In today’s music world, and especially in the Bay Area, there’s no shortage of musical fusion projects. From indie-pop, to folk-punk to afro-carribean-folk-jazz, pretty soon there won’t be any hyphens left for the rest of us.
A lot of these genres fuse wonderfully, like coffee and cream. But some fuse more like coffee and fish tacos. Independently, both very delicious. But if you try to dunk your fish taco in my coffee, I will karate chop you in the neck.
Thus I approached Gringa with some trepidation. An all-female San Francisco based band, fronted by a Canadian, that claims to blend Brazilian, Latin, funk and rock music. My karate chop was quivering with anticipation.
But within about 12 seconds of putting on their sassy new single, “I’ma Build a House”, my fears (and karate chop) were put to rest. This is not some incoherent hyphen orgy, this is real, honest, and to my surprise, authentic sounding, musical project. Blistering sax solos, tight female vocal harmonies, and all manner of percussion from the Southern Hemisphere are nestled into an irresistible Brazilian groove. The results of which are as refreshing as a sweet iced Yerba Mate on a hot Rio de Janeiro day.
Gringa will be playing at the Elbo Room June 7 at 9pm as support for Bay Area world fusion band Camino.
Gringa “I’ma Build A Home”
Write up by Joey Coe
Press photo by Sarah Ritterscamp
Those lucky enough to score tickets to Big Wild’s sold-out set were treated to a high-energy dance party, that frankly had no business going down on a Sunday. Either no one else had work on Monday, or they plain just didn’t care. Either way, they were dancing their asses off, and the crowd barely thinned, even as it approached the early hours of Monday morning.
For his part Jackson Stell, AKA Big Wild, was there to party with us. He was celebrating a successful headlining tour which saw him sell out the whole weekend at The Independent. Jackson alternated between his electronic drum pads where he hammered out beats, and a wonderfully low tech cajón that would make any drum circle proud. All the while, his curly mop of hair bounced to the beat and basically completely obscured his face for the whole show.
Last week we had a chance to ask Jackson a few questions about his style and live instrumentation. He told us how well mid-2000s hip hop worked with his almost tropical beats, and didn’t disappoint with live mashups of his compositions and raps by Rich Boy and Ludacris. He ended with an extended play of his hit single “Aftergold” including new verses from Swedish singer Tove Styrke. Check out our interview to hear the song and learn more about what make Big Wild tick here.
See the wildness for yourself in our photos below and don’t miss Big Wild on his next tour of the Bay.
The last time we covered The Mynabirds, we longed to hear this band in a less acoustic venue than Swedish American Music Hall. Tuesday June 7th, we get our wish as the band headlines The Chapel in the Mission. Anthemic, powerful, sincere and ridiculously gorgeous music comes from this band – led by Laura Burhenn who, among other things, has toured as a member of Bright Eyes. After stumbling upon the band covering a Thao Nguyen Noisepop show a few years back, I have become a disciple. In fact, it is difficult to write a static review that will just sit on this blog page. If I could, I would reach through your screen and stare intensely (but kindly) into your eyes until you agree to clear your schedule and get down to this show.
The Omaha, Nebraska based band – on Saddle Creek Records – covers a lot of musical territory in the course of a set. Indie-pop at its core, The Mynabirds quote from folk, classic rock, electronic and mainstream pop style with ease. You will think of Jenny Lewis, My Bloody Valentine, Jefferson Airplane, Kate Bush, early Rolling Stones, Patty Griffin. And you will likely be drawn in by Burhenn’s immense talent and a generous and warm performance.
The show is presented by (((folkYEAH!))) & the Huichica Festival, where the band will play a few days later in Sonoma, after a 6/8 show at the Henry Miller Library. As if this band alone were not enough awesome, local greats Foxtails Brigade open the night. Tickets are here.
Below is the most recent album Lovers Know, released in 2015. If you make it to the show, let us know what you think.
It’s been a busy year for Venice-based Big Wild so far and things are only picking up. A beatmaker by trade, Jackson Stell AKA Big Wild has been touring like a madman while perfecting his stage show. In May alone he has three big upcoming Bay Area dates, Friday the 13th with Odesza at San Jose State and then back to back sold out nights at The Independent May 21st and 22nd.
