Monday, July 29, 2013

Operation S at Thee Parkside - 10/23/04

Operation S
Thee Parkside

I just wanted to get out of the house and see something, but I never expected that it would be this damned entertaining!  I heard through the grapevine that a French band called Operation S would be playing in town at Thee Parkside, and that they were worth checking out.  I wasn’t doing anything this fine Saturday night, so why not check out some new music?

The evening started off with a blackout in the club, and over the whole immediate area apparently – someone said some troublesome kids had been shooting fireworks at a power box/transformer/whatever and set it on fire.  The delay thinned the crowd out some, but I didn’t have anything better to do so I waited it out, and it was certainly worth the delay. 

They were definitely French – I didn’t understand a damn thing they sang except for their cover of The Avenger’s “The American in Me,” a fitting cover given their location (you think they play a punk song from a band based in each town they play in?).  The band was pretty damn tight for a punk outfit, even with some sound issues.  As a bonus they had an extremely hot singer, and she/they sounded like The Epoxies quite a bit (the exception being when the dude guitarist also sang and it came across a little bit like some of X’s better moments).  I was highly impressed, and from the reaction of the crowd I wasn’t alone. Here’s to hoping they make it back across the pond real soon.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Jim Yoshii Pile-Up / Meanest Man Contest at Edinburgh Castle - 4/11/2003

Jim Yoshii Pile-Up
with Meanest Man Contest
Edinburgh Castle

All Music guide has this to say about Meanest Man Contest – "Oakland's Meanest Man Contest is like Boards of Canada doing hip-hop."  I would say this assessment is pretty spot on - the music ranged between Boards-style mellow electronica and DJ Shadow-type beats, with Eriksolo having a voice pretty similar to Lateef from Latyrx.  I had never heard of these chaps, but it turns out that the man making the music in MMC is also the guitarist for Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, but it had been so long since I’d seen JYPU that I didn’t realize this until they took the stage later.  Back to MMC though – I dug it.  I used to be really big into hip-hop, but have become pretty discouraged over the last few years; it just doesn’t seem to hold the same zest for me as it used to.  Lately though, things have been picking up, with all of the Solesides guys finally getting a little respect, Dalek producing some of the most innovative songs I’ve heard in ages, and now these guys.  Although I didn’t know what I was getting into at the start, by the end I was transformed into a fan and immediately went over and bought their CD (which I am happy to say, as of me writing this a few days after the show, is quite good).

It wasn’t long after MMC was over that Jim Yoshii Pile-Up started playing.  They put on a fine show that also made me quite sleepy...they don't put on the most exciting stage show after all.  But don’t think them making me sleepy is a bad thing or meant as an insult, they make some damn soothing and pretty tunes.  From what I understand they focused on playing a lot of their newer material, but I can’t testify to that.  All I know is that I need to get off my ass and actually purchase more of their music, because it’s real good.

Queens of the Stone Age at The Warfield - 10/11/2003

Queens of the Stone Age
The Warfield


Over the last few months I’d seen more "big shows" than at any other point in my life, but one thing I hadn’t seen is a serious, large-scale rock show.  And for this itch that I had, Queens of the Stone Age certainly scratched it.  Even through the plugs, my ears were still ringing after the show.  I’m by no means a super fan of QotSA, but in the live setting they were pretty damn great.  If I had to write this review in just one word, it would be "tight" – they were a well oiled machine out there, playing at that level you can only achieve through an extremely high level of skill paired with lots and lots of touring.  Most of their material came from their newest album "Songs for the Deaf," with a few randoms sprinkled throughout.  Midway through the set, Mark Lanegan, who’s been collaborating with the band for some time now, came out and sang a handful of songs that had me feeling like I had transported back ten years to the heyday of grunge, his voice just has that vibe. One of the better arena rock shows I've ever seen.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Modest Mouse / The Shins at The Fillmore - 11/3/2003

Modest Mouse
with The Shins
The Fillmore

This was the first time I’d been to the Fillmore and not been an usher in ages.  No more chasing people out of places they didn’t belong, now I get to enjoy the full set of the opening act without interruption.  which was great considering who the opening band was – The Shins.  They played pretty much every song I wanted to hear...they may have actually played every song they’ve recorded.  It was one of the longest opening sets I’ve ever seen, especially at the Fillmore where they follow a pretty rigid schedule.  Nonetheless, it was the best set I’ve ever seen by The Shins; every other time I’ve seen them their sound has been sorta muddy, but this time every note was crystal clear, the vocals were spot on, and the keyboardist was funny as ever (note: the best show I’ve ever seen from this crew was a solo show by singer James Mercer playing all Shins songs acoustic, but it’s really not fair to compare the two – apples and oranges and all that).  I celebrated their greatness by buying their new record "Chutes Too Narrow" on vinyl - I’m a sucker for great art and translucent vinyl.

