It's difficult to imagine an amicable, much less delirious, relationship between tango and electronica, but Gotan Project is proof that, even in music, opposites attract, and the offspring can be charming, disarming, and beautiful. Founded three years ago by three Parisian musicians who recruited players from France's rich Argentine expatriate community, Gotan Project has swept through Europe's underground dance world; the group was recently named Best Newcomer at the BBC Music Awards, and its last release, La Revancha del Tango (The Revenge of Tango), has become the international rallying cry of club kids and world-music lovers alike over the last two years. While the album's belated U.S. release this year is sure to gain the band a following here, Gotan Project, like the art form that inspired it, should be experienced live. Rather than creating dance music and augmenting it with traditional instruments as so many electro-world fusionists have done, the act travels with a full tango band complemented and counterbalanced by cool beats and slithery samples. The tension, already so implicit in tango, finds a new playing field where passion and detachment are two sides of the same coin. The effect is not dissimilar to that of bossa nova, but here both the heat and the chill have been taken to new extremes. Gotan Project performs on Friday, Oct. 17, at the Fillmore at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25; call 346-6000 or go to thefillmore.com.
I usually wake up slowly to a low-playing radio alarm, tuned to something innocuous like NPR because a shitty song slipped into the soft spot between wakefulness and sleep can ruin a whole day. Still, on Sept. 12, I woke up tearful and bewildered. The news broadcast that had prompted such a state had already moved on to other topics, and it took another hour and a half before I learned what my subconscious already knew: Johnny Cash was dead. Friends began calling -- one, who heard the news a little after 3 a.m. on his way home from a gig the night before, told me he'd had to pull off the road to cry; another just called up to sigh; a third, a rarely communicative ex, phoned to dictate lines for the obit he thought I should write. I didn't write one. What could I possibly say that hadn't been said? Cash's fans all know that he was a courageous and compassionate man whose voice reflected the wounds and resilience of the people for whom he sang; that he began wearing black in 1956 when he joined that citadel of sequins and tassels known as the Grand Ole Opry; that he recorded the songs of Bob Dylan before Dylan was popular and the songs of Trent Reznor after he no longer was; that he was a sonic latitudinarian, and his own man from beginning to end; and that he wasn't going to live long without his wife June. What surprised me was the depth of emotion experienced by my peers, those of us who didn't shed a tear for Joey Ramone, Kurt Cobain, Joe Strummer, or Darby Crash. Johnny Cash was a contemporary of Elvis, but that generation cannot claim him as its own. His work is timeless and his influence grows ever stronger with the passing years. Certainly he, more than anyone, is responsible for the cross-pollination of country music and rock 'n' roll that is the underpinning of so many of my favorite artists, and his effect on working musicians in the Bay Area is significant indeed. To testify, many of them have come together for "Givin' It Back to the Man in Black," a tribute and dedication to Cash. The stellar backing band consists of Red Meat's Michael Montalto on guitar, Plain High Drifters' Scott Hay on pedal steel, Red Meat's Les James on drums, Dave Gleason's Wasted Days' Mike Therieau on bass, and Erik Eisen on harmonica. Guest performers include Jesse DeNatale, Dave Gleason, Loretta Lynch, Harold Ray Live in Concert's Jason Morgan, Red Meat's Jill Olson, Persephone's Bees, Jeanie & Chuck's Country Round Up, Bellyachers, Calamity & Main's Mike Wolf, Bible Duster's Max Butler, and many more. Red Meat's infamous Smelly Kelly will MC and lead the audience in a rousing rendition of "Peace in the Valley." "Givin' It Back to the Man in Black" will be held on Tuesday, Oct. 21, at Thee Parkside at 9 p.m. Tickets are $5; call 503-0393 or go to www.theeparkside.com.