PREMIERE: “Phoebe” from Michael Musika + Eric Kuhn, on tour


A decade or more ago, there was a vibrant house show scene in SF, a regular of which was called The House of Love Cabaret. I saw Sean Hayes there, just a guy and a guitar, and comedy troupe Killing My Lobster tested out early sketches to loving crowds. Another act I first encountered there was a quirky guitar-playing songwriter named Michael Musika. Later, I saw him playing his songs in a corner at a random house party full of drunk 20-somethings and I bought his homemade, handwritten CD for a couple of dollars. I still have those songs in rotation, and “Blue Trampoline” remains one of my favorite songs.

Musika’s songwriting has always been playful and poetic – for 2011’s SPELLS he released an accompanying book of stories and poems – but when he teamed up with drummer/multi-instrumentalist and composer Eric Kuhn (of Eric + Erica) a few years ago for the pair’s first release, THERE IS NO NEED TO NAME THE MOON, the songs soared. This was no doubt partly due to production quality and arrangements, but partly to the magic that is created when creative collaborators find their groove.

While Musika (yes that is his given name) has lived in San Francisco for at least a decade, he’s spent the last year away from the city staring at his own loneliness and documenting his creative process. He is an artist who lives and breathes his art every minute – take one look at the menu bar on his blog/website and you’ll see what I mean, everything is art. At one point a short story of his, read a loud at a more recent variety show, knocked me out of an unconscious existential stupor. That is to say that there is more than just music to Michael Musika. He is a storyteller, maybe a shaman, conjuring something mystic in his music.

“Living in your art” in these DEY days (do EVERYTHING yourself) means that your time for self-promotion (a Herculean logistical feat) is probably not abundant, which is true for Musika. Luckily, his fans, me among them, are devoted. With no fanfare, a pre-order link to his new album with Kuhn, YOU CAN IF YOU WANT TO, appeared in my inbox this morning – set to be released next Monday October 31st.  Recorded mostly in North Carolina, Musika says these are “eleven songs named after girls I used to know” with tracks aptly named – “Tia”, “Anna”, “Indianna” and etc.

“Phoebe” is a playful, poetic song that takes enough subtle turns to please any musical geek while still feeling easy to the ear. It features backing vocals from several local (and formerly local) musicians including Indianna Hale and Erica Fink (the other half of Eric + Erica), and instrumentation by Musika and Kuhn. The lines, “time goes by outside so slowly / as all alone i watch the sun go down / one night a girl yelled through my window / why you always inside looking out / you don’t need to be so lonely” reads like Leonard Cohen and sounds like a summer day on the Santa Cruz boardwalk, complete with Beach Boy harmonies.

Musika + Kuhn are hitting the road next week with a few shows around the Bay Area (see below) and beyond. Eric + Erica co-headline the tour. Expect these shows to be intimate and quirky, and to give you all the feels. Pre-order YOU CAN IF YOU WANT TO here, or wait for it be everywhere in a few days.

Mon Oct 31 – Oakland, CA – The Hatch – 8pm
Fri Nov 4 – Santa Cruz, CA – Bocci’s Cellar w/ Hod Hulphers – 8pm
Sat Nov 5 – San Francisco, CA – Amnesia ***Loving Cup Presents*** w/ Bob Thayer – 8pm
Sun Nov 6 – Petaluma, CA – Ernie’s Tin Bar w/ Camp Bud – 5pm

The 1975 light up San Jose Event Center


English band The 1975 made a stop at the San Jose Event Center at San Jose State University last Tuesday as part of their 30-show tour across the US, Canada and Mexico. The show was bright, meandering, playful and had some of the best lighting displays I’ve seen since Laurie Anderson came to Berkeley in 2012.

Every time I agree to cover a show in San Jose I swear I’ll never again sit in 90+ minutes of traffic at rush hour. But then … another great one pops up and I find myself bathing in brake lights. Working through the strange maze of SJSU’s parking garage, I met others who have traveled even further to this show – Oakland, Walnut Creek, San Ramon. Some had been camped out in front of the venue since noon in hopes of the best possible general admission position. In all around 5,000 of us packed the center.

