Thursday, May 24, 2007

1 May 2007: Explosions In The Sky

1 May 2007
Explosions In The Sky
333 11th Street (btwn Folsom & Harrison) [Map]
Drinks Consumed: 3 beers each
Review at The Owl Mag

I've looked forward to seeing Explosions In The Sky live for a long time. Unfortunately, I think I waited too long. First of all, the more I go to Slim's, the less I like it. Considering the unfavorable opinion I started with, I'm amazed at my capacity to dislike the space a little more every time I see a show there. In this particular case it didn't help that, despite several confirmation emails, I was mysteriously omitted from the guest list. Fortunately, a guy happened to have two extra tickets for the sold out show so we were able to get in.

Slim's packed people into the venue in the usual we're-fucked-in-a-fire way that they always pack people in for sold out shows. Even though it was a school night, San Francisco's teenagers made it out and claimed the area in front of the stage early, leaving the rest of us to float around in the back near the bar where seeing the band was a privilege reserved for the six-foot-plus set. The kids in the front were not very flexible when my companion attempted to get in front of the stage—coincidentally the spot in the venue with the worst acoustics—and snap some photos. In fact, they were downright rude and unwilling to let him in for a few minutes. Is it necessary to take music that seriously? It's like some kind of reverse "get off my lawn, kids!" phenomenon. Why can't you just have fun?

Explosions In The Sky sounds fantastic live but their brand of post-rock deserves a place with better acoustics than what Slim's has to offer (Bimbo's, I'm looking at you here). Just as you're nodding off to what could be a lullaby, steady cymbals and bass lead the buildup to a blast of guitars, drums, and unusual time signatures. Instead of nodding off you're now uncontrollably bopping your head to the beat. Melodies seamlessly morph from soft and lilting to loud as one song bleeds into another. Slim's is simply too vacuous to do this kind of richly textured music justice.

I can't remember the last time I attended a show without an encore. I have certainly never been to a show where a band member came out on stage to riotous applause only to announce they wouldn't be playing the encore their audience demands because they "have nothing left." Funny, considering how much of their material they hadn't played. It was a disappointing end to an otherwise good, albeit short, performance. Maybe they were as tired of the crowd in the front as I was.

Friday, May 18, 2007

SFWeekly: Best Jukebox in San Francisco, 2007

SF Weekly's "Best Of" issue is out. The honor of "Best Jukebox" goes to... Hemlock Tavern. From SF Weekly:
Yeah, yeah, a great jukebox is eclectic, something for everyone, blah blah blah. But trying to choose the "best" jukebox in a city as full of great bars and amateur music critics like San Francisco is just inviting some hard-drinking know-it-all to say you're full of it. Fortunately, something happened this year that rendered the selection a no-brainer: The owners of the Hemlock Tavern made their charmingly eclectic jukebox entirely free. The music machine at Hemlock's sister bar, Casanova, has been gratis for a while now, but the song selection at the Hemlock is less '60s-centric, ranging from Deerhoof to Black Flag to Buck Owens to Chet Baker. There's a little Beat Happening for twee, and an album of Agustin Lara works for esoterica. Throw in some Jay Reatard, Wanda Jackson, Jimmy Smith, and locals like the Fucking Champs and Deerhoof, and you've got a good reason to dance to the tune of quarters in your pocket.

The problem with the Hemlock is that, on a weekend night, in order to get to the jukebox you have to tolerate an impressively shitty crowd. Like, really bad. And there are a lot of people jammed into the bar. I don't care how many quarters I have jingling in my pocket, it's not worth it. I'd rather wander down the block and cozy up to the bar at Ha-Ra, where I can play jazz vocalists on the jukebox to my heart's content while the grumpiest bartender in San Francisco entertains me with jokes about having sex with his mother. It is nice to know that the jukebox at Hemlock is free. If only I could get to it...

Reader's Choice goes to the venerable Lucky 13 and its eclectic collection of punk, rockabilly, classic rock, and everything in between. It's a jukebox worthy of the honor.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

20 April 2007: Tea Leaf Green

20 April 2007
Tea Leaf Green
The Fillmore
1805 Geary Boulevard (@ Fillmore) [Map]
Drinks Consumed: 3 or 4 Maker's on the rocks, 1 or 2 beers
Review at The Owl Mag

As most people under the age of 35 know by now, April 20th has been co-opted by marijuana lovers around the globe as "Four-twenty," a day to celebrate weed in its various forms. It's clearly no accident that jam band scene darlings Tea Leaf Green scheduled a show at the historic Fillmore to coincide with International Weed Day. What did this mean? Exactly what you'd imagine: A sold out crowd of dredded twenty- and thirty-somethings turning the Fillmore into a giant clambake. Well okay, not everyone had dreds, but everyone was at least a little stoned, even those who didn't have a joint or a hand blown glass pipe pass through their fingers.

So the band. First, Tea Leaf Green's lighting director, Alan Sezak, has a brilliant way of lighting the stage that makes him seem as much a part of the show as any of the guys with instruments on stage. He responds to even slight changes in the music, sensing when it's appropriate to dim down to blues and greens and when it's okay to turn bright yellows and whites on the audience to blind them. At one point, during some particularly jammy moment, he turned all the lights green as puffs of smoke rose into the air, making the stage look like it was covered in a green cloud. It was the perfect lighting moment for a jam band on 4/20.

While the crowd at an indie rock shows might look as if they're trying to have the least amount of fun, the kids at jam band shows seem to be in a competition to look like they're having the most fun. Both of these situations are pretty weird but the jam fans look like they're having fun. I may not be a fan of the jam band sound but the guys in Tea Leaf Green are very good at playing their instruments, and they have an impressively loyal following that runs the gamut from cute young girls to old men with crutches, all of them bopping and dancing with unabashed glee. Judging by the fervor with which they danced, it was a great show.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

British Invasion at the Dovre Club

Dovre Club
1498 Valencia St. (@ 26th St.) [Map]
Total Spent: $2

Dovre Club is subtly an Irish bar and certainly less terrifying than the Irish-by-name bar down the street, Clooney's. On a regular weeknight, picking music from the jukebox at Dovre Club can be a daunting task if you're the kind of person who doesn't want to alienate everyone else in the bar with your song selections. The bar is a quiet little spot on the weeknights and the patrons appear to be loyal regulars.

The selection is pretty average. Johnny Cash, David Bowie, Beastie Boys, and the honorable Guns N Roses "Appetite for Destruction" are all present and accounted for. Billie Holiday, Al Green, Etta James, Otis Redding, and Mary J. Blige represent soul, jazz, and R&B. For the pop kids, they've thrown in Arcade Fire, The Killers, and Modest Mouse, a band fronted by one of the biggest ego-tripping assholes in contemporary pop music. The Repo Man and High Fidelity soundtracks have been thrown in for kicks.

What stands out most about this jukebox is the number of offerings from Great Britain. In addition to the usual—Smiths, Beatles, Bowie, The Cure—Dovre Club's jukebox also contains Oasis, Blur, Morphine, Coldplay, and the whiniest of British whiny, Radiohead. There are also some Irish selections and I'm not talking about U2.

Dovre Club's jukebox is not the best in the city but it is decent and you're almost always guaranteed to hear your songs play within a reasonable amount of time. In fact, I should probably frequent this bar more regularly.