Monday, December 30, 2013

The Besty's 2013

To those that deserve a good listen.
Every year is unique, as is the individual path we each choose to navigate. My yearly journey tends to lead me down the rabbit hole that is live music. The concert going experience always resonates with me, I tend to crave live performances. For whatever reason, I caught more live performances this year in the festival setting. Other great shows took me back to a couple of my favorite venues in the Bay Area (I had been missing you Fillmore).

The year of the water snake brought me to familiar places, but make no mistake, these were new paths of exploration. This year the list includes a couple of artists I've certainly blathered about before. I also saw some top notch talent for the first time, which is always nice. The reviewed list below is in chronological order. And the Besty's are...

STS9 at the Fox theatre in Oakland, March 1st

Sector 9 at the Fox pretty much translates into dancing like you're wearing moon boots. You best get there and lock down some prime real estate in front of the sound board on the floor. Sound Tribe kicked off the night with the intent to blister the listener. Songs that the true fan recognizes would be reworked with a hyper pace. This, Us was the flame that set fire to a night that wouldn't be extinguished. The high end beeps and human wooing from, When the Dust Settles was the fuel that would power an audio/visual transportation via Arigato. This Japanese inspired track took us on a digital journey through the high speed trains of modern day Tokyo, complete with the people of everyday day life in the land of the rising sun. The keyboards and monomes were being pushed to their  adaptable interface limits. Sector stayed the course through the next two offerings (Beyond Right Now & T.W.E.L.V.E.) which continued to build in tempo. Warrior came in the way a soldier does, with strength and barking orders. I'm glad I don't have a one-track mind. Hunter was cleanly laying down cadence-like squalls in support of Phipps' cascading keys. Metameme swirled around us with its inhale-exhale-like back beat. Bringing the first set to a close was the playful pulse of Simulator.

Anytime you kick off a second set with a Jamiroquai cover you know shit's gonna get loose. With a ripping live horn section tethered to Sector's altered sound, pure energy was emanating from the stage during, Revolution 1993. There's nothing wrong with being youthfully digital. No one knows this better than Daft Punk. So when the band blitzed us with the End Titles track from Tron, I for one went ballistic. Back to back covers were a fiery surprise. I was sure to tell those who were unaware. Dirty samples brought out the dark side for a rousing Be Nice. When the timing is on, this song bangs. The three piece horn section allowed this STS9 original to be a bit more defiant. Jazzy vibes would continue on Firewall. As the brass left the stage the new school world of Sector 9 was warming up. Golden Gate gave us one last chance to catch our breath before the fuse was ignited. Bringing us nearer to the club banging madness was Rent. Velmer began punching the drum kit like an android pre-programmed to destroy. Feverishly they were pushing each other, pleading the audience to go harder. When they kicked off the vocal sample to Bigs, you knew they were going for that modern day grime. This track was a modern day beast but not mainstream. At the 4:20 mark they recycled the 1, 2, 3 sample, proving that cultures can collide, that hip hop can coexist with live instruments and electronic dance music. What is Love? came up on us faster than the organ could resonate its sound. The pace was once again picking up and to my delight came the cover, Bloody Beetroots Awesome. It got dirty up in Oakland. The brand new flavor was heavy hitting and bled directly into another banger, The Unquestionable Supremacy of Nature. The sirens were hollow and sharp, while the deeper beats hit quickly in their repetition. Then without notice, unless you've seen them perform before, they dive into a sampled rhyme that red lines with an exaggerated gait. Everyone at this point was expecting a crescendo, but each time it was suggested, they blasted back off into the ether. For the encore they balanced an old tune, By the Morning Sun, against Scheme, a newer track. Later in the year STS9 would release this show on DVD with the help of Tour Gigs. It immediately went onto my birthday wish list. Low and behold we spotted ourselves amidst the HD footage. Cheers to one hell of a dance party and to a band that is ingenious at blurring the lines of modern music. STS9 is a unique adventure of sound and light.

Lotus at the Mystic Theatre in Petaluma, March 26th

Petaluma got a good one. The Scene was lively regardless of the intimate crowd. Lotus had their vibe going and those in attendance were stoked on the personal feel to the evening. A fierce opener set the tone for a party that was just getting going. The set list below showcases a mix of selections from four of their albums, including their latest, Build. The first set was hot, Intro to a Cell blossomed into Golden Ghost, both of which conjured mad dance moves. Kodiak, one of the few new tracks to appear had some magic. The second set was mutant bananas and if you weren't dancing already, you most certainly were now. Harp launched us into a second set orbit. Before long we were exposed to a warp-speed Mikesnack that would transport us through a hyper Arupa. There was some left over heat that resulted in a hot Sunrain. Small venues with an intimate crowd can create one of two things, either a calm or an energetic momentum, this was the latter.

Set 1: Hammerstrike, Intro to a Cell > Golden Ghost, Juggernaut, Kodiak, Let Me In, Wax
Set 2: Harps, Mikesnack, Bellwether, Arupa > Sunrain, Uffi, Jump Off,
Encore: Cloud 9, Break Build Burn

Jim James at the Fillmore, May 12th

Poster from the Fillmore

Jim James is an artist and entertainer. He has intimate knowledge of the power he has while on stage. This newer five piece band had tight synergy while performing James' solo record, Regions of Light and Sound of God. The set was a live version of the album, played in sequential order. For what it's worth, the first three songs were quite delicious. I was especially spellbound by State of the Art. There were moments when they captured an almost Pink Floyd sound. Another name that came to mind was Neil and Crazy Horse, but with far more appeal. For the encore Jim came out alone with an acoustic guitar and coaxed the crowd with a beautiful and soft rendition of Wonderful. The Right Place and Losin' Yo Head were also highlights of the encore. It was nice to see Jim play some Monsters of Folk songs.

