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Apr 22

Fleet Foxes at the Fabulous Fox Theater

Filed under: live music | Back to: Homepage

image Last night I went to see the Fleet Foxes at the newly reopened Fox Theater in Oakland.  I wasn’t that familiar with these guys, but the show was really good.  GREAT harmonies.  The Fox is amazingly beautiful and the sound was great.  Somehow we got guest passes and managed to not use them, instead opting to stand a couple of rows back from the stage.

The lead singer did one of the cooler things I have seen in a long time.  For the encore he went off-mic, stood out front on the lip of the stage and belted out a completely acoustic, unamplified song.  The two thousand person room went silent and let him do his thing.  Magic.  I’ll have to remember to do that when I play the Fox!  😉

Mar 28

So many good shows coming up…

Filed under: live music | Back to: Homepage

For all the complaining I do about the local SF music scene, there are a ton of road shows I’m going to see in the next few months.  Here’s the run down so far:

  • Rupa and the April Fishes – Wednesday, April 1 @ The Independent
  • Cory Branan – Friday, April 3 @ The Freight and Salvage
  • Clem Snide – Thursday, April 9 @ The Bottom of the Hill
  • Junior Brown – Monday, April 13 @ The Independent
  • Fleet Foxes – Tuesday, April 21 @ The Fabulous Fox Theater in Oakland
  • M. Ward – Saturday, May 16 @ The Fabulous Fox Theater in Oakland
  • Neko Case – Tuesday, June 9 and Wednesday June 10 @ The Warfield
  • Patty Griffin – Thursday, June 25 @ The Mountain Winery

Let me know if you’re interested in going to any of these shows.  Plus there’s always open mic night Thursday nights at the Bazaar Cafe.  The music just gets better and better!

Mar 20

Eleni Mandell @ Cafe du Nord

Filed under: albums, live music | Back to: Homepage

I went to see Eleni Mandell at Cafe du Nord last night.  I was turned on to her stuff from the songs:Illinois blog, a place where I seem to be finding more and more great music.  I have been loving her albums enough to give them as gifts to my family, so I was really looking forward to the show.

She opened with My Twin, which is one of my favorites.  The band was incredibly good and it was particularly fascinating to see how she translated her studio work to a live performance.  All in all a good time, though I was disappointed with the length of the show – less than an hour overall.  Maybe this had to do with the fact that attendance was pretty light, but that’s not all that good of an excuse IMO.

Eleni just released Artificial Fire, which I like more and more, but if you’re going to buy one Eleni Mandell album, I’d buy Miracle of Five or Afternoon first.  Here are some samples:

image Miracle of Five

Moonglow, Lamp Low
Girls

image Afternoon

American Boy
Afternoon

Country for True Lovers is great as well.  Give her a listen and we’ll all go to the show next time she’s in town.

Feb 20

Indescribable: Andrew Bird, M. Ward, Eleni Mandell

Filed under: albums, live music | Back to: Homepage

I am swamped, but there are several new albums from indescribably talented artists that are helping me get through it…

Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

image I saw Andrew Bird last night at the Fillmore.  Like last time, GREAT show.  The stuff he does with looping and pitch modulation is cool.  In the past, I’ve been so impressed with his whistling and playing that I failed to notice what a great singer he is.  His new album, Noble Beast, is really starting to grow on me.  A couple of my favorites:

Not a Robot, But a Ghost
Effigy

New to Andrew Bird?  I’d probably still start with Armchair Apocrypha, but ask me again in a couple of weeks.

M. Ward – Hold Time

image Another singer-songwriter that defies explanation, M. Ward, just put out a new album.  I thought his last, Post-War was excellent and I’m digging Hold Time more and more.  Here are a couple of highlights:

One Hundred Million Years
Oh Lonesome Me

Lucinda Williams makes an appearance on the last one.  I really dig his slow take on the Don Gibson classic.  Also give his side project with Zooey Deschanel a listen, She & Him.

