Opening your eyes and ears

We've all hit shows at which ticketholders can't be bothered to listen to the music, instead catching up on boozy minutiae for everyone within earshot. It's one of the prices you pay to watch a live performance, and for the most part you've just gotta roll with it. For those easily flustered by extraneous conversation, though, San Francisco's Second Annual Headphone Festival may be just the way to hit a public music event minus your neighbor's verbal input. The internationally traveling concert, also known as Le Placard, offers more than three dozen performers and 60 headphone jacks — which participants plug into for an evening of adventurous and avant electronica and pop acts.

Launched by Parisian Erik Minkkinen in 1999, the event has grown to attract more than 300 attendees in San Francisco alone last year; this year it hits eight countries (including Canada, at Montreal's edgy electronica fest, Mutek). The Deletist, a local practitioner of haunting ambient lullabies, attended the first London Le Placard festival in 2003. "It totally changed the way I listened to music," she recounts via e-mail. "There was an environment of respect and consideration, and I wondered if that would be possible in America, where playing live seemed more like a battle to be heard, where subtlety was mostly lost amidst background noise and chatter."

Le Placard eliminates the central organizer, and its lineups are fairly democratic, but the Deletist (the only name she goes by) helped put some of the S.F. details together — for example, locking down the 5lowershop (992 Peralta) on Saturday, Sept. 9, to host the performances. A range of mostly Bay Area artists (whose music includes "ambient delayed electric guitar," "wood hammered dulcimer with bratty vocals," and shoegazing pop) play into headphone amps from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. The event is free, but don't forget it's B.Y.O. headphones: Unlike the Flaming Lips' famous late '90s trek into true high fidelity, this gig requires you to pack your own earbuds.

For those who can't sit quite that still, Root Division's Gallery 3175 (3175 17th St.) offers a one-night stand of a different nature that same evening. "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" showcases photography that captures a selection of past and present rock icons. A few choice examples: Robert Altman offers a slice of '60s San Francisco alongside Jim Marshall (who shot the famous image of Johnny Cash flipping the bird) and celebrated Hollywood shutterbug Brad Elterman. Subjects include everyone from the Stones, the Beatles, and the Sex Pistols to members of California's burgeoning punk scene of the '70s. "It's Only Rock 'n' Roll" is open to the public only on Sept. 9, starting at 8:30 p.m. — with performances by the Golden Gods, Substitutes, Del Bombers, F-ocracy, and the Paul Green School of Rock Music. Says curator/photographer Daniel Nolan, "In the spirit of any show or concert that can only happen once, it will be a one-night event. So if you miss it, you'll just have to hear about it for years to come."

 
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