tUnE-yArDs Premieres New Nikki Nack Songs Live at the Chapel, 4/21/14

Categories: Last Night

tUnE-yArDs at the Chapel last night.
Monday, April 21, 2014
The Chapel

Better than: Performances with less eye-glitter.

If one measure of an album is the way its songs go over live, we should all be very excited for Nikki Nack, the next full-length from Oakland art-pop project tUnE-yArDs. Last night at the Chapel, the band fed a solid helping of its latest material to a room full of people who mostly hadn't heard it before. It was tUnE-yArDs' first live show in more than a year, with Merrill Garbus, Nate Brenner, and three new band members decked out in festive, colorful, slightly cartoonish outfits. (Garbus herself looked like a split-personality superhero, with a body suit that was part aqua green fabric, part red latex, and mostly gold lamé.) And the show was free, thanks to Converse's Rubber Tracks studio project -- though it didn't need to be.

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Mogwai Achieves Wordless Transcendence at Regency Ballroom, 4/18/14

Mogwai at the Regency Ballroom on Friday.

Friday, April 18, 2014
The Regency Ballroom

Better than: Whatever use you had in mind for those frequencies your hearing just lost.

"For the record, we are not Neo-Nazis"

The thought was far from our minds when one of the most personable, disarming bands in music performed at the Regency Ballroom on Friday. But the accent of Mogwai's lead distortionist and occasional singer Stuart Braithwaite can be just as impenetrable as it is charming. And given his own shiny scalp, what was most likely a very innocent question about understanding local skinhead fashion taught a valuable lesson in what subjects to avoid with a drunken San Francisco audience. (Also, perhaps band that claims to be ideal for listening while wasted should not ask about fascism an hour into the show.) And if you don't believe Braithwaite , feel free to look Mogwai's charitable, local-library supporting, Nazi-free career yourself.

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Queens of the Stone Age Joyfully Brutalize Bill Graham Civic, 4/17/14

Categories: Last Night

Richard Haick
Queens of the Stone Age at Bill Graham Civic last night.
Queens of the Stone Age
Thursday, April 17, 2014
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

Better than: Sanity, sobriety, composure, or decency.






This shit is peaking. We're eighteen songs into Queens of the Stone Age, have howled and head-banged and moshed through 80 minutes of pummeling from a rock band that sounds evil in the way only something sexy can be truly evil, and now the strobes are flashing and three guitars are chugging and some eight thousand people are shouting along to Josh Homme's list of preferred pharmaceuticals and it is The Moment of Total Release, right now. There's a pause and then the room erupts again: "CO-CAINE!"

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The Knife Brings a Viking Bacchanal to the Fox Oakland, 4/15/14

Categories: Last Night


The Knife
DJ Rapid Fire
Tuesday, April 15, 2014
The Fox Theater, Oakland

Better than: Whatever you call dubstep.

"Music can be so meaningless," muses Knife frontwoman Karin Dreijer Andersson, when discussing the inspiration for the band's new album, Shaking the Habitual. "We had to find lust." Lust indeed. Dreijer Anderson's remarks, though enigmatic, seem a fitting account for the ethos of the group, and their meaning is apparent to all who saw the band perform at the Fox Theater last night. For those in attendance -- let us call them "the initiated" -- it was clear that the Knife is about much more than music: it is, if I may put it this way, the invocation of a peculiar vitality, a lust which both inspires and transfixes. If you thought that all of the dark intrigue of Viking culture was trapped in a compressed sawdust box in some unmarked IKEA warehouse, there is good news: it is back; we call it the Knife.

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Kronos Quartet Evokes the Fury of WWI in "Beyond Zero: 1914-1918"

Jay Blakesberg

Kronos Quartet: "Beyond Zero: 1914-1918"
Score by Aleksandra Vrebalov and film by Bill Morrison
Sunday, April 6, 2014
Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley

Better than: Actually living through WWI. Or, the hope-it-never-happens sound of WWIII, take your pick.

If your idea of "string quartet" is four geriatric guys rocking Rachmaninoff on three fiddles and a cello, think again. On Sunday night, the San Francisco-based Kronos Quartet ripped open the envelope of expectations with "Beyond Zero: 1914-1918," the world premiere of a work commissioned from Serbian-born composer Aleksandra Vrebalov and filmmaker Bill Morrison.

Yes, it's true that founder David Harrington (violin), John Sherba (violin), and Hank Dutt (viola) are three white dudes who've collectively played their instruments for over 100 years. But there's also Sunny Yang, a gut-clenchingly brilliant female cellist new to the group as of 2013. And yeah, an excerpt from Serge Rachmaninoff's "All-Night Vigil" sneaked in, but during its 40-year history, Kronos has added over 800 original, genre-bending works to the string quartet library.

