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The Rum Diary Reunion: What Do You Want to Hear?

The Rum Diary Reunion: What Do You Want to Hear?

Posted by: on May 16, 2012 | Comments (4)

The Cotati Sound Machine is back! Well, for one show, at least.

As announced today, the very great Rum Diary are playing this year’s C.A.M.P. Festival in Guerneville, which is this weird-ass type of hippie-indie-spiritual-DIY-new-age-yoga-craft-rock campout amid the redwoods lining the Russian River, outdoors under the stars. In other words, the absolute perfect place for the Rum Diary, who broke up in 2007, to reunite.

What songs do you want to hear? Why not go to this handy survey they’ve created and vote? (I’m currently Googling “Survey Monkey hack” and voting for “Greasers Win” 1,000 times.)

Here’s the funny thing: “Reunion” is a bit of a misnomer, because the lineup features the same exact members of Shuteye Unison—the band that’s still playing every month. Plans were initially made for original Rum Diary drummer Joe Ryckebosch to make it down from Portland, but now it looks like that won’t happen. But Shuteye’s Jake Krohn played briefly in the Rum Diary after Joe left, and “Shuteye Unison to me is basically the same band with a different drummer,” says Daniel McKenzie. “People just want to hear the old songs, you know?”

McKenzie also notes that at C.A.M.P., “the ‘vibe’ is pretty out there at times.” When C.A.M.P. originated last year, we at the Bohemian had no idea how it was going to turn out. A bunch of people from Oakland getting high on the old J’s Amusements site? A mix of bands from Sonoma County, Oakland and Portland? A harmonic convergence to the great savior music?

Alas, watch the video below to get an idea. Tickets are on sale now.

Adam “MCA” Yauch, 1964-2012

Posted by: on May 7, 2012 | Comments (1)

I had the pleasure of meeting Adam “MCA” Yauch, along with Mike D and the King Ad-Rock, at a San Francisco press roundtable back in August 2007. The Beastie Boys were in town for two shows promoting The Mix-Up, their only album comprised of instrumentals and devoid of samples. What happened was one of the most enjoyable and bizarre journalistic experiences of my life, with the smart-alecky trio christening me the “Debbie Downer” of the room for my questions regarding “porno music” and Tibetan freedom. I couldn’t help but ask about Yauch’s Milarepa Foundation efforts because the first Tibetan Freedom Concert at Golden Gate Park in 1996 was such a memorable part of my young life. The two-day event was a key accomplishment in Yauch’s—and the band’s—very public maturation.

It was also my first Beastie Boys show, and it was a revelation. The band delivered an incredibly diverse set that included their punk songs, jazzy numbers, funk excursions, and of course their hip-hop hits. There are so many highlights, all of which I’ve struggled to devote ample brain power to since that weekend 16 years ago: A vibrant opening with the one-two blast of “Jimmy James” and “Sure Shot”; a rare live “Get it Together” with Q-Tip busting up in laughter after forgetting half his lyrics; a cover of “Red Tape” by the Circle Jerks; Biz Markie leading the 100,000-strong crowd in a raucous rendition of his classic Check Your Head intro “The Biz vs. the Nuge”; and most beautifully, MCA’s performance of “Bodhisattva Vow” alongside a Tibetan monk’s live chanting.

There were many live Beastie highlights after that—the trio letting thousands sing EVERY WORD of “Paul Revere” at Oakland Arena in 1998; the group’s giddy rendition of “High Plains Drifter” at the Bill Graham Civic in 2004—but nothing like that day. In the 1990s, the Beastie Boys’ TV culture lyrics and seamless blending of disparate musical styles reflected the culture as well as Pulp Fiction or Lollapalooza or Seinfeld or The Real World. Seeing them bring it all to life was a thrill.

That weekend, Yauch not only assembled the largest U.S. benefit crowd since 1985’s Live Aid and many of the day’s finest musical icons to urge a boycott of Chinese goods. He also began an enduring post-Tiananmen-Square-Massacre dialogue in pop culture consciousness about the ethics of the U.S.’s partnership with the brutal government of China. This call for Generation X and Y to “follow the money” and make a difference through everyday restraint was incredibly profound to the 16-year-old me. I could no longer look at “Made in China” labels without remembering the monks onstage whose teeth were all knocked out by a Chinese police cattle prod, and the distance between my high school and far-off sweatshops would never be that vast again. I kept the effort up long after my “Free Tibet” bumper sticker was stolen off my Honda’s bumper.

