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Sweet Leaf Shaking Sonoma County Again

Posted by on Jan 8, 2015

By Eddie Jorgensen

It’s been 33 years since Sonoma County’s longest running band, Skitzo, started its reign of sickening, barf-encrusted, thrash metal terror and vocalist/guitarist Lance Ozanix shows no signs of slowing down. Ozanix’s annual side project, Sweet Leaf, an Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath tribute act, will be celebrating their 20th anniversary together and will play one last show in the area before they reconvene again in December.

Sweet Leaf features a veritable who’s who of the metal scene. Guitarist Steve Smyth has done countless national and international tours playing with the likes of Testament, Nevermore, Vicious Rumours, Forbidden, Dragonlord, and currently lives in England with his wife and dog where he teaches guitar to over 60 students. Drummer Chris Newman played with Intense, one of the largest drawing speed / thrash metal bands in the late 80’s and also played with local hard rock outfit, Ariah. The group is rounded out by the ultra-talented bassist, Steven Hoffman, from the defunct Esseness Project.

Nowadays it’s just one practice and go” said Ozanix in a recent phone interview. “This year because of the 10 year anniversary of Dimebag Darrell’s death, we have added some some Pantera songs into the set. Of course, when we run out of material during shows, we will throw in some Accept, Judas Priest, Dio, or even some AC/DC tunes.”

Guitarist Steve Smyth and Lance Ozanix channel Black Sabbath. Photo by Kris McDonald.

Guitarist Steve Smyth and Lance Ozanix channel Black Sabbath. Photo by Kris McDonald.

I tried in 1989 to get Sweet Leaf going but I couldn’t get my shit together,” said Ozanix of the band’s humble beginnings. “People were in the band for only a couple of months at a time. All the current guys came together in 1994.”

This will actually be an interesting return to Spancky’s in Cotati, as it’s the first time in nearly twelve years since we’ve been back to play there,” said guitarist Steve Smyth. “The last time we were there, the power surged onstage and blew out Steve Hoffman’s amp so we couldn’t continue from there. We managed to get through nearly an hour set though, so that was a great thing.”

Although Ozanix’s loves the annual Sweet Leaf shows, he made certain to mention the status of Skitzo, his main band. “We just finished our 19th album, ‘Dementia Praecox,’ but have not planned a release date since we don’t have a drummer.”

And while Skitzo may be a bigger name in Sonoma County, Sweet Leaf has quite the following of its own and plays shows in the Bay Area, Sacramento, Fresno, and anywhere else in between.

We just played Livermore (Pine Street Bar and Grill), Sacramento (On The Y), as well as our hometown area shows in Rohnert Park (Quincy’s Pub) and Santa Rosa (Sprenger’s Taproom). We did our second annual acoustic show there at Sprenger’s. It was a lot of fun!” said Steve. “ We average a handful of shows per year with Sweet Leaf due to the fact I live out of the country now, but we still can manage around eight shows a year.”

Metalheads who love Ozzy Osbourne’s body of work along with the entire heavy metal genre will be thrilled with Saturday’s show however unrehearsed it may be. “ Expect surprise, I would say!” said Steve. “Of course, there are the usual fan favorites one can expect and the songs we love to play as well, but there are songs in those band’s back catalogs that seem to get called out a little more.”

Sweet Leaf (Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath tribute band) play Saturday, January 10th at Spancky’s in Cotati, with Lord Mountain opening. 9:30pm. No cover charge but donations accepted. 8201 Old Redwood Highway, Cotati. 707.664.0169.

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BottleRock Napa Valley 2015 Festival Lineup Announced

Posted by on Jan 6, 2015

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This time last year, BottleRock producer Dave Graham and the partners of Latitude 38 Entertainment were in a very different place. Still negotiating the asset purchase of the popular yet financially strapped festival in Napa, Latitude 38 didn’t get a lineup in 2014 until almost April. This year, the producers of the third annual music, wine and food festival, which takes place May 29–31, are ahead of the curve, and they have already announced BottleRock 2015’s three-day lineup of big name bands and emerging artists.

Chart-topping indie rock band Imagine Dragons, alternative megastars No Doubt and rock legend Robert Plant will be headlining BottleRock Napa Valley 2015.