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SF Weekly Panel Finds Local Music Not Totally Doomed

Categories: Last Night

Audrey Fukuman
Okay, yeah. That headline is a joke. We never thought local music was totally doomed. But it was great to see a couple hundred people turn out at the Chapel last night for our panel on what can be done to help the music scene thrive. Look for our full report on this subject -- how you can help the S.F. music scene -- in next week's issue. In the meantime, if you feel like it, go send a letter of support for SB 1439, which would make it harder for landlords to evict tenants under the Ellis Act, and give musicians and other creative types a better chance of staying in S.F.

Oh, and go see a show.

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Lorde Rules Over the Fox Theater, 3/26/13

Categories: Last Night

Lo Fang
Wednesday, March 26, 2014
Fox Theater, Oakland

Better than: A lot of other recent radio-dominating hits.

Ella Yelich-O'Connor is a small figure in a bright red pantsuit and black stilt boots, crouching onstage in Oakland before a sold-out crowd. The music pauses, and in a moment of lightweight quiet she shakes her fist in the air quickly, agitatedly, anticipating the return of the bass, still crouching. You've seen other people shake their arms like this to louder, faster, busier music, but Lorde does it in near-silence, and when the throb finally returns, sending shivers through the theater, she stands up and sings in that smoothened growl she uses so often, having shown you, with those furious shakes of her arm, her intensity, her frustration, and the way the bass stands in for it. Lorde is 17 years old and crazy famous, but Lorde is still as angsty as fuck: as angsty as a girl who wore black lipstick and a Cramps T-shirt to be on the cover of Rolling Stone.

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Tool Gives the Air-Drummers a Workout at Bill Graham Civic, 3/11/14

Categories: Last Night

Richard Haick
Tool at Bill Graham Civic last night.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Bill Graham Civic Auditorium

Better than: Having to drive to Sacramento like when Bill Graham sold out on last tour.

Regardless of how you feel about it, Tool is a phenomenon you should be familiar with. Apart from Further, Phish, and a few other groups that can sell out multiple nights at Bill Graham, very rarely does a mobilized population of fans occupy the Civic Center Plaza like yesterday evening. Not unlike those bands, there's a subculture at play that any onlooker observing the sea of black shirts -- most of which were from prior Tool shows, most of which I believe cost around $50 each -- would find curious and ripe for stereotype.

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Failure, Tool

I Went To See Macaulay Culkin's Pizza Underground Band and It Was Cold and Soggy, 3/5/13

Categories: Last Night

Christopher Victorio
The Pizza Underground. That's Macaulay Culkin on the right.
The Pizza Underground
Wednesday, March 5, 2014 (Early Show)
Neck of the Woods

Better than: No kind of pizza.

The first clue was the line. By 6:30 p.m. it stretched several storefronts past the door of Inner Richmond bar/club Neck of the Woods. Aside from a few veteran show-goers discussing drug acquisitions for future festivals, it seemed largely to consist of early twentysomethings fresh out of work and giddily reminiscing about Home Alone. ("Let's totally watch it after, dude!") They were apparently expecting a living joke, a $10-per-ticket, in-person meme -- and I probably should've been, too.

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Free Salamander Exhibit Restores Our Faith in Prog-Rock Freakery and Costumes at Bottom of the Hill, 3/1/14

Free Salamander Exhibit at Bottom of the Hill
Free Salamander Exhibit
Black Map
Lasher Keen
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Bottom of the Hill

Better than: Lamenting the demise of progressive guitar rock in the twenty-teens.

Sleepytime Gorilla Museum was the last of a venerated avant-rock movement that put the Bay Area on the map. When the band called it quits in 2011, it seemed like a whole avenue in contemporary music was being closed with them. That kind of sprawling, cinematic, heavy rock band with high production values was, as you might imagine, a challenging endeavor to sustain given the number of ears it reached. Couple that with times so lean, even "mainstream" artists who can sell their songs to car commercials are griping about dough, and, well, it's just an untenable way to operate these days.

But if tonight's show at Bottom of the Hill was anything to be believed, art rock isn't dead, it's just under construction. Members of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum graced us with their new endeavor, Free Salamander Exhibit, and though it's decidedly paired down next to their previous project, what matters -- the crunchy, skewed sonic aspects -- remain intact. Meanwhile, a younger generation is donning costumes and re-animating the corpse of the creative fool's errand.

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