Rock in a Hard Place 

Deep inside the local scene

AH, THE EAST BAY, where the sun rises over the Oakland Hills and slogs through the fog to set over San Francisco, live music struggles to find a home in nobody's backyard, and Tempest keeps whipping up rousing Celtic rock for those who'd like a little Irish in 'em. The happily prolific Oakland stalwarts' latest CD on Magna Carta, Balance, gives the faithful another fix of propulsive paeans to piracy (the traditional "Captain Ward"), dainty dancing ditties ("Dancing Girl," "Two Sisters"), an overwrought trippy treatment of Phil Ochs' "Iron Lady," and blistering instrumentals (guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and bass a-blazing in "Dance of the Sandwitches," par example, or the band rocking out with their craic out on "Battle Mountain Breakdown"). The closing medley of original Tempest jigs could be played on an endless loop to make Irish-dance aficionados gradually thump their legs into meaty paste, but that would just be mean. You can catch Tempest at--oh, like this is a surprise--the Starry Plough this Friday.

THEY'RE NOISY, peppy, and about as catchy as you can be without selling your soul to Phil Spector. And no, I'm not talking about Nirvana. (That was someone else.) It's just li'l Berkeley/Oakland foursome the Librarians that's rocking East Oakland's Vulcan Radio (a warehouse space at 44th St. and San Leandro Blvd.) Friday night and SF's Bottom of the Hill on Monday the 18th. The four fellas have an instantly infectious indie-rock-infected-Britpop sound, coming off a little like the Pixies kicking the shit out of the Kinks in the alley behind a club. And I'm so sorry for that mental image. Seriously, though: what with the slight British affectation and power pop wha-uh-ohs, the crunchy guitar and sugar-soaked melodies, these little lambs will charm you out of your knickers if you ain't careful. Sly choruses like "You and this bottle have a hold on my heart" and "Why do you dress like a rock star, when you can't even play a guitar (wha-uh-oh)" don't exactly hurt, either.

Local shoegazing quintet the Jim Yoshii Pile-Up is everything the Librarians aren't: slow and shimmery, hypnotic and murmury, swimming through molasses specked with violets with the sun shining through dimly from above. The Pile-Up's new Absolutely Kosher record It's Winter Here makes you believe there's no other season that can possibly accommodate such cold, barren world-weariness. "You ask me what's my greatest fear," singer Paul Gonzenbach moans. "Baby, it's living here, earning six-fifty an hour." I had ennui once, but I drank a nice tall glass of salty water, and it went away like that. When the pace starts to pick up a bit, as in the gee-that-s-a-lot-of-guitars instrumental "Peter Von Pinnon Final Draft," it feels like a trap. They're just trying to get me to start bobbing my head so they can laugh at me.


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