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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!

 

 

Sonoma Jazz+: Goodbye, Fake Jazz Festival

Sonoma Jazz+: Goodbye, Fake Jazz Festival

Posted by: on Sep 21, 2011 | Comments (4)

Today it was announced that after seven years, the Sonoma Jazz Festival is pulling the plug. As a jazz fan, I have no immediate reaction to the news other than this: good riddance.

I would have had no real problem with the Sonoma Jazz Festival if the organizers had simply dropped the word “jazz” from its name. But they refused to do so. Instead, the Sonoma Jazz Festival siphoned shamelessly from the cultural cachet of the word “jazz,” presented wheezing baby-boomer classic rock acts and swirled it all down with Cabernet and a promise of doing good for the local economy and school music programs.

Yes, they donated money to local schools. But in booking the festival, they rarely honored their own mission statement to “present and preserve jazz.” Their headliners included Sheryl Crow, John Fogerty, Steve Winwood, Crosby Stills & Nash, Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller, LeAnn Rimes, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt, Gipsy Kings, Chris Isaak, Joe Cocker and Kool & the Gang.

Nobody but an idiot or an asshole would ever call these acts jazz. It’d be like a “Sonoma Hip-Hop Festival” with the Barenaked Ladies, Limp Bizkit and Jack Johnson. Or a “Sonoma Farm-to-Table Festival” with In-n-Out Burger and Taco Bell. A “Sonoma Film Festival” that screened reality TV shows.

By continuing to call their festival a jazz festival, the Colorado-based organizers insulted the art form of jazz and, by association, embarrassed Sonoma County. It only got worse with the piddly concession of adding a “+” to the name. More then a few local jazz musicians I know joked that the festival was “Sonoma Jazz Minus,” except they weren’t really jokes. Jokes are supposed to be funny.

This is not to denigrate the worthy efforts of many locals who worked hard to make the festival what it was, some of whom actively pushed to get the name changed. And I would be remiss not to mention the few jazz and jazz-related acts that played the big tent in the “Field of Dreams”—Herbie Hancock, Harry Connick Jr., Diana Krall, and openers like Julian Lage and Hiromi come to mind.

But they all seemed like aberrant curiosities in Sonoma, politely endured instead of appreciated. In 2008, after Herbie Hancock opened his set with the Blue Note jazz classic “Cantaloupe Island,” an exodus of half-tipsy middle-aged wine country dilettantes who’d been trained that Michael McDonald is “jazz” filled the aisles and headed to their SUVs.

My very first experience in the cavernous, 3,000-seat tent also comes to mind—plunking down $110 for seats far away from the stage for Tony Bennett—and how it was marred by a well-heeled woman behind me blathering loudly on her phone, too bored to go through the motions of paying attention to one of America’s greatest song stylists. She eventually stumbled off into the wine lounge and never came back. Looks like the Sonoma Jazz Festival is following suit.

 

Look Who’s Coming  |  Fall 2011

Look Who’s Coming | Fall 2011

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

B.B. King and Buddy Guy aren’t just the best headliners the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival (Sept. 24-25) has had in years, they’re also an example of the longtime legends who, lucky for us, return to the North Bay perennially. This fall season boasts everyone from jazz survivor Herbie Hancock (Sept. 18, Wells Fargo Center) to indie-rock progenitors the Pixies (Nov. 20, Uptown Theatre), with a little bit of country survivor Wynonna Judd thrown in for good boot-scootin’ measure (Nov. 8, Lincoln Theatre).

When Herbie Hancock was here last, he regaled the crowd with a song he hadn’t played live in 25 years—”Rockit,” the early-turntablist fusion breakdance anthem. Expect similar crossover from jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour (Sept. 17, Napa Valley Opera House) and, to a lesser degree, recent Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding (Oct. 2, Uptown Theatre). Spalding, who has successfully crossed over out of the jazz world with the large help of Starbucks, has got a marvelous hairdo to rival that of Diana Ross, who stops in for a diva show to end all diva shows (Sept. 17, Marin Center). And speaking of glamour, there’s two chances to catch quasi-globetrotting ensemble Pink Martini (Nov. 17, Marin Center; Nov. 19; Grace Pavilion), who continue to receive rave reviews even with the temporary hiatus of lead vocalist China Forbes.

