Archive for the ‘Journalism’ Category
Devo, the legendary new-wave band famous for herky-jerky pop hits like “Whip It,” adheres to the theory of “de-evolution”–the idea that humanity is regressing rather than evolving through societal dysfunction and follow-the-pack mentality. But when the industrial suit-wearing oddballs made Something for Everybody, the band’s first record in 20 years, they did everything they could to appeal to the masses: its twelve subversively catchy synth-pop tracks, which contain references to things like the Taliban and the infamous University of Florida Taser incident, were cleared through an extensive focus group approval process.
Appealing to the masses might sound counter-intuitive to Devo philosophy. But mass appeal is the point, says Mark Mothersbaugh–a Devo co-founder and prolific composer of movie soundtracks, T.V. show theme songs and music for commercials–who maintains that the only way to change society is through subversion. In a recent phone interview ahead of Devo’s performance in Balboa Park on Sunday, July 18, as part of the San Diego Pride Festival, Mothersbaugh talked about the focus group process, humanity’s continuing de-evolution, and how he inserted subliminal messages into commercials.
Tell me about this focus group process. How did that work?
We hired Mother LA [an ad agency based in Los Angeles, who list Devo as their only client on their website], and we talked about the things that changed a lot in the world for us as Devo. Back in the ’70s, if you asked people if they believe in de-evolution, they would say, ‘You’re insane! You’re an asshole! You’re a cynic!’ and now, you say it and people go, ‘Yeah-hoo, let’s party! Things are devolved, let’s go!’ We felt it was time to ask people what they thought about Devo and de-evolution, and we took it to heart.
What kind of feedback did you get?
Well, we did a color study and people decided that the Devo red hat was too aggressive and thought we should change it to blue. And we did.
Did they pooh-pooh any songs you were really into?
Yeah, there were songs that we were surprised they didn’t choose. There was a radical mix of “Don’t Shoot.” I still think that’s going to come out because that’s so radical. It’s maybe the most radical thing that we did in the last three or four months—the last six or eight months, I mean. During the whole time of this record, the last couple years.
What was radical about it?
A band called Polysics did a remix. They really took out a lot of it. They sped it up. Some of the part in the middle where it slows down and there’s a speaking section—they took half of that out. They took out a lot of the “I’m a man”s. It’s a lot of [voices fast rock groove] “Don’t shoot!”, “Don’t shoot!”, “Don’t shoot!” It sounded more like “Uncontrollable Urge” from our first record.
It’s been twenty years since Devo last released an album. To what extent do you think society has de-evolved in those twenty years?
It’s a Mike Judge movie now. It’s like the whole world’s kind of turned into Idiocracy, in a way. People make decisions based on anything but the facts. They have access to more information than ever, but yet they’re filled with more misinformation than ever. Just look at where the last twenty years have taken us, you know, with our own government. Things have just gone downward. Education is last in line for funding and bombs are first in line, once again. I think the dumbing-down of the planet is not hard to recognize.
Have you ever worried that maybe you’ve succumbed to de-evolution yourself?
Oh, I know I have. Certainly physically. It’s like—you know, sitting at a desk writing music for the last twenty years and [I] went back on a stage and realized it was a good thing that those yellow suits were so big. I’ve been losing weight for the last year or two and it’s hard when you’re old. It’s easy when you’re twenty.
I was listening to an interview with you and you were talking about how you were at the protest at the Kent State shootings in 1970. I see a parallel between the shootings and the Tasering of the guy at the University of Florida, which you make a reference to it in your song “Don’t Shoot (I’m a Man).”
I think what we learned and took away from being idealistic young people–who said, “You don’t have to napalm humans in my name over there in Vietnam! I don’t really think you need to napalm them and pay for it. I don’t think I want to be doing that. I don’t think I want to be represented like that. I think there’s other ways to do things”–we found out that rebellion could only go so far in a democracy. The ideal is that you could speak your mind. But in reality, it was given limitations.
What I think we took away from it was that rebellion was obsolete, and that the only way you really change things in our culture is through subversion. So we looked around and came to the conclusion that maybe Madison Avenue was the best at influencing people indirectly.
In terms of advertising?
Right. Unfortunately, most of Madison Avenue was for bad stuff. But the techniques were valid.
I heard you talking about that on NPR recently. You said you guys were inspired by commercials.
Yeah. When we were kids, we listened and watched everything. It wasn’t just like we listened only to, you know, radio—either FM or AM or pop or alternative, if there was such a thing, which I don’t think there even was back then. We listened to everything. We listened to film soundtracks. We listened to music when we were at the mall. We listened to music in elevators. We listened to music on TV commercials. And understood the validity of all of it.
What about commercials in particular interests you?
I just like the creativity that’s involved. I ended up working in commercials for a long time, or at least writing music for commercials just out of curiosity about the media. There was a commercial in the early 70s that I really liked, and I paid attention to, because it made me laugh. It was Burger King and they took Pachelbel’s Canon and turned this beautiful piece of music–one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the classic music world–and they turned it into, “Hold the pickles / Hold the lettuce / Special orders don’t upset us / All we ask is that you let us serve it your way.” That was successful. And then they proceeded to change that into a country-western version, and a folk version, and a rock version, and a funk, Motown kind of version.
Early on in our career, we made this movie called The Truth About De-Evolution. The Akron Art Institute showed our film. It’s seven and a half minutes long, it wasn’t very long. I remember this woman coming up being really upset, going, “I know what you’re doing! I can see what you’re doing!” And we were like, “Uh, what? What’s that?” She says, “I know what’s going on here! I saw subliminal messages. I saw the word ‘submit’ and I saw the word ‘obey.’” And she was really upset. She was agitated. And I remember Jerry [Casale, a founding member of Devo] and us going, “What a good idea! That’s great!”
When I started doing commercials, I used to put my own messages in them—and did it for twenty or thirty of them before I finally got bored with it because it was too easy.
Could you give me an example?
I got hired to do music for a soft drink that I thought was absolutely terrible tasting—and it was like almost pure sugar, anyhow. I put the subliminal message, ‘Sugar is bad for you.’ And in other commercials, I put messages like, ‘We must repeat,’ ‘Question authority.’
How would you do that?
You just put it right below the threshold of what people hear. They’re already listening for something when they listen to a commercial. Once you put lyrics or a melody on it, they’re following that. And so you can turn it up pretty loud.
So you would slip these lines into the jingle?
I put it underneath a cymbal or a horn riff or a guitar line or something, or a synth part that you would not right away go, ‘Oh, I just heard lyrics.’ You would be, ‘Oh, that was interesting,’ but not even recognize it. It’s not that hard to do, that’s the funny thing.
