live music, new music

HSB 17 Highlights

Before I ramble about some of my favorite parts of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass 17, I wanted to make sure I wrote down something that’s been on my mind:

Seeing as the worst mass shooting on American soil took place at an outdoor music festival just 5 days prior to HSB, I was more than a little paranoid about going to a large-scale, free concert in the park last weekend. I even packed a first aid kit in my bag and had a few fleeting concerns about how to use its contents without fainting, which is a bummer because no one should have to be fearful of going to a music show.

But thankfully, nothing awful happened, and in fact almost every artist I saw made some sort of comment about the feelings of peace/love/brotherhood/sisterhood floating around the festival throughout the weekend. Maybe it sounds a little silly, but there is something special about HSB that you don’t get at Outside Lands or any other festival. For one, it’s completely free and non-commercial—no corporate sponsorships, no “Heineken House”, no admission price. Attendees range from babies to baby boomers (and also lots of dogs), and everyone respects one another. There’s an immense amount of trust involved in letting 750,000 people walk into Golden Gate Park with unchecked coolers and backpacks, but if there’s any place you can pull it off, it’s here. So thanks, San Francisco, for once again proving that you’re a city of peace and love and (literal) harmony.

Now, with that out of the way, here are my highlights from the festival.

The War and Treaty

This Michigan-based couple were billed as a supporting act to Buddy Miller, but umm, they definitely stole the show. Their love for each other practically radiated off the stage during their set; it was wonderful. (Fun fact: Michael Trotter Jr. was a soldier in Iraq who wrote his first songs on a piano owned by Saddam Hussein.) They just released their first EP this summer, called Down to the River. Check ’em out playing the title track below (so much energy!!). I feel lucky to have seen them, and hope they come back to the Bay Area soon.

Dan Auerbach

I never really got into The Black Keys, but while listening to HSB playlists in the past month, it was Dan Auerbach’s stuff I kept coming back to. Also, I really like his music videos – they’re so fun (and a little bizarre). See: “Shine on Me” and “Stand By My Girl”, both of which have a bit of a George Harrison/”All Things Must Pass”-era vibe to me.

So seeing Auerbach on Saturday evening was definitely a highlight. We were right up front (my dad has a friend who makes a point to stake out front-row spots at the beginning of each day) and it was awesome. I had no idea who the guys in Auerbach’s band were—none of them looked younger than 65—but turns out they’re kind of a big deal: Gene Chrisman drummed on “Respect”, “Sweet Caroline”, and “Son of a Preacher Man”, Dave Roe was the longtime bassist for Johnny Cash, Bobby Wood and Russ Pahl have played with some of the biggest names in music. Cool!

Here’s the video for the opening song Auerbach played at HSB, a nostalgic mini-movie complete with a John Prine cameo:

The Secret Sisters

I got to the festival early on Sunday to catch The Secret Sisters, and they did not disappoint. If you like First Aid Kit (another sisterly duo, whose performance on Friday I sadly missed), I would definitely recommend checking them out! They performed a whole bunch of lovely original songs (like this one) but the video I chose below is an a cappella version of a 1920s song, because I just loved their rendition so much.

Lampedusa

Thank goodness I tagged along with my parents to this one, because I’ll probably never get to see Patty Griffin, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, Buddy Miller, and Lucinda Williams (and Bob Weir!) on the same stage together ever again. Lampedusa is a group of musicians currently touring to raise awareness of the worldwide refugee crisis. My heart melted as soon as they started singing (appropriately) “Refugee” and continued to melt all the way through “Love Hurts”, “I Know You Rider”, and “Pilgrim”. Not to mention the Blue Angels were flying over our heads throughout their set, which made for some sweet pictures. Can’t find any high quality videos from the show, but here’s one of “I Know You Rider” which is fun because you can see me and my parents over on the left side near the front (Dad’s in a green shirt and big hat, mom’s in a white shirt, and I’m in red).

Also, can I just say how amazing Emmylou Harris is? She was the first act I ever saw at HSB, and one of my favorite singers. She continues to play the festival every year, and her voice is just pure magic.

Other noteworthies

  • Although Alex and I were about a football field’s length away from the stage during Randy Newman’s set, it was still great fun. Obligatory “You’ve Got A Friend” video (“That guy looks like Tom Hanks…”).
  • Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile were good from what I heard, but by that point it was so packed at the Swan Stage that I couldn’t really get a solid look/hear. Ah well, maybe next time.
  • Same as above for John Prine; I really would’ve enjoyed being up close for his set, but the crowd was too much so unfortunately I just heard a few songs.

In previous years, I found HSB to be a bit overwhelming, but this year was so enjoyable that I’m really looking forward to the next one. Also, kudos to my parents for hanging out at the festival all weekend; if they can do it, I guess I can too. :p

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new music

February music roundup

All of these artist discoveries have been thanks to my latest A Song A Day curator (Janet Choi, YOU DA BEST). I’ve enjoyed listening to this music so much that I had to share some of it here.

