Listening to Third Eye Blind Outside the Fence at the Sonoma County Fair Isn’t All That Great

Posted by on Aug 9, 2012 7 Comments

Question! Third Eye Blind sang a) “Barely Breathing,” b) that “It’s 2am I Must Be Lonely” song, c) “Steal My Sunshine” or d) that one that goes “Doot-Doot-DOOT! Doot-Doo-DOOT!-Doo, Doot-Doot-DOOT! Doot-doo-DOOT!-Doo.” If you don’t know the answer, don’t worry! It’s easy to find out by walking down to the Sonoma County Fair, standing outside the fence of the Chris Beck Arena and listening as the quasi-funky drums, plaintive acoustic guitars and impassioned harmonies of one of 1997’s biggest bands blast from the stage, rebound off the rodeo grandstand and dissipate, unlistenably, into the sky over Brookwood Avenue.

Because “the Chris Beck concerts are restricted from press,” they tell me (oh really?), this happens to be my only option. Last year, for Huey Lewis & the News, this wasn’t such a bad thing, and I was still able to find some insight for a review while standing outside the gates. But I suspect that Third Eye Blind’s genius merits a closer analysis that can only be ascertained by witnessing the band visually, because on the other side of the barbed-wire fence it was hard to understand what the half-full grandstand was cheering for. (more…)

Live Review: Cradle Duende plays Gaia Festival

Posted by on Aug 9, 2012

Cradle Duende perform on the Pedal Powered Stage

How many people does it take to power a full music stage, complete with sound system, aerialists and a smoothie bar? About 20 human powered bicycles, lined up in rows, generating enough electrical energy to power a 5-piece band. Bright blue stationary bicycles are connected through their rear wheels with magnets and coils forming “ultra capacitors” to amplify sound. It’s called Pedal Power and its changing festivals for the greener good.

San Francisco band Cradle Duende lit up the bike-powered stage twice with their fusion of Klezmer and Flamenco music appropriately titled “klezmenco”.  Their Friday night and Sunday evening sets attracted considerable crowds at the wanderers cross roads. Between the main stage and river path, the El Arbol Stage was one of eight performance areas. Cradle Duende’s mix of traditional Ashkenazic celebration music with modern reggae and Latin rhythms are infectiously danceable – with all the bike spinning and festival dancing the band was nonstop, turning down requests for encores.

CRADLE DUENDE by MorganNilsen


Que es Este Tes Elations?

Posted by on Aug 4, 2012

Chris Votek got in touch recently, which was a nice surprise. I hadn’t talked to him in about seven years—after writing a cover story on Chris and his guerrilla chamber group Triste Sin Richard, he moved away from Sonoma County to develop his massive talent at Cal Arts.

In the package was a CD, though, by Tes Elations. Comprised of two cellos (Chris is one), a guitarist, a drummer and a singer, the band is less Arvo Pärt and more like something you’d stumble across at an outdoor music festival—but you’d be hypnotized, and you’d stop walking on your way to get a beer, and you’d raptly drink in the whole set. Get an idea of their delicate haunt here.

Tes Elations play Saturday night at the Arlene Francis Center with Girls in Suede—another throwback to 2005—and Kinship, which is the name with which Nick Wolch, for some reason, has decided to rechristen his long-running Goodriddler project. All these people sprung from a very tight-knit scene in Santa Rosa, which exploded to various parts around the state and reconvenes, in a reunion of sorts, at the show on Saturday night.

Below, watch the video for Tes Elations “Autumn”:

Photos: Higher Vision Festival with Burning Spear, Tinariwen, More

Posted by on Aug 1, 2012

The Higher Vision Festival hit the Sonoma County Fairgrounds on June 9, 2012, with Burning Spear, Tinariwen, the Motet, Gaudi and more.

Click the image below for a full photo slideshow.

Photos by Jamie Soja.

“Mitt Romney, A Hero In My Mind”

Posted by on Jul 30, 2012

“Take nothing seriously on the internet” is advice I find myself doling out with more frequency. Presidential elections, on the other hand, bring out such earnestness in people:

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…)