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Solving The Grateful Dead’s Rubik’s Cube: An Interview with Dark Star Orchestra

04/06/2015

Dark Star Orchestra is set to play this Tuesday and Wednesday (April 7th and 8th) at the Great American Music Hall, and for anyone who is a fan of improvisational jam music – this is a must see. You can get an idea of what’s in store here.

For those of you unfamiliar with the group, here’s a quick breakdown: since 1997, they’ve been playing specific sets from the Grateful Dead, from specific shows. So they’ll choose a particular show, say March 23rd, 1975, and play that show song-for-song. But that doesn’t mean note-for-note – in fact, just as jam bands like the Dead don’t ever play a song the same way twice, neither does Dark Star.

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Photos: LA’s Francisco The Man @ DNA Lounge

04/03/2015

Last night Francisco The Man played DNA Lounge on what turned out to be a surprisingly slow Thursday and a really intimate showcase for the band. I’m surprised that it was slow because both the opener Big Harp and Francisco The Man are incredibly skillful and played damn-good music. It must be that not everyone has heard Francisco The Man’s 2014 release Loose Ends, an album I will put on and before you know it I’ve listened to the whole thing.

On stage the band has the same time-bending effect, songs and verses give way to intricate, minutes long jams and you just kind of lose yourself to the moment. The chemistry is incredible, and their focus is complete. They’re not the type of band that jumps around on stage, but you can see in their faces that they’re putting everything they have into making incredible music. Guitarist and vocalist Scotty Cantino’s lyrics are tense and delivered in a high register. He reminded me at times of Julian Casablancas or a punk Tom Petty.

They draw on a mix of sounds from punk to alternative rock to psych. From Castino’s guitar came distorted guitar solos with the type of vibrato only a master of the whammy bar can deliver. Its clear you can’t half ass it in this band, they are playing some challenging music and making it seem easy. I was left wanting more after their set ended. Read More

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Magic Man, the Keytar Make Triumphant Return to SF

04/02/2015

Magic Man reappeared in San Francisco last Thursday and proved they’re perfectly capable of handling the added workload that comes with being a headliner. Touted as “a triumphant synth rock band,” the New England based team of five puts on quite the show– something they perfected early on playing in living rooms and basements. Thursday’s show at Slim’s was no exception.

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Their sound, composed of synth beats, clean and energetic guitar riffs, and hammering drums, is exceptional, but their energy is what makes them great. Lead singer, Alex Caplow, really knows how to engage the crowd as he frequently extended his arms towards the throngs of young women who had gathered to get a glimpse of the heartthrob. The rest of the packed house really came alive once they put it in another gear with “Tonight,” as the building filled with smoke and hands came together. They then proceeded to kill it with my personal favorite, “Texas.” Read More

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ELEL Sweeten A Wednesday Night

04/02/2015

When I walked into the Rickshaw Stop last night, sadly late enough to miss both opening bands, it was pre-fogged, the upstairs was roped off, and about a hundred people milled about in anticipation. 30 or more of them were pushed up against the front of the stage, waiting, waiting.

ELEL (pronounced as it seems, “LL”) eased onto the stage under soothing cobalt and aqua lights. Their first song “Change My World” was like an initiation – welcoming, slow-building, grounding. Just as the beat would pick up, it would fall off into almost-silence, pause, and then leap back in with the pronounced and precise effort of the kick drum. By the end of the song each instrument had been introduced – from the wood block to the tenor sax, the bass, synths and reverb-laden guitar– the stage was set.

At this point, I was ready for the catharsis to begin and to be swept into a dancing frenzy, but it wasn’t until the third song that their hit “40 Watt” came out and the crowd jumped around like wild animals under the racing lights. And after “40 Watt” the band headed back into a series of slow to mid-tempo songs that, while building fantastically, with switching time signatures and layered instrumentation, left the longing to be cut free palpable in the room. By the last few songs (pre-encore), the release finally arrived. Read More

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Greensky Bluegrass with Phil Lesh at Terrapin Crossroads: Dust Off Some Old School Bay Area with Some New School Jam

04/01/2015

Michigan’s Greensky Bluegrass wrapped up their California run at Terrapin Crossroads in San Rafael last Tuesday, playing with venue founder and Grateful Dead bassist and founding member, Phil Lesh. Tickets went on sale a few weeks earlier on the Terrapin Crossroad website, and as a testament to the to the rarity the show and the excitement around it, Terrapin’s server crashed the second they went on sale.

The 350 capacity “Grate Room” sees perhaps the headiest “house band” in Phil Lesh and Friends, which also has a steady tour schedule of their own. Reservations at the restaurant are encouraged, but travel with some good looking chicks and they’ll find a way to squeeze you in the main dining area where the nicest June Carter will serve some real good free range-whatever, just the way Jerry would have wanted it. Peep the calendar for some awesome songwriters and staples in the jam scene (Leftover Salmon, Sturgill Simpson, Nershi & Law and more).

Greensky Bluegrass is a five-piece bluegrass band well known in Northern California for music festival sets and two-night runs at the Fillmore. Incorporating the traditional instruments one might find in a “Rocky Top” rendition at a Tennessee moonshine party, Dave Bruzza (guitar), Michael Bont (banjo), Anders Beck (Dobro), Mike Devol (upright bass), and Paul Hoffman (mandolin) put on a show that is anything but traditional. Greensky has a knack for dusting off the old school strings and vocals while simultaneously polishing new rock-and-jam-inspired tangents. Read More

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Outside Lands 2015 Single Day Lineups Announced and Saturday is the Best/Worst, Single Day Tickets On Sale Thursday at 10am

03/31/2015

Here we go people. The daily lineups for Outside Lands 2015 are upon us, and it looks like there will be a lot of fun and heartache in August.

