Ben Abraham – “You’re hiding like a memory… Calling to the weakness in my soul” [Review] May 19 at The Independent

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I am very surprised that I never stumbled upon Ben Abraham when I was living in Melbourne last year (Jan – May), as I would have surely stopped in my tracks if I heard ‘Speak‘ as I passed by the usual buskers on Melbourne’s famous Bourke Street (wonder if he ever busked there). Speak is surely one of the standout tracks (in my opinion) on his debut album, Sirens (Secret Canadian).

A son of two Indonesian rockstars (both parents in a successful 70’s pop group called Pahama), Ben had music in his blood, and his relentless urge to “SPEAK” would eventually manifest into a musical masterpiece that would speak to more than Melbourne. “I never wanted to be a musician… I always wanted to be a filmmaker, and although I never quite made it down that path, that desire I had to tell stories still came with me,” Ben said to the crowd that night at The Independent as the opening act for the fantastic Damien Jurado (see review here). Ben’s desire to tell stories soon became a regular routine at his day job entertaining children in hospitals in Melbourne; Eight years later, he honed this craft into the beautiful album (Sirens) that has been sending SIRENS across international boundaries (esp. the UK, US and Canada). This album was recorded with a rotating cast of friends and collaborators including Gotye and Tim Shiel, as well as longtime friend Sara Bareilles (‘This is on Me‘).

Previously having played at Holwer in Melbourne (where I last saw Harrison Storm and Daniel Champagne) and the Servants Jazz Quarters in London (where I last saw Samantha Crain, Ben was eager to announce that tonight was his “first time in San Fran, and actually the first ever tour in the states.” Sporting a right red Hawaiian shirt and big grin, Ben (who usually is “not a fan of doing covers”), was all amped up and feeling “beachy enough” to cover what he thinks is “one of the greatest songs ever written,”Hyper Ballad‘ by Bjork. (He should definitely apply to play Iceland Airwaves… it was one of my favorite festivals of all time!)

As if that didn’t raise enough hairs on our arms, he followed with a gorgeous track called  ‘Home‘, and then with the epic encore of ‘Speak.’ Speak is a gorgeous song that just builds and builds with awesome anticipation, and by the end you might find yourself wiping tears off your face. The honest, timid lyrics about ‘wanting to communicate with others but somehow being pushed away’ is definitely a shared struggle most of us face, especially with the recent explosion of social media, and I hope we can all take Ben’s song as a call to humanity for deeper human connection. If the emotive, echoing effects of his vocals in the mic towards the end don’t “SPEAK” to you, then I’m not sure what will. Be sure to grab a copy of the album!

 

Damien Jurado – My name is Damien Jurado, not Damien “Jutebox” [Review] May 19 at The Independent in SF

Written by Erica Andreozzi

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A former pre-school teacher in the days before his budding music career, Damien Jurado (Secretly Canadian record label) was well equipped to handle the crazy “kids” (all grown adults that were probably “secretly Canadian”) that were shouting out requests for their favorite songs. “My name is Damien ‘Jurado’… not Damien ‘Jutebox’…I’ll play what I want to play at my show” (see video footage below) he says in response with a snarky smile and perfect wit. He followed that up with an antidote about how he just “doesn’t do covers,” and how he was asked both in Germany and in the UK (by a respectable musician name Benn Watt, nonetheless) to play some cover songs while on tour. He said that the only cover songs he probably would know are punk-rock songs from bands like Minor Threat that he listened to WAY BACK in the day. When the the crowd cheered in agreement, he laughs and says, “How do you go from listening to Minor Threat to ME?…haha…Maybe you drank more?..” He follows this by saying that he actually has influences from all “over the map” that he hopes to “funnel into one thing” and that he “doesn’t want to be put in a box” or be known for “just one genre.” He mentions that while he “used to the solo thing,” he enjoys evolving musically, aka …“My albums keep getting weirder and weirder.” Personally, I hear similarities to Mark Kozelek, Kurt Vile, and Jose Gonzalez, but was later told by Damien that he respects those artists but actually doesn’t draw from them musically. He mentioned someone obscure (a foreign name that I can’t recall), and I only smiled imaging how big this world is and how many incredibly diverse music style there are out there. 🙂

“You like to talk, don’t you? I feel like I’m having a conversation but I don’t know who with and where you are,” Damien belts out after the chatty crowd continues to shout comments his way. There was one fan in particular, “Mohammad from Egypt,” that Damien actually paused his song for because of Mohammad’s LOUD SIGH that indicated a potential “heart attack.” Damien was baffled by this fan’s adoration (waving his arms up in the air all goofy like a star-struck teenager), and implied being a bit overwhelmed with Mohammad yelling out that he would be “seeing him again in Minnesota” and “CAN’T WAIT.”

