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Wednesday, Dec 18 2002
Paul Oakenfold is, without question, one of the most successful dance music DJs to ever drop the needle on a record. The British knob-twiddler -- who began his career playing hip hop in the early '80s and has remixed everyone from U2 to Madonna -- can easily command five figures and a first-class ticket across the globe to spin a four-hour set. In the world of trance music -- the anthemic, synthesized derivative of techno -- there's Oakey, and then there's everyone else.

Now, after so many years of playing other people's music, Oakenfold has decided to make a go of artistry. Unfortunately, the songs on Bunkka, his debut record, reveal nothing new to the dance music community about the revered DJ's creative talents. And for pop fans who have never set foot in a 10,000-capacity club, like the venues on the island of Ibiza where Oakenfold first rose to prominence, the music is middling at best. Save for the bouncy "Starry Eyed Surprise," featuring Crazytown frontman Shifty Shellshock, the tunes lack energy and the lyrics are completely irrelevant.

Oakenfold readily admits that he can't sing, so he's enlisted a mix of eccentric vocalists, including Hunter S. Thompson, who scats in his inimitable writing style on "Nixon's Spirit." There are some strong performances -- new talents Carla Werner and Emiliana Torrini do their best Sarah McLachlan and Björk imitations, respectively -- but the backing for much of the record is horribly generic.

Ice Cube's boombastic rap on the dark number "Get Em Up" suggests that Oakenfold should've stuck to his musical roots. He was, after all, the A&R rep who signed Will Smith and Salt 'N Pepa to their first European record deals. But as successful a pairing as Oakenfold's music is with Cube, the producer misses the mark with other guests like Stockton native Grant Lee Phillips, the almost unrecognizable Perry Farrell, and the ubiquitous Nelly Furtado, who duets with Tricky on the record's closing song. Oakenfold still has an ear for great talent, as his continual output of mix CDs reveals. But his lack of musical creativity -- see the trite breakbeats and obvious synthesizer swells on Phillips' number, "Motion" -- makes you wonder if some superstar DJs shouldn't stay behind the turntables, content to preen in the attentions of hot and sweaty clubgoers.

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Andrew Strickman


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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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