In the past week we've seen a weird spate of surprise career moves in the music business — most people thought the coup de grace was Brian McKnight's new "Adult Mix Tape," in which the renowned crooner used his soulful pipes for secular purposes. (Not kidding — "If You're Ready to Learn" might tackle "other sexual type things," but the chord changes are poached straight from gospel.) Slightly less shocking, but equally fascinating, is the latest single from POP ETC, the Berkeley-born, Brooklyn-based indie band formerly known as The Morning Benders. It's an Auto-Tune-sluiced, cleanly-produced, snare-and-clap-clap R&B track with lyrics about a one night stand.
Undeterred by an initial fall in ratings, and skepticism over whether a show about backstage pratfalls in musical theater can really make a viable prime time soap opera, producers at NBC have launched an aggressive promotional campaign for the new show, Smash — and now it includes a philanthropic component. NBC recently teamed up with the New York-based theater education company iTheatrics to launch a new program that would bring musical theater to underprivileged schools. The two companies will help bankroll musical theater programs at 20 schools in 20 US cities, including West Oakland, where they've mounted this weekend's production of Annie Jr. at West Oakland Middle School (991 14th St., Oakland).
Glorious weekend! Herewith, our critics' top event picks:
Cher Horowitz: Great handle, impossible to Google. But despite the fact that this all-girl punk quartet shares its name with the much-more-famous Clueless heroine (and onetime idol of fifth-grade girls everywhere), it's well worth whatever keyword acrobatics it takes to track 'em down: The band's 2011 EP, the brilliantly-named Babes! Snax! Jamz! Outfits! Astrology! is a rollicking, reverb-drenched ride through the high school experience you never had; or like what might've happened if the fictional Cher Horowitz had gotten mixed up with a bunch of riot grrls in freshman gym instead of Dionne and Tai — or, maybe just Nineties pop-culture nostalgia done exactly right. That is, with fuzzed-our guitars, unrelenting drums, half-yelled lyrics, and a palpable (if snarly) kind of giddiness — neither too ironic nor too reverent, stuck in the delicious somewhere between complete seriousness and all-out joking and wisely employing the character less as a conscription than as a jumping-off point to sing about all kinds of problems (high school-specific or not). The show goes down at 924 Gilman (924 Gilman St., Berkeley), which means there's a decent chance the Gilman audience will be too young to get it, but as Horowitz herself would say, What-ever! On Sunday, Apr. 29 with Bobby Joe Ebola and the Children MacNuggits, American Splits, Jeff Rowe, Boxglove, and Criticism as part of a benefit for El Sobrante's Hansel and Gretel cooperative preschool. 3 p.m., $5-$10 sliding scale. 924Gilman.org— Ellen Cushing
Look out. For the first year ever, the Express will co-present this year's Art & Soul Oakland with the City of Oakland. The two-day event, to be held Saturday and Sunday, August 4-5, 2012, at Frank Ogawa Plaza (14th and Broadway), will feature a more diverse music lineup, plus an art show (courtesy de Young Museum artist fellows and artist-in-residence alumni, and American Steel), film projections, "light-based art," food trucks, and kids' activities. Also exciting: extended hours on Saturday night till midnight. Free bike parking and easy access by public transit. More details to be announced. Stay tuned...
Saturday, August 4, 2012, 2 p.m. to midnight
Sunday, August 5, 2012, noon to 6 p.m.
Advance online: $10 adults; $5 seniors (65 and older) & youth (13-17); free for 12 & under.
At the Gate: $15 adults; $8 seniors & youth; free for 12 & under.
Nero’s album “Welcome Reality” brought us a slew of great tunes, jumpin' all around the BPM gauge – from dubstep to electro to drum n'bass/drumstep – but who knew that just one of their tracks would start the remixing frenzy that has come to be? To be honest, I wasn’t very impressed with the album off the bat, since it included a good amount of tunes that had already been released to the public, but as I have continued to listen over these last few months, I have recognized the true style and class brought to us by this dynamic duo.
