Want some tips on valet bike parking? Or getting to the Fest by BART? Or which bands to see when? Or Janelle Monae's hair? We got it all. For comprehensive Outside Lands coverage, follow Twitter.com/EastBayExpress.
Of the various ways to describe Joanna Newsom, “polarizing” comes up quite a bit. But even that’s an inadequate term to express the gulf between those who think the hipster darling sounds like Olive Oyl and those who think she sounds like a brilliant, earth-shatteringly talented Olive Oyl who will revolutionize music. For this reason, reviewing a live show is an exercise in preaching to the choir: Chances are, if you’ve gotten this far, you were at her show at the Fox Theater on Monday, sitting in rapt, reverent attention as Newsom delivered a show surprising and strong enough to satisfy even the hungriest fans.
Montreal’s Wolf Parade has always been a kid brother of sorts to the grandiose, oversize Canadian groups like Arcade Fire and Broken Social Scene. Over the years, though, Wolf Parade has shown an ability to take a four-piece and make it sound as loud and overstated as the other heavy hitters within their genre. Friday’s show at the Fox Theater put that overblown energy on display, taking the heavily structured guitar lines and harmonies from the bands records and detonating them into a wall of organic sound.
Watching Dwele kick off a three-night stint at Oakland Yoshi’s Friday, it was hard to tell if he was more concerned with singing or with making every lady in the house blush.
Propped up on a stool, center stage, he casually did both.
In between songs, he cast attention on the ladies in the front row. First he asked a woman to hold up her left hand so everyone could see her wildly sparkly bracelet, telling her “You knew I was gonna come mess with you.” Later he pointed out a woman who was getting “comfortable,” with her “keys, purse, everything” set on the stage. Snapping his finger, asking the ladies in the house to provide some choral accompaniment on “Flapjacks,” Dwele said, “Ladies, here’s what I need from you ….”
Why is this guy not a superstar yet?
Fans in the front row confessed that they’d been waiting outside since 10 p.m. the night before, and they weren’t even the first people to get in line. The wait wasn’t too bad though, apparently — Miyavi brought them tea.
It’s that kind of mutual affection between performer and fans that makes Miyavi shows such a special experience. From the moment he hit the stage with a brand new single “Survive,” Miyavi had the crowd jumping around so hard that the Fillmore’s wooden floor was shaking.
A natural performer, the Japanese rock/pop/whatever-the-hell-he’s-up-to-at-the-moment star ran through a series of tracks that covered pretty much all of his solo albums, and the crowd was singing along with every one (with much encouragement from the man himself). This is a rather different version of Miyavi to the one audiences saw when he hit Slim’s for back-to-back shows in 2008 — heavier on the guitar, lighter on the theatrics. Not only were the beat boxer and the DJ gone, this time there wasn’t even a bass player — just drums, keyboards, and Miyavi. Familiar songs had been rearranged, too, teasing out the blues influences and occasional hints of hip-hop, but with the emphasis clearly on rock. It was a stripped-down, rawer, sexier, more grown-up Miyavi (appropriate since he kept telling the audience about his new role as a father).
The Irvine-based quartet Thrice has charted more musical territory since its inception in 1998 than most bands do in their entire careers. From the garage-band punk riffs of 2000’s Identity Crisis to the lofty, groove-based jams of Beggars, its most recent release, this charity-supporting, Thomas-Pynchon-referencing, sonnet-incorporating band has dabbled in elements both abstract and unknown to most mainstream music listeners.
But if there’s anything that Thrice proved last Thursday when it played the inaugural concert of its summer 2010 tour at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco, it’s that the diversity of its songs doesn’t exactly satisfy fans — or ensure a smooth concert.
