Music Features

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 »

Goldie winner -- Music: Wooden Shjips

The dark star that lurks beneath flower power
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Wooden Shjips released their "Dance, California/Clouds over Earthquake" 7-inch single (Sick Thirst) last year in much the same way as they had their instigating, self-released Shrinking Moon for You 10-inch: packaged in an unassuming, clear plastic sleeve with hardly any information besides song titles. Beyond sending bloggers and journalists into a tizzy over their sexy, squalling grooves, this set confirmed Wooden Shjips as essential California. Read more »

Goldie winner -- Music: The Finches

The forest folk sounds of a marine girl and boy
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We wish they all could be California girls — or pure products of the Bay like the Finches' Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs. On the phone from New York City, where she's playing a series of CMJ-related shows, the singer-songwriter is as laid-back about scheduling an interview ("Whatever's clever!" she says merrily) as she is playfully lickety-split with a quirky quip, a roll-off-the-tongue rhyme, or an unguarded revelation (of a new Los Angeles job that requires the 26-year-old be on her feet all day, she says, "I wear a knee brace. Read more »