It makes me sad to think how Westerners can still be shocked by things like the installation of suicide nets at Apple’s Chinese factories. But I must admit that I don’t boycott Chinese goods as much I can, and with the Internet, there’s really no excuse. At the roundtable in 2007, I didn’t look closely for sweatshop wear on the Beasties, but Yauch did express some disillusionment with the Tibetan Freedom concerts he produced, particularly in the apparent lack of other bands’ long-term commitment.

Following the farcical press conference, Yauch was hanging outside near the garage as everyone headed over to UC Berkeley for that night’s Greek Theatre show. Despite strict instructions to the contrary, another writer asked for a cell phone picture and Yauch kindly obliged. After he left, it was only me and MCA. Still star struck, I asked him if he was going to the student-led Tibetan freedom protest the following day at the local Chinese embassy (I’d heard about it on the news). Surprisingly, he had no idea about it. But he looked interested and asked me for more info. Then I told him how the 1996 Tibetan Freedom Concert made a big impact on the Bay Area, and that many locals were still fighting the good fight. He just looked at me, nodding.

When his ride pulled up, he went to leave but stopped and asked if I and the other writer were going to the show. I told him I was but that the other guy couldn’t get a press pass. He asked for the guy’s name, nodded to register it, and then bade me farewell.

I never got a picture, which would’ve been cool. But at least I got to tell him that something he did made a difference for others. At least I got to do that.

 

 

 

Harmony Festival Cancelled for 2012

Harmony Festival Cancelled for 2012

Posted by: on Mar 29, 2012 | Comments (12)


Talk has been swirling for weeks, and now, it’s been made official: After 33 years, there will be no Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa in 2012.

The full announcement from Harmony Festival CEO Howard “Bo” Sapper is below, and it looks like the decision wasn’t made lightly. Harmony Festival organizers “spent many months creatively exploring dozens of promising options” to keep the festival alive, Sapper writes, but to no apparent avail. “We know this news is a great disappointment to the entire Harmony team and the community at large,” Sapper writes. “We share your feelings of disappointment.”

So far, this is only a postponement—the festival is not necessarily permanently cancelled. In an egalatarian move worthy of the festival’s aims, organizers have set up a website, www.harmonyfestivalonline.com, to collect ideas about the future of the festival from the fans and extended community. “We are looking ahead to the annual Harmony Festival in 2013,” it reads.

Obviously, this is sad news for many. Official announcement below.

Dear Harmony Festival Family,

On behalf of the Harmony Festival Board of Directors and management team, we sincerely thank you for your continued support and encouragement as we grew and evolved the Harmony Festival from a grassroots community event in 1978, into the nationally renown music, arts and cultural festival—that you’ve come to expect year after year.

It is with a deep sense of regret that we announce that after 33 years we will not be producing a Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa, CA in June 2012. As you can imagine, this is a very difficult announcement for us to make. We appreciate your patience as we took the necessary time to prepare a thoughtful message to inform the greater Harmony community of our decision, which is now effective immediately.

You might ask why we made this decision. Please trust that we have spent many months creatively exploring dozens of promising options in the hopes that we could keep this magical event alive this year. We know this news is a great disappointment to the entire Harmony team and the community at large, and we share your feelings of disappointment. We ask that we work together to move beyond this stage, toward hope and optimism for future Harmony Festivals.

We are working on plans to reorganize the company and the possibility of creating Harmony Festivals in the future. We are counting on engaging YOUR support and participation going forward as we re-envision a sustainable future for the festival. We also ask that you assist in communicating this message within your own community, in the most positive light possible.

We welcome your comments and feedback via our new blog www.harmonyfestivalonline.com and look forward to the possibility of rekindling the Harmony Festival flame so it shines even more brightly again in the future.

Respectfully,
Howard “Bo” Sapper, CEO Harmony Festival, Inc.

Healdsburg Jazz Festival 2012 Lineup: Roy Haynes, Kenny Burrell, Vijay Iyer, Many More

Healdsburg Jazz Festival 2012 Lineup: Roy Haynes, Kenny Burrell, Vijay Iyer, Many More

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

We’ve already reported that Roy Haynes, Vijay Iyer and Sheila Jordan will be at this year’s Healdsburg Jazz Festival, but today’s announcement of the full festival lineup brings in another big name in jazz: Kenny Burrell.

