Kimberly Chun




SONIC REDUCER You can keep your majestic soundscapes, your rewrites of “Rocky Raccoon,

Taking spills



It takes a lot to knock an obsession out of Built to Spill singer-songwriter-guitarist Doug Martsch. Behind the beard, the down-low home life with wife and child, and the phone conversation padded with softly undercutting “Oh, I dunno’s,” once lay the heart of a raging pickup basketball junkie.
“I kinda got sucked into the NBA play-offs seven or eight years ago,” explains Martsch, 37, from his home in Boise, Idaho. “Then I quit smoking cigarettes five or six years ago, and when I quit smoking, I decided to go shoot hoops, and then I just got really addicted to it, totally loved it. That was kind of my main passion.
“Yeah, I played music somewhat, but basketball was what I lived for and did every day.”
A seemingly harmless hobby, except that Martsch threw himself so vigorously into the game that he was starting to do some real damage — to himself. Most recently, Built to Spill — one of Northwestern rock’s most respected representatives and one of ’90s indie/alternative/modern rock/whatev’s most influential bands — had to push back the tour dates for their new album, You in Reverse (Warner Bros.), because of a detached retina Martsch suffered while banging around the court. And then there was the last time Built to Spill played in San Francisco, two years ago …
The band was staying at the Phoenix, and as usual while on tour, Martsch ventured out, looking for a local pickup game. He found one at the Tenderloin Golden Gate YMCA. “I was playing noon ball with the people there, and I got smacked in the ear and popped my eardrum, and I was deaf in my right ear for a couple months,” he recalls. “I kept waiting for my hearing to come back. We had to finish the tour, and I could only hear out of one ear, and it was driving me crazy!” After he returned home Martsch finally, reluctantly broke the news to his wife, who had been worried about basketball injuries for some time. One can imagine the I told you sos ringing out all over Boise.
“Yeah, I had my right ear destroyed, and my right eye destroyed so far, and my right knee also,” continues Martsch, who, at one point, also suspected he had a torn ACL. “So, I dunno — I’m about done. I also started taking it a little too seriously. I started not having very much fun unless I was playing well. If I missed a few shots, I’d just become really frustrated, and I wasn’t really enjoying myself.” After his eye injury Martsch followed his doctor’s orders to stop playing for a few months, and in the process, some of the fixation dissipated (though plucky challengers can get a taste of it by playing Martsch via a game on the band’s Built to Spill Web site).
Luckily for patient Built to Spill fans, Martsch reimmersed himself in music. Those listeners had been waiting for five years for a studio follow-up to Ancient Melodies of the Future (Warner Bros.). Touched by Martsch’s passion for the Delta blues — which resulted in his 2002 solo album, Now You Know (Warner Bros.) — You in Reverse finds the band shaping less characteristic jams and experimenting in the studio, sans their longtime producer Phil Ek and accompanied by only engineer Steven Wray Lobdell (who ended up getting the producer credit). Pitting himself against longtime contributing guitarist–turned–permanent member Brett Netson of Caustic Resin, Martsch unfurls guitar solos that are both economical and impassioned, beginning with the lengthy, multitextured suite “Goin’ Against Your Mind.” He buries his vocals as guitars chime brightly in the foreground on “Liar,” then throws indie listeners for a loop with souped-up ska and flamenco tempos (“Mess With Time”). In all, Martsch sounds more like a ’burb-bound Neil Young than ever before, harnessing a semi-tamed Crazy Horse for his garage jams with his Seattle- and Boise-based bandmates while sidestepping the dangers of repeating himself and working in almost undetectable jabs at the current political environment.
Looking back at the gap between Ancient Melodies and You in Reverse, Martsch is quick to point out that the band actually took only a yearlong breather between tours and recording. But the reason they took the break, he confesses, was that “I just really burned out. I was just kind of tired of Built to Spill and wasn’t very interested in alternative rock in general.” He discovered Delta blues around the time he recorded Keep It Like a Secret and, he explains, “that’s all that sounded very good to me.”
That changed when the group got together to jam for You in Reverse, which Martsch describes as Built to Spill’s most collaborative album yet. He hopes with the official addition of Netson that he can write songs with the rest of the band while Built to Spill is on tour and recording songs at studios across the country. “I’m just kind of excited,” says Martsch. And that’s a major score for someone who claims he doesn’t think he has a “real lust for life.”
“I think the best things Built to Spill ever does are yet to come on some sort of level.” SFBG
Wed/21-Sat/24, 9 p.m.
333 11th St., SF
(415) 522-0333

Blinded by Scientists?



SONIC REDUCER It may be yet another sign of a time-space-buckling rock apocalypse. Or a chilling harbinger of imminent, sonic-subtlety-be-damned deafness. Or simply a case of sudden, acute perceptiveness. But you had to wonder, watching We Are Scientists and Arctic Monkeys at the Warfield on May 31, how two such different bands (at least on record) could blur together into one indistinctive, loudly guitar-oriented mass. And I like that fetchingly raucous and hook-slung Arctic Monkeys album. I enjoy the forceful post-punk rock of We Are Scientists, live wisecracks about dead dads, babes up front, and all.

Both bands work hard for their money though I can’t speak for the second half of Arctic Monkeys’ set. I had to flee because of my lumbago, left charring in the oven. But as I was racing to my vehicle, I did wonder about the so-called ’00s rock revolution: Could it have gotten stalled somewhere around the time the Arctic Monkeys decided to jettison their straight-forward approach at Great American Music Hall earlier this year and reach for the shadows, smoke machines, and drum-triggered, classically trite rock light show?

Perhaps they’re trying too hard, and if the bands aren’t, then someone is, be it their stylists or marketing departments. What they and other nouveau rock heads should realize is that some arts are beyond science. It’s too easy to slag We Are Scientists, as so many have, starting with a tone set by wink-wink song titles like “This Scene Is Dead” and “Cash Cow” and gamboling forth to the canny exploitation of cute kittens on the cover of With Love and Squalor (Virgin). The cellular building blocks of a fun, poppy, and even harder rock band are there, once you start hacking away at the thick, waxy snark buildup. It’s not that I don’t want to hear about the bad new good times of bands like We Are Scientists and the Killers but whether they dig deeper and darker into the not-so-secret life of hotties or step back (rather than up, to a privileged perch) and develop a sense of songcraft, they need to make me wanna walk on their wild side.

Killers and bad dudes Speaking of Killers, word has it the Hundred Days show at Bottom of the Hill June 3 was buzzing with A&R types because the SF band’s demo was mixed by Mark Needham, who also worked with the Killers. Colin Crosskill e-mailed me to confirm that Killers producer Jeff Saltzman has expressed interest in working with Hundred Days on their next album, based on the recordings…. Shoplifting’s name, unfortunately, proved too prescient: The Seattle band’s gear was lifted from their van parked on Guerrero Street before their May 29 SF show. They’ve posted a list of stolen gear at for sharp eyes at Bay Area shops and swap meets…. In other thieving matters, Annie of Annie’s Social Club had a green-and-white guitar autographed by X stolen from her premises; if you have info, contact

Running in the streets Paranoia, punch-ups, temper tantrums, spread-betting losing sprees, and banging cracked-out, nameless pop stars nope, that wasn’t the scene at Sonic Reducer’s recent birthday splashdown. Instead that’s all on the new album from the Streets (a.k.a. Mike Skinner), The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (Vice/Atlantic), a riff on the trials and tribulations of fame that has divided many who have heard it.

“Honesty has always been what I’ve been good at,” says a subdued Skinner, calling from his London home. Making Machiavelli look like a po-faced naïf, one crack at a time, he adds, “People have definitely not liked it as much. But on the whole I think it’s gone down really well.”

I spoke to Skinner when his first CD, Original Pirate Material, came out stateside, when neither of us was completely sure his brand of hip-hop would go over well in the United States. Even now, Skinner says, “I didn’t expect anyone outside the UK to give a shit about it,” so sidestepping the gangster game seems easy. These days, he believes, “it’s a competition to be the hardest. Who’s the most credibly tough. I do think it’s very difficult to stand out against that.”

Why get rich and die trying? Worse, you can stiff like 50 Cent in his own biopic. Instead, Skinner sounds like he’s going the Jay and Em route and concentrating on running his own label, the Beats. “I just want to stay busy and hopefully never work at Burger King again.” SFBG

The Streets with Lady Sovereign

Fri/9, 9 p.m.


1805 Geary, SF


(415) 346-6000


Cat Empire

Putf8um-selling Aussie Latin-jazz-ska-hip-hop fusion purveyors make the Latin-jazz-ska-hip-hop kittens purr. Fri/9, 9 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $15. (415) 771-1421.

Oakley Hall

Back-to-the-garden refusniks? Cali-fucked-up dreamers? Brooklyn’s mega ensemble can’t stop putting out music this year; their latest is the bejeweled Gypsum Strings (Brah). Fri/9, 9 p.m. Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $12. (415) 861-5016.

Soundwave Series

Its first Live Play show at ATA will be documented by KQED’s Spark. Myrmyr, Luz Alibi/Mr Maurader, and Moe! Staiano’s Quintet with guest curator Matt Davignon improvise to previously unseen videos culled by 21 Grand’s Sarah Lockhart. Fri/9, 8 p.m., Artists’ Television Access, 992 Valencia, SF. $6–$10.

James Blackshaw

The young UK guitarist grabbed Wire and Fakejazz’s attention with last year’s O True Believers (Important) — and now has ours. Sat/10, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $10. (415) 923-0923.

Howlin’ at the sun



SONIC REDUCER Something wicked this way came, right in the middle of last week’s spate of strangely beautiful, beastly hot days, as I sipped a pint on El Rio’s back patio with Comets on Fire vocalist-guitarist Ethan Miller. You can bet with 6/6/06 plastered all over town, prophesizing an ominously large marketing onslaught for The Omen that wickedness probably involved horror movies. And you’ll be right. Because Miller is happy to talk about the fruits of Howlin’ Rain, a solo project aided and abetted by Sunburned Hand of the Man’s John Moloney and childhood Humboldt County pal Ian Gradek. But Miller gets really "fanned out" when the subject of mind-gouging, low-budg cinematic howlers like his all-time faves Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Beyond, Maniac, Suspiria come up. I can dig it, but do all rockers really bond over the joy of having their eyeballs violated?

"My wife doesn’t want to watch it with me," he says jovially. "I’m, like, ‘Babe, I just got my copy of Cannibal Holocaust in the mail! And she’s just, like, ‘No! Fuck that! No! No! You have to watch that after I go to bed.’

"I had this one friend, I thought he and I had the same taste, and he just wasn’t really speaking up, and I kept giving him films to watch, and he was, like, ‘Dude, I told you. I hate that. That was fucking traumatizing.’”

For all his movie-collector madness, Miller can be reasoned with and likewise is perfectly reasonable. The Comets’ de facto leader and cofounder tells me their fourth full-length, Avatar (Sub Pop), is ready to go after what sounds like a grueling but fully democratic process recording with Tim Green at Prairie Sun in Cotati. "It’s hard to know if you’re in control of the macro-organism or if it’s in control of you," Miller muses. "Like a minidemocracy, you can’t steer it more than your one-fifth influence. These are real social people wed to each other through their art and music and now through a band."

The Howlin’ Rain project, meanwhile, was quick and dirty, spat out in about eight days, and driven solely by Miller, relying on two trustworthy friends from far-flung parts of the country, with Moloney in Massachusetts and Gradek in Kauai.

Dust demons of fuzz and growling guitar tone still crop up, but here Miller has conjured his own ’06 version of early-’70s "mellow gold" rock ’n’ roll, pulling from the Allman Brothers, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, and Neil Young without resorting to outright … cannibalism.

"I tried to pack it full of the psych you could have from this vantage point right now," he says. "Not make a record that’s, like, ‘Fuck, that sounds just like Sabbath. I mean, just like Sabbath.’”