Single day tickets go on sale Thursday at 10am here.

While Friday and Sunday have some strong acts, it’s pretty obvious that Saturday is going to be THE day at OSL this year, with headliners The Black Keys and Kendrick Lamar. Full Saturday below:
THE BLACK KEYS
KENDRICK LAMAR
TAME IMPALA
BEN HARPER & THE INNOCENT CRIMINALS
BILLY IDOL
G-EAZY
MILKY CHANCE
TORO Y MOI
MAC DEMARCO
ANGUS & JULIA STONE
LAURA MARLING
DJANGO DJANGO
CLASSIXX
UNKNOWN MORTAL ORCHESTRA
MISTERWIVES
LANGHORNE SLIM & THE LAW
HURRAY FOR THE RIFF RAFF
GIRAFFAGE
TWIN PEAKS
WATERS
FANTASTIC NEGRITO
DEVON BALDWIN
THE TROPICS

Incredible right? But as amazing as Saturday’s lineup is on paper its going to be the hardest on fans once the schedule with times is released. There will be some MAJOR conflicts. You are going to pick one show and regret missing the other for weeks. Your friends are going to see one show and you another and you will never see them again. You will walk all the way across the festival to see one band and miss most of the show.

But that is the way the cookie crumbles and you have to take a little bad with the good when you are presented with a lineup of such quality talent. If you are waiting for single day tickets be aware they will all sell out, but Saturday’s tickets will probably sell out in 10 seconds.

Check all the bands Friday and Sunday here.

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Nashville’s ELEL @ Rickshaw Wednesday 4/1

03/30/2015

There isn’t much to hear yet from ELEL, but their debut single “40 Watt,” released last June on Mom + Pop, is an impressive out-the-gate. The Nashville-based collective has a sound crafted with horns, layered (and sometimes processed) vocals, synths, guitar, bass and a load of percussion. The effect is a dreamy and upbeat pop sound with clear links to their diverse influences — they list Van Morrison, Chaka Khan, Aretha Franklin, Beach House, Toro y Moi, and I’d add Arcade Fire, MGMT and The Knife.

If you you haven’t heard “40 Watt” yet you’re in for a Monday morning treat. Take a quick dance break and then jump over here to get tickets for Wednesday night’s show (4/1) at the Rickshaw Stop. Local folk-rock trio Owl Paws opens.

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Interview: Hibbity Dibbity Conjurs Up Some Swamp Funk at Boom Boom Room April 4th

03/29/2015

When you hear a name like Hibbity Dibbity you aren’t sure what to expect, and thats by design. These youthful rockers channel an old soul as they play a blend of southern rock, funk and blues. Their blend of swamp funk can get a crowd up and dancing everywhere, from big stages to local clubs and bars.

They have stopped by my local watering hole, The Abbey Tavern, a few times and they leave everything they have on stage. I’ve witnessed raucous, three-plus hour sets that had everyone from the old Irish construction workers to college kids up and dancing.

They band is playing the Boom Boom Room on Saturday April 4th and it is bound to be one hell of a party. Tickets are just $12 bucks and you can pick them up here. Read More

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Local Tunes, Unlimited Local Beers: The Bay Brewed March 29th 1pm to 6pm

03/22/2015

Kickass local music and all the awesome local brew you can drink while maintaining your self respect. What in the world could be better? Welcome to The Bay Brewed at The Chapel. There is just a week left to get in on this special event put on by The Bay Bridged, a group that works very hard to support local music scene here in SF.

Headlining the day-drinking event are Oakland’s Tumbleweed Wanderers. A band that has gone from playing for a few bucks on a street corner to the lineups of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass and Outside Lands. This foursome plays a soulful, psych rock that is sure to go down smooth with a few ‘man-sodas.’

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Chris Porterfield of Field Report Entertains and Englightens at The Independent

03/22/2015

Friday night, Chris Porterfield, the driving force behind Field Report, took to The Independent’s stage solo in support of Joe Pug. In retrospect, Porterfield’s lonesome, heartfelt set stood in stark contrast to headliner Pug’s high energy, Texas roadhouse act where every song ended with a flourish of the guitar and spin on cowboy boots. Not to mess with Texas, because I did enjoy Joe Pug, but there was a real and rare feeling of authenticity with Porterfield on stage.

The venue had already swelled to a decent crowd of around 300 of its 500 capacity, when Porterfield walked onto the stage with his guitar and simply introducing himself as “Chris.” There is always a weird vulnerable feeling when you see someone take a stage alone framed by all the equipment of a headliner, but as Chris opened with “Decision Day” you could tell he was someone comfortable in his own skin.

“Decision Day” is the first track off Field Report’s new album Marigolden. From an impossibly reflective resonator guitar came jangling melodies, and a soothing electronic tone waxed and waned from a pedal at his feet. Deep within his torso, an earthen but steady voice weaved lyrics with the familiarity one comes to expect from folk rock. The lyrics come at you fast and you don’t always have time to think and organize them. As a result, understanding of the lyrics is more of a feeling or a motif than a complete story. Read More

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