Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Besty's 2014

Tis the season for the Besty's. Time has flown by, am I the only one who feels this way? In the proverbial blink of an eye, we are approaching New Year's Day. Before we ring in the new year, I'd like to revisit some of my favorite live performances of 2014. Seeing live music is more like a therapeutic ritual. Concerts are an invaluable presentation of art which unfolds in real time, while being shared with an audience. So without further ado, here are the Besty's.

Marco at The Independent

*Marco Benevento | Independent | 03.29.14

Captivation is a seamless tool for the creations of sound Marco produces. Yearly he makes a pit stop in the Bay area for one reason or another. My favorite's are when it's his show, or his band. This was one of those nights. Masterfully he fuses his ideas into the lush and uninhibited music he is known for, and that I am unwilling to escape from. Does a genre really apply to a talent such as this? 

Witnessing his incredible control, while simultaneously veering into experimental landscapes, shows his understanding and appreciation of the process. Is there a more genuine smile than Marco's in all of music? He never lets you down. On this night there were plenty of eclectic rhythms and idiosyncratic pulses that oozed in all directions. There were a lot of great tracks played and this was perhaps the only show I didn't attempt to write a set list for. With that being said, I can tell you they played RISD, Green Point, It Came From You, Limbs of a Pine, At the Show, Real Morning Party, and If I Get to See You at All. There were plenty of others that have slipped my mind. Catching his show however, is a no-brainer.

Thao at The Castro
*Thao & The Get Down Stay Down | Castro Theatre | 04.29.14 

The SF international film festival hosted Thao and her crew of noise makers for an incredibly unique performance. Live music and silent films—a match made in heaven. What better contemporary music heroine is there than Thao?

'Holy Roller' was partnered with a Harry Smith animated short, getting things started. The next film, "Torture de Luxe," was a laughable exercise film from the 1920's that was the visual spring board for the song 'Body.' The timing of the film allowed for an epilogue in the form of, 'When We Swam.'

In between the vintage silent pieces were Thao's very own Talkies, a sort of Portlandia series of sketches based on her observations and inside jokes, that we would all be privy to now. There were vintage news reels that were extremely captivating when embellished by the sound of live instruments, in an almost Prairie Home Companion type of way. 

My personal favorite of the night was when The Get Down started to play the riffs to, 'Baby Got Back,' while a fitness film from 1928 showed us modern folk what it took to be in shape. It was so F'n cool. The night came to a close with Charlie Chaplin in, "The Pawn Shop." The Stay Down performed four stellar tracks during this 1916 silent film. This was a truly a special event. I felt so good just to have been a participant in the evening. It was a happening. Inspiration was thrust upon us, wanting us to be aware, showing us how to take action. 

setlist: Holy Roller (Early Abstractions 2, 1946-48), Body (Torture de Luxe 1926), When We Swam, The Day Long (Life and Death of 9413, 1928), City, The Feeling Kind (Metrotone News, 1930), Kindness Be Conceived (Early Abstractions 3, 1947-48) & (Metrotone News. 1932), Baby Got Back (Perfect back Contest, 1928), Every Body, Beat, Cool Yourself, We The Common (Pawn Shop, 1916)

Sturgill Simpson | Big Meadow | High Sierra
High Sierra Music Festival | Quincy | 07.03.14

High Sierra served up the perfect schedule on day 1 of this annual shred-a-thon. For a complete review click here. I saw a total of six bands. There were three that really stood out... 

*Sturgill Simpson on the Big Meadow Stage (5:45-7:00)

Lord Huron at the Grandstand (7:00-8:30) 

STS9 also at the Grandstand (9:15-11:30)

*J. Roddy Walston & The Business | Lagunitas | 07.14.14

Right away they blasted the subdued Sonoma County crowd with fiery riffs. They were on a mission to Rock the F out, and they totally succeeded. The Business are best described as sounding like a cross between Jerry Lee Lewis and the guitar shredding rock of the 80's, except smarter and with lyrics that are on point. Did I mention they rock? 

