SF Weekly Music Awards 2002

A galaxy-spanning journey through space and sound!

Etienne de Rocher

"I guess I'm trying to make music that's not really there," explained singer/songwriter Etienne de Rocher in a recent interview. Listening to his pop-flecked acoustic soul, it's easy to understand what he's talking about. Boasting a songwriting palette that utilizes everything from crispy old-school drum machines to electric sitar sounds, de Rocher exists in that no man's land where inventive bedroom pop meets R&B. Imagine Shuggie Otis covering Elliott Smith and you've got a good idea of de Rocher's reach. With that expansive approach to songwriting, it's no surprise that the Alabama native grew up absorbing a medley of musical styles. Having spent his college years listening to a mind-opening array of hip hop (especially groups like A Tribe Called Quest), de Rocher produced early experiments blending his beat-based influences with rock's dirty shimmy. After putting out his Lazy Bones EP in 1996, de Rocher continued to refine his sound, moving in a more folk-rock direction. Over the next few years, he became one of the young princes of the San Francisco scene, developing a reputation through his frequent gigs at Cafe Du Nord. The self-released Sipsey Cane CD, recorded from 1997 to 1999, chronicles de Rocher's growth as a musician, featuring such standouts as the psychedelic grind of "Fast Train" and the beautiful groove of "Out to Sea." The musician has been hard at work on a follow-up to Sipsey Cane for the past year, hoping to release it in early 2003.

Punk

Angry Amputees

Here's an inspirational story Hollywood would do well to option. In 1989, John Dalton came down with bacterial meningitis, a disease that tends to mess people up very quickly, resulting in everything from brain damage to death. Dalton ended up with enough limb damage that the surgeon had to remove his legs and fingers; luckily, the doctor kept the musician's life intact. As a tribute to the never-say-die force that staved off the killer disease, bassist Dalton and the Angry Amputees now school your face with some of the catchiest punk rock in the Bay Area. Led by singer and guitarist Stacey Dee, the band delivers blistering tunes like "Harlot," "Bitchshot," and "Ass for Tonight" (which includes Dalton's heartwarming sentiment, "I need your ass, baby, just for tonight"). Aiding Dee and Dalton in their razored onslaught is lead guitarist Erik Brim, whose shredding licks have been known to reduce audience members to awe-struck tears. What Brim is to the axe, JoAnn "Rawk Mom" Gillespie is to the drum kit, mercilessly pounding the skins like a woman channeling the pissed-off spirit of Keith Moon. And, topping Moon, Gillespie sings and drums -- at the same time! With an eponymous seven-song CD out on the band's own I'm Stumped Records, the Amputees are exploding across the San Francisco rock scene in a furious blast of undeniable riffs, mosh pit-inducing choruses, and crusty, snarling attitude. Now that's inspirational.

Bottles and Skulls

Trying to pigeonhole Bottles and Skulls' music is an exercise in futility. The band -- which came to San Francisco by way of Augustine, Fla. -- has been known to call its brand of balls-out hardcore "white trash goth" and "melodic metal." But whatever handle you want to use, the low-pretension, high-energy thrash perpetrated by Alpha Boozer, Jersey Land Phil, Kringle, and Johnny Fuckin Hildo is impossible to ignore. Dirty and distorted, drunk and mean, the Bottles and Skulls noise is a scream-along riot, a cross between early Suicidal Tendencies, T.S.O.L, and Replacements. Bottles and Skulls songs don't so much start as explode outward, yanked into screeching existence on peals of Kringle's feedbacking guitar and Land Phil's roiling drumming. Meanwhile, Boozer's gruff, nihilistic vocals address all the subjects near and dear to a punk's heart: getting wasted, getting laid, and getting into fights. It may sound like a simple formula, but few bands in recent memory achieve it with such gnarled aplomb. The act's 2001 full-length, Never Kiss the Wasp, has been hailed as one of the best things to happen to the San Francisco punk scene in ages, and it hit No. 1 at KUSF-FM (90.3) after several weeks in heavy rotation. The group followed that up with the March 2002 release of the "I Am No One, He Is No One" single, as well as the June reissue of its high-octane Amped the Fuck Up EP. Hardcore, hard rock, punk -- call Bottles and Skulls whatever you like, but we're just glad the group calls San Francisco home.

Fracas

Being Fracas singer Joe Franke isn't always an enviable responsibility. As the centerpiece of one of the Bay Area's most powerful punk bands, Franke has certain, uh, obligations. These include expending more energy and vocal fortitude than a busload of Marine boot camp instructors; perpetually lugging a ton of equipment around the country with guitarist Dan Tollbooth, drummer Lonnie Lyver, and bassist Tim Ryan; and, sometimes, if the mood is right, breaking a bottle over his forehead and letting blood coat his face and chest. It may not be the soundest of medical practices, but the occasional onstage bloodletting is perfectly in keeping with Fracas' take-no-prisoners approach to musicmaking. The band is loud and tight, with a Misfits-esque appreciation of the dark side of the human heart. The group's latest LP, A New Host of Torment, out on Alameda's Calendar of Death Records, is exactly what the title intimates: pure pounding energy that makes you want to ram cars into things and rip scabs off of old wounds. Song titles include the uplifting "The Dead Look Dead," "Suffer Alone," "Kill Me," "Open Your Hell," and "All That Remains Is the Howl." It's a testimony to Fracas' pummeling songwriting that the most lighthearted track on Torment is a cover of the Dead Kennedys chestnut "Too Drunk to Fuck." Let the blood pour.

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