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 email@example.com
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.
Spring is anon, meaning festival announcements and venue bookings are being shot down the pipe faster than the flowers can bloom. In a quick overview, there’s Classics of Love (with Operation Ivy’s Jesse Michaels) at the Last Record Store (Mar. 28); bass-heavy knob twiddlers Crystal Method at the Phoenix Theater (Apr. 15); walking freak-folk embodiment Devendra Banhart at the Mystic Theatre (Apr. 17); fado sensation Mariza at the Napa Valley Opera House (Apr. 30); electronic visionary Bassnectar at the Hopmonk Tavern (May 4); soprano legend Kathleen Battle at the Marin Center (May 9); and Lucinda’s right-hand man Gurf Morlix at Studio E (May 16).
What’s that, you say? You like to watch TV more than you like to listen to music? Fear not! The Wells Fargo Center has the interminably funny Joel McHale, he of dryly absurd wisecracking on The Soup (Apr. 11); and hang on to your thong straps—the Sonoma-Marin Fair in Petaluma has glam-metal washup-turned-reality show “star” Bret Michaels (June 27) to attract a slutsational crowd good for copious dead-drunk bikini-clad hoochie watching beneath the ferris wheel. Look what the cat dragged in, indeed!
Sounding a different note entirely, Napa’s beautiful Festival del Sole steps forward this year with young violin sensation Sarah Chang (Jul. 18-19) and the return booking of Renée Fleming (pictured above, Jul. 23), who in the festival’s first year was forced to cancel her performance of Richard Strauss’ Four Last Songs due to illness. Iran’s most famous composer, Anoushirvan Rohani, will appear for a dinner and concert (Jul. 20), and the dashing Robert Redford—be still our throbbing hearts!—benefits his Sundance Preserve by narrating a piece to be announced (Carnival of the Animals? Peter and the Wolf? An interpretive tone poem of The Horse Whisperer?) at Castello di Amarosa (Jul. 21). Full lineup here.
In economic-crisis news, the Russian River Jazz Festival and the Russian River Blues Festival this year will be combined into one solitary September weekend as the Russian River Jazz & Blues Festival preserves a 30+ year tradition of great music on Johnson’s Beach in Guerneville. “This allows us to keep the Russian River festival tradition alive,” says Omega Events president Rich Sherman, “while enabling music fans to still enjoy their love of jazz and blues outdoors in this picturesque setting.” Saturday’s jazz lineup and Sunday’s blues lineup (Sept. 12-13) will be announced in April. Check here for updates.
After the Masada show at Yoshi’s, I overheard a guy talking to bassist extraordinaire Greg Cohen, who along with accompanying Ornette Coleman as of late was part of the great New York band on Rain Dogs, Frank’s Wild Years and Swordfishtrombones. “Hey, guess who I played with the other week?” the guy asked. “Waits. Went up to his place and rehearsed.”
“Oh?” asked Cohen. “New material?”
It seems so. In addition to finally releasing Orphans on vinyl soon, Tom Waits’ publicist confirms that he is writing, rehearsing, mangling, fixing and re-mangling new material for an album to be released in the sometime-maybe-this-year-who-knows future. Recording is anticipated sometime this summer. Waits, of course, was last seen snapping photos of the brimming crowd that gathered en masse at his daughter Kellesimone’s art show in Santa Rosa.
Despite a mission statement promising to “present and preserve jazz,” it’s probably time to just roll over and accept that the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival’s gonna book whoever they’re gonna book. We could say, you know, Lyle Lovett has some sax players in his band. Joe Cocker, you know, he might play some solos. And hey, they added that tiny little “+” to their name to represent past headliners like Steve Winwood, Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller, LeAnn Rimes, Michael McDonald, Bonnie Raitt and Kool & the Gang. Who are we to be snobs?
But look, since no other media outlet in the area seems brave enough to protect this American art form—and since local jazz programmers don’t want to be quoted saying “You mean that bullshit thing they call a jazz festival?” (actual quote)—it’s up to us. There are plainly no jazz artists headlining Sonoma Jazz+ 2009 this year. Around here, we’d even be cool if, like, Rick Braun was playing. But Chris Isaak?
Sonoma Jazz+ does many great things, not the least of which is providing support to music programs in area schools. They also have a second stage, and ‘Wine and Song in the Plaza’ with small combos. But in light of the PR assertion that they’ve already booked any jazz headliner who could fill a 3,800-seat tent, our suggestion is to honor jazz and please just call the festival what it actually is: the Sonoma Music and Wine Festival. Joe Cocker, Lyle Lovett and his Large Band, Ziggy Marley, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, Shelby Lynne and Keb’ Mo’ come to Sonoma May 21-24. Tickets are on sale here.
