After a Bohemian article in March of this year, quite a few readers found resonance in the outsider music of Jack Attack, a.k.a. Jack Springs, a high-functioning mentally retarded heavy metal fan who works rounding up shopping carts at G&G Supermarket in Santa Rosa. The story of his trials growing up and finding catharsis in music was incredible to me, and his music, posted previously here, even more so.
So it makes me happy to share more of Jack’s music today. I’ve gotten his most recent recording, and along with themes about his soul no longer being destroyable, his rights being violated and his position as a singing God, he includes a timeless warning to the arachnid species.
Dear readers, here’s Jack Attack’s newest hit, “I Hate Spiders”:
I’ll get to the bands, but the first thing anyone noticed, surely, is the freak scene outside the gates of Outside Lands. It’s what you’d envision concerts in the park to be like back when concerts in the park were free. In the short walk between parking my bike (thanks, SF Bike Coalition) and the main entry, I was offered $2 beers from a stack of 12-packs piled on a skateboard, $1 pot cookies from a brown grocery bag, yelled at by a woman for no reason who shouted “KEEP LAUGHING! THIS STAND-UP COMEDY ACT AIN’T FREE!,” warned to get out of the way while security caught and escorted out an unsucessful gate-crasher, watched in amazement at a sprinting, successful gate-crasher, and had to tell a guy no, but thanks, I’d rather you not super-soak my arm.
Then it’s over the hill and into the festival, with corporate booths (“Free Rolling Stone T-Shirts!”; no takers), even more corporate tents (the “Chase Freedom Lounge,” yeah right, like anyone thinks a credit card gives you freedom) and no free water except from the lovely people staffing the Haight-Ashbury Free Clinic’s Rock Med table. I’ll say it until the day I die: All festivals should have a free drinking fountain. At least a garden hose, man.
The night before, I’d DJed this really ridiculously epic wedding reception at the Union Hotel in Occidental, and the exact feeling that festivals aim to provide—Everyone United Through Music!™—was undeniable in a tiny little redwood-lined ballroom. It was fun, but honestly, I don’t know that Everyone United Through Music!™ is such a desirable goal, because the more people united in their excitement over a band, the greater the chances of that band being pretty lame and middle-of-the-road. On a semi-related note, there’s no way around the fact that this year’s Outside Lands lineup is the weakest yet.
Mayer Hawthorne killed it. I’ve got a weariness of the oversaturated retro-soul train perennially chugging out of the same station for the last ten years, but there’s no denying Hawthorne’s enthusiasm. The crowd was in the palm of his hands—he stopped, held up one finger, they cheered; he shook the hell out of his tambourine, they cheered; he got everyone to imitate rain with their fingers, they cheered. Impeccably dressed in a custom suit, Hawthorne had a great band with vintage analog gear, synchronized backup dancers and three-part backing harmonies.
“I love records, I’m a vinyl junkie,” Hawthorne said at one point. “Y’all got one of the best record stores in the universe here—Amoeba.” He’s right! He then related a funny story about being mistaken by an autograph seeker, in the aisles at Amoeba, for Michael Bublé. Who knows if the story was really true, but you can kind of see the resemblance.
The Devil Makes Three are great, and always have been great, and it’s nice to see them finally selling out shows and getting props. Theirs is an instructional story for bands on taking the very slow, hardworking path, which is also a story about taking the very broke, no-money-havin’ path. I’d heard from a friend who saw their packed show at the Independent a couple nights before that they’d gotten “loose” and “noodley,” which actually sounded cool, but at Outside Lands no loose noodles answered the roll-call.
They opened with “For Good Again,” a sardonic story about communal living and starting a band, and there are some lines in that song which define the Devil Makes Three for me: “Everybody who’s anybody, in my opinion,” sings Pete Bernhard, “at one time lived in somebody’s hallway.” Lines like that are comfort food for punkhouse graduates, and even though I technically never lived in a hallway, I thought about my days living in the laundry room, or the attic, or the garage, or the closet, or the unfinished frame house, and felt a little better about myself. Thanks, Pete.
