Look, I can’t tell you, OK? It’s not that I don’t want to, but when I tell someone it’s "off the record," it’s off the record. It’s not like divulging the day job of Nicole Laurenne, super-saucy singer and Farfisa player for the Love Me Nots, would be some kind of huge, Valerie Plamestyle leak, but I refuse to be the Scooter Libby here. Let’s just say she wants to keep her professional and garage-rock lives separate. Brain surgeon? Test pilot? Miniskirted, go-go-booted commando, doing the swim behind enemy lines? "Just tell them I’m a spy. I work for the CIA," Laurenne says during a phone interview from her office in stifling Phoenix, Ariz., or, perhaps, from her secret lair in the caldera of an extinct volcano.
Whatever it is she does, let’s just say Laurenne and the rest of her black-and-white-garbed, pin-sharp quartet aren’t quitting their day jobs any time soon. Not because the band doesn’t pack enough full-throated, ’60s soul, Mosrite fuzz, and hip-shaking, back-alley R&B stomp to rock the door off the proverbial garage because they do, in spades. This is clearly evidenced by their 2007 debut, In Black & White, and their newly dropped Detroit, both produced in a chicken slaughterhouse-turned-recording studio in the Motor City by Jim Diamond (the White Stripes, the Romantics, the Charms) and both on Love Me Nots’ Atomic a Go Go imprint. "Our day jobs pay for everything," Laurenne tells me. "We’re very careful to work around them. We decided a long time ago we didn’t want to live in a van for a month and play on Tuesdays in Wichita." This allows them to practice an approach that more seasoned touring bands like Les Savy Fav have turned to after decades of midweek dates in nowhere towns: the tour as surgical strike. "We’ll go out to the East Coast and do New Jersey on Thursday and New York on Friday and Boston on Saturday and fly home on Sunday," she says.
I can hear it already: "Man, that’s not punk rock. Where’s the DIY? I’m revoking their indie street cred." Sell out? Hardly. The Love Me Nots are an example of a new paradigm, or at least a rare one: they actually put the horse before the cart. While grinding away in various Phoenix garage outfits over the years with the exception of their new bass player, Kyle Rose Stokes, a 26-year-old grad student, they’re all in their 30s the Love Me Nots realized they had to make money so they could do it right from the get-go: they release their own music on their own label, do the distribution, copyrighting, publishing, artwork not to mention writing songs, rehearsing, and playing gigs. They may not be gluing together 7-inch sleeves, but they’ve got more in common with the DIY ethos of bands like Minor Threat and Black Flag and the labels they created, Dischord and SST, than trustafarians trying to scam street cred by sprinkling a steady diet of ramen with cocaine binges, hoping to float to hipster heaven on the sparkly fart of the first A&R douchebag who recognizes their Casiotone genius.
"You’ve got to give ’em what they want," Laurenne advises an unnamed "little girl" as Detroit nears its crescendo, before adding, "without losing what you’ve got." And while it’s delivered as romantic advice, it sums up the band’s outlook: deliver the goods, on your own terms, in your own time. You can have the career, and the band, and the love life Laurenne and guitarist Michael Johnny Walker recently got engaged and not have to slack off on any element of being alive. It is, however, somewhat of a balancing act. "We try to avoid doing stuff that’s too connected," the vocalist says when I asked her if the band’s been asked to play Christmas parties. "We definitely don’t mind people who enjoy that style of music coming out and enjoying it. They certainly need their own release. And, honestly, a lot of people in this type of suit world have other, non-suit interests too, and I think they feel validated, like, ‘Oh, I guess it’s OK to be a sort of renaissance person. You can pursue your own interests, and it’s not shameful anymore.’<0x2009>"
Perhaps it’s my brief stint in the dirty, amoral trenches of mind control, er … "advertising," that immediately leads me to a tag line: "The Love Me Nots: Making It Safe for the Squares to Dance," I tell Laurenne. "That’s your next T-shirt."
Frameline Film Festival Various locations; see Web site for dates and times, www.frameline.org. The humongous citywide queer flick fest is still in full eye-popping effect.
Golden Girls Mama Calizo’s Voice Factory, 1519 Mission, SF; (415) 690-9410, www.voicefactorysf.org. 7 and 9pm, $20. Through Sat/28. Revisit all the "gay" episodes of this classic and tragic sitcom, as performed with panache and pratfalls by gender clowns Heklina, Pollo Del Mar, Cookie Dough, and Matthew Martin.
National Queer Arts Festival Various locations; see Web site for details, www.queerculturalcenter.org. Experience scandalously good spoken word, cabaret, art installations, and so much more as this powerhouse monthlong celebration of queer revelations continues.
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
Marriage Is Not Enough: Radical Queers Take Back the Movement New Valencia Hall, 625 Larkin, SF; (415) 864-1278. 7pm, $7 donation. Spread-eagled with one foot in the past and the other in the future, Radical Women host a forum to honor the efforts of drag queens and queers of color in 1969’s Stonewall rebellion and to discuss the docile nature of LGBT leadership in the face of poor and working-class queer issues today.
"Our Message Is Music" First Unitarian Church and Center, 1187 Franklin, SF; (415) 865-2787, www.sfgmc.org. 8pm, $15-$35. The world’s first openly LGBT music ensemble will kick off Pride Week with a range of music from Broadway to light classical. Includes performances by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band.
Pansy Division Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF; (415) 626-0880, www.pansydivision.com. 9pm, $7. Homoerockit band Pansy Division plays a live set with the handsome help of Glen Meadmore and Winsome Griffles following a screening of the film Pansy Division: Life in a Gay Rock Band.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
Body Rock Vertigo, 1160 Polk, SF; (415) 674-1278. 10pm, free. Incredibly energetic tranny-about-town Monistat hosts a bangin’ electro night for queers and friends featuring San Francisco’s favorite crazy DJ Richie Panic. Expect wet panties.
Cockblock SF Pride Party Minna, 111 Minna, SF; www.cockblocksf.com. 9pm-2am, $5. DJs Nuxx and Zax spin homolicious tunes and put the haters on notice: no cock-blockin’ at this sweaty soiree.
Crib Gay Pride Party Crib, 715 Harrison, SF; (415) 749-2228, www.thecribsf.com. 9:30pm-3am, $10. The hopefully soothing Ms. Monistat (again!) and the irritating in a fun way Bobby Trendy set it off at this homolicious megaparty popular among the 18+ set, complete with a Naked Truth body-art fashion show and a T-shirt toss, in case you lose the one you came with in the melee.
The Cruise Pride Party Lexington Club, 3464 19th St, SF; (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com. 9pm-2am, free. Hey, dyke sailor! Hike up your naughty nauticals and wade into this ship of dreams (yes, it’s a theme party) with DJs Rapid Fire and Melissa at the lovely lesbian Lex. Land, ho.
The Tubesteak Connection Aunt Charlie’s, 133 Turk, SF; (415) 441-2922, www.auntcharlieslounge.com. A warm and bubbly tribute to early Italo house, wonderfully obscure disco tunes, and outfits Grace Jones would die for. With DJ Bus Station John.
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
Same-Sex Salsa and Latin Ballroom Dance Festival and Competition Magnet, 4122 18th St., SF; (415) 581-1600. www.queerballroom.com. 7pm-12am, free. With $100 awarded to the winner of this fancy-footwork competition, the stakes for this event’s salsa-hot dancing surpass the single bills slipping into thong strings this week.
San Francisco Trans March Dolores Park, Dolores and 18th Sts; (415) 447-2774, www.transmarch.org. 3pm stage, 7pm march; free. Join the transgender community of San Francisco and beyond for a day of live performances, speeches, and not-so-military marching.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
Bibi: We Exist and We Thrive Pork Store Café, 3122 16th St., SF; (415) 626-5523, www.myspace.com/BibiSF. 9pm, $20. The Middle Eastern and North African LGBT community hosts a charitable happy hookah party to native tunes spun by DJs Masood, Josh Cheon, and more.
Bustin’ Out III Trans March Afterparty El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 282-3325. 9pm-2am, $5-$50, sliding scale. Strut your stuff at the Transgender Pride March’s official afterparty, featuring sets from DJs Durt, Lil Manila, and giveaways from Good Vibes, AK Press, and more. Proceeds benefit the Trans/Gender Variant in Prison Committee.
Charlie Horse: No Pride No Shame The Cinch, 1723 Polk, SF; (415) 776-4162, www.myspace.com/charliehorsecinch. 10pm, free. Drag disaster Anna Conda presents a bonkers night of rock ‘n’ roll trash drag numbers, plus Juanita Fajita’s iffy "gay food cart" and Portland, Ore.’s Gender Fluids performance troupe.
Cream DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., SF; (415) 626-1409, www.creamsf.com. Two levels of sexy girl energy and a catwalk to scratch your lipstick claws on, plus a Latin lounge with hip-grinding tunes from DJs Carlitos and Chili D.
GIRLPRIDE Faith, 715 Harrison, SF; (415) 647-8258. 8pm-4am, $20. About 2,500 women are expected to join host DJ Page Hodel to celebrate this year’s Pride Weekend, and that’s a whole lotta love.
Hot Pants Cat Club, 1190 Folsom, SF; (415) 703-8964, www.myspace.com/hotpantsclub. 10pm, $5. DJ Chelsea Starr and many others make this alternaqueer dance party a major destination for hot persons of all genders and little trousers.
Mr. Mighty, 119 Utah, SF; (415) 762-0151, wwww.mighty119.com. 10pm-6am, $20. Darling promoters Big Booty, FSLD, Beatboxevents, and Big Top join forces to produce the party premiere of Pride week with DJ Kidd Sysko and Lord Kook spinning alternative techno sounds, and a special deep and dirty set from soulful house god David Harness.
Sweet Beast Transfer, 198 Church, SF; www.myspace.com/beastparty. 10pm-2am, $10. Reanimate your fetish for leather and fur by dressing up as fiercely feral fauna for the petting-zoo of a party. This week, after all, is mating season.
Tranny Fierce Supperclub, 657 Harrison, SF; (415) 348-0900, www.supperclub.com. 8pm dinner, 10pm afterparty. $85 dinner, $15-$25 afterparty. Total ferosh! Project Runway winner Christian Siriano hosts a four-course meal of trash-talking and looking fierce. The afterparty serves up drag nasty from Holy MsGrail, Cassandra Cass, and more.
Uniform and Leather Ball Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 777-0333, www.frantix.net. 8pm-midnight, $25 & $40. The men’s men of San Francisco’s Mr. Leather Committee want you to dress to the fetish nines for this huge gathering, featuring men, music, and more shiny boots than you can lick all year. Yes, sirs!
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
Dykes on Bikes Fundraiser Eagle Tavern, 398 12th St., SF; (415) 626-0880, www.dykesonbikes.org. Noon. Dykes on Bikes can’t drink and drive: they need your help. A pint for you means a gallon of gas for them. Stop by before heading to the march.
LGBT Pride Celebration Civic Center, Carlton B. Goodlett Place and McCallister, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. Noon-6pm, free. Celebrate LGBT pride at this free outdoor event featuring DJs, speakers, and live music. This is the first half of the weekend-long celebration sponsored by SF Pride. Also Sun/29.
Pink Triangle Installation Twin Peaks Vista, Twin Peaks Blvd parking area, SF; (415) 247-1100, ext 142, www.thepinktriangle.com. 7-11am, free. Bring a hammer and your work boots and help install the giant pink triangle atop Twin Peaks for everyone to see this Pride Weekend. Stay for the commemoration ceremony at 10:30am to hear Mayor Gavin Newsom and Assemblymember Mark Leno speak.
Pride Brunch Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 777-0333, www.positiveresource.org. 11am-2pm, $75-$100. Raise a mimosa toast to this year’s Pride Parade grand marshals with many of the community’s leading activists.
Same-Sex Country, Swing, and Standard Ballroom Dance Festival and Competition Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 626-8000, www.queerballroom.com. 6:30-8pm, free. The Queer Jitterbugs get reeling at this one-of-a-kind contest that’ll shine your spurs and get you swingin’ out of your seat.
San Francisco Dyke March Dolores Park, Dolores and 18th Sts, SF; www.dykemarch.org. 7pm, free. Featuring music from the Trykes, Papa Dino, Las Krudas, and more, plus a whole lot of wacky sapphic high jinks.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
Bearracuda Pride Deco, 510 Larkin, SF; (415) 346-2025, www.bearracuda.com/pride. 9pm-3am, $8 before 10pm, $10 after. Hot hairy homos generate serious body static on the dance floor at this big bear get-down.
Bootie Presents The Monster Show DNA Lounge, 375 11th St, SF; (415) 626-1409, www.bootiesf.com. The city’s giant mashup club hosts a drag queen bootleg mix extravaganza, as Cookie Dough and her wild Monster Show crash the Bootie stage.
Colossus 1015 Folsom, SF; (415) 431-1200, www.guspresents.com. 10pm-8am, $40. The beats of mainstream club favorite DJ Manny Lehman throb through the largest and longest, uh &ldots; dance party of Pride week.
Deaf Lesbian Festival Dyke Ball San Francisco LGBT Center, Rainbow Room, 1800 Market, SF; (415) 865-5555, www.dcara.org. 8pm, 440. Feel the music, close your eyes, and dance to the rhythm of your smokin’ partner at the Deaf Lesbian Festival’s first ever Dyke Ball.
Devotion EndUp, 401 Sixth St, SF; (415) 357-0827, www.theendup.com. 9pm, $15. This storied dance party is back with "A Classic Pride." DJs Ruben Mancias and Pete Avila spin all-classic soulful and stripped-down house anthems for a sweaty roomful of those who were there back when.
Dyke March After Affair Minna, 111 Minna, SF; www.diamonddaggers.com. 8pm-11pm, $12-$20 sliding scale. An early-ending party featuring drag queens, burlesque stars, and belly dancers ensures that beauty sleep comes to the next day’s easy riders whose love of bikes and beer rivals that of any Hell’s Angel or fratboy. Or, stick around for Minna’s ’80s night, Barracuda.
Manquake The Gangway, 841 Larkin, SF; (415) 776-6828. 10pm, $5. Disco rareties and bathhouse classics in a perfectly cruisy old-school dive environment with DJ Bus Station John.
PlayBoyz Club Eight, 1151 Folsom, SF; www.clubrimshot.com. 10pm-3am, $10. The stars of legalized gay marriage, Obama’s candidacy, Pride week, and Black Music Month all align for this hip-hop heavy celebration.
Queen Pier 27, SF; www.energy927fm.com. 8pm, $45. Energy 92.7 FM brings back the dynamism of the old-school San Francisco clubs for this Pride dance-off. Chris Cox and Chris Willis headline. Wear your best tear-away sweats and get ready to get down, Party Boy style.
Rebel Girl Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF; wwww.rebelgirlsf.com. 9pm-2am, $12. Rebel Girl brings the noise for this one with go-go dancers, Vixen Creations giveaways, drink specials, and, you know, rebel girls.
PERFORMANCES AND EVENTS
LGBT Pride Celebration Civic Center, Carlton B. Goodlett Place and McCallister, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. Noon-7pm, free. The celebration hits full stride, with musical performances and more.
LGBT Pride Parade Market at Davis to Market and Eighth Sts, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. 10:30am-noon, free. With 200-plus dykes on bikes in the lead, this 38th annual parade, with an expected draw of 500,000, is the highlight of the Pride Weekend in the city that defines LGBT culture.
