Posts by: Emily Turner
May 14, 2013
On Sunday night, May 12, Jim James floated onto the Fillmore stage looking like he had just been electrocuted. His mess of hair and beard frizzed wildly in every direction and his crazy-eyed stare poured into each fan in the front row, one by one, as he reached out to touch their fingertips – and then bowed to the crowd in Namaste. His humble entrance was endearing, and kind of hilarious. His wide-eyed stare got comically creepy after piercing my soul for a few seconds too long and about two feet away from my face, but it was obvious he appreciated the audience contact as he sauntered back and forth across the stage and sang into the crowd.
After penning six respectable studio albums with his claim to fame My Morning Jacket, a one-LP stint with stellar supergroup Monsters of Folk, and two cover albums (of George Harrison and Woody Guthrie, respectively) under the pseudonym Yim Yames, James released a solo album of original tracks, Regions of Light and Sound of God, in February of this year. Incorporating his saxophone skills and a four-piece live band to back him up, the new album is much more jazz-influenced and ostentatious than his folky past, though his Louisville southern twang remains.
James opened Sunday’s set with the first track from said LP, “State of the Art (A. E. I. O. U.)”, and staggered through the majority of the album with a somewhat manic rock star swagger. The bluesy “Actress” and “All is Forgiven” stood out while the artist flailed around stage, and the sentimentally cosmic lyrics of “A New Life” (“there’s more stardust when you’re near”) made the track one of my favorites. Throughout the two-hour set, the artist traded off between his Flying V (which otherwise sat locked onto a stand), an acoustic guitar, a brassy saxophone, and he went hands-free to belt in his notorious falsetto. He’d take breaks between songs to acknowledge the golden bear statue enshrined on the amp behind him and did an spirited praise dance (or something) with it. This, combined with the Namaste greeting, made his set seem like some ritualistic offering to the gods of rock and roll. Strange, but I can dig it.
May 6, 2013
May 4th, 1am, I found myself in front of a chaotic Dead Skeletons at the Brick & Mortar Music Hall, hypnotized with the rest of the audience by some sort of ritualistic frenzy. What a great weekend for psychedelia in the Bay! The Washington D.C.-based Dead Meadow led a miniature psych-fest that featured a slew of similarly stoney bands (Dead Skeletons, LSD and the Search for God, Mr. Elevator & the Brain Hotel, Old Testament, and more), scattered across three days and two venues.
My favorite of the bunch was Reykjavík’s Dead Skeletons — I have a biased penchant for Icelandic music, I won’t lie. The band got the most out of their jaunt across the pond, to the furthest destination they’ve ever traveled to play, no less, with two dizzy, skull-splitting sets: a Friday/Saturday double feature at Brick & Mortar. They headlined the former, with an hour-long maelstrom of intoxicating experimental psych, and opened for the masterful Dead Meadow on Saturday.
Dead Skeletons’ eerie epics were captivating and clamorous, and the gang of seven is a little eccentric (or maybe just Icelandic) with their helter skelter ‘Magick,’ and vibe-making stage rituals. At the start of each set, the multitalented Jón Sæmundur Auðarson slaps a pretty impressive watercolor skull onto a blank canvas, which they later sell at their merch booth, and lights fragrant sage to set the scene for their occult reverb magic. The whole thing is a dose of cosmic eloquence, and both nights I was way too disappointed to hear their sets come to a close. Highlight tracks: “Psychodead,” “Om Mani Peme Hung,” and “Ljósberinn” from 2011′s Dead Magick.
April 25, 2013
If you’re in the mood for some serious ’90s nostalgia, no time machine necessary. Brooklyn’s Beach Fossils at Slim’s on Tuesday night certainly fulfilled such a craving, and the audience was totally into it. It’s been a while since I’ve seen a crowd go so absolutely ballistic. From my position at the edge of a lively flail-pit, I was one with the sweaty mob of enthused Beach Fossils fans dancing up a storm. It was a little unexpected, honestly – sunny dream pop doesn’t exactly equate to a dance-mosh frenzy, but everyone (myself included) certainly welcomed Beach Fossils’ infectious energy and stage wit.