Set 1: State of the Art, Know 'Til Now, Dear One, A New Life, Exploding, Of the Mother Again, Actress, All Is Forgiven, God's Love to Deliver
E: Wonderful, Dear God, His Master's Voice, The Right Place, Losin' Yo Head, Changing World

High Sierra Music Festival, Quincy, CA, July 4th-7th

My favorite performances of the festival were; Robert Plant and the Sensational Shape Shifters (07.04), Houndmouth (07.05), John Scofield's Uber Jam (07.06), Thievery Corporation (07.06), and Lee Fields with the Expressions at night in the vaudeville tent (07.06) .
For a complete review click here.

Shovels & Rope, the Arrow Stage at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, October 6th

(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World, and I probably won't get this one again. It was a total treat to hear this Wreckless Eric song from the mid 70's live. One of the single best songs I heard all year. Why this awesome duo from South Carolina had to take the stage at 11:00 am of the final day is beyond me. What is known, is that these two stole the show at Golden Gate Park. Birmingham, which they performed for the masses, was selected as song of the year at the Americana Awards. To watch a video of their performance click here. Country music rarely sounds so soulful while remaining gritty. Carry Ann Hearst and Michael Trent are on to something that I need more of. They rolled into the Golden City and left with our hearts. This show was the truth.

Jeff Tweedy at the Fillmore, December 12th

"Oh distance has a way, of making love, understandable." If Jeff's lyrical songs don't equate to you maybe Jesus and Cheez-its will. Apparently an occult was initiated during the Wednesday show, but those in attendance on Thursday were indoctrinated. Tweedy was given diamonds and Cheez-its the day before, on this night, he shared them and so much more with us.

He was relentless with his songs. There was no passivity. Kicking things off with a harmonica on Via Chicago, the night teetered near monumental throughout. He was simply giving it to the San Francisco crowd, an audience he applauded for being the best to perform for. Later we were asked if we (SF) hated LA, because he was sure that no one would hook him up with munchies in LA. During this comical exchange he reminded us that we were going to be treated to two shows with more people, versus the four nights he'd be playing in a broom closet down in LA. His knack for confrontation is well known, and with that in mind, he confronted the specialness of San Francisco by telling us, "if you're cool here, than you should know that you're cool." Then he went on to scold the honkers for, "talking during his quiet, strumming songs."

It was a dream set in my opinion. I Might showed up early on and let's just say it was boundless in its simplicity, compared to the boom that Wilco tackles it with. His high pitched and crackling sighs were music to my ears. A couple of tracks later he abandoned Please Tell My Brother due to a woman yelling, I love this song. I didn't mind the detour, as it lead into the sadly beautiful, One By One. My Two Fathers helped to spur some candid remarks, being that he was in San Francisco and all. Radio Cure and Art of Almost came next. Both songs were devoid of that familiar Wilco sound, especially Art of Almost. Instead they morphed into soft, naked canvases, allowing for a new image to be rendered. A handful of titles would pass before he took us down to the old mainstream. Radio King came in to steal my attention completely. It made my night to hear this song, thanks for taking me there. Three more gems would be revealed before the end of this set. Spiders (Kidsmoke) is a raucous take typically, but once again the song would be stripped down into something new. Misunderstood took action, as the crowd began to stomp while sharing the responsibility of singing this alt-adult anthem.

The encore served as a second set. Added to the mix was Scott McCaughey, who accompanied Jeff on Oklahoma USA and God (John Lennon). The Lennon hit captivated us all. So much so, that during his singing, the crowd booed when he echoed, "I don't believe in Garcia, I don't believe in the Beatles." Next he drove us through I Got You, Gun and a peppier version of Late Greats. He knew that wasn't enough, so he eulogized his attentive worshipers with California Stars. This may have been the only song he played twice on two nights, but damn if I wasn't glad to hear it being crooned. The audience did its part by serenading the Guthrie lyrics back to the front man. In a move that would warm any folkies heart, Jeff walked back out, guitar in hand, to the edge of the stage. He asked us once if we could hear him and then it went pin-drop silent as he laid down a raw Dreamer In My Dreams without the buzz of a PA system. He joked about how he may never do this solo thing again. If that's the case, I'm sure as hell glad I was there. This was a performance that was worth every penny and then some. Show of the year in my book. Click here for the complete set list.

Hopefully we all take advantage of the New Year, until next time. Thanks, eightychoices.

Mr. Salty's favorites were STS9, Shovels & Rope and Jeff Tweedy.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

So Good So Far

Art by: David Ellis
The second installment of So Far So Good is finally here. It's been rather pleasant to absorb and review new music in a bi-annual manner. So, with the craziness of the next three weeks looming, I'm attempting to spotlight some more of this year's music. Back in August I made an initial stab at my favorite records up to that point. Without any extra fuss, here's the final installment of So Far So Good, 2013. As was the case before, these fire spitting records are in no particular order. Enjoy.

Houndmouth - From The Hills Below The City was a gem of a release from Rough Trade Records. Which is saying something, considering that the Rough Trade vault has plenty of jewels. This four-piece band was an easy highlight for me at High Sierra. Their sound creates its own treasure within the richness of the alt-country scene. Two voices share this record, yet each tale is true and singular. Side A treats us to, Penitentiary and Hey Rose. The B side harbors, Krampus, Houston Train, and Palmyra.

M.I.A. - Matangi was released before it was released. Thank god she brought that world-crunk, anthem-like craze to her latest release. This is definitely my favorite M.I.A. record. The track below, Only 1 U, has an under appreciated message braided into its modern digital fabric. Bad Girls is a new world ode to the next generation of youthful women. Come Walk With Me deviates initially, sounding too poppy, but at the 90 second mark shit goes off. It's like scribbling with your mac. aTENtion is the next track, and if you like digital effects thrown in on vocals and decibel levels, you'll want to pay attention. Boom Skit is both fun and poignant, it's a brief lyrical juxtaposition that only M.I.A. seems able to see, let alone nail down. The closer of this party is Sexodous (featuring The Weekend). It's a gift to be both rough and smooth, sexy and militant, damn girl.

