Pop Philosophy

Happiness is a warm guitar

Happiness is a hard thing to define, even with a dictionary. Once, after reading an issue of a zine called Box of 64, I was inspired to write 100 things that made me cheery. With a number that high, I started to look past all the obvious things -- sex, ice cream, Lotto jackpots -- and get really specific. Such as: doing the crossword on a Sunday in front of a fire when it's cold outside; taking a shower before climbing into a bed with fresh sheets; seeing a perfect stranger smile at you with a post-coital familiarity; and anticipating the rush of guitar from a great pop song.

Of course, pop music doesn't necessarily have guitars. In the Bay Area, pop can prove as hard to define as happiness, what with the multitude of similarly named festivals like Noise Pop, Poptopia, Baypop, San Francisco Pop Festival, and Sir Pop a Lot (OK, so I made that one up). This week you can add a new contender to the list -- 2001: A Pop Fantasy, a four-day indie pop gorging that takes place at the Bottom of the Hill from Thursday, July 12, to Sunday, July 15.

Pop Fantasy was put together by the same folks who organized the S.F. Pop Festival: UC Santa Cruz grads Seo Hui Han and Chris Pruitt, From Bubblegum to Sky leader Mario Hernandez, KALX DJ Andrew Lison, and Mark Sgarzi, Pruitt's partner in the Paris Caramel label. The S.F. Pop Fest took place at the Bottom of the Hill in July 1999, and featured 21 bands ranging from the off-kilter folk of Seattle's Unbunny to Majestic's SoCal space pop to the '60s power bop of local act Lunchbox. While there were a number of stellar moments, the one most responsible for wet underwear (no one wets themselves like indie pop fans) had to be the performance by seldom-seen, rightfully adored synth-drone group Rocketship. (The band canceled this year, due to mysterious "unforeseen circumstances.")

For this year's event, the crew wanted to distance themselves from the other festivals and salute the new millennium.

"We thought the last time was a really magical experience and we wanted to come up with a name that would evoke that," Han says.

After Hernandez thought up the new title, the producers sent out invitations to 40 bands. The confirmed schedule has more of an international bent than the 1999 event, with groups from Japan, Sweden, Australia, and the U.K. set to play along with locals like the Aislers Set, the Fairways, #Poundsign#, Yuji Oniki, Lunchbox, and the Brittle Stars. This will be the first U.S. show for several acts, including Hideki Kaji, a huge star in Japan who records for Trattoria, the label of pop sensation Cornelius.

Other bands worth losing sleep over include England's Boyracer, which has reunited for this tour and plays perfect out-of-control feedback pop; Alameda's heavenly power pop duo Ciao Bella, which is also reuniting for this show; the Cannanes, one of the longest-running and most criminally overlooked Outback outfits; and Girlfrendo, a Swedish combo that concocts a woozy mix of synth pop and riot grrl rock. Better get your tickets soon though, because they're selling faster than a pop fan can flip through a box of 7-inches.

To see the schedule, go to www.popfantasy.com 2001or call 621-4455. There is also a kickoff party on Wednesday, July 11, at 9 p.m. at "Be My Lovely Ambulance," Edinburgh Castle, 950 Geary (at Larkin), S.F. Call 885-4074.

Putting the "out" in "rock out"One would like to think that the person who coined the saying "Every dark cloud has a silver lining" was given his lining upside the head. These days, it's hard to see the good in the energy crisis, Bush's underhanded attempts to revoke Roe v. Wade, or Veep Cheney's successful pacemaker installation. Likewise, if you asked local musicians if anything good came out of last year's Downtown Rehearsal closing, they might look at you like you were crazy -- until you reminded them of Rock Out SF.

The first Rock Out SF event took place Sept. 23, 2000. Musicians all over the city played for one hour in unusual spots -- on street corners, in bookstores, on rooftops -- as a way to show solidarity with one another and the community and to highlight the need for rehearsal space. That one hour was the most benevolent, communal event I'd witnessed in the local music scene. This weekend, Rock Out SF will try to roll out again. Between 1 and 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, groups will plug in, tune up, and holler out. It'll be just like in the old days when folks used to sit on the porch and whack out a ditty on the ukulele. Only, this being San Francisco, that ditty will probably be about where Mr. Cheney should stick his first name.

To see which artists have registered and where they'll play, go to www.rockoutsf.org or call 248-1608.

 
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