Although Damien seemed to be surprised by all of the attention, he surely showed his appreciation. He mentioned being super excited for the San Francisco show, recalling the exact moment (en route on a train from Barcelona to Amsterdam) when he has this very thought (“I love playing SF”). He said that he also loves playing Spain and Greece, possibly because the people there are very expressive, a stark contrast from the “Seattle-ites” that sport stolid facial expressions and movements even when the are excited (we all really enjoyed his demonstration of this on stage!). Haha.

He also joked that if anyone wanted to get married that evening, his bassist could marry them, as he just got done marrying a couple in the back.

If anything, I think we were all married to the fact that Damien is a  awesome, admirable musician who one should only be so lucky enough enough to have an intimate “show and tell” with, especially tracks performed from the ace new album, Visions of Us on Land. We look forward to your return, but we expect as least ONE COVER! 😛
(I tease, I tease…)  <3

(see below for videos from the show)

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Northern Nights Music Festival 2016

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Do you like to camp in the redwoods, float on the Eel River, work on your tan, do yoga, hear comedy and listen to live music for 3 days straight? You should check out Northern Nights Music Festival on July 15th-17th.

NNMF is just 3.5 hours north of San Francisco in Cooks Valley. Just off the 101 it is tucked along the Eel River under towering Redwood trees. The festival grounds feature deep swimming holes, the largest Redwood grove used for camping, and plenty of space to stretch out. Northern Nights Music Festival is a unique and safe experience for both newcomers and seasoned campers.

Not yet convinced? Check out the lineup:

GORGON CITY (LIVE), GRIZ, CLAPTONE IMMORTAL LIVE, AMON TOBIN / TWO FINGERS, THE KNOCKS, SNBRN, TROYBOI, THE COUP, STEPHEN, XYLO, LAFA TAYLOR, BASS PHYSICS, SUGARBEATS, PRINCE FOX, FORT KNOX FIVE FT. QDUP, NOMBE, MACHINEDRUM, DAKTYL, D∆WN, TEKLIFE (DJ SPINN & TASO), MOONZZ, DEEJAY THEORY, OBJECT HEAVY, SUBSUELO, TRAVISWILD, ALL GOOD FUNK ALLIANCE, BURN UNIT, DJ DIALS, DANNY CORN, GOVINDA, SLUMBERJACK, TREVOR KELLY, DOV1, HYPHA, THE SCHMIDT, VIOLIN GIRL, TEMPLETON, 2TIGHT (LOU E. BAGELS + ANNIE DOLLY), HORSES HEAVEN, ONHELL, JSUN, JUST ONE, YUNGG TRIP, G DAVIS, DUB COWBOY, ANDREW PARSONS, JAY EV, BEAUTIFUL MACHINES, RUNDAT, D’VINITY, THAT’S COOLFACE, HAM, ZEROHOUR, BRIAN HARTMAN, ZANDRO, ZERA, MICHAEL SCALAR, MARJO LAK, PRESSURE ANYA, ZANAPOD, WHITLOCK, EL COOL J, CREMES N LOTIONS, ELEKTRISK, M3RC, D’JON, ELI BE LOVED, AFB, ANDY P, MARCO UTAH

MORE

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Owl Paws: “I know there’s a reason wild and true…why I had to hurt you” [Review] March 25 at Bottom of the Hill

Screen Shot 2016-05-22 at 9.57.07 PMI first discovered Owls Paws when they opened for Samantha Crain at Amnesia back in January, and then of course made sure to SEE THEM AGAIN when they headlined Bottom of the Hill a few months later. The are SO GOOD. This talented folk trio has been playing together for nearly 5 years — not long after Derek Schultz (guitar/vocals) decided to extend his solo project to include fellow San Francisco State school buddies Timothy Vickers (upright bass) and Lucas Siobal (drums/percussion), and later Wayne Mills (guitar). Their haunting harmonies, alluring acoustics, and restless rhythms truly epitomize the appeal of the beautiful city in which we reside! Just like San Francisco, their sound is distinctive and captivating, and they draw influences from a variety of elements (including some of my favorite indie/folk bands like Local Natives and the Head and the Heart.

Owl Paws released their first full-length album, Reservoir, last summer, and it’s DEFINITELY worth checking out. In fact, you are bound to be keep checking out that bad boy over and OVER. You can even download it here FOR FREE! (although donations are suggested and well deserved): https://owlpaws.bandcamp.com

Standout tracks for me are: Bring Me Back (my FAVORITE), Coils of Spring, Eyes of the Prey, The Things I Forgot, The Fields, Jagged Grin.