Burrell’s a towering figure in jazz guitar whose bio is too extensive to do justice here. His Blue Lights albums for Blue Note are iconic (love that Andy Warhol cover!). His album with John Coltrane, impeccable. Even local blues guitarist Volker Strifler once asked be to track down a copy of his Bluesin’ Around record, citing it as a major influence. And my personal favorite Kenny Burrell album is Asphalt Canyon Suite, a sublime masterpiece.

Now 80, Burrell plays both solo and in a trio on Saturday, June 9, at the Raven Theater.

Other festival highlights include Calvin Keys Organ Quartet, a quartet led by Freddy Cole (that’s Nat “King” Cole’s brother to you), a concert on the plaza featuring Azesu with Orestes Vilato and Maria Marquez, the Michele Rosewoman Trio, the Lorca Hart Trio, Healdsburg wunderkind Kai Devitt-Lee, the Shotgun Wedding Quintet and many, many more. See the full schedule here.

 

Nicki Bluhm’s Van Sessions: “I Can’t Go For That”

Nicki Bluhm’s Van Sessions: “I Can’t Go For That”

Posted by: on Mar 24, 2012 | Comments (2)

Nicki Bluhm and the Gramblers have this great YouTube series where they drive around California in their van, playing classic cover songs. So far, they’ve done tunes like “You’re No Good” by Linda Ronstadt, “Islands in the Stream” by Kenny Rogers & Dolly Parton, and long before she died, “How Will I Know” by Whitney Houston. (Songs by the Beatles, the Dead and the Allman Brothers all show up too.) The whole project has such a pure and spontaneous feel, calling to mind Jackson Browne’s Running on Empty album—parts of which were recorded in motels, in backstage rooms, and on a tour bus.

Today, Nicki Bluhm posted “I Can’t Go For That” by Hall & Oates, and it’s just fantastic:

Here’s the fun fact: Even Hall & Oates themselves took quick notice, and reposted it.

Locally, Nicki Bluhm’s singing with a Haggard-Owens-Parsons-style country tribute band, Brokedown in Bakersfield, at Hopmonk Tavern on April 7, but she and the Gramblers play May 18 at the Mystic Theatre. Judging from the swift popularity of the video above, I don’t see how the audience is going to let them off stage without playing this song.

Green Music Center Announces Inaugural Season: Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss, Lang Lang, Wynton Marsalis, More

Green Music Center Announces Inaugural Season: Yo-Yo Ma, Alison Krauss, Lang Lang, Wynton Marsalis, More

Posted by: on Mar 11, 2012 | Comments (3)

Weill Hall

The Setting: The Green Music Center at SSU, Friday afternoon.

The Man on Stage: Sandy Weill, donor to and namesake of the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall.

The Announcement: Artists performing at the Green Music Center in 2012-2013 include Lang Lang (Sept. 29), Alison Krauss (Sept. 30), John Adams with Jeffrey Kahane (Oct. 27), Chucho Valdés (Nov. 11), the Tallis Scholars (Dec. 8), Yo-Yo Ma (Jan. 26), Barbara Cook (Feb. 16), Anne-Sophie Mutter (March 2), Wynton Marsalis (March 21), Lila Downs (Apr. 18), and those are just the names that everybody recognizes. As already announced, Michael Tilson Thomas hosts four concerts, and the Santa Rosa Symphony moves in. There’s plenty more, here.

The Story: After former Citigroup CEO and chairman Weill and his wife moved to Sonoma County in 2010, his neighbors mentioned the Green Music Center. “I knew we had horses, lambs, sheep, and a lot of land,” he said, “but nothing about a music center.” Weill’s talents had laid not in music but in making a bundle on Wall Street—his musical background was limited to playing bass drum in a military band. But his curiosity was piqued.

“It really looked like a gem,” he said. “I spoke to Lang Lang, and said, ‘You gotta do me a favor.'”

That’s how, a few months ago, Lang Lang came to the Green Music Center to test its acoustics. He arrived in the dead of night, silently, at midnight. Six people from SSU were there to let him in the building, and he played the piano on stage in the hall until 1:30am.

