Extended Play: Esperanza Spalding on Justin Bieber, Jazz Purism, Drone Strikes and Playing With Prince
Esperanza Spalding plays this Friday, Aug. 24, at the Wells Fargo Center in Santa Rosa. I caught up with her on the phone for this week’s music column, but she clearly had much more of interest, and of eloquence, to say than would fit in the paper. Here’s our interview, below:
I read and loved your profile in the New Yorker, and specifically your respect for and appreciation of jazz. But beyond that, I was interested in your comments about playing with McCoy Tyner, and how it reinforced your beliefs that jazz should not be a dusty museum piece, and more a music that needs to be for the present time. I wondered what McCoy Tyner thought of those comments. Did you ever hear from him about it?
Oh, no, I didn’t. But I honestly doubt he’s too concerned about it either way. We talk about it as a conceptual thing, the art form, and that’s good. It’s good to keep the creative juices flowing, the cerebral aspect of it, and thinking about what it means, and where we’re headed with it, and blah blah blah. But the day-to-day reality of making music is just to do it. I mean, that’s the priority, is to sit down every day and explore it. I think there’s a place for every kind of practitioner of the craft. I really have come more and more to believe that, traveling as much as we get to travel—and even living in New York, seeing how much diversity there is of concepts and philosophies about the music, and having those philosophies boil down to the music that’s actually being made.
You have those folks who are total bebop heads, who really see that as the pinnacle of the music. And then there are people who don’t want to have anything to do with that, and say, “Well, that was the language of back then, and now we live in today. We have to keep cultivating the idiom, and forget about that. That was one strand in the stream of what music is, so let’s keep on evolving and not clinging to that.” And the beautiful thing is, there’s really room for everything.
For a full slideshow of bands at Outside Lands, click here.
For a full slideshow of people and fashions at Outside Lands, click here.
Outside Lands is too crowded, Outside Lands is too expensive, Outside Lands shot their wad on big-name headliners—I’ve heard these complaints and more about the festival from fans, and yet it still completely sold out this year, all three days. The neighbors? Their complaint is that it’s too loud, and yet Metallica played.
At this years’ Outside Lands more than ever, it was evident that San Francisco has a banner festival not unlike Bumbershoot or Bonnaroo. It was in the air Friday, Saturday and Sunday in Golden Gate Park, this shift in emphasis. The first few years of Outside Lands were all about the music, but Outside Lands is an experience now, a thing you and all your friends go to, a water-cooler discussion, an Instagram feeding frenzy. Someday, Another Planet Entertainment may be able to sell it out without even announcing the lineup, and when that day comes, I will be baffled, but not surprised.
Out of the 65 acts, including a lot of worthy feel-good nostalgia (Metallica, replete with 30-ft.-high pyrotechnics, played almost all songs from 1991 and earlier), here are five in particular that had an impact.
The L.A. Times has a review of Nicki Minaj’s L.A. show that criticizes the singer for having too many personas, which I think misses the point. What Nicki Minaj is is too many personas. Nicki Minaj is a bunch of unrealized, scattershot ideas. Nicki Minaj is a schizophrenic 12-year-old with tourettes who’s drank three mochas and has been handed a mic. Because of this—this barrage of short, quick information blasts one experiences while listening to the 29-year-old’s music—Nicki Minaj mirrors the 21st century and its nonstop information overload. It’s a genius, prescient presentation, that happens to fill the important role in teenage pop music of driving older people crazy.
Nicki Minaj is also Katy Perry for the fuckups, evinced by the crowd at the Paramount Theater in Oakland on Thursday night for Minaj’s first-ever headlining tour. In every direction: neon wigs, tight dresses, high heels, high hems, low necklines, lace tutus and gratuitous cleavage, but, like, with intentionally messed-up makeup, or ripped fishnets, or tattoo sleeves. One could easily people-watch in the lobby and feel like the $100 tickets were already money well spent.
