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Remembering Jimmy Castor

Remembering Jimmy Castor

Posted by: on Jan 16, 2012 | Comments (0)

According to his grandson’s Twitter, funk legend Jimmy Castor died today at 2:30pm. Nile Rodgers, founder of Chic, breaks the news as well: “I can’t stop crying. How do I explain how much his brilliant upbeat music touched my soul?”

There isn’t any easy way to explain how much influence Jimmy Castor has had on music, tangible or otherwise. But it’s important to frame Castor outside the novelty of “Bertha Butt Boogie.” Castor put the fun in funk, and pioneered a dense, full-throttle style. Below, watch breakdance anthem “It’s Just Begun,” live in 1973.

 

 

What’s Weird About Coachella’s Lineup

What’s Weird About Coachella’s Lineup

Posted by: on Jan 9, 2012 | Comments (9)

1. Are the Black Keys really big enough to headline a day at Coachella? Somewhere along the way they went from that scrappy band that sounded too much like Cream to a bona fide arena act. They’re playing the Oakland Arena, too. Here is a very involved story from the drummer’s ex-wife, about the rise of the band and the coincidental dissolution of their marriage.

2. The biggest excitement here is for millennial hardcore fans. Reunions from both At the Drive-In and Refused? Everyone I know in their late 20s is shitting their pants. I mean really.

3. Aside from Swedish House Mafia and AVICII, there aren’t a lotta up-and-coming electronic acts. Amon Tobin, DJ Shadow, Atari Teenage Riot, Beats Antique and David Guetta are your dad’s electronic music. (I am a dad.) Where is this year’s teenage get, Skrillex? Who will go see araabMUZIK?

4. Radiohead, Snoop, Dre, Mazzy Star, et al: Total late ’90s / early aughts vibe. Historically, Coahella’s always gone after the ABSOLUTELY NEW AWESOME TOP BLOGGABLE FREAKOUT THING. Then there was that Rage reunion and they must have realized the potential in an old crowd. Or older. Whatever, they’re the ones with enough disposable income to afford this thing, right?

5. Amazing that I looked at this lineup five times before noticing fIREHOSE. A fIREHOSE reunion? Damn.

6. No official press release, and the Coachella official site has been down all day. CSI pal Erik Siebert says it best: “I would be VERY impressed if Coachella only announced their lineup with a whisper, a share on Facebook, and a tweet.” The future is here, people.

7. Acts to cross your fingers and hope they tour through the Bay Area before / after: The Weeknd, Pulp, Death Grips, Jeff Mangum, fIREHOSE, Azealia Banks, A$AP Rocky.

8. I’ve never ever seen a festival book the same exact lineup for two consecutive weekends. Way to maximize profit margin, Goldenvoice!

9. So relieved that M. Ward has escaped the popularity of Zooey Deschanel.

10. I’m still a fan of this Coachella lineup.

It’s a Girl: Beyonce’s Baby, Blue Ivy Carter

It’s a Girl: Beyonce’s Baby, Blue Ivy Carter

Posted by: on Jan 8, 2012 | Comments (0)

Beyoncé had the baby tonight, and according to reports, it’s a girl named Blue Ivy Carter.

According to reports, the baby was delivered C-Section at Lenox Hill Hospital after checking in under the pseudonym ‘Ingrid Jackson.’

Ivy Blue is in interesting company in the music world: others born on January 7 include Juan Gabriel, Kathy Valentine, Kenny Loggins and Jann Werner.

As expected, Twitter is going nuts. It’s gotta be weird to already be trending in your first couple hours of life, but then again, any baby who can write eloquently from the womb is a miracle baby indeed.

David Lee Roth’s New Look

David Lee Roth’s New Look

Posted by: on Jan 6, 2012 | Comments (2)

I tell you, there’s nothing like… utility overalls, an athletic hoodie and a newsboy cap?

Sure enough, that’s what David Lee Roth sported last night at Van Halen’s invite-only show at Cafe Wha? in Greenwich Village last night.

I’ve always rooted for Diamond Dave—’specially over the other guy—and sometimes I’ve wondered how he’d segue into middle age. Think about it: this outfit, basically, is the David Lee Roth version of khakis and a Bermuda shirt.

Below, “Hot for Teacher,” from last night.

Los Tigres Del Norte are Coming to Santa Rosa

Los Tigres Del Norte are Coming to Santa Rosa

Posted by: on Jan 5, 2012 | Comments (0)

The last time Los Tigres Del Norte performed in the Bay Area, they played at the HP Pavilion, fer cryin’ out loud. So it’s a pretty big deal that the long-running superstar group—celebrating 30 years since their first album—has a scheduled concert at the 1600-seat Wells Fargo Center on March 11, 2012.

When I try to explain why I like Los Tigres del Norte to friends, I usually say something like “Duuuude, they’re the total gangsters of norteño music!” But the honest truth is that I don’t understand their lyrics unless I toss them into Google translate (my second-year Spanish is rough), or unless they’re explained to me, as in this fine primer on the group’s best immigration songs, courtesy of Amoeba Music, or this profile by Alec Wilkinson.

