Slow Gherkin was one of the best ska bands at a time when fellow skankers the Mighty Mighty Bosstones, Less than Jake, Goldfinger and Reel Big Fish were all over the airwaves, both on radio and television (remember when MTV shows music videos?). They were one of the top acts in the Bay Area, relentlessly touring for six years and gaining a following across the country as well as in Europe throughout the ’90s. “Trapped Like Rats in Myers Flats,” from their second album, Shed Some Skin, is still a singalong hit, as shown by their sold-out New York performance. And to this day, their version of Hava Nagila is one of the best tracks on my “These Songs Will Make Everyone Dance” playlist.
They wrote really good songs, not just fun, dancy teenage punk diddies with poppy, upstrummed guitar. If stripped down to acoustic guitar and voice, they’d be the best song of the night at any cafe’s open mic session. Their lyrics are deep and music moving; songs stands up to any by those who made it really big, and it always felt like it would just take that one catchy lick, that one un-erasable melody to cement Slow Gherkin’s place in music lore.
But, alas, they remain mostly a local memory for Bay Area music lovers who grew up in the Clinton era. Do these two shows in one year—double what they’ve played in the 13 years leading up to this point—signal a full-fledged reunion? One can only hope. But one thing’s sure: if you plan to attend their December show at the Phoenix Theater, it might be good to start polishing those Doc Martins now—they’re probably pretty dusty.
Reggae dancehall legend Barrington Levy blazed through Petaluma on Thursday night in classic dub train style. Barrington’s voice is sounding cleaner than ever and his form is looking fantastic as he approaches 50 years old. The show was part of the Road to California Roots Festival tour, a push towards spreading the word about the massive three-day event next May. There will be many more – look for J Boog and Los Rakas in January.
The house was packed at the Mystic Theater; a heady crowd leaning on the farther side of thirty and forty. Barrington paid court to his long time fans with studio-style versions of “My Time” and “Too Experienced”, letting them flow off the mic like he has played them for decades (he has). His encore of “Black Rose” hushed the crowd until everyone started singing along. But the real depth of his performance was in the heavy duty b-side takes on lesser known tracks like “A Ya We Deh” and “Bounty Hunter”.
Holding the decks was WBLK selector Jacques Powell-Wilson, founder of Monday Night Edutainment at Hopmonk Tavern in Sebastopol. The sound system is rounding out 12 years as the North Bay’s longest running reggae genre night. Jacques brought down some of his massive collection of vinyl rarities including the Meditations’ “Stranger In Love” and Dennis Brown’s “Come Home With Me”. If you can dig it, WBLK is hosting their first in a series of all-vinyl appreciation nights starting December 9th with Ras Gilbert of Shashamani Sound.
Opening for Barrington was former Sonoma County, now Santa Cruz transplant, band Thrive. The group recently joined forces with California Roots Festival organizers and have been touring the country spreading sunny, post-Sublime positive reggae, which they have now infused with RnB pop. I see them shying away from their reggae-rock roots in the coming months, but we’ll see where they take their sound come festival season.
I gotta say this: The Mystic Theater hasn’t seen this much smoke in years. Ever since management started really cracking down on puffing inside the venue, Petaluma’s reggae scene hasn’t been the same. Undercover goons jam their way through the crowds, flashlights scanning for joints, grabbing hold of skinny hippies and short frat dudes with their menacing stares that promise, “try that again, so I can haul your ass out in front of everyone”. But it’s no fun when the homies can’t have none… Thankfully, Thursday was a chill alternative to the type of muscle attitude we’ve gotten used to at Sonoma County shows. Probably because the show was too expensive for the college kids to raid. Although many of them could have benefited from knowing the roots of where their beloved Cali Roots Rock comes from.
On another note: Rather than releasing full albums of new material, Barrington seems to be focusing on recent collaborations with newer generations of established artists, namely JadaKiss and Vybz Kartel, Kardinal and Busta Rhymes. Check this made-for-MTV Jams 2010 release “No War” featuring Kardinal. The original features Busta Rhymes and quotes President Obama’s inaugural speech.
Here was the moment at the Courtney Love show last night, and it was brief: right after “Violet,” there’s the usual applause and all, but then it comes back, and surges into a roar, like the crowd all agrees to just cheer the shit out of Courtney Love for, I don’t know, being through hell, most of it self-inflicted, and being murdered by the media, and having her daughter taken away once or twice, and the Kurt thing, but living through it against the odds, and now, playing a sparsely-populated show in some fuckin’ chicken town, and showing up in a silver cutaway jumpsuit and bare feet and way-fake boobs and ratty blonde hair, and actually smiling while singing lines like “I always wanted to die”—and then, during this spontaneous burst of love from the crowd, Courtney Love, 49 years old, looks out into the Phoenix Theater, coyly grins, then visibly swells with gratitude, cocks her head and blows a kiss, serious as a heart attack.
