Local Musicians Get a Boost from KickStarter.com 

Micro-funding for the DIY set. Plus locals try to expose underground niches.

Kickerstarter.com is a Brooklyn-based web site that allows independent musicians, artists, writers, and other creative folk to fund-raise for specific projects on a micro level. And a bunch of Bay Area artists are using the site — which is like Kiva for starving artists — to help realize their dreams.

San Francisco singer-songwriter Lia Rose of the band Built for the Sea is currently trying to raise $10,000 to record her debut solo album. So far she's raised nearly $3,800. Oaklander Alice Tong, meanwhile, is seeking $6,000 to help her band go on tour. She needs another $3,000 by her CD release party on May 29 at the Hotel Utah.

Other projects are smaller, and only seek a few hundred or thousand dollars. Anyone can pledge a donation for any project on the site, but will only be charged if the project meets its intended goal by the deadline (anywhere from one to ninety days). In exchange, donors often get specialized incentives based on the level of donation (such as a copy of the final product), or just the gratification that they've contributed to a cool project. One of the most popular projects on the site is a massive metal sculpture called Syzygryd, which will be on display at this year's Burning Man. Designed by Oakland artists, it allows viewers to compose music using touchscreen controllers, which then controls fire spewing from the sculpture.

Sounds of the Experimental Latino Underground

Ann Blankenship wants people to know that Latino music isn't just salsa, cumbia, and merengue. Since 2008, she has produced Convergence — a sort of mini-festival within the annual Mission Creek Music & Arts Festival — in order to raise the local profile of experimental and progressive artists from Mexico and Latin America. For this year's Mission Creek (July 14-18), Blankenship plans to forgo the usual fest and throw a "preview party" in order to conserve her energy for next year's Convergence, which she plans to make bigger and better. "I'm trying to do a pretty ambitious festival next year," she said. Specifically, Blankenship said she wants to expand the film component.

At this point, Blankenship says Convergence might spin off from Mission Creek and become its own entity, though she still might collaborate with the San Francisco indie music festival for another project, like a silent film screening with live accompaniment. There's no hard date yet, but Blankenship says Convergence 2011 will be held in summer or fall. She just got fiscal sponsorship through Intersection for the Arts and wants to collaborate with other local bands and organizations, including San Francisco International Arts Festival.

The preview party will be hosted by Marcelo Baez and feature performances by Le Butcherettes (Guadalajara), Monstruobot (Spain), Gema De Los Deseos (SF), and San Francisco mariachi-punk band Los Murderachis. On July 17 at Plaza Tres Agazes (130 Townsend St., San Francisco). 7 p.m., $10.

New "Folk" Music Series

A new monthly series aims to bring together disparate elements of the Bay Area music scene, showcasing the best of what the local community has to offer. Called "San Folk Disco" and launched by local songwriter JL Stiles, the event features three artists every month. If you're thinking that the last thing the Bay Area needs is more "folk," it appears that the moniker will be loosely adhered to. Says Stiles: "each show will seek to seamlessly veer from intimate acoustic moments to carousing Mission blasting rock via dancing on the ceiling funkify-your-life party bands, folk, funk, soul, rock, indie, alt-country, post-folk and pre-post-post-toasties." The series also appears to be a format for Stiles to showcase himself. The fourth event happens Thursday, May 27, at Cafe du Nord, with Eric McFadden, Stiles, and Jenny Kerr. 9 p.m., $10, $12.

Miscellaneous Debris

A new compilation of mostly Modesto songwriters called Portraits, released by Off the Air Productions, captures some of that region's talent, plus locals Mike Sempert of Birds & Batteries, Kid Mud, and Garrett Pierce. The album is streaming on ReverbNation.com and a local release show will be held on Saturday, July 10, at City Art (828 Valencia St., San Francisco). 7-10 p.m., free. ... Researchers at Stanford may offer hope for the hearing-impaired. According to a recently published report, they've been able to develop mouse cells that "look and act just like animal's inner-ear hair cells — the linchpin to our sense of hearing and balance — in a petri dish," according to a press release. Actually regenerating these cells in humans is likely many years away, but the research is promising. ... Music marketing company Terrorbird Media (which has offices in Oakland, NYC, and LA) will celebrate its four-year anniversary Thursday, May 20, at Milk Bar (1840 Haight St., SF). The event will feature performances by some of its local clients, including Oakland's Man/Miracle, SF's Baths, the East Bay's The Splinters, and Sister Crayon (Sacto), plus DJ sets from Sugar & Gold and Disco Shawn. 8 p.m., $5. ... Local indie-pop band Social Studies have signed to East Bay label Antenna Farm Records, whose roster also includes locals Bart Davenport, Winfred E. Eye, Beam, Still Flyin', Papercuts, and The Dry Spells. The label will release Social Studies' new record, Wind Up Wooden Heart, on July 27. They play SF Popfest at the Rickshaw Stop on Thursday, May 27, with Tune Yards.

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