Then I saw a man with his shirt wide open. He had two bellybuttons. No kidding.
So like I said, there’s a lot of corporate tents at Outside Lands. In these tents, there’s DJs, or free wi-fi, or short performances in intimate settings by bands who are playing the larger stages. The only thing is that to get into these tents, you have to own a certain kind of credit card, or “like” a stupid brand on Facebook, or sign up for spam email, or utter a cringe-worthy phrase like “Let’s go to ‘Inspire’ by Heineken.” (Also, what the hell were those plastic stove knob things that Chase was handing out? Does anyone know? For real. I saw them all over the ground 20 feet after the dude was handing them out. No one knew what they were. Total sense this made = 0.)
That said, KUSF is a kickass radio station. Their Outside Lands tent was open to everyone, free of irritating marketing, and when I walked by the Budos Band was rocking a tiny stage. The bassist played his bass in this ridiculous upside-down fashion, and the bari sax player looked possessed at times. A little bit Mulatu, a little bit Fela, all Daptone, really tight grooves, and a nice surprise on the way to Janelle Monáe. It was great!
(Note to KUSF: I just wanna say that by NOT making me sign up for anything to chill in your tent, you have earned my loyalty and respect. See how it works in the 21st Century? There’s no jobs out there because no companies are making any money, so companies pump up their marketing team until everyone’s so nauseatingly sick from the onslaught of marketing that only a complete lack of marketing achieves the desired result of the public subconscious reacting positively to your brand, but I digress. The Budos Band is cool as shit and KUSF is wonderful.)
Janelle Monáe wins the showmanship prize of the year based on her Outside Lands set alone, and to think she does it night after night after night is unreal. Even her soundman was rocking out—like, hard—and he’s someone who watches this happen every night, over and over. Janelle Monáe! Whose brain works as fast as hers? Whose body works fast enough to receive lightning-fast impulses from said brain? Who can sing, rap dance in just one show? (Kangol, Mr. Sophisticata, but I digress yet again.)
Monáe was fifteen minutes late due to a late flight, a fact that no one’s going to remember because her set ruled. She took to the stage in a black hooded cape, sang the hell out of her songs, danced up a tornado and laid forth a watertight case for stardom. When “Tightrope” first hit, I couldn’t shake Monáe’s very formal, clean presentation. There was something eerily obedient in her manner, as if her talent had been refined and polished beyond normal human behavior. But contrary to the unwritten code of alleged musical “purity,” talent doesn’t have to sloppy to be authentic, and trained singers can also be great singers. Seeing Monáe live reinforces these concepts.
I had been staring at the stage, covered in instrument cables, wondering if Monáe might accidentally step on one and slip while dancing. Alas, she’s got this problem solved by putting a special dance riser in front of the drums, which also meant that people way in the back could see Monáe’s dizzying footwork. She turned in a memorable set, to say the least, including Chaplin’s “Smile,” probably the greatest song about depression ever written. When she ended with “Tightrope,” I walked around the crowd and came upon a dude who was doing backflips and smoking a joint at the same time. Amazing.
Al Green was on his game.
I last saw Al Green in Sonoma, turning in a smooth, by-the-numbers show for middle-aged wine drinkers. It was great, but man, it was so refreshing to see the guy in front of thousands of kids in tight jeans and neon Ray-Bans. Especially when there’s a lot of retro-soul acts here today—Janelle Monáe, Mayer Hawthorne, the Budos Band—it’s nice to have Al Green arrive to show them how it’s done.
In a routine that’s familiar by now, he took the stage, throwing out dozens of roses and repeatedly saying “I love you.” It may be routine, but when Green does it, it doesn’t feel like schtick. He implored the crowd to sing along. He shouted out California. He wished for stairs leading down into the crowd and made fun of the “paparazzi” in the photo pit. He genuinely wanted to make a connection with people. I’d say he succeeded.