“We’re not trying to be like any other festival,” says Graham. “The notion of having something for everyone applies to BottleRock. You have bands that gear towards younger crowds as well as the older crowd.”

Imagine Dragons, which includes Forestville native Ben McKee on bass, emerged out of Las Vegas in 2012 with a succession of hits. No Doubt’s iconic front woman Gwen Stefani was recently well received on NBC’s karaoke competition show, The Voice. Stefani and the gang are reportedly only performing a handful of dates this year, as is Robert Plant.

“Nuff said,” comments Graham, when asked about Plant. “He’s one of the biggest names in rock and roll history.” (For you kids, Plant sang in some band called Led Zeppelin). “To have him in Napa Valley is going to be so cool,” says Graham.

Joining these diverse headliners are a slew of indie darlings; the Avett Brothers, Passion Pit, Foster the People, Cage the Elephant, Capital Cities and Portugal, the Man. Graham is also bringing in a slew of hip-hop acts like Snoop Dogg, Afrolicious and Public Enemy; jazz greats such as Preservation Hall Jazz Band and JJ Grey & Mofo; and international stars like Xavier Rudd & the United Nations and Courtney Barnett.

Graham is especially excited to welcome Michael Franti & Spearhead to BottleRock. “I love their music, but they’re just good people. They stepped it up for Napa after the earthquake and played a fundraising show for free. Napa loves them,” says Graham.

The rest of the lineup includes Gipsy Kings, Young the Giant,  AWOLNATION,  American Authors, Trampled By Turtles, Los Lobos, The Chris Robinson Brotherhood, ZZ Ward, Echosmith, Brett Dennen, Scott Weiland & the Wildabouts, Lettuce, Los Amigos Invisibles, Aer, The Mowglis, Kopecky, Big Talk, Tristan Prettyman, People Under the Stairs, Vacationer, The Brothers Comatose, Knox Hamilton, The Last Internationale, Zella Day, Finish Ticket, Sister Sparrow & The Dirty Birds, Ryan Sims Band, The London Souls, MoonAlice, Grizfolk, Black English, Wild Ones, The Record Company, Kawehi, Emily Wolfe, Afrolicious, Con Brio, Wildlife Control, Sneakout, Transfer, Battle Tapes, The Trims, Fritz Montana, The Frail, Eagle Wolf Snake, Matt Moon, Sielle, The Iron Heart, The Bad Jones, Silverado Pickups, The Deadlies, grass child, Pion 2 Zion, Walsh, Napa Crossroads Live featuring: David Pack of Ambrosia, John Elefante of Kansas, Bill Champlin formerly of Chicago, Jim Peterik founding member of Survivor.

Tickets go on sale Thursday, Jan. 8, at 10am.

Assembly of Dust & Doobie Decibel System Sell Out The Sweetwater in Mill Valley

Posted by on Dec 19, 2014

Assembly of Dust with openers Doobie Decibel System sold out The Sweetwater Music Hall on Dec. 11th, the night of a major storm. The two acts both put on stellar performances with a wide range of original material and some covers. The frontmen from both bands have an interesting thing in common as leaders in the tech world as one of their other endeavors. Roger McNamee, famed venture capitalist of Elevation Partners seen this week on CNBC, performed with Jason Crosby as Doobie Decibel System and Reid Genauer, CMO of the rapidly growing Magisto, perform with his band Assembly of Dust on guitar and vocals. Special guests included shredding guitarist Mark Karan, of Ratdog, and the amazing singer Shana Morrison, who performed a rendition of her father Van’s “Into The Mystic!”

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Jason Crosby Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Roger McNamee Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Jason Crosby Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Sweetwater in Mill Valley – Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Doobie Decibel System (Roger McNamee and Jason Crosby) Photo by Jamie Soja

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Roger McNamee Photo by Jamie Soja

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Roger McNamee Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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 Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Reid Genauer & John Leccese Photo by Jamie Soja

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Reid Genauer

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Adam Terrell Photo by Jamie Soja

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Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Jason Crosby – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Roger McNamee and Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Roger McNamee and Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Roger McNamee and Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Roger McNamee and Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Roger McNamee and Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Roger McNamee and Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Roger McNamee and Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Assembly of Dust with Special Guest Roger McNamee and Mark Karan – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Reid Genauer & Shana Morrison – Photo by Jamie Soja

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Reid Genauer & Shana Morrison – Photo by Jamie Soja

David Nelson Band and Doobie Decibel System at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael

Posted by on Nov 20, 2014

Sunday Nov. 9 David Nelson Band performed their final performance of a three night run at Phil Lesh’s Terrapin Crossroads with Doobie Decibel System opening that night’s sold out show. The evening started in the parking lot which was full of hippies old and younger, many of them holding up a pointer finger, the universal sign for “I Need and Miracle,” to buy or be given a ticket.