Big Wild creates fun, almost whimsical dance beats. I would call some of his songs tropical house, but there is so much baggage associated with that label now and I find his brand of music far more creative. For a taste check out Big Wild’s latest rework of “Aftergold” with Tove Stryke:
I had the chance to ask Jackson a few questions before his return to the Bay check it out below and start checking the secondary market for some tickets to his upcoming shows:
SFCritic: I have to admit before I saw you for the first time I felt a little bad for you. It was an opening act for Bonobo and Odesza, two bands known for incredible live shows. But I was blown away by your energy and activity on stage (drumming etc). Was the stage act something you’ve always had or is it something you developed over the past couple years? Big Wild: My live show is something I’ve been creating for the last year and a half. It’s been a good amount of experimentation with ideas and seeing what sticks haha. I bring a lot of energy to shows to channel it to the crowd. It builds a really cool environment for people to have a good time and feel something.
SFC: How long have you been producing as Big Wild? What do you think helped define the music you are making now? BW: I’ve been producing as Big Wild for about three years. My first trip to California and the idea of really starting a career as an artist spurred a lot of my ideas for my more recent music. I wanted to have a sound that adventures into different styles and genres while being rooted in the music I grew up loving.Read More
Kendra McKinley is a rising star in San Francisco. With a songwriting style that is at once nostalgic and futuristic, she is carving out quite a niche. Take a look/listen to her newest release “Honey” (off the upcoming TREAT, due this month) in which she visually and sonically invokes a ‘Mad Men meets the Mission’ universe. You’ll hear chamber pop, hints of her classical guitar training, and a 007 vibe on this track. Tuesday night she shared a bill at the Make-Out Room with Foxtails Brigade, and in some senses this song seems like a brighter take on a that band’s approach to music-making: well-crafted melodies moving in unexpected directions, arrangements twisting and lilting before jumping. Both bands write songs that abandon most traditional rules while still managing an impressive accessibility. Check out the video, and follow along with Kendra via her website or on Facebook.
Playing what the band called their first ever show in San Francisco, these Los Angeles transplants played to an enthralled sold out crowd at The Fillmore last Sunday night.
The Last Shadow Puppets, the brainchild of Brit’s Alex Turner (Arctic Monkeys) and Miles Kane (The Little Flames, The Rascals), came out blazing in their 70’s styled butterfly collar suits. The crowd was eager to get a close up glimpse of Turner following his mega stadium and festival success with The Arctic Monkey’s 2013 album AM.
Rather than returning that love from the crowd, it seemed Turner’s attention was honed in on his BFF Kane. The two were inseparable on stage, constantly minding exactly where the other was, like two dancers always anticipating their partner’s next move. Having read a few disses to them regarding their chemistry, I found it refreshing to see the two band mates get on so well. Turner made sure everyone knew Kane’s name by reintroducing or praising him between tracks while also dipping his own balls in rock n roll concrete (so-to-speak) and presenting his altar ego showmanship through his own wild eyed performance. Read More
I have a confession to make. My name is Robert, and I am new to CHVRCHES.
Well that’s not entirely accurate; CHVRCHES have been on my radar for some time. A good friend started singing their praises a few years ago and I always see their albums appearing in the Spotify feeds of people clearly cooler than me. They seem ever present in the music press, with the band’s view on gender issues within the music industry (and society in general) both fearless and refreshing. The Glaswegian electro-indie trio are a band I always knew, however I never them knew musically.
It almost feels dirty to make this admission as someone who (sometimes) writes about music. Here’s a band who have seen a meteoric rise to success while I had been listening to other things; lost in a sea of Future R&B, Retro-Soul and throw away bands. Fresh off an appearance at Coachella, their small break between weekends provided the perfect opportunity for me to acquaint myself a group who sold-out Oakland’s Fox twice over! And from the first booming chords of “Never Ending Circles” I could see just why they have so quickly become a band revered by indie-kids all over the world. Read More
By now you may have heard the buzz about an editorial-style post on The Bold Italic last week declaring the SF music scene dead. While the article makes some important points about the struggles artists face in this city, there is much evidence to the contrary of its over-generalized claims. The Bay Bridged laid the argument down beautifully, and Do The Bay had the best line of all: “If you really want to help, put down your phone and go to a show.”
