Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings absolutely lit up the stage at the second-ever Sonoma Mountain Village concert on Thursday night. The concert series marked the end of a brief 2014 season, which also brought in the rock band Goo Goo Dolls in July. According to Petaluma’s Second Octave Talent agency, which books the bands for SOMO, some 1,100 people were in attendance and next year promises to bring 10 more outstanding festival-like shows to fill the 3,000-person venue.
Guatemalan singer, and 2014 Latin Grammy award winner, Gaby Moreno opened the evening with a blues-infused Southern folk set that showcased the powerfully sultry, and sweetly gruff, voice that has made her the darling of Latin American folk rock. Dressed in a Western dress and tiny heels, she rocked a vintage-style Gretsch guitar as if she were a country star on a Nashville stage. But tacking down Moreno’s style is like trying to stop a butterfly to ask about her favorite flower. To my ears, her sound falls somewhere in between the finger-picking melodies of Norah Jones and the whimsy of Patsy Cline, with the vocal dynamism of Etta James and a touch of Lilly Allen’s flare. Yet the songs she sings in Spanish are perfectly Latin; a bit of bossa nova, traces of Mexican banda, the alternative pop that defined many Latin females in the late 1990’s.
Under Thursday’s setting sun, Moreno varied her set flawlessly. Tempos and moods switched between smoky jazz ballads like Blues del Mar, off her latest release “Postales” (2012, Metamorfosis), and groovy blues/rock tracks like “Greenhorned Man”, from her first album “Still the Unknown” (2008, indie release). It was a marvelous opening performance that surely garnered hundreds of new North American fans.
Between acts, the promoters gave ample time to get up and stretch, refill wine and beer glasses, and chat with neighbors sitting close enough to practically share blankets. A few vendor’s booths were set up to attract wanders, as well as a semi-stocked bar for general admission ticket holders. Food offerings were cafeteria-style, catered by the Sally Tomatoes restaurant inside. The interior venue is well-known in local comedy circles as being the go-to spot for great up-and-coming acts. While the wine was good and the service was friendly, the food got less than stellar reviews. VIP ticket holders on the other hand, were treated to a fully-stocked bar and outdoor seating area complete with tables and heating lamps. While the GA grassy area offers excellent views of the stage, it could be worthwhile to purchase VIP just so you don’t have to drag in chairs and blankets. The space is intimate, with two-story buildings bordering the lawn area, and giant redwood trees framing the stage. Yet, the adjacency adds to a close-nit community vibe. And once Sharon Jones got on stage, there wasn’t a warm body to be found in a sea of abandoned lawn chairs.
The Dap Kings band formed in the early aughts under the digs of Brooklyn’s Daptone Records. Their premise was to revive the tradition of analog recording and pressing vinyl records, while bringing back the funk/soul sounds of the 1960’s and 1970’s. Sharon Jones, who grew up singing gospel in her native Augusta, Georgia, was working a day job at Rikers Island prison when label owners discovered her singing backup vocals for various bands around New York City. Soon the Dap Kings became her backing band and she went on to record five studio albums with them. With incredibly successful performances at festivals across the country, a new album to be released, and European tours in place, Jones’ career was on the rise.
But in the spring of 2013, Jones was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and spent the summer undergoing chemotherapy. The treatments would sideline her from nearly all musical activity and essentially threaten her life. New Year’s Eve 2014 was her last chemo treatment and she’s been cancer free ever since. On the SOMO stage last night, she belted out the tune “Get Up And Get Out” off her 2013 release Give The People What They Want (Daptone), exclaiming to the crowd “I told my cancer to get up and get out! And I told my cancer, if you ain’t gonna get out, I am gonna shout you out!” Needless to say, Sharon Jones is way beyond having cancer and it is obvious her immense energy and sheer passion for life are what got her through it all.