There are things you forgive Al Green. Taking a swig of Gatorade partway through the second verse of “Let’s Stay Together” is one of them. (The chorus, which everyone knows by heart and sings loudly, would be a much more appropriate spot to take a break.) Performing snippets of “I Can’t Help Myself,” “Bring It on Home to Me” and “My Girl” instead of his own songs is another. Why? Because his history, which is weighty in itself, is matched by his current-day pipes and patter. Wailing gospel high notes, hip-bumping to the downbeat, blowing kisses to the ladies—just owning it.
Afterwards, from the direction of Speedway Meadow, we saw a swarm of bodies who for some reason chose to watch Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes instead of Al Green, and I usually don’t pity people for following their internal compass, but man.
Garage a Trois. Last song. “1969” by the Stooges. The vibraphone player, Mike Dillon, reached over for a mic and bumped some percussion, which toppled to the floor. A sound guy approached, like he was going to reprimand the guy. Dillon saw him coming and executed a flying, head-first leap over the vibes, crashing to the ground and knocking over more stuff. He got up and dry-humped Skerik, the saxophone player. Then he kicked Skerik in the head. Noticing the mic had come unplugged, he threw it up in the air and into the crowd. It was nuts.
When the song was over, the soundmen looked relieved.
Once upon a time there was a band called Chromeo. The best moment of Chromeo’s set came when a ton of people outside the festival banded together on JFK drive and crashed through the fence. A cheer emitted from the crowd when dozens of people made it in without paying. (Watch the video here.) If you lived through the 1980s you’ve heard Chromeo before. The end.
Painfully apparent when Phoenix kicked off with “Lizstomania” was that Thomas Mars was singing along to a doubled backing track. Ouch! Except everyone was going so nuts they probably didn’t notice. The coolly detached Mars hopped into the crowd, whipping people into even further of a frenzy. I wonder what the poll results would be if each fan at the gates was asked if Phoenix should be headlining instead of Kings of Leon.
Nas: Yankees hat. Damian Marley: Dreads down to the floor. Hype man: Waving a Lion of Judah flag. Backing band: Solid. Backup singer: Wearing a Bob Marley T-Shirt. Work it, baby!
Damian Marley shouted something about legal marijuana, and the field went nuts. I missed it, but according to the East Bay Express, Nas at one point called Africa a “country.”
“I’m lookin’ out in this crowd,” declared Mike Ness, in that oh-so-Mike-Ness way (see: Live at the Roxy), “and I’m seein’ some scary lookin’ criminals… If any of you out there are considering a life of crime, I seriously discourage it!” Sure thing, Mike.
Zen moments come at unexpected times. Social Distortion playing “Ring of Fire” was one of them. Why did it move me? What about it was special that wasn’t, the dozens of other times I’ve heard it? I can’t say. Especially when Mike Ness gave it this strange introduction about Johnny Cash: “This was written by one of my heroes! He’s not a hero because he had great hair or wore all black, but because there was a time in this country where people thought good white music could exist without black music! I tell ya, without this guy we’d all be sittin’ on the front porch blowing into a jug tryin’ to make a tune!”
I’d never seen Social Distortion. When I was 13 and didn’t know anything about music I’d go to the Wherehouse in the mall and look at the cassette tapes, selecting my purchase based entirely on the names of the bands. This is how I wound up with Killer Klowns From Outer Space by the Dickies, Give Me Convenience or Give Me Death by the Dead Kennedys, and Prison Bound by Social Distortion. I thought Social Distortion was a raw name, and was kind of bummed when I got home to find it was basically country music instead of thrash.
Kings of Leon were up next, but so was RVIVR across town at Thee Parkside. I guarantee you that a thousand birds could shit on RVIVR’s heads and they’d keep playing. You can’t say the same for Kings of Leon, so I hopped on my bike and rode back to my car at Ocean Beach. I love this part of Golden Gate Park. It’s downhill all the way, past the buffalo and the casting pools and the archery field, and out on the Great Highway the sun and the fog and the water made a beautiful canvas behind that huge wooden windmill.
