The Berkeley Balkan Bacchanal's last showcase of 2012, A Very Castle Face Christmas, CHURCHES' new release, and more
As a novice listener, I've (admittedly) grown interested in Balkan sounds via more mainstream bands that have remote influences from the regions, acts like Balkan Beat Box and early Beirut, which typically blend sounds and instruments from a variety of places with pop and folk influences; but also thanks to Gogol Bordello and, more recently, Inspector Gadje, which is more purely influenced by the Balkan style.
"I tend to avoid bands that are actively 'fusion,' it doesn't interest me much, especially bands that combine many styles," Murray says. "It seems, to me, to usually dilute the very thing that makes the music interesting to begin with. But I'm sure there's a wide range of opinions on this subject among the various bands and audience members."
He says he's more interested in bands that dig deep into the music they play, understanding the history and playing it in an authentic style. He brings up local bands such as Veretski Pass, which plays klezmer with accordion, fiddle, and bass, but also has studied the Jewish music of the Carpathian mountains, noting that the band will be back to the Starry Plough Jan. 17 for an all-klezmer night with the Gonifs.
But Murray points out that this doesn't mean the acts of the Berkeley Balkan Bacchanal are rigid. "...that's not to say that these bands are stuffy academics or that they don't play with styles to some degree. On the contrary, most of the players are young and bring the music to life in a vibrant way that gets heads bobbing and feet dancing."
"A great example is the Mano Cherga band, which played in September, and sounds like a Serbian party band you'd hear at a drunken wedding bash."
Bring on the brass and vodka.
A VERY CASTLE FACE CHRISTMAS
There are a number of reasons why A Very Castle Face Christmas is an obvious choice. There's performances by Thee Oh Sees, Blasted Canyons, Warm Soda, and recent GOLDIES winner the Mallard. Plus, it's a benefit for the Coalition on Homelessness in SF, a very worthy cause. There's also the added bonus of the venue itself. I just this week finally made it to a show at newish Mission venue the Chapel, and it was, frankly, charming — from the dark-wood high beam arched ceiling, to the multiple bars (three), to the band-watching angles (you can see from the main room, the balcony, and the soon-to-be-restaurant, plus there are flatscreens linked to cameras fixed on the stage). Win-win-win. Thu/20, 8:30pm, $15. Chapel, 777 Valencia, SF; www.thechapelsf.com.
HIGH ON FIRE
Following front person Matt Pike's treatment for alcohol addiction, Oakland's beloved stoner metal act High on Fire is back. Well, technically, the band has been back for about a month, touring the country on most recent release De Vermis Mysteriis. But this will be it's first big show back in the Bay, where it belongs. With Goatwhore, Lo-Pan. Sat/22, 9pm, $21. Slim's, 333 11th St., SF. www.slimspresents.com.