Emma Silvers

The return of Pyno Man


LEFT OF THE DIAL As legend has it, there was a time when you couldn’t walk the streets of Berkeley without running into him. He accosted you from posters adorning bar bathroom doors; he lurked around corners, plastered to telephone poles. He was mischievous, sometimes foul-mouthed, usually up to no good, but he always meant well. He wanted you to rock out. He was Pyno Man, and he was everywhere.

“Pyno Man was basically just the dream anybody has of being great, but instead of working a regular job and having fantasies about doing crazy rockstar things, he’s actually trying it all the time and failing. So he’s out there on the street acting like a rockstar, but everyone just thinks he’s crazy,” explains John Seabury, artist, creator of Pyno Man, and bass player for the relatively short-lived but locally legendary East Bay garage-punk outfit Psycotic Pineapple, for which the wild-eyed, mohawked, anthropomorphized pineapple served as mascot. “To me, that was logical.”

A staple of the East Bay punk club scene of the late ’70s, Psycotic Pineapple held court at the Keystone in Berkeley, sometimes playing SF’s fabled Mabuhay Gardens with friend bands, like the (underrated) power-pop maestros the Rubinoos. PP songs were about youth and drugs and sex, and you could count on them for an insane live show. But something in the band’s demeanor set them apart from the prevailing punk attitudes of the time: There wasn’t much they took seriously — least of all themselves.

“We didn’t really call them punks at that time, because that just wasn’t what we would call people who played music like them. They were just outlaws in a way, because they brought this sort of pop aesthetic to punk music. They were thumbing their nose at it and wrapping their arms around it at the same time,” says John Cuniberti, a producer, mastering engineer, and longtime friend of the band who helped the guys finally re-issue Psycotic Pineapple’s sole album, Where’s the Party?, on CD in 2012 — something that led to the band playing its first live show in more than two decades, which inspired Cuniberti to make a documentary about the band in the process.

There was something determinedly fun about Psycotic Pineapple, says Cuniberti. “I was working with the Dead Kennedys at the same time [’70s], and it was political, straight-up social commentary, songs about death and war and all these things. These guys played pop songs about relationships — really well-written pop songs, the songwriting was always very compelling to me — but they were rowdy, and they did it with an ‘I don’t care if you like us or not’ kind of attitude. There was an outrageousness to it.”

The band put out its lone record 1980, packed with 11 gleefully irreverent tracks that ran just over 25 minutes altogether. In 1981, something happened that no one could have predicted: Guitar player Henricus Holtman suffered a brain aneurysm, hindering his dexterity on his right side. The band stopped playing live. While most members remained involved in the local music scene — Seabury’s art adorns posters and t-shirts for a ton of other bands — Psycotic Pineapple mostly became the stuff of Bay Area folklore. But the fans were still out there. More than 30 years after PP disbanded, about a year after the band’s official reunion show at Bottom of the Hill, the music somehow doesn’t sound dated at all. They’ll headline the Gilman this week for the first time, with Pinole’s own Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits (whom could be said to follow in PP’s footsteps in terms of ethos, if not sound) opening.

“I don’t think the music feels old, but I’ve always thought that,” says Seabury, whose art fills a booklet that accompanies the re-issue CD. “By the time we broke up a lot of bands were starting to imitate that kind of attitude — Camper Van Beethoven, some others. I think we would have fit right into the alternative rock scene. We were kind of like these New Wave clowns making fun of punkers&ldots;which, as far as bands we gigged with go, their fans didn’t really like it. I remember opening for 999 and the Dickies, and both of their fans just hated us. They were booing us already, so we decided to close the set with ‘We’re an American Band,’ and that’s when the bottles started flying.”

They haven’t gotten to play together too often since the official reunion — for one, keyboard player Alexi Karlinski lives in Eastern Europe for most of the year. But while he’s back in the Bay for this stint, the guys plan to record a few new songs.

Maybe don’t call it a comeback just yet, says Cuniberti. But “I think they’re worth listening to, and there’s a lot of music being made that I can’t say that about. The songwriting is so good, and it’s timely, it still sounds fresh. You can hear in this record that they really love what they’re doing.”

While we’re immersed in the warm glow of East Bay punk history: 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, the independent record store, label, and all-ages venue housed in a deceptively small couple of rooms on 40th Street in Oakland, is expanding into the recently vacated space next door. From their crowdfunding campaign:

“A few weeks ago we were told our next door neighbors would be leaving and we could take a section of their space for an expansion. The catch is that we need to take the space by February 1st or it would go to someone else. As a small business with employees to take care of and regular bills to pay we don’t tend to have a lot of extra expansion capital on hand, especially on short notice. So we come to you, the good people who have supported us all these years and ask for you to join us in bringing the store to this next level and to continue to offer the great music and art we have been in our venue space.

In order to complete this expansion we need to do the following;

Knock out the adjoining wall.

Paint the interior and exterior to match our existing space

All new lighting that will stretch the length of both spaces.

Build additional custom fixtures; record bins, shelving etc.

Purchase new product; Records, books, supplies, turntables etc.

Purchase new Mic’s, Cords and Stands for the venue.

Close the store for 7 to 14 days (oof!)

Our plan is to have our Grand Re-Opening on March 15th to coincide with our 6th anniversary. We will have a sale during the day and a private event from 7pm to 10pm with food, drinks and music for supporters who come in at the $50 and above level who RSVP.”

As of this writing they have just under a week to go and still need to raise about $7,000. Want your as-of-yet unborn kids to know what actual record stores are? You know what to do: 1234gorecords.com.

Back here on this side of the Bay, A Million Billion Dying Suns — the psych-rock project of busy guitar virtuoso Nate Mercereau, who tours with Sheila E., among others (last week he was backing Dave Chappelle at the SFJazz Center) — have embarked on a mini-residency of sorts at the Knockout, starting with a Feb. 11 show. They recently had a song featured in a GoPro commercial, accompanying Shaun White as he blasts through snow-covered hills, but the band’s had my attention for about a year now, especially since the arrival last November’s Strawberry EP, with its slow-building, expertly crafted wall of spaced-out guitar fuzz, particularly on “Strawberry Letter 23,” a cover/homage to Shuggie Otis.

“I record a lot of stuff by myself, and Shuggie Otis has been a huge inspiration in that respect,” says Mercereau, who recently moved to LA, though he finds himself back in SF “every two weeks or so” — the band’s studio is still here. “Though it was also for our friend [manager and friend to many an SF musician] Steve Brodsky, who passed away last year. He really loved that song, and it felt like a way to do something for him.”

The Knockout feels a little small for the seriously powerful five-piece, Mercereau will acknowledge, but he wanted a residency at “a place our friends can walk to, a down-home punk rock spot that’s in the neighborhood.” If all goes well, he says, AMBDS will have another few shows here shortly, regardless of his new home base. “It’s easier than you might think,” he says. “We just live on Highway 5.”

