Inside Fat Wreck Chords' Blank Bayview Exterior Is a Punk Rock Empire -- and a Party Haven

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Pat Rush (left) and Chad Williams at Fat Wreck Chords' Bayview office.
There's nothing to recommend Fat Wreck Chords' Bayview office from the exterior. Located in a beat-up suite in a tiny industrial park, a handful of withered LPs bake behind the shuttered windows. It's hard to believe they host live music here once a month, inviting snotty modern punk bands from around the world, cheap beer flowing while Fat's sizable back catalog is up for sale to all comers. Through the glass door, one can spot a few exciting sights: Good Riddance and Strung Out banners, shelf after shelf of vinyl, and a stockroom promising more. On the front door, a sign asks that you ring a doorbell that is nowhere to be found, despite this author's best attempts (Fat Wreck web administrator Pat Rush soon arrives and explains that the bell was recently stolen).

Inside, it's only marginally more intriguing. Most of the office suite is a massive stock room with shelf after shelf of Fat's catalog, on CD, vinyl, and, yes, VHS.


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S.F.'s Tidelands on Orchestral Indie and the Perks of Being a Duo

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Tidelands play Amnesia on Saturday, May 17, with Sister Grizzly and The Cushion Theory.

San Francisco's Tidelands is a pop-rock combo whose music could easily fit in a shuffle of David Bowie, Wilco, and R.E.M. The duo blends twinkling guitars, ornamental synths, and strings -- with a booming flugelhorn -- into a melange it calls "orchestral indie." Gabriel Montana Leis' vocal delivery recalls Talking Heads frontman David Byrne, with unique phrasing that transitions from tongue-twisting quips to sustained legatos. Tidelands plays Amnesia May 17 with Sister Grizzly and The Cushion Theory at 6:30 p.m. ($7 - $10). When Tidelands takes the stage expect Leis and Mie Araki to reproduce the same grandiose orchestration heard on standout songs like "The New Black" and "Holy Grail" with live loops and samples. The duo sat with SF Weekly to talk about "orchestral indie," choreographing a live performance, and how being a duo allows for a bigger sound. Stream Tidelands' album, We've Got A Map while you read.


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Semi-Secret Venue Viracocha Asks For Help in Its Bid To Legit

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Pete Lee
Viracocha's performance space
The downstairs performance space in the antique and oddball shop Viracocha has long been an open secret among the San Francisco music community. And since the space didn't have the permits required of entertainment venues, it had to stay that way.

Now, to survive on rapidly changing Valencia Street, Viracocha is hoping to make its performance space legal -- and asking its supporters for help. The store's owners have applied for the legally required entertainment permit, and are hoping the support of fans will push Viracocha through the process at City Hall.

"Because of our wonderful community, we have never received a noise complaint, never had a show shut down, and have never had an emergency or serious injury in the building," Viracocha's owners wrote in a mass email on Sunday. "That's quite a track record! But, because of financial and operational challenges, we are in a position where we must "go legit or quit."


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Psych-Rockers Mondo Drag Moved From Iowa to Oakland to Find Success

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Mondo Drag
Mondo Drag plays Bottom of the Hill Friday, May 9 with Kadavar and The Shrine.
When John Gamino, the singer and keyboardist of the heavy psych outfit Mondo Drag, was in 7th grade, he attended his middle school's talent show. That's where he first heard future bandmate Jake Sheley play guitar.

"He performed a guitar solo medley of Metallica and Van Halen, and I was like 'Holy shit. I need to get a guitar, and play rock music, because that's fucking badass,'" Gamino, 29, says. "That's what got me into music. Now here we are, in the Bay Area still playing together."


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Don Pyle on Photographing Toronto Punk in the 1970s, and How Pink Floyd Fit Into the Underground

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Don Pyle
The Dead Boys
Don Pyle's book of photography, ephemera, and memoir, Trouble in the Camera Club, documents his experience as a Toronto teen in the late 1970s, infatuated with underground rock and, once the word came around, punk. Close-ups depict Debbie Harry crouched on stage, The Ramones on their first tour, and The Dead Boys looking grotesque, along with intimate live portraits of local bands like The Diodes and The Viletones. In the first section, Pyle lucidly examines the music's appeal to an alienated high-school student. Then, descriptions of individual shows create a brisk narrative of his immersion in the scene. Pyle's written accompaniment is a vivid memoir of avid fandom from proto-punk through the unhinged first wave. A portal into his formative years, it illuminates the scene and excitement that has inspired Pyle's lifelong endeavors as a musician and record producer.