Having gone on several small West Coast tours an SXSW last year, and I really think THIS SUMMER is their TIME TO SHINE. Don’t miss their UPCOMING SHOW at Brick and Mortar tomorrow night. You’ll thank me later!

(see below for videos from their previous SF shows)

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Radical Face: “So, collect your scars and wear ’em well, Your blood’s a good an ink as any” [Review] May 12 at The Chapel

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I first saw Radical Face back in Nov 2014 at Iceland Airwaves music festival, thanks to a girl standing next to me up front who said I MUST stay for his set (and boy was I glad I did). Not having known anything about him, I was quickly taken back by the clever tales that he strung into dark (yet witty) songs — tales backed by sweeping strings (my favorite, the cello!) and piercing percussion. I later learned that Radical Face – the moniker of multifaceted musician Ben Cooper — has “always wanted to write a book,” and so it makes sense that his songs are literally book chapters COME TO LIFE. At the early age of 19, Ben wrote two books that tragically were lost in a hard drive crash; but instead of giving up, he turned to music. “I thought: why not do them as records? There could be a set of people, and we follow their bloodlines,” he says, “and instead of passing down genetic traits, we could pass down melodic patterns that mutate with each generation.”

Taking flight with this idea, Ben began working on a series of records (recorded in the tool-shed behind my family’s house nonetheless) collectively called ‘The Family Tree.’ He explains the 8-year journey here: “It all began from a desire to write my own family saga, only in music form instead of a novel. So I started a series of albums that were all interconnected, beginning with The Roots, onto The Branches and finally The Leaves which I just released. Along the way, there were enough songs that didn’t fit within the length of each album, which I collected into a series called The Bastards. All of the songs are related to the others in some way or another, and this website was designed as a guide to help you discover all the different connections… A great place to start is ‘Family Portrait‘ which is the beginning of the Family Tree, all songs and stories stem from this one.”

This TREE-O of records (Bear Machine Records, Nettwerk Music Group) collectively garnered a strong fan base for Ben both in Europe (especially) and the States, and Ben was able to secure two nights back-to-back at the Chapel, the first of which was SOLD OUT. A down-to-earth Jacksonville native, Ben was shocked to see that all these people came to see him play some “sad bastard music” on a weeknight, and warned them of going “down the bummed rabbit hole.” Although some of his songs are indeed “dark” — ‘Ghost Town‘ (about a guy that ends up on the road cause he murders alot), ‘Black Eyes‘ (about domestic abuse), ‘The Mute‘ (about a kid who can’t hear) — he adds lots of levity in between with his dry humor and hilarious commentary. Standouts for me were Black Eyes, We’re on our way (with some intense hand-clapping that Ben joked was really a way to torture his band mates), Welcome Home (awesome “anthem-ic” sing-a-long by the crowd), and OF COURSE Always Gold (where Ben teased his drummer Nick about messing up the keyboard intro, haha). The encore of The Mute and Wrapped in Piano Strings (an oldie but goodie) were awesome as well, and we all perked up with a smile when Ben muttered “Don’t tempt me” in response to a fan requesting that he “Take his shirt off.” The only thing I left bummed about was not hearing ‘The Crooked Kind,’ as this is my absolute FAVORITE Radical Face song, and I was hoping to sing-a-long to the verse that still slays me every time: “So, collect your scars and wear ’em well, Your blood’s a good an ink as any.” For those of you on the East Coast, you can catch him next in Philly, NYC, and the Newport Folk Fest. A radical Radical Face that you definitely don’t want to miss!

(see below for videos and more detail from the show)

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Serf and James, Unlikely Heroes & The Unauthorized Rolling Stones at Great American Music Hall


VIEW ON SF WEEKLY

The lead singer of The Unauthorized Rolling Stones, Rudy Colombini, is my boss. When he asked, “who should open for my next show at Great American Music Hall.” In my mind, the answer was easy, “the last two winners of Music City SF’s Battle of the Bands, Serf and James & Unlikely Heroes.”

Our city is filled with amazing talent. Some bands fold, others leave, but new talent is constantly popping up and will continue to. It’s hard to afford San Francisco, but bands are going to continue to try. That being said, it’s super helpful when established bands, and leaders like Rudy Colombini step up and throw these new bands a bone. If you haven’t heard of Serf and James or Unlikely Heroes, you’re in for an ear full of treats.

