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Live Review: Dickey Betts Tears Up The Sweetwater

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014

Southern rock legend Dickey Betts and Great Southern made a rare Bay Area performance Sunday night at a sold out Sweetwater show in Mill Valley. His performance with his band Great Southern included his son Duane, named after the late Allman Brothers guitarist, on lead guitar. Duane’s band Brethren of the Coast warmed up the night. During Dickey’s set the relatively small stage was filled to the brim including two drummers on risers. With a packed house and stage the band ripped through classics such as In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Ramblin Man, and Jessica, which Betts won a Grammy for in 1996. Dickey and the band played a phenomenal set heating up the room to a boiling point. Dickey’s signature style was on display throughout the night with the harmonizing octaves of the lead guitars bringing it back to where it all began.

Betts, despite being a founding member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee The Allman Brothers Band, hasn’t performed a concert with them since 2000 after a turbulent departure from the band. This year The Allman Brothers announced they would be breaking up following a run at the Beacon Theater in NYC

Photos and Text by Jamie Soja – Soja Photography

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Live Review: Sharon Jones + The Dap Kings

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings absolutely lit up the stage at the second-ever Sonoma Mountain Village concert on Thursday night. The concert series marked the end of a brief 2014 season, which also brought in the rock band Goo Goo Dolls in July. According to Petaluma’s Second Octave Talent agency, which books the bands for SOMO, some 1,100 people were in attendance and next year promises to bring 10 more outstanding festival-like shows to fill the 3,000-person venue.

Guatemalan singer, and 2014 Latin Grammy award winner, Gaby Moreno opened the evening with a blues-infused Southern folk set that showcased the powerfully sultry, and sweetly gruff, voice that has made her the darling of Latin American folk rock. Dressed in a Western dress and tiny heels, she rocked a vintage-style Gretsch guitar as if she were a country star on a Nashville stage. But tacking down Moreno’s style is like trying to stop a butterfly to ask about her favorite flower. To my ears, her sound falls somewhere in between the finger-picking melodies of Norah Jones and the whimsy of Patsy Cline, with the vocal dynamism of Etta James and a touch of Lilly Allen’s flare. Yet the songs she sings in Spanish are perfectly Latin; a bit of bossa nova, traces of Mexican banda, the alternative pop that defined many Latin females in the late 1990’s.

Gaby Moreno - author

Gaby Moreno – author

Gaby Moreno’s Guitar – author

Under Thursday’s setting sun, Moreno varied her set flawlessly. Tempos and moods switched between smoky jazz ballads like Blues del Mar, off her latest release “Postales” (2012, Metamorfosis), and groovy blues/rock tracks like “Greenhorned Man”, from her first album “Still the Unknown” (2008, indie release). It was a marvelous opening performance that surely garnered hundreds of new North American fans.

Between acts, the promoters gave ample time to get up and stretch, refill wine and beer glasses, and chat with neighbors sitting close enough to practically share blankets. A few vendor’s booths were set up to attract wanders, as well as a semi-stocked bar for general admission ticket holders. Food offerings were cafeteria-style, catered by the Sally Tomatoes restaurant inside. The interior venue is well-known in local comedy circles as being the go-to spot for great up-and-coming acts. While the wine was good and the service was friendly, the food got less than stellar reviews. VIP ticket holders on the other hand, were treated to a fully-stocked bar and outdoor seating area complete with tables and heating lamps. While the GA grassy area offers excellent views of the stage, it could be worthwhile to purchase VIP just so you don’t have to drag in chairs and blankets. The space is intimate, with two-story buildings bordering the lawn area, and giant redwood trees framing the stage. Yet, the adjacency adds to a close-nit community vibe. And once Sharon Jones got on stage, there wasn’t a warm body to be found in a sea of abandoned lawn chairs.

The Dap Kings band formed in the early aughts under the digs of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. Their premise was to revive the tradition of analog recording and pressing vinyl records, while bringing back the funk/soul sounds of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Sharon Jones, who grew up singing gospel in her native Augusta, Georgia, was working a day job at Rikers Island prison when label owners discovered her singing backup vocals for various bands around New York City. Soon the Dap Kings became her backing band and she went on to record five studio albums with them. With incredibly successful performances at festivals across the country, a new album to be released, and European tours in place, Jones’ career was on the rise.

