Photos: An Astronomical Evening with Sufjan Stevens and Co. at Fox Theater


Words by Christine Javier
Photos by Leticia Molina

It was a stellar Friday evening at the Fox Theater in Oakland, California, United States, Northern Hemisphere, on planet Earth. The sold-out crowd was in for an out of this world performance of Planetarium, a galactical project by Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner, Nico Muhly, and James McAlister, whose summer tour only spanned across four days in four cities.

Show opener, Thao Nguyen (of Thao & the Get Down Stay Down) has been touring as a solo female artist and multi-instrumental musician. She’s got that folk rock, southern vibe from her early roots in Virginia being a first-generation Vietnamese-American. Her guitar influence came from being surrounded in her bluegrass upbringing, and her impressive finger-picking style evolved throughout the night from guitar to mandolin and banjo. Thao and drummer Jason Slota got the crowd started with “Fear and Convenience” and “Kindness Be Conceived.” Her fourth and newest album A Man Alive marks “Departure” as her latest hit––combining her distinct vocal wails and high pitched mandolin riffs as she explores the relationship with her long absent father. While it’s certainly true this theme is a common tribulation especially amongst Asian-Americans, it’s Thao’s striking style and dedicated activism that pulls her up as she continues to rise amongst other female indie folk pop artists.

The supergroup consisting of Sufjan Stevens, Bryce Dessner (guitarist, notably known from The National), James McAlister (percussionist), and Nico Muhly (composer) soon graced the stage for a breathtaking performance of Planetarium. Support came from three trombonists, a violinist and, and a viola player. While Sufjan Stevens needs no introduction as a singer and songwriter, this collaborative concept album transcends an intergalactic voyage of outer consciousness.

Each planet explores various astrological, mythical and scientific themes tied to its ruler and how it relates to our experimental human awakening. It can feel slightly escapist tying their song “Venus”––being the goddess of love in mythology––and relating it to remembering our first sexual experiences. “Jupiter”––with the most moons and scientifically known as a failed star due to its elements resembling the sun in our solar system––is deemed as “the loneliest planet” which rules expansion, travel and the characteristics of a Sagittarian’s competitive quest to the top. “Language can stress reality, and reality is a social construct” Stevens says as he jokes with the audience about quantum physics and the voyage of mind expansion.

Learning about the intricacies of knowing thyself and how we are affected by the planetarium is the ultimate journey towards your self healing––i.e. your sun is who you came to be on this planet and how you deal with things daily, your rising is your higher self, who you are becoming and how others perceive you and how you present yourself to others, while your moon sign is how you deal with your inner emotions behind closed doors. With Stevens’ lighthearted stage presence and artistic creative endeavor for Planetarium (originally performed live in 2012), Dessner, McAlister, and Muhly gave a touching two track encore with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and a Bowie tribute of the classic “Space Oddity.” This is Ground Control to Major Tom, may you find your meaning and continue to protect our best planet that we get to stand on, Mother Earth.

Outside Lands Summer Pairing Series this Week


For those hungry for a taste of Outside Lands, this week the Summer Pairing Series kicks off. The pared down series features half as many events as the previous year, though offers enthusiasts plenty to be excited about. This Friday, Harmonic Brewing — the newer Dogpatch brewery — partners with Nombe Ramenburger, offerings guests dishes like Teriyaki Stout Ribs made with Harmonic’s Cold-Pressed Stout, avocado fries with serrano aioli, and Japanese poutine to be paired with of the brewery’s offerings on tap. Starting at 5pm, the free event will also feature live funk music from The Joe Cohen Show.

For those foodies seeking the more refined offerings Outside Lands, on August 4th, Rootdown Wine Cellars will pay a visit to Sorrel for a Tasting of Tomatoes, Rosés, and Nouveau Reds. Chef Alex Hong is planning a seven-course dinner that pays homage to tomato varietals from Bay Area farms, celebrating the fruit in its peak season, and will complement it with bright summer wines. Mike Lucia of Rootdown Wine Cellars, a boutique winery, will pair his Healdsburg Rosés and Nouveau Reds with each course and a soundtrack that features Outside Lands hits and headliners from the past 10 years. Reservations must be purchased in advance and are $95 per person; $48 for wine pairings and reservations can be made at 



Photos: At Burger Boogaloo 2017 Punk Legends Steal the Show


Words by Farren Jecky, photos by Pedro Paredes-Haz

Oakland’s Burger Boogaloo is now in its eighth year running. The garage punk fest is located in leafy Mosswood Park, just beyond the industrial sprawl, the docklands and the tent cities of downtown. It’s different out here, as the locals will tell you, the heat is a little more intense and the glittering bay seems like a distant dream, the place has grit.

