On Friday, Dec 2, a devastating fire broke out at a concert happening in a Warehouse-turned-arts space known as the Ghost Ship in Oakland. As of this writing, at least 36 victims have been found in the wreckage and many more people are still missing.
It’s a gut-wrenching tragedy for the community in Oakland and the entire Bay Area, the largest fire-related disaster of this kind since the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Rhode Island. And it’s still unfolding.
In the wake, many are already placing blame and pointing fingers, but at this moment, help is needed most. There are several ways you can do your part to help relief efforts and the families of those lost.
Online, there are already crowdfunding campaigns up and running to help victims and their loved ones. Gray Area Foundation for the Arts has started a donation page, and the Oakland A’s and Oakland Raiders are throwing into a fund as well, each matching up to $50,000. There is also a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for the approximately 20 people who lived in the warehouse space.
In addition, there are several concert benefits taking place in and around the Bay Area. On Wednesday, Dec 7, evocative indie songwriter Kimya Dawson is headlining a two-show night of music and film screenings at MidSummer Studios in Emeryville. And in the North Bay, the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa is hosting a night of music and art on Friday, Dec 9, with performers including Rags, Horders, Secret Cat and others showing their support for the Oakland community.
Oakland’s indie pop outfit Trails & Ways spent four years toiling in their bedroom recording set up, perfecting a bubbling, shimmering brand of ethereal pop music infused with the bossa nova sounds that songwriter Keith Brower Brown soaked up in his time in Brazil.
Those toils came to fruition this past summer when the band released their debut full-length album, Pathology, on indie label Barsuk Records. Praised for it’s infectious melodies, DIY aesthetic and sweet samba rhythms, the album is a gem.
This week, Trails & Ways bring the pop to Marin, in a special show at Sweetwater Music Hall on Friday, Oct 16, presented by the Mill Valley Film Festival. For the occasion, Trails & Ways is getting visual. The band worked with San Francisco visual artist and director Gonzalo Eyzaguirre and developed a system that takes the live stage feed from the band’s instruments and translates the audio signals into ever-changing visual shapes and patterns that plays simultaneously with the music.
To get a taste of what’s in store, watch the band’s recent music video for “Jacaranda,” directed by Eyzaguirre, and featuring a slew of trippy visuals that perfectly match the spacey music. For more information on the upcoming show, click here.
Since moving to Oakland, songwriter Ezra Furman has become a popular, though often enigmatic figure, in the Bay Area. As the leader of Ezra Furman & the Harpoons, or any of the many other collaborations the artist engages in, Furman delights with great songs and heartfelt delivery.
With a new album, Perpetual Motion People, released two months back on Bella Union, Furman today unveils a cover of the song “Androgynous” by the Replacements, one of five cover songs recorded for a special edition of the album that’s due out later this year.
Since Furman personally identities as gender-fluid, this new take on the classic 80s song written by Paul Westerberg speaks volumes about finding happiness any way you can. Listen to the track below, a simple shot of guitars and vocals that absolutely nails the emotion of the original.
Treasure Island Music Festival is more than just music, it’s an experience. The festival is so well produced that it wouldn’t be difficult to have a good time having never heard of any of the bands playing. The seventh incarnation of the two-day festival wrapped up yesterday, and it was another beaming success. In addition to music, there is a shopping area, arts and crafts tent, zine and comic library, silent disco (live DJ spinning for wireless headphone-wearing listeners), food trucks, a Ferris wheel, bubbles and the best people watching money can buy. Wow, that last part sounded creepy, but you get the idea.
But there’s also music—lots of it. Each stage is timed down to the minute, so there is never a dull moment. There’s also never a moment to let the ears relax, and the only booth with earplugs was selling them for a buck a pair. Note for next year, guys: GIVE AWAY FREE EARPLUGS.
I’ve listed some favorites and least favorites, not based on the quality of their set (I’m sure there are fans of the bands who might think it was the band’s best performance ever), but on entertainment quality from an outside perspective. I must stress that even what I found to be the most banal of musical performances still turned out to be quite entertaining.
