The Air Guitar Championships are storming through the Bay Area next week, as part of a fourteen-city tour to select competitors for the 2007 US Air Guitar Championships National Finals. Locals will tune their air guitars before competing at the Blank Club in San Jose on Thursday, June 27, followed by a second act at San Francisco's Independent on Friday. Contestants will be judged on technical merit, stage presence, and "airness." The champion of each regional wins a trip to Manhattan for the August 15 finals; the winner of the finals will receive $1,000 and a free trip to the World Championships in Oulu, Finland. The regional winners so far: Lance "The Shred" Kasten (DC), Andrew "William Ocean" Litz (NYC), Erin "McNallica" McNally (Boston), Garth "Chuck Mung" Donald (Cleveland), Dave "Derek Not-So Smalls" Weissman (Columbus), Leldon Omar "Skeety Jones" De La Cruz (Chicago), and Cami "Airisol" Phillippi (Minneapolis).
Unlike the guitar, the competition isn't free -- there's a $20 competitor's fee. General admission is $8 for the San Jose show, but tickets for the SF event, which went for $15, are already sold out. Who's to blame? Air Guitar Nation, the 2006 documentary that brought air guitar out of its not-so-proverbial closet and into American movie theaters. -- Jeremy Singer-Vine
Want to catch a totally wild punk-rap-synth-metal-Latin-indie band from Los Angeles on its first visit to the Bay Area? Read all those genre names again; by EarBud's word, across Toca's 2007 self-titled debut, they're all there. Toca's music is pastiched to hell and back from as wide a swath of genres as you're likely to find. Here's the best part: Unlike most groups who try this trick, Toca don't suck! In fact, it's incredibly good. Tune in to a few tracks on its MySpace page if you don't believe me. Specifically, "Con Ruido" and "Toca Can't Dance." A few members of the band actually have East Bay roots, so they deserve to be shown some love when they arrive. The show's in San Francisco at the Silverman Gallery, 2295 3rd St. Call the gallery at (415) 255-9508 for more information.
While dazzling assassinations and gory murders seem to deluge rap music these days, hip hop culture, tragically, can't help but keep it real. Case in point, lauded producer J Dilla (The Roots, A Tribe Called Quest, Slum Village, Prince) died in February 2006 of complications from lupus just as his richly layered independent releases ("Donuts") were beginning to gain wider attention. He was joined in the immortal cipha this past weekend by fellow undapendent beatsmith DJ Przm. Przm died in Sacramento following a longtime heart complication. The producer/emcee/beatboxer moved to California in 2005 in order to hasten plans for a heart transplant. Przm started making waves with his signature chopped-samples and gritty beats on the Camu Tao single "Hold the Floor," released on Def Jux in 2002. He repped both Dilla's hometown, Detroit, and Columbus, Ohio, where he helped build a hip-hop scene that hatched RJD2, Blueprint, Illogic, Camu Tao, Copywright, the Megahertz crew, and his own groups Spitball and the Fonosluts.
Przm's longtime collaborator Blueprint (Weightless Records) described his friend this way in a statement released Sunday:
He put out a series of records from 1999 to 2002 that although were not nationally distributed and limited in pressing made him and his crew (Spitball,Fonosluts, & 3MS) the most popular in the scene at the time.
He was an amazing Dj and was the first Dj I ever took on the road with me in 2002 when i started touring. He, Illogic, and I had so many good times that it's hard to know where to begin, but in terms of rocking shows, since Przm was a Dj, Emcee, producer, and beatboxer of the highest level--he was able to make any show live and able to make the best out of any bad situation.
He was the kind of guy who would laugh at me having a meltdown about a bad show and never took things too seriously. Przm was also a killer party DJ, who could kill crowds with anything from booty house to classic hip-hop. He truly was a throwback to the era when emcees did more than just emcee, they practiced and sought to perfect every aspect of the hip-hop.
Condolences at MySpace.com/djprzm1
A partial production credit list: Zero Star "Forever's Never Really That Long" Meta4ce Omega/DJ Przm - "True Hollywood Stories" Illogic/DJ Przm - "Off the Clock" S.A. Smash - "Smashy Trashy" Spitball - "Rockin It/Spit It Out/Ya Time's Up"
-- Reggie Royston
Though the band's really from Sacramento, Cake has been adopted by a hearty core of Bay Area fans as one of our own. That's why Ear Bud is proud to report a new disc from the group: B-Sides and Rarities, a collection of covers (eight), Cake originals (three), and live tracks (three) -- with scratch-n-sniff album art! While it's certainly not as special as a fresh batch of tunes from this reliably quirky and innovative band, it's at least a good listen from beginning to end. Bookended by hilariously subdued covers of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs," B-Sides and Rarities also includes covers of "Strangers in the Night," Barry White's "Never Never Gonna Give You Up," and live versions of "Short Skirt, Long Jacket" and "It's Coming Down." Plus there's Cake's excellent version of "Mahna Mahna," which you can hear in a Dr. Pepper running right now. Sure, this release is for fans only, but that's just fine with us.
Arcade Fire, the four-year-old Montreal indie band that has made fans of David Bowie and David Byrne, may now be the most important rock group in the world. On the final two nights of its five-week North American Neon Bible tour June 1 and 2 at the Greek Theatre, eleven capable musicians were one writhing, singing, strumming soul onstage. But the real magic came as they fused sell-out audiences of more than eight thousand people into ecstatic masses who sang and danced and cheered more deeply than perhaps they ever had before. When Neon Bible was released in March, ravenous fans and frenzied press had already deemed it the most anticipated new release of the year. Kids and critics clamored for an advance taste of a new track over file-sharing networks, while media from The New Yorker to Pitchfork employed all the metaphors and religious allusions they could to summon the majesty of the moment. In 2004, following the release of Arcade Fire's spectacular first full-length, Funeral, Pitchfork made the band one of the most-hyped of the digital music era. The second, more urgent, wave of adulation propelled Neon Bible's first-week sales to 92,000 units and the No. 2 slot on the Billboard 200, trouncing Funeral's climb to No. 131.
Arcade Fire songs are about feeling something and running with it. Twice on Saturday night, members of the band scrambled up a fifty-foot latticed stage support with instruments in tow. One carried his drumsticks halfway up and rapped on the metal structure as if it were a drum: a display of arena rock showmanship infused with the childlike joy that characterizes the group's live show. Arcade Fire is equally adept at sadness. Funeral is rooted in the deaths of family members, and Neon Bible, recorded and self-produced in a church in Montreal, feels even darker. Neon Bible, neon Bible/Not much chance for survival frontman Win Butler chants on the title track. Closing song "My Body Is a Cage" is expressly funereal, with gothic organs swarming over a shattered death march. Set my spirit free, set my body free, he sings.
Built on word of mouth and signed to sturdy independent label Merge, Arcade Fire embodies the future of an embattled industry. The musical mass market is disappearing, and the bond the band shares with its fans is the new real deal. A fervent, albeit niche audience cherishes Arcade Fire for the plain reason that its music is, almost without exception, rapturous, cathartic, and profound. That's all fans and the band will ever need - not a major label contract or a new sound or the support of Bowie and Byrne or even Bono. "This is a song about how people believe in whatever shit they wanna believe in," Butler said Saturday to introduce new track "The Well and the Lighthouse" - and much of the audience believed in him.
The entire crowd sprang to its feet for "Rebellion (Lies)," Funeral's lead single. No one knew it yet, but this was the last song of the set, the moment the whole concert had been impeccably approaching. When it ended and the band left the stage, something extraordinary happened. Instead of clapping or cheering for an encore, without provocation the audience began to intone, in perfect harmony, the violin melody from the end of the song. It must've looped twenty times. The crowd plucked the tune from the air and claimed it as its own, as much in a call for the band to come back as in a spontaneous expression of joy and togetherness.
The musicians reappeared after a few minutes and the moment passed, yet in a sense it never really did. "Thanks for a very memorable night," Butler said between the ensuing two encore songs. He was right again. It must've been the best show we had ever seen.
Hell no, it's not!, says Express contributor Eric Arnold, in a recent article for the Chronicle. EarBud's impression is that a lot of these artists made a huge mistake by signing to major labels. They would've been far better off sticking with indies invested in their success, and banding together locally. Hyphy already had the buzz it needed, and beyond the wave of releases this summer, the majors probably won't put anything behind it. Indies would've had no problem securing international distribution. And they would've encouraged creative development instead of the stagnation caused by majors delaying the second wave of releases. The rappers wanted fat signing bonuses, and that's what killed them. Sure, there's gonna be a shockwave spreading to suburbs and across the country this summer, but in most areas it'll probably be forgotten by winter.