Bands to Watch 2011 :: Ben Van Houten, The Bay Bridged

Meet Ben, co-founder and programming director of San Francisco’s esteemed The Bay Bridged, a non-profit arts organization and online music publication chartered to educate the world on the awesomeness of the Bay Area’s independent music scene. And we love them for it. They curate some great showcases and festivals around town and make The City a better place musically. Here are Ben’s picks for the (mostly) Bay Area bands to watch in 2011. And for the record, I agree with all of them.

Artist: Young Prisms
Album: Friends For Now
Release Date: 1/18/11
Homeland: San Francisco, CA

I always associate this SF band with Weekend because I saw them both for the first time on a joint bill at the Hemlock beginning of last year. If Weekend was last year’s breakout local shoegazey rock group, Young Prisms deserve to fill that slot in 2011. After an EP on Mexican Summer, the band’s full length Friends for Now is out this month. The record’s a little heavier than I expected, and that’s a good thing. A lot of these reverb-soaked bands are too thin and brittle to make enough of a racket.

Artist: Exray’s
Album: Exray’s
Release Date: 2/1/11
Homeland: San Francisco, CA

Jon Bernson (Ray’s Vast Basement, Window Twins) is one of these can’t-miss artists for me, and Exray’s manages to incorporate his singer-songwriter and electronic pastiche sides into one compelling project. Are they garage pop or abstract beatmakers? Both. You probably heard this duo’s music in the movie The Social Network, or you’ve seen their name around the blogs recently, gaining buzz before the anticipated release of their self-titled full length.

Artist: Bare Wires
Album: Seeking Love
Release Date: Out Now
Homeland: Oakland, CA

I feel like Seeking Love didn’t get the, um, love it deserved last year, although it may have been unreasonable to hope that “I Love You Tonite” would be blasting out of every stereo all summer. Well, there’s still next summer, although Matthew Melton and band apparently have another album coming out soon. I know the Bay Area has a bunch of garage rock bands, but these guys write amazing pop songs about love with hooks aplenty.

Artist: Sea of Bees
Album: Songs for the Ravens
Release Date: Out Now
Homeland: Sacramento, CA

Sea of Bees became one of our favorite new artists last year over at The Bay Bridged, the latest in a long track record of great performers from the Sacramento/Davis area. Jules’ voice is unbelievably emotive, and when she conveys sadness, you feel it in your gut. Late last year, she signed to a UK label, and is doing a ton of European shows in the first quarter of this year. It would not surprise me at all if she’s a deservedly bigger name when she finally returns to California.

Artist: Kurt Vile
Album: Smoke Ring For My Halo
Release Date: 3/8/11
Homeland: Philadelphia, PA

I had to sneak at least one non-local artist in my list. I recognize that there’s a certain obviousness to picking any band with a big upcoming record on Matador as a “band to watch,” but Vile’s definitely become someone I’m expecting to have a big 2011. I’d slept on Childish Prodigy, but between last year’s Square Shells EP (find me a seven-minute song as good as psych-pop gem “Invisibility: Nonexistent”) and the songs that have leaked from the new album, I’m definitely more ready this time around. I suspect Vile will be this year’s Fresh & Onlys, showing that weird pop can be recorded well and still maintain its eccentric charm.

Bands to Watch 2011 :: Mark Schoneveld of Yvynyl

Meet Mark, the man behind Yvynyl, a Philadelphia based indie music blog that takes the term indie to a whole new level. Anytime I’m feeling all hip, smug and on top of my music game, I just head on over to his site for a dose of reality. Because quite often I haven’t even heard of many of the bands he’s recommending. And they’re all good. (GODDAMNIT!) Enjoy his picks for 2011. Most likely they are bands you’ve never heard of.

White Fence

Selebrities

Purling Hiss

Headless Horseman

TV Girl

Bands to Watch 2011 :: Scott McDonald, Surfing On Steam

Scott McDonald runs the LA-based music blog, Surfing On Steam, and is also a contributing writer for the renowned Aquarium Drunkard. Every once in a while I need to balance my garage-psych yang with a little electro-ambient ying and Scott’s site usually has just the anecdote. I turn to it often to troll his recommendations in those categories. Here are Scott’s picks for Bands to Watch in 2011.

