Subtle lo-fi songwriter Bill Callahan, who spent 15 years making music under the name Smog before venturing out under his birth name, opens the 2016 concert season at Sonoma’s hippest winery venue, Gundlach Bundschu, next month on Feb 24.
Fans of Smog and Callahan (who I count myself among) have long been obsessed with his sonorous baritone vocals delivered over sometimes dreary, sometimes groovy and often minimalistic instrumentation. Since the late ’80s, Callahan has operated with a singularly artistic vision, infusing his poetic songs with heartbreaking and revealing storytelling lyricism.
For the upcoming February concert, co-presented by (((folkYEAH!))), the songwriter is slated to appear in Gun Bun’s historic century-old Redwood Barn, recently restored to its former glory. Carpooling is encouraged, and dressing in warm layers is a must! Tickets to this intimate, one of a kind concert are available here.
Below is a video of one of my favorite Smog tracks, “Hit the Ground Running.”
New York City songwriter Matt Bauer just released his latest, Dream’s End, an enchanting album of orchestral folk and acoustic rock. And he’s celebrating with a west coast tour that wraps in Sonoma this weekend.
In the tradition of old-fashioned folk laments and murder ballads, Dream’s End is a head trip of lyrically fragile and musically melodic songs, like the lead single “I Am Trying to Disappear.” While Bauer assembles a more sonically diverse palette for this conceptual effort, it’s his emotional depth that again lays a strong foundation for his striking and often stark arrangements.
On Sunday, November 22, Matt Bauer will be in Sonoma, performing at a house show. Write firstname.lastname@example.org for details, and listen to “I Am Trying to Disappear” below.
If you’ve seen the massively-long 1984 film “Amadeus,” you know a few things about classical Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. You know he had a shrill laugh, you know of his extensive collection of powdered wigs, and you know that the young musical mastermind died before he could finish his “Requiem Mass.” And, while that film took equally massive artistic liberties, the story of Mozart’s most infamous unfinished work still captivates audiences worldwide for it’s musical wonders as much as its mythical background.
While Mozart died with the Requiem very unfinished, fellow composer Franz Xaver Sussmayr, who was an assistant to Mozart and reportedly discussed the work with him before his death, offered a completed version of the Requiem that has long been the closest the world has gotten to Mozart’s masterwork. This weekend, the long-standing Sonoma Bach Choir, led by retired Sonoma State University professor Robert Worth and joined by the Live Oak Baroque Orchestra, will present an interesting dual concert titled “Mozart Requiem: The Story of a Masterwork.” The ensemble will tackle first the Requiem just as Mozart left it, before returning to the full work as completed by Sussmayr.
Before each of the two weekend performances, Worth will present a pre-concert talk that fully explores the controversial history of, and compositional significance to the Requiem. The Sonoma Bach Choir performs the masterwork on Friday, Nov 20, at St Andrew Presbyterian Church, (16290 Arnold Dr, Sonoma. 8pm, $15-$25) and then again on Sunday, Nov 22, at St. Vincent de Paul Church (35 Liberty St, Petalum. 7pm. $15_$25). Pre-concert talks begin 35 minutes before each performance. Tickets and details are here.
Sonoma’s 1955 are a sauntering garage rock trio who excel at slick throwback riffs, addictive hooks and smart songwriting. Formed in 2012, the band is made up of Sasha Papadin (lead vocals, guitar), Kieran Maloney (drums) and Dane Gaffney (bass); and their musical output thus far has been defined by high energy and hot licks.
This week, 1955 unveiled a new music video for their hand-clapping, toe-tapping single, “Glory Days.” Set in the sweltering heat of Palm Springs and directed Papdin’s brother William, the video is inspired by the visual aesthetics of one of the band’s favorite movies, “Sexy Beast,” and shines with a sunny, ultra-cool vibe that matches the colorful tune perfectly.
Currently on the road, the band plays Los Angeles tonight and San Francisco on Nov 20. Get the details here.
