By Ian S. Port
By SF Weekly
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Tony Ware
By Emma Silvers
As part of San Francisco's Jazz Mafia collective, Brass Mafia brings a unique, improvisation-heavy vibe to its performances. With an emphasis on horns — specifically the tuba — the Brass Mafia is a mobile unit, marching in parades as well as taking the stage in more old-fashioned venues secured to the earth. The group has backed up burlesque dancers, told off-color jokes between songs at corporate events, and played with a genre-bending array of cats including Lyrics Born, Carlos Santana, and Bobby McFerrin. A new album should be out in December, which will reflect the group's commitment to bringing brass to places it rarely goes.
Zeph & Azeem
J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science
Alex 'Zanders' Andreas — Boom Boom Room
Kevin Arnold — Noise Pop
Monika Bernstein, William Linn — Blasthaus
Will Bronson — SMC Recordings
Christian Cunningham, Ben Van Houten — The Bay Bridged
Marshall Lamm — Marshall Lamm Promotions & Public Relations
Jennifer Maerz — Music Editor, SF Weekly
Audra Morse — Incredibly Strange Wrestling, Thee Parkside
Ryan Romana — Six Degrees Records
Katy St. Clair — Bouncer columnist, SF Weekly
Special thanks to the following: Lotus Vodka: presenting sponsor
Vespa San Francisco, Going.com,
SF Institute of Esthetics and Cosmetology, Varcose Travel Incentives: sponsors
SF Weekly 2007 Music Awards Staff
Executive Producer: Josh Fromson
Producer: Sunset Promotions
and Tania Celante
Associate Producer: Jennifer Maerz
Web Maestro: David Downs
Editorial Operations Manager: Vicky Walker
Writers: Eric K. Arnold, Jonah Bayer, Grant Brissey, John Garmon, Michael Alan Goldberg, John Graham, Evan James, Maya Kroth, Mark Keresman, Toph One, Tamara Palmer,Frances Reade, Mike Rowell, Dan Strachota, Ben Westhoff
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Layout Editor: Audrey Fukuman
Although they've been around for years, DJ Zeph and MC Azeem are still an underground act, even in their native Bay Area. That could all change as folks near and far take note of last summer's release of . on Om Records, and the duo's blazing live shows in support of their first album together. Zeph has been rocking the local clubs for years, and champion slam poet Azeem has five solo albums under his belt, but it wasn't until 2001's single "Rubber/Glue" that they joined forces and their powerfully eclectic hip-hop partnership was born.
J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science
J-Boogie is the cohost of the long running Beatsauce hip-hop show on KUSF. He's also released a couple of albums under the moniker of J-Boogie's Dubtronic Science, and has put in plenty of sweat equity on various remixes and collaborations. Boogie travels the globe spinning records from his signature jazzy, downtempo, and hip-hop collection, one that's also liberally splashed with dub reggae, Latin, and African rhythms. You'd be hard-pressed to find a San Franciscan with the same intrepid DJing spirit as our veteran. From intimate club nights in the Mission to festivals in Golden Gate Park, live or in the mix, the man knows how to get your feet moving.
Fronted by charismatic crooner Bart Davenport and featuring French-born keyboardist Herve "RV" Salters and Tony Sevener on the beats, Bay Area trio Honeycut delivers potent grooves that cross the slinky electro-Britpop of Primal Scream and Kasabian with classic, creamy Motown soul. Formed five years ago, the band came to the attention of Blackalicious DJ Chief Xcel, who signed them to Quannum in 2006. Honeycut's well-received debut, ., dropped earlier this year, and its energetic live sets — during which Salters simultaneously jams on the keys like Bernie Worrell and dances like Bez from Happy Mondays — leave revelers breathless.
Lo-fi singer-songwriter Stoltz is the epitome of DIY. Aside from playing nearly all the instruments on his debut, . (1999), he also recorded the album himself at home on his 4-track. Upgrading his equipment for 2001's . didn't change his self-reliant ethic: He hand-painted the cover art for each of its few hundred copies and spent three years touring behind it without major-label support. Recognizing what the majors overlooked, Sub Pop inked a deal with Stoltz and released the stellar 2006 disc . — which was home-recorded, of course, on 8-track reel-to-reel. Although Stoltz performs live with a full band, he's still basically a one-man show with a library of influences, his sound ranging from bubbly Beach Boys pop to fuzzy Velvet Underground jangle. Expect more intrepid invention when he releases a new record in February 2008.