With Rock N’ Roll Adventure Kids, Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, and the Gregors
Friday, Feb. 7, 7:30pm, $10
924 Gilman Street
924 Gilman, Berkeley

With What Fun Life Was and Lemme Adams
Tuesday, Feb. 11, 8:30pm, $6
3223 Mission, SF

Gimme 5: Must-see shows this week


The Bay Area music-related Internets was ablaze this week with the rumor that whiskey-fueled nights at the Mission’s belovedly divey Elbo Room may be numbered, thanks to everyone’s favorite new word to pronounce like it’s an epithet: Condos. The Elbo Room’s current owners and management say they’re just that — rumors — and until we hear more, we refuse to panic. A factual statement, however: If you don’t want your local music venues and endearingly gross watering holes to go the way of the dinosaurs (first victims of the Ellis Act, obviously), you should probably get out and see some live music. Now. Some options:


Action Bronson
Action Bronson lives life large. Imposing both physically and lyrically, the Queens native and former gourmet chef draws upon his joys in life — food, drugs, and women — to construct poetically intricate and technically impressive rhymes. His mix tapes are full of love songs, both highly eloquent and frequently offensive, written about the grit or urban life and the beauty of a great meal. Lines about “pissing through your fishnets” are sprinkled among odes to “bone marrow roasted/ spread it on the rosemary bread/ lightly toasted,” all delivered with Bronson’s sure, sharp-tongued talent. At his live shows, Bronson is extremely interactive with his (extremely devoted) fans, passing back and forth joints, liquor, and jokes from the stage to the audience. With the brand new addition of Odd Future thrash punks Trash Talk to the lineup, this show is sure to be insane. (Haley Zaremba)
With Trash Talk
8pm, $25
333 11th Ave, SF


Marcus Shelby
It’s tough to think of a harder working man in the Bay Area’s jazz scene than Marcus Shelby. The upright bassist and 15-piece band-leader is a force to be reckoned with in his own right; the people he surrounds himself with take live shows to the next level. At this special Black History Month performance, the band will be joined by Martin Luther, Kev Choice, Tiffany Austin, Valerie Trout, and Howard Wiley, with legendary, Mississipi-born jazz and blues vocalist Faye Carol in a featured role. The orchestra will draw from past compositions, including “Harriet Tubman,” “Soul of the Movement: Meditations on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.,” and “Port Chicago,” as well as performing some of a new musical work called “Walls,” which celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Law.
8pm, $20
Yoshi’s SF
1330 Fillmore, SF

Oneohtrix Point Never
Picking up on the ’90s-era abstract, contemplative side of Warp Records, recent signee Oneohtrix Point Never’s R Plus Seven is thoroughly brain busting. The elements are disparate: vocals that begin without reference and depart without finishing, gamelan reminiscent rhythms seemingly performed on the Cosmic Key, and an ever-present effect best described as the stuttering sound of audio on an overburdened CPU. Partly playful, with New Age and stereotypically “world” music samples ripped off of Pirate Bay (where, to be fair, R Plus Seven gets the “plunderphonics” genre tag), the album still manages to sound wholly reverent. To what? Let me get back to you on that. (Ryan Prendiville)
With Holly Herndon (Live A/V), Marco de la Vega, DJ Will, Chad Salty
10pm-3am, $17.50-20
1015 Folsom
1015 Folsom St., SF


Do you ever enjoy feeling like your life is the end credits of a coming-of-age movie, wherein you loved and lost and learned and are now careening down the highway, wind in your hair, on to new adventures? No? Well then don’t go see Lucius, because that’s how this refreshingly earnest, uber professional indie-pop five-piece from Brooklyn makes us feel. Considering how big Lorde got last year, it’s almost confusing that lead vocalists Jess Wolfe and Holly Laessig, with their clear, sweet harmonies and Berklee-bred sensibility aren’t huge yet, but you get the feeling that they’re more concerned with having fun on stage than “blowing up.” Still: Catch ’em before it costs an arm and a leg.
With You Won’t
8:30pm, $16
628 Divisadero, SF


Tony Molina

He’s perhaps still best known as a veteran of SF’s hardcore scene (fronting Caged Animal, among others), so Tony Molina surprised a few people with last October’s Six Tracks EP. Solo, he’s still loud, electric, full of restless energy — but there are also nods here to ’80s hair bands, with a sweet, angsty, hook-heavy frame that riffs off the poppiest Guided By Voices and Dinosaur Jr. songs. It’s no surprise, then, that Molina told Spin: “To me, hardcore is about being in a band, and pop’s more about writing and recording. I’m always going to want to try playing in a new hardcore band. But I also love the idea of trying to make something that gives you the feeling you get when you hear a Teenage Fanclub record.” Mission accomplished.
With Life Stinks, Violent Change, and Swiftumz
9pm, $5
Hemlock Tavern
1131 Polk, SF


The Flaming Lips save Valentine’s Day


It doesn’t matter if you’re single, dating, or attached at the hip to your spouse/live-in partner(s)/[insert questionable pet name here] — Valentine’s Day has always presented a veritable Hallmark-sponsored landmine field of ways to screw up, disappoint your loved ones, and/or generally feel terrible about yourself. Until now.

As per the best press release in my inbox this morning: Flaming Lips’ frontman Wayne Coyne will be selling a limited-edition, 12-inch, 20th anniversary reissue of the band’s deliciously scruffy first EP on a handful of select “Record Store Tour” dates on the East Coast next week, and — speaking of delicious — said EP comes packaged with a life-sized, anatomically correct, “hand-crafted, custom-made chocolate skull.” But that’s not all! The skull also contains “a special Gold Coin” that gains the bearer entry to any Flaming Lips show in the world. It’s pretty logical, really. Willy Wonka + (even more) hallucinogens + the ability to just inform your marketing team that you want life-sized, edible skulls to be part of your thing now = Wayne Coyne.

Unfortunately, this little tour will only take our lovably demented hero through a handful of currently snowy cities and nowhere near SF, so if you want to get your hands on one of these bad boys, you’ll need to call an East Coast-based friend and wheedle a bit. Tell them it’s for a special someone. Because nothing says “I love you” like using the money you could have spent on a fancy dinner to ship anatomically correct, promotional chocolate body parts cross-country.

“Record Store Tour” dates to convince your friends to attend for you:
02-08 New York, NY – Other Music (11 a.m.)
02-08 Brooklyn, NY – Rough Trade (4 p.m.)
02-09 Boston, MA – Newbury Comics/Newbury St. Location (1 p.m.)
02-10 Philadelphia, PA – a.k.a music (5 p.m.)
02-11 Baltimore, MD – Sound Garden (5 p.m.)

Young at heart


LEFT OF THE DIAL “Why are some songs so perfect in a way that never happens again in our lives? What is it about music and being older than 12 but younger than 20?”

Those are the lines of narration capping the final panel of one of my favorite Lynda Barry comic strips, an autobiographical story in her collection One Hundred Demons. In it, our teenage protagonist is lying in bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the radio in a manner immediately recognizable to anyone who has ever been a teenager. The mood is: I am surely feeling feelings and thinking thoughts no one ever has before. As I recall, this is what being a teenager is. Every emotion, positive or negative, however fleeting, is all-consuming, and often you have no choice but to lie in your room, crushed by the weight of it, headphones drowning out the world. The idea that “this too shall pass” is impossible to understand, because you can’t even see past the econ test you’re surely going to flunk tomorrow, or that guy in biology who barely knows your name. This is why teenagers always seem so sluggish: That shit’s exhausting.

Ask any teenager what helps them get through it — and here I realize I’m starting to sound like adolescence is an inevitable six-year-long disease of sorts, or perhaps a heroin detox you just have to sweat through, but whatever, it kind of is — and near the top of the list, I bet you’ll find music.

“I would have ended up as a drug dealer, no question,” says John Vanderslice, the musician-producer-owner of SF’s storied Tiny Telephone studios, of what he might have become without music as a young person. “I would currently be residing in prison.”

Lucky for him, “My mother forced me by gunpoint to take piano lessons,” he says. “And this was the dirty South. I was in public schools, where the arts meant, you know, coloring. But I got really interested in music, and that became a huge open door for me. I think it would have been a lot tougher to do what I do now if I hadn’t had that music theory kind of shoved in to my brain when I was seven, eight, nine years old, even if I didn’t know it was happening at the time.”

Vanderslice is just one in a who’s who of Bay Area artists who were invited to think about what music meant to them when they were young — how and when and which music shaped their formative years — in preparation for a Friday, Jan. 31 show celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Magik*Magik Orchestra at the Fox Theater in Oakland. The orchestra, a group of more than 50 musicians who have provided “made-to-order” support on records and tours with Death Cab for Cutie, Zola Jesus, How to Dress Well, and Nick Cave, to name a few, is raising money for Magik For Kids, their nonprofit arm that throws hands-on music education events for school-aged kids in the Bay Area.

