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Live Review: Marnie Stern’s Kissing Booth

Posted by: on Nov 15, 2008 | Comments (41)

I had heard about Marnie Stern’s Kissing Booth idea a couple hours before tonight’s show with Gang Gang Dance in San Francisco, and sure enough, when we arrived at Bimbo’s, we discovered this sign at the merch stand:

Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!

Apparently, in addition to the speeding tickets, some seatbelt violations were involved as well, which can get pretty expensive (“Michigan, man,” said Stern). Discriminating kissers will note the detailed price breakdown: $3 for a peck on the cheek, $10 for full lips, and $100 for the big-spender French kiss.

So — were there any takers?

At the end of Marnie Stern’s set, a sizable group of people crowded around her side of the stage, declaring their love and asking for hugs. But to my dismay, I went out in the lobby later on and witnessed a similar group of people just, uh, standing around. And though the kissing offer was literally on the table, they were just, uh, awkwardly talking to Marnie Stern. And, um, buying a shirt, I guess. And, do you. . . think I could have another hug?

It was excruciating. Goddamn indie hipsters are a bunch of pansy-ass Holden Caulfields who can’t get over their own imagined degradation of giving a girl $10 for a kiss, I grumbled to myself. Whatever happened to all the fun in the world?!

But after about 10 minutes, a good sign walked into the room. To be precise: a tall mid-20s boy, with a slender face and large eyes. Lanky, plaid shirt. He approached the table and conspicuously pointed to the sign.

“Is the kissing booth open?” he asked.

Finally! Marnie Stern jumped up, pointed her arms in the air and let out a “whoo-hoo!” while doing a small, excited dance. A customer!

The boy pointed to the “lips” option, and handed a $10 bill to Stern, who was more than willing to deliver the goods. Boy, did he get his money’s worth:

Yowza!

I chased him down afterwards. “I had to,” he told me. “She’s beautiful, you know? It was awesome.” He was beaming from ear to ear.

Please, indie rock nation: more kissing booths!

Schwarzenbach, Cometbus, and the Thorns of Life

Posted by: on Nov 14, 2008 | Comments (15)

Well, shit, here we go: Blake Schwarzenbach has started a band with Aaron Elliott and Daniela Sea called the Thorns of Life. No joke. There’s photos posted here from the band’s grand debut at the Jerk House in Brooklyn this past weekend.

What does the band sound like? According to a recent punknews.org post, Blake is said to have written via Facebook that “I can say only that it’s loud and tender and we’re called the Thorns Of Life. whether it’s more Jetsesque or Breaker-like I honestly don’t know; It sounds like a storehouse of fond hatred from the last few years and in the now.”

It’s tempting to pessimistically predict that they’ll play three more house shows, record a 7″ and then break up; however, in a message to fans recently, Blake said he looked forward to coming “to a town near you.”

Needless to say, this is exciting news.

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UPDATE, 11/15: Thorns of Life played again last night at another house show in Brooklyn. There’s three videos below. More on the band by clicking here.

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UPDATE, 1/31: My interview with Blake regarding the band is here.

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Free Tickets: No Age in San Francisco

Posted by: on Nov 13, 2008 | Comments (0)

This just in: No Age is playing a launch party for Shockhound on Thursday, Dec. 4 at the Rickshaw Stop, and tickets for the show are FREE.

All you have to do is click here, fill out a simple form with your name and email, and you’re on the list +1.

Are you down? I’m down. Everybody’s Down.

I’ll keep this post up for as long as tickets seem available.

Everybody is a Star

Posted by: on Oct 29, 2008 | Comments (0)

Even Joe the Plumber, who just announced he’s signing a recording deal with Aaron Tippin. Can he sing his way out of a paper bag? No. Can he play guitar? No. No big deal. Nothing ProTools can’t fix.

I can see it now. The album, called Unlicensed to Ill, will feature such songs as “Lyin’ to Obama In Order to Not Really Prove a Point,” “Wow, I’m an Expert on Israel All of a Sudden,” “Maybe I’ll Make Over $250,000 From This Song,” “Back Taxes Suck and I Hate Payin’ Em,” and “Don’t Take My Word For It, But Wait, Actually, Maybe You Should, Even Though I Don’t Know Anything, So Don’t Ask Me Who I’m Voting For, It’s Private, Wait a Minute, Where Are You Going, Don’t Go Anywhere, I’m Gonna Endorse McCain, as if That’s News to Anyone Who Has Half a Brain and Hasn’t Figured Out That I Was Hella Lying and Being Antagonizing to Obama All Along, Please Keep Me in the Spotlight, Please, So I Don’t Have to Actually Get My Plumber’s License.”