I know Devo has redone songs for commercials—like the “Swiff It” commercial for the Swiffer. Did you do anything with those?
We didn’t have to. To me, just redoing the lyrics on a Devo song was subversive enough. Because what it meant is, a kid who likes the song would go, ‘Lemme hear that.’ And then they’d hear the real song and then the real lyrics would become much more resonant. I always loved the idea of like taking our lyrics and distorting them for a commercial. Actually, “Whip It”—we have “Strip It,” “Slip It,” “Zip It,” “Swiff It”… There were like eleven or twelve different “Whip It”s out there, where you put them on a reel and you have a really crazy six minutes of viewing pleasure.
Do you ever worry that, instead of subverting these commercials, you’re actually subverting Devo or losing sight of the de-evolutionary vision?
I’m not that worried about it. I know what you’re saying. I learned to deal with that a long time ago and never felt that way. I always felt like what we were talking about, if it had any meaning at all, it would be relevant when people came back to it.
And you’re right. People can say, ‘Oh, Devo! They’re not Devo—they’re De-ho. They just let anybody use their music.’ I’m sure there’s people that think that way.
I think of Andy Warhol, who was my hero when I was a kid. If he were still alive, I think he would get a kick out of our marketing focus groups that we did with this new album. I think he would love the idea of taking a pop song and turning it into a tool to sell stupid, conspicuous crap. Maybe it does make some people interested in Hershey’s chocolate or something else, but we’re taking a ride on that, too. Because the Hershey’s chocolate people have just embedded our virus into their product. That’s how I see it. I see the Devo virus has just been further insinuated into our culture.
And, I mean, you know what? On some level, kids will never think of Devo as anything other than a kick-ass band to dance to, or to skateboard to, or to make-out to or something. They might think of it just as that, on the lowest level. But there’s a percentage of kids, somewhere along the line—it may not happen the first time they hear the record—somewhere along the line, they’re going to be saying those lyrics, singing those lyrics at work in their head or something. And they’re gonna go, “What does he mean when he says, ‘We’re pinheads now / We are not whole / We’re pinheads all / Jocko Homo’? What’s that mean? What’re they talking about?” I’m patient. I think that’s the way you change things—I think it’s through subversion.
This interview originally appeared on CityBeat‘s blog, Lastblogonearth.com.
If you think making it big here is hard, try being a rock band in Iran—where rock music is officially considered a decadent vice of Western imperialists.
Alcohol is banned and music venues are nonexistent in Iran, so the rock band Hypernova spent seven years in Tehran’s underground scene, playing basement shows and birthday parties. There aren’t any legal recording studios, so they recorded their 2006 EP, Who Says You Can’t Rock in Iran?, in their friend’s crappy home studio. They’ve been doing much better since their move to the United States in 2007—they’re living in Brooklyn and touring nationally—but they still hide their real identities to protect their families back home.
“The problem with the underground is there’s only so much you can do there,” says Raam, the band’s 29-yearold lead singer and guitarist, in a recent phone interview. “You’re either going to end up in prison or you’re not going to make any money. You’re not going to be able to pursue that other career unless you’re rich enough to just play in your own basement for the rest of your life.”
They don’t have any plans to return home any time soon—in part because it’s a foregone conclusion that they’d be thrown in jail for a song like “Viva la Resistance,” the second track on their debut full-length, Through the Chaos. Over a muted guitar and a bouncy bass line reminiscent of The Strokes, Raam sings, “Your theocratic, neo-fascist ideology / is only getting in the way of my biology.”
In a way, Raam says, they’re better off outside Iran.
“The more success we see over here,” he says, “the more hope it gives to all the kids back home.”
Iranians have always been keen on Western music (on YouTube, there’s an amazing video from 1991 of some Persian dudes break-dancing at a party in Tehran), but Iranian music has gained wider popularity in the year since the birth of the Green Movement, a grassroots civil-rights campaign kick-started by the controversial reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
The 2009 film No One Knows About Persian Cats shed light on Tehran’s underground music scene and an adorable indie-pop duo called Take it Easy Hospital. Shahin Najafi, a Persian rapper based in Germany, has become famous for cutting rhymes that attack Iran’s oppressive theological strictures.
But as the Iranian government does all it can to crush the Green Movement, they’ve raised the stakes for artists looking to speak out.
When Raam, who describes himself as “non-religious,” first started playing with Hypernova drummer Kami in 2000, the country was undergoing liberal reforms under the leadership of President Mohammad Khatami. “Holding a girl’s hand in public was almost impossible 10 years ago,” Raam says. “But during Khatami, small things like that became more culturally acceptable.”
But today, the government is reportedly cracking down harder than ever before. Peaceful demonstrators have been attacked by paramilitary youths wielding batons. Bloggers and filmmakers have been arrested and kept in solitary confinement. In December, Iranian authorities detained and intimidated Shahram Nazeri, a respected vocalist who recorded a protest song; he’s been silent ever since.
And don’t even think about holding a girl’s hand.
Recently, the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance went so far as to impose guidelines on men’s hairstyles.
“It’s going to take time, but I really do think that struggle is going to prevail,” Raam says. “I think one of the greatest points about the Green Movement, and just the movement of the people, is that they’re demanding that all fundamental basic rights be respected. Everyone should have the freedom to be and follow what they want—but, more importantly, everyone should also be represented equally.”
To its detriment, Hypernova isn’t all that different from countless other bands. Straight-ahead rock songs like “Universal” and “Fairy Tales” may be incredibly catchy, but they’re not groundbreaking or unique. But maybe Raam’s being too harsh when he freely says that Hypernova’s music is “far from good.” To be sure, they’re making headway by introducing synths and live sequencing, dispensing with the tired Strokes formula that defines most of Through the Chaos.
Still, it’s unclear whether they’ll ever reach their ultimate ambition: global recognition.
“For us, the goal is to become so famous and so big one day that when we go back home, we’ll be untouchable,” Raam says. “Like, you know, ‘Do your worst.
Throw me into jail.’ “But, hopefully, it won’t come to that,” he adds. “I don’t want to go to Iranian jail.”
Hypernova plays with The Black Diamond Riders at Bar Pink on Sunday, July 18. hypernova.com
This article ran in last week’s issue of San Diego CityBeat.
This article ran in the July/August issue of The Brooklyn Rail.
In Zona Centro, the downtown district in Tijuana, a city on the U.S.–Mexico border just south of San Diego, DIY-chic is all the rage. La Mezcalera, a mezcal bar and nightclub that’s regarded as the city’s own Studio 54, is decorated with Simon Says consoles and old LPs. Indie Go, one of four bars that sit in the hipster enclave Callejon de la Sexta, masks its plywood décor with deep-red lighting, a wall-sized mirror, and the all-encompassing thud of a techno beat.