The band came out strong with their eponymous track and lead singer Matthew Healy looking like an emo prince: hiding behind layers of too-big clothes, sleeves hanging far below his hands, curly hair flopping as he bounced around, red plaid pants. The large stage spread the band out, but the lights brought them together. Three risers, four columns, and a huge LED screen across the back – at times all working together to create the visual impression of a single flat screen on which the band was displayed in cinematic silhouette. Read More

Song of the Day: The Knocks Bring the HEAT with Help from Sam Nelson Harris of X Ambassadors


If you are at all familiar with NYC-based act The Knocks, then you know that all summer they had a new single that has been lighting up live shows, but its release has been delayed due to industry roadblocks. Today the wait is over as Ben Ruttner (Ben Roc or BRoc) and James Patterson (JPatt) finally unveiled “HEAT (feat. Sam Nelson Harris).”

2016 has been a big year for The Knocks as over a half-decade of work has started to show real dividends for the guys. When I first interviewed them in 2014 they talked about how the electronic industry spends too much time chasing musical fads instead of just making good music. The Knocks focus on creating high energy music that takes cues from everything from deep house to disco to funk. What seems to give their music an edge is the hundreds of hours they have racked up DJing in clubs all over NYC, and their early investment in their own Heavy Roc Studios nestled in New York’s Chinatown. If real people don’t want to get down to a track whats the point of recording it?

With dedication to the craft has come increasing success. Just this year in SF they sold out three weeknights at The Independent and played for a monster crowd at Outside Land’s Twin Peak Stage. Currently they are playing sold out stadiums in Europe as openers for Justin Bieber.

“HEAT” is a testament to another one of The Knocks’ strong suits, the ability to find and elevate amazing collaborators. They are one of the great connectors of the NYC music scene, and chances are if you like an indie or upcoming act from New York they have spent some time with The Knocks. For example The Knocks actually signed St. Lucia to their first record deal and helped propel them to a headlining act and have recently been working with Wyclef. With “HEAT”, they team up with Sam Nelson Harris, who is best known as the lead singer of X Ambassadors and has one of the best voices going in the pop world. Fans might  also remember Sam from earlier single “Comfortable.”

With “HEAT,” we hear the honey of Sam’s voice which has made X Ambassadors a mainstream hit paired with the unmistakable production quirks and dance floor energy that make The Knocks one of the best live electronic experiences going. If you want to see “HEAT” live they will be at SNOWGLOBE in Tahoe for New Years, and will probably have a few SF dates announced around early 2017.

Photo: Bob Patterson

Wet Release New Songs “The Middle” and “Turn Away” Ahead of Mezzanine Show 11/4


Indie electronic trio Wet has blessed our Friday with a couple of new tracks. For those unfamiliar with the Brooklyn-based group, its brand of electronic pop drips with emotion, often using sparse tracking and haunting, melancholy lyrics to evoke strong feelings. Wet released Don’t You, its debut LP earlier this year featuring updated recordings of some earlier singles and new music. Yesterday The Fader debuted even more new music for 2016; singles “The Middle” and “Turn Away” ahead of the upcoming show at Mezzanine November 11th.

Wet recieved a lot of early buzz when they released their self-titled EP a few years ago, and have grown into this initial recognition. Every time they release music, you can hear a real evolution in the production and every time I see them live they become more comfortable in their own skin. “The Middle” does a great job of showcasing singer Kelly Zutrau’s vocal range, from her unmistakable rich, husky midrange to a falsetto that cuts through the synths and echoing beat.

“Turn Away” is about as close to a ‘banger’ as you will get from an act like Wet. Besides the deep ebb and flow of the bass, my favorite feature is the syntax and delivery of the lyrics. The vocals add another layer of percussion with each syllable.

