Cellista Interview Susannah Greenwood

This interview is part fiction. Susannah Greenwood has been a longtime Bay Area arts enabler, supporting the local arts and music scene. Originally written for a SJ-based publication it was left unpublished when the editors realized that it had some fictional elements. But, come on, a good story calls for some embellishment! It’s up to you to decide what you’d like to be real.


 

Author Susannah Greenwood and I have been scrambling to find places and times to conduct an interview since late-April. Between my busy touring and rehearsal schedule and Susannah’s job as lead wrangler doing content management for the SJ Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, playwriting, acting and hat making we’ve managed to conclude a three-part interview spanning over 400 miles.Susannah Greenwood

After three meetings, one in San Francisco and one in LA , only once have we managed to sit down in downtown San Jose to talk about her latest book, 100 Things to do in San Jose. A love letter of sorts that is part travel itinerary and what Greenwood terms, “a prompt to make other people write about the other 100 million things to do. The 140-page book lists everything from food and drink suggestions to arts and entertainment. It’s a travel book with a dry wit in its voice and a distinctive San Jose attitude.

Talking about San Jose in Los Angeles.

 It is a hot June day. Greenwood and I sit side-by-side on a park bench overlooking the bubbling La Brea tar pits while picking at Banh Mi sandwiches talking San Jose’s future. We laugh at the absurdity and bit of irony in our conversation and our current surroundings.

“Of course we have an interview about 100 things to do in San Jose everywhere but San Jose!” she exclaims, her red locks bouncing in the LA sunlight.

When asked what compelled her to write 100 Things To Do in San Jose, Greenwood answers in a dry witted humor the standard questions she has been asked countless times, “I wanted to create that prompt to get people talking about what was left out. They’re suggestions! Just a starting point!”

Talking about San Jose in San Francisco.

We begin our second interview in San Francisco sitting at the famous watering hole, “Café Vesuvio,” in North Beach. Its beatnik sensibility and mellow vibe of fogged over hipness. Greenwood orders an IPA and begins to speak in earnest about San Jose.

“We’re so busy doing,” she begins, “We just don’t care about promoting what we’re doing. Everyone has this weird obsession with creating things to do in San Jose, and by everyone I mean non-San Jose residents,” she takes a pause to sip her beer. “It’s a DIY culture.”

“It’s pretty fucking punk rock,” I add. “What do you think San Jose’s mission statement would be if had one?”

She laughs and states matter of factly, “Suck it! San Jose is going to do what it wants every time. This city dances to the beat of its own drum.”

While we sit overlooking Kerouac Alley and the large mural blanketing City Lights Bookstore, we both take a moment to reflect on the arts scene in San Jose. I tell Susannah the primary reason I was drawn to San Jose was the visual arts scene and the eclectic community that makes it up. We laugh as we list all the eccentric movers and shakers of the arts scene all of whom seem to operate in tangent despite some territorial disputes. The best thing about San Jose is the people who make the arts scene happen in this town.

We know the way to San Jose! Talking about San Jose in San Jose

 Sitting at Good Karma Susannah Greenwood orders its famous Chana Masala and an IPA. It’s one of those San Jose afternoons. It seems as though every local character has dropped by during our final interview. For a moment, author and reporter Gary Singh sits down with us and joins our interview. At one point our table is crowded with SJ residents all chiming in on all the things that weren’t mentioned in Greenwood’s book.

“See? I told you,” she leans towards me, “you can’t fit all of San Jose into one book, it clearly objects to that!”

Greenwood fields interrogations about why certain places were left out before declaring, “Let’s go! Let’s do all the things I didn’t list!”

We spend the rest of the day roaming San Jose. Greenwood has forced our table of SJ characters to ride the VTA light rail up and down 2nd street wearing her handmade hats. We visit the places that went unmentioned in her book including the Quilt and Textile Museum and JJ’s Blues where we listen to a metal show and drink a few too many cocktails. We convince Greenwood not to break into Sam Liccardo’s office where, “The best views of the city are to be had!” Instead Gary Singh drives us to the Lick Observatory.