Sharon Jones + The Dap Kings

Sharon Jones + The Dap Kings

But in the spring of 2013, Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent the summer undergoing chemotherapy. The treatments would sideline her from nearly all musical activity and essentially threaten her life. New Year’s Eve 2014 was her last chemo treatment and she’s been cancer free ever since. On the SOMO stage last night, she belted out the tune “Get Up And Get Out” off her 2013 release Give The People What They Want (Daptone), exclaiming to the crowd “I told my cancer to get up and get out! And I told my cancer, if you ain’t gonna get out, I am gonna shout you out!” Needless to say, Sharon Jones is way beyond having cancer and it is obvious her immense energy and sheer passion for life are what got her through it all.

Sharon Jones - author

Sharon Jones – author

The performance opened with an instrumental introduction from the Dap Kings eight-member, tailored-suit-clad band before Jones’ fabulous backup singers came on to sing three groove-inciting numbers. When Sharon Jones finally came on stage, the audience exploded in applause. She opened with the super up-beat “Stranger To My Happiness,” then brought up 10 ladies from the crowd to dance on stage for “Keep On Looking,” which must have made those girls entire summer. Of all the shows I’ve seen this year, I have not experienced a performer so in love with her audience, so passionate about making every fan feel special. Jones’ went on to sing a slow, sexy rendition of “Long Time,” an afro-beat inspired “How Do You Let A Good Man Down,” and the dark, jazzy soul tune “I Learned The Hard Way.”

The second half of Jones’ set included some beautiful harmonies on “There Was A Time,” a wild impersonation of Tina Turner for “Making Up And Breaking Up,” and a 10 minute showcase of 1960’s dancehall moves like the boogaloo, the pony, and the swim—the crowd thought that was a riot and all kinds of people over 60 where swinging their arms and winding their hips without a care in the world.

Sharon Jones only did one song for her encore: a brilliant take on the original Woody Guthrie ballad, “This Land Is Your Land.”  It was the defining moment of the show, a stellar interpretation of an American classic. Jones ignites the spirit of American music’s golden age—the decades that challenged the cultural status quo, brought music to the heart of the civil rights movement, and blended the colors of society in a tangled-up mishmash of incredible musicianship, neighborly conviviality, and the love for an American art form. If anyone is going to remind us that American music is steeped in a rich, passionate history, it is going to be Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings.

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Schroeder Hall Grand Opening Preview

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014

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The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University celebrates the opening of the brand new Schroeder Hall this weekend, August 23 and 24. The latest addition to the center that already boasts the acoustically perfect Weill Hall, this new, intimate recital space is ideal for choral performances and holds within it the stunning Brombaugh Opus 9 Organ. Named for the beloved piano playing character of “Peanuts” fame, Schroeder Hall opens to the public for a debut weekend that boasts 10 different free concert performances over the two days.

When Donald and Maureen Green first dreamt up the music center, they wanted a permanent home for the SSU Bach Choir. How fitting that the choir, now dubbed the Sonoma Bach Choir and still led by retired SSU music director Bob Worth, kicks off the celebratory Schroeder Hall opening with an 11am performance on Saturday, joined by organist David Parsons.

From there the Hall will show off its versatility, as the rounded stone walls and reverberating nature is tuned to performances from the SSU Faculty Jazz Ensemble at 2pm, local piano legend and Santa Rosa Symphony conductor laureate Jeffrey Kahane at 4pm, and Organist James David Christie of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at 5:30pm. Capping off the first day is contemporary Jazz pianist David Benoit at 8pm.

On Sunday, Schroeder Hall opens up once again to feature such diverse acts as Weill Hall’s own artists-in-residence, Trio Ariadne, at 1pm, SSU chamber music artists-in-residence, Trio Navarro, at 5pm, and faculty and alumni vocal recitals throughout. The curved look of the Hall makes it ideal for vocal chants and choral recitals, and Sunday’s performances will explore the space’s capacity for rich aural effects.

Though the weekend is completely free, the limited seating of Schroeder Hall means tickets are required. Each performance requires it’s own ticket, and many have already been claimed online. Still, there is hope, as the Green Music Center has said some tickets will be held at the door on a first come basis. Also, if you already have seats, get there early to claim them, as any unclaimed tickets will be given out 10 minutes before each performance. Details are online right here.

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2014 NorBay Music Awards: And the Winners Are…

Posted by on Aug 18, 2014
mcRadioactive.jpg

Norbay winner MC Radioactive headlined the show with a blistering set accompanied by DJ Zack Darling.

Last weekend, August 16, the Bohemian held the annual NorBay Music Awards, honoring bands and performers from around the area. Winners were voted by you in ten different categories and many of the races were very close. More photos and coverage is coming this week. For now, here are the Gold Record Award winners of the 2014 NorBays.