True Colors Tour Greek Theatre, UC Berkeley Campus, Hearst and Gayley Streets, Berk; (510) 809-0100, www.apeconcerts.com. 5pm, $42.50-$125 Cyndi Lauper, The B-52s, Wanda Sykes, The Puppini Sisters, and queer-eyed host Carson Kressley bring it on for human rights and limp wrists.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
Big Top The Transfer, 198 Church, SF; (415) 861-7499, www.myspace.com/joshuajcook. A circus-themed hot mess, with DJs Ladymeat, Saratonin, and Chelsea Starr, plus Heklina’s "best butt munch" contest. Will she find the third ring?
Dykes on Bikes Afterparty Lexington Club, 3464 19th St, SF; (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com. 1pm, free. How do they find time to ride with all these parties?
Juanita More! Gay Pride ’08 Bambuddha Lounge, 601 Eddy, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.juanitamore.com. 3pm, $30. Juanita More! hosts this benefit for the Harvey Milk City Hall Memorial, with DJs Robot Hustle and James Glass, and performances by fancy-pants Harlem Shake Burlesque and the Diamond Daggers. Fill ‘er up, baby!
Starbox Harry Denton’s, 450 Powell, SF; (415) 395-8595, www.harrydenton.com. 6pm-midnight, $7 High atop the Sir Francisc Drake Hotel, the swank Harry Denton’s presents DJ Page Hodel’s patented brand of diverse and soulful bacchanalia.
Sundance Saloon Country Pride Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 626-8000, www.sundancesaloon.org. 6pm-11pm, $5. Hot hot bear husbands on the hoof, line-dancing for the pickin’ at this overalls-and-snakeskin-boots roundup.
Unity Temple, 540 Howard, SF; www.templesf.com. Legendary kiki-hurrah club Fag Fridays rises again with a sure-to-be-smokin’ DJ set from the one and only Frankie Knuckles, the goddess’s gift to deep house freaks and friends.
I push off and head down a makeshift plywood runway, compressing as I roll over the edge and into the Technicolor graffiti of the drainage ditch. The transition between the banked wall and the flatbottom has an abrupt kink in it, enough to send you to your face if you’re caught sleeping. I take some weight off the front end and try to maintain my speed as I pump into the opposite corner and carve the far end of the ditch where there’s an over-45-degree wall that runs behind what my friends and I call the "death pit" a gaping cutaway in the bottom of the culvert, five feet deep, filled with broken glass, and frequently used as a urinal. Since I’m at the apex of my backside carve, up a wall 10 feet above last week’s Miller Time, I’m jolted by the crackle of a loudspeaker:
"You are trespassing. Leave the area at once or you will be arrested."
My concentration shot by the sheriff’s announcement, I jump off my deck and over the chasm at the base of the bank, barely clearing the skater’s version of a Vietnam tiger pit, and land on the rough concrete beyond the edge. My board bullets straight in, though, so I’ve got to lower myself gingerly into the mostly dry detritus and rescue it before my friends and I jet out of the spot and into the manicured back nine of Pleasanton’s Castlewood golf course. We get to the car, throw the boards in the trunk mine has a "Skateboarding Is Not a Crime" sticker on the bottom and head to the next spot, a ditch called the Rat Trap.
The year is 1987. I’m 16, in high school, and living with my parents in Fremont. The scene plays out over and over in much the same way: a drainage ditch, a nicely painted curb or ledge at a shopping center, the occasional backyard pool, and night sessions at the Tar Banks, a set of embankments around a loading dock with curbs at the top. It’s an underground railroad of repurposed architecture, none of it designed with a skateboard in mind but all of it highly skateable.
Every weekend my crew hits as many spots as we can, and the constants shape up like this: urethane, aluminum, Canadian hard rock maple, concrete, and asphalt. Maybe blood, maybe beer we’re teenagers after all but nearly always: cops.
Skateboarding may not be a crime, but it sure as hell feels like one.
Flash forward 20 years. I’m with a different crew as I pull onto a street in suburban Redwood City, and I’m no longer rollin’ in my mom’s Plymouth Sundance, but my own truck. The other thing that’s changed is the number of wheels per head. There are four heads to eight wheels, and we’re here to ride the Phil Shao Memorial Skatepark. On bikes.
The park does not disappoint. There are a million kids trying tech ollie flip tricks around the perimeter of the park, but the bowl is what I’m about. Big and shapely with almost burlesque hips poured into her concrete, I’m in love as soon as I roll in. There are a few local bikers who have the place dialed, nonchalantly airing a few feet out and throwing the bars before heading back down the tranny. The only two skaters riding the bowl are a tall skinny teenager and his little sister, who looks to be about 10, and they have it on lockdown: lipslides on the spine, grinds, rock and rolls everything smooth and fast. "Yeah!" I yell as they take their runs, stoked on their skills.
I know the times have changed when I see the little girl come up out of the bowl in the $450,000 public piece of silky-smooth concrete perfection, walk over to her mother, who’s posted up on a ledge, get a cell phone and make a call. Not five minutes later there are seven (I counted) Redwood City police officers converging on the bench where my friends and I are sitting. They randomly collar my buddy Scott though I was the last one to drop in and write him a ticket for $100. I have to admit, I’m flabbergasted.
Guess what: skateboarding isn’t a crime anymore it’s gone mainstream. Successful companies hire lobbyists to promote the sport, and communities spend big bucks building new facilities for skaters. And now some skaters, many of them kids who never had to live in the underground world that I did, are using their legitimacy to push out the new outlaws people who ride BMX bikes.
It’s crazy two cultures that share so much, fighting over how many wheels they ride.
"Is that your daughter’s bike?"
The question comes from one of my coworkers, and, believe it or not, it’s not intended to be snarky. I can’t ride in public without someone saying "cute little bike," while giggling to themselves or laughing and pointing. Seeing a six-foot-tall, 200-pound, bald-headed, tattooed white dude on a "kid’s bike" is like being passed on the sidewalk by a bear on a unicycle. At one point reactions like these would’ve rubbed me the wrong way, but nowadays, I nod and smile. Sometimes, I try to explain what constitutes a "full grown" BMX bike. While it’s got small wheels 20 inches in diameter the top tube, from the seat to the stem, measures 21 inches, and the handlebars are considered pro-sized at eight inches high by 28 inches wide.
Bicycle motocross, or BMX, is purported to have started in 1963 when the Schwinn corporation of Chicago unveiled the Stingray, which was basically a downsized version of the company’s balloon-tired cruiser-type bikes. Kids pretended to be grown-ups by aping Roger DeCoster and other moto heroes launching their bikes off jumps, racing in empty fields and abandoned lots, and cranking wheelies down the sidewalks of Anytown, USA.
"It all began the way most individual sports start," motorcycle customizer Jesse James says in a voiceover at the beginning of the 2005 BMX nativity story/documentary Joe Kid on a Stingray, "kids pretending to be grown-ups, but acting like big kids."
I have been riding since I was seven. After three decades, one truism remains, and I can’t candy-coat it. I’ve got to speak it like a true BMXer: BMX is rad. It is and always has been an entity unto itself, progressing from wheelies, skids, and bombing hills to encompass myriad styles and surfaces, from streets to pools to dirt jumps to ramps to the balletic grace of flatland freestyle.
This summer, big kids on little bikes will be jumping 30-foot gaps at as many miles per hour as BMX pays homage to its racing roots at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. On June 12 in New York’s Central Park, Kevin Robinson will try to break the legendary Mat Hoffman’s record for the highest quarter-pipe air on a bike 26 feet, 6 inches.
It doesn’t take death-defying world records, the X Games, the Olympics, or the stupefaction of squares with cameras to make BMX legit. That feeling of overcoming fear and doubt by jumping a little farther, a little higher, the rush of nailing a trick, or carving a bowl, hasn’t changed in half a century. The legitimacy lies in that feeling, behind your breastbone, and it doesn’t change as you get older. Your wrists hurt, your ankles hurt, and your back hurts, but the feeling is the same. Kid’s bike? Hell yeah, it’s a kid’s bike.
It’s not as though I was blissfully unaware of a beef between bikers and skaters that day in Redwood City. Ask any BMXer to tell you a story of friction between the two and four-wheeled sets, and it’s not going to take them long to come up with something.
"When I was 12 years old, a skateboarder threw my bike out of the bowl at Ripon skatepark," says Jackson Ratima, now 19, a Daly City rider sponsored by Fit Bikes. "He was, like, 20 years old or something."
Tim "Wolfman" Harvey, 21, another up-and-coming pro, tells a similar story about a visit to the Bay Area from his native Massachusetts, when a local skater hassled him at the Novato skatepark. "I didn’t even know anything about California. It was my first time out bike riding, period. The guy was giving me all kinds of crap, yelling at me."
Ironically, Harvey, as friendly and easygoing a guy as you could hope to meet, almost turned pro for skateboarding before an ankle injury made it nearly impossible to ollie, an essential trick in street skating. He now lives in Petaluma and is a member of the painter’s union in San Francisco, where he’s a familiar face at street spots, but now on a bike. Back then, though, he "thought California was a scary place."
The Bay Area and SF in particular may be the worst place for bikers seeking a vibe-free session. "I’ve never experienced hostility like it is out here," Ratima says.
Smoldering after the Redwood City incident, I began to fixate on the "Skateboarding Is Not a Crime" slogan from my youth. Originally a bumper sticker made by Transworld Skateboarding magazine in the mid ’80s, Santa Cruz Skateboards currently makes a deck with that written on it, so the skate community has gotten a lot of mileage out of being oppressed.
"Skateboarding isn’t a crime?" I’d ask myself. You’re damned straight skateboarding isn’t a crime: it’s the law. BMX is a crime. There isn’t a biker alive who rides transition who hasn’t rolled into a taxpayer-funded park and had a knee-high grommet point to the sign and say, "Bikes aren’t allowed."
Not allowed, huh? Son, I skated my first pool when you were doing the backstroke in your papa’s ball bag.
Look: I love skateboarding and always will. Both skaters and bikers are doing the same thing, copping that same feeling rolling over the same terrain. The war makes no sense.
"We have religion and race and class dividing us. I refuse to be divided by what type of wheel size I have," says Jon Paul Bail, a local at Alameda’s Cityview skatepark.
Bail, 40, is the artist and pundit behind politicalgridlock.com. Through the Home Project, a program run through the Alameda Unified School District, Bail helped raise $150,000 to build the park, $8,000 of which came directly from his company’s coffers. He helped design the park, and he helped pour the concrete in the park, which opened in 1999. Mixed sessions of bikers and skaters were going down for six months with minor tensions but no major incidents when thenCity Attorney Carol Korade advised City Hall that mixed use was too dangerous, and shut the bikers out.
My call to Corinne Centeno, Redwood City’s Director of Parks, Recreation, and Community Services, got off to a rough start: "I understand [the Phil Shao Skatepark] is not bike-legal, right?"
"Right. It was built as a skatepark," she replied, subtly italicizing the first syllable with her tone of voice.
"It wasn’t designed for bikes," she repeated, before adding, "but their having been prohibited from the start hasn’t necessarily kept people out." In an effort to do just that, the city is building a fence around the park, with bids currently ranging from $23,000 to $60,000.
The semantic argument "it’s called a ‘skatepark,’ not a ‘bike park’<0x2009>" is usually reserved for laypeople who don’t know enough about skateboarding or bike riding to see its inherent lack of logic.
Drainage ditches are not called a "skating ditches," nor were they designed for skating. Swimming pools are not called "skating pools." Yet, therein lie the roots of the modern skatepark, along with full pipes, which are based on industrial-size drainage systems also not intended for wheels. Every day skateboarders and bikers transcend these limits through creative repurposing.
Collision, and the fear of collision, is the main thing public officials cite when shutting bikers out of parks. "It’s unnerving," Vancouver pro skater Alex Chalmers wrote in a 2004 Thrasher manifesto, "BMX Jihad: Keep It in the Dirt."
"BMXers cover so much ground so quickly, especially when they’re pedaling frantically to blast a transfer, that it’s particularly hard to gauge these collisions," he wrote.
But the fact is that in any given park BMXers and skaters take different lines, and the best way to acclimate each group to the other is through exposure. If bike riders are banned, it increases the risk of collisions when a few bikers decide to chance the ticket or brave the vibe-out and ride anyway. A lot of bikers hit parks early in the morning because they don’t want to deal with hassles. During the overlap in "shifts," this leads to bewildered skaters who aren’t used to the lines a biker takes, and vice versa.
And the head-on menace is greatly overstated, largely disappearing when a park is integrated, if only unofficially. At Cityview, the police have displayed somewhat less zeal in ticketing bikers during the past few years. "They treat us like gays in the military," says Bail. "Don’t ask, don’t tell." And yet everyone manages to coexist.
At the new $850,000 skatepark in Benicia, which opened in October, integration isn’t a big deal. "From its conception, we designed it to be a skateboard park and also for bikes," says Mike Dotson, assistant director of parks and recreation. Technically, the park has designated bike hours, but since it’s largely unsupervised, there’s a mildly laissez-faire approach to enforcement. "In the very beginning there was a lot of concern about the use of both bikes and skateboards," Dotson says, stating that the park was packed the first few months. "Initially we had one or two calls on it. Since then I can say I haven’t had any calls on it in relation to bikes and skateboards being in it at the same time or other complaints."
And there are mixed-use parks all over the world, as far away as Thailand and as nearby as Oregon: "You go to Oregon, and you can ride wherever you want," says a stunned Maurice Meyer, 41, lifelong San Francisco resident and founding member of legendary bike and skate trick team the Curb Dogs. Long Beach, Las Vegas, Phoenix, even Alex Chalmers’ hometown of Vancouver all have parks where bikes and skates legally ride at the same time. What’s up with the Bay?
Lawyers, insurance underwriters, and city hall types may never understand how a park works. "It’s out of ignorance," Bail says. "To them it looks like chaos. To anyone who has skate etiquette which is everyone we all take turns."
Besides, let’s face facts: a skatepark is a dangerous place to different degrees at different times, and for different reasons. "I swear to God, every time I go to the skatepark I see a hundred boards flying all over the place," Ratima says, "and I’ve never seen a bike go flying and land on a guy’s head." It’s not an inflatable jumpy house it’s fun, but it’s not made out of cotton balls and your mother isn’t here. Usually.
Rose Dennis, press liaison for the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, seemed baffled that someone would want to ride a bicycle inside the skatepark part of the new Potrero del Sol. Perhaps as a way of distracting me from my damn-fool idea, she kept hyping the park’s "other amenities."
I live three blocks from Golden Gate Park if I want to play Frisbee, I’m not going to drive across town. I want to ride. When I brought up the possibility of scheduling bike-only sessions in the yet-to-be opened park, she suggested I draft a letter to general manager Yomi Agunbiade, before adding that "the facility wasn’t designed for that type of recreation."
When I (graciously, I thought) let her know that it would be not only possible to ride a bike there, but highly gratifying, she got a little heated: "At the end of the day, the buck stops with us. If one of you guys breaks your skull open and you’re bleeding all over the place, believe me, no one’s going to have any sympathy for Rec and Park if they make really nonjudicious decisions."
In other words, like a lot of city officials, she’s worried about getting sued.
But you know what? There’s actually less chance a BMXer will successfully sue the city. I give you California Government Code Section 831.7, which states the following: "Neither a public entity nor a public employee is liable to any person who participates in a hazardous recreational activity … who knew or reasonably should have known that the hazardous recreational activity created a substantial risk of injury to himself or herself and was voluntarily in the place of risk."
