Ohio-born singer and songwriter Jessica Lea Mayfield first came to my attention last year when she collaborated with Seth Avett (the Avett Brothers) on an album of Elliott Smith cover songs that showcased Mayfield’s graceful voice and delicate guitar playing.
Her mastery of the emotionally-tinged music comes as no surprise to her fans. Mayfield’s been active as a solo artist from the time she was 15, playing guitar in bedroom recordings. Since 2008, her career has blossomed with albums that have transitioned from acoustic folk origins to electric and stylized garage pop wonder.
Tonight, Mayfield continues on her current solo West Coast tour with a show at HopMonk Tavern in Sebastopol. Sonoma County native Alison Harris opens the show. For more details, check out the HopMonk website. And click on the videos below to get a glimpse of Mayfield’s singing/songwriting power.
Sonoma County songwriter Neem Wood mixes together shimmering electronics, soulful guitars and heartfelt lyrics for a compelling, emotional blend of indie rock and pop under the name Become the Villain.
Wood has a new album due to be released this weekend with a show at HopMonk in Sebastopol, and he has a preview of his latest work in the form a new single, “Slip Away,” that’s available to listen to right now.
Stylistically and sonically sophisticated, “Slip Away” features Wood’s soaring vocals and dark percussions with strong pop hooks and a cathartic chorus. Click on the track below; and catch Become the Villain tomorrow, Saturday Jan 23 at HopMonk, with other local luminaries Lungs and Limbs, Horses Heaven and Charley Peach. Details are here.
Unbeatable guitarist Steve Kimock has been raising a pretty fiery noise with keyboardist Bernie Worrell lately—and the band took to the brand-new Session Room at the Hopmonk Tavern in Novato last week. Our photographer Jamie Soja was there. See a full photo slideshow below.
Emerging from the English cultural revolution of the late 1980’s comes Ott., a multifarious DJ artist, whose organic dub creations are equally balanced takes on the celestial and earthbound His sonic soundscapes are a treasure chest of world rhythms, synthesizers and drum machines. A progressively interconnected combination of instrumentation and bass-heavy beats that takes chill-out to a whole other level.
Regularly performing at some of the world’s largest electronic music festivals, Ott and his band make a West County stop this week to kick back and no doubt make music to some of NorCal’s finest indica. Turn down the lights and position yourself for meditation to this fan-compiled 3-hour collection of Ott albums. It will most likely induce many gloriously reflective hours of universal awareness.
See Ott perform with his live band All-Seeing I at Juke Joint this Thursday night at Hopmonk in Sebastopol. Also featuring DJs Kilowatts & Lenkadu. Thursday, Feb. 14, at Hopmonk Tavern. 9pm. $25. 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 707.829.7300
You probably know Callie Watts as a waitress at Mac’s Deli in downtown Santa Rosa, slinging hashbrowns and pastrami sandwiches by day. The lucky ones have known her as a total dynamo on the mic by night, a powerhouse vocalist with deep roots in soul and R&B. (True story: Once, while at a booth at Mac’s, I happened to sing the namesake chorus to Tower of Power’s “Don’t Change Horses,” and Callie, nearby, picked right up and belted out “…in the middle of the stream! / giddy-up! / giddy-up!”—and danced off, plates in hand, into the kitchen.)
Callie’s sung with almost as many bands as she’s served omelets over the years, but man, has she ever found her groove with the great local band Frobeck, who’ve just released a new album, 624. The album features the regular band—Spencer Burrows, Kris Dilbeck, Steve Froberg, and Jonathan Lazarus—plus the “Frobeck Horn Stars” and, in an awesomely appropriate guest spot, Bill Champlin.
‘Course, Callie’s on there too. Here’s video of a Callie Watts spotlight from Frobeck’s record-release show last night at Hopmonk, and though the footage is shaky, the performance is solid as hell:
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.
Here’s how not to put on a show:
Set up instruments. Stand there. Play.
Here’s how to put on a show:
Get there early and cover the venue in decór. Bring in hay bales, chicken-wire fences, chicken coops. Get a huge illuminated chicken to watch the front door. Place giant Easter Island-like chicken statues on the stage, with more chicken wire, chicken ladders and hay on stage.
During the set, have two go-go dancers gyrating in a cage. Have a girl dressed as a sheep, in a painter’s mask, making toasted sandwiches and handing them out to the crowd. Make sure to remind everyone about the Chicken Shit Bingo game going on outside. And right on the last downbeat of the last song of the night—a chicken-modified version of “Safety Dance”—hit the trigger that blows hundreds of white feathers all over the audience.
That was Baby Seal Club last night at Hopmonk, living up to their reputation for reimagining what a show should be. If you weren’t at the “Hopmonk Henhouse,” it may be a little hard to describe.
Below, watch Baby Seal Club’s new video for “Zeroes & Ones”:
The first time I heard about Digable Planets, it was from someone on LSD. So it’s no surprise that 17 years later the group’s Ishmael Butler, a.k.a. Butterfly, has started an elusive lysergic-leaning project called Shabazz Palaces. (You may have read about it recently at a certain M.I.A.-bashing indie site.) They—he, whatever—play tonight at Hopmonk’s Juke Joint, and for anyone into tripped-out hip-hop in the vein of Anticon, Edan or MF Doom, it’s a rare chance to catch Butler on some out-there levels.
