Fred Miketa

Escape from planet Indie Rock


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With so many indie rock bands riding the wave of all things post-punk or psych–this and that at present, it’s rare that fans of subversive music are able to listen to subterranean songs as a means of escape. I mean, Band of Horses permeate Ford commercials during the NFL playoffs, and little brothers and sisters everywhere are air-guitaring to everyone from Mastodon to the Rapture.

So it makes perfect sense that Brooklyn, NY, band Yeasayer has managed to engage even the most cynical of indie veterans with its escapist realm filled with an uncompromisingly authentic helping of psychedelic — and extremely technically proficient — guitar noodling, hypnotic pop vocals, and worldly percussion that’s as reminiscent of Carlos Santana as it is of Animal Collective or the Cure. How can you not escape when listening to something that trots along so many unexpected musical paths?

It’s no surprise that this extension of the avant-indie wing is composed of two ex–barbershop quartet members and a rhythm section that employs a bounty of instrumentation including but not limited to accordions, bongo drums, sitars, and sequencers. Driven by guitarist Anand Wilder, the group is a four-piece, genre-eradicating machine, with each member trading off vocal and instrumental duties by track. Eleven months in the making, Yeasayer’s debut, All Hour Cymbals, was snatched up by Jason Foster of Monitor Records (Battles, Early Man) and eventually became the initial — and cornerstone — release of his newest imprint, We Are Free.

After a gazillion positive reviews, rumors of the band’s outstanding performances at Austin, Texas’s 2007 South by Southwest Festival, and yes, acclaim from MTV as part of the burgeoning Brooklyn scene, the band has become one of the few tripper acts that render a true sense of escapism as indie rock’s merge with mainstream culture becomes a reality. I strongly recommend listening to the goth-pop–meets–Middle Eastern music psych-epic "Germs," followed by a serious bong rip. Then turn to the haunting, shoegazing barbershop bhangra of "Waves" and attempt to question what mental plane and planet you inhabit.

But what makes the mysticism of Yeasayer more mind engulfing than that of the mountain of other Dave Sitek– and Paw Tracks–approved artists (e.g., um, Celebration, Panda Bear, Ariel Pink)? One should first look at the group’s penchant for gospel. While it may be hard to associate any of the long-haired and art school–ish members with that genre’s religious core, just about every track on All Hour Cymbals radiates some sort of spiritual a cappella à la TV on the Radio’s Tunde Adebimpe — if he were ever a member of a South American Baptist choir. Even more interesting, the band’s lyrics take the proverbial 180 degree turn from gospel’s posi-vibes. Take, for instance, Yeasayer’s single "2080": the members switch off melodically chanting, "I can’t sleep when I think about the times we’re living in / I can’t sleep when I think about the future I was born into," only to follow with "I’ll surely be dead / So don’t look ahead / Never look ahead." Now we have an apocalyptic, uplifting, shredding whirlwind of pop innovation. Whoa.

With a European tour under their belt and an extensive United States tour in progress with their fellow Brooklyn troupe of indie revolutionaries MGMT, Yeasayer are spreading the bounty of escapism worldwide. Experiencing this fearless entity, which is staring indie rock’s mainstream monster directly in the face, should be an entertaining, if not enlightening, glimpse into the future of progressive songwriting as we might know it. *


With MGMT and the Morning Benders

Mon/28, 9 p.m., sold out

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 621-4455

To the ramparts, robots


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Aside from having one of the most awesome health care systems in the world, the Louvre, and an overall sense of sophistication, France is responsible for Daft Punk’s entrance into the world and the subsequent rebirth of a limitless club culture. Sure, we’ve got R. Kelly and Slayer, both of whom are as culturally relevant as the Paris duo, but unlike the aforementioned American icons, Daft Punk have scaled an aesthetic fence, resuscitating what many considered a moribund French music scene in a dynamic way that exceeds tabloids and all things shredding.

With or without their now-infamous mystique as masked robots, Daft Punk’s Thomas Bangalter and Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo have dominated dance floors with dynamic robohouse releases like 1997’s Homework, 2001’s Discovery, and 2005’s Human after All (all Virgin), which murdered charts in the United Kingdom and France while assaulting those in the States. But it’s not the grinding electropower of "Da Funk" that’s entirely responsible for the group’s forefront standing — it’s all about the Daft Punk vision.

In a genre brimming with predictable dance floor restrictions (i.e., the same four synth sounds and 120 bpm repetitions) and an overwhelming need to crowd-please, Daft Punk have never followed 4/4 guidelines or era-aligned clichés. After an intense bidding war, signing with Virgin, and hitting megastatus with Discovery, the duo immediately began realizing their ambitions, working with Japanese animation kingpin Leiji Matsumoto for the $4 million–<\d>budgeted operatic film Interstella 5555. Released in 2003, Interstella revolves around a "discovered" robot band taken hostage in space, with a separate episode for each Discovery track. Both MTV and Cartoon Network hosted the first few episodes, and many critics heralded the band for its satirical take on the entertainment industry.

