So I had read about Lady Sovereign on Pitchfork. They seem to write about her all the time. Then my friend Erika invites me to the show. I agreed to go to see what all the hype is about a 21 year old white Englishwoman who raps. So I knew nothing about her but what I read online. Erika mentioned that her friend was going with a group of friends of this guy (who I had also read about online). We missed this group and went in on our own. So the opener, Gold Chains, is a dude with a Mac Book and a mixer. And he uses them to create sounds that are in the 'brown note' range and sings somewhat terribly over these huge beats that remind me of Ministry in 1987. I loved it. The crowd was hard to figure out; there were hipsters, nerds, hip hoppers, lesbians, and gays. There's a huge high contrast backdrop of the Lady of the evening herself behind the band. She has a sneer like Elvis, and the glasses to match. It looks like she's going to play with a drummer, bass, and turntablist, so the evening already seems better to me. She comes out, she's tiny, she's cute, she's a performer, and she swears. Alot. Probably 'dissing' lots of other MCs. How unique. She sounds like much 'hard-core' hip hop to my ears. It must be novelty. "No, it's not just like everything else! She's a cute white English girl who disses!" The band is fun, she's great, but just seems so damn angry, and I'm not sure why. After a few songs, I start seeing people holding up pictures of jelly donuts. I figure it has to be some favorite song of hers that I'll get to hear soon. But then lots of pictures come out for one song, and lots of attention (including Lady Sovereign's) is directed towards a corner. It's a dude in a jelly donut suit, and I figure, yeah this must be a popular song of hers. Then Ms. Lady Sovereign gets pissed, starts swearing more, and then some bouncers come by. She makes like they shouldn't bother, but then she dumps a drink, spits on, and fake-lunges at the guy. Then she gets the jelly donut kicked out. Seriously. While it's happening, I have no clue what is going on. She's cursing about the dude's orange granny, and other nonsense. It wasn't until later (like the next day) that I find out that MC Jelly Donut was along on the $10K date with Lady Sovereign. I had no idea what was happening, but it was all over the web. Currently, a Google search of "Lady Sovereign Jelly Donut" has articles and videos all about the incident that was reported on Pitchfork, Perez Hilton, and MySpace. I was a witness to a minor cultural touchstone, and for that I'm entertained. The night I saw the show, I wasn't impressed. All the fuss about MC Jelly Donut the next day is what made this show fun. Plus I was able to write "she gets the jelly donut kicked out."
A punk rock show at the Berkeley punk rock palace. It's a volunteer run venue that's been doing all-ages alcohol-free punk rock shows for 20 years. The band we saw fit the bill perfectly. The non punk rock part of the band was when the singer would let his mic stand tip until it almost hit the ground and then he'd pull it back up with the bandanas he had tied to it.
It's hard to describe a Deerhoof show. They are tight and they never play their songs the same way as far as I can tell. So it's always interesting. They don't let their fans off easy since they change up their classics. This time the crowd was intensely into them. It seems they have more fans whose expectations can be blown away.
I knew nothing of this band before I saw the show except one picture I saw online. In it they were wearing costumes on stage. If I had seen a picture that their drummer inexplicably didn't play drums for most of the show, I wouldn't have been surprised to learn that they are so much better when their drummer plays the drums! When he wasn't playing, I had no idea what he was doing, because I couldn't hear him. That and the songs sounded terrible with no drums. One interesting point was towards the end of the show, when they snuck a little Talking Heads into one song. Probably the first time I can remember hearing that. Otherwise, I have no idea why they had four shows in San Francisco in a week.
