Sister Carol took the stage ten minutes before midnight. In dark glasses and tall rasta head dress, the 54-year-old radiates reggae empress on stage. Born Carol East in Kingston, Jamaica, Sister Carol is celebrating three decades of bringing women up in a culture dominated by masculinity. Part roots singer part rhymer, her signature chatty dancehall style has crowed the “Black Cinderella” one of the most eloquent women in reggae music.
A fashionably late entrance is standard affair in reggae culture. The practice is a gesture of sorts, giving the crowd a chance to appreciate the DJs and fill the dance floor. In fact, a seasoned fan knows to arrive no earlier than 11pm so as not to wander aimlessly until someone gets on stage. Arriving just before show time, the venue had already filled with people who had seen Sister Carol or Mykal Rose several times before. Fans came down from Mendocino County, Lake Tahoe, and up from the City owing to the significance of having these two reggae legends play such a small venue with a live band.
Now in its second year as the only reggae genre night in Santa Rosa, Casa Rasta has garnered a steady following of local fans. Resident DJ Kieran “Sizzlak” Eagan is lead seleckta, building on experience as a late-night reggae music programmer with San Jose’s KKUP, 91.5FM. And now taking to the decks is DJ Dinga, better known for his MC techniques with the wildly popular mixed martial arts event, Cage Combat. With Bay Area sound system Jah Warrior Shelter dropping in on a regular basis, the dynamic duo are coming into their own, booking quality live talent and attracting a fan base four counties wide.
Sister Carol’s performance was memorable. Having seen her perform on festival stages for thousands of people, it was an entirely different experience to see her engage a small audience. She took care to give attention to those in the front row and was absolutely on point with the back-up band. Going into several free styles, even within songs, the clarity of her rhymes was beyond impressive. It was if she had played a thousand times yet this time’s rhymes had renewed potency. Flawless renditions of “Rasta Girl” and “Womb-Man” sounded like album recordings, and the classic anthem “Reggae Arena” was, as always, the highlight of her set. Not a minute of lagging, just pure concentration in the music and the vibe. To our dismay though, the crowd did not realize “Wild Thing” was her last song and failed to produce an applause worthy of an encore. When she did not come back on stage, a sense of somber awe filled the room. The crowd knew they were not ready to say goodbye.
EUROPA HOTEL, BELFAST, NORTHERN IRELAND
MARCH 16, 2013
“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Europa Hotel. Tonight, this is the best place in the world to be.”
Truer words were never spoken. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I discovered Van Morrison would be playing a) during my trip to Ireland, b) on St. Patrick’s Day weekend, c) in his hometown of Belfast, d) in a tiny 250-seat venue and e) that I was able to get a ticket. Granted, it was £140, but seriously, was there ever a question?
It was an eclectic crowd, pretty much the norm for a Van show. Some were dressed to the nines to honor the occasion, some looked to have paid nine dollars for their duds. My hopes, though, were that they were all actual fans who would appreciate the event properly, not just there to be part of something. I guessed that I might be the only single at my table, but my seatmate was Alan, who had flown over from Denmark for his first Van concert, a definite fan. I thought perhaps I’d traveled the furthest, from Northern California, but apparently there was someone there from Australia. More fans, a good sign.
Shana Morrison was there to help out pop and she “opened” the show with an abridged version of the band, doing three quick numbers, including “And It Stoned Me” and a kickass “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher.” With barely a break, the rest of the band was onstage and broke into the intro for “Only A Dream.” With a simple “Van Morrison” from one of the band, the man appeared—and magic happened. (more…)
BottleRock Releases Comedy Lineup: Rob Delaney, Kristin Schaal, Jim Gaffigan, Demetri Martin, Tig Notaro, More
BottleRock Napa Valley has finally released their comedy lineup, which includes Rob Delaney, Kristin Schaal, Jim Gaffigan, Demetri Martin, Tig Notaro, Jim Breuer, Wyatt Cenac, Greg Behrendt, Aasif Mandavi, Anthony Jeselnik and J. Chris Newberg.
No word yet on which days each comedian will appear, but expect a schedule soon.
BottleRock runs May 8-12 in Napa, and features a hell of a music lineup including The Black Keys, Alabama Shakes, Zac Brown Band, Furthur featuring Bob Weir and Phil Lesh, Kings of Leon, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis, Primus, The Flaming Lips, Jane’s Addiction, Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite, The Shins, Bad Religion, Iron and Wine, Dirty Projectors, Dwight Yoakam, Edward Sharpe, Mavis Staples, Best Coast, Sharon Van Etten, Rodrigo y Gabriela, Cake, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Carolina Chocolate Drops, The Wallflowers, Blues Traveler, Brandi Carlile, Donovan Frankenreiter, Grouplove and many, many more.
More info here.
Walking to the new SFJAZZ center last night, we were concerned with the time. Thanks to the state of downtown San Francisco traffic and parking, we would be walking in after the scheduled start time. A woman at the stoplight overheard us, and gave us a look.