As for La Bodega Aragón…well, it’s just DIY.
One Friday night in May, the tiny club’s walls were still sticky with wet paint. Bartenders served drinks in the kind of plastic cups you’d find at a house party. The P.A. system was scratchy; the microphone cut out intermittently. Worst of all, the lighting was installed incorrectly. Instead of lighting up the performers onstage, a machine’s flickering red, green, and blue lights blinded the four dozen college students in the audience.
But I didn’t come for the ambiance. At the invitation of Derrik Chinn, an American who lives in Tijuana, I came to see the Guacamole Music Fest, a two-day festival put on by the University of Baja California that played host to electro bands from across Mexico and Latin America, including some of Tijuana’s best up-and-coming acts.
Colorful lasers shot into the crowd. Gray smoke was ejected from a machine. Santos, an electronic dance outfit from Tijuana, broke down the musical formula invented by Nortec Collective—a world-famous assemblage of D.J.s and producers who mix techno with norteño, an accordion-driven genre popular in northern Mexico—to its basest parts: over a humongous four-to-the-floor beat, a young man used a laptop and a USB keyboard to fire off triumphant rave synths and snippets of accordion and tuba looped ad nauseam. As if that wasn’t enough, a live drummer added fills to the relentless groove.
When it comes to dance music, Tijuana’s claim to fame is Nortec Collective. Their mashups perfectly capture how the city’s disparate cultures often sit side by side, feeding off each other. On the opening track of Corridos Urbanos, a new album by Nortec’s Clorofila, the interplay between honking accordions and glistening synths mirrored the scene at La Bodega Aragón. In the club, young people played dance music on laptops. At the Hotel Aragón bar next door, guys in cowboy hats played tunes on guitars and accordions. Drink in hand, I freely traversed the two spaces.
But in the 10 years since Nortec first emerged, their romantic sound hasn’t evolved the way Tijuana has. Ten years ago, navy boys and college co-eds would flock here to get plastered at gaudy balcony bars. But since the September 11 attacks, tourist traffic has gradually waned. In 2008, at the height of the city’s drug violence, tourists deserted the city completely.
In their absence, locals have reclaimed the area as their own. Tourist bars have been colonized by hipsters. Shuttered gift shops and old storage spaces have turned into vintage clothing stores and bars. And venues like La Sexta House of Music and La Bodega Aragón are supporting a burgeoning local music scene, with bands like Santos capturing the rawness of it all.
By all accounts, the hipster transformation began with a mezcal bar.
In 2008, rival drug cartels were fighting a savage war on Tijuana’s streets. Victims were being decapitated or castrated. Their tongues were being cut out. The really unlucky ones would be stuffed into vats of acid.
The violence had a chilling effect on the city’s thriving nightlife. High-priced clubs and restaurants became magnets for kidnapping and violence. Locals would stay home. Or they would hang out at bars in the city’s red-light district, where they wouldn’t draw attention to themselves. Along Avenida Revolucion, the main tourist drag downtown, there were no gringos to be found.
As the months wore on, Tijuanenses eventually grew tired of staying cooped up inside, club owners and residents say. When La Mezcalera opened its doors on Calle Sexta near Revolucion in January 2009, it hit a nerve. The bar quickly took on a diverse clientele. When more and more patrons began asking for drinks besides mezcal and beer, the bar’s owners emptied out an old storage space adjoining the front room, painted the walls, added a disco ball, and opened up an incredibly chic, if modestly-sized, nightclub.
Within a year, according to Sergio Gonzalez, a co-owner of La Mezcalera, over a dozen bars opened in the area.
“Without realizing, I think they began a revolution in Tijuana’s nightlife,” Lorena Cienfuegos, the co-owner of Indie Go, told me. “We started consuming music from our country, rather than importing it. We started going out—that was something we were [previously] afraid of because of the violence.”
Tijuana may be a vice city, but musicians and club owners say it’s a conservative one.
“In general, Tijuanenses tend to play it quite safe when deciding which shows to attend,” Moisés Horta, who plays in the band Los Macuanos, told me via e-mail. “It’s never really been an issue of musical quality so much as production value. The undecided spectator will more often than not lean toward the party with the biggest budget, the glossiest flyer, and the swankiest venue.”
When I visited, La Bodega Aragón was anything but swanky—and the very antithesis of big-budget. On the second night of the Guacamole Music Fest, Antonio Jiménez of María y José, a solo electronic project, sounded like a lo-fi Panda Bear as he sang casually over sample-driven Latin grooves and simple synth melodies playing from—what else?—a computer.
In the same way that downtown’s DIY-chic runs in the opposite direction of the gaudy bars that used to define Avenida Revolucion, acts like María y José are running away from the overblown raves that have defined electronic music in Tijuana. Three years ago, Jiménez and the guys who would later become Los Macuanos—Moisés Horta, Moisés López, and Reuben Torres, all in their early 20s—started throwing “No Rave” parties in Tijuana and Chula Vista, a U.S. city just south of San Diego, where they played minimal house, funky no-wave, and “random noise,” Horta said.
“At that time, electronic music in Tijuana consisted of massive cash cows masquerading as raves, with D.J.s you’d never even heard of and music you couldn’t care less about,” he wrote. “So our response, naturally, was to create our own scene.”
María y José’s song “Espíritu Invisible” brought their scene to a new level. The song’s hypnotic groove and darkly spiritual lyrics—“And where did your great God go? / He took everything and left you the pain,” Jiménez sings in Spanish, as I’ve roughly translated—inspired them to be more personal and regional. The results show in El Fin Mix, released online by New Other Thing, in which Los Macuanos offer up danceable yet dark grooves laden with Afro-Cuban horns and Latin rhythms.
At this point, whatever they’ve created is still in its infancy, Horta says. But with homey electro bands like Tijuana’s Ibi Ego and Aguascalientes’s Capullo on the scene, something refreshingly un-electro-trash seems to be growing.
It certainly helps that there are new venues downtown.
“The proliferation of venues has definitely afforded more options, not to mention the fact that you have a large cross-section of your potential audience cramped within a relatively tiny radius,” Horta wrote to me. “There’s a high possibility that drifting spectators might accidentally come upon your show and become hooked as a result. Of course, there’s an equal chance that people might just wander out in the middle of your show. But in general, I think the possibilities are more beneficial.”
Calle Sexta, a bustling street that cuts through Revolucion, forms the center of Tijuana hipsterdom. At the corner of Revolucion and Calle Sexta, La Sexta House of Music books bands and D.J.s. Just down the street, La Estrella, one of the city’s oldest and most cherished clubs, sits right next door to La Mezcalera. Across the street, there’s the longtime hotspot Dandy Del Sur. A short walk away, the cozy alleyway Callejon de la Sexta is always overflowing with young hipsters.