“When We Were Young,” presented by Noise Pop, will showcase bands — Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers, the Dodos, Geographer, and a dozen others — collaborating with a 30-piece orchestra and the 30-piece Pacific Boychoir on songs that the artists themselves selected. The prompt: Pick a tune from your childhood that’s close to your heart.

“It was really interesting to see what people chose — I was expecting more ’80s given the age range, but you realize you’re not always listening to what’s new when you’re little,” says arranger, conductor and Magik*Magik founder Minna Choi, a Berkeley-born, classically trained 32-year-old colleagues refer to as a dynamo. (Vanderslice — who will be performing a Simon and Garfunkel song — agreed to Magik*Magik becoming the house band at Tiny Telephone after Choi cold-emailed him five years ago: “Minna’s the kind of person who can and will do absolutely anything she wants to do.”) Choi will conduct most of the show, with Michael Morgan, conductor of the Oakland East Bay Symphony, appearing on a couple pieces.

In designing music programming for children, says Choi, “We’re trying to create ways to expose younger kids not only to music, but to a music career and what that looks like.” The orchestra has organized instrument “petting zoos,” taught kids to build their own string instruments, and run a summer camp where children learn to conduct.

Many players in the orchestra also teach private music lessons, and some had to cancel a few lessons in order to rehearse for the show. “But the point of this show is music education,” says Choi. “So we came up with a kind of ‘Bring your student to Magik work’ day and had them reach back out to parents saying ‘I can’t do a traditional violin lesson Tuesday, but you’re welcome to bring your son or daughter to the studio, we’ll have it set up for them’…there’s so much to learn there, whether it’s rehearsal technique, or just how to communicate when you’re working with 40 other people.”

Diana Gameros, a staple of the Mission’s indie-folk scene — she’s been called “the Latin Feist” — chose an original song from her most recent album, a song she wrote for her hometown of Juárez, Mexico.

“I grew up listening to very traditional Mexican songs, because my grandparents lived on a little farm and that was what there was,” she recalls. “And I didn’t like it when I was young. I wanted to be hip, I wanted to be cool. I liked really poppy songs, which you could hear on the radio because we were so close to the border. What was that band that sang ‘I Saw the Sign’? That’s what I wanted.”

She moved to the States as a teenager, and began writing songs as a young adult. And that’s when she realized that the traditional Mexican music she’d disliked as a child “was embedded in me…it’s in my blood.” She chose “En Juárez” for this show in part because it’s written from a mother’s perspective: “If I had children, this is a song for them — explaining the realities of Juárez, the violence, but also talking to them about what’s possible, about dreams and the hope we should have regardless of problems,” she says.

“I was just honored to be asked to be part of this show, honestly. It’s going to be a magical night.”

A handful of scattered thoughts, while we’re on the topic of music that helped when you needed to lie on your bed blasting music through a Walkman:

  • Green Day’s Dookie was released Feb. 1, 1994 — 20 years ago this Saturday.
  • I’ve listened to that album from start to finish more recently and more frequently as an adult than I should probably admit. If “When I Come Around” starts on the radio when I’m driving, I will turn it all the way up.
  • Miley Cyrus. Skrillex.
  • My grandfather, in the last stages of Alzheimer’s at age 95 and unable to keep family members’ names straight, would sing along if you brought him tapes of Big Band songs from the 1930s.
  • Sherman Alexie: “Your generation’s music isn’t better than any others. It’s just inextricably linked to your youth.”


When We Were Young
With Nicki Bluhm and The Gramblers, The Dodos, Diana Gameros, Geographer, How To Dress Well, Zoe Keating, The Lonely Forest, Maestro Michael Morgan, The Pacific Boychoir, Rogue Wave, Two Gallants, and John Vanderslice

Fri/31, 8pm, $29.50 – $45
The Fox Theater
1807 Telegraph, Oakland





























Locals Only: The American Professionals


Locals Only is our shout-out to the musicians who call the Bay Area home — a chance to spotlight an artist/band/music-maker with an upcoming show, album release, or general good news to share.To be considered, email esilvers@sfbg.com.

With all the CDs that come across my desk, the American Professionals‘ latest, We Make It Our Business, caught my attention for a rather weird reason — it looked incredibly boring. At first glance, it seemed like a software or PR company had accidentally sent me some sort of business portfolio in disc form. Upon further review (i.e., actually reading the accompanying materials and listening to the music…this is why they pay me the big bucks) I realized it was anything but. The SF-based trio makes danceable, upbeat but never overly slick power pop with a little gravel in it; the new record should please anyone who can’t afford to see the Replacements at Coachella this year (or even those who can). The band also licenses its music to a couple of shows on Nickelodeon, via a process lead singer Chuck Lindo (also of Noise Pop veterans Action Slacks) still finds mysterious. Ahead of the American Professionals’ record release this Wednesday, we checked in with Lindo to hear about his influences, the music biz, and how he gets his seafood fix.

SF Bay Guardian: How long have you been in San Francisco? How did the band form?

Chuck Lindo: Cheryl [Hendrickson, the bass player/vocalist and also Lindo’s wife] and I moved here from St. Louis in 1991 with my old band, The Nukes. We left behind the humidity, crappy wintertime produce, and a pretty impressive fan base for the possibilities and romance of this freakshow of a place. Still here, but for a brief four year stint in Los Angeles 2003-2007. We got a chance to dry our bones out and re-learn how to drive cars. We met Adam White through another band I play bass and sing with, The Real Numbers. He had just moved out here from Indianapolis and we hit it off like crazy. There’s something about those midwesterners that just feels right. I think there’s some kind of code or dog whistle in there. It’s hard to describe.

SFBG: How would you describe your sound? There are obviously a lot of power-pop influences, some post-punk stuff going on. 

CL: There is a lot of power pop in there, but we do come from the “power” side of that spectrum. I’ve always had a deep desire to hear Black Sabbath playing Squeeze songs. Somebody said we sounded like Cheap Trick on the Foo Fighters’ instruments playing Smithereens’ songs. I’ll take that. My first “real” band, The Nukes, was pretty damn close to being punk really, but not quite. I could never wear the attitude comfortably, but I do like it loud, fast,  and crunchy. Cheryl and I have a funny mixture of influences. We both love heavy rock stuff, but she’s an Elton John freak and grew up on the Monkees and all those musicals like “Oliver!” and “Bugsy Malone.” I got into things like The Descendents and Dead Kennedys and The Clash in my teens and early twenties , but I have a gooey soft spot for early ’70s singer-songwriter stuff, and I’m cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs about Stevie Wonder.

SFBG: How did the “business” aesthetic come about? Where does the band name come from?

CL: There’s an endless  trough of funny stuff in the the faceless corporate ogre world. A lot of the aesthetic comes from observing my sister Nancy’s work. She’s a good old-fashioned family doctor in Wisconsin, and I’ve witnessed the evolution of how big pharma reaches physicians and now the general public itself. At first, I think they couldn’t say exactly what some of these drugs were intended to do, so they used all sorts of evocative imagery to produce the warm-fuzzy take-away. So much of that stuff was just pure creative genius, it’s impossible to not be impressed, even if it is sort of insidious. I just think it’s funny to overlay that ethos on a little three-piece rock band.

The name “The American Professionals” was coined by our friend David Reidy. He was a charter member of the band when I first started writing songs back in the late 1990s. He’s Irish and was working on getting his US citizenship at the time, and he was thoroughly enamored with the gumption, optimism, and resilience of the American people. We were backing an amazing singer-songwriter, Pamela Martin, and at a live show, right before soundcheck, he pointed back at his guitar rig and said something like “Chuck, you see that? That’s the American professional setup right there.” He had his spare guitar, rack tuner, slide, combo amp with road case, pedal board, extra strings, a white towel, the whole deal. It became this sort of rallying ethic: “How do we do it? Think ‘what would The American Professional do?’, and that’s what you do.” So, of course it became the name of the band. That’s what “The American Professional” would do. David’s a partner at Reed Smith now. Not even the least bit surprising.

