By Eddie Jorgensen
Jello Biafra fronted the Dead Kennedys and released some of the most ferocious, vitriol-fueled punk ever. He plays the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma this Friday.
Unlike much of the punk rock diaspora that didn’t have the education or wherewithal to tackle topics like politics, organized religion and everything in between, Biafra was an anomaly. His current band features some impressive Sonoma County brethren including guitarist Ralph Spight and bassist Larry Boothroyd, both of punk trio, Victims Family. Dead Kennedys’ sound, a blend of surf, rock, punk, avant-garde songs arrangements, is still alive in well but resides with Biafra rather than the members who now make a mockery of the moniker. His band today gets much more respect for remaining loyal to its mission of steering clear of corporate-sponsorship.
Dubbed by Jello himself now as “the world’s greediest karaoke band” band, today’s Dead Kennedys have seemingly done everything wrong since breaking up the original band. Jello, on the other hand, has been doing everything right. From his on-the-spot spoken word to his Lard project to appearances with Nomeansno, The Melvins, D.O.A. , and countless others, it would seem he can do no wrong. His band plays the DK classics along with material from their own records and are a sight and sound for sore eyes and ears. Come see for yourself.
Jello Biafra And The Guantanamo School Of Medicine play with The Vibrating Antennas and Acrylics at the Phoenix Theatre. Doors open at 7pm doors, 8pm start. Tickets are $16 advance and $18 at the door. All ages are welcome. 201 Washington St. Petaluma. 707.762.3565.
By Eddie Jorgensen
Slide blues guitar player Markus James let’s his fingers do the talking on his latest album for Firenze Records, the fabulous ‘Head To The Hills.’ A resident of an unincorporated area of Sonoma Country James calls “between Graton and Occidental,” he says the title of his album was no mistake.
“Head To The Hills” was a conscious effort to break tradition in the recording business and make records wherever the mood fits. After traveling to Mississippi and joining some of the most intimidating players in the blues world, his finished batch of songs received national acclaim immediately upon release.
Locally, he’s been getting a nice rotation on Sonoma County’s KRSH radio station which are also sponsoring his upcoming HopMonk Tavern show May 8 in Sebastopol.
Fans of world music, roots, and sweat-soaked blues steeped in the rich cultural surroundings of the south will enjoy the shuffle of the album’s lead track “Just Say Yes” along with solo slide-guitar-laden anecdotes like “For Blind Willie.” If you’re into back-and-forth guitar work, check out the stellar “Sleepyhead” which sounds as if it could have been an outtake from 1996’s ‘Slingblade’ soundtrack.
The album ‘Head For The Hills’ was largely recorded in the hills of Mississippi. How did your surroundings effect the overall song?
The recording process for this album was the culmination of a lot of great experiences during many visits to North Mississippi over several years. When I started recording in Sherman Cooper’s potato barn in Como, Miss. I felt right at home. Drummer Kinney Kimbrough’s open-air carport, next to a train track, on a windy day when a storm was coming in ended up also sounding great. My favorite setting was on Calvin Jackson’s porch in Luxahoma with the birds. Sometimes we would stop for a minute when a car came past there on Yellow Dog Road. The sound of his feet on that porch was really something as well.
What was it like playing with the many other talented drummers and musicians you recorded with?
You know, one thing has just led to another. It wasn’t like I had a plan or anything. I’m a songwriter and have been hooked on recording for most of my life going back to suitcase recorders which, ironically, I’ve started using again. I just wanted to stand next to the flame, you know? Also, playing with Ali Farka Toure’s calabash player, Hamma Sankare, was a dream come true for me.
You played with drummer Calvin Jackson (of RL Burnside and Junior Kimbrough fame). How did that come about?
During one trip to Como, Sherman Cooper (whose barn I was staying in and recording in) said “how about playing with (drummer) Calvin Jackson?.” I couldn’t believe it. That was quite an experience. The mics were hanging on cables from the barn rafters, there was the most amazing lightning storm going on outside complete with flickering power on the inside, and he was polishing off a bottle in a brown bag.
What instruments do you play outside of the guitar are we hearing on the new record?
On ‘Head For The Hills’ I play numerous instruments. I play both acoustic and electric guitars, slide, cigar box guitar (3-string), gourd banjo (West African instrument), dulcimer, 1-string Diddley Bow, harp, and beat box.
How difficult is it to get that stinky groove only R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough can play?
That’s why I wanted to play with their drummers Kinney Kimbrough and Calvin Jackson. They are just plain bad ass. The drummer I’ve been playing live with, Marlon Green, toured with the great John Lee Hooker for the last year of his life. If I had to guess what is the common thread (between the drummers), they all three played in church. There is something undefinable about what they call the “Hill Country Stomp.”
