May 14, 2013
Stardate 1993, planet ‘aLaBaMa’, Man or Astro-man? are born. 2013, flying via rental ship (their rocket ship broke down somewhere about 1/2 way to LA), they land 60 Earth minutes late at Bimbos 365. In decent English they report great losses of equipment in the aftermath, yet it didn’t stop them from lighting a theremin on fire.
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 13, 2013
The first annual BottleRock Napa Valley Festival brought over 50 bands to the Napa Valley Expo for four days of music over the weekend, and our Roman Gokhman was on the scene for all four days.
Below, check out his live-tweeting from the festivities, which included standout performances from The Flaming Lips, Sharon Van Etten, and Grouplove.
May 10, 2013
May 8, 2013
Melbourne’s UV Race passed through town this week, playing the Rickshaw on Sunday and 1-2-3-4 Go! on Monday. It’s their first US tour since 2010 and it’s a doozy of a tour. Portland with the great Eat Skull, the East Coast and on to Chaos in Tejas (May 30-Jun 2) with The Damned and The Bats. At some point, the band will morph into side project Total Control. Incredibly, the tour terminates at the Uptown in Oakland on June 9th.
And they aren’t fucking around either, or maybe they are — it’s hard to tell. They dragged a six-piece band all the way from Australia, including this blue-blond sax/harmonica/guitar/vocal maestro. The keyboards were also essential. Many songs were sung with three or four voices overlapping in a spectacular contest of who gives a shit.
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.
May 3, 2013
Clinic have been around for a long time. Their debut album, Internal Wrangler, came out when I was just starting high school and I still remember my best friend Josh hyping them as a less bombastic, mellower version of our then favorite UK rock group, Radiohead. Skip forward some 13 years later and last night was my first opportunity to see Clinic live — albeit without Josh, who was forced to work late in Sacramento (adulthood? fuck) — at the Rickshaw Stop.
Canadian show openers No Joy lived up to their serviceable-new-shoegaze hype, combining reverb-drenched guitars with a tight rhythm and bass section. In a welcome surprise, lead singer Laura Lloyd was open to having her vocals mixed relatively high (for the genre), bringing out the band’s truly catchy melodies. Call me impressed. No Joy can rock when they want to, throwing down some nice burnt, snare-snapping outros to close a few of the heavier numbers.
Clinic, as usual, came out wearing scrubs and surgical masks — “a tacky pun on the band name,” according to lead singer Ade Blackburn — to a small but enthusiastic crowd. Compared to 13 years ago, Clinic’s music today is far less experimental than it seemed in my youth: vintage keyboards and synths combined with simple drum beats, usually repeating musical phrases while Blackburn adds his unique, tinny vocals. Clinic are never afraid to take their time, and show highlights “Miss You” and “See Saw” — both from their 2012 LP Free Reign — each extend outward from a simple riff, repeating until the band reaches a satisfying conclusion, like kids finished experimenting with dropping colored oils into water and watching the resulting swirl.
Their live show doesn’t completely live up to the weird costumes and out-of-time recordings the band has put out since 1997: professional and succinct, Clinic make exactly zero changes from the album material, faithfully recreating the recordings. That said, the band is limited and defined by Ade Blackburn’s vocal range, which is perfect for Clinic’s laid-back experiments but, beyond that, begins to falter. After 16 years of music, it’s clear to me that the foursome is unlikely to ever move beyond headlining the Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. Leaving the venue last night, I began to think that this influential group could harness this freedom from expectations to become a little more demanding, a little more aggressive, a little more raw, and a little less clinical.
May 2, 2013
Stereo Total formed more than 20 years ago. They sing in French and German. They mix Casiotone pop, disco and garage rock as if it were completely natural to do so.
They played “Pixelize Me” from the new album Cactus versus Brezel, but also oldies like “Miau Miau” from the 1995 self-titled LP. The set closed with an excellent spin on Sid Vicious’s “My Way” sung in French. The encores ended with “Everyone in the Discotheque (I Hate)” and everyone on stage singing in the rain. [More...]