SFBG: How did you start licensing your music to TV shows? Does it change your writing to be thinking about the possibility of a show wanting to use a song? Are there bands whose model you’re following here? I’m thinking about They Might Be Giants, who’ve done stuff for The Daily Show and Malcolm in the Middle but not, say, beer commercials.

CL: I get to approach that from two angles. We’ve licensed our existing music to several indie films and network TV shows, but I also founded a boutique music house (we call it a “music cottage” sometimes) Jingle This! with my longtime friend John Schulte. We make bespoke music for all sorts of stuff. I love hearing a well-thought out placement, especially when it’s a semi-obscure song or a deep album track, but I do tire of people attaching really famous, popular songs to products. I totally understand the power of it, but it makes me sad to hear people relying on the spectrum of emotions that accompanies a particular song and then sort of jump its train. I think it’s much more challenging, and if it works, rewarding, to make an original piece.

They Might Be Giants are a perfect example of doing it right, yes. They’re so insanely creative and versatile, but there’s always a thread of their sound in there, however intangible that may be. I like the way The 88’s music gets used. They do the theme for Community and they’ve had a ton of stuff licensed, all to great effect, I think.I still don’t know how we initially got approached by Nickelodeon to use our stuff in Zoey:101 and Drake and Josh. It was kind of like manna. Very mysterious. Very, very nice, but still mysterious. So that said, I don’t feel like it serves anybody to go chasing after licensing opportunities by attempting to make music that you think will be in demand. I feel like if you keep your head down, dig in, and make something that truly is a reflection of your own take on things, even if it’s done in character sometimes, it’s going to resonate with somebody, somewhere, and that will make it attractive for total, mind numbing, wealth-creating exploitation.

SFBG: Do you think there’s such a thing as “selling out” anymore, as a musician?

CL: I can’t conjure up what would constitute “selling out” these days, especially for somebody just hitting the scene now. I guess if a band got sponsored by Eli Lily and started writing songs cryptically about the benefits of Cymbalta and passing it off as a real band, that might be a little screwed up. Actually, that kind of sounds like fun to me. Don’t steal that idea.

I do, however, get a little sick of hearing The Who’s songs in every version of CSI, but hey, that’s their business.

SFBG: What’s next for the American Professionals? Touring?

CL: Yes. We like to take little quick and dirty regional excursions. We’re hitting the midwest in the spring, and then up and down our lovely coast after that.

SFBG: What other SF/Bay Area bands do you admire?

CL: There’s an insane amount of world class music here right now. Even just in the circle we run in we have The Real Numbers, The Corner Laughers, The Bye Bye Blackbirds, Agony Aunts, and my band crush, Trevor Childs and the Beholders. Those fuckwads are so ridiculously good, and they keep getting together, breaking up, blah blah blah. It’s maddening. It’s hard not to get puffed up with pride that we have Chuck Prophet walking among us here. I got all fanboy on him and clammed up when I was standing next to him at the Great American a few months ago. I had just been on a Temple Beautiful jag and was in awe.

SFBG: What’s the #1 San Francisco meal you couldn’t live without?

CL: Oh, that’s a toughie. I used to be in food and bev so we ate out a lot. I have so many food memories seared into my brain, it’s hard to pick even ten of those. We live right up the street from Swan Oyster Depot. If I had to nail it down to one experience, it’d have to be just plopping down at that little corner of heaven and strapping on the feed bag. Cheryl doesn’t like any seafood at all (nothing! zip!) so any time we have out of town guests and she’s at work, I grab them by the collar and drag them down there.
The American Professionals
With Felsen and the Tender Few
Wed/29, 8:30pm, $10
Bottom of the Hill

A comedian cursed


For those of us who’ve been following Michael Showalter since he was but a flop-haired 20-something on MTV’s The State — where he gave us, among other absurdist treasures, Doug, a rebellious teenager whose cool dad gave him frustratingly little to rebel against — there is no Showalter project too silly, too cranky, too obscure to love. Whether it was Stella, Michael and Michael Have Issues, or, say, the training montage from Wet Hot American Summer that burrowed its way weirdly into your heart, there’s something about the comedian that’s eminently, endearingly watchable.

Ahead of his appearances Jan. 31 and Feb. 1 at SF Sketchfest, we caught up with Showalter as he took a break in the writers’ room of the Rebel Wilson TV show Super Fun Night (he’s a producer) to talk cats, comedy, and what makes him feel like a loser.

San Francisco Bay Guardian: You have several projects going on right now, but the first thing I need to ask about is a male-centric cat ownership guidebook you published last October: Guys Can Be Cat Ladies Too. How many cats do you have?

Michael Showalter: Right now I’m living in LA, and we have four indoor cats here. And then at our place in Brooklyn, there’s a small posse of cats that live in my backyard, that are now being taken care of by the people subletting our place. At any given moment there are between three and six cats back there…so using the law of averages, I’ll say I have seven.

SFBG: Why did the world need a book about how to be a male cat lady?

MS: Basically, I really took to heart the saying “Write what you know.” I looked around me and said “What do you know?” As I was saying that I probably had two cats on my lap. My next book is going to be about drinking coffee.

SFBG: Since it’s premiering at Sundance this week, what can you tell us about They Came Together (in theaters Jan. 24) , the Paul Rudd-Amy Poehler rom-com you made with your usual partner-in-crime David Wain? Do you think it will appease the hordes of Wet Hot American Summer fans who are hungry for a sequel — or prequel, as has been discussed?

MS: I’d say it’s a parody/homage to the romantic comedies of the ’80s and ’90s that myself and David Wain sort of grew up on and loved. It’s a combination send-up/love letter, based in New York. Obviously it’s got a great cast…and yeah, it’s very similar in a lot of ways [to Wet Hot]. It has a lot of the same sensibility to it, the reference points, the sense of humor.

SFBG: Because I have to ask anyway: Is there still a Wet Hot prequel in the works?

MS: Yeah. We’re figuring it out. But I’ve been instructed by David Wain not to talk about it, because we want it to be shrouded in mystery. Like the new Star Wars movie.

SFBG: Fair. Shall we talk about your podcast with Michael Ian Black? How is that kind of writing different from screenwriting or, say, cat books?

MS: Topics! Topics is actually all improvised. Basically the two of us are in character as two guys who take themselves very seriously and think very highly of their own opinions. The main thing with Topics is we try not to tell jokes — we’re just being these characters who are really, really serious about what they’re talking about, but they don’t actually know anything. We just start out with a topic and we improvise for half an hour. [Ed. note — December brought us such topics as “Regret,” “The Middle East,” and “Paranormal Activity.” It’s excellent.]

SFBG: There are some of us for whom The State is still the gold standard in sketch comedy. Do you think it would work on TV right now? There hasn’t really been anything like it since.

MS: You know, I think we were very much a product of our generation. It was Kids in the Hall and The State and the Upright Citizens Brigade…and I think at that time, sketch comedy was still a kind of theatrical thing; it hadn’t yet become so video-based. I don’t know if sketch in that traditional sense is still as viable. But I’m sure another great sketch show will come along, figure out the next thing.

SFBG: As for Sketchfest — of the events you’re scheduled to perform in, I’m most excited about the Uptown Showdown debate on breakfast vs. dinner. Can you say what side you’re on?

MS: (Sighs deeply.) OK, which do you think will win, should win?  

SFBG: I would say breakfast, hands down.  

