Monday, October 19, 2009

Refuge in the Quarter at Johnny White's

Johnny White's
733 St. Peter St., New Orleans [Map]
Total Spent: $? (It's difficult to say after my 10th beer.)
Post by Koshi

Not Just OK, Encouraged

In most bars on Bourbon Street you'll readily find a fine selection of cheap shitty beer, rancid well booze, drunk frat boys, and the ever-present smell of puke. You'll also find the latest and greatest digital jukebox bringing you, on demand, every cliché song about Bourbon Street at the tap of a screen (see post on digital jukeboxes). And while I love The Grateful Dead's "Truckin'," you need not hear it more than once to get your fill of it.

Johnny's Jukebox

Johnny White's is not most bars. It's a place to find Chartreuse and refuge from the Bourbon Street fray. It's coincidentally owned by a local guy from Hawaii and features an old school Local Motion sticker on the front door (to help you find it after that first night drinking til 6a). Not only is it free of the Bourbon Street riffraff, it is staffed with bartenders who will keep your beer full and have your back if you're about to be in a lot of trouble (not that we would be doing anything to get us in trouble, thanks Treg!). Keith and Paul aren't just friendly faces, they're local favorites among the other bartenders who surface there after shifts.

Sabbath vs. The Doors

Paul actually let us in on a few interesting bits about the life of a bartender in the Quarter. As a cash-driven town, it's no surprise that personal security can quickly become an issue for a bartender after 12 days of tips and pay during Mardi Gras. As a result, there are a good deal of "carrying" workers in the service industry. I suppose it's no surprise that New Orleans always tops the murder rate charts. Perhaps the danger lends itself to the authenticity, but it also just scares the crap out of me. I always felt safe at Johnny White's but am in no hurry to move to New Orleans.

Paul from Phila

Like the Zeitgeist here in SF, Johnny White's is not a bar you'd ever find yourself standing behind no matter how well you knew the bartender; and like the Zeitgeist, it's not just popular among locals, it's a staple in the Quarter and its jukebox is decidedly non-digital. Of course it's filled with the requisite staples including the Staple Singers, The Grateful Dead, The Doors, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin among others, but also contains a slew of bartender mixes, and a few obscurities like Richard Cheese. After four consecutive days here, it was no surprise to have heard everything from David Bowie to Vanessa Carlton. Somebody played Huey Lewis and the News at some point. Thankfully, Jess didn't have a gun.

Most Appropriate iPod Dock Ever

San Francisco chef Ryan Farr, of 4505 Meats, is the master of the pig roast. We had the honor of chowing down on our second Farr pig this past weekend at the wedding of two friends. Ryan's iPod dock is worth sharing (photo courtesy of the bride, Jenny Oh):

Friday, October 16, 2009

Thao, Revisited

Thao with the Get Down Stay Down have a new album coming out next week and I did a quick Q&A interview with her for 7x7. Check it out: TI Exclusive: We Get Down with Thao.

This is me awkwardly saying hello to me after a show at the Independent.

Buy the album. It's good.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Monday Thurston

NY in SF

3 Aug 2009: Sonic Youth

3 August 2009
Sonic Youth
The Independent
628 Divisadero St (btwn Hayes & Grove) [Map

Thanks to Koshi, we were able to snag 4 of the 500 tickets that sold out within 2 minutes of going on sale. Writing a coherent review of this show can be done using two words: fucking awesome.

San Francisco's Sic Alps opened and, while they weren't horrible, they also weren't that interesting. All three band members took a turn at the drums, but even the changing instruments wasn't sufficient to keep me from wanting them to go away so Sonic Youth could come on sooner.

So yes, