Todd Lavoie

Ride the dark horse


Is there a single animal on God’s once-green Earth that is as closely equated with drama and pageantry as the mighty horse? Powerful, elegant, showy as all hell — it’s no wonder we’ve cultivated such a fascination for them, particularly when it comes to using them as signifiers. Equus, anyone? Or how about Patti Smith? When she torched the rock ‘n’ roll playbook with her revolution more than 30 years ago, which animals did she pick to lead the charge? Lions? Bears? Squirrels? Ah, didn’t think so.

Montreal’s Besnard Lakes couldn’t have created a better introduction for their distinctive brand of speaker-soaking drama than the title and cover of their sophomore release, The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse (Jagjaguwar). While artists such as Feist, Wolf Parade, and the Arcade Fire have been given the spotlight in the music press’s ongoing celebration of all things Canadian, the intriguingly monikered sextet were able to charge into the ring from out of nowhere, blindsiding indie kids, critics, and record-shop hanger outers far and wide. The cover? A sleek black horse, thundering out of a clamor of flames — a fitting overture for a band best described as majestic.

Like fellow Montrealers the Arcade Fire, the Besnard Lakes are led by a husband-and-wife duo — Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas — who share an affinity for inviting emotional release through stereo epics addressing the darker side of human nature. Instead of conveying such urgency with the same twitchiness as their neighbors, however, they offer slowly unfolding heroics that sparkle and ignite thanks to their ongoing battle between two opposing urges: to remain earthbound by updating classic rock traditions and to propel themselves into space. Witness album opener "Disaster," a string-laden, feedback-driven opus — complete with flute, French horn, and Brian Wilson–informed harmonies — that pushes and pulls between Spiritualized-esque flotation and Beach Boys sunbathing, all the while managing to shine a warm glow on the damning observation "You’ve got disaster on your mind."

Among the many references to war and violence, "Devastation" makes such havoc feel downright liberating, thanks to a full-throttle acid-metal groove, laser beam–shooting synth squeals, and a rousing chorus howled by what sounds like a hippie commune on the wrong side of the law. Lasek and Goreas’s ghostly harmonies frequently billow in the same ether as those of Low’s Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker, particularly during the unsettling throb of dysfunctional-household narrative "Because Tonight." And while the comparisons to all of the aforementioned artists certainly apply, the Besnard Lakes remain closest in spirit to that horse on the cover: grand, graceful, and tougher than I can ever dream of being.


With Starvin Hungry and DW Holiday

Sun/23, 9 p.m., $12

Bottom of the Hill

1233 17th St., SF

(415) 626-4455

Class of 2007: Kira Lynn Cain


CLUBS Film Appreciation Society, art club, Existential Smokers Alliance

QUOTE "It won’t be honest if I decide from the beginning what the song’s going to be about."

"Growing up, I was never really exposed to much pop culture that came out after the ’60s," haunted-dream singer-songwriter Kira Lynn Cain reveals as an explanation of her elegant — and occasionally sinister — torch songs from bygone black-and-white eras. "I was raised in a hippie household, where we mostly listened to old folk songs, medieval music, crooners and stuff from the ’40s and ’50s. And that’s still what I listen to the most.

"My friends are always shocked by how little I know about pop culture from the past few decades — I’m like a special project for them!"

So, while Cain is being schooled in the finer points of hair metal and cheesy sitcoms, she’s returning the favor by sharing her love of Peggy Lee and Jim Thompson — which informs her bewitching musical excursions into the shadow-cloaked intersections of romance and violence. Describe her forthcoming debut, The Ideal Hunter (Evangeline), in five syllables or less? Chiaroscuro. Talk about juxtapositions of light and dark: in one moment Cain guides her characters through tender waltzes under a golden glow, and in the next a knife gets pulled. Vibraphones twinkle amorously, only to be knocked around by a raging cello or a stab of Link Wray–worthy guitar. Timpani and brushed drums portend looming misfortune while Cain floats above it all, a temptress detached from the sordid drama below.

If this all sounds very filmic, it should. Meeting me in a Mission bar over whiskey and wine, Cain waxes enthusiastically about movies, as well as composers such as Ennio Morricone, Bernard Herrmann, and Henry Mancini, all of whom have had a profound influence on her songwriting. The German expressionists and surrealists play a pivotal role, but of course there’s also film noir, gritty westerns, Dario Argento’s stylized horror freak-outs — and while David Lynch’s name never enters the conversation, there is an undeniable Blue Velvet dreamscape feel to Cain’s sublime creations, helped in part by a similarity to the director’s siren, Julee Cruise.

I’ll ask her another time, perhaps. But in the meantime, how would she feel about scoring a film? "That’d be like a dream come true," she says, beaming, eyes growing wider as she grabs my arm. "I’d do it right now if I could!" (Todd Lavoie)

Mates of down-home states


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I might as well just fess up and own it: as much as I love the concrete and anonymity of the city, I’ll always remain a country boy at heart. I grew up in a town of 2,000 people, where everyone knew one another’s business. Intimately. Moose in the backyard were a regular occurrence. Country music was everywhere. Potato-sack racing and the 4-H club played an integral part of my childhood, as odd as it is to contemplate such things over the din of traffic outside. And just as my hometown has grown and citified over the years since I ran from it screaming, so has my perception of it. Back in the day, I couldn’t wait to leave. Now that I’m older, I overromanticize the hell out of that place. Show me a dirt road and just watch the sentimentality pour out of me.

Perhaps it’s these feelings that first drew me to the down-home comforts and easygoing twang of local rural Americana raconteurs Or, the Whale. Or perhaps it was their lush, Opry-fied harmonies or the fact that their recent self-released debut, Light Poles and Pines, surges with a sense of camaraderie and community that reminded me of small-town life. Whatever the reason, I was hooked, and soon enough I found myself sharing a picnic table at Zeitgeist with four members of the band, eager to learn more.

Named after the secondary title of Herman Melville’s classic tale of struggle and strife Moby-Dick, Or, the Whale is — sticking with the zoological theme — still a mere calf. Because the bandmates sound like they’ve played together forever, it’s a surprise to learn that the septet formed less than two years ago, partially through Craigslist ads. "Some of us were already friends," singer-percussionist Lindsay Garfield explains, "but a lot of us had never met before that ad. But here we are, like a family. We’re very lucky."

