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Live Review: Cass McCombs at the Great American Music Hall

Posted by on Jun 1, 2012

Photo by Jacques Law

The Lite-Brite style projections on the stage may have held promise of an appearance by the more upbeat Cass McCombs, but when the folk-rock artist took the stage at the Great American Music Hall on May 25, greeting the crowd with a quick, “How ya doin? Ya all right?” (one of the only exchanges with the audience made for the entire night), he launched into a series of semi-morose, jammy songs backed up by his band and an acoustic guitar.

To be honest, the first part of the set made me flashback to one, should-be-lost-to-history summer spent listening to Blues for Allah on the rickety porch of my friend’s compound out in the woods of West County. I spent a large bit of 2011 listening to McCombs’ Humor Risk and Wit’s End, and I never once made the Grateful Dead Blues for Allah connection until seeing the songs performed live. Don’t know if this is McCombs’ normal incarnation, but the sound was definitely there, and vocally he even had a Jerry Garcia thing going on, at times. Roll away the dew, indeed.

It wasn’t until about halfway through the set, when the shaggy-haired singer put down the acoustic guitar in favor of an electric that the energy really picked up, though the extended, repetitive-jam element remained. If anything, McCombs’ Northern California roots definitely showed through in this performance, with a sound that would have fit right into the 70s-era Fillmore.

Interview: Rama Covarrubias of Freeradicals Projekt

Posted by on May 30, 2012 One Comment

Already much-buzzed about in their native Maui, the Freeradicals Projekt are (now) a septet who seamlessly blend funk, soul, reggae, and hip-hop into a potent blend of ass-shaking, feel-good musical gooeyness. A huge reason the group’s fusion actually works is the inter-playing swagger of its co-vocalists, MC Francisco Perez and charismatic soul singer Shea Derrick – whose pipes and charisma alone could buoy the band’s shows. As their tour hits the mainland (they play Mill Valley’s Sweetwater this Friday, followed by shows in SF and Santa Cruz), we caught up with guitarist/band leader Ramas Cavarrubias to learn the benefits of making music in an idyllic bubble. (more…)

In News

2012 Summertime Outdoor Free Concerts in Sonoma County

Posted by on May 28, 2012

Someone recently wrote to us asking if we could compile a list of the free summertime concerts put on by cities around Sonoma County. I’ve had to dig to find these lists on various city websites in the past, so here’s a handy guide for free outdoor community concerts in Sonoma County for summertime 2012. (Note: We’ll add to this list as more schedules are finalized. Also, this does not include every single outdoor free concert; only those put on by cities.) (more…)

Church: Santa Rosa’s Thoroughly Modern Marching Band

Posted by on May 18, 2012 One Comment

I first time came across Church after stumbling out of Stark’s Happy Hour with a couple of friends. Down the street they came, skipping past Western Farm Center and hanging a right into Railroad Square. It was a motley crew, held together by a few lopsided grins, an accordion (played by Kalei Yamanhoha from the Crux), clarinet, a couple of saxophones, snare drums, trombones and a big, ole’ sousaphone. They looked like a bunch of wily mutineers, the Goonies of marching bands, and as we grinned and walked towards the railroad tracks, with Church behind us on the street, we claimed them for a moment as our own personal soundtrack. As they rounded the corner onto Sixth street and headed up into the West End neighborhood, I texted my husband and said, “Look out the window, a marching band is about to pass by!” For a second, everything felt shiny and good in the world.

The next time, I literally ran (or biked) into Church while navigating through dumb Santa Rosa Plaza to get into downtown. As I approached Macy’s, the glass entrance doors burst open, and Kalei the accordionist, came barreling out, still playing his accordion, followed by a tumult of ragtag marching band hooligans, all laughing and breathless—and probably being chased by an humorless department store security guard who didn’t appreciate the charm of being serenaded in the shoe department with off-kilter Russian folk songs. The best part… Church played the theme from “Cops” on the way out the doors.

That’s the great thing about Church: you never know when they’ll perform. The last time I saw them, they were playing guerilla-style at the Tour of California “Lifestyle Festival.” They were making bank in tips, I’m sure without a permit, and I thought, “Ah, now this is a lifestyle I can get behind.” Hopefully, next time I see Church they’ll be playing the shit out of a Ratatat song on the top of Hugh Codding’s tribute arch until the damn thing rumbles down…

Here’s what they say about themselves on their Facebook page: “One rainy night the idea was formed to create a marching band of friends. Why not? Everyone we know plays music, so why not get everyone together for it? We practice hard, perform harder, and create a redonc party everywhere we go.”