I’ve seen Modest Mouse many, many times, and this won’t go down as my favorite show by them – but it was still a good time.  Isaac’s voice was a little weaker than normal for some reason, and it limited him in his ability to scream and yelp along with the music like you’re accustom to hearing.  But they played a lot of my favorite songs, including "Wild Pack of Family Dogs," "Paper Thin Walls," "Cowboy Dan," "All Night Diner," and most importantly "Never Ending Math Equation."  They leaned pretty heavily towards their newer songs – not one song off of "This Is a Long Drive..."; it would have been nice to hear "Dramamine" or "Ohio," but you can’t get everything that you want right?  Although I’m not nearly as into the band as I used to be, I can’t imagine ever not wanting to go see Modest Mouse live – it’s always a good time.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Fruit Bats at Bottom of the Hill - 6/9/2003

Fruit Bats
Bottom of the Hill


I’m a late comer on the Fruit Bats bandwagon, at least among my group of friends.  I’ve been told to listen to them for a while now, and I've always put it off.  But I finally got around to it, and their new album "Mouthfuls" is one of my favorite records so far this year.  I’ve been listening to it fairly obsessively over the last couple of months.  Needless to say when they announced their tour was coming to SF, I was pretty hyped for the show...and was not left disappointed.  The band played most of "Mouthfuls" including a fantastic rendition of "When You Love Somebody," my favorite song of their record.  They also played a handful of their older songs, and although I’m not familiar with them yet, the tracks were great and I plan changing that level of familiarity the next time I make it to a music store.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Giddy Motors / Caesura at Lipo Lounge - 7/30/2003

Giddy Motors
with Caesura
Lipo Lounge

This was my first show at Lipo, although I had been here a few years earlier just to have drinks with some friends. Who knew they had that bunker compound down there? not only did it feel like a bunker, it was decorated as such also. This venue seems to run on the same time schedule as The Hemlock, because even though I thought I had gotten there late, it was still a while before Caesura started playing. I can’t say that I’ve ever been moved terribly by their recorded output, but Caesura’s live shows keep getting better and better as far as I’m concerned. Noisy, skronky (can you even be skronky without a saxophone in the band? I’m not sure really), loose at times, but wound tight at others; it was short set that left you wanting for more, my favorite kind of sets. There was a fair amount of kids there to see them, without the place being packed (I don’t even want to imagine how hot and sweaty Lipo would get if it was packed, it was hot enough just sitting empty). Perhaps I need to go back and revisit their records - maybe my ears just weren’t ready the first time. Or maybe their music is just better live.

I came to this show to see Giddy Motors though, and they were the next and last band to play. Apparently I was only about one of seven or eight people with this idea though, as the place emptied out after Caesura – which was too bad, because they missed out on a damn fine band. I was actually expecting more of a crowd, given all the good reviews that their record "Make It Pop." I had heard the comparisons to Jesus Lizard and Shellac and all that, and while fitting, they manage to transcend those easy categorizations. While their album is full of odd noises, horns, and such, the live experience was just three guys on guitar, bass, and drums bringing the rock. Anyways, I’d be willing to bet that the half dozen of us that remained at the show until the end were glad we did, I know I was. I got myself a shiny new Giddy Motors pin on my way out, and I wear it on my bag proudly. Hopefully they’ll venture out of the UK again in the near future and play for us again, and hopefully the kids will come out to see them next time around.

Frank Black at The Independent - 3/9/2004

Frank Black
The Independent

With the recent announcement of a Pixies reunion, the internet chat boards were ablaze before this show, spreading rumors left and right that this would be a secret Pixies show, a warm up for their upcoming tour.  And while I didn’t really buy it, I certainly hoped it was true and bought a ticket just in case.  Because what’s the worst case scenario – you get to see Frank Black play?  Not a bad consolation prize.

And it turns out it was just a Frank Black show, as (mostly) expected.  There were no Catholics there to back him up, so it was just a solo show – the man and his oft out-of-tune guitar.  It was mostly his solo material, but he played a handful of Pixies songs, and it was pretty noticeable from the reaction of the crowd what most of them were there to hear.  Off the top of my head, I know he played “Veloria,” “Wave of Mutilation,” and “Monkey Gone to Heaven” – which Frank claimed was his default song to start playing anytime he messed any other song more than a couple times in a row.  He played at least three tracks, including “Headache” (from his best solo album “Teenager of the Year”) which I like as much as a lot of the Pixies material.  The only possible complaint, other than it not actually being a Pixies show, is that the Independent is like a Scandinavian Sweat Lodge during a busy show.  I’m certain I lost five pounds in the couple of hours I was there.  Next time I’m going to bring one of those hand held fans and strip down to my skivvies, see how they like that.  Buy some fans for the music fans!