Markus James celebrates his ‘Head For The Hills’ CD release Friday, May 8 at HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol, with HowellDevine opening. 9pm. Tickets are $12 advance and $15 at the door. 230 Petaluma Ave, Sebastopol, 707.829.7300. He also plays Saturday, May 9th at Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley with Gurrumul opening. 8pm. Tickets are $25 advance and $27 at the door. 19 Corte Madera Ave, Mill Valley, 415.388.3850. For more info, visit Facebook.com/markusjamesmusic.
Photos by Jamie Soja http://sojaphotography.com/
Bill Kruetzmann, Steve Kimock, Dan “Lebo” Lebowitz, Dave Schools, and Jeff Chimenti formed a supergroup together to perform “A Night of Voodoo” at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma Wednesday April 8th and 9th 2015. The show was announced just a couple of days before and sold out immediately. A second show the next night was announced the day of the first show and also sold out immediately. The night featured a wide variety of material including classic reggae song “Congo Man Chant” by The Congos, “Fire on the Bayou” by The Meters, and of course, during the Grateful Dead’s 50th anniversary, many Dead songs including “Morning Dew” with guest Jerry Joseph on vocals.
Takes A Lot To Laugh A Train To Cry
Congo Man Chant
Get Up Stand Up
Man Smart, Women Smarter
Fire On The Bayou
Morning Dew (Jerry Joseph on vocals)
Assembly of Dust with openers Doobie Decibel System sold out The Sweetwater Music Hall on Dec. 11th, the night of a major storm. The two acts both put on stellar performances with a wide range of original material and some covers. The frontmen from both bands have an interesting thing in common as leaders in the tech world as one of their other endeavors. Roger McNamee, famed venture capitalist of Elevation Partners seen this week on CNBC, performed with Jason Crosby as Doobie Decibel System and Reid Genauer, CMO of the rapidly growing Magisto, perform with his band Assembly of Dust on guitar and vocals. Special guests included shredding guitarist Mark Karan, of Ratdog, and the amazing singer Shana Morrison, who performed a rendition of her father Van’s “Into The Mystic!”
Sunday Nov. 9 David Nelson Band performed their final performance of a three night run at Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads with Doobie Decibel System opening that night’s sold out show. The evening started in the parking lot which was full of hippies old and younger, many of them holding up a pointer finger, the universal sign for “I Need and Miracle,” to buy or be given a ticket.
The show started off with an excellent performance by Doobie Decibel System which included Roger McNamee, of Moonalice, and Jason Crosby. The main event, which included Bay Area psychedelic era legend, of New Riders of the Purple Sage, David Nelson and his all star band. The David Nelson Band rocked the night away keeping the crowd happy and dancing. While David Nelson band took their set break Graham Lesh, the son of Terrapin Crossroads owner and Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, and his band Midnite North performed an exceptional set in the, separate, bar area including a sit in from Doobie Decibel System. The night finished of with Scary Little Friends in the bar after David Nelson performed.
Blue Bear Benefit at Sweetwater with Vicki Randle & Members of Santana, and Doobie Decibel System, Performing For a Good Cause
On Thursday Sept. 11 Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley hosted a Blue Bear School of Music Benefit featuring Vicki Randle (Tonight Show, Aretha Franklin) and Friends. The band included members of Santana. Every one of the musicians throughout the set was on top of their game with styles ranging from soul to funk, folk to rock.
The night started out with a beautifully done duet set by Roger McNamee (Moonalice) and Jason Crosby of Doobie Decibel System. They performed songs such as “Feerless” (Pink Floyd) and Moonalice original “Couple of Puffs.” Blade, a Blue Bear Youth Band of teens, performed second playing renditions of famous rock songs such as “Purple Haze”
Blue Bear School of Music is a private music school devoted to spreading the art of music through lessons to people of all ages.
Jason Crosby and Friends with Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads) and Doobie Decibel System Rock Sweetwater
Wednesday August 27th Jason Crosby and Friends performed a stellar show at Sweetwater Music Hall. Guests included the amazing Jerry Harrison, Talking Heads guitarists, Roger McNamee (Moonalice), vocalist Shana Morrison (Van Morrison’s daughter), Dan Lebowitz, and Reed Mathis and Cochrane McMillan (Tea Leaf Green). Jason Crosby and Roger McNamee opened the show with the debut of their duet Doobie Decibel System.
Photos by Jamie Soja – Soja Photography
Southern rock legend Dickey Betts and Great Southern made a rare Bay Area performance Sunday night at a sold out Sweetwater show in Mill Valley. His performance with his band Great Southern included his son Duane, named after the late Allman Brothers guitarist, on lead guitar. Duane’s band Brethren of the Coast warmed up the night. During Dickey’s set the relatively small stage was filled to the brim including two drummers on risers. With a packed house and stage the band ripped through classics such as In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Ramblin Man, and Jessica, which Betts won a Grammy for in 1996. Dickey and the band played a phenomenal set heating up the room to a boiling point. Dickey’s signature style was on display throughout the night with the harmonizing octaves of the lead guitars bringing it back to where it all began.