More Photos Below. (more…)
As reported earlier, the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s Board of Directors last month fired festival founder and artistic director Jessica Felix. And guess what? People were mad! Musicians who played the festival vowed to return only if Felix was back on as artistic director, sponsors who contributed $25,000 per year pledged to cease their financial support in Felix’s absence, and fans lamented the very plain and obvious fact that firing Felix is tantamount to ripping out the heart of the festival.
All this happened in the comments section of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s website. It was a lively forum of voices—mostly smart, some funny, all of them upset—but apparently, it was too much for the Board of Directors to handle. All the comments were removed from the site yesterday. Says the home page: “For further comments, please email us at [email protected]”
I’ve made my opinions on the matter of Felix’s firing pretty clear so far, but this latest action of erasing people’s public comments is completely atrocious. So with the aid of Google cache, here’s the collected 46 comments that were taken down from the Healdsburg Jazz Festival’s site. Click through below to read them all, and feel free to continue to comment below.
[UPDATE: It worked! Felix is back and so is the festival. Read here.]
This Just In: Smashing Pumpkins are playing the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Wednesday, September 8.
The Phoenix is among the smallest venues that the band is playing on their current tour, which sees them visiting 17,000- and 18,000-capacity stadiums after they leave Petaluma. Founding member Billy Corgan is the only original member in Smashing Pumpkins. (He tends to ramble at Smashing Pumpkins shows.)
Tickets, at $40 a pop, go on sale to the general public this Saturday, 10am, via InTicketing. A 101.7-FM “The Fox” presale happens on Friday at 10am. If you really want to be guaranteed a ticket, lining up outside the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa for an old-fashioned cash-transaction hard ticket is recommended. The store opens at 10am.
The rumors are true: Zone Music in Cotati is closing its doors.
But they’ll open again soon, promises owner Frank Hayhurst.
The venerable music store which since 1983 has seen the likes of Neil Young, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jeff Beck as customers is downsizing its inventory and floor space to reopen sometime in the future, possibly with a different name but most likely in the same general spot, Hayhurst tells me.
“Cotati is a great community and a perfect location for a music store—it’s the heart of Sonoma County,” he says. “We’re looking at closing for a short while to remodel, but haven’t picked the exact dates yet, because there are many variables. We need to rescale, but it shouldn’t take too long.”
Whatever the future holds, the new store will focus instead on the things that still make money in an online age—guitars, accessories, used gear, consignments—in a remodeled, “much smaller” shop. “Basically,” says Hayhurst, “the old model of a full line music store doesn’t work in this current economy.”
Last week, customers reported the shelves at Zone being bare, and employees saying that the store was “going under.” The news came as a shock to those who’ve patronized the popular, well-loved store over the past 28 years—with most of the finger-pointing directed at online megastores like Musician’s Friend.
But even when Zone offered competitive price-matching with online merchants, “it’s 10% more expensive to shop with a local retailer than making the same purchase online,” says Hayhurst. “That’s the sales tax inequity issue.”
Several businesses surround Zone Music, and will stay open. Zone Recording, run by studio veteran Blair Hardman, will continue to record bands, singers, commercial jingles, books on tape and all manner of audio projects. Backstage Audio, run by fix-it whiz Kent Fossgreen, will continue to fix amps, guitars, keyboards and all manner of musical instruments.
A used vinyl LP store is moving in on the premises as well.
Even in tough times, while Zone restructures, Hayhurst says he hasn’t lost his passion for the business in Sonoma County. “My favorite visiting musicians have been the working musicians of the North Bay Area,” he remarks. “They are my inspiration. Oh, and the kids! Hearing kids rock always brightens my day.”
My friend Gaye LeBaron, in customarily evocative fashion, writes in today’s PD about vacation memories on the Russian River. It’s a great read, especially for locals who’ve spent July and August cruising for thrills beneath the shade of redwoods in West County. That’s something I wished I had growing up, those carefree summertime Russian River memories, and each time I stroll Johnson’s Beach or visit Rio Nido, I figure I was born a few decades too late for even the waning days of what the Monte Rio sign famously, and sadly, still declares the “Vacation Wonderland.”