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Explosions in the Sky at Café du Nord - 10/22/2004

Explosions in the Sky
Café du Nord

This was the first time I’ve ever seen
Explosions in the Sky as a headlining band, and most likely the only time I’ve ever seen them at an all ages show.  Otherwise I wouldn’t have been so overwhelmed with wondering when/why/how are they so popular with really young kids?  I’d be highly surprised if very many of the folks standing around me were out of high school; it was really effective in making me feel even older than I usually do when I go out to shows.  But the band, they were terrific - they played a lot of material from their last two albums plus some of the soundtrack for the movie “Friday Night Lights” that they just recorded.  They would often let one song blend into another, culminating in sort of an uber-song of epic proportions that would go on for quite some time.  The kids ate it up; I’ve never seen so many photos taken - if you didn’t know any better you’d think some pop diva was gracing us with her presence.  Here’s to hoping that EitS don’t wait a year to make their way back here to the bay.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Explosions in the Sky at Bottom of the Hill - 12/7/2003

Explosions in the Sky
Bottom of the Hill

Explosions in the Sky have slowly and surely over the last couple of years moved pretty high on my "favorite band" list, and their new album is so good I sometimes forget other bands exist.  Since my last time seeing them live, my anticipation for their next appearance in town nearly had me in convulsions by the time they actually came on the stage.  The sea of beautifully chaotic noise that my ears were awash in for the next 45 minutes was some of the best I’ve ever heard.  Every single time I see them, they are better than the last time I saw them and I think it can’t possibly get any better.  And then next time in town, it does.  How many bands can you say this about?  Here’s to hoping that these Texas recluses continue to visit our fair city ever few months like has been happening recently.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Lilys / Explosions in the Sky at Bottom of the Hill - 6/6/2003

with Explosions in the Sky
Bottom of the Hill

I don’t think words can do justice to how excited I was about this Explosions in the Sky show. I saw them a few years back opening for And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead, before I even knew who they were, and thought it was pretty good. Then I got their album "Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Die, Those Who Tell the Truth Shall Live Forever" and have listened to it obsessively ever since. The last time they played in town I couldn’t make the show and was quite bummed, so this go around I was definitely not missing it. It was unbelievable – they are a sonic firestorm on par with Mogwai or GY!BE; the fact that they haven’t gotten their due is nothing short of scandalous. How can one band rock out with such intensity and still have the ability to reach into your chest and fuck with your heart? I’m by no means one of those emo kids, but something about their music really goes to my core.  

Lilys were the closers for the night. There was no way they were going to top
Explosions in the Sky, but it was still damn enjoyable. Kind of a weird pairing to start with, but I like both bands so why not.  The main man of the Lilys, Kurt Heasley, changes band members like most people change socks (but probably still not as bad as Robert Pollard of Guided by Voices), and was performing with an entirely different crew than the last time I saw them (previously members of Beachwood Sparks were involved). They played mostly new stuff which was all fine and good, but it would have been nice to hear some of the older songs from "The 3 Way.". I watched probably a good three-fourths of their set before I left, my ears and skull still full of the beautiful sounds of Explosions in the Sky. Hopefully they’ll play again real soon.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Rum Diary / Kilowatthours at 40th Street Warehouse - 6/14/2003

Rum Diary
with Kilowatthours
40th Street Warehouse


I was excited that Kilowatthours had been added to this bill last minute. Apparently they were on tour and in desperate need of a last minute Bay Area show, and the kind folks at 40th Street hooked them up. Which was awesome, because they were the main reason I came out on this night – the catalyst that actually got my sorry ass across the bridge, a task that is often tough to pull off for us "City" dwellers. Bottom line – despite some minor technical difficulties at the beginning (the band might argue about how "minor" these difficulties were as I believe the singer broke his guitar amp), they sounded fantastic. They remind me of a mixture of Radiohead, Tristeza, Appleseed Cast, and maybe even a little post-rock-ish stuff like Mogwai. I can’t speak for their other releases as I haven’t heard them, but "Strain of Positive Thinking" is a fine album everyone should check out post haste.  A very enjoyable live show. 

Last was the Rum Diary. By this point it was late and the room was emptying out and I prepared for a mellow set surrounded by other people sitting on the floor. But, Rum Diary is so much louder than you think they are. They have two singers (one on bass, one on guitar), a drummer and an afro-bearing man on another set of drums switching up instruments faster than you can follow, each one better than the last I just love it when they have both drummers drumming at once. They did the requisite three men on drums thing (although last time I saw them it was all four of them which was even more amazing) and somehow avoided sounding tribal or jam bandy. This is pure rock. Yeah, the Rum Diary are a good recorded band, but live and in person they will blow you away.