Little Dragon: 3.5/5 Good stage presence and real instruments made this a highlight on a day of laptop-driven DJ tunes and pumping bass. Singer Yukimi Nagano flows musically and visually as the leader of this electronic music group. They split the difference with a live drummer playing an electronic drum kit.Danny Brown: 3.5/5 Once the sound engineer figured out how to properly mix rap vocals (it took a couple songs), Danny Brown’s nasally, violent delivery emerged and piqued the ears of festivalgoers that might not have come specifically to see the last-minute replacement for Tricky. The early performance was a good boost of live human energy to contrast the repetitive bass and synthesizer drum sounds the rest of the day had in store.
Saturday’s Least Favorites
Disclosure: 2/5 In haiku: such low energy / could not keep my eyes open / what was that you said?
STRFKR: 4.5/5 Not surprised that this electro-indie group was top notch, but surprised at how well their albums translated to live performance. They know their music is, at times, slow to develop. But they spruce up the show with visuals, like two dudes in padded sumo suits going at it for a couple tunes. They even played along with the bits, and it didn’t sacrifice the quality of the music.
James Blake: 4/5 Great soundtrack for the day shifting gears into cold night. Focused songs had energy in their own way, giving a nice break from nonstop dancing. Blake is an excellent performer whose passion is evident when he plays. His songs feature piano and good songwriting, a timeless, classic combination.Haim: 4/5 Wow. These girls rocked harder than anyone at the festival. The three sisters and their male drummer had a sound reminiscent of Prince, during his more rocking moments, and even captured some funk to go with it. Their “girl power” shtick was a little heavy at times, like when they spoke at length how they now know what Beyonce feels like when the wind blows hair into their mouths, and when they squealed with delight when handed candy from the crowd. But I’m not a young girl, so maybe it was indeed the perfect concert set for their target audience. Either way, it was impressive.
Sunday’s least favorites:
Animal Collective: 1.5/5 Sometimes art is so conceptual that it goes over my head. I was hoping this was the case with Animal Collective, and at one point I actually asked a friend if they knew what the point was supposed to be. Nobody knew. I’m not sure Animal Collective knew. A very cool stage set (inflatable teeth with individual projections made the stage look like a gigantic open mouth) and light show helped slightly, but the music was so repetitive and the melodies so simply and leading nowhere that I left to watch football about two-thirds of the way through. I still heard the music (it was impossible not to from anywhere on the island, really), and still was not impressed.
Last night’s show at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa was a revelation. I thought punk was dead; turns out it’s alive, but it lives in Oakland and Mexico City.
On the hottest day of the year (103 degrees, for fuck’s sake), a bunch of punk bands and fans crowded into the even hotter Arlene Francis Center to “dance” to fast, loud rock and roll music. Dancing, of course, is subjective. Nobody complained about the heat, but shirts were removed (and, at times, pants). Some bands didn’t show up, some unscheduled bands did, almost everyone shared the same drum set all night (which, since I was running sound, I was fully on board with). Turns out most of the bands were from Oakland, and two were from Mexico City. So that’s where all the rock and roll was hiding.
Burger Records’ Pookie and the Poodlez started off in the café, with the underwear-clad front man screeching into a yellow telephone receiver living a second life as a microphone. This is the ‘60s, semi-surf punk craze all the kids are into now, with the grit and simplicity of the Ramones combined with the poppy harmonies of the Monkees. That front man was in four bands of the evening, including Elvis Christ, Cumstain and Primitive Hearts, covering vocals, guitar and drumming duties.
In Cumstain, the singer and drummer donned stockings over their heads, as if they were about to burglarize the crowd. The only thing they stole, however, was the show, as the crowd threw possibly half-full cans of Pabst at the stage in appreciation. Crazy antics and wearing a stocking on your head in 100-degree heat playing fast punk rock under stage lights for half an hour will do that.