Sterling James has cemented her presence in Bay Area radio over the past twenty years, progressing from her high school station to KSOL 98.9 and Alice 97.3 to her current gig as the weekday "Afternoon Drive" host on The Quiet Storm, 102.9 KBLX. James provides the smooth R&B outlet with a sassy, intelligent on-air personality and draws a loyal flock of listeners in return. Her gregarious nature and support of local music keeps her intimately tied to homegrown organizations like Youth Speaks, the Hip Hop Dance Festival, and the North Beach Jazz Festival.
To whet your appetite for winter sports in San Francisco, Icer Air hosts a small "rail jam" in front of Ruby Skye starting at 7 p.m. Icer Air's official annual tournament goes down November 2 and 3 at AT&T Park with athletes competing in events ranging from air skiing and snowboarding to skateboarding, wakeboarding, motocross, and BMX. Tonight's fare will be downsized quite a bit, but expect pro skiers and snowboarders to take advantage of a snowy quarter-pipe to execute the sorts of tricks that'd land us commoners in traction.
Sponsored by Mr. Nice Guy
This gangbanger-turned-rapper from Eddy St.'s notorious Marcus Garvey Projects is known for the street-savviest flow in the Sucka-Free City. Since first emerging as a solo artist back in the "mobb music" era of the late '90s, Mess, as he's affectionately known, has sold hundreds of thousands of records independently, despite frequent run-ins with the law. Although currently incarcerated, over the past two years he's somehow managed to release eight albums, including his own Draped Up and Chipped Out, the Fillmoe Nation and Muzik fo tha Taliban compilations, Bullys Wit Fullys' The Infrastructure (with Guce), and Da Bidness (with PSD and Keak Da Sneak). If Messy isn't the realest hood cat in rap, he's pretty damn close.
The Berkeley hip-hop foursome is probably best known because the video for its viral hit, "Vans" — which seems to sample a vibrating cell phone — was censored by MTV. (The highly principled network doesn't tolerate product placement, don't you know.) Needless to say, hella publicity followed; the group toured the country this fall ahead of its Jive Records debut, Based Boys, slated for release on October 30. The group mixes the local hyphy sound with a bit of down-South snap style, and proudly displays its influences, ranging from Run-D.M.C. to Too $hort — the East Bay godfather who helped the Pack get its deal.
West Coast Vaccine, the second album by E-40's cousin Turf Talk, confirmed Turf's status as the future of hyphy. He's the exciting, innovative lyricist the movement needs to take its scrapers-and-stunna-shades shtick to the next level. Okay, Turf's topics may seem like typical Cali thug-hop fare, but that's so not the point. Sure, he's got gats, cash, and hos, but he's also got flows for days, yadidahmean? Turf's wide-ranging tonal acrobatics are unparalleled by his street-level MC peers; his ability to shift his delivery and cadences from low whispers to high-pitched drawls makes what he says far less of a focus than the way he says things.
Comprising rappers Goldie Gold, Stresmatic, and Doonie Baby, Fairfield's favorite sons the Federation have been credited with being the inventors of the hyphy sound — thanks in no small part to producer Rick Rock, the "king of slaps." Rock took the Bay Area's venerable "mobb music" template, injected it with steroids, enhanced its flavorfulness, added more widespread appeal, and unleashed it on the world. On their just-released second album, It's Whateva, the Feds take hyphy's infectious energy into the realms of metal, crunk, techno, and gospel and still come out shinier than the grill on a just-polished Cadillac.
Sponsored by Jetset Energy Drink
A Santa Cruz native who cut his teeth in reggae bands, Migs has spent the past decade at the forefront of deep house music with his sassy blend of funk, soul, and dub textures and wholly seductive beats. He made a name for himself in the late '90s with a batch of acclaimed releases on Naked Music; his songs were heard on Sex in the City and Six Feet Under, and he's remixed tracks for the likes of Britney Spears and Macy Gray. Migs' latest dancefloor opus, Those Things, was released this year on his own Salted Music.
