The Performant: Cheap thrills

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Bargain Basement Mondays and Amoebapalooza

The upside to living in a city as notoriously pricey as San Francisco is that despite the myriad opportunities to blow too much cash on a mediocre time out, there are plenty of options for cheaper entertainments, keeping the broke-ass among us from being eternally housebound. This weekend in particular, a couple of low-budge music showcases offered those too skint to make it to Iggy Pop a way to afford more beer by charging less cover, and one even threw in the pizza! Sure, rocking out with the godfather of punk would have been quite a bang for its buck, but at least Bottom of the Hill and Café du Nord offered economical alternatives to hanging out in a drafty San Francisco flat Google-stalking Mike Watt. Not that I’d know anything about that.

If free’s your price, then Bargain Basement Mondays at Bottom of the Hill is your place. A once-monthly showcase of local musicians with no cover charge, the attitude is chummy and freewheeling. This week’s lineup was intriguing in that it was not just a random assortment of strangers, but instead a loose coalition of one-man bands gathered together to put on a show subdued only in decibels, but certainly not in invention.

I made it just in time to catch Andrew Goldfarb “The Slow Poisoner” halfway through a cluster of bug-themed songs, such as the instrumental “Spastic Maggot” (a personal fave). Goldfarb’s musical sensibility is one part Southern Gothic, one part B-movie creature feature, and one part swampy psychobilly, and in addition to accompanying himself on the electric guitar and kick drum, he also provides a visual “slideshow” of oversized flashcards with the names of each song painted in Goldfarb’s distinctive cartooning style, deceptively simple lines, skewed perspectives, and boneless, Piraro-esque physiology.     

Sean Lee’s 1manbanjo act followed, in which he led a spontaneous conga line of oddience members around the dance floor, beating time on a snare drum strapped to his back while strumming his mandolin-sized banjo, a hobo pied piper in a rumpled suit. A member of Thee Hobo Gobbellins, about half of Lee’s set was comprised of songs from their Alice in Wonderland-themed “Cheshire Rock Opera”—next slated to play the Oakland Metro on Jan 27, 2012. Last but certainly not least, Jordan B. Wilson debuted his very interesting music-making machine, which the other musicians kept referring to as a “squid”. An elaborate array of cables , computers, mixing boards, and drumsticks snaked around an entire drum kit’s worth of percussion, additionally Wilson played a double-necked guitar with keys, and sang, a triumph of multi-tasking, to say nothing of the three-year creation process of his singular contraption. 

Sunday’s Amoebapalooza, the annual open-to-the-public holiday party of Amoeba Music employees, was as quirky and varied as the music selection at our favorite converted bowling alley, during which the employees rocked the stage, and the aforementioned pizza was distributed like the modern equivalent to a Dickenson turkey. With a couple of exceptions (Vanishing Breed being one), most of the bands gave the impression of being hastily assembled for the purpose of playing this one show, but for five bucks, and all-you-can eat, it basically paid for itself, which was ultimately the desired effect..

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