Neko Case sang wonderfully. She also had the equally talented Kelly Hogan on backing vocals. I guess they typically do some Merle covers, but she said they weren't going to this night. They did do one Dylan cover. Before Merle's set, an announcer that sounded pre-recorded encouraged everyone to go and buy some Merle Haggard merchandise. I'd never heard anything like that before. In classic country style, the band came out without the star to warm up for a couple of songs. They were all wearing suits, and many wore fedora style hats as well. Interestingly, along with the typical country line up, he had a saxophone player. Merle came out in a hat, jacket, and sunglasses, all of which he eventually removed. He played guitar, and some fiddle during a Bob Wills (like?) number. He told lots of corny jokes. He danced and made jokes about what he heard people yell out in the crowd. Despite his cold, he sure seemed to be having a great time. His voice reminded me so much of Willie Nelson, that it made me wonder. He also did a tribute to Johnny Cash with "Jackson". He also did a bit of his marijuana songs at an audience request. Overall a wonderful show at a beautiful theatre.
Good for Cows are a two piece: upright bass and drums. They were intense. The bassist both plucks the strings and uses the bow. I didn't have the best spot for the show (absolutely all the way in the back corner), but he may have been using effects (or he was just crazy on his instrument). The drummer was loud intense and tight. They'd segue from straight up jazz riffs into straight up hard core punk rock riffs. So it was interesting to see where each would lead to the others. Dos came out shortly thereafter. We all moved right to the front. It didn't take them long to set up their basses. Watt was flying the flannel, of course. Kira had on a shiny silver vest and silk pants. This was an awesome set. She jumped around like crazy and Watt just worked his machine. Lots of the songs are about them breaking up, so it seemed a little odd at times. However, I think I fell in love with both of them they were having such a great time. Watt yelled to the crowd to "Start your own band!" and "Coltrane" at the end of the set. During the encore, they introduced Steve MacKay on baritone saxophone. They did a jazzy number. So they didn't say who Steve MacKay is, but he played the sax on The Stooges Fun House! What a great night! I was raving about this show all the next day.
My friend Ted invited a group of people to see this performance for his birthday. Audium has been in San Francisco in some form since 1960 or so, and in its current location since 1975. And the entire place just oozes 1975, as it was built specifically for this music, which the composer calls "sound sculpture." You wait in a lobby where ambient sounds are playing with instant coffee for you to enjoy. There are plywood sculptures for your pleasure. In the corner is a hexagon-shaped doorway covered by a curtain. Soon enough the man who unlocked the door appears from behind the curtain. He's the composer that has been doing this since 1960. He's also an academic, and gives a little well-rehearsed speech about what we're about to experience. So we walk through the labyrinth on the floating floors into the main room, the Audium itself. It's about 50 chairs arranged in a circle in a room with hanging speakers and sound tiles. The walls are angled in and out with speakers built into them as well. It's dimmly lit by what I swear are wired up flashlights in the corners of the room. The composer goes to his console, where he plays his 4 track tapes, and the show begins. The lights slowly dim, until the place is pitch black. Soon the performance has started, the sounds moving all about the room. It's a combination of found sounds, organ, and analog synthesizer, something like a Moog. Frankly the music sounds like the future as seen in 1975. The pitch dark was awesome. I haven't been in anything that dark for ages. I kept my eyes open just for the hell of it and couldn't see a thing. It never got too loud; frankly I was hoping for some more times that I'd feel everything in a room with 169 speakers. I loved the entire thing; it was so odd. I mean a theatre was built at Bush & Franklin!? to house speakers that you listen to only one man's compositions in the dark, and he's been doing it at that location for 32 years, and 15 years before that elsewhere! Afterwards he answered some questions, and mentioned that it was his wife handling the tickets at the door, and that he was still composing the next Audium piece. He also said that his performance varies based upon what he feels from the audience while they sit in the pitch dark. I don't know how that would work. Maybe auras or crystals or something. Perhaps it was because Ted's party brought along lots of people; otherwise I think there would be about 10 people or so there. This was awesome.