Eleni Mandell – Artificial Fire

image I read about Eleni Mandell on Songs:Illinois (a music blog right in my wheelhouse) and immediately took a liking to her stuff.  I gave Miracle of Five to my sister for Christmas and Afternoon to my mom for Valentine’s Day and I love her take on the classic country sound in Country for True Lovers.  As you can imagine, I took Artificial Fire for a spin as soon as it came out.  In reviews of Eleni’s first albums, folks compared her quirky, rocking sound to Tom Waits.  After a few listens, I think that the latest is a move back in that direction.  Very enjoyable and it reminds me a little bit of Shivaree.  Two examples:

Needle and Thread
Don’t Let It Happen

Which album would I but first?  Probably Miracle of Five or Afternoon, but it’s all good.

NPR and Neko

A final note – I have been listening to music online at NPR.org a LOT.  There are great interviews and performance from tons of artists.  They streamed the first two albums above in their entirety prior to release.  Neko Case’s new album, Middle Cyclone, will get the same treatment at midnight EST on the 23rd.  Guess what I’ll be doing Monday night?

Jan 12

I Love Rockabilly Music

Filed under: live music | Back to: Homepage

Twice this weekend I found myself trying to explain Rockabilly.  Sadly, I used to be able to say, “you know, like the Stray Cats” but apparently quoting Rockabilly Revivalists dates me.  Here’s what wikipedia has to say about it:

Rockabilly is one of the earliest styles of rock and roll music, and emerged in the early 1950s.

The term rockabilly is a portmanteau of rock (from rock ‘n’ roll) and hillbilly, the latter a reference to the country music (often called hillbilly music in the 1940s and 1950s) that contributed strongly to the style’s development. Other important influences on rockabilly include western swing, boogie woogie, and rhythm and blues. Although there are notable exceptions, its origins lie primarily in the southern United States.

Photo by CLEANandSOLID.comBut of course, that doesn’t begin to explain it.  Rockabilly is pompadours and tattoos, whisky and Cadillacs, electric and electrifying rock and roll with a dash of twang and just enough melody to make it interesting.  A good Rockabilly band is almost always a trio and a stand-up bass is a must have for the traditionalists.  I don’t dance, but you just can’t sit still when a rockabilly band takes the stage.  Think Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Cochran, Bill Haley & the Comets and Gene Vincent.  (More) recent bands that have expanded beyond tradition include Chris Isaak, Reverend Horton Heat, The Cramps, Queen and Southern Culture on the Skids.

A quick story.  When I was in college, I walked into the Tastes of Houston festival just as the Road Kings were finishing up their set.  The guitar player (Jesse Dayton) was in the middle of a blistering solo on his big Gretsch guitar, the drummer was driving a killer shuffle beat and the bass player was balancing precariously on top of his upright.  I don’t have the writing talent to accurately describe how eye-popping this experience was for me.  Prior to that show, I didn’t know that you could play music with that kind of energy.  What I did know was that I would be spending a lot of my time in bars listening to live music.

And yes, it’s one of the great tragedies of my life that I can’t grow sideburns.

Photo by CLEANandSOLID.com

Jan 10

Robin Galante & Eric Pedersen: The Fuzz Sessions

Filed under: albums, live music | Back to: Homepage

image On Saturday, January 17th, Robin and Eric debut their album at the Bazaar CafeThe Fuzz Sessions is a collection of all-acoustic folk songs, with tight, two-part harmonies and beautiful, sparse accompaniment that give color to the music while keeping focus on the songwriting.  Recorded live and minimally produced, this album perfectly captures the essence of their live show.  I really like this music and have had a few of the songs stuck in my head for weeks (i.e. Hangman).  Listen to a few tracks over at Robin’s Myspace page to see what I’m talking about.

Here’s a performance of Follow Me, which sounds like a lost Simon & Garfunkel song (if one of them was a girl I guess…):

If you’re in the Bay Area, come out to the record release party on Saturday and support local, live music (and wish Eric a happy birthday!).  I’ll see you there.