Young Montana?

The Vaccines

Twin Sister

Star Slinger


Ringo Deathstarr

Bands to Watch 2011 :: Bryan Duquette, Another Planet Entertainment

Bryan Duquette
Promoter, Another Planet Entertainment (APE)

If you live in the Bay Area, you know APE. For those that don’t, Another Planet is a Bay Area concert production company that organizes the best festivals in San Francisco, like Treasure Island Music Fest and Outside Lands. They also book the most coveted venues in town like The Fox Theater in Oakland and The Independent. Bryan is one of the brains behind the music we all enjoy here.  Here are his picks for 2011.

Beirut
Zach condon hasn’t released a full length since 2007’s “The Flying Cub Cup”.  He will grace us again with his orchestral beauty and french horn in 2011 with a brand new record.  The world needs more Beirut.

Okkervil River
Will Sheff may be disheveled, but he’s a lyrical genius and writes a superb pop song.  He’s backed Roky Erikson recently and will lead Okkervil River to the forefront this year.  Folk music is the new black.

Aloe Blacc

Aloe Blacc is an old soul.  He released “Good Things” in late 2010, but isn’t a household name yet.  One listen to his single “I Need A Dollar” and you know what’s next for Aloe.

Seattle (The Head and The Heart / Fleet Foxes)

The Fleet Foxes may be the critic’s darlings, but The Head and The Heart are knocking on that door.  The scene is strong in Seattle and these acts are paving the way.  Both groups dig on harmonies and flannel and will have new material in 2011.

Mexican Summer
This label is putting out the records of the best artists you have never heard of…Real Estate, Tamaryn, Kurt Vile, Best Coast, Weekend, Washed Out, Young Prisms and Tallest Man on Earth to name a few. Check out anything they put out in 2011.

The Antlers
Their complex and layered music is more accessible than you think.  If you haven’t heard them yet, you will.  Look for their sophomore album in 2011.

For The Record: Imaad Wasif

Imaad Wasif “The Priestess”

Sticking with the dark, moody rock theme this week, meet my latest obsession – Imaad Wasif.  No stranger to the indie music scene, the Canadian born, Indian singer-songwriter and guitarist has been in numerous bands including lowercase, The New Folk Implosion and alaska!, but is probably best known as the touring guitarist for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs. His latest solo LP, The Voidist, has me completely entranced and intrigued. I had the good fortune to catch up with him to learn more about the album and the inspiration behind it.  Truly amazing…enjoy!

Be sure to catch Imaad tomorrow, January 19, at Bottom of the Hill and/or February 27 at The Independent for the NoisePop Festival.

The OCMD: I’m really enjoying your new album, ‘The Voidist’. What’s the inspiration behind it? What does that title mean to you?

The more uncommon the highest truths are, the more inhuman must they be and the less they speak to you as something valuable and meaningful concerning human essence and being. The voidist does not speak against me but for me, and proves how universally human I am and how much I too not only need redemption but also deserve it.

The OCMD: Your music evokes a lot of musical references for me – from the freaky sexiness of a Devendra Banhart, to the tender lyricism of a Jeff Buckley and the monstrous guitar riffs of a Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page. Am I missing any musical influences here?

Karen Dalton, Nico, Marianne Faithfull, Moe Tucker, Lulu Jackson, Brigitte Fontaine, Patti Smith, Elizabeth Cotton, Geeshie Wylie, Nina Simone, Yoko Ono, Mariska Veres

The OCMD:  With references to sorcery, rapture, karma, celestial beings, worship and sacrifice the album definitely comes across as very spiritual and mystical. With whom or what or who were you grappling with when you wrote these songs?

