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Live Review: San Francisco Symphony at Green Music Center

Posted by Nicolas Grizzle on Dec 7, 2012

SF Symphony conductor Michael Tilson Thomas says hello

The San Francisco Symphony’s opening night performance at Sonoma State University’s Green Music Center was beautiful and exciting. Each player in the symphony is fantastic individually, and together under the baton of the rockstar of the classical world, Michael Tilson Thomas, the orchestra elucidated every ounce emotion in the evening’s music program. Weill Hall, the acoustic gem and main hall of the GMC, plays gorgeously to this. The premier acoustic space seems to widen the ear canal, allowing for more sound to be heard at once than ever thought possible. The pieces on this night showcased this clarity.

Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks (Op.28) begins with a sneaky little theme, proceeding to take the listener through all sorts of jollity but always with the sense of danger right around the corner. After all, a little mischief never hurt anyone, just don’t get caught. The clarinetist in this piece has a challenge, playing extremely high notes, the highest the instrument can make. I ran into a much loved SSU music professor during intermission, and he suggested this piece was specifically chosen for tonight to showcase the acoustics of the hall. I couldn’t agree more. The fast runs in the higher registers translated not into harsh overtones, but velvety notes that were easily followable in the clarity of the space. When the merry prankster does get caught (and executed), the low bass and drum notes were ferocious, vibrating my loose pant legs (or was that just my legs trembling from the tremendous magnitude of unamplified sound?)

The only sound that hasn’t made me gush so far in this hall is the low mid frequency. It can sound a bit muddled, especially with piano. On opening night with superstar Lang Lang at piano, his dexterous Mozart performance was lost a bit in this register, and parts of the SF Symphony performance were not as sonically brilliant in this area during faster sections. It sounds as though this frequency takes longer to develop than others in the hall. But really, this is splitting hairs. It’s not a problem so much as an observation.

MTT and Yefim Bronfman take a bow

Yefim Bronfman’s playing on Beethoven’s 5th piano concerto (Emperor) was superb. It was not flashy or self-indulgent but more bold and heroic like the piece itself. Though it did not have the passion one would imagine of Beethoven himself pounding the ivory keys, demanding more from his instrument than ever thought possible, it was not lacking for emotion, either. Whether it was just my ears or the players adjusting to the space, during the first five minutes it felt like the piano was just a hair too soft. But soon after, everything settled in. From then on it was pure ecstasy, like listening to a fabulous recording on the best audio system, but it was real, and it was happening right in front of us. I was reminded of this when, during a quiet moment just before the piano flourish at the end of the final movement, a cell phone, ironically with the “piano” ringtone, went off somewhere in the building. This only made enhanced the experience for me with its reminder that it was taking place in reality.

Also performed this evening was “Pandora,” which the SF Symphony had just performed for the first time the night before. This 20-minute piece for strings written by SF Symphony assistant concertmaster and violinist Mark Volkert in 2010 again showcased the heavenly acoustics of the main hall with several solos and double basses playing extended low notes, vibrating the floor in some cases. It is a 21st century work, to be sure, but it is more accessible than some newer pieces. It’s a story piece with a concrete narrative following the Greek myth of Pandora, and can be followed without too much confusion and with beautiful imagery. Volkert was in the audience and came up from his seat to shake hands with MTT after the piece. Both looked quite pleased with the result.

The sad truth of a generation hooked on mp3s is they will rarely experience a full acoustic experience in music. Earbuds are a terrible listening device, reproducing, at best, about two-thirds of the human hearing spectrum. The best mp3 is 25 percent of the data of a full recording compressed into the middle of the frequency spectrum where our ears are tuned to listen more easily. Without getting too technical, let’s just say the sound is flat and lifeless. The main hall at Sonoma State’s Green Music Center is the anti-mp3. It is pure sonic expression, giving music a forum to be heard as it was intended by its creator and perhaps even enhancing it through the warmth of the acoustic environment. Though their home, Davies’ Symphony Hall in San Francisco, is stunning in its own right, I wouldn’t be surprised if members of the SF Symphony prefer playing in Weill Hall. This was the first of four SF Symphony performances at the Green Music Center for its 2012-2013 season, and hopefully next season features even more.