Arcade Fire - Reflektor was not only one of the most hyped album's of the year, it was also the most revelatory. This record cemented their brand, while simultaneously showcasing their chameleon-like ways. Arcade Fire is here to stay, they could possibly change the game, should they continue on as the curators that they have shown us to be.
     Reflektor is the jam, it's prophetic, yet not over the head of anyone. It conjures images unbelievably well. It transports me into a state of self reflection, imagine that. Maybe we're caught inside, or outside of a mirror ball, continuously gazing into its multitude of falsified angels. This song feels like a warning, beware of that which is artificial, especially when they're singing, "just a reflector, we'll see you on the other side." Realize that what we are looking at, is what we see, there should be no false pretenses or assumptions. Move the obstacle that hinders, or reposition yourself in order to see what was hiding.
      With, Here Comes the Night Time, Arcade Fire helps us to shed the dogmatic coat that covers up that which is apparent and real. To truly see with our own eyes can be scary. Then there's Joan of Arc, which hinges on the sounds of classic rock. It's Never Over (Oh Orpheus) and Porno are two other heavy hitters. The album is modern, this album is theirs, it's right now and perhaps, something more. They've blended a new, fever inducing cocktail. Their songs illicit such visuals, hopefully they're helping me to digest their genius.

I also really liked the truthful tracks dropped by Earl Sweatshirt off of his LP Doris. With a unique and sometimes unorthodox delivery, his words tend to stick to you, like the way a city does. Often times he touches on topics that don't make it on the top 40 charts, they're too honest. Hardships are a theme that has many forms, The Sweatshirt has obviously observed his share. He has guest spots from RZA, Frank Ocean and Tyler, the Creator. Earl is not your typical MC. I've been chilling to Hive (featuring Vince Staples & Casey Veggies). One of my favorites is Chum, hear it below.

Matthew E. White snuck in a wonderful follow-up EP titled, Outer Face. This young man is proud as hell to be from Richmond, Virginia. Mister White has been quite busy since he debuted Big Inner last year. This isn't an LP, but it is more than adequate with five deep grooves to digest. Human Style is rich in playful banter. The question though is, "When are you coming home." Listen below to Hot Hot Hot, it's reminiscent of Dr. John and Randy Newman.

My complete list of the artists who put out stellar albums this year were; Phosphorescent, Vampire Weekend, Jim James, Thao and the Get Down Stay Down, with honorable mentions that included, Daft Punk and Foxygen. Minus Matthew E. White's EP you have a top ten, so there you have it. The end of the year is coming, as are the Besty's. Have fun with the rest of 2013. Happy holidays!


Monday, December 2, 2013

Solo, a Jeff Tweedy Tour

Jeff Tweedy is en route to the Pacific coast, alone on stage, adrift in the art that feeds us all. His solo tours are to be experienced with an acceptance of his singularity, as an artist and as a person. These will be his shows. I for one like his honest candor and criticism that are laced into and out of the songs. In preparation for this solo tour, I journeyed back in time via the Wilco Road-Case. A couple of years back, Jeff played an almost unfair show to the people of Boulder. (Listen to the entire show here). In a nod to the seasons, here are some lyrics from Laminated Cat (aka Not For the Season), which was first a Loose Fur tune.

candy left over from halloween / a unified theory of everything / love left over from lovers leaving
books they all know / they're not worth reading

it's not for the season

when autumns comes / you sit in your chair / and you stare / at the tv square / hiding in the deep end / weeding out your weekends

winter comes / and the day all start late / there's motion on the boughs / where the dark shapes prowl / feeling all the feeling / feeling out the feeling

Below are two selections of Jeff performing solo tracks elsewhere. They give you an idea of who you're dealing with. The first, Open Mind, is a beautiful track more recently penned on, The Whole Love. The eery guitar, pedaling its elongated concern, coupled with Jeff's words, seemingly steal from us all the scenes of life. "If you would let me be the one to open up your mind."

I love hearing, "I'll take you, anywhere. Let's go out together. Broad daylight in the street. I'll take you over anything." The track below is actually titled, Radio King. This originally appeared on, Down By the Old Mainstream (1996), the first LP Golden Smog put out. He co-wrote this with Gary Louris. One could argue that this was once the best song he had written. The Golden Smog record was released between the critical indifference of A.M. (1995) and Being There (1996).

Thanks for checking in,

Sunday, November 24, 2013

David Rawlings' a Machine

The Dave Rawlings Machine fall tour only has four shows left. This Machine; Dave, Gillian, John Paul Jones, yes that John Paul Jones, Willie Watson (formerly of Old Crow) and Paul Kowert of the Punch Brothers on upright bass, has delivered some serious sound to treasure. The current ensemble has ventured into the songbooks of Dylan, Neil Young, Woody Guthrie, Bright Eyes and the Band. Those in attendance at the Bijou Theatre in Knoxville were treated to the sounds of Led Zeppelin. "Going To California," has probably garnered the most praise/audience uproar from the tour thus far. What's not to like about David Rawlings going all Robert Plant, while John Paul seduces the notes on mandolin? And having Gillian as your back-up singer never hurts. The tour stops in Carrboro, NC tonight (it's sold out). Surely the Cat's Cradle will be primed. On Monday they hit Charlotte, before moving onto Athens on Tuesday and Birmingham on Wednesday. Here's a glimpse of what went down in Tennessee. Maybe this splendid cast of characters will embark on a one week west coast journey.


Wednesday, November 13, 2013

30 Days of Dead

Grateful Dead | 2013
November signals many things, one of the more obscure happenings during this month, is the release of thirty Dead songs over thirty days. A month worth of vintage, unreleased tracks from from their vault, on the web for free. Sweet.

The Grateful Dead will supply your daily sample (at There are plenty of new found treasures to be listened to. If you're one who likes to get ahead of the curve, each track, as released by archivist, David Lemieux, will be offered up initially as a quiz. If you're able to guess the correct date, along with the venue, you will be eligible to win the grand prize - all of 2013's music releases, merchandise & more.