Don Pyle will narrate a slideshow of his images at Adobe Books on Thursday, May 8. An exhibit of his prints is on display at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records in Oakland through May 10.


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S.F.'s Disastroid Builds Walls of Fuzz That Were Years in the Making

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Disastroid plays Bottom of the Hill on Wednesday, April 30, at 9 p.m.
Listening to San Francisco-based Disastroid requires a level of caution generally reserved for an encounter with the devil. The sludge-rock trio conjures wicked melodies and produces walls of fuzz that exude a sinister, magisterial quality: Its music is loud and sadistically seductive.


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S.F. Glam-Rockers Modern Kicks on Ghost Riding the Whip, Working at Sears, and Mullet Haircuts

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Modern Kicks play with Black Mambas and Lady Killers this Thursday at Hemlock Tavern.

You know the opening credits of That '70s Show, where the cast of characters shout along to the Todd Griffin cover of Cheap Trick's "In the Street" while crammed in a car? It's an instant flashback to the heyday of sex, drugs, and rock 'n' roll, and a sound and attitude embodied by San Francisco outfit Modern Kicks. The glam-rockers sport denim, leather, and shag haircuts, employing melodic hooks glittered with playful come-ons in KISS-style anthems -- a song like "Crew 'n' Up" offers lyrical flirtations over the formulaic rock: all hot guitar licks and fist-pumping beats.

Modern Kicks play with Black Mambas and The Lady Killers at the Hemlock this Thursday at 8:30 p.m. for $7. Expect a set that's short and sweet -- and all about the party. Anthony Abuse, lead singer and guitarist, sat with SF Weekly to discuss ghost riding the whip, feeling like Magic Mike, and working at Sears while having a mullet. Check out their latest single from the upcoming seven-inch to release on Little T&A Records in June.

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Stern Grove Festival To Host Free Pop-Up Concerts Around S.F.

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Stern Grove Festival
In its 77 years of providing free summer concerts to the public, the Stern Grove Festival has provided a stage for 770 different performances and entertained over six million attendees. Crazy, right?

Located on 19th Avenue and Sloat, Stern Grove is easy to get to for people who live in the Sunset District, but for people who live downtown or even further away, Stern Grove is a long way to go for a concert, even if it is free. This was the inspiration to start Grove on the Road, a program launching in early May that will be hosting "pop-up" concerts all over San Francisco.

"We started wondering how we could move beyond our confines of Stern Grove," says Steven Haines, who's been executive director of the Stern Grove Festival since 2006. "Even though it's free admission, some people can't make it to Stern. We wanted to engage communities who aren't so involved with the arts. We wanted to give more back to the community."


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Cocktails' Adult Life: S.F. Slop-Poppers Grow Up, But Not Too Much; Hear New Single "Tough Love"

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Brian Pritchard
Cocktails
Cocktails are one of our favorites among the younger crop of shambolic S.F. guitar bands. The five-piece appeared last year with an easy-to-love EP on Father/Daughter Records and a couple of effortlessly catchy power-pop singles. We featured them in the paper. Now Cocktails is back with Adult Life, its first album, out June 17 on Father/Daugther. Recorded at Oakland's Fuzz City Studios -- the home base of Warm Soda's Matthew Melton and Rob Good, among others -- Adult Life builds on Cocktails' brand of "slop-pop": The hooks are as sharp, but the overall texture of the sound is just as gauzy and easygoing -- even if some of the lyrics reflect slightly more grown-up concerns. This is all part of Cocktails' charm: This group is not a precisely measured concoction of pricey spirits, but rather a few classic ingredients stirred together over ice. Hear "Tough Love," the first single from the new album, below. The band performs this Friday, April 18, at Rickshaw Stop, April 24 at the Knockout, and May 2 at the Make Out Room.


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Watch: S.F. Folk-Rockers Owl Paws on Making Their First Album

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Adrian Rodriguez
Owl Paws
San Francisco folk-rock trio Owl Paws contrasts acoustic tones with a punk rock presence. When the band opens the three-act show tonight at the Chapel, you'll hear a sound that hints at early-'00s indie-emo acts like Brand New, but rounds off with the modern folk elements of artists such as the Milk Carton Kids. A song like "The Fields" showcases Owl Paws' melodic dynamics and skilled musicianship. Singer-guitarist Derek Schultz croons aching melodies, while bassist Tim Vickers articulates complex, finger-picked phrases on a upright bass. And as for drummer Lucas Siobal, his unpredictable rim shots and bell strikes add an unforgettable color to the rhythm section. The end product resonates pure heart.


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