In News

Vital Snoop-formation

Posted by Nicolas Grizzle on Dec 6, 2012


Snoop Dogg, AKA Snoop Lion recently did a Q&A session on social networking Internet aggregator site Reddit.com (they’re called AMA–Ask Me Anything–and President Obama did one just before the election), answering hundreds of questions, far more than other celebrities, with 10-words-or-less answers. What catches my eye is the answer to “How weed do you smoke in a week?” with a simple “81 blunts a day x 7.”

This is why I love the Internet. The ensuing discussion includes calculations of just how much weed that actually is. One person says 22 pounds per year, and is promptly reprimanded for calculating “matchstick-sized blunts.” The actual amount for Snoop-sized blunts, assuming two grams per blizzle, is 130 pounds a year. The post is then corrected further to equate to 131.98 pounds.

This breaks down to one blunt every 12 minutes, assuming eight hours of sleep per 24 hours. But obviously, Snoop does not smoke all of those on his own, Snoop is a giver and has a large crew. He might take just one hit of any given blunt, but that still counts.

Sure, the rap legend changed his persona and made a record of reggae with no rapping whatsoever on it, which just dropped a single on Youtube. But the questions didn’t really focus on this, and Snoop, to his credit, didn’t really push it that much. He just answered questions, no matter how obscure, for hours.

Other vital Snoop-formation:

- Snoop-approved munchies include: pistachios, Fritos BBQ Twists and Red Vines

- The only people to smoke HIM out are Willie Nelson, Wiz Khalifa and B-Real

- Snoop’s favorite stoned album is Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly”

- OG Kush is Snoop’s favorite strain of marijuana

- He prefers Cadillacs to trains

- Snoops’ favorite performance was on the Arsenio Hall show.

- Snoop enjoys soccer and plays FIFA 2012

- He was weed-free about five years ago for 164 days straight.

- Snoop enjoys kung-fu movies.

- His guilty musical pleasure is K-POP

By the way, Mr. Dogg/Lion is playing at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Dec. 15 ($70) and the Uptown Theater in Napa in Dec. 14 ($60). Bring some BBQ Twist Fritos and see if he wants to chill after the show.

In News

Be ‘That Guy’ with Bon Jovi Tonight

Posted by Nicolas Grizzle on Nov 27, 2012

Did you miss Bon Jovi’s sold-out, 12-night stand at London’s O2? Inaugural multi-night stint at Meadowlands Stadium? What about the big shows at Madison Square Garden? And you really wanted to see that Times Square broadcast with a live Q&A session tonight? Well, you’re in luck! Bon Jovi: Inside Out is showing the best of all of those concerts at two theaters tonight only in Marin County at 8pm!

Of course, because the West Coast is like a Third World Country compared to the Metropolis of New York, we get the tape-delayed interview session. But the concert’s still there, on the big screen with the big surround sound.

Ever since I was stuck in 49ers postgame traffic a few years ago, I’ve wanted to sing along with my friends at the top of my lungs to “Livin’ on a Prayer.” In the carbon monoxide haze of Candlestick’s luxurious parking facility, with no end in sight to the sea of vehicles looking to exit, my friend put on Mr. Jovi’s greatest hits and cranked the Bose stereo system in his truck, windows down. I’m sure it could be heard for at least a mile, because I couldn’t hear anything else, not even my own screaming for him to turn it down.

I slunk down in my seat, scared to death of furrowed brows and tisk-tisk head shakes. Looking back, I wish I would have just gone with it, sung along, and been “that guy.” You know, “that guy” who has fun doing what he loves without regard to how uncool it might seem? “That guy” who does what feels good even if it means embarrassing himself so much that others around him cringe? Or “that guy” who lives in the moment so hard he forgets the social norms and belts out power ballads at maximum volume in a crowded parking lot?

