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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Mark Kozelek Asserts His Glorious, Terrifying Humanity at Great American Music Hall, 3/1/14

Debra A. Zeller
Mark Kozelek at Great American Music Hall on Saturday.
An evening with Mark Kozelek
Saturday, March 1, 2014
Great American Music Hall

Better than: Jesus' Son: The Musical

One of the most heavy-handed Significant Message scenes in the new Robocop is the one where this guy -- a vet, presumably -- has just been outfitted with new robotic prosthesis-hands and is trying to play classical guitar again for the first time since losing his hands while esteemed robotic prosthesis doctor Gary Oldman looks on dotingly. The prosthesis-hands work great at first, but then the guy is so overwhelmed -- with gratitude, presumably -- that he starts to fuck up "Concierto de Aranjuez," so Gary Oldman's lab tech turns down the guy's emotional rawness levels or whatever. But the guy still can't play it right and now he's frustrated in addition to overwhelmed, and Gary Oldman or his lab tech tries to explain that he should just calm down because his emotions are interfering with the function of the prosthesis-hands. And the guy is like -- Significant Message alert -- "I need emotion to play."

I bring this up because, well, what do you think goes through Mark Kozelek's head when he sits on stage performing, or sits at home writing, these almost objectively beautiful songs that are almost always about either learning of somebody's death or failing to find love in a sustainably requited or redemptive form? (Also because, come to think of it, Kozelek makes cameos in movies sometimes, and what if the presumable vet in Robocop had been him? (Also, what do you think the odds are that Mark Kozelek's next album will include a song about learning of Paco de Lucía's death? R.I.P., Paco de Lucía.))

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Real Estate Conjures a California Sound at the Independent, 2/28/14

Real Estate at the Independent on Friday.
Real Estate
The Shilohs
Dream Boys
Friday, Feb. 28, 2014
The Independent

Better than: Real Estate with 10 fewer songs.

Sometimes it's easy to forget that Real Estate isn't a San Francisco (or at least California) band. Its sound -- that singular Real Estate Sound -- is clean guitar tones and vaguely wistful vocal melodies, a musical accompaniment to a Pacific Ocean sunset as it turns from orange to pink to purple to twilight blue. Onstage Saturday at the Independent, bassist Alex Bleeker gives the band away with his effusive praise for the city of San Francisco. Praise like that these days only comes from outsiders looking in.

But, for a night, let's pretend that the New Jersey quintet is Californian. After all, we are at a Noise Pop show, a sold out one at that, and it just wouldn't be proper to miss out on the local acts playing all over town tonight (local acts like Dominant Legs, who will open for Real Estate tomorrow night, at least for everyone who takes the 8 p.m. start time seriously). Actually, scratch that. The local acts are important, but let's remember: San Francisco is a destination. The best bands don't always have to be from here, because they're damn sure going to come here. And Noise Pop is as much about the bands from the local scene as it is about the bands who are honored to take part in this often magical indie-rock festival -- which could very well be older than some of the people in the room tonight.

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