Some of my favorites thus far are, Shakedown Street, Sugaree & West LA Fade Away.
Today's rarity, Loose Lucy, is awesome. Jerry sounds good, "I got jumped come'n home last night."


Monday, November 11, 2013

Vault into the Holidays

Welcome to the holiday season. Sometime in the near future, if you haven't started already, we will begin to assemble the lists of goodies that loved ones long for. With that in mind I offer you the Vault, as curated by Jack White, via his Third Man Records. The Vault is a record club subscription that allows its members the opportunity to receive live and rare vinyl, along with limited edition collectibles. This could be quite the surprise for that special someone who's an audiophile, assuming they dig the plethora of records Third Man is compiling. Special guests, collaborations, rare tracks & live performances are what's waiting, should you chose to indulge.

The Vault is currently offering package #18. A deluxe cornucopia of Jack White's other bands, The Raconteurs & The Dead Weather. In it are two 12" LP's re-visiting the Raconteurs 2011 performance at the Ryman. One is on rawhide & tobacco colored vinyl while the other is pressed onto gold & oil. The next gem is a studio recording of the Dead Weather, on yellow jacket vinyl. This 7" houses two new tracks. Last up in this treat pack is a DVD of the previously mentioned Raconteurs show at the Ryman.

Each Vault subscription is quarterly, with no added pressure to renew. There are two options, the platinum subscription ($60) and the gold ($20). I recommend the platinum, it gives you far more bang for the buck. If your curiosity gets the best of you, you may also want to check out the new Paramount Records set, volume 1 (1917-1932). It's quite possibly the most aesthetically pleasing compilation of vinyl ever.

Subsequently, Third Man is teaming with the Nashville Rescue Mission in an effort to help those less fortunate during the holidays. No good deed goes unnoticed. Enjoy the festive times of fall and winter.


Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Whiskers & Whiskey

Happy Halloween Hopmonk Sebastopol
Happy Halloween to all of you who partake in the hallowed eve of debauchery. Ghosts and ghouls in the west county of Sonoma have the option to get rowdy at the local water'n hole this Halloween. Hopmonk is hosting a spirited adult evening dubbed, Whiskers & Whiskey. Sounds good. Mustache's will be in full effect, I've been cultivating the caterpillar on my upper lip for a few weeks now.

In the abbey Phutureprimitive and El Radio Fantastique will be performing, along with others. There will also be a garden stage with live music and DJ's. Cheers to the local scene.

Here's to a fantastic Halloween, no matter how old you are. To all those driving, be on the look out for the trick or treaters and the late night staggerers. Have fun and be safe. Enjoy!


Monday, October 28, 2013

Just Do It

The NBA is less than 24 hours away, I'm stoked for tomorrow. Until then, Nike & LeBron.

This Commercial is golden. What a great idea. Only in the NBA!


Saturday, October 19, 2013


A gallery on Fillmore is a fine way to wonder your day away. Upper Playground's, Fifty24 is a progressive hub of modern, and more often than not, urbane art that is reflective of this Street's changing ways, as well as, the City's continual transformations. Whoever they are, they were quick to highlight the latest David Choe collection, Snowman Monkey BBQ. His "dirty style" is an uncompromising contemporary culmination of the gritty & frenzied existence of what is around us today, I like it. Graffiti artist or not, he has become a showcased figure within this world. He's also the creator of the vinyl figure line Munko, a blind box favorite of the watertrough project. Peep the playground, hit up their gallery and enjoy some urban-centric art.

Peace, eightychoices.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Trick N(BA) Treat

In two weeks, the soap opera for men, aka the Association, aka the NBA, will open the season with a triple-header for us to feast upon. The first of three games pits the Conference Finals tested Pacers against the youthful Magic. I'm interested to see how Oladipo and Vucevic mesh, they're the future for Orlando. Indiana will assuredly be there when in counts during the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Next up we'll be treated to a potential opening night classic. The two-time defending champion Heat will clash with the always formidable & tough minded Bulls. This game is sure to make the talking heads chirp. It will/should be great to see D. Rose back in action. He might be the only anti-serum to LeBron's comic book like stranglehold on the hardware. The final game of the night is the battle for Los Angeles, Go Clip Show. With a bevy of new faces in new places, this season should be scary exciting. There are the contenders (SA, Memphis, LAC, OKC, Indiana, Chicago and perhaps, dare I say, Golden State), those that loaded up (Brooklyn), or reloaded (Detroit), others that made minor tweaks (Memphis, OKC), certain teams dealing with injuries (Boston, OKC, LAL, Denver), some teams hopefully healthy (Minnesota & Chicago), those that are playing for next year's draft (Philadelphia & Phoenix), and then there's the champions, this season's filled with delicious intrigue. Here's a little sample of what's in store.

NBA opening night, October 29th, enjoy.


Saturday, October 12, 2013

Shovels & Rope 1 week later

Hardly Strictly has come & gone, I'm thankful that we attended only one day. With that being said, our team of willing soldiers rallied for a sunday marathon at the Arrow Stage. Shovels & Rope stole the show. Here's a taste of what they gave us... to sample more of the weekend click here.


Sunday, September 29, 2013

Ruling the Roost: Animation Show of Shows

Marcel, King of Tervuren
The 15th annual Animation Show of Shows was held this past Saturday at the Hess Collection Art Museum in Napa. Ron Diamond has curated this Animation show since 1998. Films shown at this boutique festival have gone on to win seven Oscar's in the category of animated shorts and have garnered 23 nominations. It was super rad to say the least, set amongst Motherwell, Rauschenberg & Anselm Kiefer never hurts either.

As always, I pulled the trigger on America's Finest #2 (1994), by Lynn Hershman Leeson, prior to entering the third floor of the Hess Collection. A curious viewer willing to touch the disabled MK-47 is allowed to decide...