I love this surreal pastiche video for “Belhaven Meridian,” shot in Watts:
And how scattershot are Shabazz Palaces’ song titles? Here’s the tracklist to the first EP:
1. kill white t, parable of the nigga who barrels stay hot, made by firstname.lastname@example.org
2. 4 shadows”noah mission as told by plcr dougie frum up the block from granny’s Subsonic custom crowns
3. 32 leaves dipped in blackness making clouds forming altered carbon
4. blastit at the homie rayzer’s charm lake plateau bbq july at outpalace pk
5. Capital 5, recorded after hrs at the gun ballad resource cntr on s Sweeper st.
6. my mac yawns i go on to make this darksparkles move call it: as the americans say, middle section made by plcr runner reg on his 30′ chromitar
7. a mess, the booth soaks in palacian musk, palaceer in vintage LRG, yes pure NS, uppowndet watermelon lips beat
I am not kidding.
Shabazz Palaces plays tonight, July 15, at the Hopmonk Tavern. 230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol. 9pm. $15. 21+. 707.829.7300.
When we heard the rumors about this last December, it made perfect sense. Though speculation has run wild, we have it on good authority—Dean Biersch himself—that the former Gordon-Biersch partner who opened the Hopmonk Tavern to universal acclaim in Sebastopol has officially inked a deal for a second location in Sonoma.
“It’s 99-percent there,” he told us. “We’re hoping to make an announcement this week.”
Yes, Biersch confirmed, he is taking over the old Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack location at 691 Broadway—a building whose layout and outdoor patio makes it a perfect spot similar to his Sebastopol hotspot.
In addition to a restaurant and bar in Sonoma, live music will be a key component. Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack fought long and hard with the city for an amplified music permit, but something tells me that Biersch, a ten-year resident of the city, will be able to renew it smoothly. The first thing he’ll do, he says, is construct an eight-foot fence around the beer garden; after that, he imagines a hemisphere bandshell in the patio for outdoor concerts. “I’m looking into the acoustics of it,” he says.
Inside the restaurant, Biersch is passionate about reserving space for an acoustic room seating about 40-50 people, because “there’s so many singer-songwriter acts that we have to pass on at Hopmonk,” he explains, “that I think would be perfect for Sonoma.”
This is fantastic news for live-music fans in the city of Sonoma, who’ll soon be able to go to the Uptown Theatre in Napa for larger concerts in addition to the excellent small-club acts that a ‘Hopmonk East’ will surely bring. After recently parting ways with downtown Santa Rosa nightspot Chrome Lotus, Hopmonk booker Patrick Malone is looking forward to bringing his talents to Sonoma. “I’ll definitely be helping out there,” he says.
Biersch is aiming for a Summer 2010 opening.
DJ Vadim is gonna be at Hopmonk’s Juke Joint this Thursday, and although his last few records have been heavy on the reggae tip, I wholeheartedly recommend getting thy ass down there and checking it out. Born in Russia, raised in London, and now living in New York, Vadim’s style is a true cross-cultural hybrid; his series of USSR albums on Ninja Tune bridge in the most perfect way the worlds of hip-hop and electronica, and feature mostly rappers from outside of the United States. I am listening to USSR: The Art of Listening right now, and feeling good.
I stopped by the Guayakí Mate Bar a couple weekends ago to catch the Highlands and the Semi-Evolved Simians, where Celeste and her dad David have started putting on shows. The setup’s great: A cafe and coffee bar in the front and the “Aché Room”—a resplendent name for a venue if ever there was one—in the back. It is wider than it is deep, which is good for bands who don’t exactly draw 300 people, and being right next to the now-desolate Barlow Co. assists for nighttime walks between bands. The Crux played there last weekend; the owner’s planning on booking more shows in the future.
I talked to Noah D today, who’s getting married soon and is feeling the down-home spirit of friends, family and funk. He’s starting a weekly night at Aubergine called “The Dial Up.” I like the name. He doesn’t. The first night’s this Tuesday, June 16, featuring all vinyl—no CDJs, no Serato. The flyer promises Funk Essentials, Hip-Hop Slumpers, Big Reggae Tunes, Soul Boulders, Dancehall Gems and R&B Classics. I’m not sure what a “slumper” is, but A Tribe Called Quest might be a good signpost. Future nights will feature Nick Otis; a pay-the-bills ’80s Night; and Noah’s inventive hip-hop group, Sonicbloom.
Add to all of this Monday Night Edutainment over at Jasper O’Farrell’s still going strong, and the story of nightlife in Sonoma County in 2009 starts with an S and ends with an L. Somehow Sebastopol has gotten nightlife figured out, while Santa Rosa continues to have problems with live music.
This might also be a good time to mention Hillcrest Middle School in Sebastopol, whose marching band were given the chance to perform a song in the Apple Blossom Parade of their own choosing by their teacher, Mr. Fichera. Q: What did the students pick? A: “Love Lockdown,” by Kanye West! Fichera arranged it for marching band in about three hours, and the song’s huge drum cadence never sounded more amazing than bouncing off the buildings of Main Street on a Saturday morning.