And now for something completely different, in every sense of the word. We Are the Men took the stage next. This super-talented group of Bay Area natives played unclassifiable rock, possibly in the vein of Dillinger Escape Plan or Triclops, but with a hearty helping of what-the-fuck-is-this-music on the side. Lots of screaming, lots of dynamic and style changes mid-song, lots of catchy-as-fuck hooks that disappeared as quickly and mysteriously as they appeared. I liked them, I think. Judging by faces in the crowd, it seems like many had a similar opinion. I think.
Elvis Christ was led by a standup comedian in training, who yakked about half the time, and took a Pabst to the nuts for his troubles. All in good fun, because he was actually somewhat amusing, and the doo-wop punk rock was delightful.
Los Headaches, from Mexico City, came on at midnight after waiting the whole day for their 15 minutes, literally, of “fame.” Even at this late hour, there were a few stragglers still watching and dancing. The next band, which featured the same members plus one crazy ass motherfucker of a singer, played for 20 minutes immediately after.
I didn’t catch their name, they weren’t on the official flyer It’s Los Vincent Black Shadows – Thanks Sam). Holy shit. At 12:15am, this band pulled in a larger crowd just two songs into their set. The energy gave the crowd a second wind and stage diving, knocking over of instruments, heavy moshing (not that circle pit bullshit) took place. Their songs were in English (as far as I could tell, at least–he was yelling most of the time, sometimes with a microphone literally in his mouth), but it didn’t matter because punk rock transcends language. During one song, the singer repeatedly bashed his guitar, neck down, into the ground, then threw it across the stage and ran after it, like it had just stolen his wallet, and stomped on it to teach it a lesson. The guitar did not break.
Santa Rosa’s music scene is vastly differently from other parts of the Bay Area, as evidenced by this show comprised of bands from outside the area. Kudos to Jake Ward for organizing the show, which also had a barbecue and awesome looking stage. Here’s to more traveling bands coming to one of the few venues in greater Sonoma County supporting music as more than just a moneymaker.
Miguel Pimentel is a 25-year old singer, songwriter and producer from Los Angeles who has made one of this year’s most bewilderingly satisfying albums, Kaleidoscope Dream. His music is R&B in the same way that Lionel Richie’s solo hits are R&B—instead of simply smoldering rootlessly in the modern formula, it assimilates both pop tropes and sonic experimentation in the pursuit of access to the part of one’s brain that processes an elusive strain called “catchiness.” (Miguel would never stoop to “Dancin’ on the Ceiling,” but a burner like “Runnin’ With the Night” is up his alley.)
His songs, most of which he writes, are incredible, but there’s little clue on Kaleidoscope Dream toward what kind of performer Miguel might be in a live setting. Does he play guitar like Prince, a clear inspiration? Does he pace back and forth, hunched over? I wasn’t sure until, at the Oakland Arena Friday night opening for Trey Songz, the lights went down and the pitch of the audience’s screams went up. Miguel emerged through wisps of a fog machine dressed in a custom-tailored suit, wingtip shoes, acutely tapered slacks, a silver lame shirt, dark shades and his signature hair. He then proceeded to dance with precision and unimaginable verve over every square foot of the stage.
Eminently healthy, Miguel moves like a less-furious James Brown, mentally separating the top portion of his body from the lower wind-up toys that other people might call legs. He is unafraid to laugh at the outrageousness of his own physical ability, as when he executed the famous “falling microphone stand” trick, or when he leaped from the side of the stage, over a six-foot gap, to land standing atop a stack of the arena’s bass woofers.
While all this is going on, Miguel manages to sing far better than most singers who just stand there. Yes, those high falsettos on “Adorn” were perfect. Moreover, he’d change melodies slightly, in subtle ways. On the chorus of “How Many Drinks,” a pyrotechnic singer like Mariah Carey might warble and flutter and yodel all over the chord changes; Miguel sung the sixth instead of the fifth. Simple, and effective.
The set only featured five songs from Kaleidoscope Dream, the rest coming from Miguel’s first album, his mixtapes or his guest spots. Sources mattered little; “in the palm of his hand” is the best description for where he had the crowd. “Thank you so much to the Bay Area,” he said at one point. “You guys supported me before my hometown did. It’s crazy, every time I come to the Bay I think about this special someone who inspired me to write these songs. Maybe you know her.”