“Relax, baby,” she said. “It’s jazz.”
While her wise words sank in, she crossed Franklin Street in a brief lull of traffic, against a red light, with headlights barreling toward her. We opted to do as she said, not as she did, and waited for the light. As luck would have it, we found our seats several minutes before tabla master Zakir Hussain took the stage.
First onstage was a group performing a piece commissioned by SFJAZZ in 1998, a poem by Rumi set to music featuring Hussain, three other tabla players, sax, piano, vocals and a dancer with bells on her ankles. The result was organic combination of Eastern rhythms and textures with Western jazz style. Hussain at times played a walking bass line on his tabla, and the other tabla players kept the beat with low and high sounds, mimicking a drummer with a kick and snare. Each player took a solo, culminating with the four tabla players furiously tapping fingers and slapping hands on their drums in complete synchronicity at unfathomable speed.
Trying to listen to the individual notes in this situation is like trying to follow each individual flash on a set of strobe lights. Just when my head was about to explode, they finished with a finale rivaling a 15-second fireworks display. (more…)
BY RACHEL DOVEY
I never was punk. (Or “a punk?” Or “a punk rocker?” See, I don’t even know the terminology.) I’m 27, so by the time I started flirting with counter-culture, which admittedly was fairly late, it wasn’t really an option. So when I read John Roderick’s Seattle Weekly essay “Punk Rock is Bullshit,” I don’t take personal offense. I wasn’t there.
But I’m really tired of Roderick’s argument, which is the same one that gets pegged to my generation’s counter culture—whether you call it Indie or Hipster or DIY—all the time. It goes something like this: Privilege breeds idealism, idealism breeds entitlement (led by those smug guitarists, or, these days, banjo players), entitlement breeds complacency, complacency breeds not really doing anything to make the world a better place.
I’m sure this particular psychological circle-jerk happens. I’m sure it happens to me in that endless, anxious loop that is my overly idealistic brain. But I don’t at all buy this notion, that a stance of mainstream critique attached to youth-oriented movements is built to fail, at least not in the way Roderick is saying. Occupy was primarily youngish white people with college degrees, and although the gatherings may have fizzled, mainstream media outlets have started talking about wealth and income distribution in an entirely different way. Does the term “99 percent” get co-opted by the one percent to get demographic points? Absolutely. Has the movement and all of the discussion it generated radically shifted the way I—and others in my age group—understand money in politics, vote, participate in local government and consume? Absolutely.
Perhaps there’s a distinction to be made between political youth culture and art-based youth culture, and you can make it in the comments section if you’re kind enough to read this. But I don’t necessarily think there is. In my experience, banjos, flannel shirts, beards, home canning, even, dare I say it, that particularly hushed and introspective roots-blend that comes from our county’s northwest—these are not just pieces of a twee nostalgia-fest that the New York Times likes to take issue with. They’re expressions of something more—of a growing naturalism in response to fossil fuel extraction so heinous its been associated with earthquakes; of consumption habits that value local economics and relationships in commerce and re-use. Maybe we’re annoying sometimes, maybe we grew up reading “The Lorax” and we’re a little smug, maybe sometimes our overly-earnest aesthetics lead to truly terrible products that we sell on Etsy without realizing that they look like genitals. But call me an optimist, I don’t think we’re complacent—and I think punk helped pave the way.
Or maybe I’m just still young, and not tired and worn-down and hopeless enough yet.
Oakland-based and Sonoma County-bred hip-hop artist Wisdom has just dropped his third studio album, Full Spectrum. Touring in promotion of the worldwide release, Wisdom and his crew headline this week’s Casa Rasta reggae dance party night in downtown Santa Rosa on Thursday, March 7.
Born Tevya Jones, the Sebastopol-raised hip-hop lyricist is well-known to local reggae fans as the frontman for the band Azibo Tribe, as well as a former member of Medicine Drum. His creative style is progressive, conscious hip-hop rooted in dancehall beats and reggae rhythms. With more than three decades of experience under his belt, Jones’ new album has a polished, authentic approach, fusing the cultural divide between hip-hop and world beats. Mixing up militant drums and rapid scratch loops, Wisdom’s rhythms touch upon everything from b-boys and street battles to light prisms and dojos.
Full Spectrum features Sizzla and Michael Rose from Black Uhuru, and “it’s more focused,” says Wisdom on the direction of the new record. “I spent way more time crafting and perfecting this album. My voice is stronger, matured and I have fused more of both my rhyming and singing together as well as developed more mastery of both individually.”
Check out the brand new music video for “Lyricism” below.
Wisdom is hosted by DJ Sizzlak and DJ Dinga at Casa Rasta this Thursday, March 7 at Society: Culture House. 528 7th St Santa Rosa. $5 before 11pm, $10 after. 707.336.2582.
It’s official: Jeff Mangum, frontman and musical genius behind the band Neutral Milk Hotel, will play the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Tuesday, April 9.
