Music Blogger

Treasure Island fest: Flaming Lips, Yo La Tengo, Decemberists


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Folk this: Decemberists’ Colin Meloy. All photos by Kimberly Chun.

By Kimberly Chun

Ah, washing up on Treasure Isle late in the day Sunday, Oct. 18, seemed like the way – though it was a bummer to miss Vetiver, Beirut, et al. The short and sweet stuff: it was considerably colder and foggier than Saturday, so it was in everybody’s best interest to huddle together en masse while Walkmen and then the Decemberists played. And wow, what fabulous animations accompanied the Portland, Ore., band’s set – tumbling with wild things, pyramids, geometrics, landscapes of jewel-like mountains and obelisks, star fields, and the like. The perfect accompaniment to the delicate Brit folk and outright psych-prog the band is purveying these days: the standout was the title track of this year’s The Hazards of Love album (Capitol).

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Greening of YLT: Yo La Tengo’s Ira Kaplan, right, and James McNew.

The following set by Yo La Tengo seemed almost anticlimactic, though you had to appreciate the strenuous noise jams the band is rolling out. Ira Kaplan helmed the keyboard from the start then switched over to guitar as the combo abruptly segued into “Stockholm Syndrome,” with James McNew on falsetto vocals. Up next, just as quickly: the loveable, cacophonous “Here to Fall” off YLT’s new Popular Songs (Matador).

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Man in a bubble: Flaming Lips in utero.

The wait was completely worth it, as we tarried in the photo pit (and my camera decided to die on me) and Wayne Coyne and the Flaming Lips set up on the main stage. All-girl backup vocalists with bunny ears, the Lips busting through the pull-apart screen at the exact do-go-there spot where a massive go-go girl opened her legs. (Coyne rolled out in his big bubble, followed by a stage-diving bunny.) Ah, no one delivers a show like FL (though there was a health emergency up front where I was — the frontman later asked to see if the lady taken off was OK). Coyne offered an opening monologue about how the group is an honorary SF band of sorts since the first show they ever played was at the beloved ole I-Beam in the Haight. We’ll take ’em.

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Treasure Island fest: Dan Deacon, the Streets, tree smarts, viz art, and more


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Dan Deacon, above, leads the mob, and a fiery dusk off Treasure Isle. All photos by Kimberly Chun.

By Kimberly Chun

Gawg-eous. And I mean both Dan Deacon – in full-tilt follow-me-folks mode and the jaw-dangler of a sunset Saturday night, Oct. 17, at this year’s Treasure Island Music Festival. So sad that I couldn’t get there early enough to catch Crown City Rockers and Federico Aubele and stumbled out too early to see alphabet-soup Bridge Stage acts MSTRKRFT and MGMT – nevertheless here are a few watercolor, waterside memories of the happenings mid-fest.

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You gots to hand it to Dan Deacon – the man knows how to power out a show, either solo or with his current 12-piece Dan Deacon Ensemble. “We can get in the zone in three minutes!” yelped Deacon happily – ever the leader of the flock as he sounded out the air-guitar/air-conductor hand gestures shortly before his set. Way to get the energy up: the band entered on the waves of excitement generated by a stage-diving/ascending chum, who was carried from the audience and deposited onstage. And what a stage – crammed with musicians and sidekicks like the cavorting feller in the orange dot costume and a note-worthy three-piece drum ensemble. Switching it up from jumpy happy beats to piping drone, the outfit sounded for all the world like a spazz-tastic, kiddie digi-hardcore orchestra. Not all of Deacon’s endeavors were a raging success – but try organizing a dance contest at the drop of Gucci-patterned fedora – and he continues to sound much better up close and on record than live (and across the Treasure Island compound) – but the man got the soiree started for sure.

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The Streets followed, praising the crowd for its fashion-forward garb (“You also look great with it off!”) and waxing humble about his own perpetual all-black ensemble and muttering about how well it hides dirt. The UK rapper was in a sexy yet unpredictable mood – dissing Sacramento, recalling his stage dive from a Fillmore balcony box, and commenting on the fact Treasure Isle is known for its solid sounds. At one point, he urged a woman perched on a pal’s shoulders to take off her top while also chiding her for blocking the view of other fans. Beatles riffs floated over it all.

Later DJ Krush provided future-beats before for dinnertime while LTJ Bukem broke those beats and picked up the pace. As the sun set in flamingo pinks and outrageous purples, Brazilian Girls provided surprisingly good, if ditzy fun, closing their well-played set with a paean to – did I hear right – pussies as audience members climbed onstage to shimmy.

