Ariel Pink & Black Lips Night 2, and the Return of Bimbos 365 Club


Gypsy punks Black Lips exploded into SF’s hidden gem Bimbos 365 Club creating an unlikely contrast of a spit in your face punk band in a club that would be suited for the rat pack.

Garage punk to their core and looser than geese, the band who are known for their high-energy, unpredictable, anything-goes shows, seemed a bit tame for a group with such a reputation. That was until the crowd filled in and the band played the sought after song “Katrina.” Finally it was the Black Lips again giving the show everyone expects; crowd surfers, shirt losers and guitarist Cole Alexander catching his own spit from the air. Being true to their lyrics the band ended with “Bad Kids” and earned the sea of beer that was chucked at them from the crowd.

San Francisco, CA - October 14, 2015 The Black Lips perform live at Bimbo's 365 Club opening for Ariel Pink. Photo Credit: Victoria Smith

Thus began the weirdest intermission and largest exodus of the entire crowd of potential smokers, or mere fresh air seekers, exiting out front. Leaving just four souls holding fort in front of the stage. Read More


Photos: JR JR Debuts New Name, New Album and Homage to Full House


Friday night fans at The Great American Music Hall were treated to a truly special night of music from JR JR. The band, fronted by Josh Epstein and Daniel Zott, has been busy since they last stopped in town and had a lot to share with the packed room.

Since last performing in SF the band decided to shorten their name, from Dale Earnhardt JR JR to just JR JR. The move coincided with their third album, the self titled JR JR which featured heavily in their setlist. You can read more about the new music here.

Songs like “Gone” and “In The Middle” from the new album really shined live. While there were a couple they didn’t seem totally comfortable playing overall the new music fit right in with fan favorites. Throw in favorites like “If You Didn’t See Me [Then You Weren’t On the Dance Floor]” and their cover of “We Almost Lost Detroit” and you had a set tailor-made to move the crowd. Read More


IT’S BRUTAL. IT’S HEAVY. IT’S GOOD. Caspian and Circle Takes the Square | Post Punks finest


Music tends to be a reflection of where a musician lives or where they have been. After Circle Takes The Square at the Rickshaw Stop this past Wednesday night, I get the impression Savannah, Georgia must be the most brutal, passionate and beautiful place on the planet. The three piece, consisting of Drew Speziale (vocals/guitar), Kathleen Stubelek (vocals/bass) and Caleb Collins (vocals/drums) brought an energy from another dimension. They are craft masters, with each song composed dense with flawless musicianship and with every member of the audience attached to each shriek, growl and scream the band spilled from their hearts. With no words decipherable their howls become another instrumentation. Wikipedia names them as the reinvention of Screamo. Unsigned by choice, Circle Takes The Square describes them selves as  “a punk band with reverence for the mystery”, accurate yet so much more and certainly not a mainstreamers cup of tea. By the time the band played their final note I was convinced Caspian didn’t have a chance.

I was wrong.
Battles Win!



Packed to the rafters, with barely any room to shake, the Lower East Side experimental art rock group, Battles, hypnotized the earnest crowd. The band staggered on to the stage, first with Dave Konopa setting up 5 guitar loops, next founding member Ian Williams setting up even more loops on guitar and keyboard with fiery spasms, and finally clearly every one’s favorite member and the worlds most passionate drummer John Stanier completing the trio.

At times Battles’ set seemed to be completely falling apart until it was made clear it was part of the plan all along, as the band would burst into songs such as “Ice Cream and Futura” reminding the crowd how powerful their instrumental tracks are. Battles’ work ethic on stage is unmatched, with every member busier than the last and completely focused on staying in perfect time with the latest loop. At one point drummer John Stanier stood up to give a wave to the crowd and subsequently show off his appearance of having jumped into a pool fully clothed. Read More


Photos: London’s Rudimental at The Regency Ballroom


I remember many (many) years ago I was at Notting Hill Carnival. I was there with my mum and my two sisters. At one point we were lost somewhere down Ladbroke Grove between the floats, the people dancing and smell of food. I was standing there, overwhelmed by the costumes and the colors when my eldest sister tugged my arm to get my attention. We turned and in the distance M-Beat were performing live drum ‘n’ bass. My sister, six years my senior, wondered off to go and experience the sounds up-close, me being very young had to stay back with my mum watching the floats go by as she went to rave in the mid-afternoon sunshine.

Rudimental, hailing from East London, reminded me of that moment last night as their high tempo show had The Regency Ballroom bouncing from wall to wall.

Friday night, San Francisco, was the last stop on Rudimental’s current US Tour supporting the release of, We The Generation, their sophomore album. Number one in the UK, We The Generation feels like a collection of anthems about the realities of life, young love and youthful uncertainty. Read More


Interview: Oakland’s Lila Rose on darkness, collaboration and waking up


Alternately invoking “Goth-R&B,” electronic singer-songwriter types like Bjork, and an edgy dark rock, the music Lila Rose makes on her most recent album WE.ANIMALS. will stop you in your tracks.

Rose relocated to Oakland from Toronto only a few years ago and has found lots of success here in the Bay Area, being named the 2014 East Bay Express Artist of the Year after the release of her album Heart Machines. She’s got a new album now and released a video for her song “This Could Be Ha” last week. It it is dark, intense and wrought with the kind of struggle humans must face both individually and collectively. We caught up with her about the video, the process of making WE.ANIMALS, the importance of empathy, and connecting music to universal imperatives.