The musical minds running Gundlach Bundschu Winery are at it again, working with Bay Area concert curators (((folkYEAH!))) to bring the best in indie-minded bands and songwriters to Sonoma Valley. Today, the two partners announced a pair of new shows, with Gun Bun welcoming Cat Power on Wednesday, September 2, and Bonnie “Price” Billy on Sunday, September 27.
Enigmatic singer and songwriter Cat Power, aka Chan Marshall, has evolved from a lo-fi punk singer to an acclaimed and eclectic songwriter in her 20-year career. Her most recent album, 2012’s Sun, was praised for its passion and pop sensibility. This summer marks the famously introspective artist’s first live dates since announcing she gave birth to a baby in late April.
Bonnie “Prince” Billy is the stage name for songwriter and occasional actor Will Oldham. Since 1998, Oldham has released the majority of his musical works under the pseudonym, crafting a traditional roots rock and Americana folk with a gutsy, avant-garde approach that always satisfies. His latest LP, 2014’s Singer’s Grave a Sea of Tongues, exemplifies Oldham’s willingness to bend the rules by acting as a covers album to his own previous material with rollicking reworkings and stark new translations of his older tunes.
These two shows are in addition to Gun Bun’s already highly anticipated upcoming concert with Seattle grunge legends Mudhoney and the excellently loud San Francisco garage rockers Fuzz, featuring Ty Segall. That show is scheduled for Friday, October 16.
Noah Benjamin Lennox is best known as a member of experimental indie rock group Animal Collective, and under the pseudonym Panda Bear, Lennox has evolved considerably as an electronic artist with a pitch perfect penchant for expansive melodies in his sampled beats. This week, Panda Bear released his fifth solo album, Panda Bear Meets the Grim Reaper, to universal acclaim; and today at noon tickets go on sale for Panda Bear’s upcoming concert at Gundlach Bundschu Winery in Sonoma on April 16. This is a great chance to see the indie star in the intimate setting of Gun Bun’s newly restored Old Redwood Barn. Click here to grab tickets to the show, and watch the official video for “Mr Noah,” the first single off the new album.
B.B. King and Buddy Guy aren’t just the best headliners the Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival (Sept. 24-25) has had in years, they’re also an example of the longtime legends who, lucky for us, return to the North Bay perennially. This fall season boasts everyone from jazz survivor Herbie Hancock (Sept. 18, Wells Fargo Center) to indie-rock progenitors the Pixies (Nov. 20, Uptown Theatre), with a little bit of country survivor Wynonna Judd thrown in for good boot-scootin’ measure (Nov. 8, Lincoln Theatre).
When Herbie Hancock was here last, he regaled the crowd with a song he hadn’t played live in 25 years—”Rockit,” the early-turntablist fusion breakdance anthem. Expect similar crossover from jazz guitarist Lee Ritenour (Sept. 17, Napa Valley Opera House) and, to a lesser degree, recent Grammy winner Esperanza Spalding (Oct. 2, Uptown Theatre). Spalding, who has successfully crossed over out of the jazz world with the large help of Starbucks, has got a marvelous hairdo to rival that of Diana Ross, who stops in for a diva show to end all diva shows (Sept. 17, Marin Center). And speaking of glamour, there’s two chances to catch quasi-globetrotting ensemble Pink Martini (Nov. 17, Marin Center; Nov. 19; Grace Pavilion), who continue to receive rave reviews even with the temporary hiatus of lead vocalist China Forbes.
Rock legends abound, with the Last Day Saloon hosting recent box-set grantees UFO (Sept. 15) and Mr. Playin’ It Straight himself, Pat Travers (Oct. 8). Lindsey Buckingham, the poor soul who has been stuck with a not-very-funny SNL skit, plays in Napa (Oct. 25, Uptown Theatre) just before guitar wizard Jeff Beck flies through with three shows (Oct 31, Wells Fargo Center; Nov 1-2, Uptown Theatre). And though they may not be in the Cleveland Hall of Fame, they’re our own legends, like it or not: barf-metal act Skitzo celebrates 30 years of regurgitation this year (Oct. 8, Phoenix Theater).