This is your chance to be “that guy.” Bon Jovi is “that guy” all the time, and look where it’s gotten him. He even has a steel horse! The movie plays at San Rafael Regency 6 and Sausalito Cinearts Marin 3 tonight at 8.

Live Review: Miguel at the Oracle Arena, Oakland

Posted by Gabe Meline on Nov 25, 2012

Miguel Pimentel is a 25-year old singer, songwriter and producer from Los Angeles who has made one of this year’s most bewilderingly satisfying albums, Kaleidoscope Dream. His music is R&B in the same way that Lionel Richie’s solo hits are R&B—instead of simply smoldering rootlessly in the modern formula, it assimilates both pop tropes and sonic experimentation in the pursuit of access to the part of one’s brain that processes an elusive strain called “catchiness.” (Miguel would never stoop to “Dancin’ on the Ceiling,” but a burner like “Runnin’ With the Night” is up his alley.)

His songs, most of which he writes, are incredible, but there’s little clue on Kaleidoscope Dream toward what kind of performer Miguel might be in a live setting. Does he play guitar like Prince, a clear inspiration? Does he pace back and forth, hunched over? I wasn’t sure until, at the Oakland Arena Friday night opening for Trey Songz, the lights went down and the pitch of the audience’s screams went up. Miguel emerged through wisps of a fog machine dressed in a custom-tailored suit, wingtip shoes, acutely tapered slacks, a silver lame shirt, dark shades and his signature hair. He then proceeded to dance with precision and unimaginable verve over every square foot of the stage.

Eminently healthy, Miguel moves like a less-furious James Brown, mentally separating the top portion of his body from the lower wind-up toys that other people might call legs. He is unafraid to laugh at the outrageousness of his own physical ability, as when he executed the famous “falling microphone stand” trick, or when he leaped from the side of the stage, over a six-foot gap, to land standing atop a stack of the arena’s bass woofers.

While all this is going on, Miguel manages to sing far better than most singers who just stand there. Yes, those high falsettos on “Adorn” were perfect. Moreover, he’d change melodies slightly, in subtle ways. On the chorus of “How Many Drinks,” a pyrotechnic singer like Mariah Carey might warble and flutter and yodel all over the chord changes; Miguel sung the sixth instead of the fifth. Simple, and effective.

The set only featured five songs from Kaleidoscope Dream, the rest coming from Miguel’s first album, his mixtapes or his guest spots. Sources mattered little; “in the palm of his hand” is the best description for where he had the crowd. “Thank you so much to the Bay Area,” he said at one point. “You guys supported me before my hometown did. It’s crazy, every time I come to the Bay I think about this special someone who inspired me to write these songs. Maybe you know her.”

Do You…” might’ve lacked the machine-gun drums and popping disco bass of the original, but segued neatly into Bob Marley’s “Stir it Up”; “Lotus Flower Bomb” turned into an enthusiastic singalong; and when Miguel ripped off his shirt during “Pussy is Mine,” well, he basically rendered the arena a helpless pool of female squeals. “Adorn” ended the set, and Miguel, legs flailing as ever, danced back to the uppermost riser, jumped high into the air, and landed perfectly, in the splits. Incredible.

-

Setlist:
Strawberry Amazing
Sure Thing
The Thrill
How Many Drinks
All I Want Is You
Do You Like Drugs
Lotus Flower Bomb
The Pussy is Mine
Quickie
Adorn

 

Live Review: Chucho Valdés Quintet at the Green Music Center

Posted by Gabe Meline on Nov 12, 2012 3 Comments

It’s a concert hall hailed for impeccable acoustics, but the Green Music Center had an unfortunate reverberation to deal with after Chucho Valdes’ performance on Sunday night—the mutterings from the audience about the show’s bad sound mix.

