Music Features

Ask Dr. Rock

What's the biggest annoyance at rock shows?
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Question: What's the biggest annoyance at rock shows?

Guardian calendar editor Duncan Scott Davidson answers: Loudmouths. Hecklers are usually silenced quickly enough, but it's the person who thinks his or her banal conversation is more important than the band that drives me apeshit. A few months ago at 12 Galaxies, some guy behind me talked through 16 Horsepower's set. I guess he thought he'd score underground cultural cred by asking his date to see a random band she'd never heard of. Read more »

He hears a new world

Chris Watson finds music in the belly of the beast
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"I was just on the Farne Islands, off the northeast coast of England, near where I live, and at this time of the year they are covered with Atlantic gray seals that have come to birth their pups," environmental sound recorder and musician Chris Watson explains, recounting his latest field trip over a shaky Skype connection. "There are whole communities of female seals that sing and have these beautiful haunting voices. It's sort of this siren voice. Read more »

Eyes on the prize

The Scotland Yard Gospel Choir have their feet on the ground and priorities in place
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"One thing about Chicago — it's a no-bullshit city," Elia Einhorn, the maestro behind the Scotland Yard Gospel Choir, explains. "It's a blue-collar, working-class city. Read more »

Do you believe in White Magic?

The witchy duo shine on with Dark Stars
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The folkish side of indie rock has been blessed with several female songwriters who have unique, affecting voices — Chan Marshall, Joanna Newsom, Becky Stark — but White Magic's Mira Billotte is in a different league altogether. Her vocal tracks thunder and shiver all over the register, fearlessly chasing down radical intonations and bold tonal colors. Where the others can all sound a little fey and princessy, Billotte's full-spectrum blasts hark back to the possessed passion of '60s stunners like Grace Slick, Karen Dalton, and — why not? Read more »

Out of the shadows

Shady Nate, the number two rapper of West Oakland's Livewire crew, emerges as a boss
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So if you see me, I be where they don't battle rhyme

28 and zipper or Eighth Street and Adeline

— Shady Nate, "Banga Dance (Remix)" (Zoo Ent.)

I meet up with Shady Nate at Eighth Street and Adeline, in the Acorn neighborhood of West Oakland, where he spent his youth. As we scout locations for photos, a man walks by peeling a tangerine. "I survive in West Oakland," he mutters, more to himself than to us. Read more »

Pick up the beat

Yoshi's arrival in San Francisco raises questions about whether jazz can revive the Fillmore
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Bop City. The Blackhawk. The Jazz Workshop. The Both/And. Keystone Korner. Kimball's.

San Francisco's world-renowned jazz club heritage has always been a part of the city's matchless cultural identity. But the je ne sais quoi's been missing for decades, because there hasn't been a jazz club regularly booking national and international touring musicians into the city for more than 20 years.

That all changes this month with the Nov. 28 opening of Yoshi's San Francisco. Read more »

Divining truth

Singer-songwriter Piers Faccini gets to the heart of the matter
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"Basically, it's a mystery as to why someone who is brought up in Western Europe and is primarily the product of French and English culture should hear Ali Farka Touré at the age of 19 and feel like a thunderbolt just bashed them on the head," Piers Faccini says.

It was the late '80s, and after spending much of his childhood in rural France, Faccini was back in his native London, playing in a band that covered the Smiths. Read more »

Sail away

Ex–Red Threader Jason Lakis voyages solo with Mist and Mast
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Jason Lakis is proving to be his own best bandmate. The former frontperson of Bay Area country-slowcore outfit the Red Thread, which split this summer after three stellar LPs, has lately reemerged as Mist and Mast — a solo act, though you wouldn't guess it. Mist's eponymous debut, which Lakis released on his Oakland Petting Zoo label, finds the artist playing every part — and sounding sneakily like some well-rehearsed group. Read more »

Redevelopment blues

Devastation and hope in the Fillmore
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James Baldwin said it most eloquently and publicly: "Urban renewal ... means Negro removal" — during a 1963 TV interview on meeting a boy displaced by the Fillmore-area redevelopment projects of the '50s and '60s. Wondering what happened to the Fillmore's vibrant jazz, blues, and R&B clubs — which once drew musical giants like Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington and fostered local neophytes like Etta James and Chet Baker? Read more »

The Fillmore mess around

Players recall the once sizzling, oft-forgotten Western Addition jazz era
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San Francisco's Fillmore District, Willie Brown once said, "had to be the closest thing to Harlem outside of New York." The Fillmore was in its golden era when the future mayor, then a teenager, arrived in 1951 from segregated Mineola, Texas. The 20 blocks that constitute the heart of the Fillmore then bustled with commerce and culture. Read more »