A strong indie-rock double bill of Band of Horses and Brett Netson brings the bearded out of the woodwork (Sept. 9, Uptown Theater), while Dawes and Blitzen Trapper give a virtual encore a month later (Oct. 7, Mystic Theater). Ryan Adams, whose career has been a rollercoaster to say the least, plays a completely sold-out show (Oct. 15, Uptown Theater), while the almighty Pixies hold the record for quickest ticket sales (Nov. 20, Uptown Theatre)—the Napa stop of their Doolittle Tour was sold out in minutes.
While the grizzled country-music patriarch Merle Haggard returns (Sept. 30, Uptown Theatre), many young-uns swim in his wake. Son Volt’s Jay Farrar glides onto the stage with a voice of velvet (Sept. 9, Mystic Theatre), while Dave Alvin continues his quest to make the bandana cool again—if anyone can do it, it’s him (Sept. 15, Mystic Theatre).
Jackson Browne is all over his solo set these days, with stories and spontaneity and rarely any set list (Nov. 9, Marin Center), while master storyteller Tom Russell comes back for a special intimate evening (Oct. 27, Studio E). The nimble and fleet-fingered Bruce Hornsby continues to provide examples of why he’s among the most sought-after in the business (Sept. 14, Uptown Theatre), and at the Napa Valley Opera House, two artists get up close and personal: Rickie Lee Jones (Nov. 3) and Stephen Stills (Nov. 17).
Blues fans looking forward to the great B. B. King–Buddy Guy teamup can also get down and low over at the Mystic Theatre with J. L. Walker (Sept. 15) and Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Blowout (Oct. 1). And if that doesn’t work, then the hell with it—just flush all cares down the drain and go enjoy the crazy theatrics of “Weird Al” Yankovic (Nov. 7, Wells Fargo Center).
She’s the voice of a thousand dentist’s offices, the definition of “adult contemporary” and possibly the furthest thing from jazz that’s ever headlined the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival.
Nevertheless, Sheryl Crow, toting a new soul-tinged album, 100 Miles From Memphis, could easily have been poised last night to win over a new crowd. She hired the tremendous guitarist Doyle Bramhall II for her touring band. In interviews, she spoke of influences like Curtis Mayfield, the Allman Brothers, Stevie Wonder and Aretha Franklin. Her show was even sponsored not by the local adult contemporary station 100.1-FM KZST, who have played Crow’s innocuous hit songs every day for ten years, but by the Americana station 95.9-FM KRSH.
But Sheryl Crow is no Aretha. In a set frontloaded with material from 100 Miles From Memphis, Crow demonstrated last night that no matter what accoutrements an ungifted artist dons, the essence remains flat. She struggled to imbue her vocals with soul and wavered on poorly executed harmonies, even on standbys like “Every Day Is a Winding Road.” She played a variety of instruments, from a vintage Wurlitzer organ to an accordion to guitar, but her watered-down material dictated that her immensely talented band play at one-tenth of their ability.
It was enough to suggest to even the open-minded that the singer, who gave away free Tom’s toothpaste samples at the festival gate and hawked her cookbook at the merch stand, isn’t so much an artist as a brand; a lifestyle choice of the culturally trepidatious; a meeting area where nothing happens. “Sweet Rosalyn,” a song Crow said was inspired by a strip club in New Orleans, was free of sweat, gyration or danger. A political song, “Redemption Day”—introduced with some combination of the words “Bosnia,” “Rwanda” and “Hilary Clinton”—came off as obligatory at best.
