In News

SF Noise Pop 2013 Lineup Announced

Posted by on Jan 3, 2013

Noise Pop is now in its 20s, reflecting on life and starting to set some serious goals for itself in the coming decade. PBR is still the beer of choice, but maybe mix in a classic cocktail every now and again. The lineup was announced this week for the San Francisco indie music festival, which takes place Feb. 26–March 3 in venues large and small all over San Francisco.

Highlights include Amon Tobin at Public Works, Jason Lytle of Grandaddy in a solo show at Brick and Mortar Music Hall, Toro Y Moi at the Independent (twice!), Ceremony at the Rickshaw Stop and !!! at the Great American Music Hall. The cool thing about this festival are the badges, which allow city-savvy music lovers to hop around and check out shows happening on the same night as well as shows on successive evenings. The documentaries and happy hours throughout the city are also cool. Check the schedule here.

Here is a complete list of all current confirmed Noise Pop 2013 bands: (more…)

In News

Watch Patti Page in 2010 Singing “Tennessee Waltz” at a Senior Expo

Posted by on Jan 3, 2013

The great Patti Page died today at age 85. She was a singer I loved, whose albums on Mercury are mainstays in my easy listening, and whose song “Let Me Go, Lover” changed my life one night on 960-KABL AM while driving back from San Francisco at 1:45 in the morning.

So it warmed my heart tonight, while searching YouTube for later-era live performances, to find this footage of Patti Page singing “Tennessee Waltz” for a group of seniors in 2010. (It appears to be her latest-uploaded live clip, just after this appearance on Eat Beluga, a television show from the Philippines.) Here she is, a legend who sold millions of records, who would have accepted a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award next month, who could easily rest on her laurels, and instead she’s bringing some sunshine to people who surely remember her in the twilight of their own lives.

Deciphering the Code of Rihanna

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013 One Comment

I have always had a hard time accepting Rihanna’s extreme popularity. Her music, to me, is bland, and she’s not a good performer. The fact that she is a victim of extreme domestic violence who has since climbed back into the arms of her abuser, fellow pop star Chris Brown, sets a terrible example for others in her situation and actually upsets me.

I’ve never had a way to explain these confusing opinions until Sasha Frere-Jones apparently climbed into my head, organized my thoughts and wrote them for me in the New Yorker’s Dec. 24&31 issue.

He nails the social impact with this:

“With all this drama, it is difficult to think of Rihanna’s stated version of independence, of being a ‘Good Girl Gone Bad,’ as the title of her biggest-selling album would have it, is being the object of badness, being subjugated… What makes this attitude even more disturbing is that it seems to have served only to make Rihanna more popular.”

Without missing a beat, Frere-Jones flings more thought-goo from the cauldron of my stewed brain and it sticks on the wall in this elegant, concise phrasing: “She has an exceptional physical beauty married to an unexceptional, almost disengaged sense of performance–she may be the most successful amateur ever.” I’ve already applied this lightbulb concept to other pop stars that suck, like Lana Del Rey, Ke$ha and Nickelback.

And, as a good critic should do, he calls out the pop star for what should be an obvious “phone-it-in” moment, her “performance” last month on Saturday Night Live. “She moves, in Timberland boots and a fatigue jacket, as if she had perhaps beard the song a few times before. There was one bit that reminded me of dancing.”

Unfortunately the article is paywalled, only available with a subscription or by purchasing the whole issue. But it’s a luxury worth paying for, if for nothing else than Frere-Jones’ music columns.

Think You Know About Music, Huh?

Posted by on Jan 2, 2013

If you’re like me, you woke up on New Years Day and listened to the ultimate soothing hangover cure album, 20 Jazz Funk Greats by Throbbing Gristle.

If you’re not like me, you were probably paying attention to more popular music throughout the year 2012. Good news for you, then! Every year I compile a pop music quiz for you, the oh-so-smart CSI reader, eager to test your attention span for music (which, as the here-today-gone-tomorrow spotlight on Lana Del Rey taught us this year, is sometimes very short).