It’s at the top of the Observatory overlooking the whole of San Jose where Susannah Greenwood utters a beautiful soliquoy, “San Jose is this creative place. We are the cool teenager right now. We’re iconic without an icon. Right now we don’t care what other people think because we are rebels and we do what we want. San Jose is this diverse, visionary place of innovation.”

“It’s absolutely inspiring,” I add.

Greenwood turns her gaze from the stars to me and says, “Do you know the way to San Jose?”

We look at the city looking back at us. The stars have never seemed nearer.

 

By Cellista

 

Glen Hansard: May the Devil’s Eye Pass You By

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photo: Jared Swanson

Music can often conjure emotions from the depths of the soul. It can make one feel powerful or it can strip a being to the core. It feels like the summer days on backcountry roads that I remember from my youth. It’s the familiar smell of mom’s cooking. It’s the warmth of a sunrise or the splash of cold water. When I see an amazing show, I feel all of these at once, yet it feels like home; it feels right.

Seeing Glen Hansard at the Masonic in San Francisco last week was familiar. From the moment the music started, it felt like I had been there for years. It felt like I was supposed to have been there all my life.   Glen and his band stepped out to their places but it didn’t begin with a bang or crash. It began with a man side-stepping the microphone to sing a lonely melody.

That loneliness was broken by the slow swell of strings- like a gentle finger on the rim of the most exquisite crystal glass. There was a pause and then horns—no light, no mic, just music above a whisper. We had become part of the show, part of the pulse, and there was no place else to be.

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Photo: Jared Swanson

Hansard certainly used his time to introduce a handful of tunes from the new album “Didn’t He Ramble,” but it was nuanced and peppered with older songs any fan would know. “Winning Streak” made an early debut in the set and I hung on the words “May the Devil’s eye pass you by.” Its roots-country feel was like a cup of hot tea on a winter day—warming me to the core.

“When Your Mind’s Made Up” brought the show to a fever pitch and punctuated the night with a raucous yell. That yell led into a pause and breaths and a quiet intimacy like when Hansard sat at the piano, and told the story behind “McCormick’s Wall.” It began sweet and slow with a violin in accompaniment and then turned into an Irish Jig.

There were so many great moments that would take too much time to share. But I can say that my favorite was after the last song. We all knew there was an encore coming but I was shocked when Hansard showed up in the balcony with his acoustic guitar to sing “Say It to Me Now” and “Gold.”

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Photo: Jared Swanson

There is an idea of what a rock star does and Hansard proved to do the opposite of that so many times in this show. When he was supposed to start the show with a bang, he started with a whisper; when he was supposed to do a rocking encore with his band, he did a song with just his acoustic. Sometimes bucking the trend and being you is what makes someone great. Glen Hansard shows himself at every moment on stage and through every song on “Didn’t He Ramble.” When asked what my favorite show ever was, I will say: “remember when Glen Hansard came to the Masonic?”

THIS WEEK: The Tropics at Rickshaw Stop!

The Tropics
The Tropics

 

Coming off of an exciting and successful 2014, the band recently played a sold out show at The Independent in San Francisco as part of Noise Pop 2015, and just returned from recording their second EP in Portland, Oregon at Jackpot Studios which will be released later this year. Rickshaw Stop on May 28th kicks off an exciting string of Bay Area summer performances for The Tropics which include both Phono Del Sol and Outside Lands. The band is excited to showcase songs from their new EP at the Rickshaw Stop on May 28th where they will be taking the stage with NRVS LVRS and Kokomo Hum (featuring members of Mwahaha, Battlehooch, Maus Haus, and White Cloud).

Lyrics Born Does That Damn Thing

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Lyrics Born. Doing it with style.

At The Independent, San Francisco

May 15, 2015

Words by: Chris Ryan Mannix

Photos by: Kristina Baky

I have often come down on San Francisco for being too stiff and slow to get dancing, but this was never going to be an issue for Lyrics Born.

With mammoth presence and an unmatched effortless style, the Berkeley-based rapper/producer found a vein and intravenously entered the soul of San Francisco on Friday night. He instantly ignited the stage, introducing new track “$Ir Racha” at spicy level: fire. For the rest of the show, the Independent was under command of Tom Shimura, AKA Lyrics Born.

