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A Musician's Life Thursday evening, Dec. 4, jazzman Calder Spanier played a show at 330 Ritch with the swing band Jellyroll. He was returning home to Berkeley when his Ford Falcon ran out of gas on the Bay Bridge. According to news accounts, Spanier got out of the driver's seat to refuel. At 12:12 a.m. he was hit by a red Blazer and pinned between the two vehicles. He was 31. He is survived by his wife, Madeline Banks, who is pregnant with their first child. Spanier was best known for infusing the Charlie Hunter Quartet with equal parts energetic alto sax and friendly charisma over the last two years. Last week, members of the local jazz community responded to his death with sadness and disbelief. "He was a person who was so well-liked

and had such a gentle spirit," said producer Lee Townsend, who worked with Spanier on two records with the Hunter Quartet. "It's just a shock; it gets everyone in touch with their own vulnerability." Spanier was born and raised in Montreal, son of jazz trumpeter Herbie Spanier. After studying composition and performance at Vanier College and McGill University and leaving Montreal in 1989, Spanier lived in New York, Toronto, Stockholm, and the Bay Area. The saxophonist met Hunter in Europe, where they both played on the street for tips. Locally the pair worked with saxophonists Dave Ellis and Kenny Brooks and drummer Scott Amendola on two albums, Ready ... Set ... Shango and Natty Dred, a Bob Marley tribute album. As a music fan, Spanier loved Cannonball Adderley and Charlie Parker, the Beatles and the Beach Boys. As a composer, he could take a Bob Marley tune, tear it apart, and make it sound completely different. "He had raw energy live," said Amendola. "We would approach [live shows] like power jazz. We played in the Knitting Factory last June and it was this ball of energy. When we were done, it was just like being high. Calder could drive the band to that." Friends and colleagues are planning a memorial and benefit concert for Banks for the end of January. (J.S.)

A Partial List of Bands -- Both Active and Now-Defunct -- Represented by at Least One Member Attending Last Week's Pair of Souled American Shows at the Make-Out Room and the Great American Music Hall Granfaloon Bus, Fuck, Pell Mell, 100 Watt Smile, Captain Fat Ass, Warm Wires, Beth Lisick Ordeal, Half Film, Pee, A Minor Forest, St. Andre, Snowmen, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, U.S. Saucer, Camper Van Beethoven, Monks of Doom, Little My, Rrope, Fibulator, Mommyheads, Cat Heads, Flophouse, Gravy Shakes, Guilt Trip City, Virginia Dare, El Camino Cha-Cha Orchestra, Fish or Fry, Carlos, Buckets, Oxbow, Monopause, DJ Snooty vs. Turbine. (J.S.)

Christmas Rush The folks in the concert-promotion business are used to close calls, but Live 105 and veteran promoter Bill Graham Presents were both a little surprised at just how close the Dec. 7 Green Christmas show at Kezar Auditorium came to falling apart. The reason: a few pesky city permits for a pair of year-end holiday concerts. "Of all the shows we've put on in 11 years we've never had any problem like this," says Live 105 Director of Marketing and Promotions Gabby Medecki. The alternative-rock station, which has put on the end-of-year show for the last seven years, reserved two nights at Kezar -- for Green Christmas and the accompanying, more dance-oriented Electronica Hanukkah -- months before the event. The station asked BGP to help out. The promoter did the paperwork, applying to the Police Department for the appropriate permits; at the same time, BGP also applied for permits for a Leftover Salmon New Year's show at Kezar, the indoor gymnasium adjacent to Kezar Stadium in Golden Gate Park. Green Christmas tickets were already on sale when the police informed BGP that Kezar did not have the requisite "dance hall" permits. BGP and Live 105 were caught off-guard; they both remembered a Smashing Pumpkins concert at the venue two years ago. "I have to assume that if I've done business there that everything is in order," says BGP Vice President Lee Smith. The station then had to sit for a permit hearing with the Department of Recreation and Park on Dec. 3. The Electronica Hanukkah wasn't selling very well, so the station was able to move the event across town to the smaller Maritime; but the Green Christmas show was already sold out, and no other similarly sized venues were available. Holding its breath, Live 105 continued to promote the show, hoping that the permit would go through. Came Dec. 3 -- and Rec and Park, faced with neighborhood opposition, denied the permit. "None of us at the station slept," says Medecki. Live 105 found out that it had one option: convince the Mayor's Office to grant a one-day conditional-use permit. On Thursday, three days before the concert, Live 105 prepared to cancel. With the on-air announcement two hours away, the Mayor's Office came through. BGP's Smith says it'll be the last time he uses the room -- "We're not in the habit of going to places where we have problems like that." Live 105's exasperated Medecki agrees: "We don't intend to have any events at that building." (J.S.)

