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Howling with Hagerty; Scottish indie-pop gets brawny 

Wednesday, Mar 15 2006
Oh shit, the Howling Hex is playing San Francisco -- which means you and I, we get to stay up superlate and see Drag City recording artist and master axeman Neil Michael Hagerty in his latest musical incarnation. As you probably know, Hagerty was a co-founder of the now-legendary boogie-noise visionaries Royal Trux; as with the Trux, the Hag (along with that damn Hex) does it all: meticulously arranged hard-rock compositions, extended jam-band workouts, explorative jazz fusion, poetic indie folk-rock, electronic freakery, and full-tilt improvisation. Hagerty is a true Renaissance man, bringing all that good stuff together. In fact, I'll say the dude is my generation's Neil Young, Grateful Dead, and Bob Dylan wrapped, rolled, and sealed into a single package. Wow. The Howling Hex performs on Saturday, March 18, at 10 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill. Admission is $10; call 621-4455 or visit for more info.-- Justin F. Farrar

Already the engineer of the most densely quotable record of last year, South London's Art Brut is making the best of its obligatory South by Southwest appearance with its first full-fledged tactical assault on the United States. And though the many mantras of its debut -- the hyperaddictive Bang Bang Rock & Roll -- have been ceaselessly echoed by the humor-starved critical masses since the album's release, it's still probably best to refresh everybody's memory with a few gems: "Modern art makes me want to rock out!" "We're going to be the band that makes Israel and Palestine get along!" "I've seen her naked -- TWICE!" "I can't stand the sound of the Velvet Underground!" "Sometimes it's hard to stop when your heart is set on Top of the Pops!" To call Art Brut frontman Eddie Argos a poor man's Mark E. Smith probably wouldn't be too far off -- and it certainly wouldn't be an insult. Art Brut performs two shows here: an all-ages stint on Monday, March 20, at 9 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill ($12; call 621-4455 or visit for more info); and a 21-plus show on Tuesday, March 21, at 9 p.m. at the Independent ($12; call 771-1421 or go to for more info).-- Zac Pennington

If you're heading to Belle & Sebastian expecting the usual twee party, you may be in for a bit of a shock. Not that its sound has gone all Motörhead or anything, but this well-bred septet of Scottish ladies and gents has twisted and toughened up its famously precious indie-pop a good deal on new album The Life Pursuit -- building on a style evolution first evident on 2003's Dear Catastrophe Waitress. The band treads confidently into Bolan/Bowie glam-rock territory on "The White Collar Boy" and "The Blues Are Still Blue" -- frontman Stuart Murdoch, who still sounds like a cross between Donovan and Colin Blunstone, even seems to poke fun at his group's reputation on the latter, singing, "The hoodie's way too moody for a kid with the will to funk." Thanks to the beauty of, bootleg footage from earlier tour stops confirms that B&S is revamping some of the more delicate, older tunes to fit in with the new vibe, so don't even think about bringing your cardigan on Tuesday, March 21, when Belle & Sebastian performs at the Concourse Exhibition Center at 8 p.m. Admission is $30; go to for more info. -- Michael Alan Goldberg

Andrew Eldritch, co-founder and frontman of '80s goth rockers Sisters of Mercy, appears to have problems getting along with people. He has gone through band members like Kleenex, and he once led a solo strike against his former record label, EastWest, which essentially halted the band's career over the past decade-plus. Today's Sisters of Mercy have their own label, the puntastic Merciful Release (though they have yet to release anything), and the lineup consists of Eldritch, Doktor Avalanche (a drum machine), Nurse (the drum machine's assistant), and guitarists Chris Catalyst and Ben Christo. Expect the band to indulge in its catalog highlights alongside new and rare material. Eldritch has tried fiercely to disown his goth influence/following for many years, but you can't hold the black posse down; despite the frontman's possible protests, look for lots of eyeliner and downcast expressions when the Sisters of Mercy perform on Wednesday, March 22, at 8 p.m. at the Warfield. Admission is $37.50-42.50; call 567-2060 or visit for more info.-- Tamara Palmer

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Tamara Palmer

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Justin F. Farrar

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Michael Alan Goldberg

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Zac Pennington


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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
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