When I arrive Personal & the Pizzas are busy blasting through their set. It’s as good a start to the weekend as any. Three dudes who look like they lost it all in some shady Vegas deal churning out raw, crude tunes like the Ramones’ sleazy uncles.

Speaking of the Brudders from Queens, they’re a major touchstone for the tone of the weekend. Their synthesis of buzzsaw guitars, fifties harmonies and comic book slogans has become the practical blueprint for a lot of modern punk.

However, as I stroll the grounds I come across some people fundraising for DIY venue 924 Gilman and I’m reminded of a time when the Bay Area was known for an entirely different strain of punk rock.

The flyer is old school, black and white, overtly political, it shows some kids raising the Gilman sign in echo of the famous Iwo Jima soldier photo.

Not to get too nostalgic but it is interesting that in the current climate the one thing missing here is any palpable sense of rage. Perhaps people are still reeling, or still too comfortable, or maybe punk has just become jaded in its old age. Its cultural power diminished. I honestly don’t know but I do catch myself longing for a hardcore band or two, some fury to cut through the haze of beer, pizza and perpetual adolescence. Still, these are just momentary reflections on the state of the culture, a critic has to talk about something after all. But it would be churlish to be too negative when people are enjoying themselves this much. Read More

Berkeley’s Toro Y Moi Honored with “Chaz Bundick Day” and “You and I” Music Video


The city of Berkeley has named June 27 “Chaz Bundick Day” in order to recognize Bundick of Toro Y Moi’s creative contributions to the city’s art and music.

Although born in South Carolina, Bundick, who recently changed his name to Chaz Bear, moved to Berkeley and made himself at home here (quickly becoming the Bay Area’s pride-and-joy within indie music circles).

Known for his chillwave music, Toro Y Moi has released music since his first Body Angles EP in 2009 and debut record Causers of This in 2010. His most recent work was 2016’s live album Live From Trona and this March’s collaborative album with jazz-duo The Mattson 2 in Star Stuff.

Today, Bundick released the new song and video for “You and I” off his upcoming July 7 album Boo Boo.

It seems to be a bright year for the 30-year-old singer, songwriter and record producer. With his own Company Record Label and knack for graphic design, Bundick’s creations are something to take notice of.

Check out the chill new single from Toro Y Moi titled “You and I,” below.

You can purchase Toro Y Moi’s album Boo Boo on July 7 through Carpark Records. Keep up with Chaz Bear at and his socials @toroymoi.

Song of the Day: Cathedrals’ Dreamy “With You” Reminds us of What Matters Most


For the last few months SF-based Cathedrals has been treating us to new tracks from their upcoming second LP. The duo, Johnny Hwin and Brodie Jenkins, first burst onto the local (then national) scene a few years back combining soothing synth, raw guitar riffs and sultry lyrics in songs like “Harlem” and “OOO AAA.” And in some ways “With You” is most reminiscent of those earlier tracks than the other new singles, but with a maturity in writing that comes with experience.  

It’s interesting how the composition mirrors the message of the lyrics in places. The song centers around Jenkins’ refrain “with you, with you, with you” and the message that people can find solace in each other. Meanwhile the synths and Hwin’s lo-fi guitar build to a hectic web around around the words, a controlled but chaotic soundscape. As the song ends, we again find peace “with you.” In a world that seems increasingly crazy and broken, loving and depending on the people around you is a comforting message.

Check out the song below and keep an eye out for more new music very soon. We also hope to see another Nightingale party! 