The law lists "bicycle racing or jumping" as being a "hazardous recreational activity." It’s on a fairly extensive list, along with diving boards, horseback riding, and the ever-popular rocketeering, skydiving, and spelunking, which, as I’m sure you’ve heard, are all the rage with the kids these days much more popular than BMX.
But the words "skateboarding," "skateboarder," and "skateboard" are not listed anywhere in the text of the Hazardous Recreational Activities law, commonly called the HRA law. In fact, the International Association of Skateboard Companies has been lobbying to get the bill amended to specifically include "skateboarding" since 1995, when Assemblymember Bill Morrow (R-San Diego) took up the issue. Morrow’s bill was rejected by the state Senate Judiciary Committee in 1996. In 1997, Morrow and skateboard association lobbyist Jim Fitzpatrick gave up on amending the HRA and instead pushed Assembly Bill 1296, which added Provision 115800 to the state’s Health and Safety Code, which states, in part and in much less forceful language without using the word "liable," for instance that owners or operators of local skateparks that are not supervised must require skaters to wear helmets, elbow pads, and knee pads, and that they must post a sign stating said requirement.
It doesn’t say anything about "if one of you guys breaks your skull open and you’re bleeding all over the place" while wearing a helmet, then you can’t hold the operator liable.
When I asked San Francisco Deputy City Attorney Virginia Dario-Elizando how the law might apply to the city’s skateparks, she told me, "This question has never come up. I must tell you, I’ve never even seen the rules for the skateparks no one’s ever asked me to look at them."
BMXers are willing to compromise if that’s what it takes. In May, San Jose opened the 68,000-square-foot Lake Cunningham skatepark, built by the same design firm (Wormhoudt) as the Benicia park at a price of $4.7 million, and the place has bike hours. Like any park, there are rules. Like some parks, there’s supervision, so the rules are enforced: separate bike sessions; helmet, elbow, and knee pads required at all times; brakes required on bikes; no smoking; no songs with swear words over the park soundsystem; no bikes in the three bowls with pool coping even though they only allow plastic pegs, which are undoubtedly softer on coping than metal skateboard trucks … it’s a long list of restrictions. It’s inconvenient for guys who don’t like pads or don’t run brakes, and there’s some griping, but we’ve got our eyes on the prize: the place is amazing, with a huge full pipe, massive vert bowls, and a decent street course.
I would like skaters to realize a couple of things: skating and BMX aren’t so different from each other, at least in the feeling each gives you, right there, behind your sternum, where your heart beats.
Bikers are going to ride no matter what, just like skaters are going to skate. Legal or not, we’re not going to go away. "I got arrested for riding there when I was 14," Ratima says of the Daly City skatepark. "They took my bike and threw it in the back of the car. I just kept going every day, and finally they just gave up."
"I’ve ridden bikes on vert," Thrasher editor Jake Phelps tells me during a phone conversation. "I can ride a bike in a pool, I can do that. I’m stoked when I ride a bike in a pool. Feels hella fun to me. Catching air on a bike is awesome, no doubt about that."
This, from the longtime editor of the bible of the "fuck BMX" set. It’s either baffling or heartening. I can’t decide which. "I don’t mind people that are just regular," he says. "If they’re skateboard people or they’re bike people too, I’ll respect anybody that respects me."
That’s what it comes down to: respect. I respect the fact that skateboarders did not come into this age of skateparks easily. I faded out when there was nothing, and I came back when they were in small towns across America, and I missed all the politicos and dreary meetings. It’s time for bikers to stop feeling like second-class citizens and demand a seat at the table. In the words of Black Flag, it’s time to rise above.
When I call Tim Harrington, he’s in a meeting. It’s 6 p.m. in New York, and for some reason, I guess because he’s Les Savy Fav’s vocalist, I assume this is some kind of band meeting or rehearsal. When I call back in an hour, he’s still in the meeting.
"Do you want me to call back tomorrow?" I ask.
"That’s OK," he says. "I have just declared my professional day over." His professional day, it turns out, ends in a meeting room at VH1 headquarters in Manhattan, not in a practice space in LSF’s native Williamsburg. In addition to doing graphic design at VH1, he’s pushing for "interactive TV-type things," like e-cards you can design online and "schedule times you want them to be on TV so you can tell your friends, ‘Tune in and see that I’m breaking up with you.’"
The job isn’t what I’d expect from a manically animated frontperson, but Harrington, who attended the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design where the band formed in 1995, could give a fuck about giving people what they expect. After three long-players and an EP of dissonant, angular, twin-guitar rock with pop sensibilities and cutting, insightful lyrics culminating in 2001’s Go Forth on bassist Syd Butler’s French Kiss label the group took six years to release a new album, last year’s Let’s Stay Friends. The declaration of an official hiatus in 2005 led fans to believe it might be the end.
Instead they opted for restructuring: "It was really hard to explain without sort of tearing the whole thing apart and putting it back together again."
Gone are the incessant van tours; in their place are what he calls "guerilla touring": fly out, play a few select shows, and return to Brooklyn and "real life," which, for Harrington includes a wife and a son, Benji, who’s not yet two. "It’s the best way to tour," he says, "but totally unprofessional."
The outfit’s "unprofessional" attitude, coupled with Harrington’s interactive ideas, led to an online video contest for the Let’s Stay Friends track "The Equestrian," a fetishistic pony-play barnburner: "How many times did you think you could canter past my house / Before I called you to my stable for a little mouth-to-mouth?" In between shots of My Little Pony make-out sessions, the winning video chosen by YouTube viewers showcased a pink-haired eight-year-old named Bunny rolling around on the ground and dry-humping a stuffed horse like a prepubescent version of "Like a Virgin"era Madonna. Was it weird having a little kid lip-synching such an overtly sexual song?
"I love that kind of complicated double energy the tension of two things competing with each other," Harrington says. "In our live performance that happens a lot." Live, the singer runs around the stage, bearded, bald on top, a little chunky, and manically energetic often shirtless or changing costumes during a song, perhaps into a sequined cape, while the band plays calmly around him, seemingly oblivious, all the while cranking out fierce squalls of noisy rock that are clearly the force driving the madman in their midst. "I think that people who don’t like us, don’t like us because they’re like, ‘I like one side of it or the other, but I can’t understand how they both can be happening simultaneously.’"
Harrington is not at all the picture of your typical floppy-haired waif of an indie impresario, embarrassed to be on stage and kicking the mic stand. He’s open and enthusiastic on the phone, sounding slightly out of breath, like he just remembered "one more thing" to say. He uses the word "passionate" a lot, and it’s clear that feeling is the key element in his art.
Without taking away from the rest of the group, it’s the cognitive dissonance Harrington creates with his stage presence and lyrics that make Les Savy Fav so powerful. Let’s Stay Friends opens with a track about an only partially fictional band called the Pots and Pans, "who made this noise that people couldn’t stand." Despite their audience’s protests, the unit sticks it out, realizing on some level that they know what’s good for the listeners.
Harrington doesn’t particularly care what you expect, yet he’s not simply adopting a world-weary pose. Instead he’s exhorting you to want more out of music and out of existence. Nowhere is this idea more apparent than in the album’s final track, "The Lowest Bidder": "We’ve been bought and we’ve been sold / They try but they can’t keep hold / We burn, but we don’t turn to coal / We’re hills all filled with gas and gold / Take the trigger from the lowest bidder / Take the bargain back again." Don’t settle for less.
Listening to Let’s Stay Friends reminds me that there’s more to life than the quotidian world of work meetings, parking tickets, and paying the rent. "Music is the food of love, but reality is waiting for the bus" is a Subhumans lyric I can never seem to forget. For Harrington, reality is passion and waiting for the bus. "An area of interest for me lyrically," he explains, "is to be able to address whatever the harshest and most negative elements are in life and society and defy that, not with a pie-eyed optimism, but with a really cold-hearted optimism.
Don’t expect the world to change. Change yourself. Change your perception of it."
PREVIEW For Austin, Texas, rockers the Sword, the cumbersome descriptor "epic fantasy metal" ain’t no joke; it really is the story of their lives. Check out the lyrics to "How Heavy This Axe," from their second full-length, Gods of the Earth (Kemado): "So many men have fallen / So many more must die … How heavy this axe / Burden carried from birth / Wrought in Stygian visions / By the gods of the earth." The album’s got it all: frost giants, witches, warriors, lords, vassals, "Fire Lances of the Ancient Hyperzephyrians," exile, maidens, serpents, and of course, wizards. It’s essentially the transcription of a Ronnie James Dio fever dream. At the same time, the lyric sheet translates as the classic American odyssey of pubescent, pimple-faced Dungeons and Dragons geek to um, axe-wielding metal god.
On a sonic level, the disc is unassailable. Guitarists Kyle Shutt and John Cronise have the magical combination of both riffs and licks, never becoming confused and faltering in the hoary mists of the Moors of Eternal Noodling. Nonetheless, I’m forced to pose the question, Is heavy enough? Not being an avid player of World of Warcraft, I wonder: is a whole album of sword and sorcery motifs satisfying on a level beyond bowel-shaking instrumental thunder? When I try to dig past the fantasy veneer of Sword songs, I hit the frozen tundra of metal cliché. There’s not enough lyrical flux to let the listener hear between the lines.
Don’t get me wrong I’ll be at the show, banging my head like crazy. But the question remains: Why can’t metal be about something? It’s been suggested that the Sword is playing with the lingua franca of metal, that they’re being tongue in cheek. But irony is a lame gag, especially when you can’t tell it’s ironic. And if it’s not ironic, and it doesn’t allow deeper interpretation, it’s just riffs albeit excellent riffs and the Sword is an instrumental band with a vocalist. Again: is heavy enough?
THE SWORD With Slough Feg and Children. Sat/19, 9 p.m., $14. Slim’s, 333 11th St., SF. (415) 522-0333, www.slims-sf.com
How would you feel? Your band has been together since 1999, struggling through lineup changes, two US tours, hundreds of shows, an album and two EPs, without so much as a write-up in the local weekly. Finally, after dropping your most recent CD last year an untitled, self-released disc of skull-crushing riffs you get a review in the bible of modern metal, Metal Maniacs, and the photo that runs with it is of another band.
In the case of the San Francisco four-piece Walken, it was a photo of a three-piece party-rock outfit from Sioux City, Iowa, whose MySpace "sounds like" reads: "Rush meets Metallica meets Blink 182 meets Nickelback meets Matchbox 20 meets Live meets Red Hot Chili Peppers." With all due respect to Neil Peart and pre-Load era Metallica seriously?
"They’re total dicks," Shane Bergman, 25, vocalist and bassist for the Original Walken otherwise known as Vintage Walken or Walken Classic says during an interview at the Western Addition Victorian he shares with roommate and guitar player Sean Kohler, 27. It’s the crack of noon and the guys are posted up on the couch, drinking coffee, and eating toast and jam in their finest sweatpants. "I’d written the guy a long time ago," he continues. "’Hey, this isn’t cool. We’ve had this name for seven or eight years. We’ve actually put out stuff and toured the US. It’s not cool.’ And they were like, ‘Oh, it doesn’t really matter we’re in different states.’ I just let it slide. And then I pick up that" he points to the magazine "and I’m, like, ‘Well, now it’s gone too far.’ You look through and see a picture of those tools … "
There have been more Walkens, including a band from Melbourne that played weddings and broke up in 2004. The reason for the popularity, most likely, is Christopher Walken’s 2000 "more cowbell" skit on Saturday Night Live. While this settles the name game with pretenders enamored with the sketch, it raises the question: if not for "more cowbell," then why "Walken"?
Like the actor, dancer, and celebrity beer-can-chicken chef, Walken is hard to pin down. When walking in on Walken’s live set and hearing the crushing, dual-guitar assault "Bitch Wizard," from their untitled, self-released 2007 EP, all pummeling drums and clean backing vocals contrasting with deathly, oven-throat howls, it’s difficult to characterize the group which includes guitarist Max Doyle, 26, and drummer Zack Farwell, 29 as anything but metal. Perhaps "fuckin’ metal" might be more apt. But it hasn’t always been so clear-cut. "Our Unstoppable record, it was just a weird record," Kohler says of the self-released 2004 full-length. "We thought we were being all revolutionary having these funny rock songs, with funk songs and blues songs … "
"And math rock," Bergman interjects. Unstoppable was Walken’s version, to steal a phrase from Lou Reed, of ‘growing up in public.’"
"Most people sit in their garage when they’re coming up with their sound, but we were actually out there playing it, trying to figure it out in front of people," Bergman says. The band’s music has coalesced into a pointed metal attack. It couldn’t have happened at a more opportune time. While the bottom has fallen out of the housing market, and spending $3 trillion bucks on blowing up Iraqis has wreaked havoc on the economy, stock in metal is clearly on the rise.
"That’s one thing that’s changed about metal," Kohler says. "All of the sudden it’s getting cool again. You can be big and be in a metal band, with Mastodon and High on Fire and bands like that." I’m sworn to (semi-)secrecy, but there’s something on the horizon for Walken, something that Kohler demanded I euphemistically term a "great opportunity," which will put the days of touring cross-country with Hightower on their own dime, playing a couple dozen shows, and coming home dog-dick broke, behind them.
But are the vanguard of 21st-century metal warriors and their burgeoning audience really anything new? While it’s no doubt refreshing to see metal true metal, not the Hollywood hair-farmer crap that lined record company coffers in a pre-Nirvana world crawl out from the underground, it seems that it’s still largely aimed at the dudes in black hoodies. Which leads us to simultaneously discuss two major concerns about the future of heavy music: is anything really new, truly revolutionary, or is it all just a remix of old ideas? And just what will it take to woo a crop of hot new metal women away from the evils of floppy-haired emo boys in so-called chick pants?
Thankfully, Kohler’s got some insight: "Everything that’s new is just a reinvention of something else. The only way that I really believe that there can be a new beginning is after most of the human population is annihilated. And then it starts over, just as creative expression is part of life. It slowly becomes a community thing. It starts organically, that’s the point."
"So basically, you blow up the world, and more chicks will come to metal shows," Bergman quips.
Walken is already well into writing a new full-length, but I’ve got to advise them: scrap those songs and work on the concept album. Imagine this: the year is the year is 3052. Global warming and perpetual war have taken their toll. The ice caps have melted and a tribe of mutant metal warrior women of Amazonian stature have arisen from the rubble, repurposing military technology found in underground bunkers into hybrid instrument-weapons, with which they can both rock out and kill you. They rock you to death. Everything metal is new again.
In the category of coolest stuff in the world, Sasha Wizansky recently sent a copy of Meatpaper (subtitled Your Journal of Meat Culture), a magazine she coedits with Amy Standen, to the Guardian offices. The magazine is a veritable cornucopia, nay, a butcher shop of fascinating articles, from an interview with meat inspectors to found meat photography and a beef heart recipe. I immediately contacted Ms. Wizansky and proposed marriage. What I got in lieu of matrimony was an interview, excerpted below.
SFBGWhy did you want to do a magazine about meat?
SASHA WIZANSKY The answer that we usually give for that is we perceived that there is a meat movement going on. We call it the fleischgeist, which stands for "the meat zeitgeist." This was a cross-country trend, which apparently is global as well. People are thinking about meat in new ways. That’s partially in the context of restaurants and home cooking, but also in art and culture. So we started a magazine to report on the fleischgeist and basically collect multiple perspectives on what’s going on and publish them side by side.