Les Savy Fav at Slims - 11/12/2004

Les Savy Fav

A Les Savy Fav show will never leave you wanting for entertainment, even if you don’t like the music.  Lucky for me, they are both musically and visually one of my very favorite bands of the last few years, and this show only strengthened those feelings.  The band played a ton of their older singles, which I guess makes sense since their most recent release is their singles collection called “Inches.”  I was a little let down that “Adopduction” and “Blackouts” were left off of the set list, but I think they’ve played both of those every other time I’ve seen them so whatever.

I would say that the band's singer Tim Harrington was in rare form, but he always is. The show started with the man on the stage by himself for a good five minutes in a sea captain outfit, complete with pipe, talking in to the microphone as if he were dictating his sea captain's diary.  It was pretty damn hilarious.  Once the band came out, as the show progressed he got to more and more levels of undressed.  Eventually he was just down to his tighty-whiteys and a tank-top with both straps broken, which was then tucked in around his underwear to resemble a short miniskirt…and then further tucking occurred, and he appeared as a grown man in a diaper.  At some point there was a kid who had gotten on stage in an attempt to stage dive, but Tim had him pinned down in dry-hump mode before the kid even knew what was going on.  But this was all just a prelude to the encore, when he came back out on the stage in a tight, white pony outfit that left nothing to the imagination.  There was enough crowd humping, tit licking, and fake penis stroking to last me for a while.  Or until the next time Les Savy Fav comes to town, which is hopefully sooner rather than later.

Lambchop at the Castro Theatre - 4/18/2003

Live Score to "Sunrise"
SF International Film Festival
The Castro Theatre

This is my second year making it to the live band portion of the San Francisco International Film Festival, and I wasn’t disappointed. Last year Superchunk (along with the help of Chuck Johnson of Spatula and Idyll Swords and Ash Bowie of Polvo, Helium, and Libraness) performed a magnificent score for the film "A Page of Madness" and they subsequently released the live recording of this event for the home listener. It was a vast departure from anything else they had ever done, and it was probably one of my favorite performances I’ve ever seen.

But enough about last year – this year, the film was F.W. Murnau’s "Sunrise" and the band chosen to accompany it was Lambchop, another Merge recording artist that Mac from Superchunk hooked up with the gig. The story for the film was fairly simple, a couple falls back in love after some very trying times (you know, husband cheats on the wife and nearly kills her, stuff like that). I would have enjoyed the film without the live band accompaniment honestly. I’ve been a Lambchop fan for a long time now, but this was my first time seeing them and I was not disappointed in the least. Whereas the Chunk had taken the route of playing an entirely instrumental score for their film, Lambchop played a blend of songs that ranged from score-like pieces to songs that were modified versions of tracks featured on their albums. I really enjoyed all of it and hopefully someone recorded the affair and Merge will also release this soundtrack like they released the Superchunk one (even better – release a DVD of the film with an alternate audio track of this performance, where the viewer can choose whether or not they want it to accompany their viewing of the film) .

Some might say that occasionally the songs overshadowed the film, particularly with the vivid vocals the Kurt Wagner dredges up in their songs. That said, it was still damned enjoyable, both the music and the film, and I look forward to next years performance by hopefully another Merge band. Crooked Fingers anyone? The Clean? Spoon? There are so many to choose from it would be tough to pick a loser.

Kelley Stoltz / Rogue Wave at Thee Parkside - 1/27/2004

Kelley Stoltz
with Rogue Wave
Thee Parkside

What can I say about Rogue Wave that hasn’t already been said?  They played a short set of half old and half new songs, and it included both my favorite old song (“Postage Stamp World”) and my favorite new one (“10 to 1”).  I’m insanely eager for them to get back in the studio and record the follow up to their awesome debut “Out of the Shadows” just so I can have these new songs in some form where I can hear them at home and not just at shows.  I suppose I could always bootleg one of their shows, but I don’t have the equipment…and like I said before, my laziness usually gets the better of me, just making it to a show is a feat all on it’s own.  This show was their warm-up before embarking on a two-week tour supporting cool-kid-favorites Mates of State.  They were damn excited to be going on this tour and it showed in their playing.  I’m so glad to have a band of this quality who is local and plays all the time…and nice folks too, go up to them after a show and tell them how much you liked it, they’ll surely appreciate it.