Tijuana’s violence has dropped significantly since January, when federal police captured Teodoro Garcia Simental, a ruthless crime lord responsible for much of the violence. Now, hipness is expanding beyond Calle Sexta.
One sunny Saturday in June, I walked around the area surrounding Avenida Revolucion with Jason Fritz, a graduate student at San Diego State University who lives in Tijuana. A pitiful donkey painted with zebra stripes was lounging on the street—as it has been for as long as I can remember. At pharmacies, salespeople in white lab coats hawked discount drugs. Aside from that, though, this wasn’t the same Avenida Revolucion I remember from my childhood.
We checked out vintage clothing stores. We ate at a gourmet hamburger joint. At a cavernous mall once filled with indistinguishable gift shops, a painter worked in his studio, a graffiti store had designer spray cans on display, and a barista at a quaint café was making cappuccinos.
On the corner of Revolucion and Calle Sexta, La Mezcalera’s Gonzalez and his business partner, César Fernández, were overseeing the construction of a ’60s-themed diner. Construction workers were putting up posters of Andy Warhol–style Campbell’s Soup cans labeled “Pozole,” referring to the popular Mexican stew.
Around the corner we ran into Tony Tee, a local promoter, who showed us around a sleek new club he was designing called Revue, which was quite the departure from the garish balcony bars of tourist-era Revolucion. Inside, I admired a spacious D.J. booth that was under construction.
Tee was feeling optimistic.
“Instead of trying to attract the tourists, we’re gonna attract locals,” he said. “But you know what’s going to happen? The tourists are going to come, too.”
In the year since the breakup of his old band, Grand Ole Party, John Paul Labno’s proven to be an unstoppable force. Along with his girlfriend, Sasha Pfau, he’s the creative force behind indie-soul band The Hot Moon. He plays tenor sax in Mr. Tube & The Flying Objects, a quirky funk outfit headed by Pall Jenkins of The Black Heart Procession. To pay the bills, he serves coffee at Gelato Vero, the café next door to his Middletown apartment. In his off hours, he writes songs for a new solo project called Vegetarian Werewolf.
Recently, the 28-year-old multi-instrumentalist powered through a marathon week: The Hot Moon went into the studio to record their new album, Mr. Tube had rehearsals for a show at The Casbah and he prepared for this week’s solo CD-release party at Tin Can Ale House. But in an interview at his cozy apartment the week prior, he said he wasn’t overwhelmed.
“In a certain sort of way, I feel like it keeps me a little more level-headed,” he said, as he double-fisted soy chai lattés. “I have plenty of stuff to do as it is. Anything going tremendously successfully would only mean more stuff to do.
“Which is fine,” he’s quick to add.
Vegetarian Werewolf grew out of his own restlessness last October, when Hot Moon bassist Jovi Butz and drummer Jason Hooper went on tour with Jenkins for three months. With nothing better to do, Labno sat down to make The Blood Count Step, a 28-minute one-off that’s being released on cassette tape by Factual Fabrications, a small label based in Brooklyn.
The record’s 11 songs were inspired by the high-intensity soundtrack of Nintendo’s Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse, only it’s been slowed down to a spooky dub crawl. Recording all the instruments himself, the 40-day endeavor pushed Labno in new directions: He’s taken up keyboards, and he’s singing for the first time.“It’s like a novelty record,” he said. “I wasn’t so sure I could make a record at all—and it turns out I can. So now I’m writing another one.”
Where Grand Ole Party radiated animalistic energy and The Hot Moon oozes soulfulness, Vegetarian Werewolf combines Spartan ingenuity with intellectual curiosity. In “Man and Machine,” a new demo that Labno plans to put on a proper Vegetarian Werewolf debut, he explores the romance between humans and computers. “Evening time, a glass of wine / Time to plug in,” he sings over a beat that juxtaposes a squeaking Sharpie with a clicking typewriter. “Digital world lets him be who he wants / Digital woman loves him for who he is.”
As Labno explains, the solo project works as an engine for his need to make sense of the world.
“Do you accept the fact that things can seem so droll and mundane that, therefore, things are meaningless and there’s so much crap out there that we’re just lost in a confused haze? Or do you keep looking?” he wondered. “I choose to keep looking. I think it keeps me feeling a lot better. I try to keep my picture of the world growing, because I feel like if it gets stuck at any one place, things start to become a lot more difficult.”
Whether consciously or unconsciously, the project seems to capture how Labno’s making sense of his current circumstances.
Last year, he was playing guitar for a band that was hitting its stride, recording an album in Atlanta with Ben Allen—who produced Animal Collective’s landmark Merriweather Post Pavilion—and preparing to go on tour with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. But when Grand Ole Party split, he had to start fresh. Today, he writes his solo material in his bedroom, recording songs on his laptop and using his floor as a kick pedal.
In “Light of Day,” another new demo, the chorus might reflect the radical difference between then and now: “It’s so hard to let go of the phantoms we’ve grown used to / Everything I used to know is as a dream.”
He could use a day off, he says. But he’s not gloating. “Whether people like the music I’m making or not, or whether I’m playing to 20 people or 2,000 people or whatever, I’m in my fuckin’ house making as much music as I can every day,” he said. “It’s the same thing I’ve always been doing.”
Vegetarian Werewolf will celebrate the release of The Blood Count Step at Tin Can Ale House on Thursday, July 8. myspace.com/vegetarianwerewolf
This article ran in last week’s issue of San Diego CityBeat.
The NOISE ensemble performing in 2009. Photo by Supeena Insee Adler.
Christopher Adler, a music professor at the University of San Diego who organizes the annual soundON Festival of Modern Music, likes to be challenged.
He’s mastered the khaen, a bamboo mouth organ used in the traditional music of Laos and Northeast Thailand. His newest composition, a piece for a drum set without cymbals, seeks to capture the polyrhythmic improvisation of free-jazz drumming. At the first soundON Festival four years ago, he performed “The Chord Catalog,” a mathematical marathon by the Paris-based minimalist composer Tom Johnson. On piano, Adler studiously played all 8,178 possible chords contained in a single octave.
“It was akin to a form of meditation, almost like a kind of Buddhist meditation—an hour of absolutely focused concentration,” he says. “Not so much a musical experience in any traditional sense.”
It’s no surprise, then, that the soundON Festival is tricky for musicians and listeners alike. This year’s program includes highly conceptual and dazzlingly complex pieces by composers from around the world. Two U.S. premieres look especially brutal: Johnson’s “844 Chords,” which follows a complex mathematical algorithm that makes Terry Riley’s “In C” sound like “Old McDonald”; and Greek composer Nicolas Tzortzis’ “Mnésique,” a seven-minute exploration of memory that Adler likens to seeing your life flash before your eyes during a car crash.