My spirit reflected on everything rare and uncommon, it pried its way into unfound possibilities, towards paths that lead into the hidden, towards lights that shine in the night. And as my spirit did this, everything ordinary in me suffered harm without my noticing it, and it began to hanker after life, since I did not live it. I was smitten by the romantic. The romantic is a step backward. To reach the way one must sometimes also take a step backward. Mine is a spirit of torment. It tears asunder my contemplation, and it would dismantle everything and rip it apart. I am still a victim of my thinking. I should rise above my thoughts to my own self.  My journey goes there, and that is why it leads away from people and events into solitude. Is it solitude to be with oneself? Solitude is true only when the self is a desert. Should I make a garden out of the desert?

The OCMD: In the song “Priestess”, I love the verse “Learn how to accept how far we are from perfect/Slowly undress The Priestess.” What is The Priestess a metaphor for?

The oracular woman. If you take a piece of joy from the devil you accept your pleasure. But pleasure immediately attracts everything you desire, and then you must decide on whether your pleasure spoils or enhances you. If you are from the devil, you will grope in blind desire after the manifold, and it will lead you astray. But if you remain with yourself, as a man who is himself and not of the devil, then you will remember your humanity. You will not behave toward women per se as a man, but as a human being, that is to say, as if you were the same sex as her. By giving in to your apish appetite, you infect others, because the ape stimulates the apish. So you turn yourself and others into apes.

The OCMD: What comes first for you, the lyrics or the melody?

Neither, the mystery.

The OCMD: I could be wrong here, but your album leaves me with a feeling of reverence (and maybe a little fear) toward women.  Do we intimidate you?

Man should not seek the feminine in woman, but seek and recognize it in himself, as he possesses it from the beginning. One can hardly say of the soul what sex it is.

The OCMD: I have a serious girl crush on Karen O. You’ve toured with her in the past as the guitarist for the YYYs and most recently worked with her on the “Where The Wild Things Are” soundtrack. Is she as cool in real life as she is in my head?

Yes.



For the Record: Petter Ericson Stakee of Alberta Cross

Alberta Cross “Leave Us and Forgive Us”

Those who know me know how deep my obsession runs for the Brooklyn, by way of London, based band called Alberta Cross. A band I feel like I’ve been waiting for all my life.  They hooked me with their EP, The Thief and The Heartbreaker, in 2007. Left me waiting (what felt like) an eternity for their debut LP, The Broken Side of Time, that released last fall, and even longer for their tour to hit the West Coast.

Thankfully, the wait ends tonight at San Francisco’s Bottom of the Hill. And I know, just like their debut album, it will be well worth the wait.  I had a chance to catch up with lead singer, Petter Ericson Stakee, before the show to talk to him about the album, the tour, and what took him so long.

The OCMD: How’s the tour going so far? I’ve been waiting so long for you to come to California. Is this your first official West Coast tour?

Petter: It’s going great.  We just played the Troubador last night in LA and sold out which was great. And yeah, I’ve been waiting a long time to get out here too.  I love it out here. We’ve been out this way before for some gigs and a few festivals – like Coachella and the Download Festival.  But this is our first official West Coast tour.

The OCMD: You grew up in Sweden and London –both of which have distinct musical influences– yet your sound has such a retro Americana/ blues-rock vibe.  How did that come to be?

Petter: I grew up listening to loads of different music.  I do think we have a bit of that blues/Americana thing but we also have a lot of English influences in us too.  Growing up there, we listened to a lot of bands like My Bloody Valentine and The Verve so there’s definitely a mix of influences for us.

The OCMD: You now live in New York.  What inspired the relocation?

Petter: I’m living in Brooklyn now and it’s great – a really inspiring place to live with a lot of energy and amazing bands. We had a hard time the last year or two and when we went to New York for a festival, we met so many amazing bands and were so inspired that we decided to make the move. It’s been good for us but there’s so many places in America we still want to see. We really loved Austin, Chicago and the whole West Coast is really amazing.

The OCMD: I’ve read that Alberta Cross is actually an anagram. Is that true? Can you tell us what it means?

Petter: It is true.  But I’m not going to tell you what it means.

The OCMD: Is there a prize if we figure it out?

Petter: [laughs] Sure, as long as it’s not too much money.