Lucky us, while we’re at it: Light Poles and Pines, recorded one year after those fortuitous e-mails, makes for a mighty impressive introduction. Recorded in two days, mostly using entire takes with few overdubs, the disc feels like an informal front-porch session between seasoned musicians who have shared endless miles on the road. How else to explain the confident looseness of stomping barn burner "Bound to Go Home," the hoedown ebullience of "Threads," the intuitive heartstring-tugging musicianship of "Rope Don’t Break"?

Add to this the fact that the group has four lead vocalists — and the remaining members all sing backup — and it isn’t much of a leap to imagine Or, the Whale as a modern-day incarnation of another gang of rural mythmakers, the Band. Before I can indulge in Robbie Robertson–<\d>Levon Helm comparisons, though, Garfield chuckles and sets me straight: "We’re nowhere close to that yet! And we’re definitely not session musicians." She adds, "We’re certainly huge fans of the Band, though," as bassist-vocalist Justin Fantl jumps in: "We’ll gladly take the suggestion, thanks."

No problem, and I’ll stick by it. Here’s why: over the course of 13 songs, Light Poles and Pines swings effortlessly between knee-clapping bluegrass, campfire country-gospel sing-alongs, straight-up classic Nashville tearjerkers, and probably a few other forms I’m forgetting. Yet taken together, they are a clear and cohesive expression of the back-to-our-roots ethos at work here, much like that of Robertson et al. Vocalist–<\d>guitarist–<\d>banjo player Alex Robins jokingly describes Or, the Whale’s sound as "a big, delicious stew," and he’s right. Hearty, rustic, nostalgia inducing — sounds like a stew to me.

How did they muster such fine home cooking? "With this album we wanted to create the feel of a live show, happy flubs and all," vocalist-guitarist Matt Sartain suggests. "It’s those little imperfections, which give it a real, honest feel, I think." Robins is quick to agree: "No one had veto power. If everybody else liked that I missed a note in a particular part of the song, it didn’t matter that I wanted to do it over. We’d keep the flub anyway, and eventually I’d see that they were right."

It’s this level of openness and mutual respect that may prove to be Or, the Whale’s greatest asset. By the time this goes to print, the close-knit, fiercely DIY band will be wrapping up a 25-city coast-to-coast tour that it orchestrated itself — proof positive of the commitment the members share with one another and their cause. Garfield, Fantl, Robins, and Sartain — along with fellow members accordionist-organist-vocalist Julie Ann Thomasson and drummer-vocalist Jesse Hunt — will end their journey here in San Francisco, at the Great American Music Hall, deserving of a hero’s welcome. "This tour — booking everything, promoting it all ourselves — it means everything to us," Garfield explains. "We’re really proud of what we’ve done. This truly shows how much we mean to each other, and it’s just going to bring us even closer together."<\!s>*


With Birds and Batteries and Social Studies

Aug. 25, 9 p.m., $12

Great American Music Hall

859 O’Farrell, SF

(415) 885-0750

Local Live


LOCAL LIVE "I think we might have chosen the wrong drinks for tonight," my friend Damian remarked at the start of an inspiring set by local Appalachian-Gypsy-klezmer folk fusionists Karpov. As they transported us to the unmapped intersection where Kentucky and Romania meet, I could see my buddy’s point. There they were — mountain men spinning tar-black tales of loneliness and love run afoul over clarinet twists and robust churns of the accordion. And here we were — sipping away on cocktails! We had it all wrong: this was music for straight, pure, unadulterated liquor. Preferably whiskey or vodka, right out of the bottle, diluted by nothing other than maybe a few tears.

Performing songs from last year’s stirring self-released Soliloquy and previewing material intended for its follow-up, the quintet did a convincing job whisking us away from the Tenderloin and dropping us into the distant past in some remote backwoods. Boasting a wise-beyond-its-years voice similar to Will Oldham’s or David Eugene Edwards’s, Andre Karpov recalled the wandering troubadours of a preindustrial age, though here he was backed by a group akin to an Eastern European wedding band prone to brooding from time to time.

Karpov gazed out ruefully "into the distance, where not even my persistence could bring her back to me" on highlight "Further from Me," and the lament was cloaked in shifting shadows, thanks to painterly touches by Joe Lewis (stand-up bass), Jarod Hermann (drums), Sam Tsitrin (accordion), and Aaron Novik (clarinet). The ghosts of regret made other appearances, on "I Won" and "Under the Sun" — articulated to spine-tingling effect with snaking clarinet runs and sighing accordion over understated but commanding rhythms. Still, if this was any kind of wedding band, there had to be dancing, and Karpov set the audience’s feet a-stomping on rowdy numbers "Sorry World," "Soliloquy," and crowd favorite "To the Grave," which beckoned my two feet forward with its calls of "the fog has lifted, lifted away, so come on out children, come out and play." No problem there, Karpov. Next time, though, I’ll bring the whiskey. (Todd Lavoie)

L.A.’s dark side


Just as many Angelenos surely paint San Francisco as a fog-ridden vortex crawling with hippies, a lot of folks here in the Bay Area remain convinced that Los Angeles means little more than sunshine, surfers, and superficiality. So who’s right? Neither, to be fair. Take LA: insist that it’s all shiny and sparkly, and you’re skipping over the seedy and sordid bits of the city’s history (also known as "the good stuff"). What about James Ellroy, Raymond Chandler, film noir? And what of the darkness and disillusionment of the Doors and Love? There’s a whole other side to LA where the sun never shines, bless its murky little heart …

Midnight Movies emerge from the creeping shadows of the City of Angels like a pack of Philip Marlowe acolytes, but here’s the kicker: picture them setting up camp on the Sunset Strip, roosting among the rebels and the riots of its ’60s to ’70s heyday. Their sophomore release, Lion the Girl (New Line), is a quintessentially LA disc in the same sense that one of the band’s main reference points, the Velvet Underground, will be forever identified with New York: both celebrate their hometowns’ geography of grit with a language that’s equal parts unsettling and alluring.

Many of the inevitable VU comparisons stem from vocalist Gena Olivier’s brooding alto, which bears a striking resemblance to that of the Velvets’ Teutonic ice maiden, Nico. Broadcast’s Trish Keenan also comes to mind, but Olivier brings considerably larger doses of warmth and a broader vocal range to Midnight Movies’ electropsychedelic garage racket, along with the slightest hint of a Gallic lilt that reimagines Stereolab’s Laetitia Sadier as a postcomedown California Girl. And if we’re going to throw one more touchstone into the mix, Midnight Movies share a spirit with Liverpool’s Clinic — thanks to the organ squalls, primal rhythms, and bristling guitars of Ryan Wood, Sandra Vu, and Larry Schemel.

Truth be told, only two albums into their career, Midnight Movies sound like little else. Whether wafting ghostly sunrise lullabies on classic 4AD–worthy "Dawn," love-nesting away in a morning-after haze to murmurs of "You’re all I want to know" on the glockenspiel-twinkled ballad "Ribbons," or launching into fuzz overload with convincing foreboding on "24 Hour Dream," Olivier and her fellow proponents of psychedelic garage noir arrive with a singularly bewitching vision of their LA. "We warp and swell and bend," she sings on "Souvenirs"; in listening to the spectral storytelling on Lion the Girl, I see what she means.


With Nico Vega and the Gray Kid

Sat/21, 9 p.m., $10


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880

I just wanna testify


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In high school I was a band geek. OK, not quite: I was never cool enough to make it into the inner circle of the Blackbirds Marching Band, and so — odd duck that I was — I’d be left flapping around on the outer margins of the football stadium bleachers while all the hilarity and revelry that a pack of gangly teenagers in polyester and feathery headgear can muster would carry on without notice of me and my forlorn little trumpet. I ain’t saying you need to shed a tear or anything, but I did drop band hot potato–style mid–sophomore year and switched to a cappella choir, became a theater fag, and found my badge to wear in the relentlessly status-conscious gauntlet that is the American high school. I never picked up that trumpet again.

Which I suppose means I might still be working through those high school slights every time I throw myself full force into the ecstatic horn frenzy of the Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club, but what the hell. Add these East Bay bacchanalians to the serious brass lovefest being led by the likes of DeVotchKa, Beirut, and a Hawk and a Hacksaw, and I think I’ve hit just the therapy I need. Look around: suddenly trumpets, trombones, and tubas are the new guitar. Welcome back to band camp, I tell myself, only this time it’s cool.

Let the healing begin!

And what better way to introduce our six romping, stomping Gomorrans than with a call for rejuvenation? The band name itself is a gospel to them, a platform from which to preach their party-as-catharsis convictions while shaking out some of the most deliriously crooked New Orleans ragtime you’ve ever heard. It’s more than just a name — it’s a way of life.

"The funny thing is, the name existed for probably six months before we were technically even a band," chief songwriter and banjo-playing vocalist Beebe says, chuckling, at a Mission coffeehouse. (At the risk of provoking flashbacks of high school football coaches, members prefer to be called by their last names.) "My brother Adam created the concept, artwork, Web site, everything … even had us all listed in the lineup before we’d even played a note!"

"Yeah, we each ended up finding out when we’d bump into a friend who’d say, ‘Oh, I heard you’re in a new band,’" tuba player Kirley says. "Eventually, we all discovered we were in a band together, so we figured, let’s do it!"

In addition to Beebe and Kirley, four others learned of their band membership: Davis (trumpet, vocals), Lehnartz (clarinet, vocals), Knippelmeir (trombone, vocals), and Westbrook (trash drums). But before we leap to any Maurice Starr–mastermind comparisons, a few facts: all six were already good friends who lived together, as they still do, in a house in Oakland. All were musicians who shared a passion for old-time sounds, particularly those blaring out of New Orleans. All of them have called the Crescent City home at some point. Putting together a band was a natural next step … unless, of course, you’re of a more spiritual bent and wish to call it destiny.

A kind of spirituality does figure prominently in the Gomorran ethic, albeit one that preaches the virtue of whiskey and encourages audiences to bear witness as well. Once a tent-revival level of rapture has been reached, Beebe invites members of the congregation onstage for faith healings, which feed the cycle of sin and salvation. "If I take in some sin, it’s gonna get disbursed," he jokes, bandmates nodding to show they’re willing to share the burden.

Judging from their recent self-released eponymous debut, bearing such a heavy load is not a problem. Recorded in an abandoned hotel and featuring a drum kit culled from junkyard roamings — "I’d much rather put it together myself than have some fancy kit," Westbrook says — the album wobbles with rickety charms while exuding the moxie of a midnight bender in the making. From the clattering pot-and-pan rhythms of "The Westbrook Two-Step," inspired by the train tracks outside the drummer’s workplace, to the humidity dripping from each frantic note of the klezmer-Dixieland fusion workout "Klanzmeirtong" to the boozy testimonial "Whiskey Paycheck," the Gomorrans celebrate wild abandon with, well, wild abandon. They might be playing ragtime, but they’re by no means a ragtime band: "We’re definitely rock ‘n’ rollers playing jazz, not the other way round," Lehnartz explains.

And with this comes the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, I assume? Beebe gives some illuminating confirmation when I ask what inspires their songwriting: "Sleep deprivation, definitely."

Hmm, all that sin disbursing will do that, won’t it? *


With the Gomorran Social Aid and Pleasure Club, Top Ramen, James Call and the Missing Teens, and Brian Kenny Fresno

Fri/8, 8 p.m., $8 or free with erupting papier-mâché volcano, robot, or perpetual motion machine

12 Galaxies

2565 Mission, SF

(510) 595-7188

MCMAF: The Dilettantes


Meeting up for an interview anywhere in the Haight in the middle of a Sunday afternoon is a bit of a dodgy prospect. With every easily distracted tourist and bumbling acid casualty in the city making random zigzags through the neighborhood, finding a clear path on the sidewalk is enough of a challenge, never mind finding a quiet place to talk. But there I am, in a booth at Magnolia’s, with the three songwriters of the Dilettantes, chatting away over beers without so much as a glance in the direction of all the scattershot energy reigning outside. Lesson? Miracles do happen, even in the Haight.