Complicating matters is the fact that members of NOISE, the ensemble performing most of the pieces, live in different parts of the country—in addition to Adler and guitarist / composer Colin McAllister in San Diego, there’s a violinist in L.A., a cellist in Ohio, a flautist in Baltimore and a percussionist in Alaska (who’s sitting out this year)—and they won’t actually sit down to rehearse the pieces until a week before the festival. But Adler, NOISE’s pianist and composer in residence, doesn’t seem worried.
“That kind of music is inherently risky,” he says. “It doesn’t matter how much rehearsal time you have. There’s always this element of danger in it, and that’s part of what we like about it.”
In spite of all these challenges, the festival is designed to make uncompromising music more approachable. Concerts will be held in La Jolla’s Athenaeum Music & Arts Library—with no stage, curtain or backstage, it offers a more relaxed vibe than a concert hall. Rehearsals on the day of performances will be open to the public. Visiting composers will hold pre-concert talks. And at a late-night “Chill-out Concert” featuring the Formalist Quartet, a California string ensemble, audience members are free to come and go as they ponder pieces like Andrew Nathaniel McIntosh’s sublime “Voice and Echo I.”
To hardcore avant-garde listeners, the most surprising aspect of the festival might be that the program mostly consists of traditional notation and arrangements. Back in the ’60s, the late American composer Harry Partch taught SDSU students how to play fanciful homemade instruments with unique tuning systems, and these days, UCSD’s famed Music Department has supported groups like the Bitwise Operators, a self-described “laptop ensemble”—so, in a city with a rich experimental history, aren’t violins and treble clefs old-hat?
Adler doesn’t think so. “It’s almost like the language I grew up speaking, so it’s hard, in a way, not to love it,” he says. “I don’t feel like it’s all used up. People can still write a good novel in English; there’s still good music you can write with good old notes on paper.”
Appropriately, NOISE’s name brings to mind the prescient 1985 study Noise: The Political Economy of Music, in which French scholar Jacques Attali argues that music will eventually no longer be a social tool but, rather, a boundless medium for experimentation. Nobody can deny that today’s musicians enjoy immense freedoms. They can borrow ideas from groundbreaking composers like John Cage or Steve Reich—or they can create their own musical systems. And if they can’t play instruments, they can use computer programs like Max/MSP to create their own sounds. But they still face the challenge of making music that’s intellectually and aesthetically satisfying.
Sound and concept dovetail beautifully in “Shades of Raindrops” by Korean composer Sungji Hong, one piece on the program. In a recording Hong sent via e-mail, Korea’s Ensemble TIMF explore various timbres in E-flat—long-drawn strings, fluttering flute, slamming piano, even some random snapping. The impressionist changes, she explains, evoke the different colors and patterns of raindrops, from light drizzle to heavy torrents.
NOISE assembled the program two years ago, after an international call for scores yielded enough interesting pieces to fill two years’ worth of festivals. Unfortunately for curious concert-goers, though, none of the Europe-based composers whose pieces will be performed this year will be able to attend the festival because of the economic downturn.
Adler is characteristically undaunted.
“In a way, if that’s the worst side-effect of the economy, we’re doing OK,” he says. “We’re still doing the festival. We’re still doing the music we want to do.”
The soundON Festival of Modern Music will be held at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in La Jolla Thursday June 17, through Saturday, June 19. sandiegonewmusic.com/soundON10
- Published: 06/15/2010
- Other Stories by Peter Holslin
This article ran in last week’s issue of CityBeat.
Last month, 91X fired Matthew Bates (aka Mat Diablo) and cancelled The 91X Morning Show with Mat Diablo. Now, as we reported in this week’s issue, he’s looking for a new job—but not in radio.
Bates, a 30-year-old marketing specialist who works part-time for the online personal radio outlet Slacker, says he’s not bitter, but he doesn’t have much hope for the future of radio. In an interview with CityBeat last Sunday, Bates talked about the Morning Show‘s early days, the radio industry’s business model, and how it can compete with a legion of iPhone apps.
How did you get involved with 91X?
Well, they’d offered me a job when I was still up in Boise [Idaho, where he was program director and brand manager for KQXR 100.3 FM], and I said ‘No.’ Because my perception at the time was that 91X was in bad shape, which it was. And when I moved to town [in 2006], the people who were running the station at the time [Finest City Broadcasting, which had recently bought the station from Clear Channel] hit me up and said, ‘Hey, let’s just talk. I’m interested in what you’re doing over here. Maybe can you develop some content for us as well, on the side?’ I started having high-level conversations with them about where that station can go. They recognized that, for the better part of the last decade, that station had been a non-issue for most people—you know, as a result of being owned by Clear Channel, being programmed from out of the city, voice-tracking, and all the other terrible things you hear about radio consolidation. They were really committed to rebuilding 91X’s brand.
Everyone knows 91X. It plays music, you tune in, you tune out; it’s there. Certainly not what it used to be, though. As far as being active in the community, as far as what it represents to this generation, it’s just sort of a shell of its former self. And they recognized that. They said, ‘We’re gonna fix this. We wanna take our listeners and turn them into enthusiasts. We want to develop some good will in the community. And more importantly, we want to embrace emerging tech. Rather than being reactive to all these challenges—i.e. Pandora and Slacker and satellite radio and God knows what else—we want to be pro-active. We want to be a leader when it comes to incorporating emerging tech and emerging content delivery platforms. We want to be involved in peoples’ lives in our communities again.’
I put together a presentation; I put together this whole sort of definition of what that would be. And then they went out and they tried to find a show. And then a couple months later, they approached me and said, ‘We can’t find anyone to do this. Do you want to do it?’ My passion is music first and secondly getting cool ideas, cool products—I know it’s cynical to say music is a product, but it is—into the hands of the people who are going to appreciate it the most. And this was just another one of those challenges. From a 91X standpoint and a show standpoint, they wanted us to build a community again. 91X did not have a community for a long time.
In the clubs
A folk rapper releases his new album, Rob Crow’s new band performs on a bus, and a guitar-strumming Michigander gets teens psyche for life–plus 19 other great shows this week
The xx (photo by Owen Richards)
Wednesday, June 2
PLAN A: Neon Indian, Class Actress @ The Casbah. In case you missed our feature in last week’s issue: Neon Indian turns the squeaky synths and silly chords of ’80s elevator music into heartfelt, tripped-out pop. It’s the perfect soundtrack for the summer—just don’t succumb to the hype and call it “chillwave.” PLAN B: Lex Land @ Lestat’s. With her rich voice, this Orange County punk rocker-turned-folk artist makes herself right at home over melancholy piano and big beats alike. You’d best see her now before she’s filling bigger venues. BACKUP PLAN: Bone Thugs-N-Harmony @ House of Blues.