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The Independent may have been the best venue to host this concert, as it fosters the perfect blend of capacity, intimacy, and on-point acoustics. Not to mention, Patrick and Kristen are the most fun, silly bartenders in San Francisco. I have never seen someone walk away from the bar at the Independent without a smile. And with Lyrics Born setting the tone, that place was all the smiles.

Leading into the night, I fully anticipated getting low and burning some carbs. But that said, I was still blown away by how much fun Lyrics Born is to watch live. It’s a struggle, because he makes you dance so hard but the performance is so rich you don’t want to look away.

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Shimura unleashed his fourth studio album, Real People, on May 5th. And with a mix of his older hits, like “Do That There,” and brand new bangers like “Chest Wide Open,” he had the whole party moving from start to finish. Channeling the funk soul vibe that resonates with San Francisco’s roots, Shimura and his crew create a sound that gives a nod to legends like Sly Stone and Curtis Mayfield.

With Real People, Lyrics Born has solidified a spot next to Jurassic 5 and Outkast at the spearhead of an ongoing movement that has been playing with a mixture of Hip-Hop, Funk, and Motown.

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If Lyrics Born is coming to you, get two tickets, grab a date and prepare to dance your face off. Lyrics Born is set to perform at this year’s Electric Forest Festival (Rothbury, MI) along with acts like Wale, BASSNECTAR, and Skrillex.

Favorite tracks seen live: $Ir Racha, Chest Wide Open, Do That There

Kendra McKinley’s New Single- Fine as a Vine

Fine as a Vine art

Kendra McKinley is known to many for her mellow bossa nova inspired songs. Her debut album, Chestnut Street, features solo acoustic guitar and voice, sometimes trading guitar for vocal loops. It is an album for sitting at the window sill on a rainy day with a steaming cup of Earl Grey.

With her newest single, Fine as a Vine, the rain has dissipated and the sun has come out. You can trade that cup of Earl Grey for substances with a little more color. That lone acoustic guitar is joined by its fuzzy electric brother (performed by McKinley’s real life fuzzy brother, AJ McKinley) along with swirling organs, and a pounding rhythm section. The delicate vocal harmonies are now a powerhouse of tight and dizzying layers of voices.

The song kicks off with nothing to hide, a crash cymbal and a thumping melody from the bass. If the listener isn’t moving their hips from the get go, they never will. Also, they are dead. The groove is infectious and the energy is kinetic, this is psychedelic rock that demands a movin’ booty.

While no space has been left for the song to grow in energy, interjections and flourishes from ethereal voices and guitars keep the tune from growing stale. Yet the most successful moments of the song come through deprivation; the band drops for the bridge, a single low melody from the acoustic guitar is all that is left to accompany McKinley’s voice. As the single line of the bridge repeats, band members join back in, slowly building up the anticipation for the moment when the band thunderously returns in full force for a final gratifying verse.

Recorded at Coast Recorders in San Francisco, Fine as a Vine, will be featured on Kendra’s sophomore record which will be released later in 2015. The track was engineered by Andy Freeman along with assistant engineer Nigel Brown. The track was co-produced by Andy Freeman, Kendra McKinley, and AJ McKinley and was mastered by Piper Payne.

The band features a bay area all star lineup:
Kendra McKinley: vocals, acoustic guitar, song, arrangement
Peter Granquist (Guy Fox): drums, vocals
Jesse Toews (Sun Hop Fat): bass
A.J McKinley (Battlehooch): electric guitar, piano, melotron, trumpet
Alison Kane (Van Wave): vocals
Sharon Litzky: vocals

You can catch Kendra McKinley live at The Chapel on May 19th
http://www.thechapelsf.com/event/834671-free-bar-show-kendra-mckinley-san-francisco/

Stream or download Fine as a Vine at:
https://kendramckinleymusic.bandcamp.com/

NOISE POP HAPPY HOURS AT BENDER’S

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My favorite part of Noise Pop are the Happy Hour Events. They’re free, open to everybody, and a great place to discover new bands. Not to be biased … but I am … and I must erge you not to miss Thursday’s happy hour, hosted by my project Balanced Breakfast and featuring some of my amazing friends band’s: The Damn Fanatics, Friends w/o Benefits & Bear Lincoln. The Happy Hours are hosted by such groups as San Franpsycho, Do415, Different Fur and The Bay Bridged,  and you will see me at all of them. So before you head out to an official Noise Pop show, come join us at Bender’s.