Robin Galante and Eric Pedersen Record Release Party
Saturday, January 17 at 6:30
7 PM
Bazaar Café

http://www.bazaarcafe.com/
5927 California Street, between 21st & 22nd Avenues
San Francisco, CA 94121

UPDATE 2-24-2009: I just found Fuzz Sessions on Rhapsody.  Here’s a few tracks:

Worth It
Hangman
Unrequited

Jan 07

Andrew Bird – Noble Beast

Filed under: albums, live music | Back to: Homepage

When I went to see multi-instrumentalist (and damn fine whistler) Andrew Bird at the Warfield last year I walked out seriously depressed.  Usually when I go see a band I have some thought that with just a little more work on my part I can get to their level.  But Andrew Bird’s music is so complex and so creative and so indescribably unique that I have no idea how I could ever approach it.  Depressing and uplifting at the same time I guess.  To see what I’m talking about, watch this video of him playing violin through a looping pedal:

Andrew Bird @ From The Basement from Daniel Caballero on Vimeo.

See what I mean?  I have recommended Bird’s last two solo albums to many friends, and they have been universally liked.  Most folks find Armchair Apocrypha more accessible, but trust me – after several listens you will love The Mysterious Production of Eggs.  This is another one of those albums that I listened to every day for months.  That’s why I’m so excited about Noble Beast, which will be released this month.  NPR has the whole album online and the New York Times has an in depth feature on Bird and this release (with a really interesting account of what it took to get started).  Bird is one of the writers on the New York Times’ Measure for Measure songwriting blog, where he writes a little bit about the making of this album.

A few songs for your enjoyment:

image The Mysterious Production of Eggs
A Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the Left
Masterfade
MX Missiles

image Armchair Apocrypha
Fiery Crash
Imitosis

Andrew is playing at the Fillmore next month.  I’ll be the depressed, awed guy in the back.

Dec 28

Texas Music

Filed under: family, live music | Back to: Homepage

A quick note as I wrap up my holiday trip to Texas.  I got to see some good music while here.  On the Saturday before Christmas my Dad and I caught Rick Trevino and Asleep at the Wheel at the Armadillo Christmas Bazaar while my Mom and Cynthia shopped.  I had heard of, but hadn’t heard Rick before and really enjoyed his set.  I think my favorite song was his cover of Wasted Days, Wasted Nights.

image I have been an Asleep at the Wheel fan for a long time.  This show was a quartet rather than the full swing band.  What I hadn’t realized before was just how incredibly talented a guitar player Ray Benson is – I really enjoyed this set.  Way Down Texas Way is probably my favorite of theirs.  If you’re a fan of Bob Wills and Western Swing, check them out at the Broken Spoke sometime.

image On Friday, my sister, brother-in-law, B.P. (*) and I headed down to San Antonio to catch the Old 97’s at Sam’s Burger Joint.  These guys have been my favorite band for close to a decade.  I found the venue to be a little strange, but overall it was great to see the 97s at home (Rhett’s a 7th generation Texan!)  Despite some initial sound issues, the show was great and I came out with a better appreciation of the latest album, Blame it on Gravity.  If you haven’t seen these guys live, you really need to check them out.  Rhett is a superlative songwriter and has written one of the perfect songs (Question) and I’m always drawn to Murry’s songs (Up the Devil’s Pay) in concert.  A few other choice songs:

No Baby, I
Barrier Reef
Doreen
Smoker
Murder (or a Heart Attack)
Time Bomb

Ok, that’s more than a few and there are many, many more good ones.  Enjoy.

(*) B.P. = Baby Place.  My sister is very pregnant and already teaching BP about good music.

Sep 05

Willie Nelson at the Mountain Winery

Filed under: live music | Back to: Homepage

willie_2008

Tonight was the night.  It was of course, incredible.  I don’t want to make this an all Willie all the time blog, but a few notes:

  • It’s all about the phrasing.  I’m not the first person to say it, but the phrasing is the magical ingredient in Willie’s music.  The way he turns a phrase and the way he plays a line on the guitar.  It just makes you feel good.
  • Beyond that, the simple straight to the heart lyrics speak to just about everyone.  I try to pin down the demographic at concerts, but there was no demographic tonight – Willie’s appeal is universal.
  • His stuff is timeless.  I’ve seen Merle a few times and I saw Waylon before he died and they were great, but Willie’s music never comes across as dated.  It always has been relevant, even when he’s playing American standards.

Two more things of interest…

  • Look at the ticket above, then look at the one from my previous post.  The service fee on tonight’s show is more expensive then the entire ticket in 1984.  Times have changed, but come on.
  • As I contemplate selling my car, it’s nights like tonight that give me pause.  Bay Area weather rarely affords the opportunity to drive with the top down and watch the stars.  The drive was almost as enjoyable as the show.  It reminded me of this VW/Nick Drake commercial.

Yes, I just referenced a car commercial.  Deal with it.

Finally, some music.  At the show tonight Willie played a great, bluesy cover of Milk Cow Blues. I love this song, but what is it that keeps people playing it since Kokomo Arnold recorded it in the 30’sRobert Johnson did it.  Bob Wills turned it into a Western Swing standard.  And of course nobody does it better than the King.  Enjoy.

Aug 27

Patty Griffin at the Mountain Winery

Filed under: albums, live music | Back to: Homepage

Patty Griffin has it. I don’t know what it is, but you just know it when you hear it. Case in point, several years ago I went to see Patty at a songwriter’s pull with Shawn Colvin, Mary Chapin Carpenter and Dar Williams at the Warfield. All lovely singer songwriters in their own right; but it must have been embarrassing for those women to share the stage with Patty. Something about her electrifying voice speaks right to the heart and makes all other sound pale in comparison. Much like James Taylor, I think Patty could sing anything and she would have the audience swooning. Over the years I’ve swooned at the Variety Playhouse, the Warfield x2, the Fillmore x2, the Great American Music Hall, a tiny Tex Mex restaurant in South Austin and Slim’s on the hottest SF day on record with surprise guest Natalie Maines….

So last night I went to see her at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga. And while this wasn’t the absolute best Patty Griffin performance I’ve seen, it was in full effect. Of note, she opened with the cover Hang on St. Christopher which is off one of my favorite Tom Waits albums. Happily she played a few older songs from Flaming Red – an album that is jarring compared to her folkier work but brilliant and under appreciated. She did play my current favorite Up to the Mountain, but sadly without the lead guitar of Doug Lancio this time.

Patty Griffin - Children Running Through My favorite albums, not surprisingly, are the ones where she really lets he voice shine.  She said in concert last year that she’d been advised to sing quietly on previous albums.  Thankfully she ignored that and really belted out on her latest masterpiece, Children Running Through.  It shows. If you don’t have this album, go buy it now. Sadly, it looks like Rhapsody doesn’t have it available, so I can’t link to samples here.

Her debut album Living With Ghosts will always hold a special place in my heart. It reminds me of contented Sunday mornings and cardamom flavored coffee. That has nothing to do with the album – all acoustic guitar and vocals filled with loud, bitter tunes – but more because I’ve got my own things going on.  Anyway, here’s the album on Rhapsody:

Mosesimage
Let Him Fly
Every Little Bit
Time Will Do The Talking (Mariah moment and all)
Mad Mission
Poor Man’s House
Forgiveness
You Never Get What You Want
Sweet Lorraine
Not Alone

And here are a few gems from Flaming Red:

One Big Love
Tony
Change

Also check out Chief, Tomorrow Night and Mil Besos from 1,000 Kisses.

Finally, I’ve made my sister record some Patty Griffin tunes over the years.  I Write the Book (clip here) is off some bootleg I found and probably my all time favorite Patty song (really, really bitter):

I Write the Book
Time Will Do the Talking
One Big Love

Take a listen. If you figure out what it is, please let me know.