By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
Lord Nasty doesn't exactly live in San Francisco -- he writes his lust-filled odes to booty up in Ukiah -- but he certainly has found a home away from home in Baghdad by the Bay. Perhaps few other cities are equipped to embrace a 47-year-old Texas native who dresses like a drunken Sun Ra, sings like a horny Barry White, and writes tunes about jacking off in the dark. For whatever reason, the good Lord (aka James Lemmons) and his Seekers of Perversion have played all over town, from 12 Galaxies to the Hemlock Tavern to the Rickshaw Stop. The backing band -- which features several ex-punk rockers and one Rroland, who released an album of instrumentals inspired by his many past lives on Momus' label a few years back -- moves dexterously from slinky funk to buttery blues at the drop of a hat. Meanwhile, Lord Nasty seduces the ladies with style and aplomb. Maybe it's his smooth, soulful vocals; maybe it's his confident lyrical style ("Look at All That Ass You Got" pretty much sums up his oeuvre). Or perhaps women really find it romantic when a guy can turn a Beatles tune into a straightforward plea for longtime sexual satisfaction ("Will you still suck me?/ Will you still fuck me?/ When I'm 64"). Lord Nasty has been at this game since the '70s, nearly as long as iconic blue performers Rudy Rae Moore and Blowfly, definitely longer than 2 Live Crew and Too $hort. Perhaps it's only a matter of time before teenagers are bumping to one of the Lord's classics, such as "Baptized in Pussy Juice." Praise the Lord.
When the entire roster of renowned hip hop collective Quannum Projects hit the road last year for its first-ever national tour, most of the names onstage were as familiar as their talent was staggering -- DJ Shadow, Blackalicious, Lyrics Born, Lateef the Truth Speaker, and Lifesavas. But a somewhat less celebrated figure shone just as brightly during that trek, her stunning, soaring vocals quite often stealing the show from the big boys. Operatically trained soul diva Joyo Velarde is hardly an unknown to hip hop-heads, however, particularly in the Bay Area. Her association with Quannum stretches all the way back to the early Solesides days, when the whole crew was enrolled at UC Davis at the beginning of the '90s. Originally a journalism major with the intent of becoming a TV news anchor, Velarde grew disenchanted with that career pursuit and switched to studying vocal performance. After a short stint with an opera company in Rome, she returned to the U.S. and was quickly welcomed into the myriad projects the Quannum stable was pumping out. The "First Lady of Quannum" piqued ears when she sang backing vocals on then-boyfriend, now-husband Tom "Lyrics Born" Shimura's 1996 hit "Balcony Beach." She subsequently appeared on Blackalicious albums and Quannum's Spectrum disc; released her own single, "Sweet Angel," in 2002; and was a vital, captivating presence on Later That Day ..., LB's 2003 debut, which spawned the ubiquitous single "Callin' Out." Having spent much of the past year touring with her hubby, Velarde's currently putting the finishing touches on her highly anticipated full-length debut, which has been nearly five years in the making.
Fusing classic Afrobeat, Latin funk, and acid jazz, the dozen-plus members of Berkeley's Albino offer a torrent of hard-grooving jams designed to make Mojito-gulping weekenders shimmy right out of their low-rise jeans. The sound is aggressive and brassy, informed by world fusion artists like Fela Kuti and Zimbabwe's Thomas Mapfumo, and brought up to date with a mash of spacey global inflections (think of Herbie's Headhunters shanghaied in West Africa, and you'll be up to speed). The ass-inspiriting percussive engine comes from a rhythm section of local all-stars, including singer/percussionist Kokou Soglo Katamani, drummer Michael Pinkham, bassist Kevin "Bam Bam" Blair, keyboardist Bob Crawford, percussionists Trevino Leon and Gameli K. Ladzekpo, and dancer Kim Agnew. Together, they form rhythms based in the West African Ewe tradition (which holds at its heart the inseparable union of drumming and dance) colored with Afro-Cuban structures. Atop the band's rhythmic maelstrom ride tightly figured five-part horn lines directed by founder/tenor player Nathan Endsley. His section enlists the formidable talent of Seattle jazz trombonist "T-Bone" Charlie Wilson and a snarling dual baritone-sax yawp from Jonathan Hoops (featured soloist for Burning Man sensation the Mutaytor) and Michael Bello. Though the 2-year-old band is still something of a pup on the scene, Albino's members' résumés include experience in local heavies from every niche of the city's musical spectrum, including Starvin Like Marvin, Monkey Knife Fight, Spearhead, CK Ladzekpo, and Hamsa Lila. This is world music that lives up to the name.
Bat Makumba's self-titled debut earned the group a 2004 California Music Award for Outstanding Latin Alternative Album. But this energetic group of musicians is perhaps best known for its dynamic live shows, which aim to bring the vibrancy of Rio's famed Carnaval, the ultimate South American street jam, to any venue. These performances really flaunt Bat Makumba's extraordinary fusion of edgy sounds, from funk, punk, reggae, and ska to the samba and tropicália of Brazil, birthplace of founding members Emiliano Benevides (percussion, vocals) and Alex Koberle (vocals, guitar), who established the group five years ago with American bassist/vocalist Carl Remde. The name is borrowed from one of the members' favorite tropicália songs of the '70s from Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil, and it refers to the intermingling of traditional Brazilian and international influences. Onstage, the trio is joined by David Gibbs (various horns), John Axtell (keyboards, guitars), and Aaron Kierbell (drums). This year, Bat Makumba broke new ground as environmental activists and artists. In July, the group purchased a tour bus that is powered by vegetable oil and subsequently headlined "A Declaration of Oil Independence," a benefit party for the Clean Fuel Caravan Coalition held at the Independent in San Francisco. A beautiful idea that's past due, the band's mission is to show the citizens of this country a tangible way to preserve the planet and reduce dependence on the crude stuff.