Thursday, June 3
PLAN A: Bushwalla, Pigeon John, Rafter @ Belly Up. There’s no pigeonholing Bushwalla, the multifaceted project of Cleveland native / San Diego transplant Billy Galewood, who’s just as comfortable rapping over acoustic guitar as he is crooning along with a string section. The openers for his CD-release show perfectly complement his qualities: L.A. rapper Pigeon John throws down inspired rhymes while local pop-rocker Rafter Roberts glows with star power. PLAN B: The Vision of a Dying World, Miss Erika Davies, Jehovas Fitness, Lonesome Sparrow @ Tin Can Ale House. Speaking of releases, make sure to arrive early to this 7-inch-release show for The Vision of a Dying World to see the fabulous vocalist Miss Erika Davies. BACKUP PLAN: Aeroplane, Kid Lightning @ Voyeur.
Friday, June 4
PLAN A: Mission:Valley, Riververb, Innerds @ a bus. Everything about this show looks amazing, starting with the fact that two of the city’s most intriguing new bands—Mission:Valley includes members of Pinback and Three Mile Pilot while Innerds combines Sleeping People percussionist Brandon Relf with The Locust guitarist Bobby Bray—will perform on a moving bus. The bus boards (BYOB!) at 8 p.m. outside North Park’s Agitprop gallery. PLAN B: Stage Kids, Nut / Crackers, Fever Sleeves, Many Arms, TONS, Omegum Flegum @ Epicentre. You know you’re in for something special when the event’s called “Attack of the Jam Rock Robots II.” There won’t be any robots, sadly, but there will be plenty of gripping math-rock riffs. BACKUP PLAN: The English Beat (also playing Saturday, June 5), Hoi Polloi @ Belly Up.
Saturday, June 5
PLAN A: Inspired Flight, Jamuel Saxon @ The Casbah. Mixing hip-hop with indie-rock with dub with breakbeat science, locals Inspired Flight forge a meditative sound reminiscent of DJ Shadow and Gorillaz. As for Jamuel Saxon mastermind Keith Milgaten, he performs his indie electro a little differently each show, but it’s always happily mystifying. PLAN B: Snuffaluffagus, Mothlight, Dusty Highway Band @ Tin Can Ale House. Mothlight offers up touching electro-pop while Danica Molenaar of Dusty Highway Band mesmerizes with her delicate, velvet voice, making a perfect cocktail to herald the new record by experimental group Snuffaluffagus. BACKUP PLAN: Charlie Chavez y su Afrotruko @ Dizzy’s.
Sunday, June 6
PLAN A: Paul Baribeau, The Preteens, Sani, Mandarin Dynasty @ Che Café. Michigan’s Paul Baribeau has made a name for himself with little more than an acoustic guitar and an incredible amount of energy. With boldly sincere songs like “Ten Things,” he might be the most positive influence on alienated teens since posi-punks Fifteen. PLAN B: Dick Dale @ Fletcher Cove Park. If you see anybody perform at this year’s Fiesta del Sol, the annual Solana Beach festival, it should be surf-guitar legend Dick Dale. Period. BACKUP PLAN: The Adolescents @ Hensley’s Flying Elephant Pub.
Monday, June 7
PLAN A: Sage Francis, Free Moral Agents @ Belly Up. On his latest record, Li(f)e, indie rapper Sage Francis sees beyond his usual punching bags (corruption, religion, mainstream rap) and attacks life’s greater contradictions. On stage, a live band will augment his freewheeling wordplay. PLAN B: Buzzcocks @ House of Blues. I’m sure these U.K. punks are much grayer and fatter compared with the days of “Orgasm Addict,” but they’re still crass blokes at heart. BACKUP PLAN: The Good Life, The Parson Red Heads, Team Abraham @ The Casbah.
Tuesday, June 8
PLAN A: Delta Spirit, Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, The Romany Rye @ Belly Up. Delta Spirit, whose album History from Below comes out today, seem to have the pared-down pop sensibility of The Strokes, but they bring a country twang and such random percussive objects as trashcan lids. PLAN B: The xx @ House of Blues. These young Brits have wooed American indie kids with their mellow grooves, but if you already saw them at The Casbah last November, check out… PLAN C: Themselves, Talkdemonic, Baths @ The Casbah. Because you wouldn’t want to miss experimental hip-hop duo Themselves, with their maniacal rhymes. BACKUP PLAN: Aaron Swanton, Inkblot Propaganda, Joe Piotrowski, DJs Meth Combz, Tropical Popsicle @ Tin Can Ale House.
- Published: 06/01/2010
- Other Stories by Peter Holslin
Now that he no longer hosts The 91X Morning Show with Mat Diablo, which was cancelled last month, Matthew Bates (aka Mat Diablo) is looking for a new job.
He’s done with radio, he says, and he plans to pursue marketing in a different field. “I create communities. I create value. I’m gonna do that for another company that is not a radio or a television station,” he told CityBeat. “I’ve got several different options, nothing that is solidified yet.”
He’ll stay in San Diego, he says, and he’s met with companies that focus on action sports and music.
Meanwhile, some “tech savvy fans” have archived all of the show’s content and plan to make the show’s segments searchable and downloadable online, he said.
“I have nothing to do with this, but I’m aware of what’s going on,” he said. “If there’s a cease and desist sent to them, it’s out of my hands, because it’s not mine.”
To read an extended interview with Bates, go to lastblogonearth.com.
The Melvins (photo by Mackie Osborne)
Wednesday, May 26
PLAN A: Isis, Jakob @ The Casbah. One of L.A.’s most influential metal bands, Isis is always a sight to see, churning out unpredictable sludge informed as much by Pink Floyd as electro-acoustic glitch artist Fennesz. But tonight’s show will be especially monumental—they’re going to break up at the end of their tour. PLAN B: Drew Grow and The Pastors’ Wives @ Bar Pink. There’s good reason this Portland group is getting buzz around the Northwest—the haunting, expansive blues-rock on songs like “Blister” and “Spider” has the breathtaking qualities of Neutral Milk Hotel. It’s enough to send chills down your spine. BACKUP PLAN: Little Brother @ 4th & B.