You know how you see a band that’s famous for being sloppy, or mad at each other, or too drunk, but then there’s the one night they’re super tight, or just happy, or sober, and it’s like “THIS is what this band always could be but now finally, gloriously is“? That was Courtney Love last night at the Phoenix, accepting three bouquets of roses when she hit the stage, opening the set with “Plump,” screaming the lines “IT MAKES ME SICK” like the screech of a malfunctioning tractor and, at the end of the song, looking down at the monitor and telling the soundman: “I just blew a speaker.”
Petaluma’s 2013 Rivertown Revival is slated to be its biggest party yet. Part music festival, part small town showdown, the festivities include zany art boat races, fancy old-timey costumes, and a huge array of local food purveyors to match. You can read up on the history of the event in our 2010 Bohemian feature article here.
The live music offerings include some of Sonoma County’s best talent, including 2013 Bohemian Nor Bay Award winners The Highway Poets (best rock band), Frankie Boots & the County Line (best country/Americana band), and a whole slew of nominees who are equally deserving of winning best band. Check them all out for yourself this Saturday with late-night after parties spilling into local restaurants and music venues.
The Rivertown Revival is this Saturday, July 20th from 11am-8pm, $5, babies free. Steamer Landing Park, 6 Copeland Street, Petaluma. no phone.
Sure, we knew there were some creative musicians out there who might enter our Neutral Milk Hotel cover song contest. But how could we have expected what musical treasures you, dear readers, sent in?
There was the in-the-red, gleefully distorted version of “Gardenhead/Leave Me Alone” sent in by Ted Farber, and the horn-flavored version of “A Baby for Pree / Where You’ll Find Me Now” by Chris Alarie. John Gaby’s autotuned “Communist Daughter” changed the time signature to 6/8 with a circus feel, and Brian O’Connor played with chromatics and fretboard slides in a version of “The King of Carrot Flowers, Part II.” We even got a crazy cut-and-paste edit called “Two-Headed Sex Machine Man” from Ricardo M’ohaire that chopped together samples of James Brown, Neutral Milk Hotel and various spoken-word recordings.
But when it came time to select a winner, we went with Dustin Heald’s imaginative cover of “You’ve Passed,” played on guitar, darbuka, zils and melodica. Without trying to emulate the letter of Mangum’s delivery, the version captures the slight Middle Eastern spirit of the intro lick and takes the song to another place entirely. Congratulations, Dustin, you’ve won two tickets to Jeff Mangum’s sold-out show at the Phoenix Theater on Tuesday, April 9.
Hear Dustin’s winning cover song here.
Thanks to everyone who sent in their songs!
It’s official: Jeff Mangum, frontman and musical genius behind the band Neutral Milk Hotel, will play the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Tuesday, April 9.
Mangum, a famously reclusive figure for a decade after releasing the landmark album In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, has slowly re-emerged and performed live over the last few years. (We reviewed his show at the Fox Theater in Oakland here.) In the Aeroplane still manages to hover near the top of most “Best Albums of the 1990s” lists, and shows no sign of slowing in terms of influence and scope.
This is another show for the history books at the Phoenix Theater, which has of late hosted instant-sellout shows with Snoop Dogg and Animal Collective. (And don’t forget Hanson, which had teenage girls camping outside the Phoenix Theater for two days before the show.) My guess is tickets will sell quickly for this one, too.
Luckily, as evidenced by his recent shows, Jeff Mangum plays well-arranged setlists of classic material, and still has that same reedy, hypnotizing voice. Get ready, folks.
Before Slightly Stoopid took the stage Sunday night at the Mystic Theater, vocalists Kyle McDonald and Miles Doughty were killing time back stage talking about living in Ocean Beach. OB, as locals call it, is still connected to San Diego but far enough away that kids can still skate around town and all your neighbors are at the punk rock shows. It is the last night of the band’s three week tour and the vibe is laid back. People are filtering in and out of back stage, the Jäger is flowing and sax scales are filling up the background.
Trinidad reggae star Marlon Asher is on stage and inside the green room there are stacks of Lagunitas “Hop Stoopid” beer cases. Slightly Stoopid is sponsored by the Petaluma brewery and they are sent truck loads of it for the band’s tours. I hear one or two people say it’s pretty strong for before the show. But as the night wears down and everyone’s sitting around the bong, a nice Double IPA aids the come-down.
Slightly Stoopid was formed almost twenty years ago by McDonald and Doughty. They were two high school kids when Brad Nowell signed them to Skunk Records after opening for a Sublime show in Long Beach. Most of the current members have been with the band half that time and in the last decade they’ve toured the whole world. Now with Karl Denson of the Grey Boy All-Stars, the band is sky-rocketing to new heights, playing venues and festivals that make the Mystic Theater seem like a secret show.
The year is 2043, America has split into two countries, Chinese is the most-spoken language on the planet and music is made almost entirely on computers. A grizzled old man sits next to the holographic Yule log fireplace steaming from Netflix 3D and beckons the children from their video game contact lenses to listen to his story.
Gather round here, kids, I have a story for you. It takes place in a time before holograms were commonplace, when we had to use our own hands and feet to drive our cars, when there only one United States of America and one man sought to bring us together before this country was torn apart. That man’s name was Snoop Dogg.
