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BottleRock Countdown: Violent Femmes

Posted by on May 8, 2013

It’s hard to imagine how such a minimalist band can incite such riotous reaction from crowds around the world. A plain-sounding guitar, melodic bass riffs and a simple snare drum with one cymbal makes up the Violent Femmes, who formed in sunny Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1980. One might argue that his band, with hits like “Blister in the Sun,” “Add it Up,” “Gone Daddy Gone” and “Dance, Motherfucker, Dance” is truly what made Milwaukee famous.

These are the original folk-punkers. It’s music that simply does not give a shit about what anyone thinks, and these days, that’s a refreshing sentiment. This stripped-down mindset and musical style makes for a memorable concert, creating those fleeting moments where we forget where we are, what we’re doing and all the bullshit in our daily lives.

The only shame is Violent Femmes are playing at the same time as Primus (8pm, Thursday). These bands have many fans in common, and it would be easy to make the completely not hyperbolic comparison to Sophie’s Choice. Which band will you see perform, and which band will die?

BottleRock Kickoff: ‘Sound City’ with Dave Grohl

Posted by on May 7, 2013

Gabe Meyers, co-founder of BottleRock, stood in front of the crowd at the Uptown Theatre last night and asked “Did you ever think this would happen in… Napa?”

He was referencing the four-day music festival, the largest thing to hit the sleepy city since, well, ever. He received thunderous applause from the crowd awaiting an on-stage appearance by Dave Grohl, lead singer and guitarist of the Foo Fighters and drummer of Nirvana, in town last night for a screening of his documentary, Sound City. Meyers then reminded the everyone in the one-third–full venue that tickets were still available for most days of the festival. “Sometimes it feels like a bit of a surf break secret, like you don’t want to tell anybody,” he said. “But we really need people to know about it.”

The attendance for Grohl’s film was affected by the last-minute booking—it was finalized less than a week prior—and because it was a benefit for autism causes, tickets were $100. But the movie is fantastic, especially for audio nerds like myself (I even wore an Onkyo shirt to the screening). Sound City is about the recording console at a fucked up, nasty studio in Los Angeles that recorded some of the best rock albums of all time. It’s captivating for even the non-audio engineer thanks in large part to the vast swath of famous producers, musicians and engineers interviewed for the movie.

“Originally the idea was just to make a short film and it kind of just exploded into this idea,” said Grohl before the screening. “We wanted to inspire the next generation of musicians to fall in love with music as much as we did.” After much applause, he continued, “We decided early on we wanted to make this completely independent of any major studio or any Hollywood shit, we just wanted to make our own movie. It cost a fuckin’ fortune, just so you know.” Cue more applause.

Grohl’s interest in making Sound City was piqued when he learned the studio was closing and selling all of its gear. The band that made him famous, Nirvana, had recorded the album that made them famous, Nevermind, at the studio. Nothing sounds like a recording made at this studio on this board, one of only four like it ever produced by engineer Rupert Neve (it cost twice as much as a house in the area at the time). “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for this board,” says Grohl in the movie. So he bought it and installed it in his own studio. The documentary chronicles the history of the board, and of Sound City Studios, and highlights the beauty of analog recording using consoles like this and two-inch tape instead of computers to capture sound.

“I have to honestly say that this is probably the thing that I am most proud of that I have ever done creatively in my life,” said Grohl, “because it’s not for me, its for you.”

There were may cheers from the audience during both the movie and the 45-minute Q&A session between Meyers and Grohl afterward. Music in the movie, all of which was recorded on the console, was blared loud and often, which made the atmosphere less like a movie theater and more like a rock concert. Beer and wine helped, too. Some had too much, like the girl who tried valiantly to remain upright during the autograph session following the Q&A session, trying to get something signed.

All in all, it was a rock concert of a movie, and a smart and fun way to kick off BottleRock.

BottleRock Countdown: Joan Jett

Posted by on May 7, 2013

She is known as the Queen of Rock n’ Roll. Rolling Stone Magazine called her one of the 100 greatest guitarists of all time. She’s hot, she’s vegan and she runs her own NYC-based record label Blackheart Records. Viva La Glam Rock!

“I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll” was originally by the Arrows but Jett’s version hit the stratosphere of classic rock anthems (Billboard number 1 in 1982). If she doesn’t win this year’s Rock And Rock Hall Of Fame nomination, you’ll be stoked you saw her before she becomes embossed in rock and roll gold.

BottleRock Countdown: Macklemore & Ryan Lewis

Posted by on May 7, 2013

If you avoid Top-40 on the radio and don’t tune into what’s left of MTV, you probably haven’t seen the music video for “Thrift Shop” by Seattle hip hop duo Macklemore and Ryan Lewis. Well here it is, and it’s good – its got nearly 300 million YouTube views for crying out loud.

One man’s trash is another man’s come up”: they strut grandpa’s coats, jump racks of old blue jeans, and mock everyone in the club with matching $50 t-shirts. It’s an ode to the working class and a big overdue fuck you to capitalism. For all the materialistic lust of the early 2000′s, in post-recession times what else is there to do but hype the thrift shops?

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis perform the official opening night of BottleRock. If you already have a 3- or 4-day pass you can go for free, but you need to fill out the RSVP form to guarantee a ticket. They are asking for donations as little as $1 are requested to benefit Autism Chords and The City of Napa Parks and Recreation.  And if you didn’t buy festival passes, tickets are only $40 (purchase them here) – definitely the most affordable show on the BottleRock bill.

