It’s been a while since I’ve dusted off this old flexidisc record and played it—12 months, to be exact.
In December, an annual tradition of mine is to listen to “Dinosaur Christmas Song,” credited only to “Coddingtown Center.” For those who grew up in Santa Rosa, it’s truly one of the strangest Christmas songs in existence, telling the story of how the very first Christmas ever took place on the land now known as the Coddingtown shopping mall. It does a horrendous job at connecting Christmas and commerce, but I look at it through the eyes of one like, say, Stan Freberg, who railed against the commercialization of Christmas. Would not even Stan be charmed by the surreal absurdity of the British narrator, the female chorus, and the incessant groaning of dinosaurs in the background?
Many years ago, right when I started at the Bohemian, I decided to try and track down the origins of this record, which I discovered in 1994 at Goodwill for 35 cents. The article took me to Coddingtown in Santa Rosa, Hugh Codding’s main office in Rohnert Park, local commercial recording studios, radio stations, Montgomery Village and more. Read all about it here.
Or, if you’re so inclined, click the player below and be transported to a very strange moment in local history. At this point, after becoming an annual tradition, it’s one of my favorite Christmas songs. Enjoy.
After a Bohemian article in March of this year, quite a few readers found resonance in the outsider music of Jack Attack, a.k.a. Jack Springs, a high-functioning mentally retarded heavy metal fan who works rounding up shopping carts at G&G Supermarket in Santa Rosa. The story of his trials growing up and finding catharsis in music was incredible to me, and his music, posted previously here, even more so.
So it makes me happy to share more of Jack’s music today. I’ve gotten his most recent recording, and along with themes about his soul no longer being destroyable, his rights being violated and his position as a singing God, he includes a timeless warning to the arachnid species.
Dear readers, here’s Jack Attack’s newest hit, “I Hate Spiders”:
The spigot, it sometimes bursts, and the drip-pan of CSI is too meager to contain the blast. Here’s a few things that’ve happened over the weekend, while I can still catch them coming out the pipe.
Silian Rail at Guayaki Mate Bar
I try not to make a habit of coveting thy neighbor’s anything, but Christ if Silian Rail doesn’t make me jealous. Jealous for their tone—some glorious, thick whomp that sounds like Bigfoot tap-dancing on the strings. Jealous for their composition—the rare form of noodley that travels down the road to an agreeable destination. Jealous for their form—the very fun ways in which they play multiple instruments at once.
Silian Rail’s new album Parhelion on Parks and Records is worth picking up, but at the Guayaki Mate Bar Friday night, they proved they’re better live; or, at least, the tricks are revealed. Seven or so effects pedals for the guitarist, a drummer that hammers guitar frets while striking the hi-hat and stepping on bass tones with his foot, and the elusive connection required to pull it all off. See them if you can, leave happy and envious.
News from an old friend, DJ and fellow record hound Sean, who used to spin weekly at Soundboutique on Thursday nights at the Ivy Room in the East Bay. I heard last week he kept a blog of the same name, and lo and behold, the first post that popped up was on Lyman Woodward. Sold! Sean’s got a great, conversational writing style, and that Lyman Woodward record (Saturday Night Special) is like gritty, oily gravel on a Detroit sidestreet—electric organ never sounded so raw. Check it out. Sean is also noted for his ability to convince the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa to comp him for a two-night stay, which means he can probably also spin gold from straw, ride King Ridge in two hours and unearth original sealed Liquid Liquid EPs at Kmart.
Robyn Live at Amoeba
For those who don’t know, Robyn is a former teen-pop sensation from Sweden who decided five years ago to start her own label and go her own way. She’s done so forcefully: Her latest, Body Talk Pt. 1, opens with a song called “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do,” and closes with a jazz tune originally recorded by Bill Evans, sung in Swedish. Her latest single, “Dancing On My Own,” is on full-blast anthem status for 2010. It took me 2 1/2 hours in weekend traffic to catch her free in-store at Amoeba on Saturday. It was worth it.
