfaced often throughout our discussion was the New Yorker’s impending trek to the Bay Area for a one-off performance. Hooker reveals that he hopes his visit to San Francisco will grow into an opportunity to return and build on this experience with more West Coast shows the next time around.

"This is going to be the start of the first time I perform annually in the Bay. Basically I’m trying to see what’s on the horizon right now because I don’t know what’s happening in the Bay, to tell you the truth," he says with a laugh. "I don’t think there is any difference in the quality of musicianship, but I do think there is a difference in the attitude of musicianship. Here it’s a little bit edgier. It could be because of the way Manhattan is, but I’m looking forward to having that free feeling for a change and just letting this opportunity grow."

Skimming through Hooker’s bulky résumé, one finds that the musician’s lifelong pursuits have been about nothing less than self-growth. Born and raised in New Britain, Conn., Hooker got off to an early start as a drummer for the Flames, a rock ‘n’ roll group that backed up singers and bands such as Dionne Warwick, Freddie Cannon, and the Isley Brothers. At college he studied 20th-century composers and independently researched the Blue Note Records catalog while performing in ensembles that played straight-ahead jazz, or "tunes," as Hooker referred to the music. He says his late-’60s move to the Bay Area was what really shaped his musical perceptions, a discovery that allowed him to hone his skills as a free-jazz musician.

"California opened me up to a different kind of approach to life," Hooker says. "Out of that came a desire to want to extend forms more. There was a lot more exploring of different cultures and playing with different sorts of people. You know, using a lot of drummers instead of me just being the one."

After relocating to the East Coast, Hooker finally established his home base in NYC in the mid-’70s, when he was involved in the loft scene with cats such as David S. Ware, Cecil McBee, David Murray, and Billy "Bang" Walker. He continued to perform in a number of jazz ensembles throughout the ’80s before mingling with lower-Manhattan noise rockers like Thurston Moore, Lee Ranaldo, Christian Marclay, and Elliot Sharp during the ’90s.

"The combination of jazz with noise … I must say, the time was culturally right for me and many of the free-jazz and rock people to come together," Hooker says. "I think that time has passed. There’s another thing going on now. And for people that like to go back to it, I like to remind myself that that happened already. Artistically I’m not in that place anymore."

Hooker may have moved on from the free-rock aesthetic, but his limits have been boundless for some time now, especially when it comes to experimentation. Playing in support of his new album, Dharma (KMBjazz), a duet recording with reedist Sabir Mateen, and his forthcoming Season’s Fire (Important), a trio full-length rounded out by Bill Horist and Eyvind Kang, Hooker acknowledges that he’s just trying to connect with listeners who are on "a certain level as far as free jazz goes." He believes he’s found two of those people in reed player Oluyemi Thomas and bassist Damon Smith, who are in his Bliss Trio.

"I’m looking forward to what’s going to happen when we play at the Hemlock, because both of these musicians are very good," Hooker says. "There’s no doubt about that."*


With Weasel Walter Group

Thurs/5, 9:30 p.m., $8

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

Smells like DIY spirit


› a&

K Records founder and ex–Beat Happener Calvin Johnson once wrote in New York Rocker, "Rock ‘n’ roll is a teenage sport, meant to be played by teenagers of all ages — they could be 15, 25, or 35. It all boils down to whether they’ve got the love in their hearts, that beautiful teenage spirit."

That sentiment still holds for the Olympia, Wash., native, who will turn 45 this November. The deep-drawling baritone is probably best known for spreading Beat Happening’s jangle-pop gospel from the mid-’80s to the early ’90s. Yet he also formed the recently reunited Halo Benders with Built to Spill’s Doug Martsch, as well as Cool Rays, the Go Team, and Dub Narcotic Sound System. He’s collaborated with groups such as the Jon Spencer Blues Explosion, Mount Eerie, Mirah, and the Blow and has helped organize the International Pop Underground Festival, in addition to the forthcoming Helsing Junction Sleepover in Thurston County, Wash. And throughout his quarter-century pursuit of youthful verve — whether as bandmate, producer, label owner, or festival organizer — Johnson has kept the company of those who share his distinct brand of DIY devotion. Rather than being concerned with aesthetics or lack of talent, he and his peers know it’s more essential to be sincere, truthful, and confident with what feels natural when it comes to music making.

