_DSC0352c - Tony Bonacci

Conor Oberst shares new video “Uncanny” + announces new album

01/18/2017

Perhaps the best emo-folk-rock musician (and particularly lyricist) of his time, Conor Oberst will be releasing his eighth studio album in March. Salutations is a full-band rendering of the songs from last year’s solo Ruminations plus a few additional songs. Apparently, the latter was originally intended as a demo to attract collaborators, but the collaborators were so moved by the solo renditions of the ten songs, that Oberst was inspired to release them in the stripped down format. 

Later in 2016, Oberst enlisted New York folk/rock band The Felice Brothers as his backing band, and put seventeen songs in the hands of the legendary Malibu studio Shangri-La. The list of guest contributions on the album – including Jim James, Blake Mills, Maria Taylor, M Ward, Gillian Welch, Gus Seyffert, Pearl Charles, Nathaniel Walcott, and Jonathan Wilson – has me itching to hear this album.

Oberst will hit The Fox in Oakland come May, and I’m sure we’ll have some news on that down the road. Meantime, here is the second release (after December’s “Tachycardia”) off the album, “Uncanny”, the video for which features Oberst played by multiple actors at various stages of life, and the ghost of Sylvia Plath among other delights. Any relation to actual autobiographical – past or future – events has not been verified. 

Pre-orders of the album – which you can do here – include immediate downloads of both “Uncanny” and “Tachycardia”. 

Press photo by Tony Bonacci

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Noise Pop shows some major local love

01/15/2017

The beloved local festival Noise Pop just made its 4th announcement of acts it will be hosting February 17-27th — including 50+ Bay Area bands.  Known for bringing both huge names in indie music and highlighting great local bands, this year – the festival’s 25th happening all across the city – is going to be one for the books. 

The full line up (so far) is here, but first … of the 50+ here are ten local bands we think you shouldn’t miss at this year’s festival:

Hazel EnglishTuesday 2/21 @ Rickshaw Stop — Dreamy does not begin to describe this indie band, whose releases this year built beautifully upon the gems of the past such as “Never Going Home” 

“Never Going Home” – Hazel English

Shannon & The ClamsMonday 2/27 @ the Fox — Never a dull moment with this staple local scene band, who sits somewhere between Wanda Jackson and a raucous early Rolling Stones

“Rip Van Winkle” – Shannon & the Clams

The Y AxesFriday 2/24 @ Great American Music Hall — Putting out a new album in 2016, The Y Axes established themselves as a futuristic pop band to be reckoned with.

“Meteorite” – The Y Axes

DONCATWednesday 2/22 @ Swedish American Music Hall — An ethereal singer-songwriter – in the vein of Mark Kozalek / Sun Kil Moon – gets full band treatment with a gorgeous result that leans both to late 60’s folk and contemporary indie rock

“Close Hand” – DONCAT

Cave CloveWednesday 2/22 @ Bottom of the Hill — We recently wrote about this band’s excellent new release which sees them honing their sound towards psychedelic folk with a touch of soul. 

“Bid for Power” – Cave Clove

Rogue WaveFriday 2/24 @ Rickshaw Stop — After several years dormant, this well-established band returned in 2016 with Delusions of Grand Fur  which Pop Matters said “manages to balance clear folk influences with gawking explorations of electronica”

“California Bride” – Rogue Wave

Before the BraveFriday 2/24 @ Bottom of the Hill — This band* is a fantastic voice in the folk rock scene and not to be missed, with well-developed songs and gorgeous harmonies

“Free” – Before the Brave

Madeline Kenney – Wednesday 2/22 @ Swedish American Music Hall — New to me, this songwriter has an incredible ability to weave vulnerability and musicality. Her dreamy pop EP Signals is well worth your listen

“Signals” – Madeline Kenney

Two ShedsSunday 2/26 @ Bottom of the Hill — Another that isn’t actually from the Bay (they apparently moved to LA in 2012) – but they formed here so we’ll give them a pass. Two Sheds hasn’t put any new music out in a couple years but front woman Caitlin’s voice is undeniably beautiful and emotive – her songs like poems that emanate from a sunny California afternoon that carries its own kind of melancholy

“Come Home” – Two Sheds

Hot Flash Heat WaveThursday 2/23 @ Bottom of the Hill — No festival in the Bay Area would be complete without some surf rock and few do it better round here than Hot Flash Heat Wave

“Gutter Girl” – Hot Flash Heat Wave

 

*An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Before the Brave was from Sacramento. The band hails from multiple parts of the Bay Area, and is solidly a Bay Area band. 