The show started off with an excellent performance by Doobie Decibel System which included Roger McNamee, of Moonalice, and Jason Crosby. The main event, which included Bay Area psychedelic era legend, of New Riders of the Purple Sage, David Nelson and his all star band. The David Nelson Band rocked the night away keeping the crowd happy and dancing. While David Nelson band took their set break Graham Lesh, the son of Terrapin Crossroads owner and Grateful Dead bassist Phil Lesh, and his band Midnite North performed an exceptional set in the, separate, bar area including a sit in from Doobie Decibel System. The night finished of with Scary Little Friends in the bar after David Nelson performed.

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Blue Bear Benefit at Sweetwater with Vicki Randle & Members of Santana, and Doobie Decibel System, Performing For a Good Cause

Posted by on Sep 18, 2014

On Thursday Sept. 11 Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley hosted a Blue Bear School of Music Benefit featuring Vicki Randle (Tonight Show, Aretha Franklin) and Friends. The band included members of Santana. Every one of the musicians throughout the set was on top of their game with styles ranging from soul to funk, folk to rock.

The night started out with a beautifully done duet set by Roger McNamee (Moonalice) and Jason Crosby of Doobie Decibel System. They performed songs such as “Feerless” (Pink Floyd) and Moonalice original “Couple of Puffs.” Blade, a Blue Bear Youth Band of teens, performed second playing renditions of famous rock songs such as “Purple Haze”

Blue Bear School of Music is a private music school devoted to spreading the art of music through lessons to people of all ages.

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Jason Crosby and Friends with Jerry Harrison (Talking Heads) and Doobie Decibel System Rock Sweetwater

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014

Wednesday August 27th Jason Crosby and Friends performed a stellar show at Sweetwater Music Hall. Guests included the amazing Jerry Harrison, Talking Heads guitarists, Roger McNamee (Moonalice), vocalist Shana Morrison (Van Morrison’s daughter), Dan Lebowitz, and Reed Mathis and Cochrane McMillan (Tea Leaf Green).  Jason Crosby and Roger McNamee opened the show with the debut of their duet Doobie Decibel System.

Photos by Jamie Soja – Soja Photography

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In News

Beth Nielsen Chapman Comes to Studio 55 Marin

Posted by on Sep 3, 2014

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She’s called the Carole King of our generation, and for good reason. Beth Nielsen Chapman is a singer and songwriter extraordinaire, penning famous tunes for numerous country music stars and performing her own emotionally striking songs for over twenty years. Chapman is based in Nashville and regularly works alongside and writes for superstar recording artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Emmylou Harris, Bette Midler, Elton John, Neil Diamond, Trisha Yearwood and many more.

Chapman’s new album, Uncovered, is a look back on many of her top ten hits, penned for other artists, but never recorded herself until now. A number of there were number one hits, and the album includes fresh takes of classic songs like This Kiss (Faith Hill), Here We Are (#1 for Alabama), Strong Enough To Bend (#1 for Tanya Tucker) and Nothin’ I Can Do About It Now (#1 for Willie Nelson). Now, Chapman brings her diverse and acclaimed songs to San Rafael when she preforms this Sunday, September 7, at Studio 55 Marin, in San Rafael. This intimate show will be a vibrant display of Chapman’s lyrical mastery and musical passion.  Tickets are $18 to $22, and are available here.

