Costumes, celebrities, and torn catsuits; a weird and wonderful weekend at Silicon Valley Comic Con

04/28/2017

Here at SF Critic, we took a quick break from music to check out Silicon Valley Comic Con in San Jose. The ‘con,’ supported by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, is now in its second year and brought all kinds of magic to downtown San Jose. A total of 65,000 people attended across the three-day festival.

The event was busy throughout, with long lines forming for many of the talks, panels, and actor spotlights. There was a slightly awkward interview with John Cusack, expertly moderated by KFOG’s Dana Han-Klein. During the discussion, we learned the High Fidelity actor made “a lot of money,” from the critically panned 2012 following a mischievous question from an audience member. Other highlights included Pam Grier and senior engineer at Slack, Erica Baker, discussing the trials and tribulations of making it as black women in industries (film and tech) which are sometimes reserved for, and run by, rich, white men. It was an inspirational talk with two pioneering women full of anecdotes and motivation. Other talks ranged from how to deal with bullying, over 30s cosplay and the linguistics behind the Oscar-nominated movie, Arrival.

Any convention would not be without cosplayers adding surprise, awe and wonder. The cosplayers, some of whom took the time to pose for portraits with us, were out in force throughout the weekend. There were many intricate, self-made designs on display with characters ranging from across the spectrum of Marvel, DC, anime, video games and beyond. There were even a few interpretations of Judy Hoops, the barrier-breaking bunny from Zootopia! Not every costume was well known by the Silicon Valley crowd. Gemma Morgan, who dressed as Lori Pretty’s incarnation of Tank Girl on Saturday, shared how she was surprised at the number of people who were not familiar with the character.

There were creative fusions, such as Terry Goss and Olivia who were Spockquaman, and Wonder Uhura respectively, and Mr M’s Nurse Joker. And unexpected moments, such as when Marissa, and Marisa, who were both separately dressed as DC’s card wielding magician Zatanna, who met unexpectedly while taking portraits. Sunday also saw two of the special guests, cosplayer Abby Darkstar and make-up artist Chrissy Lyn collaborate on a wonderfully rich and detailed Twil’lek from the Star Wars universe.

The great diversity and intricacy of the costumes kept Danica, who stationed at the Cosplay Repair Center, busy for much of the three-day event. Problems requiring her skills varied from more mundane requests for a variety of specialist glues to her having to sew the ‘split behind’ of a catsuit while the cosplayer was still wearing it. Tested’s very own Adam Savage was on hand to do some of the on-site repairs; one of which called for him to grab a welding gun to help fix the cooling system in a Boba Fett costume.

Silicon Valley Comic Con was a weird, wonderful and at times inspiring weekend. Steve Wozniak (and friends’) event brought people from all walks of life together for a surprising weekend. All I have to do now is figure out what costume to wear next year.

Photos: Radiohead Thrills Fans at Sold Out Greek Theater

04/21/2017

There aren’t many things that you can truly say have remained the same for the past 20 years. One constant is Radiohead is today, as it was then, the best live band in the world. Beyond my opinion, this seemed to be the consensus among the 9,000 people that crowded Berkeley’s Greek Theater on Tuesday night, for the band’s second show in the Bay Area in as many days. Unlike Monday’s rainy debut, the Tuesday set took place in perfect spring weather. A perfect night for a perfect concert.

Like every show Radiohead has played in the Bay Area expectations were high. Tickets sold out in minutes, and around me, I could hear stories of people spending insane amounts of money on Stubhub for the right to witness this historic night. And historic it was, as the band selected songs from eight of their nine studio albums (no Pablo Honey), giving some special love to material from OK Computer and In Rainbows, as well as their highly acclaimed recent album A Moon Shaped Pool.

pedro paredes-8

Thom Yorke

The band’s flawless yet playful vibes, combined with the venue’s intimate atmosphere– there’s not a bad seat in the house– made this a night to remember. Radiohead had come straight from Coachella where their performance was marred by technical difficulties. Berkeley’s amphitheater was the place chosen for redemption. Not that Radiohead really owes the fans anything, they always leave it all on the stage, the technical difficulties just seem to haunt them in California. From their Outside Lands sets to last weekend in the desert. 

 

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Mixing Business With Poison: Why Readers Can’t Trust SF Sounds

04/19/2017

By Bob Patterson

Here in the Bay Area, we are lucky to have a great community of local culture and music writers. I end up spending a few hours a week enjoying the work of other local writers in a wide variety of publications. But as of this last week, I can no longer trust that the music opinions of SF Sounds aren’t being used to settle the business scores of its publisher.