I’m mentioning the neighborhood because the Dilettantes identify so closely with it. Not only do most of the band members work and spend time here, but they also draw deeply from the Haight’s ’60s musical legacy. Sure, their music is filtered through four decades’ worth of post-psychedelic comedown, but the songs of Joel Gion, Jefferson Parker, and Brock Galland – accompanied by drummer KC Kozak and bassist Nick Marcantonio – follow the arcs and whirls of artists from that era, particularly their constant reference point: love.

Still, this is 2007, and San Francisco has changed. When I ask how the Haight inspires the group’s songwriting, Galland immediately says, "Well, the fumes that come off the sidewalk, definitely." Listening to the advance copy of their forthcoming album, 101 Tambourines (Stranger Touch), I see what he means – those flower power daisies have been glazed with curious oozing substances, as evidenced in their gritty garage pop. There’s a welcome sheen of grease to Galland’s clamorous "Kiss and Run," while Parker’s "Don’t You Ever Fall" parades with a slightly woozy majesty worthy of these streets. Gion’s "The Whole World" might jangle in Byrds-y formations, but it’s his unruffled Go Betweens-meet-Lou Reed delivery that attests that the times indeed have changed since the Summer of Love.

Perhaps these descriptions remind you of another band with whom Gion was associated: the tumultuous Brian Jonestown Massacre, led by the notoriously headstrong Anton Newcombe. Certainly both groups share sonic similarities, but Gion enthusiastically points out a major difference: "Jonestown was the singular vision of just one guy, while the Dilettantes are a completely collaborative, cooperative effort. Really, it’s a mutual appreciation society we have here. It’s great!"

Of course, that’s already obvious to me – I can see it in the brotherly ease with which they finish each other’s sentences. Parker sums it up: "One of the best things about being in the Dilettantes is that we’ve all helped each other grow as songwriters. We keep joking about re-creating one of those famous Brian Jonestown Massacre fights at the end of our shows, but really we just like and respect each other too much to ever do that." (Todd Lavoie)


With the Dilettantes and Persephone’s Bees

May 18, 9 p.m., $15

Cafe du Nord

2170 Market, SF

(415) 861-5016

MCMAF: Finding refuge in the Harbours


"Basically I’m just trying to get everything out so I can sleep at night," vocalist Miguel Zelaya said in explanation of the steady stream of bubbling and bursting indie pop springing forth from his rather busy cerebellum. As the songwriter and creative mastermind of local darlings the Harbours, Zelaya is diligence personified. Having released a deadly infectious debut, Second Story Maker (Stab City), a mere six months ago, he and his bandmates are already back in the studio, recording material for the follow-up intended for release later this year.

"I already have a whole new set of songs I’m excited about. I’m always writing, really," he said, beaming from our sidewalk table at a Mission cafe, and I didn’t doubt him for a second. Spotting him among the evening’s bustle was easy: Zelaya was the one scrawling away intently in his journal. Another song closer to a good night’s sleep, I reckoned.

Zelaya has been writing and performing in the Bay Area for ages, but the Harbours are a relatively new addition to a thrillingly revitalized local music scene: their genesis was only two years ago, when the organizers of the 2005 Mission Creek Music and Arts Festival requested that he play at the event. A band was assembled, and within a year they’d finished recording their debut. Numerous lineup changes have since occurred, as members moved away or found other commitments – including Elephone and the Mother Hips – but Zelaya has remained the constant, fervently crafting fetching melodies with one ear pointed to the Band and Neil Young records of his childhood and the other pricked in the direction of the indie rock artists he holds in equally high regard. Second Story Maker is a fitting testament to these twin passions. The pulse-spurring immediacy of "Girl" and "Sick of the Electric" – "my big production number," Zelaya joked about the latter, describing the irrepressible vibrations of the album’s highlight – certainly reflect the finest moments of ’60s and ’70s radio, but in no way could they ever be confined to mere homage territory. These are songs on par with the finest work by Sloan, the Pernice Brothers, and Teenage Fanclub, fellow kindred spirits in reappropriating the sounds of their parents’ record collections in thoughtful, energizing new fashions. And more are on the way. "I have so many ideas right now, it’s crazy," Zelaya said. "I have plenty of stories to tell." (Todd Lavoie)


With Rykarda Parasol, Michael Zapruder and Rain of Frogs, and Golden Messenger String Band

May 10, 8 p.m., call for price

Rickshaw Stop

155 Fell, SF

(415) 861-2011

Local Live


Liz Pappademas

March 28, Hotel Utah Saloon

LOCAL LIVE "Thanks, you guys, for coming to my birthday party!" the beaming Bay Area singer-songwriter Liz Pappademas says as she sits down at the piano and sets out to kick off her West Coast tour with a bit of hometown fanfare in the tightly packed Hotel Utah performance space. "Tonight we are celebrating the birth of my CD. Afterwards we’ll all have cake — I even made it myself!"

There’s a pause. She looks out into the crowded room, filled with friends and family as well as many curious listeners. "Hmm, I hope there’s enough to go around!" she says, chuckling.

There’s good reason for Pappademas to sound so thrilled. Her new self-released CD, Eleven Songs, is an utterly beguiling collection of introspective piano-driven pop blessed with a warm-bath production and thoughtfully arranged bare-bones instrumentation. Bearing the narrative agility of a class-act storyteller as well as the unhurried precision of a poet, Pappademas writes lyrics that carry impressive weight standing alone on the page. Delivered in her smoldering alto, evoking a cross between Jolie Holland and Fiona Apple, they burn with an almost disarming poignancy. Which is why I’m here. Sure, I like cake and all, but I came for her songs.