SFBG Are you going to include non-meat-eating perspectives?
SW Yeah, that’s actually a huge part of what we do. My coeditor and I believe that people’s choice to not eat meat is actually a big part of the story of meat. That’s something that we’re actually extremely interested in covering. We like to cover all perspectives.
SFBG Do you think there’s been a backlash against vegetarianism and veganism in San Francisco?
SW I personally have witnessed a pretty big shift in maybe the last eight years or so. I moved to San Francisco in ’95 and I felt like most of my friends were vegetarians, and that’s not true anymore. So if my community is representative at all, I think things really have changed. I think part of it is that a lot of the reasons that people were choosing vegetarianism had to do with, you know, organic food and environmental reasons, but now a lot of those same issues are being addressed by meat production. It’s possible now to participate in a sustainable meat economy in a way that wasn’t before.
SFBG Were you ever a vegetarian?
SW I was a vegetarian for seven years. From 13 to age 20. My personal reasons I think had a lot to do with health. Sort of personal choice. There was a moment at age 20 when I decided that it was the right thing for me, healthfully, to eat meat again. And I haven’t gone back.
SFBG What is the most adventurous meat eating experience you’ve had?
SW Well, what I think is really interesting about adventurous meat eating is it’s so much to do with your head and so little to do with your palate. I think the idea of some of these extreme meats is frightening to a lot of people, but the reality is not. I suppose in terms of an extreme meat idea, Amy and I had duck fries at Incanto Restaurant.
SFBG Duck what?
SW Duck fries. Which is a euphemism for testicles. Chris Cosentino, who wrote the recipe for beef heart for [Meat Paper] that’s his restaurant. The idea of [duck fries] is so extreme; the reality is very mild. They looked like big kidney beans, and they tasted like little sausages.
SFBG As someone who eats meat, do you feel there are moral ramifications and karmic and moral weight to eating meat?
SW This is a tough one. I’m not sure I want to go all the way there about my own choices. But I think it’s complicated. On one level it feels like an uncomfortable thing that an animal should have to die for me to eat. On the other hand, I see myself in a lineage of a species that has existed, you know, forever, eating meat. These are contradictory things, and sometimes it’s a moral tug-of-war. It’s something that I think about a lot. People assume that because I edit a magazine about meat that I’m eating bacon and sausages [all the time]. Actually, I am going to a salami tasting tonight. But I don’t eat meat three meals a day.
PREVIEW Let’s say you’re a fan of dub the remixed reggae subgenre pioneered by the studio experimentalism of King Tubby and Lee "Scratch" Perry and I say to you, "Hey, come over. You have to hear this new dub CD I’ve got." Excited, but in a laid-back, dubby way, you roll a semistereotypical joint and skate down to my place on a longboard with big, soft wheels, smoking all the way. I throw on Another Sound Is Dying (Ipecac), the new Dub Trio CD. Immediately bombarded by crunchy guitar riffs and a distorted, growling bass line reminiscent of New York noise mavens Unsane, you become confused. Why the fuck is this metal record harshing my mellow?
Dub Trio three spot-on musicians whose lists of recent session work reads like a who’s who of putf8um hip-hop artists eventually work island rhythms and delayed reggae riffing into the album, which may or may not bring your buzz back, Smokey. Yet the band is most true to the core idea of dub the experimental manipulation of sound in its willingness to destroy it, to go beyond the confines of traditionally dubable reggae material and say, "Fuck it, we can do a dub of this and that too." The trio’s ambition, their sheer steeze to take the chains off the dub aesthetic, makes them fascinating, if not brilliant, and they go from nut-crunching sludge riffs to long, loping chill-outs without flinching. "What the guys in the beginning of dub were doing in the studio, we try to bring that element and re-create that concept live," drummer Joe Tomino said over the phone from New York City.
They stay true to the roots of dub in a wild new way: each band member controls effects for everyone else’s instruments as well as their own. Which means Dub Trio’s 12 Galaxies show will be a must-see: these guys can’t just sleep through the same set every night. They’ve got to be on it, reacting to and changing the music as it’s being made. "It’s a constant way of thinking as one and listening to exactly what’s happening onstage," Tomino said, "so you don’t get in the way of the conversation or dialogue that’s happening."
DUB TRIO With Foreign Island and Hour of Worship. Fri/15, 9 p.m., $12. 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission, SF. (415) 970-9777, www.12galaxies.com
My ex-girlfriend hipped me to TopR, short for Top Ramen, around 2003. We were driving in her car, and she cracked open the newly released Burning the Candle at Both Ends (Earthlings/DWA) and slid it into the dash. I’d like to say it changed my life, but to be honest, I can’t remember it. I do remember that she described TopR as this homeless, couch-surfing rapper who’d slept on her previous boyfriend’s couch. It was classic case of his reputation and lifestyle preceding his music.
Later I met TopR or Topper Holiday, as he’s ceased using his first name at 111 Minna Gallery, where I still work a side gig as a doorman. Throughout my years there he’s been a semiregular fixture, posted at the end of the bar, skeezing free drinks. He’s well loved but has this Dennis the Menace air surrounding him, like, "Oh, Topper’s here. Here comes trouble." One night in Minna alley, I remember him a big, bescruffed white dude in a fitted New Era cap, somewhat rotund and more than a little faded striking up a conversation with some bland, buttoned-down types, telling them he was a rapper and following up with a drunken freestyle. I came away feeling that it was a little sad, like he was busking in a BART station, trying to impress the squares.
"Fuck being glamorous I’m cantankerous." So goes the first line on "Frankenstein’s Topster," the opener off his latest, fifth album, Marathon of Shame (Gurp City). It was playing when I walked into Dalva on 16th Street to say hello to my friend Toph One and reintroduce myself to TopR. And quite a reintroduction it was: even before Top starts rapping, the track is a fucking winner, anchored by a sample of Black Sabbath’s "A National Acrobat," the driving guitar riff married to an überfunky drumbeat by producer Dick Nasty.
A good hip-hop album is like a good comedy record: the shit’s got to be so sharp that you want to listen to it more than once, want to scan back on the CD and point out lines to your friends who are riding with you. In Top’s case it’s an apt comparison since he’s influenced by stand-up comedians as much as by other rappers and samples Sam Kinison and Bill Hicks on his previous disc, Cheap Laughs for Dead Comedians (Gurp City, 2006). Marathon is packed with lines that’ll make other rappers wish they’d written them, from favorite one-liners like "Puttin’ squares in their place like Tetris" to heartfelt couplets such as "I don’t want to fit into this banality factory / Where together we can all make profit from tragedy."
It stands to reason that TopR can come up with witty rhymes: he’s been rapping since he was 12. Now 30, he gained his rep as a battle rapper at parties and clubs. "From ’93 until 2000 all I did was battle," he says over a pint at the Richmond District’s 540 Club. "I didn’t record music. I didn’t put out anything. I just made a reputation for myself through battling. If I was putting out albums in ’95, ’96, I might’ve been an actual artist like Living Legends, Atmosphere, and Hieroglyphics. You can only be a battle rapper for so long. After a while there’s not very much creative outlet for it. You can only make fun of someone for so long before you actually want to express your real problems and your real feelings about life. And you do that through writing songs."
In a time when your average radio rap track has more advertisements for sneakers and pricey booze than a copy of GQ, TopR represents a more compelling side of the hip-hop spectrum: the storied tradition of rapper as traveling salesman, hawking CDs "out the trunk," or in his case, out the messenger bag, since, as he says on "Siren Song," "the Muni is my chariot." And while he often calls himself out as lazy in his songs, TopR’s tale is a cross between the 1984 runaway-punk movie Suburbia and the classic Horatio Alger story.
A self-described "troubled kid," TopR left his parents’ home in Santa Cruz at 15, living in squats and hitchhiking to San Francisco to hit open mics and do graffiti. He was arrested for vandalism, went back home, and left again, sleeping on couches if he was lucky and outside if he wasn’t. He attributes his notoriety in the bar scene to necessity: "The fact that I was homeless I had to be in bars every goddamned night, looking for places to stay. I had nothing better to do."
Slumming, bumming, and battling eventually led to some Greyhound cross-country tours and a devoted following of party kids and misfits, unhappy with the status quo and, like him, struggling to get by. There’s no shortage of the usual hip-hop bravado on Marathon: "I’m a piss artist who spits darkness at bitch targets," TopR raps on "Siren Song," "<0x2009>’cause the music that’s honest is the music that hits hardest." True, but the track isn’t merely empty braggadocio: it’s nothing less than an existentialist crisis with a beat, one rapper’s The Sickness unto Death, asking the eternal questions of the artist and, ultimately, everyone who’s been "up against it."
And while it’s the struggle and the willingness to cop to it that makes Marathon so compelling, it seems TopR might finally be on the bus toward Figuring It All Out. On a tour in 2005 he met his fiancée, Kelly-Anne, perhaps the muse of "Siren’s Song," bartending at one of his shows in Asheville, NC. He stayed in the South for more than a year before getting an apartment, with a couch and a bed, in San Francisco’s Sunset District. "I came up as ‘the homeless kid who slept on couches,’<0x2009>" he explains. "But I was good at graffiti young, and I was a good rapper. I got away with a lot of stuff that some punk little kid wouldn’t because people respected me for my talents or whatever. But I’ve mellowed out." Here Top takes a contemplative pull on his pint. "I mean, I’m fuckin’ 30. I’ve got a dog now."
I’m going to do my part to go tell it on the mountain, to put this disc on when we’re cruising down the street, to make sure you hear the hilarious lines and crucial cuts. But on the other hand, one reason why it’s so good is because you ran into him in the bar and bought a disc so he could have beer money. TopR may have reached escape velocity from his day job, but he’s still orbiting the homelessness of his recent past. The line that sums up TopR for me is from "I’m on One" on Cheap Laughs: "It doesn’t take a genius to see that we’re livin’ stressful / The secret to my success is that I’m unsuccessful." It might be better for him if he got the juice to leave orbit altogether and rocket into the outer galaxies of hip-hop superstardom, but would it be better for his music if he weren’t "livin’ stressful?" Living hand to mouth myself, I’m heartened to see someone who keeps grindin’, who tries to live a creative life in the face of SF-size rent, the approaching years, and a music industry that may never give a shit. To quote TopR’s MySpace page, "Even when nothing goes right I still prevail."
TOPR CD RELEASE PARTY
With DJ Quest, Conceit, Delinquent Monastery, Thunderhut Project, Ras One, and DJ Delivery
Usually around Halloween, I start a top 10 list in my head of the best musical moments of the past year, both live and recorded. Maybe it’s my fucked-up state of late I’m not feeling too thrilled about anything but the idea of making such a list didn’t cross my mind until a week ago. I had no obsessions, no CD that wouldn’t leave the deck. But I could remember a few dismal concertgoing experiences:
Jan. 26: The Heartless Bastards play 12 Galaxies on a Friday at the end of a crappy workweek, wherein I was nearly moved to violence against one of my coworkers. Not proud of it, but woot! there it is. You can only push the Dunc so far before his Cro-Mag DNA reveals itself. So this show, which I had been looking forward to for so long, may simply have been an example of "kicking the dog," or what psychologists get overpaid to call "transference." In the middle of the show some yahoo got within inches of my date’s face, talkin’ about "Hey, what’s up?" She turned to me in horror, I told him to go away, he pleaded his case with his hands waving too close to my face, and the next thing you know he’s on his knees and I’m pounding him on top of the head, which hurts the hand more than the head. It’s still the Age of Quarrel.
Sept. 24: I finally get to see the almighty Bad Brains live, only to have my nose broken in the pit by the back of some Fred Durst wannabe’s exceptionally hard dome as he does the "nookie" dance. Punk rock may not be dead, but it’s sure been infiltrated.
Oct. 8: Turbonegro play Slim’s, and I use my plus one on a sweet but very stoned German girl I don’t know at all. Everything is going swimmingly until the barricade, which appears to be made from San Francisco Police Department fencing and kegs, starts collapsing around security and the band leaves the stage.
In the ensuing soccer chants of "Oh-oh-oh-oh, I got erection!" some tool with an erection starts chatting up my Teutonic friend. That’s all well and good she wasn’t my girlfriend and we weren’t even dating, but nonetheless, she came to the show with me and I’m standing right next to her. When I tell him to go away, he goes through a beer-soaked nightclub version of Elisabeth Kübler-Ross’s five stages of grief. (1) He denies that there is any issue. (2) He gets angry and gets in my face, saying he isn’t "scared of an old man." (But if I crack you in the face, it’s going to hurt, unless you’ve got the adrenaline from being afraid, so fear might be beneficial.) (3) He bargains with me, trying to bro-down with some rock-lock handshake. (4) He gets depressed when I refuse to be his rock ‘n’ roll, Turbo sailor buddy and keeps yapping in amazement how he can’t understand why I won’t talk it out with him. (5) In a reversion to the anger stage, he gives me his best hockey shoulder check as he walks by, at which point I am compelled to jack his arm behind his back and pray to whatever god or gods might be listening to restrain me from bringing my knee to his face. I do this praying by shouting, "Someone get this motherfucker out of my face!" Security takes him out the back door. I’m sure the cold night air ushered in feelings of acceptance.
Of the three times I’ve seen Turbonegro, the first was flaccid and boring, the second was incredible, and the third was, well, this.
My New Year’s resolution is going to be to meditate more regularly so I’m not driven to aggravation and violence at shows. Or perhaps I’ll just see bands more sparingly. With a little heavy mental excavation, I’ve come up with some good to great musical moments in 2007, which I have saved for my top 10 list.
1. Grinderman at the Great American Music Hall, July 26, and Slim’s, July 27
2. The Stooges at the Warfield, April 19
3. Qui, Lozen, and Triclops! at Cafe du Nord, Sept. 12. Qui’s Love’s Miracle (Ipecac) is most certainly top 10 material as well.
4. Love Me Nots at the Elbo Room, Aug. 31
5. The Shout Out Louds, "Blue Headlights," Our Ill Wills (Merge)
6. King Khan and BBQ Show at 12 Galaxies, Nov. 16
7.Rykarda Parasol and the Tower Ravens at Cafe du Nord, Jan. 5
8. The White Barons, Up All Night with the White Barons (Gearhead)
9. Neil Young, Chrome Dreams II (Reprise)
10. Les Savy Fav, Let’s Stay Friends (French Kiss)
HORNS UP Dethklok, "the most brutal band in the world" and stars of Adult Swim’s juggernaut of animated murder, Metalocalypse, are touring in support of their recently released Dethalbum (Williams Street), which peaked at number three on the Billboard hard rock album chart and reached number 21 on the Billboard 200, making it the best-selling death metal album of all time. The fact that a cartoon band bested Slayer’s Reign in Blood (Def Jam, 1986) might bum out old-time metalists, but facts have to be faced here: not even Slayer are more brutal than the almighty ‘Klok. Even when tackling stand-up comedy or band therapy, they’re unquestionably dark and unrelenting (and hilarious).
Metalocalypse creator Brendon Small started playing guitar by learning the riff to Black Sabbath’s "Iron Man" and went on to Boston’s prestigious Berklee School of Music. He later took comedy writing classes at Berklee’s sister school, Emerson College, which led to stand-up and ultimately the Adult Swim show Home Movies. When that show was canceled, Small got together with his friend Tommy Blacha "the only guy in comedy who would go and see death metal shows with me," Small told me over the phone during a recent San Francisco visit and they came up with the following pitch: "We’ve got a TV show. It’s going to be about a metal band, and there’s going to be tons of murder. And we’re not interested in having anyone understand anything anyone says."