Rock legends abound, with the Last Day Saloon hosting recent box-set grantees UFO (Sept. 15) and Mr. Playin’ It Straight himself, Pat Travers (Oct. 8). Lindsey Buckingham, the poor soul who has been stuck with a not-very-funny SNL skit, plays in Napa (Oct. 25, Uptown Theatre) just before guitar wizard Jeff Beck flies through with three shows (Oct 31, Wells Fargo Center; Nov 1-2, Uptown Theatre). And though they may not be in the Cleveland Hall of Fame, they’re our own legends, like it or not: barf-metal act Skitzo celebrates 30 years of regurgitation this year (Oct. 8, Phoenix Theater).

A strong indie-rock double bill of Band of Horses and Brett Netson brings the bearded out of the woodwork (Sept. 9, Uptown Theater), while Dawes and Blitzen Trapper give a virtual encore a month later (Oct. 7, Mystic Theater). Ryan Adams, whose career has been a rollercoaster to say the least, plays a completely sold-out show (Oct. 15, Uptown Theater), while the almighty Pixies hold the record for quickest ticket sales (Nov. 20, Uptown Theatre)—the Napa stop of their Doolittle Tour was sold out in minutes.

While the grizzled country-music patriarch Merle Haggard returns (Sept. 30, Uptown Theatre), many young-uns swim in his wake. Son Volt’s Jay Farrar glides onto the stage with a voice of velvet (Sept. 9, Mystic Theatre), while Dave Alvin continues his quest to make the bandana cool again—if anyone can do it, it’s him (Sept. 15, Mystic Theatre).

Jackson Browne is all over his solo set these days, with stories and spontaneity and rarely any set list (Nov. 9, Marin Center), while master storyteller Tom Russell comes back for a special intimate evening (Oct. 27, Studio E). The nimble and fleet-fingered Bruce Hornsby continues to provide examples of why he’s among the most sought-after in the business (Sept. 14, Uptown Theatre), and at the Napa Valley Opera House, two artists get up close and personal: Rickie Lee Jones (Nov. 3) and Stephen Stills (Nov. 17).

Blues fans looking forward to the great B. B. King–Buddy Guy teamup can also get down and low over at the Mystic Theatre with J. L. Walker (Sept. 15) and Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Blowout (Oct. 1). And if that doesn’t work, then the hell with it—just flush all cares down the drain and go enjoy the crazy theatrics of “Weird Al” Yankovic (Nov. 7, Wells Fargo Center).

Complete List of Songs Banned by China’s Ministry of Culture

Complete List of Songs Banned by China’s Ministry of Culture

Posted by: on Aug 26, 2011 | Comments (1)

How bad is it being a music fan living in China? So bad, it seems, that the Chinese government has banned 100 songs from being played on the radio—or even featured on websites. The Chinese Ministry of Culture’s list includes female American pop stars Katy Perry, Beyoncé, Lady Gaga and Britney Spears, along with songs by Owl City, Simple Plan, Take That and the Backstreet Boys.

We’re wondering just how threatening some of these songs could possibly be: “Today Should Be Very Happy,” “Smiley Face,” “Thank you for Your Inspiration.” Really? And boy, watch out for Linzi Xi’s “Intro,” folks. That’s dangerous stuff, right there.

The complete list of songs banned by China’s Ministry of Culture, effective September 15, 2011, is below the jump. English list comes courtesy of Google translate; a duplicate list in Chinese follows.

This is the Bay Area

Posted by: on Aug 3, 2011 | Comments (0)

“Like a Tumblr blog in which each photo, scrap of text, or embedded video is posted without context, contributing a single point to the overall aesthetic, the swag life encourages you to take cultural artifacts that speak to you — be they punk rock or crunk rap, secondhand sweaters or designer shoes — and fit them like novel bricks into the multicolored wall of your own image.”

When a hyphy wave crashes, new ripples inevitably appear. Ian S. Port gives an excellent overview of current Bay Area hip-hop in the SF Weekly today. (Photo of Lil’ B by Joseph Schell.)

Amy Winehouse Found Dead

Amy Winehouse Found Dead

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

According to numerous reports coming from the UK, Amy Winehouse has been found dead in her London home. She was 27 years old.