 

Blues and R&B:  Lester Chambers & the Mudstompers

Country and Americana:  Frankie Boots & the County Line

DJ:  Paul Timberman

Folk and Acoustic:  Flowerbox

Hip-Hop and Electronic:  MC Radioactive

Indie:  the Highway Poets

Jazz:  Dixie Giants

Punk and Metal:  Shotgun Harlot

Rock: Dylan Chambers

World and Reggae:  Soup Sandwich

 

Thanks to all the bands who came out and all of those who voted. Stay tuned for our review of the 24-Hour band contest and the highlights of the show.

 

Ex-Black Crower Rich Robinson Treats Bohemian Readers to Sound-Check Party

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014 2 Comments

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Black Crowes co-founder, Rich Robinson rolled into Napa’s lovely Uptown Theatre this weekend along with his handpicked band to perform songs off of his critically acclaimed album, “The Ceaseless Sight.” The night began for a handful of lucky Bohemian contest winners with a behind-the-scenes look at the band’s rehearsal process which included a taste of songs that were to be performed that evening. The group was then escorted into the theater’s courtyard, where they were treated to an intimate acoustic set provided by a rather under the weather Robinson, who apologetically stated that the set would be solely instrumental due to the fact that he needed to rest the vocal chords for the evening’s performance. The informal set was followed by a brief meet and greet with the performer and a chance for guests to have their memorabilia signed by Robinson._MG_5411

At around 9 p.m. the band emerged onto the unassuming stage, save the musical instruments and necessary accoutrements. For Robinson it is all about the music. This latest album is an amalgamation of life experience and a story of musical evolution. It is evident that Robinson is in his element, with the guitar (which he changed with almost every new song) on the stage playing his music. Like the earlier acoustic set Robinson performed, there was an intimacy to the show, as if the musician were letting us into his arena, his vulnerabilities portrayed through the music._MG_5578

Robinson says he is in a very positive place in his life and wants that optimism to be reflected in the music. At one point in the show, he invited those guests still glued to their seats to get up and move, which they did, motivating almost everyone in the crowd out of their seats and onto the floor. It didn’t take much considering the band’s high-energy performance.

Before he took the stage I had a chance to interview Robinson:

 “My first record was more of an experiment,” he said. “I had just stepped away from the Crowes for the first time in my adult life, but I still had all of these songs and I didn’t want them to go to waste.” Not wanting to go through the arduous process of putting a band together, Robinson decided to write the music and lyrics himself and take lead on vocals. “For PAPER it was more like, let’s just see how this goes, you never really know until you do it.”

Immediately after that first solo record came out, the Crowes re-united and the band went back on tour. During this time, Robinson felt more comfortable singing, so by the time he was ready to put out his second solo album, “Through a Crooked Sun,” he had become more confident in his abilities. “By the time that record (Through a Crooked Sun) had come out, I had been through a lot, I had just come out of a divorce, and I had a lot more to say. It was more of a reflection of where I had been in the last five years.”

This new album (“The Ceaseless Sight”) is more about “moving forward” according to Robinson. He had lost most of his equipment and guitars in Hurricane Sandy, which was more of a sign to him that it was time to move on more than anything, “I felt slightly relieved. It was very cathartic in a sense.” The lack of instruments of course did not deter him from making another record, “I went in to make this record with, literally four or five guitars, something I had not done since I was a teenager, and it felt great. I found myself feeling more positive about (this experience).”

Although the album began almost spontaneously there is a cohesive quality to it, which Robinson credits to his longstanding relationship with drummer Joe Magistro (who also performed on “Paper”) “I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I am going to do, it’s very intuitive. Being in a band is being very intuitive and knowing where things are going to go.”

The album was recorded in Woodstock, where he had recorded previously with the Black Crowes, so it felt only natural to record this new record in an environment that was familiar and comfortable to him, “I tap into something there. I like the energy of the place.”

It only seems appropriate that the milieu would reflect his commitment to creating work that is authentic and sincere. In a cultural climate that reveres fame  it can be difficult for an artist who actually want to create something substantial.

“It is easier for bands to get started now and just put their stuff on YouTube. There are a whole faction of kids out there who are making some really good music, but there are a lot of people making really, really shitty music.” Robinson declined to give specific examples. He adds that a lot of the bands out there seem to be devoid of anything that is in some way, culturally or artistically relevant, “Where are the Bob Dylans? For years, artists have strived to create something greater than themselves (until recently). There is a responsibility, as an artist to try not to suck.” Robinson adds that he can’t “write things for other people. (That is) flawed immediately.”