Keep your bloody Sabbath instead a laid-back, sun-swept blues-rock vibe, edged with moments of darkness, comes in as clear as a rushing river. You can hear Miller’s relatively effects-free voice, for once not screaming over the maelstrom as if flesh were being ripped from his bones, cushioned by the occasional harmony, which he describes as "Simon and Garfunkel on a bad trip or something."

Nonetheless, Miller isn’t ready to forsake the power jams of yore. He sees Howlin’ Rain and Comets as populist entertainments, much like those beloved horror films. "The best ones succeed in an absolute emotional manipulation that’s kind of a ride, like listening to Queen or Mahavishnu Orchestra, music that’s made for an absolute thrill ride. It’s just so dense and thrilling, and they don’t make you sit around waiting for something to happen. Though maybe Mahavishnu wouldn’t appreciate that because their shit is supposed to be more spiritual …"

Stinky no more What’s it like growing up rock? Ask XBXRX, or Gaviotas’s Simon Timony, who had his share of alterna-cool attention at a very young age: The 22-year-old San Franciscan led the Stinkypuffs which included his onetime stepfather Jad Fair of Half Japanese, his mother Sheenah Fair, Gumball’s Don Fleming, and Lee Ranaldo’s son Cody Linn Ranaldo. Fronting and writing for the most notable child-centered supergroup of the early-’90s alt-rock scene, Timony learned guitar from family friend Snakefinger, was home-schooled by his parents, who ran Ralph Records (his father Tom was in the Residents), and eventually befriended Nirvana when Half Japanese opened for them during the In Utero tour. "I was actually trusted to go wake up Kurt before a show," Timony says wonderingly today.

After notably performing with Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl, together for the first time after Cobain’s suicide, at the 1994 Yo Yo a Go Go fest in Olympia, Wash., Timony grew disillusioned with music at around age 13. But he picked up his moldy guitar again after discovering Korn and now he’s making Gaviotas his full-time job. He performs at a suicide-prevention benefit May 31. "My dad and my mom were, like, ‘If this is what you want to do …,’” Timony explains. “‘As long as you don’t suck!’ My dad is a very honest person too honest sometimes." SFBG

Howlin’ Rain

Thurs/1, 6 p.m.

Amoeba Music

1855 Haight, SF

(415) 831-1200

Also with Citay and Sic Alps

Sat/3, 9:30 p.m.

Hemlock Tavern

1131 Polk, SF


(415) 923-0923

Gaviotas with Crowing and Habitforming

Wed/31, 9 p.m.

Annie’s Social Club

917 Folsom, SF


(415) 974-1585



Play nice with Chloe and Asya, those übertalented but otherwise normal preteens in Seattle’s Smoosh. Their new album, Free to Stay, is here to stay June 6. Eels headline. Wed/31, 8 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $25. (415) 346-6000.


Frontperson John lays down his Foucault — and likely won’t set himself on fire — for a few choice shows celebrating the release of Scrape the Walls (Alternative Tentacles). Fri/2, 10 p.m., Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. $7. (415) 974-1585; June 9, 8 p.m., 924 Gilman, Berk. $5. (510) 525-9926,

Prep’s cool



The unassuming men of Ral Partha Vogelbacher are a lot like those nondescript, quietly simmering step sitters of high school their noses buried in books of arcane geography, color theory, and Hapsburg history, mentally dancing along a thin pink and green line between fact and fantasy while their butts are parked in concrete, institutional reality. Imagine Ral Partha as a country and what its five-year plan might be. They might come up with harebrained projects like sending a million monkeys to Mars, or scoring a gig as the house band for The Colbert Report.

But what else would you expect when it comes to a band named after a Dungeons and Dragons figurine manufacturer and chief instigator Chad Bidwell’s eighth-grade friend-nemesis, a Pierre Vogelbacher who later got his, when his nose was sliced off by falling dishes?

Folded into a chair across from fellow songwriter, guitarist, and suitcase manipulator David Kesler and drummer Jason Gonzales, Bidwell looks like the kind of guy you might pass on the street and never think twice about, despite his soft, lingering aura of amiableness. Similarly, his Dolores Park apartment sports few distinguishing stylistic flourishes it’s more like a serviceable space to sleep in. And judging from his bandmates’ admiring comments "This band is basically about steering around an idiot savant, waiting for his next good idea, and in between trying to weather the lows," says Kesler and the songs on 2003’s Kite vs. Obelisk (Megalon) and his latest, third album, Shrill Falcons (Monotreme), Bidwell obviously spends a lot of quality time in his imagination, rather than on Dolores Street. Shrill Falcons glides away from the folkier lo-fi of Kites vs. Obelisk and ventures into a more expansive musical habitat of distortion, feedback, minimalist pop, and drone that cribs from Wire, Pere Ubu, Neu, and Slint without aping by the numbers. Toiling at Kesler’s "Frozen Skeletor Ice Castle Studio" in Oakland, the trio worked in the rich, gurgling, and bleating textures for which Kesler and Gonzales’s Thee More Shallows and contributing friend Odd Nosdam of Anticon are known. "We all collectively have a desire to make music that’s more aggressive," Kesler explains.

Composing most of the album’s tunes while traveling in China and casting aside his onetime writing preoccupation with old girlfriends, Bidwell lyrically burrowed into family, loss, and travel.

The album was first titled Scandinavian Preppy, to go with the initially bright sound and the pink and green flag that adorns Falcon‘s cover, but, Orlando, Fla., native Bidwell says, "I think it actually sounds more swampy and murky, like Florida. ‘Garden Assault’ is about growing up in Orlando, next to this park and this lake. Me and my friends would swim in the lake and sneak into the park and go into the fountain and steal quarters and go play video games."

The death of Bidwell’s father six years ago surfaces on songs like "Party after the Wake." In it, the patriarch roams his own funeral, until the family has him lie down, placing coins on his eyes. "It talks about seeing him at the viewing, his face all distorted, and I’m kind of probing his skin," says Bidwell with a bemused expression on his rubbery features, offering what might seem to be a painful life story with the puzzled distance of a perpetual observer.

Kesler first met Bidwell when the latter auditioned to be the drummer for Kesler’s pre-TMS band Shackleton. As Bidwell begins to tell the tale, Kesler pipes up, in the same way that they say they wrote songs for Falcons: "Can I edit this story? This is our relationship he gives me material, and then I edit it.

"Chad tried out," Kesler continues, "and he literally could not play a single beat. I looked over, and I thought this guy must be joking, and he was over there, totally placid, smiling." Bidwell gave a tape of his songs to the band, and Kesler was immediately impressed: "I still think Chad’s lyrics are the best I ever heard."

After Bidwell recorded one album, 2001’s The More Nice Fey Elven Gnomes (Megalon), Kesler and Gonzales began to back him up, making Kite with him. So when Falcons’ songs appeared to be going slowly, Kesler offered to give Bidwell a few of the "tons of musical ideas" he had lying around.

Sounds like the solitary confines of one’s own imagination have loosened up for Bidwell, a software programmer and exGeek Corps volunteer who began his Megalon label because, he owns, "I thought that it would make my, at that point, lonely, desperate life a little less lonely. More meaningful."

"You didn’t tell me that when you told me you wanted to put out the Thee More Shallows record!" jokes Kesler.

"I just realized it at this moment," Bidwell says, smiling. "We should have just hung out more or something." SFBG

Ral Partha Vogelbacher
with Thee More Shallows
and the Mall

Thurs/25, 9 p.m.

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF


(415) 621-4455

Cave in



SONIC REDUCER Pop styles of the oh-so-rich and silly!

Britney Spears nearly drops her infant son, baby in one hand, drink in the other, while angling through an NYC crowd! And so soon after being bitch-slapped by the paparazzi for misusing her infant car seat! Oops, she can’t do anything right!

Blaming "media intrusion" for his marital breakup, prenup-less Beatle Paul McCartney promises to hit the charts with the most costly divorce in Brit(pop) history at an estimated $188 to $376 million. Most referenced Beatles lyric: "Can’t buy me love"!

Gossip so slight it’s surreal comes and goes. What remains are the exclamation pointfree, consistently sinister talents of Nick Cave now back in form as the screenwriter of John Hillcoat’s bloody, lyrical Australian western, The Proposition. His red right hand extends to yet another film opening this week in the Bay Area, Olivier Assayas’s Clean, which features sometime Bad Seed James Johnston playing a simian-mugged ’80s rock star you rang? whose death by overdose leaves the addict mother of his child, Emily (Maggie Cheung), high and struggling to dry out.

Bathing in bloodshed and unflinchingly embracing the visceral, The Proposition immediately brought to mind the other recent movie by another rocker with punk, metal, and underground roots who hit a commercial peak in the early ’90s and found a temporary home in the arms of an Alternative Nation: The Devil’s Rejects, by Rob Zombie. The two movies might be seen as spiritual kin if not responses to each other and might even be read as thinly disguised metaphors for life on the road in a rock band: Cave’s bespattered, greasy, tangled-haired outback outlaws would blend in fine at Lollapalooza, while the do-you-want-to-stop-for-ice-cream-or-to-disbowel-passing-strangers repartee between Zombie’s killer hillbillies on the lam smells like a kind of sociopathic teen spirit, circa ’92. The fact that the Rejects the very title of the film sounds like a band name torture a C&W band reads as uncensored rock ’n’ roll ribaldry to me.

Cave, on the other hand, takes hellfire, carnage, and, once again, torture scenes seriously: His is a morality play, with a fatalistic acknowledgment of the way race and class operate in an Australian frontier injustice system. Likewise, rather than relying on crowd-pleasing rock akin to that in Rejects, Cave and Dirty Three violinist Warren Ellis unveil a shockingly restrained, elegiac, occasionally screeching score for The Proposition, now available on Mute.

Clean wasn’t written by Cave, but his dark yet redemptive residue is all over it. The main flaw in this otherwise graceful tale of a jet-set junk-bird’s descent, flight, then ascent is the fact that the finale falls flat: This movie is all about the hangers-on, the incidental characters orbiting an absent, dark hole of a star, so when Cheung finally takes the mic and dares to fill the void left by her dead lover, her performance should have hit some Marianne Faithfullesque lowlife high. Still, amid Assayas’s detailed, obvious pleasure depicting ex-wife Cheung floundering after her man’s passing, Cave look-alike Johnston gets in a few of the most memorable, candid lines in Clean when he tells Cheung that his latest album is simply mediocre, and while he may make better once again, he’ll settle for whatever he can get to put it out now.

Why Cave now? Perhaps the culture is finally ready for his plain, unpleasant truths; his horror stories; and his scary, survivor’s revisioning of reality. Dubbing him goth is too easy; calling him Johnny Cash’s black-suited successor, facile. He’s proof that one can go to hell and back.

Stealin’ and Gilman Is anyone beginning to feel like Jack White’s voice is a little like squeaky tires doing donuts on chalkboard? No? Excellent, because the Raconteurs, his current band with other mad Midwestern too-cool-for-schoolies, have put out a pretty swell rock record, digging into late-’70s to late-’80s sounds, be they Romantics-style new wave or AOR hair-band histrionics. And by gum, don’t they look like the Replacements in the above promo pic miming a much reproduced Let It Beera ’Mats photo? A tribute to off-the-cuff randomness? … The rock never quite stops Bay Area party starters Rock ’n’ Roll Adventure Kids are back, recording a new album and playing shows once again. This week’s is a doozy: 924 Gilman’s annual Punk Prom for students who can’t afford the high price of dull high schoolapproved entertainment. Costumes, dancing, and like-minded souls sounds like a rock ’n’ roll adventure worth crashing. SFBG


July 23, 8 p.m.

Warfield, 982 Market, SF.


(415) 775-7722

Punk Prom

Fri/26, 8 p.m.

