Laura Mojonnier

Bona fidelity


PREVIEW Lots of people want to be rock stars, but life usually gets in the way, and one day they wake up as midlevel managers commuting from suburban Milwaukee. While Joe and Suzy Chief Purchasing Officer may not have fame and glory, they definitely have disposable income, and now they can buy their high school dreams for a day.

Since 1997, Rock ‘n’ Roll Fantasy Camp founder David Fishof has recruited bona fide rock stars from Roger Daltry to Slash to act as counselors to wannabe musicians, helping them perfect their instruments and perform as a band at the end of the session. "It’s almost like the television show where they do an extreme makeover on a house and they only have one week to do it," said former Megadeth bassist David Ellefson, laughing. He got involved during last year’s 10th anniversary show in Las Vegas. "I find it’s really a fun challenge. You basically get to accomplish in one day what most musicians take 20 years to do."

One day at the camp costs $1,999. The five-day tour package fetches a cool $9,999. Some think the cost is worth it. Vancouver surgeon-guitarist Bill McDonald, 56, will attend his fourth camp this summer. "In my line of work, it’s a very high-stress profession, and the music allows me to escape that for a bit," he said. McDonald’s tour goes from Phoenix to Los Angeles, with a stop here at the Fillmore where his wife and teenage children will watch him perform.

Fishof won’t reveal how much counselors get paid, but insists that the enterprise, now his full-time job, is not particularly lucrative. "I do it more as a labor of love," he said, noting that he’s looking into turning the camp into a reality show. "I love getting letters from people saying, ‘You changed my life.’ People call me and say, ‘My husband doesn’t have road rage anymore.’"

ROCK ‘N’ ROLL FANTASY CAMP Opening for Extreme and King’s X. Mon/25, Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. For details, call 1-888-762-2263 or go to

Into the wild


I first heard singer-songwriter Kaki King when a friend returned from a three-month stint traveling in the Pacific Northwest with her third CD, …Until We Felt Red (Velour, 2006). She accidentally left the disc at my apartment and for the next few weeks before I, ahem, remembered to give it back, my world was filled to the brim with King’s ethereal, rhythmic compositions, all centered around her virtuosic guitar playing.

King, who turns 29 Aug. 24, made a name for herself as a solo guitarist on 2003’s Everybody Loves You (Velour), impressing guitar geeks with her unusual technique of picking the strings with both hands. On her next three albums, King gradually incorporated additional instrumentation, including her voice, into her empyrean sonic quilt-work. This year’s Dreaming of Revenge (Velour) is perhaps her most accessible recording yet.

"I’ve always been writing vocals into songs," King said from her parents’ home in Atlanta. "My first two records were instrumental guitar because that was kind of a discipline, just something I had been trying to accomplish."

While King’s sings more on Dreaming than ever — on almost half the tracks — the album remains grounded in her work as an instrumentalist, with her voice often figuring as just one more layer in a lush cosmic soundscape. Everything she writes, she explained, "has fundamentally to do with tuning up my guitar and working from there."

Other musicians have been converted to King’s music. Recently she has played on albums by the Foo Fighters and Tegan and Sara, been showcased in the 2007 film, Into the Wild, and gigged as a hand double in August Rush (2007). But King insists that she did not imagine herself paying the bills as a full-time musician until just before she recorded her third album. "I always thought, ‘Oh, I’ll do another record and then I’ll go to grad school,’<0x2009>" she said. She always assumed she would take over her parents’ law firm.

The songwriter will play Outside Lands with a five-piece, although lately she has been yearning to return to her solo roots, which she plans to do on her fall tour. "I’m doing a show that’s going completely back to just me on guitar, what I was doing when I was touring the first time," she said. "I have lost just a little bit of my chops because I haven’t played guitar at that level in a while, so I’m basically rechallenging myself to go out there for 70 or 80 minutes playing just guitar — no looping, no bands, no cutesy chit-chat. It feels almost like a cleansing thing."

KAKI KING performs at 4:30 p.m., Sat/23, on Outside Lands‘ Presidio stage, Lindley Meadow.

International Youth Music Festival


PREVIEW How brilliant my high school music career was: I got to travel around the world to impress international audiences with my mad piano skills, take master classes with professional musicians, and play and network with European wünderkinder whose gifts were equivalent to mine.

Oh wait, my high school music career actually consisted of taking weekly piano lessons from a 65-year-old German woman in a church basement, figuring out ways to make her believe I had actually practiced that week. But I guess more focused and, er, gifted students actually do get to join the jet set and showcase their talent in front of classical music lovers on different continents.

Youth Music International was formed in 2003 to facilitate a US-UK exchange program for talented youngsters specializing in chamber music, hoping to provide the adolescent musicians with superior technical instruction and a unique opportunity for cultural exchange amongst peers.

The group returns to San Francisco this year for a four-day stint after holding last summer’s concerts in Oxford, England. Wednesday’s performance is the festival’s finale, with orchestral masterworks as the concert’s theme. So if you can put your jealousy aside, come check these kids out at Grace Cathedral, an intimate and historic setting, before they’re touring with Yo-Yo Ma and you can’t afford the tickets.