She begins with an absorbing, gradually unfolding depiction of madness on "The Born Again April Fool" ("The walls bled at the hospitals / He buried the furniture out in the garden"). Over gently urgent piano thrusts and understated thumping from drummer Rob Sanchez, the story evolves into an unsettling but sympathetic portrait of Scott Panetti, a schizophrenic currently on death row in Texas despite a massive public outcry over the inhumanity of executing a man with severe mental illness. The song lingers in the room well after the piano sighs its final note.

Also joining Pappademas onstage is violinist-accordionist Chris Black, whose swaying accompaniment brings added tenderness to the music. His playfulness on the Aimee Mann–esque "I Had to Tell You" helps the song bob along with doses of accordion whimsy, while the artist’s lament "Desaturate It" benefits from a similar instant romanticism thanks to the instrument. A tale about a film facing cuts in order to keep its Motion Picture Association of America rating, the song is more universally about the dilemma of artists having to water down their work in order to please others: "And I was gonna be Rauschenberg / I was gonna be Pollock / But the MPAA had to save the eyes of the public." Pappademas takes her craft seriously, as these words suggest.

The evening’s highlight arrives in the form of "Keep Going West," a subtly devastating chronicle of leaving town for a fresh start after the tumultuous end of a relationship. Alone on piano, her voice delicately trembling on the edges of certain notes, Pappademas reveals, "The tires are curled on the side of the road / Sleeping off the breakup from the wheel and the road / I am curled on one side of the bed / In a Motel 6, with my independence." It’s powerful stuff, to be sure, but worth every lip-biting second. (Todd Lavoie)

LIZ PAPPADEMAS With Klum and El Olio Wolof. April 22, 9 p.m., $8. Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF. (415) 647-2888

Eleven Songs is available at, Amoeba Music, and Aquarius Records.

Superlist No. 824: DIY dog washes



San Francisco dogs have it made, don’t they? Their owners coddle them with gourmet food from boutique pet stores, groomers who treat them like royalty, and the biggest spoiler of them all, our many acres of parks and beaches. But this sweet deal is not without its price. In the case of the last indulgence, this means the dirt pits, mud puddles, and pee-soaked grass your little stinker can’t resist rolling in. Bathing your dog at home can be quite a production, especially if you live in tight quarters. Fortunately, the city has a nice selection of places where you can scrub your mucky pup for a small fee, leaving you and your buddy with the soothing knowledge that you won’t have a bathtub to clean or a floor to mop afterward.

Nine years after setting up shop in Bernal Heights, owner Tony Chrisanthis has built Bernal Beast (509 Cortland, SF. 415-643-7800, into a bit of a local legend. Packed wall to wall with supplies, food, and some hard-to-find supplements, this is a destination for pet lovers from around the Bay. At the back of the shop is the rather roomy washing station, where for $12 you get all-natural shampoo and conditioner, towels, driers, grooming tools, and an apron.

Conveniently located only a few blocks from the beach, Bill’s Doggie Bath-O-Mat (3928 Irving, SF. 415-661-6950) is a hit with folks taking their pup for a swim. The clean and fuss-free shop is equipped with three wash stations, available for self-service from Tuesday to Saturday. For $14 (and $10 for each additional dog) you will get all the necessary accoutrement needed to wash away the sea.

For dog lovers down in Glen Park, Critter Fritters (670 Chenery, SF. 415-239-7387) offers two dog-washing stations and two grooming tables in the spacious back room. The cost of the service is $13 — negotiable if washing multiple dogs — and includes all-natural shampoos, towels, chamois cloth, driers, grooming tools, and an apron. Tubs are equipped with "power wash" nozzles, which give quite effective, dirt-loosening blasts of water, guaranteeing a deep clean for your grubby pet.

For a bit of small-town charm here in the big city, try the Pawtrero Hill BathHouse and Feed Co. (199 Mississippi, SF. 415-882-7297, Designed with an old-fashioned seed store theme, using wooden produce crates to display its many tempting organic and natural wares, the shop offers a homey wash-up for your dog. The bathhouse at the back of the store is equipped with two raised tubs buttressed by ramps. For $15 you get everything you’ll need to make your mutt squeaky-clean: all-natural shampoo, towels, driers, brushes and clippers, and an apron to keep yourself dry. Save money with the buy-10-baths-get-one-free discount program.

Mercifully, the newest dog-washing addition to the city, Puppy Haven (772 Stanyan, SF. 415-751-7387), set up shop on Haight Street, where even humans need a postpromenade bath. Founded by longtime neighborhood resident Gordon Ruark — a font of knowledge with 25 years of pet store experience — the shop offers a spacious wash room equipped with two cleaning stations and will soon have a grooming station. For $10, Ruark gives you everything you need: shampoo, towels, forced-air driers, and a peaceful respite from the sometimes frantic energy lurking outside.

Cheerfully adorned with warm, playful colors and scores of houseplants, the Soggy Doggy Bath and Barktique (4033 Judah, SF. 415-664-3644), another oceanside option, is a relaxing place to take your pooch after a romp on the beach. There is one wash station with an elevated tub and a separate grooming table. For $13 you can hose away the sand with all-natural shampoo and conditioner, after-bath spritz, towels, and grooming tools. Get your ninth self-serve wash free with a "Repeat Rover Miles" card. Hours for self-serve are 3 to 7 p.m., Wednesday to Friday, and 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekends, but call ahead anyway.

Pawtrero’s sister store, the South Paw BathHouse and Feed Co. (199 Brannan, SF. 415-882-7297,, offers similar services and the same holistic philosophy but with a South Beach flavor, as indicated by the pastel furniture and "Beach Access" sign above the entrance to the washing quarters. Fifteen dollars gets you the same provisions as those supplied by Pawtrero, and the same discount program applies.

With a steady business of full-service dog grooming, Wags: Pet Wash and Boutique (1840 Polk, SF. 415-409-2472, limits self-service to Sundays, but try calling ahead Tuesday to Thursday. Decked out in brightly colored shower curtains, the washing area is set up with two tubs and one combination tub-grooming station. For $20, Wags supplies you with all-natural shampoo, towels, and driers. *

Feeling the spirit


› a&

Yeah, I was a club kid once. It’s a bit of a blur, but somehow somewhere in the ’90s I went from punk and indie to baggy pants and glow sticks in the flick of a switch. I put away my Fall records and picked up endless white-label 12-inches and compilation CDs with titles like Ultimate Techno Explosion. Or something to that effect. Like I said, it’s a blur. I remember the dancing, though — suddenly my punk ass liked to shake! It’s a shame most of my indie friends chose to stay behind, but this was the ’90s. In those days, never the twain shall meet….

