The Cult's Ian Astbury Reflects on the San Francisco of City Lights and Bill Graham

Categories: Guest Opinion

Delissa Santos
[Editor's note: Before the Cult comes to California for three shows -- two at Coachella, and one in S.F. at the Regency Ballroom this Thursday, April 3 -- frontman Ian Astbury offered to write us a few thoughts about his love for San Francisco and the time he's spent here. We certainly weren't going to turn him down.]


"Hate Astbury" was the headline in the U.K. music media back in the day. I was chastened for spouting off an earnest youthful philosophy -- it was not cool to recite my interpretation of the Left Coast visionaries, musicians, poets, and mystics who where bleeding into my skull and opening my heart and mind. San Francisco was ground zero for me in many ways, my Varanasi my gateway to the East. India, Tibet, and Nepal where already in my DNA, and the opportunity to make the pilgrimage to the holy ground of City Lights bookstore when The Cult reopened Bill Graham's Fillmore West in December 1985 was a transcendent moment. The Cult had traveled to Japan earlier in '85, and that was the consummation of my love affair with the East. But I was already absorbing the wisdom of Allen Ginsberg, Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts, Jack Keroauc, Michael McClure, et. al, and City Lights was a place they where all connected with, a place I romanticized and still do.

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A Folk Singer on What Inside Llewyn Davis Gets Wrong About Music


[Editor's Note: Mark Matos is a folk and rock musician based in San Francisco and the leader of Mark Matos and Os Beaches. His gathering of friends and collaborators are performing as Americalia Monday nights in January at the Elbo Room.]

The Coen Brothers new film, Inside Llewyn Davis, is set in the pre-Dylan Greenwich Village folk scene of 1961, with characters loosely based on under-appreciated folk heroes like Tom Paxton, Ramblin' Jack Elliot, and Dave Van Ronk, sporting a screenplay inspired by the memoir of Van Ronk. It's an homage to the scene that brought Dylan east, to the colorful characters chronicled in Dylan's own biography (as well as David Hajdu's Positively 4th Street), to the Gaslight Theater and Folkways Records. I founded the Family Folk Explosion project back in 2011 as a way of re-connecting the rock 'n' roll tradition to its folk music roots. Naturally, I was excited to see what the Coen Brothers would do with such a rich moment in American music. With a folk musician as protagonist, what story would they tell?

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Sonny and the Sunsets' Sonny Smith Interviews a Psychic About Death and the Afterlife

Sonny Smith

[Editor's note: Perhaps you noticed that the new album from Sonny and the Sunsets, which we wrote about in print last week and comes out today, is called Antenna to the Afterworld. Given that the afterlife, aliens, and other paranormal subjects figure heavily into the music, it's not surprising that bandleader Sonny Smith recently interviewed local psychic medium Jessica Lanyadoo. We thought their conversation — about the afterworld, where we go when we die, and the possibility of reincarnation — was interesting, and so are publishing it here for your perusal. Sonny and the Sunsets perform tonight, June 11, at SF Eagle (formerly Eagle Tavern).]

What happens when we die?

It's different for —

For each person?

Yes, in a way. I have never died, so I don't know what happens, right? But from my experience of connecting with dead people and animals over the years, I've seen that it varies pretty widely for people. If you are ready to go, the transition can be easier, as with any big change. We don't exactly die as much as our bodies die. Our spirit lives on.  

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Michelle Shocked's Short Rise and Long, Confounding Fall

Categories: Guest Opinion

Michelle Shocked
"She's all heart and no brains."


In the wake of folk singer Michelle Shocked's anti-gay tirade at Yoshi's on Sunday, many of her old fans were stunned and dismayed, in large part because many were convinced she was a lesbian. And not without reason, although Michelle Shocked had been cagey about her sexual identity right from the start. But if she didn't say she wasn't a lesbian, then the possibility remained that she was. Look at her androgynous fashion sense and her Mohawk; didn't they speak louder than words? In 1990 she admitted to the Chicago gay paper Outlines that she'd had at least one woman lover, but insisted "I felt like I was put in a position where I was damned if I did come out and I was damned if I didn't. So for my part, I just leave the question open."

See also:
* Michelle Shocked Concerts Canceled Nationwide After Anti-Gay Tirade in SF
* Here Are the Best Michelle Shocked Anti-Gay Tweets
* Michelle Shocked's Wikipedia Page Was Briefly Updated to Call Her a "Bigot"

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The Jazz Age Is Bullshit (A Response to "Punk Rock Is Bullshit")

Categories: Guest Opinion


Last week, musician John Roderick wrote in Seattle Weekly about how upset he was with his chosen youth subculture, punk. Like John, I have been around the block a bit in a particular youth subculture. For those of us who grew up in the shadows of World War I, being force-fed neo-nationalist propaganda and antiquated Victorian values before our parents led us off the marbled cliffs of excess into the greatest economic depression in history, during the rush of the Great Migration and the crush of Prohibition -- in what we hardcore kids used to call the Jazz Age -- jazz culture was a place we rebel kids could find truth. The new jazz was weird and dirty, and it was ours.

We took this music, which was different and new and hated by our parents, and developed it into a vibrant youth subculture based on one core principle: to rebel against the prevailing social and political standards, and to do it by partying hard on the dance floor and wearing clothing with a new aesthetic. But man, it turned out that once I got a little bit older, the Jazz Age totally disappointed me. And now jazz means something different than it did almost a century ago when I discovered it. Now, young kids get into jazz who don't even know what jazz really stood for. Jazz has failed us. So can we finally admit to ourselves that the Jazz Age was bullshit? Because it was. Here's why:

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Why I'm Fine With Playing For Amanda Palmer For Free, By S.F. Cellist Unwoman

Categories: Guest Opinion

Dave Bryan
Unwoman in concert.
Editor's note: There's a flurry of arguments floating around online about independent artist Amanda Palmer asking skilled musicians to play a couple of songs at each stop on her upcoming tour for just beer, merchandise, and affection. Many argue that it isn't fair that Palmer -- who raised more than $1 million in a Kickstarter campaign for her current album -- is asking musicians to play without pay. S.F. cellist and solo artist Unwoman (aka Erica Mulkey) played with Palmer in July, and will again perform with her at the Fillmore later this month. Here, she explains why she's happy to do it for free.

I'm a solo singer-cellist. I've been performing as Unwoman for 12 years now, after studying cello, composition, and electronic music rather seriously. I've been a fan of Amanda Palmer since I saw the Dresden Dolls open for Nine Inch Nails in 2005-ish. I've found her music inspiring -- of tears, musical expression, and confidence in my ability to do this as a career. In fact, it was her blog "Why I Am Not Afraid To Take Your Money," that inspired me to take the plunge into doing music full-time, supported directly and solely by my fans. In a slow and steady climb, my most recent Kickstarter -- partly because it got Amanda's attention and she tweeted about it -- raised $23,000, or 306 percent of my goal.

Now, that's about 2 percent of what Amanda raised on her last Kickstarter. But her endeavors are on a vastly greater scale than mine, and she actually talks about where all that money goes, even though in my opinion she doesn't need to justify taking money that people want to give her. In fact I will say this: if you think artists are accountable to use Kickstarter funds beyond the goal (and apart from obviously delivering their promises) for what you want them to use them for, please do us all a favor: Stop pledging on Kickstarter and STFU. As my dad said once, some people give you a dollar and think they own you.

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