Concert Picks ‘O The Week: Local Natives, The Middle East, Phantogram, LCD Soundsystem

Holy crap kids, it’s another OCMD-infused, action-packed week of music on the San Francisco show circuit.  That is if last week didn’t already kill ya. Here are a few of my picks (with some back ups for the already sold out shows). Rock fist forever!

June 1: The XX + Phantogram @Great American Music Hall
June 2: Local Natives Suckers @ The Rickshaw Stop
“Sun Hands”
June 2: The Middle East + Mumford and Sons @ Slim’s
“Lonely”
June 3: LCD Soundsystem @ The Fillmore
June 3: Local Natives + Suckers @ Bottom of the Hill
June 3: The Hundred in the Hands @ 330 Ritch (their US debut)
“Ghosts”

Cassettes Are The New Vinyl, Part 2: A Band’s Perspective

Grand Canyon is a New Mexico-based band that recently emailed us about their debut album release ‘The Hits’ on cassette tape.  They shared with us their insights for choosing cassette as their physical medium.  The group also has a digital version of the album, which you can download for free on Bandcamp.

For us, cassettes were the right choice for a lot of reasons.  The biggest was that a lot of the material (mainly drum tracks and vocal tracks, but some guitar and bass too) were recorded originally on cassette tape on a Portastudio. So we wanted to keep some of the release analog in the same way.  We also took a very DIY approach to this album (it’s all self-recorded and self-released) and the lithographed and uniquely colored j-cards, and uniquely colored tape labels (all done by the band and a few friends) were just another way we could showcase the do-it-yourself experience. Tapes were only a little cheaper than CDs, which helped, but we thought that the appearance of the final product of the tapes was aesthetically much better than the similarly priced discs.  Plus the coloring party was fun.

Sound wise, we were into the idea of tapes too.  Three of our four band members are in our mid-twenties, so we grew up listening to music on cassette.  Cassettes, of course, offer “that analog warmth,” and while the sound doesn’t stay as pristine on cassette as it does on cd (assuming you can keep your discs from getting scratched, but that’s a different story), we kind of thought the weird sounds you get as tape deteriorates and cassettes warp are at least interesting, and can add to the listening experience.  CDs make for boring, over-compressed background music.

Our last reason for going with tapes was that we think in the world of mp3s, even cds are totally obsolete, or at least will be soon.  So we figured it didn’t matter what medium we used to release the album physically.  We had all the reasons I listed above to do tapes, plus it worked as a marketing tool.  When people asked us, “Why tapes?,” we responded, “Why not?”  And it got people talking.  Plus we thought an interesting looking, and uniquely designed cassette was something people could take home as a collectors item, whether people listened to the 29 tracks of our original music on it or not. And we sold all 50 of the run at the release show, so it seems to have worked.

Trendspotting: Cassettes Are The New Vinyl

Dig out your boom boxes, tape decks and head cleaners because another almost obsolete music format, the cassette tape, is quickly being brought back to life. They’re turning up everywhere, being released by bleeding edge DIY hipster indie bands with a penchant for the self-released EP.  Dive deep into your local indie music scene and you’ll see what I mean. Merch tables are filled with them and the frequency of the cassette EP press announcements in my inbox are quickly rising. If vinyl is the format for the high browed music snob, then the cassette is the format for the DIY, crafty crowd.

It’s been a source of great frustration for me of late to discover fabulous up and coming bands live, then realize the only option for continued enjoyment of their music is a format I haven’t owned equipment for in a good decade. Grass Widow, The BathsBlank Dogs. These are all bands that released music on cassette that I would have liked to have in my music rotation but couldn’t do so because….I DON’T HAVE A CASSETTE PLAYER!  God dangit. Who still owns a cassette player? (Besides Blogger Mike who has three. Sheesh.)

Frustration turned to anger after my third attempt to buy music from a band with a cassette only option. (Why, why, why are you making it so difficult to support you?!) Then the anger turned to action.  I needed to understand the rationale these artists had for adopting a format that is clearly not widely used. Was it a cost factor? Cool factor? Sound factor? Did they want to languish in obscurity because no one could readily appreciate their music? What…what was the allure?

Welcome to The OCMD trendspotting series, “Cassettes Are The New Vinyl”, where we’ll explore the rational of artists and labels reviving this nearly dead format that so dominated my youth. Tune back in for Part 2 where we’ll get insight from a band and their reasons behind choosing cassette for their physical format.

More Obsession: Tame Impala – “Vital Signs”

Tame Impala“Vital Signs”

This album is saving my life in so many ways. Drenched in electronic psychedelia and layered with lyrical optimism, listening to it is like floating in space.  I love it.  The new album from the Aussie band, Innerspeaker, drops June 8 in the US.

Terrorbird 4th Birthday Bash Tonight @ Milk Bar

The Splinters - “Dark Shades”

Terrorbird is turning 4 and Epicsauce is hosting a fine birthday bash for them tonight Thursday, May 20 at Milk Bar in the Haight (across from Amoeba) featuring a great line up including San Francisco’s Man/ Miracle, The Splinters, Sacramento’s Sister Crayons and LA’s Baths.  For $5 you just can’t beat it.

Under the Influence: T. Rex

The OCMD has been planning this post for some time, but as of May 13, it became top priority.  On May 13th at the Verdi Club, OCMD’s @indierockgirl, Julie, was treated to a surprise birthday party with live music provided by her local favorite Ty Segall.  While shredding 2 guitar strings to pieces, Ty finished the set with a pogo-inducing cover of T.Rex’s “20th Century Boy”, and our new series was born:  UNDER THE INFLUENCE.  In this first installment we recognize the profound influence of T. Rex.

T. Rex“20th Century Boy”

Ty Segall - “Ceasar

Marc Bolan founded Tyrannosaurus Rex in 1967 and released 4 essential albums before shortening the name to T. Rex, and making 8 more records including the most infamous, Electric Warrior, which held his biggest hit “Get it On (Bang a Gong)”.  With a bit of glitter under his eyes and a deep sense of his feminine side, he single-handedly created glam rock- the first in a long line of androgynous rock idols (Bowie, Lou Reed, New York Dolls, and many more to come…).  Tragically he died 2 weeks before his 30th birthday when his girlfriend drove his purple Mini into a tree less than a mile from his home.

Bands have been doing covers of Bolan’s work ever since (Big Star, Replacements, Shins, Yo La Tengo, Flaming Lips, Blondie, the Melvins, KMFDM, Elf Power, Teenage Fanclub, Bauhaus…..).  But in recent years the first true echos of Bolan’s sound came via Devendra Banhart.  His warbly singing, guitar style and dedication to freak folk revival are clearly influenced by T. Rex (as much as he denies it).

Devendra Banhardt – “Lover

As posted on the OCMD last month, Indianapolis band Burnt Ones recently tipped a hat with “Gonna Listen to T-Rex (All Night Long)”.  A great idea by the way as T. Rex does sound best after 2am.

Burnt Ones - “Gonna Listen to T. Rex (All Night Long)”

Perhaps the most blatant rip off goes to Chicago’s excellent Smith Westerns -just check out “Girl in Love”.  These kids are way too young to know T. Rex this well, yet they have the glam looks and Electric Warrior sound to truly honor the musical genius.

The Smith Westerns - “Girl in Love”

If you don’t own some of Bolan’s work, get to it.  I know there is a lot of music out there and many of these recordings need a few listens to reveal themselves, but do yourself a favor, make time!  Long live T. Rex, RIP Marc.

Posted by Blogger Mike.

Obsession: Tame Impala – “Solitude is Bliss (Mickey Moonlight Remix)”

Tame Impala“Solitude is Bliss (Mickey Moonlight Remix)”

“Solitude is Bliss.” Is it? Well, I’ll soon find out. But Tame Impala most definitely is. Blissfully good. So say hello to your new favorite band. They sure are mine anyway. I cannot get enough of their new album, Innerspeaker, due out June 8. The Aussie group is embarking on a US tour supporting MGMT. I’m still tracking for that San Francisco show.  Right now Santa Cruz is as close as they’ll get on May 29. Come on guys, you don’t have to be in Portland ’til June 1.  Come on up to SF already.

Album of the Week: The Dig – “Electric Toys”

Artist: The Dig
Album: “Electric Toys”
Release Date: June 8
For Fans Of: The Strokes, The Walkmen
Featured Track: “You’re Already Gone”

This may be the first time you’ve heard of The Dig but it definitely won’t be the last. Mark my words, these guys are going to be huge.  The debut LP from the NY-based quartet is good, really good. The kind of good that makes you scratch your head and say, ‘Really? These guys are unsigned?” Suffice it to say, I really dig The Dig. The similarities to other well-known NY bands like The Strokes and The Walkmen are obvious. They have a straightforward rock and roll sound with a pop sensibility.  And man can these guys play their instruments. Just take a look at the video a recent live session and see for yourself. Reportedly all grads from the Berklee School of Music, they clearly take their craft seriously, as do others. Their debut was produced by Bryce Goggin (Pavement, Antony & the Johnsons, The Ramones, Bishop Allen). Not too shabby for an unsigned band.

The band kicks off their US tour with a CD release party at the Mercury Lounge in NYC on June 5. Sadly they won’t be making it out to San Francisco on this run.

State Bird – Holy Spirits EP

State Bird - “Good Vibes”

Holy smokes, where you have been all my life boys? While the Ohio-based group is releasing their third album, Holy Spirits, it’s the first I’ve heard of them.  And it likely won’t be the last.  Recorded right here in San Francisco at Tiny Telephone Records with the help of Ian Pellicci (Deerhoof, Rogue Wave), they’ve got a touch of that way back sound – a little 60s pop here, a little 70s reverb, hazy  psychedelia there. For a whopping $2, you can have the whole kit and kaboodle all to yourself. Get it here.