"Pulling the trigger turns the viewer into both an aggressor and subsequent victim of his/her own actions."                                         - Lynn Hershman Leeson

With that detour behind us, we quickly & quietly took our seats within the darkened viewing room. I was entirely inspired by the animated short, Marcel, King of Tervuren, directed by Tom Schroeder with Ann Berckmoes. Rarely does a Greek tragedy grab you so hard, so fast. The lead, Marcel, immediately had me spell bound. The art work prevailed like a cold wave soothing your aches. There was a need to appreciate what had been done. An old tale with such vibrance, an impressionable gift of freshness. Films like this should thrive with healthy exposure. I fully celebrate what is sure to be considered one of, if not, the best animated short of 2013.

Other films that may spark your imagination are; Requiem for Romance, Subconscious Password & Drunker than a Skunk. It was nice to be taught a brief lesson on the terminology swirling around these modern drawings. Terms such as motion capture, hand animated on computer & boiled, were ideas that made sense, that moved motion elsewhere. I had a great day, thanks to the event organizers for holding such an amazing event & thanks to my best friend for coming along.
Bravo Marcel!


Monday, September 23, 2013

America's Cup in San Francisco

America's Cup sailing in San Francisco

Oracle Team USA won two races in one day for the first time to extend the America's Cup. San Francisco has been a spectacular host city, even with the occasional postponement due to high winds. Emirates Team New Zealand is still clinging to match point. Team USA has made numerous strides, both on the water and with the shore team performing modifications, allowing them to capture the last four victories. The series now stands at 8-5, a far cry form the once 7-1 margin. It appears that Team Oracle has made some key adjustments in personnel as well, they brought on Olympic gold medalist Ben Aisle as a tactician.

Surely Team New Zealand will counter-punch as they try to maintain their championship. San Francisco will need to up the home town presence if Team USA is to continue this comeback. The nautical battle for the Cup continues today, Mother Earth permitting.


Friday, September 20, 2013

Hardly Strictly turns 13!

With just a couple of weekends standing between now and the best free fest in the west, it's time to take a look-see at this year's line up for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival. Golden Gate Park will once again play host to a plethora of great artists from October 4th through the 6th. 

Golden Gate Park, October 4, 5 & 6
This annual event has become both a right of passage for some and a reason to flee the city for others. Personally, I have attended religiously since living in northern California, with the exception of last year. It truly is one of the best festivals in the nation, a veritable Newport West. Hardly has announced their initial list of 41 artists, most of which are anything but bluegrass. 

Of the names and bands that have been released, I'm more than stoked for those that catch my attention. Here is a brief list of the acts that are sparking my interest; Steve Martin, Trampled by Turtles, Devil Makes 3, Father John Misty, Nicki Bluhm & the Gramblers, the Wood Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Shovels & Rope, Jerry Douglas, Martha Wainwright & Patty Griffin. Two of which are below.

I highly suggest braving the masses at least once in order to enjoy this epic San Francisco event. If you're lucky most of your favorite artists will play on the same day. Be there or be square.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Long Live the KING

Dr. King 50 years ago today.
This is a 50th anniversary everyone can be proud of. Here's to the man who sought out that which was right. I'm so proud to be an American on a day the recognizes and pays homage to a true leader with a just moral compass. Thanks for helping to blaze the trail toward equality. We still have work to do. Rest in peace Dr. King. This country will never forget your Dream. 


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Chula Vista did US right...

Chula Vista California, Little League World Series
South Williamsport, PA plays host to one of the best examples of TEAM sports, at any level.
This year the tournament showcased an already proven international champion from Tokyo and a US champion from Chula Vista. Japan was playing in its fourth straight title game. Two perennial little league baseball powers, California and Japan, played a competitive game.

Chula Vista did well and had an early 2-0 lead. Japan would later tie the game at 2 runs apiece. Finding themselves trailing again (4-3), Tokyo homered to knot the game at 4. The final was 6-4 in Favor of the Champions from Tokyo, who scored two runs off of a double to take the lead for good. Big ups to both squads, congratulations Tokyo. Obviously the youngsters from California deserve to be celebrated as well. They played some exciting baseball in reaching the title game. They're all champs in my book.

Early on in the tournament Chula Vista had great performances on the mound and heroics at the plate to advance through a feisty US bracket. Grant Holman threw a no hitter and blasted a walk off grand slam and would go on to hit another game winning bomb. That second winning shot came in an extra-innings nail biter against Westport, Connecticut, whom they would face again in the USA championship. Chad Night is a gamer (CT). But it was the young athlete playing second base and leading it off for Chula Vista, Micah Pietila-Wiggs, that had the quiet swagger. Kid had it on lock down. He's a tremendous lead-off hitter who possess speed, even for his age, while also playing impressive defense. His game is just correct, he knows what to do, like breaking up double plays and taking away extra base hits. I'm interested to know what his batting average and on base percentage were throughout the little league world series. He seemed to have multi hit games every time out.

Lamade Stadium, Center Field

Congratulations to all of the young teams that were able to compete at Howard J. Lamade Stadium. It's always great to watch the youth promote sportsmanship. Well done.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

So Far So Good

Art by: David Ellis
It's August and like so many others I'm trying to navigate through the busiest summer ever. I know, it's my own damn fault. Regardless of why we over-inundate ourselves with hectic schedules, we hopefully find some time to tune out, or rather, tune in. So with the end of summer approaching, Labor Day is September 2nd, here's a quick list of the five or so albums that have grabbed my ear and held it. I will revisit this topic at the end of the year. Thanks to those artists that help us wade through the seasons. This list of fire spitters is in no particular order.
* Phosphorescent - Muchacho was released on the Dead Oceans label this year and has been one of those records that I cannot wear out. It continues to sooth again and again. Matthew Houck is the man behind the moniker. This southerner based in Brooklyn summons the stories he has endured.

* Vampire Weekend - Modern Vampires of the City dropped this year and within a few listens had won me over. This album has many great tracks, however I recommend just letting the record play. 

