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Jolie Holland at the Russian River Brewing Co.

Jolie Holland at the Russian River Brewing Co.

Posted by: on Jun 18, 2011 | Comments (0)

For our honeymoon, we just went camping up and down the California coast. Along with MF Doom’s Madvillain and the Velvet Teen’s Elysium, Jolie Holland’s Escondida was one of the records we listened to over and over—a perfect Highway 1 accompaniment to the birds of the air and the beasts of the soil and the fishes of the desperate sea. I always wondered why “Goodbye California” wasn’t an immediate hit, just like I wondered why “Wagon Wheel” by Old Crow Medicine Show wasn’t a hit, or why hardly anyone was talking about Joanna Newsom.

It was our anniversary this week, and seven years hasn’t changed us much, we’re still in love. But other things have changed: Everyone loves Joanna Newsom, the buskers on Fourth Street last week were playing “Wagon Wheel,” and Tessa Rissacher covered “Goodbye California” at the Arlene Francis Center last month. (It took Santa Rosa a couple years to catch up to the old-timey thing, but it’s since done so with a venegance.) When it was announced that Jolie Holland was playing a free noontime show at the Russian River Brewing Co., sponsored by the Krush, it was like some cosmic tarot card had spoken.

Holland has a new record coming out, Pint of Blood, and played all songs from it—much to the longing of myself, or anyone, really, who could name a dozen or so favorites from her previous albums. With just a violin and electric guitar backing her and with the din of a brewpub at lunchtime, it was hard to wholly absorb the songs. Same goes for her between-song talking, although she wasn’t saying much; with barely any reaction from the audience, she even resorted to announcing where the amps were rented from, just to see if anyone was paying attention. It was a little bit strange, honestly, and it wasn’t really Holland’s fault.

Afterward, she mingled with fans, someone shoved some weed in her guitar player’s cutoffs pocket, she got directions to Community Market and drove down Fourth Street in her minivan. Her voice invaded my thoughts for the rest of the day, and the next.

 

Roach Gigz To Play Los Caballos

Roach Gigz To Play Los Caballos

Posted by: on May 26, 2011 | Comments (0)

I saw Roach Gigz a couple months ago at the Phoenix, and yes, he lit the place up. Opening for Too Short on a night that Too Short canceled, he had to hold the stage down on his own—and didn’t disappoint. (Half the people were there to see him instead of Too Short anyway, if you wanna know the truth of it.)

Roachy’s playing this Sunday at Los Caballos in Santa Rosa, and there’re three reasons to go. One: There’s no school or work the next day. Two: It’s billed as a “Stop Light Party,” i.e. wear red if you’re in a relationship, yellow if it’s complicated, and green if you’re single. Three: Los Caballos is one of the few places in town that’s all-ages but still serves drinks, with the aid of a barrier and a guy checking IDs.

Los Caballos also keeps a backline for the tejano and salsa bands that usually play there, so it’ll be pretty great to see Roach Gigz in front of the ‘Viva Mexico’ drum kit and stencils of Che Cuevara on the wall. Gigz, whose dad was a Sandinista, also has a strong Latino heritage; if you missed Rachel Dovey’s excellent Bohemian profile of him and his sidekick Remedy as they shot a video in San Francisco, read it here.

Tickets for the show are at the Last Record Store in Santa Rosa, University of Sports in Rohnert Park and World of Stereo in Petaluma. Don’t sleep, as they say. It’s bound to be packed.

 

101.7 The Fox is Off the Air — What Happened?

101.7 The Fox is Off the Air — What Happened?

Posted by: on Mar 24, 2011 | Comments (73)

In a surprising twist that has just about everybody scratching their heads, longtime hard-rock radio station 101.7 FM The Fox has officially been pulled off the air.

According to a source close to the station, employees of the Fox found out about the change in a meeting at 11am today. Immediately afterward, the station went off the air at noon.

The replacement station, “Hot 101.7, Sonoma County’s Hit Music Station,” is currently playing Top 40 hits (as I type this, it’s Ke$ha’s “Tik Tok”). If listeners notice any resemblance to another local Top 40 station, it’s no coincidence. Maverick Media, the Fox’s parent company, recently conducted an audit through a third-party surveying company and found that among those polled, Top 40 is more appealing in this region than hard rock.