Prolific, tech-savvy multi-instrumentalist Willits has almost too many new projects to mention, but highlights include Listening Garden (a series of sound fragments recorded at an arts center in Japan), Plants and Hearts (a "pure droning guitar piece," in Willits' own words) and Ocean Fire (a guitar and piano ode to the sea recorded with Ryuichi Sakamoto). They come on the heels of last year's Surf Boundaries, which was recorded with ex-girlfriend Latrice Barnett and focused on the disintegration of a relationship. Though Willits is primarily known for his technical innovation and ambient, otherworldly sound, his compositions satisfy because they feel personal and emotionally affected.
With two drummers and a fierce rhythmic devotion, it comes as no surprise that Tussle's main objective is "to make a motherfucker dance." Indeed, on the group's latest album, Telescope Mind, Tussle collaborated with original New York No-Wave group Liquid Liquid, and also featured a 10-minute Hot Chip remix of their song "Warning." The quartet is weird and wonderful live, as recent shows at the Bicycle Film Festival and Bottom of the Hill will attest — its set is full of slinky basslines, throbbing synths, and endless percussion. A little polyrhythmic stew, anyone?
Omnipresent party band Eats Tapes gets MIDIval on our asses, conducting an evil orchestra of vintage synths, rusty sequencers, a hacked Nintendo, and some jerry-rigged analogue thingies in order to inspire goofy, sweat-drenched meltdowns. The lady-and-gent duo released the full-length Dos Mutantes on Tigerbeat6 earlier this year to wide acclaim from dance music's fringes; the band draws inspiration and fans equally from electronica, punk, noise, and rock. Their podcasts on www.eatstapes.com reliably provide brain-twisting bangers and weirdo sound collages, while their live show is an insanely hi-NRG parade of radioactive jams. To paraphrase Orwell, it's like a robotic glam boot, stomping on a happy human face — forever.
Sponsored by The Futon Shop
Sila and the AfroFunk Experience
After seeing Senegalese artist Baaba Maal perform in his native tongue at the Fillmore a few years a go, Kenyan-born vocalist Victor Sila was inspired to hang up his previous musical guise as a R&B pop singer and pursue the worldly rhythms of his current group, Sila and the AfroFunk Experience. Mixing the legendary sounds of Fela Kuti with some tricks gleaned from James Brown and P-Funk, Sila (who sings in Swahili and English) and company create a dancefloor-ready throb guaranteed to move you.
When it comes to Cheb i Sabbah, the titan of transglobal, outernational sound, Algeria's loss is San Francisco's gain. The native North African DJ has been blending East and West (and north and south) since his early days spinning American soul records in Paris in the '60s. A S.F. resident since '86, he pioneered the world music scene via the now-defunct 1002 Nights parties and his ongoing Tuesday night club at Nickie's. Sabbah has earned a dedicated following by weaving Indian, African, and Arabian sounds with jazz, poetry, and anything else that might enhance his trancey dancefloor groove.
Anyone who's ever caught a Bayonics show at the Elbo Room, 12 Galaxies, or El Rincon can testify that this ten-piece Latin hip-hop band is no joke when it comes to producing sweaty exuberance among audiences. Mixing urban elements with traditional rhythms, they're equally comfortable playing mariachi, salsa, or reggaeton, often with a jazzy, brassy, and superpercussive feel. Based in the Mission, Bayonics have become as vital to that neighborhood's live music scene as avocado-infused salsa verde is to the area's taquerias.
Bay Area instrumental Latin hip-hop outfit Saoco combines Cuban rhythms and aspects of popular reggaeton and timba. Led by energetic Cuban national Leyder "Dos Four" Chapman, Saoco deploys an upbeat sound that's drawing increasing attention from fans of the aforementioned musical genres and beyond. Chapman's breathless raps — sung mostly in Spanish — ride jaunty keyboards, staccato drumbeats, live turntablism, and taut backing vocals to create the sort of music that lends itself to dancing. Chapman's stage presence only further stirs up a fervent musical party. Salsa lessons and a dance partner are highly recommended at Saoco shows.
Sponsored by Papalote
The Martin Luther Experience
Martin Luther isn't shy about paying tribute to influences like Jimi Hendrix, James Brown, Prince, and Sly & the Family Stone in his heartfelt, meandering-yet-insistent ballads and funk jams. Though the Roots affiliate doesn't perform live or release albums as often as many would like (other than a 2006 live album, he hasn't had a record since 2004's well-regarded Rebel Soul Music), he remains committed to the activist messages of his music via his MySpace blog. Luther even has a lead role in Julie Taymor's Beatles-themed film Across the Universe, which seems consistent with his throwback, idealistic charms.
Born in San Francisco and raised in Oakland, Kev Choice has been studying piano for more than a decade, earning music degrees at Xavier University and the University of Southern Illinois. All along, Choice has performed with rap ensembles, composing tunes that draw equally from Bud Powell, McCoy Tyner, EPMD, and Nas. Recently he has been putting the finishing touches on his first full-length, The Broken Mold, which melds the soul-sampling grooves of Kanye West with the conscious rapping of Blackalicious. Live, Choice performs with a six-piece band, offering a genre-busting mix of soul, jazz, and rap, which led to Lauryn Hill requesting his services as musical director for a recent show in New York City.
The music of singer Jennifer Johns reflects teenage years spent falling in love with contemporary hip-hop while cultivating pristine pipes through classical training with the Oakland Youth Chorus. In addition to similar-sounding artists like De La Soul and Lauryn Hill, Johns, who started singing in church at age 3, finds inspiration in influences ranging from Sade, Nina Simone, and Paul Simon to Rudyard Kipling and West Indian music. After forming her own label, Nayo Movement Music, she released the 2004 EP heavyelectromagneticsoularpoeticjunglehop and later shared stages with the likes of Common, Mos Def, Blackalicious, and Mary J. Blige. Her recently released sophomore album, Painting on Wax, features contributions from Panama Kaz Kyzer of the Team, Gift of Gab from Blackalicious, and Zion-I.
Since forming in '05, Monophonics quickly made a name for themselves, keeping the big, horn-driven instrumental funk sound of the '60s and '70s alive with countless gigs around the Bay Area and beyond. The seven-piece released its debut CD, Playin and Simple, in September, a disc that calls to mind Tower of Power, among other greats. Monophonics have played and recorded with members of the Funky Meters, Galactic, and Soulive, and also collaborated with local DJ crew 4One Funk on a side project called 4One Phonics. The band frequently plays at Mojito and the Boom Boom Room in San Francisco.
Sponsored by Crunch Fitness
Andy Cabic's rustic folk project Vetiver is touring with the Shins right now, but don't worry — the countrified melancholy that defines this band is far too earthy and subtle to ever end up on a Zach Braff movie soundtrack. The band's most recent release, 2006's To Find Me Gone, was a highlight of the new-folk movement, a collection of wistful, dusty summer evening melodies that evoked traditional Americana, '60s British folk, and West Coast easy listening. The band dreamily follows its musical nostalgia without sounding retro: There's not much freak to its folk, just a warmly off-kilter sensibility that makes Cabic's music a vital continuation of the traditions he invokes.
Throw together a country-blues-loving guitarist and a metalhead drummer and you get the Dodos, a fascinating psych-folktronic duo. On their debut CD, Beware of the Maniacs (released at the end of 2006), guitarist and singer Meric Long layers evocative feedback over pretty acoustic picking, while drummer Logan Kroeber mixes primitive, thumping beats with intricate pitter-patter. The propulsive results recall everything from John Fahey to the Akron/Family (with whom the duo is currently touring). That's not even mentioning Long's voice, a sweet clarion call like Elliott Smith without all the heroin and suicide; or Long's lyrics, which chronicle complex relationships with acuity. Here's hoping these Dodos don't become extinct anytime soon.
The idiosyncratic indie-rock duo Two Gallants upped the ante this year with the release of the stripped-down The Scenery of Farewell EP as well as their third full-length, Two Gallants (which is the second album for the Omaha wonderlabel Saddle Creek). Too accessible for freak-folk and too innovative to be retro, the band has carved a unique niche in the underground and is finally starting to cross over into the mainstream. San Francisco's best-kept secret is now an internationally renowned touring act — we're just confused as to why it's taken so long.
Some of you know him as the former frontman of MK Ultra, others know him as the owner of Tiny Telephone recording studio, and most of you know him from his prolific solo work. No matter which way you're familiar with John Vanderslice, it's hard to deny that he's probably the busiest guy in indie rock. This year he's found time to share the stage with peers like Spoon and Bishop Allen, play live on NPR, and release his latest full-length, Emerald City. Completists should also make sure to check out his cover of Radiohead's "Karma Police," which is available via the Web site Stereogum.com.
Sponsored by Lee and Woo Optometry
Triclops! is a lab experiment gone horribly right, a gene-spliced beast grown in a beer-stained petri dish. With DNA extracted from freako punk bands like Fleshies, Victims Family, and Bottles & Skulls, the Triclops! monstrosity ravages eardrums, PA systems, and anything that gets too close to singer John "Geek" Mink — who spends more time rolling around on the floor than your average stuntman on fire. Triclops! song tempos shift with whiplash quickness, vocals ricochet off the walls, and effects pedals get abused beyond CIA-sanctioned protocols. Meanwhile Geek's microphone cord snakes around your ankles as he flails and shrieks about poisons, toxic sludge ponds, and how Oakland's Lake Merritt is "filled to bursting with dead bodies and goose shit." Need a cure for phony hipster "weirdness"? Triclops! is now offering inoculations.
Launched as an experiment in rhythmic primitivism, Wooden Shjips has garnered attention worldwide since the band's first 10-inch EP last year. Guitarist Ripley Johnson, bassist Dusty Jermier, organist Nash Whalen, and drummer Omar Ahsanuddin released their self-titled debut album last month. Rolling Stone made the CD a pick of the week, calling its metronomic garage riffage "Day-Glo drone rock." That's a pretty fitting description of the band's hypnotically compelling music, which carries on the catatonically throbbing tradition of such legends as the Velvet Underground, Suicide, and Spacemen 3, with added elements of '60s psychedelia and noisy guitar blasts.
With its bludgeoning rhythms and serrated guitar leads, this self-described "piss-angry metal band" from Oakland is turning the heavy-rock scene on its head. Saviours, which just toured the U.K. with prog-metal outfit Mastodon, recently signed to New York's Kemado Records, home to other cutting-edge acts like Danava, the Sword, and Dungen. Currently recording a new full-length with Joe Barresi (Melvins, Kyuss) for release in February 2008, the foursome will put out a one-sided 12-inch in mid-November. For fans of Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden, and Megadeth, Saviours truly live up to their name.
Rock 'n' Roll Adventure Kids
Pass the hot dogs, roll up those shirt sleeves, and pour yourself a cup of Lucky lager: You won't want to be underfed, overdressed, or anywhere close to sober when the Rock 'n' Roll Adventure Kids fire up their twang-danged rock machine. Parlaying a love of backwater blues romps (and a slightly licentious sense of humor) into raw and rollicking fuzz-punk outbursts, the Adventurers play with the wild glee of prospectors who just discovered gold in them thar hills. The singer bears an eerie resemblance to a young Dustin Hoffman, it's true — but these ain't no straw dogs. The Kids rip it up! Gawd damn, yes.
Sponsored by Jack Trux
Jazz generations following the Swing Era (1934-45) had little use for the clarinet — there've literally been a handful of musicians who specialize in the instrument in bebop and beyond. Fortunately, one of these experts is hometown hero Ben Goldberg, a diverse yet focused clarinetist and composer. Goldberg led the Hebraic-inspired New Klezmer Trio in the late '80s and early '90s, was an original member of John Zorn's Masada, recorded with Nels Cline and Beth Custer, and more recently joined instrumental bicoastals Tin Hat. His intrepid, astringent tone and brooding, challenging compositions put him at the forefront of jazz's cutting-edge zone.
Bay Area jazz guitarist Brewer may not have been nicknamed "The Hardest Working Man in Show Business," but he surely gives the Godfather of Soul a run for his money. By his own estimation, Brewer plays out an average of 300 nights per year. He's written more than 100 original compositions, formed his own record label, and released a double album entirely comprising original material, all by the age of 31. None of this would matter if the man were merely competent at his art, but he garners enthusiastic accolades for understanding melody and his conservative use of repetition.