It’s now a full decade later, and — finally! — the indie kids are cutting loose without fear of bruising their street cred, thanks to artists such as the Rapture, !!!, and LCD Soundsystem. Turns out rock and dance music don’t have to be mutually exclusive terms. Need further proof? Take Austin’s finest ambassadors of electropunk mania, Ghostland Observatory. The duo — composed of vocalist-guitarist Aaron Behrens and keyboardist-drummer Thomas Ross Turner — whip up a mighty frenzy of swaggering rawk bravado and delirious vocal acrobatics delivered with a come-hither fluster over sweltering beds of booty-bouncing beats. Music for getting hot and bothered, certainly — or maybe songs for unleashing demons. Take your pick.

"We’re two entirely different people," Turner says, chuckling, over the phone from the Texas capital, in explanation of how their quite dissimilar influences have coalesced into the flipped disco of 2005’s and last year’s Paparazzi Lightning (both Trashy Moped Recordings). "Aaron’s more into the rock showman thing — people like Prince and Freddie Mercury. For me, Daft Punk pretty much are my heroes — they got me into electronic music and club culture. That’s where we’re each coming from."

They might be coming from different places, but their destination is clearly shared, as evidenced on Paparazzi Lightning. Picture an evening of unbridled debauchery — one in which a club night teeters on the brink of collapse — condensed into 35 frantic minutes, and you’re on your way to understanding the Ghostland Observatory vision. Behrens can clearly work a room into whatever mood he sees fit, whether through stomping and yowling with wanton glee on the thundering "All You Rock and Rollers" and "Ghetto Magnet," or the seething taunts of "Move with Your Lover." Meanwhile, Turner effortlessly guides us on the emotional travelogue of a never-ending night, flashing away with the urgency of red-carpet paparazzi as he peppers the album with synth shrieks, squelches, and Daft Punk–worthy rhythms.

Asked about their live shows, Turner gives fair warning: "It’s really nonstop. We just give and give until everybody’s wiped out and goes home." All right, indie rockers and club kids — you heard the man. Better start stocking up on energy drinks. *


