Signal to Noise 

Don't cross that bridge: The East Bay has it all over Noise Pop this week.

So, Noise Pop kinda sucks this year. Go ahead, say it out loud. You'll feel better about yourself, and we won't tell anyone.

Oh sure, the big-shot SF indie rock fest rolls out the big guns, the Pitchfork darlings, the heavily publicized sweethearts of the rodeo. You can get your ass kicked at that terrifying Dillinger Escape Plan/Locust show Thursday night at Slim's, and get your subsequent pain sweetly validated at Sunday's plum American Music Club gig at the Great American Music Hall. And everything in between, etc. etc. But the hipster/poseur levels'll be downright toxic, the overloaded clubs' guest lists larded with faux-cosmopolitan types checking off the shows they can now say they've seen like grocery-store stockers taking inventory.

The Wrens: Check. Sage Francis: Check. The Unicorns: Check.

An additional problem: Too many repeat offenders playing the exact same joint they've played sometime in the past year: Neko Case at Bimbo's, Pedro the Lion at Great American, Super Furry Animals at the Fillmore, British Sea Power at Bottom of the Hill.

Okay, so that last one's pretty great.

No, no, forget that! Revolt! Don't cross that bridge when you come to it! Operating with approximately one-hundredth the public scrutiny and media hype, the East Bay has slyly planned a splendid weekend of Noise Pop counterprogramming. Repent, be saved, and save two bones in bridge tolls every night!

Badges? We don't need no stinking badges!

From Monument to Masses/Caesura,
924 Gilman, Friday

"Intelligent," "political," and "intense" might be the three most egregiously overused -- and undeserved -- rock bio words ever, so it behooves us to snap our ears to attention when someone actually delivers. FMTM unfurls in pointy-headed waves of nervous-as-hell art rock, sample-heavy and skittish and committed to zigging and zagging zimultaneously. The drummer is viciously good, and the band has a populist bent you can tell is more than just a contrivance to impress parents, poly-sci professors, or chicks. Perfect for Gilman, as is Caesura, a wackier, scarier, louder hybrid of the whole guitar-crazy math-rock thing. Ain't nobody beatin' this frontman at the ol' "Goofy Rock Faces" game.

Jahi and the Life, opening for KRS-One,
Sweet's Ballroom, Friday

If Mr. One doesn't watch his back, this Oaklandish MC will blow his ass right off the Sweet's stage -- Jahi almost pulled the same trick on Blackalicious and Lyrics Born at the Fillmore in January, whipping the got-there-early-for-some-reason crowd into an uncharacteristic frenzy with his crisp, clear, quietly conscious raps and full-on live band that avoids sounding like a cheap Roots impersonation. Don't mistake "positivity" for "wussy," now -- go find someone who can work an uncertain crowd with more electricity and exuberance. Go on. We'll wait.

Oakland Metro, Saturday

An idiosyncratic singer-songwriter in an idiosyncratic venue; warm folk-pop barbed with wise-ass lyrics and Stew's three-blocks-from-Broadway-and-getting-closer theatrics. Request "Black Men Ski" and don't be afraid to laugh at it, for chrissakes.

The Mystic Rage Weekend Trifecta
Feeling a bit agitated, bottled up, closed off, detached, alienated, uneasy? Mayhaps you need a full-on dose of MYSTIC RAGE, the East Bay's own ludicrously named but righteously rockin' old-guard metalers, who have chosen Noise Pop weekend as the launching point for an awesome three-venues-in-three-nights aural assault: Friday at Mojo's in Fremont, Saturday at Concord's Bourbon St. Grill, and Sunday at San Leandro's Englander. If you have time for only one of these, perhaps you could pick the show with the most amusingly named support acts: Carbon and Numbfaced (Friday); Stone Vengeance, Age of Aggression, Border Wars, and Liquid Conscience (Saturday); or Suburban Paranoia and Fatal War Machine (Sunday). Right -- Sunday it is. Though "Non-Fatal War Machine" would be cooler.

McJesus/Year of the Wild Cat/Justified Anger,
Hayward's Holiday Bowl, Saturday

Finally, the perfect synthesis of local rock and bowling. Negotiate that tricky 7-10 split as McJesus does, uh, you know, that classic McJesus thing. Sadly, we're betting Unjustified Anger could kick Justified Anger's ass, with or without sufficient justification. It's best not to get involved.

Miles Long (featuring bassist Malcolm-Jamal Warner),
Hilltop Mall, Saturday

Theo? Zat you?

The Irrationals,
Kelly's of Alameda, Thursday

Purge all thoughts of Natalie Merchant and Coolio from your brainpan and watch in awe as this six-headed Berkeley a cappella vocal monstrosity takes a swing at Patti Smith's "Because the Night" and Stevie Wonder's "Pastime Paradise." Plus it's a free show at Alameda's relatively new and most assuredly nonsnooty jazz bar. Any members of Rockapella found near the venue will be shot on sight.

Kitchen Sink's Clamor Magazine Benefit,
Liminal Gallery, Saturday

Clamor, an indie mag based in Toledo, Ohio (?!), has evidently orchestrated a nationwide string of shows this fine Saturday night, to raise scratch for itself and other outlets like, oh, say, Oakland's own Kitchen Sink. If reading gives you a headache, local hip-hop geniuses -- Prozack Turner from Foreign Legion, Accidental Beauties, and the quite excellent Felonious -- will perform loud music likely to only make your headache worse.

If you absolutely must go to San Francisco
Ignore Noise Pop entirely and behold the mighty ArnoCorps Friday night at the Pound. In addition to absorbing fantastic muscle mass-generating "action-adventure rock 'n' roll," this might be your chance to join the band. Enigmatic frontman Holzfeuer reports via e-mail that Halstucha, the sextet's sole female member and one of three (?!) guitarists, will soon depart the band.

"Well, Halstucha has been with us on borrowed time," he explains. "You see, she was committed to a mental institution not long after she initially joined ArnoCorps back in 2001. She was convinced someone was trying to kill her, the end of the world was coming, all these kinds of things. She then escaped for a short time in 2002 and played a single show with us only to be committed again, soon after. To our delight, she came back to us last March after another successful escape and they have been searching for her ever since. We received a tip last week that they have tracked her down, so we are keeping her on the move until our currently booked shows are all played. At the end of that period, we think it might be best that she go back. She's not entirely stable and we think a little shock therapy might do her some good."

So work on your fake Austrian accent and join these turkeys.

If you absolutely must go to Noise Pop
Thursday night at Popscene, check out SF's own Evening, quite possibly the weirdest, artiest band Lookout! has ever signed. The band's new record Other Victorians is a slick piano-and-guitar-effects-drenched prance through the Dalí paintings lurking in every pop-punker's soul. A little shock therapy might do you some good.


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