Sharpen your pencils and take the quiz here. Answers are at the bottom. And give yourself one extra point if you never made yourself look silly by doing the “Gangnam Style” dance in public.

(Keyboard image via Shutterstock)

Gabe’s Top 20 Shows of 2012

Posted by on Dec 31, 2012

1. The 24-Hour Band Contest at the Arlene Francis Center

2. The-Dream at the New Parish

3. Pulp at the Warfield

4. Nicki Minaj at the Paramount Theater

5. Miguel at the Oakland Arena

6. Bruce Springsteen at the HP Pavilion

7. Frank Ocean at the Regency Ballroom

8. Los Tigres del Norte at the Wells Fargo Center

9. Aretha Franklin at the Nokia Theater

10. Vijay Iyer at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival

11. Stevie Wonder at Outside Lands

12. Santa Rosa Symphony at the Green Music Center

13. Branford Marsalis at the Napa Valley Opera House

14. Yo La Tengo at the Mystic Theatre

15. Jack DeJohnette at the Napa Valley Opera House

16. Jeff Mangum at the Fox Theater

17. Killer Mike at the Regency Ballroom

18. The Weeknd at the Fillmore

19. Snoop Dogg at the Phoenix Theater

20. DJ Krush at the Mezzanine

Click through for reviews.

20 Shows I Saw In 2012 But Never Reviewed Here, Now Reviewed In Three Sentences Each

Posted by on Dec 31, 2012

Katy B at the Rickshaw Stop: “Katy On A Mission” is a hell of song. The rest, not so much, but Katy B bounced around the stage, was effervescent, etc. This show is memorable mostly for a) going to Roosevelt Tamale Parlor on 24th for the first time ever and b) hearing M83’s “Midnight City” played very loudly on club speakers.

Demdike Stare and Andy Stott at Public Works: A girl yelled “You’re the worst DJs in the world! I hate you!” repeatedly at Demdike Stare for 15 whole minutes. Andy Stott went on at 2:40am. I got a parking ticket, but it was worth it.

Aretha Franklin at the Nokia Theater: The last time Aretha played the Bay Area was 1978, so I stopped holding my breath and took a plane to Los Angeles for this, a great, great show that opened with the barn-burning “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me Higher” and ended, of course, with “Respect.” The whole time, I thought about how Aretha was born in this run-down house in Memphis, then had a baby at age 14, then recorded her first record, and then had a baby again at age 15, which according to conventional wisdom should have derailed her whole life but LOOK AT HER NOW, an undisputed legend. Smokey Robinson was there, and walked slowly right by me, and I was speechless.

Trey Songz at the Oakland Arena: When you are headlining an arena show, it’s not a good idea to interrupt your set five songs in to show a commercial, for god’s sake. It’s also not a good idea to perform only a snippet of the great “Neighbors Know My Name.” There was a fight on the street below the BART platform afterward, and I went to Home of Chicken and Waffles at midnight to cheer myself up.

Justin Townes Earle at the Wells Fargo Center: A tall, rail-thin songwriter with a tilted hat who affectedly jerks and lurches like he has bugs in his clothes and mumble-sings like a less-drunk Conor Oberst. Plucks and pops the strings hard, especially while playing Lightnin’ Hopkins covers. Ended his set with a very touching song about his mom, and in the space between the song’s last chord and the rousing applause, you could hear audible gasps all around you. (more…)

Gabe’s Top 25 Jazz Discoveries of 2012

Posted by on Dec 31, 2012 4 Comments

I’m always digging for old jazz albums at record stores and thrift shops, and for all the love I have for contemporary popular music, I’m usually listening to jazz while at home. I rarely have any reason to write about these records, though, which is why I round up the best of what came across my turntable at the end of every year. (Should you be so inclined, here are my lists from 2009, 2010 and 2011.) These are not new jazz records—just old stuff that I never discovered before.