Simultaneous with the creative definitions emanating from Sonoma is the encouraging news from the Healdsburg Jazz Festival announcing its initial lineup, and it looks great. John Handy, Randy Weston, Airto Moreira, Esperanza Spaulding, Dee Dee Bridgewater, Denny Zeitlin and Julian Lage head up a list-in-progress of bona fide jazz headliners appearing May 29-June 7 this year. For updates, check here.
Hey man, the Harmony Festival is full of good vibes this year! Michael Franti, India Arie, Matisyahu, Cake, Steve Kimock, ALO, Balkan Beat Box, and Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars head up the festival June 12-14 at the Fairgrounds. Barring any John Mclaughlin-esque guitar freakouts by Kimock, the weekend should be bereft of maniacal discord. Be harmonious.
The Santa Rosa Symphony announced its rough sketch for the 2009-2010 season today, including a finale performance by Ute Lemper singing Kurt Weill’s Seven Deadly Sins! Also on the slate: returning conductor emeritus Jeffrey Kahane playing Rachmaninoff’s Piano Concerto No. 3 (the one from Shine), performances of Beethoven’s 4th, 5th and 9th symphonies, Mozart’s Requiem, a program celebrating Chopin’s 200th birthday, the Red Violin concerto, and more. I always love the symphony’s Magnum Opus commissions, and Bahzad Ranjbaran’s new work will receive its world premiere next season as well.
On a semi-related note, I listened to Elliott Carter last night—an LP I found years ago, bought for the cover art and loved for the music. It’s his Sonata for Cello and Piano, and I still love it. Unbelievable that he’s 100 years old and still completely lucid about his work. I love the excerpt from this interview, which succinctly captures not only his sense of humor but the reason why I give such a damn about music:
Q: Could you imagine a day when people, concertgoers, would hear your music and walk out humming your music?
A: Well… it’d be hard on their throats!
Q: What would you want the listener to walk away with after hearing your music?
A: Happiness. And pleasure. One of the fundamental things always that music should do is not only give pleasure, but widen one’s horizons, and give new kinds of fantasies, and new kinds of pleasure, and new kinds of surprises, and new kinds of connections between things.
It was the fucking awesomest one-song set.
It was 11pm. Three bands had already played. I was planning on taking off to Sebastopol, had already said my goodbyes, and was literally halfway out the front door of the 600 House when Not To Reason Why started playing. Awww, shit. After the first couple notes, I was lured, like a magnet, back into the living room. How could I leave? When it comes to Not To Reason Why, you can’t even pretend like there’s an option. Just give in.
The Carlo Rossi was flowing. Fools were juiced. And if you’ve never heard them, Not To Reason Why are on some heavy-ass, pulsing, move-your-body epic-type tip. The song: “Zeitgeist.” The living room heaved, hands shot into the air, and the band played intensely, furiously, like it was the end of the world. Howls of joy. Heads shook in disbelief. Jessie Mae jumped up on top of an amplifier. For six sweet minutes, miracles came true.
Then the cops came.
People are always talking about how there’s nothing to do around here, but tonight was a pretty good example of why that’s untrue. Here it was, Thursday night of all nights, there’s a killer house party that gets busted by the cops and yet there’s still more to do. Juke Joint with J-Boogie. I headed west.
I pulled up to the Hopmonk Tavern a little before midnight and saw, I kid you not, a guy and a girl, standing and squatting next to each other in the parking lot, both talking to each other and pissing on the asphalt, simultaneously. Love works in incredible ways.
Inside, J-Boogie had just started his set with a megamix of Stevie Wonder songs—it being Stevie’s birthday—and the place was hopping like mad. Bodies on the floor, busting some serious moves. Breakdancers in the corner. Girls dancing on the stage. Again, the magnetic pull erased any choice other than to get down. Even the wallflowers were dancing in their shoes.
Out in the beer garden, I ran into a buddy of mine and asked him how, in his opinion, a small town like Sebastopol was able to so overwhelmingly support a night like Juke Joint. “It’s new,” he said, citing that everything fresh and hip has its initial glory period. Having worked at now-defunct Barcode in Santa Rosa, he could be said to speak from experience. “It’ll die down,” he predicted.
He could be right. But judging from last night’s huge crowd, and judging from the hypnotic spell J-Boogie had over everyone, it was hard to imagine an impending lull on the near horizon.
I’ve dug J-Boogie for almost ten years now, and the bulk of his set—after the Stevie Wonder tracks, and before the Motown / Atlantic megamix at the end—was a slick reminder of why he’s so great. Crazy, rhythmic grooves from all around the world; none of them recognizable, all of them dope. Also, J-Boogie’s one of the few DJs who can drop a long three-minute drum break with intros on the upbeat and full-on long paces of total silence and still keep the crowd not only moving but hollering with excitement. Hell yeah!
More photos after the jump.