Explosive Hip-Hop Ensemble Mik Nawooj @ Harmonia in Sausalito 2/27


Hip hop, as an art form, is not this writer’s expertise. As such, I can’t comment on how Ensemble Mik Nawooj contributes to the genre’s progress. But I do know that hybrid sounds – combining multiple genres and atypical instrumental arrangements – are the future of music in general. Ensemble Mik Nawooj achieves this hybrid sound in spades, and their end of the month show in Sausalito is worth every second of the commute.

EMN combines jazz, rock, hip hop, and classical music. Their unparalleled live show pairs two emcees with an opera singer, a small orchestra (flute, clarinet, violin, cello, bass, piano), live drums and more – 10 performers in all. Not least among these is composer, pianist, and band leader Kim JooWan. (Pro tip: read his name backwards.) The Sacramento Bee says EMN “prove (that) hip hop is a complex art form” and I couldn’t say it better. Read More

Photos: The Knocks, Cardiknox and Sofi Tukker Kick Off First of Three Sold Out Nights at the Independent


Tuesday night at the Independent was a sweaty, raucous mess– exactly what we’ve come to expect when The Knocks make an appearance in San Francisco. The New York duo’s blend of electronic styles from deep house to nu-disco is genetically engineered to get any space moving. Joining them on tour are two other dance duos Cardiknox and Sofi Tukker, acts that seemed tailor made to help the Tuesday crowd transition from real life into madness. Check out photos of all the acts at the bottom of the post.

The opener was Sofi Tukker, a NYC based act that is actually working with The Knocks under their HeavyRocMusic Label. For better or worse I have a built up some preconceptions for electronic duos. The guy stands up there and plays some tones and tweaks some knobs on the synth and the girl sings, but Sofi Tukker isn’t a cookie cutter pop act. Their sound draws heavily on world music and latin genres, at times it almost seems as if front woman Sophie Hawley-Weld is speaking in tongues, like a hypnotic trance. She can also knock out some mean chords on the guitar. Tucker Halpern keeps the music flowing, incorporating percussive elements and samples; even busting out some dance choreography with Sophie. Check out “Drinkee:”

Next up was Cardiknox, another duo though they were playing as a foursome with drums and guitarist Tuesday. I have been really enjoying some of the singles put out by Cardiknox ahead of their upcoming debut album including “On My Way” which they played in the middle of their set. I noticed vocalist Lonnie Angle had missed the previous nights show with a cold and it looked as if she wasn’t yet 100 percent on stage, holding a water bottle and straining during the songs. I think everyone really appreciated her going out there for her fans, getting sick is an unfortunate part of tour life. Luckily there are still two more nights on this run at the Independent with The Knocks and then they are back with Carly Rae Jepsen at the end of the month. I’m going to try to catch that show to get a better taste of what Cardiknox is all about. In the meantime I will be wearing out the singles from their upcoming album Portrait.

The real chaos started when BRoc and JPatt of The Knocks took the stage to close out the night. Read More

SONG OF THE DAY: Bleeding Heart Pigeons “O Happy, Happy, Happy”


Today’s Song of the Day, “Oh happy, happy, happy,” is brought to you by that particular existential madness that comes from casting off a religion that stamps into your deepest subconscious the idea that God is separate from you and of whom you will never be worthy (aka Catholicism). Like Bleeding Heart Pigeons‘ lead singer Michael Keating, I have traveled that gruesome (but ultimately glorious) road.

So when I hear a lyric like:

“Oh the hunger in my arm
When I kill the hunger in my arm
my leg leaps up in alarm
I need constant feeding
The hunger never leaves
I once read a story of a man in the east
who starved himself and he found peace
But not me
Oh but not us here.”

I understand what hunger he is talking about – the hunger to fill the void of the divine now blasted open. A hunger to explain the unknowable. A hunger for worthiness but not knowing of what or whom we should strive to be worthy. And when this song loops back to its “Oh happy happy happy” chorus, I also understand the innate irony and suffering in the statement.

I like this song because it makes pain beautiful. It is noisy, distorted, and chaotic in its parts, but if you sit back it is, as a whole, a beautiful song, leaping between new wave, math rock, and artful-pop, the drums snapping and splashing. The vocals are at once crooning and gritty. I could cry, stomp, or stare at the floor – all reasonable responses to the song.

The trio is based out of Limerick, Ireland. Their new album Is will be released Friday February 12th, which also happens to be my birthday. “Oh happy happy happy … Happy birthday …”

Bleeding Heart Pigeons – “Oh happy, happy, happy”

Press photo
Written by Annie Bacon – @anniebacon

Hard Kn(ox): The Knocks and Cardiknox Team up for East-Meets-West Dance Party at Independent Feb 9-11


It’s no secret that we expect big things from The Knocks when they release their first full LP in March. In fact, the electronic dance duo may be New York’s worst kept secret at this point, after scoring big on the dance charts with “Classic” last summer and then again this summer with the Fetty Wap remix. Next week the NYC Chinatown beat-makers are teaming up with LA buzz act Cardiknox for what has turned out to be one of the hottest tickets in SF, already selling out two nights of a three day run. There a few tickets left for Thursday 2/11 and you can pick them up here.

2016 is off to a hot start for The Knocks. I wrote about how they were poised to blow up last spring but I had no idea at the time that they would be collaborating with heavy weights like Cam’Ron and Wyclef Jean. They are even producers Wyclef’s new album.

In an age where we are often asked to see our favorite musicians play “DJ sets” The Knocks are DJs that know how important live performance is to the dance experience. This isn’t a knock (get it) on any other artist, I just want to emphasize how amazing they are live with JPatt on the bass and vocals and B-Roc on the drums. The ability to take dance music and elevate it in a live setting is something that not every act can do, and they excel.

Check out their new song with Wyclef “Kiss The Sky,” an absolute banger. 

Joining The Knocks are Seattle-bred, LA-based dance duo Cardiknox. It’s hard to predict who will make the next big splash in the pop world, especially in the world of electronic music, but Cardiknox definitely ended 2015 with a potential hit in “On My Way.” So far in 2016 they are only adding to their intrigue with tastes of their upcoming album Portrait like single “Into The Night.” Right after they finish up their run with The Knocks they are heading on a Spring tour with Carly Rae Jepsen.

Check out the video for “On My Way,” done in one take it definitely is inspiring me to get my friends to coordinate some sidewalk dance moves soon. Read More

PREMIERE: “Meteorite” from The Y Axes – playing Milk Bar on 1/29


SF Critic is excited to premiere the new single, “Meteorite,” from San Francisco band The Y Axes. These are an infectious three listening minutes; a dreamy pop-wave anthem for your upcoming trip to the outer edges of the cosmos. The band – self-described post-apocalyptic alternative pop, making music not for the future, but of the future – orbits strongly around the tight drumming of Nick Schneider and the sweetly ethereal vocals of Alexi Belchere. Recorded in Oakland at Hellam Sound, the song pulls together grungy alt-rock guitar tones (think My Bloody Valentine) and polished synth pop (The xx) into a solid production that nods to The Cocteau Twins.

The band plays The Winter Wizard Formal, hosted by Milk Bar, on Friday night January 29th. Down and Outlaw and Lords of Sealand will round the night out. Don’t forget to wear your wizardly best. More details here.

“Meteorite” – The Y Axes

Photos: The Devil Makes Three at the Fox on Friday Night was a Real Family Affair


A different breed of bluegrass crawled out of the Santa Cruz mountains in 2002, and with it, The Devil Makes Three dragged the genre into the 21st century. The three piece string-band made its return to the Bay Area on Friday night after a phenomenal 2015 and turned in a real barnburner at The Fox.

A TDM3 show is a bona fide social experiment. You’ve got your shaggy, millennial hippies stomping alongside wasted, shirtless, teenage boys who are locking arms with, well, hipsters (it is Oakland in the year 2016 after all). It’s a a real family affair. You’re going to find yourself dancing in a lot of circles, spilling a ton of beer, and drinking even more. I even braved the mosh pit before being chased by a sweaty, rogue dreadlock.

As for the music, the good folks at the Fox didn’t book them back to back nights just for the hell of it. Their pace is furious. But this threesome knows how to work a crowd so in between fierce anaerobic stomping, I had ample time to imbibe as the crowd slowed from sheer chaos to a gentle sway. With tracks like “Shades,” I had my arm around my buddies like it was a goddamn Garth Brooks Karaoke hour and the next thing I know, they basically had me running in place like a maniac to “Statesboro Blues” (a cover of the americana, blues standard). Read More

Anderson .Paak PAAKS the House @ 1015 Folsom


Sorry not sorry about that headline… too goddamn easy.

Last Thursday night, breakthrough hip-hop & soul star Anderson .Paak fired up a crowded house at 1015 Folsom with his funky backing band The Free Nationals. The free show was the official release party for his excellent sophomore album Malibu, released just a week earlier. Word is there were over 5000 RSVPs for the 1800 capacity club- the entry line stretched farther than the eye could see. There’s no way they all made it inside, but from the sweat-drenched walls and kids hanging over every inch of balcony, you wouldn’t know it.

Read More

Greasy, Dynamic, Hard Hitting Grooves: An Interview with Jazz Band FORQ


It’s easy to compartmentalize music. There’s crazy rock bands. There’s laid back, sit still-and-reflect jazz bands. There’s hip-hop, there’s jam. There’s a million “distinct” categories.

But every once and a while you find a band that’s something else.  Music that can satisfy the rocker and jazz snob in all of us. And if you’re in the Bay Area on Sunday, prepare to be satisfied, as New York City-based FORQ will be rolling through the beautiful SF Jazz Center, where they’ll be playing three sets (5:30 pm, 7 pm and 9 pm) at the Joe Henderson Lab.

Read More

Photos + Review: Ty Segall Brings His Supergroup (Including King Tuff, Mikal Cronin) to The Fillmore


Ty Segall and his band of Muggers stopped by the Fillmore earlier this week for two nights of debauchery, and San Francisco loved every second of it. If you’re not familiar with Ty Segall, the guy is an absolute machine. He’s put out eight solo albums, has played in (no joke) eight other bands and has countless producers credits scattered across Bay Area and L.A.-based bands to boot.

Here’s a little preview we did, in case you want to get yourself up to speed.

Before we get started, I want to say something real quick. I am a huge fan of just about everything this dude does. It’s a little hard for me to sit here and write an honest to goodness article on the Ty Segall and the Muggers show from Monday night, because honestly I’m still in a bit of shock. I don’t typically get star-struck, but Monday night, I was fucking star-struck.

Ty Segall and the Muggers is composed of a group of folks that I have an incredible amount of respect for – Kyle Thomas (King Tuff) and Emmett Kelly (Cairo Gang) on guitar, Cory Hanson and Evan Burrows of Wand on guitar/keys and drums (respectively), and Mikal Cronin (who has an impressive solo gig going and has also toured with Ty in the past) on bass and sax. Read More

Interview: The Coffis Brothers Talk Music and Santa Cruz Ahead of Jan 27 Show at Slim’s


2015 was a big year for The Coffis Brothers, folky-blues rockers from the Santa Cruz mountains. They played with some of their musical heros and at venerable local venues like The Fillmore. We can look forward to an even bigger 2016 and they are kicking off the year at Slim’s Wednesday January 27th with Roem Baur. Grab tickets here.

Unsurprisingly at the core of The Coffis Brothers are brothers Jamie Coffis (keys & vocals) and Kellen Coffis (guitar & vocals). They are also joined by Kyle Poppen on guitar, Aidan Collins slappin da bass and Henry Chadwick with drums and vocals. Most of the band has been playing together since 2010 so you can expect some real chemistry.

If you can’t make the show at Slim’s catch the guys in Sacramento at the Torch Club February 12th or Smileys in Bolinas on February 13th. They also said they are booking studio time in January and February to work on their third full length album.

I asked Jamie Coffis a few questions to get some insight on what makes these guys go. Check out the interview below:

SFCritic: I try not to force bands to fit in any one genre, how do you describe your music to people?

Coffis Brothers: My initial answer to that question is always “Rock and Roll.” Unfortunately that doesn’t usually doesn’t paint enough of a picture for most people so I usually continue to say something like, folk, blues, classic rock. Rock and Roll is still my favorite term and I think it describes our music accurately and concisely. Read More

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