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Flaming Lips to Headline Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa

Posted by: on Feb 9, 2011 | Comments (1)

Get out those giant inflatable space balls and nun puppets covered in blood—the Flaming Lips have been confirmed as headliners at this year’s Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa! Running June 10–12, 2011 in Santa Rosa, the festival lineup also includes Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, whose hit “Home” shows no sign of fading; Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, fresh from a rare small show at the Hopmonk Tavern earlier this week; Kirtan yoga darling Krishna Das; Maui’s Lost at Last and Americana heroes Railroad Earth. More artists are to be announced in the coming weeks, and “sneak peek” tickets are on sale now at www.harmonyfestival.com.

In more festival news, the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival has announced its headliners—who, as many are quick to point out, would never be filed in the “jazz” section of any record store or iTunes playlist. Still, a sold-out crowd is expected for Sheryl Crow (May 21), John Fogerty (May 20) and the Gipsy Kings (May 22), all under the big tent. Opening acts and side-stage artists, traditionally more representative of jazz, will be announced soon. As is the fest’s custom, tickets for Sonoma residents go on sale one day early, Feb. 14, while tourists have to wait until Feb. 15 at www.sonomajazz.org.

Live Review: Ceremony at the Arlene Francis Theatre

Posted by: on Jan 8, 2011 | Comments (2)

When I got to the Arlene Francis Center last night, there was already a line wrapped around the front of the building and out through the parking lot onto the street. It was only 6:44pm. Six bands—Ceremony, Sabertooth Zombie, Dead to Me, All Teeth, Strike to Survive and Hear the Sirens—were about to play.

In chatting beforehand with Ian Anderson, Dead to Me drummer and former Santa Rosan who once lived around the corner from the Arlene Francis, I remarked that this was probably the biggest punk show in Santa Rosa in 15 or so years. That’s not because there hasn’t always been a thriving punk scene in Santa Rosa, but mostly due to lack of an all-ages venue in the city limits proper. The Arlene Francis, I gotta say, is finally the answer to the long-repeated complaint you used to hear all the time: “Why isn’t there a great all-ages venue in Santa Rosa?”

But Santa Rosa wasn’t the city on people’s minds. Rohnert Park is the latest album by Ceremony, and even though the people I talked to who drove to the show from Fairfield and Sacramento hadn’t ever been to Rohnert Park, they’d certainly heard of it. (You’ve got to love the cover art.)

“North Bay! North Bay! North Bay! North Bay!” chanted Cermeony’s Ross Farrar, during the intro to their first song, “Sick,” the lead-off track from Rohnert Park. The crowd chanted as if a tribe. Bodies flailed above other bodies’ heads. The song kicked in, and the swarm went nuts.

It’s tempting to say that the true experience of a Ceremony show is not the music but the mayhem. A dreadlocked guy front-flipped off the theater’s support beam and onto the crowd. Multiple people dove off the center post. Someone hit Farrar in the face. The speaker and mic cables kept getting unplugged. There was surely more craziness than anyone could possibly see—at one point I saw a dude walking through the packed crowd holding a bag of ice to his head.

But putting the emphasis on audience theatrics doesn’t do Ceremony justice. They’re simply one of the best punk bands touring today, and Rohnert Park is a triumph of combining decades-old punk styles with spoken-word interludes and near-downright goth songs (“The Doldrums,” which directly addresses living in Rohnert Park). Between climbing on the theater’s support beams, swallowing the microphone, pulling his Bad Brains shirt over his head and pacing the stage, Farrar mentioned that this was the first show the band had played in Santa Rosa in probably six years.

After the show, with the insanity of “This is My War” bubbling down to a finish, and amidst chatter about the Giants, old Negative Approach 7”s and instructor Richard Speakes (Farrar attends the SRJC), he told me the band’s already writing a new album. Based on some other things he told me that I swore I’d stay quiet about, I have every reason to believe it’ll be Ceremony’s biggest album yet.

(Previously: ‘Suburban Home: Ceremony’s newest, ‘Rohnert Park,’ castigates and embraces’)

Coddingtown Center’s ‘Dinosaur Christmas Song’

Posted by: on Dec 22, 2010 | Comments (0)

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.

Jack Attack: "I Hate Spiders"

Posted by: on Aug 18, 2010 | Comments (0)

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”:

Wrapping Up Loose Ends

Posted by: on Jul 27, 2010 | Comments (1)

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.

Soundboutique
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.

Eric Lindell
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!

Live Review and Photos: Lauryn Hill at the Harmony Festival, Santa Rosa, CA

Posted by: on Jun 14, 2010 | Comments (8)

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.

Set List:

Lost Ones
When It Hurts So Bad
Ex-Factor
Turn Your Lights Down Low
How Many Mics / I Can’t Stand Losing You
I Only Have Eyes For You / Zealots
Fu-gee-la
Ready or Not
Zimbabwe
Doo Wop (That Thing)

More Photos Below.

It's Harmony Festival Time

Posted by: on Jun 11, 2010 | Comments (0)

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.

Out In The Street

Posted by: on May 11, 2010 | Comments (0)

A group of dudes play in the alley between Ting Hao and Russian River Brewing Co. today. While the Santa Rosa Street Performer Ordinance keeps progressing through committees with flying colors, some musicians just can’t wait for it to be made official.

Your Guide to Roseland's 2010 Cinco de Mayo Party Tonight

Posted by: on May 5, 2010 | Comments (2)

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!

Here’s the lineup for the Second Stage. Mastah Mind and B-Smooth are followed by Nivel y Juanito, then DJ Rob Cervantes brings the heat.

TIPS:

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.)

If You Had Another Chance

Posted by: on May 2, 2010 | Comments (1)

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.