MS: Yeah. So I am on dinner. I did not choose to be on dinner; dinner was given to me. Here’s the thing: This will be my fourth time competing in Uptown Showdown. The first time was cats vs. dogs. I was on cats, and we lost to dogs. The second time was Christmas vs. Hanukkah. I was on Christmas, and we lost to Hanukkah. The third time, last year, we did the ’80s vs. the ’90s, and I was on the ’80s, and we lost to the ’90s. So this year — dinner vs. breakfast — I already know I’m going to lose, and I’m livid about it. I’m not even joking. I could read you my emails back and forth with [the organizers] where they’re asking me to do this and I’m saying I don’t like it — here, I’ll pull it up. I wrote, “I’m sick and tired of losing at this.” I’m not being facetious. It’s making me feel bad about myself. Like a loser. It really pisses me off.

SFBG: How did this happen, exactly? Who gets to choose? 

MS: Here, let me find this email: “David Wain prefers that his team defend breakfast as the superior meal.” Sure. What’s the point? I know we’ll lose. I have the Uptown Showdown curse.  

SFBG: You sound pretty defeatist about this. Are you even going to prepare?  

MS: Oh, yeah. I mean, don’t get me wrong. When it’s game time, I’ll come to do battle.  

Uptown Showdown: Breakfast vs. Dinner  
Sat/1, 10pm, $30
Marines Memorial Theatre  
609 Sutter, SF

The good witches of music tech



LEFT OF THE DIAL When MTV debuted “Video Killed the Radio Star” at 12:01am on Aug. 1, 1981 — the first music video to air on the brand-new, much-buzzed-about network — producers knew exactly what they were doing. Amid all the excitement about the possibilities video technology presented to the music industry, there was an ambivalence, tinged with apprehension from musicians, about what the sea change would mean for artists. The song perfectly captured the current climate, a combination of brave-new-world optimism and flat-out fear of the future.

Two decades later, a scrappy little Redwood City-based file-sharing startup called Napster would be ordered shut down in federal court. ”It’s time for Napster to stand down and build their business the old-fashioned way — they must get permission first,” said Hilary Rosen, president of the Recording Industry Association of America, told the New York Times, speaking on behalf of five major record labels that sued the company. And, as everyone knows, that sealed it: Music was never obtained for free on the Internet ever again, all artists were paid fairly for their work, and everyone lived happily ever after.

Funny thing about technological advancement — it only goes one way. The collapse of the record industry over the past decade has given way to a sort of Wild West atmosphere when it comes to the ways musicians, fans, producers, etc. can interact, make art, and do commerce. It has been something of an economic equalizer: Anyone with a Wi-fi connection can throw his latest dubstep/witchhouse cover of “Under the Sea” up on Soundcloud one night, and wake up to a bevy of fans. But most musicians I know would agree that the availability of free or very cheap streaming and downloading services has made it difficult, if not impossible, to make a living from their work the way they might have 30 years ago.

And yet: There are those who would argue that the tech world has more to offer musicians than it might initially seem. In the spirit of our “good tech” issue, I reached out to some local techies who aren’t using their powers for evil.

On the vast playing field of websites and apps that promise to help musicians get their work out into the world — without, ideally, anyone going bankrupt — Bandcamp may have built the most trust among artists, using a straightforward revenue-share model: The company takes 15 percent of sales on digital purchases; 10 percent on merch. Of course, it didn’t hurt when Amanda Palmer decided to forego the traditional album-release route in 2010, releasing her ukulele Radiohead covers album solely on Bandcamp, bringing in $15,000 inside three minutes.

When founder Ethan Diamond launched the site in 2007 — after trying to buy a favorite band’s digital album directly from its website and having “every single technical problem that could go wrong, go wrong” — people were saying “music sales are dead,” recalls the SF resident, a programmer who previously co-founded the webmail service that would become Yahoo! mail. “Within a year or two of the business, you could see that wasn’t true: Even in the digital era, fans actually want to support the artists they love. Right now fans are giving artists $2.8 million every month [through Bandcamp]. We have 50,000 unique artists communicating and marketing directly to their fans…our entire goal is to help artists be successful. That’s really it.”

And no, he doesn’t want to name the band whose technical difficulties inspired the company a few years back — the band members don’t know who they are. And they’re not on Bandcamp yet.

At Zoo Labs, a less-than-year-old nonprofit based out of a recording studio in West Oakland, a handful of heavy hitters from the tech and design worlds asked the question: What happens when you apply a business incubator model — like the well-founded training grounds that typically nurture Silicon Valley startups — to a band? The Zoo Labs Residency, a two-week, all-expenses-paid program for musicians, offers practical skill-building workshops, marketing training, mentorship, and studio time to bands who have a vision but haven’t yet achieved a widespread reach.

“We started talking to musicians about their experiences and how they were managing their careers and accomplishing their projects, and it was really interesting to find that a lot of musicians and producers working in music are having very similar experiences to entrepreneurs in the startup world,” says Anna Acquistapace, a designer who founded the program with Vinitha Watson, an ex-Googler (she opened Google’s first satellite office in India) after the two met in California College of the Arts’ Design Strategy MBA program. Music producer Dan Lawrence (whom — full disclosure — I’ve known since elementary school, at which time he wanted to be a music producer) brought his working knowledge of the local music industry to the team.

“With all of these changes in the [music] industry over the last 10 years, musicians have been forced to take way more control over their marketing channels,” says Acquistapace. “They need to get their own fans, they need to bootstrap their own products in a similar to way to what startups do, whether that means funding albums or demos to pitch to a record label, reaching out to the media…they have to become entrepreneurs, out of necessity. From that, the idea of this artists’ residency-meets-business-incubator or accelerator was born.”

Thus far only one band, an Americana/roots four-piece called the Boston Boys, has completed the residency, participating in a series of workshops and recording sessions tailored specifically to their needs: They took a “sonic branding” class from Oakland producer Jumbo (whose credits include work with Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, and others), learned about music law, met with design professionals and leadership coaches. Meanwhile, recording engineer/producer Damien Lewis recorded the band live in the studio most days in sessions that ran from 2 in the afternoon until 2 in the morning; the two-week period culminates in a live show at the studio.

In total, the program costs about $20,000 per session to run, with much of it underwritten by private investors from Silicon Valley who are simply interested in developing new models for the music industry. “If there’s one thing that people are passionate across the board, it’s music,” says Acquistapace.'”I haven’t really seen any other art form that crosses groups the same way.”

(The application period for its March residency just closed, but look for new programming to launch in February; the Beat Lab, which will open next month, aims to be a combination recording studio/coworking space for musicians of all kinds: www.zoolabs.org)

And in, er, music/tech news of a much lower-tech variety: Tom Temprano, co-owner of Virgil’s Sea Room in the Mission, announced this week that the bar, which occupies the space Nap’s III left behind (both physically and in our hearts), will be bringing back the grand Nap’s tradition of sloppy, gleeful karaoke around the glow of a two-tone screen. Starting Jan. 23, every Thursday night at 9pm will find Nap himself back at home base, MCing the action, with songbooks and harmonicas in tow. Because technology will march forward — video may have killed the radio star — but drunken renditions of Salt ‘n’ Pepa’s “Shoop”? Karaoke, my friends, is forever.