As it were, my family took vacations camping in Humboldt County—incidentally, where LeBaron grew up—or when we could convince family friends to loan us their cabin, Lake Tahoe. The towering trees, the miniature golf, the outdoor calm and young summertime romance described by 1950s Russian River resort-goers in LeBaron’s column? That was King’s Beach for me, and not just because my folks liked Lake Tahoe. It was kinda also because by the time I was growing up in the 1980s, the Russian River was a really seedy place to bring your kids.
This week’s column is on the reemergence of the River Theatre in Guerneville, a venue I’d last visited for a punk show in 1991, when I was 15. The bands were Insanity Puppets, Bulimia Banquet and, headlining, D.I., who were on meth and refused to play their hit “Richard Hung Himself” until a girl in the audience showed them her vagina. It was fucked up. Punk at its best was always a little bit scary, but this was just depressing. (My parents didn’t know where I was, luckily.)
Still, I’ve always loved the Russian River, and Guerneville, and West County in general. After walking through the front doors for the first time in 19 years and interviewing new River Theatre owner Jerry Knight—who plans to host live music, plays and film—I swung by the Guerneville library and went through their incredible news archive, which confirmed that the River has long been almost a different state unto itself, if not a different country.
(I also spoke with Guerneville historian John Schubert, who set me straight about the exact location of the River Club, a strip joint owned by the Markharian brothers. It wasn’t in the River Theatre building as is commonly assumed; rather, it was just one door East of the River Theatre, as seen in this 1986 photo.)
On my way back to Santa Rosa, I made a right turn to one of my favorite places. Odd Fellows Park, a collection of riverfront houses and activity buildings virtually unchanged since its 1940s heyday, reminds me almost exactly of the resort in Dirty Dancing—there’s an outdoor theater constructed of redwood, shuffleboard courts, volleyball nets, a bingo hall, a private beach. It’s exactly the kind of idyllic summertime spot LeBaron’s column describes, and the last remaining vestige of the vacation wonderland of old. It’s no wonder that you need to have a gate code to get in.
Whoever invented the phrase “Hot August Nights” should’ve been at the chilly Chris Beck Arena on Monday night, where a constant line of girls in tank tops and daisy dukes forked over cash to the blanket-and-poncho stand right inside the gates to get warm.
But cold though it was in the grandstands, Miranda Lambert‘s high-octane set lit the near-capacity crowd on fire, from raucous covers of Creedence Clearwater’s “Travelin’ Band” and the Faces’ “Stay With Me” to smash-hit sing-alongs “Dead Flowers” and “Gunpowder and Lead.”
Hitting the stage to Steve Earle’s “The Revolution Starts Now” on the P.A., Lambert kicked things off with a blazing “Kerosene” and spiraled around the stage with her mohawked bassist, her mic stand made from a rifle and her strobe stage lighting. This set the high-energy tone of the night—Lambert at one point rocked a pink Fender Stratocaster—but didn’t detract from the concert’s more poignant moments, in particular “The House That Built Me,” a heartwrenching ballad that had an entire arena singing along like a Norman Luboff choir.
Lambert joked repeatedly, introducing “Dry Town” with a shout-out to wine country; she later quipped that “it says very clearly in the Bible that Jesus drank wine, so I hope y’all don’t judge us as beer drinkers tonight.” And although girls swooned when she showed off her ring from fiancé Blake Shelton, no patter got as loud of a squeal as her exultant introduction to frenemy anthem “Only Prettier”: “This one goes out to all the skinny beyy-otches!”
Overall, the show succeeded at what all good country shows aim to do, which is to bring like-minded people together for a celebration of fandom. Strangers smoked cigarettes and danced with each other. Fans rushed the front together to take photos. Guys begged to be let backstage. People who clearly didn’t know each other shared stories and sang along.