Related Images:

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The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual’s 7th Annual Bowie Birthday Bash – two nights at The Chapel

01/04/2017

The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual’s 6th Annual Bowie Birthday Bash took place on January 9th last year; one day before the unexpected passing of its musical deity David Bowie.

Since then we’ve also lost Prince, George Michael, Sharon Jones, Leonard Cohen, Earth, Wind & Fire’s Maurice White, Jefferson Airplane’s Paul Kantner, Glenn Frey,  Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, Bernie Worrell, 2/3rds of Emerson, Lake & Palmer ( Keith Emerson & Greg Lake), Suicide’s Alan Vega, Dead or Alive’s Pete Burns, Leon Russell, Christina Grimmie, Beatles prouducer George Martin, three jazz legends (Gato BarbieriBobby Hutcherson, and Toots Thielemans), the amazing Pauline Oliveros, and the list goes on and on including – devastatingly – our beloved friends lost in the Oakland fire barely a month ago. 

It is time to fucking pray to the music gods again, my friends. Come be baptized by your comrades’ sweat and tears as they dance their souls pure with The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual at the Chapel on Friday and/or Saturday night — a holy musical revival in the form of a tribute to David Bowie. 

Now performing only once a year, this supergroup of local musicians and performers was orginally formed as a band in SF in 2010. I tried to rephrase their “About” in my own words, but it’s just too damn perfect: “A musical, theatrical, sparkly spectacle of a show that tap dances on all the lines between religion and revelry, beatitude and blasphemy, rock show and revival.” They’ve been called “an orgasmic sensation” and “a Suffragette City spectacle” (SFBG). How can you resist?

The Boom Boom Room is presenting this show – though, I repeat, it is at The Chapel. Both nights will feature the band playing an entire Bowie album cover to cover (The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars on 1/6 and Diamond Dogs on 1/7), as well as, we’re told, a Bowie Reverend in the Silversexual Confession booth, drag artists, and one hell of a stage show. 

 Tickets are $20. Get them here. Don’t wait to get them. Seriously. You need this.

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The Easy Leaves Country Western Revival aka Western Winter Formal @ GAMH 1/7

01/03/2017

Country music has many faces, and none so damn good looking and Bay Area-grown as The Easy Leaves. With their ability to weave vernacular poetry and honky tonk jam, you’ll think you’d stepped into Robert’s Western World in Nashville. Now, it’s time pull on your boots, warm up with some whiskey and head out to the Great American Music Hall this Saturday for their annual Western Winter Formal.

Touring heavily for the past few years (including stops at Outside Lands, the Mother Hips‘ Hipnic and Strawberry Music Festival), the list of bands the Easy Leaves have supported is a veritable Who’s Who in Country Western Music (and etcetera): Dwight Yoakam, Junior Brown, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, Asleep At The Wheel, Billy Joe Shaver, Robert Earl Keen, Blind Boys of Alabama, Jim Lauderdale, Ry Cooder, Ricky Skaggs, Charlie Musselwhite, Kasey Chambers and Los Lobos

It’s unfair and untrue to say they have a unique voice in country music – because part of what makes The Easy Leaves great is their revival of a rich period in country western. A time when Merle Haggard and Johnny Cash were getting drunk and starting fights in bars and Willie Nelson was … well, Willie’s still touring around and getting high with his friends. But you get the picture. Those songwriters had a certain melodious twang that spoke to lonely hearts and these boys have it too.

For the Western Winter Formal they’ll be joined by Country Lips, Caleb Klauder, Reeb Willms, and DJ Golden Gram. You can grab your tickets here

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Sumif brings Seasons cheer to Rickshaw Stop

12/24/2016

Friday night saw Aaron Axelsson’s Popscene close out another successful year with their annual Xmas Party. Sumif headlined the event, which helped cap a successful year for the San Francisco based electro-pop singer-songwriter.

Her single, “Lay Down,” reached number one on Hype Machine during the summer and she sold out Brick and Mortar Music Hall with her first show in San Francisco since releasing the new music. During her energetic set, Steph mentioned how she had previously jumped on the Rickshaw Stop stage and vowed to play on it one day.

The set was full cheer, as Sumif, joined on stage by Rahi Kumar, powered through many of the songs released during the year. She managed to slip some new music into the set which, on first listen, sounded a bit slower, a bit richer and a bit rounder in sound. If there was any doubt this was a Christmas party, beyond the Popscene tree glittering in the corner, she dropped a karaoke style rendition of Mariah Carey into the set to cement the show’s Christmas credentials.

Closing out with the aforementioned “Lay Down,” it was a fun gig, full of joy, and the perfect way to close out another year of Popscene.