Live Review: Dickey Betts Tears Up The Sweetwater

Posted by on Aug 26, 2014

Southern rock legend Dickey Betts and Great Southern made a rare Bay Area performance Sunday night at a sold out Sweetwater show in Mill Valley. His performance with his band Great Southern included his son Duane, named after the late Allman Brothers guitarist, on lead guitar. Duane’s band Brethren of the Coast warmed up the night. During Dickey’s set the relatively small stage was filled to the brim including two drummers on risers. With a packed house and stage the band ripped through classics such as In Memory of Elizabeth Reed, Ramblin Man, and Jessica, which Betts won a Grammy for in 1996. Dickey and the band played a phenomenal set heating up the room to a boiling point. Dickey’s signature style was on display throughout the night with the harmonizing octaves of the lead guitars bringing it back to where it all began.

Betts, despite being a founding member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee The Allman Brothers Band, hasn’t performed a concert with them since 2000 after a turbulent departure from the band. This year The Allman Brothers announced they would be breaking up following a run at the Beacon Theater in NYC

Photos and Text by Jamie Soja – Soja Photography

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Live Review: Sharon Jones + The Dap Kings

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014

Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings absolutely lit up the stage at the second-ever Sonoma Mountain Village concert on Thursday night. The concert series marked the end of a brief 2014 season, which also brought in the rock band Goo Goo Dolls in July. According to Petaluma’s Second Octave Talent agency, which books the bands for SOMO, some 1,100 people were in attendance and next year promises to bring 10 more outstanding festival-like shows to fill the 3,000-person venue.

Guatemalan singer, and 2014 Latin Grammy award winner, Gaby Moreno opened the evening with a blues-infused Southern folk set that showcased the powerfully sultry, and sweetly gruff, voice that has made her the darling of Latin American folk rock. Dressed in a Western dress and tiny heels, she rocked a vintage-style Gretsch guitar as if she were a country star on a Nashville stage. But tacking down Moreno’s style is like trying to stop a butterfly to ask about her favorite flower. To my ears, her sound falls somewhere in between the finger-picking melodies of Norah Jones and the whimsy of Patsy Cline, with the vocal dynamism of Etta James and a touch of Lilly Allen’s flare. Yet the songs she sings in Spanish are perfectly Latin; a bit of bossa nova, traces of Mexican banda, the alternative pop that defined many Latin females in the late 1990’s.

Gaby Moreno - author

Gaby Moreno – author

Gaby Moreno’s Guitar – author

Under Thursday’s setting sun, Moreno varied her set flawlessly. Tempos and moods switched between smoky jazz ballads like Blues del Mar, off her latest release “Postales” (2012, Metamorfosis), and groovy blues/rock tracks like “Greenhorned Man”, from her first album “Still the Unknown” (2008, indie release). It was a marvelous opening performance that surely garnered hundreds of new North American fans.

Between acts, the promoters gave ample time to get up and stretch, refill wine and beer glasses, and chat with neighbors sitting close enough to practically share blankets. A few vendor’s booths were set up to attract wanders, as well as a semi-stocked bar for general admission ticket holders. Food offerings were cafeteria-style, catered by the Sally Tomatoes restaurant inside. The interior venue is well-known in local comedy circles as being the go-to spot for great up-and-coming acts. While the wine was good and the service was friendly, the food got less than stellar reviews. VIP ticket holders on the other hand, were treated to a fully-stocked bar and outdoor seating area complete with tables and heating lamps. While the GA grassy area offers excellent views of the stage, it could be worthwhile to purchase VIP just so you don’t have to drag in chairs and blankets. The space is intimate, with two-story buildings bordering the lawn area, and giant redwood trees framing the stage. Yet, the adjacency adds to a close-nit community vibe. And once Sharon Jones got on stage, there wasn’t a warm body to be found in a sea of abandoned lawn chairs.

The Dap Kings band formed in the early aughts under the digs of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. Their premise was to revive the tradition of analog recording and pressing vinyl records, while bringing back the funk/soul sounds of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Sharon Jones, who grew up singing gospel in her native Augusta, Georgia, was working a day job at Rikers Island prison when label owners discovered her singing backup vocals for various bands around New York City. Soon the Dap Kings became her backing band and she went on to record five studio albums with them. With incredibly successful performances at festivals across the country, a new album to be released, and European tours in place, Jones’ career was on the rise.