However, once translated, their songs tell marvelous, compact stories. Los Tigres del Norte’s most famous song is “Contrabando y Tración,” about a couple who smuggle marijuana across the border by stashing it inside their car’s tires. Once safely north, and paid from the delivery, the man declares that he’s leaving for San Francisco to hook it up with another girl. The woman pulls out a pistol and shoots him dead on the spot.

“Contrabando y Tración” was written by Angel Gonzalez, who, in interviews, emphasized the role of the female in the story. “I am a feminist, five hundred percent,” Gonzalez once said. “Woman is half the world, and what’s more, she’s the mother of the other half. In my songs, I always have the woman come out ahead. ‘Contrabando y Traicion’ was the first song like that, and then, it was also the first song about the drug traffic. There was nothing like it.”

Anyway, I have no idea how the Wells Fargo Center convinced Los Tigres del Norte to play such a small venue, but as I’m writing this, tickets are still available at $46-$88. You can buy them here.

Five Songs That Fifteen Should Totally Play Tonight

Five Songs That Fifteen Should Totally Play Tonight

Posted by: on Dec 30, 2011 | Comments (1)

Fifteen at the Phoenix Theater, 1993

 

Fifteen plays the Nostalgia Fest at the Phoenix Theater tonight, and according to reports, they’ve been practicing somewhere in the vicinity of 30 songs. That bodes well for fans, but will bode even better if the set list includes the following songs—five great Fifteen anthems that stand the test of time.

1. “Liberation” — If you’re playing a reunion show, it only makes sense to play the first song your band released. “Liberation” opened Fifteen’s self-titled 7” from 1990, and it bridged pretty clearly the gap between Crimpshrine and Fifteen: while the world has gone mad, two people find peace in their love for each other. “Just because these are songs about love and stuff doesn’t mean things don’t trouble me anymore,” Jeff explained in the photocopied lyric booklet. “It only means that I’ve found something infinitely more powerful than all the complaining and all the finger pointing and all the blaming.” This song’s intro also hints at the “tasty licks” on guitar that Jeff would eventually turn into a staple.

2. “Intentions” — When Swain’s First Bike Ride came out, many amateur guitar enthusiasts learned this song wrong, incorrectly playing the intro as chromatically ascending power chords starting on F#. Those who paid close attention learned the maj7/4-1 trick, alternately known as “squishy triangle.” Anyone who heard the song’s sad theme of giving up one’s aspirations to pursue a job in one ear while the choir of career counselors crowded the other was affected: when Jeff sings “It’s been too many years now of having my dreams beaten down,” and then repeats the words “beaten down” eight times, as if to truly beat the point to death, it’s a deeply cathartic sort of despair.

3. “C#(tion)” — Jeff told me once that he and Jack tried to arrange every song on Swain’s First Bike Ride to be perfect palindromes of each other. Listen and you’ll hear it—“Definition” begins and ends with those harmonics; “Inclination” is bookended by that noodling riff. But “C#(tion)” is an exception, with a great extended intro that repeats only as a half-time segue in the middle. This timeless song brings up two memories: 1) Seeing Green Day cover this at Gilman, thus blowing my mind, and 2) singing it with Jeff and Jack around a campfire somewhere in the sticks of Lake County. There was supposed to be a show, but for some reason everyone just killed and ate rattlesnakes instead.

4. “Domination=Destruction” — Fifteen is all but guaranteed to play “Petroleum Distillation” and at least one of the versions of “Separation” from Choice of a New Generation, so there’s no reason to waste any pennies in the fountain on those. The charms of this particular song are twofold: the fact that it initially existed as two separate songs but were combined into one, and then the way Jeff sings a melodic little “Fuck You” at the end, after exhorting “My hands are tied now, I cannot be silent in the face of the man.” You don’t realize how great this song is until it gets to the end, and then you’re like hell yeah. This is from an era when every time I saw Jeff, he wore the same Guns ‘n’ Roses T-shirt and no shoes.

5. “Run II” — After the first two albums, it’s tempting to reflect on Fifteen as the band that told you to ride a fucking bike ride a fucking bike ride a fucking bike, or gave detailed instructions on how to properly clean a hypodermic needle. Extra Medium Kickball Star was funded by the excess budget from the not-as-good Surprise! (a matter hilariously detailed in the song “The Deal”), and has this strange gem, which tells teenagers around the country that they should hitchhike to Berkeley, squat, and eat Food Not Bombs. Advising a life of squalor in a city already oversaturated with punk transplants is an unusual theme for a song, but it works, with a damn fine chorus.

Honorable Mentions: “The End,” played on the piano; “Equalized,” the Jawbreaker cover from Eggplant’s comp ‘Later, That Same Year'; “Mount Shrink Wrap,” which calculates the exact amount of shrink wrap the band is responsible for; and more than anything, probably more than any song on this silly list—“The End of the Summer,” which is just one of the prettiest goddamn love songs ever written.