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Photos: BROODS searching for a new Consciousness at The Fox

12/10/2016

In August, BROODS sold out Oakland’s Fox Theater. The New Zealand brother, sister combo have been riding a wave of success since their breakout single “Bridges” was followed up by the much-loved Evergreen, ascending them to international fame. Their latest trip to the Bay Area could be seen as unusual territory as they found themselves opening for Two Door Cinema Club on their North American Tour (BROODS’ 2015 visit was to sell out San Francisco’s Regency Ballroom).

BROODS’ latest album, Conscious, was released in the Summer to a mixture of positive and lukewarm reviews. Many praising the more layered, fuller production with others bemoaning the seeming trudge towards predictability creeping into the sound. What the album lost in raw, emotive, stories it gained in slick, multi-layered production. Their set, in front of a packed Fox Theater, was in many ways a reflection of this; both for better and for worse.

The set focused heavily on new music, the broader fuller sound was translated to the stage with aplomb. No longer doubling up on vocals and keys Georgia Nott was free to roam, spin, wiggle and  dance to each corner of the stage. Even though they were only opening, it felt bigger than the time I saw them previously (at The Regency in 2015). With a bigger band, Caleb appears to present a less prominent figure on stage, at the front yes, but often hidden in the shadows of the spotlight following his sister around the stage. Read More

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Music in the aftermath – remembering Nackt

12/06/2016

There are no adequate words to express our heartbreak at the tragic Ghost Ship fire last Friday night in Oakland. Along with so many others, we send our deepest condolences to the family and friends of all those lost. We also see it as part of honoring their legacy to make sure that the music lives on. Today we’ll honor producer, multi-instrumentalist and DJ Johnny Igaz, also known as Nackt, who was spinning on the second floor of Ghost Ship when the fire broke out. 

It’s strange to write about it before his name has been confirmed, but at this point the hoping and praying for miracles seems to have crumbled into devastation. It is worth, of course, mentioning that so many of us who are musicians in the Bay Area have lived at, played at, partied at, and helped create spaces just like this one. The warehouse scenes in this city have been such an important part of music here at least for the 15 years I’ve been in town. Most of that scene moved to Oakland in a hurry when SF became financially unbearable, some of it was there all along. With a death toll up to 36, I think it’s fair to say this is the worst thing that has ever happened to the music scene in the Bay Area. 

Meeting Johnny Igaz, a Bay Area native, is unlocked from time and space for me – was it a year ago? Two? I think we were outside somewhere. He has this smile – it stops you. It contains that spark of creativity, of magic and mischief that makes you want to cozy up to it. We exchanged info after talking for only a few minutes and became that uniquely 21st-century thing “social media friends”. I followed him on Twitter, Facebook, and most importantly Soundcloud.  

Igaz’ sound – created under the name Nackt, a German word meaning “naked, raw” – is rooted in what many of those who knew him call an Encyclopedic knowledge of music and formed through hip hop, deep house and techno. His music has appeared on multiple labels including 100% Silk, Chillin Music, Popgang, Don’t Say Techno, and 3AM Devices. He is also the co-founder of several underground events in the Bay Area including Oupost, Rare Form and Deep East. Nackt’s Soundcloud contains hours upon hours of his DJ sets, original mixes, remixes and more. It is music for every part of your soul straight from his.

The first track I’ll share is an original of his – “Scheherazade (city mix)” – along with this quote from Voltaire (the 18th century French philosopher) which he shared with it, words which have been mistaken for Igaz’s because they so beautifully capture the man I wish I’d known better:

I have wanted to kill myself a hundred times, but somehow I am still in love with life. This ridiculous weakness is perhaps one of our more stupid melancholy propensities, for is there anything more stupid than to be eager to go on carrying a burden which one would gladly throw away, to loathe one’s very being and yet to hold it fast, to fondle the snake that devours us until it has eaten our hearts away? ~ Voltaire

And second this live set recorded a few months ago. It is a form of music therapy, and it reminds me why a good DJ like Igaz is really like a healer – they meet you in your darkness and skillfully guide you to the light. This set, from an Ambient Awakening gathering, is an awakening in itself. When he shared it a few weeks ago, Igaz said:

As the world tears apart at the seams and the crushing weight of reality seems unbearable, it is through human connection and music that I am reminded why life is infinitely beautiful even through the darkest days. ~ Johnny Igaz

To the friends and family of this extraordinary musician and human – thank you for everything you did to support his existence so he could bring this music to the rest of us. Thank you to his family, including his brother Paul, who encouraged and enabled his deep love of music. Thank you to everyone who ever bought his music, to the guy who posted on Facebook that he paid for three mastering sessions in advance so Johnny could make ends meet, to the labels that supported him, to every agency that licensed one of his tracks, and to those who answered his invitations with their presence. This music is his immortality. May it keep us dancing and smiling long into the future. 