924 Gilman, Berk.


Quit moping

Kultur Shock

Gypsy-inspired punk mixes it up with bilingual thrashers La Plebe. Wed/24, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $10. (415) 621-4455.

Tough and Lovely

Garage rock, ’60s soul, and girl group are all within groping distance. Thurs/25, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $6. (415) 923-0923. Sat/27, Stork Club, 2330 Telegraph, Oakl. Call for time and price. (415) 444-6174.

Grind and Glory hip-hop conference

15- to 25-year-olds are invited to get down and throw their hands in the air at this DJ Project music conference with Dead Prez, Amp Live, and Jurassic 5’s Chali 2Na. Sat/27, 10 a.m.–5 p.m., 425 Market, SF. Free.


That’s Mr. Beast to you. Turge-rockers Earth open. Sat/27, 9 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $22.50. (415) 346-6000.


The band takes punk to the jagged cliffs where politics and art meet and dance a jig. Tues/30, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8. (415) 621-4455. SFBG

Free kitten?


SONIC REDUCER Mother’s Day: the primo time to think about reasons why mom rules. So why did I spend it listening to Grandaddy’s new, possibly last album, Just Like the Fambly Cat (V2)? I also lost about four solid hours watching Amon Duul, MC5, and Scott Walker videos on YouTube and thinking back to my adolescent years, when my household chores fell by the wayside and dear ole mum would threaten to spirit away a sackful of our 20 or so semiferal "fambly" cats and kittens and abandon them by some desolate roadside pineapple cannery. Thanks, ma!

Really, Hallmark and the assorted commercial pressures that guilt you into shuffling to the post office with an annual tribute to motherhood bring out the absolute worst namely, inappropriate memories in me. Though that certain special someone never carried out those acts of probable feline-cide, it’s clear not all of us come psychologically, emotionally, and financially equipped to be parents just as many of us were not well kitted out to be pet owners. We try: Glance through the approximately 17,000 cat videos on YouTube John Lennon’s scant 415 refs are no match against the cuddly-wuddly, flea-bitten hordes. The majority are amateurish, dull, full of "aw-isn’t-she/he/it-cute quick get it on the cameraphone" tumescent adoration.

Still, between the anticlimactic "Puppy vs. Cat" snippets, music fans can kill an entire Mother’s Day watching Magma serenade Catholic padres in some strange French B-movie or study a drowsy Velvet Underground supposedly writing "Sunday Morning" ("They all look so fucked up. Heroin is bad for you," comments one viewer) or check out the most viewed music-related vid that day (perhaps related to the new service that started last week allowing users to upload footage directly from a phone or PDA): a blurry, too-loud, obviously cellie-derived clip of Guns n’ Roses blasting out "Welcome to the Jungle" at NYC’s Hammerstein Ballroom on May 12.

How perfect then that I stumble across a few Grandaddy videos on my YouTube travels, including a slightly oogy bit showcasing, as its maker puts it, "a slug on a cucumber listening to Grandaddy." A comment on the lysergic lethargy embedded in the Modesto band’s tunes? Animals, or rather people in animal suits, operate as stand-ins for nature in the group’s shared videos, representing a star-crossed love for the junky delights of an infinitely disposable, shareable information culture, as well as the earthly attractions of the Central Cali natural world. I can totally relate, dudes.

Sluggish Grandaddy fans who can’t break away from waxing their own cucumbers will be pleased to know that Just Like the Fambly Cat is a suitably great, elegiac outro for the disbanding band (so says songwriter Jason Lytle). A pop symphony to that final solution to dissolution and aimlessness: death. If Grandaddy always seem to teeter betwixt stoner listlessness and slacker lack of focus, the threat of imminent nonexistence and looming loss has brought a sense of purpose, opening with a child’s repeated, lisping, "What happened to the fambly cat?" and closing with Lytle’s grandiose finale, "I’ll never return!" The act of recording melts into biography, as Lytle angrily mourns his broken engagement with all the infectious pop trappings ("Jeez Louise") and then gets lost in dusty, hermetic yet elegant reveries reminiscent of such peers as Air ("Oxygen/Auxsend"). There are, as Lytle sings, about "fifty percent less words" here, breaking from pop formulae, but the writing is more than up to providing the mental visuals for Fambly Cat‘s aural invocation of the last, sad days of summer.

Nonetheless, YouTube comes through with some Fambly Cat imagery, as Lytle has come out from behind the animal costume on a lo-fi video for the "single" "Where I’m Anymore." He bicycles down orchard and suburban lanes, bridging Modesto’s agri and aggro environs, as a papier-mâché cat head jumps into the frame for the slow-jamz chorus of lost-pussy meows. This shy number may have emerged after Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s similar catcentric number, but Grandaddy’s easy, sensuous paw tracks promise to stick with you longer, even after Lytle supposedly says good-bye to Modesto, a place tied tightly to another dubbed Grandaddy. After all, Magnet magazine recently reported that Lytle has sold his Modesto house and is moving to Montana, with no plans to perform Fambly Cat songs live ("If we go on tour, somebody’s gonna fucking die"). But perhaps this media-lavished long good-bye isn’t what it seems and Grandaddy fans can dry their tears because it appears Lytle will play those tunes after all, at Amoeba Saturday. Like a cat that always comes back, all may not be lost. SFBG


Sat/20, 6 p.m.

Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF


(415) 831-1200

Moore than words



Love ballads, boyish harmonies, and a single acoustic guitar four albums along, with numerous side projects such as Sandycoates bringing up the rear, the Moore Brothers obviously have a sweet streak that’s miles wide and filled with melodies as creamy as custard pie and as dreamy as those steamy, leisurely days of teenage summer.

But even dark thoughts dog nice guys, diligent students, and upstanding Joes like Greg and Thom Moore, holding court on a sunny day at a corner table, next to a picture of Jack London, in Mama Buzz’s concrete backyard. Behold the smiling, prone girl lying in the snow on the cover of their beautiful new album, Murdered by the Moore Brothers (Plain). Cock an ear toward the dulcet numbers within, eerie narratives populated with drowned pals ("Old Friend of Mine"), spiteful lovers ("Fresh Thoughts of You"), cemetery lovers ("Bury Me under the Kissing Teens"), and "good deaths" ("Pham"). Even idle bird-watching has a soft veneer of creepy claustrophobia ("The Auditorium Birds"), counterpointing the Moores’ delectable vocals.

What did we do to deserve this? "Lyrically, it is probably the darkest Moore Brothers record," Thom, 32, confesses. "But it also seemed like a nice idea coming out after Now Is the Time for Love, a more holding-hands record. This could be too, but it’s a little more sinister."

"Like holding a severed hand," Greg, 35, chuckles.

Additionally, Thom says, "We’ve got gothic roots." He goes on to describe his first concert as a 12-year-old, accompanying Greg to the Cure’s 1986 Standing on the Beach stop at the LA Forum. The young brothers watched, horrified, as a man in a cowboy hat, standing on a chair, committed suicide by stabbing himself with a huge dagger as an enormous crowd encircled him. "It really scarred me for life!" Thom says. "I thought, I’m never gong to see another concert again unless it’s the Dream Academy!"

So when Thom found himself thumbing through a book of folk songs, looking for numbers for his next side project, Chicken on a Raft, and he came across one titled "Murdered by a Brother," he knew it would be perfect for the Moore Brothers’ next release. "It’s so mean! It’s awful," he says, smiling. They decided to go with it, although their mother and Girl George, their "punk rock mother," in charge of the Starry Plough open mic hated it. The former "is afraid someone will murder us," Thom explains. "She said, ‘What if someone sees the album and wants to murder you or wants to implicate you in a murder?!’"

What if? Family bands and particularly brother bands like the Moore Brothers’ faves the Beach Boys, the Bee Gees, and the Everly Brothers have always hit a powerful, resonant chord in our pop imaginations, touching off daydreams of thick-as-thieves musical togetherness and nightmares of creepy, smothering … togetherness. After all, the pair does at times finish each other’s sentences, and as Thom offers, their mother can’t tell the two apart on the phone. No wonder rumor in local music circles has it that not only do the Moore Brothers share a house (where, in fact, until recently, songwriting legend Biff Rose couch-surfed), but also a room, an idea that strikes them as natural and practical, although the siblings really haven’t shared a bedroom since they were kids. Back then, though, that closeness played as important a role in their musical development as the obligatory piano lessons. Greg says: "I’d hear all his records, and he’d hear all my records."

"Even back then, we were forced to take turns," Thom continues. "So nowadays we take turns with the set list and album song order pretty much everything." That sense of fair play extends to their track on the largely acoustic new Kill Rock Stars comp, The Sound the Hare Heard, which was decided with a flip of a coin.

Still, the close living arrangements eases the Moore Brothers’ existence in more ways than one: Songwriters since youth (Thom started writing songs at 10 with Jon B, who later collaborated with Babyface), the pair never needs to rehearse, and they dispense with chitchat during long drives on tour, instead sharing a friendly silence as a CD plays.

And, of course, they’ll always be there for each other. "Things come and go in cycles," Thom says. "The good thing about us is that we’re planning to do it forever.

"We still have hopes for being hip in our 50s." SFBG>

Moore Brothers

With Rose Melberg, the Harbours, and the Lonelyhearts

Tues/16, 9 p.m.

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF


(415) 861-2011

Brass in pocket



Considering its bodacious flag team and its players’ general inclination to treat every day like birthday-suit day, Extra Action Marching Band has boasted its share of fleshy, fantastic, and extra-weird gigs, though none quite so intimate as the time they were hired by a would-be groom to crash his marriage proposal. Let into their client’s abode by a friend, about 20 members of the drum corps, horn section, and flag team stomped into the couple’s bedroom just after the "act." "His girlfriend was naked, jumping up and down on the bed, going, ‘Yaaarrr!’" modified-bullhorn manipulator Mateo remembers. "She was totally psyched."

Sit down with whichever members of the 30-odd, proudly odd members of the Bay Area troupe you can rustle up, and you’ll get an earful of many similar stories. There was the time they transformed a school bus into a 60-foot-long, 50-foot-tall Spanish galleon, a.k.a. La Contessa, to drive around Burning Man. "But they started to get really strict and created a five-mile-an-hour speed limit," trombone player Chad Castillo explains after a recent practice in seven-year vet Mateo’s cavernous Oakland warehouse space, the Meltdown. "We were always going faster because we always had been going faster and never had problems. So they finally banned us from Burning Man."

As with most tales, the exact events are in question, and Castillo and Mateo argue good-naturedly about whether their school-bus-run-amok was actually, er, expelled, before the trombonist continues: "The point is, they banned us, and we brought it back, and we took it on a maiden voyage and crashed it," putting a four-foot-high hole in La Contessa’s side.

Hunter Thompson’s wake and East Bay Rats soirees aside, performance highlights include opening for David Byrne on his 2005 SoCal tour, stopping at the Hollywood Bowl and later careening through a pelvic thrustheavy version of Beyoncé’s "Crazy in Love." And then there was a Mardi Gras tour that re-created Black Sabbath’s heavy metal debut classic, with plain ole heavy eXtreme Elvis on vocals, and special, sexy rifle and fan-dance routines, flag team dancer and original member Kelek Stevenson relates.

The band upped themselves two years ago, when they played the Balkan Brass Bands Festival in Guca, Serbia, deep in the heart of gypsy horn country, one of the inspirations for Extra Action’s cosmopolitan mosh pit of Sousa, Latin, and New Orleans second-line sounds. A recent DVD by Emmy-winning nature documentarian and Extra Action flag girl Anna Fitch supports the stories and catches the combo in action as villagers cheer, fall to their knees, and hug the ensemble as they blow through the streets. One grandmotherly onlooker even gets some extra, extra action, copping a feel of a manly member’s bare chest.

But with the anarchic joys come the passionate battles, such as the recent knockdown blowout over the possibility of doing a Coke commercial, one of many battles regularly undergone in the collective, which has only one CD to its name, last year’s self-released Live on Stubnitz. "There was this huge firestorm between those who wanted to take the gig and use the money to further social change in the world and show that we don’t support Coke and its policies," Mateo explains.