And here’s the official 12 -piece line up: Jesse Shantor (Sousaphone), Gaven Hayden-Town (Baritone Saxophone), Ben Weiner (Drums), Ricky Lomeli (Drums), Zak Garn (Drums), Joey Lynch (Drums), Travis Hendrix (Clarinet), Annie Cilley (Alto Saxophone), Adam Lessnau (Trombone), Jeremy Lessnau (Melophone/Trumpet), Josh Jackson (Trumpet), Kalei Yamanoha (Accordion)

While spontaneous, surprise Church sightings are the most fun, you can see them in a more “official” capacity when they play the Arlene Francis Center on Friday, May 25. The show is a benefit to send the West County-based marching band Hubbub Club, along with Church, to this year’s HONK! festwest.

 

 

 

 

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The Brothers Comatose Will Get Naked For You

Posted by on May 17, 2012

The Brothers Comatose are playing their CD release show this Saturday, May 19, at the Great American Music Hall, and boy, do they want you to be there.

For every 50 tickets sold pre-sale to the show, band members are taking off an article of clothing and posting the photos on their site. Think of it as a type of strip poker, with convenience fees. So far, they’re up to 203 tickets, which means the photos are still pretty PG-rated.

Does any wealthy benefactor want to buy all the remaining tickets so we can finally see Gio Benedetti buck naked? (Dear Warren Buffett, buy tickets here.)

Here’s hoping the 2010 NorBay winners are successful in their campaign, and below, see the video for “The Scout,” a song about staying young, from the BroCo’s new album, Respect the Van. (Considering our recent question about why there aren’t very many bike songs in the world, we should note it contains the line “We’ll ride our bikes all over this town / There ain’t no freedom like two wheels on the ground.” Sweet!)

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The Rum Diary Reunion: What Do You Want to Hear?

Posted by on May 16, 2012 4 Comments

The Cotati Sound Machine is back! Well, for one show, at least.

As announced today, the very great Rum Diary are playing this year’s C.A.M.P. Festival in Guerneville, which is this weird-ass type of hippie-indie-spiritual-DIY-new-age-yoga-craft-rock campout amid the redwoods lining the Russian River, outdoors under the stars. In other words, the absolute perfect place for the Rum Diary, who broke up in 2007, to reunite.

What songs do you want to hear? Why not go to this handy survey they’ve created and vote? (I’m currently Googling “Survey Monkey hack” and voting for “Greasers Win” 1,000 times.)

Here’s the funny thing: “Reunion” is a bit of a misnomer, because the lineup features the same exact members of Shuteye Unison—the band that’s still playing every month. Plans were initially made for original Rum Diary drummer Joe Ryckebosch to make it down from Portland, but now it looks like that won’t happen. But Shuteye’s Jake Krohn played briefly in the Rum Diary after Joe left, and “Shuteye Unison to me is basically the same band with a different drummer,” says Daniel McKenzie. “People just want to hear the old songs, you know?”

McKenzie also notes that at C.A.M.P., “the ‘vibe’ is pretty out there at times.” When C.A.M.P. originated last year, we at the Bohemian had no idea how it was going to turn out. A bunch of people from Oakland getting high on the old J’s Amusements site? A mix of bands from Sonoma County, Oakland and Portland? A harmonic convergence to the great savior music?

Alas, watch the video below to get an idea. Tickets are on sale now.

Important PSA: The Wall Still Stands

Posted by on May 12, 2012 One Comment

Roger Waters performs The Wall, by Pink Floyd, at AT&T Park May 11, 2012.

Walking at a hurried pace along Herb Caen Way (I prefer this name over The Embarcadero), it was evident we were walking to a concert. An unusually large cluster of people walked under the Bay Bridge, mixed fashions and eras brought together under a wispy net of marijuana smoke (on the street!). The final clue was a salesman four blocks from the venue with bootleg tour shirts: Roger Waters, The Wall 2012.