Kelley Stoltz was the headliner, and this was the final night of his month-long Tuesday-night residency at Thee Parkside.  He certainly went out with a bang, not only picking great opening acts but coming armed himself with a kick-ass band that garnered many a whoop and holler from the crowd.  Having missed him numerous times when he was opening for someone else I was going to check out, I will no longer make the mistake of missing a Kelly Stoltz show if I can help it.  Great songs for kids of all ages – not only do I really enjoy his brand of rock music, but I think my mom would like it as well (maybe he’ll be playing next time she comes into town…).  Now that I’ve seen him with the band, I’m especially curious to see him play in his other form, the stripped-down singer/songwriter version.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

3rd Annual SF Guerilla Music Festival at Toxic Beach - 8/24/2003

3rd Annual SF Guerilla Music Festival
featuring Jim Yoshii Pile-Up, Spider Compass Good Crime Band, Charmless, Mushroom, Zach Rogue, and Shimmer Kids Underpop Association
Toxic Beach

Some might say that I’m biased in this review since I help organize this little be it, don't care.  Since I don’t play in any of the bands, and stand nothing to gain by lying or embellishing for or about them, I see no conflict.  That said it was a fine, long day at Warm Water Cove (a.k.a. Toxic Beach).  Almost too fine really, as the sun was beating down in that way that only happens here in SF a handful of times a year.  All of the showgoers were scattered to the few shady spots, leaving the crowd pretty spread out for most of the show but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves nonetheless.  There was a grill for cooking goodies, many coolers full of beer and pop, and crazy people everywhere for entertainment.  These crazy people included:
 - A bunch of biker/druggie types, there for the wake of a friend of theirs who was stabbed by his speed-dealing girlfriend. 

 - Crazy-shaker-stick-man, a fella who staggered around with this weird stick that looked like a bed post, adorned with lots of random crap. He danced for pretty much the entire duration of the show.
 - The fishermen, a whole crew of them fishing in the bay and periodically checking out what was going on. They had a kid with them who would randomly push a baby stroller around (no baby in it mind you, and he was at least 12 years old).
 - The homeless folk who live at Toxic Beach, who were more than happy to take our old bottles and cans off of us.

 - And finally, Frank Chu, who was actually invited by some of the folks at the show and gave a little speech at one point that made no sense. But then again, when does Frank Chu ever make sense?  
The best part about it all is that these people were plenty nice and everyone got along in our little one day poor man's Woodstock.  But this is supposed to be a music review right? So here is the low down on the bands who played...

Jim Yoshii Pile-Up was first. Unfortunately, this also meant that they served as the guinea pigs for testing out the sound system, or more importantly, the output levels of the generator. The first couple of songs were plagued by the power cutting out numerous of times. It finally got sorted out, and they were able to finish their set in grand fashion. Their last couple of songs might have been my favorite thing I heard the entire day, and even though I’ve known of them for ages, I find JYPU growing on me like a virus lately. But the good kind of virus, not the kind you try to fight with a topical cream.

Playing a short set after JYPU was the Spider Compass Good Crime Band. This was Andrew from the Slow Poisoners plus another fella, playing skronky, noisy improve keyboard nonsense while wearing giant, monstrous, vulture-like heads. In this heat, that alone was no small feat. But they were awesome! It was the sort of thing that would get old after a while, but for the short bit that they played it was near perfect. Seeing those telescoping mask/heads bobbing around while they played their demented circus music was a funny sight that I hope to see again, but I can’t imagine it ever getting any better than this. My crystal ball says that these guys opening for Experimental Dental School would be a match made in heaven.

Charmless was the second main band, and they were just as good as I remember them being when I saw them a year or more ago.  I’d been wanting to see them again for quite some time and it never seemed to work out, so I figured the best way to finally make this happen would be to just have them play a show I was helping organize.  For those who don’t know, they play a brand of pop-punk that reminds me a lot of classic North Carolina rock like Archers of Loaf or Superchunk. They have an EP that they’ve released fairly recently that I was really wanting to get, but I didn’t see them selling anything. Oh well, next time around I suppose - and there will be a next time most certainly.

After a short break, Mushroom played. I didn’t know anything about these guys other than that they were "improv."  They seemingly don’t have any songs really, one guy will just start off a song and they’ll all join in eventually - a sure sign of a group of talented musicians if nothing else.  I didn’t love all they did, some of it sounded a bit too ‘lite-jazz’ for me; but there were a couple of songs that reminded me of some of the better Chicago instrumental stuff like Tortoise and Directions in Music.  But perhaps the best part of their set was not music related at all, but rather when one of the fishermen caught a large fish (a halibut I believe? I thought it was a flounder, but I’m by no means a fish expert), and walked up behind the band raised the fish in the air, and yelled "yeah!," which cause the audience to cheer and clap for the guy.

At this point there was another short act, this time it was Zach from Rogue Wave playing a solo acoustic set.  Well, not really solo, as Rogue Wave's drummer, Pat, also sat in with him and sang back up harmonies and played the shaker and tambourine.  He played a great mix of older material from the album and new stuff as well.  I can’t say enough good things about Rogue Wave, they’ve easily put out my favorite local record of the year.  I’m constantly hyping them up to my friends, and now to you – go see this band!  They’re playing out a lot lately, and if you like catchy pop music, you’d be remiss to miss this wonderful act.