Gimme 5: Must-see shows this week


We hear a certain sporting team lost a football match of sorts over the weekend — at least, this is what we understand to be the reason for the even-more-morose-than-usual drinking our friends seem to have been doing for the last 48 hours. If you want to try switching things up, may we suggest going to a venue where people are playing live music and drinking there instead, with other people, possibly while moving your feet? A handful of options:


As the wild frontman for The Legendary Shack Shakers, Col. J.D. Wilkes brought together a wide array of blues-infused and swampy sounding rock n’ roll, earning them the admiration of fans and invitations to tour with noted performers such as Robert Plant. Wilkes — a bonafide Kentucky colonel, hence his title — formed The Dirt Daubers in 2009 with his wife, Jessica, and added guitarist Rod Hamdallah and drummer Preston Corn for the band’s most recent album, Wild Moon (Plowboy Records). Produced by iconic punk rocker Cheetah Chrome (The Dead Boys), the album finds them back in the vein of mixing traditional sounds with an infectious rock attitude and approach. — Sean McCourt
8pm, $10-$12
Rickshaw Stop
155 Fell, SF
(415) 861-2011


What do you call the darlings of the San Francisco psych-rock scene when half the band migrates to Portland? Wooden Shjips is what you call ’em, and as much as it pains us to admit it, the move was just what the doctor ordered if the calm, confident, melodic landscapes of last fall’s Back to Land are any indication. The record is as dreamy yet cohesive as they’ve ever sounded, with acoustic guitar adding a new layer of warm haze, but there’s still plenty of distortion and unexpected riffs, and drawn-out organ licks that somehow bear no resemblance to anything you’ve ever heard in a rock song. You can pout that they left, but you’re not gonna not catch them on home turf.
With Carlton Melton and Golden Void
9pm, $14-$16
777 Valencia, SF
(415) 551-5157


Over three albums, Dent May has been a bit of a indie pop chameleon. Take the fabulous lounge kitsch of The Good Feeling Music Of Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele. Or the drum machine disco revival on Do Things. And May’s latest, Warm Blanket, is predictably unpredictable: See the Bowie styled “Let’s Dance” intro that quickly upshifts into an afrobeat groove on “Let Them Talk.” Still, one thing May shares with his label bosses Animal Collective is a shared affinity for Brian Wilson, and it’s the biggest referent, with a track like “Corner Piece” sounding like it could have spun off of Pet Sounds, and it’s the perfect opportunity for May to get increasingly open-hearted and romantic.Ryan Prendiville
With Chris Cohen, Jack Name
9pm, $12
333 11th St., SF
(415) 255-0333


Nicki Bluhm has had a big few months. She’s been Bay Area Americana royalty for several years now, but when her self-titled album with the Gramblers dropped last August, it took the bluesy-folk songstress to a new level, adding appearances on Conan and the like to her staple appearances at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and, you know, in viral videos covering Hall and Oates songs in a van. The band’s live show has only gotten tighter and somehow simutaneously more playful as a result. Bonus: Hometown openers Goodnight, Texas, who sing foot-stomping songs about Civil War-era romance and coal mine disasters with a musicianship and joyful sophistication that seem much older than their (20-something) years.
9pm, $25
1805 Geary, SF
(415) 346-3000

Also Sat/25

We’ve seen a major resurgence of UK-based R&B-circa-’89 over the past few years, but while songstresses like Jessie Ware tackle those Lisa Stansfield-ish stylings with showy emotivity, Canada’s Jessy Lanza takes a borderline-shoegaze approach to her vocals, filtering ambiguous yearnings and half-confessions through delay and echo until they’re just another instrument in the mix, as stark and percussive as they are ethereal and melodic. Released on the much-fetishized Hyperdub imprint, and produced/co-written by Junior Boys’ Jeremy Greenspan, Lanza’s icy, prickly, spacious debut LP, Pull My Hair Back (2013), updates a flashy throwback genre for introverted, LCD-immersed times, in which the people can’t quite be trusted to say what they mean, or vice versa. This Saturday’s Popscene-curated show marks Lanza’s second-ever West Coast appearance, and might elucidate a persona that, similarly to those of labelmates Hype Williams and Laurel Halo, remains well concealed. — Taylor Kaplan
With Running in the Fog
9pm, $10
853 Valencia, SF
(415) 970-0012

Of course Beyoncé is a feminist: On gender equality and women in entertainment


A specific corner of the Internet was abuzz this week with the news that Beyoncé, fresh off inciting think-piece warfare about whether or not her new visual album amounted to a feminist manifesto of sorts (“The record both drips with sexuality and samples the Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk about women’s rights — are you allowed to do that?!”) had penned an essay for Maria Shriver’s nonprofit media initiative, the Shriver Report, titled “Gender Equality Is a Myth!” See here:

We need to stop buying into the myth about gender equality. It isn’t a reality yet. Today, women make up half of the U.S. workforce, but the average working woman earns only 77 percent of what the average working man makes. But unless women and men both say this is unacceptable, things will not change. Men have to demand that their wives, daughters, mothers, and sisters earn more—commensurate with their qualifications and not their gender. Equality will be achieved when men and women are granted equal pay and equal respect.

Among the generally positive reactions to the essay, there was an unmistakable ripple of surprise — a silent agreement that this was somehow starkly out of character — that caught my attention. What are we surprised about, exactly? That a mainstream star who plays so squarely into our notions of traditional femininity would align herself with the hairy-legged caricatures of politicized feminists we see in pop culture? That a woman who named her most recent international tour after her husband would speak out against gender inequality? Or that one of the richest artists in the world would give two shits about the Equal Pay Act?

For what it’s worth, I’ve been a Beyoncé fan since the halcyon days of the late ’90s, when she was posing on furniture with three (then two) other ladies who made a point of color-coordinating their outfits with their interior design while singing about how dudes who borrowed their cars needed to man up and pay some automobills. It has at times been a guilty and/or critical fandom — has anyone written their Master’s thesis yet on themes of independence vs. marriage as property ownership in “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)“? I would like to read, please — but it’s been consistent nonetheless. I will venture that said loyalty is beside the point, however. No, I wasn’t surprised about Beyonce’s awareness of gender inequality — but not because I’ve been following her career closely. I wasn’t surprised because she’s a woman working in an industry that’s historically steeped in gender inequality.

I’m behind the times on this one, but I just started reading Out of the Vinyl Deeps, a collection of excellent rock music criticism by the late, great Ellen Willis. In particular, I keep coming back to Willis’ essay on Janis Joplin in the ’60s, with passages like:

[Janis] once crowed, “They’re paying me $50,000 a year to be like me.” But the truth was that they were paying her to be a personality, and the relation of public personality to private self — something every popular artist has to work out — is especially problematic for a woman. Men are used to playing roles and projecting images in order to compete and succeed. Male celebrities tend to identify with their mask making, to see it as creative and — more or less — to control it. In contrast, women need images simply to survive. A woman is usually aware, on some level, that men do not allow her to be her “real self,” and worse, that the acceptable masks represent men’s fantasies, not her own. She can choose the most interesting image available, present it dramatically, individualize it with small elaborations, undercut it with irony. But ultimately she must serve some male fantasy to be loved — and then it will be only the fantasy that is loved anyway.

Willis wrote that in 1980, about the 1960s. But it could have been written last week, about, um, any female pop star who did anything last week. Pick your packaging! Miley, Rihanna, Katy, Ke$ha, Taylor. Did you want good girl gone bad? Edgy and “exotic” gone S&M-lite? This has nothing to do with talented or not talented. A staggering majority of high-ranking music executives are men. Do we think any of these pop stars doesn’t know she’s a product, doesn’t understand exactly what game she’s a part of? None of them would be where they are right now if they hadn’t been playing it correctly, painstakingly, in some cases, from the day they were born. Whether or not they’re writing essays for Maria Shriver about it, I have a feeling most women in entertainment understand something about living in a patriarchal society.

As for Bey: Her new album, which I unabashedly love, is nothing if not a study in “acceptable masks.” In one video she’s the hot, pissed-off wife; another, the hot older girl at the roller rink; by the record’s end she’s found redemption as a (hot) mother, deriving her most genuine-sounding joy from an ode to her cooing baby daughter. Of course, she also pulls the classic, socially responsible, conventionally-beautiful-sex-symbol-decrying-sexist-beauty-standards thing. She does it all. She is every single thing a woman is supposed to be and more, and she looks fucking fabulous while doing it. She’s on top of the world right now for a reason, and — delightful feminist speech samples aside — I don’t think it’s as a reward for being her “real self.”

So yeah, go ahead and celebrate the pop star who suddenly cares about equal pay in the workplace. But give her a little credit. And maybe try to tamp down your surprise that a lady who’s been competing in pageants of some kind since she was old enough to walk might know a thing or two about sexism, inequality, where women have power, and where it stops.