Artwork by Jack Vanzet

John Waters Hosts Burger Boogaloo This Weekend in Oakland With Help From Iggy Pop, Buzzcocks, X and More


At SFCritc Burger Records’ Burger Boogaloo has always been one of our favorite local events. Personally, some of my favorite all-time pictures to grace our pages were from last year’s sets. This year John Waters is back to host an amazing lineup featuring legends like Iggy Pop and Buzzcocks and some local favorites including Shannon & the Clams. Check out the full lineup below.

Burger Boogaloo is bigger than ever but it hasn’t lost its punk charm, you will really see people from all walks of life who are just there to enjoy the music. Tickets are still available online here ($69-$129), and if it doesn’t sell out limited tickets will be available at Mosswood Park.

Both Saturday and Sunday start at noon. Make sure to bring some cash as all the vendors are cash only!

Nick Waterhouse Interview: A Californian with the heart and soul for the blues


Nick Waterhouse is a true California soul. A retro rhythm-and-blues-playing vinyl-collecting thick-framed-glasses-wearing young guy oft seen wielding his hollow-body guitar and singing moody blues tunes is an artist you need to know.

Waterhouse is the embodiment of California music. His extensive background in writing, recording and producing music from Orange County, San Francisco and Los Angeles makes him a jack-of-all-trades. He recorded his debut single on his own Pres Records label, “Some Place,” which was recorded, mixed and mastered completely analog at the Distillery Studio in Costa Mesa. He’s produced for artists like the Allah-Las and is working on an upcoming John Patisse record. Indie rock artist Ty Segall is a dear friend. Soul artist Leon Bridges appears on his single “Katchi.”

As he just pulled in from Salt Lake City, I sat down with Nick before his show at the historic Fillmore in San Francisco Thursday night. We talked things like rhythm-and-blues, the ever-changing Orange County versus San Francisco music scenes, why he doesn’t like singing and why anyone who doesn’t love music should stop being in music.

Nick Waterhouse live at The Fillmore in San Francisco, CA. 6/15/2017. (Photo: Rachel Ann Cauilan | @rachelcansea)

SFCritic (Rachel Ann Cauilan): I know you actually went to college here in the city. What can you tell me about those days?

Nick Waterhouse: I went to [San Francisco State University]. I moved here as a teenager and I grew up to be an adult. A lot of the relationships I had at that period of time are ones that really defined my career. The first day of school I met Matt Correia of the Allah-Las who’s a really good friend of mine [and whom Nick produces for]. Ty Segall moved up here the year after me and played drums on my first record.

When I came up I actually came up from being in a band in Southern California [The Intelligentsia] that worked a lot. [The Bay Area] seemed like a drag. It was really hard to get bands going. It would be more work in this urban setting to get everybody to take the train, to meet somewhere, everybody was either working part-time or full-time and going to school and space was really expensive which, in hindsight, wasn’t that expensive. But I feel like a San Franciscan.

SFC: I know that you actually grew up in the Orange County area as well, so you pretty much are a full Californian. How would you describe the different music scenes [Bay Area versus Southern California] in that way? Read More

ZZ Ward brings her blue-eyed soul and “dirty shine” to The Independent


Halfway through ZZ Ward‘s set, she had the whole crowd singing along to “Charlie Ain’t Home,” a song in which she describes as too “sexy” and maybe a bit too promiscuous for a fan who said the song culminated in marriage. But for blues-rock singer ZZ Ward, it’s been a longtime coming since she last played in the Bay Area.

Four years since bringing along singer-songwriter sensation James Bay (before the world knew who he was) and indie folk group The Wild Feathers as opening acts, ZZ welcomed in a sold-out crowd at San Francisco‘s The Independent last Thursday night, with an opening set by new blues artist Earl St. Clair. ZZ was nothing but smiles as she brought back her “dirty shine.”

“Dirty shine,” a term ZZ coined as embracing her true authentic self when it comes to her music — a unique blend of blues, rock, hip-hop and pop — is something that sets ZZ apart from many artists today.

Opening up with a drum-heavy blues number in which she sings, “Say goodbye, goodbye to everything / Make love to you / And I’m dancing on our grave,” ZZ was back in her element. Her blue-eyed soul voice, full and deep and tinged with attitude, excited the crowd as she presented “Ghost” off her upcoming album The Storm dropping this June 30.