Some of those chums include K alums Jason Anderson (Wolf Colonel), Kyle Field (Little Wings), and Adam Forkner (White Rainbow), the three of whom Anderson deemed the Sons of the Soil and who tagged along with Johnson as his backing band on a 2003 West Coast tour. Johnson said over the phone from his K Records headquarters in Olympia that Anderson approached him in 2003 about sifting through Johnson’s solo work and other projects and revamping them with a rock outfit. Johnson, who usually simply plays acoustic sets during his live performances, didn’t need much persuasion.

"The arrangements on some of the songs vary greatly from the recordings that I had previously done," he explained. "Particularly ‘Lies Goodbye,’ which on my solo album was just me with an acoustic guitar. And here it’s more of an upbeat, rocking number. That all came out of the fact that when we first started playing together, the arrangements all came naturally."

At the tour’s conclusion, the foursome agreed to enter Johnson’s Dub Narcotic Studio and lay down songs from their excursion. "It was just a band we put together for a tour, but then we were, like, ‘Oh, we’re all practiced up — why don’t we document this?’" Johnson remembered. The result of the sessions, released almost four years after the fact, Calvin Johnson and the Sons of the Soil (K) is a buoyant, funk-charged listen, updated by the quartet in a manner Johnson himself may never have envisioned. At times romantically soul-driven ("Can We Kiss"), at other times bluesy ("What Was Me"), the album mainly consists of high-spirited, bass-heavy rockers ("Tummy Hop," "Sand").

"I’m really happy with the way the record turned out," Johnson said, "because it was fun to make and I like the way the songs are interpreted."

Two live interpretations of "Tummy Hop" and "What Was Me," drawn from the band’s tour, pop up on the CD, both containing interludes during which the group quietly plays in the background while Johnson rambles on like a lounge singer. At one point during the latter, he states, "So people say to me, ‘Calvin Johnson … who are you?’"

I think it’s safe to say that question’s already been answered. *


With Julie Doiron

Fri/15, 6 p.m., $10

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011

Nerves of Chrome


› a&

Whatever happened to all the cyberpunks? Once upon a Blade Runner, it looked like neo-noirists and novelists from the early 1980s were finally getting turned on to George Orwell’s vision, predicting a dystopian, nightmarish future in which humans were subject to conditioning and control. Even musicians were getting it: perhaps inspired by Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music (Buddah, 1975), such artists as Suicide, Throbbing Gristle, and Pere Ubu were dabbling in a postapocalyptic music world by the close of the ’70s. But if there was one band that dared to define the genre back then, Chrome was it.

Lauded by critics and fans as one of the pioneers of industrial rock, the San Francisco outfit coupled psych-punk and electrodub with lyrical themes of alienation, paranoia, and ’50s sci-fi cinema, though its sound mirrored bands like the Sonics and Wipers when drummer Damon Edge and bassist Gary Spain came together in 1976. Following the release of its debut, The Visitation (Siren), later that year, the group folded once its members realized the album was a sales flop. Everything changed, however, once Spain and Edge hooked up with Helios Creed, a guitarist whom Spain had jammed with during the early ’70s. As Creed explained over the phone, "Chrome was the only band that was doing something I was interested in … space rock, punk rock, and the sci-fi kind of thing."

"It was really psychedelic, and it wasn’t in to be psychedelic back then. It was just punk and Budweiser," he continued. "Psychedelia would remind punks of the hippies, so they wouldn’t want anything to do with that. And I said, ‘Well, that’s great, ’cause acid punk doesn’t exist.’"

Creed also revealed that a falling-out during the recording sessions for Chrome’s sophomore effort, Alien Soundtracks (Siren, 1978), resulted in Spain’s exit in 1977 and subsequently ushered in a radical shift away from the band’s protopunk beginnings.

"Damon started playing some tapes that they had made a year or two before that were outtakes from The Visitation, and I said, ‘God! This stuff is fucking great!’" Creed said, laughing. "I liked it better than The Visitation, and I suggested that we make stuff like that and integrate it into our punk set."