* Jim James - Regions of Light and Sound of God was Mr. James' debut solo album. Having seen the corresponding tour I can confirm its legitimacy. Jim is one of the most active men in rock and roll today. After completing the initial leg of his solo tour he went into Americana mode touring with Wilco and Bob Dylan. Making a pit stop at Newport reinforced his unofficial title of ambassador to the folk festival. He'll be back on the road soon in support of Regions.

* Thao and the Get Down Stay Down - We the Common was an album that entered into my consciousness immediately. Thao and the Get Down were that something new I had been waiting for. With a kaleidoscope of sounds whirling into one coherent theme, her simplistic allure is deeper than the initial bliss she's created. Having seen her perform at the Buddy Holly tribute in San Francisco was a total treat. Not only did she cover the late great, she also lit up the audience with three original tracks, Kindness Be Confused, Holly Roller and We the Common.

Three other albums are vying for the fifth spot. They are, Random Access Memories by Daft Punk; the Foxygen release We are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic; and Mosquito from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Have fun with the rest of summer.


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Mobile Fidelity

West Sonoma county happens to house a pretty cool independent sound lab. Mobile Fidelity is a pioneer in recreating records. This boutique label independently invests in the research and development of audio technology. The Mo Fi goal is to offer faithfully reproduced high fidelity recordings that compliment the numerous advantages in modern audio systems.

Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab is an innovator in the reissuing of records. They mine their vinyl from original analog master tapes. Look for their releases in your local record store. To revisit a video once posted click here. Thanks.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Shredding High Sierra

The Parade that is High Sierra!
The 23rd annual High Sierra Music Festival took place over the July 4th weekend in scenic Quincy, California. It surpassed my expectations. Having a gang of your best friends in attendance never hurts either. With a slew of great artists who tap into the many genres of today's diverse musical landscape, I was thrilled to be returning to this annual right of passage. Readying ourselves for anything, my younger cousin and I set out for Plumas County. High Sierra is the secret gem within the crowded summer circuit. Here's a rundown of what I took in...

Thursday, July 4th

Reaching the camp site at 5:00pm I had missed a few opportunities, yet still managed to check out three great performances. White Denim hit the Grandstand stage around 7:15. My initial take is that they need to open up the lead guitarist. He may not sing but his tone is great. When they get fuzzy and psychedelic they're stellar, meandering toward a sound that resembles the Black Angels. I enjoyed their set and they rocked it pretty hard.

Robert Plant & the Sensational Space Shifters unleashed some nasty good renditions of the Led Zeppelin tracks we were all fawning for. It was especially awesome to hear his voice sing the words. "Goin' to California with an achin' in my heart." The Shifters were impeccably tight and came across as true professionals. I personally liked the almost world beat-esque Namibian jams performed with a special guest. Mr. Plant still knows how to work an audience. He bantered throughout the night as if his wish came true, to perform for Yankees on the 4th of July. Often times he referenced Independence Day. An off the cuff comment regarding past Comanches of America sparked the crowd. Friends said that it was one of the best HSMF shows they'd experienced. Another pondered if it was a top 5. Whatever the F it was, I'm sure as hell glad I was there. The amazingly vibrant and enormous tapestry behind the band was mind blowing. Special shout out to the light tech and to whomever created that beast. The Grandstand had been set ablaze.

The North Mississippi Allstars threw down some dirty rock n roll. The Type that can only be spawned deep in the South. Music like theirs is real. Those white boys get down and dirty. Cheers to them for dropping bombs on the Vaudeville tent post Plant. 

Late night brought me into the High Sierra Music Hall for a killer set from Leftover Salmon. Much of the night was fire. With a start time of 1:45am anything is possible. That anything mutated into an early highlight. Near the end of their mega set they let loose a, Tangled Up In Blue, that would ultimately turn into a fierce cover from Exile on Main... As the morning continued to creep they let go of an unseasonal, however totally appreciated, Jack London. "Every time it snows I feel like Jack London, all I want to do is take a hike."

Friday, July 5th

A revolving door of musicians doesn't hinder the Pimps of Joytime from starting a party. Sure it was hot, sure it was too early for some, but it was still a chill upbeat vibe. They persevered despite the tough time slot on the Grandstand stage. On a side note, have I mentioned my love for the Big Meadow Stage? I love it's intimacy and central location. During day time hours the stage set up allows for additional shade, which is in short supply. Plus you're incredibly close to a cocktail station (more on that later) and a Lagunitas beer tent. Clutch.

Next up on my schedule was Houndmouth, who were more than stoked to see a large crowd getting down to their sound. It was a really warm set full of candidness. The front-woman can flat out sell it. She has the ability to tremble during, I Shall Be Released, agonizingly spewing"any day now, any day now... I shall be released." Songs like that deserve apprehension and uncertainty. The entire band makes sense of the poetry within a performance. Back to the front-woman. On a dime she's able to transform that same voice and cause it to ring. She has pipes.

While nearing the end of the set it became apparent, due to some honest on-stage dialogue, that they had more time than they knew what to do with. As the milling about and unneeded tuning persisted the other front-person asked the riled up crowd if we liked John Prine. Is that a trick question? His songs tend to be amazing. Their sound is what I want to hear spilling out of more garages in my neighborhood.

White Denim kept the non-Grandstand trend rolling. I wanted more from the Denim, getting just enough at times. This set had a cleaner feel, it was tidy. They repeated a few tracks but ultimately prevailed with their keen skills. If nothing else, White Denim is a band of musicians. But they're probably more. 

The guys from Lord Huron were on point and incredibly timely. Sounding clear and portraying themselves as a band that had obviously been touring, their youth is professional. Four of the first five songs were totally engaging. Track selections were predominantly from the Lonesome Dreams album. They brought a harnessed wrecking ball with them and smashed through the performance, while still maintaining a studio like quality. Songs from this LA outfit meld lyrics and melody, allowing the art to become accepted. I'm stoked to have caught them at High Sierra.