Betts, despite being a founding member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee The Allman Brothers Band, hasn’t performed a concert with them since 2000 after a turbulent departure from the band. This year The Allman Brothers announced they would be breaking up following a run at the Beacon Theater in NYC
Photos and Text by Jamie Soja – Soja Photography
Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings absolutely lit up the stage at the second-ever Sonoma Mountain Village concert on Thursday night. The concert series marked the end of a brief 2014 season, which also brought in the rock band Goo Goo Dolls in July. According to Petaluma’s Second Octave Talent agency, which books the bands for SOMO, some 1,100 people were in attendance and next year promises to bring 10 more outstanding festival-like shows to fill the 3,000-person venue.
Guatemalan singer, and 2014 Latin Grammy award winner, Gaby Moreno opened the evening with a blues-infused Southern folk set that showcased the powerfully sultry, and sweetly gruff, voice that has made her the darling of Latin American folk rock. Dressed in a Western dress and tiny heels, she rocked a vintage-style Gretsch guitar as if she were a country star on a Nashville stage. But tacking down Moreno’s style is like trying to stop a butterfly to ask about her favorite flower. To my ears, her sound falls somewhere in between the finger-picking melodies of Norah Jones and the whimsy of Patsy Cline, with the vocal dynamism of Etta James and a touch of Lilly Allen’s flare. Yet the songs she sings in Spanish are perfectly Latin; a bit of bossa nova, traces of Mexican banda, the alternative pop that defined many Latin females in the late 1990’s.
Under Thursday’s setting sun, Moreno varied her set flawlessly. Tempos and moods switched between smoky jazz ballads like Blues del Mar, off her latest release “Postales” (2012, Metamorfosis), and groovy blues/rock tracks like “Greenhorned Man”, from her first album “Still the Unknown” (2008, indie release). It was a marvelous opening performance that surely garnered hundreds of new North American fans.
Between acts, the promoters gave ample time to get up and stretch, refill wine and beer glasses, and chat with neighbors sitting close enough to practically share blankets. A few vendor’s booths were set up to attract wanders, as well as a semi-stocked bar for general admission ticket holders. Food offerings were cafeteria-style, catered by the Sally Tomatoes restaurant inside. The interior venue is well-known in local comedy circles as being the go-to spot for great up-and-coming acts. While the wine was good and the service was friendly, the food got less than stellar reviews. VIP ticket holders on the other hand, were treated to a fully-stocked bar and outdoor seating area complete with tables and heating lamps. While the GA grassy area offers excellent views of the stage, it could be worthwhile to purchase VIP just so you don’t have to drag in chairs and blankets. The space is intimate, with two-story buildings bordering the lawn area, and giant redwood trees framing the stage. Yet, the adjacency adds to a close-nit community vibe. And once Sharon Jones got on stage, there wasn’t a warm body to be found in a sea of abandoned lawn chairs.
The Dap Kings band formed in the early aughts under the digs of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. Their premise was to revive the tradition of analog recording and pressing vinyl records, while bringing back the funk/soul sounds of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Sharon Jones, who grew up singing gospel in her native Augusta, Georgia, was working a day job at Rikers Island prison when label owners discovered her singing backup vocals for various bands around New York City. Soon the Dap Kings became her backing band and she went on to record five studio albums with them. With incredibly successful performances at festivals across the country, a new album to be released, and European tours in place, Jones’ career was on the rise.
But in the spring of 2013, Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent the summer undergoing chemotherapy. The treatments would sideline her from nearly all musical activity and essentially threaten her life. New Year’s Eve 2014 was her last chemo treatment and she’s been cancer free ever since. On the SOMO stage last night, she belted out the tune “Get Up And Get Out” off her 2013 release Give The People What They Want (Daptone), exclaiming to the crowd “I told my cancer to get up and get out! And I told my cancer, if you ain’t gonna get out, I am gonna shout you out!” Needless to say, Sharon Jones is way beyond having cancer and it is obvious her immense energy and sheer passion for life are what got her through it all.
The performance opened with an instrumental introduction from the Dap Kings eight-member, tailored-suit-clad band before Jones’ fabulous backup singers came on to sing three groove-inciting numbers. When Sharon Jones finally came on stage, the audience exploded in applause. She opened with the super up-beat “Stranger To My Happiness,” then brought up 10 ladies from the crowd to dance on stage for “Keep On Looking,” which must have made those girls entire summer. Of all the shows I’ve seen this year, I have not experienced a performer so in love with her audience, so passionate about making every fan feel special. Jones’ went on to sing a slow, sexy rendition of “Long Time,” an afro-beat inspired “How Do You Let A Good Man Down,” and the dark, jazzy soul tune “I Learned The Hard Way.”