The OCMD: If Alberta Cross is an anagram, is the song “ATX” an acronym? What does it stand for?

Petter: Yeah, it stands for Austin, TX.  The album was recorded down in Austin.  We thought it would be a good idea to get out of New York and the City and record in some place new.  And we really loved it there. It’s a beautiful place, full of great people and great music. So we really just wanted to name something after it.

The OCMD: Speaking of Austin, will you be there again this year?

Petter: I think we probably are but we have quite a busy tour schedule so we’ll have to see if we can work it out. I hope we go, definitely. I’d love to go.

The OCMD: Broken Side of Time is one of my favorite albums of 2009, though it seems more dark and brooding than The Thief & The Heartbreaker EP. What was happening for you when you wrote it?

Petter: I think the album got that vibe because of the stuff we were going through at that time. We were in London and in kind of a dark place.  We left our label and were feeling lost and broke. Then we moved to New York. It was really exciting but we were still kind of in the same situation for a while.  And when we moved here Bush was still the president. So it was a crazy time and that definitely inspired the vibe of the album.  We’ll see where the next album takes us.

The OCMD: What are the plans for the next album?

Petter: We’re writing stuff all the time and we’re recording stuff that we might release pretty soon.

The OCMD: Alberta Cross + Hacienda = one kick ass live rock show. Are you excited to tour with them? I saw them support Dan Auerbach last year where they pulled out a cover of The Animals “Inside Looking Out” that literally melted my brain.

Petter: Yes, we’re doing the whole tour with Hacienca. We saw them when they were touring with Dan Auerbach and met them down in Austin. They’re an amazing band and good friends of ours now.

The OCMD: Speaking of covers, I have a real soft spot for them and loved the cover of John Lennon’s “Steel and Glass” you did. Are you planning to play more? Can I make a request for one tonight?

Petter: Ohhhh, we’ll see. That’s kinda soon. We are definitely planning to play some more cover songs, but we don’t have that many right now. We’re working on a couple. Covers are fun.  It’s always fun to play other people’s songs. But “Steel and Glass”, yeah, we might play that one.

The OCMD: Okay, I’ll hold you to it!

King Khan & BBQ + Those Darlins: Concert Review and Interview…on Love, Groupies, Tav Falco and the KY Sobriety Force

The King Khan & BBQ Show @ The Independent in SF

Opening Act Those Darlins

The King Khan & BBQ Show“Invisible Girl”

Those Darlins“Red Light Love”

King Khan greeted the crowd Wednesday night at the Independent with a few words to sum it all up:  “It’s good to be back in civilization.”

The King Khan & BBQ show tour was sorely interrupted on November 12th when their rental car was “randomly” stopped at a “safety checkpoint” in Kentucky. All were arrested and the groups manager was jailed on possession charges (mushrooms).  Two shows were missed.

People expecting a Shrine’s style stage full of musicians and dancers may have been initially disappointed to find only the dynamic duo (King and Sultan), but any disappointment would be quickly flattened as the two tore threw a long sweaty set and encore.  No distractions, just King and Sultan, giving it all their mighty powers. Mark Sultan used all 8 appendages, playing fierce guitar while keeping the pounding, tribal beats on drums and tambourine with his 2 feet.  It seems his foot went through the tambourine which was attached to one of the two drum pedals. King Kahn dressed elegantly in a sleeveless, shimmery blue dress.  The fringed skirt barely covered his thighs.  He wore a black helmet with a silver spike and eagle on top (Franco-Prussian war perhaps?), snappy red tennis shoes, and a necklace of teeth and bone.  Together they plowed through most of the KK&BBQ catalog including great renditions of personal faves “Zombies” and “Why don’t you lie?”.  Yes there was moshing.

Opening act, Those Darlins come from Murfreesboro, TN.  They have developed quite a reputation for wild shows with lots of drinking and mayhem.  Consisting of 3 lovely ladies (Jessi Darlin, Kelley Darlin and Nikki Darlin on guitar, bass and ukulele) as well as a handsome dude on the drums.  He has not achieved the “Darlin” surname yet. The show defied all expectations.  Shredding guitar and lots of stage antics.  Nikki, in particular, was in prime form. She jumped into the audience to have a cigarette and push some guys around. She climbed back on stage only to drool beer into the welcoming mouth of a lucky young man in the front row.  Yet with all the drinking and rocking they still found the time to answer some questions for us at the OCMD!   Smart, wonderful, sober answers, enjoy!!