Kaia Kater. Beautiful lyrics and Americana sound (even though she’s Canadian)! Love love love.

Jacob Collier. Holy smokes, this kid! Apparently he writes/arranges, records, produces, and performs everything himself. The song that got me hooked was his cover of “In My Room” but honestly, everything he does is pretty phenomenal.

The Lemon Twigs. I listened to their album Do Hollywood and concluded that they’re trying to be the Beatles, Queen, and The Who all at once, and it is great. Also, they’re only 17 and 19 years old!

MAGIK*MAGIK. Beautiful new music straight from San Francisco (well in this case, the Fox Theater in Oakland).

live music, new music

This week’s suggestion: listen to Fantasma

Writing this as Outside Lands goes on literally right down the street (yes, now that we live practically at the entrance to the festival, we opted not to get tickets this year). Listening to the music from the couch while wearing sweatpants is pretty cool, I must say…although I could do without the horde of drunk people outside the apartment at 11pm. I must be getting old.

OSL or not, it’s been an excellent week for live music. On Wednesday, The Spencer Owen Timeshare opened for New Zealand-based Andrew Keoghan at the Hemlock, and it was so much fun (also, I learned how to make Instagram stories, so y’all better watch out). Andrew Keoghan and his band were really great, and of course the Timeshare were on point too. Rumor has it this is the last show in a while, which makes me sad (but excited for potential recordings to come!).

IMG_5127

Then Thursday night we saw Cornelius at The Fox, which was incredible. I didn’t know much about Cornelius (real name Keigo Oyamada) going into the show, but was almost immediately won over by his eargasmic sonic landscapes (take, for instance, The Micro Disneycal World Tour).

I am a sucker for intricately choreographed shows (see: OK Go, Stop Making Sense, drum corps), so I was especially blown away by auditory/visual synchronization of this show. I have no idea how they do it, but the band manages to sync these crazy tight songs perfectly with the videos projected behind them throughout the entire show. This is a good example:

I did some reading up today and learned that Cornelius came out of the Japanese Shibuya-kei scene, described by Wiki as “a kitsch revival of 1960s culture” and by LA Weekly as having a distinct “’60s-meets-’90s vibe.” So basically, it’s the perfect combination for the 60s enthusiast in me, the 90s enthusiast in Alex, and the Japan enthusiast in both of us.

I can’t wait to listen to more. Also, I really really want to go back to Tokyo.

movies, new music

July sampler

Some things I’ve been digging lately, in no particular order:

Harry Nilsson’s Son of Schmilsson. I knew a lot about Nilsson way before ever listening to him, mainly because all of my favorite musicians loved hanging out with him in the 70s (seriously, look at this picture). A few weeks ago when I was at home in Vista, I pulled out Son of Schmilsson from my dad’s collection and immediately understood why all these guys loved him. Aside from being laugh-out-loud funny, the songs on this album are incredibly well-crafted and just straight up good. Fatefully, I happened to find a copy of the album at the latest Alameda Antiques Faire, and it’s been sitting on the record player ever since.

Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Ok, I finally watched this movie (seriously, what took me so long?) and now I am obsessed with it. It’s one of the most brilliant films I’ve ever seen…outrageous and hilarious and quite terrifying all at the same time. Can you imagine what watching this in early 1964 was like?

George C. Scott is amazing (we also recently saw him in The Hustler, the 1961 Paul Newman film, and I’m quickly becoming a fan), but no one can top the genius of Peter Sellers in this film.

For me, Sellers falls into the same bucket as Nilsson: someone I first became aware of because of his associations with the Beatles (let’s face it, everything I become interested in somehow stems from the Beatles). But I hadn’t really seen/heard much of his work until recently. After this, I can’t help but feel like I have lots of treasure to uncover.

Trivia: Sellers was one of the only people that Kubrick let improvise in one of his movies; as a result, most of his scenes are ad-libbed. Notably, this one, where you can see Peter Bull trying to hold back laughter around 3:10.

New music! Another shoutout to A Song A Day (and also Alex) for keeping me in touch with all the excellent music of today. Lately I’ve been enjoying:

new music

So much to hear, so little time

This is totally irrelevant but, remember how on Livejournal/Deadjournal/Greatestjournal you could share your current mood and music?

livejournal
An actual screenshot from my Livejournal, 2003

Talk about an awkward time capsule. Anyway, today I’m feeling nostalgic (in case you couldn’t tell) and listening to “Optimist” by DB & St. V. Happy Friday! 

