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The Energys: hot-wired Japanese punk explodes in S.F. 

Wednesday, Sep 26 2007

Morrissey has turned from a gangly egghead into a debonair crooner without losing his self-deprecating wit: At his birthday show in May, the suit-clad singer gestured to himself and dryly said, "Let this be a warning — this is what 48 looks like." Yet during the set opener (a raucous rendition of the Smiths' "The Queen Is Dead"), the Mancunian treated the microphone as if he were wielding a red cape in front of a bull, cutting back and forth in time to the descending chords of the song. His slick 2006 album Ringleader of the Tormentors isn't quite as ragged as his current live show, although its bright pop produces small pleasures. Morrissey performs on Wednesday, Sept. 26, and Thursday, Sept. 27, at the Fillmore at 8 p.m. Admission is $65; call 346-6000 or visit for more info. —Annie Zaleski

Circle's name is an apt one. The Finnish act's compositions frequently cycle a single riff for minutes at a time while the drums tick along, adapting the mechanical motorik rhythm pioneered by '70s krautrock bands like Neu! But the music isn't just about inducing trance; Circle frequently combines that hypnotic repetition with manic energy. The band's newest release, Katapult, is a weird record, even by Circle standards. The primitive analog synth lines suggest the influence of early '80s electronic music, specifically Tangerine Dream's soundtracks to movies like Risky Business. The album's best track, "Four Points of the Compass," is a total droner that makes you feel as if you're in a Michael Mann movie — unshaven, stoic, and driving a Ferrari down a rain-slicked highway at midnight. Hear for yourself when Circle comes to town on Thursday, Sept. 27, at Bottom of the Hill at 9 p.m. Admission is $10-12; call 626-4455 or visit for more info. —Phil Freeman

Too hot-wired to worry about picky little details like tuning, The Energys slap their guitars silly while their amps screech with distortion. In fact, there's much in this Kobe City quartet's song "Teenage Flustration" [sic] that recalls fellow Japanese noiseniks Guitar Wolf. The Energys drop chunks of '50s rock into the Ramones' bottled-up punk fizz, catalyzing a reaction somewhat akin to nitro meeting glycerin. Catch a faceful of feedback on Thursday, Sept. 27 (when the Energys join the chicken-squawkin' Rock 'n' Roll Adventure Kids), at 9 p.m., or on Saturday, Sept. 29 (when they headline the all-day, all-ages Boomfest), at 3 p.m. Both events are at Thee Parkside. Thursday's admission is $5 and Saturday's fest is free; call 252-1330 or visit for more info. —John Graham

As the legend goes, the three founding members of Israel Vibration — Cecil "Skelly" Spence, Lacelle "Wiss" Bulgin, and Albert "Apple" Craig — met in a polio ward. Their battered bodies belied their angelic vocals, however, and they went on to become one of the greatest roots harmony trios of the classic era of '70s reggae. Over the past 32 years, their socially conscious "sufferer's" anthems, celebrations of Jah love, and inspirational songs of upliftment have earned the group a devoted following. Now a duo (Apple left the band a few years back), Israel Vibration continues to release studio albums — the most recent being 2007's Stamina — and spread positive messages of peace, love, and unity to audiences worldwide. Israel Vibration performs on Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Independent at 9 p.m. Admission is 22-$25; call 771-1421 or visit for more info. —Eric K. Arnold

Brooklyn transplants who make up the National have been quietly refining their melancholic indie rock for the past eight years, culminating with their most recent release, Boxer. While the band's discs are remarkably varied in sound — displaying alt-country influences as well as My Bloody Valentine–esque experimentation — Boxer pairs frontman Matt Berninger's distinctive baritone with expansive arrangements. From the orchestral opener "Fake Empires" to the climactic "Start a War" and the foreboding piano-fueled closer "Gospel," Boxer is a fully realized vision, something that today's single-driven music world needs more now than ever. The National performs Sunday, Sept. 29, at the Grand at 8 p.m. Admission is $22.50; call 864-0815 or visit for more info. —Jonah Bayer

Olympia, Wash.–based band Wolves in the Throne Room has risen to become one of America's most respected proponents of extreme music. The group crafts a unique brand of experimental black metal as vast and foreboding as the great Pacific Northwest woods that inspired its sound. With a "back to nature" philosophy drawn from black metal's pagan roots and a gift for balancing oppressive guitar squall with flashes of pastoral beauty, the band further refines its dark science on its latest album, Two Hunters. Oakland's equally dynamic black-metal existentialists Ludicra and Arizona sludgecore merchants Graves At Sea add to the mayhem when this unholy trio of bands unleashes hell on Tuesday, Oct. 2, at Slim's at 8 p.m. Admission is $12; call 255-0333 or visit for more info. —Dave Pehling

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Eric K. Arnold

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Dave Pehling

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Annie Zaleski

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Jonah Bayer

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John Graham

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Phil Freeman


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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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