Interview: Alika with DJ Stepwise play Sebastopol

Posted by on Jul 26, 2012

Alika, WBLK Monday Night Edutainment Singer Series. Photo by Guacamole

Sheer exposure to some of the world’s finest reggae musicians is reason enough to hit up WBLK’s Monday Night Edutainment dancehall party in Sebastopol. South American songstress Alika with Oakland-based selector DJ Stepwise gave an outstanding performance to a packed house last Monday at Hopmonk. Hosted by local DJs Jacques and Guacamole, Alika was fresh off Reggae River where she played with L.A. band Quinto Sol. DJ Stepwise opened the show with an incredible cultural history lesson in current Latin American music, mixing reggae and cumbia artists from Argentina to Panama, Mexico to the Caribbean.

Clearly laying down a precedence for Latin American reggae at the weekly dance party, Alika sang the entire two hour set in Spanish. Her message of universal rights was received by a crowd as diverse as the county offers. Although many folks couldn’t understand the lyrics, the good vibes united us across cultural divides.

Performing selections off her fourth album “Educate Yourself” along with several tracks from her newest mix tape “Unidad y Respeto” (“Unity and Respect” mixed by DJ Stepwise), Alika proved confident in connecting with a U.S. audience. Considered the No. 1 Spanish-speaking female reggae singer in world, her six album catalog features such artists as Mad Professor, Anthony B, and Mexico’s leading rapper Akil Ammar.

The seamless mix of roots reggae, hip hop, and cumbia rhythms incorporate Alika’s blend of streetwise female rapper with the air of a Rasta empress – at Monday’s show she donned a black Adidas jacket, high-top Nike kicks in pink, and a shirt with a artist’s rendering of Haile Selassie’s image under which read “Babylon Shall Fall”.

Before the show, Alika sat down with me in the green room to talk about the Reggae on the River music festival, her latest album, and why she loves people who pirate her CDs.


Live Review: Transcendence Theatre Company at Jack London State Park

Posted by on Jul 21, 2012 One Comment

Unless you’ve recently dropped ten bucks into the little yellow self-parking envelopes, it is more than likely you are hoping governor “Moonbeam” Brown will have a change of heart as to the closure of some 70 state parks this year. Now, back to reality. So who is actually saving our parks? The rescue effort is due largely to private and nonprofit groups stepping up to make sure they stay open to the public. Groups like the Team Sugarloaf have partnered to keep Sugarloaf State Park open. Meanwhile, private businesses like Santa Rosa’s Bike Monkey are holding well-known events such as the Annadel XC, which brought in $55,000 last year to assist the Sonoma County Regional Parks Department with Annadel park operations.

When Jack London State Park in Glen Ellen was placed on the park closure list, the disappointing action prompted a direct response from the Valley of the Moon Natural History Association. The group secured the first nonprofit contract to operate a California State Park and has been hosting wine tastings and auctions with neighbors Benziger Family and Imagery wineries to help offset operation costs. But one-time events and charging higher parking fees are not sustainable. So ideas bounced around until a troupe of eclectic Broadway and Hollywood actors showed up on the doorstep of Jack London’s cottage in early May. Soon the Transcendence Theatre Company and VMNHA were united by their love of live theater and community. “Broadway Under the Stars” was born and the 2012 inaugural season has begun.

Last night’s third performance drew roughly 250 people, seated in audience format within the ruins of Jack London’s winery. Framed by hundred-year-old stone walls, the venue sits under a cathedral of stars. The visual aesthetic and outdoor acoustics invite the audience to engage not only with the stage actors but also with the beauty of nature itself.


Live Review: Amanda Palmer at Public Works, San Francisco

Posted by on Jul 18, 2012

Amanda Palmer and The Grand Theft Orchestra. Photo by David Korman



Amanda Palmer is a dark traditionalist. Staying close to the inherent “rock” values of authenticity and performance, her song writing is ingenious. Filled with melancholy playfulness and longing for human understanding, her music seamlessly shifts between genres. Happier songs are laced with synth pop and air pianos, somber ballads combine orchestras with horns and ukuleles. Most notably, Palmer’s performances always captivate the energy of the audience. With as much taking as she is receiving, Amanda’s intensity translates into exceptional stage presence.

On this occasion, a private audience of Kickstarter campaign donators and selected invitees joined fans from the press to take part in Palmer’s current six-city international tour. Stopping in Berlin, London and New York the circuit is promoting her new album “Theatre Is Evil”, out September 2012 on 8ft Records. The album has sold nearly 25,000 pre-order copies via the digital funding platform. With a sold-out show the following night, Thursday’s attendees experienced the exhibit in rare intimate format.

The art space at Public Works is a long, winding closet of a gallery. Stemming off the side of the two-story warehouse on the eastern edge of San Francisco’s Mission District, the venue has become the dernier cri for contemporary art and performance.