Out in the lobby immediately after the show, I ran into a jazz radio DJ and a professional pianist, both going down the list of problems. The piano was tinny and abrasive. The drums were far too loud. The piano, in turn, was turned up in the mix to compensate, which only made everything worse, and although Valdés tried to talk into the microphone after each song, it wasn’t turned on for 40 minutes.

I heard the same problems during the show, but I sat in the seats behind the stage, where the sound is bound to be a little strange. Was it really that bad out on the floor? I decided to find out, and a stroll around the lobby yielded even harsher criticism. (more…)

In News

Snoop Dogg to Play Phoenix Theater on Dec. 15

Posted by Gabe Meline on Nov 8, 2012 2 Comments

It’s official, and no, we aren’t joking: Snoop Dogg is playing the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Saturday, Dec. 15. If this means that we get to possibly see Tom Gaffey and Snoop Dogg on stage together, all will be amazing in the world.

Tickets go on sale this Saturday, Nov. 10, at 10am.

General admission tickets will be $70, making this the highest-priced ticket at the Phoenix in recent memory—and by “recent,” I mean “since 1989.” But consider that when Snoop plays in San Francisco, tickets cost over fifty bucks anyway, and minus gas and toll and parking, and it’s the Phoenix, for chrissakes, well… I’m betting it’ll quickly sell out.

If you’re a Snoop superfan, there’s also a VIP meet-and-greet option, including a photo with Snoop himself and special tour merchandise, priced at—drumroll please—$350.

Got your mind on your money and your money on your mind? You can get tickets, starting Saturday at 10am, here.

(UPDATE: Snoop’s also playing the Uptown Theatre in Napa the night before, on Friday, Dec. 14. Tickets are $60, and go on sale this Saturday at noon right here. If you can’t get Phoenix tickets on Saturday, that’s a good option—the Uptown is a great place to see a show.)

Live Review: The One Island Tour at Hopmonk, Sebastopol

Posted by Jacquelynne Ocaña on Oct 29, 2012

Despite the rain, crowds filled Hopmonk’s Abbey last week for Monday Night Edutainment’s first big show of the fall season. For more than a decade, the weekly dance party has been introducing Sonoma County to reggae’s freshest bands and MCs. But it is loyalty to the genre’s biggest international stars that consistently fills the house.

One Island Tour 2012
Photo by Christopher Harris

Edutainment’s WBLK production crew resumed their tradition of booking excellent talent with a three-band lineup. What’s more, Hopmonk had their first opportunity to debut a giant translucent tent covering the entire back patio. With the rain falling lightly outside, it was just another NorCal summer night inside the glowing dome.

Headlining was Caribbean band Bambú Station from the Virgin Island of St. Croix. They are currently touring as one half of The One Island Tour, a 16-city West Coast run with Maui’s InnaVision. The two linked up with the opener Ancestree, a reggae festival favorite based in Santa Cruz. (more…)

What Music is Like at the World Series

Posted by Gabe Meline on Oct 28, 2012

The first thing we notice walking into the ballpark for Game One of the World Series? The music, of course. “Friend of the Devil” is playing over the PA, which isn’t surprising, considering the Grateful Dead are still revered in San Francisco and Giants third-base coach Tim Flannery is a huge deadhead. Here he is singing the national anthem with Bob Weir and Phil Lesh in the NLCS—you gotta love that fist-pump by Lesh—but even in the offseason, Flannery plays with his band, the Lunatic Fringe, sometimes in benefit appearances for Bryan Stow and sometimes just for the hell of it. Flannery’s been a musician since a young age. “When I was young,” he says, “I thought I was John Denver.” I love Flannery for his gutsiness and smarts when it comes to, say, sending Buster Posey home against all apparent odds, but you gotta love him for his laid-back life off the field too.