"And a bunch of people threatened to quit the band," Castillo adds. "This band is so big you’ve got homeowners and you’ve got people who are basically living in their campers and when it came to doing the Coke commercial, there were a lot of people who just don’t like the big multinational corporations."

It’s remarkable that such an unruly, perpetually shifting, shiftless bunch has managed to hold it together for all of seven or eight years with few agreed-upon "leaders" (although Castillo asserts, "the original members always walk around like aristocracy"). The wireless, untethered energy they bring to the trad rock lineup is impressive. When they marched onto the stage at Shoreline Amphitheatre to join Arcade Fire (after crashing the women’s room) at last year’s Download Festival ragtag horn and drum corps ripping through a few numbers as the flag girls and boy bumped and grinded in blond wigs and glittery G-strings you realized what was really missing from indie at this performance, at so many performances: sex appeal. Theater. A drunken mastery of performance and the dark arts of showmanship, along with the sense of team spirit linked to so much marching band imagery bandied about in today’s pop.

As Castillo quips, "Record companies are interested in having us play with their bands because their bands are so boring onstage. People pay big money to go to these concerts because the music is all great and produced, and then they go to these shows, and these guys are sitting there bent over their Game Boys. Oh, that’s really exciting. Where’s the show?"

This show emerged from the ashes of Crash Worship, the legendary SoCal "cult, paganistic drum corps," as Castillo describes it, "where people would just strip naked and writhe in orgiastic piles." Extra Action was the processional that would cut through the heaps, eventually marching north to a Fruitvale warehouse, at the behest of ex-Crash Worshipper Simon Cheffins.

"I’ve been pretty much kicked out of every band I’ve been in," Castillo says, who has played with the group for five years. Members many of the sculptor, performance artist, or "computer geek" persuasion come and go, sometimes after a few practices, spinning off into combos like the As Is Brass Band. But it’s a family of sorts a band-geek gang cognizant of the Bay Area’s countercultural/subcultural performance traditions and the unchartable wildness extending from the Diggers to the Cacophony Society. And only "one thing seems to be a requirement," Castrillo continues. "People have to have some problem that needs to be expressed. Everybody’s an exhibitionist. We like to take off our clothes." Those are family values we can get behind. SFBG

Extra Action Marching Band

With Death of a Party, Sugar and Gold, and Hank IV

May 18, 8 p.m. door

Eagle Tavern

398 12th St., SF

Call for price.

(415) 626-0880




SONIC REDUCER I used to think of myself as the ultimate freak magnet, fending off moist-haired gents with a fetish for girl bands. Damp palms. Foam bubbling at the corners of the mouth. Barely discernable vertigo spirals in their bloodshot eyes. Cute, huh?

But the Court and Spark have me beat. We were sitting around the high-ceilinged kitchen of their Alabama Street Station studio/flat and talking about making their new album, Hearts (Absolutely Kosher), when vocalist-guitarist MC Taylor and guitarist Scott Hirsch suddenly leapt to their feet and started pawing through a drawer by the stove. Drummer James Kim bolted down the hallway. Was it something I said or … ate?

No, they all simply hit on their most memorable piece of fan mail, which Kim pulled from his shadow files. "This is classic," Taylor said, forking the letter over. "This explains to you what the Court and Spark journey is all about."

The script on the wide-rule binder paper was large, loopy, and ever so shaky, and its author told of hearing a song from the band’s last EP, Dead Diamond River, then embarking on his own river of no return: "My life is rough. In May my mom died after having colon cancer surgery. I lost my dad months earlier to lymphoma. For 41 years I’ve been struggling since a child living with severe type 1 diabetes. Not having any health insurance is difficult. My yearly medical expenses are now over $5,000, not including doctor and lab costs. I do without. I hope you will seriously consider sending me a promo copy of your new amazing CD to brighten my life at this difficult time." The missive closed with a San Jose address and came with a checklist of meds.

Of course, the soft hearts of C and S sent the letter-writer the disc and never heard from their diabetic sad case in the South Bay again.

Score one crazy diamond for C and S, but what’s the attraction? Are the crazies seeking the healing qualities in the band’s shimmering Cali rock ’n’ soul? Are they looking to levitate alongside the group’s increasingly psychedelic yet still hard-to-quantify sound. Am I asking the wrong people? Not for nothing did Taylor first consider titling the new album I Want to Be a Gallant Rider Like My Father Was before Me, after a line in Werner Herzog’s The Enigma of Kasper Hauser. Like Herzog, C and S seem to draw, or be drawn to, those blurry border towns between Insanity, Texas, and Epiphany, Mexico.

Despite Hirsch’s disbelief that their audience actually comes to see them perform rather than the other bands on their bills, C and S are 50 times more comfortable in their collective skin than the first time I spoke to them, around 2002, shortly after the release of their lovely 2001 second album, Bless You.

"We’ve always been the lone wolves out there," Taylor ponders. "But we’ve also played on every kind of possible bill you can possibly imagine, and on good nights, actually, we’ve been able to make it work. We’ve played with everyone from Devendra to Bob Weir."

It’s at home, however, that the onetime UC Santa Barbara students found a sense of freedom last year, tinkering with Hearts to their hearts’ content, experimenting with instruments like harp and hammered dulcimer, and falling in love with Farfisa organ and throwing it, along with a wah pedal, over everything all while also working on Michael Talbott and the Wolfkings’ new album and the beginnings of Willow Willow’s record. They’d rent, say, a really good, $10,000 mic and then cram everyone into their space to share costs. "We’d wake up earlier than anybody else, since we lived here, and we’d set up and drink coffee and do it," says Hirsch, who also teaches recording at Bay Area Video Coalition.

It may sound too pat for these courtly Mission dwellers, but it looks like they got out of their musical comfort zone by digging deeper into their literal one. "It’s like that Steely Dan quote, ‘We used to spend five months just trying to figure out what chair we were going to sit in in the studio,’" Hirsch says with a laugh. "That’s the kind of freedom that we like and that we found for ourselves and that maybe they had too, because they would also record a million things and pick just one thing from that. That’s why their records sound so good, I guess." SFBG

Court and Spark

With Jason Molina, Black Fiction, and the Finches

Fri/12, 9 p.m.

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF


(415) 885-0750

Worst album of the week



"A strange new sound that makes boys explore."

Will and Grace‘s Eric McCormack singing Elton John and Bernie Taupin’s "The Greatest Discovery"

SONIC REDUCER Not one of El’s greatest moments of songcraft. A lot of strange, new sounds regularly leak through the CD cat door just how many albums have the C*nts made? We get more than our share of musically ho-hum benefit recordings, amateurish anti-Bush anthems, and those almost quaintly, obliviously sexist Ultra dance comps. But the fundraising comp the aforementioned track was drawn from, Unexpected Dreams: Songs from the Stars (Rhino), is oddly, exquisitely … painful. This showcase of film, TV, and theater actors is almost as cringeworthy as contemputf8g that Tom Cruise DJ set rumor floating round Coachella last weekend.

I suspect Unexpected Dreams‘ cause is a decent one: Music Matters, a Los Angeles Philharmonic music outreach program for school kids. But I can’t imagine inflicting this disc on the youngsters that producers Wayne Baruch, Charles F. Gayton, and "vocal coach to the stars" Eric Vetro supposedly intended it for, although Baruch thoughtfully adds in the liner notes that the creators considered including a sticker saying, "Warning: Parents with children may experience drowsiness; do not operate machinery. For those without children … this may cause children."

Yuck. Don’t get me wrong I can take the corn, cheese, anything you want to poke in your bowtie-and-top-hat aural burrito. But disregard the vanity backslapping commentary and try to suffer through the actual renditions themselves: They make Shatner’s silly spoken-word symphonies look visionary; Lindsey Lohan’s pop pachyderms, cerebral; J-Lo’s albums, stone-genius.

Oh, the vanity, the vanity of actors who think they’re singers. Faring best: Scarlett Johansson singing a smoky blues-jazz version of the Gershwins’ "Summertime" (in the CD notes, Vetro claims "lightning struck the room" when Johansson lay into the helpless tune), her Island costar Ewan "O Obi-Wan" McGregor wrapping his Moulin Rouge round Sade’s "The Sweetest Gift," and Teri "Close encounters with Desperate Housewives poltergeists" Hatcher’s relatively unembellished rendition of Lennon and McCartney’s "Goodnight." Hatcher and vocalists like John C. Reilly rate lower on the icko-meter simply by sounding like themselves rather than affected high-school glee club achievers Alias‘s Jennifer Garner, for instance, sounds like all the variety show choristers I’ve been happily not missing since those endless, mind-numbing days of school assemblies. In fact, you can imagine a lot of boys and girls discovering that the "strange new" sounds on this album make them want to trash all their parents’ well-meaning children’s albums and explore some quality Slayer recordings.

Taraji P. Henson (Hustle and Flow‘s hook-warbling hooker) does bring some soul to her song but it’ll be hard to pimp tracks by the otherwise fine actor Jeremy Irons, who never should have been allowed to try his all-too-white gimp hand at Bob Dylan’s "To Make You Feel My Love" from Time out of Mind. And there are the many others who look at their songs as a license to overemote, like the worst rankamateur karaoke contestants, in love with the fact that they can even hit the notes. Onetime warrior princess Lucy Lawless bludgeons her quasi-Christian Vetro original. Nia My Big Fat Greek Wedding Vardalos unleashes the feta on an overwrought, taste-free stab at Lennon and McCartney’s "Golden Slumbers," and Hairspray‘s Marissa Jaret Winokur makes one gag with a cloying, faux-childlike Vetro number. "Who wouldn’t want Hollywood’s biggest stars to sing them to sleep?" the album’s press release states. Yeah, I guess that would be all right but if John Stamos is one of ’Wood’s biggest stars, I think Tinseltown is in trouble. Hint: I could be convinced to donate to any cause Rhino chooses, if they just, please, stick to reissues. SFBG


Watch it this time


The budding art star was recently feted in Artforum. Modern Reveries and F-Hole also perform. Wed/3, Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 923-0923

The Herms

What’s this about the porn written by one of the he-men in the solid indie-rockin’ Herms, here celebrating their CD release? Loquat and the Husbands also perform. Thurs/4, Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. Call for time and price. (415) 885-0750

Rainer Maria

The Brooklyn indie-rock romanticists return. Thurs/4, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $12. (415) 621-4455

16 Bitch Pileup

All female, all noise, all hands on deck when the Bay Area band plays with LA’s Crom and Goldie winners Total Shutdown. Fri/5, 8 p.m., 924 Gilman, Berk. $6. 16 Bitch Pileup and Crom also play Sat/6, 5 p.m., Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF. $6. (415) 552-7788


Soulful vocals meet aggro rock. Play nice. Boyjazz and Turn Me on Deadman also perform. Fri/5, 10 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $10. (415) 621-4455. Also Sat/6, 2 p.m., Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. Free. (415) 831-1200

Drive-By Truckers

The Southerners set up camp with Son Volt. Fri/5–Sat/6, 9 p.m., Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $28.50. (415) 421-TIXS or (415) 346-6000

Doug Gillard

The Guided by Voices guitarist took his time, getting last year’s addictive solo release out in front of breathing humanoids. Richard Buckner also plays. Sat/6, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $13–$15. (415) 621-4455

Secret Machines

The buzz band was no secret at SXSW. Sat/6, 8:30 p.m., Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $20. (415) 771-1421

Blood on the Wall

Flannel, ’80s art rock, and a certain groove. Physic Ills and the Death of a Party open. Mon/8, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8. (415) 621-4455


The English duo dig into T-Rex–drenched electro with Supernature (Mute). Mon/8, 8 p.m. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. $22.50. (415) 421-TIXS or (415) 346-6000

Starlight Mints

Your indie-pop hop happens with Dios and Octopus Project. Tues/9, 9 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $8–$10. (415) 621-4455  SFBG

ABCs and Rubies


SONIC REDUCER A passionate music fan friend recently laid some curious medicine on me as we were hunkered down at Doc’s Clock, watching our inexplicably enraged lady bartender toss one of our half-full beverages: My friend’s musician ex had already written off his barely released singer-songwriter-ish album, because according to his veteran estimate, "people are only interested in bands these days."

