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.
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.”
Fresh off a totally sold-out show at the Independent in July, ’90s icon and walking sociological experiment Courtney Love returns to the Bay Area for a show at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Saturday, Aug. 24.
Those hoping to catch a trainwreck in action may want to consider that the widow of Kurt Cobain and public streaker has been getting pretty good live reviews lately, touring with a solid backing band. (Still, Phoenix booker Jim Agius says: “I understand and accept the risks completely.”)
It will be Courtney Love’s first time performing in Sonoma County since 1991, when Hole played a show at the SSU Duck Pond with Nuisance and the Fluid. (Yes, I still have the flyer.)
Tickets will be $35, and they go on sale tomorrow, Aug. 7, at the Phoenix Theater’s site.
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.
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.
It’s official, and no, we aren’t joking: Snoop Dogg is playing the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on Saturday, Dec. 15. If this means that we get to possibly see Tom Gaffey and Snoop Dogg on stage together, all will be amazing in the world.
Tickets go on sale this Saturday, Nov. 10, at 10am.
General admission tickets will be $70, making this the highest-priced ticket at the Phoenix in recent memory—and by “recent,” I mean “since 1989.” But consider that when Snoop plays in San Francisco, tickets cost over fifty bucks anyway, and minus gas and toll and parking, and it’s the Phoenix, for chrissakes, well… I’m betting it’ll quickly sell out.
If you’re a Snoop superfan, there’s also a VIP meet-and-greet option, including a photo with Snoop himself and special tour merchandise, priced at—drumroll please—$350.
Got your mind on your money and your money on your mind? You can get tickets, starting Saturday at 10am, here.
(UPDATE: Snoop’s also playing the Uptown Theatre in Napa the night before, on Friday, Dec. 14. Tickets are $60, and go on sale this Saturday at noon right here. If you can’t get Phoenix tickets on Saturday, that’s a good option—the Uptown is a great place to see a show.)
Fifteen plays the Nostalgia Fest at the Phoenix Theater tonight, and according to reports, they’ve been practicing somewhere in the vicinity of 30 songs. That bodes well for fans, but will bode even better if the set list includes the following songs—five great Fifteen anthems that stand the test of time.
1. “Liberation” — If you’re playing a reunion show, it only makes sense to play the first song your band released. “Liberation” opened Fifteen’s self-titled 7” from 1990, and it bridged pretty clearly the gap between Crimpshrine and Fifteen: while the world has gone mad, two people find peace in their love for each other. “Just because these are songs about love and stuff doesn’t mean things don’t trouble me anymore,” Jeff explained in the photocopied lyric booklet. “It only means that I’ve found something infinitely more powerful than all the complaining and all the finger pointing and all the blaming.” This song’s intro also hints at the “tasty licks” on guitar that Jeff would eventually turn into a staple.
2. “Intentions” — When Swain’s First Bike Ride came out, many amateur guitar enthusiasts learned this song wrong, incorrectly playing the intro as chromatically ascending power chords starting on F#. Those who paid close attention learned the maj7/4-1 trick, alternately known as “squishy triangle.” Anyone who heard the song’s sad theme of giving up one’s aspirations to pursue a job in one ear while the choir of career counselors crowded the other was affected: when Jeff sings “It’s been too many years now of having my dreams beaten down,” and then repeats the words “beaten down” eight times, as if to truly beat the point to death, it’s a deeply cathartic sort of despair.
3. “C#(tion)” — Jeff told me once that he and Jack tried to arrange every song on Swain’s First Bike Ride to be perfect palindromes of each other. Listen and you’ll hear it—“Definition” begins and ends with those harmonics; “Inclination” is bookended by that noodling riff. But “C#(tion)” is an exception, with a great extended intro that repeats only as a half-time segue in the middle. This timeless song brings up two memories: 1) Seeing Green Day cover this at Gilman, thus blowing my mind, and 2) singing it with Jeff and Jack around a campfire somewhere in the sticks of Lake County. There was supposed to be a show, but for some reason everyone just killed and ate rattlesnakes instead.
4. “Domination=Destruction” — Fifteen is all but guaranteed to play “Petroleum Distillation” and at least one of the versions of “Separation” from Choice of a New Generation, so there’s no reason to waste any pennies in the fountain on those. The charms of this particular song are twofold: the fact that it initially existed as two separate songs but were combined into one, and then the way Jeff sings a melodic little “Fuck You” at the end, after exhorting “My hands are tied now, I cannot be silent in the face of the man.” You don’t realize how great this song is until it gets to the end, and then you’re like hell yeah. This is from an era when every time I saw Jeff, he wore the same Guns ‘n’ Roses T-shirt and no shoes.
5. “Run II” — After the first two albums, it’s tempting to reflect on Fifteen as the band that told you to ride a fucking bike ride a fucking bike ride a fucking bike, or gave detailed instructions on how to properly clean a hypodermic needle. Extra Medium Kickball Star was funded by the excess budget from the not-as-good Surprise! (a matter hilariously detailed in the song “The Deal”), and has this strange gem, which tells teenagers around the country that they should hitchhike to Berkeley, squat, and eat Food Not Bombs. Advising a life of squalor in a city already oversaturated with punk transplants is an unusual theme for a song, but it works, with a damn fine chorus.
Honorable Mentions: “The End,” played on the piano; “Equalized,” the Jawbreaker cover from Eggplant’s comp ‘Later, That Same Year’; “Mount Shrink Wrap,” which calculates the exact amount of shrink wrap the band is responsible for; and more than anything, probably more than any song on this silly list—“The End of the Summer,” which is just one of the prettiest goddamn love songs ever written.