Alien Soundtracks‘ 1979 follow-up, Half Machine Lip Moves (Siren), adhered to this formula as well. Joining scratchy, three-chord guitars and trash can–like drums with Creed’s growled vocals and an excess of waterlogged-sounding effects, the result mirrored some otherworldly murky realm. By the time Creed and Edge’s final collaboration, 3rd from the Sun (Siren), was released in 1982, the combo was heading in a more gothic direction, similar to that of contemporaries Killing Joke and Swans.

Chrome remained a duo until its ’83 demise, though the bandmates adopted a taped drum machine nicknamed Johnny L. Cyborg as their third member and briefly enlisted John and Hilary Stench from Pearl Harbour and the Explosions. During this period the group was primarily a recording project and only played live twice, to sold-out crowds in San Francisco and at a Bologna, Italy, festival. Edge moved to Europe to start another version of Chrome, while Creed remained stateside to work on his solo career, angry that he was left behind.

After Edge died in 1995, Creed carried on with the band because he felt he was just as entitled as his ex-bandmate to put out Chrome records. Since 1996, Creed has recorded a handful of full-lengths under the Chrome moniker but tends to focus more on his solo material. His current West Coast tour will include Chrome and Helios Creed songs, and he revealed he hasn’t ruled out a future full-on Chrome tour. Creed also wanted to set the record straight about his strained partnership with Edge.

"Don’t get me wrong. I don’t hate Damon. We just went through some shit," he clarified. "I forgive and love everybody." *


With Battleship

Sat/9, 9:30 p.m., $12

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF

(415) 923-0923

The personal history, adventures, experience, and observation of David Copperfuck


What’s up with all these "fuck"-ing bands of late? I’m referencing the band name phenomenon: it used to be about being "pink" this or "black" that or "wolf" or "bear" something, but it looks like our favorite four-letter word is now reaping the benefits of name-gaming fun. "Fuck" names might be nothing new — we all recall the Matador Records’ Bay Area outfit that sported the word in its singular form during the ’90s — but it looks like being a "mountain" nowadays just isn’t as cool as it used to be.

To David Copperfuck — vocalist Molly Samuel, drummer Dean Bein, guitarist Chris Baker, and bassist Avi Klein — the so-called trend is a joke. The mere mention that their moniker snagged top billing in the Onion for an end-of-the-year poll titled "Worst Band Names of 2006" generates a round of laughter from the San Francisco punkers. Baker jokingly reveals while hanging out in Samuel’s bike-littered Mission District apartment that "it was really challenging to shoot ourselves in the foot" and that the quartet were "just fucking themselves over ahead of time" by selecting the alias.

"We weren’t trying to be clever or anything," Bein adds while lounging on a recliner. "We were just trying to capture the essence or magic of a couple of words."

But then nothing serious seems to resonate with this bunch. During our two-hour powwow, the group resembles four giddy college kids stretched out lazily on Samuel’s couches, sipping cans of beer and bullshitting about their day jobs, their obsession with the apocalypse, and various extracurricular activities.

"I’m in a play," Bein says when asked whether any of David Copperfuck’s members currently play in any other bands. "It’s called Jurassic Park 4."

"But you have a show, right?" Samuel inquires.

"Yeah, we’re opening for Japanther," Bein replies before cracking a wry smile.

David Copperfuck formed in San Francisco in the fall of 2005, but their friendship harks back to 2002, when they first met at Oberlin College. The four were actively involved in the school’s indie scene and played in two groups, Red Tape Apocalypse and Zohar.

"This band is sort of an amalgamation of those prior bands," Baker says. "RTA was like straight-up, Blatz-style punk with two singers going full throttle, while Zohar was more about going big-time, playing the long songs, and trying to do something that was beyond our technical skills."

The band members acknowledge that they found it hard to continue after graduation with the two projects, which broke up as everyone began to relocate. By August 2005, the members of David Copperfuck had all migrated to San Francisco and, according to Samuel, knew they were going to start a new group once they got here. And it looks like the Oberlin gang’s West Coast venture was a smart choice after all: in its year-and-a-half existence, David Copperfuck has immersed itself in the Bay Area’s thriving punk community and currently plays out as much as possible.