To be even more honest, even the track featured below was not a big fave of mine in the beginning – looking back now, I guess I just had other expectations for this release. I’ll be the first to say that I'm fully eating my words now, and that's not even considering all the ridiculous remixes that are sitting in our laps today. After giving it another chance, the original version of “Must Be The Feeling” brings a great pace of funk and nu-disco, while sprinkling on some heavy wobbles to create just an all-around great listen – again, eating my words with this one.
Happy 4/20! Happy Carmen Electra's birthday! Happy first truly warm weekend in what feels like whatever! Here's how you're spending these glorious 72 hours:
Youth Speaks Poetry Slam
Youth speaks — especially when the 16th Annual Teen Poetry Slam's 500 semifinalists descend on the East Bay in a tournament-style competition. Event organizer and San Francisco nonprofit Youth Speaks, which launched the country's first teen poetry slam in 1997, is dedicated to creating safe spaces for young folks to find, develop, and use their voices to effect positive change. Poets perform for about three minutes and are judged on quality of writing, poem content, and performance. All semifinals are free and open to the public. At The New Parish (579 18th St., Oakland) on Friday, Apr. 20, at 6 p.m., and The David Brower Center (2150 Allston Way, Berkeley) on Saturday, Apr. 21, at 7 p.m. YouthSpeaks.org — Alison Peters
Outside Lands announced its 2012 lineup this morning, and, as expected, it's quite the eclectic mix: Metallica, Stevie Wonder, Neil Young, Jack White, Foo Fighters, Beck, Skrillex, Sigur Ros, Justice, Dispatch, the Kills, Regina Spektor, Passion Pit, Andrew Bird, and many more. There's also a healthy sprinkling of local talent (in addition to Metallica and Mr. Young), including Grandaddy(!), Two Gallants, Geographer, Wallpaper, and Thee Oh Sees. Also worth noting: Big Boi is giving it another try. Other highlights: Zola Jesus, Tame Impala, The Walkmen, Washed Out, and Explosions in the Sky. The festival happens August 10-12 in Golden Gate Park. See the full lineup here.
Fuck Coachella, there's plenty going on right here in the East Bay. The five our critics are most excited about:
Robert Brady is a treasure — a prolific East Bay genius who has been consistently showing his art locally for 45 years. In his new show, Small Worlds, an intimate collection of work at Trax Gallery (1812 Fifth St., Berkeley), we get a succinct cross section of the master's portfolio of ceramic sculpture. The cozy gallery, complete with koi pond and shaggy dog, is the perfect casual environment for this understated show. Amid an almost biological array of large, painted stones are small, figurative works that resemble bright, animistic totems nearly springing to life with expressionist candor and a kind of wit that only decades of honest practice can bring. Even in Brady's few paintings on display, form is a platonic notion that's not understandable without the filter of his own interpretation. Small Worlds runs through April 29. 510-540-8729 or TraxGallery.com — Obi Kaufmann
Editor's Note: We’re so fascinated by the cult of fandom surrounding Ryan Christopher Parks, lead singer of the indie band B. Hamilton, that we’ve invited his alter-ego to start an advice column for the clueless and the culturally ostracized. For this edition, he’s focused on etiquette; see the first installment here.
Dear Ron Kristophone,
So, I was recently at a bar and some dude asked me out. Turns out he works for the OPD, so now i don’t know what to do. I actually think he's kinda cute, so I'm wondering what should I wear. I don't know any cops, so how do cops feel about girls putting out on the first date? Should I ask Boots Riley to be my wingman? :)
The last time I saw someone try to take on the whole three thousand-capacity Fox Theater alone with an acoustic guitar was nearly a year ago, when Robin Pecknold unplugged his dreadnought and stepped over his monitors to belt out a solo tune. At the time, it was impressive, and that youthful tenor rippled off the sparkling, chameleon ceilings and lavish rugs. It seemed incomparably pretty.
Last night, Jeff Mangum made Pecknold’s performance, in retrospect, look like a gaunt and admirable attempt, at best. It’s not so much that the Fleet Foxes frontman is pale in musicality, as much as that Jeff Mangum is just an impeccably well-oiled, trim, and efficient music-producing mechanism. His show last night was a rare thing today – a guy who’s willing to sit in front of thousands of people with a guitar. When you think about it that’s a frightening prospect, and it’s hard to think of many musicians who would choose to do so if given the option.