Maybe that’s why Vancouver‘s indie-esque artist and sometime New Pornographer Dan Bejar rocks under the name Destroyer. Still, it’s hard to scan the music news these days and avoid single, solitary monikers like Bruce Springsteen or Neil Young, both breaking from their associations with bands and recording protest songs old and new. Bejar’s fellow Canadian Young just last week offered up the quickie, choir-backed Living with War, which includes a song titled "Let’s Impeach the President" and streams for free at starting April 28 (leading one to wonder if the Peninsula’s Shakey is responding to the calls at his onstage SXSW interview for a new "Ohio"?). Perhaps in an instantly downloadable, superniched, and highly fragmented aural landscape, there remains a certain heroic power in creating and performing in the first person, under your own name, while reaching for a collective imagination, some elusive third person.

Chatting on the phone, over the border, Bejar might not easily parse as a part of the aforementioned crew, though he musically cross-references urban rock ’n’ rollers, stardusted glitter kids, and louche lounge cats, explicitly tweaking those "West Coast maximalists, exploring the blues, ignoring the news" on "Priest’s Knees," off his new full-length, Destroyer’s Rubies (Merge). Some might even venture that the late-night, loose lips and goosed hips, full-blown rock of the album, his sixth, marks it as his most indulgent to date.

And Bejar, 33 and a Libra, will readily fess up to his share of indulgences, in lieu of collecting juicy tour adventures. On tour he says, "I tend to go and then kind of hide backstage, get up onstage, try and play, get off, and continue to hide backstage.

"I’m not super into rock clubs," Bejar continues. "I just don’t feel a need to make a home of them."

Just back from the first part of his US journeys ("We played 12 or 14 of 16 dates. That’s hardly any. I think most bands would think that’s psychotic"), Bejar does feel quite at home in Vancouver and will reluctantly theorize about Canadian music. "I think there’s a certain outsider perspective that people might say comes with Canadian songwriters, like the states would never be able to produce a Leonard Cohen or a Joni Mitchell or a Neil Young just kind of idiosyncratic characters." But then he brakes and reverses. "But I don’t know if I believe that."

Bejar could be talking about his own amiable, idiosyncratic self. Most of his sentences end with a little, upward, questioning lilt, giving his responses a way-relaxed, studiedly casual, postgrad quality, clad as they are in contradictions, at times inspiring detailed analysis, but more often triggering mild arguments and arriving at good-humored dead ends. In other words, the man can talk complete paragraphs or monosyllables. Rubies‘ last track, "Sick Priest Learns to Last Forever," for example, has been kicking around for five years. "It’s kind of like the first song I tried doing, to break out a certain mold of Destroyer songs that I had unconsciously set up in the late ’90s," Bejar explains. "It was a style of song where the language was mostly based on political or economic rhetoric and social expression and the occasional personal aside. ‘Sick Priest’ is kind of an exercise in a more free-flowing, imagistic song, which I was dead against back in my younger days, and I’ve since completely embraced that style of writing."

Maybe it’s the sax, I venture. To these rust-belt-weaned ears, the new album sounds like urban East Coast rock of the ’70s à la not only Bowie but Springsteen and, say, the J. Geils Band.

"Wow, Peter Wolf," he sighs. "That’s cool. That’s funny. I mean, I kind of have a soft spot for, uh, that kind of sounding band, though I don’t have a soft spot for the songs that those people wrote. I like the ’70s bar-rock feel, especially the laid-back afternoon variety."

Yeah, like when you’re sitting at the bar, drinking cheap beer, watching the sun shoot through a vinyl padded door.


Bejar can go for that scenario: Despite the fact that he will be playing All Tomorrow’s Parties in England shortly after his SF date, you get the impression he can take or leave Destroyer and even the New Pornographers. (Since he moved away to his father’s homeland of Spain a few years ago, he says, "My involvement is pretty minimal. I don’t go to practices. I don’t tour.") Who knows, when he gets some time off after ATP and the Pitchfork music festival in Chicago, he might even take his own "bad advice," the kind that’s ingrained in Destroyer songs’ "little pep talks," and fall back on a career shelving books at the public library. "Something part-time, maybe, that doesn’t involve too much dealing with the public," he ponders playfully. "I’m good at alphabetizing stuff." SFBG


May 8, 9:30 p.m.

Cafe du Nord

2170 Market, SF


(415) 861-5016


Rankin’ Reykjavik



SONIC REDUCER I love the fact that whenever you leave this country, you immediately come to the discomfiting realization that … you’re such a damaged by-product of capitalist America. Case in point: Last week I gazed upon the beauteous, barren, and treeless expanses of Iceland, miles and miles of rock, scrubby grass, and mirrorlike pools of ice. Iceland in the spring is the chill, brown-white-and-blue equivalent of the Southwestern desert, austere yet fragile in the face of certain global warming, and barely containing an undercurrent of volcanic energy reminiscent of Hawaii’s Big Island. So why do I look at these moonscapes and wonder where all the people are and why there aren’t any houses, strip malls, or ski resorts out here? Why do I look at untrammeled land and see real estate?

Reykjavik: I’m here on a press trip with other media field operatives from BPM, OK!, Nylon, and Vapors, studying the club culture, seeing the sights, taking in gutfuls of fresh, fishy air by the wharf, gazing at snowcapped mountains, and perusing menus in shock. I just couldn’t help blurting a culturally insensitive, "Omigod, that’s My Little Pony!" when I saw the roast Icelandic foal with a tian of mushrooms, caramelized apples, and calvados sauce on the bill of traditional Icelandic restaurant Laekjarbrekka.

Likewise, the Icelanders probably can’t help turning those cute puffins and herb-fed lambs into meaty main courses to warm them through those long, dark winters. The real, long-haired, sweet-faced Icelandic horses turned out to be more engaging and curious than I’d ever imagined, strolling up to our group out in the wilds near Thingvellir to examine the hipsters (and hip-hoppsters) and be ooohed over. "They’re more like dogs than horses!" our Icelandair rep, Michael Raucheisen, exclaimed.

After a scrumptious Asian fusion meal at the elegant, cream-colored, deco Apotek (started with kangaroo tartare and finished off with a mistakenly ordered $125 bottle of Gallo cab; travel tip number one: Reykjavik is not the spot to sample California vino), our wild bunch was more into checking out a local strip club than settling in with a good book like Dustin Long’s charming Agatha Christie parody, Icelander (McSweeney’s), or the catalog for the National Museum of Iceland’s current photo exhibit of fishing village life in the southeast, "Raetur Runtsins" ("Roots of the Runtur"). We were more likely to price the local, ahem, pharmaceutical offerings ("$175 for a gram of coke is not cheap!" was one assessment) at the city’s nightclubs than shop for runic love charms or grandmotherly woolens.

One reason for the aforementioned vast, unpopulated expanses: There are only 300,000 people in the entire country albeit well educated, well employed, relatively youthful, and wired. (Is it any wonder this isle has the highest concentration of broadband users in the world?) Most of the youth culture was happening in the capital, where about a third of the population lives it up, sucks down Brennivin and macerated strawberry mojitos, dances with compact little hand motions that resemble a funky elfin hand jive. I must confess that, watching Deep Dish’s Ali "Dubfire" Shirazinia skillfully work Iceland native Björk into his house mix at NASA, I’ve rarely seen more hot, seemingly straight men dancing, en masse, on the floor, on the mezzanine, in the booths, every damn where. Where did they get the energy from a geothermal pipeline or those mischievous sprites called Julelads?

As we piled into the van to steep at the sulfur-scented but soul-soothing Blue Lagoon and study the brand-spankin’ Icelandic Idol Snorri Snorrason (I kid you not) serenading the soakers lagoonside with Jack Johnsonlike tunes, I could only sit and plot my next visit possible when Icelandair resumes its summer flights from SF in May? It’ll be too late to catch late April’s new Rite of Spring alt-jazz and folk music festival, but not for October’s Iceland Airwaves music fest (Oct. 18 through 22,, where big tickets like the Flaming Lips have filled the city’s venues alongside Icelanders such as Sigur R??s. I’ll have to catch these new Icelandic rock artists:

Ampop, My Delusions (Dennis)

This trio was getting the royal hype in Reykjavik posters were plastered everywhere. How nice to find that their jaunty yet dramatic English-language orchestral psych-rock traverses the dreamier side of Coldplay and Doves.

Mammut, Mammut (Smekkleysa)

Polished though quirky, this bass-driven, all-lady post-punk fivesome takes a bite of the Sugarcubes, Siouxsie Sioux, and the Raincoats, with plenty of all-Icelandic lyrical histrionics.

Storsveit Nix Noltes, Orkideur Havai (12 Tonar; to be released on Bubblecore)

Last glimpsed at South by Southwest’s Paw Tracks/Fat Cat showcase, these Animal Collective tourmates draw inspiration for their instrumentals from Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, and the Balkans.

Mugison, Mugimama — Is This Monkey Music? (12 Tonar)

The Mark Linkous of Icelandic rock digs into the raw stuff on this acclaimed full-length. He also recently scored Baltasar Kormakur’s film A Little Trip to Heaven, reinterpreting the Tom Waits track of the same name.

For the real folkways, check out Raddir/Voices: Recordings of Folk Songs from the Archives of the Arni Magnusson Institute in Iceland (Smekkleysa/Arni Magnusson Institute), which includes a great booklet on the music, collected between 1903 and 1973 and revolving around Icelandic sagas and cautionary fables of monsters, ogres, and child-snatching ravens. SFBG


Anthony Hamilton, Heather Headley, and Van Hunt

Hamilton killed, from all reports, at SXSW, and we all know how good that Hunt album is. Wed/19 and Mon/24, 7:30 p.m., Paramount, 2025 Broadway, Oakl. $39–$67.75.

M’s and the Deathray Davies

Chicago cock-rockers meet quirk poppers. Wed/19, 8 p.m., Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF. $8. (415) 861-2011


The chairs are pushed back when this band of Tuaregs, the indigenous people from Eastern Mali, break out the guitars. Wed/19, 8 and 10 p.m. Yoshi’s, 510 Embarcadero West, Oakl. $14–$20. (510) 238-9200

Keyshia Cole

The gritty girlfriend that might be the next Mary adds a late show. Fri/21, 11:30 p.m., The Grand, 1300 Van Ness, SF. $32.50. (415) 864-0815

Kronos Quartet

The ensemble premieres a collaboration with Walter Kitundu, takes on a Sigur R??s number, and teams with Matmos on "For Terry Riley." Fri/21–Sat/22, 8 p.m., Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, SF. $18–$35. (415) 978-ARTS

Maria Taylor

Saddle Creek’s electro-folk-pop sweetheart steps out from Azure Ray. Sat/22, 9 p.m., Cafe du Nord, 2170 Market, SF. $10. (415) 861-5016 SFBG

Yeah Yeah Yeahs, all right already


SONIC REDUCER In the best of all music fans’ worlds, an album will grow on you like lichen, excessive body hair, or a parasite à la guinea worm, only with more pleasure and less arterial spray, I pray. You like it more and more as you play-repeat-play. It starts with an ear-catching opening track or appetite-whetting overture, as that well-worn pop recipe goes, and builds momentum until track three or four. That one should sink its little tenterhooks into you and refuse to let go until you listen to it once again or upload it to your iPod or whatever musical delivery system serves the addiction.

That analyzed, it’s amazing how some bands, like the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, can go from compulsively listenable to annoying with one album, Show Your Bones (Interscope). Too bad because the YYYs still stand out, like a slash of smeared red lipstick, as one of the few female-fronted groups to emerge from that much hyped, new-rock New York music scene of the early ’00s. That barely sublimated burden of representation, the YYYs’ association with the Liars and the more artistically ambitious NYC crew, as well as the heightened critical expectations after the strength of 2003’s Fever to Tell hasn’t helped Show. Once the flurry of screeching, obscuring noise and rockabilly riffs are stripped away and the songs are spruced up in the studio, the poppier YYYs sound deathly similar to peers like the Strokes at their most singsong (“Dudley,” “Mysteries”). O’s slight lyrics are exposed as the slender vehicles they are her piercing tone, which cut through the distortion in the past, simply seems affected.

Even when O toys with teasing double entendre on “Cheating Hearts,” confutf8g the act of taking off a ring with a sexed-up strip (“Well I’m / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And she’s / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And he’s / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off / And we’re / Taka-taka-taka-taka-takin’ it off”), the story doesn’t go anywhere beyond the (again, repeated) lines “Sometimes / I think that I’m bigger / Than the sound.” The entire enterprise gives up the reheated, ego-stroking aroma of Zep knockoffs like Heart. That wouldn’t necessarily be bad, if those commercial rock invocations seemed to serve more than an ego that seems “something like a phenomena, baby” (see the key fourth track, “Phenomena”). This album feels like a grandiose, strident, ultimately airheaded mess all Show, no go.

“Fab Mab” flap

I was a humongoid Flipper fan back in the day, but, truthfully, I wasn’t thinking too hard about the imminent “Fab Mab Reunion” show featuring the SF dadaist-punk legends and Mabuhay Gardens regulars the Dead Kennedys, the Avengers, and the Mutants. The reunion part of the show’s name brought out ex-DK vocalist Jello Biafra, who issued the statement, “No, it is not a Dead Kennedys reunion. Yes, I am boycotting the whole scam. These are the same greedmongers who ran to corporate lawyers and sued me for over six years in a dispute sparked by my not wanting ‘Holiday in Cambodia’ sold into a Levi’s commercial. They now pimp Dead Kennedys in the same spirit as Mike Love suing Brian Wilson over and over again, then turning around and playing shows as the Beach Boys.”

I was curious about the pimping notion. The idea can’t help but cross one’s mind with the crowded pit of punk reunion shows (including the Flesh Eaters; see “Zombies Are Back!” page 35), all within spittin’ distance of each other in the past few years. So I spoke to Flipper drummer Steve DePace, who put together the “reunion” after the band’s first performance after a “10-year hiatus” (Bruno DeMartis sitting in for the late Will Shatter) at a CBGB’s benefit last year. Following that, they answered a request to play LA’s closing Olympic Auditorium. “I thought to myself, in the spirit of the funnest days of my career back in the late ’70s and early ’80s at the Mabuhay Gardens when that scene was flourishing and that club served as the hub to the punk rock scene that developed in SF what if we were to do a show with that vibe?” says the 49-year-old exanimation industry project manager, who now lives in LA. “What are the bands around that are still playing from back in those days?

“Listen, Flipper is not making a ton of money,” he continues, adding that Flipper has reformed because they still have a passionate audience. To DePace, the most famous of those Flipper fans was likely Kurt Cobain, who wore his homemade Flipper T-shirt on TV and magazine covers. Of course, there were no official Flipper shirts, he says. “Back in those days we were not into the commerce,” he explains. “No one thought about selling merchandise nowadays it’s the biggest thing. People gobble it up.” Just keep feeding.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs

April 28 and 29


982 Market, SF

Call for time and price.

(415) 775-7722

“Fab Mab Reunion”

Sat/8, 9 p.m.


1805 Geary, SF


(415) 346-6000


After supporting his buddies the Shins and finding inspiration on Fleetwood Mac’s Future Games (Reprise, 1971), ex-Califone side guy Eric Johnson made one of the loveliest, most underrated indie pop LPs of 2005, Spelled in Bones (Sub Pop). Images of blood injury (the legacy of cutting his head open as a five-year-old and, later, one auto accident too many) crop up, as does a ref to that distinctively northern Midwestern “land of sky blue waters” from the old Hamm’s beer commercial. Johnson’s obviously comfortable listening in the past, judging from these items in the iTunes library on his new computer:

Captain Beefheart and the Magic Band, Shiny Beast (Bat Chain Puller) (Bizarre/Straight/EMI)

Bob Dylan, Blonde on Blonde (Columbia)

Kinks, Muswell Hillbillies (Rhino/WEA)

Steve Martin, A Wild and Crazy Guy (WEA)

Meat Puppets, Meat Puppets II (SST/Rykodisc)

Rod Stewart, Every Picture Tells a Story (Polygram)

Kelley Stoltz, Below the Branches (Sub Pop); “Favorite thing I’ve heard this year so far.”

T. Rex, The Slider (Rhino/WEA); “I listen to it when I clean house.”

Fruit Bats play Mon/10, 8 p.m., the Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. $10–$12. (415) 771-1421


Dada Swing

Italy’s punky musical absurdists swing through town once more, after last year’s power-packed Hemlock and Cookie Factory dates. SF experimentalists the Molecules also reunite. Fri/7, 9:30 p.m., Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. $7. (415) 923-0923

Levi Fuller

The Seattle musician makes moody folk songs with a bleeding edge; check his second album, This Murder Is a Peaceful Gathering (Denimclature). Jean Marie, the Blank Tapes, and 60 Watt Kid also play. Thurs/6, 8:30 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300

Enrico Rava and Stefano Bollani

The Trieste trumpet-player and Bollani back up their recent album, Tati (ECM), while collaborator, drummer Paul Motian, remains in NYC. Enrico Pieranunzi fills out this il Jazz Italiano bill. Fri/7, 8 p.m., Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness, SF. $25–$51. (415) 621-6600,

So Sic


Rock giveth and rock taketh away. Hearing loss — give or take a pound of flesh, hunk of hair, chunk of gray matter, or a tooth or two — seems like a fair trade when there’s so much pleasure to be gleaned from the volume and insight, good drunks and bad trips. And Mike Donovan (Ropers, NAM, Big Techno Werewolves, Sounds of the Barbary Coast, Yikes) and Matt Hartman (Henry’s Dress, Total Shutdown, Cat Power, Coachwhips) of SF’s downlow supergroup Sic Alps are here to remind you of the upside of rock’s stubbly downside. They’ve been there, done that, heard it, and are "embracing the damage," as Donovan puts it.

No damage today though: Sic Alps and I are tucked into Hartman’s Spartan, tidy bedroom — small Who photo on the wall, Kit Kat bar on the stereo, pink-cheeked stuffed animal on the pillow. It’s a sane, sober scene. He’s fiddling with his laptop, preparing to play unmastered tracks from the duo’s sorta super, four-song, vinyl-only, home-recorded EP, The Soft Tour in Rough Form, on mt. st. mtn. The April 15 release is just the first roughed-up pebble in what will likely become a Sic avalanche of music. Judging from the tunes jetting out of the speakers, their rumble parallels that of Royal Trux and Ariel Pink, high on the Who and Soft Machine rather than the Stones and AOR, pushed through a crusty filter of Led-en tempos, prickly fields of distortion, and solid walls of respectful disrespect. "Love the Kinks, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, and then I run out of names. Those are the three heavies," Hartman says. "The Beatles are pretty good. You heard those guys? They’re not bad."

If we were all scarred by the music we loved at a certain impressionable age, then you can trace Sic Alps’ top 10 scrapes to Donovan’s Hall and Oates cassettes and Hartman’s Kiss records.

"I remember posters on my wall — the Police, the Doors, the Stones — those 11-by-17 posters you got at Sam Goody," Donovan recalls. "At 18, my friend Nick turned me onto Can, the Fall, and that was it …"

"I was not that hip," Hartman drawls. "I had some cousins who for Christmas bought me Bad Company’s first record when I was listening to Sabbath-Ozzy-Scorps–Iron Maiden–Priest-they-all-rule — that kind of thing. I gave it a five-minute courtesy listen, and I was, like, ‘Ffttt, whatever, dude.’ But I think I still have the record, because now I can listen to it. It’s kinda cool. It’s got some riffs."

The late-afternoon sun is stumbling toward the horizon, and the twilight of the rock overlords is falling on Hartman’s Potrero Hill house. We contemplate the record needle and the damage done as his laptop plays the Stooge-y "Speeds" and the Anglo death rattle "Making Plans." Half the yarns Hartman tells are off the record — "I have been around, that’s true. I don’t know if that’s good or bad. It’s worth its weight in feathers!" he says — but no matter. Between low-pressure name-drops, the Sic Alps story emerges, like the pop kernel peeking out from beneath the tissue of noise, sleigh bells, and recorder on the Sic Alps song "Arthur Machen."

"The unofficial story is that you just e-mailed me and you’re like, ‘I’m in your band, dude,’" Donovan says, lounging on Hartman’s bed. Donovan first formed the mostly conceptual group with the Hospitals’ Adam Stonehouse in 2004, inspired by obscurist labels like Hyped to Death. "Adam brought his aesthetic, just kind of destroy rock ‘n’ roll," Donovan remembers. Erase Errata’s Bianca Sparta briefly joined, Sic Alps put out a "Four Virgins" split single with California Lightning, recorded the as-yet-unreleased Pleasures and Treasures album, and then fell apart.

Donovan’s pal for all of a decade, though never a bandmate, Hartman had witnessed one of the two Sic Alps shows in the Bay Area. "It was, like, ‘Oh, I wish I thought of that.’ At its core it was pop music, but it had all these other layers to it, where it was like just a little dark, a little deranged. There was something unhinged about it," he says now. "Whether it was an unusual chord progression or just a really, really inappropriate guitar tone. I always find it more interesting if something sounds kind of broken."

Shortly after they started playing together — with Donovan on guitar and vocals and Hartman on drums and other instruments, sometimes at the same time — the pair decided to perform last November at Ocean Beach, loading the drum kit and their "freestanding tower of sound" into Hartman’s creaky Volkswagen Bug. "Surfers did come up to us when we were setting up, and they were, like, ‘Are you guys going to play out here?’ They were like, ‘Awesome!’" Donovan recalls happily.

Still conceptual but steadily gaining visibility, the band is preparing for its first extensive US tour — with recordings by Tim Green, a track on a comp on Japan’s 777 Was 666, and a cassette on Animal Disguise Recordings on the way. So perhaps it’s time for the Alps to trade the Bug for their "power animal," a Volkswagen bus. After all, they have already selected the cover art for their debut: that of a rotting bus with the band name spray-painted on its spotted rump. "There’s something about this," Hartman says, gazing at the image on the laptop. "It’s made in the ’60s, a little rusty but still kind of beautiful and gets the job done." *


April 14

Peacock Lounge

552 Haight, SF

Call for times and price.

(415) 621-9850



Acid-drenched Southern boogie rock? The Atlanta combo did well at SXSW. Wed/29, 9 p.m., Thee Parkside, 1600 17th St., SF. Call for price. (415) 503-0393


He’p! Farfisa organ and jet-black hearts. LA’s motorpsychos celebrate their latest Gearhead LP, Lords Have Mercy. Fri/31, 9 p.m., Annie’s Social Club, 917 Folsom, SF. $7. (415) 974-1585


The Bay Area avant-rock transplants keep those "T-Bone" joints coming. Le Flange du Mal and Clip’d Beaks also perform. Fri/31, 9 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF. $6. (415) 546-6300


Frontperson Michael Flynn is said to have won a John Lennon Songwriting Scholarship at his Boston music school. The New Amsterdams also play. Fri/31, 8 p.m., Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. $12. (415) 474-0365


Ralph Carney whoops it up with Kimo Ball and Scott Johnson, giddily breaking out the swing, Dixieland, jazz, and pop in honor of a self-released EP, Extended Play from 12 Galaxies. Sat/1, 9 p.m., Argus Lounge, 3187 Mission, SF. Call for price. (415) 824-1447. Also Sun/2, 2 p.m., Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF. Free. (415) 831-1200

It takes 3 – or 50


Break it down to the Beastie Boys’ smart-ass advocacy of the everydude, or their ability to agilely swing with hip-hop’s developments and evolve with their more adventurous listeners, but Adam Yauch (MCA), Mike Diamond (Mike D), and Adam Horovitz (Adrock) have always maintained a special "relationship" with their fans. Their new concert film, Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!, a listener-producer "collabo," as Yauch puts it, explodes that bond. It’s a mash(-up) note, a Bronx-cheer pop Rashomon from the 50 followers who were given video cameras to shoot the group’s sold-out Madison Square Garden concert Oct. 9, 2004.

Something from each camera made it onscreen. By the second part of the film, director-producer Yauch — working under his music vid/viz art nom de camera Nathaniel Hornblower — moves from exciting but straightforward cinéma vérité into a playful, fourth wall–banging realm familiar to aficionados of the group’s videos. The color is leeched from one song and intensified in another; strobe effects are magnified here, and the zoom plunges deep into the frame there. When one shooter — diligently following his preconcert instructions to "start when the Beastie Boys hit the stage and don’t stop till it’s over" — takes his camera into the men’s room and captures himself taking a piss, Yauch matches the onstage musical break with the rip of a paper towel.

Along with Yauch’s edit of a female fan doing the same dance move as the onstage Diamond (and his superimposition of the two in the same frame, so that they appear to be dancing together), that bathroom break also marked the limits for the two Beasties sidelined during the editing. Discussing the film in Austin at this year’s South by Southwest conference, Diamond said he "begged Yauch to take out the explicit scene of me dancing with the young lady." Horovitz felt like the onscreen urination was too much information.

But what are the now mature Boys going to do with all the newfound respect they’re fielding from … their parents? "My dad [playwright Israel Horovitz] is just superimpressed with Yauch," Horovitz claims. "Now that we got reviewed in the New York Times as a film —"

" — it comes onto the parents’ radar," Yauch says.

"What, isn’t it good enough we’re playing at the Garden?" Horovitz jokes. *


Opens Fri/31

Bridge Theatre

Shattuck Cinemas

For showtimes go to

Jana Hunter



As raw as road rash and as disarming as a child, Arlington, Texas, songwriter Jana Hunter is a jewel in the rough. At her eeriest best, the short hairs stand on end and small chills roll down your neck — a quiet intensity is embedded in the unadorned sound of her debut, Blank Unstaring Heirs of Doom, the first release on Gnomonsong, Devendra Banhart and Andy Cabic’s new label. A compilation of four-tracks, two-tracks, and music recorded on computer, the CD doesn’t seem like the work of a onetime classical violin player: It has the musty scent of a recently unearthed, once lost recording from a lady recluse who spent her days porch-sitting and eking out a farm life in the dust bowl. There’s a sense of history — and emotional dimension — in Hunter’s voice and spare guitar sounds. Imagine Emily Dickinson as an outfolk ragamuffin. (Kimberly Chun)

JANA HUNTER Fri/25, 9 p.m., Hotel Utah Saloon, 500 Fourth St., SF

$8. (415) 546-6300,

Also Sat/26, 2 p.m., Amoeba Music, 1855 Haight, SF

Free. (415) 831-1200,

Stone cold cooking

 Sonic Reducer Wonderful, unforeseen taste combinations are everywhere you look — and they go beyond the mundane peanut butter and chocolate, Tom and Katie, horse and donkey paradigms. Take, for instance, cooking shows and stoner rock. Sure, you wouldn’t trust Ozzy in the kitchen with an electric knife and a puffer fish — that only seems like a recipe for pain, with, I’m sure, Ozzy "I not only bark at the moon; I also act psycho on TV" Osbourne on the receiving end. But hey, dope smoking and the munchies — together they’re both natural and expected. And they can even be good for your reputation — even my crap cooking tastes palatable after a few medicinal MJ snickerdoodles.

Nonetheless, it was a revelation to finally get a looky-loo at the recently released Hot Chick Hot Rod Stoner BBQ DVD (Stroker Productions,, the straight-to-DVD-in-all-its-glorioski sequel to Hot Chick Stoner BBQ. Both projects star Hot Rod Honey — the charismatic, witty, and much more likeable rock ’n’ roll alternative to Rachael Ray.

The latest disc picks you up, throws you in the backseat, and gives you a smokin’ ride to Ace Junkyard in SF, where HRH gently but firmly takes you through the gutbucket basics of barbecuing, from starting a flame to cooking some beer can chicken, while hep, cute, but grittily real-looking metal and stoner rock chicks mill about, show off their shh-weet hot rods, chow down, and get buzzed. HRH lays down the grillable wisdom, urging hot-rodders to "put some time into your ride and some time into your food" before quipping that she’s making her food mild for the party because "I know some folks here have a bad case of honky mouth, so I don’t want anyone’s asshole to blow out."

Between barbecue tips, hip chicks (one, Vicki, works as a mechanic at Oakland Ford and is said to be married to a Drunk Horse) show you how to do elementary work on your machine, like changing the spark plugs. An added bonus: a solid soundtrack by local heavies like Om, Hightower, High on Fire, Acid King, and Dirty Power and cameos of familiar Bay faces and their rides, including Leslie Mah of Tribe 8, Meg of Totimoshi, and Windy Chien, former owner of Aquarius Records (showing off her now-departed Porsche). Toss in some shots of hot girls hot-boxing it and a recipe for "potcorn" with "pot butter," and you can imagine rock kids in Peoria drooling over the high times, good eats, and hip crew in SF.

Hot Chick Hot Rod Stoner BBQ looks that cool, as conceived and directed by Tina "Tankdog" Gordon, drummer of onetime Guardian Goldies winner Lost Goat. The video production teacher, who now drums in Night after Night, found the impetus for the series in Hot Rod Honey herself. "Hot Rod Honey is an old friend of mine. She’s been cooking for rockers for years," says Gordon over the phone. "In fact, she was the reason I stopped being a vegetarian. My old band was playing at Pondathon [in Mendocino County], and she was sitting at the edge of the pond surrounded by a pack of dogs. I said, ‘What are you cooking?’ And she said, ‘Beer Boat Sausage. It’s good. You should try some.’ It was like she put a spell on me. I said, ‘OK,’ and I ate it, and then I ate rattlesnake and steak."

The project took form because, Gordon says, Hot Rod Honey (who apparently not only works on her hot rods but also rides horses, shoots guns, bartends, and barbecues like a bad ass) "needed to be appreciated and kind of honored. I see all these cooking shows, but none of them are interesting to me, y’know. So I wanted to do something I was interested in, in this genre. In general, the stuff I like to document are things that aren’t generally documented. I’m not excited by most of what I see in TV and popular culture; so when you don’t like what you see and you’re someone who makes stuff, you gotta make the stuff you want to see. It’s just like music."

For the Hot Rod shoot in fall 2004, Gordon assembled pals who could understand the project and the vibe "and are down with barbecue." Even her vegan hot chick friends could get with the spirit of the series. "The love of hard rock is a huge thing," Gordon says. "There’s a cross section in there who can appreciate hard rock and who are hungry for that right now." Chomp chomp, there go those crunchy guitars.

Gordon tells me the next DVD will be titled Hot Chick Backwoods Stoner BBQ, and I’m probably not outta line to make a wise crack about seeing a pattern here. But after that, who knows? Gordon and HRH have been invited to film in Mississippi in May with the boys of Yokel, a Jackass-related redneck hipster pride TV series on the Turner South network. Nashville Pussy lovin’—Nascar Nationals meet NorCal hottie headbangers? Bring it on.

Princess diaries


Most teen starlets are probably satisfied to look their hottest on press junkets and don the cutest duds they can find at Fred Segal. But at 15, Q’Orianka Kilcher isn’t your average Teen Vogue pinup. Perhaps it’s indicative of the added expectations – and attendant ambitions – that come with playing Pocahontas in Terrence Malick’s The New World, but Kilcher seemed to be firing on all cylinders, in terms of accomplishments, when she showed up at San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton in gorgeous multiskinned boots and a covetable leather jacket, both of which she made herself.

A dancer, musician, and singer, yet relatively untried in the movies, with only a small part in Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas to her name, Kilcher – the daughter of a native Peruvian Quecha/Huachapaeri father and a Swiss-Alaskan mother – rose above the iconic demands of playing the metaphorically loaded yet still mysterious Indian princess with considerable charm, unstudied poise, and sweet naturalism on film. Bringing modern-dance moves and a watchful (and watchable) lightness to the first half of The New World, she holds her own when the stifling star power and narrative filter of Colin Farrell as John Smith falls away and Pocahontas and her sadly all-too-familiar story of a native woman’s tragic encounter with "old-world" colonizers move closer to the center of The New World.

Petite, simultaneously softer and rawer than Malick’s other girlish innocents (Sissy Spacek in Badlands and Linda Manz in Days of Heaven), and just as graceful in person as she is in front of the lens (except when she is later startled in the women’s room and then resembles a frightened doe in her buckskins), Kilcher seems to be handling the weighty burdens of representing a legendary figure (which included getting her first kiss, from Farrell) well, although a body can obviously only take so much. "Omigod, my back just … cracked!" she yelped, rising from her gilded nest of a settee.

SFBG: I found the Pocahontas story extremely moving because it reminded me of the sad stories of native Hawaiian royalty I’d hear growing up.

Q’Orianka Kilcher: I grew up in Hawaii! I lived there for six and a half years. We lived on the North Shore, Oahu, Kailua, Waikiki – omigod I’m forgetting the names – Wailua? I remember surfing, being at the beach every day, catching beautiful, tropical-looking fish.

SFBG: What were your impressions of Pocahontas before you took the role?

QK: I just knew the cartoon like everyone else. But when I went to Virginia, I did so much research. I learned her native language, Algonquian, and I can even speak it today. I immersed myself. The sets that Jack Fisk designed, as well as the clothing Jackie West made, really helped me to get lost in the 1600s and how life kind of was back then – the purity and delight and simplicity.

SFBG: The clothing conveys the character’s physical changes.

QK: It really does. When she’s in Virginia in her traditional tribal clothes, she holds the spirit of freedom and is able to move freely around, and when she moves to London and has the corset on, she’s very constricted. I went home and cried the first time I tried on my corset and my shoes. I had them put on my corset extra-too-tight and my shoes a size too small.

SFBG: What was the audition process like? Did you know who Terrence Malick was?

QK: I didn’t. I didn’t know who Colin Farrell was; Christian Bale, not too much. I must have done 15 to 20 auditions. I never knew what to expect, because they’d tell me to suddenly do a traditional feather dance or play my Native American flute. They would put all these obstacles in my path to see if I would withstand them and overcome them.

SFBG: What was the shoot like?

QK: It was an emotional roller coaster. Sometimes I would be crying for four or five hours straight – those were my favorite scenes to film, because I was able to throw my whole heart and soul into it and I wasn’t honestly sure in the beginning that I was able to pull those scenes off. So I’d kind of ask the spirit of Pocahontas to guide me and help me show her story as best as I could to the world.

SFBG: Did you feel any added pressure playing Pocahontas because she is such a symbol of …

QK: Peace.

SFBG: … and …

QK: Betrayal.

SFBG: And America.

QK: People have so many different views. Being a young girl myself – Pocahontas seeing a white person for the first time, with their armor and their white skin, never seeing them before, I think she would have perceived John Smith in a way like a god or spirit. So there was a little bit of a crush and [a] naïveté. Were she given the foresight to see what devastating consequences her actions and beliefs in the hopes for peace would have brought upon her own people, I think she would have gone away from [him]. I wanted to show Pocahontas’s story as best I could to the world and really do her justice because I fell in love with who she was. I thought she was an amazing, strong woman who wasn’t afraid to dream.