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Other sights: the sad view of a tree broken by some jerk-offs who were watching the Streets from its branches. Puts a damper on the eco-friendly air surrounding the fest, no? A chainsaw came out as we bystanders gawked off to the side (one comment overheard: “Who cares?”). We found respite in the art booths on the adult midway, where we hung out stories written out on hand-painted petals in the Scales Project installation and checked out the live graf art. Sorry signs of the apocalypse: skate-board-ready Megan Fox and Kate Moss tributes.

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SF Street Art: ‘Its Just a Stencil!’


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By Kimberly Chun

Sighted at Divisadero and Fell.

Sonic Reducer Overage: Dan Deacon, Ghostface Killah, La Roux, and more


By Kimberly Chun

The tao of Au, the Wu of a Killah — that’s the spirit. More sounds to sit with and move to.

AU – RR vs. D from Rainbow Dropshadow on Vimeo.

Toy pianos, ethereal vocals, and Portland, Ore.-steeped experimentation. With Why?, Mount Eerie, and Serengeti and Polyphonic. Sat/17, 9 p.m., $16. Great American Music Hall, 859 O’Farrell, SF. (415) 885-0750.

Dan Deacon

The high Deacon of the laptop gospel preaches to the choir. With Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, Teeth Mountain, and Nuclear Power Pants. Sat/17, 9 p.m., $10. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. (415) 820-9669.

‘San Francisco Bay Blues’ revisited: Moving back to Jesse Fuller


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Move on Down the Line

By Kimberly Chun

He was “the Lone Cat,” for sure. Bay Area blues-folk 12-string guitarist and vocalist Jesse Fuller went by that moniker back in the day — he died in 1976 at 80 — when he plied his one-man band (including his fotdella, a foot-operated hammer-and-pedal string bass of his own invention, and harmonica-kazoo-cymbals-washboard setup) on the streets of San Francisco.

The self-described “folk songster” spent years riding the rails after leaving his native Georgia, arrived in SF to work its shipyards as a wartime welder, and later opened an Oakland shoeshine parlor. He also penned blues-folk standard “San Francisco Bay Blues,” which went on to be covered by everyone from Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Bob Dylan to Eric Clapton and Paul McCartney. Fuller certainly displays an inviting feline ease on the original version of that number on the lovingly assembled Move on Down the Line, supplemented by notes by music maven Joe Boyd and filled out with a number of tracks that aren’t on other Fuller discs in print. The songwriter’s version is the definitive ode to the city: brisk, breezy, driven by his evocative, supple drawl and bring-it-all-home kazoo solo. It’s the finale to a quirky, compelling, and essential document of a now-less-than-recognized piece of SF music history — a part of the Southern blues tradition that carved out his own place by the Bay.

Americana: More from Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong and ‘American Idiot,’ the musical


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Green Day’s Mike Dirnt, from left, Billie Joe Armstrong and Tré Cool. Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers Records.

By Kimberly Chun

Another helping of American Idiot, anyone? Berkeley Rep has obliged by extending the run of the musical through Nov. 1. Meanwhile here’s more from an interview with Green Day‘s Billie Joe Armstrong in August — for the rest of the story, see “No Brainer” in the Guardian’s Fall Arts Preview issue.

SFBG: So what does the album mean to you now?

Billie Joe Armstrong: Um, I think it means that we were right. [Laughs] I think it means … a lot. I love that album. It’s one of my proudest moments as a musician, for sure — having the guts and audacity to make a record that was that ambitious, but still, at the same time, be true to rock ‘n’ roll music, I guess.

Dewy decibels: Asthmatic Kitty’s ‘Library Catalog Music’


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Library Catalog Music, Volumes 1-3
(Asthmatic Kitty)

By Kimberly Chun

Remember the to-do concerning the Shins’ “New Slang” on a McDonald’s commercial? Those days of outrage seem so far away now, in the throes of the continuing recession and ever-deepening music-biz woes. Licensing your sonic slang out to TV, film, and commercial endeavors has become a way of life — and a genuine ticket to recognition for many: Chairlift, whose “Bruises” popped up on an iPod commercial, is just the latest beneficiary of that success narrative.