Wet is touring now and is supposed to be featuring some cool new lighting at their shows. Tickets are on sale for Wet with Demo Taped Friday November 11th for $22 plus fees and you can get them here.

Photo Bob Patterson, Outside Lands 2016

PREMIERE: Cave Clove recalls the past with “Bid for Power”


Cave Clove has been working towards the sound of their forthcoming album sound since 2011 when guitarist and lead singer Katie Colver began collaborating with drummer Kenda Kilkuskie. Now expanded to a four-piece including guitarist Brent Curridan (Travis Hayes / Lords of Sealand) and bassist Alisa Saario, the band has evolved beyond their Americana jumping off point. Way beyond.

Colver’s voice evokes Beth Orton, Tracy Chapman and Joan Baez, and she wields the living-ghosts of these powerful performers with grace through throw-back arrangements all across the self-titled album. “Bid for Power” in particular, which SF Critic is pleased to premiere, sounds like a portrait of mid-seventies R&B and soul, complete with jangly guitars, a sick bass line, lyric references that sound personal but echo political, and drum patterns that would have been at home on an Al Green track. This is a sound that suits the band well.

Catch them on the road soon up and down the coast – including a (((folkYEAH))) event December 1st at The Starline Social Club in Oakland. The album is set to be released November 4th.

11/12/16 – Star Theater – Portland, OR (supporting The Jaezabels) – Tickets
11/14/16 – Barboza – Seattle, WA (supporting The Jaezabels) – Tickets
11/16/16 – The Treehouse Cafe – Bainbridge Island, WA – RSVP
12/1/16 – The Starline Social Club – Oakland, CA (((folkYEAH!))) Presents: w/ Kelly McFarling & The Donkeys) – Tickets

Press photo by Ginger Fierstein
Write up by Annie Bacon / @anniebacon

Anne-Marie Does It Right at Rickshaw Stop


Anne-Marie performed her first solo U.S. gig in San Francisco on Friday night at the Rickshaw Stop. The small but passionate crowd soaked up each and everyone one of her songs. The London-raised singer looked taken aback when the audience started singing… screaming her lyrics back to her.

She was bursting with joy throughout the night, each cheer and chant from the crowd drawing more smiles and energy from Anne-Marie and her band. New songs were enjoyed just as much as the more familiar hits, “Gemini” and her latest single, “Alarm”. While shouts for an encore were left unfulfilled, those in the audience were left bubbling and satisfied after a fun set from a singer defining her own sound. Let’s hope she has a few spare songs up her sleeve the next time she visits The Bay as the love for her music appears to be starting to grow on this side of the pond.
 A few pictures from the night below.

Anne-Marie (of Rudimental) brings British underground to the Rickshaw Stop 10/7


Written by Robert Alleyne

Brit Pop didn’t happen for everyone on the other side of the pond. While Blur and Oasis were fighting over life in parks and wondering about morning glory, there was another history being written on Sunday nights in nightclubs. Starting in London then spreading through urban areas by word of mouth, tape-packs and pirate radio waves, there was a whole chapter in British music and identity being written simultaneously. Singer Anne-Marie was integral to that chapter and she’ll be at the Rickshaw Stop Friday night.

My generation joined the party with Jungle, a fusion of Caribbean sounds and Drum ‘n’ Bass, it was the perfect expression of Britain’s inner-cities – rough, gritty, but with an undertone of harmony. The more smooth, soothing and sensual dance sounds of Soul II Soul had been hyper-accelerated into music which required the bass line to be brazenly turned all the way into the reds. While the genre predominantly focused on the battle between bass and beat, many of the anthems were those which featured the vocalists — Elizabeth Troy, Nazalin, to name a few — featured on some of the most memorable records the time. Read More

The Secret is Out About Deep Sea Diver


I still get small chill each time I walk into The Fillmore. The music venue gifted made legendary by Charles Sullivan, and then Bill Graham is a mainstay in the San Francisco music scene. It has played host to many memorable shows. A glance around the poster room displays the secrets of the unassuming building sat on the corner of Fillmore and Geary. Wilco’s sold-out five-night residency may in years to come go down as one of those great moments.