Saturday, July 6th

This was the day that just kept ascending, literally. Holy hot guano batman.

Tom Tom Club meets a young Bjork and the year is 2013. That's what came to mind after digging on Rubblebucket. The collection of young talent on stage was fresh like the hyphy neon ribbons that hung form the mic stands. Fun is the easiest way to describe their eclectic buzz. By no means is that all they are. Some say choices make all the difference. If that's the case, Rubblebucket made the right ones. Their style, all blended up and working hard, makes you notice how to enjoy the choices worth making. This journey lasted a little more than an hour and half. It was my first time catching them live. It probably won't be the last.

Hanging around at the Grandstand paid off, it was time for an uber jam with John Scofield's new project band. The Uberjam Band was laying down grooves. They're way too cool. The quartet knew exactly what to do with their gobs of intellect. The festival setting may have been the perfect outlet for what they needed to do. Often times the element of surprise becomes the vehicle for an entire experience. The trio that accompanies Scofield is ridiculous (Avi Bortnick on guitar/samples, bassist Andy Hess & Luis Cato on the drums). I preferred it when they were allowed to explore on their own. The three of them had more of an ability to go static and produce tones that are more modern, more in the moment. Don't get me wrong, there were obviously good grooves carving out space in the late day sun, no matter who was showcasing their skills. My hankering for the trio's mojo led me to feel their emotional exploration on a personal level. The newness of their layers were subject to different interpretations compared to the jazzy resonance familiar to Scofield. It was an afternoon shred party. Among friends is the best way to get after it. I was feeling tipsy after the hyper brilliance. These guys are top shelf musicians. Big ups to the band. Mad love to my friends who shared in the experience. 

Houndmouth had me rope-a-doped for a second round over in the Tent. They played the same set and yet I didn't mind. Once again they felt honest and raw. Their appreciation of the festival crowd was also well received. At one point a voice on stage blurted, "I try not to sing this one when my mom's around." Which segued into Halfway to Hardinsburg, off of the debut album, Houndmouth.

Bouncing to the Big Meadow stage I was eager to travel with the imagination of the Barr Brothers.  I wanted to see the skillful merger between their guitar and drums, with that of extraordinary harp player, Sarah Page. It was quite the presentation. I hadn't really felt anything like what they were emitting. It had an ethereal presence with the strength of rock and roll tethered to it. They're able to mine something from their songs that other bands are unaware of. Their set was impeccably tight, yet organic, allowing them to integrate the likes of Mike Dillon, the horn section from Rubblebucket and a howling harmonica into their very personal sound. Later on, a slide guitar was opened up, ripping through the blue lights of the night. Simply put, the Barr Brothers delivered. There was no note taking from here on out, I was simply awash in the energy and magic of live music.

With new life injected into me, a Barr Brothers serum, it was time for the dance party. Of course that translates into Thievery Corporation obliterating people their unique sound. A blend that has catapulted them into the mainstream consciousness. Whether they were pumping out their own jams or rocking covers of David Byrne and Chuck Brown, the Corp was demolishing shit. I'd like to thank them, for being themselves. This DC based outfit is a world blaster. They created an atmosphere that was intoxicating. Their unabashed galactic buzz resulted in a frenzied dance off. This was the best set I'd ever seen from them. Hot damn.

From the worldly haze of Thievery to the pure soul of Lee Fields, I was a garnish in the cocktail of High Sierra's Saturday night. Thank god for The Expressions and their preacher who was giving the good word to the vaudevillian congregation. Mr. Field's powerful voice and charisma enable him to channel the nostalgia of James Brown. When firing on all cylinders this clergyman produces a service's worth of soulful rhythm and blues. It was a hot show filled with a mixture of dancing and the sometimes frozen stares of those who fell victim to his faithful sermon. Saturday night was a match made in High Sierra heaven. 

Sunday, July 7th

The final countdown included an odyssey for the treasure that is a morning bloody Mary. A good friend and I went out into the early light in need of the alcoholic salad of champions. Our attempt to partake in the bloody Mary ball was thwarted by the out-of-control line that continued to grow. Bo and I were informed that, they might still be mixing at the Big Meadow cocktail stand. We trekked over and found ourselves with the last two bloody's anyone could muster. I guess it's better to be lucky than good. 

Mike Dillon & Carly Meyers

True luck made us stand pat as we were treated to the abrasive talents of Mike Dillon. His new configuration of musicians has the ability to punch an audience from the opening bell. They certainly are an electronic vibraphone go-go punk funk band, embracing the snare and snarl of rock. Anyone in attendance was doused in punk inspired energy. Special shout out to Carly on trombone. She was a whirling dervish of excitement and skill. I'm pretty sure those on stage were having just as much fun as those of us kicking up dust. Dillon and his cohorts  have more than enough in their tank to fuel a good time. Most of the songs played were from the album Urn. Dillon would later pop up all over as a special guest for many of the other artists.

Lee Fields and the Expressions had done enough the night before to Bogart me for their Grandstand set. No matter how many times you hear him or which tale he is telling, he remains faithful to his soulful story. History is in him.

Guitar-maggedon is an annual play shop with an array of guitarists from multiple bands. This year's theme was arena rock. The ax wielding music makers covered scores of songs that are familiar to classic rock fans. When the faux Mick Jagger showed up we were thrust into the restless ease of the Rolling Stones. The men on stage powered through standards from Neil, Frampton and Zeppelin.

Anders Osborne has been one of my favorite under-the-radar slayers since the late 90's. Early on his set had built momentum. He tackled two tracks from Living Room, an early record in his catalog. One of which was Greasy Money, personally I relished that selection. Moving into the special guest portion of the show he welcomed out Lukas Nelson for a take on Neil Young. Later he would bring out Mike Dillon as they marched through the song Jealous Love. Adding a saxophonist, the members of his band and Dillon would bring out some spirit with, Franklin's Tower. Needing to re-up on beverages and other amenities we left his set with the sound of rock and roll carrying in the baked air. So much to do, so little time to do it.