When I first saw this issue’s cover story ‘The Backstreet Boys of Bluegrass’ about The Brothers Comatose I thought it was pretty funny and was interested in some burns about the dorky coordinated dance moves they throw into their shows. What I got instead was a noticeably unhinged hit piece that was baffling in scale. I have nothing against calling out a bad show, bad behavior or even hating a band, but there was obviously something else going on for SF Sounds to go all in on a local, indie bluegrass band. I can understand how The Brothers Comatose might not be your thing, but I find their music to be generally interesting and fun.

The second fishy part of this story is that it wasn’t attributed to an author, and even has this bizarre correction online alerting readers that the person originally credited with the story, did not, in fact, write it. “Print copies incorrectly attributed the author as Patrick Knowles.” It turns out there is someone at SF Sounds that might have a reason to hate The Brothers Comatose, and this motive is even in the damn story. I am talking about SF Sounds publisher Jason Perkins, who in the past, has already been called out for not self-identifying in editorials (among other concerns).

Via SF Sounds Masthead

In the story, we don’t learn a lot, but we do learn that one of the reasons The Brothers Comatose should be scolded is alleged bad behavior by them and their fans at Comatopia, a festival hosted by the band at Sierra Valley Lodge in 2016. Read More

Cathedrals Throw Nightingale Blowout Party to Release New Single “Don’t Act Like A Stranger”

03/31/2017

Saturday was a big day for electronic duo Cathedrals, not only were Johnny Hwin and Brodie Jenkins celebrating their recent birthdays, but they also shipped us a taste of new music. And what better way to mark a few milestones than throw a crazy party? Called Nightingale, the event brought together an amazing group dressed in all black for the occasion. The theme was ‘chic noir’, think Black Swan meets Don Juan. 

Photo by Shanna McIntyre

Early in the night Cathedrals set the mood by giving attendees a sneak peak at the upcoming video for “Don’t Act Like A Stranger” which we are told is dropping soon. They then treated us to a few stripped down songs on the venue’s piano. Johnny and Brodie have been teasing us with a few releases including 2016’s “Howling” and a remix EP since their self-titled EP in 2014, but this is our first peak into whats next. Listen to the new track below: 

Featuring pulsing synths, an incredibly catchy guitar rift and layers of Brodie Jenkin’s sultry lyrics “Don’t Act Like A Stranger” captures all the magic that propelled the duo to one of SF’s most buzzed about acts a few years ago. After a few listens you will be hungry for more new music.

The night ended like all good parties should, with a sing-a-long to Bohemian Rhapsody. I wouldn’t be surprised if we see more Nightingale events in the future in addition to new tracks from Cathedrals.

 

Eve Fleishman brings dreamy folk-tinged jazz to Monument Saturday

03/23/2017

If you’ve been feasting on a steady diet of indie and pop, do yourself a favor and cleanse your palette with the sweet sounds of Eve Fleishman. She’ll be playing through her newest album, Atmospheric Epic on Saturday night at Monument. 

Fleishman’s sound resembles contemporary greats like Nora Jones and Alison Krauss, while also harkening back to another era when melody ruled songwriting (the Gershwins, Irving Berlin etc). By her own description the album nods to Walt Whitman’s American epic poem (Leaves of Grass, the book/poem he released in increasingly thick volumes throughout his life), and indeed it is full of poetry and stories. The album is buoyed by impeccable performances from all its players, and is both atmospheric and beguiling. Fleishman’s voice floats innocent and pristine on a melancholic sea, as if we are sailing from Nashville to San Francisco with her (a move she made a few years ago), picking up flecks of Americana along the way and culminating in a laid back cover of Joni Mitchell’s “California”. 

You can listen to the whole album below. The show on Saturday will be at Monument, a work space and venue at 140 9th Street in SF. More info and tickets are here. The utterly adorable Justin Seagrave will open the evening. 

Black Mountain Commune With Darkness at The Chapel

03/19/2017

I go through phases where I don’t necessarily loose my faith in new Rock & Roll, but feel a bit disillusioned with it. I ask myself, “What can you show me that hasn’t been done better by (fill in the name of any heavy 70’s legends here)?” Whenever I get that fatalistic feeling, the most sure fire way to become re-enchanted with the genre is to get out and hear some live music.

The limitations of a home stereo, and neighborly goodwill, often prevent us from hearing this music as it was intended: pants pissingly loud, that is. It is only at decibel levels frowned upon by doctors and mothers everywhere that one can truly commune with the spirit of Rock. After my pilgrimage to The Chapel on Thursday, my faith has been restored. Like so many TV evangelists, Black Mountain and supporting act zZz laid a healing hand on my withered musical spirit.