Thursday, May 27
PLAN A: Frog Eyes, Mt. St. Helens Vietnam Band @ The Casbah. Frog Eyes are like the Xiu Xiu of Canada. Songs like “Bushels” and “Reform the Countryside” are freakishly beautiful, their ornate arrangements led by Carey Mercer’s fragile voice. It’s the kind of thing indie geeks obsess over while everybody else wonders why. Thankfully for everyone else, Mt. St. Helens’ jangly rock is way more down-to-Earth. PLAN B: Longstay, Arrows, Pepper Rabbit, DJ Colour Vision @ Beauty Bar. Now here’s an unlikely lineup: Longstay make dainty indie pop (think a watered-down version of the Modest Mouse offshoot Ugly Casanova) while Arrows offer infectious new-new-wave reminiscent of trendy glo-fi acts like Washed Out and Memory Tapes. BACKUP PLAN: The Infamous Swanks @ Radio Room.
Friday, May 28
PLAN A: Spectrum, Pearl Harbor, Heavy Hawaii @ Soda Bar. As much as I love Soda Bar’s quality sound system and cushy booths, the awesome Spectrum—a descendant of the widely influential U.K. psych-rock band Spacemen 3—deserve a bigger venue. I can only hope that their hypnotic grooves and all-consuming sound effects burrow into the soul of even the most distracted bar-goer. PLAN B: Dirty Sweet, Transfer, The Silent Comedy, Apes of Wrath @ Birch North Park Theatre. Ranging from Transfer’s expansive rock to Apes of Wrath’s straight-up rock, this all-local lineup has the makings of a memorable show—even if you have to rock out while seated. BACKUP PLAN: My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult, Psychotica, DJs Lance Boling, EJ @ Beauty Bar.
Saturday, May 29
PLAN A: Boomsnake, Hosannas, Superhumanoids, Snuffaluffagus @ Che Café. It’s hard to say which band I’d rather see: They’re all doing fiercely unique things with electronics (often mixing them with live instruments), and I expect they’ll all give spellbinding performances. But I’m especially psyched to see how Solana Beach’s Snuffaluffagus will render its intricate, bizarre balladry on stage. PLAN B: Zion I, Kiwi, Rocky Rivera, RRS Feed @ Epicentre. On par with underground hip-hop artists like Talib Kweli and Aesop Rock, Oakland duo Zion I deliver innovative beats and thoughtful rhymes—it’s like what Lil’ Wayne might sound like if he converted to the Nation of Islam. And don’t miss Rocky Rivera, whose languid rhymes are nothing short of badass. BACKUP PLAN: Scarlet Symphony, The Constellation Branch, Lands on Fire @ Tin Can Ale House.
Sunday, May 30
PLAN A: Nas, Damian Marley @ Harrah’s Rincon Casino. Nas and Damian Marley make an iconic pair in Distant Relatives, which came out last week. Pitchfork called the album preachy, but the legendary rapper and renowned reggae artist reportedly have great chemistry onstage as they split the difference between hardened New York hip-hop and sweltering Jamaican dancehall in tracks like “Nah Mean” and “Land of Promise.” PLAN B: D-Pain, Lion Cut, Smile Now Cry Later, Free*Stars @ The Casbah. A rapper who excoriates polluters? I’m there. BACKUP PLAN: Ox Eyes, The Hot Toddies, Dreamboat @ Tin Can Ale House.
Monday, May 31
PLAN A: Emily Jane White, Brothers Grimm @ Soda Bar. I look forward to seeing Emily Jane White, a promising young singer-songwriter whose latest album, Victorian America, ranges between ghostly (“The Ravens”) and wry (“The Country Life”). As for Brothers Grimm, it’s the side project of a couple of smartly dressed brothers who play in a certain evangelically disposed band we covered recently. PLAN B: Monarques, Marquez! @ Tin Can Ale House. Portland’s Monarques conjure images of antique stores and ’50s diners with their retro rock—not exactly my idea of a good time—but I wouldn’t want to miss Marquez!’s rock en español, which we hailed as “stunning” in our local-music issue. BACKUP PLAN: Lady Dottie and the Diamonds @ U-31.
Tuesday, June 1
PLAN A: The Melvins, Totimoshi, Rats Eyes @ The Casbah. In a metal universe composed of categories, sub-categories and sub-sub-categories, The Melvins have remained The Melvins: Tight, angular and scary. And they’re not slowing down any time soon—their latest album, The Bride Screamed Murder, comes out today. PLAN B: X, A Frames, Christmas Island, Nude Boy @ Soda Bar. No, this isn’t the legendary L.A. punk band. It’s the legendary Australian punk band, whose junky riffs on songs like “Dipstick” and “Suck Suck” are memorable in their own right. Seattle’s A Frames will set the mood with their skuzzy noise rock.
Hypewave: No matter what one pseudonymous blogger says, Neon Indian’s warped synth-pop isn’t just some ’80s throwback
Photo by Ben Rowland.
Alan Palomo, the 21-year-old force behind Neon Indian, keeps it real: His synths are analog, his lyrics personal, his electro-pop unabashedly sentimental. But since getting catapulted from his bedroom, through the blogosphere and onto Late Night with Jimmy Fallon in a matter of months, he’s wound up at the center of a genre that seems to exist in name only: chillwave.
It’s not his fault. Ever since the term was coined last July by Carles, the pseudonymous proprietor of the pop-culture blog Hipster Runoff, the hype machine has turned “chillwave” into a bona-fide craze. In February, Pitchfork dubbed summer 2009 “the summer of chillwave.” In March, The Wall Street Journal dutifully reported on the trend. In April, MTV elicited backlash from Best Coast’s Bethany Cosentino after erroneously asserting that she’s “embraced the chillwave sound.” On Twitter, she raged: “What the fuck is chillwave?????”
It’s catchy and winsome. It’s nostalgic for the ’80s. It was recorded in someone’s bedroom. And it doesn’t matter that when the hype tsunami crested, hardly any chillwavers actually knew each other, lived in the same state or considered themselves chillwave.
It’s chillwave, dude—who cares?
Of course, it’s easy to arrive at the conclusion that this is really just a hoax. Carles invented chillwave (even as he mocked it, offering up alternative labels like “Pitchforkwavegaze,” “Blogrock” and “Forkshit”), only to act as though the musicians themselves chose to be chillwave.
To be fair, though, there’s some truth to the hype. Songs by the likes of Neon Indian, Washed Out, Memory Tapes and Toro Y Moi share a DIY aesthetic, a keenness for synthesizers and drum machines and an apolitical outlook more invested in psychedelics than current affairs. Take, for example, Neon Indian’s “Should Have Taken Acid With You.” Over a dramatic torrent of synths, Palomo’s ingeniously simple lyrics (“Should have taken acid with you / Take our clothes off in the swimming pool”) evoke the innocent longing of Say Anything. Only it’s been updated to fit the druggy lifestyle of the modern-day college student.