With a pared-down two-piece band, Robyn performed hits in mostly ballad style: “Hang With Me” was a beautiful, slow opener, “With Every Heartbeat” caused audible gasps from the crowd and a pensive, piano-driven “Dancing On My Own” elicited the lonesomeness buried in the song’s rhythm-heavy album version. Robyn still danced. It was great.
The North Bay Film and Art Collective
It’s now officially called the Arlene Francis Theater—which is one syllable shorter! Arlene Francis was an actress best known for her long run on television game shows, including What’s My Line? and The Match Game; she also appeared with Doris Day in The Thrill of It All.
Why, you may ask, is the North Bay Film and Art Collective now called the Arlene Francis Theater? Because her son, Peter Gabel, wanted to name it after his mother. (His dad, Martin Gabel, warn’t no chopped liver, either—he hung out with Orson Welles, starred in Deadline U.S.A. and Marnie, and worked with Billy Wilder.) Gabel and his partner Martin Hamilton have some other ideas for the place, too, involving a cafe and eventually, a seated theater funded by redevelopment money. Hamilton says he wants Joan Baez to play there. It’s probably possible.
Gilman, Rent, Landlords, Etc.
I ran into my friend Eggplant at Grouper’s ‘Sleep’ audio installation at the Berkeley Art Museum. Eggplant’s volunteered at Gilman for 20 years, and although he just got fired for making a hilarious flyer poking fun at the club’s nostalgia-preying penchant for $10 reunion shows, he’ll probably be let back. Gilman is like that.
Gilman also has been faced with a steep-ass, widely publicized rent increase, and Eggplant and I talked about the community implications if Gilman actually had to close. The club still has yet to nail down a lease agreement with the landlord, but things do not look particularly promising. Sometimes, Eggplant wonders if Gilman closing wouldn’t be such a bad thing—if it’s perhaps outgrown its purpose and turned into a dusty relic where bands want to play just so they can say they played the same stage where Green Day and OpIvy got their start.
No, no, no, I countered. It has to stay open. It still embraces the creative spirit, is based on solid codes of conduct and provides an all-ages outlet that’s needed. Every time I walk in the place I feel like I’m being hugged by its walls. I admittedly say this as someone who only gets down there two or three times a year, but I think it’s be terrible if the place had to close. They have some money in the bank, but not enough for a down payment to buy the property at the figures that are being thrown around. If they could, it’d be empowering—the punks own their own club!—but it’d still be a struggle.
The long and short of it is it was nice to have a conversation about Gilman’s rent increase that did not begin and end with “Billie Joe should buy it,” although that’s not a terrible idea, either.
For the Kidz
Kidz Bop is the name of a very stupid series of CDs featuring current radio hits sanitized for the under-the-age-of-10 crowd. They’re incredibly popular, but generally they just drive everyone crazy. The best thing to do with a Kidz Bop CD is listen to it all the way through to find all the lyrics that are changed for the kidz. Unfortunately, that is torture. Maura Johnston at The Awl has listened to the latest CD in the series so you don’t have to, and rounded up the “13 Most Awkwardly Altered Lyrics on Kidz Bop 18.” It is most amusing.
This week’s Bohemian cover story is on Eric Lindell and how he left his record label to make the best record of his career. You know you’re old when you can remember Lindell’s dominance of the newly-opened Third Street Aleworks in the mid 1990s; you’re older if you remember seeing him play bass and sing for his 10-piece funk band, Grand Junction. I do, vaguely, and visiting Grand Junction’s MySpace tribute page is a fun little trip back in time to the punk-funk era of Sonoma County.
Gwyneth Paltrow Sings Country
This week’s Bohemian column is on Miranda Lambert, who’s playing the Sonoma County Fair on Monday. (Y’all should go.) As I point out in the article, here’s really no reason the very gifted Lambert shouldn’t be played on Americana radio. Why, even Gwyneth Paltrow is more pop-country than Miranda Lambert, as evidenced by this new single from her upcoming movie, Country Strong!
