J.H. Tompkins

More power to the righteous

Michael Franti has the respect of this rebel rocker
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Do I admire Michael Franti? You bet your ass I do. In the scary days after 9/11 he had the balls to stand up to a fascist tide led by flag-waving goon squads and cheered on by most of America. Franti and a handful of Bay Area artists, including Paris and the Coup's Boots Riley, took a stand when it mattered, when free speech wasn't free anymore.

Making albums is one thing — making history is another. Read more »

Year in Music: Rather ripped

Chasing the phantom of perfect sound
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I traded one obsession for another in 2007, a tedious game of music on a Möbius strip. Eleven months ago I had some 10,000 CDs — few of them ripped — a couple of 150 gig hard drives packed with MP3 files, and a tiny apartment with no room to move, and I mean it. So I ripped and I ripped and I ripped some more — disc by disc, day after day, week after week. When I looked back, I'd moved the music from 5,000 CDs to a quartet of 250 gig GDrives, and I was ready, sort of, to head for Amoeba Music's buyback counter. Read more »

The slow fade of Sly Stone

The slow fade of Sly Stone: whatever happened to the funk innovator?
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FULL CIRCLE This spring Epic/Legacy finally started releasing Sly and the Family Stone: The Collection, the band's seven albums complete with previously unreleased music, new liner notes, and great sound, with the final installment, Greatest Hits, to come July 24. The event had been on the horizon for some time, but like everything connected with Sly Stone, a fan was never sure when — or if, for that matter — the music would be available.

If you aren't familiar with Stone's music, get this collection and enjoy. Read more »

Fresh fruit from old punks

Jello Biafra and others pay tribute to icon Dirk Dirksen
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FULL CIRCLE Once upon a time, at Kezar Pavilion in San Francisco, the Dead Kennedys blew the Clash off the stage. I think it was early spring 1980. I didn't pay much attention to dates in those days, but I remember this much — I was there.

On that night the DKs delivered their fat, funny broadsides with a joyous abandon that few bands of the era could match. Vocalist Jello Biafra — who finished his set drenched in sweat and wearing only his underwear's elastic waistband — was simply inspired. Read more »

Rage and resistance

The Coup's Boots Riley continues to challenge with the unapologetic Pick a Bigger Weapon
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"It's a whole different feeling on the East Coast." Raymond "Boots" Riley, Oakland's most famously outspoken rapper, is talking. The Coup, the group he's led for more than a decade, has just returned from a series of spring New York dates. Their latest album, Pick a Bigger Weapon (Epitaph), has just dropped. It's a good time to clock the distance between the coasts. "They've got a whole different code of language and lifestyle — and the same with the political energy that's there. It doesn't even translate," he says. Read more »