But Palomo was never interested in being chillwave (or “glo-fi,” as some like to call it). “My intention was never to tap into some kind of movement or something,” he says over the phone from his sublet in Brooklyn. “I think that’s incredibly pretentious to say, especially when experimentation is just sort of the word of the day and all you’re really doing is trying new songs out.”
The truth is, he wrote “Should Have Taken Acid With You” on a lark. While he was living in Austin, Texas, last year, a date to drop acid with a friend fell through, so he sat down to write her a song. Adding layer after layer of synths, he finished it in five or six hours.
“I sat on it for, like, a month. If anything, I tried to rewrite it as a VEGA song,” he says, referring to his other band. “But it just really wasn’t working out.”
Realizing that his song worked just as it was, he decided to pursue the sound further. “Just one day, I was like, ‘Alright, I’ll try writing these other songs,’” he says. “And in a week, I had an EP’s worth of material. And in about a month, I had an album’s worth of material.”
What came out was Psychic Chasms, a half-hour set of heartfelt yet silly pop songs composed of squeaky synths, squelching bass lines and melted samples. Innovative and infectious, it’s no wonder the album’s become an instant classic: You could just as easily geek out to it while smoking a bowl or blare it in your car on the way to the beach.
Palomo acknowledges that some “chillwave” tracks bring to mind iconic moments from ’80s films—“like that scene in Rocky 4,” he says, “when he’s driving his Ferrari late at night and thinking about his friend dying.” But he isn’t trying to manufacture nostalgia for the pop culture of a decade he hardly lived through. At its core, Psychic Chasms is a personal document, encapsulating all the psychedelics Palomo’s taken and the heartbreak he’s experienced (from the liner notes: “Thanks to all the women who’ve broken my heart. I could not have done this without you”) during the last four years of living in Texas.
But even if “chillwave” doesn’t represent what he’s about, he thinks the recent obsession with lo-fi makes for an interesting statement.
“We have high-definition cameras, and we have everything that looks really pristine and clean, so how are we going to create the distinction for nostalgia 40 years from now, when it’s probably going to look the same way?” Palomo wonders. “You’re able to store all this information that doesn’t undergo any kind of degradation. Recording something on a tape means killing certain components of it that gave it its qualities. Over time, that becomes the quality about it. Having this music, this preoccupation with lo-fi, it’s almost like a swan song for that.”
Maybe, though the swan song itself will be revived in the echo chamber of some future blogosphere.
Neon Indian play with Class Actress on Wednesday, June 2, at The Casbah. myspace.com/neonindian
- Published: 05/25/2010
- Other Stories by Peter Holslin
This article was published in this week’s issue of SD CityBeat.
Radio Room, the City Heights music venue, is in the process of being sold to Scot Blair, owner of Small Bar in University Heights and Hamilton’s Tavern in South Park.
Chris Heaney, one of Radio Room’s five co-owners, said they agreed to sell the venue because maintaining it wasn’t worth the money. “It was just a lot of work for breaking even,” Heaney told CityBeat.
Blair said he plans to make Radio Room more of a bar, “so it’s not just a band carrying the night.” Under his ownership, the bar will open earlier in the day, bands will play four or five nights a week and there will be a more diverse lineup compared with the current focus on punk and metal bands. He will also make some “cosmetic changes,” he said. “I like aesthetics, and we’re going to have some cool things for this bar.”
The sale is in escrow. Ownership will officially change in July, Heaney said.
On Wednesday, May 26, old-school rockers Glory will reunite to perform at Anthology’s “Legends of SD Rock,” a benefit for the California Music Project, a nonprofit that organizes youth music fellowships. Glory vets Jerry Raney, Jack Butler and Jack Pinney will also perform with their bands, The Farmers, Private Domain and Modern Rhythm. Also that night, gay nightclub Rich’s will hold “Monster Ball,” a benefit for the American Red Cross, featuring DJ Kiss. On Saturday, May 29, Oakland hip-hop duo Zion I will perform at the Epicentre in a benefit for the Shirt the Kids Foundation, a San Diego-based charity that aids impoverished children in the Philippines. Filipino rappers Kiwi and Rocky Rivera and California DJ trio RRS Feed will open. Also on Saturday, at Humphrey’s Backstage Live, local rockers Mama Red and Hugh Gaskins will perform at Rock Against MS, a benefit for the National MS Society.
At SOMA on Friday, May 28, metalcore bands Comes the Horsemen and Tragedy and Triumph will herald the release of Horsemen’s new album, Fragile Masks, and Tragedy’s new EP, The Ground Beneath Us. Lower Definition, Casino Madrid, Vanguard, Deadbeat Nightlife, Lindbergh Skies and City Delivered will also play. On Saturday, May 29, jazz saxophonist Ian Tordella will perform at Dizzy’s with his quartet and NYC guitarist Jeff Miles to celebrate the release of his new album, Magnolia. That night at Lestat’s, Emersen will play a show for the release of their new CD.
Our semi-regular guide to after-dark events we’re either crazy about or just really looking forward to.
“Dub Dorado” @ El Dorado: Joseph Maldonado (aka DJ Headshake) says the hip Downtown bar has rented out a “huge ass sound system” for the launch of a new event hosted by San Diego Dubstep that celebrates earth-shaking bass music. Expect spastic breakbeats from L.A. duo Camo UFOs, crunked-out rhymes from L.A.’s MC Whiskey and heaving wobble bass from locals Austin Speed, Osal8, Mr. Biggs and Headshake. Wednesday, May 26.
“Enrique Experienced” @ Glashaus: Shameless self-promotion alert! Celebrating the second anniversary of his Nightgeist column, Enrique Limón will unveil original works by artists who re-imagined his most memorable columns. But I’m not hyping this just because Enrique has pestered us nonstop about it—I’m looking forward to DJ sets by Miss Lady D, The Office Twins, Miss Toats and Da Perv, and I’m eager to see what The Burning of Rome keyboardist / singer Adam Traub will do with a mandolin. Saturday, May 29.
“Jivewire” @ The Casbah: This semi-regular dance party couldn’t have a more intriguing lineup. There’s a rapper who excoriates polluters (D-Pain), an electro dance act sporting the most fabulous lion mane this side of the San Diego Zoo (Lion Cut), a pop star in the making with an amazing voice and catchy beats (Smile Now Cry Later) and a silly group with a ballad about a “double-flush deuce” (Free*Stars). Sunday, May 30.
Deadmau5 @ Hard Rock Hotel: Speaking of intriguing acts, how about a DJ who offers up trance-inducing, robotic techno while wearing a huge Mickey Mouse mask? Leave the psychedelics at home for this one. Sunday, May 30.
Click here to read the whole feature, published in this week’s issue of CityBeat.