Noise Flash Last year at the fifth annual Noise Pop Festival, gossipers said that impresario Kevin Arnold was crumbling under the stress and hassle of organizing a multiple-night, multiple-venue event with dozens of bands. Stress be damned, last week Arnold announced the sixth installment. The five-day microfestival is slated for the last week in February at the Bottom of the Hill, Bimbo's, and the Great American Music Hall. The acts this year -- both local and alien, per tradition -- are as good as they've been. Confirmed so far: The Flaming Lips Experience (Wayne Coyne's boombox experiment), 16 Deluxe, Imperial Teen, John Doe, Red Five, Grandaddy, Fastbacks, and Chixdiggit. Unconfirmed: Modest Mouse. (J.S.)

"If there was ever a musician who was an honorary member of San Francisco society ....": Robert Arriaga (R.A.), Johnny DiPaola (J.D.P.), Karl D. Esturbense (K.D.E.), Jeff Stark (J.S.), Silke Tudor (S.T.), Heather Wisner (H.W.), and Bill Wyman (

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  • Nevada City and the South Yuba River: A gold country getaway

    Nestled in the green pine-covered hills of the Northern Sierra Nevada is the Gold Rush town of Nevada City. Beautiful Victorian houses line the streets, keeping the old-time charm alive, and a vibrant downtown is home to world-class art, theater and music. The nearby South Yuba River State Park is known for its emerald swimming holes during the summer and radiant leaf colors during autumn. These days the gold panning is more for tourists than prospectors, but the gold miner spirit is still in the air.

    South Yuba River State Park and Swimming Holes:
    The park runs along and below 20 miles of the South Yuba River, offering hiking, mountain biking, gold panning and swimming. The Highway 49 bridge swimming hole is seven-miles northwest of Nevada City where Highway 49 crosses the South Yuba River. Parking is readily available and it is a short, steep hike to a stunning swimming hole beneath a footbridge. For the more intrepid, trails extend along the river with access to secluded swim spots. The Bridgeport swimming hole has calm waters and a sandy beach -- good for families and cookouts -- and is located 14 miles northwest of Nevada City. Be sure to write down directions before heading out, GPS may not be available. Most swimming holes on the South Yuba River are best from July to September, while winter and spring can bring dangerous rapids. Always know the current before jumping in!

    Downtown Nevada City
    The welcoming, walkable downtown of Nevada City is laid back, yet full of life. Start your day at the cozy South Pine Cafe (110 S Pine St.) with a lobster benedict or a spicy Jamaican tofu scramble. Then stroll the streets and stop into the shop Kitkitdizzi (423 Broad St.) for handcrafted goods unique to the region, vintage wears and local art “all with California gold rush swagger,” as stated by owners Carrie Hawthorne and Kira Westly. Surrounded by Gold Rush history, modern gold jewelry is made from locally found nuggets and is found at Utopian Stone Custom Jewelers (301 Broad St.). For a coffee shop with Victorian charm try The Curly Wolf (217 Broad St.), an espresso house and music venue with German pastries and light fare. A perfect way to cool down during the hot summer months can be found at Treats (110 York St.) , an artisan ice cream shop with flavors like pear ginger sorbet or vegan chai coconut. Nightlife is aplenty with music halls, alehouses or dive bars like the Mine Shaft Saloon (222 Broad St.).

    The Willo Steakhouse (16898 State Hwy 49, Nevada City)
    Along Highway 49, just west of Nevada City, is The Willo, a classic roadhouse and bar where you’re welcomed by the smell of steak and a dining room full of locals. In 1947 a Quonset hut (a semi-cylindrical building) was purchased from the US Army and transported to its current location, and opened as a bar, which became popular with lumberjacks and miners. The bar was passed down through the decades and a covered structure was added to enlarge the bar and create a dining area. The original Quonset beams are still visible in the bar and current owners Mike Byrne and Nancy Wilson keep the roadhouse tradition going with carefully aged New York steaks and house made ingredients. Pair your steak or fish with a local wine, such as the Rough and Ready Red, or bring your own for a small corkage fee. Check the website for specials, such as rib-eye on Fridays.

    Outside Inn (575 E Broad St.)
    A 16-room motel a short walk from downtown, each room features a unique décor, such as the Paddlers’ Suite or the Wildflower Room. A friendly staff and an office full of information about local trails, swimming and biking gets you started on your outdoor exploration. Amenities include an outdoor shower, a summer swimming pool and picnic tables and barbeques. Don’t miss the free vegetable cart just outside the motel in the mornings.

    Written and photographed by Beth LaBerge for the SF Weekly.

  • Arcade Fire at Shoreline
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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