This was a reunion show of Sebadoh circa about 1993. That was just before I saw them play out the first time. This is the classic Sebadoh where from each song to the next, you have no idea what you're going to get. This is because Lou's and Eric's styles are so different. To sum it up in a much too short fashion, Lou wrote depressed love songs, and Eric wrote crazy songs. While Jason was in the band back then, he didn't have as many songs as the other two. As an aside, I think his songs were the best in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Eric started out the set. Basically they would switch all instruments along the way, depending upon the song and who wrote it. I'm fairly certain nothing they played post-dates 1993, but I can't be sure. They definitely played songs (mostly from Eric) that I hadn't heard before, and they played many I hadn't heard in a long time. It was fun, but they were pretty darn loose. It was only their third show of the tour. It was funny when they were playing songs that they are screaming on on record; here they usually calmed their voices down. This made them sound even stranger to me. Lou didn't seem to be finishing all of the lines of his songs. I couldn't tell if it was because he's no longer in the place he was when he wrote all of those songs or if it was because he was sick (as he mentioned he and Jason were). Eric seemed the most excited of the bunch, perhaps it was because he was the only healthy one, he was in his adopted hometown, or he hadn't played in front of that many people in awhile. In complete Lou style, Lou called it their "preunion" tour. I went with my friend with whom we saw Eric Gaffney at Hotel Utah. We ran into a friend from Blurb while we were there. Neither of them had heard of Sebadoh before. My friend from Blurb thought they had a Nirvana-like sound. I wonder if Nirvana ever opened for Sebadoh back in the day?
I went to go see this show for only one reason. I hadn't seen Gene Loves Jezebel in nearly 20 years. I don't care for them, and in fact, they were better 20 years ago, and they sucked then. (I wrote that one before I even saw the show; after reading this you may assume I must be psychic.) I just think it's fairly unlikely I'll have the chance to see a band 20 years after the fact again, so I had to go. It seems even less likely with the Van Halen almost-a-reunion tour blowing up recently. As far as I know, Gene Loves Jezebel has had a single hit called "Desire". With this song, apparently the dude can still get bookings more than 20 years later. They played lots of songs that no one in the always diminishing crowd wanted to hear. Then once they finally played their hit song, it was during an acoustic medley! I found it all to be very cynical. The weirdest part about this show were the groupies. At least two of them who were either bold or drunk enough (or both) to get up on stage, grope the singer and each other, and generally make a complete train wreck of the set. I'm pretty sure no one was paying attention to the music at this time, including the singer. It was even more likely since it was in the middle of the horrifically disappointing acoustic medley I mentioned earlier. He encouraged them by exchanging drinks and cigarettes with them. Here's hoping I can see Gene Loves Jezebel again in 2027! There are only 2 things of note about the opener. The bass player is the Kenny G of bass players. The two guitarists each have about 12 square feet of guitar pedals while they play. And I'm not kidding.
Despite some nutjob blowhard presumably believing he was giving everyone a hard time about "finally seeing The Jesus Lizard," this was no reunion show. It was unquestionably David Yow, but the band is so much different. First off there's no bass, and The Jesus Lizard is full of bass guitar. That and everyone in the band would sing. But David Yow is David Yow, and the loogies were dripping from the ceiling to prove it. They started out with some sort of Led Zeppelin cover / riff. They even did a The Jesus Lizard cover, but time and beer have erased which it was from my memory. Yow jumped into the crowd despite the 8 or 9 foot ceiling of the Hemlock, and generally caused a ruckus. We were up front for the full onslaught. He was on and drank about 6 Buds during the set. Ted told me they ended with a Zappa song, but I had no idea. It was fun and intensified by the fact I've never seen Yow in such a small place, and he delivered the punk rock. The opener was loud rock like I used to hear all of the time in the mid 1990s. They are from Oakland, so it should be easy for me to find them again.
Kiiiiiii were probably fun as a three minute YouTube video, but the show was grating. It's two Japanese women who screech in heavily accented English over a live drum kit. Scrabbel played some great indie rock. Dreamdate were putting on the girl group indie band.