Without supporting Human after All with a series of elaborate tour dates, the duo spent time prepping another cinematic addition to their creative canon and directed Electroma, a 70-minute silent-film opus. Based on the story of two robots driving through a desert in a 1987 Ferrari on a quest to become human, the film has already been compared to endeavors like Matthew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle. Electroma is far from a low-budget, art-school project, though: the futuristic costumes, for example, were dreamed up by Hedi Slimane.

In typical Daft Punk fashion, Bangalter and Homem-Christo maintained their sacred anonymity by choosing to direct the film and hire actors to live the robot dream. For the soundtrack, the duo also enlisted France’s psych tastemaker Sebastien Tellier and selected some moody hymns by Brian Eno and Curtis Mayfield, to name a couple. There have been several midnight screenings at clubs across the globe — one at Mezzanine is forthcoming — and the DVD will be released in August by Aztec International/Vice.

Speaking of which, Daft Punk have also earned a place in electrohouse history with their ties to the new French revolution — namely, Ed Banger Records and affiliates like the aforementioned Vice. Founded by production monolith and Daft Punk manager Pedro Winter, a.k.a. Busy P, the label has become synonymous with the gritty analog sound that Daft Punk carved into dance culture. Including many young French producers like Sebastian, Justice, Mr. Oizo, and Feadz — most of whom are barely old enough to legally get hammered at a stateside club — Ed Banger has earned its place at the top of the in-demand live-act pyramid, and its crew isn’t tied to serving out bangers exclusively either. Oizo recently directed the forthcoming film Steak, which was scored by Sebastian, Tellier, and himself.

Then there’s Kitsuné Music, another Paris label, which is nestled between Ed Banger and the Rapture on the list of Daft Punk’s top MySpace friends, a lofty position for those engaged in the cybernetworking circuit. Acts like Digitalism, Crystal Castles, and Riot in Belgium have earned near-cult status through Kitsuné and its heavily rotated compilation series.

With the exception of a few Coachella dates and one-offs, Daft Punk haven’t officially toured since supporting Homework in 1997, and now the duo are tearing through the States prior to Electroma‘s launch. Playing select arena dates, the duo are performing alongside their well-groomed legion of the new French crooners, including Kavinsky, Sebastian, and the Rapture. Most of the dates are already sold out, but in homage to Daft Punk’s legacy, the James Friedman–<\d> and the Rapture–<\d>owned Throne of Blood imprint is throwing a series of after-parties including said supporting acts — no Daft Punk, sorry — in clubs rather than in enormous amphitheaters.

Whether or not Daft Punk will eventually start building sculptures, go to medical school, or return to the realm of everyday club crushing remains unknown, but their place in dance culture is as solid as Bangalter and Homem-Christo’s impenetrable robot helmets.*


Fri/27, 8 p.m., $48.50

Greek Theatre

UC Berkeley, Gayley Road, Berk.

(510) 643-6707

Ask Dr. Rock


ASK DR. ROCK Even local recluses know that everybody wants to be a DJ. From your cutty hesher bro who insists that his Uriah Heep tribute night is going to change the world to the fluorescent-T-shirt-laden electro-rave recumbents shredding away at their Sorato setups, the city is no stranger to DJ glamour. That said, it’s pretty fucking weird that very few DJs — and their nights — actually garner the glitz of people coming out to dance to their lauded record collections.

During the past few months I’ve shape-shifted from scene to scene, noting what it takes to keep people moving, howling, and grinding up against total strangers. Whether playing an obscure night of prog, psych, and metal at the Casanova (which has been oddly embraced by a swarm of Marina-fashioned, post-25-year-old women — more on this later) or the predictable Klaxons remixes at the late Frisco Disco, the DJs — and their enthusiasts — are there for a reason. So what does it take to be an employed DJ in SF?

1. No haters club If you want to play records, do it for people who want to hear some ripe jams. Bite the bullet, and befriend your promoter nemeses. No one wants to dance for someone who can’t stand the sights on the dance floor. When was the last time a resident at New Wave City was over playing New Order? That’s right.

2. I am somebody It’s a sad fact, but you must have some credentials to rock a party, man. Either know your fellow DJs, be in a band that people care about, or find the people who will give you a chance to make some night moves. Do you really think that Michael Mayer or DJ Kaos just played sick tracks and all of a sudden people started flying them everywhere?

3. Get some Get some new bangers. Fuck it. With the goddamn Internet in full effect, you know that you can find something better than Prince. And for Christ’s sake, do not play Queen, Michael Jackson, or Justin Timberlake remixes. Have enough balls to stand out. The dance floor will respond. I’ve never seen so many Seven Jean–adorned women in their mid-30s psyched on the Melvins — you just have to own it.

4. Know your place While it’s great that the digital revolution has eased its way into the club, allowing for thousands of possibilities outside the crate, it helps to know the birds and bees of DJing. That doesn’t mean it’s all about the mix. It means that if you’re trying to break into a residency at Shutter, you can’t just have a bunch of Sisters of Mercy ready for deployment. You have to have the right Sisters of Mercy and then some 45 Grave — and still be able to bring it into the Cure B-side that you know will make limbs fly all over the place.

5. The facts of life It’s really all about whom you know. Fortunately, this city is übersmall, so get out of the crib and make your way into the sea of party crushers.

Issues finding the beat? Problems in clubland? In a bad funk? Welcome to our new music advice column, Ask Dr. Rock. Write us at