The final band of the day was the Shimmer Kids Underpop Association, a group of local popsters who have been around for quite a while now.  And when I say group, what I mean is small army – there are eight shimmer kids in total, playing a range of instruments from the normal band fare of guitar, drums, bass, but also trumpet, sax, theremin, and a whole box full of shakers and noise makers.  They always seem to get comparisons to the Elephant 6 camp, and I can see that; but they also have a slight country tinge to them, in a Byrds sorta way.  Lots of harmonies, great horns, and catchy tunes made for a great finale for this grand day.

Guided by Voices at the Fillmore - 11/13/2004

Guided by Voices
The Fillmore

I’ve seen Guided by Voices a bunch of times, and this is going to be my final show by them.  The band is retiring…Robert Pollard, the only "true" member these days, is shelving one of the most famous names in independent rock.  I’m sure he’ll probably tour under his own name, and he’ll probably even play some GBV songs since he wrote pretty much all twenty million of them, but will it be the same?  I doubt it.
I guess it is fitting that this was one of the best shows I’ve ever seen by them.  They played for nearly three hours, but there were only a couple of times when I really noticed I had been standing in that same spot doing my poor version of what most kids call dancing to some of the greatest pop music ever written for that extended period of time.  Time flies when you’re having fun and all that. 

But most notably was the encore – the encore alone was probably the best thing I’ve seen all year, it was a veritable cornucopia of all of GBV’s fan favorites – Game of Pricks, A Salty Salute, Motor Away, Tractor Rape Chain, Glad Girls, I am a Scientist…the crowd, myself included, were going nuts the entire time.  10+ straight songs that are all contenders for the best pop song ever written, it was magnificent in all of its splendor.  If there is a god, it might very well be Robert Pollard when he is onstage playing these songs.

Harold Ray: Live in Concert / The Duchess / The Mothballs at the Rickshaw Stop - 6/9/2005

Harold Ray: Live in Concert
with The Duchess and The Mothballs
The Rickshaw Stop

I don’t think The Mothballs were as drunk as the last time I saw them, but it didn’t seem for lack of trying.  I’m pretty sure when I saw JJ before they started playing he had an alcoholic beverage in each hand (now that I think about it, it’s fairly common for JJ to have two drinks at once regardless of whether or not his band is playing).  They were sloppy and happy and great all at the same time just like they are supposed to be, and it brought a big grin to my face.  About midway through the set the singer (Carlos?) broke one of the strings on his guitar, but instead of putting on a new one like most folks, he just said fuck it and played the rest of the show on a 5-string guitar.  Friends, that is punk rock, not spiking up your hair and paying too much money for a pre-worn in leather jacket.

The only thing I knew about The Duchess going into this show was that they were taking up valuable time between two bands I really liked, but lucky for me they actually turned out to be quite awesome.  They were a 9-piece soul band, with three female singers decked out in matching gear and synchronized dance moves and a high entertainment value.  The band was a local all-star group of sorts – members of Harold Ray: Live in Concert, The Husbands, The Fucking Champs, Hammers of Misfortune, and god knows who else.  Although the singing was a little off at times, the singers made up for this in enthusiasm; and the band, they were as tight as a tube top on a chubby teenager.  The place was packed, seemingly most folks there to see the Duchess… apparently all the band members also work at Rainbow Grocery, and their co-workers were out in full force.  It was “co-op rock” at it’s finest.

Harold Ray: Live in Concert were the closers.  They started the show with the singer Jason making fun of both SF and JJ from the Mothballs, and going on about the giant steak he had eaten.  And then they rocked the fuck out.  I’ve seen these guys a bunch of times, and sure, they usually play the same songs, but they’re such damn good songs, and fantastic performers, that it never seems to get old.  It was very dancey while they played especially for SF where dancing is frowned upon, I almost even “shook a leg” as the kids say.  If I come anywhere close to dancing, then you know I’m really diggin’ it, and I most certainly was.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Low / Pedro the Lion at Great American Music Hall - 3/29/2005

with Pedro the Lion
Great American Music Hall

it seems like I haven’t seen Pedro the Lion in forever, but in reality it’s only been a couple of years.  I can’t say that I’ve listened to him much over that time either, but there was definitely a time in my life when he was one of my very favorites.  His sound hasn’t changed, I just think my tastes have shifted somewhat, as is prone to happen as you get old and cranky.  All that said, he put on a damn good show, probably my favorite performance ever by him and his band – and I’ve seen him a bunch of times. 

It was a much more rocking affair than previous efforts, and despite my lack of knowledge of the current catalog, I knew almost everything they played anyways.  Lots of classics like “Big Trucks,”
“Priests and Paramedics,” that song whose title I forget but it’s about women shaving, and tons more.  Sadly he did not play “Bad Diary Days,” which is not only my favorite song of his but one of my favorite songs by any band or performer.  It made me want to go home and drag out my Pedro the Lion recordings.