With Honeycut, the Gray Kid, and Landshark

March 3, 9 p.m., $15


444 Jessie, SF

(415) 625-8880


SPECIAL: Scary monsters and supercreeps


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Halloween is the season for self-expression in all of its many glorious forms: costumes, music, dance, art, theater, and maybe even a few forms that can’t be classified. Whether you’re a trash-culture junkie or a splatter-movie freak, a pagan ritual follower or a brazen exhibitionist, you’ll definitely find something chilling, somewhere in the Bay Area. Here’s a sampling; for more Halloween and Día de los Muertos events, go to
The Enchanted Forest Cellar, 685 Sutter, SF; 441-5678. 10pm-2am. $5-10. Silly Cil presents the seventh annual Enchanted Forest costume ball; woodland nymphs and mythical creatures are welcome. DJs McD and Scotty Fox rock the forest with hip-hop and ’80s sounds.
Hyatt Regency/98.1 KISS FM Halloween Bash Hyatt Regency, 5 Embarcadero Center, SF; 788-1234. 8 pm. $28.50 advance ($30 door). KISS Radio’s Morris Knight MCs an evening of costumed revelry. DJ Michael Erickson brings the dance mix.
Rock ’n’ Roll Horror Show Rickshaw Stop, 155 Fell, SF; 820-3907. 7:30pm. $5-10 donation. Rock out and scream loud for a good cause: proceeds go to the ninth SF Independent Film Festival. A screening of 1987 B-movie Street Trash is followed by the sounds of Sik Luv, Wire Graffiti, Charm School Drop Outs, and Madelia.
SambaDa: Afro-Brazilian, Afro-Exotic Halloween Extravaganza Elbo Room, 647 Valencia, SF; 552-7788. 10pm. $8-10. Don’t feel like ghosts and goblins and blood and guts? How about samba and bossa nova grooves to keep your feet busy?
Halloween Madness Speisekammer, 2424 Lincoln, Alameda; (510) 522-1300. 9pm. Free. Skip Henderson and the Starboard Watch offer hard-drinking sailor songs. Come in costume and get a free rum drink, matey.
Exotic Erotic Ball Cow Palace, 2600 Geneva, SF; 567-2255, 8pm-2am. $69. P-Funker George Clinton, ’80s icon Thomas Dolby, and rapper Too Short are among the musical guests at this no-holds-barred celebration. Put on your sexiest, slinkiest number and admire the antics of trapeze artists, fetish performers, and burlesque show-stoppers, as well as those of the attendees.
Fresh/Halloween T-Dance Ruby Skye, 420 Mason, SF; 6pm-midnight. $20. Sassy, slinky, and sexy costumes abound at this Halloween dance party. DJ Manny Lehman spins.
Dead Rock Star Karaoke Cellar, 685 Sutter, SF; 441-5678. 8pm-2am. Free. Elvises, Jim Morrisons, and Kurt Cobains deliver heartrending renditions of favorite songs.
A Nightmare on Fulton Street Poleng Lounge, 1751 Fulton, SF; 8pm-2am. $5-10. The third annual Holla-ween showcases a rich harvest of fat beats, thanks to the DJ skills of Boozou Bajou.
Scary Halloween Bash 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission, SF; 970-9777. 8pm. $10. All dressed up but not feeling like heading to the Castro? Want to hear a marching band? No, wait, come back. It’s the Extra Action Marching Band, which specialize in baccanalian freak-shows. Sour Mash Jug Band and livehuman leave you grinning beneath that rubber mask.
Art Hell ARTwork SF Gallery, 49 Geary, suite 215, SF; 673-3080. noon-5:30pm. Free. Bay Area artists render darkness, death, and all things devilishly creepy. Sale proceeds go to the San Francisco Artist Resource Center. Also open Thu/26-Sat/28, same hours.
Babble on Halloween Dog Eared Books, 900 Valencia, SF; 282-1901. 8pm. Free. There’s nothing like shivers up the spine to go with cupcakes and wine! Bucky Sinister, Tony Vaguely, and Shawna Virago creep you out with spooky stories and bizarre performances.
A Second Final Rest: The History of San Francisco’s Lost Cemeteries California Historical Society Library, 678 Mission, SF; 357-1848. 6pm. Free. Trina Lopez’s documentary tells the story of how San Francisco relocated burial grounds in the wake of the 1906 earthquake and fire — ironically sending some of the city’s settlers on a last journey after death.
Shocktoberfest!! 2006: Laboratory of Hallucinations Hypnodrome, 575 10th St, SF; 377-4202. 8pm. $20. The Thrillpeddlers are back with a gross-out lover’s delight: public execution, surgery, and taxidermy in three tales of unspeakable horror. Also Fri/27-Sat/28, 8pm.
BATS Improv/True Fiction Magazine’s Annual Halloween Show Bayfront Theater, 8350 Fort Mason Center, SF; 8pm. $18 ($15 advance). Madcap improvisational comics of True Fiction Magazine transform audience suggestions into hilariously bizarre pulp fiction–inspired skits. In the spirit of the season, TFM is sure to throw ghoulish horror into the mix. Also Sat/28.
Hallowe’en at Tina’s Café Magnet, 4122 18th St, SF; 581-1600. 9pm. Free. What’s Halloween in San Francisco without any drag? Before you consider the sad possibilities, let Tina’s Café banish those thoughts with a deliciously campy drag queen cabaret show. Mrs. Trauma Flintstone MCs.
Rural Rampage Double Feature Alliance Française de San Francisco, 1345 Bush, SF; 7:30pm. Free. Those midnight movie aficionados at Incredibly Strange Picture Show unreel a shriekingly tasty lineup from the “scary redneck” genre: Two Thousand Maniacs and the original Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
11th Annual Soapbox Pre-Race Party/Halloween Show El Rio, 3158 Mission, SF; 282-3325. 9pm. $7. What better way is there to get revved up for the Oct. 29 Soapbox Derby in Bernal Heights? With a full evening of good ’n’ greasy garage rock and rockabilly, thanks to the All Time Highs, Teenage Harlets, and the Phenomenauts, this party gets you in touch with your inner speed demon.
Pirate Cat Radio Halloween Bash Li Po Cocktail Lounge, 916 Grant, SF; 8pm. $5. The community radio station presents an evening of crazy rock mayhem with Desperation Squad, the band now famous for getting shot down on TV’s America’s Got Talent! Wealthy Whore Entertainment, the Skoalkans, and Pillows also perform.
Shadow Circus Vaudeville Theatre Kimo’s, 1351 Polk, SF; 9pm. $5. Shadow Circus Creature Theatre hosts a variety show of ukulele riffs, comedy, burlesque, and filthy-mouthed puppets.
Spiral Dance Kezar Pavilion, Golden Gate Park, 755 Stanyan, SF; 6pm. Free. Reclaiming, an international group observing pagan traditions, celebrates its 27th annual Spiral Dance with a magical ritual incorporating installations, drama, and a choral performance.
Flamenco Halloween La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 849-2568, ext. 20. 8:30pm. $15. Flametal brings the evil to flamenco with mastermind Benjamin Woods’s fusion of metal and the saddest music in the world.
Murder Ballads Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berk; (510) 841-0188. 9pm. $8. Murder, misfortune, and love gone really, really wrong — all sung by an impressive array of garage rockers, accordionists, and female folk-metal songstresses. There’s even a duo who specializes in suicide songs! Dress up so no one can recognize you weeping into your beer.
The Elm Street Murders Club Six, 60 Sixth St., SF; 7:30pm. $20. Loosely based on A Nightmare on Elm Street, this multimedia interactive stage show promises heaping helpings of splatter.
The Creature Magic Theatre, building D, Fort Mason Center, SF; 731-4922. 8pm. Free. Reservations required. Black Box Theatre Company gives a single performance before a studio audience of their new podcast adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankensten. This version tells the story from the monster’s point of view.
Independent Exposure 2006: Halloweird Edition 111 Minna Gallery, 111 Minna, SF; 447-9750. 8pm. $6. Microcinema International assembles a festively creepy collection of short films from around the world, focusing on the spooky, unsettling, and just plain gross.