So perhaps one of the oddest little musical artifacts to emerge amid those fading cries of “sell-out!” is this three-part series produced by Asthmatic Kitty. Library Catalog Music looks the phenom squarely in the eye, as its promo literature queries, “Are you a major multi-national corporate conglomerate looking for quickly recognizable audio branding?” I wish. Actually, I don’t wish. But like so many others, I can use the cash, and apparently Asthmatic Kitty can, too — though not without a certain level of integrity. These overt entries into the marketplace wouldn’t be too out of place among some of your more enticing Euro-ambient discs. Vol. 1, Music for Lubbock, 1980, dares to tug on the tails of Ry Cooder’s Paris, Texas, while Vol. 2, Music for Measurements, brings the funk to imagined buddy cop flicks, and Vol. 3’s Music for Drums yearns to set the beat to sci-fi fantasies. Who dreamed these ready-made scores up? Bellevue, Wash., band Law of the Least Effort takes the credit — led by sometime Pedro the Lion and Seldom member Casey Foubert. Quality aural wallpaper — coming right up.

Sonic Reducer Overage: Hammer, Indian Jewelry, Rain Machine, MV and EE, and more


By Kimberly Chun

Keep your ears open for the sound of rolling thunder, and your heart dilated with the music of yesterday and tomorrow. Today? Well, here’s some of the musical worthiness coming down the pike right about now.

Mark Eitzel and Victor Krummenacher
Singles going steady? The American Music Clubber meets up with his Camper/Monk chum, who flies solo. Thurs/24, 8 p.m., $12-$15. Red Devil Lounge, 1695 Polk, SF. (415) 921-1695.

He won’t hurt you — though his parachute pants could cause damage. With Whodini. Fri/25, 8 p.m., $45.75-$65.75. Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph, Oakl.

Wa! Amazing Baby speaks of aural love, locked-out boyfriends, perfect pitch


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By Kimberly Chun

An amazing amount of hype and chatter accompanied Brooklyn band (and Wesleyan Mafia contingent) Amazing Baby’s first MySpace musical postings. Time to judge for yourself. I traded e-mails with Will Roan before the group’s Bottom of the Hill show on Sept. 19.

SFBG: How did your new album, Rewild [(Shangrila)], come to pass?

Amazing Baby: I think that we approached the recording with equal parts professional and amateur goals. We are always learning more about ourselves, and to be honest, it’s hard to really know what our intentions were at the time. I think we wanted to express aural love, beauty, heartbreak, and humor. There are people that we love, there are people that have died, and all of the emotions that fall in between. I think next time we may focus more on rhythms and melody. But for Rewild, it was mostly emotive.

SFBG: There’s a very glammy/glitter rock feel to the record? Is David Bowie an influence?

AB: Well, I’ve always been very drawn to Bowie and his effortless power over a song. However, I also feel that his other styles, more than glam, have probably had a larger effect on our songwriting and recording. You can’t deny your first loves. And I think, as a music fan, I continuously find myself going back to his music. It’s really strong stuff, isn’t it?

Sonic Reducer Overage: David Cross, Little Boots, Titus Andronicus, and more


By Kimberly Chun

Oh, yes, SF — you like it hot. And you got the sounds to send off the Indian Summer in a proper freaky styley. Here are the worthies that didn’t fit in print.

Alan Braxe
The French dance pop maestro, a.k.a., Stardust, gets out from behind the remix. With One Man Party and Bad Neighbors. Sat/17, 9 p.m. doors, $12-$15. Mezzanine, 444 Jessie, SF. (415) 820-9669.

Electropop loveliness from Brooklyn, exploding exponentially since its last liftoff in SF, thanks to an iPod commercial. With Magic Bullets and El Ten Eleven. Thurs/17, 9 p.m., $15. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455.

Sonic Reducer Overage: Edward Sharpe, Vieux Farka Toure, Chris Garneau, and more


Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros – “40 Day Dream”

By Kimberly Chun

Strap yourself in for more musical thunder as San Fran girds itself for fall – here’s more of what floats the city’s boat.

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Glitter Wizard

Wah-wah wow. Hard rock meets glamazon psych in the paws of the SF-Oakland combo. Sat/12, 9:30 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923.

The Honey Brothers
Adrian Grenier of Entourage yucks it up from behind the kit. With Soko and His Orchestra. Sat/12, 9 p.m., $15. Independent, 628 Divisadero, SF. (415) 771-1422.

Ici, here’s your favorite new ice cream joint


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By Kimberly Chun

Revelation time: a woman cannot live by Bi-Rite Creamery alone.

And along comes Ici, the Francophile’s wet, creamy dream over in Rockridge, right off Ashby. I checked out this lovely, tiled, Gallic-flavored spot recently, on a steamy, humid day – the kind that Bay Area types are never prepared for, sending us scurrying in vain for air-conditioning. The line wound out the door and snaked down the street, but it moved surprisingly quickly. Efficiency and beauty – who could ask for anything more?