Said another source: “They hired this company that finds out what music works, and what music isn’t working, and they felt like in order to keep a competitive edge in the market, they needed to strong-arm the only station that didn’t have any competition.”

That station, Y 100.9, airs on a weaker signal in Sonoma County, and the Maverick Media executives at the meeting seemed confident that Hot 101.7 will be able to overpower the smaller station “out of business,” the source said. (Y 100.9 is owned by Sinclair Communications, which also owns 95.9 the KRSH and 96.7 BOB-FM.)

Hot 101.7’s new site declares: “We asked Sonoma County what they wanted from their favorite radio station. You told us you wanted a HOT station that played hit music with LOTS of music.” (As I type now, it’s the Black Eyed Peas, “Just Can’t Get Enough.”)

Public response so far has been predictably negative, with the new station’s Facebook page filled with “fans” who are making their voice clear: “What the HELL!!!!” writes a typical fan. “No more freaking pop stations!!! I want the old FOX back. Gimme my rock back. I am beyond sick to my stomach. UGH!!!!!!” Elsewhere on the station’s Facebook page, fans complain about having their posts removed by the administrator.

A page for “Fight Hot 101.7” has cropped up just today, along with an even bigger page called “Bring Back the Fox,” and a public protest is planned for Friday, March 25, at 4pm.

Without a doubt, this marks the end of an era for Sonoma County radio. For over 20 years, the Fox has been a Sonoma County standby, serving up classic hard rock like AC/DC and Metallica to more recent music from System of a Down, Disturbed and Velvet Revolver. About a month ago, longtime program director Scott Less left 101.7 the Fox for the Pacific Northwest, but apparently, even prior to Less’ departure, a “skeleton crew” had been running things with barely any financial support from Maverick Media.

Based in Connecticut, Maverick Media are the same people who thought it would be a good idea to fire Steve Jaxon, one of the greatest DJs in Sonoma County, and who aren’t available for comment (their website has been perpetually “under construction” for well over a year). Located over 3,000 miles from the station’s Fox Plaza, they’ve seemed perpetually out of touch with what Sonoma County actually wants, and have now killed the station that gave the building its name. (Right now, they’re playing Britney Spears, “Womanizer.”)

The employees of the Fox have been told that they’ll be able to keep their jobs, but in what capacity exactly is unclear. Currently, Hot 101.7 is broadcasting with no human DJs at all, playing canned tracks on a piped-in feed from corporate headquarters. Sad.

Animal Collective to Play the Phoenix; Primus to Play Harmony Festival

Animal Collective to Play the Phoenix; Primus to Play Harmony Festival

Posted by: on Mar 9, 2011 | Comments (1)

A major coup for the Phoenix Theater: Animal Collective, the experimental-indie Brooklyn ensemble whose crossover hit Merriweather Post Pavilion topped critics’ lists and was named Album of the Year by Spin, Pitchfork and Entertainment Weekly, will be headlining the Petaluma venue on Sunday, April 10. On a brief California jaunt before playing Coachella, the band is sure to sell out the venue immediately when tickets go on sale Thursday, March 10, at 4pm. Hit up the Phoenix Theater site for browser-refreshing action.

Say it together: Primus sucks! And yes, they’re playing at this year’s Harmony Festival. Having last played Sonoma County at the Phoenix in 2003, the band is sure to thrill patient fans as a just-announced headliner. Along with the previously announced Flaming Lips, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, and Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, new additions to the lineup for the June fest include G. Love and Special Sauce, Natcha Atlas, Ghostland Observatory, Roots Underground, erstwhile festival staples Michael Franti and Spearhead and many more. Tickets and full details are at www.harmonyfestival.com.