Slice of local soul


LEFT OF THE DIAL Looking back with the sense of perspective that four and a half decades can provide, the year 1969 seems almost implausibly momentous. The US government instated the draft for Vietnam. Neil Armstrong walked on the moon. John and Yoko got in bed and stayed there; Jimi shred the Star-Spangled Banner. And the Mets were really, really good.

In San Francisco, Sly and the Family Stone went into the studio — Pacific High Recording, on a tiny street near the 101 between Market and Mission, to be specific—and emerged with a record that would change the course of funk and soul music forever. Stand! was the fourth album from the Vallejo-bred seven-piece, catapulting into the mainstream a band the likes of which popular music had never seen: Two white folks and five black folks, both men and women, who sang about racism, poverty, peace and violence, sex, and other provocative topics in an honest yet irresistably danceable way. At the wheel was Sly Stone (born Sylvester Stewart), a charismatic sometime-soul DJ for SF radio stations and a musical prodigy of sorts who played the keyboard, guitar, bass and drums by age 11.

The record sold more than 3 million copies, propelled by singles like the title track, “Everyday People,” and “I Want to Take You Higher.” It was the apex of the band’s success. Three months later, they would give one of the best performances of their career at Woodstock, at 3:30am on a Sunday. By the end of 1969, after a move to LA, Sly and other Family Stone members were addicted to cocaine; by 1970, tensions were brewing in the studio and on the road. Despite producing a handful of other critically acclaimed records, drug problems and personal rifts grew steadily, and the band dissolved in 1975.

Still: “There are two types of black music,” wrote Joel Selvin in Sly and the Family Stone: An Oral History. “Black music before Sly Stone, and black music after Sly Stone.”

Of the 100-plus Bay Area musicians participating in “UnderCover Presents: Sly and the Family Stone’s Stand!” Jan. 17-19, it’s safe to say most came of age in the latter era — regardless of ethnicity — with popular music that bore Stone’s influence. For three consecutive nights at the Independent, nine artists from diverse genres will recreate the iconic album from start to finish, with each band performing its own unique arrangement of the track they were assigned. A record of all the performances was produced at San Francisco’s Faultline Studios in the weeks leading up to the show.

UnderCover has been producing large-scale shows like this every few months for the a little over three years, each time honoring an influential album with a different bill of Bay Area bands and a different guest musical director: Past shows have included reinterpretations of Joni Mitchell’s Blue, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon, and Radiohead’s Kid A. But Stand! represents new ground for a couple reasons: From a technical standpoint, the sheer quantity of musicians participating is daunting, thanks to guest director David Möschler’s 50-person Awesöme Orchestra, a Berkeley-based collective that holds monthly orchestral rehearsals that are free and open to anyone who wants to play.

Perhaps more importantly, this will be the first show honoring a local musician — one whose legacy still commands so much local respect. Recruiting bands who were excited about the chance to honor Sly and the Family Stone, says Möschler, was the easy part.

“If you’re talking innovation, if you’re talking community, if you’re talking Bay Area, that’s Sly,” says Möschler, a Berkeley-based musical director and conductor who comes from the world of orchestra and musical theater. “It was a natural choice.” He pitched Lyz Luke, UnderCover’s director, after being “blown away” by the Joni Mitchell show last January. Möschler said it was time for an Undercover show highlighting an artist of color — and that, while tribute nights to Michael Jackson, Prince and even Stevie Wonder are in no short supply, Sly’s oeuvre seemed to be under-trodden territory.

Why Stand!? “Every song is so powerful and yet so economical. There are these huge political statements — ‘Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey,’ ‘Everyday People,’ ‘You Can Make It If You Try’ — but it’s also just extremely good songwriting. And then there’s this 13-minute jam with ‘Sex Machine,'” says Möschler with a laugh. “You can hear that they were at the height of their creative powers as a band.”

Möschler reached out to Bay Area artists that felt like family bands, as Sly’s was. Seemingly impossibly, every artist, from the acclaimed jazz composer/bassist Marcus Shelby to the hip-hop/funk/Latin 10-piece Bayonics, listed a different first choice of song to cover.

“I think we said yes within two minutes,” says Daniel Blum, drummer for the Tumbleweed Wanderers, a folky soul-rock outfit who’ll be performing “Everyday People.” “We were huge fans of the band, but we didn’t want to fall into just covering the song. We played with harmonies, added some signatures of our sound.” Aside from the thrill of reinterpreting Stone’s music, UnderCover presented a rare opportunity to work with a slew of other artists the band respected, said Blum.

“Every show we do, we have artists tell us that they made connections they might never have otherwise, saying ‘You have to keep doing this,'” says Luke. She had the idea for UnderCover late one night three years ago, over drinks at the Latin American Club with Jazz Mafia founder Adam Theis and Classical Revolution’s Charith Premawardhana, then stayed up until morning crafting a dream-team lineup. “Our very first show [a Velvet Underground and Nico night in which Liz Phair and Third Eye Blind’s Stephan Jenkins took part], there were musicians running out from backstage just to see the next band, exchanging numbers afterward — they were in awe of each other.”

Theis has since watched the shows evolve as both an organizer and a musician. Though it hasn’t been the case with this show, “More than one previous UnderCover artist has told me that they actually didn’t really dig the song they ended up with at first, but that it brought them to a place where they had to dig and search for what the song meant to them,” says Theis, whose ensemble will be performing “You Can Make It If You Try.” “For me, that’s brought me to new musical places that I never would have gotten to just by staying in my comfort zone.”

Speaking of comfort zones: Nothing’s official, but this may be the first UnderCover show featuring members of the band being honored. Sly Stone famously fell on hard times in the early ’80s, suffering from addiction, financial problems and alleged mental illness; the musician, who is believed to live in Vallejo again, has made public appearances only sporadically since. But at least a few other original members have happily said they’ll be there. And Sly definitely knows about the show, thanks to Jeff Kaliss, a former Chronicle entertainment reporter who in 2008 penned the only authorized biography of the band, including the first in-depth interview with the elusive musician in over two decades. The verdict: Sly supposedly thinks it sounds “very cool.”

“The number of people from Sly’s community who have reached out has been truly amazing,” says Luke. “We’re talking major, famous funk guys going ‘We’re on board, we’ll help you. I think the community was waiting for this. I don’t think I realized what he means to the Bay Area.”

UnderCover Presents Sly & the Family Stone’s “Stand!”

Fri/17 – Sun/19

The Independent

628 Divisadero, SF















































Gimme 5: Must-see shows this week


Happy Monday, kids! If you’re feeling the comedown from a solid week of shows celebrating the Rickshaw Stop’s 10th anniversary (read our feature on it here), quit yer whining. Here are a handful of rad upcoming shows to get you out of the house. It’s winter, you’re pale, you need to. 