 

 

 

O.A.R and Colbie Caillat: Wells Fargo Center Announces Two New Shows

Posted by on Jul 21, 2014
O.A.R. is headed to Santa Rosa.

O.A.R. is headed to Santa Rosa.

Today the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa announced two new exciting shows for September, including the first show to utilize the venue’s new flexible theater space. Last year’s $3.3 million renovation allows main floor seats to be removed, creating an open-floor venue that allows for an increased variety of performances. In this configuration, the venue’s capacity increases from 1,681 to 2,023.

Appearing on Saturday, Sept. 20, is Grammy Award-winning singer and songwriter Colbie Caillat. Then, on Tuesday, Sept. 30, rock band O.A.R. (Of A Revolution) makes their Santa Rosa debut and transforms the theater into the new open-floor design. With an intense and exciting live show, O.A.R. is the perfect act to debut the venue’s new look.

Tickets for Colbie Caillat are $59 and $49 (all seats reserved) and tickets for O.A.R. are $59 in the reserved balcony and $49 for general admission (standing) on the main floor. Tickets for both shows go on sale Friday, July 25 at noon and will be available online at wellsfargocenterarts.org, by calling 707.546.3600, and in person at the box office at 50 Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa.

‘Weird’ Al Yankovic’s New Album is Insult Comedy Gold

Posted by on Jul 15, 2014

weird al

“Weird” Al Yankovic is turning into a fantastic insult comic.

He has released two videos so far from his latest album, “Mandatory Fun,” and aside from being spot-on parodies of two of the most popular songs of the year, they are beautifully dickish in an inarguable way.

“Tacky,” a riff on Pharrell’s “Happy,” highlights the terrible fashion trends of Crocs, stripes and plaid, and the idea of taking selfies with the deceased at a funeral. The video features several comedians, mostly notably Jack Black, who is tacky defined with his high-waisted pants, rhinestoned fanny pack and obsessive twerking. It does such a good job of pointing out the stupidity of all these actions and looks, that anyone finding themselves associated with anything mentioned in the song should feel immediate and extreme shame. Then never do that thing again.

“Word Crimes,” a take on Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” is basically Yankovic being a grammar Nazi. Dangling participles and contractions aside, he belittles those who use numbers for letters and single letters for full words (unless you’re Prince). It’s sweet release for that inner word cop that wants to spring out and beat the mob of uneducated slobs senseless with their own words. Yankovic has saved us much embarrassment and heartache.

The videos are part of his 8 videos in 8 days project, which in itself is a riff on Beyoncé’s latest release. Bey put out an album of 15 songs and 17 music videos available only on iTunes in December, with complete secrecy before its release. It sold a million copies in less than a week. Yankovic will release a full album in physical form, but has hinted that this album, the last under his current record contract, might signal a change. He says on his blog that he’s “weighing his options.”

Here’s hoping those options include a deeper delve into insult comedy.we

Tommy Ramone: The Last Bruddah

Posted by on Jul 14, 2014

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Last week, it happened for the fourth time. The radio alarm went off, and a “Morning Edition” host announced the death of a Ramone. Groggy and dispirited, I brushed my teeth, made coffee, put on a Ramones t-shirt—cheesy, I know—and went out to face the world, which otherwise continued as normal.

And then the funniest thing happened. I felt great all day.

Tommy Ramones was 65. A lot of the headlines read something like this: “Tommy Ramone, last surviving member of seminal punk band The Ramones, dies.” Which is only semi-accurate, since three former but non-founding Ramones are still with us: Marky, who replaced Tommy on drums in 1978; Richie, drummer during the Marky-less period between 1982 and 1987, and C.J., who replaced bassist Dee Dee in 1989. Emphasizing this seems in keeping with Tommy Ramone’s unassuming public demeanor. He was okay with the spotlight, but preferred to be out of it.

Even so, there’s a sense of finality to our loss of Tommy. For most punk devotees, experiencing the densities of that universe happened primarily though records, magazines, and 30-minutes sets at run-down music clubs. Only four people ever knew what punk’s storied big bang was truly like from the inside, and they’re all gone now. The music of the Ramones may be immortal, but its members were not.

The t-shirt I picked out to observe the latest occurrence of the traditional Ramones mourning period is pretty threadbare. I have three Ramones t-shirts, and nowadays I parcel them out only for special occasions. Wearing one makes me feel liberated, invincible. To commemorate Tommy, the t-shirt with an image of the cover of their 1978 album “Road to Ruin” seemed the most appropriate. Tommy had left the band by then, but he did produce the album, putting his given name, “T. Erdelyi”, in the credits.