Tenor saxophonist Howard Wiley's growing body of work stands as an ideal rebuttal to the assertion that contemporary jazz is devoid of ingenuity, but this is not to suggest that the man ignores his roots. Whether reinventing standards (see "Amazing Grace," from this year's The Angola Project) or composing original work, Wiley displays both the bold experimentation and careful temperance of a conscious, innovative master, one who's bound to be studied by subsequent jazz innovators for years to come.
A mere 28 years old, Wil Blades is already a legend on the Hammond B-3 organ. The Chicago native, who came to San Francisco to study under bassist Herbie Lewis at the New College of California, quickly went from playing weekly gigs at the Boom Boom Room to performing with the likes of John Lee Hooker, Dr. Lonnie Smith, and Stanton Moore. On his debut album, Sketchy, released in August on Doodlin' Records, Blades showcases a smooth, funky sound that recalls heroes like Jimmy Smith without being slavishly derivative. Apparently, Blades' time spent in combos with Scott Amendola, Wil Bernard, and Idris Muhammad has taught him well.
Sponsored by Glass Dildo Me (GDM)
Lemonade, whose music is so far only accessible on MySpace or from the stage, has been making waves over the past year with eclectic, engrossing experimental music. Drawing on a kaleidoscopic range of international sounds, the trio has managed to snatch the attention of dance music fans, international rhythm lovers, and psychedelic beat loyalists alike. Its performances boast a sound that's diverse enough to move among venues of all stripes, treating audiences to a transcendent live experience and turning them on to one of the most exciting and eccentric emerging acts in the Bay Area.
In Clipd Beaks' world, distorted, echo-soaked vocals fly off the melody lines and transmute into psychedelic flesh-smears. Drums gallop in half-circles, stop and kick sideways, then lurch forward again. Analogue synthesizers vibrate like insurrectionist 'droids playing drainpipe kazoos and cracked iron saxophones. And a heavy bass guitar — perhaps the only sane instrument left standing — lassos it all together with looping riffs. Suffice it to say that Clipd Beaks' planet isn't an easy one to inhabit. It's drenched by inky black downpours, and chaos is ever-threatening. That order is maintained and entropy averted is either a testament to Clipd Beaks' willpower or a sign that the forces of gravity are simply too strong to overcome. For now.
Clad head to toe in a white spandex unitard, Borts Minorts performs spastic interpretive dance moves to mutant technodisco backing tracks. So as to not impede his manic onstage contortions, he wears a wireless mike through which he sings insanely processed vocals. Meanwhile, two foxy backup dancers provide synchronized dance moves. Elsewhere onstage, you might find a flute player, a Theremin manipulator, or a full-time bubble-blower. The Minorts experience has been compared to everything from Devo to exercise guru Richard Simmons, which gives some idea of the absurdity of it all. Check out Minorts' "Dance Contestant" video on YouTube sometime. It's a jaw-dropper.
16 Bitch Pile-Up
16 Bitch Pile-Up has been the Bay Area's premier all-lady noise terrorist cell for five years. The recent relocation of member Shannon Walker to Los Angeles might have crippled a less hardy trio; the band instead responded by releasing its first factory-pressed album to date, a split LP with the winsome title Make Like a Fetus and Abort on Ecstatic Peace (the band has oozed an ephemeral trail of CD-Rs, 7-inches, and cassette tapes across the noise landscape). In its infrequent but celebrated live performances, the Pile-Up is violently unpredictable; ear-scalding harsh electronic noise can melt into quiet experiments with voices and traditional instruments.
Sponsored by Wunder Beer
In recent years Emily Jane White has lived in Santa Cruz, Bordeaux, France, and on an organic apple farm in Philo, California; she also worked for a year on a domestic-violence crisis hotline. She has culled her experiences into personal explorations and tales of tragedy on her debut album, Dark Undercoat, which will be released in early November on Double Negative Records. (A West Coast tour will follow.) Exploring "darkness, hope, and melancholy," in her words, White's songs are sometimes compared to Cat Power's. While this pairing certainly fits, her stark guitar-and-piano-anchored tunes have a vitality all their own.