But prior, San Francisco’s own Black Jeans opened the show with a short, electro-drenched set that I wished I was more drunk for. The solo act (a.k.a. the dreadlocked Russell Butler) sounded like a rainbow Crystal Castles trapped inside a synthed-out Haunted Mansion. Butler dubbed the crowd the largest he’s ever played for, which is pretty exciting. His erratic electro-pop and distorted vocals set the tempo for an impending burst of energy from Beach Fossils’ closing set. [More...]
March 5, 2013
There was a lot to choose from among Saturday’s Noise Pop 2013 festivities. So thank the gods of psych-pop that I ended up in front of DIIV‘s second consecutive sold -out show at Brick & Mortar. I’ve been hooked on DIIV’s Oshin for the past few weeks, so I had high hopes for the heavily-anticipated Noise Pop ’13 act – but I was not expecting to be so thoroughly winded by their gorgeous dreamy gloom and varied paradox of a live show. I’m not sure how they’re able to mix floaty shoegaze and echoey grunge so eloquently, but I’m sure as hell not complaining.
Before DIIV emerged, the show was already off to a great start. Oakland-based LENZ opened the night with just the right degree of sunny rock ‘n’ roll. Howling vocals and swirly, postpunk influenced, self proclaimed “ice-pop,” sounded solid backing up unfussy lyrics like “I feel like hell.” But following LENZ, SISU spun the sunshine a 180 and turned up the reverb. The reminded me a lot of their fellow LA-based musical hypnotists Warpaint, while they intertwined falsetto harmonies with melancholy goth-psych. A few songs were more heavy with dark synth, while others like “Cut Me Off” and “Light Eyes” were definitely not afraid of the wah pedal. The hypnotic stage projection was a given.
The crowd began to build at this point, and tons were audibly impressed by Wax Idols, another Oakland act who plays their own badass brand of screamy riot grrrl. Hether Fortune, Wax Idols’ charismatic front-woman, was undeniably entertaining and gives approximately zero fucks. Unapologetically loud and vicious, their official bio says Wax Idols sounds like Joan Jett “tearing through Best Coast with a chainsaw.” Basically. The band is one of few words, but they kept the crowd enthralled with uptempo post-punk filled with explosive, metallic guitar and cerebral lyrics (“Time doesn’t exist…”). Someone to my left gushed, “Well…back to the merch table then,” when their set ended. I would have to agree.
February 25, 2013
2013 has been a fruitful year for Oakland’s Mwahaha. The electro-psych quartet caught the attention of LA-based Plug Research last month, and recently announced a re-release of their self-titled debut complete with bonus tracks. Mwahaha vocalist Ross Peacock tells The Bay Bridged the updated debut will be released on both double vinyl and CD, with the 6-minute bonus track “Amba” on the vinyl version and a 10-minute, unreleased techno song on CD. The self-titled re-release will be out March 26th, 2013 on Plug Research.
On the recent partnership with Plug Research: so far, so good, Peacock says. “They have a cool history (Flying Lotus, DNTEL, Mai Doi Todd, etc.) and are willing to help support bands that work hard. They also have some other cool Oakland acts… Naytronix, Elephant and Castle, and Short Circles, who we will be playing Boiler Room with us down in LA on April 6th.” The band is currently organizing a European tour to accompany the album’s release across the pond, and they’re hoping for a jaunt to Japan in the near future.
I also asked Peacock what he and the crew have been listening to lately in light of their new digs:
Looking forward to hearing the new My Bloody V. album, The Stooges, I Come to Shanghai, Chromatics, Ghost, Fleetwood Mac [sic] (early and later stuff), Lee Hazelwood with Nancy Sinatra. Listened to Ricardo Villalobos on mushrooms the other night, that was nice.
If you need a refresher, download “Sleep Deep,” a track from their debut. Mwahaha will play Noise Pop Festival 2013, opening for Rogue Wave at SF’s Bottom of the Hill on March 1st.
Rogue Wave, Wymond Miles, Mwahaha, BrainStorm
Bottom of the Hill
March 1, 2013
9pm, $12, 21+
February 13, 2013
Last month, LA-based Foxygen (made up of Jonathan Rado and Sam France) released a video that doubles as a time machine back to San Francisco circa 1973. The duo spends the track, simply and appropriately titled (you guessed it) “San Francisco,” frolicking through Golden Gate Park and emulating The Velvet Underground’s Loaded in a pink hotel room. It may be an out-of-towner’s rendition of SF, but the Kinks-esque, subdued psychedelic sound and acid-dancing under the trees sure evoke some post-Summer of Love nostalgia. Check out the video below:
The psych-pop two-piece released a new album, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic, on Jagjaguwar, and apparently each track on the sophomore LP ”was a message of peace delivered from cosmic beings who used France and Rado as their messenger vessels.” Sounds good to me. Luckily they’ll be in SF tonight, opening for Unknown Mortal Orchestra alongside Wampire at the Great American Music Hall.
Unknown Mortal Orchestra, Foxygen, Wampire
Great American Music Hall
February 13, 2013
February 8, 2013
Kacey Johansing makes lovely music. The San Francisco-based singer-songwriter, who’s played with fellow Bay Area acts Geographer and Yesway, has a voice like velvet and creates moody, meandering melodies. So it’s not surprising that MTV Hive caught wind of the songstress and premiered her latest single “Pinecone.” The track is a taste of her forthcoming new album, Grand Ghosts (tracklist below), out February 26th. MTV Hive also got to the bottom of the new song’s inspiration, born in the midst of a tour with Graves and the Range of Light, while camping in Northern CA’s High Sierras:
After taking mushrooms one day, they found themselves in a giant meadow, where they constructed a tiny shelter out of dead branches and Mexican blankets. ‘I happened to have some embroidery thread so we made dream catchers and decorated the fort with pinecones, old rusty cans, flowers, feathers and other treasures we had found,’ Johansing recalls. ‘The pinecones would blow in the wind, sort of like very quiet wind chimes. I remember watching one of my friends as he began writing a song. I could barely hear him but I could kind of read his lips, ‘build me in your pinecone.’ I held on to that moment and began writing my own song.’
That explains it. Listen to the ethereal track below.
She also released another song off the impending Grand Ghosts, “Honey.” The mp3 is available for download here!
February 4, 2013
“I remember when we couldn’t even get a show in this town…and now we’re at the FUCKING Fillmore,” proclaimed Geographer frontman/guitarist/synth-master Michael Deni last Thursday night, during a banter-break between floating falsettos and pulsing synths. This set the scene for the evening: Geographer hasn’t played in their San Francisco home turf since October ’12, so Deni, cellist/electro-tech Nathan Blaz, and drummer Brian Ostreicher were more than ready for a sold-out 1,200-person family reunion.
Geographer’s had about a year to let the bubbly, airy electro-pop tunes on their latest release, Myth, settle a bit. The adoring crowd at The Fillmore was equally as pumped to hear Myth‘s “Life of Crime,” “Blinders,” and “Lover’s Game” as they were for some older tracks, like the psychedelic-electro “Original Sin” and ubiquitous single “Kites” from Animal Shapes. With each song, Deni and the crew cast graceful, effervescent synth sounds and crystal-clear vocals over an undulating audience. Their set was equal parts indie-electronica, and rawer guitar-laden pop-rock, but both sides of the three-piece gave the packed-in venue a buoyant, 90-minute (most-likely drunken) dance party.
Fitting for the family reunion, San Francisco-based Midi Matilda opened for Geographer (in addition to ex-Scattered Trees/fellow synth-ophiles On An On). A little more tongue-in-cheek and a lot more on-stage snark, the duo (Logan Grimé and Skyler Kilborn) did a solid job of setting the mood. I knew this was going to get entertaining when the percussionist emerged from his drum set and danced across the stage with a tambourine, but the best part was obviously their coordinated, funkified dance break. That, and the furious tribal drum-slaying that ended their set.