“Do You…” might’ve lacked the machine-gun drums and popping disco bass of the original, but segued neatly into Bob Marley’s “Stir it Up”; “Lotus Flower Bomb” turned into an enthusiastic singalong; and when Miguel ripped off his shirt during “Pussy is Mine,” well, he basically rendered the arena a helpless pool of female squeals. “Adorn” ended the set, and Miguel, legs flailing as ever, danced back to the uppermost riser, jumped high into the air, and landed perfectly, in the splits. Incredible.
How Many Drinks
All I Want Is You
Do You Like Drugs
Lotus Flower Bomb
The Pussy is Mine
The L.A. Times has a review of Nicki Minaj’s L.A. show that criticizes the singer for having too many personas, which I think misses the point. What Nicki Minaj is is too many personas. Nicki Minaj is a bunch of unrealized, scattershot ideas. Nicki Minaj is a schizophrenic 12-year-old with tourettes who’s drank three mochas and has been handed a mic. Because of this—this barrage of short, quick information blasts one experiences while listening to the 29-year-old’s music—Nicki Minaj mirrors the 21st century and its nonstop information overload. It’s a genius, prescient presentation, that happens to fill the important role in teenage pop music of driving older people crazy.
Nicki Minaj is also Katy Perry for the fuckups, evinced by the crowd at the Paramount Theater in Oakland on Thursday night for Minaj’s first-ever headlining tour. In every direction: neon wigs, tight dresses, high heels, high hems, low necklines, lace tutus and gratuitous cleavage, but, like, with intentionally messed-up makeup, or ripped fishnets, or tattoo sleeves. One could easily people-watch in the lobby and feel like the $100 tickets were already money well spent.
For a few seconds after Jeff Mangum walked out of the wings at the Fox Theater in Oakland on Monday night, there was only one prevailing collective thought. “Holy shit, he’s real,” said almost everybody to themselves. For a certain fraction of the sold-out crowd, that moment could have begun and ended the show. We were, after all, paying to see the most mythical figure in music since, I don’t know—Syd Barrett?
Mangum’s story is so compelling, and his In the Aeroplane Over the Sea filled with such brilliance, that when he disappeared it truly felt like a betrayal. How could he give the world this work of beauty and then retreat? What if he never wrote another song again, ever? Just where is he, anyway?
So in the short time it took Mangum to walk to his chair at the center of the stage, pick up a guitar and start strumming “Two Headed Boy, Pt. II,” the theater was already fully satisfied: There he is, hallelujah. Naturally, it just got better from there. No longtime Neutral Milk Hotel fan could have possibly left the Fox Theater disappointed. Mangum’s voice, penetrating as ever, filled the large theater like xenon, and I was relieved to find that it hasn’t changed one iota in the last 13 years. Still a reedy, forceful instrument unto itself, and still capable of hitting high notes, like the climaxes on “Oh Comely.”
I was also worried that the crowd would be so overcome they’d sing along to every word, and even though it happened, it wasn’t irritating. Mangum himself encouraged it, especially on the iconic “King of Carrot Flowers” and encore “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea.” He spoke little between songs, and what he said was muttered and hard to hear. It was really, really fantastic to hear Mangum introduce “True Love Will Find You In the End,” by Daniel Johnston, and I heard that the next night, during Tuesday’s show, he dedicated a song to the Thinkin’ Fellers Union Local 282, which, wow.
People hung on his every word, of course, and being revered has its privileges. When, at the start of the set, Mangum asked someone to stop filming, they instantly complied. In fact, in my section of the theater, it seemed like everyone got the memo. Barely anyone had their phones up in the air. And other than singing along, no one made a sound while Mangum unfurled brilliant song after brilliant song: “Holland, 1945,” “Ghost” and “Two-Headed Boy,” which ended right on the beat with a familiar drum-and-tambourine cadence emanating from backstage, and guest horn players Scott Spillane, Laura Carter and Andrew Reiger waltzed out to a perfect reprise arrangement of “The Fool.” The place went nuts.