Class act


With a new full-length on storied UK label Beggars Banquet in their present and a European tour with the National in their recent past, Bay Area band Film School might be assumed to have the world on a guitar string. But think again.

When I last spoke to them two years ago, founder-vocalist-guitarist Krayg Burton was bemoaning his broke state to guitarist-vocalist Nyles Lannon, beneath the posters of Malcolm "By Any Means Necessary" X and the other righteous underdogs at Café Macondo. Film School’s last recording, the EP Alwaysnever (Amazing Grease) had just come out, the tech bubble had burst, and the world was wide open, leaving Burton and Lannon to hawk their Web-related skills on their own.

Now here we are, in early January, tucked into the lamp-lit control room of drummer Donny Newenhouse’s Middle of the Mile basement studio in San Francisco’s Mission District, where Film School recorded about half of the new self-titled second album. The band has been awarded the gift-of-gab buzz at recent SXSWs, praised by NME, and described by BBC 6 host Steve Lemaq as his favorite new band. Next-level stuff. Now if only they can decide how best to approach a set list.

"We fight about the set list every night, every show," the laid-back Newenhouse says from behind the mixing board. He’s the A/V guy of Film School, according to his bandmates. "It’s like the A team – we’re pretty cool, unified, but …"

"We write the set list five minutes before we go on," interjects keyboardist Jason Ruck, Film School’s class clown. So there’s no room for dissention? "But then there is dissention, and we’re discussing it onstage when we’re supposed to be playing. That actually happened once in front of our label head." He looks pleased.

"It kind of ties into going to the next level," bassist Justin LaBo says, curled catlike in an easy chair in the corner. He’s the guy most likely to be expelled from Film School. "Not being, like, I don’t want to say, amateurs or rookies, but having your shit together, being confident and walking onstage knowing what you’re going to play, and not arguing onstage."

You’d be more pro and more polished, but perhaps less … interesting, I offer from the center of the Middle of the Mile booth. "That’s been the argument the whole time," Newenhouse exclaims, miming an irate bandmate. "<\!q>’I don’t want to be one of those fucking bands that has the same set every night and knows what they’re doing when they get onstage!'<\!q>"

"I kind of like winging it a bit," Burton mutters, the "tenured teacher with the vodka in the coffee cup" at this Film School.

"I want to have a rotating set list, written in stone," Newenhouse continues, half-self-mockingly pretending to carry stone tablets engraved with songs to a stage. "<\!q>’Here’s the 10 commandments’ – straight down from the dressing room every night. It’ll be like Spinal Tap’s Stonehenge – we can have midgets dance around them."

Spitballs aside, it’s comforting to know that some things never quite change – be it Film School’s collective, self-deprecating sense of humor or their honest, exploratory doubts – even as one chapter ends and the band appears to be on the brink of graduating into some sort of big time.

At first listen, the new Film School is almost off-puttingly polished: It’s one of the best-sounding self-produced, headphones-only albums by a local band I’ve heard of late, blending the poppier hook-and-groove singles-craft of "On and On" and the elastic, massive, 4AD-ish groove of "Pitfalls" with gorgeous wall-of-psych longer pieces such as the airy, multitextured, Floyd-drenched "He’s a Deep Deep Lake," and "11:11," which moves from an almost early U2-like twitch into glitched-up drone before finally ascending into a dervish of guitar noise.

The mixture of tones was deliberate. "We actually value a record that comes from different directions and has a different sound here and there, as long as it’s cohesive, and we spent a lot of time trying to make it cohesive," wise man on campus Lannon says, sprawled in a lounger. "The record actually has, I think, a unique flow to it. It kind of takes you on this ride."

Just don’t call them "shoegazer." "We just like [My Bloody Valentine’s Loveless] because it’s really textured and spacey, not because it’s guys in bowl cuts staring at their shoes," LaBo gripes.

Much like their six-minute singles, it took a while to get to Film School. The band that began in 2001 as a live ensemble charged with playing ex-Pinq member Burton’s first Film School self-released album, Brilliant Career, has since become a full-fledged collaborative entity, with plenty of production experience courtesy of Lannon, LaBo, and longtime Bottom of the Hill soundperson Newenhouse (who replaced Ben Montesano in Film School when the latter got married about a year ago). Lannon has worked as Azusa Plane and N.Lannon, LaBo has recorded as Technicolor, and Newenhouse has drummed with Holly Golightly and Hammerdown Turpentine.

They started working on Film School in 2004, turning to three different producers before finally deciding to do it themselves in Newenhouse’s studio, where they cut five newer songs and mixed in older dreamier material recorded in Lannon’s bedroom.

"We actually wasted six month’s worth of time on one song," Newenhouse says. "That was a real drag. Technically, it was difficult. I think [the producer’s] idea of what he wanted it to sound like didn’t really mesh with ours. That’s when we realized we should just do this ourselves."

"I haven’t been back here since we recorded," Burton marvels from the corner, a stocking cap pulled over his ears. "I’m starting to remember those eight-hour days, looking round here – it’s like, oh god."

Since the album spans such a long period, one wouldn’t expect the songs to have much in common with each other, though Burton swears they do: "Maybe there’s a little bit of a theme about trying to move forward and feeling a little stuck." And perhaps that has something to do with the long, drawn-out making of Film School? "Maybe!" he says. "I think it might be just getting older and trying to make those next steps in life."

Beggars Banquet first made contact with Film School’s manager two years ago when the band played with TV on the Radio in the UK. It took about a year of e-mails and talk before a deal was struck, around the time when the album was completed. "It took basically all of last year until the dust settled," Lannon says. "Is it even settled yet? I don’t even know. On this last tour we were like OK, it’s official, right? We’re spending money, this advance. I think once the money is in your account, the thing is really happening."

"It’s weird to be working with a label that isn’t worried about going out of business. Not having this dark cloud over you the whole time," Lannon continues, mimicking an imaginary imprint. "<\!q>’Urrrrr, rock music. Records just don’t sell like they used to.’ That’s every other label we talked to. It’s just a recurring theme that you hear as a person in the indie rock world. Every label you talk to has that, starts with that ‘Feel sorry for me, I’m a label’ sob story. But Beggars has figured it out; they’ve been around for a while – it’s a nice situation."

"We can exhale a little," Burton adds gently.

"Now we just have to play well every night!" Ruck cracks.

FILM SCHOOL  Jan. 26, 6 p.m.  Amoeba Music  1855 Haight, SF  Free  (415) 831-1200  With Sound Team and Citizens Here and Abroad  Jan. 26, 9 p.m.  Bottom of the Hill  1233 17th St., SF  $10  (415) 474-0365

True grits


Punk doesn’t get much more soulful – or outta hand – than Beth Ditto. After watching her tear up the stage at Bottom of the Hill, pulling her enraptured audience members up to dance and taking on "I Wanna Be Your Dog," I shouldn’t have been surprised to find myself chasing the Gossip vocalist down for a phone interview over the course of days, hooking up at the absolute last second. I, like all her other fans, wanna be led around on a leash by the baby-faced diva from Searcy, Ark.

On the line from Portland, Ore., late on a recent midweek evening, Ditto proves that she gives just as good phone as she does soul-stirring performance. Fresh from viewing The Exorcism of Emily Rose ("It was an advertisement for Gambutrol as much as it was an ad for the Catholic Church – they only said it every other sentence!"), Ditto is so winning, earthy, and outright fun in conversation you completely forget about the terrors that came with getting in touch with her in the first place. Runaround – what runaround? I’d much rather get the scoop on Ditto; guitarist Nathan Howdeshell, 26; and their new drummer, Hannah Blilie, 24 (Shoplifting).

"I’m such a grandma," the 24-year-old Ditto says disarmingly. "I’m no good after 11. I got my face off, my glasses on, bra’s off, and my tits are sagging."

SFBG: Were you into punk rock early on?

Beth Ditto: I really identified a lot with Mama Cass. I really like Wizard of Oz. My mom listened to Black Sabbath and Pink Floyd and my dad listened to a lot of Patsy Cline, Kool and the Gang, and the Bee Gees. And, of course, there was a lot of gospel music around. I was a choir kid.

SFBG: How did you come to riot grrrl?

BD: I was a feminist before I was a riot grrrl. I just hated so many things about the world, growing up, in elementary school, my stepdads, and I thought it was annoying how irresponsible they were. I got sick of that. I heard the word feminist, and I thought that’s what I am. I was 13. I did my seventh grade speech on Gloria Steinem.

SFBG: Now the Gossip are huge in the queer music community.

BD: I think the first time it dawned on me was a few months ago, when I realized that people are listening to Gossip records the way I used to listen to Bikini Kill and Need records. That’s crazy because now when I go out to a party, there’s at least one drunk girl who will stop me and talk about that.

SFBG: Do you feel any pressure?

BD: Those are my people. I feel more pressure from the music industry to be more straight-laced or be more thin or to be more toned down. The hardest part is definitely the pressure to be something I’m not.

SFBG: What about your fat activism – has that become more challenging?

BD: The bigger we get the more challenging it is. No pun intended. I think it is hard now because we’re dealing with people who have no fucking idea who Nomy Lamm is, people who have no idea what fat activism is. They don’t have a smidgen of an idea, which tells me they haven’t even dabbled in anything remotely punk or feminist or political. I have my shit figured out, and you realize you live in a bubble with people you think, or hope, have your back.

SFBG: Who turned out to be clueless, in your experience?

BD: People who do your makeup and hair at photo shoots, for fucking sure! Clueless! Not all of them but a lot of them! I can’t have someone do my makeup if they don’t know who I’m talking about if they ask me if I have any ideas and I can’t say, "Debbie Harry ’79" or "Divine the last scene in Female Trouble." If they look at me and say, "Who’s Divine …?" It doesn’t make you a bad person, but I don’t think you should be doing my makeup.

SFBG: What did you want to accomplish with Standing in the Way of Control?

BD: We had a goal of finishing it. We hadn’t put out a record since 2003. Our old drummer was busy all the time. It was obvious that her heart wasn’t in music anymore – she wanted to be a midwife, and she was in school all the time. We toured very seldomly, and we had to say no to all these things we wanted to do.

SFBG: Will you be touring now?

BD: That’s where I’ll be for the next year – on the road, in a van. I’m excited about the West Coast and Europe, but separately – I can definitely not do three months consecutively again. Time home is really important for me. My best friend just pointed out to me, "Beth, you need to be grounded." By grounded, she means being around all of my shoes instead of 10 pair. It drives me crazy. And all of my makeup. I need to be around all of my clothes. Leaving my sweetie [Freddie Fagula] is really hard.

SFBG: How many pairs of shoes do you have? That’s very Imelda-like.

BD: I know it is! I don’t know. Sometimes I’m afraid to know. I’m a high punk femme!

SFBG: Any good gossip?

BD: I burnt some oatmeal cookies. I cook with meat. I’m so meat-and-potatoes – I was raised so Southern. I make chicken and dumplings and cornbread and biscuits and gravy. When it comes to vegetarian things, I’m not a good cook, but I will sure eat the hell out of it.

I had this one person in a band say to me once – we were going out to eat somewhere – "Do you guys eat meat?" I said, "I’ll eat anything. I’ll eat dirt." And he turned around and looked at me and said, "Well, meat is murder." And I said, "No fucking shit! Just turn around and drive the car!" Like I didn’t live in Olympia for four years. "Oh, thanks, you’re really clueing me in." This particular person was just so self-righteous.

SFBG: What did you think of Walk the Line?

BD: Being Arkansan, my Aunt Mary picked cotton with Johnny Cash when they were kids. She used to say to my mom, "Well. He ain’t much. He just that old Cash boy."