The Sly Stone Show: Behind the Scenes

Posted by: on Oct 23, 2008 | Comments (15)

The insane circumstances surrounding Sly Stone’s bizarre appearance in Santa Rosa last Friday, Oct. 18, were told to me by several people involved with the show. Crazy doesn’t begin to describe it. Here’s how it went down.

The morning of the show, Sly Stone is in Los Angeles. He fires his business manager. Sly tells the promoter that he’s his own boss now, that he’s the one who’s going to get paid at the show, and that he needs $3,000 wired to the bank account of an Iranian BMW saleswoman before he’ll even get on the plane to San Francisco.

And about that plane: it was supposed to arrive from Los Angeles at 11:30am. No Sly. The limo waits at the airport. Sly’s next flight becomes 1:30pm, then 2:30pm, 3:30pm and 5:30pm. No one can get a hold of him at all. The promoter drives to the airport in the slim hope that Sly might walk through one of the gates.

Finally, at 7:30pm, with his young Japanese girlfriend in tow, the 65-year-old Sly shows up at the airport. He’s an hour and a half away from the show—which starts in a half hour—and he demands to go to the hotel. The young girlfriend finally talks him out of it, and he agrees to go to the show, but he’s still talking about getting paid.

He sleeps all the way to Santa Rosa.

Sly doesn’t hit the stage at the Wells Fargo Center until 10:30pm, during the fifth song of the set. He walks off the stage 25 minutes later, in the middle of “I Wanna Take You Higher,” telling the crowd, “I gotta go take a piss. I’ll be right back.”

But Sly never comes back. The band continues on without him, killing time for 30 minutes. During the last song, a man appears on the stage, whispering into band members’ ears.

Meanwhile, backstage, Sly is demanding to be paid. The show is still going on, and the promoters are telling his handlers to get him back out to perform more. But his handlers know the drill. It’s been this way for years. What can they do?

Before the show is over, Sly is out in the parking lot, still in his white suit, trying to get into the promoter’s car. All the doors are plainly locked, but he keeps trying. Finally, a woman drives by, picks him and his Japanese girlfriend up, and they whiz away. Word of his departure gets inside.

It’s not too hard to figure out what the man on the stage was whispering to the band. How about: Sly’s making a getaway? How about: Sly’s driving off right now? How about: You’d better chase after him if you want to get paid?

And after quickly finishing the song and exiting the stage, that’s exactly what they do.

The band members pile in their cars and find Sly precisely where they thought he’d be—at the Fountaingrove Hilton. Except he’s not in his room. All the rooms are reserved under the business manager’s name, who Sly fired that morning. So Sly’s there, fuming about not being able to get into his room, when the rest of his band suddenly pulls up.

“Get me out of here,” he’s heard telling his driver, and they peel out.

It is not an uncommon sight to see cars racing down Mendocino Avenue on a Friday night. But it’s a different story altogether when the lead car giving chase contains an absolute funk music legend, pursued by five more cars driven by band members, some of whom have played with him for 40 years and are actual, literal family members. Six cars race down the street, weaving in and out of lanes.

Finally, past midnight, Sly’s car is cornered at a gas station. A long stand-off ensues between him and the band while the young Japanese girl cries hysterically in the car. A gas station on Mendocino Avenue in Santa Rosa. That’s where it all falls apart.

At press time, no one can get a hold of Sly Stone—not his management, not his band mates, not his family. The last anyone sees of him, he’s headed south on Highway 101. Everyone’s got a pretty good idea how he’s spending the money, but no one knows where he is.

And no one ever wants to play with him again.

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To read a review of the Sly Stone show, click here.

Hank Williams, Jr. Sings for McCain

Posted by: on Oct 14, 2008 | Comments (0)

I’m trying to keep away from campaign-related postings here, because if I started, there’d simply be no end. But I think sharing this video of Hank Williams, Jr. singing at a McCain rally this week in Virginia is important. I’ve given ol’ Bocephus a pass before, but not after mangling his one good song into a propagandist scheme for McCain’s venomous course of campaigning. Watch as he sings about Obama’s “radical friends”—in addition to making the preposterous claim that Democrats ruined the economy and that Bill Clinton himself forced lenders into bad loans. Meanwhile, he calls Sarah Palin a “good-lookin’ dish.”