The performance opened with an instrumental introduction from the Dap Kings eight-member, tailored-suit-clad band before Jones’ fabulous backup singers came on to sing three groove-inciting numbers. When Sharon Jones finally came on stage, the audience exploded in applause. She opened with the super up-beat “Stranger To My Happiness,” then brought up 10 ladies from the crowd to dance on stage for “Keep On Looking,” which must have made those girls entire summer. Of all the shows I’ve seen this year, I have not experienced a performer so in love with her audience, so passionate about making every fan feel special. Jones’ went on to sing a slow, sexy rendition of “Long Time,” an afro-beat inspired “How Do You Let A Good Man Down,” and the dark, jazzy soul tune “I Learned The Hard Way.”
The second half of Jones’ set included some beautiful harmonies on “There Was A Time,” a wild impersonation of Tina Turner for “Making Up And Breaking Up,” and a 10 minute showcase of 1960’s dancehall moves like the boogaloo, the pony, and the swim—the crowd thought that was a riot and all kinds of people over 60 where swinging their arms and winding their hips without a care in the world.
Sharon Jones only did one song for her encore: a brilliant take on the original Woody Guthrie ballad, “This Land Is Your Land.” It was the defining moment of the show, a stellar interpretation of an American classic. Jones ignites the spirit of American music’s golden age—the decades that challenged the cultural status quo, brought music to the heart of the civil rights movement, and blended the colors of society in a tangled-up mishmash of incredible musicianship, neighborly conviviality, and the love for an American art form. If anyone is going to remind us that American music is steeped in a rich, passionate history, it is going to be Sharon Jones and her Dap Kings.
When I got to the Arlene Francis Center last night, there was already a line wrapped around the front of the building and out through the parking lot onto the street. It was only 6:44pm. Six bands—Ceremony, Sabertooth Zombie, Dead to Me, All Teeth, Strike to Survive and Hear the Sirens—were about to play.
In chatting beforehand with Ian Anderson, Dead to Me drummer and former Santa Rosan who once lived around the corner from the Arlene Francis, I remarked that this was probably the biggest punk show in Santa Rosa in 15 or so years. That’s not because there hasn’t always been a thriving punk scene in Santa Rosa, but mostly due to lack of an all-ages venue in the city limits proper. The Arlene Francis, I gotta say, is finally the answer to the long-repeated complaint you used to hear all the time: “Why isn’t there a great all-ages venue in Santa Rosa?”
But Santa Rosa wasn’t the city on people’s minds. Rohnert Park is the latest album by Ceremony, and even though the people I talked to who drove to the show from Fairfield and Sacramento hadn’t ever been to Rohnert Park, they’d certainly heard of it. (You’ve got to love the cover art.)
“North Bay! North Bay! North Bay! North Bay!” chanted Cermeony’s Ross Farrar, during the intro to their first song, “Sick,” the lead-off track from Rohnert Park. The crowd chanted as if a tribe. Bodies flailed above other bodies’ heads. The song kicked in, and the swarm went nuts.
It’s tempting to say that the true experience of a Ceremony show is not the music but the mayhem. A dreadlocked guy front-flipped off the theater’s support beam and onto the crowd. Multiple people dove off the center post. Someone hit Farrar in the face. The speaker and mic cables kept getting unplugged. There was surely more craziness than anyone could possibly see—at one point I saw a dude walking through the packed crowd holding a bag of ice to his head.
But putting the emphasis on audience theatrics doesn’t do Ceremony justice. They’re simply one of the best punk bands touring today, and Rohnert Park is a triumph of combining decades-old punk styles with spoken-word interludes and near-downright goth songs (“The Doldrums,” which directly addresses living in Rohnert Park). Between climbing on the theater’s support beams, swallowing the microphone, pulling his Bad Brains shirt over his head and pacing the stage, Farrar mentioned that this was the first show the band had played in Santa Rosa in probably six years.
