It's at times like this that my mind begins to wander, past the incessantly gray skies and the waterlogged homeless people, to that staple of free-form radio -- the rain song. Every DJ does it at one time or another -- that is, steps outside the realms of good taste to play a set strictly devoted to sky drippings. And it's no wonder. The All Music Guide (http://allmusic.com) lists 515 songs called "Rain" and many more with "rain" plus other words in the title, like Ryuichi Sakamoto's evocative "Rain (I Want a Divorce)" or Jeff Pearce's self-explanatory "Rain as a Metaphor." But I have my favorites. While the Jean Paul Sartre Experience gets the feel of happy summer rain just right with its cascading number "I Like Rain," this year cries out for something a little more downbeat, like Sarah Vaughan's melancholy version of "Stormy Weather" or Uri Geller's ominous sky searcher "The Day." In fact, with President-elect Cheney, er, Bush trotting out our creepiest conservatives for Cabinet posts, Geller's apocalyptic warblings seem right on target.
Geller, best known for his ability to bend spoons, forks, and other utensils simply by staring at them, released only one album, an eponymously titled kitsch-classic from the '70s, full of cosmic love songs told in a clipped Russian accent. Not surprisingly, it is Geller's ideas more than his music (a scary mix of easy listening and prog rock) that serve as inspiration for the local band I Am Spoonbender.
"Uri is a great pop artist," Spoonbender keyboardist Dustin Donaldson says with a laugh when I ask him if he believes Geller's claim that it was he, not the wind, who temporarily snuffed out the Olympic flame this past summer. "But his claims are hard to refute."
Spoonbender began in early 1997 as a way for Donaldson and bassist/keyboardist Brian Jackson to "explain in sonic terms the feeling of ESP" while also doing "a pissed-off [Brian] Eno meets Gary Numan thing." Soon after, Robynn "Cup" Iwata, ex-member of sugary indie-pop group Cub, joined on vocals and synthesizer; fourth synthmate Marc Kate arrived the next year. In December 1998, Spoonbender released its debut LP, Sender/Receiver. The subsequent Teletwin EP -- with a rewritten version of Berlin's synth-pop classic "Metro" that reflected the band's extrasensory communication -- further developed Spoonbender's futuristic sound.
Along the way, however, some of the beliefs of the band members diverged. As a result, Jackson left the fold early last year. "I wanted to do different stuff," he says. "It was stagnant playing in rock bands. We couldn't tour or travel because of all the preparation for our shows -- it was a hard band to play in."
"Brian couldn't take the music business and how big we'd gotten in six months," Donaldson says.
Naturally, the members posted their new opening to a Web site, buddyhead.com. Unfortunately, they also wrote, "Our last guy turned out to be a yuppie honkee," and a small flame war began.
"It really made me feel icky," says Absolutely Kosher label head Cory Brown, who is working on a compilation, There Is No San Francisco Scene, that features a track from the band. "I always thought of both Brian and Dustin as nice guys, and though the split was somewhat unexpected, I thought it was on decent terms."
Apparently not. "The split was pretty bad," Jackson says. "I wish they would've let me leave with less of a big deal."
In the long run, the separation has worked out well. Jackson has been putting together Form8, a nonprofit community-based Web site for artists (he says it will be up shortly), and composing short film soundtracks. Beginning Feb. 21 he will curate "Synth," a biweekly electronic music/art club night at the Blind Tiger Lounge (787 Broadway at Powell). Call 788-4020 for details.
As for Spoonbender, new member Chad Amory has been fully "deprogrammed and refocused." The new lineup will bend notes and ears -- if not forks -- at a "telekinetic disassembly" of local acts on Friday, Jan. 19, at the Great American Music Hall. All the other groups -- laptop electro artist Kid 606, heavy rock band Slaves, film projector sound artists Wetgate, and electro-rockers Knights Over Egypt -- were handpicked by Spoonbender. "We're looking at the show as hopefully a launching pad for the next wave of San Francisco music," Donaldson says. Tickets are $10; call 885-0750 for more information.