A fat, ignorant washed-up son of a genius who can’t sing anymore endorses McCain and Palin. In related news, just about every good musician in the known universe is for Obama.

“I’m Warning You With Peace and Love”

Posted by: on Oct 14, 2008 | Comments (3)

So Ringo won’t sign autographs. Can there honestly be an unmanageable demand?

It’s hard to imagine John Lennon ever making a video like this.

1-2-3, Mos Def and Adam The-eis

Posted by: on Oct 3, 2008 | Comments (3)

Just got off the phone with old pal and former Santa Rosa resident Adam Theis, who’s meeting with Mos Def tonight to discuss their upcoming collaboration for the Band Shell Music Summit in San Francisco. If you’d’ve told me eight years ago that Adam Theis would be working with Mos Def, I’d say you were crazy. But then I’d think about it, and I’d totally believe you, because Theis is among the most talented and dedicated musicians I know.

Here’s the deal: Theis’ Realistic Orchestra is the backing band for Mos Def in a free show on October 18 at the Golden Gate Park Bandshell, between the De Young Museum and the new Academy of Sciences. You can’t just show up, though—you have to go to this website, lie about your income, feel guilty about not taking public transportation and say if you have an energy efficient lightbulb in your house or not. Kinda weird, but whatever—print out the voucher, and you’re in.

Theis says he and Mos Def are working on about a collaborative half-hour set with the Realistic Orchestra for the event, and is quick to point out that the rest of the day’s lineup—with Mingus Amungus, Lavay Smith, Kim Nalley, and some dude from Dave Matthews’ band—should be pretty great as well. The next night, the collaboration hits the stage again at Ruby Skye to benefit the Blue Bear School of Music. Tickets are $50. Go to the free thing instead.

Incidentally, Theis is also working on a two-hour opus commissioned by a prestigious Emerging Composer grant from the Gerbode-Hewlett Foundation, to be premiered next spring as part of the SFJAZZ festival by a 50-piece orchestra. No shit: a 50-piece orchestra. And all this after arranging horns for Lyrics Born’s last album, and the Mighty Underdogs’ last album, and J-Boogie’s last album, and oh, pretty much dominating the Mission District every Tuesday night at Bruno’s.

Steve Jobs Craps Pants, Cries In Corner Over Royalties

Posted by: on Oct 1, 2008 | Comments (3)

Apple has announced that if the iTunes Music Store is forced by a Library of Congress-appointed Copyright Royalty Board to increase their royalty rate for publishers and songwriters by six measly cents per song, then boo hoo, waah waah, they’re going to have no choice but to shut down the iTunes Music Store altogether.

From Wired:

“If the [iTunes music store] was forced to absorb any increase in the… royalty rate, the result would be to significantly increase the likelihood of the store operating at a financial loss—which is no alternative at all,” wrote Apple iTunes vice president Eddy Cue in a statement filed with the board last year, according to Fortune. “Apple has repeatedly made it clear that it is in this business to make money, and most likely would not continue to operate [the iTunes music store] if it were no longer possible to do so profitably.”

It’s easy to see that Apple is bluffing its ass off in an attempt to get record labels to absorb the six cents. But what’s even more infuriating is that they have the full stupid support of music fans who’ve been indoctrinated for the last ten years to believe that anything except 100-percent free music is the product of the evil recording industry and who clearly don’t know the difference between the record label, the recording studio, the RIAA, and the publisher.

One comment is indicative of many:

“As much as I have been an apple hater over the years and despise the i-tunes concept becuase of the DRM, kudos to them for taking such a hard line stand. The studios know the end of i-tunes will pretty kill their last existing business model. It’s about time somewith the power has the moxy to tell the RIAA F-YOU”

Now, I’m aware that Internet comments are by nature an intellectual cesspool, but what worries me is that everyone takes this knee-jerk “fuck the record industry” stance without understanding that this mechanical royalty rate increase is a move to actually help the artist. Of the four categories above—label, studio, RIAA, and publisher—there’s one that does right by the artist, and that’s the publisher. Nearly all songwriters work with a publishing company which pays them songwriting royalties. And everyone knows that songwriting royalties are the best and most feasible way for musicians to support themselves.