At the end of the night, when Mangum walked off the stage after his encores, after the house lights came up and music started playing over the P.A., I saw something I’m not sure I’ve ever seen in all the shows I’ve seen. The wildly cheering audience would simply not give up. They kept clapping. They kept screaming. It got louder, and louder. This went on for a long time. Come back, Jeff Mangum, come back, the roar said. Don’t go away again. Come back, come back. Louder, and louder, and louder.
And then the lights went back down.
Mangum came out one last time, and played “Engine,” a b-side. A thrilling end to a special evening.
1. Somewhere I still have emails between Mac and Laura and myself about publishing for “Two-Headed Boy.” (It was 2003, and we wanted to release a cover of it.) And in one email Laura says “Is this something we should get in touch with Jeff about?” and I was like NO WAY HE EXISTS.
2. No new original songs were played. Mangum’s been honest about his chances of writing a new record: “Sometimes I kind of doubt it,” he’s said. Without new material, it’s questionable how long he can stay satisfied playing the same old songs, and based on his demeanor I get the impression these shows he’s playing might be rare.
3. We were talking on the way back to the car about Aeroplane and its place. “It’s like the Blonde on Blonde of our day or something,” I theorized, but Hoyt one-upped me: “No, no. Forever Changes. It has horns.”
4. The show helped heal over a decade of regret: I actually had the chance to buy tickets to see Neutral Milk Hotel at the Bottom of the Hill in 1998. I hated the Jesus Christ line. So I didn’t.
5. Here’s the setlist:
Two-Headed Boy Pt. 2
The King of Carrot Flowers Pt. 1
The King of Carrot Flowers, Pts. Two & Three
Gardenhead / Leave Me Alone
True Love Will Find You in the End
Song Against Sex
Ferris Wheel on Fire
In the Aeroplane Over the Sea
The-Dream has played only twice before in the Bay Area—once opening for Mary J. Blige and Jay-Z at the Oakland Arena, and once opening for Keyshia Cole at the Paramount Theatre. Finally, on Thursday night at the New Parish in Oakland, he headlined here, and played a nearly two-hour set with a live three-piece band. The show was tremendous. The-Dream’s been on tour for a while now—Jay-Z and Beyoncé showed up to his tour opener in NYC—and at this point he’s totally honed his set.
From the opening notes to the last bass hit, the show was one huge party, with a room full of fans reveling in song after perfectly crafted song. On the floor, grinding. Up in the VIP, ass-shaking. On stage, ruling it. For two hours, the entire club was awash in sweet release. You think I exaggerate, don’t you? Well, watch this video.
“I’ve had this Oakland cap on since I started this tour,” said The-Dream, pointing to his Raiders cap. “I remember. I don’t forget shit.” It was Oakland, he explained, that embraced his songs early on. His set spanned his first two albums, mostly, and pretty much ignored the vastly dull but critically praised Love King. “Shawty Is the Shit” was a perfect opener—those stories about never being able to hear the Beatles live, because of teenage girls screaming so loud? Yeah—and within 25 minutes we got “Nikki,” “Falsetto,” and a slowed-down “I Luv Ur Girl” that exploded the joint.
Radio Killa signee Casha joined Dream for “Hit the Lights,” his latest single, and then worked the stage solo to perform her Denice Williams cover of “Silly.” It was weird enough to include the song on his free album 1977, and a set-killer in the live show; the monitors must have been dead, because Casha sang it flat. (Other so-so choices: token versions of “Gangsta Luv” and “Throw it in the Bag,” the Snoop and Fabolous hits that Dream guested on, and a cover of LoveRance’s “Beat the Pussy Up.”)
“Walkin’ on the Moon” contained a brief Michael Jackson tribute, “Love King” was the one and only song performed from Love King, 1977‘s “Used to Be” scathed with fierce passion, and the epic “Fancy” was all backlight and mood, erupting with drummer Charles Chaffer’s entrance in the song. Even though just a three-piece, The-Dream’s band replicated his songs perfectly, and ably took cues from their leader when to deviate from the arrangements.
