You may recognize Gustavo Santaolalla as the producer of the Amores Perros and 21 Grams soundtracks, or as the man behind the curtain of Kronos Quartet's Grammy-nominated Nuevo, but Santaolalla's career started at the age of 16, as the drummer for the pioneering '70s Latin rock band Arco Iris. After touring the world and living for a time in the United States, Santaolalla returned to Argentina, garnering several Grammy Awards for his work as a Latin rock producer, and recording his own solo hit, “Todo Vale.” Parlaying his success, Santaolalla founded Surco, the first regional label dedicated to Hispanic alternative music, creating a home for favored artists such as Molotov, Juanes, Orishas, and Erica García. Now, he has launched Vibra, a division of Surco that will be home to Santaolalla's electrolatino brainchild, Bajofondo Tango Club. The collective, comprised of some of South America's top names in house, trip hop, dub, trance, and tango, includes vocalist Adriana Varela, protégé of the late, great tango artist Roberto “Polaco” Goyeneche (his voice is sampled on the beautiful track “Mi Corazón” on Bajofondo's self-titled debut); singer Cristóbal Repetto, the young Buenos Aires native whose timeless voice is credited with reviving interest in traditional tango; Argentine composer Didi Gutman, who currently works as Bebel Gilberto's musical director; Latin Grammy- winning hip hop producer Juan Blas; electrolatino vanguard Diego Vainer; Latin Grammy-nominated jazz pianist Adrián Iaies; Uruguayan pop sensation Jorge Drexler; and South American DJ Marcelo Castelli. Combining live vocals, violin, guitar, bandoneón (Spanish squeezebox), and piano with onstage samplers, keyboards, and drum machines, this all-star cast brings the passion and melancholy of tradition to the sonic experimentation of the modern age. Santaolalla calls it “drama you can dance to,” and while I would always choose unadulterated tango over a modern reinterpretation, there is no doubt he's onto something. Again. The Bajofondo Tango Club performs on Thursday, Aug. 12, at Slim's with Pepito opening at 8 p.m. Ticket price is $20-22; call 255-0333 or visit www.slims-sf.com.
Formed in San Francisco, but honed in Portland, the Clorox Girls seem to owe neither locale for their sound. Instead, the early punk and late pub-rock scenes of 1970s London appear the greater influence, with groups such as Jilted John, Splodgenessabounds, Ian Dury, Wreckless Eric, the Adverts, and the Vibrators paving the way. In fact, if you were to imagine the sing-along “sincerity” of the Adverts' “Gary Gilmore's Eyes” (“I'm lying in the hospital/ I'm pinned against the bed/ A stethoscope upon my heart/ A hand against my head/ They're peeling off the bandages/ I'm wincing in the light/ The nurse is looking anxious/ And she's quivering with fright/ I'm looking through Gary Gilmore's eyes”) combined with the frisky, dim-witted aplomb of Jilted John's teenage anthem “Gordon Is a Moron” (“Oh, she's a slag and he's a creep/ She's a tart, he's very cheap/ She's a slut, he thinks he's tough/ She is a bitch, he is a puff/ Yeah, yeah it's not fair/ Yeah, yeah it's not fair”) you will have captured the essence of the Clorox Girls' self-titled debut. Unlike their predecessors, these Girls can obviously play more than four chords when they want to (as long as the song's under 45 seconds), but their gleefully adolescent sentiments seem to be both universal and timeless (“When I knocked on the door/ You saw me standing there/ You said something about being friends/ I just wanted my underwear”), and the Clorox Girls deliver them a good deal better. The Clorox Girls perform on Friday, Aug. 13, at Thee Parkside with Lost Books of the Bible and Giant Haystack opening at 10 p.m. Ticket price is $7; call 502-0393 or visit www.theeparkside.com.
Since becoming George Clinton's guitar player, Eric McFadden has turned into one of San Francisco's phantom treasures, a rarely glimpsed dark angel of blurred guitar strings, swinging dreadlocks, and flashing teeth; but rest assured, McFadden's talents continue to mature even as his countenance remains frozen in time. McFadden began winning awards for his guitar playing decades ago, but his youthful flair would hardly appear as a glimmer next to the player he has become. Mercurial rock improvisations, sexy R&B rhythms, elegant gypsy jazz runs, whirling bluegrass fills, opulent classical chords, and deep European mandolin strains flow effortlessly from McFadden's fingertips while his dusty, road-parched voice embodies the crossroads where he must have sold his soul. Over the years, the Bay Area has been privy to a number of McFadden's musical permutations (Liar, IZM, the Eric McFadden Experience, and Alien Lovestock, to mention a few), but the Eric McFadden Trio, comprised of McFadden, longtime collaborator and drummer Paulo Baldi, and long-lost friend and bassist James Whiton, is the finest yet. In Whiton, McFadden has found his musical foil. A virtuoso of acoustic upright double bass, Whiton slaps, bows, maneuvers, and manipulates his instrument with orchestral precision and street-corner desperation, reflecting the sinister world of desert derelicts and carnival cons who have so long proliferated in McFadden's songs. The Eric McFadden Trio performs on Saturday, Aug. 14, at the Independent with Deadweight and Pat MacDonald opening at 9 p.m. Ticket price is $10-12; call 771-1421 or visit www.theindependentsf.com.