In line at the ballpark at 3rd and King Streets last night, one of the first people to approach us was a man in his late 30s asking to buy a cigarette. “You can just have one, man,” said Clint as he reached for a smoke. “We don’t smoke – we quit,” the man replied hastily. He was doing something naughty because this was a party, a Pink Floyd concert. Is ever there were a time to break the rules, it was tonight.

It’s cute when adults in button down shirts and V-neck sweaters break the rules. My cohorts were young enough to make me feel like that adult, so I wisely chose a T-shirt and jeans for the evening.

We were offered pot several times, and it seemed almost like it was legal. The McGyver smokers did everything they could to avoid detection: roll a joint, hollow out a cigarette, refill it and tear off the filter, cigarette-esque smoking devices, edibles. A usual assortment or sneekery seemed unnecessary, but the adults were having fun, and half the fun is trying not to get caught.

The show started late, despite the “8:15 prompt” time on the ticket. It’s tough to start the show when only half the seats are filled, and $9 beers don’t sell themselves. We were seated for about 10 minutes when the lights went dark and a plane literally flew in over the first base side of the park and crashed into the wall on the stage in the outfield. The 5.1 surround sound made this epic, and I can only imagine what the really naughty adults were going through hearing this plane flying around their heads.

The wall on either side of the musicians was a video projection wall, with images and live camera shots of Roger Waters for us in the cheap seats to see. The effects were awesome, as expected. The mood was heavy, with names and pictures of soldiers killed in the current wars were put up on the wall and the big circular screen above the stage.

The sound wasn’t really dialed in until the second half, when the bass was turned up to match the screaming guitar and vocals. That would have been nice to hear before “Another Brick in the Wall,” with Waters slappin’ da bass. The drums sounded amazing the whole time, though it wasn’t Nick Mason playing them. The show really was Roger Waters plays The Wall, with a really good Pink Floyd cover band backing him.

Waters was self-admittedly narcissistic in his performance. At one point, he played along to himself, harmonizing with Roger Waters from 30 years ago superimposed on the screen behind him. He used the word “narcissistic,” and was totally cool with it because, you know what? He’s Roger Fucking Waters. That’s why.

The wall was literally built up, piece by piece, blocking out the band behind it by the end of the first half. After intermission and a 30-minute bathroom line, Comfortably Numb blew me away. The screaming guitar solo from the top of The Wall, with Waters at the bottom harmonizing on vocals and running the length of the stage under the spotlight. This was the apex of the show, a good way to start the second half after, presumably, many fans reloaded their, ahem, psychedelic infusions.

“Dirty Woman” was really, really dirty. Projections of topless women dancing on The Wall were really hot, and that’s a really hot song even without visuals. Luckily there weren’t too many youngsters in the crowd.

The inflatable capitalist pig, which would have been an Occupier’s wet dream to see in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, was dragged through the lawn crowd, partially popped by enthusiastic revelers, and “danced” in the air with a wounded leg for the second half of the show.

At the end, The Wall was toppled, bricks of the projection screen falling forward onto the stage amid screams and chants of “Tear Down The Wall!” Waters and the band returned for a curtain call and well-deserved standing ovation from the crowd at AT&T Park.

The show was as relevant as ever, I can only imagine what it would have been like to see it 30 years ago. It’s good to know a younger generation still feels the same fire and skepticism Pink Floyd was warning us about from across the pond when my parents were my age. Hopefully the message will live on even beyond the band.


Sorry about the poor audio.

Trebuchet: Your New Favorite Band

Posted by on May 11, 2012
Trebuchet at Bototm of the Hill, SF, 5-10-12

Trebuchet plays album release show at the Bottom of the Hill

From the first inhale of Trebuchet’s self-titled debut record, I’m hooked. The ukulele like lapping waves of a tropical shore; the surf lead guitar the birds lazily riding the swells. A breath—giving pause, the moment that will make or break the entire album. Sweet voices coalesce in harmonic bliss, one as strong as the next, none overshadowing another. The wave does not crash, it pushes onto the shore, allowing warm salt water to kiss my toes and leave me wanting more.

The six-song, vinyl-only release (it’s also available digitally) was christened with a show at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill last night, with friends and family accompanying on stage and in the audience. Whether by blood or by feeling, all four bands playing on the evening’s bill were related, and the feeling in the audience was that of an unexpected family reunion.