Low, who I’ve also seen tons of times, were the headliners this evening.  The place actually emptied out a bit after Pedro, not terribly surprising as he seems to have some fanatical fans.  The plus to this is it gave me more room to stand around and lessened the chance of crowd chatter disrupting my Low experience.  Not unlike the openers, Low also came with a more “rock” vibe, which fit in well with their new album that came out on Sub Pop earlier this year.  “California” is an instant favorite from this record, and it was the second song they played much to my delight.  Sadly, no “Over the Ocean” or “The Plan” (they seemed to ignore “The Curtain Hits the Cast,” my favorite record, entirely), but unless my memory fails me I recall “Sunflower,” “Dinosaur Act,” and other favorites that the crowd love to yell at the band.  As I have come to expect with this trio of Minnesotans, Low was awesome, Mimi’s voice gave me goose bumps, and Zak Sally was surly as always.  Good times all around.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Low / Jolie Holland at Great American Music Hall - 2/26/2004

with Jolie Holland
Great American Music Hall

These Noise Pop bills always have a million bands on them, and there’s no way I can tolerate a four band line-up unless I completely love every single band (and even then I’m likely to get cranky and leave early), so timing is critical.  You want to get there in time to see what you want to see, but not have to put up with too much extraneous stuff.

I got to this show about half-way through the set of Jolie Holland.  It was somewhat of a letdown, but I was somewhat expecting it so I wasn’t surprised.  The main issue was the crowd – Noise Pop events are known for drawing a large number of folks who wouldn’t normally be out, and generally leads to some pretty raucous behavior and loud, abrasive attendees.  Let it be said that the letdown was not because of Jolie Holland – her magical voice tried and tried to rise above the din of the crowd, but it was fighting a losing battle.  She was obviously upset by it all, but what can you do?  She sounded amazing when you could hear her, but that wasn’t nearly enough of the time.  I would just like to say to everyone out there in “internet-land” that you should see Jolie in an environment more suited for her, like the Make Out Room or something similar in nature, where the crowd is there for her and her voice can really shine and not have to fight over the rude concert-goers.

I think I’ve seen Low every year I’ve lived in San Francisco, and every year they make my list of favorite live shows that past year.  So at this point, I’m obviously coming into any of their performances with some pretty heavy expectations of greatness.  As usual they did not disappoint in the least.  Sure, there were some loud talkers and abrasive dirty hippies who were trying their damnedest to ruin the show for me and a number of other folks there, but the music was so beautiful and mesmerizing that I just tuned it all out for the most part.  They spent the majority of the show on new material, all of which was great and leads me to happily believe that a new album might be out sometime soon.  This new material is some of their most dynamic to date, incorporating a newfound love for very dark lyrics they have seemed to develop with a much more “rocking” sound than you might otherwise be used to hearing out of them.  My only real gripe is that Mimi didn’t sing nearly enough, and they didn’t play “Over the Ocean” or “The Plan,” but what can you do?  It was great anyways and I eagerly await their next visit back to our fair city.

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Low at Great American Music Hall - 11/13/2002

Great American Music Hall

Low, how beautiful your voices are, they mesmerize me.  On paper, I don’t think I would enjoy a Low show, given how mellow they are, but something about them manages to keep me rapt for the duration of their performance.  It is my contention that Mimi Parker’s voice is possibly the best female voice in rock music today.

They played a wide array of songs, and many that the audience yelled out to hear.  My two favorites "Over the Ocean" and "The Plan" were played, as well as "Dinosaur Act," one of their Christmas songs, and a whole slew of others.  Possibly the best song of the night was "Fearless," a Pink Floyd cover, which sounded very much like a Low song while still retaining the overall feel of the original.  I love it when they cover songs - their version of The BeeGee’s "I Started a Joke" is one of my favorite songs that they play.

All told, a really amazing show that will probably make my top ten at the end of the year.  The only thing that could have made it better would have been to have The Danielson Famile open for them again like last year.  I’m still kicking myself for only going to one of those shows. 

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

Liars / Young People at Bottom of the Hill - 3/30/2004

with Young People
Bottom of the Hill

I am constantly professing my love for Young People to pretty much anyone willing to listen.  The music is rad, Katie has one of my favorite female voices out there, and they put on a great show.  I’m still a little bummed that they moved to NYC, it was great when they were still in California and would come up and play the Hemlock or house parties or whatever all of the time…but time marches on or some such stupid saying.  At least they have been touring quite a bit since moving so very far away, allowing me at least periodic glimpses at their greatness.  Predictably, like every other time I’ve seen them this time was great as well.  This is minimalist art-pop, and probably one of the best examples to be found anywhere (for lack of a better genre to throw them in, and I’m pretty sure this one doesn’t even exist – think Bjork meets Cat Power for the closest approximation).  For their finale, the two non "giant Aussies from Liars" came on stage to help fill in their sound, and they performed a raucous, rocking number the likes of which I’d never heard nor expected from my beloved Young People.  But it was great anyways.