To the Grandstand for our reggae fix. Steel Pulse has been a pillar of the roots-rock-reggae scene for over 35 years. I'm not well enough versed to determine whether or not they're the best live reggae band, but I for one was swaying to their up-beat messages. Highlights of the set included the banger, Steppin' Out and Put Your Hoodies On (for Treyvon Martin). With an overarching message of love and justice, they do reggae right. 

Moe closed down the Grandstand with their jam inspired prog-rock. Saint Augustine flew out to get things started. They followed with Y.O.Y. and Skrunk before bringing out Carly Meyers and Mike Dillon to spice up Time Ed. Next the dueling percussionists set fire to the vibes. Pushing on they dropped, Wind It Up and Waiting for the Punchline. Then came Lukas Nelson to the stage for a take on Opium. They shut the proverbial door with Happy Hour Hero and Buster

It takes a lot to persevere through 4+ days of High Sierra. My friends and beloved lobsters took it to the max. Cheers to High Sierra and to all of the musicians who turned it up a notch. Of course props go out to everyone who attended. We need the music and the music needs us. Enjoy.


Monday, July 8, 2013

High Sierra Music Fest

Having just returned from High Sierra, my review of the festival has yet to be written. Until then I'll leave you with the image that hung above the late night hall. I lifted it from my Instagram feed @eightychoices. It embodies the event in a lunar nutshell.

Check back in for the low-down and other tidbits from the little town of Quincy.

A Dance Party it was. And I'm out.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Witness it Again!

No games in July, lots of trades and draft scuttle though, damn the Atlantic Division. Speaking of games do you remember LeBron's fantastic Game 7? He's on the latest covers of Sports Illustrated and Slam. Relive everyone of his made field goals (12) in one very cool GIF. Keep in mind that some of the shots portray him as shooting left handed. This result is due to the 'mirroring' of made baskets from the other side of the court. He's Heating up! Thanks D Rock, this is so choice.

45 minutes, 37 points (12-23 & 8/8 at the line), 12 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals, 1 champion. 
Congratulations on repeating Bron Bron. It's a pleasure watching you play the game the right way.
The Miami Heat go for the three peat next year (not to mention four finals in a row). Only in the NBA!


Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Prince of Whales

Minke Whale Composite
Bryant Austin's amazing imagination is trumped only by his ambition to create the most intricate of portraits through communicating with our ancient oceanic geniuses. Whales are the largest mammals on this planet. They reside in our deepest depths, yet still surface to breathe the same air we do. It's mind-boggling to think that we puny homosapiens take in the same fresh O2 as the gentle giants of the sea. And sadly, we are the polluters of air, water, and dirt - the most basic combinations vital for all life to continue on. Why are we still considered the stewards of such a unique planet when we are the only multi-celled organism acting like bacteria? Hell, we can't even treat our own species with respect, kindness and love. So if the harsh reality we've concocted is to continue, without real wholesale change, how are we to deal with the pains and maltreatment that the rest of the natural world face? Are we our own worst enemy? It feels better to think about those who are still in it for the rest of the animal kingdom, because it seems to me that humans are the most inhumane and devilishly selfish creatures on Earth.

Bryant Austin in with the Geniuses. 
A saving grace within this conundrum may just be the man mentioned above. Bryant Austin is the fearless photographer who reaches out to the whales as fellow sentient beings. What he is able to do and how he is able to communicate is both intimate and haunting. He has mentioned how these encounters are based on mutual trust. These majestic and profound creatures are perhaps indicative of true grace and intelligence far beyond the reaches that we pretend to know.

Oceanographer Sylvia A. Earle says in her foreword to Austin's photo book, Beautiful Whale, "As an ambassador from the ocean - and to the ocean - Bryant Austin is not only a source of inspiration. He is cause for hope." That feeling of hope can be further aided via the Marine Mammal Conservation Through the Arts. This marine conservation non-profit's mission is to leverage the arts through media as a means of influencing positive changes - from public perception to policy. Bryant Austin is the founder and photographer who helped reveal the increased dangers and unshakable vision of a world that continues to hunt whales. Due to the response of those inspired by such efforts, MMCTA relaunched as Studio Cosmos.

An immense thanks goes out to all those who attempt and succeed at conserving the natural wonders that our planet is so blessed to encompass. I feel utterly inspired when I see Mr. Austin's work - both in a creative way and one that encourages me to become engaged in the oceans and its many lifeforms. Below is an NPR interview with Bryant. I trust that his images and words will do more to inform us while showcasing the raw awesomeness of a fellow resident of Earth. Enjoy this interview. I hope his work pushes people to become creative conservationists. All of us benefit in a world filled with immense nature and wondrous creatures. Be aware of more than just yourself.

We are NOT Alone.



P.S. I encourage you all to hit the hyper link on Bryant Austin. It's ultra-informative in terms of the process and his inspiration. What an amazing feat to be so close to the most intelligent beings.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Red Tail Ring

Perhaps more so than ever great folk music is being made, it just doesn't get the listening audience it deserves. American music is amazing, you just have to investigate beyond the top 40 lists and MTV garbage. Thanks to the musicians who crave the art of the song and the quality care it takes to craft true songs, we are lead to such newly minted music steeped in tradition. Red Tail Ring is folk with 'old time roots & new time sounds'. It's likely that this duo's knack for songwriting has them well on their way to telling stories to the masses that matter. Dare I say they are tapping into the magic of Gillian and David. I sure hope their twang and harmony are given a chance to saturate your porch. It's hard not to like something like this. They sound like summer and feel like history in its current state. Two voices, a guitar and a fiddle sure creates a sound that is both fierce and delicate. Thanks to all of the working musicians who remain unplugged. Body Like a Bell can be found on their latest Earthwork Music release, The Heart's Swift Foot.

These Michiganders will be plucking their stuff throughout the Great Lakes. If you're fortunate to live along their route I suggest you lend them your ears. Here are tour dates for Red Tail Ring.