Survival Guide opened the show, who I unfortunately arrived too late to see. You Are Plural introduced a new twist to the duo of Wurlitzer and cello: drums. The percussion filled in some spaces, but since most songs were written without drums, it felt forced at times. But the harmonies and interesting time signatures kept the set flowing and piqued interest throughout the set. The New Trust brought a powerful rock sound to the stage next, Josh Staples’ thundering bass lines commanding attention from even the smoking crowd in the atrium.

I was lucky to see Trebuchet’s first-ever performance, at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, last year. The band impressed the hell out of everyone that night, in part because three of the four members are known for intense, instrumental post rock in the band Not To Reason Why. This was as far from the expected as possible while still loosely relatable to the same genre.

Last night, Trebuchet sounded polished, like a beautiful piece of obsidian after hundreds of years in a river bed. That igneous black rock born of violent eruptions from the Earth’s core, sharpened and used as arrowheads and spear tips, left alone under running water matures into a polished, beautiful stone. I walk toward the sea, wading in up to my hips. The warmth and gentle swaying covers the impending danger of being too far from shore, too far from home. This is the best kind of escape.

Band: Trebuchet

Album: Trebuchet

Style: Relaxed, Americana instrumentation, four-part vocal harmonies, extremely musical songs, listenable without being boring, beautiful, interesting without being obscure

Comparisons: Sufjan Stevens, Decemberists, what other Portland bands wish they could sound like

Rating: 4.5/5 (Just because the record is only six songs!)

Trebuchet’s debut record is available at www.trebuchetmusic.com.

Live Review: The Weeknd at the Fillmore, San Francisco

Posted by on May 9, 2012 One Comment

Question: What’s the stupidest thing the Weeknd said at the Fillmore last night?

Answer: “C’mon, sing my fuckin’ song!”

It was in the middle of “Crew Love,” the Drake collaboration that had the entire place going apeshit. Everyone—from the front to the back, the people who scored tickets before the show sold out in two minutes, the people who dropped $200 on Craigslist, the bartenders, the security—everyone in the Fillmore already had their hands up, screaming along to every line, a unison chorus one thousand strong. Telling the crowd last night to sing along was like asking Kobe Bryant to maybe make some baskets already.

I know, I know, it’s just a hype line, everyone uses it. But every song had the same effect of unanimous singing, word-for-word, from a crowd utterly crazed on House of Balloons, myself included. The celebration was a short one—the show lasted just over an hour—but cutting things short actually felt right, somehow, and I didn’t leave disappointed.

The Weeknd opened with “High For This,” numerous joints lit up, and holy shit, the beat drop on the “open your hand” line, right? He did a bit of “Dirty Diana,” morphed it into “The Birds,” and completed the frontloading of hits as he fired into “Crew Love.” “The Knowing,” utterly sublime, stopped time itself. Girls climbed on boyfriends’ shoulders for “The Morning.” Near the hour mark, “Glass Table Girls” finished the main set, and the one-song encore was “Wicked Games,” which the Weeknd sung alone with only an acoustic guitar backing. (Or, if you counted the entire Fillmore singing along, a backup choir of 1,000.)

Somewhere in all this, it hit me full-force. Here’s a guy selling out shows faster than you can say “Cali is the mission,” but who has three free albums that weren’t released commercially, who has only played 12 shows on U.S. soil and whose entire career move has been preceded by “http://.” If you were there inside the “legendary-ass” Fillmore last night (his words), you felt the tectonic shift, like here’s this impassioned fan base losing their shit over a phenomenon that would have been impossible five years ago. I even counted three guys who came to the show dressed like the Weeknd, wearing denim jackets cut off into vests.

As I’ve noted before, House of Balloons is worthy of the hype. That said, the Weeknd isn’t much of a performer yet. He can sing well, and he can re-create his songs capably, and he had last night’s crowd in the palm of his hand because his songs are so damn good. But in the times when he wasn’t singing, he wasn’t making much of a connection with the audience. He fell back on stock banter (“I love you, San Francisco!”) instead of giving his all. Combined with the too-short set time, it felt like watching a demo instead of the real thing.

But then again, isn’t that what the Weeknd’s whole tip is? The free mixtape instead of the official release? The handwritten diary instead of the published memoir? The late-night phone call instead of the press conference?