[An earlier version of this post incorrectly identified Igaz’s brother. His real name is Paul Igaz.
An edit has also been made to properly attribute the first quote above to Voltaire rather than Igaz.]

SAN FRANCISCO, CA -- December 2, 2016

Nahko and the Medicine for the People perform at the Regency Ballroom.

Photo by Victoria Smith

Nahko Plays for Justice

12/05/2016

 

Nahko Bear is what I imagine every parent hopes their son becomes (I wish he was my son and he’s older than me). Impassioned, Nahko’s ethos seems to be speaking truths, inspiring brotherhood and community and justice for all. He’s also a character.

Nahko and the Medicine for the People LIVE Green Generation at Bali Spirit Festival

This past Friday at the Regency Ballroom, Nahko and Medicine for the People played their first ever “major” headlining show for a crowd eager for a better world. The constant theme was a message of social justice and peace. The Native American/ Puerto Rican/ Filipino from Hilo songwriter left a wake of elated and fired up affected fans ready to be right and do good to the world, with breaks to make out by bodies of water, as Nahko said, it is where his greatest make outs have ever been.

Nahko and the Medicine for the People LIVE Green Generation at Bali Spirit Festival

Nahko’s performance started when he and a friend slinked up into the venue straight thru the front doors, passing fans handing in their tickets, equipped with only a megaphone singing “Water is Life”, referring to the much protested Dakota Access Pipeline, penetrating the surprised audience to the core of the ballroom. Chanting, chanting and eventually making his way on stage.

Nahko and the Medicine for the People LIVE Green Generation at Bali Spirit Festival

On tour in support of their most recent effort “Hoka”, the band of seven was reciprocating the audiences energy, playing songs like the new favorite “San Quinten” (Nahko’s account of meeting the man who killed his father), and classics like “Black as Night”.

Nahko and the Medicine for the People LIVE Green Generation at Bali Spirit Festival

Expect big things from this group, they are on a mission with the energy, stamina and right attitude to get it done.

words by Emmanuel Castro
photos by Victoria Smith

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Song of the day: Willow Steps’ “Lover’s Recipe”

11/22/2016

There is a lot of noise in music these days – often welcome and well-made. But for those nights when you really need it, there’s a lot of tender folk music happening too.  Oakland based Willow Steps have been sowing these acoustic seeds for barely two years, but are already harvesting some of the more gorgeous harmonies in town. 

Singer and songwriter Jesse Strickman teamed up with vocalist Leiya Mahoney after meeting at an organic ice cream shop where they both worked. “Organic” is an apt term for the music they are crafting as well, and new song “Lover’s Recipe” uses the whole-food equivalent of instrumentation and arrangement (acoustic guitar, bowed acoustic upright bass and a few well-placed percussion hits), with the vocals prominently displayed.

The two vocal lines are more counter-point than straight harmony though – meaning either voice could be the sole melody of this song. They chase each other and lean towards or away from each other much like lovers not sure whether to move forward or run away. Sometimes it’s hard to tell which voice is singing which note because they are so intertwined. Again, this creates in sound that feeling at the end of a relationship (which this song describes lyrically as overlapping with the beginning of another) when you have to painfully separate yourself from a lover. Whose baggage is whose? Whose feelings are whose? 

But it’s the strong emotional impulse driving this song that sells me on it and gets me listening over and over. I love a song that makes me feel something, and this one does. It’s a melancholy and nostalgic feeling, reinforced by its lyrics:

“I’m so sorry
it won’t be easy
I know because that’s been me
I’ve been the past other in this lovers recipe”

The live video performance below, created by Shady Pines Media, highlights this final track off the band’s recent EP A Truth Too Big To See. You can hear the full album here. And if you need a dose of gorgeousness, they will be performing at the Awaken Cafe in Oakland Saturday December 3rd. Get your tickets here

 

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Photos: Wet Treat Packed Mezzanine to New Music

11/10/2016

 

Almost two years ago I photographed Wet for the first time at Mezzanine. It was November 2014 and the NYC trio (now a live quartet with drummer) were touring on their buzzed about self titled EP, opening for Sohn. Like our writer David, who reviewed the show at the time, I was impressed by the raw soul and truth in their set, but it was obvious that they were a work in progress and still coming into their own. If you were at Mezzanine this Friday you were lucky enough to see the blossoming of talent that came with their debut album Don’t You and touring.

Their live show has definitely evolved, compare the photos at the bottom of the post to this picture of Wet at Mezzanine 2014:

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