I’ve personally known musicians who’ve released 10 albums and hardly seen any paychecks at all. Then, bam! One day their song gets covered by a more famous artist, or used in a commercial, or played in the background on a made-for-TV-movie that airs in Australia, and all their hard work finally pays off—to say nothing of the many obscure artists who share songwriting credit for hip-hop samples, or those important figures who’ve maybe never even recorded a song but have written hit after hit.

Six cents might not sound like a lot, but try telling that to David Axelrod, the Los Angeles musician whose “Holy Thursday” was tapped for a sample on Lil’ Wayne’s mega-selling The Carter III. Try telling that to Rowland Salley, whose beautiful “Killing the Blues” was included by Alison Krauss and Robert Plant on their mega-selling Raising Sand. Try telling that to Tom Waits, whose “The Long Way Home” from Norah Jones’ mega-selling Long Way Home earned him more royalties than his entire brilliant 1972-1980 catalog combined.

So to Steve Jobs: Quit your crying. In the immortal words of Seth Tobocman, you don’t have to fuck people over to survive. Pay the six cents and earn yourself a little goodwill.

Bits ‘n Pieces: Tom Waits, Downtown, Restaurants, Traverso’s, Mel Torme, etc.

Posted by: on Jul 13, 2008 | Comments (9)

Don’t ask me how I know this, but I assure you it’s true: Tom Waits officially recorded his show last week at the Fox Theater in Atlanta for a broadcast on NPR. From all the reviews on Eyeball Kid, it seems like one of the best shows on his entire tour so far. There’s also this great little Excel spreadsheet-type calculation thing of every single song Tom Waits has played on the American leg of his tour over at Eyeball Kid, which is a drool-inducing jealousyfest for fans like me.

 

In a matter of incredibly arcane Tom Waits trivia, we here at City Sound Inertia bow our heads in remembrance of China Light, the dingiest little Chinese restaurant in Santa Rosa, on the corner of College and Cleveland Avenues. I used to live around the corner from the place, back when it was painted a ridiculous pink color, and every night at about 10pm they’d close so the whole family could eat around a large round table in the family dining room, off to the side. It was sweet. What does this have to do with Tom Waits, you ask? It’s this room that Tom Waits chose for a photo shoot, posing with a book about human oddities, right after Mule Variations was released.

The best thing about China Light, of course, was the beautiful misspelling on its corner sign: “Lunch Specil.”

I’m not sure that Waits ate there very much; he probably just liked how run-down the place looked. Do you remember when a car crashed through the front of the building, and it took the owners 8 months to patch up the gigantic hole? Seriously, for 8 months there was just a pile of bricks and a sheet of cardboard covering the wall. I checked their health code violations on the Sonoma County Food Inspection website once—they had about 5 or 6 critical violations. Not that it mattered; I loved their soup, although it did go a bit downhill. The last time I ate there was the day that Blowfly played at Michele’s, in Santa Rosa, and all I remember is that the chicken was so gooey and undercooked that I was literally spitting it out onto the ground as I left out the front door.

 

Apparently Tom Waits signed his contract with Epitaph at Rinehart’s Truck Stop in Petaluma; or, to be more precise, the now-defunct Zoya’s Truck Stop Cafe. Now that’s a place I miss. A perfect cheap spot between Santa Rosa and San Francisco, with the most amazing painting of an eagle, on the wall above the booths. Run by Russians; on bad days, it smelled more like borscht than burgers. Story goes that Waits was willing to sign with Epitaph, but insisted on meeting label head Brett Gurewitz there. So Gurewitz drove up from L.A. and met him at the truck stop, contract in hand. (It’s on the same exit where the makeshift memorial for Georgia Lee Moses is, immortalized in Mule Variations‘ “Georgia Lee.”)

Greg at Flavor told me tonight that Waits used to come there every Tuesday for a while. Then he stopped. Aw, hell, I could go on and on about Tom Waits—hey, what about restaurants? Bummed that Cafe Japan, right next to Flavor, closed; they were such nice people, and to my mind the best sushi in town. Here’s to a good run.

 

Probably the strangest dining experience I’ve had lately was eating at Mariscos F. Magiy on Sebastopol Road a couple weeks ago. While I ate my squid quesadilla, I was kept company by a very large and smiling bulldog, panting and drooling next to my table. I love dogs, but some guy (who works there? hangs out there? I dunno) saw me and firmly warned, “Stay there. Don’t move.” Eventually he got the bulldog to go back into the kitchen. “He looks friendly,” he said, “but he’ll turn on you.” Hmm. Incidentally, the quesadilla was delicious.