Metalocalypse openly acknowledges the humor inherent in the more-doom-laden-than-thou world of metal while paying homage to music that Small clearly loves and respects. "I look at it this way," Small said. "You go to a Cannibal Corpse concert, and they look like five serial killers onstage. And their songs are about murder, about how you how you are going to die. You’re in a pit of zombies, you’re bent over backwards, and you’re going to be fucked with a knife. And I’m, like, ‘Oh, fuck yeah.’ That’s the same kind of appreciation I have for horror movies. In a serious way and in a very kind of fun, audience way, where you see in a movie a face splatters, and the audience goes, ‘Yeah!’ It’s that kind of dynamic. There’s still a lot of people who don’t really get metal and kind of make fun of it. It’s like when you go and see a Broadway performance of Rent or Wicked or something. It’s like laughing at the fact that they learned their lines and got in character. It’s the same exact thing these guys nail their parts."
Despite being anchored in an alternate reality where the most popular entertainment act in the world and the 12th-largest economy is a death-metal band, Metalocalypse is "not even about a metal band," Small said. Rather, "it’s about celebrityism. We’re making fun of celebrities and our country’s fascination with them." Small and Blacha use this allure to highlight the brutality of the everyday bummer. "It’s not ‘fucked with a knife’ or anything, but there’s shit that really fucks up your life all the time, and that’s fuckin’ brutal. Like, I don’t know…." He paused for a second or two before coming up with things that are truly inhumane: "Humidity. Going to the dentist. Going to the DMV. People not making up their mind in front of you at Starbucks. It’s fucking brutal. That’s all a metal song. Every one of those are lyrics."
With … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead
Nov. 2, 57 p.m., free
Lower Sproul Plaza, UC Berkeley, near Bancroft at Telegraph, Berk.
REVIEW Some people might tell you that when it comes to barbecue, it’s all about the sauce. But to paraphrase Dr. Dre: sauces ain’t nothin’ but hos and tricks. Which is to say, even the most powerful sauce is destined to be turned out by the true pimp in the grilled-meats game: the smoke. The folks at San Bruno’s Famous Rib Shack are above passing off mere flash-fired meats as smokalicious BB-to-the-m-f’in’-Q. I walked in with my daughter, Dolly, and ordered the Tailgate for Two combo: three pork ribs, three beef ribs, a quarter chicken, one hot link, two pieces of corn bread, and two sides (I chose mac and cheese and collard greens), all for a measly $26.95. These were not teensy little ribs; they looked like they’d been cut off the local 4-H club’s prize sow and cow. The pork fell off the bone, and the beef was flavorful, though a tad chewy in spots. Hot links often come direct from the factory, but this one was spiced to perfection and purportedly hand-made by the owner, Isaac Mejia. The chicken was good too, but poultry is more of a cleansing palliative in between ribs than real barbecue chicken is a vegetable with wings.
The sauces? Mild, hot, and maple, and all good, though Mejia has his priorities straight and got the meat right first and foremost. His corn bread was bangin’, which is important, as I’m not a fan of joints that slap a slice of flimsy white bread on a paper plate and call it authentic. That’s cheating. Greens should not taste like stewed lawn clippings either, and the shack’s tasted like, well, pork the Cadillac of meats. Finally, nothing makes a kid happier than a brownie for dessert, especially when it’s covered in nuts and marshmallows.
The word on the Internet is that the Famous Rib Shack used to be called Jimmy’s Famous Rib Shack. No disrespect to Jimmy, but unless he was St. James of the Rib Rack, his food could not have been better. Long live Isaac’s Famous Rib Shack.
FAMOUS RIB SHACK Mon.Fri., 11 a.m.9 p.m.; Sat.Sun., 11 a.m.10 p.m. 223 El Camino Real, San Bruno. (650) 952-2809
Make no mistake: Eugene Robinson is a throwback to a time when people used words like honor without being ironic or embarrassed. The vocalist for the 18-years-running art-rock-noise machine Oxbow, Stanford graduate, and Mac Life senior editor is also, to use his descriptor, a "fightaholic." As he says in the introduction to his forthcoming book Fight: Or, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Ass-Kicking but Were Afraid You’d Get Your Ass Kicked for Asking (Harper), he shares his "obsession with the eternal, unasked, ‘Can I take him?’" Contrary to what one might assume, people who beat the bloody hell out of each other for fun or profit Robinson is a mixed-martial-arts cage fighter are not suffering from antisocial personality disorders but often adhere to a strict moral code. Though, he confessed during our interview in South San Francisco, sitting in my car and looking out over the bay, "I definitely have antisocial reasons as well."
How much of this testing one’s mettle in the "crucible of conflict" is just a dick-measuring contest? Only in the movies, or perhaps in cage fights whose opponents are carefully matched, does the victor triumph because he wants it more. In any given fight a win can usually be attributed the basic physical facts of size and strength, so what’s the point of fighting if you’re merely measuring attributes?
Robinson told me about a fight he had with a Red Sox fan while loading Oxbow’s van in Maine. The Sox, who serve as the home team even for the New England hinterland, had just been humiliated by the Yankees to the tune of 192. Three Sox fans strolled by, and one inevitably asked the frontperson what the fuck he was looking at. Given multiple chances to bow out, the guy kept pushing, and ultimately had his ass handed to him. "At that point," Robinson said, "I was honor bound to deliver the lesson he had so aggressively been seeking. Whatever happened in that exchange, it wasn’t dick measuring. It was a cautionary tale, carefully delivered."
But do people really learn from being whupped on? My thinking on this subject has evolved along the lines of my employment. When I delivered pizzas for Pizza Hut in a hot pink Lacoste-style shirt, I was forced to eat spoonfuls of shit doled out by every disgruntled lard ass whose Meat Lover’s Special arrived 10 minutes late. "Someday," I thought, "someone is going to fuck that guy up." Needless to say, it was a precarious act to hang the smothering cloak of my rage on that altogether insufficient nail of "someday." When I moved on to working security at clubs, I realized that yes, someday someone will kick that guy’s ass, and it may as well be today. As the old activist saw goes, "If not now, when? If not me, who?" But after some time, I realized that the behavior of others wasn’t worth getting upset, let alone violent, over. Not because it wasn’t satisfying to deliver lessons, but because no lessons were learned. In this way, I found working in nightclubs as dissatisfying as substitute teaching.
If you fight someone and they win, then might is right, and whichever asshole behavior they were indulging in before the fight is justified. If you fight them and they lose, they will immediately work the victim angle for sympathy and punitive damages. Any attitude adjustment is clearly fleeting.
"This is a valid critique," Robinson told me, but it doesn’t derail his motivations. "The few seconds that we’re together, I’ve got to hope for the best." He recounts a situation when a member of another band was having a high-volume conversation at the edge of the stage while Robinson and Oxbow guitarist Niko Wenner were playing as an acoustic duo. After Robinson warned the musician to "shut the fuck up," things got heated. Audience members tried to cool things out, but, in Robinson’s words, "this evenhanded, kind of neutered approach didn’t pay heed to the reality of the moment. Which is, you had an enemy of art, and you had somebody who was trying to be the standard-bearer of Eros." He pauses. "Forget about all that. If I’m standing at a café and somebody is screaming at the top of his lungs next to me, I’m asking him 100 percent of the time to shut the fuck up. You don’t have to live all over me. It’s boorish. And rude. And uncouth. And in that way, it’s a form of bullying."
While it may seem excessive to put a spindly, long-haired dude in a Texas boogie-rock band in a submission hold called an ultimate head and arm, I can’t argue with Robinson’s reasoning: "Disrespect begets disrespect." In any case, the vocalist does allow for the possibility of walking away. But walking away for him has more to do with the Japanese concept of saving face, of avoiding conflict with honor, than with the Christian ethic of turning the other cheek. "Am I doing this out of graciousness or am I doing it out of fear?" he asked. "I think way too many people will choose to look the other way out of fear. My whole life has been a testament to avoiding base fears."
For this, I’ve got to respect the guy. Robinson may be derided on the Web as a prick, a sadist, and an egomaniac, but let’s look at the lessons: (1) You are honor bound to follow through on a promise. (2) Art is worthy of respect. (3) Fear should be avoided as a motivation. Sounds pretty fucking reasonable to me. Though, in my own top five, I try and sometimes fail to add: (4) Violence should be avoided as a teaching tool.
Really, though, we live in a time when shit talking is considered a sport in itself. Go to theoxbow.com and look at some of the live footage. Robinson trances out onstage and strips down to his underwear, and the band plays the sound of a psychological meltdown. Knowing what you know and seeing what you see, why would you fuck with him?
"To a certain degree, culturally, we’ve been neutered. And that’s what civilization is about: to get us to places of greater peace," Robinson said. "But clearly, that aspect of it is not working." I’d have to agree that it’s not working, especially in social situations, where people seem to assume a disconnection in the causal, karmic links between action and consequence. Witness the hapless Scotsman in the 2003 Christian Anthony documentary Music for Adults. He gets pantsed in front of a crowd by Robinson, who asks, with what seems genuine concern, "Did that hurt? Did I hurt your feelings?" before adding the rejoinder "It’s an Oxbow show. That’s what happens." *
I have a meat map of the world in my head, so when I hear "Denmark," I think of ham. If I think a little harder, I’ll come to kringle, that delicious pastry that’s ubiquitous in Racine, Wis., which is the closest I’ve come to Denmark.
My baby-momma’s of Danish descent, so I also think of the time her cousins came to visit and were amazed by the size of American freeways and our unnatural attachment to firearms. This quaint yet magical mental landscape of cured swine and fatty pastry treats is peopled by friendly that is to say, unarmed round-faced folk in wooden shoes, riding horse-drawn buggies down narrow lanes. (The arboreal footwear, which is Dutch, not Danish, and the stray Amish buggy are figments of my somewhat limited imagination, but it’s my quaint vision, so fuck you.) This place has a subtle, subdued soundtrack: When the Deer Wore Blue (Morningside/Control Group, 2007), by Figurines.
The band’s been around since the mid-’90s, when three plucky and puckish teenage Danes by the names of Christian Hjelm, Andreas Toft, and Claus Salling Johansen grew tired of their apprenticeships at their fathers’ respective pig farms and started jamming out on guitars. Together. Three guitars. Which portended a future in a Danish black metal outfitcumMotörhead cover band called ThunderfootcumGlenn Branca guitar chamber ensemble, which never came to pass, as Toft moved to bass and Johansen, his arms sinewy with muscle from pounding pig flesh in Papa’s processing plant, decided on drums. What followed was the self-released 2001 EP The Detour and a 2003 debut long-player, Shake a Mountain (Morningside), which was never officially unleashed on the gun-toting psychopaths stateside. Figurines added drummer Kristian Volden, and Johansen and his ham hands sorry, can’t help it moved back to guitar. Their burgeoning pop stardom brought them bushels of free ham and kringle and, inexplicably except in the context of this ridiculous yarn truckloads of hot chicks in wooden shoes. The boys bought the fastest horses on the lane and had them augmented with pinstripes, flame jobs, and bigger hooves in the back.
The year 2005 brought a daring daylight raid on the John Wayneophile Huns in the dark, dystopian land of America with the global release of Skeleton (Morningside/Control Group), which I discovered on my desk between 100 mph drive-by-shooting runs in my stroked-out Dodge Challenger hemi, done out in General Lee orange with a giant rebel flag painted on the roof, natch. As Hjelm sings on Skeleton‘s "Ambush," "Chase ’em down because you’re angry." The band drew comparisons, by other music writers with imaginations even more taxed than mine, to indie giants Built to Spill and Pavement. The Built to Spill thing makes sense, as Hjelm’s voice does have a nasal quality like Doug Martsch’s, but the Pavement allusion I can’t figure, except to say that when music writers get a really good pop record and want to blow smoke up a combo’s collective arse, they trot out left-field comparisons to Stephen Malkmus and company instead of inventing lands of ham and horses. I don’t know maybe there was something there rhythmically.
For Deer, Figurines have replaced Toft on bass with Mads Kjaergaard, formerly a wood nymph, after the former left the band to open a drive-through guns and alcohol store on an American Indian reservation on Route 666 in Arizona. What can I say? After touring the States, he grew dangerously enamored of our culture. Perhaps more important than this really, unless they’re Lemmy or Jaco Pastorius, there’s not a lot of change when you switch bassists they added Jens Ramon on keyboards, which is perhaps the single biggest mood changer on the new disc. Deer has an eerie yet upbeat, cinematic feel to it. It could serve as an alternate to Air’s The Virgin Suicides soundtrack, if the movie had a different ending in which the sisters didn’t kill themselves but instead moved to Denmark to shack up with an indie band and then killed themselves. "What if we had a chance?" Hjelm sings on "Childhood Verse." "I promise together we’ll die."
Hjelm goes on to channel Brian Wilson in "The Air We Breathe," which, with its backing harmonies, sounds like an outtake from the Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds (Capitol, 1966). On "Good Old Friends," Neil Young comes to mind: "Not sure what to leave behind / But I know we’ll be all right," Hjelm sings, the phrasing and sentiment feeling like Young’s line in "Tell Me Why": "Is it hard to make arrangements with yourself / When you’re old enough to repay but young enough to sell?" From here the band moves on to "Drunkard’s Dream," which opens with a sort of indie-ized send-up of Stevie Wonder’s "Superstitious," though the metronomic snare hits contrast with the funky guitar lines, making the track more akin to art rock à la Television than Wonder funk. "Bee Dee" centers around an "up the stairs and down again" guitar riff and has a looser, Feelies vibe, while the keyboards in "Cheap Place to Spend the Night" move from rollicking Farfisa to tinkling celesta.
Overall, while conceptually satisfying, the cinematic feel of Deer is not quite the pure pop bliss of Skeleton. Maybe it’s a bit homogeneous, rife with ethereal keys and moody vocals. Maybe our Danish Fab Five have been influenced by the resurgence of folk. The back-cover photo is a cross between a Little House on the Prairie still and a Flying Burrito Brothers portrait, sans rhinestone suits: two Figurines are wearing suspenders, and they each have a questioning, somewhat obsequious look on their face, like they’re about to collectively ask, "Howdy, stranger, can we get you a sarsaparilla?" But the record is ambitious, signifying the band’s willingness to change its sound with each release and not just hammer on what’s worked in the past. From their humble beginnings in ham shanks and clog dancing, Figurines dream big bigger than I do, certainly.
Despite their Rasta affiliation, dub jams, and dread heads, Bad Brains are perhaps the greatest hardcore band of all time black, white, or indifferent. Make a top three list in your head. You can quibble about the order, and you can shuffle bands in and out, but you know damned well that the Brains have to anchor the whole thing. Insert Black Flag or Minor Threat, and you realize the debt that both bands owe H.R., Dr. Know, Earl Hudson, and Darryl Jenifer.
The group officially started in Washington, D.C., in 1979, though its members had been playing together for two years without vocalist H.R. as jazz fusionprogressive act Mind Power. Which shows why Bad Brains are so monolithic in hardcore: a band with lesser musical chops couldn’t play at such finger-blistering, heart-palpitating speeds and make it sound so good. The reggae jams follow logically as necessary restoratives after the full-force pummeling the body takes from classic blasts like "Banned in DC" and "Pay to Cum."