Sharon Jones + The Dap Kings

Sharon Jones + The Dap Kings

But in the spring of 2013, Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent the summer undergoing chemotherapy. The treatments would sideline her from nearly all musical activity and essentially threaten her life. New Year’s Eve 2014 was her last chemo treatment and she’s been cancer free ever since. On the SOMO stage last night, she belted out the tune “Get Up And Get Out” off her 2013 release Give The People What They Want (Daptone), exclaiming to the crowd “I told my cancer to get up and get out! And I told my cancer, if you ain’t gonna get out, I am gonna shout you out!” Needless to say, Sharon Jones is way beyond having cancer and it is obvious her immense energy and sheer passion for life are what got her through it all.

Sharon Jones - author

Sharon Jones – author

The performance opened with an instrumental introduction from the Dap Kings eight-member, tailored-suit-clad band before Jones’ fabulous backup singers came on to sing three groove-inciting numbers. When Sharon Jones finally came on stage, the audience exploded in applause. She opened with the super up-beat “Stranger To My Happiness,” then brought up 10 ladies from the crowd to dance on stage for “Keep On Looking,” which must have made those girls entire summer. Of all the shows I’ve seen this year, I have not experienced a performer so in love with her audience, so passionate about making every fan feel special. Jones’ went on to sing a slow, sexy rendition of “Long Time,” an afro-beat inspired “How Do You Let A Good Man Down,” and the dark, jazzy soul tune “I Learned The Hard Way.”

The second half of Jones’ set included some beautiful harmonies on “There Was A Time,” a wild impersonation of Tina Turner for “Making Up And Breaking Up,” and a 10 minute showcase of 1960’s dancehall moves like the boogaloo, the pony, and the swim—the crowd thought that was a riot and all kinds of people over 60 where swinging their arms and winding their hips without a care in the world.

Sharon Jones only did one song for her encore: a brilliant take on the original Woody Guthrie ballad, “This Land Is Your Land.”  It was the defining moment of the show, a stellar interpretation of an American classic. Jones ignites the spirit of American music’s golden age—the decades that challenged the cultural status quo, brought music to the heart of the civil rights movement, and blended the colors of society in a tangled-up mishmash of incredible musicianship, neighborly conviviality, and the love for an American art form. If anyone is going to remind us that American music is steeped in a rich, passionate history, it is going to be Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings.

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Schroeder Hall Grand Opening Preview

Posted by on Aug 22, 2014

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The Green Music Center at Sonoma State University celebrates the opening of the brand new Schroeder Hall this weekend, August 23 and 24. The latest addition to the center that already boasts the acoustically perfect Weill Hall, this new, intimate recital space is ideal for choral performances and holds within it the stunning Brombaugh Opus 9 Organ. Named for the beloved piano playing character of “Peanuts” fame, Schroeder Hall opens to the public for a debut weekend that boasts 10 different free concert performances over the two days.

When Donald and Maureen Green first dreamt up the music center, they wanted a permanent home for the SSU Bach Choir. How fitting that the choir, now dubbed the Sonoma Bach Choir and still led by retired SSU music director Bob Worth, kicks off the celebratory Schroeder Hall opening with an 11am performance on Saturday, joined by organist David Parsons.

From there the Hall will show off its versatility, as the rounded stone walls and reverberating nature is tuned to performances from the SSU Faculty Jazz Ensemble at 2pm, local piano legend and Santa Rosa Symphony conductor laureate Jeffrey Kahane at 4pm, and Organist James David Christie of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at 5:30pm. Capping off the first day is contemporary Jazz pianist David Benoit at 8pm.

On Sunday, Schroeder Hall opens up once again to feature such diverse acts as Weill Hall’s own artists-in-residence, Trio Ariadne, at 1pm, SSU chamber music artists-in-residence, Trio Navarro, at 5pm, and faculty and alumni vocal recitals throughout. The curved look of the Hall makes it ideal for vocal chants and choral recitals, and Sunday’s performances will explore the space’s capacity for rich aural effects.

Though the weekend is completely free, the limited seating of Schroeder Hall means tickets are required. Each performance requires it’s own ticket, and many have already been claimed online. Still, there is hope, as the Green Music Center has said some tickets will be held at the door on a first come basis. Also, if you already have seats, get there early to claim them, as any unclaimed tickets will be given out 10 minutes before each performance. Details are online right here.