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Song of the Day: “20 Motherfuckers” by The Wyatt Act @ Piano Fight 3/23

03/18/2017

The Wyatt Act released this song, “20 Motherfuckers”, a few months back and if a retail outlet hadn’t already coopted the term, I’d say it was San Franpsycho. They call it Slam Rock. They even have a manifesto:

“SlamRock Manifesto:

Street-corner style poetry meets transgressive rock. SlamRock is a philosophy, a lifestyle, an attitude, a swagger. SlamRock is a reaction to a society of detached, automatic, alienated, civilized play-acts. SlamRock values process over product and interaction over isolation. 3 Principles of SlamRock: Spontaneity, Variety, Put on a fucking show!”

And put on a show they do. The last one that I attended was an all participatory (though not mandatory) strip show while badass bassist and singer Guinevere Q (“No Big Fucking Deal” the people shout upon hearing her name) screamed over the drums and trumpets. 

“20 Motherfuckers” speaks to the heart of being an artist in San Francisco through the last bunch of years, as the streets have increasingly emptied of the beautiful freaks who once defined the arts scene, replaced by people staring at their phones. It’s partly, but never completely angry and outraged. The anger is tempered by its own playfulness. It’s the kind of song that reminds you that smashing the system can be energizing and fun too. 

They’re playing at Piano Fight on Thursday 3/23 with Van Goat and Northern Waste. The show is a fundraiser for the San Francisco Tenants Union, and true to their manifesto it will be a fucking show. Called “House Meeting”, it will include roommate interviews, chore wheels, games, prizes, advice from a Housing Rights Lawyer, and an opportunity to support a great cause. 

Shigeto, on making the 20′ in front of him a better place / @ The Midway 3/18

03/15/2017

Zach Saginaw, known by his middle name/moniker Shigeto, let me know right away that he had just returned, “about 20 hours ago”, from playing shows in Shanghai and Hong Kong, and that yesterday was both his birthday and the night of his ongoing residency (with friends) at Motor City Wine bar in Detroit. But over the course of nearly an hour’s conversation, he proved that even sleep deprived and jet lagged, he is an artist devoted to improvisation, experimentation, and growth.

Saginaw is in town on Saturday night as the featured performer at a multi-media, immersive, technological (and likely quite long) experimental performance –  Luminary: Art, Music, Tech – at the Midway. The night will bring together nearly two dozen artists in what Future Fires and The Midway are calling the first in an ongoing series of collaborations aimed at exploring “the visionary work of creators and musicians from around the world using emerging technologies: immersive audio, drones, VR, projection mapping, and more.” It’s an apt setting for Saginaw, whose musical life is rooted in collaborative improvisation via his start as a jazz drummer. 

Those who know Shigeto’s music know it is born out of a vast lineage of influences – jazz, hip-hop, electronic, folk. Every song weaves organic instrumentation – eg drum kit, shakers, hand drums, a bell tree, a mbira – with futuristic sounds from synthesizers, drum machines, and samples of familiar video game bleeps or clinking glasses or drum sticks falling to the floor (for example), that are filtered, played backwards, repeated, echoed. The result is a rich and polyrhythmic exploration of sound and emotion, a sonic map of a moment that somehow stills feels spacious and ambient. Read More

Fundraiser for Bay Area Women & Children’s Center @ Great American Thurs 3/16

03/15/2017

Kendra McKinley, Vanwave, and the Rainbow Girls co-headline an amazing night of music at the Great American Music Hall this Thursday night in support of the Bay Area Women and Children’s Center (BAWCC). BAWCC provides services to some of the most vulnerable San Franciscans, providing clothing, health services and more to women and children in precarious financial situations. It’s places like BAWCC that make San Francisco great. So get yourself together and head out to GAMH to support this great cause and hear these badass psych-folk indie rock n rollers do their thing. More information and tickets can be found here

Kendra McKinley “Canyon Canon”

Vanwave “Ghost”

Rainbow Girls “She-Bop Nation”

Tonight @ the Independent: Sinkane gets you moving

03/03/2017

Words by Abel Habtegeorgis

Growing up, Sinkane didn’t know a lot of people like him. Born Ahmed Gallab in London England, the younger version of Sinkane moved around quite a bit and lived all over the world, including in Utah where he developed a love of Mondays.

“Best day of the week,” he says enthusiastically during a phone interview with SF Critic. “See in Utah, everything was closed on Sundays so I never got why people called it the first of day of a new week and to me isn’t the right time to start anew anyway”.

Unlike a lot of normal people, Sinkane loves his Mondays and uses the day to recharge and reboot. Makes sense for someone who maintains a grueling tour schedule that has seen him and his band play all over the world at a mind numbing pace. Read More

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