I’d been both looking forward to and dreading this Liars show for a while.  I’d heard from folks whose opinions matter to me, as well as on the internet, very mixed reactions to both their new album and their live show.  I still haven’t heard the new album, which is apparently a theme number about witches, but their debut “They Threw Us All in a Trench and Stuck a Monument on Top” was one of my favorite records of 2002.  As a live outfit, they pretty much lived up to what I expected – surly, surreal and scintillating.  They didn’t play a single song I knew, which bummed me out a bit; but with the nature of their performance, it could have been that I just didn’t recognize it under all of the insanity.  Singer/guitarist/pedal stomper Angus was a sight to behold, all lanky and staggering and not looking like he was perfectly above board when it came to his faculties.  The drummer, dressed in a skirt and “manties” and a fancy moustache, was an absolute machine.  And the other dude, who played pretty much a little of everything but mostly guitar, looked quite normal on that stage compared to the other two, which was nearly as disconcerting as it wasn’t.  Although all of this was obviously not sitting well with everyone at the show and many left early, there were still plenty of us sticking around to enjoy the pure chaos on the stage.

Tig Notaro / Kyle Dunnigan at the Carolina Theatre - 5/4/2013

Tig Notaro
with Kyle Dunnigan
The Carolina Theatre

I've seen Tig Notaro a few times, and it was only a year or two ago that she was performing at Kings.  Then she gets sick, her mom dies, she's diagnosed with breast cancer, and Louis CK puts his weight behind her and now she's playing the Carolina Theatre.  That's a pretty dumbed-down version of her timeline on my part, but it covers the biggest touchstones, and dumb comes easy to me.  Any anyways, the end result was another hilarious set from Tig just in a larger venue.  More than any other time I've seen her, she really did a lot of crowd work - I'd guess at least 50% of her set involved interacting with the audience.  This might prove dicey for a lot of comedians but like Todd Barry, Tig is a master at interacting with people in a humorous fashion.  At one point she tried to do her noisy stool bit on the stage, only the stool wouldn't make any noise...she then tried a wide assortment of chairs, none of which worked.  The failed stool bit ended up just as funny as when it works.  Honestly, the woman could probably stand on stage silently and it would work for me. 

We weren't expecting an opener, as that seems rare at these larger theater shows, but Tig had one - Kyle Dunnigan.  Some may know him as one of Tig's co-stars on their podcast Professor Blastoff, others may know him as Sarah Silverman's boyfriend, but to me he'll always be Craig Pullin, the Truckee River Killer and Trudy Wiegel's boyfriend on "Reno 911."  His set reminded me a little of Zach Galifianakis, mostly because there were jokes that involved a piano and thematically he was all over the place.  Someone sitting near me started heckling him that he was telling the same jokes he did when he opened for Sarah Silverman a couple weeks ago, and he started giving the heckler shit and apologizing for not having a brand new set of material every time he performs.  I have no idea what goes through peoples heads when they yell at comedians...hopefully they're drunk and not just assholes, though I suspect they are probably both.  Anyways, very funny guy, would gladly go see him anytime he came through town supporting or headlining his own show.  

(Photo not mine, found randomly online.)

The Men / Organs at the Pinhook - 5/1/2013

The Men
with Organs
The Pinhook

The Men have made quite a change in their sound since I last saw them at Hopscotch a couple years back.  Their recorded output was heavy then, but in a live setting they were bordering on a hardcore band.  But in the past two years they've released a couple of records that shifted in a very different direction, and I was curious how their live shows had also shifted.  It turns out that much like their records, they've become some sort of mid-nineties indie rock band with a tinge of Americana.  I loved the old version of the group, but their "new" songs are great as well, and the live performance is just as furious as ever - just not as musically aggressive.  The band is playing as a five piece now, with a keyboardist doing some serious heavy lifting on most of their songs.  Most of their set was from their past two records "Open Your Heart" and "New Moon," and they ended the set with an epic kraut rock jam that must have lasted at least 15 minutes.  It was a fine show - I might miss the old version of the band, but this current version nearly makes up for it. 

There was an opener by the name of Organs, and I'm still not sure how I felt about their set.  The were a three piece from New York City and the singer had Teenage Fanclub hair, but listening to them they sounded like a bluesy-garage-rockabilly act that would surely be signed to Goner Records.  The bass was really heavy in their songs, not sure if this was the Pinhook mix or how they intended it to be...occasionally so loud it was distracting, and I love bass.  The ratio of songs I liked to those I wasn't crazy about was 50-50 - there were just a few too many rockabilly twang moments for me.  They played a disaster of a Gram Parsons cover with Nick from the Men joining them, but it was still pretty fun.  They were intriguing enough that I'd see them again, if they were opening on a show I was otherwise planning on going to.