Most of the calamitous action of the night was off of their Essential Tremors record from 2013. There were also some choice cuts from the 2010 Self Titled album. 

setlist: (?), Black Light, Don't Break the Needle, (?), I Don't Want to Hear It, Don't Get Old, Take It As It Comes, Caroline, (?), (?), (?), E: (?), Marigold, (Irish jig ?), Brave Man's Death, (?), I Used to Did, E2: (?), Full Grown Man, (cover)

Steve Gunn | Lagunitas | 08.04.14

This performance exposed me to Gunn's humble persona, as well as his high quality musicianship. He cares about his craft and the songs are his own personal treasures. He cares. Many of the tracks he played were from his album Time Off. His most recent record, Way Out Weather, had not yet been released, but he did showcase some of those unknown tunes during his set. This amazing guitarist and songwriter is a true diamond in the rough. Take some time to explore his work.

Lucius in the crowd at Lagunitas
*Lucius | Lagunitas | 08.11.14

Although there were 5 member in the band, it was all about the two ladies fronting the outfit. Lucius came in and conquered. This was the secret show that Lagunitas decided to leave as a surprise. I hadn't heard them live prior to this and what I had seen/heard online seemed pretty good. But the way they performed was immediately captivating. I was genuinely entertained. Because their music was brand new to me, I only took notes as the show unfolded. A few of my ramblings are as follows...

Cool First track. They went poppy and upbeat. A rock n roll song that made me think of picnics and love. Cool percussive intensity with vocal power (Nothing Ordinary). A stripped down slide guitar number with grimy pop vocals. A late night-style throw down (Genevieve). A modern take on 50's rock (Turn it Around). Encore number one was Strangers! They played nine songs and encored with three more to treasure. They straight finished the audience. Here's a fan-shot video of Lucius covering the Kinks.

setlist: ?, Tempest, Don't Just Sit There, Nothing Ordinary, How Loud Your Heart Gets, Go Home, Wildewoman, Genevieve, Turn It Around E: Strangers, E2, E3

The Uptown Theatre in Napa
Built to Spill | The Uptown Theatre | 08.15.14

A little more than a week later this same downtown would be rattled by a 6.0 magnitude earthquake. This was one of the last performances to grace the Theatre before they closed for repairs due to the damage from the quake. Doug and his gang of Idaho reverb-rockers gave the wine-country attendees a ripping show. They wasted no time in finding their rocking, fuzzed-out groove. Prior to the show I had mentioned that I wanted them to play 'Kicked it in the Sun.' Three songs in I was treated to this amazing track off of Perfect From Now On. Going into the aisle I had to dance. Built to Spill showcased material from throughout their entire career. The encore even had a Metallica cover which was followed by an incredible Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else). They were straight rock'n the joint, apparently causing me to jump around like a mad man. The show was rad and the three of us that escaped to the balcony were treated kindly.

setlist:  (?), Reasons, Kicked It In the Sun, The Plan, Hindsight, (?), (?), I Would Hurt a Fly, (?), Things Fall Apart, Time Trap, Fly Around My Pretty Lil Miss, (?) E: Metallica cover (Orion), Untrustable/Part 2 (About Someone Else)

Me & Chris Isaak in Golden Gate Park
Hardly Strictly Bluegrass Festival | Golden Gate Park | 10.04.14

The best free fest in America did it again. Everyone should experience this event at least once. Due to the masses we typically attend the one day that appeals to us the most. That day this year was Saturday. We caught three acts on three different stages, but it was *Chris Isaak who stole the show. Built to Spill and Dave Rawlings Machine played great sets as well. For a comprehensive review click here.

*STS9 | Fox Theater | 11.22.14

The anticipation for Sound Tribe's return to their adopted home (Santa Cruz) was enough to stimulate the hype. The Fox has been their spot in the Bay area for a few years now. They played the night before in Los Angeles, debuting, 'West LA Fade Away.' The Fox, the fans, and the band were locked and loaded.

Sector was firing on all cylinders after a season of touring with Alana. Now their sites were set on blistering the Oakland crowd with dances beats and crazy-cool covers or teases. Things got going with 'New Dawn, NewDay,' a regular since reformation. I didn't mind as they segued into 'Golden Gate'—a sound choice in the Bay area. Next down the pipeline came 'Ramone & Emiglio,' which was old school-esque and nasty. They used subtlety to create anticipation—soft piano keys, solid guitar work by Hunter, and the rhythm section was keep'n shit on lock. Velmer's a machine. At the 5:28 mark R&E went all frenetic until it unfurled into bass-gnarl. Then Phipps, Rocklin and Velmer just owned it. At one point the keys began to sound reminiscent of Bernie Worrell as the song dissolved into an art of story telling. There wasn't time to catch your breath as 'Monkey Music' came barreling down. Near the 6:00 minute mark it got real dirty with electronic effects and thick bass lines. There were some unneeded vocal samples during 'Walk To The Light,' (not my favorite addition). The ride continued as they tore up 'Frequencies Peace 2 > 3.' The first set closed fashionably funk-tastic with 'World Go Round.' 

'Dance' fired up the second set as they teased 'Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)', those listening early on could hear it. Seamlessly they weaved in and out of their own standard, as well as Sly's. A couple of tracks later a sampled voice became too prevalent. I didn't care much for their use of the sample, it took away from an otherwise solid 'Only Light Remains.' Less than half-way through 'Kamuy' the percussionists treated us to a drum driven interlude. It felt like they were tapping into their past. The combination of 'Orbital,' merging into 'Hubble,' was a tactical appetizer for what would happen next. The swirling sounds of 'Abcees' pulsated into a classic cover of 'No Quarter.' At the 8:50 mark they began the rock homage, melding their sound into and around that of Led Zeppelin. They were surgically precise at augmenting their own sound, for that of the rock gods. Anytime you get the Led out you know it's been a party. They would return for an extended 'Circus.'—encoring in an attempt to satiate the Sector withdrawals. 

STS9 | Fox Theater | Oakland
setlist: (1st set) New Dawn New Day, Golden Gate, Ramone & Emiglio > Monkey Music, Poseidon, Walk to the Light, Frequencies Peace 2 > 3, World Go Round

(2nd set) Dance>Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)>Dance, Vapors, Only Light Remains, Kamuy, Orbital > Hubble, Abcees > No Quarter > Abcees > No Quarter > Abcees (encore) Circus

Steve Kimock w/ Bobby Vega, Jeff Chimenti, Dan Lebowitz, Bill Vitt & J.M. Kimock | SweetWater Music Hall | 12.06.14

This show marked my inaugural visit to the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. What an invite. There was an absurd amount of talent on display here. It's also worth mentioning up front that the sound was awesome in this former Masonic Hall. And there bar is top notch too. 

Kimock might be an alien. He's on that rare list of being able to do whatever he wants on a guitar. Vega is also always on point, pressing the envelope while remaining super tight. Together they bring out the best in each other. Throw in Chimenti, a demon on the keys, and those three alone could hold it down for hours on end. Lebo was the icing on the cake. Very few guitarist can co-exist with Kimock and this creative union made sense. Dan would also carry the burden of lead vocals throughout the night, which he handled incredibly well. When an intimate show starts with, 'It Takes A lot to Laugh It Takes a Train to Cry,' all bets are off and anything could be played. Which is pretty much what happened. Jeff and Bobby were locked in from the get go. Steve's vibe felt so pure, as if they had already been playing for hours. Near the end of the first set they treated us to 'Scarlet Begonias.'

The second set opened with the best 'Deal' I've heard in quite some time. Hopefully this show will appear on archive. Jeff could've stole the show leading up to, 'Boogie on Reggae Woman,' but instead continued to be a team player. After '5B4 Funk' they went all yesteryear with, 'After Midnight > Eleanor Rigby > After Midnight.' This portion of the show was fire. They would play more songs, most notably, 'Mississippi Moon.' When one night exposes you to the sounds of Dylan, JGB, The Grateful Dead, JJ Cale, Stevie Wonder, and the Beatles, it's a night worth mentioning. Great show, great venue, and a new friend to boot. 


In the spirit of Mr. Salty—the Man, the Myth, the Legend—His top three would be STS9 at the Fox (he's a big fan), Chris Isaak & probably J. Roddy, with Lucius oh so close. The Roo Ratings stamp of approval holds the highest of standards. My favorite shows were preceded by an asterisk.

Happy New Year,

Monday, December 22, 2014

Gene Washington & The Ironsides

On Saturday December 27th, Gene Washington and The Ironsides open up for The Monophonics at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley. Soul music is alive within this band, as are the rhythm and blues. These musicians are a reminder of when you had to have a voice, you had to be able to hold it down on the instruments, and you had to have soul. The Ironsides have all of three. Music like this used to dominate the charts, they're helping to bring back that truthful sound. This event is part of the annual soulful social. The celebration begins on Friday the 26th with Afrolicious opening for the Monophonics. Single night tickets are $20 and the two night pass costs $36. The clip below is from their first single.