Inside what is probably the most stylish and attractive ice cream shop in the Bay, were baked alaskas, bombes, ice cream sandwiches, and an ultra-tempting counter of treats and marbled homemade cones. A gold star for the nice, icy pitcher of sparkling water to sip while you wait.

But, man, it was the ice cream – kitted out in unique flavors – that swayed us and slayed us: verbena, sweet corn and chili, Earl Gray, hazelnut praline, raspberry verbena, pluot sorbet. (Pictured, a shot of mint fudge with burnt caramel sauce.) If I were you, I’d get two delectable scoops in a cone that comes with a truly delish little surprise of a chocolate tip. You’ve been warned: incoming deliciousness, Ici.

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2948 College, Berk.
(510) 665-6054

SF Street Art: Leave home


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By Kimberly Chun

Sighted in the Mission District at 23rd and South Van Ness: one of my fave murals in the barrio, El Immigrante by Joel Bergner (2005).

Sonic Reducer Overage: AC/DC, Japanther, Invisible Ocean Gathering, White Buffalo, and more


By Kimberly Chun

Relaxing too hard this Labor Day weekend? Get the blood moving at these musical happenings – so much more than we could fit in print.

The Aussies are slipping on Black Ice and into the record books as the fifth best-selling band in US history. With Answer. Wed/2, 8 p.m., $92.50. HP Pavilion, 525 W. Santa Clara, San Jose.

Outside Lands: Mighty M.I.A., pale Dead Weather, peppy Matt and Kim, and more


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M.I.A. All photos by Kimberly Chun.

By Kimberly Chun

Outside Lands — here and now gone. A final dispatch from the dusty, green groves.

Sunday, Aug. 30

Keeping your expectations low is key to smorgasbord fests. Still, I expected a sparser crowd today, the day of the canceled Beastie Boys appearance due to Adam Yauch’s cancer diagnosis, and those expectations were fulfilled. There was definitely less of a mob today: not quite as many specially propped-up cleavages and fewer well-heeled, supertanned oldsters (acolytes of George Hamilton?) than yesterday. What can you say? Dave Matthews definitely skewed the demographic toward the middle-aged, if not outright white-haired.

I don’t know how gramps and grammy would have felt about the fence-jumpers, but they were definitely hopping today as well: I spied about a dozen crash over the fence en masse near the Presidio stage mid-afternoon to the sound of congratulatory whoops from bystanders on the inside. Outside a few agile types peered in at the Sutro stage from the trees on the other side of the barrier. Low-key in comparison to last year’s gang fence-vaulting.

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Matt and Kim.

Outside Lands: Inside with Deerhunter, Street Sweeper Social Club, Mastodon, and more


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Pearl Jam’s Eddie Vedder. All photos, except where noted, by el fotografo clandestino.

By Kimberly Chun

O Outside Lands – how sprawling thou art. So many acts in the dusty, leafy grounds of Golden Gate Park, so many goings-on at night at the Independent and Rickshaw Stop. A few dispatches, then, from the periphery and about.

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Zap Mama.

Sonic Reducer Overage: Woods at ‘Pines’, Os Mutantes, Baseball Project, Dirt Bombs, Foreigner, and more


By Kimberly Chun

So much to do and so many Mayyors ‘n’ Lamps hoedowns, Outside Lands night shows, and damaged prom benefits to attend. San Fran never disappoints. Here are the worthies still to come.

Big Sur Festival 2009/Party in the Pines
A mini-fest to rival Golden Gate Park’s massive — with way coolios like Kurt Vile, who puts out his first Matador disc, Childish Prodigy, in October, and SXSW breakouts such as Woods. With Wooden Shjips, Vietnam, Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Gang Gang Dance, Dungen, and Saviours. Sat/29, noon-11 p.m., $31. Henry Miller Library, Highway 1, Big Sur. Dungen also plays with Woods and Kurt Vile Sun/30, 8 p.m., $14, at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455.

Blue Sky Black Death
From Haight to the wide blue yonder, with estimable hip-hop sounds for all. With Boy Eats Drum Machine and Boy in Static. Sat/29, 10 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455.

Death Angel
You can’t keep the Bay thrash vets down. With Skinlab and Kaos. Sat/29, 9 p.m., $15. Uptown, 1928 Telegraph, Oakl. (510) 451-8100.

SF Street Art: Play ball


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By Kimberly Chun

Spotted in an empty storefront with a “for lease” sign on Market at Montgomery.