The second half of Jones’ set included some beautiful harmonies on “There Was A Time,” a wild impersonation of Tina Turner for “Making Up And Breaking Up,” and a 10 minute showcase of 1960’s dancehall moves like the boogaloo, the pony, and the swim—the crowd thought that was a riot and all kinds of people over 60 where swinging their arms and winding their hips without a care in the world.
Sharon Jones only did one song for her encore: a brilliant take on the original Woody Guthrie ballad, “This Land Is Your Land.” It was the defining moment of the show, a stellar interpretation of an American classic. Jones ignites the spirit of American music’s golden age—the decades that challenged the cultural status quo, brought music to the heart of the civil rights movement, and blended the colors of society in a tangled-up mishmash of incredible musicianship, neighborly conviviality, and the love for an American art form. If anyone is going to remind us that American music is steeped in a rich, passionate history, it is going to be Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings.
Black Crowes co-founder, Rich Robinson rolled into Napa’s lovely Uptown Theatre this weekend along with his handpicked band to perform songs off of his critically acclaimed album, “The Ceaseless Sight.” The night began for a handful of lucky Bohemian contest winners with a behind-the-scenes look at the band’s rehearsal process which included a taste of songs that were to be performed that evening. The group was then escorted into the theater’s courtyard, where they were treated to an intimate acoustic set provided by a rather under the weather Robinson, who apologetically stated that the set would be solely instrumental due to the fact that he needed to rest the vocal chords for the evening’s performance. The informal set was followed by a brief meet and greet with the performer and a chance for guests to have their memorabilia signed by Robinson.
At around 9 p.m. the band emerged onto the unassuming stage, save the musical instruments and necessary accoutrements. For Robinson it is all about the music. This latest album is an amalgamation of life experience and a story of musical evolution. It is evident that Robinson is in his element, with the guitar (which he changed with almost every new song) on the stage playing his music. Like the earlier acoustic set Robinson performed, there was an intimacy to the show, as if the musician were letting us into his arena, his vulnerabilities portrayed through the music.
Robinson says he is in a very positive place in his life and wants that optimism to be reflected in the music. At one point in the show, he invited those guests still glued to their seats to get up and move, which they did, motivating almost everyone in the crowd out of their seats and onto the floor. It didn’t take much considering the band’s high-energy performance.
Before he took the stage I had a chance to interview Robinson:
“My first record was more of an experiment,” he said. “I had just stepped away from the Crowes for the first time in my adult life, but I still had all of these songs and I didn’t want them to go to waste.” Not wanting to go through the arduous process of putting a band together, Robinson decided to write the music and lyrics himself and take lead on vocals. “For PAPER it was more like, let’s just see how this goes, you never really know until you do it.”
Immediately after that first solo record came out, the Crowes re-united and the band went back on tour. During this time, Robinson felt more comfortable singing, so by the time he was ready to put out his second solo album, “Through a Crooked Sun,” he had become more confident in his abilities. “By the time that record (Through a Crooked Sun) had come out, I had been through a lot, I had just come out of a divorce, and I had a lot more to say. It was more of a reflection of where I had been in the last five years.”
This new album (“The Ceaseless Sight”) is more about “moving forward” according to Robinson. He had lost most of his equipment and guitars in Hurricane Sandy, which was more of a sign to him that it was time to move on more than anything, “I felt slightly relieved. It was very cathartic in a sense.” The lack of instruments of course did not deter him from making another record, “I went in to make this record with, literally four or five guitars, something I had not done since I was a teenager, and it felt great. I found myself feeling more positive about (this experience).”
Although the album began almost spontaneously there is a cohesive quality to it, which Robinson credits to his longstanding relationship with drummer Joe Magistro (who also performed on “Paper”) “I know what he’s going to do and he knows what I am going to do, it’s very intuitive. Being in a band is being very intuitive and knowing where things are going to go.”
The album was recorded in Woodstock, where he had recorded previously with the Black Crowes, so it felt only natural to record this new record in an environment that was familiar and comfortable to him, “I tap into something there. I like the energy of the place.”
It only seems appropriate that the milieu would reflect his commitment to creating work that is authentic and sincere. In a cultural climate that reveres fame it can be difficult for an artist who actually want to create something substantial.
“It is easier for bands to get started now and just put their stuff on YouTube. There are a whole faction of kids out there who are making some really good music, but there are a lot of people making really, really shitty music.” Robinson declined to give specific examples. He adds that a lot of the bands out there seem to be devoid of anything that is in some way, culturally or artistically relevant, “Where are the Bob Dylans? For years, artists have strived to create something greater than themselves (until recently). There is a responsibility, as an artist to try not to suck.” Robinson adds that he can’t “write things for other people. (That is) flawed immediately.”