And on the day Wilco’s 10th album, Schmilco, was released Deep Sea Diver made a detour on their US tour to open for the much loved Chicago-based rock band. Deep Sea Diver are a four-piece band formed by Jessica Dobson. The songwriter and multi-instrumentalist is a stalwart to the US music having toured with The Shins and Beck in years gone by. In 2014 she decided to focus on full-time on Deep Sea Diver. This focus lead up to the release of their sophomore album, Secrets, earlier this year. The album is an ode to intricate guitar riffs and open songwriting. Indeed, it is quoted as one of the best albums of the year by Kevin Cole at the start of the KEXP set I discovered them on.

Much like the Fillmore presence on Geary, the band was somewhat unassuming as they made their way on stage to a still filling up Fillmore. The bursting guitars as they opened up felt like they woke people up. “Creatures of Comfort” did it’s best to shake the crowd with its fighting guitars and catchy chorus. Read More

Pop-Up Magazine goes full-on California Dreaming Friday night at The Greek


In the era of extreme documentation, Pop-Up Magazine is like a dream. It will exist for one night only – no recurrence, no rerun. There will be no video or podcast.  You must – if you can – get thee to The Greek Theatre in Berkeley on Friday night to experience its foray into the California Dream.

You may be wondering what a pop-up magazine is. I admit I rolled my eyes a little bit at first, pop-up everything being all the rage these days. But after speaking with co-founder Doug McGray yesterday morning, I’m mind-boggled by the detail of thoughtful collaborations that bring flat page to bright stage.

A few years back, McGray, a writer, stumbled into radio working with the NPR program This American Life. He was impressed by the fact that despite so many storytelling similarities between writers and the radio, these two industries rarely intersected. He and his team set out in 2009 to create an event that would bring the two to the same stage – featuring collaborations between not just writers and radio producers, but musicians, visual artists and performance artists as well. The aim was to create a live version of a general interest magazine (covering music, art, food, politics, relationships and anything else), with multi-media performances each in the 4-6 minute range, usually scored by a live band and sometimes animated.

“We didn’t set out to make a show that would perform to thousands of people or tour other cities,” McGray told me, “but something about it resonated with audiences.” And before long, that’s exactly what they did. Read More

Single Day Lineups Announced for Treasure Island Music Festival, on Sale Thursday at 10am


For those of you who have been waiting patiently to pick a day for Treasure Island Music Festival 2016, you are in luck. Today organizers have announced which acts will play Saturday and Sunday on SF’s bizarre little man-made island.

For those unfamiliar with Treasure Island Music Festival, it has a lot of unique features compared to festivals like Outside Lands. First, the acts are staggered and the stages are positioned close together so you don’t have to miss any of the acts– unless you opt to hit the silent disco or comedy shows instead. Also the lineups tend to be split by day, with Saturday featuring more hip hop and electronic and Sunday featuring a little more indie. Lastly, the views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay will blow your mind. To add to the FOMO, this is the last year Treasure Island will be held on the Island, so if you’ve always wanted to go jump on it.

We’ve known the lineup for a bit now, but there have been a couple additions like Sofi Tukker. Check out the full lineups:
Ice Cube (feat. MC Ren and DJ Yella of N.W.A.)
Glass Animals
Duke Dumont
Young Thug
Flight Facilities
Mura Masa
How To Dress Well
Sofi Tukker

Sigur Rós
James Blake
Purity Ring
Mac DeMarco
Sylvan Esso
Neon Indian
Christine and the Queens
Wild Nothing
Car Seat Headrest
Day Wave

Personally I am leaning towards Sunday, what a lineup to end the weekend. Tickets go on sale Thursday at 10am and they are expected to sell out. Prices are as follows:
Single-day GA $105/  Single-day VIP $195 / Weekend GA $179.50 / Weekend VIP $335

Buy Here.

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