Following with hit singles “Put The Gun Down” and “‘Til The Casket Drops,” she exclaimed, “It’s been a long time San Francisco.”

“I’ve been in hibernation,” she explained to the crowd, many of whom donned familiar fedora hats in the style of ZZ herself. She’s spent the past few years working hard on her followup to her debut 2012 album ‘Til The Casket Drops and was more than excited to be playing to a room full of listeners old and new, ready to dance and mouthing back every word. Read More

Fanime 2017 celebrates community and non-mainstream culture in San Jose


In a world that often takes itself too seriously, I am walking through downtown San Jose and I see a host of superheroes walking towards me. I stop outside the San Jose Convention Center for a moment to take in the scene. It’s around 11am, and it feels like the entire world of fantasy is gathered in one place. I am standing outside Fanime – one of the largest gatherings of fan culture in Northern California. By the end of Memorial Day Weekend over 34,000 people will have wandered the halls of the expansive convention center.

When I move inside the convention hall, I see two women dressed in white taking photos and chatting to friends.  I recognise one of the pair as Cami, from my time at Silicon Valley Comic Con. She is standing with Veronica, aka Feisty Vee, who I ask about why she has come to the convention this year. “Fanime is one of my favorite conventions,” she replies, “…I just love the people; everything about this convention is amazing!”

She does not seem alone in this viewpoint, everyone I speak to shares positive stories about the convention and how much they enjoy it. Rachel Rae traveled from Los Angeles for the convention and explained its appeal. “It’s just the experience of being with people who love the same exact culture, and anime, and fandoms as you,” she gleefully says. “It’s incredible! And to be just here, with this energy, and being able to express your nerdiness it’s [a] one of a kind experience.”

She self-describes herself as a geek and goes on to offer an insight into why the feeling of community is so strong, “I like things that are not exactly the norm of this society. I like to watch anime [and] read manga. I dress up as all these characters, and I am religious about my comic books and my video games. That’s not really what the norm is in society I guess. That’s why you embrace it, and you love the people who also embrace it as much as you do.”

Everywhere you look at Fanime there are people laughing loudly, talking about anime, costumes, comics and video games. Walking around the main convention space, there are rooms for teams to sit down and play computer games. Talks which touch on a variety of very specialized topics such as “Self-Publishing,” a “Q&A with JPOP band X4,” and “Anime to See Before You Die”. With 24 hour screening rooms and panels running through til midnight, every topic you can think of is covered. It is billed as a convention by the fans for the fans and it is clear to see. Any corporate presence is minimal; with any sponsorship and advertising feeling very discrete.

As I walk around speaking to people, I only see a handful of black cosplayers. I spot a towering man with long pristine dreadlocks dressed as Aquaman. His name is Dante, from San Diego, and we speak about why there are so few black cosplayers. “…a lot of the characters are not people of color,” he explains, “reimagining these characters is kinda tough because some people, really hardcore fans, are sticklers for it being perfect.” He demonstrates this by talking about his character, “I’m Aquaman, and Aquaman is traditionally a white guy; he’s blond hair, blue eyes. And [they say] ‘you’re not staying true to the character’… [I] feel like I should be able to do Aquaman and Archangel… because I resonate with the characters.”

Other black cosplayers I speak to retell a similar story. I hear about how in the past, at other conventions, people have been referred to as ‘Blackman’ when playing ‘Batman,’ or how compliments about a costume were followed by comments about how a person does not look like the character.

Kerry, from Bay Point, is dressed as an intricate steampunk incarnation of Catwoman. It is a wonderfully unique take on the character, and it stands out from many of the other ‘catwomen’ at the show.

We speak briefly about how it is to be a cosplayer of color, and Kerry mentions how things have changed. “In the previous years it was a lot more difficult, people would straight up ignore you – they didn’t care what you were wearing,” she shares. “This used to be a really evil, nasty, place.” Kerry has been coming to Fanime for six straight years and confesses that she would “throw away a job” to be there. Despite challenges in earlier years she still celebrates the event as the one time of the year, she can really be herself. “This is like Christmas to me!” she exclaims. “I get to do this once a year, and this is so important to me because I feel like I can be myself here; unbridled and just as wild as I want to be,” she tells me. “At home, I can’t be like that, and here I can be whatever I want and [I’d] be damned if anyone tries to stop me!”

