Hear This

Iron & Wine brings its wispy folk back to S.F.; Phoenix descends on the city with its wily collage-rock.

Beards are threatening to replace Converse and square black glasses as the indie rock accessory du jour. You can thank Sam Beam, aka Iron & Wine, for that. Expect some newly-5-o'clock-shadowed hipsters to turn out when the bewhiskered Floridian songwriter hits S.F. for two shows this week. Beam's rusty, lo-fi Southern folk captured the authenticity-starved ears of the underground back in 2002, when Sub Pop released The Creek Drank the Cradle. But owing to this year's critically acclaimed sophomore effort, Our Endless Number Days, and the fact that indie-savvy music supervisors have slapped his songs on two influential soundtracks (for Garden State and The OC), Beam is no longer the hipster community's best-kept secret. Still, his haunting, Nick DrakemeetsTennessee Williams tunes are well worth shelling out a few bucks to hear. At press time Iron & Wine's show on Wednesday, Dec. 8, at the Great American Music Hall (885-0750 or www.gamh.com) was sold out, but tickets were still available for the gig on Thursday, Dec. 9, at Slim's; call 255-0333 or go to www.slims-sf.com for more info.
-- Maya Kroth


As groups like Daft Punk, Air, and M83 have shown, French musicians have developed a knack for infusing gooey production warmth into genres ranging from deep house to downtempo to distortion-drenched shoegazer crunch. Now a new-ish French band has thrown its hat into the ring: Phoenix, which blends soul, house, rock, and ... country into a rich, cohesive sound. The Parisian quartet hit the scene with 2000's United, featuring the sultry, Jamiroquai-esque shuffle "If I Ever Feel Better," a tune that treated dance-floor devotees and indie rockers alike to a molten mix of beats, guitars, and Thomas Mars' Cheshire cat vocals, as suited to buttery R&B as they are to jittery indie-pop. Alphabetical, the group's sophomore release, is uneven and a little more poppy (i.e., disposable) than United, but jams like "Everything Is Everything" and "Holdin' On Together" lend the album a few delectable moments. Phoenix makes its San Francisco debut on Thursday, Dec. 9, at "popscene" at 330 Ritch; call 541-9574 or go to www.popscene-sf.com for more info.
-- Garrett Kamps


Guitarist/vocalist Ralph Spight and bassist Larry Boothroyd founded Victims Family back in 1984 when they were just a couple of scrawny Santa Rosa teenagers in search of a kick-ass drummer. Combining the lyrical venom of Jello Biafra and the muscular punk virtuosity of No Means No, Victims Family created a spastic and compellingly ferocious stew of hardcore, jazz, noise, and math rock through a string of brilliant albums, drummer changes, and breakups. This weekend, Spight and Boothroyd take a comprehensive look at their collective past, present, and future with the "Victims Family 20th Anniversary Doo." In addition to early sets by current projects the Freak Accident (Spight's new warped pop outfit) and Meow Meow & the Meow Meows (a raucous duo featuring bassist/singer Mary Elizabeth Yarbrough and Boothroyd on drums), offshoot bands Saturn's Flea Collar and the Hellworms will take the stage leading up to a momentous reunion with mainstay Victims Family drummer Tim Solyan on Sunday, Dec. 12, at the Bottom of the Hill; call 621-4455 or visit www.bottomofthehill.com.
-- Dave Pehling

 
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