There was just one misstep—for as many great songs as Lambert’s written on her own, it felt off-balance when she encored with the overplayed karaoke anthem “I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll.” But by that point, after working up such favor with the crowd, it truly didn’t matter. “I hope y’all’ll have us all back next year,” Lambert said, and as the Ferris Wheel spun in the distance, the entire crowd of Stetsons, uggs, 501s, flannels and miniskirts covered in blankets and ponchos roared their approval.
Famous in a Small Town
More Like Her
Time to Get a Gun
Heart Like Mine
Stay With Me
Maintain the Pain
The House That Built Me
Sin for a Sin
That’s the Way the World Goes ‘Round
Gunpowder and Lead
I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
(Read this week’s Bohemian story on Miranda Lambert here.)
In a shocking, upsetting announcement, the Board of Directors for the Healdsburg Jazz Festival announced today that there will be no Healdsburg Jazz Festival in 2011.
What’s more, festival founder and Artistic Director Jessica Felix has been voted out by the Board, and will no longer be a part of the Healdsburg Jazz Festival she started 12 years ago.
Citing the poor economy, the Board says they’ll focus instead on their music education program which for 10 years has brought jazz to area schools. “There also seems to be a more limited audience for pure jazz in the community as evidenced by lower ticket sales,” Board president Pat Templin says. “There may be an opportunity to broaden the offering in the future. We need to find a winning model that will interest more people and businesses in the community to get involved, provide financial support and to attend a revised music festival.”
A “revised music festival.” A “limited audience for pure jazz.” An “opportunity to broaden the offering.” These are not good harbingers of things to come.
I called Felix to find out what happened. She said she couldn’t comment until she spoke with a lawyer, a bad sign. “I was totally surprised,” she said.
Reached by phone, Board president Pat Templin told me that there are “no plans” to reinstate Jessica Felix in 2012, adding that it was decision not made lightly, and one borne of finances instead of artistic vision (the festival, she stresses, will not move in a smooth jazz direction).
“She’s an amazing person, she’s done an amazing thing, and we’re trying to build on her legacy,” Templin says. “We’re committed to jazz, and to maintaining that reputation. And we’re also interested in some of what the community has told us, that there might be other genres that support the kind of jazz we do.” What other genres might those be? “One is blues,” Templin says.
If Felix can’t comment, then I will: The Healdsburg Jazz Festival as we know it is committing artistic suicide.
As a journalist, I’ve butted heads with Felix a couple times, but one thing I’ve never, ever questioned is her top-quality booking for the festival. I assume this so-called “limited audience for pure jazz” wasn’t part of the sold-out crowd this year for Ravi Coltrane and Charlie Haden, the sold-out crowd for Esperanza Spalding, or the full crowd for Jason Moran and Bill Frisell.
And that’s just in the last year alone. Previous festivals have hosted, to great acclaim, Joshua Redman, Billy Higgins, Andrew Hill, Bobby Hutcherson, Jim Hall, Dave Holland, McCoy Tyner, Pharoah Sanders, Jackie McLean, Joe Lovano, Kenny Garrett, Frank Morgan and Dave Brubeck. Look at those names—and then find me another jazz festival booker in a town with a population of only 10,000 who can attract such stature.
The community needs the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, but in particular it needs the festival as booked by someone well-connected, passionate and knowledgeable about jazz. That someone is and always has been Jessica Felix. She’s taken creative risks that have paid off—such as two sold-out shows with the decidedly avant-garde Trio 3 last year—and that’s because over the last 12 years she’s cultivated an audience for jazz in Sonoma County. She’s even saved the festival money by putting up musicians in her home, and finding other local hospitable jazz fans to do the same.
As for ticket sales? The slump isn’t just in Healdsburg—concert ticket sales have been down significantly nationwide; Templin admits she’s aware of this too. So sure, a scaling back on the festival makes sense. A focus on music education is good for attracting new sponsors. A one-year hiatus in 2011, painful as it may be, may be necessary.