Adam “MCA” Yauch, 1964-2012

Posted by on May 7, 2012 One Comment

I had the pleasure of meeting Adam “MCA” Yauch, along with Mike D and the King Ad-Rock, at a San Francisco press roundtable back in August 2007. The Beastie Boys were in town for two shows promoting The Mix-Up, their only album comprised of instrumentals and devoid of samples. What happened was one of the most enjoyable and bizarre journalistic experiences of my life, with the smart-alecky trio christening me the “Debbie Downer” of the room for my questions regarding “porno music” and Tibetan freedom. I couldn’t help but ask about Yauch’s Milarepa Foundation efforts because the first Tibetan Freedom Concert at Golden Gate Park in 1996 was such a memorable part of my young life. The two-day event was a key accomplishment in Yauch’s—and the band’s—very public maturation.

It was also my first Beastie Boys show, and it was a revelation. The band delivered an incredibly diverse set that included their punk songs, jazzy numbers, funk excursions, and of course their hip-hop hits. There are so many highlights, all of which I’ve struggled to devote ample brain power to since that weekend 16 years ago: A vibrant opening with the one-two blast of “Jimmy James” and “Sure Shot”; a rare live “Get it Together” with Q-Tip busting up in laughter after forgetting half his lyrics; a cover of “Red Tape” by the Circle Jerks; Biz Markie leading the 100,000-strong crowd in a raucous rendition of his classic Check Your Head intro “The Biz vs. the Nuge”; and most beautifully, MCA’s performance of “Bodhisattva Vow” alongside a Tibetan monk’s live chanting.

There were many live Beastie highlights after that—the trio letting thousands sing EVERY WORD of “Paul Revere” at Oakland Arena in 1998; the group’s giddy rendition of “High Plains Drifter” at the Bill Graham Civic in 2004—but nothing like that day. In the 1990s, the Beastie Boys’ TV culture lyrics and seamless blending of disparate musical styles reflected the culture as well as Pulp Fiction or Lollapalooza or Seinfeld or The Real World. Seeing them bring it all to life was a thrill.

That weekend, Yauch not only assembled the largest U.S. benefit crowd since 1985’s Live Aid and many of the day’s finest musical icons to urge a boycott of Chinese goods. He also began an enduring post-Tiananmen-Square-Massacre dialogue in pop culture consciousness about the ethics of the U.S.’s partnership with the brutal government of China. This call for Generation X and Y to “follow the money” and make a difference through everyday restraint was incredibly profound to the 16-year-old me. I could no longer look at “Made in China” labels without remembering the monks onstage whose teeth were all knocked out by a Chinese police cattle prod, and the distance between my high school and far-off sweatshops would never be that vast again. I kept the effort up long after my “Free Tibet” bumper sticker was stolen off my Honda’s bumper.

It makes me sad to think how Westerners can still be shocked by things like the installation of suicide nets at Apple’s Chinese factories. But I must admit that I don’t boycott Chinese goods as much I can, and with the Internet, there’s really no excuse. At the roundtable in 2007, I didn’t look closely for sweatshop wear on the Beasties, but Yauch did express some disillusionment with the Tibetan Freedom concerts he produced, particularly in the apparent lack of other bands’ long-term commitment.

Following the farcical press conference, Yauch was hanging outside near the garage as everyone headed over to UC Berkeley for that night’s Greek Theatre show. Despite strict instructions to the contrary, another writer asked for a cell phone picture and Yauch kindly obliged. After he left, it was only me and MCA. Still star struck, I asked him if he was going to the student-led Tibetan freedom protest the following day at the local Chinese embassy (I’d heard about it on the news). Surprisingly, he had no idea about it. But he looked interested and asked me for more info. Then I told him how the 1996 Tibetan Freedom Concert made a big impact on the Bay Area, and that many locals were still fighting the good fight. He just looked at me, nodding.

When his ride pulled up, he went to leave but stopped and asked if I and the other writer were going to the show. I told him I was but that the other guy couldn’t get a press pass. He asked for the guy’s name, nodded to register it, and then bade me farewell.

I never got a picture, which would’ve been cool. But at least I got to tell him that something he did made a difference for others. At least I got to do that.