Music Features

The best show I never saw

Even nap time can't keep the will to rock alive — when you're five
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duncan@sfbg.com
My daughter, Dolores — otherwise known as Dolly, though only to family, as she's getting a little too sophisticated for nicknames — is a born rocker. The first music she heard, pipin' hot out of the womb, was London Calling by the Clash. Now that she's five, she wants more of the same when her father, mellowing in his old age, tries to catch the news on NPR on the way to kindergarten: "Dad, what is this? I don't want talk.... Read more »

Sing out

From where we're sitting, anti-Bush jabs were de rigueur in 2006
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The stage floods red, and the guitars churn. This rock is southern grit — a real heartland affair. Onstage, a man with straggly black hair steadies his guitar and returns to the microphone stand: "They've never known want, they'll never know need/ Their shit don't stink, and their kids won't bleed/ Their kids won't bleed in their damn little war/ And we can't make it here anymore." The crowd goes off, the band keeps up, and then James McMurtry puts down his guitar.
This is pretty much what preaching to the converted looks like. Read more »

A sound proposition

Why don't we do it in public?
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There are huge, expensive, city-sponsored monuments to the arts lined up on Van Ness Avenue, opposite City Hall, and I've seen some of the best music in the world performed there.
The formidable San Francisco Symphony took a run at Igor Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at Davies Symphony Hall years back — a feat not dissimilar to juggling chainsaws while riding a unicycle along a plank over a pit of alligators — and pulled it off with both precision and gusto. And more recently, the San Francisco Opera made me, a lifelong doubter of wobbly-voiced wailing, an instant convert. Read more »

The nu sincerity

If you prick ’em, they bleed
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James Taylor's early-’70s status as the king of sensitive male vocalists is mere VH1 countdown fodder now. Yet in 2006, more than a few male artists seemed to have recollected being reared in Taylor's soft rock FM heyday or at least had some of his sunny-voiced sincerity channeled down to them by sonic osmosis. Read more »

Frag the dinfo

Two imaginary islands in the torrent of streaming audio bits
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marke@sfbg.com
I.
Choices! You've got choices. And you better make them wisely. In cyberspace your tastes define you. It's your space, your tube, your shared pod. You're all your bandwidth allows. Be all you can feed. After that OCD-chosen primary photo, it's all "about me." But hit that select button carefully. Get those lists exactly right. Not too few favorites, not too many — just enough to embrace your current unique user's criteria, to pique his or her browsing interests. You're just one click away from rejection.
Eclecticism is the new aphrodisiac. And yet it's a tightrope. Read more »

Wholly noise

The Brutal Sound Effects Festival aims high at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
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Trying to fathom the arcane and somewhat frustrating demeanor that shrouds a Bay Area noisenik is like cross-examining Walt Disney on LSD. I've been at the mercy of Rubber O Cement's Bonnie Banks for the past week, meticulously querying the mumbo jumbo he (or she, as Banks likes to be referred to) sends in response to interview questions while nagging him for answers to my more dogged inquiries. One e-mail reply might yield a pensive thought, only to be followed by a farrago of chaotic imagery — swarms of schizo babble about vocal chord mulch, mosquito broccoli, and rabid zombie snowmen. Read more »

Our lady of the ivories

Imogen Heap has the keys to the kingdom
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One part an electric Venus in Furs and one part shipwrecking siren, the woman swirling around the stage has a three-ring circus in her head. There is no doubt about it. Imogen Heap does something to a room.
Captivating presence aside, it's her musicianship that leaves even the most adept of multi-instrumentalists unhinged in disbelief. The 28-year-old songwriter is classically trained on piano, cello, and clarinet; has honed her chops on the drums and guitar; and has even mastered the mbira, Zimbabwe’s thumb piano.
Perhaps most notably, the lady plays a mean Mac. Read more »

Failure, so thrive

Black metal, free jazz, and improv skronk — these are the things Ettrick are made of
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"Ever heard of Wisconsin Death Trip?" Jacob Heule asks. Ettrick's alto sax–playing half and I are in my living room discussing the rigors of life in the Midwest as they pertain to the metal-listening youth of today. Heule, a Wisconsin native, has jokingly — or maybe not so jokingly — cited Michael Lesy's book about the disintegration of the 19th-century town Black River Falls as we make loose connections between freezing cold weather, insanity, and locales that death metal and its fans call home. Read more »

The people's party

DJ Sake 1 finds a rare groove at Pacific Standard Time
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Sake 1 isn't your typical DJ. Holding a graduate degree in social work from UC Berkeley, he volunteers for Caduceus Outreach Services, providing aid to mentally ill homeless adults. He is in the middle of a year initiating as a priest of Elegua in the Lucumi faith (more commonly known as Santeria) and, among other restrictions, must wear white from head to toe, refrain from sex, alcohol, and drugs, and avoid physical contact with others. Read more »

Gimme back my Bone?

Pondering the ineffable sound of "classic rock that rocks"
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When pressed to define obscenity, Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart famously opined, "I know it when I see it." For me, a more honest answer would go something like "I know it when I masturbate to it."
Rock music, like smut, offers an equally simple metric for discerning authenticity: if listening to a band inevitably leads to a stoned argument about the fighting prowess of Bruce Lee, then it is probably real rock. Read more »