Linked throughout these descriptions are links to YouTube clips; I hope you’ll click around and find some new music to enjoy. Or, hit up your local record store! We’re also lucky to be in the midst of the great Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and, down in the city, SFJAZZ and Yoshi’s, all presenting jazz how it’s best experienced—live.


Charles Earland – Leaving This Planet

I thought I knew Charles Earland. (Side Two of Black Talk, featuring the schmaltz-reclamation of “The Age of Aquarius” and “I Love You More Today Than Yesterday”? Flawless!) But nothing could have prepared me for Leaving This Planet, which leads off with the title track, a dancefloor killer: “I’m gonna lee-ee-eave this planet, with all the trouble that’s in it,” sings Rudy Copeland. The outer-space theme continues with titles like “Warp Factor 8” and “Mason’s Galaxy,” and Joe Henderson and Freddie Hubbard do their thing over a lot of ARPs, Moogs, Harvey Mason killing it on drums and other wild sounds engineered by Eddie Harris in the Berkeley, CA of 1973. Highly recommended.

Rusty Bryant – Fire Eater

Behold, I give unto you, the “Fire Eater” drum break. Idris Muhammad, ladies and gentlemen. You can let your imagination run wild on how many times I picked the needle up on this and replayed it the day I found it. The bass drum and the toms have the world’s most violent arm wrestling match with the cymbals cheering them on, and then the beat drops back down and the snare’s like, “It’s cool, I’m just rolllllllling through.” You better believe it’s been sampled like crazy. I have a friend who was bugging out even harder over it, and he’s an actual DJ, so I traded it to him for…

Steve Grossman – Some Shapes To Come

…which has some fine drum breaks on it, too. But I was into the Steve Grossman LP for the nutzoid remainer, which erects much through destruction. The tones on this album are distorted, the piano is electric, the rhythms sound like a herd of antelope running across hard pavement. Adventurous, strange, and on some unknown label from New Jersey. I don’t know much else about Steve Grossman, other than he played on A Tribute to Jack Johnson and some other Miles Davis albums you probably don’t listen to very often. But this one’s killer, through and through.

Duke Edwards & The Young Ones – Is It Too Late?

When you’re playing the “Name A Jazz Album That Needs To Be Reissued” game, you can’t do much better than this. Duke Edwards and his band lived in Montreal, and had the weight of the world on their shoulders when they recorded this freeform, socio-political masterpiece. Edwards delivers sermons, entreaties and tortured personal manifestos over loosely-structured but not too-out music. Filled with soul and tears, “Is It Too Late?” evokes all the anguish for the human race and tumult of 1968 in one perfect 14-minute track. It’s not on YouTube anywhere, but this, from the same album, gives you an idea. (more…)

Live Review: Snoop Dogg at the Uptown Theatre, Dec. 14

Posted by on Dec 17, 2012

Photo by Jacques Law

As we approached the sold-out Snoop Dogg show at the Uptown Theatre in Napa, I played a little game called “What did Snoop Dogg do with his day in the wine country?” Did he go wine-tasting at fancy wineries owned by out-of-town hedge fund investors? Did he get a salt rubdown at a luxuriously expensive spa? Did he spend the day smoking weed in his hotel room and ordering out from some five-star restaurant serving rustic California cuisine in Saint Helena?

Once the show started (and the painfully loud bass of opening act Pac Div came to a merciful end), I realized that what Snoop Dogg (not a Lion in sight) brought to Napa was the feeling of a good, old-fashioned, backyard, Southern California summer BBQ on one of the coldest days yet in 2012. The crowd was flying high (literally) and it was party-time, Long Beach loving vibes all around, as Snoop blasted through a medley of his greatest hits like ‘Who Am I,’ with its Parliament vibes, LBC call outs, and the classic refrain, ‘Bow wow wow yippie yo yippie yay.’ After that, he busted out some lesser known hits followed by ‘Gin and Juice,’ ‘Drop It Like It’s Hot,’ ‘Still a G Thang,’ and a two minute cameo from Katy Perry’s sickly sweet confection  ‘California Gurls.’