As good as they are any time of day, Ash Reiter’s songs hit you like some kind of cinderblock when she performs live. Cinderblock inside a velvet casing, maybe, but still they come down relentless and hard. This is folk, but it’s folk brewed moderne, dipped in cold wave and some ska vibe. Think lovechild of Siouxsie and the Banshees and Rickie Lee Jones. That’s the idea that came to my mind, at least, when I saw the Oakland native perform one of her greatest songs, “Old Blue Eyes,” while revving up her cherry-red two-tone Eastwood Airline electric guitar. Acid folk, anyone? So I wasn’t actually surprised she’d never heard of Lonely Drifter Karen, whom I mentioned in passing during our conversation.
“She only looks likes she’s from Oregon,” joked Johan Alfsen, the bass player for Wave Array, the band that had the tough job of going up next at the venerable radical Gaelic institution otherwise known as the Starry Plough. This was a benefit to help install solar panels in Chilean towns ravaged by the recent earthquake, and all the bands were shakin’ the house, though none more-so than Ash Reiter, who does not have so much as one mediocre song in her repertoire. Like Nina Simone did, Ash teaches grade school, and like that cantankerous icon in her day, she’s a livewire on stage, something to revel in for the duration. I only wish some of the songs she performed at the Plough, like “Treasure Island” and “Moonlight Song,” were included on Paper Diamonds, her latest album, but you can’t have everything you want, that is unless you can have all of Ash Reiter. The title track alone has it all: multiple melodic configurations wrapped around each other like Russian dolls, inspired power chords, and a heady riff that crescendos and just keeps at it, until this reviewer was just aching to cry out: Give me love, Give me love, Give me lo-o-o-o-ve (and paper diamonds).
Most everyone has that one album (or maybe, these days, that one song) that was the soundtrack to their youth — the music that you played over and over again that can still bring you back to those carefree, awkward, torturous yet blissful times. For playwright Todd Almond, it was Matthew Sweet's Girlfriend in 1991, which became the basis of his book of the same name. Featuring the music of Sweet as played by an on-stage band including members of the East Bay's Sistas in the Pit, the musical now playing at Berkeley Rep follows the story of two boys as they fumble through their feelings for one another, one awkward drive-in movie at a time. Like adolescence itself, Girlfriend is painful, romantic, and hysterically funny — and whether Girlfriend was the soundtrack to your youth doesn't matter (who knows, it could be become the soundtrack to your middle-age). (Read a full review of this play in next week's Express.)
Personally, I wasn't hip to Girlfriend back then. (I was listening to Soundgarden's Badmotorfinger, among others.) So ... what was the soundtrack to your youth? And be honest!
Todd Almond's 1991 obsession:
Kathleen's 1991 obsession:
A lucky group of several hundred fans, donning black jackets and studded belts, lined the sidewalk outside of Slim’s in San Francisco Thursday night to gain access to an exclusive concert by local punk band-turned-superstars AFI.
“This show is a bit out of the ordinary as the band is definitely playing much bigger venues these days,” said Tracey Buck, a publicity representative for Slim’s. According to Buck, the allotment of tickets sold out in less than ten minutes.
Opening the show, Los Angeles-based quartet Scarlet Grey displayed a broad pop-punk vocabulary with a seamless series of melodies. A performance from Bay Area locals Said Radio followed, but their hardcore-punk sound and indecipherable lyrics seemed to interest only a handful of dedicated fans, who thrashed about for the duration of the band’s choppy set.
It wasn’t until around 10 p.m. that the crowd sprung to life, when AFI guitarist Jade Puget jumped to the edge of the stage to play the opening riff of the hit single “Medicate.”
Hiromi and Robert Glasper are two of the most exciting pianists on the scene — and they’re pulling jazz in almost entirely different directions. Glasper often tows a line between jazz and hip-hop, having acted as the music director for many of Mos Def’s live-band shows. And Hiromi is a confluence of a prodigious skill set and a knack for breaking rules.
The Robert Glasper Experiment opened the show Saturday night. Glasper played a Rhodes and a piano, sometimes both at once. But there was another keyboard on stage: Multi-instrumentalist Casey Benjamin, who backed up Q-Tip at last summer’s Outside Lands festival, piped his voice through a keytar/vocoder setup for the latter half of the set.