After the show, with the insanity of “This is My War” bubbling down to a finish, and amidst chatter about the Giants, old Negative Approach 7”s and instructor Richard Speakes (Farrar attends the SRJC), he told me the band’s already writing a new album. Based on some other things he told me that I swore I’d stay quiet about, I have every reason to believe it’ll be Ceremony’s biggest album yet.
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Date: 2010-12-16, 9:28AM PST
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– Ceremony’s new record is called Rohnert Park. The cover photo is awesome. I talked to vocalist Ross Farrar about it before the band left for Korea; it’ll be in the Bohemian next week. “I have mixed feelings on Rohnert Park,” he told me. “I do have a little bit of tension. A lot of things happened when I was growing up here, but I realize now that I’m very appreciative of it. So calling the record Rohnert Park is a balance between homage and hatred.”
– The Christina Aguilera record has leaked. Don’t laugh. She’s got an amazing voice that’s always wasted on poor material, and I’ve been waiting for the material to catch up. This could be the one. “Bobblehead” is straight-up Manaj / M.I.A. Stylez.
– The wedding of the year took place over the weekend, and on the decks was the erstwhile DJ Broken Record. While Ben and Desiree walked down the aisle to a throng of cheering friends, this remix of “Rebel Girl” played triumphantly. Specially curated for the Star Wars obsessive and/or Bikini Kill fan. Way to go, Edgar.
– The Arcade Fire is putting out a new record. Despite attempts to be blasé toward it, the first couple teasers sound really good.
– Eric Lindell recently left Alligator Records, started his own record company Sparco Records, recorded an album at Grizzly Studios and put it out on vinyl. It’s the best record he’s ever made. Includes a stunning version of the Impressions’ “It’s Hard to Believe,” and even a song dedicated to Bodega. He plays the Forestville Club this Saturday, May 29.
– I saw Jeff Ott at the wedding, which reminded me that Fifteen has a new 7″ coming out. You read that right: it’s an old recording of the band’s cover of “Caroline,” the Jawbreaker classic. I’m pretty sure it previously appeared on Eggplant’s tape, Later That Same Year, which I still have. I do know that Hanalei contributes the B-Side; a cover of “Petroleum Distillation.” Order it here.
– Hanalei has an amazing new record coming out this weekend called One Big Night. See him play on Friday, May 28 at Thee Parkside and Saturday, May 29 at the North Bay Film and Art Collective. Also playing the Collective show are the New Trust, now (again) with a fourth member, Chris Brum, and also Paper Hands, the new band of Michael Richardson, Kevin Buchholz and Dio McLeod. Pants will be shat.
– I was pleased to see the New Yorker‘s Sasha Frere-Jones give a tip o’ the hat to Type Records and the noise scene in general this last week. As previously mentioned, the Yellow Swans LP is magnificent, as is Grouper’s Dragging a Dead Deer Up a Hill. I stopped in at Amoeba after the Giants game on Sunday and bought Jóhann Jóhannsson’s And In The Endless Pause There Came the Sound of Bees LP, which is rather beautiful classical-ish music written as the score to a film. To counter, I also picked up RRR-1000, which may be the most ridiculous record of all time. (Since RRR-500, at least.) Quite an incredible essay on the subject of locked grooves, and RRR-1000, is here.
– David Byrne is suing Florida governor Charlie Crist for using “Road to Nowhere” in a campaign ad without permission.
– What’s that about Mike Richardson? The Benton Falls album Fighting Starlight is reissued on vinyl? No way. Also: Converge’s Jane Doe and available as a pre-order from Plain Recordings, Spiritualized’s Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space.
– Do take pleasure in this video for E-40’s “Lightweight Jammin’.”
– Lauryn Hill is headlining this year’s Harmony Festival, and it will either be so bad that people will flee to the gates and demand their money back or it will be the greatest comeback in ages. Assisting the chances of the latter: she’s rumored to be doing her entire album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill in its entirety at select Rock the Bells shows this summer. Or maybe not. Or maybe so. At any rate, if she hits the stage in Santa Rosa to the album’s first track “Lost Ones,” shit could go off.