I wasn't impressed with the opener. It was clever that they came out with tinsel fake eyelashes. But they are from Athens, GA and had multiple songs about New York City, which seemed odd. Their music never really gelled for me. They also said that their own band name sucked. No one in the crowd laughed like it was a joke. However, The Apples In Stereo were awesome. I can't believe I've never caught them live before. I don't even recall why I bought my first album of theirs. But it had been very catchy for me, especially lately, so I picked up their latest last month. That album goes through my head so often, I just had to go to this show. They delivered. They played songs off the two albums I have and quite a few I hadn't heard. I had a great time, even though I went by myself.
I went to this show with two fun friends from Blurb. We didn't like the hats Turn Me On Dead Man wore. We also thought that the woman in the band just seemed like the singer's girlfriend. She didn't do much but dance and watch him and air-guitar his parts. Deerhunter's singer was simply the skinniest dude I've seen in ages. This band isn't easy to describe, so I'm going to say they remind me of Animal Collective. The sound is a high tension drone, and the singer loops his vocals often. I enjoyed it. Kim brought us to the show to see The Ponys. They are from Chicago. They were lots of fun. I was dancing at the end of the set. They have a good 80s vibe going on.
Another great show by Willie Nelson & Family. There was no opener this time. The announcer at the beginning mentioned that the drummer had been with Willie for 41 years now. That meant that in that time, Willie had 4 wives and one drummer. He did his usual non-stop medley of hits. He opened and closed with "Whiskey River". He threw bandanas into the crowd regularly. He had a huge smile. He shook his arm out of rhythm, perhaps matching his singing style? He'd say "Thanks, I hear you" when the crowd cheered wildly in between songs, as if he was impatient to get to the next nugget of history. I went with another Blurb co-worker this time. If you've never seen Willie play, you should. He's terribly entertaining, and a living legend.
It was a rainy night when Aram and I went to this show. I was only able to get balcony seats, but they weren't too bad, considering. It happened to be Iggy's 60th birthday. They passed out buttons to everyone commemorating it. I think he pulled off about 3 or 4 stage dives to celebrate. Mike Watt was going crazy in his coveralls playing the bass. He clearly was having a "Real Cool Time". Iggy introduced him as "The Minuteman Mike Watt". The brothers in the Stooges weren't particularly animated during the show. However, Iggy was there to dance and jump around to compensate. They played no songs off of "Raw Power", which is a shame. Apparently the state of the band at the time was complete chaos, and the brothers would prefer not to go back there. However, they played nearly all of the first two albums, and I'd say about 3 from the new 2007 album. It was so much fun to see them. When you'd hear the guitar and beats that so many people have covered and ripped off and riffed upon by the guys that wrote the book, it's impressive. When Iggy invited anyone to come up on stage for one song, there was a 'handler' dude who took no mercy upon those who would get too close to Iggy. I think it was more obvious from up in the balcony. The crowd was an even mix of gray hairs to children. They had the sax player from "Fun House" on tour with them. The songs sounded quite good with the sax, even the songs that have no sax on the recordings. I think more bands should try out adding to the mix with sax. It works: Those Bastard Souls, Morphine, etc. At the start of one the encores, the band came out and Iggy leaned onto the mic ready to go. Then the band broke into a geezer punk rock rendition of "Happy Birthday". Iggy turned around looking genuinely surprised and happy about it. He flashed a huge smile at the band, and then back at the audience, waiting for the crowd to die down a bit. But he never acknowledged his birthday beyond that. This was a reunion show that was worth it.
Aram is on tour with Califone for their west coast leg. He provided visuals for the band during their set. You know how I've often pointed out what bands use Macs during their shows? Well, Califone used a Mac for their visuals, and this particular Mac used to be mine! I really liked Califone's set. They don't really stick to any one style; they can go from an acoustic feel to an electric jam without seeming scattered. The singer Tim had one interesting in-between songs banter quote that I'll pick out. He described his singing as "muttering with intent", which I found to be a great phrase. Eric Johnson played most of his set solo acoustic, but Califone backed him for a few. In addition, Eric played along with Califone for some of their songs. Eric writes great songs, and has a great voice to match them. It's hard to place him musically, but it's in a good spot. The opener had a good alt-country feel. The strange thing was the lead guitar was mixed in really loud. This show went to 2 AM and I was beat by that time.