Talk about a solo recital.

Sandy Weill

Lang Lang liked the acoustics and gave the hall his blessing, calling it “extraordinry” and “beautiful.” Yo-Yo Ma, also, came to the hall for a hush-hush test drive with Jeffrey Kahane, and “fell in love with this place.” Somewhere in the midst of all this, Weill—who with his wife owns the most expensive home sold to date in Sonoma County—donated $12 million to the center.

Surely, Weill’s ties to Carnegie Hall helped dot the schedule with top-name talent. But it was Robert Cole, formerly of UC Berkeley’s Cal Performances, who assembled the full, impressive lineup—one that undoubtedly had all other performing arts centers in the Bay Area turning a deep, envious emerald. SSU president Ruben Armiñana, taking the stage after Cole, thanked him for “the quality that needs to be there, not just at the beginning, but on an ongoing basis.”

Armiñana, for his part, openly acknowledged that the Green Music Center was “a crazy idea.” He related a story about the university vice-president cautioning him, “We don’t even have enough money to buy toilet paper.” He admitted not all stories in the media had been kind, alluding indirectly to the many reports over the years on rising costs of the center, the related alarming debt burden of SSU, the resulting hikes in tuition and fees, the criticism of Weill’s background on Wall Street and more.

Mainly, though, he implied that critics of the center hadn’t had faith. “People have lots of issues when they cannot touch, kick, feel something,” Armiñana said.

“You have to understand and accept rejection,” Weill added.

And like Weill, Armiñana had a modest musical background. “I have to admit, I was kicked out of my single class in violin,” he said. “Since I could not do that, this was a second choice.”

The Highlight of the Afternoon: Soprano Esther Rayo, taking the stage and singing “Cancion de Cuna Para Dormir a un Negrito,” by Xavier Montsalvatge. The performance stopped time in its tracks.

The Tickets: Individual tickets go on sale in July. On March 25, series and subscription tickets go on sale. There are a lot of options, and the possibilities are complex. Also, Lang Lang and Yo-Yo Ma are “Special Events” that are available only with a series purchase, and require an extra ticket purchase. That sounds kind of insidious on the surface, but there are ways to do it that make sense.

Let’s say you only want to see Lang Lang, and don’t want to sit out on the lawn, and want to do it as cheaply as possible. On March 25, you’d buy “Choral Circle” stage seating for the minimum four “Price Level B” shows from the Choose-Your-Own-Series at $18 each, totaling $72. Then you’d have to add an extra ticket to Lang Lang, starting at $55 for either side balcony or stage seating.

That’s a $127 total to see Lang Lang, but it also means you get stage seating for—and these would be my picks—John Adams, Chucho Valdez, Wynton Marsalis, and Lila Downs. Divided by five, that’s only $25 per show.

There’s no word yet on what service charges will look like, but tickets are not sold through Ticketmaster, which is a good sign. SSU’s own in-house ticketing system will handle all orders; find out more here.

About Stage Seating: I’m telling you, it’s the way to go. It’s the cheapest ticket, it’s close to the performer, it provides a view of the audience, and with the acoustics in the Green Music Center being what they are, it still sounds great. I’ve sat in the stage seats at Davies Symphony Hall, and the only reason I’ve never done it again is because they’re always sold out.

Will the Santa Rosa Symphony Change Their Name?: No, they won’t. Though it may seem appropriate for the Santa Rosa Symphony to become the “Rohnert Park Symphony,” that’s not going to happen. Sara Obuchowski, Director of Marketing for the Santa Rosa Symphony, tells me they took the matter very seriously and discussed it at length, even hiring an outside consultant to analyze the pros and cons of a name change. In the end, “Santa Rosa Symphony” won. Though I’m sad to see the Santa Rosa Symphony leave Santa Rosa proper, calling them the “Rohnert Park Symphony” just wouldn’t feel right.

For more info., see the Green Music Center site.

Ruben Armiñana

 

Built To Spill Contest Winner Revealed!

Built To Spill Contest Winner Revealed!

Posted by: on Feb 22, 2012 | Comments (1)


A few weeks ago, we announced out Built to Spill Cover Song Contest. Today, we’re pleased to announce that we’ve chosen a winner: Thomas Gonzalez, from Windsor, with his lovably bizarre version of “Carry the Zero.”