Check out the full schedule HERE»

do415 TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 24, 2015
SAN FRANPSYCHO & DO415 HAPPY HOUR
THE LOVE DIMENSION, JET TRASH,
EAGLE WOLF SNAKE

5:00PM–8:00PM / Free / 21+
differentfur WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 25, 2015
DIFFERENT FUR STUDIOS HAPPY HOUR, HOSTED BY REC-LEAGUE
SPECIAL GUEST (TBA), B. HAMILTON, TIARAS
5:00PM–8:00PM / Free / 21+
balancedbreakfast THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 26, 2015
BALANCED BREAKFAST HAPPY HOUR
BEAR LINCOLN, FRIENDS W/O BENEFITS,
THE DAMN FANATICS

5:00PM–8:00PM / Free / 21+
thebaybridged FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2015
THE BAY BRIDGED HAPPY HOUR
COUCHES, STALLS, NEVER YOUNG
5:00PM–8:00PM / Free / 21+
benders SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 2015
BENDER’S HAPPY HOUR
WILD EYES SF, THE TRAVELLING ILL’S
5:00PM–8:00PM / Free / 21+

 

When There’s A Will, There’s A Way José

Way José sounds equally familiar and strange. An eclectic mix of the past, it melds motifs from 60s folk, R&B, funk, and shamanistic world music. Each song is different. One’s subdued, yet still intense and introspective, another more funky and grooving.

Way JoséWay José is the solo recording project of the producer/multi-instrumentalist Daniel DeMento (also of Feather-Bright), who describes the project as a collective affair. “This was an exercise in mass collaboration.” Around 40 musicians, poets and photographers have contributed so far to make Way José. They hail from the US to Australia, with plenty of Bay Area locals, including DeMento. He recorded and mixed their debut EP, Stay In The Light, himself, having studied sound engineering in Los Angeles and going on to work with many bands from coast to coast, including stints in Miami. DeMento has lived in SF for 3 years, but recently fell in love with Petaluma, where he finds the vibe and lower rent more suitable for a life of making music.

The process of writing songs involved extensive experimentation and jamming with the musicians that were available that day. DeMento recorded almost everything, and Way José is in part what was included and what was cut- the things that resonated with him, and what did not.

Way José has excellent music videos. DeMento, while open to playing live, recognized how difficult it would be to get so many performers together from all over the world, including the East Coast, and a finalist on Australia’s X Factor. There are varied instrumentation and many different vocalists, so Way José is primarily a recording project. He knew he had to focus on making the videos and music top notch, and it really shows. Recruiting Japhy Riddle and other talented videographers paid off.

“The Wind Came Up”

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yy-YMdoxnJY&w=560&h=315]

“The Wind Came Up” has some sounds from Gregorian chant, Simon and Garfunkel, and shamanistic ritual music. The vocals reverberate and shakers and percussion surround you. The video does a great job of accompanying this song.

“The Humbling Hum” 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hfB-axkCgZA&w=560&h=315]

“The Humbling Hum” starts with fingerpicked strings on an affected ukelele, and eventually greets us with a grooving, laid-back beat. Electric guitar comes in. “The Humbling Hum” is slated to appear on a Bravo Channel docudrama.

Check out the whole EP, but do not miss the videos.

Way José

http://wayjose.com

“A Record Review” – Couches Slackin’ Since The 80s

I believe in live performance. I love seeing bands in person, up front and center stage to be able to get a sense of what people can do, and frankly I’m looking for bands that can WOW me into wanting to listen to their  recordings…

this is always how I’ve traditionally enjoyed music. When I was asked if I could write a review of an album, I initially didn’t want to do it. I’m a good person to talk to when it comes to the merits of captivating a crowd. (the crowd response will tell you what is a hit or miss)Listening to a record…totally different ballpark. But hey Couches are a great local band that I know plays well live, on a great local label (20 Sided Records), with great local lads, so why not hop in the proverbial ring and play ball…or something like that.