They did about a five song in-store for their new record. It was mostly all new songs, and they sounded great. Long live the phaser pedal! I'm pretty sure they ended with "Forget the Swan" from the first L.P. Since it was in a well-lit large record store at 6 PM on a Tuesday (it's an old bowling alley), the crowd was mellow. The band said things indicating that the place was like a church and that they haven't played a record store before. It's bothersome to be in the crowd when the band is like this. If you're having a good time, you're like "no man, this is awesome!" and you yell "woo!" and people look at you funny. If you're having a bad time, you're like "Yeah what the hell are we all doing here?" My opinion is that it is poor form for a band to say the crowd is lame. Because, which came first, the chicken or the egg? In this case, I was the guy yelling "woo!". I don't know if that makes me a chicken or egg.
I went with Kim from Blurb to this show. We got there just as The Zincs got on stage, I went up before they started playing and said hey to Nick. Sheesh, come to think of it, I've been seeing him play for something like 18 years now! I like The Zincs' singer's voice, it's deep and resonant. Unfortunately the sound wasn't too hot, so the vocals were muddy. Once the set ended, there were a good amount of people there. Afterwards I talked to Nick in the lobby; he said that they were bumped, as they are on tour with The Sea And Cake. We caught the tail end of the middle band. Kim's comment was that it appears they had a weight limit; no one appeared to be over 100 pounds. Soon The Sea And Cake came on. As usual it was a stellar set. They played old ones and new ones. It was the first time in awhile I watched them from up close. Even with long gaps in between albums, they are very tight. I came away with a new fondness for their bass lines. While watching the show, without knowing much about what I was thinking, I decided that lots of their guitar licks sound African-rock influenced. I hope it's less than seven years until I get to see them again. A fun part was that I caught the cable car back to Market Street and then a bus home. It was the easiest (and prettiest) way home from a show I can remember.
Continuing the trend of seeing bands I haven't seen in awhile, I got to see King Kong for the first time in five years. They had a tight set, and compared to the last time I saw them in San Franicsco, there seemed to be more fans there for them. Mr. Kong was in fine form. They played a few songs off of Funny Farm, and the rest were from the new one Buncha Beans, and the last song was Old Man On The Bridge, which Mr. Kong told me afterwards was out of print. They play fun time music, and I was smiling the entire time.
I went with Jeff and Kate to this one. The Teutonics are a garage band that act like stereotypical Germans. Thee Double D's are headed by a woman with a great voice and funny songs. Knights of the New Crusade now have a fake sword and a chain mail helmet, but it's still lots of songs about the bible and god. The Flakes were great and loud for this one. They pummeled through their set. One of the covers I recognized was "Think" by James Brown. Otherwise it was a garage rock onslaught.
My friend Dennis was visiting from Brooklyn. We went with Micelle Marie and a bunch of people from Blurb and their friends. Nearly every time I've gone to the Greek Theatre I've gone with a big group of people. Arcade Fire put on huge shows. I can only wonder if they would overwhelm a smaller venue or not. They had 10 people on stage who never stopped moving. Ever. They even climbed into the rafters. They write anthems that make you want to sing along and dance. They can sound like Bruce Springsteen, New Order, and others not always at the same time. They had six 'poles' at the front of the stage that had multi-colored lights on them. After awhile it was apparent that there were remote controlled little lipstick cameras mounted on these poles. The video would display in 5 circular projectors arrayed around the stage and the backdrop. Their sound was huge. They played lots of songs off of the two albums and a few I hadn't heard before. It also was apparently the last show of their tour. It was lots of fun.
This was the first time I've seen my old college roommate Jeff play in years (13 to be exact). Jeff loves to write and play music, and I'm glad he got to play out in a regular rock outfit for the first time in a long time. He asked if anything was different, as if it wasn't. However, I thought he seemed even more confident. The sound was dry and abrasive, just like he wanted it. It was crazy loud. I'd say that Jeff has a different voice than he did years ago. I think that since this is 'his band' that there are few compromises from his vision. I had a great time, and I hope that Jeff and The Tunnel plays out more often!
I went with my friend Penelope to this one. She actually likes Mr. Lewis. I went along for laughs, and because she kindly went with me to see Gene Loves Jezebel. It was a beautiful day in the grove. I biked out there, and by the time I got there, Penelope had staked out a decent spot in the woods. Mr. Lewis was in fine form, and there are two other original newsmen in the band. They played many of the hits, including the ones from Back to the Future. Why Huey Lewis, you ask? It's because they are a Bay Area band (specifically Mill Valley). They don't have the original bass player from the MTV days, as he's into remote controlled cars.
To be honest, I'm not sure if this was a different Tortoise set than the last two times I've seen them play out. It was great as always, but there were no new songs (or visuals). The Fucking Champs had great licks. There were a couple songs with lyrics (which I don't recall from the previous times I've seen them as The Champs). One of the guitarists plays a 9 string guitar. The 'high' strings (on the bottom of the guitar) (I don't know what I'm talking about) the strings are doubled. So there were 3 single strings followed by 3 double strings. No matter what, it enabled much more shredding. So Salim, Aram, and I were chatting about Tortoise back in our Chicago days. I mentioned how the first time I had heard of Tortoise was in 1993 from Doug the bass player. Eleventh Dream Day played with my friends Jumpknuckle at the Blind Pig in Champaign. Afterwards, I said I saw him open for Superchunk in a different band, and how I liked it. Then he says, "oh, if you like that, you should check out this new thing I'm in called Tortoise." So Aram and Salim did not believe that I was talking to Doug. However, I knew I had. Salim even bet me a beer. At the end of the Tortoise set, we walked over to Doug. I told him about the bet and my story. He immediately recalls that yes, that was the one single time he had played with Gastr Del Sol, as the band was in transition then. He also mentioned that Bettie Serveert had made a comic in Holland about the show that portrayed Gastr as a bunch of dorky, glasses-wearing types. Imagine. P.S. The beer was cold and tasty.
Jeff got a mid-day show in the middle of a tourist shopping and hotel area in downtown San Francisco. It was a beautiful and sunny day. I was running a little late, so I heard Jeff's voice echoing from about 2 blocks away while a Powell Street cable car was going by me. The Tunnel did a cover of Prince's "Kiss". They were loud, and Jeff said his vintage tube amp was only at 2, so damn!
This was a part of the "Don't Look Back" series. Sonic Youth played Daydream Nation in its entirety. Alysha mentioned it would be odd that we wouldn't have to wonder what song would be next. I realized I wouldn't have to remember the names of the songs they played for this review either. They played Daydream Nation as a four piece. Despite my hopes, Mike Watt didn't call in during "Providence", there was only the tape recording of his voice while Lee & Thurston made noise. They played with the songs so that they didn't sound exactly like the original, which I found refreshing. All I can say is damn the whole show was incredible. Even the staging was cool. They had a backdrop that was both lit from the front and back. There was some sort of a cutout of a candle (in reference to the album cover) that was lit differently from behind. It basically looked like it was flickering. It was simple and I spent some time trying to figure out how it worked, without success. During the set I think I got the chills twice, and I was jumping and bopping my head nearly the whole time. They came back for 2 encores, and added their fifth member again, and played songs which I believe are all off of their latest album. The first one, "Incinerator" from Rather Ripped, fits right in with Daydream Nation. Kim sang and danced for a couple of songs in the encore without playing a guitar. I'm always impressed with Sonic Youth live. Go see them!
It's been a long time since I had seen Daniel Johnston live. I'm pretty sure he's not played in San Francisco since I've lived here. I think I recall one cancelled show. Anyways, we missed the opener and arrived just in time for a drink before his set. He came out and played a few songs playing guitar, accompainied by another guitarist. That was followed by a few songs on the grand piano, and then the rock and roll half of the set. Here he just sang, and was backed by a band that had the main guy from The Coachwhips on guitar. He played many of his classic songs, and some songs that I thought sounded almost like songs I knew. He told the crowd that he had the best spaghetti he ever had for dinner. Just about all of his songs are terribly romantic, and will always have some very strange dream like segment. There was an interesting song while he was on piano with a woman on stage, and he's her monkey. The rock section had a great Beatles tribute. He also played "Casper" and "Speeding Motorcycle." It was a short and sweet set, with no encore.
They came out dressed in suits and shades on a huge stage with crazy shaped LED monitors hanging behind them. They played lots of hits; I swear I didn't know them all. It was a mix up of them playing live instruments and rapping with Mix Master Mike. Everyone in the place was dancing. Letting you know that it really was live, they messed up a couple of times (which I actually found refreshing, I wasn't sure if it was live sometimes!).
This was an interesting line up. The opening band used tons of effects on his vocals, but still just sounded like he really like The Jesus Lizard alot. Lozen sound like Melvins and PJ Harvey. I liked it. I bought the CD. There was a disconnect between what the band looked like and how they sounded that also added to their appeal. Qui was a good show. I recognized the songs from the previous time (and from the 7" I bought then). They ended with Pink Floyd's Echoes that then turned into a cover of The Jesus Lizard's "Monkey Trick". The bass was played by one Mr. Yow, and there were no vocals.
I got there just before they started. I couldn't find my socks until the show was over because they were rocked off. Only after telling my friend Kim about the band's name, I realized that their name can mean two things. I take it as an adjective describing Champs, rather than them being the Champs at something. What do you think?
I don't know much about this band. But clearly they changed my life. No that's the movie. They put on a fine show, and actually messed up one song. But this was apparently the first date of their world tour, so it's understandable. They rock out infrequently, but that didn't stop some people way down in front from moshing and even crowd surfing. I don't understand it. I also didn't understand a sign that I saw someone hold up towards the end that said "Asian" with an arrow pointing down to someone holding it up. What the heck is that about? Is is a pun like "Who's that? Oh, he's a Shin (as in a member of The Shins)." Anyways, like all shows at the Greek, there was weed being smoked everywhere. It even looked liked they had a smoke machine at times.
This was a part of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, held in Golden Gate Park. Michelle Shocked played some gospel tunes, but also played a few older ones that her band didn't seem to know right away. She played "Anchorage", for example. During one of these times, I noticed the guitar player (who wasn't playing) was on his cell phone while on stage! I couldn't believe it. But a little later, she mentioned that their bass player hadn't arrived yet. I put two and two together, and figured the guy was trying to call around to find the bass player! I was no longer shocked. (I didn't realize this pun when I originally wrote it, honest!) The show must go on. The bass player eventually showed up. Damn, it had been 19 years since I'd seen her. I got her autograph on my ticket from way back then. The Flatlanders played exactly what you thought they'd play. Straight up.
This was a part of the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival, held in Golden Gate Park. Bill Callahan was incredible. Watching him play this time, I really got the feeling that he's at a peak. He played a small acoustic guitar and a band, and the sound was great. There was a large turnout for the smallest of the stages on this beautiful day. He played a couple off the new record, and all the way back to "Bathysphere" from 1995. Awesome set. I met Jeff & Kate while I was there, and we walked over to another stage. Bill Kirchen was also awesome. It was honky-tonk, of course. He played great honky-tonk riffs and had a sparkly cowboy shirt on. He could also make incredible truck, VW, and train sounds from his guitar. After playing lots of great songs (including a Bob Dylan cover), he went into the most insane medley I think I've ever heard. It started with a song of his (I assume) about getting pulled over by the police. And then it goes into a medley of people who pulled over to help out, or were pulled over too? I'm not sure. But he'd call out a name, and the entire band would play a maybe 10 second riff of that person! I think he called out 70 names or so, I'm not kidding. The range was from B.B. King to jazz to Elvis, to The Sex Pistols, and even a callout to his fellow Class of 1965 Ann Arbor High School graduate, Iggy and the Stooges. It was like nothing I've ever heard. I left a very happy person this day!