Although she has had some negative experiences in past years, she expresses how much she has seen things change, which has been fostered by younger community members making sure it is evident everyone can be involved and have a more inclusive attitude. “Characters in comic books, and manga, and anime, they’re not real,” she says, “but we can make them real, [so] let everyone make them real.”

Part of this change is being driven by the organizers of the event who take creating an inclusive space very seriously. I speak to Steve Young, the Director of Marketing for Fanime Con, and he explains the importance of inclusion. “For us here it’s all about safety; we want to encourage a very safe and nurturing environment for everyone,” he says. He shares how all the members of staff are members of the community so are always striving to make Fanime the best it can be from inclusion to working more with the location community in Downtown San Jose.

“The community itself has been great!” I’m speaking to Trenton, who is dressed as a casual, almost rebellious, rock version of Cyborg. We are talking about the cosplay/anime community, and he is telling me about how welcome he feels. “Gay, straight, old, young, a little bit bigger, a little bit skinnier… it’s different people from all walks of life,” he says. It’s in talking to him that I see the power and importance of diverse representation as he shares some anecdotes about his time as a cosplayer. “I also cosplay as Batman too. When I do that, lots of black families come to me and say, ‘i never see a black Batman this is so cool.’  That means a lot to me. We never had that growing up,” he shares. And it is that opportunity for a weekend, even if only for a few hours, to be whoever it is you want to be, and explore and celebrate whatever interests you are into that makes Famime such a special event.

I think back to one of the first people I met over the weekend, Orianna, from Redwood City,  who dressed as Demon Hunter Tracer (a hybrid from two of her favorite video games; Overwatch and Diablo). She explained to me why she comes to Fanime. “it’s just a really great community and people are allowed to be themselves. I think that it’s really hard to find that, especially in today’s world, where there’s no judgement. People just kind of show up and they do their thing, and people celebrate it, and you’re just allowed to be yourself,” she said. That very simple idea of ‘just being yourself,’ is the thing that makes Memorial Day Weekend in San Jose so special to many people throughout the Bay Area and beyond. While things may not perfect all the time, there appears to be a concerted effort by the organizers, and the community itself, to make it better, and safer, each year for everyone who goes.

Amy Vachal Interview: Brooklyn Singer-Songwriter Talks Post-Voice Journey and Upcoming Album


Amy Vachal is the kind of singer whose music puts you at ease. Full of acoustic-driven blues and pop folk-inspired tunes, the 28-year-old Brooklyn singer-songwriter has made it her mission to release work she believes in.

Since her successful run on the ninth season of The Voice, where she was mentored to the semifinals by Adam Levine and Pharrell Williams in 2015, Vachal has been working hard to keep her dream alive by playing shows, collaborating and touring with other artists while still being creative and writing.

On her intimate three-show West Coast Spring Tour (playing shows in Seattle, San Francisco and Los Angeles in the past two weeks), Vachal played from her repertoire of older tunes about love and relationships as well as new material off her prospective full-length album coming late this year. Longtime friend Matt Sucich provided backup guitars and vocal accompaniment during her shows.

I had the pleasure to sit down with half-Filipino artist Vachal before her show at The Chapel in San Francisco last Monday night to talk about her singer-songwriter soul, honest approach to songwriting, recording her debut album and musical hardship post-Voice.

Photo: Amy Vachal/Facebook

Rachel Ann Cauilan: So you just started this tour. How’s the planning process been for you? When’s the last time you were on tour?

Amy Vachal: Gosh it’s been a while. This is my first headlining tour on the West Coast. Last time I was on tour was with Joe Purdy in the fall who is an amazing singer-songwriter. He took me with him to Europe which was my first time and oh my gosh, I’ve never been to so many countries in so little time!

RAC: How was that? How long was that tour?

AV: It was a whole month, so it was 13 countries in 30 days. It was amazing. Joe has a big following in Europe and it’s funny [because] he’s come out with, I don’t know the exact number but maybe 13 albums and I haven’t even come out with one. But he’s built this following over the past several years and it was amazing to see the response to his music. People have been waiting for him to come for seven or eight years.

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