Underneath a massive banner emblazoned with an image of a rasta-tammed, super high, grinning-to-the- moon Snoop surrounded by weed leaves and joints, Snoop let his crew take the lead on quite a few songs, and left the goofy entertainment mainly to Nasty Dogg, a furry mascot that carried a gigantic cartoon blunt around the stage for most of the show, when he wasn’t waving a giant furry dildo at the audience (a woman in the audience mimicked a blow job on it for such an uncomfortably long time that even Snoop seemed to be blushing—Napa gets crazzeeeeeeee!) Shout-outs to Nate Dogg happened about every five minutes, and even though I was hoping to go into labor (nothing like being eight months pregnant at a Snoop show) while the lanky hip-hop gangster turned rastafarian played his hit, ‘Beautiful,’ my dream didn’t come true because he skipped it all together (guess it’s hard to pull off without Pharrell) and never took the stage for an encore. Despite wearing a beige prison garb outfit with rasta colors on the pocket, Snoop’s only reference to his newly embraced religion came at the very end of the show, when he shouted out Haile Selassie and gave a voracious “Jah Rastafarianism!” ( a move that only slightly recalled Andy Samberg’s Ras Trent), followed by Bob Marley on the stereo system.

Photo by Jacques Law

The decision to end the show with “Young, Wild and Free” Snoop’s hit with protege Wiz Khalifa and Bruno Mars was straight out of the best practices playbook. We ate it up, dancing, singing along, feeling like kids again while the puffs of smoke lifted up like magic clouds into the rafters. It was a feel-good, life-affirming moment in a day that will go down as one of the most tragic days in modern American history, and we enjoyed each and every blessed second of it.

Live Review: Snoop Dogg at the Phoenix Theater, Petaluma

Posted by on Dec 16, 2012 2 Comments

The year is 2043, America has split into two countries, Chinese is the most-spoken language on the planet and music is made almost entirely on computers. A grizzled old man sits next to the holographic Yule log fireplace steaming from Netflix 3D and beckons the children from their video game contact lenses to listen to his story.

Gather round here, kids, I have a story for you. It takes place in a time before holograms were commonplace, when we had to use our own hands and feet to drive our cars, when there only one United States of America and one man sought to bring us together before this country was torn apart. That man’s name was Snoop Dogg.

Now, this man was a musician, and of course his real name wasn’t Snoop. He wasn’t really a dog, either. He had a simple message: smoke as much weed as you possibly can and have a good time. He spoke through the language of hip-hop, and his quest began 60 years ago when he made an album–that’s uh, it’s like a whole bunch of songs in one, uh, CD, which is like a disc with music, oh never mind–called Doggystyle, which was a pun on his name by referencing, well, you’ll find that out later when you grow up. But the point is it was clever. He used clever rhymes and catchy beats and hooks to become a superstar in the music world, and his primary message later in his career became about smoking weed and having a good time, back when it was illegal. (more…)

Your Own Private MTV

Posted by on Dec 13, 2012 One Comment

Nothing makes you feel more like a relic than reading and relishing a massive oral history of Music Television. Craig Marks and Rob Tannenbaum assembled hundreds of pages of recollections of the network, and there’s a buried memory trip every few millimeters. Because yes, the book covers the years 1981 to 1992, but if you were alive and young and watching television then, I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution isn’t about bands, or music videos, or the birth of reality television, or pop culture. It’s about you.

Since those years,  indifference has sent my pop culture literacy drifting into the remote, frigid waters of ignorance; I have no way to know if what airs on MTV currently carries the emotional and generational weight it did for me and my peers. But my heart tells me there’s no way it can, because it’s a different beast now, this music-free MTV, and in this millennium there are a million ways to connect with this global community of music and coolness and youth. But back then, for thousands of populations of us, it was the only game in town.  (more…)