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Zen Dicks and Mercenary Whispers 

Wednesday, Apr 2 2014

A common rock narrative goes like this: Isolated visionary tracks opus of odd logic and alienation on a tape machine in the bedroom, then assembles live band to tour the tortured solipsism live. On the West Coast, this backstory is typically attached to sensitive and introverted fellows. Not so for Cleveland's Obnox, the solo outlet of Bim Thomas, alum of storied Ohio bands The Bassholes, Puffy Aerolas, and This Moment in Black History. Thomas records himself because he holds most of the music industry in contempt. He actually deserves the maverick tag that publicists so often like to apply to hiss-beholden proponents of light psychedelia. Last year's Corrupt Free Enterprise is a rhapsodic double album of feral garage tempered by blustery soul flourishes. "Deep in the Dusk" is a menacing hip-hop track that clips out and bleeds. Each of the four sides of Corrupt Free Enterprise plays out like its own worthy statement. G. Green and Useless Eaters open for Obnox on Thursday, April 3, at the Hemlock.

Gary Floyd's visual art presents a world of deviance and deliverance done in collage, mixed-media, and drawings, all awash in dreamy pastel colors. Best known as the vocalist of San Francisco-by-way-of-Austin punk band The Dicks, it's not surprising that Floyd's art is transgressive. Crudely composed penises accompany scribbled Zen phrases on cardboard. Explicit photographs lay like idols in the center of urban detritus. Such salacious imagery is expected, but the great pleasantry of it all actually lends Floyd's work its magnetism. His peaceful colors and positive sloganeering look nearly childish, which softens the graphic content and suggests Floyd's serene attitude toward the sexuality and identity that he used to source for rage. Gary Floyd's art opening is Friday, April 4, at 1-2-3-4-Go! Records in Oakland.

Los Angeles electronic duo Soft Metals pulls from the breezy repetition and silken vocals of ambient house, but its lyrics tend to wax philosophical. The group is more likely to position itself in the lineage of 20th century minimalism than, say, Brit ambient house originators The Orb. In that way, Soft Metals emphasize a mellowed strain of backdrop electronic music and a cerebral one where form follows content. At the Rickshaw Stop on Sunday, April 6, with Max & Mara and Intimatchine, Soft Metals might split the dancefloor in two.

Norwegian artist Jenny Hval's sophomore album, Innocence is Kinky, supplies erudite lyrics about mythology and identity politics, but it's an absolute pleasure to hear her unpack. Hval's voice is a mercenary whisper and disembodied phantom belied by sparse electronics, the odd rock touch, and jarring samples. The studio left-turns and cutups showcase producer John Parish as well, whose collaboration with PJ Harvey on 2009's A Woman a Man Walked By is an apt companion album from one of Hval's close forebears. Hval plays with Mark McGuire at the Chapel on Wednesday, April 9.

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Sam Lefebvre


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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
    Arcade Fire opened their US tour at Shoreline Amphitheater to a full house who was there in support of their album "Reflector," which was released last fall. Dan Deacon opened the show to a happily surprised early audience and got the crowd actively dancing and warmed up. DEVO was originally on the bill to support Arcade Fire but a kayak accident last week had sidelined lead singer Mark Mothersbaugh and the duration of the west coast leg of the tour. Win Butler did a homage to DEVO by performing Uncontrollable Urge.

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