The genesis of East Bay combo Willow Willow seems like a classic silver-screen chronicle. Two Albany lasses born four months apart, Miranda Zieger and Jessica Vohs became friends in kindergarten and their voices have intertwined in song ever since. Forging their approach from the exquisite, tart harmonies of the Silly Sisters — the traditional Brit folk duo of Maddy Prior and June Tabor — and the Everly Brothers–meet–Big Star pop elegance of locals the Moore Brothers, Willow Willow has one of the most distinctive styles around. After years of performing, Willow Willow released its eponymous debut this year on Mod Lang.
Texas transplant Greg Ashley made a name for himself locally as the frontman for Oakland's the Gris Gris, and as a soloist he treads similar dark psych-folk territory, albeit on a somewhat quieter level. His solo debut, 2003's Medicine Fuck Dream, was a ten-track ode to the women in his life and sounded, well, about how you might expect an album called Medicine Fuck Dream to sound. He followed that with this year's critically acclaimed Painted Garden, which, like its predecessor, featured Ashley writing and playing nearly everything on the record, giving it an even more intimate feel.
Or, the Whale, a sprawling septet of slide guitars, accordions, washboards, and beyond, began drawing attention when the band released its first album, Light Poles and Pines, in May. Filled with danceable, country-charged rock, reflective ballads, and indie-pop gems, the debut was received warmly by local media, and was even mentioned on VH1's Best Week Ever and a blog for USA Today. Listeners fell hard for Or, the Whale's thrilling four-part vocal harmonies at boisterous live shows, and the band, still in its public infancy, has developed a well-deserved local following.
Sponsored by HBI
Every last Friday of the month, "Remedy" takes over San Francisco's DNA Lounge to provide a place where, as promoters Chadwick, Xavier, Christopher Vera, and Essential Nightlife are fond of saying, "Music is the cure." This exciting, high-energy evening of deep house music (which began as a weekly event) serves as a leader of the international house scene, often featuring top guest DJs and live performers from all over. "Remedy" recently celebrated its eighth birthday, a milestone vote of confidence in this city's fickle nightlife landscape.
After exploring the cultural outlands of club music with residencies at Dubmission and Dhamaal, DJ Maneesh the Twister came up with the unified dub theory; namely, that dub — originally a drum-and-bass-oriented remixed instrumental offshoot of reggae, later a production style emphasizing echo, reverb, and dropouts — was the unifying principle connecting roots reggae, dancehall, bhangra, two-step, dubstep, hip-hop, and, of course, dub itself. Assembling a rotating crew of experimental-minded selectors (like Kid Kameleon, Kush Aurora, and Ross Hogg), he began presenting Surya Dub at Club Six in February. The night offers two rooms of mind-blowing musical madness linking dub's cultural roots and its offshoots in one venue.
Even after several years of consistent success, Tubesteak Connection has managed to keep its determinedly dirty edge, thrusting Aunt Charlie's into a late-'70s and early-'80s time warp every Thursday night. Led by DJ Bus Station John, whose collection of extremely rare jams ranges from gay bathhouse obscurities to New York electro and Eurodisco, the Tenderloin dive transforms into a cruisey dance party that pulls in queers of all kinds. The drinks are dirt cheap and almost illegally strong, and the scene calls to mind a revolutionary and storied era of gay San Francisco.
Saturday Night Soul Party
On the first and third Saturdays of each month, the Elbo Room transforms itself into a '70s English discotheque. On these nights, DJs Pink Panzer, Paul Paul, and Phengren Oswald unleash the kind of '60s soul 45s that spawned all-night dance parties in northern British cities like Manchester and Blackpool. Decked out in swank suits, the Saturday Night selectors deliver obscure, high-energy stompers like Doug Clark & the Hot Nuts' "Baby Let Me Bang Your Box" and Shirley Ellis' "Soul Time." The crowds — a surprisingly diverse mix of modded-out hipsters, herb-an soul fans, and Gap-sporting fitness experts — respond in kind, frugging with the kind of fervor that would make the Wigan Casino proud.