Mixing snarky comedy with self-conscious sensitive-guy music is always a risky proposition. So when Smug Shift creators Moshe Kasher and Brent Weinbach put crooners Bart Davenport and Liam Carey on a comedy bill that included such nuts as Will Franken and Drennon Davis, they knew they were standing on shaky ground from jump. -- Rachel Swan Nonetheless, Kasher and Weinbach had the foresight to make Carey and Davenport bookend the show, so as not to disrupt a sequence of increasingly strange and out-there comedians. Neo-folk artist Carey opened around 9 p.m. for an almost packed house of disaffected hipsters, who brightened once the comedy got under way. Our two hosts did a mock freestyle battle in which they rhymed "East Bay Express" with "homosexual sex" -- among other things -- and got so snitty with each other that at one point it seemed like they were actually coming to blows. Audience members laughed uneasily, as if bracing themselves for a very tense show. But Santos lightened everything up when he opened the showcase with a set borrowed from the Margaret Cho playbook -- complete with an officious, if clueless, Asian immigrant woman, and a gay guy caricature that more closely resembled the Shanaynay character from Martin. He was followed by newbie Mary Van Note, playing a raunchier version of Christina Ricci. YouTube hotshot Drennon Davis burbled racist kindergarten songs and did an uncanny impression of Seal singing Stop looking at my over-accented scars.
Then came the more established yuksters: Weinbach, who carefully writes all his jokes ahead of time and spends years refining them (and does an amazing self-caricature); Kasher, who often speaks off the cuff, hectors his audience, and insists he's more concerned with being "funny" than being a genius; and Franken, who's graduated from telling stories to making up characters and inhabiting them. Davenport, who came with a rousing endorsement from sometime-jazz pianist Weinbach, is one of the few local indie musicians with enough chops to follow such an incredible lineup, even though he changed the mood on a dime that night. Slight and wiry with a '70s-mod haircut, he looked and sounded almost exactly like Barry Manilow, and made no bones about it. After all, Davenport is definitely the most swaggeringly confident, irony-deficient version of Manilow you've ever seen. Warbling carefully-crafted lyrics over soca-cabana guitar strumming, he had an anomalous presence in an otherwise archly humorous showcase. But Davenport played well enough to convince some of us that the comedy-music thing can actually work. And he kept playing, even as the crowd thinned out.
The legendary Stax label returns from the grave this year with new stuff from Isaac Hayes and Booker T, plus a slew of rereleases that exist largely on pirate networks at this point. Last week, Antone's in Austin hosted the Stax return party, which included Hayes and some very special face time with Booker T and the MGs. Watch and suffer knowing you weren't there. Booker T and the MGs clip II
Tax time is just around the corner and many of you want to tell the tax man, "Cash me out!" Take a cue from Tupac's old boy, Saafir, all strait-laced with dope flows up in the Beauty Bar in Austin last week. The world's tendency to "go dumb" makes Saafir's conscious stand seem, I don't know, respectable in its own way.
"Cash Me Out" clip II
The only way to listen to Sarah & No Name's morning show on Alice 97.3 FM is by the seat of your pants. Especially popular among commuters, for five years the show has livened up the otherwise drab mornings of Bay Area masses trapped in gnarly traffic on their way to work. Once they get to the office -- if it's not already 9 o'clock -- listeners have the option of tuning in via Internet radio from their desks and thus livening up the first part of a sure-to-be-hard day's work. But starting April 16, the Bay Area's most sedentary denizens have yet another place to catch their favorite morning radio hosts: late-night TV. A truncated version of the show will run on KBCW (make that the CW Bay Area!) at 11:30 p.m. five nights a week, in HD, no less, as if it matters. The truly obsessed and immobile may attempt to catch both morning and evening broadcasts, but this looks more like a grab for a brand new audience. Something tells us that unless Sarah and No Name start bringing midgets and strippers on air a la Howard Stern, this will hardly make for compelling television. Although depending on who you ask, the same could be said for Chicago Public Radio's decidedly classier This American Life, which recently expanded to Showtime. Perhaps the true test is which adaptation sticks around longer.
P.S. Check out a bare-bones Sound by Its Cover archive here. Eighteen reviews and counting.
Cus Tampa dance-rap-punk trio Yo Majesty does, and when it unleashes it, even Superman would surrender. Check this bad, grainy video for a bit of the band's sound, then go check out its set at Bottom of the Hill April 6. And bring your dancing shoes. SF's music scene is already embarrassing enough without word leaking that no one likes to have a good time.
What if Screetch donned a black leather jacket and a guitar and teamed up with a Canadian wigger, his vocoder, and a drummer to do some funky shit like George Clinton? Welcome to Vice Records' Chromeo. So, so weird. Live from Austin, March 15, 2007. Chromeo Encore "Any Way You Want It" Chromeo Encore "Any Way You Want It" II
The super-exclusive Fader magazine party at the Fort in Austin March 17 hosted one of the more compelling bands of the 1,500-act SXSW festival. The newly formed mix of the Clash, Fela Kuti, the Verve, and Damon Albarn from Gorillaz is amazingly reserved. But then again, discretion will always be the better part of valor. The Good, The Bad and the Queen Video II The Good, The Badd and the Queen Video III -- exclusive, nonalbum track
New British singer Amy Winehouse's April 26 show at Popscene in SF is already sold out, while her debut CD Back to Black has landed at # 7 on Billboard's Top 100. Ear Bud officially jumps on her hot, steaming jock after hearing the "Back to Black" single in Austin, seeing her backstage at the Sharon Jones set (good taste), and watching this just-released music video on MTV. Not. It's on YouTube.
P.S. Craigslist has "Wanted: Winehouse tickets" offering $200. Ridiculous.
This year's Rock the Bells promises some soon-to-be-made fond memories, with a lineup that includes Rage Against the Machine, Cypress Hill, the Roots, Nas, Mos Def, Public Enemy, MF Doom, Hieroglyphics, Blackalicious, and the Coup, along with hosts Supernatural, Rahzel, and Hi-Tek. For once, the West Coast is representing.
It all happens Saturday, August 18 at 1 p.m. at the just-announced locale of the McCovey Cove Parking Lot (3rd St. at King, near AT&\T Park in San Francisco. $76 general, $151 VIP. Tickets go on sale March 31 at 10 a.m. LiveNation.com or Ticketmaster outlets. – Rachel Swan Now, we know what you'e thinking. It would be virtually impossible to top December's Rock the Bells tour at Mezzanine, the famous nostalgia-based hip-hop showcase that typically features an 80-to-90-pecent East Coast lineup, including: a) At least one above-90th-percentile rapper (Redman) who promises to deliver an above-90th-percentile performance (in December, Redman stole someone's hat, asked if anyone in the crowd had weed, and graciously turned the stage over to the cousin (aka "The Dude") who'd been caught sleeping on his floor in the memorable Redman Cribs episode we blogged about b) A few less-than-90th-percentile rappers guaranteed whose performances outpace their recorded sound. Among them freestyle whiz Supernatural, who always manages to get a crowd pumped up with that one-trick pony in which he asks the crowd for words and then slips them into his rhymes (the trick: pick words like "phone," "bone," "hot," "Iraq," or, as rapper Mims recently proved, "attire") c) Several above-90th-percentile rappers (ie Ghostface and Pharoahe Monch) guaranteed to deliver subpar performances. At Mezzanine, Monch showed up with two Vegas-style soul singers who were so over the top, they left people scratching their heads wondering, is this supposed to be like, ironic, or something?)