Pomp and regalia are in full bloom at the ballpark, with bunting draped over every level’s banister and, after batting practice, old-time organ music: “Good Day Sunshine,” “Wait ‘Til the Sun Shines, Nellie,” and others played in that inimitable ballpark style. We thought it might be Dave “Baby” Cortez and his Happy Organ, who made a comeback last year, but nope—here’s a shout out Steve Hogan, the Giants organist who sits up there near the huge Coke bottle in left field and waits for instructions from the sound manager over whether to play “Charge” or “Jaws.” Watch this dry little video about his day-to-day task of tickling the Hammond, and try to tell me it isn’t the best job in baseball.

In the lead-up to the game, the PA represents both teams: “Sing a Simple Song” by Sly and the Family Stone, from San Francisco, and “White Trash Party” by Eminem, from Detroit. (Neutral parties are given “Intro” by the xx, among the best manifestations of bland neutrality since the “chillout” craze.) The way that Sly Stone has crashed and burned in recent years decades, this might not be the best talisman of hope for the Giants, but not exactly to the Tigers’ benefit, either, since the Eminem song celebrates, uh, tramp stamps. (more…)

Review and Photos: Bob Weir and Sammy Hagar at Sweetwater Music Hall

Posted by csiadmin on Oct 21, 2012

On Friday night, the Sweetwater in Mill Valley hosted an intimate show with Sammy Hagar, lead singer from Van Halen; Bob Weir, guitarist and singer from the Grateful Dead, Furthur, and Rat Dog; Jonathan Wilson, Jeff Chimenti, and the Mooncussers (headed by CNBC Senior Economics Reporter Steve Liesman). Admission was $200, and for a good reason—the show was a benefit for the Wounded Warrior Project, which helps with support and rehabilitation of wounded veterans. Check out their work at woundedwarriorproject.org, and you’ll understand why Weir and Hagar support it.

The show had a fiery beginning with Sammy Hagar and the Mooncussers performing songs like Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and Bob Dylan’s “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35.” Hagar played a few of the songs on Bob Weir’s guitar, and later, when bringing Weir out to hand over the guitar, he announced that Bob was his neighbor and best friend. The close chemistry between Weir and Hagar was surprising considering their very different musical backgrounds. Weir took over solo duties for a few songs including “Black-Throated Wind” again followed by Jonathan Wilson joining in for “Big Boss Man,” and a personal favorite “Loser,” which Weir announced as a “sad song.” The show finished off with the whole band, minus Hagar, playing “Ramble On Rose” and “Mission In The Rain.”

For a full slideshow gallery of photos from the show, click here.

—Jamie Soja

Live Review and Photos: Treasure Island Music Festival 2012

Posted by Nicolas Grizzle on Oct 14, 2012 One Comment

What happened to her giant pants?!

(San Francisco) – A band of pirates on stilts tried to take over Treasure Island yesterday, but were blasted out instead by pounding drum n bass breaks from a wall of subwoofers.

 

This happened, of course, at the Treasure Island Music Festival, which took place on the decommissioned naval base in the middle of the San Francisco Bay. Two stages, a Ferris wheel, the silent disco, gourmet food trucks, cool merchandise and the ultimate people watching experience awaited those wise enough to attend day one of the two-day music fest.

The Coup, from Oakland with love

The Coup had just started playing when I walked through the gate. Since this was the “electronic” day, hearing a big, funky, rock-heavy hip hop group from Oakland was a welcome surprise. I’m not a huge fan of DJ music–I was there to see Public Enemy–so this was a good sign. I was surprised I hadn’t heard of the Coup before, but they were on the top of their game for this show. Style, swagger and porkchop side burns lifted from the 70s. The kickass riffs and drum solos reminded me of Rage Against the Machine, but the Coup had more of a soul vibe at times.

Grimes

Grimes was next, and their three-girl electro-pop sound gained momentum halfway through the set. By the end it felt like I was in a Visa commercial with so much pounding synth bass and young people in ridiculous clothing jumping around. It was the best Visa commercial ever. The enthusiasm for Grimes was electric, with some of the most passionate fans at the festival dancing their neon spandex-covered asses off. (more…)

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