But in reorganizing, there’s one thing the Board shouldn’t overlook, and that’s the respect Felix has earned from the artists and fans in the jazz world. Every musician playing the Healdsburg Jazz Festival who I’ve interviewed for the Bohemian in the last six years has praised Felix’s devotion, without my asking. The national reputation of the festival speaks to her great work.
If she wants to continue booking the festival she founded—and it seems like she does—I can’t think of any reason to stop her from doing so.
[UPDATE: The Board of Directors have removed all public comments from their website. I’ve reposted them here.]
[UPDATE: It worked! Jessica’s back and so is the festival. Read here.]
The spigot, it sometimes bursts, and the drip-pan of CSI is too meager to contain the blast. Here’s a few things that’ve happened over the weekend, while I can still catch them coming out the pipe.
Silian Rail at Guayaki Mate Bar
I try not to make a habit of coveting thy neighbor’s anything, but Christ if Silian Rail doesn’t make me jealous. Jealous for their tone—some glorious, thick whomp that sounds like Bigfoot tap-dancing on the strings. Jealous for their composition—the rare form of noodley that travels down the road to an agreeable destination. Jealous for their form—the very fun ways in which they play multiple instruments at once.
Silian Rail’s new album Parhelion on Parks and Records is worth picking up, but at the Guayaki Mate Bar Friday night, they proved they’re better live; or, at least, the tricks are revealed. Seven or so effects pedals for the guitarist, a drummer that hammers guitar frets while striking the hi-hat and stepping on bass tones with his foot, and the elusive connection required to pull it all off. See them if you can, leave happy and envious.
News from an old friend, DJ and fellow record hound Sean, who used to spin weekly at Soundboutique on Thursday nights at the Ivy Room in the East Bay. I heard last week he kept a blog of the same name, and lo and behold, the first post that popped up was on Lyman Woodward. Sold! Sean’s got a great, conversational writing style, and that Lyman Woodward record (Saturday Night Special) is like gritty, oily gravel on a Detroit sidestreet—electric organ never sounded so raw. Check it out. Sean is also noted for his ability to convince the Flamingo Hotel in Santa Rosa to comp him for a two-night stay, which means he can probably also spin gold from straw, ride King Ridge in two hours and unearth original sealed Liquid Liquid EPs at Kmart.
Robyn Live at Amoeba
For those who don’t know, Robyn is a former teen-pop sensation from Sweden who decided five years ago to start her own label and go her own way. She’s done so forcefully: Her latest, Body Talk Pt. 1, opens with a song called “Don’t Fucking Tell Me What to Do,” and closes with a jazz tune originally recorded by Bill Evans, sung in Swedish. Her latest single, “Dancing On My Own,” is on full-blast anthem status for 2010. It took me 2 1/2 hours in weekend traffic to catch her free in-store at Amoeba on Saturday. It was worth it.
With a pared-down two-piece band, Robyn performed hits in mostly ballad style: “Hang With Me” was a beautiful, slow opener, “With Every Heartbeat” caused audible gasps from the crowd and a pensive, piano-driven “Dancing On My Own” elicited the lonesomeness buried in the song’s rhythm-heavy album version. Robyn still danced. It was great.
The North Bay Film and Art Collective
It’s now officially called the Arlene Francis Theater—which is one syllable shorter! Arlene Francis was an actress best known for her long run on television game shows, including What’s My Line? and The Match Game; she also appeared with Doris Day in The Thrill of It All.
Why, you may ask, is the North Bay Film and Art Collective now called the Arlene Francis Theater? Because her son, Peter Gabel, wanted to name it after his mother. (His dad, Martin Gabel, warn’t no chopped liver, either—he hung out with Orson Welles, starred in Deadline U.S.A. and Marnie, and worked with Billy Wilder.) Gabel and his partner Martin Hamilton have some other ideas for the place, too, involving a cafe and eventually, a seated theater funded by redevelopment money. Hamilton says he wants Joan Baez to play there. It’s probably possible.