Bat Boy: The Musical School of the Arts Theater, 555 Portola, SF; 651-4521. 7pm. $20. It’s back: a Halloween preview performance of the trials and tribulations of everyone’s favorite National Enquirer icon, Bat Boy. Camp doesn’t get any better than this.
Cramps Fillmore, 1805 Geary, SF; 346-6000. 8pm. $30. Don’t get caught in the goo-goo muck. The Demolition Doll Rods and the Groovie Ghoulies also whip you up into a rock ’n’ roll frenzy.
One Plus One (Sympathy for the Devil) San Francisco Art Institute Lecture Hall, 800 Chestnut, SF; 771-7020. 7:30pm. Free. Before the Rolling Stones became some of the richest people on earth, Mick, Keith, and the boys dabbled on the dark side. At a rare screening of Jean-Luc Godard’s One Plus One, you get a chance to see them at the height of their flirtation with evil, performing the still-mesmerizing “Sympathy for the Devil.”
Haunted Haight Walking Tour Begins at Coffee to the People, 1206 Masonic, SF; 863-1416. 7pm. $20. How else can you explain all of those supernatural presences drifting between the smoke shops and shoe stores? Here’s a chance to find out about the more lurid chapters in the neighborhood’s history. Also Sat/28-Tues/31, 7pm.
Boo at the Zoo San Francisco Zoo, 1 Zoo, SF; 753-7071. 10am-3pm. Free with zoo admission. Costumed kiddies can check out the Haunted Nature Trail and the Creepy Crawly Critters exhibit. Live music, interactive booths, games, and prizes keep little ghosts and goblins delighted.
Children’s Halloween Hootenanny Stanyan and Waller, SF; 11:30am-5pm. Free. The Haight Ashbury Street Fair folks provide children ages 2 to 10 with games, activities, theater, and food. Costumes are encouraged.
Family Halloween Day Randall Museum, 199 Museum, SF; 554-9600. 10am-2pm. Free. Trick-or-treaters play games, carve pumpkins, create creepy crafts, and take part in the costume parade. Jackie Jones amazes with a musical saw and dancing cat; Brian Scott, a magic show.
Hallo-green Party Crissy Field Center, 603 Mason, SF; 561-7752. 10am-2pm. $8. It’s never too early to teach your children about environmentalism. The party includes a costume contest and a chance to bob for organic apples.
House of Toxic Horrors Crissy Field Center, 603 Mason, SF; 561-7752. 10am-2pm and 4-8pm, $8. Ages 9 and older. No, it’s not a Superfund site, but it should be equally educational: the center’s first haunted house addresses the scary world of environmental horror. Sludge and smog lurk behind every corner.
Boo at the Zoo Oakland Zoo, 9777 Golf Links, Oakl; (510) 632-9525. 10am-3pm. Free with zoo admission. Dress up the kids and bring them over to the zoo for scavenger hunts, crafts, rides on the Boo Choo Choo Train, puppet shows, and musical performances. Also Sun/29, 10am-3pm.
Halloween’s True Meaning Shotwell Studios, 3252-A 19th St., SF; 289-2000. 1-3pm, $5-15 sliding scale. Kids are encouraged to come in costume for this afternoon of interactive theater led by Christina Lewis of the Clown School. Enjoy Halloween history, storytelling, role-playing, and face-painting.
Pet Pride Day Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF; 554-9427. 11am-3pm. Free. Dress up your pet in something ridiculous and head down to Golden Gate Park to laugh at all of the other displeased pups! The pet costume contest is always a blast, as is the dog-trick competition.
Haunted Harbor Festival and Parade Jack London Square, Oakl; 1-866-295-9853. 4-8pm. Free. Families can check out live entertainment, games, crafts, activities, and prizes. The extravagantly decked-out boats in the parade are not to be missed.
Rock Paper Scissors’ Annual Street Scare Block Party 23rd Ave. and Telegraph, Oakl; Noon-5pm. Free. Who doesn’t love block parties? The kid-friendly blowout has something for everyone: fortune-telling, craft-making, pumpkin-carving, and all sorts of wacky games and prizes. And barbecue — witches love a good barbecue.
Halloween Heroes Benefit Exploratorium, Palace of Fine Arts, 3601 Lyon, SF; (650) 321-4142, 6:30pm. $185 for a parent and child. A benefit for the Exploratorium Children’s Educational Outreach Program and the Junior Giants Baseball Program, this lavish costume party for kids promises to be equally fun for the parents. Many of the exhibits are turned into craft-making and trick-or-treat stations.
Halloween in the Castro Market and Castro, 7pm-midnight. $5 suggested donation. You and 250,000 of your new best friends — reveling in the streets and getting down to thumping beats. Don’t even think of driving to get there, and don’t forget: no drinking in the streets.
Vampire Tour of San Francisco Begins at California and Taylor, SF; (650) 279-1840, 8pm. $20. This isn’t Transylvania, but San Francisco has had its share of vampires. Just ask Mina Harker, your fearless leader, if you dare take this tour.
‘Laughing Bones/ Weeping Hearts’ Oakland Museum of California, 1000 Oak, Oakl; (510) 238-2200. Wed-Sat, 10am-5pm. $8. Guest curator Carol Marie Garcia has assembled a vibrant collection of installations produced by local artists, schools, and community groups, all celebrating the dead while acknowledging the sorrow of those left behind. Through Dec. 3.
Death and Rebirth Precita Eyes Mural Arts Center, 2981 24th St, SF; 334-4091. 7-10pm. Free. Precita Eyes Muralists will be celebrating the work of founder Luis Cervantes with a breathtaking mural exhibit and celebration.
Día De Los Muertos Procession and Outdoor Altar Exhibit 24th St and Bryant, SF; 7pm. Free. Thousands of families, artists, and activists form a procession to honor the dead and celebrate life, ending at the Festival of Altars in Garfield Park, at 26th Street and Harrison. Local artists have created large community altars at the park; the public is invited to bring candles, flowers, and offerings.
Fiesta De Los Huesos’ Gala Opening Reception Mission Cultural Center for the Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF; 643-5001. 6-11pm. $5. Curator Patricia Rodriguez has put together a family-oriented party, with musical performances, mask carving, sugar skull–making, videos, and other tempting creations among the exhibits, altars, and installations. The exhibition opens Oct. 27.
Día De Los Muertos Benefit Concert 2232 MLK, 2232 Martin Luther King Jr., Oakl; 7pm. $8-20 sliding scale. Hosted by the Chiapas Support Committee, this benefit concert features Fuga, los Nadies, la Plebe, and DJ Rico. Early arrivals get free pan dulce and hot chocolate.
Dia De Los Muertos Family Festival Randall Museum, 199 Museum, SF; 554-9681. 1-5pm. $100 and up for family of five. The family event benefits the museum’s Toddler Treehouse and other toddler programs. Arts and crafts, food, and entertainment make this a rewarding educational experience for kids. Attendees learn how to make masks and sugar skulls and to decorate an altar. Los Boleros provide festive entertainment.
Día De Los Muertos Fruitvale Festival International Blvd., between Fruitvale Ave and 41st Ave, Oakl; (510) 535-6940. 10am-5pm. Free. With the theme “love, family, memories,” the Unity Council in Oakland has put together a full day of family celebration. Five stages showcase music and dance performances by local and world-renowned artists. More than 150 exhibitors and nonprofits highlight wares and services. Art and altars are on view, and the Children’s Pavilion promises to be a rewarding educational experience for kids of all ages.
Mole to Die For Mission Cultural Center For Latino Arts, 2868 Mission, SF; 643-5001. 7-10pm. $5. Try it all at this mole feeding-frenzy and vote for your favorite.