The long-hoped-for resurrection of Lauryn Hill, a dream seeming to slip further away with each year and each incoherent concert, took a giant step closer to fulfillment tonight at the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa.
We may never know what exactly has plagued Hill these last eight years, forcing her to shirk the limelight, cancel tours and sabotage her reputation, just as we may never know how she became capable of triumphantly returning to the stage in 2010. One thing is evident: in Santa Rosa, of all places, the 35-year-old singer finally showed she craves dearly to be taken seriously again. Reinvigorated with enthusiasm, she inhabited the music, conducted the band, belted improvised shout-outs and thanked the crowd—all in the first song. “I love you,” she exclaimed to a field of fans. “It’s so good to see you.”
If it weren’t for the harlequin outfit, bulky hoop earrings and heavy metal guitar solos, it was almost like seeing the Lauryn Hill of old.
Outwardly struggling with fame, Hill has long evinced a complete dread of pleasing the public (see: Unplugged 2.0), but in a 75-minute set of Fugees classics and Miseducation tracks in Santa Rosa, she refreshingly aimed to do just that. From breakneck set opener “Lost Ones” to the slam-dunk closer “Doo Wop (That Thing),” Hill showed a genuine desire to again fulfill her talent.
It started rough. Scheduled to go on at 6pm, Ms. Lauryn Hill, as she requires to be billed, came onstage only after her DJ bored the crowd with a half hour of clunky, unblended snippets from the likes of “Purple Haze,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Pass the Dutchie” and “Bam Bam.” The presence of two large teleprompters at the foot of the stage, for lyrics, added to the slowly mounting despair. By 6:29, when instructed to make noise for the umpteenth time, the teeming crowd could only wonder if Hill would arrive at all.
But grandly arrive she did, in an ’80s multicolored full-body jumpsuit that was only moderately silly in light of the get-ups donned by the average Harmony Festival attendee. “Lost Ones” set things straight in a ten-minute version that twisted through five different arrangements, and Hill’s recently-faded voice showed rejuvenated form with “When It Hurts So Bad.” By the beautiful “Turn Your Your Lights Down Low,” the crowd was in the palm of Hill’s hands, and comeback was in the air.
“We gonna do some old stuff,” Hill proclaimed, “but, but, but, but… there is a ‘but’… we gonna do some old stuff kinda new. Is that okay with you?” A medley of Fugees tracks followed, with Hill even taking over some Wyclef and Pras verses and singing OG sample material (“I Only Have Eyes For You”). And despite a generation’s collective memorization of the album versions, reworked songs with reggae and hard rock elements electrified Hill, who nailed every segue and spat out lightning-fast lines quicker than the crowd could sing along.
There were, sadly, two immediate drawbacks. One, Hill clearly has no concept at all of how live sound operates. Both between and in the middle of songs, she constantly complained about the stage and house mix, chiding the soundman to keep turning up every instrument and microphone according to her fleeting whims. The result was a washed-out din.
The other problem was that Hill is perhaps now too eager for public approval. From the ultra-fast tempos which, even with the teleprompters, she at times struggled to keep up with; to the claustrophobic arrangements for two guitars, two basses, two keyboards and three backup singers; to the “whooooo!”s and the “yeeaahhh!”s and the hasty leg-kicking, the concert had the effervescent taint of a Vegas show.
Realizing that Hill is simply giving people what they want—in preparation for her Rock the Bells dates, no doubt—is a blessing and a curse. She admirably tried for a time to break from fame’s mold, but it only resulted in bad music and psychological deterioration. With this greatest-hits set out on the road, her old fans are certainly satisfied, but what about staying true to one’s muse?
The question was forgotten each time Hill eagerly jumped into each song. “Pop this one, c’mon, let’s go!” she told her band, and “Doo Wop (That Thing)” set an entire field of festival goers aflame. “Thank you so much,” she said, as a sea of arms applauded wildly. “Thank you for your patience with us. Good to see you. Hope to see you soon.”