Sonic Reducer Overage: Chuck Prophet, Fruit Bats, ‘Audition,’ and more


By Kimberly Chun

San Franwindy – that’s what we call you around the house while you’re busy blowing your butt off. It’s time to take refuge in musicland – here are some shows that didn’t get swept off our radar.

Foreign Cinema

Dreamy, chill, and, natch, cinematic – that’s the sound of the year-old SF trio and its trip-hop- and alt-rock-laced new debut EP. With Maggie Morris and Ghosties. Sun/23, 9 p.m., $6. Hemlock Tavern, 1131 Polk, SF. (415) 923-0923.

Chuck Prophet
The SF singer-songwriter unveils his new long-player, live and track by track, alongside Ernest “Boom Boom” Carter, Rusty Miller, and Tom Ayres at “Let Freedom Ring.” Expect the proceedings to be properly documented, with Kelley Stoltz behind the wheels o’ steel. Oh, yeah, and kids wanna know: will there be Donkey Kong? Sun/23, 8 p.m., $10. Knockout, 3223 Mission, SF. (415) 550-6994.

SF Street Art: Facing Folsom


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By Kimberly Chun

Sighted unexpectedly close to the sidewalk at 24th and Folsom in the Mission District.

Brown truth: Bird Names sing it loud and proud


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Sings the Browns
(Upset the Rhythm)

By Kimberly Chun

Who likes to mix Captain Beefheart blues-skronk cacophony and ADD-driven, jazzy razzle-dazzle, with a strong dollop of Deerhoofian experimentation on the side? Chicago’s Bird Names, that’s who — say their name. Rag-tag and rough-edged, this crazy quilt of a quartet swaps instruments live and in the studio — and swaps musical ideas in and out just as confidently and punkily. It’s as if the members of Bird Names all busily moonlight as carnies at madcap dadaist carnival, and their night job has merrily bled over into their music. Teetering guitar lines tumble against manic tambourine, fading into a dazed middle distance, on “Scandinavia,” and out-folk woodwinds peal against a backdrop of forest-critter chimes and child-like rhymes on “Natural Weeks,” both off the band’s fifth full-length, Sings the Browns. England’s Upset the Rhythm, a big supporter of Bay Area underground combos, got behind the group’s Brown album. And with such cock-eyed yet dulcet paeans to altered states as “Oh, Narcotopic Fantasy,” Bird Names manage to maintain a level of pleasing, if swampily documented, subversion.

In the Pines Big Sur Festival rears its leafy head


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By Kimberly Chun

Anything for a jaunt south to Big Sur, no? I love the leafy goodness that much.

Now, after last year’s super-fun, post-fire, fund-raising Festival in the Forest, NYC label Kemado is throwing together another reason to make a trek down, in conjunction with the launch of its new vinyl-only imprint Mexican Summer: In the Pines Big Sur Festival.

The folks at (((FolkYEAH!))), which put FITF in ‘08, is helping to produce the mini-fest at Henry Miller Library. Expect Kemado bands, favorites, and friends like Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti, Dungen, Gang Gang Dance, Farmer Dave Scher, Kurt Vile, Saviours, VietNam, Wooden Shjips, and Woods. Psych, metal, art rock, progginess, dancey experimentalism, noisiness, folk … by the way, can I get a ride?

Aug. 29, noon-11 p.m., $31
Henry Miller Library
Highway 1, Big Sur
(831) 667-2574

SF Street Art: Buh-bye…


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By Kimberly Chun

An artifact from another age … well, from late ’08. Spotted at around Divisadero and Bush (near the corner where some wag reworked the “Bush” street sign to read “Puppet”).

Sonic Reducer Overage: Lil Wayne, Green Day, Down, and more


Kimberly Chun

Les Paul, Rashied Ali – Big Daddy Death keeps claiming another one. Goddamnit. You can find me at the bar, buried in vodka tonics, till you finally find the strength to perk up, listen to Interstellar Space again, stroke your koa-wood SG, and contemplate all the live music, still kicking all around you.

Society of Rockets and Dominique Leone
The SF psychedelicists bang noggins with the congenial local, NorCal synthesist. Thurs/13, 9 p.m., $10. Café du Nord, 2170 Market, S.F. (415) 861-5016.

Solillquists of Sound
Me likee the bubbling, robo-futuristic beats of the Orlando, Fla., quartet’s new No More Heroes – and the live act is supposed to be pretty awesome, too. With 40Love and Zutra. Thurs/13, 9 p.m., $10. Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St., SF. (415) 621-4455.