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Freaks, noiseniks, and beach bums 

Wednesday, Dec 20 2006
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I probably get an e-mail a week from some dot-com offering to warp speed the way I experience music. At the rate these promises are going, I'll just wish for a new Drones song and an entire album will appear on my iPod. It sometimes makes me pine for the olden days of getting stoked on music without the need for a cluttered inbox of online trimmings.

Obviously we'd be in the dark about, say, OK Go's astounding treadmill skills were it not for the magic of companies like YouTube. But I'm nevertheless all too happy to switch off my laptop at the end of the day. For me, music is still best experienced in the terrestrial world, no matter what technological advances are on offer.

Sure, point me toward new tracks on MySpace. Yeah, I'll skim the buzzy-band reviews on www.whatever. But my tolerance for inside-blogger baseball is growing lower by the minute. So my fondest memories of this past year have little to do with the Internet and everything to do with what went down in the real world of the Bay Area. Some '06 picks:

Caught on Tape

One of the best parts about moving back to San Francisco was rediscovering local talent. Much of the heavy rock I was digging in '06 came from our own backyard (see "It Was a Year Of ... " at www.sfweekly.com). In other genres, though, Christopher Willits created ambient laptop lullabies perfect for Fog City daydreaming; Saviours offered a bountiful feast of raw, savage metal; and the warm rays of cosmic California rock shined on releases by Vetiver , Brightblack Morning Light , Black Fiction , Colossal Yes , Howlin' Rain , and Skygreen Leopards .

The Many Faces of Kelley Stoltz

Stoltz's Behind the Branches fooled me with nearly every song. His ability to play hide-and-seek among jangling Velvet Underground jams, ebullient homages to the Beach Boys, and quirky lo-fi garage pop kept me guessing as to what was coming next. Live, Stoltz was just as much of a chameleon; I never knew whether I was getting a loose set of inebriated comedy and camaraderie or a straight shot of shambolic rock hits. Either way, Stoltz and crew usually stole the show no matter who they played with.

Dance Commanders

This city is limitless in its DJ options. (A full summer's worth of ghetto tech/bootie bass bouncing between the Rickshaw and the Mighty? Yes, please.) But I'm most excited about beat purveyors who move beyond the turntables. S.F.'s Lemonade is in demand by remixers hungry to imbibe more of its genre-tweaking, psychedelic funk brew. In the studio, the trio earnestly incorporates globetrotting rhythms; live, it offers jet fuel from head to hips.

New Year's Eve on a Hot Summer Night

In the nanosecond that he wasn't back to batshit, Axl Rose and his Guns 'n' Roses cover band repossessed the title for raunchy rock 'n' roll. G'n'R's first night at the Warfield was a performance high on ceremony — fireworks shooting from below, colored confetti from above, and bassist Tommy Stinson tumbling backward with ... joyful abandon. Similarly, Fischerspooner offered a touch of Vegas at Mezzanine — more confetti, a giant balloon drop, dancers, and multiple costume changes. The show elevated the New York electro rock act from pretentious debacle to awesome spectacle.

More Festive Occasions

From a headphones festival to pancakes 'n' noise breakfasts, the Bay Area wasn't lacking for underground music blowouts. My favorites: Budget Rock — through which I discovered the evangelical hold of powerhouse garage-blooze duo Rock n Roll Adventure Kids at the punk marathon/hot dog eating contest/rummage sale. Also, the Mission Creek Music Festival smeared my eardrums with cranium-cracking stunners; Excepter, Sunburned Hand of the Man, and even the sweetness and musical saws of the Ohsees gave folks good reason to set up shop at the Hemlock for nights on end. Finally, (((folkYEAH!))) provided a weekend's worth of beach-bum bliss in Big Sur with its Two Days of Autumn , uniting neo-folksters from both sides of the California divide. Here's to all that and then some in 2007.

About The Author

Jennifer Maerz

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