Lauryn Hill hasn’t made fans’ patience an easy task these last eight years, but let’s hope we see her in this kind of form again soon. Her emancipation might still not fit some people’s equation—I’ve already heard from people who were disappointed with the show—but the trainwreck curse is over and the resurrection is afoot. Now the fine-tuning begins.
When It Hurts So Bad
Turn Your Lights Down Low
How Many Mics / I Can’t Stand Losing You
I Only Have Eyes For You / Zealots
Ready or Not
Doo Wop (That Thing)
More Photos Below.
Bare midriffs, sandals and burning sage galore! I stopped by the Harmony Festival tonight just in time to see a guy recite a song about hacky sacks, a clown-nosed Wavy Gravy ramble about yippie tomfoolery from 1968, and Dweezil Zappa lead his band in “Peaches En Regalia” while girls in fishnets and angel wings twirled near the pulsing lights. Later, over in the Grace Pavilion, the Jazz Mafia took the stage with ‘Brass, Bows & Beats,’ which you can read about in this week’s Bohemian column. “I wanna say thanks to the Harmony Festival,” said Adam Theis before the opening notes of his hip-hop symphony, “for taking a chance on something different.”
Theis is an avid skateboarder who always takes his board on tour; “if you don’t,” he told me, “you end up pulling up to the venue and there’s a skatepark next door.” That was the case tonight, since Jon Lohne and the rest of the Brotherhood Board Shop crew have assembled a mini-ramp and street course behind the Grace Pavilion. There’s even a VW bug car jump! But the real treat, at least to anyone who skates, is the fact that John Cardiel is DJing. No shit.
The beginning of the great Vice documentary Epicly Later’d: John Cardiel shows Cardiel in his room, flipping through Barrington Levy 45s and talking about how everyone expects him to like heavy music, like Slayer, to match his intense skating style. “I mean, I love Slayer, I love hard music,” he says, “but really, where my heart’s at, if you want to talk about some shit, let’s talk about some reggae.”
Tonight, Cardiel spun reggae and hip-hop records on a small stage next to the mini-ramp while festivalgoers in all manner of ridiculous costume walked by. Here’s one of the most influential and inspiring skaters in recent history, whose career was cut tragically short when he was accidentally run over by a trailer in Australia, DJing in Santa Rosa! Earlier in the day, fellow skate legend Ray Barbee played a 45 minute jam on the same stage, wailing on a Gibson guitar. Omar Hassan’s there tomorrow, and hell, even Tommy Guerrero is gonna be skating there on Sunday, so who knows what kind of musical mayhem will go down?
Click here for a full .pdf schedule of the skate area events.
More Photos Below.
Anyone who’s anyone is gonna be in Roseland tonight for the excitement that’s the fifth annual Cinco de Mayo celebration, and organizers have just announced the lineup. As in years past, there’s more traditional acts on the main stage, with a younger crowd expected around the small stage. Love is always in the air at Roseland’s big block party, and this year’s festival looks to continue the trend.
Here’s the lineup for the Main Stage. The 2010 La Reina is announced at 5:40, and note the two Duranguense bands. Synthesizers!
1. The car show starts at 4:30. If you show up late, you’ll miss some amazing-looking rides. Bring a camera.
2. The lines for pupusas are always the longest, but you can get them any day of the year at Pupusas Salvadoreñas across from the Fairgrounds. Skip out and go hunting for food at the many smaller, family-run booths.
3. Like last year, hip-hop acts go on early. Seeing local Latino rappers on their home turf in front of a huge crowd is an amazing feeling of triumph. (My feature on Santa Rosa’s Latino hip-hop scene is here.) Don’t be late!
4. Why drive? The Bike Coalition is providing free bike parking this year, and Rosie the Trolley is making pick-ups from the Post Office on Sebastopol Road across from Cook, and from the FoodMaxx shopping center at Stony Point.
5. The guy at the taco truck on West Ave. & Sebastopol Rd. sells a crazy selection of CDs for $10. Last time I was there, I bought Phat Jams Vol. 503. That is not a typo—there really were 502 volumes of Phat Jams before mine, filled with filthy club tracks. Might be good to stick with the classics, like “Cruisin’ Baby,” for the kids.