Gene Washington & The Ironsides | "Don't Throw Your Love Away"


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Bears v. Badgers

Haas Pavilion | UC Berkeley
No it's not a battle of the wild kingdom, but it will be a battle on the basketball court. The Golden Bears host this matchup of progressive state institutions. Stakes are always higher in a nationally televised games (ESPN). Wisconsin, ranked 5th and 6th respectively in both polls, has only one loss (Duke). Cal has knocked off some good competition thus far as well, with their only loss to #9 Texas. Both schools have done a nice job of bulking up their non-conference schedule. This game falls on a Monday (6pm), but for those hoop-heads in the Bay area, this is a can't miss. See you at the B1G game. For tickets click here.


Sunday, December 14, 2014

PUBlication: Six Pack

Beer, it's what's for dinner.
Thankfully I live in a proverbial mecca for excellent craft beer. Amidst the abundance of wonderful suds I have decided to spotlight my favorite oat sodas and barley pops from throughout the year. Some of my selections were tasted at the breweries themselves and others were enjoyed out of the bottle or a growler. The first six listed are my top picks and those that follow are mighty fine too. It's worth mentioning that these selections are not necessarily new, but may have been new to me, while others are regularly available. 

Drink responsibly & enjoy your holiday season.

Tamarack Brewing Co. | Missoula, MT | Nectarine Saison
I was lucky enough to make it up to Montana this year for a beautiful wedding, it was an amazing journey. All told I racked up about 3,000 miles and traveled across some of the most amazing landscapes of CA, NV, OR, ID & MT. While road-tripping I made a point to either amass tasty 22's or stop by at local breweries. Boy am I glad I made it into Tamarack's in downtown Missoula. Their Nectarine Saison achieved the perfect balance by pairing the sour Brettanomyces yeast with the delicate sweetness of nectarines. An absolute gem of a beer.

Magnolia Pub & Brewery | San Francisco, CA | Blue Bell Bitter
Of course I can pretty much access this brewery whenever, which I do not take for granted. It also helps to have one of their Growlers. Magnolia's scene on upper Haight is pretty cool, they have since opened a second location in the Dog Patch. I enjoy their food almost as much as I enjoy this ale. The Blue Bell Bitter is the best bitter this side of the pond. And at 4.5% you can drink your fill.

No-Li Brewhouse | Spokane, WA | Expo Series Noble Hop Extra Pale Ale
This bad boy was the freshest 22 oz. bottle I purchased during my trip to the northern Rockies. I keep wishing it would show up on the shelves of my local grocers. It was crisp and extremely palatable. This extra pale ale was a limited/seasonal release—I got lucky. It registers an ABV of 6.0% and it's IBU comes in at 50. If you ever see this beer, buy it, drink it and bask in its glory. NoLi is my new favorite brewery.

Pelican Pub & Brewery | Pacific City, OR | MacPelican's Scottish Style Ale
During one of my glorious trips up to Eugene I happened to fill up a cooler bag with heady beers from a local market. The Scottish Style Ale from Pelican was down-right awesome. I've never been to Scotland but this (5%) bad boy transported me there with its malty hues and drinkable easiness. There's also a nice little snap to it due to the addition of Willamette hops. I will definitely be picking up more of these the next time I'm in central or coastal Oregon. 

Dust Bowl Brewing Co. | Turlock, CA | California Common
This little session ale hits the spot, especially during California summers. I was fortunate to sip this common on draught and I've been hankering for it ever since. The brewers at Dust Bowl did a masterful job of garnering an ABV of 5.4% with an IBU of 30. There's no denying the refreshing quality of this beer. It translates well if your looking for an ale that cannot be worn out. I want six packs of this to be more present in west Sonoma County.

Stone Brewing Co. | Escondido, CA | Collective Distortion
Mitch Steele, the brew master of Stone, Kyle Hollingsworth and Keri Kelli worked together to create this mean as hell double IPA. Rounding out at a robust 9.3%, you will definitely feel its effects and taste the hops. Speaking of hops, this imperial boasts nugget, comet and calypso, as well as a secret dry hop from Australia. They also tipped their glass to the old-world of gruit, mixing in some coriander and elderberries. Will we see another Collective Distortion in 2015?

Other adult beverages that tripped my trigger were...
~Batch #058 of Russian Rivers' Damnation—damn does this age well. Did someone say Pliny?
~Prairie Artisan Ales of OK crushed it with their Birra Farmhouse Ale. I've grown to love this genre.
~Drakes Aroma Coma was a cornucopia of malts, rye and hops. It's even better on tap.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Sing Me a Song

There were a lot of great records released this year. That creativity spawned numerous songs worthy of making the multitude of lists that laud the best of the best. My personal picks for favorite songs of 2014 are below. They are...

Low Roar | 'Nobody Loves Me Like You'

The Barr Brothers | 'Love Ain't Enough'

Spoon | 'Inside Out'

Sturgill Simpson | 'Turtles On the Way Down'

Jack White | 'High Ball Stepper' (Live | Open'er Festival 2014)

Benjamin Booker | 'Kids Never Grow Old'

Thanks for checking in. Next up will be a list of oat sodas and barley pops.


Tuesday, December 2, 2014

So Good So Far 2K14

Philip Johnson | Glass House
What if we lived in a glass house? Well, a lot more of what we do on the daily would be witnessed. So, what if we all shared our music? We'd probably get turned onto a lot more tunes. This is my attempt at sharing. I thought that this year's output of music was great. I realize the industry as a whole will remain stagnate through the never-ending era of digital information, but that doesn't translate into a lack of artistry. For a look at my first round of sound click here. Below are the second set of choices for 2014—So Far So Good.

Spoon | They Want My Soul
They Want My Soul is a wonderfully crafted album from one of America's best, an most unheralded, bands. I really enjoyed this entire effort. "I Just Don't Understand" and "Outlier" are two tracks that haven't been worn out yet. Spoon is back and for further evidence listen to "Inside Out."

Benjamin Booker | Benjamin Booker
His debut album is a self-titled diamond in the rough. This Floridian, who calls New Orleans home, has a firm grasp on shaking roots music to its passionate core. The pace ebbs and flows while he's racing around, the emotion remains full speed. The entire record is a punch to the gut. There are too many outstanding tracks, that I truly love, to name them all. Just cop this record ASAP. If you can't rock out to this...

The Barr Brothers | Sleeping Operator
Sleeping Operator is possibly my favorite album of the year. These two brothers know how to create true art. Their music is Beautiful. I actually feel something while listening to this record. "Love Ain't Enough," mixes its lyrics like a painter into the color of instruments. "Valhallas" is a tale of romance, the west, and the chances that are out there. "Half Crazy" drips in a totally different direction, smearing the edges with slide guitar. The final painting, "Please Let Me Let It Go," washes out the stains, feeling more like a religious ritual than a musical experience. This record is so good.

Clear Plastic Masks | Being There
Right from the start they come for you. "In Case You Forgot" sprints out of the gate, a not so subtle reminder to brace your self. "Outcast" follows and makes me want to dance like Rodney Dangerfield in Caddy Shack. Next is "Baby Come On," a cool, dreamy psychedelic number that cries out, let me come more time. The vocals capably drift to the softer side in "Aliens." A ripping organ-driven instrumental track, "Dos Cobras," is primed for a night on tour. This album is smoking.

Low Roar | 0
Whether it be the soft drumming, or the electric hum of a Casio, Ryan Karazija's truthful lyrics pierce through the swirling ambient warmth. The first couple of tracks get us ready for the heart-felt, "Nobody Loves Me Like You," one of my favorite songs of the year. It's as if he has captured the sounds of the instruments and made them understand their role. His ability to haunt through beautiful lyricism is at the forefront of each melodic landscape. "I'll Keep Coming" feels like a marching army, the listener is confronted by its relentlessness. This record is a journey, reminding me to embrace what I've experienced and to appreciate what I have not. His move from California to Iceland surely played a role.

If I were forced to narrow it down to a top-ten, with a few honorable mentions, my baker's dozen would be: Jack White, Lazaretto | Sturgill Simpson, Metamodern Sounds in Country Music | Ikebe Shakedown, Stone By Stone | Spoon, They Want My Soul | Benjamin Booker, self titled | The Barr Brothers, Sleeping Operator | Clear Plastic Masks, Being There | Low Roar, 0 | Marco Benevento, Swift | Wilco, Alpha Mike Foxtrot
Honorable Mentions: The Apache Relay, self titled | Beck, Morning Phase | Prince, Art Official Age          Sorry Lykke Li, Ryan Adams, Shovels & Rope, Steve Gunn, and Strands of Oak.

The Besty's are coming—my annual list of the best live music from throughout the year. Enjoy the rest of your calendar year. Happy Holidays.