Live Review: Frank Ocean at the Regency Ballroom, San Francisco

Posted by on Jul 17, 2012 6 Comments

First question: Did he talk about “it“? No.

Second question: Were Tyler the Creator and Hodgy Beats in the house? Yes. Third question: Channel Orange is amazing, but could he pull it off live? Oh, man, a million times yes.

Frank Ocean’s brilliant show tonight at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco capped a wild week for Ocean; he spent it making public his love for another man, delivering late-night TV’s finest performance of the year, self-leaking his own album a week early and watching the plate tectonics of culture shift beneath his feet. To say the show was anticipated would be like saying the Super Bowl is a sporting event of some note. (When we arrived at 8pm, the line was two and a half blocks long. No one was selling any tickets, but desperate fans sure were asking, with offers of up to $150.)


Belatedly Thrilled: Revisiting Michael Jackson’s ‘Thriller’

Posted by on Jul 16, 2012


I’m 36 years old, and just a few months ago I finally listened to the best-selling album of all time. I was six when it came out, but I associate Thriller with second grade, because that’s when Michael Jackson mania trickled down to the likes of little girls. I remember Bryn Taylor, the most stylish girl in my class, wearing a sequined glove to school one day. I remember my friend Julie Dillon holding her photo button up to my face so Michael Jackson, in his buttercream-yellow sweater vest, could give me a kiss, even though I thought it was weird. I remember going to Pastime Pizza Parlor with my parents and asking them for dimes to put in the jukebox so I could play “Billie Jean” and “Thriller” (alas, we left before my songs played, a fate I still suffer with jukeboxes to this day). It was the apex of Michael Jackson as a pop culture phenomenon, and to be a kid alive in America at that time negated the need to listen to Thriller to know what it was all about. If you watched T.V. or listened to the radio (both of which I did in spades), waves of Michael Jackson crashed upon you. (more…)

In News

65 For Friday: The Ultimate Outside Lands Playlist

Posted by on Jul 13, 2012

Unless California sinks into the ocean, the Outside Lands Festival is returning to Golden Gate Park from Aug. 10-12 with a hell of a lineup—particularly in the headliner department, which includes Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Skrillex, Jack White, the Foo Fighters, and… oh, man, the list just goes on and on. Sigur Ros, Justice, Norah Jones, Passion Pit… heck, even Big Boi is returning to make good on his failed attempt to perform in 2011.

Is it time to get pumped? Of course it is. That’s why the Pulse crew has put together this mega-epic 65-song playlist, with songs from 65 different bands playing at Outside Lands. Click play, and let your Friday glide right by.

The Ultimate Outside Lands 2012 Playlist from pulseblog on 8tracks.

In News

Hopmonk Tavern to Open in Novato

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012 One Comment

“They’re kind of a late night, hard liquor, rowdy music, rap music kind of place, if you look at their lineup in Sebastopol.”

—Wait a minute. Rowdy music and rap music? Good heavens! Anywhoo, Hopmonk Tavern is opening another location in the former Southern Pacific Smokehouse spot in Novato, and a neighboring brewpub owner seems to think it might not go so well. (He’s not so hot on low-income housing or the SMART train, either.)

Interview: Satchel of Steel Panther

Posted by on Jul 9, 2012

Steel Panther are a lot more fun than Tenacious D, plain and simple. Instead of ironic fanboy shtick, you get four of the Sunset Strip’s finest cock-rock veterans combining authentic ‘80s hair-metal riffs with a cartoonish brand of hyper-chauvinistic raunchiness not seen since the golden age of hip-hop. While their brand of hard rock is a throwback to the age of hairspray, Steel Panther’s hilarious tales of groupies, drug abuse, and all-around debauchery have once again made it cool to pump your fists to power chords and boneheaded arena-rock choruses.


Don’t Get the Band Back Together

Posted by on Jul 7, 2012

Reunion tours are out of hand, yes, but that’s a longer rumination for a longer day. Let us simply enjoy this story of Harley Flanagan, founding bassist for seminal New York hardcore band the Cro-Mags, who last night—apparently because the band was playing at Webster Hall without him—bit and stabbed the current members. The Age of Quarrel, indeed.

100 Rock Riffs

Posted by on Jul 6, 2012

My favorite music genre changes on a daily basis. When someone asks the seemingly simple question, “What kind of music do you like?” I find myself befuddled, and often reply with whatever I was last listening to, whether that was Wu-Tang, Stevie Nicks, Beethoven, Johnny Cash, Miles Davis, John Cage or Orbital. I actually feel flustered trying to answer the question.

But Rock may have solidified its status as my fave with this video:

To be able to play all those riffs in one take it amazing, but what truly impresses me is the fact that I know every single one of those songs by hearing a couple seconds of one instrument playing them. Not every genre can claim that—try playing “name that tune” with dubstep. Rock is a truly unique modern style with its combination of catchiness and badassery.

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