Black Cobra Vipers

Black Cobra Vipers are an SF-based art-rock trio in which two of three members were jazz majors (bassist Julian Borrego and drummer Rob Mills), a fact which announces itself both through the band’s technical abilities, and through its (mostly) controlled chaos. There are slowed-down funk numbers here; there are nods to ’70s psyche masters; there’s hard-driving, danceable rock and roll, with singer/guitarist Gregory DeMartino’s howls at the helm. Weird enough to keep you guessing, but just poppy enough to get their riffs stuck in  your head, the guys are a quarter of the way through a monthlong residency at the Chapel, so you have three more chances to become a fan.
With French Cassettes, The Netherfriends
The Chapel
777 Valencia, SF



Connan Mockasin
Listening to Connan Mockasin’s “Forever Dolphin Love” (in particular the post-climax/comedown attuned “Rework” by Erol Alkan) for the first time gave me a strange sense of primed nostalgia: it wasn’t that I’d heard the song a hundred times in the past, but the instant recognition that I would be listening to it for the inevitable future. A couple of years later I certainly have, along with the album it came off of and Mockasin’s latest platter of psych pop, Caramel, a Moebius strip of a concept album (based around the concept of what an album entitled “Caramel” would sound like.) But the New Zealand weirdo musician/Ariel Pink doppelganger is only now popping up on a US tour, seemingly having been on an extended European engagement supporting Charlotte Gainsbourg following his underrated guitar work on her Stage Whisper album.   (Ryan Prendiville)
With Disappearing People, Faux Canada
9pm, $10-12
Bottom of the Hill
1233 17th St, SF


Parquet Courts
Though the band may reside in NYC, the lyric “there’s billionaire buses on my unlit street” should hit close enough to home (if not right on the nose) to remind that Brooklyn isn’t that far away. Full of riffs both frenetically punk and spaciously melodic, Parquet Courts’s Light Up Gold is one of last year’s best. A deceptively effortless mix of slacked out rock songs, it’s a witty blend, with thankfully enough cleverness to know when to be dumb (while doing the inevitable references to Messrs. Reed, Richman, and Malkmus justice.) “Stoned and Starving” has got all the necessary hooks to deliver on a subject that needs no further explanation, but it’s “N. Dakota,” a probably unnecessary but totally enjoyable state-wide diss (with lines like “in Manitoba they call it boring / at night we hum to Canada snoring”) that’s still on replay. (Ryan Prendiville)
With White Fence (co-headliner), CCR Headcleaner
8pm, $16
Great American Music Hall
859 O’Farrell, SF


Bad News
Replicant Presents’ electronic and experimental noise reaches into Oakland again with a dose of “weird core,” industrial and straight-up sounds out of a horror-film soundtrack. BR-OOKS will have the home-court advantage and push the boundaries of any genre, then the more palpable Names will bring a dancier, more rhythmic approach, while maintaining roots in the realm of noise. But the true industrial strength will be heard when Bad News takes over. This commanding SF/LA guitar and synth duo, comprised of Sarah Bernat and Alex Lukas, should whip you into shape with sounds of precision and perfection. But before they totally slay you, you’ll reflect on any angst past or present and why it feels so right. Look for their new material in 2014! (Andre Torrez)
With Names and BR-OOKS
9pm, $7
The Night Light
311 Broadway, Oakland
Queer/Trans* Night
Celebrate being queer in the New Year with Gilman’s first Queer/Trans* Night of 2014, when MC Per Sia hosts a night of hard-hitting punk from some of the coolest queers in Bay Area music. The show features masked trio Moira Scar, San Cha, DADDIE$ PLA$TIC, Oakland punks Didisdead, post-punk duo Bestfriend Grrlfriend, and Alice Cunt all the way from LA. Show goers can also look forward to DJ Johnny Rose and a video booth by Lovewarz. This is a safe and sober show, so leave the booze and drugs at home, as well as any racism, misogyny, transphobia, or homophobia. (Kirstie Haruta)
5pm, $5 + $2 membership
924 Gilman St.
924 Gilman, Berkeley


Insane Clown Posse and the ACLU vs. the FBI


I never thought I’d write this sentence, and I doubt I’ll have cause to write it again, but: Good on ya, Insane Clown Posse.

The inimitable horrorcore-rap duo — best known for their demonic clown makeup, misogynistic lyrics, supposedly tongue-in-cheek love of extreme violence, and their always-charming fan base — filed a lawsuit this morning in Detroit against the FBI and the Justice Department, alleging that the federal government acted unlawfully when it classified Juggalos as gang members, leading to “harassment” of fans by law enforcement officials.

Attorneys from the ACLU of Michigan and attorneys for ICP collaborated on the suit, which concerns a 2011 report by the National Gang Intelligence Center on “emerging trends” that defined fans of the band as a “loosely-organized hybrid gang” that was “rapidly expanding into many US communities.” Four Juggalos listed as plaintiffs (alongside ICP members Joseph Bruce and Joseph Utsler — er, sorry, Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope) claim the gang designation led to unwarranted harassment by the police.

“We’re not a gang, we’re a family,” said Utsler at a press conference announcing the suit. “We’re a diverse group of men and women, united by our love of music and nothing more. We’re not a threat, a public menace or a danger to society.”

Insane Clown Posse and their assorted devotees remain, of course, for many of us, a public menace to our senses and a danger to good taste everywhere. A gang? Not quite. And organized groups of assholes aren’t exactly an emerging trend.

Besides, don’t our federal security agencies have anything better to do?

Locals Only: Farallons


Locals Only is our weekly shout-out to the musicians who call the Bay Area home. Each week we spotlight an artist/band/music-maker with an upcoming show, album release, or general good news to share.To be considered, email esilvers@sfbg.com.

You know how people who’ve never been to California sometimes think the whole state is a Baywatch set? That we spend our winters in cut-offs and rollerskates, blasting Snoop Dogg while working on our tans?

To be fair, the past few weeks of Bay Area weather have made all of that pretty feasible, if you’re so inclined (thanks, global warming!). Regardless, being a beach bum in San Francisco has its own unique, fog-seeped aesthetic: I didn’t realize that putting on 15 layers to go to the beach wasn’t “normal” until I went away to college in San Diego. It’s only logical that we’d have a slightly different ocean-influenced soundtrack here, as well.

Enter Farallons, an SF five-piece whose dreamy blend of surf-pop and indie folk has been garnering buzz since their July 2013 debut EP, Outer Sun Sets. Singer-songwriters Andrew Brennan and Aubrey Trinnaman are at the helm with honeyed, seemingly effortless harmonies; there’s liberal use of synth and plenty of peppy surf-rock guitar, but there are dark moods here, too, and more than a little salt. Farallons will play at Amnesia every Tuesday in January, accompanied by a different opener each night. Ahead of the first show, Brennan shared a few thoughts on the Bay Area music scene and living at the beach.

SFBG How would you say living in SF — in particular, the Sunset — has shaped your music?

AB In two major ways. First, exposure to fantastic music being created by innovative artists. The musical community here really helps to facilitate an ongoing state of creativity and collaboration.  My friends are some of my absolute favorite musicians; I think it’s fair to say that I am some of my friends’ biggest fans.

Second, the place. The Pacific Ocean and Northern California environ have a huge influence on my spirit and creative output.  I live on the ocean and get to see the sun set every single day.  The ocean is presenting waves and winds that have traveled for thousands of miles across the biggest wilderness on our planet.  I can step out my front door and take all of that in in a breath of air or by getting into the ocean for a surf.  It’s magic here.  

SFBG You surf, and your music obviously has some surf-rock elements — does that just happen naturally? What’s your writing process like?

AB My music is heavily influenced by my sense of place.  This coastline and this ocean are incredibly powerful sources of identity for me, in both how I interact with them (whether it be through surfing or bicycling, etc.) and how they interact with me (weather patterns, growing seasons) and have no doubt influenced my creativity. So there’s an interplay between place, influence, and creativity, and many of my favorite artists also channel that interplay. Whether I’m influenced by peers or by my environment – it’s tough to pin down. It’s a cyclical process, and it’s self-reinforcing. I think that’s part of the reason there’s a coherence to the art coming out of this region. 

SFBG What are the band’s plans for this coming year?

After the January residency at Amnesia, we will be doing a quick California tour in late February that will bring us to Nevada City, Davis, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, and LA.  Then we’ll focus on getting back into the studio to begin work on our first full-length record, which I hope to have completed and released by 2015.  We’ll be launching a Kickstarter within the month to help fund the album.

SFBG Food-wise, what’s the best-kept secret in the Outer Sunset?

No-brainer: Brother’s Pizza on Taraval, right next to The Riptide.  The vegetarian Indian slice can’t be beat, and the folks that work there are super sweet.

With Mariee Sioux and Soft Shells
Tues/7, 9:15pm, $7
853 Valencia, SF