 

Old Santa Rosa diehards like me are all abuzz over the news that Traverso’s is moving to Fountaingrove; it makes sense for them to be across the street from a lot of old people with money, but I will miss them being downtown in a major way. But now who will spend all day politely dealing with people asking for change for the bus? Mr. “Shut Up Hippie” over at Cafe Martin?

I was talking with Michael Traverso, one of the friendliest check-out clerks in the world, after they sold the building and started looking for a new location. Here’s my favorite thing about the move: Michael says they’re completely planning on taking the store’s hardwood floor with them. “Really? You can do that?” I asked him. “Sure!” he said. “It’s the original floor! We moved it from our old location when we moved here!” You gotta love stuff like that.

Is there a copy editor out there who can solve the mystery of the Traverso’s sign? Right next to the smiling man holding a stretch of salami and the promise of “101 Varieties Cheese,” it proudly boasts their motto: “Traverso’s Got It!” Since the name of the joint is Traverso’s, shouldn’t it read “Traverso’s’s Got It?”

The sandwiches at Pete’s market on 4th and Mendocino are better and cheaper anyway.

 

Long overdue are my dorky kudos to the city of Santa Rosa for making our sidewalks more skateboard-friendly! Just about every raised crack in town, it seems, was shaved flat back in the springtime. The skateboarders of the city thank you. Now if only it was legal to ride on the sidewalks!

 

Parking meters, parking meters: those new pay stations are wack and everyone knows it. I’m guessing they’re here to stay, which is ridiculous since there is a much more convenient way for people to pay for their parking. It also requires no adaptation of the city’s current meters: have you ever noticed the credit card-sized slot in the city’s LCD meters? It’s there to accept parking cards, a program that the City of San Francisco has used to great effect. It’s easy: you buy a parking card from City Hall, it has a certain dollar amount on it, and when you park somewhere, you insert it into the slot while the meter counts up. Reach the desired time, remove the card, and that’s that—no change needed.

I asked a woman at City Hall’s Parking & Transit office the other day if there was any possibility of the city issuing parking cards to use in these ready-and-waiting slots. “Not gonna happen,” she said. “Not in this budget cycle, at least.”

The two most plausible theories about the city’s excitement over the new pay stations that I’ve heard are 1) With the new pay stations, the city can make more money because it’s impossible for drivers to tell if there’s money left on a meter, and 2) Some outside city analyst suggested that removing all the parking meters would make the city look nicer.

 

They’re finally fixing the drinking fountain in Courthouse Square, at least.

License plate of the week, parked at the Odd Fellows Hall in Santa Rosa.

I was sitting on some steps eating a sandwich a couple weeks ago and looked over and saw this collection of heroin needles in the bushes. Corner of Mendocino & Silva, where the cops routinely crack down. Kind of a weird place to shoot heroin, in my opinion.

Isn’t this supposed to be a music blog?

I was defeated in a lyric-remembering showdown recently, when Anna Allensworth knew the correct opening line of “Sunday in New York” and I, in shame, did not. I thought it was “New York on Sunday / Big city havin’ a ball.” Anna was right: “New York on Sunday / Big city takin’ a nap.” Two very different things. Congratulations, Anna!

 

In a related tangent, I have been together with Liz now for almost seven years, and only just tonight, I discovered that she knows all the lyrics to “Singin’ in the Rain.” I thought Gene Kelly was the only one who knew more than the first four lines. Congratulations, Liz!

 

After he played it for me one night and I couldn’t shut up about it for days, Josh Staples gave me a copy of an amazing, amazing album: Modern Windows by Bill Barron. It rides a real fine line between post-bop and avant-garde, and it’s all one long uninterrupted suite separated into different movements, and Barron’s tone on the tenor sax is a menace. I love it. Thanks, Josh!

 

The two crappiest music videos I’ve seen all week: “Puff Puff Give” by Hannah’s Field and “No Tight Clothes” by Thug Slaughter Force. Painful shit, folks. Click at your own risk.

Okay—enough rambling. Time to get back to watching The Big Knife. It’s a great film that was part of the United Artists 90th Anniversary Film Festival at Film Forum in New York, but unfortunately not part of the touring version which hits the Rialto at the end of this month. Video Droid‘s got it. Rent it from them, and no, I still don’t have a Netflix account.