Gilman, Rent, Landlords, Etc.
I ran into my friend Eggplant at Grouper’s ‘Sleep’ audio installation at the Berkeley Art Museum. Eggplant’s volunteered at Gilman for 20 years, and although he just got fired for making a hilarious flyer poking fun at the club’s nostalgia-preying penchant for $10 reunion shows, he’ll probably be let back. Gilman is like that.
Gilman also has been faced with a steep-ass, widely publicized rent increase, and Eggplant and I talked about the community implications if Gilman actually had to close. The club still has yet to nail down a lease agreement with the landlord, but things do not look particularly promising. Sometimes, Eggplant wonders if Gilman closing wouldn’t be such a bad thing—if it’s perhaps outgrown its purpose and turned into a dusty relic where bands want to play just so they can say they played the same stage where Green Day and OpIvy got their start.
No, no, no, I countered. It has to stay open. It still embraces the creative spirit, is based on solid codes of conduct and provides an all-ages outlet that’s needed. Every time I walk in the place I feel like I’m being hugged by its walls. I admittedly say this as someone who only gets down there two or three times a year, but I think it’s be terrible if the place had to close. They have some money in the bank, but not enough for a down payment to buy the property at the figures that are being thrown around. If they could, it’d be empowering—the punks own their own club!—but it’d still be a struggle.
The long and short of it is it was nice to have a conversation about Gilman’s rent increase that did not begin and end with “Billie Joe should buy it,” although that’s not a terrible idea, either.
For the Kidz
Kidz Bop is the name of a very stupid series of CDs featuring current radio hits sanitized for the under-the-age-of-10 crowd. They’re incredibly popular, but generally they just drive everyone crazy. The best thing to do with a Kidz Bop CD is listen to it all the way through to find all the lyrics that are changed for the kidz. Unfortunately, that is torture. Maura Johnston at The Awl has listened to the latest CD in the series so you don’t have to, and rounded up the “13 Most Awkwardly Altered Lyrics on Kidz Bop 18.” It is most amusing.
This week’s Bohemian cover story is on Eric Lindell and how he left his record label to make the best record of his career. You know you’re old when you can remember Lindell’s dominance of the newly-opened Third Street Aleworks in the mid 1990s; you’re older if you remember seeing him play bass and sing for his 10-piece funk band, Grand Junction. I do, vaguely, and visiting Grand Junction’s MySpace tribute page is a fun little trip back in time to the punk-funk era of Sonoma County.
Gwyneth Paltrow Sings Country
This week’s Bohemian column is on Miranda Lambert, who’s playing the Sonoma County Fair on Monday. (Y’all should go.) As I point out in the article, here’s really no reason the very gifted Lambert shouldn’t be played on Americana radio. Why, even Gwyneth Paltrow is more pop-country than Miranda Lambert, as evidenced by this new single from her upcoming movie, Country Strong!
This is pretty great: Les Savy Fav (motto: “Missing Out on Cashing In for Over a Decade”) is about to release their new album, Root for Ruin. Their label, Frenchkiss, set up a protected stream so reviewers can listen to—but not download—the album. The login information that music writers got implied that we would be a “dick” if we leaked the record. Such a threat obviously didn’t deter fans rabid to share the thing, because almost immediately, someone apparently got into the source code and leaked the mp3s for download.
What’s a band to do when their album is leaked? The savvy Les Savy Fav has since created a Twitter account (@u_took_my_music) as “the Ghost of Les Savy Fav” to “haunt” those who post links to the leaked album. What’s more, they’ve set up a Paypal donation site to which the shame-filled Twitter user can then donate. “Okay, so you got our leaked record. At least now you know how awesome it is,” the page reads. “Here—donate some cash to us and be free of guilt for the record. Pay extra and you’re also forgiven for sex sins and stuff AND we’ll tell Jesus to send you cookies.”
I like this approach. In related news, Root for Ruin is really, really good, and you can pre-order it here.