The Healdsburg Jazz Festival, bouncing back from its near-death at the hands of a now-resigned-in-shame board, boasts a roaring lineup of jazz greats this June: Charles Lloyd with Zakir Hussain and Eric Harland, Charlie Haden, Bobby Hutcherson, Bennie Maupin, James Newton, Fred Hersch with Julian Lage, Arturo Sandoval, George Cables, Pete Escovedo, John Santos, Ray Drummond and many others. See www.healdsburgjazzfestival.org.

Other quick mentions of upcoming note: The Kate Wolf Festival brings back Taj Mahal, Los Lobos, Mavis Staples, Bruce Cockburn and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band in June. The Uptown Theatre in Napa has Gretchen Wilson (March 20), the Psychedelic Furs (May 5) and a strong comedy lineup with Lisa Lampanelli (April 1), Bob Saget (May 6) and Joan Rivers (Aug. 26; tix on sale March 10).

Flaming Lips to Headline Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa

Posted by: on Feb 9, 2011 | Comments (1)

Get out those giant inflatable space balls and nun puppets covered in blood—the Flaming Lips have been confirmed as headliners at this year’s Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa! Running June 10–12, 2011 in Santa Rosa, the festival lineup also includes Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, whose hit “Home” shows no sign of fading; Grace Potter and the Nocturnals, fresh from a rare small show at the Hopmonk Tavern earlier this week; Kirtan yoga darling Krishna Das; Maui’s Lost at Last and Americana heroes Railroad Earth. More artists are to be announced in the coming weeks, and “sneak peek” tickets are on sale now at www.harmonyfestival.com.

In more festival news, the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival has announced its headliners—who, as many are quick to point out, would never be filed in the “jazz” section of any record store or iTunes playlist. Still, a sold-out crowd is expected for Sheryl Crow (May 21), John Fogerty (May 20) and the Gipsy Kings (May 22), all under the big tent. Opening acts and side-stage artists, traditionally more representative of jazz, will be announced soon. As is the fest’s custom, tickets for Sonoma residents go on sale one day early, Feb. 14, while tourists have to wait until Feb. 15 at www.sonomajazz.org.

Live Review: Ceremony at the Arlene Francis Theatre

Posted by: on Jan 8, 2011 | Comments (2)

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.

(Previously: ‘Suburban Home: Ceremony’s newest, ‘Rohnert Park,’ castigates and embraces’)

Coddingtown Center’s ‘Dinosaur Christmas Song’

Posted by: on Dec 22, 2010 | Comments (0)

It’s been a while since I’ve dusted off this old flexidisc record and played it—12 months, to be exact.

In December, an annual tradition of mine is to listen to “Dinosaur Christmas Song,” credited only to “Coddingtown Center.” For those who grew up in Santa Rosa, it’s truly one of the strangest Christmas songs in existence, telling the story of how the very first Christmas ever took place on the land now known as the Coddingtown shopping mall. It does a horrendous job at connecting Christmas and commerce, but I look at it through the eyes of one like, say, Stan Freberg, who railed against the commercialization of Christmas. Would not even Stan be charmed by the surreal absurdity of the British narrator, the female chorus, and the incessant groaning of dinosaurs in the background?

Many years ago, right when I started at the Bohemian, I decided to try and track down the origins of this record, which I discovered in 1994 at Goodwill for 35 cents. The article took me to Coddingtown in Santa Rosa, Hugh Codding’s main office in Rohnert Park, local commercial recording studios, radio stations, Montgomery Village and more. Read all about it here.

Or, if you’re so inclined, click the player below and be transported to a very strange moment in local history. At this point, after becoming an annual tradition, it’s one of my favorite Christmas songs. Enjoy.

City Sound Inertia Wins National Award

Posted by: on Jul 16, 2010 | Comments (12)

I am honored, elated and surprised that at today’s annual convention in Toronto, the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies has bestowed this very blog you’re all up in right now with a first-place award! That’s right: Best Individual Blog, circulation under 50,000.

As someone who still loves and uses rotary phones, typewriters and the U.S. Postal Service, I was stubbornly hesitant to start a blog in the first place and spent a great deal of time criticizing the idea to anyone who would listen. I’ve always felt the printed pages of the Bohemian were far more important. But at the urging of my great editor, Gretchen Giles, I finally relented and began writing posts—usually from home, at around two in the morning.