"I don’t think we’ve ever asked for a show," Klein says. "We never really campaign. That can sound really immodest, but we just have friends, and we are supportive of those people and their bands, and they return the favor, I guess."

And regardless of whether they’re sharing the spotlight with floor crouchers, basement dwellers, or bus rats, the quartet is definitely hip to the unconventional venue. So the title of David Copperfuck’s debut 7-inch, "Chalet Chalet" (Party Turtle), seems fitting. It’s a crunchy mix of three-chord guitars, bass distortion, and frantic drum noise that recalls bands such as the Germs, the Bags, and Crass. Samuel’s distraught bark adds to the fray.

"I feel like our shows are always really fun, because there’s not really any posturing," Samuel offers. "We’re pretty unassuming with the people. We set up, and then it just kind of explodes, and it’s like ‘Here we are.’"

The four hope to soon release dual split singles with Oakland’s KIT and Orinda’s ParasitesGo! and will also embark on their first West Coast tour with Connie Fucking Francis in June. They also run True Panther Sounds, a record label they started in college, which has released albums by Lemonade, Broken Strings, and Standing Nudes. So what took David Copperfuck so long when it came to documenting themselves? Bein confesses that their debut single took a while to make because of their "inexperience with the whole record recording and releasing prospect of being in a band."

"I think we are about as unprofessional as it goes," Klein says with a laugh. "Live is like the only thing we can do."


With Didi Mau and Manhater

Thurs/31, 9:30 p.m., $5

Eagle Tavern

398 12th St., SF

(415) 626-0880

Gimme my Prince


› a&

Iggy Pop spit in my face at one of the Stooges’ sold-out shows at the Warfield last month. And I loved it. The crowning moment, however, came just before that, when he stared me down and mouthed the lyrics of "1970": "Beautiful baby, feed my love … all night … till I blow … away," then slithered away from the seesawing mass in the pit. In the wake of our brief encounter, everything — the amplifiers’ deafening roar, Pop’s leathery frame, the tug-of-war crowd ripple — seemed to run in slow motion, amalgamating into a nauseating blob of wah noise. My mind and body felt geutf8ous after Pop’s rock ‘n’ roll kiss of death. Sure, it was a disgusting moment, but it was my Iggy moment, and you can’t take that away from me.

Rock star moments are quite a rarity nowadays, and I’m not referring to your recent brush with that sweaty tail wagger crawling around onstage at your favorite hole-in-the-wall dive in Hipstertown, USA. True rock stars are getting older, and there aren’t too many of the nimble bodied left who are willing to give you your full money’s worth like Pop. That is, unless you’re talking about the artist formerly and currently known as Prince. My devoted glorification of — or obsession with — the Purple One stems from the early ’80s, when Michael Jackson ruled the world and MTV still played videos. Nursed on albums such as Dirty Mind and Controversy (both Warner Bros.; 1980, 1981), I’ve come to celebrate his entire recorded output — except for For You (Warner Bros., 1978), which is a little too disco-y for my taste — and have eBayed his concert T-shirts just so I could get a piece of the action. At one point I even owned three VHS copies of his 1984 movie Purple Rain, for crying out loud. But what’s most unsettling is the fact that I’ve never seen Prince live. I’ve only heard the stories from concertgoers, and like Pop’s, his ticking clock isn’t slowing down.

Aside from his 96-date Musicology jaunt in 2004, the Minnesota native’s touring schedule has boiled down to a couple dozen sporadic dates in recent years. He’s also limited his public performances to awards ceremonies, and as of March his weekly concerts at his 3121 club in Las Vegas have ground to a halt. With hip-replacement gossip still lingering in the tabloids, we all might be SOL in terms of a Prince fix soon.

Yet the artist’s rain-soaked halftime performance at this year’s Super Bowl leaves a thread of hope that he’s not ready to wave the white flag just yet. The funky Rick James dance moves might have been absent, but it’s obvious he’s still able to rip on an electrifying guitar solo or belt out that soul-drenched wail. There have also been rumors that he’s slated to headline this summer’s Al Gore–curated Live Earth Festival and that he’s working on songs for a new album, to be released later this year.