Between songs, The-Dream himself seemed energized by the love from the sold-out crowd. “Purple Kisses,” awash in purple lights, led into a spoken interlude:
“In case you forgot what kind of records these are… these are records to fuck to,” he said. “If your life is hard, if things ain’t goin right, you just ain’t fuckin’ the right bitch. Girls, you too. If things aint goin right, you just aint fuckin’ the right nigga. It’s that easy. I ain’t been fuckin the right bitch for the last two years. You could tell. So instead I wrote songs that made it sound like I was fuckin’ the right bitch.”
The-Dream has a new album out this summer, and based on the two new singles and the raw intensity of this tour, it’ll be incredible. After infamous snubs from the music industry and the threat of retirement, his return is welcome indeed—just ask the dedicated group of fans chanting for “Put it Down,” even after the lights came up and the exhausted crowd started filing out.
Love vs. Money Pt. II Intro
Shawty is the Shit
Kill the Lights (w/ Casha)
I Luv Your Girl
Walkin’ on the Moon
Right Side of My Brain
Throw it In the Bag
Beat the Pussy Up
Used to Be
Rockin’ That Shit
Let Me See the Booty
Kreayshawn—the self-directing, self-editing, mega-inhaling personality from Oakland—signed to Columbia this week. If you haven’t seen “Gucci Gucci” yet, you might not know what this means. Check it out below, and then try to get it out of your head.
Kreayshawn came up in the hyphy craze, keeps good ties with Lil’ B from the Pack, and tweets with Mistah F.A.B. Though she’s in L.A. these days, hanging out with Odd Future and Soulja Boy, she still reps Oakland pretty hard wherever she goes.
It’s easy to be conflicted on Kreayshawn. Let’s face it, it’s been a while since there’s been a rising star out of the Bay Area, let alone Oakland. (Keyshia Cole’s got love for the city but moved the hell out, and when I asked her once in an interview what East Bay spots she like to hit up on tour, she couldn’t name any.) So it’s exciting to have some Bay Area action going on.
But . . . is “Gucci Gucci” really the face of Oaktown?
Behold, two girls fighting over who’s more hood!
“This chick @KREAYSHAWN is a rapper…yes. But hood? NO. She knows nothing about the streets she’s not half as hard as she comes off as,” tweets Harmony Gabriel, from Hustler and HBO’s Cathouse. “Makes me sick..maybe if she was some type of hustler or came from the streets or had some type of ambition but she’s trash to me. White chick acting hard throwing up gang signs from home made gangs…. #FAIL.”
Lest one doubt Harmony’s inherent hoodness, the credentials come forth:
“I got people in REAL hoods that can vouch for me I’m not hood now cause I GREW up I get big girl $ now but believe me I come from ‘hood.'”
This triggers Kreayshawn’s response:
“shut up with yor rants I’m from east Oakland u skanky.”
“Who’s hotter? Who’s the realest? @KREAYSHAWN or @HARMONYG? #ImJustSaying”
At this point, if you’re thinking it’s time for Kreayshawn to take the high road, you’re right.
“your a trip chicka I’m from east Oakland you can come visit my hood and tell me what you think… much luv anyways.”
None of this sits too well with Harmony Gabriel, unfortunately.
“@KREAYSHAWN Yea that’s all you got? Cause your mom happen to have you in east side oakland your hood!? Hahahaa!! Ask about me!! Buy my mags!”
Sensing unneeded drama, Kreayshawn then advises that she will “only reply to positive things from here on out,” and Harmony Gabriel, after reminding people “I sold pussy” and telling them to wait for her upcoming rap video, declares herself the victor: “the title is mine the crown is mine.”
And that, dear readers, is the hood battle of the day.
P.S. If you’ve been following the phenomenon of Kreayshawn, this excellent piece by Meaghan Garvey irons out a lot of conflicting feelings.