The band’s first, 1982 ROIR cassette-only release, with the iconic lightning bolt striking the Capitol dome on the cover, is still my all-time favorite. It has a purity that just can’t be touched, even by the revamped, rerecorded version with Ric Ocasek at the helm, Rock for Light (Caroline, 1983), or by 1986’s classic I Against I (SST). It is indeed a bolt from above pure white light, pure energy, a shock to the system of both the individual listener and punk rock in general. As the Ramones, whose "Bad Brain" the band takes its name from, once said, "Gimme Gimme Shock Treatment." I listen to "Attitude" on my headphones before I get on the gate for a big bike race; like grabbing a live high-voltage line, it cleans the mind.
How does the new, Beastie Boy Adam Yauchproduced Build a Nation (Megaforce/Osciloscope) stack up? First, it’s a damned good Bad Brains record: Jenifer’s bass rumbles like a herd of disturbed elephants through the whole thing, perhaps a little high in the mix, but so satisfying. As musicians, Bad Brains haven’t dropped the beat over the years, transitioning seamlessly from their early-era blitzkriegs to the moshable tempos of Quickness (Caroline, 1989) in songs like "Pure Love" and "Send You No Flowers." Second, and most important, who gives a fuck how or if it stacks up? Bad Brains are back, playing two shows at Slim’s.
The other night, I was standing in front of Cafe du Nord, talking to a slightly loopy but pleasant woman about the lotto ticket in her pocket, the winnings from which she was already actively planning how to spend. Seems she’d watched the self-help DVD The Secret and was convinced that if she just visualized it, it’d come true. "It’s the law of attraction," she said in a slight Southern drawl.
"Also known by the philosophers in Bad Brains as ‘PMA,’" I replied, referring to the "positive mental attitude" of my favorite prerace headphone jam. "They may have that PMA, but so far as I know, no one in Bad Brains has ever won the fuckin’ lottery."
"Oh, but you’re wrong," my new friend said emphatically. "You’re so wrong." She told me about seeing Bad Brains at the 9:30 Club in D.C. in her youth. "They did win the lottery they’re the fucking Bad Brains.They change people’s lives."*
With Whole Wheat Bread (Sun/23) and Black President (Mon/24)
CLUBS Detention hall, Saturday school, Motörhead Appreciation Society
QUOTE "We’re all fuckin’ wasted. It’s one big van full of trouble, comin’ to a town near you."
"Yeah, I just rolled out of bed," Baroness Eva von Slut says when I give her a call at 2 p.m. the day after the White Barons’ show at Thee Parkside. Ah, the White Barons. The fuckin’ White Barons. They were a marketing machine of dubious T-shirt messages rolled bills, razor blades, powder piles, and crossed keys before they played their first show, and if I didn’t know von Slut from Thee Merry Widows, I might’ve been reticent to check them out: bands who have their swag down pat before playing out usually blow their nut before anything exciting happens.
Not so with the WBs. With von Slut on vocals, Baron Johnny One Eye and Nate von Wahnsinn from the Whiskey Dick Darryls on guitar and bass, respectively, and Baron Adam von Keys, formerly of All Bets Off, on drums, the group was pretty much a lock to achieve rock ‘n’ roll juggernaut status before playing a note.
Sure enough, when I caught them opening for the Dwarves during Noise Pop, though I thought I knew what to expect, I was laid out by their raw-boned punk ‘n’ roll brutality. I don’t mean to blow too much smoke up her ass, ’cause I’ll have to live with it when I see her around town, but von Slut’s got some goddamned pipes, like a ’65 Triumph chopper without mufflers, like Glenn Danzig if he drank more whiskey and weren’t three feet tall. Her vocals with the Barons are nothing like they are with the Widows: stripped of the comparatively genteel stylings of psychobilly, they range from a throaty wail to a flesh-peeling scream. Perhaps more surprising is that underneath the band’s power lurk solid hooks, as evidenced on this year’s Gearhead debut, Up All Night with the White Barons. The songs range from broken-hearted barnstormers like the opener, "You Never Were," with bassist Nate’s hilarious mongo-gorilla background grunts, to a battery of unapologetic drinkin’ and druggin’ party anthems "Wicked Ways," "Champagne & Cocaine," and "How High."
So are the White Barons a one-trick-pony party band? Do you need a key bump and a shot of Jack to smell what they’re cookin’? I’d say no. In a town where people front so-called rock groups while sitting in chairs, where the vocalist’s outfit is often (intentionally) more memorable than the music, where freak folk acoustic scruffy beards in their grandpa’s shuffleboard action slacks have elbowed out the rock ‘n’ roll impulse, the Barons hearken back to a time when seeing a band live was like a good, honest fistfight, not a chess game with Noam Chomsky.
"Should I talk some shit?" von Slut says. "I would say the lamest thing about the SF music scene is some hipster-ass, girlfriend-jeans-wearing motherfuckers. That seems to have taken over the most important thing is the image and the fashion.
"Man, we’re livin’ it. We’re livin’ the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle. We’re down in the trenches. We’re making rock ‘n’ roll happen." (Duncan Scott Davidson)
WHITE BARONS Soapbox Derby preshow. Oct. 27, 8 p.m., call for price. El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF. (415) 282-3325, www.elriosf.com
Summer may technically be on the outs, but don’t put away your baggies, huarache sandals, and that bushy, bushy blond hairdo just yet, all you Gidgets and Big Kahunas out there: it’s still Surfin’ USA in the Bay. Hell, summer doesn’t even start in San Francisco until September at the earliest. You can wax up the board and get busy, stuff the kidlets into the Woody, and hit one of the bevy of cool fiestas listed below, or maybe just lay out on a towel in Dolores Park, waiting for a wayward Lothario or Lothariette to rub cocoa butter on your fleshy hind regions. Ah, how good do we have it in the Sucka Free City?
Jazzy Tomatoes Berkeley Farmers’ Market, Center at MLK Jr. Way, Berkeley; (510) 548-3333, www.ecologycenter.org. 10:30am-3pm. Free. This collaboration between the Downtown Berkeley Jazz Festival series and the Berkeley Farmers’ Market features the sounds of local mandolinist Mike Marshall and Brazilian pianist Jovino Santos Neto, plus the flavors of Venus Restaurant’s Ann Murray.
Bodega Seafood Art and Wine Festival Watts Ranch, 16855 Bodega Ave, Bodega; (707) 824-8717, www.winecountryfestivals.com. Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $8-12. The sleepy village where Alfred Hitchcock filmed The Birds hosts this celebration of the best beer, wine, and seafood California has to offer. Sip on a Cline Cellars pinot noir and enjoy albacore wrapped in bacon while taking in the sounds of Marcia Ball’s Texas-style roadhouse blues.
Golden Gate Renaissance Festival Speedway Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF; (415) 354-1773, www.sffaire.com. Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $5-15. Stilt walkers, fire-eaters, jesters, jousters, knights, peasant wenches, and Shakespeare fetishists abound in the fourth installment of this medieval fair. Amid the feasting and storytelling, you’ll get a chance to practice your chivalry and maybe ride a horse.
Arab Cultural Festival County Fair Building, Ninth Ave and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF; www.arabculturalcenter.org. 10am-7pm. $2-5. Hikayatna (Our stories) is the theme for this year’s Arab Cultural Festival, featuring a bazaar with jewelry, henna, and Arab cuisine, as well as assorted folk and contemporary musical performances.
Taste of Marin St. Vincent’s School for Boys, 1 St. Vincent Dr., San Rafael; (415) 663-9667, www.marinorganic.org. 4-10pm. $150. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the exquisite food that is grown and produced in Marin, this event features a silent auction, chances to meet the farmers and chefs, and an elaborate sit-down dinner. Soulstress Maria Muldaur provides the musical entertainment.
AUG. 31-SEPT. 2
Monterey Bay Reggae Fest Monterey County Fairgrounds, 2004 Fairground Road, Monterey; (831) 394-6534, www.mbayreggaefest.net. The sprawling Monterey County Fairgrounds plays host to this annual festival featuring the liveliest of modern reggae acts. Eek-a-Mouse, Mighty Diamonds, and you-know-who’s brother, Richard Marley Booker, are just a sample of this year’s lineup.
Art and Soul Oakland Frank Ogawa Plaza and City Center, 14th St. and Clay, Oakl; (510) 444-CITY, www.artandsouloakland.com. 11am-6pm. $5. The seventh incarnation of this annual downtown Oakland festival includes dance performances, lots of art to view and purchase, an expanded Family Fun Zone, and a notably eclectic musical lineup: big-name performers include Lucinda Williams, Against Me!, the Legendary Fillmore Slim, Johnny Rawls, and Ted Leo and the Pharmacists.
Sausalito Art Festival Army Corps of Engineers-Bay Model Visitor Center and Marinship Park, Sausalito; (415) 331-3757, www.sausalitoartfestival.org. Check Web site for times. $5-20. The Sausalito waterfront will play host to hundreds of artists’ exhibits as well as family entertainment and top-notch live music from the likes of Jefferson Starship and the Marshall Tucker Band.
Free Shakespeare in the Park Presidio parade ground, SF; (415) 558-0888, www.sfshakes.org. Sat, 7:30pm; Sun and Labor Day, 2:30pm. Free. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer’s Night Dream gets a brilliant rendition under the direction of Kenneth Kelleher on the outdoor stage. Families fostering budding lit and theater geeks should take note.
Cowgirlpalooza El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; (415) 282-3325, www.elriosf.com. 3-9pm. $10. This sure-to-be-twangy evening on El Rio’s patio features music by the most compellingly country-fried female musicians around, including Kitty Rose, Starlene, Axton Kincaid, Burning Embers, 77 El Deora, and Four Year Bender.
San Francisco Electronic Music Festival Project Artaud Theater, 450 Florida, SF; www.sfemf.org. 8:30pm. $12-16. The seventh in an annual series of weeklong electronica parties. Fred Frith, Annea Lockwood, Univac, and David Behrman round out this year’s lineup.
911 Power to the Peaceful Festival Speedway Meadows, Golden Gate Park, SF; (415) 865-2170, www.powertothepeaceful.org. 11am-5pm. Free. This event calling for international human rights and an end to bombing features art and cultural exhibits and a talk with Amy Goodman, as well as performances by Michael Franti, the Indigo Girls, and DJ Spooky.
Bay Area Pet Fair Marin Center, 10 Ave of the Flags, San Rafael; (415) 229-3174, www.bayareapetfair.com. Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $5-7. This event does double duty as a celebration of companion animals and a venue for a massive pet adopt-athon, so bring the kids and the dog.
Brews on the Bay Jeremiah O’Brien, Pier 45, SF; www.sanfranciscobrewersguild.org. 12-4:30pm. $8-40. Beer tasting, live music, and food abound at the San Francisco Brewers Guild’s annual on-deck showcase.
Chocolate Festival Ghirardelli Square, 900 N Point, SF; www.ghirardellisq.com. 12-5pm. Free. An indisputably fun weekend at the square includes chocolate goodness from more than 30 restaurant and bakery booths, various activities for kids and families, and a hands-free Earthquake Sundae Eating Contest.
Solano Avenue Stroll Solano between San Pablo and the Alameda in Berkeley and Albany; (510) 527-5358, www.solanoavenueassn.org. 10am-6pm. Free. The long-running East Bay block party features a clown-themed parade, art cars, dunk tanks, and assorted artsy offerings of family fun, along with the requisite delicious food and musical entertainment.
Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival Old Mill Park, Mill Valley; (415) 381-8090, www.mvfaf.org. Sat, 10am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm. $7. Dig this juried show featuring original fine art, including jewelry, woodwork, painting, ceramics, and clothing.
Wisdom Festival Fort Mason Center, SF. (415) 452-0369, www.wisdomfestival.com. Sat, 10am-8pm; Sun, 10am-7pm. $8-$55. This fest features interactive panels, workshops, symposiums, and lectures, all geared toward your inner Shirley MacLaine.
Autumn Moon Festival Grant between California and Broadway and Pacific between Stockton and Kearney, SF; (415) 982-6306, www.moonfestival.org. 11am-6pm. Free. At one of Chinatown’s biggest annual gatherings you can see an acrobatic troupe, martial artists, street vendors, and, of course, lots of moon cakes. I like the pineapple the best.
A Taste of Greece Annunciation Cathedral, 245 Valencia, SF; (415) 864-8000, www.sfgreekfoodfestival.org. Call or check Web site for time. $5. Annunciation Cathedral’s annual fundraising event is an all-out food festival where you can steep yourself in Greek dishes, wine tasting, and the sounds of Greek Compania.
World Veg Festival San Francisco County Fair Building, Ninth Avenue and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF; (415) 273-5481. www.sfvs.org. 10am-6pm. $5. For those afraid of hamburgers, this event features speakers, live entertainment, and local cuisine of the meatless variety.
Folsom Street Fair Folsom between Seventh and 12th streets, SF; www.folsomstreetfair.com. 11am-6pm. Free. The world’s largest leather gathering, coinciding with Leather Pride Week, features a new Leather Women’s Area along with myriad fetish and rubber booths. Musical performers include Ladytron and Imperial Teen, and comedian Julie Brown also will appear.
Shuck and Swallow Oyster Challenge Ghirardelli Square, West Plaza, 900 North Point, SF; (415) 929-1730. 5pm. Free to watch, $25 per duo to enter. How many oysters can two people scarf down in 10 minutes? Find out as pairs compete at this most joyous of spectacles, then head to the oyster and wine pairing afterward at McCormick and Kuleto’s Seafood Restaurant, also in Ghirardelli Square.
Fleet Week Various locations, SF; (650) 599-5057, www.fleetweek.us. Cries of “It’s a plane!” and “Now there’s a boat!” shall abound at San Francisco’s impressive annual gathering. Along with ship visits, there’ll be a big air show by the Blue Angels and the Viper West Coast Demonstration Team. And for the lonely among us, North Beach will be assholes and elbows with horny sailors and jarheads.
Mill Valley Film Festival CinéArts at Sequoia, 25 Throckmorton, Mill Valley; 142 Throckmorton Theatre, 142 Throckmorton Ave, Mill Valley; Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center, 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (925) 866-9559, www.mvff.com. Check Web site for times and prices. Documentaries and features of both the independent and international persuasion get screen time at this festival, the goal of which is insight into the various cultures of filmmaking.
San Francisco Zinefest CELLspace, 2050 Bryant, SF; (415) 750-0991, www.sfzinefest.com. Fri, 2-8pm; Sat, 11am-7pm. Free. Appreciate the continuing vitality of the DIY approach at this two-day event featuring workshops and more than 40 exhibitors.
Berkeley Juggling and Unicycling Festival King Middle School, 1781 Rose, Berkeley; www.berkeleyjuggling.org. Fri, 5-10pm; Sat, 9am-10pm; Sun, 9am-5pm. Check Web site for prices. More balls than hands. More feet than wheels.
Pacific Pinball Exposition Marin County Civic Center Exhibition Hall, San Rafael; www.nbam.org/ppexpo. Fri 2-10pm; Sat-Sun, 10am-12am. $20-35. Focusing on vintage machines, this inaugural festival promises to extol all things pinball. I think you get in free if you’re a deaf, dumb, and blind kid who can play a mean pinball.
Litquake Various locations, SF; www.litquake.org. San Francisco’s annual literary maelstrom naturally features Q&As and readings by a gazillion local authors, including Daniel Handler, Jane Smiley, Dave Eggers, and Ann Patchett. The gang is honoring local writer Armistead Maupin with a lifetime achievement award.