OCMD: How is the tour so far?  Any favorite cities or venues?  Will we see you at SXSW this year?

TD:  Interrupted. The Bottletree in Birmingham is one of the best venues, for bands especially!!! They have 2 air stream trailers outside that are fully equipped with flat screen tvs, dvd players, refrigerators, blankets, beds, movies , nintendos, etc. They are all decorated really retro and awesome, they even have lawn gnomes and an outside hangout out area with lawn chairs. The bands can stay there all night if they want! and there is still a huge back stage area with tons of couches and comfy stuff, including massage chairs!! It rules. As far as cities on this run, atlanta, st louis, and memphis brought it as a whole. But there have been crazy sweet people in every city. Los Angeles showed up with huge enthusiasm after the Troub cancellation and a last minute venue change. Yes we shall be back to the SXSW festival this year. At least we sure hope to be.

OCMD:  How are things going with the King?  It seems like a match made in heaven.  Are you playing any songs together yet?    Is he behaving himself since his arrest??

TD:  Things were great with King Khan, until they went missing. We were pretty damned worried when no one could get a hold of them.  And then their whole run in with the KY sobriety force. A drag on everyone. We’ve had to cancel 2 shows and move one. But we’ve tried to keep the spirit of the tour going…we played extra long sets and covered some KKBBQ for Kansas fans who were understandably bummed. And now we are on our way to rejoin them in SF.  I think it is a match made in heaven.  And, Khan and I can share accessories.  The rest of the tour is gonna be crazy fun.  I think everyone has a lot of pent up energy to play out. I don’t know if he is behaving himself since then, as we haven’t seen him yet. But i would hope he isn’t.

OCMD:  Tav Falco Pather Burns.  Great American rockstar or the greatest?  Can you help spread the gospel about Tav?  Maybe a cover?   We would really like to see him return home from Europe and we need your help!

TD:  We love Tav Falco! Yeah, we’ve wanted to tour with him but he’s so far away…we can certainly help with a campaign to let him know how much he is loved and missed in the States. We’ll start with a cover and then try to court him with love letters. Surely there are others who will join us in our efforts? And if he doesn’t come here, we will just have to go to Europe and find him!

OCMD:  Why should we love you more than the Vivian Girls?

TD:  When it comes to love, you should follow your heart…I love the Vivian Girls’ use of reverb, but I will say that we can shred some guitar solos.

OCMD:  What do you look for in a groupie?

TD:  I look for groupies that will carry my equipment, buy me drinks, and never talk to me.

OCMD:  Top 5 things to do in Murfreesboro??  ..other than say it over and over again?

TD:  1.Volunteer at Southern Girls Rock n’ Roll Camp 2. Eat at Kleer-Vu 3. Ride your bike on the Greenway 4. Uncle Dave Macon Days 5. Wiffle Ball in the Sir Pizza parking lot

OCMD:  As a father of 2 young girls, I would like to know how I can ensure they will become rock stars?  Your camp is a bit too far from California…

TD:  Aww…they can become “rock stars” by being encouraged to be confident and creative. By rock stars, I mean that they will have the confidence to succeed in whatever they pursue. There are so many girls rock camps that have this very purpose as their main mission all over the US and around the world! Last I checked, there were over 20 camps and more being started all of the time. There’s a list of all of the camps maintained by the Girls Rock Camp Alliance, a group formed to share resources among camps. In fact, there’s a Bay Area Girls Rock Camp in San Francisco and there’s a full list available at <http://www.girlsrockcamp.org/supporters/grca>. We’re really proud to be a part of this kind of social change. Please check out the camps and help support the movement!

OCMD:  Thanks ladies!  Safe travels and come back soon!

Post by Blogger Mike