Their Home Ain’t In the Hall of Fame

Their Home Ain’t In the Hall of Fame

Posted by: on Dec 7, 2011 | Comments (0)

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announcement came this morning. Nominated but not inducted: Eric B. and Rakim. (Or: War, Rufus, the Spinners.) That’s what you get with a wheezing institution whose CEO thanks their corporate sponsor in the second sentence of the press release. Congratulations, I guess, to the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Donovan, Guns ‘n’ Roses, the Beastie Boys, the Small Faces and Laura Nyro.

Pete Rugolo, 1915-2011

Pete Rugolo, 1915-2011

Posted by: on Oct 23, 2011 | Comments (0)

Last week, famed bandleader Pete Rugolo died at the age of 95. A brilliant arranger and progressive composer, he brought a decidedly modernist touch to big-band jazz, most famously with his work for Stan Kenton. He worked with Nat King Cole, Mel Tormé, June Christy, Harry Belafonte, the Four Freshmen, Peggy Lee, Billy Eckstine and many, many others.

Interesting to locals: Pete Rugolo grew up in Santa Rosa, graduating from Santa Rosa High School in 1934.

Though he eventually recorded under his own name (and specialized in fun, lively cover art), the album that introduced me to Pete Rugolo is still my favorite: the June Christy album Something Cool, a jazz-vocal landmark. Rugolo had been rearranged, tinkered with and sent back to the rewriting board by his previous employers, but as he recalls in this interview at age 84, “I did the album Something Cool, and everything I wrote, they never changed a note. They just loved all my work.”

It shows. Listen to “Something Cool” below, and pay attention in the bridge, when Christy sings about going to Paris in the fall—Rugolo answers with a jubilant three seconds of music that evokes, well. . . Paris in the fall. It’s a classic Rugolo touch that I’ve always loved, and the rest of the album’s arrangements are equally sophisticated and ahead of their time. Enjoy the song.

The LaguMini Amphitheaterette at Lagunitas Brewing Co.

The LaguMini Amphitheaterette at Lagunitas Brewing Co.

Posted by: on Oct 6, 2011 | Comments (1)

Behold, the new venue in Sonoma County: the LaguMini Amphitheaterette. Have you heard about it?

It’s like a little mini-Shoreline amphitheater smack dab right there at Lagunitas Brewing Co. on North McDowell in Petaluma, but with better beer, fairer ticketing options and no lingering specter of Bill Graham whatsoever. It’s outdoors, cozy (fits about 420 people), has a lawn and so far seems to attract decent acts: the grand opening of the LaguMini Amphitheaterette featured James McMurtry playing solo and Lagunitas founder Tony Magee doing same. (Everyone seems to agree that Magee played for a bit longer than is customary, but c’mon, he built the thing. He’s entitled to it.)

Last week, Gomez stopped in for a good hour-long set. The general-admission open floor in front of the stage filled with dancing, high-fives and downed beers. The sound is good, the stage is small; it’s everything a fan could want. What’s not to love?

Well, here’s the thing. I’ve heard on multiple occasions, both directly and indirectly, that there are some area nightclub owners who are none too thrilled about the new venue. (I won’t say their names, but look for the ones who recently pulled Lagunitas from their tap.)

I’m not an area nightclub owner, but if I was, I might make note of some important things. Lagunitas has done only two shows; both of them have been free. Their third, with Mickey Hart on Oct. 24, is a benefit on a Monday night. Moreover, because the amphitheater is outdoors, the Lagunitas guys can’t do shows in the wintertime, and they don’t appear to even have any official booking agent yet.

Does this really sound like cutthroat competition? And even if it was, is live music not a free market?

Anyway, Gomez was a treat; even encoring with “Soul Kitchen.” It reminded me of the morning I heard Doug Smith on KRSH, raving about seeing them the night before, and only getting a few hours of sleep, and having to wake up and do the morning show but dammit, it was worth it because they were just that good. It’s great how music creates lasting memories like that; here’s to the Amphitheaterette creating plenty of new ones to come.

 

 

When Millionaires Throw a Party

Posted by: on Sep 23, 2011 | Comments (0)

The advent of Spotify and its official link-up with Facebook is, without a doubt, going to change the way a lot of people listen to music. But it hasn’t changed the way millionaires party, as evidenced by Matt Crawford’s visit to a “secret show” last night after the F8 conference in San Francisco—thrown by Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker—featuring Jane’s Addiction, the Killers and Snoop Dogg.

Top-shelf liquor? Check. Two rotisserie hogs? Check. Lobster, crab and sushi? Check.

I would like, just once, to see millionaires throw a party in a warehouse without gussied-up decor and servers roaming with hors d’oeuvre trays. Then again, if you’re Mark Zuckerberg, that’s probably the only way you’re gonna be able to stand in a crowd and watch Snoop Dogg without getting mobbed by Facebook users angry at the new design.

Anyway, read all about it here. And if you’re a band, enjoy that $0.00029 per stream that Spotify’s paying you.

In related last-night secret show news, Green Day played a two-hour set at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in Oakland last night, playing mostly new material. Crazy!