Oktoberfest by the Bay Fort Mason Center, Marina at Laguna, SF; www.oktoberfestbythebay.com. Check Web site for times. $25. One of the few places your lederhosen won’t look silly is the biggest Oktoberfest left of Berlin, where the Chico Bavarian Band will accompany German food and a whole lotta beer.<\!s>*
On the Discovery Channel show Man vs. Wild, Bear Grylls parachutes into remote wildernesses, from the swampy Everglades to the freezing Scottish Highlands, and finds his way out, seemingly on his own. However, in an article posted on the BBC News Web site July 24, survival consultant Mark Weinert alleged that Grylls spent some nights in a hotel during the Hawaii episode, among other solo-survival no-no’s. Whatever the case, Man vs. Wild is, in my opinion, the greatest nature-survival show since Marty Stouffer’s Wild America. The following is an abridged version of an e-mail interview with Grylls, which took place prior to the controversy:
SFBG How helpful do you think being a regular viewer of your show would be in a survival situation?
BEAR GRYLLS Well, hopefully it is pretty helpful! Really, the best survival advice is always to sit tight and wait for rescue. But having said that, the whole series is full of survival advice, with most of it quite out-of-the-box stuff, like using shoelaces to climb tress or drinking the fluids from elephant dung for water. I do get quite a few letters from people saying that they used something they saw me do on a show and it saved their lives. Whether they are making it up or telling the truth, I never know, but it is encouraging to read. When we first started filming, I used to think, "Will anyone ever watch this?" So it’s nice that they do!
SFBG What’s the one thing you’d recommend as indispensable training for anyone in terms of being able to survive in the wild?
BG Understand that survival is all about strength of mind, not body hence in so many survival epics it has often been the ladies in high heels with no skills who have been victims of airplane crashes, etc., who beat the odds, whereas their fellow male survivors with all the gear and gung ho have crumbled. Why? Because their reason for staying alive was bigger it drove them further, it made them think laterally, made them keep making decisions, never giving up and doing whatever it took to stay alive long enough to be found or get lucky. Those who stick it out are those who win.
SFBG What would you say was the single most challenging survival situation you’ve ever been in?
BG Losing my father when I was still young.
SFBG In this season of the show, what was the most difficult environment to survive in?
BG Scotland, ironically, was tough classified as an Arctic landscape. I was there in winter in minus-40 degrees in a storm, with very little clothing. I would have been in real trouble if I had not found a deer carcass that I could gut and sleep inside. I have just returned from the Sahara for season two, where it was 140 degrees. I definitely was on the outer limit of my endurance, I felt.
SFBG Have you ever been close to throwing in the towel and asking for assistance?
BG Well, when it has been raining for 24 hours torrentially, I am lost, with limited food and water, no tent or mosquito net, in the Amazon, and I miss my family and two boys, it is okay to have the odd moment of "What the hell I am doing here?" I am not a robot. Being away from my wife and kids is the hardest part of all this for me.
SFBG Obviously, people are fascinated by the foul things you ingest in order to stay alive. Do you have a list of the most disgusting?
BG The top list is: goat testicles, raw (just wait for the new season!), sheep eyeballs (exploding goo of gristle and blood), grubs as big as fists (yellow ooze), and raw zebra neck. But that’s all for my work life. When I am home, I just love home cooking! (Duncan Scott Davidson)
“Out with ACT” American Conservatory Theatre, 415 Geary; 749-2228, www.act-sf.or. 8pm, $17.50-$73.50. ACT presents this new series for gay and lesbian theater lovers, including a performance of Molière’s The Imaginary Invalid and a reception with complimentary wine and a meet and greet with the actors. Mention “Out with ACT” when purchasing your tickets.
“Queer Wedding Sweet” Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California; 438-9933, www.jccsf.org/arts. 8pm, $36. The JCCSF presents the West Coast premiere of Queer Wedding Sweet, an “exploration of queer weddings and commitment ceremonies through stories, song, juggling, and comedy.” Featured performers include Adrienne Cooper, Sara Felder, Marilyn Lerner, Frank London, and Lorin Sklamberg.
“Queer Cabaret” Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. 8pm, $15-20. Big City Improv, Jessica Fisher, and burlesque dancers Shaunna Bella and Claire Elizabeth team up for an evening of queer performance celebrating Pride. Proceeds will go to the Shotgun Players’ Solar Campaign.
“Tea N’ Crisp” Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby, Berk; (510) 841-6500, www.shotgunplayers.org. 8pm, $25. Richard Louis James stars as gay icon Quentin Crisp in the Shotgun Players’ production of this Pride Week tribute.
“Here’s Where I Stand” First Unitarian Church and Center, 1187 Franklin, SF; (415) 865-2787, www.sfgmc.org. 8pm, $15-45. The world’s first openly LGBT music ensemble will be kicking off Pride Week with a range of music from Broadway to light classical. Includes performances by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco, San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus, and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band. Concert also takes place same time on Sat/22.
“Thursday Night Live” Eagle, 398 12th St, SF; (415) 625-0880, www.sfeagle.com. 1pm, $10. Support Dykes on Bikes at their 30th anniversary Beer/Soda Bust and catch these glitzy vixens as they share the stage with Slapback.
Veronica Klaus and Her All-Star Band Jazz at Pearl’s, 256 Columbus, SF; (415) 291-8255, www.jazzatpearls.com. 8 and 10pm, $15. The all-star lineup features Daniel Fabricant, Tom Greisser, Tammy L. Hall, and Randy Odell.
“Glam Gender” Michael Finn Gallery, 814 Grove; 573-7328. 7-10pm. This collaboration between photographer Marianne Larochelle and art director Jose Guzman-Colon, a.k.a. Putanesca, kicks off Pride Weekend by celebrating San Francisco’s queer art underground.
Pride Concert Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission. SF; 7 and 9pm, Copresented by the Lesbian/Gay Chorus of San Francisco and the San Francisco Lesbian/Gay Freedom Band, this 29th annual Pride concert promises to be a gay time for all.
San Francisco Trans March Dolores Park, 18th St and Dolores; 447-2774, www.transmarch.org. 3pm stage, 7pm march; free. Join the transgender community of San Francisco and beyond for a day of live performances, speeches, and not-so-military marching.
Queer Stuff Pride Talent Showcase Home of Truth Spiritual Center, 1300 Grand, Alameda; 1-888-569-2064, www.queerstuffenterprises.com. 7:30pm, $8. This showcase features the music of Judea Eden and Friends, Amy Meyers, and True Magrit, plus the comedy of Karen Ripley.
Dykes on Bikes Fundraiser Eagle, 398 12th St, SF; (510) 712-7739, www.twilightvixen.com. 1pm. Twilight Vixen Revue will perform at the beer bust at the Eagle. Stop by before heading to the march.
LGBT Pride Celebration Civic Center, Carlton B. Goodlett Place and McCallister, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. Noon-6pm, free. Celebrate LGBT pride at this free outdoor event featuring DJs, speakers, and live music. This is the first half of the weekend-long celebration sponsored by SF Pride. Also Sun/24.
Mission Walk 18th St and Dolores, SF; (503) 758-9313, www.ebissuassociates.com. 11am, free. Join in on this queer women’s five-mile walk through the Mission.
Pink Triangle Installation Twin Peaks Vista, Twin Peaks Blvd parking area, SF; (415) 247-1100, ext 142, www.thepinktriangle.com. 7-11am, free. Bring a hammer and your work boots and help install the giant pink triangle atop Twin Peaks for everyone to see this Pride Weekend. Stay for the commemoration ceremony at 10:30am.
“Remembering Lou Sullivan: Celebrating 20 Years of FTM Voices” San Francisco LGBT Center, Ceremonial Room, 1800 Market, SF; (415) 865-5555, www.sfcenter.org. 6-8pm, free. This presentation celebrates the life of Louis Graydon Sullivan, founder of FTM International and an early leader in the transgender community.
“Qcomedy Showcase” Jon Sims Center, 1519 Mission, SF; (415) 541-5610, www.qcomedy.com. 8pm, $8-15. A stellar cast of San Francisco’s funniest queer and queer-friendly comedians performs.
San Francisco Dyke March Dolores Park, Dolores at 18th St, SF; www.dykemarch.org. 7pm, free. Featuring Music from Binky, Nedra Johnson, Las Krudas, and more, plus a whole lot of wacky sapphic high jinks.
LGBT Pride Celebration Civic Center, Carlton B. Goodlett Place and McCallister, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. Noon-7pm, free. The celebration hits full stride, with musical performances and more.
LGBT Pride Parade Market at Davis to Market at Eighth St, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.sfpride.org. 10:30am-noon, free. With 200-plus dykes on bikes in the lead, this 36th annual parade, with an expected draw of 500,000, is the highlight of the Pride Weekend in the city that defines LGBT culture.
CLUBS AND PARTIES
“Gay Pride in the Mix” Eureka Lounge, 4063 18th St, SF; (415) 431-6000, e.stanfordalumni.org/clubs/stanfordpride/events.asp. 7-9pm, no cover. An intercollegiate LGBT mixer in an upscale environment, with drink and appetizer specials available. Alumni from Ivy League and Seven Sisters schools, Stanford, MIT, and UC Berkeley welcome.
Hellraiser Happy Hour: “Pullin’ Pork for Pride” Pilsner Inn, 225 Church, SF; (415) 621-7058. 5:30-8pm, free. The Guardian‘s own Marke B. will be pullin’ pork and sticking it between hot buns with the help of the crew from Funk N Chunk. You might win tickets to the National Queer Arts Festival, but really, isn’t having your pork pulled prize enough?
“A Celebration of Diversity” Box, 628 Divisadero, SF. 9pm-2am, $20. Join Page Hodel for the return of San Francisco’s legendary Thursday night dance club the Box for one night only, sucka!
Crack-a-Lackin’ Gay Pride Mega Party Crib, 715 Harrison, SF; (415) 749-2228. 9:30pm-3am, $10. Features live stage performances and, according to the press release, “tons of surprises.” I’m not sure how much a surprise weighs, so I don’t know how many surprises it takes to add up to a ton. It’s one of those “how many angels fit on the head of a pin?” things.
“Gay Disco Fever” Lexington Club, 3464 19th St, SF; (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com. 9pm-2am. I can’t figure out who does what at this event. Courtney Trouble and Jenna Riot are listed as hosts, and Campbell and Chelsea Starr are the DJs, which I guess makes drag king Rusty Hips “Mr. Disco” and Claire and Shaunna the “Disco Queens.” It takes a village to raise a nightclub. That’s a whole lotta fabulousness under one roof.
“Girlezque SF” Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF; www.myspace.com/girlezquesf. 9pm, $10-15. This supposedly sophisticated burlesque party for women features the erotic stylings of AfroDisiac, Sparkly Devil, Rose Pistola, and Alma, with after-party grooves by DJ Staxx. Hopefully, it’s not too sophisticated &ldots;
Pride Party Lexington Club, 3464 19th St, SF; (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com. 9pm-2am, free. Make this no-cover throwdown your first stop as you keep the march going between the numerous after-parties.
Bustin’ Out II Trans March Afterparty El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; (415) 510-677-5500. 9pm-2am, $5-50, sliding scale. Strut your stuff at the Transgender Pride March’s official after-party, featuring sets from DJs Durt, Lil Manila, and Mel Campagna and giveaways from Good Vibes, AK Press, and more. Proceeds benefit the Trans/Gender Variant in Prison Committee.
Cockblock SF Pride Party Fat City, 314 11th St, SF; (415) 568-8811. 9pm, $6. DJs Nuxx and Zax spin homolicious tunes and put the haters on notice: no cock-blockin’ at this sweaty soiree.
“GIRLPRIDE” Sound Factory, 525 Harrison, SF; (415) 647-8258. 9pm-4am, $20. About 2,500 women are expected to join host Page Hodel to celebrate this year’s Pride Weekend, and that’s a whole lotta love.
Mr. Muscle Bear Cub Contest and Website Launch Party Lone Star Saloon, 1354 Harrison, SF; (415) 978-9986. 11pm, $19.95. Join contestants vying for the title of spokesmodel of Muscle Bear Cub. The winner receives $500 cash and a lifetime supply of Bic razors. Don’t shave, Bear Cub! Don’t you ever shave!
Uniform and Leather Ball SF Veterans War Memorial, 401 Van Ness, Green Room, SF; www.sfphx.org. 8pm-midnight, $60-70. The men’s men of the Phoenix Uniform Club want you to dress to the fetish nines for this 16th annual huge gathering, featuring Joyce Grant and the City Swing Band and more shiny boots than you can lick all year. Yes, sirs!
“Old School Dance” Cafè Flore, 2298 Market at Noe, SF; (415) 867-8579. 8pm-2am, free. Get down old-school style at the Castro’s annual Pink Saturday street party, with sets from DJs Ken Vulsion and Strano, plus singer Moon Trent headlining with a midnight CD release party for Quilt (Timmi-Kat Records).
Pride Brunch Hotel Whitcomb, 1231 Market, SF; (415) 777-0333, www.positiveresource.org. 11am-2pm, $75-100. Honor this year’s Pride Parade grand marshals: four hunky cast members from the TV series Noah’s Arc; Marine staff sergeant Eric Alva, the first American wounded in Iraq; and Jan Wahl, Emmy winner and owner of many funky hats.
“Puttin’ on the Ritz” San Francisco Design Center Galleria, 101 Henry Adams, SF; (650) 343-0543, www.puttinontheritzsf.com. 8pm-2am, $85. Bump your moneymaker at this all-lady event. Incidentally, the performer who brought “Puttin’ on the Ritz” back to popularity on early ’80s MTV was none other than Taco.
“Queen” Pier 27, SF; www.energy927fm.com. 9pm, $45. Energy 92.7 brings back the dynamism of the old-school San Francisco clubs for this Pride dance-off. Peaches and Princess Superstar headline. Wear your best tear-away sweats and get ready to get down, Party Boy style.
“Rebel Girl” Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF; wwww.rebelgirlsf.com. 9pm-2am, $10. Rebel Girl brings the noise for this one, with go-go dancers, Vixen Creations giveaways, drink specials, and, you know, rebel girls.
“Sweat Special Pride Edition” Lexington Club, 3464 19th St, SF; (415) 863-205, www.lexingtonclub.com. 9pm-2am, free. DJ Rapid Fire spins you right round round with a sweaty night of dancing and grinding.
Dykes on Bikes Afterparty Lexington Club, 3464 19th St, SF; (415) 863-2052, www.lexingtonclub.com. Noon, free. How do they find time to ride with all these parties?
“Gay Pride” Bambuddha Lounge, 601 Eddy, SF; (415) 864-3733, www.juanitamore.com. 3pm, $25. Juanita More! hosts this benefit for the Harvey Milk City Hall Memorial, with a DJs Derek B, James Glass, and fancy-pants New York City import Kim Ann Foxman. It also includes an appearance from silicone wonder Miss Gina LaDivina. Fill ‘er up, baby!
“Pleasuredome Returns” Porn Palace, 942 Mission, SF; (415) 820-1616, www.pleasuredomesf.com. 9pm, $20. You have to get tickets in advance for the onetime reopening of the dome in the Porn Palace’s main dungeon room. When you’re done dancing, visit the jail, bondage, or barn fantasy rooms and make that special someone scream “Sooo-eeeee!”