INTERNATIONAL YOUTH MUSIC FESTIVAL Wed/13, 7:30 p.m., $10–$16. Grace Cathedral, 1100 California, SF. (415) 749-6300,,

Tokio Hotel


PREVIEW When I think of German music, Kraut-rock innovators and industrial metal gods usually come to mind. I always assumed Americans generated enough angsty, guyliner-donning teenage emo superstars to go around, but a quaint four-piece from Madgeburg, Germany, has proved me wrong.

Tokio Hotel released their debut, Schrei (Universal), in their native Deutschland in 2005 three weeks after the lead vocalist’s 16th birthday. Their first single, "Durch den Monsun," instantly reached No. 1 on the German charts, and the pubescent pretty boys were quickly propelled into pan-European superstardom. The band’s first tour sold out 43 venues in Germany alone, followed by packed engagements across the continent. Last year’s performance in front of the Eiffel Tower drew 500,000 fans. If you watch clips from that show on YouTube, be prepared for low audio quality: it’s hard to hear the music over all the fangirl screaming.

After the success of their sophomore effort, 2007’s Zimmer 483 (Universal), and various behind-the-scenes DVDs, Tokio Hotel had all of Europe on lock. So the powers-that-be decided the band was ready for a stab at the only success that matters: the American kind. Scream, released stateside in March by Universal, is Tokio Hotel’s first album in English and consists solely of translated versions of their earlier hits. ("Spring Nicht" is now "Don’t Jump," "Schrei" is now "Scream"). I’d be lying if I said that their songs sounded uniquely German, or even vaguely European. Nope, Tokio Hotel pretty much sounds like the Svengali-produced version of every emo/alt-rock outfit that this country has dreamed up. And they look the part too: boy-band-esque dreamboats who gleaned makeup tips from Robert Smith.

Maybe that’s what’s so creepily German about Tokio Hotel: they’ve taken an often-cheesy but largely authentic American genre and repackaged it anew as a heartthrob fantasy for tweens with frizzy hair. Charisma meets efficiency, I guess.

TOKIO HOTEL Tues/19, 9 p.m., $25. Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF. (415) 346-6000,

New wave reunion


PREVIEW I’m too young to know for sure whether or not it’s normal that so many older bands are re-forming to record novelty albums and go on reunion tours, but it certainly does seem strange. I mean, sure, there’s the money (just check the inflated ticket prices) and the thrill of seeing thousands of aging fans sing along to all your songs — but at some point it must get kind of depressing to realize they would probably rather be teleported back to 1981 when they could see you for $10 in a small club when everyone was 40 pounds lighter.

But nostalgia is a powerful thing, and the reunion-industrial complex keeps chugging on. This summer’s Regeneration Tour unites all the best new wavers — the Human League and ABC included. Unfortunately, it’s bypassing San Francisco, so we’ll have to settle for back-to-back shows at smaller venues. On Saturday night, Sheffield, England synth pioneers the Human League performs at the Mezzanine. The band, which never officially broke up, put out its last album of fresh material in 2001, the much-overlooked Secrets (Ark 21). On Sunday, ABC plays the Independent, drawing material from its first batch of new songs in 11 years, 2008’s Traffic (Vibrant).

But, hey, who am I to judge? I’m sure one day I’ll shell out $150 to see the Strokes at the Greek Theatre so I can experience two hours of joy before rushing home to pay the babysitter. I only hope they play "12:51."

HUMAN LEAGUE With DJs Skip and Shindog. Sat/9, 8 p.m., $40. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. (415) 625-8880, ABC With DJ Funklor. Sun/10, 8 p.m., $27. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1421,

Download festival


PREVIEW If there was an contest for the most cringe-inducing festival name ever, Download would win handily. This is the future, I guess: international corporations sponsoring Wal-Mart-style festivals that pack as many bands as possible into oversize, out-of-the-way suburban locations with deals that are hard to ignore. Aye, there’s the rub.

Scottish noise punk pioneers the Jesus and Mary Chain headline the seductively-priced one-day throwdown. Reformed last year, brothers William and Jim Reid became infamous in the early days for their too-wasted-to-play live shows, standing with their backs to the crowd during their 15-minute sets. But with newfound sobriety and a slew of recent festival dates under their belts, JAMC might have perfected their arena rock charisma by now.

Gang of Four is another UK band that originally broke up before Al Gore invented the Internet. Since re-forming in 2004, the British blowhards have released a remix album, toured hard, and plan to put out a new disc later this year, updating their rhythmic Marxism for a fresh generation of activist dance punks.

Wait — I know what you’re thinking: the members of the headlining acts probably can’t check their e-mail without assistance, let alone download. They probably still, like, tape things. But like any big-box retailer, Download has something for the kids: Yeasayer, which dominates college radio with its groovy world beats; Blitzen Trapper, the Portland-based six-piece with a flair for alt-country and lotsa buzz; and Airborne Toxic Event, who hails from Los Angeles and, just like their muse Don DeLillo, captivate audiences with their melodramatic pretension. And man, that’s just the beginning. With 26 bands slotted to play in one day, that’s only 77 cents a band!

DOWNLOAD FESTIVAL See Web site for complete lineup and set times. Sat/19, 1 p.m., $20. Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Pkwy, Mountain View. (650) 967-3000,