Serf and James:
facebook.com/serfandjames

Unlikely Heroes:
facebook.com/realUnlikelyHeroes

The Unauthorized Rolling Stones:
facebook.com/unauthorizedrollingstones

Day Wave & Hot Flash Heat Wave at The Independent

I got a phone call from SF Weekly, “Sorry this is last minute, can you shoot photos of Day Wave tonight?” I thought to myself, “what an awesome call!”

I discovered Day Wave in March while scouring bay area show calendars for bands going to SxSW. I was hoping to find local bands that might want to play Music City SF’s Bay Area showcase. Day Wave was officially booked on my calendar for 45 minutes … then the band realized they wouldn’t arrive in Austin in time for the showcase. I was bummed that I was unable to book them, but vowed to see them as soon as possible.

Thus this was a photo assignment was PERFECT!

Hot Flash Heat Wave opened for Day Wave. I only have one question … how do they make being in a band look so effortlessly cool? Why do some bands have to be taught how to look like a band?

See full Day Wave photo album on SF Weekly: http://www.sfweekly.com/sanfrancisco/day-wave-the-independent-4-25/Slideshow?oid=4640602

Must Listen: The Y Axes – Patch Me Up

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This new radio friendly rock pop anthem from The Y Axes will have you montaging by the first chorus. Where bubble gum singles celebrate a “shake it off” superficiality, lead singer Alexi Rose Belchere belts out a deeper more angsty dedication to loyalty with a contagious hook. No escapism here, but rather an appreciation for someone who makes you feel whole. Beautifully patterned guitar arrangements from Devin Nelson and sonically pristine production from Hellam Sound in Oakland provide a powerful wall of sound. Drummer Nick Schneider kicks us in to high gear at the opening and is relentless to the very end. There’s a special interplay between Nick, Devon and bassist Jack Sundquist that sounds like the satisfaction of solving a puzzle. When Alexi lays her plush vocals on top, everything fits.

The Y Axes open for The Thermals with Summer Cannibals at The Chapel May 17th. Listen to “Patch Me Up” below and purchase it here.

 

Tumbleweed Wanderers Headline Oakland’s Starline Social Club // Friday April 8th

Oakland’s own Tumbleweed Wanderers play their first hometown headlining show in over three years on Friday, April 8th.

Tumbleweed Wanderers, who released one of the best Bay Area albums of 2015 in June, have managed to sidestep the Oakland spotlight as of late. They’ve opened up for big names like Jackie Greene and Greensky Bluegrass but consistently avoided the headlining slot in the East Bay.

 

Now they’re back for a big jamboree at Starline Social Club’s upstairs ballroom, and joining them are Steep Ravine and Papa Bear.

Jeremy of TW + Steep Ravine
Jeremy of Tumbleweed Wanderers with Steep Ravine. Do I smell the sweet bouquet of collaboration?

 

Steep Ravine’s style of bluegrass takes the traditional idiom and turns it sideways, combining complex jazz chords with beautiful sweeping melodies. They are seriously talented musicians who put on a thoroughly enjoyable show (in the past, they’ve covered “I’ve Just Seen A Face” *cough* Ihopethatsonthesetlist *cough*)

 

Opening up the show is a solo set by Papa Bear, whose dynamics ebb and flow, moving from big loud blues to delicate acoustic melodies. Papa Bear is especially known for bringing guest musicians up to the stage, allowing another talented songwriter to lead the band and sing a song. But whether or not he decides to share the stage, expect a surprising amount of sound from this charismatic performer.

 

For advance tickets (save $2.00!!): http://bit.ly/1V5qqOX.

TUMBLEWEED WANDERERS, STEEP RAVINE + PAPA BEAR

Starline Social Club

645 WEST GRAND AVE,

Oakland CA 94612

APRIL 8, 2016

Doors 8pm, Show 9pm
$15 adv / $17 dos

 

 

Brad Byrd @ Hotel Utah

Brad Byrd

 

Last Tuesday night, Brad Byrd entered the stage at Hotel Utah with a calm self-assurance that carried throughout his entire set. Long, sonorous melodies floated atop driving rhythms powered not only by Byrd’s guitar, but also his feet: alternating between kick drum and tambourine. A chiller version of Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins.

Byrd’s music has that sort of rainy day quality: marked by subtle, soft-spoken melodies, perfect for a long drive or more active listening at home. There are some hints of Neil Young interspersed with a style that seems to be Byrd’s own. This music comes from the chiller side of life, which I am all for, but one thing I felt was missing from the set was some variation. What started out as soft and lulling sort of stayed soft and lulling. Peppering the set with some different rhythms or styles will really show his full range as an artist.

You can check out the video to “Back to Nowhere” here: