As we approached the sold-out Snoop Dogg show at the Uptown Theatre in Napa, I played a little game called “What did Snoop Dogg do with his day in the wine country?” Did he go wine-tasting at fancy wineries owned by out-of-town hedge fund investors? Did he get a salt rubdown at a luxuriously expensive spa? Did he spend the day smoking weed in his hotel room and ordering out from some five-star restaurant serving rustic California cuisine in Saint Helena?
Once the show started (and the painfully loud bass of opening act Pac Div came to a merciful end), I realized that what Snoop Dogg (not a Lion in sight) brought to Napa was the feeling of a good, old-fashioned, backyard, Southern California summer BBQ on one of the coldest days yet in 2012. The crowd was flying high (literally) and it was party-time, Long Beach loving vibes all around, as Snoop blasted through a medley of his greatest hits like ‘Who Am I,’ with its Parliament vibes, LBC call outs, and the classic refrain, ‘Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yay.’ After that, he busted out some lesser known hits followed by ‘Gin and Juice,’ ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot,’ ‘Still a G Thang,’ and a two minute cameo from Katy Perry’s sickly sweet confection ‘California Gurls.’
Underneath a massive banner emblazoned with an image of a rasta-tammed, super high, grinning-to-the- moon Snoop surrounded by weed leaves and joints, Snoop let his crew take the lead on quite a few songs, and left the goofy entertainment mainly to Nasty Dogg, a furry mascot that carried a gigantic cartoon blunt around the stage for most of the show, when he wasn’t waving a giant furry dildo at the audience (a woman in the audience mimicked a blow job on it for such an uncomfortably long time that even Snoop seemed to be blushing—Napa gets crazzeeeeeeee!) Shout-outs to Nate Dogg happened about every five minutes, and even though I was hoping to go into labor (nothing like being eight months pregnant at a Snoop show) while the lanky hip-hop gangster turned rastafarian played his hit, ‘Beautiful,’ my dream didn’t come true because he skipped it all together (guess it’s hard to pull off without Pharrell) and never took the stage for an encore. Despite wearing a beige prison garb outfit with rasta colors on the pocket, Snoop’s only reference to his newly embraced religion came at the very end of the show, when he shouted out Haile Selassie and gave a voracious “Jah Rastafarianism!” ( a move that only slightly recalled Andy Samberg’s Ras Trent), followed by Bob Marley on the stereo system.
The decision to end the show with “Young, Wild and Free” Snoop’s hit with protege Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars was straight out of the best practices playbook. We ate it up, dancing, singing along, feeling like kids again while the puffs of smoke lifted up like magic clouds into the rafters. It was a feel-good, life-affirming moment in a day that will go down as one of the most tragic days in modern American history, and we enjoyed each and every blessed second of it.
1. Woods—Bend Beyond ( Woodsist)
2. Sharon Van Etten—Tramp (Jagjaguwar)
3. Beach House—Bloom (Sub Pop)
4. Eight Belles —Girls Underground (Self-Released)
5. The Coup—Sorry to Bother You (ANTI-)
6. Bat for Lashes—The Haunted Man (Parlophone)
7. Dark Dark Dark—Who Needs Who (Supply and Demand)
8. Grass Widow—Internal Logic (HLR Records)
9. Cat Power—Sun (Matador)
10.Dirty Projectors— Swing Lo Magellan (Domino)
The new Easy Leaves video for the song “Get Down,” directed by Sebastian Nau, is a sweet little tribute to the band’s Sonoma County roots. I’m not sure where the video was filmed (maybe Petaluma?), but there’s lots of shots of lush and rolling emerald hills, grazing cows, tractors, and craggly live oaks. The premise is simple. Main band guys Kevin Carducci and Safe Fifield wake up to a day of drudgery in the fields when all they want to be doing is playing music with their friends and drinking Lagunitas beers until the wee hours of the night. It’s a simple paen by these 2011 NorBay Award Winners to the joy within “an ocean of smoke and wine.”