In the two-and-a-half years since, CSI has been a hodgepodge of local music coverage, show reviews, announcements, personal musings, interviews, record reviews and whatever else pops into my head. It’s also been very, very rewarding. Sometimes I veer off and start talking about closed Chinese restaurants, parking meters and heroin needles; other times I’ve broken behind-the-scenes stories that get picked up by Rolling Stone.

Kissing booths, harlequins, leaked festival lineups and girls camping out for a Hanson show have all made appearances here, as well as one of my all-time favorite interviews. Sometimes I hang out with famous people and review huge pop stars both extremely talented and so untalented it’s a joke; other times I spotlight brilliant unknowns, visit in on friends’ record collections or rally support for hometown heroes. I even drop in on porn stars from time to time.

I guess what I’m saying is that I love doing it. Here’s the part where I say I owe it all to you, the loyal readers, who give me constant support and tolerate my bad jokes. Of course, thanks also to AAN, not just for the award but for nurturing and championing alternative news media. Now go jam out to some ridiculous Nicki Manaj verses or at least listen to some vintage Sonny Rollins, and enjoy the weekend!

Live Review and Photos: Lauryn Hill at the Harmony Festival, Santa Rosa, CA

Posted by: on Jun 14, 2010 | Comments (8)

The long-hoped-for resurrection of Lauryn Hill, a dream seeming to slip further away with each year and each incoherent concert, took a giant step closer to fulfillment tonight at the Harmony Festival in Santa Rosa.

We may never know what exactly has plagued Hill these last eight years, forcing her to shirk the limelight, cancel tours and sabotage her reputation, just as we may never know how she became capable of triumphantly returning to the stage in 2010. One thing is evident: in Santa Rosa, of all places, the 35-year-old singer finally showed she craves dearly to be taken seriously again. Reinvigorated with enthusiasm, she inhabited the music, conducted the band, belted improvised shout-outs and thanked the crowd—all in the first song. “I love you,” she exclaimed to a field of fans. “It’s so good to see you.”

If it weren’t for the harlequin outfit, bulky hoop earrings and heavy metal guitar solos, it was almost like seeing the Lauryn Hill of old.

Outwardly struggling with fame, Hill has long evinced a complete dread of pleasing the public (see: Unplugged 2.0), but in a 75-minute set of Fugees classics and Miseducation tracks in Santa Rosa, she refreshingly aimed to do just that. From breakneck set opener “Lost Ones” to the slam-dunk closer “Doo Wop (That Thing),” Hill showed a genuine desire to again fulfill her talent.

It started rough. Scheduled to go on at 6pm, Ms. Lauryn Hill, as she requires to be billed, came onstage only after her DJ bored the crowd with a half hour of clunky, unblended snippets from the likes of “Purple Haze,” “Another One Bites the Dust,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Pass the Dutchie” and “Bam Bam.” The presence of two large teleprompters at the foot of the stage, for lyrics, added to the slowly mounting despair. By 6:29, when instructed to make noise for the umpteenth time, the teeming crowd could only wonder if Hill would arrive at all.

But grandly arrive she did, in an ’80s multicolored full-body jumpsuit that was only moderately silly in light of the get-ups donned by the average Harmony Festival attendee. “Lost Ones” set things straight in a ten-minute version that twisted through five different arrangements, and Hill’s recently-faded voice showed rejuvenated form with “When It Hurts So Bad.” By the beautiful “Turn Your Your Lights Down Low,” the crowd was in the palm of Hill’s hands, and comeback was in the air.

“We gonna do some old stuff,” Hill proclaimed, “but, but, but, but… there is a ‘but’… we gonna do some old stuff kinda new. Is that okay with you?” A medley of Fugees tracks followed, with Hill even taking over some Wyclef and Pras verses and singing OG sample material (“I Only Have Eyes For You”). And despite a generation’s collective memorization of the album versions, reworked songs with reggae and hard rock elements electrified Hill, who nailed every segue and spat out lightning-fast lines quicker than the crowd could sing along.