Crow’s banter was playful (“Thank God the world didn’t end today,” Crow said, acknowledging the supposed May 21 Rapture, “I’m so happy, I had a few things planned”) and her fanbase stayed seated and largely calm until the block of hits at the end. That’s when drunken air-guitaring and booty-shaking ensued in a celebration of Bermuda shirts, cosmetic surgery and arrhythmic dancing to guaranteed pleasers “Steve McQueen,” “If It Makes You Happy,” “Every Day Is A Winding Road,” “Soak Up the Sun” and “All I Wanna Do.”
The set closed with a barn-burning “I Shall Believe,” which allowed the band to finally unlock its potential, but it didn’t cleanse the off taste of the night. It’s one thing to book a non-jazz artist at a jazz festival, but it’s another thing to book an affront to the creative process. “We had a great day here. We want to move here,” Crow said at one point, unconvincingly. “We want to only play jazz festivals from now on.”
If that were truly the case—if she really wanted to immerse herself in jazz—then Sheryl Crow would have a mountain of research and miles of catching up to do. Instead, she’s touring this summer with Kid Rock. Enough said.
When we heard the rumors about this last December, it made perfect sense. Though speculation has run wild, we have it on good authority—Dean Biersch himself—that the former Gordon-Biersch partner who opened the Hopmonk Tavern to universal acclaim in Sebastopol has officially inked a deal for a second location in Sonoma.
“It’s 99-percent there,” he told us. “We’re hoping to make an announcement this week.”
Yes, Biersch confirmed, he is taking over the old Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack location at 691 Broadway—a building whose layout and outdoor patio makes it a perfect spot similar to his Sebastopol hotspot.
In addition to a restaurant and bar in Sonoma, live music will be a key component. Emmy’s Spaghetti Shack fought long and hard with the city for an amplified music permit, but something tells me that Biersch, a ten-year resident of the city, will be able to renew it smoothly. The first thing he’ll do, he says, is construct an eight-foot fence around the beer garden; after that, he imagines a hemisphere bandshell in the patio for outdoor concerts. “I’m looking into the acoustics of it,” he says.
Inside the restaurant, Biersch is passionate about reserving space for an acoustic room seating about 40-50 people, because “there’s so many singer-songwriter acts that we have to pass on at Hopmonk,” he explains, “that I think would be perfect for Sonoma.”
This is fantastic news for live-music fans in the city of Sonoma, who’ll soon be able to go to the Uptown Theatre in Napa for larger concerts in addition to the excellent small-club acts that a ‘Hopmonk East’ will surely bring. After recently parting ways with downtown Santa Rosa nightspot Chrome Lotus, Hopmonk booker Patrick Malone is looking forward to bringing his talents to Sonoma. “I’ll definitely be helping out there,” he says.
Biersch is aiming for a Summer 2010 opening.
On Friday, May 21, Crosby Stills & Nash (anyone see their seemingly unrehearsed tour kickoff at the Wells Fargo Center two years ago?) headline the Sonoma Jazz Festival, or the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival, or, as it seems to be called now, SonomJaZZ+! Opening the show will be it’s-funny-that-we-need-to-point-out-that-she’s-a jazz singer Lizz Wright, who appeared with Herbie Hancock in Sonoma in 2008.
On Saturday, May 22, Earth, Wind and Fire will headline in the giant 3,800-capacity tent (will they play “Come on Feet” from Sweet Sweetback’s Badass Song?), with the openers being “a Latin Jazz supergroup—we can’t give you their name yet.” (Malo? El Chicano? Azteca? War? Tierra? The Fania Allstars?)
As the Santa Rosa City Schools wrestle with budget cuts in music programs, maybe it’s time for them to think about hosting a quasi-jazz festival too—the Sonoma festival has so far raised $460,000 for Sonoma Valley schools in its first five years. (Come on, Mark Wardlaw! Book Rick Springfield and Joan Baez! Call it jazz, baby!)
Tickets to CS&N go on sale to the general public this Friday, Feb. 19, with a special locals-only deal on Thursday for those with a Sonoma mailing address. For more info, hit up the Sonoma Jazz+ Festival site.