Listen: “Carry the Zero,” by Thomas Gonzalez

I admit—listening to Thomas’ version, about 15 seconds in I was like, “This is the worst thing I have ever heard.” We had some pretty funny debates around the Bohemian office about it, actually. What was up with Thomas’ voice? Why did it sound like an acoustic Matisyahu outtake? How was he going to handle the climax, where 5,000 guitar tracks smash into the mix all at once?

But hang in there and keep listening, because a certain atmosphere is created—one that definitely doesn’t exist on the original. Every ridiculous thing about Thomas’ version of “Carry the Zero” is what makes it special. Rather than a straight replication of the Built to Spill style, he truly inhabited the song and made it his own. For this, he wins two tickets to Built to Spill this Saturday night at the Uptown Theatre.

Picking a winner wasn’t easy, because the two runner-up entries are good, too. Here’s Kirana Peyton‘s version of “In Your Mind”:

Listen: “In Your Mind,” by Kirana Peyton

…and Ben Guerard‘s double-vocal version of “Big Dipper”:

Listen: “Big Dipper,” by Ben Guerard

Both runners-up win high-fives, and the affirmation that they are awesome.

Thanks for entering, everybody!

Heladsburg Jazz Festival 2012: Roy Haynes, Vijay Iyer, Sheila Jordan, More

Heladsburg Jazz Festival 2012: Roy Haynes, Vijay Iyer, Sheila Jordan, More

Posted by: on Feb 4, 2012 | Comments (0)

Announcements for the 2012 Healdsburg Jazz Festival are trickling in, and the first one so far lives up to the festival’s reputation of excellence. On June 10, a jaw-dropping lineup of Roy Haynes, the Vijay Iyer Trio and Sheila Jordan headline Rodney Strong Vineyards in Heladsburg.

I say: Goddamn, Jessica Felix has done it again.

Let’s start with Roy Haynes. The master drummer has played with every jazz great imaginable, starting with Lester Young and Charlie Parker and moving through a you-name-it sea of greats: Coltrane, Dolphy, Getz, Miles, Dizzy, Monk, Rollins, Bud, Art Pepper, Jackie McLean, Andrew Hill. I saw him a few years ago at Yoshi’s with Kenny Garrett and John Pattitucci, and even in his mid-80s, the guy hasn’t lost one drop of power in his thunderous, commanding playing. For reals. He’s a marvel to watch.

Vijay Iyer made what was without a doubt my favorite jazz album of 2009, Historicity—a dense, inventive slab of forward-thinking playing. It wasn’t just the cover of M.I.A.’s “Galang”; it was the completely unique harmonic conception, the static-laden solos, the unpredictable in every minute. Think the Bad Plus, minus some of that trio’s more overt showiness. He’s a must-see.

Not to let an already star-studded show suffer from a lack of further lumination, there’s Sheila Jordan. I found the singer’s 1962 Blue Note album Portrait of Sheila a couple years ago, and it wound up on my 2010 year-end jazz list. After its release, she didn’t record for over a decade. I never thought I’d ever see her, and yet here she is, playing Healdsburg. Just like everyone else who you never thought you’d see. Of course.

The show is on June 10, 2012, at Rodney Strong Winery, made possible in part by a $10,000 NEA Jazz Masters grant that’s only given out to 12 nonprofits nationwide. The fact that the Healdsburg Jazz Festival is one of that small pool of recipients doesn’t surprise me, but it does make me proud for the festival’s ongoing success in the wake of its near-death in 2010 and the irritating fake-jazz festivals it has had to compete with over the years. True art always survives, one way or another, doesn’t it?

Further announcements for the 2012 festival will be made at www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org.

 

 

The Roxy Theater Blowin’ Up: Tru Lyric, “I Need a Dollar”

The Roxy Theater Blowin’ Up: Tru Lyric, “I Need a Dollar”

Posted by: on Feb 2, 2012 | Comments (0)

Never mind that the beat (and the title) is a direct lift of Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar.” Never mind the low (or no) production values. Just enjoy this video shot at the Roxy Stadium 14 Theater by local rapper Tru Lyric, who apparently works cleaning up auditoriums after showings of Underworld: Awakening 3D and who goes home with plenty of rhymes running through his head.

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.

 

 



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