Since I arrived in the Bay Area 15 years ago, I’ve never seen the music scene so collaborative and hard working as it is now. Between community efforts by folks like KC Turner, Balanced Breakfast, and Popscene, great festivals like Noisepop, Treasure Island Music Festival and Outside Lands, and more to do on any given night than could possibly be done … Music is alive in this city.
What is true is that the musicians and their creative teams need the city’s support – and yours – to be able to stay here. At SF Critic we are obsessed with great live music, so repeating and adding to the lists of others, here are some of our staff favorites* for you to get out and support. Buy their music. Go to their shows. Help them stay in our great city:
(*You’ll notice that Hip Hop is conspicuously missing from this list … educate us! What’s the best hip hop happening in SF right now?)
The She’s – all female, indie rock band with some surf/60s influence
Slaptop– SF artist got his inspiration to make electronic music after seeing Justice at Treasure Island Music Festival in 2008, a SF festival.
Heartwatch – FKA The Tropics. One of their members was working at a major tech company and left to focus on music. It’s not just a hobby like they imply.
Union Trade – another band off Tricycle Records, super close to electronic-jam. STS9, Yeasayer, and especially Explosions in the Sky fans will be into this. When they have the full cast onstage – shows are quite strong. Album, regardless of headphone type, is very strong.
The Greening – fronted by Karl Meischen, the Greening put out a new album in 2015 and plays pretty regularly around town. Super upbeat, electric energy with some kickass vocals and great musicianship. New album coming soon.
Be Calm Honcho – I caught them at GAMH and not only was the place packed, it was an all out, wild party. Costumes, on stage antics, this band definitely shows up every single time. If you love California (like Shannon Harney does), you’ll be into this.
Owl Paws – comrades of Rin Tin Tiger, the indie / alternative band just opened for Rob Crowe’s Gloomy Place (from Pinback), and casually sold out the Chapel the other day.
Artists who live in SF – Mike Patton (Faith No More), Christopher Owens (Girls), Adam Carson (AFI), Joel Gion from Brian Jonestown Massacre lives under me.
Two Gallants –
The Stone Foxes (Rock n’ Roll) – They formed their band while attending SF State.
Eaglewolfsnake (Indie Rock/Pop)- Some friends of mine that are creating a big following. Formerly from Music For Animals.
Eaglewolfsnake – “Empty Weather”
San Francisco’s live music scene dead? I’d bet that’s a surprise to local soul favorites Con Brio, called “The Best New Live Band in America” by PopMatters and whose members are deeply involved in supporting the communities they entertain. Just one of countless examples that would have been discovered with a bit more research”
Con Brio – “Kiss the Sun [Live at Audiotree]”
Photo of Thao Nguyen at Noisepop / Swedish American Music Hall by Mark Mosher
It’s been a few years since Miike Snow made an appearance in San Francisco (check out my previous story to learn what they’ve been up to) and they really pulled out all the stops on this trip. SF folks know The Independent is a great venue to catch an act. The acoustics and lighting are fantastic, and with a capacity of 500 it has an intimate feel. When a large act like Miike Snow plays such a small venue you know you are in for an insane show.
Visually the show was both amazing and absurd. It looked like they put their whole AV setup for their upcoming Coachella show on stage including massive metal towers covered in LCD panels, guitar stands, drum set and each performers massive musical “battle stations.” While the visuals were super interesting, the light show was almost too much to take at times in such a cozy venue. This was also the most packed show I’ve ever seen at the Independent, and I’ve been to plenty of sold out shows there before. I guess sometimes shows sell out but not everyone attends, this place was right at capacity. The experience was definitely unique in its excess.
Musically, they did a great job of mixing in new material like “Trigger” and “Genghis Khan” from iii with favorites like “Silvia” and “Burial.” There weren’t many surprises in the setlist, but no fan could have left disappointed. To end the show they made sure to showcase their Swedish house credentials with an insane mix of “Animal” that topped 10 minutes.
If you missed them this time around you can see them the next two Sunday’s at Coachella or back here in SF for Outside Lands 2016.