There were, sadly, two immediate drawbacks. One, Hill clearly has no concept at all of how live sound operates. Both between and in the middle of songs, she constantly complained about the stage and house mix, chiding the soundman to keep turning up every instrument and microphone according to her fleeting whims. The result was a washed-out din.

The other problem was that Hill is perhaps now too eager for public approval. From the ultra-fast tempos which, even with the teleprompters, she at times struggled to keep up with; to the claustrophobic arrangements for two guitars, two basses, two keyboards and three backup singers; to the “whooooo!”s and the “yeeaahhh!”s and the hasty leg-kicking, the concert had the effervescent taint of a Vegas show.

Realizing that Hill is simply giving people what they want—in preparation for her Rock the Bells dates, no doubt—is a blessing and a curse. She admirably tried for a time to break from fame’s mold, but it only resulted in bad music and psychological deterioration. With this greatest-hits set out on the road, her old fans are certainly satisfied, but what about staying true to one’s muse?

The question was forgotten each time Hill eagerly jumped into each song. “Pop this one, c’mon, let’s go!” she told her band, and “Doo Wop (That Thing)” set an entire field of festival goers aflame. “Thank you so much,” she said, as a sea of arms applauded wildly. “Thank you for your patience with us. Good to see you. Hope to see you soon.”

Lauryn Hill hasn’t made fans’ patience an easy task these last eight years, but let’s hope we see her in this kind of form again soon. Her emancipation might still not fit some people’s equation—I’ve already heard from people who were disappointed with the show—but the trainwreck curse is over and the resurrection is afoot. Now the fine-tuning begins.

Set List:

Lost Ones
When It Hurts So Bad
Ex-Factor
Turn Your Lights Down Low
How Many Mics / I Can’t Stand Losing You
I Only Have Eyes For You / Zealots
Fu-gee-la
Ready or Not
Zimbabwe
Doo Wop (That Thing)

More Photos Below.

Jazz Standards and Style Commanders

Posted by: on Jun 12, 2010 | Comments (0)

I talked with jazz pianist Jason Moran a couple weeks ago for a feature on the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and I gotta say, the guy’s really smart and down-to-earth—and a hell of a piano player. His soon-to-be-released album Ten is easily the best, most natural-sounding album he’s made, and he plays Sunday afternoon at Rodney Strong Vineyards with Bill Frisell. I urge you to check it out. How many jazz pianists can you name who are planning to record a duets album with Ghostface, MF Doom and Jay Electronica?

For those who missed out on Esperanza Spalding’s sold-out show last night at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival, or who can’t make it to the Charlie Haden / Ravi Coltrane show tonight, be advised that Craig Handy is playing for free in the Hotel Healdsburg lobby tonight from 9-midnight with “special guests.” I’ve seen Craig Handy both chewed out by Sue Mingus for showing up late to a Mingus Big Band show and suffering behind an irascible Freddie Hubbard, so be nice to the guy, okay?

It’s not free, but this year’s Festival del Sole features a performance at Daryl Sattui’s crazy $30 million, 121,000–sq.-ft. Castello di Amorosa by 16-year-old Canadian singing sensation Nikki Yanofsky. You might have heard of Yanofsky through her involvement with the nutsy-cuckoo “We Are The World”-like re-recording of K’naan’s “Wavin’ Flag” to benefit Haiti, or for singing a laid-back version of the Canadian national anthem for the 2010 Olympics. But you should really just go to her MySpace page, ignore the goofy press photos that look like Blossom, and listen to her insane scat-scattered version of “I Got Rhythm.” Damn!

The Wells Fargo Center has announced their upcoming season, including the return of both Wynton Marsalis and Tony Bennett. Marsalis is playing with the full Lincoln Center Orchestra, and you’ve got time to plan your evening—the show’s next February, in 2011! Bennett slips in a little sooner, on September 21, and I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: at 83, the guy hasn’t lost an iota of his voice, talent, or showbiz class. I met him briefly at the then-Luther Burbank Center after a show about ten years ago; he was flanked by Mafia-looking bodyguards and incredibly kind to me, a then-young, googley-eyed fan. Go see him if, and while, you can.