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I know that many people are going to go through this 9 track record (there’s an intro/outro so really its 7 songs) and will tell you about “production quality” and different “panning techniques” to really engage the listener.

Others will like to go in and dissect lyrics… like the ones found in track 4, ‘Infatuation’: “its not a dream, its only make believe, you gotta let it go, you gotta lose control” and will go on some ramble about what those lyrics mean, how they fit the tonal quality of the song and provoke thoughts of what control could one possess while in a dream? Is the dream a lucid one? Do these questions matter?

I’m not that person. I’m not going to go in and decipher lyrics or recording techniques. What I’m going to do is tell you what it was like sitting down with the lights off, backlight on and nothing but me, a smoke, and some Couches. (Hey if I’m listening to “Slackin’ Since The 80s” I want to go to full slacken’ mode to get into it…)

The first 3 songs flow really well into each other. If you aren’t paying attention it might seem like Train of Thought, Thinkin’ About Money, and Infatuation are one big song with 3 different movements. It’s a good start to the record and definitely established the overall feeling “Slackin'” gives off. What is that feeling? It’s the same feeling you get when sitting around a campfire, having knocked a few back after a long day of hiking and someone is jamming on the guitar. Face grinning with a wide smile bobbing your head side to side gently, almost as if you’re nodding along in agreement “Yeah….I feel it”

And this feeling remains throughout the rest of the record. My favorite track came in the number 5 position and is called “It Ain’t Easy”. Some great guitar picking brings your attention around to notice this song is different then what I’ve heard before it. It’s a great groovin’ song. Which pairs really well with track 6 ‘Don’t Slay The Dreamers”. This song is vintage Couches. Something that I love about this band is their sound. (Yeah yeah yeah, I know every band should have their own sound, and many do. I happen to like the sound Couches puts out) It’s very liquid metal, smooth, but with some weight to it.

Track 7 “Radio Life” is probably my second favorite track off the album. Its right up there, and again keeps the mellow groove in motion. The drums decide to step out and shine on this one. Great beat throughout the verses and are nice and appropriate during the chorus’. Shout out to the bass on this one too, as the more you listen to this song, you see just how tightly knit the drums and bass are wound. Its great! The final song is called “Mental Stimulation” and is the perfect ending to round out this record.

If you listen to this record as a whole piece, (AND YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO THIS RECORD AS A FULL PIECE) it starts you off with a vibe that consistently remains throughout the record while changes just enough to like you go on a gentle listening ride. They got the name of this one right as “Slackin’ Since the 80s” seems to perfectly describe the feeling of this record. do yourself a treat the next time you have half an hour or a nice drive/bus ride and put this on, sit back and let Couches take you on a comfy ride.

PS…BIG thank you to David for everything.

 

Ivan & Alyosha, The Record Company, and Branches at The Independent, 08.14.13

A last minute addition to the bill, San Francisco’s Branches started off the show with a living room-style set on the Independent’s big stage. They were impressive performing as a three-piece, but also made me wish to hear them full-band one of these days. I may not have much to say, but rest assured it’s because some things need to be experienced more than they need to be described.

Back in April, I photographed Tumbleweed Wanderers’ and Guy Fox’s show at the Independent, and a band from LA called The Record Company opened that show. They played again tonight, but it didn’t feel like a repeat performance of the previous show. Frontman Chris Vos and co played a soulful, rockin’ set and engaged the rather shy audience in some crowd participation.

Headliners of the evening were Seattle’s Ivan & Alyosha. A while back I downloaded a free acoustic EP of theirs from Noise Trade, largely because I knew what their band name references (two of the Brothers Karamazov from the novel by Fyodor Dostoevsky). I liked what I heard but it wasn’t a very thorough introduction. I was pleasantly surprised that Ivan & Alyosha were not the stereotypical indie band – dudes who just kind of stand there and play their instruments. No! They ran around and interacted with each other on stage. After the show I spoke briefly with frontman Tim Wilson, and mentioned this to him. He said that way back when they first began playing music, they made a conscious decision to just let go and be themselves on stage – and it certainly works. Wednesday’s show will probably be one of my top 10 of 2013.