If you don’t wanna be among the throngs of people (it’s shoulder-t0-shoulder) and want to try a great new Yucatecan place, try El Rinconado Yucateco, so says me in this week’s Bohemian. Get the $6.95 panuchos and be in heaven. Plus, they’ll hold your baby while you eat if they’re not too busy.
(Rinconado Yucateco is way down Sebastopol Road near Community Bikes, a wonderful used bike resource which is still going strong. Read about them here. Last year they had a few crazy psych-metal shows; pretty awesome. Also, my friend Jamie tells me the family market next door sells pupusas on Friday evenings and Friday evenings only, and that they’re great.)
One of the semi-miraculous happenings around the local scene in the last year has been the unlikely reunion of the Invalids. I’m not talking about the band’s well-received show at last year’s Nostalgia Fest, or even their no-holds-barred warm-up the night before at Spencer-King, celestial as it undoubtedly felt. No, what’s miraculous is the Invalids are actually writing new songs—and great new songs, at that.
Those who showed up on Tupper Street yesterday afternoon with hopes of reliving the magic of “Wouldn’t Care If I Died” or “Sunday Afternoon” would have been let down. The Invalids attract an old gang of somewhat gracefully aging fans, and naturally, the old gang usually wants to hear the classics. But as they played a set of all-new material at the word-of-mouth show—not even one old song—I think everyone, one by one, agreed that the older stuff would have paled in currency.
It got me thinking about the steam train of hype surrounding the Pixies reunion, which wheezed to a disappointing rehash of playing Doolittle in its entirety; or the upcoming Pavement reunion, which looks like a rote victory lap while vacuuming dollar bills showering from the receding hairlines of the world. Hey, I can dish it and take it—I bought tickets. But I don’t feel any less played.
It reminds me of Josh Doan, whose new band Sapphire also played a few songs in the backyard yesterday. I realized that Josh has been making music for 17 years and has never put out an official album. Milkfat, Truant, Bottle Rocket, Tommy Gun, Boxcar and Hate Nevada were all good bands, I thought. “What you’ve gotta do,” I suggested, “is make a ‘Josh Doan’s Greatest Hits’ wrap-up featuring every band.” He was nonplussed. “In case you haven’t noticed,” he said, kindly, “I believe in moving forward. Not looking back.”
The Invalids are recording a new record in June. It’ll be their first album in 15 years.
This week’s music column is on Jack Springs, a 25-year-old high-functioning mentally retarded metal musician who sings about how he’s been mistreated in life. I didn’t know Jack was mentally retarded when I met him; he offered the information unsolicited, just like he freely shared his stories about having his head shoved into the toilet in school, or getting his ass kicked by bullies after being coerced into smoking marijuana.
The more I talked with Jack, the more I appreciated the raw honesty in his songs. Just like the sketchy handwriting in a junior high love note render feelings on the notebook page more real, the jagged delivery and lateral combination of lyrics in Jack’s songs tilt at the true turmoil that he lives with each day as a developmentally disabled man in a judgmental world.
Here’s some of the songs discussed in the article. There’s talk already amongst local musicians about forming a backing band so he can play live:
2. “The Jack Tracks.” A unique selection among Jack’s songs in that he addresses portions of it to himself. Near the end, he dedicates it to James, “a role model.” I had assumed he’s referring to James Hetfield, but it’s actually his father James, who’s passed away. Click here to listen.
3. “Violated Nights.” The incredible transformation of Jack the avant-beat songwriter with an out-of-tune electric guitar into Jack the hardcore larynx shredder with a score to settle. Chills. Click here to listen.
4. “Violated Days.” The CD-R that I received lists this song as “All of My Rights Were Broken to Pieces and Now I Am Going to Take All My Rights Back From You and Then Your Heart Will Stop Beating,” which, as you’ll hear, are the song’s complete lyrics. Jack’s since informed me that the song is called “Violated Days.” Either way, it’s amazing. Click here to listen.