Of all the Ramones, founding or not, Tommy was the least Ramone-like. He didn’t even look like a Ramone; in the plentiful black-and-white photographs of the group’s formative period in the late 1970s, he’s a short, impassive, frizzy-haired presence in a band of tall and dark scowlers with long faces (even Dee Dee, whose face was as round as a full moon, packed a long face to put a pouty horse to shame). Without Tommy, there’d be no Ramones. A recording engineer who ran a rehearsal studio, he managed the fledgling band as a pet project and hopped in on drums when they couldn’t find anyone who could deliver the straightforward style he had in mind. Thus, their personas emerged: Joey, the lovable weirdo; Johnny, the asshole; Dee Dee, the cute lunatic; Tommy, the pragmatist. Which is probably why no one ever says, “Tommy’s my favorite Ramone.” In a group of strong personalities, he functioned as a low-key buffer.

Lou Reed died back in October, and I know I’m not the only one who took it hard. Lou Reed couldn’t just die—he was Lou Reed! For months, inspired by the nudge of Reed’s death, I played “Songs for Drella”, “Transformer”, and all of my Velvet Underground albums every day, steeping in the perfume of the works he created. It was as if I was just a young whipper-snapper branching away from traditional radio pop and dipping my toes into the deep, alluring waters of arty outsiders for the first time.

I feel a selfish jab of darkness every time I see a breaking-news tribute to a lost public figure or beloved entertainer. If perennial fixtures such as Dick Clark and Casey Kasem can die, then so can my parents. So can the entire way of life I grew up with. So can I.

But after the initial shock sets in, a Ramone dying doesn’t bum me out. Leaving this planet is the final gift an artist or entertainer—these people whose music and words and images we are so intimately familiar with—gives to us. I rarely listen to The Ramones anymore, so sublimated is their essence into my existence. My heart beats a cadence of “Hey, ho, let’s go!” without me even thinking about it. But I played Ramones records, cassettes, and CDs all weekend long, and I reconnected anew with the things I like to think I strive for. Directness. Dynamism. And yes, pragmatism. Even just seeing the band’s name in its trademark blocky font furnishes a mainline rush to that heady time when I relied on a scrappy group of ersatz musicians to keep me going. And going, and going. We die, Ramones die. Inspiration endures.

 

Live Review: Judy Collins and Santa Rosa Symphony at Green Music Center

Posted by on Jul 6, 2014 One Comment

American songstress Judy Collins knows how to celebrate America’s birthday: Sing, sing sing.

July 4 was full of patriotic mainstays at Sonoma State’s Green Music Center, with songs that celebrated both the country and Collins’ long career. Her touch on the Cole Porter songbook brought tingles of nostalgia to the crowd, and a John Denver medley was superbly arranged and executed. The show-stopping Sondheim classic, “Send in the Clowns,” the song Collins is perhaps best known for, was nothing short of marvelous.

“I said, ‘I want to do this song,’” she recalls telling her manager upon hearing it. “He says, ‘It’s been recorded 200 times already,’ and I told him I don’t care.”

Even at 75, Collins’ voice still has a good amount of power. The Santa Rosa Symphony kept up with her and her piano accompanist, but took a well deserved break during an a cappella rendition of “This Land Is Your Land.” The lawn patrons were less enthusiastic with the sing-along, perhaps because it was not as loud in the back of the sloped grass as inside the main hall.

The relaxing atmosphere is really the best way to experience a concert like this one; it’s relaxing to be able to lay back, watch the clouds and enjoy food and drink while tuning in and out of the concert. Intensive listening can be exhausting after a couple hours, and the casual setting provided perfect respite during Collins’ storytelling breaks between songs, which took up about one-third of the show.

The fireworks went off without a hitch this year, a welcome change from last year’s celebration at the GMC, when the light show was cancelled due to a technical difficulty. This year’s production was only marred by unusual July fog, but the explosions were still invigorating and loud enough to rattle ribcages.

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Chris Isaak Performs at Rodney Strong

Posted by on Jul 3, 2014

He’s got a winning smile and a wicked voice, and this month Chris Isaak shares both with the North Bay. The Stockton-born, Roy Orbison-obsessed songwriter is best known for his definitive song, “Wicked Game,” and for his appearances in cult classic movies. Now, Isaak brings his award-winning croon to the Wine Country, performing at Rodney Strong Vineyards on Sunday, July 13 at 4pm. Tickets are still available, grab them before they go.