"Hey, everybody, we’re all gonna get laid!" Rodney Dangerfield’s character, Al Czervik, says in one of the classic lines from Caddyshack. Oakland’s Replicator sample the line as the tag end of "Delicious Fornicake," the opening track of their new album, Machines Will Always Let You Down (Radio Is Down). The inclusion is telling: Caddyshack celebrates the redemption nay, triumph of the little guy, the lowly, the nobody, the nerd, the caddy, for chrissakes, despite the oppression of greedy, classist boors. Machines is, in its way, a tight, terse, aggro, nerd-rock opera, with tweed cubicles replacing expansive set pieces, and hard, noisy post-punk reminiscent of geek-rock kingpins Big Black, in an alternate universe where Steve Albini doesn’t take himself so seriously. "It’s kind of, for lack of a better term, big rock," vocalist-guitarist Conan Neutron says over the phone from his apartment. In the opening track, the narrator, with the help of "a few beers, some Scotch, and a pack of cigarettes," builds "a robot with which to have sex." In "Payment www.yzzz.rd" (pronounced "wizard"), Neutron, an IT guy for a "major financial institution" when not living the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, sings, "I just got paid / So come get my cash / Come take my money / Come get it fast," the refrain of wage slaves everywhere.
The next track, "Assloads of Unrespect," is in the voice of a degenerate dot-com millionaire, the kind who crawled the Bay Area like a new species of roach in the mid- to late ’90s: "Let me begin / By saying I’m rich / I’m well-dressed / Good-looking / Hey ain’t that a bitch? / Because I own you / That’s right, I own you." In an example of Neutron’s biting, often hilarious lyrics, the boss we love to hate goes on: "I heard it said the meek shall inherit the earth /Well, just make damn sure to shine my shoes first." The album goes on to tackle such subjects as time travel, the Enigma machine, and the spy-versus-spy uses of nanotechnology, before ending with the Office Spacelike "Login with My Fist" the battle cry of cubicle commandos everywhere which winds down in a cacophony of screams and guitar squall, an implacable Commodore VIC-20style voice repeating, "It does not compute," in the background.
It’s worth noting that the disc isn’t a celebration of all things techie, often a nerd stereotype. Rather, it’s a scathing denunciation of technology, or, more accurately, the devious and inhumane uses that technology has been put to in the hands of the powerful and ethically impaired. When the nerd class stops letting itself be pimped out for the glory of so-called pure science, then maybe it’ll inherit the earth. And when people stop being enamored of machines making life easier, maybe they’ll realize they’re being enslaved by technology that, indeed, machines will always let you down.
"We make music for very pissed-off smart people," Neutron says. He goes on to acknowledge that this target demo is a small slice of the music-listening public: "Our music isn’t very popular." Formed in 1999, Replicator Neutron, Ben Adrian on bass and keyboard, Chris Bolig on drums, and "junior partner" Todd Grant on guitar have seen trends come and go. "First everyone was really into indie pop," Neutron says. "Then everyone was into sounding like Radiohead and then garage rock and then everyone wanted to, like, wear a mask and not really play music."
Through it all, Replicator have released three pissed-off, smart records, toured heavily, and brought to mind a time "when it was not an insult to be considered brilliant," as the lyric on "Login with My Fist" goes. I’m not saying they’re brilliant nor am I saying they’re not but what they’re attempting doesn’t accept mediocrity. This uncompromising approach often seems to have relegated them to the middle slot of shows while the underground flavor du jour headlines above them. Like Dangerfield, they get no respect.
One of the titles kicked around for the new album was Fuck You, Still Here. "I see bands that are more careerist," Neutron says. "They have this idea: ‘Oh, we’re going to get signed and then we’re going to make this video and go on tour with this band.’ That seems to be their end goal.
"Our end goal is to return the ass-kicking that music has given us."
"Do you always have to offend everyone?" So ran a comment anonymous, of course on a piece I’d written for an undergrad creative writing class, a piss take on the Our Father titled "Our Father II." This was in the early ’90s, when I was still planning my escape from junior college and the burbs. Another classmate suggested that I "try going on a fishing trip or getting laid or something" so I could "write something positive for a change."
During this time in my life, Unsane (Matador, 1991), the eponymous debut by the East Village meat grinders, was in heavy rotation on my turntable, the cover displayed upright on the stereo cabinet: a man on the subway tracks, his head neatly severed by the downtown train. In an era rife with rawboned noise rock, the record was the ne plus ultra of anger and aggression: as violent and uncompromising as golden-age Slayer, but more immediate and less mythical. Whereas Slayer sang about historical creeps Ed Gein and Josef Mengele, Unsane’s Chris Spencer screamed his throat raw about that guy, right there, sitting across the aisle from you with an ice pick in his pocket, staring. Musically, he somehow managed to take the country staple Fender Telecaster and wring the twang out of it, giving it a metal-on-metal screech like that subway train with its brakes locked.
Years later, after logging a decent amount of coitus and fishing trips, I had lost neither my predilection for the aggro or for Unsane. I’d wander around the SF State campus stressed, thinking deep collegiate thoughts, scowling, and muttering to myself, borderline Trenchcoat Mafia and preselective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. I got into a philosophical argument with a poet visiting one of my classes. She was heavily into Zen and read a few poems about sweaty horses and wild roses. They were well crafted and praiseworthy but raised hackles when their author, all blissed out on Mill Valley and whole grain, contended that the purpose of poetry is to convey beauty. That’s an option, sure, but what about ugly? If the only purpose of art is to strive for beauty, what separates it from a Cover Girl commercial, from the consistent mainstream message that things, such as they are, are not as they should be? "Beauty is truth, truth beauty," John Keats wrote in "Ode on a Grecian Urn." I prefer the adage "Beauty is only skin-deep, but ugly goes to the bone." Sure, the Lorax speaks for the trees, but who will speak for the twisted, ugly, and bitter?
It’s a rhetorical question, of course. Three albums not counting singles and greatest-hits comps and four labels later, Unsane are back with Visqueen on Ipecac, with its cover of a body wrapped in plastic sheeting and dumped in a meadow. Over the course of its career, the band has toured relentlessly, including an opening stint with Slayer; lost a drummer to a heroin overdose; and inspired dozens of noise bands, some the real deal, others merely aping it. In February 1998, Spencer was attacked by four people in Amsterdam and needed emergency surgery for internal bleeding. So while you can look at the photos on Unsane’s site and see the band members smiling and horsing around, their recordings are decidedly missing that "good day, sunshine" vibe. They’ve been there, and they’ve seen it. "This city is packed full of lowlifes," Spencer sings over a forlorn harmonica on the ominously titled "This Stops at the River," "and all I can see in your eyes is fear."
It can be argued that there’s a certain homogeneity in Unsane’s fixation on the shady side of the street. "I know it’s only pain / I know it’s all the same," Spencer reveals in a moment of self-awareness. Both Keats and my classroom visitor had it right and they both had it wrong. Zen isn’t a hippie chill pill; it’s about seeing clearly what’s there. This is the picture, Pollyanna. This is the whole thing. You live in the city; there are no more truffula trees. There are no more barbaloots in their barbaloot suits. There’s a boot on your car, rent’s due, the phone’s been disconnected, and there’s a junkie sitting on the curb, shooting up in his foot.
There are things you can count on in this world, and that same, punishing Unsane sound, with minor variations, will be there when you need release. Keats died of tuberculosis at 25, coughing up blood. If "beauty is truth, truth beauty," then either his death was a lie or all the death and blood and bodies wrapped in Visqueen have some kind of underlying beauty. There is an aesthetic in violence and fear that forms a more satisfying whole than roses and Grecian urns alone. What does an urn hold, after all, but ashes? *
"When you’re smilin’," Satchmo sang, "the whole world smiles with you." Likewise, when you’re on acid, the whole world is frying with you, like that egg in the Just Say No commercials of the ’80s. After watching Richard Elfman’s black-and-white, semianimated, vaudevillian, blackface, sadomasochistic, surrealist musical masterpiece Forbidden Zone, my dosed-up high school friends and I were convinced that Elfman and the entire cast must have been on copious amounts of mind-altering substances. Because, seriously, how else could you come up with this shit?
The plot involves a hidden door in the basement of the Hercules family home, which after a jaunt through Monty Pythonesque animated bowels leads into the sixth dimension, home of an ear-eating, tuxedo-clad anthropomorphic frog named Bust Rod; a cadre of hollow-eyed, dry-humping psychopaths; a topless princess; a "little midget king"; a sapphic, ball-busting badass evil queen; and a very musical, Cab Callowayloving Satan. Oh, and a gorilla who gets his head pounded into a mealy mush by Grandpa Hercules, a former Jewish wrestling star. What’s Grandpa Hercules doing in the sixth dimension? His grandson Flash a tubby, gray-haired elementary school student in boxers, a Beanie Boy propeller hat, and a Boy Scout shirt unties his "kosher fart of a grandpa" to help him rescue his sister, Frenchy, and classmate Squeezit Henderson’s twin, René, from the dungeon. Squeezit contends throughout the movie that his sibling is female, to which Flash counters, "He just dresses like a broad. He’s a faggot." Faced with friends like this and an abusive, sailor-humping mom, Squeezit’s only true allies are chickens.
I long ago stopped eating the magic fruit of Sandoz Laboratories and realize you don’t have to be on brain-melting hallucinogens to come up with something wildly creative like Forbidden Zone. As it turns out, Richard Elfman’s only vices are "wine and women" (see "Return to the Sixth Dimension"). However, you can’t blame me for thinking he was on something. I recently watched the movie with my friend Maria after years of blurting out things like "Holy cow, it’s 10 to nine! The queen said she was going to ream us with 20-inch cattle prods, and I’m still waiting!" When the 73 minutes of lunacy had ceased, she looked at me blankly and said, "I think it’s one of those movies that you need to be on acid to really get into."
"Have you heard this yet?" I asked the cashier at Green Apple Books and Music’s annex, laying The Weirdness (Virgin) on the counter. The black cover with the ominous Stooges logo in reflective silver seemed somehow dangerous in and of itself.
"Yeah. It’s all right," he answered. "It could’ve been worse."
"So it’s no Fun House?"
"Not even. But it’s not bad. It could’ve been really embarrassing."
So, how is The Weirdness aside from not too embarrassing? It opens with a grunt from Iggy Pop and a squealing guitar that sounds like an overdriven, amplified harmonica. The track, "Trollin’," is, of course, about tooling for twat in a convertible, with lines such as "I see your hair as energy / My dick is turnin’ into a tree." Not to throw salt in a brother’s game, but with the Igg turning 60 at the Warfield show April 21, the boner jams might be a little inappropriate.
But when have the Stooges ever been appropriate? Pop’s lyrics have always blurred the line between idiot and savant: we can all agree that "The Passenger" is some of the finest alienation poetry ever penned, but "It’s 1969 OK / All across the USA / It’s another year for me and you / Another year with nothin’ to do" ain’t exactly Shakespeare. The Weirdness includes Mike Watt on bass, who, despite his storied history with the Minutemen and Firehose, must be crapping his trousers every time he gets onstage with the band. Steve Mackay the original sax player who brought unadulterated free-jazz death skronk mayhem to "LA Blues," the outro to Fun House (Elektra, 1970) is heavily showcased, and the whole thing was recorded by Steve Albini, the obvious choice to put the album to tape with minimal hocus-pocus.
As a latter-day Iggy Pop slab, The Weirdness is pretty damned OK. I mean, 9 times out of 10, are you going to grab Naughty Little Doggy (Virgin, 1996) instead of Lust for Life (RCA, 1977)? But every so often, you get that wild hair up your ass, and since you’re not expecting too much, you’re pleasantly surprised. The Weirdness has its moments: it’s got the anthemic "My Idea of Fun" ("is killing everyone!") and the shambling, rambling "Mexican Guy," a sort of twisted version of "Subterranean Homesick Blues." It’s got Iggy as crooner on the title track and "Passing Cloud," both recalling the hugely underrated 1979 Arista disc New Values. It’s got lusty shout-outs to black women ("The End of Christianity") and bum-outs ("Greedy, Awful People").
But is it a Stooges album? I know that for guys like Pop and brothers Ron and Scott "Rock Action" Asheton, on guitar and drums respectively, the idea of some college kid walking around campus cranking their music may be antithetical to a "Search and Destroy" ethos, but like it or not, punk and its kinder, gentler offspring indie rock broke on college radio and campuses. During my time in the institution, when I felt up to my eyeballs, I’d put Fun House on the headphones, walk over to the coffee cart, and just melt everyone like I had heat vision. Seven tracks, just under 37 minutes, both life affirming and a complete sonic death match. Linda Blair in The Exorcist has nothing on the scream "Loooooord!" Pop lets out at the beginning of "TV Eye," followed by one of the simplest and heaviest guitar riffs in history, played by Ron Asheton before he was moved to bass in favor of the more polished, less primal James Williamson. That type of sheer rock ‘n’ roll megatonnage has yet to be matched it’s just not fair to hold The Weirdness to the same standards as the three original Stooges records.
No one’s going to be screaming out the names of new tracks. Thirty years down the line, it doesn’t matter if the reunion is a cash grab or a fitting epitaph. What matters is that it’s the Stooges. Are you gonna miss the second coming on account of not being overwhelmed by the latest chapter? Six decades in, Pop has been a prince and a pauper, a louse-ridden junkie and a rock god. He’s been covered in peanut butter and blood. He’s been your dog, and he’ll be it again. *
Sometimes you get lucky. Every week I have to find a picture to run in the club guide, and one week I picked Low Red Land. They later sent me a self-released 2006 CD titled The Weight of Nations. The disc stayed in my truck’s deck for a week.
The trio of 26-year-olds Mark Devito on drums, Ben Thorne on bass, and Neil Thompson on guitar and vocals is also no stranger to intuition. Having met at Hamilton College in New York, they’d originally been a four-piece called Great American with another college buddy, Matthew Stringer. After graduating, the four moved to Boston, where they put out a self-titled, self-released EP and album. When Stringer left to go to med school, the rest of the bandmates knew they wanted to continue playing and move to San Francisco. They renamed themselves Low Red Land after a lyric in a Larry Jon Wilson song, "Ohoopee River Bottom Land."
The moniker is fittingly evocative: it speaks of the sage-and-sand-filled expanses of their journey west, of red dirt cliffs and winding rivers. This unexpectedly rangy, Western feeling fills The Weight of Nations, though being from the "totally podunk" coal-mining town of Shickshinny, Pa., Thompson can assure you that the East can be just as country as anywhere else.
While the album is "intensely personal" for Thompson, it also contains subtly penned protest songs in the fine though rare tradition of Woody Guthrie’s "This Land Is Your Land." "You’re Alive" is about the death of Thompson’s childhood friend, Michael Cleary, a first lieutenant in the Army, in a roadside bomb attack in Iraq. And for me, that’s the key to The Weight of Nations: the protests are personal, soaked in sadness, and set against the American tapestry in a way that calls to mind the poetic scope of Hart Crane’s The Bridge. It’s easy to see why the group has been likened to Crazy Horse, though I’d pick Creedence Clearwater Revival meets the Meat Puppets. "As long as the bands aren’t bad, I’m pretty psyched," Thompson says of these comparisons. "Somebody said we sound like the Dave Matthews Band. I was bummed out for the whole day." (Duncan Scott Davidson)
LOW RED LAND
Wed/11, 9 p.m., donation to AIDS Marathon accepted