Incidentally, to prepare for the interview, Jack brought me a list of his influences, written on a napkin. He tells me Metallica’s too commercial now that they get played on the radio all the time. (He also credits Bob Marley’s “Get Up, Stand Up” as the thematic inspiration for writing songs about his rights.) You’ll see a band at the top of the list, Torn Back, which is Jack’s brother’s band, and Intangled, another local metal band who are friends with Jack—proof that the metal community can provide support to outcasts when no one else will.
There are reasons we like finding new places to play in Sonoma County. The jolt of the unchartered, the claim of presence, the raising of the flag. I relish the potential for disaster as much as I hope for the best—either way, it’s exciting. Los Caballos is a Latin dance nightclub in the old Shakey’s Pizza building on Cleveland that usually hosts tejano and salsa bands and, in at least one case, Latin Hyper, a fresh reggaeton band from Santa Rosa. This video is my favorite example of a normal night at Los Caballos, starring Los Vaquetones del Hyphy, a band in matching blazers, potleaf shirts and gasmasks who toss out free T-Shirts and Tecate before busting into their set. (“These dudes are clowns,” translates the comment.)
The turnout tonight at Los Caballos for StarSkate’s CD/cassette release show was encouragingly good. Hopefully the owners are down to have more indie shows, scratching their heads though they may be at the style of music foreign to their stage. Especially thrilling is that, like the North Bay Film and Art Collective, they’ve worked out an all-ages situation where those over 21 can still drink. It’s what I saw once at the Green Room in Tempe, Ariz.; a barricade running down the middle of the room, which isn’t nearly as awkward as it sounds.
Before StarSkate played, A Pack of Wolves turned in a great set on the nice, short triangular stage, flanked by a ‘Viva Mexico’ drum kit and pictures of Che Guevara on the wall. Is it just me or have A Pack of Wolves gotten extremely good in the last year or two? When they first started playing shows, I couldn’t shake a feeling that they were trying a little too hard to glom onto the dance-punk trend of the day, but seriously, they’ve really grown into their own. Cesco ended the set by announcing, “Thank you for watching us suck!” and then, off-mic, “That was our worst fucking show.” The tantrum was unwarranted; they played in this zone of professionalism made awesome by good new songs.
I last saw StarSkate at a house party on New Year’s Eve so crammed that their shadows on the ceiling were more visible than the band itself. To see them beneath nightclub cage lighting makes a big difference. They ruled. Similar to the compact sets pioneered by Universal Order of Armageddon, they play one uninterrupted 15- or 20-minute song, even when they need to change bass cables. There’s an unpredictability in StarSkate’s music, residing somewhere between planned and improvised, lit by a torch being passed from jazz to hardcore and back again. Their own description reads like the liner notes to a Strata-East album: “The band is currently studying the sacred science of sypathetic vibration theory,” it reads, “and experimenting with bending universal wave patterns to determine the qualitative form of mind and matter.” The Los Caballos crowd—including a couple old hippies, one burly bro with his thumb bandaged up, and some amused-looking staffers—were into it.
Also, here’s to the continued lifeboat for cassette tapes! I was at a Gilman show in January and I swear, four of the five bands that played were selling tapes. A friend of mine recently called it “the hipster calling card,” and yeah, it’s a trend. It’s one I can fully back. I’ve chronicled my love for tapes here and written about the thrust to make tapes in the 21st Century here, and I still get stoked when I can buy a new cassette. Five bucks for the StarSkate/BvP split, quick and easy, and how ’bout that artwork?
Los Caballos isn’t the only unusual place StarSkate is playing. Next weekend, they play this all-day thing with a zillion bands—another DJ N Front of a Coffee Shop JamSessions show—inside the Hall of Flowers at the Santa Rosa Fairgrounds! No joke. If there was, oh, any information about it at all online, I’d link to it, but
as it is you’ll just have to somehow osmose the details from the universe, man. (Update: here’s a flyer, with no date. It’s Saturday, March 6th.)