The ticket said "The Freewheeling Yo La Tengo." I didn't look at it before I got to the show. It's a fine theatre in a nook off of the Exploratorium. The stage was large and black, and when we went in, Jonathan Richman and his trusty drummer Tommy Larkin were in the middle of the stage. It looked great with all this black expanse around them. Unusually, Tommy was playing a full kit. Jonathan sang songs that I don't know if I've ever heard before. However his songs have the quality that you know they are Jonathan songs right away. He was funny as usual. There was a song about how he knew he wanted to live in a smelly city since he was 7, and another saying "Let's drink the wine, not discuss it." Yo La Tengo set up in a similar minimal way, along with chairs. Apparently they do shows like this from time to time. They sit down and play lots of covers. In between songs, they have the house lights turned up, and answer questions from the audience. It wasn't what I was expecting, but it was fun. I think it has a prerequisite of knowing lots about music and Yo La Tengo's obsessions. Even if you don't I think you'd have fun. There was a great Prince cover, as well as some song that I think was called "Love Power." They also played many of their own hits. Sheesh, what a great band. I think I particularly like them since I evolved into liking them. They didn't have me right away, years and years ago.
We got there as The Dodos were playing. They had an interesting lo-fi less-structure sound. They were an acoustic guitar and drums with vocal affects type of band. Chinup Chinup were next; they are apparently from Chicago. I wanted to root for my home team, but they really sounded like lots of other stuff without anything unique I could find, unfortunately. That's where The Ponys are different. I hear early 80s U2, The Cure, and Bauhaus in there, but there's still something unique about it which makes it good. I love their bass lines; I think I like their rhythm section. The singer is very tall.
This was a noisy show. We got there while the first band was playing. At the end of their set, they climbed up on their drums, threw a guitar, and knocked some drums over. I hadn't been there for the entire set, so I don't know exactly how their growing levels of rock energy got them there. The next band wore matching outfits, and they had lots of energy from the get-go. I think a problem was that they weren't mixed quite right. Their music was the type that you ought to feel physically, but that wasn't happening. Melt Banana came out, and were defintely the loudest of the night. I have no idea what was going on; I was beat by that point, and left early.
I had waited nearly 21 years for this. My brother Mike visited from Chicago to go to the show. My first ever show was Van Halen, but I saw the first Sammy Hagar tour. I remember having a great time, but it sure wasn't Diamond Dave. After what seemed like years of bickering, they all finally figured out that what everyone wanted was the original Van Halen. The only potential problem was that they didn't bring along the bass player who had been with them from the beginning, Michael Anthony. Instead it was Eddie's 16 year old son, Wolfgang, on bass. Nevertheless, the show still rocked. Because of the lineup, and the lack of a 'new' album, the crowd was due for a great set. Imagine you had to only play (and hear) songs from Van Halen circa 1978 - 1984? This made it a non-stop show of hits. David Lee Roth did about 6 high kicks (Mike was counting). As far as I know, Eddie was never wearing a shirt. I saw a drum solo and a guitar solo on the same night. Eddie's fingers are really gnarled. DLR sang "Ice Cream Man". They finished the show with "Jump." Dave pointed out that he had been waiting 22 years for this himself. Then as I was thinking about that, I realized that Wolf on bass wasn't even born when DLR was in the band! Dave had very little banter in-between songs; one assumes that was a part of his contract. One funny part was at the beginning of "Hot For Teacher" when Dave says, "Heard ya missed us! We're back!" and received a huge response from the crowd. I couldn't even begin to list the songs they played, but they certainly covered the hits, and played many other ones as well. I think their set was 2 and a half hours long, after all. Excellent show over all, even though our seats were in the nose-bleed section. I wonder if I'll catch them again in 2028 for their 50th anniversary?