Here are some fun music-related doodads for the weekend:

A Song A Day. Ok, I certainly don’t consider myself “too busy” to discover new music, but I was excited to give this a try because I like the idea of listening to at least one new song/artist a day. Especially because the recommendations come from a real human being, complete with a neat little informative blurb. So far, the curators at A Song A Day have introduced me to Cayucas, The Preatures, and Devo covering the Stones (very worth going to YouTube to watch):

Forgotify. Guaranteed best way to find the weirdest stuff that’s ever been recorded (Spotify app required). Forgotify only plays you songs that have 0 listens on Spotify, like this strangely mesmerizing gem. Most of these cuts are so deep they’re not even on YouTube, although here’s a lucky find that is (proof that there’s some cool stuff on Forgotify, too). I’d never heard of Kit Hain before; I think she deserves way more listens!

And to top it off, sweet Soweto vibes and knockout 60s pop productions from 8tracks. Fun!


Side note: Until recently, I wasn’t aware that “music discovery” had become such a big thing in the tech world (here’s a running list of apps). It’s my personal opinion that it never hurts to have new ways to find music, although when you think about it, it’s kind of overwhelming. Back in the day, my resources for finding new music were limited to magazines, VH1, and Top 40 Radio. I definitely didn’t have access to as much, but when I found something I liked, you better bet I burned it onto a mix CD and played it over and over again until the CD wore out. These days, there’s so much available that it doesn’t seem like there’s time to listen to any one song that much!

That said, there’s no reason why there can’t be a balance between old school music discovery and all this new stuff. I still like buying the occasional magazine and getting to know a band through interviews and big glossy pictures. Or going to a show and hearing an artist whose album I can’t wait to buy. I guess what I’m saying is there are still plenty of ways for the modern listener to fall in love with music, rather than just trying to hear it all. And the nice thing is, most of the time these days you don’t even have to worry about wearing out a CD. :)

live music, new music

About that show we traveled 5500 miles to see

My boyfriend and I have very different musical tastes, although there is definitely overlap in some very important places (Paul Simon and the Beatles, for instance). I actually remember when we became friends on Facebook, and my first thought after seeing his favorite music section was, “Uh oh. We’re not going to have anything to talk about.” Note to September 2009 self: you were super wrong about that. One of the best things about having different tastes is being able to introduce each other to new stuff.

Long story short, that’s how I ended up at a D’Angelo concert halfway across the world, grooving to the now-familiar soul/funk/R&B-infused songs from Voodoo and Black Messiah. Before that, it was years of hearing Voodoo in the car and on the record player, being shown YouTube videos of rare performances, and hearing rumors about that long-awaited album. But seeing it all in person is what finally made me really appreciate D’Angelo as a musician and a performer (sorry it took so long, Alex!).

[YouTube took down the original video I had posted here. But below is one of comparable quality, from the same week.] Throughout the night, D’Angelo was channeling some serious James Brown, and the Vanguard was on point:

Moral of the story: Share the music you love with the people you love. Share it with strangers, too. SHARE MUSIC EVERYWHERE, so that someone discovers something new every day.

/end preaching

kishi bashi, live music, new music

In which I listen to “hip” music

Last week we went to two shows: the TEJ Trio at SFJAZZ and the Kishi Bashi String Quartet at the Palace of Fine Arts (in a huge concert hall that I had no idea existed). The jazz show was cool but I have to admit that I liked the 5-minute encore of them playing “Caravan” better than the hour-long improvisation preceding it. Does that make me lame? I’m no stranger to experimental shows (if you recall, I used to live in LA with a bunch of beat scene guys), but this time the laptops and projections just didn’t do it for me.

I *did* very much enjoy Kishi Bashi, who shared the stage with a string quartet and his mountainman banjo player, Mike Savino. They did some really cool covers (including Talking Heads!) and a lot of songs from the new (“second”) album, LighghtI love KB’s semi-awkward banter and his fondness for San Francisco. Both times I saw him perform, he explained that the reason for his awkwardness was because he was nervous and that SF was his favorite place to play. Awwww.

In other news, I recently discovered a very interesting genre called electro swing. Am I really behind the times on this? I had no idea it was a thing until I happened upon a really cool 8tracks mix. I take back what I said a few posts back about swing having “died out.” Apparently it’s still very much alive (with the help of some phat beats). Here’s another mix for good measure:

And lastly, I don’t believe I’ve mentioned it here yet, but a couple weeks ago we made an impulsive decision to go to a D’Angelo concert…in Amsterdam. At the end of this month. After the initial shock of “whoa, we just bought those tickets,” I very quickly became PUMPED. And now after watching D’Angelo and the Vanguard on SNL I’m even more excited. Part of the reason we’re going is because his live performances are so sparse (those in the US tend to get…cancelled), and this may very well be our only chance to see him in person. The other reason we’re going is because it’s AMSTERDAM! Home of beautiful canals, suuuperchill people (if you catch my drift), and KattenKabinet! So even if D’Angelo flakes out on the show or announces a west coast tour right after this, it’s going to be great.

I’ll leave you with this, a Monkees gif I made, lest you think I’ve forgotten what this blog is really about: