Noise Pop is now in its 20s, reflecting on life and starting to set some serious goals for itself in the coming decade. PBR is still the beer of choice, but maybe mix in a classic cocktail every now and again. The lineup was announced this week for the San Francisco indie music festival, which takes place Feb. 26–March 3 in venues large and small all over San Francisco.
Highlights include Amon Tobin at Public Works, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy in a solo show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall, Toro Y Moi at the Independent (twice!), Ceremony at the Rickshaw Stop and !!! at the Great American Music Hall. The cool thing about this festival are the badges, which allow city-savvy music lovers to hop around and check out shows happening on the same night as well as shows on successive evenings. The documentaries and happy hours throughout the city are also cool. Check the schedule here.
Here is a complete list of all current confirmed Noise Pop 2013 bands:
I have always had a hard time accepting Rihanna’s extreme popularity. Her music, to me, is bland, and she’s not a good performer. The fact that she is a victim of extreme domestic violence who has since climbed back into the arms of her abuser, fellow pop star Chris Brown, sets a terrible example for others in her situation and actually upsets me.
I’ve never had a way to explain these confusing opinions until Sasha Frere-Jones apparently climbed into my head, organized my thoughts and wrote them for me in the New Yorker’s Dec. 24&31 issue.
He nails the social impact with this:
“With all this drama, it is difficult to think of Rihanna’s stated version of independence, of being a ‘Good Girl Gone Bad,’ as the title of her biggest-selling album would have it, is being the object of badness, being subjugated… What makes this attitude even more disturbing is that it seems to have served only to make Rihanna more popular.”
Without missing a beat, Frere-Jones flings more thought-goo from the cauldron of my stewed brain and it sticks on the wall in this elegant, concise phrasing: “She has an exceptional physical beauty married to an unexceptional, almost disengaged sense of performance–she may be the most successful amateur ever.” I’ve already applied this lightbulb concept to other pop stars that suck, like Lana Del Rey, Ke$ha and Nickelback.
And, as a good critic should do, he calls out the pop star for what should be an obvious “phone-it-in” moment, her “performance” last month on Saturday Night Live. “She moves, in Timberland boots and a fatigue jacket, as if she had perhaps beard the song a few times before. There was one bit that reminded me of dancing.”
Unfortunately the article is paywalled, only available with a subscription or by purchasing the whole issue. But it’s a luxury worth paying for, if for nothing else than Frere-Jones’ music columns.
The year is 2043, America has split into two countries, Chinese is the most-spoken language on the planet and music is made almost entirely on computers. A grizzled old man sits next to the holographic Yule log fireplace steaming from Netflix 3D and beckons the children from their video game contact lenses to listen to his story.
Gather round here, kids, I have a story for you. It takes place in a time before holograms were commonplace, when we had to use our own hands and feet to drive our cars, when there only one United States of America and one man sought to bring us together before this country was torn apart. That man’s name was Snoop Dogg.
Now, this man was a musician, and of course his real name wasn’t Snoop. He wasn’t really a dog, either. He had a simple message: smoke as much weed as you possibly can and have a good time. He spoke through the language of hip-hop, and his quest began 60 years ago when he made an album–that’s uh, it’s like a whole bunch of songs in one, uh, CD, which is like a disc with music, oh never mind–called Doggystyle, which was a pun on his name by referencing, well, you’ll find that out later when you grow up. But the point is it was clever. He used clever rhymes and catchy beats and hooks to become a superstar in the music world, and his primary message later in his career became about smoking weed and having a good time, back when it was illegal.
The San Francisco Symphony’s opening night performance at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center was beautiful and exciting. Each player in the symphony is fantastic individually, and together under the baton of the rockstar of the classical world, Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestra elucidated every ounce emotion in the evening’s music program. Weill Hall, the acoustic gem and main hall of the GMC, plays gorgeously to this. The premier acoustic space seems to widen the ear canal, allowing for more sound to be heard at once than ever thought possible. The pieces on this night showcased this clarity.
Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (Op.28) begins with a sneaky little theme, proceeding to take the listener through all sorts of jollity but always with the sense of danger right around the corner. After all, a little mischief never hurt anyone, just don’t get caught. The clarinetist in this piece has a challenge, playing extremely high notes, the highest the instrument can make. I ran into a much loved SSU music professor during intermission, and he suggested this piece was specifically chosen for tonight to showcase the acoustics of the hall. I couldn’t agree more. The fast runs in the higher registers translated not into harsh overtones, but velvety notes that were easily followable in the clarity of the space. When the merry prankster does get caught (and executed), the low bass and drum notes were ferocious, vibrating my loose pant legs (or was that just my legs trembling from the tremendous magnitude of unamplified sound?)
The only sound that hasn’t made me gush so far in this hall is the low mid frequency. It can sound a bit muddled, especially with piano. On opening night with superstar Lang Lang at piano, his dexterous Mozart performance was lost a bit in this register, and parts of the SF Symphony performance were not as sonically brilliant in this area during faster sections. It sounds as though this frequency takes longer to develop than others in the hall. But really, this is splitting hairs. It’s not a problem so much as an observation.
Yefim Bronfman’s playing on Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto (Emperor) was superb. It was not flashy or self-indulgent but more bold and heroic like the piece itself. Though it did not have the passion one would imagine of Beethoven himself pounding the ivory keys, demanding more from his instrument than ever thought possible, it was not lacking for emotion, either. Whether it was just my ears or the players adjusting to the space, during the first five minutes it felt like the piano was just a hair too soft. But soon after, everything settled in. From then on it was pure ecstasy, like listening to a fabulous recording on the best audio system, but it was real, and it was happening right in front of us. I was reminded of this when, during a quiet moment just before the piano flourish at the end of the final movement, a cell phone, ironically with the “piano” ringtone, went off somewhere in the building. This only made enhanced the experience for me with its reminder that it was taking place in reality.
Also performed this evening was “Pandora,” which the SF Symphony had just performed for the first time the night before. This 20-minute piece for strings written by SF Symphony assistant concertmaster and violinist Mark Volkert in 2010 again showcased the heavenly acoustics of the main hall with several solos and double basses playing extended low notes, vibrating the floor in some cases. It is a 21st century work, to be sure, but it is more accessible than some newer pieces. It’s a story piece with a concrete narrative following the Greek myth of Pandora, and can be followed without too much confusion and with beautiful imagery. Volkert was in the audience and came up from his seat to shake hands with MTT after the piece. Both looked quite pleased with the result.
The sad truth of a generation hooked on mp3s is they will rarely experience a full acoustic experience in music. Earbuds are a terrible listening device, reproducing, at best, about two-thirds of the human hearing spectrum. The best mp3 is 25 percent of the data of a full recording compressed into the middle of the frequency spectrum where our ears are tuned to listen more easily. Without getting too technical, let’s just say the sound is flat and lifeless. The main hall at Sonoma State’s Green Music Center is the anti-mp3. It is pure sonic expression, giving music a forum to be heard as it was intended by its creator and perhaps even enhancing it through the warmth of the acoustic environment. Though their home, Davies’ Symphony Hall in San Francisco, is stunning in its own right, I wouldn’t be surprised if members of the SF Symphony prefer playing in Weill Hall. This was the first of four SF Symphony performances at the Green Music Center for its 2012-2013 season, and hopefully next season features even more.
Snoop Dogg, AKA Snoop Lion recently did a Q&A session on social networking Internet aggregator site Reddit.com (they’re called AMA–Ask Me Anything–and President Obama did one just before the election), answering hundreds of questions, far more than other celebrities, with 10-words-or-less answers. What catches my eye is the answer to “How weed do you smoke in a week?” with a simple “81 blunts a day x 7.”
This is why I love the Internet. The ensuing discussion includes calculations of just how much weed that actually is. One person says 22 pounds per year, and is promptly reprimanded for calculating “matchstick-sized blunts.” The actual amount for Snoop-sized blunts, assuming two grams per blizzle, is 130 pounds a year. The post is then corrected further to equate to 131.98 pounds.
This breaks down to one blunt every 12 minutes, assuming eight hours of sleep per 24 hours. But obviously, Snoop does not smoke all of those on his own, Snoop is a giver and has a large crew. He might take just one hit of any given blunt, but that still counts.
Sure, the rap legend changed his persona and made a record of reggae with no rapping whatsoever on it, which just dropped a single on Youtube. But the questions didn’t really focus on this, and Snoop, to his credit, didn’t really push it that much. He just answered questions, no matter how obscure, for hours.
Other vital Snoop-formation:
- Snoop-approved munchies include: pistachios, Fritos BBQ Twists and Red Vines
- The only people to smoke HIM out are Willie Nelson, Wiz Khalifa and B-Real
- Snoop’s favorite stoned album is Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly”
- OG Kush is Snoop’s favorite strain of marijuana
- He prefers Cadillacs to trains
- Snoops’ favorite performance was on the Arsenio Hall show.
- Snoop enjoys soccer and plays FIFA 2012
- He was weed-free about five years ago for 164 days straight.
- Snoop enjoys kung-fu movies.
- His guilty musical pleasure is K-POP
By the way, Mr. Dogg/Lion is playing at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Dec. 15 ($70) and the Uptown Theater in Napa in Dec. 14 ($60). Bring some BBQ Twist Fritos and see if he wants to chill after the show.
Did you miss Bon Jovi’s sold-out, 12-night stand at London’s O2? Inaugural multi-night stint at Meadowlands Stadium? What about the big shows at Madison Square Garden? And you really wanted to see that Times Square broadcast with a live Q&A session tonight? Well, you’re in luck! Bon Jovi: Inside Out is showing the best of all of those concerts at two theaters tonight only in Marin County at 8pm!
Of course, because the West Coast is like a Third World Country compared to the Metropolis of New York, we get the tape-delayed interview session. But the concert’s still there, on the big screen with the big surround sound.
Ever since I was stuck in 49ers postgame traffic a few years ago, I’ve wanted to sing along with my friends at the top of my lungs to “Livin’ on a Prayer.” In the carbon monoxide haze of Candlestick’s luxurious parking facility, with no end in sight to the sea of vehicles looking to exit, my friend put on Mr. Jovi’s greatest hits and cranked the Bose stereo system in his truck, windows down. I’m sure it could be heard for at least a mile, because I couldn’t hear anything else, not even my own screaming for him to turn it down.
I slunk down in my seat, scared to death of furrowed brows and tisk-tisk head shakes. Looking back, I wish I would have just gone with it, sung along, and been “that guy.” You know, “that guy” who has fun doing what he loves without regard to how uncool it might seem? “That guy” who does what feels good even if it means embarrassing himself so much that others around him cringe? Or “that guy” who lives in the moment so hard he forgets the social norms and belts out power ballads at maximum volume in a crowded parking lot?
This is your chance to be “that guy.” Bon Jovi is “that guy” all the time, and look where it’s gotten him. He even has a steel horse! The movie plays at San Rafael Regency 6 and Sausalito Cinearts Marin 3 tonight at 8.
(San Francisco) – A band of pirates on stilts tried to take over Treasure Island yesterday, but were blasted out instead by pounding drum n bass breaks from a wall of subwoofers.
This happened, of course, at the Treasure Island Music Festival, which took place on the decommissioned naval base in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Two stages, a Ferris wheel, the silent disco, gourmet food trucks, cool merchandise and the ultimate people watching experience awaited those wise enough to attend day one of the two-day music fest.
The Coup had just started playing when I walked through the gate. Since this was the “electronic” day, hearing a big, funky, rock-heavy hip hop group from Oakland was a welcome surprise. I’m not a huge fan of DJ music–I was there to see Public Enemy–so this was a good sign. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the Coup before, but they were on the top of their game for this show. Style, swagger and porkchop side burns lifted from the 70s. The kickass riffs and drum solos reminded me of Rage Against the Machine, but the Coup had more of a soul vibe at times.
Grimes was next, and their three-girl electro-pop sound gained momentum halfway through the set. By the end it felt like I was in a Visa commercial with so much pounding synth bass and young people in ridiculous clothing jumping around. It was the best Visa commercial ever. The enthusiasm for Grimes was electric, with some of the most passionate fans at the festival dancing their neon spandex-covered asses off.
I used to sell meat. My favorite part of the day was sampling out bacon. Our bacon was real, thick-cut, how-it-should-be bacon, which many members of the public had never experienced. Their reaction always began at the eyes, then traveled up to the brow before sinking into the rest of the face and, sometimes, weakening the knees. It was something they were familiar with, but just didn’t know what it was really like, or how good it could be.
After seeing Alison Krauss with Union Station, featuring Jerry Douglas, last night at the Green Music Center, I now know that feeling from the other side of the counter.
It was maybe halfway through the concert that everything came together in a rush of emotion, and Krauss’ emotional songs might have played a factor, but I was holding back tears when the realization hit me. Nothing will ever sound better than inside this hall. This is quite possibly the best-sounding band, the most professional engineers, in the most gorgeous acoustic space I will ever experience. This is the French Laundry of concert spaces.
This was the first non-classical concert in Weill Hall, the five-carat diamond amongst the surrounding gems of the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University. In addition to Krauss and Union Station wrapping up the festivities, this opening weekend included a gala opening concert with pianist Lang Lang, a sunrise choral concert with original music composed for and dedicated to those involved with the creation of the center, and an afternoon performance by the Santa Rosa Symphony, which has the privilege of calling the hall its home.
In comparison to the previous evening, which was full of tuxedos, Versace gowns, politicians and formal stuffiness, this was a decidedly blue-jeans event. There were even people dancing on the lawn, the mood was so jovial. The weather was perfect, absolutely perfect, and I can’t help but see exactly what drove SSU President Ruben Armiñana to create this indoor-outdoor concert space. In fact, though my seat was inside the hall, I strode outside in the second half to see what it was like, and honestly I preferred sitting on the lawn. Of course, weather permitting and musical style taken into account, it wasn’t inconceivable that the best seats in the house were, in fact, not in the house at all.
The two large LED screens flanking the opening to the concert hall were a little too bright, but what they showed was beautiful. Close-ups of the band, their expressive faces, their lightning-fast picking all dissolved with slow fades. Combined with the excellent, natural sound coming from both the hall itself and reinforced with high-hanging speakers and downfiring subwoofers (18 of them), this was the best outdoor sound I have ever heard. I had a tough time hearing some of the stories and witty banter between songs, but I suspect that had more to do with the storytellers turning away from the microphone for a moment. Can’t amplify sound that’s not there!
The band played together for about an hour before Jerry Douglas gave a solo performance on Dobro guitar, which blew me away from my 10th-row seat. Even with a stack of speakers in front of me, the sound was natural, even, pleasing and rich. Not once did this sound engineer turn to look back in the direction of the mixing board to suggest something unpleasant was happening. In fact, I would like to give a written high-five to the engineer for the evening. You did the hall justice. You got on that balance between acoustic and amplified and walked the tightrope all night long. And when the band came back for an encore set, using only one microphone, they were right there, too, blending themselves using distance and dynamics between voices and instruments.
Douglas announced this was the last stop of their two-year (!) tour. They were so musically tight and having so much fun, it seemed like they felt at home. At one point, Krauss turned to the balcony crowd behind her and waved, turning back to the microphone to say, as understated as her music, “This like no other place I’ve ever seen.”
More photos below.