The Easy Leaves bring their North Bay Americana to the Great American Music Hall on January 4th. More info here: http://www.theeasyleaves.com/
I spent the nineties swimming in a pool of indie rock, dousing myself with all things Matador, Kill Rock Stars and K Records. I still love indie rock, whatever that term even means in the days when new music sprouts from every corner of the internet, most of it independently produced by bedroom musicians, but to me it just means something with the pluck and spirit of music made from the heart. Yo La Tengo has been doing this for over twenty years, since their start in late 80’s Hoboken, New Jersey, as a pet project of married couple Georgia Hubley and Ira Kaplan. They’ve put out albums continuously since then, which is why I can footnote my life by YLT albums.
The Lite-Brite style projections on the stage may have held promise of an appearance by the more upbeat Cass McCombs, but when the folk-rock artist took the stage at the Great American Music Hall on May 25, greeting the crowd with a quick, “How ya doin? Ya all right?” (one of the only exchanges with the audience made for the entire night), he launched into a series of semi-morose, jammy songs backed up by his band and an acoustic guitar.
To be honest, the first part of the set made me flashback to one, should-be-lost-to-history summer spent listening to Blues for Allah on the rickety porch of my friend’s compound out in the woods of West County. I spent a large bit of 2011 listening to McCombs’ Humor Risk and Wit’s End, and I never once made the Grateful Dead Blues for Allah connection until seeing the songs performed live. Don’t know if this is McCombs’ normal incarnation, but the sound was definitely there, and vocally he even had a Jerry Garcia thing going on, at times. Roll away the dew, indeed.
It wasn’t until about halfway through the set, when the shaggy-haired singer put down the acoustic guitar in favor of an electric that the energy really picked up, though the extended, repetitive-jam element remained. If anything, McCombs’ Northern California roots definitely showed through in this performance, with a sound that would have fit right into the 70s-era Fillmore.
I first time came across Church after stumbling out of Stark’s Happy Hour with a couple of friends. Down the street they came, skipping past Western Farm Center and hanging a right into Railroad Square. It was a motley crew, held together by a few lopsided grins, an accordion (played by Kalei Yamanhoha from the Crux), clarinet, a couple of saxophones, snare drums, trombones and a big, ole’ sousaphone. They looked like a bunch of wily mutineers, the Goonies of marching bands, and as we grinned and walked towards the railroad tracks, with Church behind us on the street, we claimed them for a moment as our own personal soundtrack. As they rounded the corner onto Sixth street and headed up into the West End neighborhood, I texted my husband and said, “Look out the window, a marching band is about to pass by!” For a second, everything felt shiny and good in the world.
The next time, I literally ran (or biked) into Church while navigating through dumb Santa Rosa Plaza to get into downtown. As I approached Macy’s, the glass entrance doors burst open, and Kalei the accordionist, came barreling out, still playing his accordion, followed by a tumult of ragtag marching band hooligans, all laughing and breathless—and probably being chased by an humorless department store security guard who didn’t appreciate the charm of being serenaded in the shoe department with off-kilter Russian folk songs. The best part… Church played the theme from “Cops” on the way out the doors.
That’s the great thing about Church: you never know when they’ll perform. The last time I saw them, they were playing guerilla-style at the Tour of California “Lifestyle Festival.” They were making bank in tips, I’m sure without a permit, and I thought, “Ah, now this is a lifestyle I can get behind.” Hopefully, next time I see Church they’ll be playing the shit out of a Ratatat song on the top of Hugh Codding’s tribute arch until the damn thing rumbles down…
Here’s what they say about themselves on their Facebook page: “One rainy night the idea was formed to create a marching band of friends. Why not? Everyone we know plays music, so why not get everyone together for it? We practice hard, perform harder, and create a redonc party everywhere we go.”
And here’s the official 12 -piece line up: Jesse Shantor (Sousaphone), Gaven Hayden-Town (Baritone Saxophone), Ben Weiner (Drums), Ricky Lomeli (Drums), Zak Garn (Drums), Joey Lynch (Drums), Travis Hendrix (Clarinet), Annie Cilley (Alto Saxophone), Adam Lessnau (Trombone), Jeremy Lessnau (Melophone/Trumpet), Josh Jackson (Trumpet), Kalei Yamanoha (Accordion)
While spontaneous, surprise Church sightings are the most fun, you can see them in a more “official” capacity when they play the Arlene Francis Center on Friday, May 25. The show is a benefit to send the West County-based marching band Hubbub Club, along with Church, to this year’s HONK! festwest.