Mangum, a famously reclusive figure for a decade after releasing the landmark album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, has slowly re-emerged and performed live over the last few years. (We reviewed his show at the Fox Theater in Oakland here.) In the Aeroplane still manages to hover near the top of most “Best Albums of the 1990s” lists, and shows no sign of slowing in terms of influence and scope.
This is another show for the history books at the Phoenix Theater, which has of late hosted instant-sellout shows with Snoop Dogg and Animal Collective. (And don’t forget Hanson, which had teenage girls camping outside the Phoenix Theater for two days before the show.) My guess is tickets will sell quickly for this one, too.
Luckily, as evidenced by his recent shows, Jeff Mangum plays well-arranged setlists of classic material, and still has that same reedy, hypnotizing voice. Get ready, folks.
“Wow, this sounds a lot like Black Sabbath” was the first thought that popped into my head last night at the Fuzz show in San Francisco. “These long haired dudes kinda look like Black Sabbath, too,” I thought. “But that drummer isn’t hiding behind two bass drums and only has two cymbals. And there’s no singer. This is really, really great! I never liked Ozzy’s voice, and these guys sound like a way bigger band than just a three-piece.” But all these great conversation starters were wasted on my own mind, however, because Ty Segall’s latest musical venture was so damn loud nobody in the Knockout would have heard a stampede of elephants running down Mission Street.
Despite what it sounded like, there was only one guitarist, Charles Moothart. Segall is really the one known for cranking out the rockingest rock with his incredible his guitar tones, but here he’s on drums. More on that later. Moothart’s appropriately fuzzy guitar was fat, so fat, in fact, that it shook my ribcage. Maybe it was a warning, like by body was saying, This Is Almost Too Much Rock, Be Careful. His solos were tasty, like hot jam dripping off a shortbread biscuit tasty. And then there was the hair–so much hair, it was everywhere.
Now Segall, who is a guitarist in something like three other bands, might be on the hook for battery if those drums decide to press charges. He beat them like they owed him money, like they insulted his mother, like they keyed his 1967 Mustang. His ferocity did not dimish the speed of the band’s last song, which kept a blistering pace for four times longer than most punk songs. Not only this, but he sang for some of the songs, most of which were new and will probably have lyrics soon.
The crowd at this Noisepop show may have been a little too hip for its own good. The feeling on the tiny dance floor was that familiar precipice of moshing, where either age, vanity or self consciousness kept people from truly smashing into each other like idiots. Instead, a couple of buzzed dudes in gingham shirts sort of pushed each other around a little, eliciting nervous smiles from the wary crowd around them. In a different setting, this would be the ultimate circle pit band.
Co-headling was OGB III, who took the stage after Fuzz. This band was delicious, filled with ooey-gooey cheese and mushy, fatty pork. Slathered in curtido and spicy salsa, they were too hot at first, but soon went down smooth with a cold Mexican beer. No, wait, that was the pupusas at Los Panchos. No offense to OGB III, but nothing was going to top what we had just seen and heard, and we wanted to leave on the highest note possible.
On a side note, local group Blasted Canyons opened, and were pissed off the whole time about, among other things, their monitor mix. Their playing reflected this attitude it in a bad way. But on the plus side, they did have an Oberheim synthesizer, which is high on the list of things that make really cool sounds. The Knockout is a great bar, with plenty of character and a decent dance floor and stage. It’s too loud and really small, which usually makes every show better. This night was no exception.
…Opening act Crazy Crab?
It looks like Candlestick Park will get one last musical hurrah before being torn down—Justin Timberlake and Jay-Z’s ‘Legends of the Summer‘ stadium tour hits the historic ballpark on July 26. Ticket info. is here—there’s Citi card presales and VIP packages and all that stuff before the general public onsale on Feb. 28.
Candlestick Park has a long history of concerts going all the way back to the Beatles’ last-ever show in 1966, where only 25,000 people showed up, paying between $4.50 and $6.50 each for tickets. The Rolling Stones played two nights there in 1981, and Metallica rumbled the infield in 1988 (see video of “Seek and Destroy” here) and again in 2003. There were a ton of raves at the ballpark in the ’90s and aughts, too.
As for me, I basically grew up at Candlestick, in the Will Clark-Kevin Williams-Jose Uribe era of the Giants. I can’t promise that JT and Jay-Z are going to be as exciting as the 1989 World Series, but still—it’s pretty damn great that the place gets a proper send-off in the form of what’s probably the biggest tour of the summer.
Good news just in: single-day tickets for Napa’s way crazy BottleRock Napa Valley festival are on sale starting Wednesday, February 20.
Single-day tickets are $139 each.
Also, single-day tickets to the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis kickoff show on May 8 are now on sale, too, for $29 each. You can buy those here.
In related news, BottleRock this week added the Avett Brothers, Joan Jett, X, Richard Thompson and the Violent Femmes to the already-mind-blowing lineup.
As previously reported, BottleRock runs May 8-12 at the Napa Valley Expo.
Full info. at the BottleRock site here.