“This Could Be Ha” – Lila Rose

SFCRITIC: Seems like coming to California (from Toronto) was a big move for you. What inspired the move, and did you come first to the Bay Area or have you moved around in-state? Read More

The Mynabirds press

The Mynabirds: stupendously good at the Swedish American Music Hall


David Byrne gave a TED talk five years ago exploring the relationship between the changing architecture of venues and the evolution of music — watch it; he’s brilliant — and asking the question, “Does the venue make the music?” Byrne’s answer is an unequivocal yes. Last night at the Swedish American Music Hall, indie-pop band The Mynabirds (Saddle Creek), touring their new album Lover’s Know, could have been a case study for this inquiry; the two distinct styles of songs played fared so differently in the Hall’s grand ballroom. All of them were good, but the ones that fit the venue were stupendously good, and I finally understood the use of the word “bird” in their name, as singer Laura Burhenn’s vocals spread albatross-wide and lifted me a’flight.

The grand ballroom, built in 1907 as a meeting place for the Swedish Society of San Francisco, features dark oak wainscoting 7′ high on every wall, intricate woodwork on its balcony, and is flanked by imposing thrones of a similarly dark oak. The stage is small. The walls are bare. There isn’t much to break up sound, which creates a problem not so much for fast songs, as for fast changing songs, songs with lots of lyrics, or quick turn arounds. Of the Mynabirds 14 songs, about half fit this category. They were good songs, mixing in with their pop sound some classic rock, and bringing to mind Grace Slick, early Rolling Stones, Three Dog Night, and Pink Floyd. There were politics, an ode to California, and there was a little bit of Motown on my favorite of these tunes, “Numbers Don’t Lie.” But, these songs needed a bigger stage and less alive acoustics to let their superpowers out. Read More


Ticket Giveaway 10/16: Aussie Duo Strange Talk’s New Look, New EP and New Single “Jive”


Friday October 16th is a big day for Australia’s electronic duo Strange Talk, it marks the culmination of a period of reinvention for the young act. We want you to be there to hear their new sound on the day release their new EP at Rickshaw Stop. We have two pairs of tickets for this show so your odds of winning are doubled!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
When we last saw Strange Talk here in SF May 2014 they were a four piece indie-synth-rock act, riding a big wave of publicity after having their single “Young Hearts” pushed to millions of Snapchat users around the world. But one hit doesn’t make a band a success, and they were savvy enough to evolve their music and act.

Their story is familiar to anyone who knows the music industry and the factory atmosphere around many up-and-coming groups. Two guys who love to make music, but who get lost in the world label pressure, management and constant touring. I highly recommend you read about their journey as told to Tone Deaf.

On Friday October 16th we get our first taste of the duo as they emerge leaner, dance-ier and perhaps even stranger. The shift allows frontmen Stephen Docker and Gerard Sidhu to focus more on songwriting and production. While I will miss the live instrumentation, I haven’t been able to stop listening to the new E.V.O.L.U.T.I.O.N EP since I got an early listen last month.

Today we get another new taste of the EP with “Jive.” This is a banger, and really demonstrates how far the group has come. The track has more in common with Justice than anything on 2014’s Cast Away. Check it out below: Read More

San Francisco, CA - October 3, 2015

The Villagers perform first San Francisco headline performance.

Photo Credit: Victoria Smith



This past weekend Dublin Ireland’s Villagers, project of sonic mastermind Conor O’Brien, reminded San Francisco what powerful songwriting can be.

Starting on Saturday night, the band took a break from their tour with Paul Weller and braved it alone for their first headlining show of their latest album Darling Arthmetic in San Francisco at the Swedish American Hall. The all-seated venue was the optimal environment to wrap oneself in O’Brien’s resonant voice. Touring as a stripped down three piece featuring welsh virtuosos, Gwion Llewelyn (Drums, Trumpet, Vocals) and Mali Llywelyn (Keyboard, Piano, Vocals) the band shuffled through top drawer tracks from the Villagers three albums, harmonizing like a finger ringing around a crystal glass — perfection.

The wide eyed audience was then hit with “Becoming a Jackal”, where full crowd participation harmonizing was required, and they obliged creating an environment where no drugs were required to feel the high.
Read More


Song of the Day: Lung and Limbs “Signs Of Life,” Release Show 10/9 at Hotel Utah


Today we get a sneak peak at a new track from San Francisco-based Lungs and Limbs ahead of their official release show next Friday at Hotel Utah.

Here in San Francisco we know that October isn’t too late to release a fun summer jam, it’s actually probably the height of summer for us. Today we have “Signs Of Life” a new light and airy indie rock track with plenty of toe-tapping bass drum, and a repeating vocal hook that will get stuck in your head. The local act is made of of Karina Rousseau, Nick Tudor, Matt Power and Chris Casey. Vocalist Rousseau layers her lyrics with plenty of ‘ohs’ and is playfully mirrored during in the chorus by quick plucks of the guitar. A smooth bass line and synth tones accent the galloping pace of the drums to fill out the sound.

Check out the track yourself and see them live October 9th at Hotel Utah. Tickets are $10 bucks and you can pick them up here.

Photo provided by Breakup Records

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