I’m not expecting Prince to roll out a tour on the scale of those of his Purple Rain days, but considering it’s been two decades since the release of Sign ‘O’ the Times (Paisley Park), a live rendition of the entire album would be quite nice. Still, as with his one-off San Francisco performance May 19, Prince can pop up whenever he feels like it and entice a crowd with the mere snap of a finger — just because he’s fucking Prince. And as my Iggy experience gradually fades in my memory, I’m in desperate need of my Prince moment. At this point, I’ll take it any way I can get it. *


Sat/19, 8 p.m., $90–$225

Orpheum Theatre

1192 Market, SF

MCMAF: Ich bin Kevin Blechdom


It’s customary to crave road travel when your summer bummer declines into a case of cubicle claustrophobia at the ol’ air-conditioned nightmare. Some of us just need to go on hiatus for a while. But take it from electronic-experimental musician Kevin Blechdom: her 2002 move from San Francisco to Berlin has been a fruitful experience.

"For the last four years, I was able to support myself through playing music," she writes via e-mail. "That’s nearly impossible to do in America with the style of music I’m making, but totally possible in Europe. I remember someone asking me what I did for a living, and I shyly said that I was a musician. They consider it a ‘real’ career, and I remember being surprised by that. In America you say, ‘I’m a musician,’ and then the other person asks, ‘But what’s your real job?’ "

Born Kristin Erickson, the 28-year-old artist was first drawn to music as a child growing up in Stuart, Fla. Initially trained as a classical pianist, Blechdom was also influenced by musical theater and pop music, and she started writing songs with her brother during high school. She went on to study piano at Florida State University but became disenchanted with its "conservative and eventually depressing" program and transferred in 1997 to Mills College in Oakland to study electronic music composition.

"I spent a lot of hours in the music library listening to avant-garde electronic music from the ’60s and ’70s, and I kept seeing ‘recorded at Mills College’ on the back of my favorite recordings," she writes. "When I got to Mills, it was the perfect environment for a young musician wanting to find her own way to compose and listen and think about music."

While at Mills, Blechdom struck up a friendship with Bevin Kelley, a.k.a. Blevin Blectum. The pair soon started performing as an electronic duo and releasing albums under the moniker Blectum from Blechdom. But after an intense four-year partnership, the twosome’s relations soured, and Blechdom shortly afterward fled to Berlin.

"I think a lot of the trouble was dealing with a public growth spurt and having to grow up a bit," she notes of her spilt with Blectum. "We have an amazing collaborative intuition that I treasure. In the last year we have started to work together again, and it’s gratifying to start where we left off."

As a solo artist, Blechdom has gravitated toward musical theater and performance art, while retaining Blectum from Blechdom’s noise ethic. Her Chicks on Speed-released full-lengths – Bitches Without Britches (2003) and Eat My Heart Out (2005) – channel artists such as Kate Bush and Magnetic Fields with dizzying synth pop allure and barnyard banjos. Upon the latter album’s release, Blechdom began performing topless and draping herself in dripping, raw meat during her live sets.

"It was a very basic symbolism mixed with a salute to female performance art. The symbolism was about turning inside out or trying to find those ‘inside’ feelings to express," she writes, adding that it was fun until she got nauseated and had to stop.

Blechdom is in the process of relocating to the Bay Area so she can attend school this fall. In addition to her solo work and Blectum from Blechdom, she’s also collaborating with Evans Hankey in the Reality Club and with Christopher Fleeger in an Evanescence and Rammstein cover band called Barn Wave. Her third solo album – a collection of "acoustic theater songs" – is in the can, but she has yet to find a label to release it.

"I think," she ventures, "this might be the first record I’ve made that my grandparents will be able to appreciate." (Chris Sabbath)


With Kevin Blechdom, Christopher Fleeger and Charles Engstrom, Ching Chong Song, Kevanescence, and Reality Club

May 15, 8 p.m., $7-$15, sliding scale

With Blevin Blectum, Hans Grusel’s Krankenkabinet, and James Goode

May 16, 8 p.m., $7-$15, sliding scale


2948 16th St., SF

(415) 864-8855