Friday, February 25, 2011

The one where I interview The Family Crest with a cat on my lap

Liam lets out a mighty sound at the Family Crest CD release

Last Friday I got to interview Liam and John of The Family Crest in my living room. They are opening for Megan Slankard at the Bottom of the Hill in a week (March 5) and Hear it Local has two tickets to give away for the show.

To enter to win in this contest, leave a comment on the Hear it Local SF facebook page or post this link on your own wall and make sure to "@Hear it Local SF" so we know you did it.

In the interview I ask Liam and John about how they have harnessed the power of their community fan base to raise money and include them in their music making.

My cat Ella makes an appearance; she's black, we're wearing black. It's pretty funny, all you see are EYES.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Film Reviews from Noise Pop 2011: 'This is Noise Pop' and 'The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of José Gonzalez'

Bob Mould: interviewed in This is Noise Pop (photo

San Francisco Music Festival Noise Pop 2011 is on this week and I checked out a couple films this evening.

The first This is Noise Pop tried to answer the question: What is indie rock? Featuring folks like Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips, James Mercer of the Shins, Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie, Bob Mould of Hüsker Dü and more.

Read my review of This is Noise Pop

The second was a more meandering film called The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of José Gonzalez that follows Gonzalez into the studio and on tour. It features charming moments of humor, frustration, intimacy and animation. Plus, the music is gorgeous and there is some nose-picking.

Read my review of The Extraordinary Ordinary Life of José

Saturday, February 19, 2011

More music from my trip to South Africa: Freshlyground at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens

Sorry Hollywood Bowl and Stern Grove, you're just not as pretty.

I had a special treat catching the Capetonian afropop band Freshlyground at the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens back in December. It was a gorgeous summer day, we had blankets, food and wine and some kind friends arrived early so that I had a prime viewing spot.

Ever since the World Cup, Freshlyground's popularity has exploded. You remember "Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)" the official song of the World Cup that Shakira sang? Freshlyground co-wrote and performed the song with her. I was happy to see lead singer Zolani Mahola, violinist Kyla Rose Smith and guitarist Julio "Gugs" Sigauque appear for a second in the official video as well at 2:18.

This video has over 300 million hits by the way... yowzers!

I loved their dancing, especially from bass player Josh Hawks. They put on a great show.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Perfect Life After Death: The Psychobilly Zombie by Kim Kattari

If you're not aware of the current obsession with zombies, you've not been watching TV or don't ever go to the movies. What is it about the zombie that is so appealing?

There are even people out there who believe that the zombie apocalypse is upon us. I kid you not. You'd think that this stuff is tongue and cheek, but some of it is very serious.

My friend and former-classmate Kim Kattari is finishing up her PhD in Ethnomusicology at The University of Texas in Austin and she's published her dissertation chapter about zombies on Kim was a Halloween guest blogger for Always More To Hear in 2009.

I describe psychobilly as rockabilly colliding head on into punk. The music is fast, bass players play upright basses and like to perform fancy tricks with them, and the thematic content covers everything from pissed off relationships to zombies. The aesthetic includes tattoos, 50s inspired clothing, Bettie Page, pompadours and old cars.

Kim has been studying the Psychobilly culture in Texas and California and I've been to check out some of this music with her, it's some pretty fun people watching.

The zombie theme is so prevalent that Kim has a whole chapter on it. She also loves zombies :)

So check it out:

SECTION A - Zombies Are Back

SECTION B - Zombie Definitions

SECTION C - Zombies Correspond to our Fears

SECTION D - Catharsis of Zombie-Killing

SECTION E - Psychobilly's Zombie Narrative

SECTION F - Zombie Minstrelsy

Thursday, February 10, 2011

The Vienna Boys Choir (and why kids are awesome)

What do you do when someone in front of you farts? What if you're performing in front of hundreds of people? Do you try to ignore it until it passes? Or do you wrinkle up your nose in a super obvious way, and when the song is over elbow your neighbor and give the kid in front of you the stink eye?

Kids are awesome. They can be insanely smart and silly all at the same time.

I was reminded of this, this is evening when I saw the infamous Vienna Boys Choir perform at Grace Cathedral.

(I really don't want to get that kid in trouble, but OMIGOD it was so funny!!)

These guys were so great. My choir of full grown adults should be so lucky as to pull off a concert like this group of kids did tonight, as they probably do every night. I heard not one mistake. They had EVERYTHING memorized. They sang half a dozen languages perfectly. And, of course they sounded amazing. Grace Cathedral was built for this sound.

But watching these consummate professionals, you see that they really are only children between, I'm guessing, the ages of 8 and 13.

I found myself being totally distracted and entertained by their individual personalities. Who was the troublemaker? Who was the shy one? What can I say, I'm a people-watcher, and kids provide the ultimate people-watching experience.

This is what I saw, and some of these kids fit more than one of these descriptions:
  • the eye-wanderer - not looking at the conductor, but at everything else.
  • the yawner - by the second half there were several of these
  • the one with the Bieber haircut - yes, they are Austrian, but there still has to be one
  • the one who makes funny faces when he sings - all choirs have one
  • the one whose voice sticks out - not necessarily in a bad way
  • the one who keeps forgetting to bow with the rest of the group
  • the overly animated one - often the one who makes funny faces, often they dance in place
  • the one with Harry Potter glasses
  • the one with funny ears - they're kids, this is a given
  • the one who's WAY taller/shorter than everyone else - again, they're kids, it's a given
  • the one who just looks really Austrian - whatever that means
Oh, maybe I should mention some of the music: Palestrina, Bruckner (both my favs), Pergloesi, Zoltán Kodály (they sang in Hungarian!), Orff and yes folks some Michael Jackson. They sang "We Are the World" in Austrian accents and it was adorable.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Music of Brazil Mix

New mix! I made this for my brother years ago and even posted the collage cover, but now you can download it. It's got some tunes from the City of God soundtrack, some foró, funk, rock, samba, bossa nova. Lots of good stuff.

Click here to download

1 No caminho do bem - Tim Maia
2 Panis et Circenses - Os Mutantes
3 Que Bloco E Esse - Ile Aiye
4 Sonho Meu (with Gal Costa) Maria Bethânia
5 Margarida Perfumada (Live) feat. Caetano Veloso - Carlinhos Brown & Cicero Menezes
6 Toque De Timbaleiro - Nem Cardoso
7 Mama Africa - Chico César
8 Asa Branca - Luiz Gonzaga
9 Girl from Ipanema (with Stan Getz) - Joao and Astrid Gilberto
10 Sem Essa #5 - Jorge Ben
11 Mangueira - Seu Jorge
12 Motumbá - Timbalada
13 Ponta de Lanca Africano (Umbabarauma) - Jorge Ben
14 A Deusa Dos Orixás - Clara Nunes, Romildo/Toninho
15 Desaforo - Fala Mansa
16 Meu Guarda-Chuva - Paula Lima
17 A brisa do mar - Olodum
18 Samba da Bencao - Bebel Gilberto
19 Na rua, na chuva, na fazenda (Casinha de Sepe) - Hyldon
20 Metamorfose Ambulante - Raul Seixas

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

For the love of Doolittle and a new discussion section on

Joyce McBride leads the women of Conspiracy of Venus as they record "Monkey Gone to Heaven" for UnderCover's Doolittle Project at the Convent Collective

I love a good cover song. So I love projects like this. In Austin, Strings Attached does entire shows of albums (Sgt. Peppers, The White Album) or artists (Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell) with a full band and string arrangements. Each song featured a different local musician. It is a celebration of a well-love artist/album and a celebration of the local music community.

UnderCover in the Bay Area is about to have its second show, celebrating the Pixies' Doolittle. Each track will be performed by a different band. Two weekends ago I had the opportunity of going to hang with my girls of the women's chorus Conspiracy of Venus as they recorded the track "Monkey Gone to Heaven" for the studio UnderCover Doolittle album, which will before sale at the show at Public Works SF on February 22.


Also, has a new feature for discussions. So CLICK HERE to weigh in on what album you would like UnderCover to celebrate in the years to come!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Family Crest: My new favorite San Francisco band

At the Cafe du Nord CD release, January 22 - Owen Sutter: violin , Sarah Dabby: viola/vocals, John Seeterlin: bass, Liam McCormick: vocals/guitar (photos: Ted van der Linden)

Liam McCormick

I recently came across The Family Crest because they signed up on Hear it Local (see folks, it works!) and fell in love with their sound. Not only do they combine classical and rock, which is something I always can appreciate, they also invite dozens of people to perform with them, including a choir. I definitely want to join!

I also want to say that I'm always glad to see some diversity in a band, especially diversity that represents its own city and community. So yes, I'm glad to see that there are two Asian guys, Liam McCormick and Lucas Chan, in The Family Crest.

Read my review of their new full-length album "The Village" and CD release here.

Maunal, Dwayne & Brian: the kids of Lynchdoche Eco-village

Manual at an end-of-the-year Christmas party for a program where kids learn to recycle (he has the best smile)

These videos are super special to me. I arrived in Cape Town from London early on a Sunday morning and headed directly to the Sustainability Institute and Lynchdoche Village, located east of Cape Town in wine country on the way to Stellenbosch.

The sun was out, it was warm and windy, and it was gorgeous country. I didn't really know what to expect from this place, and since it was Sunday, school wasn't in session and it was really REALLY quiet. During the week, these pictures would be filled up with people.

looking north: The crèche on the right (where kids play during the week) and some homes.


Then I heard some music. So I followed it (as I do) and found these guys: Manual, Dwayne and Brian (and Brian's little sister) playing music. Brian lives in the village, I'm not sure where Manual and Dwayne live, but it would be in the general area in small homes. All three go to school at the government run school located in the Sustainability Institute.

Brian's mother Makka runs the guesthouse where I rented a room. She just finished paying off her house (behind them) and was one of the first eco-village residents a little over 10 years ago. (Her tiny two-story home has a solar panel.) Brian is 11 and the oldest out of this bunch.

I love the extension chords leading out of Brian's house. Manual played that plastic trashcan lid like a pro. Brian's guitar was hardly tuned, but he would bar the frets to get a reasonable harmonic sound out of it. I later found out that he had taken guitar lessons, so this kid knows how to play chords and he's actually very musically talented. So he's chosen to play this particular instrument without much tuning. I found that really interesting.

I'm not sure what the first song is, but I imagine that it's a South African gospel tune. This second one definitely is. Gospel is really popular in the rural parts of Cape Town. Brian taught me how to play this second tune "I've got a Feeling" on his guitar. I also went and pulled out my ukulele which he tinkered around with.

Please ignore the fact that I interrupted them at the end, so I could give Dwayne the chance to play if he wanted to. Only now do I realize that Brian says "He can't play!" haha... oops.

This was really sweet though, and a wonderful way to welcome me to this continent/country/city.