BottleRock Countdown: Café Tacvba

Posted by on May 6, 2013

From inside the dark, dingy dives of century-old buildings to the roof-top pool bars of boutique hotels, Mexican rockers Café Tacvba are played at least once every hour, of every day, somewhere in Mexico City. They are by far one of the most prolific bands of the “Spanish Rock” movement of the 1990′s. And with the same original members since starting in 1989, their sound is perfected experimental rock. If that makes any sense.

Five years after the release of their last album Sino, which won two Grammys for Latin song of the year, the band just came out with El Objeto Antes Llamado Disco (The Object Once Called An Album). The record is a pretty good look at the band’s sound over the last decade, including their classic mix of alt-rock with ska, electronica, and varieties of indigenous folk music of the Americas – you can hear the entire album here.

The New York Times once called Cafe Tacvba “one of the most important bands in the hemisphere. A smart, cosmopolitan band with a broad streak of lighthearted surrealism.”

Among many great tracks, one of their more famous songs is “Eres“, but this video of “Olita de Altamar” (2013) shows the eccentricity and spirit you can probably expect on stage at BottleRock.

Live Review: Jason Moran and Live Skateboarding at SFJAZZ Center

Posted by on May 5, 2013

At first, the only sensible reaction was giddy laughter that it was even happening at all. At the SFJAZZ Center last night, Jason Moran’s jazz quartet led a jam session on stage—while in the audience, with the first five rows of seats removed, eight skateboarders held a different kind of jam session on a specially built miniramp. Pretty funny, right?

But a few songs into this amusing pairing, conceived by Moran himself, the serious corollaries between the two art forms of jazz and skateboarding began to make perfect sense. As the band onstage improvised in real time, so did the skateboarders, trying trick after trick. As the band was beholden to rhythm and tempo, so were the skateboarders, slaves to that next transition in the ramp, always approaching. As the musicians played off each other’s ideas, so did the skaters, by positioning their boards on the platform for the more daring of the bunch to use as extensions of the ramp.

The results were nothing short of thrilling.

Moran, wearing a T-shirt from the East Bay hip-hop group Souls of Mischief, compared modern-day skateboarding to the early days of modern jazz at Minton’s Playhouse, “when Diz and Bird and all them were trading ideas and the language was changing so quick.” (more…)

BottleRock Countdown: Sharon Van Etten

Posted by on May 3, 2013

If you need a reason to show up early to BottleRock on Saturday, Best Coast should help. If you’re still sleeping off a hangover or whatever, though, at least get there to see Sharon Van Etten. Her great 2012 album Tramp keeps blowing new listeners away,and she’s tremendous live.

Music is a funny thing, and you never know when it’s going to fuck you up. I wandered over to a side stage at Outside Lands last year and ran into Van Etten singing “I’m Wrong,” and just started crying, and I don’t know why.

Here’s footage of the same song, from New York City. Hang with it. It’s a slow build.

BottleRock Countdown: Kings of Leon

Posted by on May 3, 2013

Once, I watched Robert Pollard from Guided by Voices go off on every “it” band of the moment in a typically drunk onstage rant. He lambasted the Strokes, Bright Eyes, Modest Mouse, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (this was 2003) and, finally, Kings of Leon, whose name he spat out with disgust.

Then, good ol’ Pollard: he reconsidered. “Actually I kind of like Kings of Leon. Sorry.”

This had once held title as the greatest thing to happen in the band’s career, until 2010, when a flock of pigeons decided to shit all over the band in St. Louis, abruptly ending the show.

No, really, it’s true. Below is footage, and though you can’t make out actual aviary feces, you can check the drummer’s reaction at 1:12. After “Taper Jean Girl,” only the third song in the set, the band stormed off the stage and cut the show short.

BottleRock Countdown: X

Posted by on May 3, 2013

I have a tattoo of this band, so that settles the personal affirmation of their greatness, right?

But, if you care, you can read my story of listening to and loving X that appeared in the Bohemian in 2005. Heavily influencing that love of X is the documentary ‘The Unheard Music,’ which is more than a band documentary—it’s just as much a perfect snapshot of Los Angeles history as those great “Driving Down Whittier Boulevard” videos.

And behold, someone’s posted the whole thing on YouTube. It’s great. Crack open a six-pack and watch:

BottleRock Countdown: The Avett Brothers

Posted by on May 2, 2013

Amidst the surge of folkie-indie-hipster songwriters that took hold of Americana music over the last three years, few are as authentic as The Avett Brothers. These North Carolina boys harmonize like they were born with it – which isn’t surprising since they’ve been doing it since they were kids.

Their 7th studio album, The Carpenter (produced by the infamous Rick Rubin), was released last year and soared to number 4 on the U.S. Billboard Charts after being nominated for a Grammy. While categorized as every sub-genre of folk rock you can image, the real element to their music is that sweet southern front-porch songwriting.

A YouTube quote by ScartonsmithIrving pretty much sums up their sound: “when the Avett brothers harmonize….someone, somewhere gets laid.”

Since they will be performing on the smaller Miner Family Winery Stage at BottleRock, this lovely performance of “I And Love And You” at Glastonbury Festival in 2010 is probably what you can expect. We hope they decorate the Miner stage with giant mushrooms as well.