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Watch Patti Page in 2010 Singing “Tennessee Waltz” at a Senior Expo

Watch Patti Page in 2010 Singing “Tennessee Waltz” at a Senior Expo

Posted by: on Jan 3, 2013 | Comments (0)

The great Patti Page died today at age 85. She was a singer I loved, whose albums on Mercury are mainstays in my easy listening, and whose song “Let Me Go, Lover” changed my life one night on 960-KABL AM while driving back from San Francisco at 1:45 in the morning.

So it warmed my heart tonight, while searching YouTube for later-era live performances, to find this footage of Patti Page singing “Tennessee Waltz” for a group of seniors in 2010. (It appears to be her latest-uploaded live clip, just after this appearance on Eat Beluga, a television show from the Philippines.) Here she is, a legend who sold millions of records, who would have accepted a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award next month, who could easily rest on her laurels, and instead she’s bringing some sunshine to people who surely remember her in the twilight of their own lives.

Live Review: San Francisco Symphony at Green Music Center

Posted by: on Dec 7, 2012 | Comments (0)

SF Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas says hello

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.

MTT and Yefim Bronfman take a bow

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.

Vital Snoop-formation

Posted by: on Dec 6, 2012 | Comments (0)


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.

Be ‘That Guy’ with Bon Jovi Tonight

Posted by: on Nov 27, 2012 | Comments (0)

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.

Snoop Dogg to Play Phoenix Theater on Dec. 15

Snoop Dogg to Play Phoenix Theater on Dec. 15

Posted by: on Nov 8, 2012 | Comments (2)

It’s official, and no, we aren’t joking: Snoop Dogg is playing the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Saturday, Dec. 15. If this means that we get to possibly see Tom Gaffey and Snoop Dogg on stage together, all will be amazing in the world.

Tickets go on sale this Saturday, Nov. 10, at 10am.

General admission tickets will be $70, making this the highest-priced ticket at the Phoenix in recent memory—and by “recent,” I mean “since 1989.” But consider that when Snoop plays in San Francisco, tickets cost over fifty bucks anyway, and minus gas and toll and parking, and it’s the Phoenix, for chrissakes, well… I’m betting it’ll quickly sell out.

If you’re a Snoop superfan, there’s also a VIP meet-and-greet option, including a photo with Snoop himself and special tour merchandise, priced at—drumroll please—$350.

Got your mind on your money and your money on your mind? You can get tickets, starting Saturday at 10am, here.

(UPDATE: Snoop’s also playing the Uptown Theatre in Napa the night before, on Friday, Dec. 14. Tickets are $60, and go on sale this Saturday at noon right here. If you can’t get Phoenix tickets on Saturday, that’s a good option—the Uptown is a great place to see a show.)

Live Review: The One Island Tour at Hopmonk, Sebastopol

Posted by: on Oct 29, 2012 | Comments (0)

Despite the rain, crowds filled Hopmonk’s Abbey last week for Monday Night Edutainment’s first big show of the fall season. For more than a decade, the weekly dance party has been introducing Sonoma County to reggae’s freshest bands and MCs. But it is loyalty to the genre’s biggest international stars that consistently fills the house.

Photo by Christopher Harris

Edutainment’s WBLK production crew resumed their tradition of booking excellent talent with a three-band lineup. What’s more, Hopmonk had their first opportunity to debut a giant translucent tent covering the entire back patio. With the rain falling lightly outside, it was just another NorCal summer night inside the glowing dome.

Headlining was Caribbean band Bambú Station from the Virgin Island of St. Croix. They are currently touring as one half of The One Island Tour, a 16-city West Coast run with Maui’s InnaVision. The two linked up with the opener Ancestree, a reggae festival favorite based in Santa Cruz.

What Music is Like at the World Series

What Music is Like at the World Series

Posted by: on Oct 28, 2012 | Comments (0)

The first thing we notice walking into the ballpark for Game One of the World Series? The music, of course. “Friend of the Devil” is playing over the PA, which isn’t surprising, considering the Grateful Dead are still revered in San Francisco and Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery is a huge deadhead. Here he is singing the national anthem with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh in the NLCS—you gotta love that fist-pump by Lesh—but even in the offseason, Flannery plays with his band, the Lunatic Fringe, sometimes in benefit appearances for Bryan Stow and sometimes just for the hell of it. Flannery’s been a musician since a young age. “When I was young,” he says, “I thought I was John Denver.” I love Flannery for his gutsiness and smarts when it comes to, say, sending Buster Posey home against all apparent odds, but you gotta love him for his laid-back life off the field too.

Pomp and regalia are in full bloom at the ballpark, with bunting draped over every level’s banister and, after batting practice, old-time organ music: “Good Day Sunshine,” “Wait ‘Til the Sun Shines, Nellie,” and others played in that inimitable ballpark style. We thought it might be Dave “Baby” Cortez and his Happy Organ, who made a comeback last year, but nope—here’s a shout out Steve Hogan, the Giants organist who sits up there near the huge Coke bottle in left field and waits for instructions from the sound manager over whether to play “Charge” or “Jaws.” Watch this dry little video about his day-to-day task of tickling the Hammond, and try to tell me it isn’t the best job in baseball.

In the lead-up to the game, the PA represents both teams: “Sing a Simple Song” by Sly and the Family Stone, from San Francisco, and “White Trash Party” by Eminem, from Detroit. (Neutral parties are given “Intro” by the xx, among the best manifestations of bland neutrality since the “chillout” craze.) The way that Sly Stone has crashed and burned in recent years decades, this might not be the best talisman of hope for the Giants, but not exactly to the Tigers’ benefit, either, since the Eminem song celebrates, uh, tramp stamps.

Live Review and Photos: Treasure Island Music Festival 2012

Live Review and Photos: Treasure Island Music Festival 2012

Posted by: on Oct 14, 2012 | Comments (1)

What happened to her giant pants?!

(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, from Oakland with love

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

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.

Divine Fits Defies ‘Supergroup’ Moniker

Posted by: on Aug 17, 2012 | Comments (1)

Equal parts Spoon, Wolf Parade and New Bomb Turks make a cocktail called Divine Fits

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.

Live Review: Amanda Palmer at Public Works, San Francisco

Live Review: Amanda Palmer at Public Works, San Francisco

Posted by: on Jul 18, 2012 | Comments (0)

Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra. Photo by David Korman

 

 

Amanda Palmer is a dark traditionalist. Staying close to the inherent “rock” values of authenticity and performance, her song writing is ingenious. Filled with melancholy playfulness and longing for human understanding, her music seamlessly shifts between genres. Happier songs are laced with synth pop and air pianos, somber ballads combine orchestras with horns and ukuleles. Most notably, Palmer’s performances always captivate the energy of the audience. With as much taking as she is receiving, Amanda’s intensity translates into exceptional stage presence.

On this occasion, a private audience of Kickstarter campaign donators and selected invitees joined fans from the press to take part in Palmer’s current six-city international tour. Stopping in Berlin, London and New York the circuit is promoting her new album “Theatre Is Evil”, out September 2012 on 8ft Records. The album has sold nearly 25,000 pre-order copies via the digital funding platform. With a sold-out show the following night, Thursday’s attendees experienced the exhibit in rare intimate format.

The art space at Public Works is a long, winding closet of a gallery. Stemming off the side of the two-story warehouse on the eastern edge of San Francisco’s Mission District, the venue has become the dernier cri for contemporary art and performance.