Now, this man was a musician, and of course his real name wasn’t Snoop. He wasn’t really a dog, either. He had a simple message: smoke as much weed as you possibly can and have a good time. He spoke through the language of hip-hop, and his quest began 60 years ago when he made an album–that’s uh, it’s like a whole bunch of songs in one, uh, CD, which is like a disc with music, oh never mind–called Doggystyle, which was a pun on his name by referencing, well, you’ll find that out later when you grow up. But the point is it was clever. He used clever rhymes and catchy beats and hooks to become a superstar in the music world, and his primary message later in his career became about smoking weed and having a good time, back when it was illegal.
Snoop Dogg, AKA Snoop Lion recently did a Q&A session on social networking Internet aggregator site Reddit.com (they’re called AMA–Ask Me Anything–and President Obama did one just before the election), answering hundreds of questions, far more than other celebrities, with 10-words-or-less answers. What catches my eye is the answer to “How weed do you smoke in a week?” with a simple “81 blunts a day x 7.”
This is why I love the Internet. The ensuing discussion includes calculations of just how much weed that actually is. One person says 22 pounds per year, and is promptly reprimanded for calculating “matchstick-sized blunts.” The actual amount for Snoop-sized blunts, assuming two grams per blizzle, is 130 pounds a year. The post is then corrected further to equate to 131.98 pounds.
This breaks down to one blunt every 12 minutes, assuming eight hours of sleep per 24 hours. But obviously, Snoop does not smoke all of those on his own, Snoop is a giver and has a large crew. He might take just one hit of any given blunt, but that still counts.
Sure, the rap legend changed his persona and made a record of reggae with no rapping whatsoever on it, which just dropped a single on Youtube. But the questions didn’t really focus on this, and Snoop, to his credit, didn’t really push it that much. He just answered questions, no matter how obscure, for hours.
Other vital Snoop-formation:
- Snoop-approved munchies include: pistachios, Fritos BBQ Twists and Red Vines
- The only people to smoke HIM out are Willie Nelson, Wiz Khalifa and B-Real
- Snoop’s favorite stoned album is Curtis Mayfield’s “Superfly”
- OG Kush is Snoop’s favorite strain of marijuana
- He prefers Cadillacs to trains
- Snoops’ favorite performance was on the Arsenio Hall show.
- Snoop enjoys soccer and plays FIFA 2012
- He was weed-free about five years ago for 164 days straight.
- Snoop enjoys kung-fu movies.
- His guilty musical pleasure is K-POP
By the way, Mr. Dogg/Lion is playing at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Dec. 15 ($70) and the Uptown Theater in Napa in Dec. 14 ($60). Bring some BBQ Twist Fritos and see if he wants to chill after the show.
From the first inhale of Trebuchet’s self-titled debut record, I’m hooked. The ukulele like lapping waves of a tropical shore; the surf lead guitar the birds lazily riding the swells. A breath—giving pause, the moment that will make or break the entire album. Sweet voices coalesce in harmonic bliss, one as strong as the next, none overshadowing another. The wave does not crash, it pushes onto the shore, allowing warm salt water to kiss my toes and leave me wanting more.
The six-song, vinyl-only release (it’s also available digitally) was christened with a show at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill last night, with friends and family accompanying on stage and in the audience. Whether by blood or by feeling, all four bands playing on the evening’s bill were related, and the feeling in the audience was that of an unexpected family reunion.
Survival Guide opened the show, who I unfortunately arrived too late to see. You Are Plural introduced a new twist to the duo of Wurlitzer and cello: drums. The percussion filled in some spaces, but since most songs were written without drums, it felt forced at times. But the harmonies and interesting time signatures kept the set flowing and piqued interest throughout the set. The New Trust brought a powerful rock sound to the stage next, Josh Staples’ thundering bass lines commanding attention from even the smoking crowd in the atrium.
I was lucky to see Trebuchet’s first-ever performance, at the Arlene Francis Center in Santa Rosa, last year. The band impressed the hell out of everyone that night, in part because three of the four members are known for intense, instrumental post rock in the band Not To Reason Why. This was as far from the expected as possible while still loosely relatable to the same genre.
Last night, Trebuchet sounded polished, like a beautiful piece of obsidian after hundreds of years in a river bed. That igneous black rock born of violent eruptions from the Earth’s core, sharpened and used as arrowheads and spear tips, left alone under running water matures into a polished, beautiful stone. I walk toward the sea, wading in up to my hips. The warmth and gentle swaying covers the impending danger of being too far from shore, too far from home. This is the best kind of escape.
Style: Relaxed, Americana instrumentation, four-part vocal harmonies, extremely musical songs, listenable without being boring, beautiful, interesting without being obscure
Comparisons: Sufjan Stevens, Decemberists, what other Portland bands wish they could sound like
Rating: 4.5/5 (Just because the record is only six songs!)
Trebuchet’s debut record is available at www.trebuchetmusic.com.