Seemingly correlated, it twists the mind around trying to decipher the meaning. On the surface, it seems to work. The sound of it is somewhat familiar, yet unusual enough at the same time to remember distinctly. Listen enough and it will create a wonder aural illusion, like a Magic Eye stereogram for the ears. “Oh, it’s a sailboat!” This successfully describes both the term Heatwarmer and the sound of the Seattle-based jazz fusion band.
Led by vocalist and electric bass player Luke Bergman, the group also features a drummer, guitarist and not one, but two synthesizeristas, one who also plays the EWI (Electronic Wind Instrument) and one who can flip his hair and make it look perfect. Every. Single. Time. The songs are eclectic but very listenable, like a blend of Frank Zappa and Stevie Wonder. Well, not exactly, but sorta. Ya know?
No, you can’t know unless you listen to them. I’ll save the clever adjectives and music critic comparisons for something describable. For now, just enjoy:
Their new album is reportedly finished, awaiting the “final touches” as Bergman put it. They played only one song off their first album last night, “Weird Shower.” You know when a band plays there new stuff, and nobody is really into it because they just want to hear the songs they know and love already, even if the new stuff is even better? This did not happen to Heatwarmer. Jaws dropped, cheers were hollered and people danced. “What am I even seeing right now!?” was uttered more than once.
A review of a 2009 performance by Heatwarmer concluded with Gabe Meline waiting for the initial weirdness to settle down to determine if this was “good” or “bad,” and he rightfully concludes that if there’s even a moment of confusion to determine something that simple then it’s automatically in the “good” category.
Divine Fits is a Voltron of indie and punk rock. Take Spoon singer Britt Daniel, Wolf Parade guitarist Dan Boeckner and New Bomb Turks (yes, the 90s punk band) drummer Sam Brown, throw them in a recording studio, and the result is far better than any other so-called supergroup I’ve ever heard.
The debut album, “A Thing Called Divine Fits,” is streaming on NPR until Aug. 19 here. It’s due to be released Aug. 28. They’re also playing the Treasure Island Festival in San Francisco this year with The XX, Best Coast, Joanna Newsom, Los Campesinos! and a host of others.
There are no egos in the music here, nothing that doesn’t add to the songs. It feels like, well, it feels like a combination of Spoon, New Bomb Turks and Wolf Parade, actually. Maybe a little less New Bomb Turks, but it’s there. The energy and not-giving-a-fuck-ness feels like punk, but the music isn’t super fast, there are more than four chords per song, and the instrumentation and recording are both decidedly grown up.
Vintage synthesizers fill transitions and spaces between lyrical stanzas. The music isn’t afraid to take chances, to stick its neck out and let songs develop without having to worry about “the hook.” It’s got that great Spoon groove that I love, but doesn’t get boring like Spoon sometimes feels to me. I could listen to this record four more times today, and I’ve already heard it more than once.
The recording is great, and that helps. It’s always tough to get into a new band when they release something recorded in their buddy’s basement in Portland on a “sweet ProTools rig” or something like that. The great thing about a supergroup is their connections and the buzz they have built leads to releasing something that, at the very least, will be a high-quality recording.
The songs are solid, the band sounds like it’s been playing together for quite a while now, so is moniker “supergroup” really appropriate here? There are good ones, like the Highwaymen (Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, Waylon Jennings and Kris Kristofferson), the Postal Service (Ben Gibbard, Jimmy Tamborello, Jenny Lewis) and the Foo Fighters (Dave Grohl, Nate Mendel, many others). But for the most part, supergroups, once realized, are a terrible idea. Here’s a few off the top of my head: Slash’s Snakepit, Audioslave, Zwan, Velvet Revolver, Angels and Airwaves, Chickenfoot, PLASTIC FREAKING ONO BAND.
It doesn’t usually work out. But this doesn’t suck. In fact, if this became a real band, and not just a Postal Service, We’re-Gonna-Make-One-Album-And-Never-Again kind of thing, I would be most pleased.