Phil Lesh’s new venue Terrapin Crossroads has been the buzz of San Rafael since its grand opening last month. Below, click the image to view a slideshow of photos from his guest appearance with Yonder Mountain String Band on Aug. 4, 2012.
Photos by Jamie Soja.
Question! Third Eye Blind sang a) “Barely Breathing,” b) that “It’s 2am I Must Be Lonely” song, c) “Steal My Sunshine” or d) that one that goes “Doot-Doot-DOOT! Doot-Doo-DOOT!-Doo, Doot-Doot-DOOT! Doot-doo-DOOT!-Doo.” If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry! It’s easy to find out by walking down to the Sonoma County Fair, standing outside the fence of the Chris Beck Arena and listening as the quasi-funky drums, plaintive acoustic guitars and impassioned harmonies of one of 1997’s biggest bands blast from the stage, rebound off the rodeo grandstand and dissipate, unlistenably, into the sky over Brookwood Avenue.
Because “the Chris Beck concerts are restricted from press,” they tell me (oh really?), this happens to be my only option. Last year, for Huey Lewis & the News, this wasn’t such a bad thing, and I was still able to find some insight for a review while standing outside the gates. But I suspect that Third Eye Blind’s genius merits a closer analysis that can only be ascertained by witnessing the band visually, because on the other side of the barbed-wire fence it was hard to understand what the half-full grandstand was cheering for.
Chris Votek got in touch recently, which was a nice surprise. I hadn’t talked to him in about seven years—after writing a cover story on Chris and his guerrilla chamber group Triste Sin Richard, he moved away from Sonoma County to develop his massive talent at Cal Arts.
In the package was a CD, though, by Tes Elations. Comprised of two cellos (Chris is one), a guitarist, a drummer and a singer, the band is less Arvo Pärt and more like something you’d stumble across at an outdoor music festival—but you’d be hypnotized, and you’d stop walking on your way to get a beer, and you’d raptly drink in the whole set. Get an idea of their delicate haunt here.
Tes Elations play Saturday night at the Arlene Francis Center with Girls in Suede—another throwback to 2005—and Kinship, which is the name with which Nick Wolch, for some reason, has decided to rechristen his long-running Goodriddler project. All these people sprung from a very tight-knit scene in Santa Rosa, which exploded to various parts around the state and reconvenes, in a reunion of sorts, at the show on Saturday night.
Below, watch the video for Tes Elations “Autumn”:
The Higher Vision Festival hit the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on June 9, 2012, with Burning Spear, Tinariwen, the Motet, Gaudi and more.
Click the image below for a full photo slideshow.
Photos by Jamie Soja.
“Take nothing seriously on the internet” is advice I find myself doling out with more frequency. Presidential elections, on the other hand, bring out such earnestness in people:
First question: Did he talk about “it“? No.
Second question: Were Tyler the Creator and Hodgy Beats in the house? Yes. Third question: Channel Orange is amazing, but could he pull it off live? Oh, man, a million times yes.
Frank Ocean’s brilliant show tonight at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco capped a wild week for Ocean; he spent it making public his love for another man, delivering late-night TV’s finest performance of the year, self-leaking his own album a week early and watching the plate tectonics of culture shift beneath his feet. To say the show was anticipated would be like saying the Super Bowl is a sporting event of some note. (When we arrived at 8pm, the line was two and a half blocks long. No one was selling any tickets, but desperate fans sure were asking, with offers of up to $150.)
Unless California sinks into the ocean, the Outside Lands Festival is returning to Golden Gate Park from Aug. 10-12 with a hell of a lineup—particularly in the headliner department, which includes Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Skrillex, Jack White, the Foo Fighters, and… oh, man, the list just goes on and on. Sigur Ros, Justice, Norah Jones, Passion Pit… heck, even Big Boi is returning to make good on his failed attempt to perform in 2011.
Is it time to get pumped? Of course it is. That’s why the Pulse crew has put together this mega-epic 65-song playlist, with songs from 65 different bands playing at Outside Lands. Click play, and let your Friday glide right by.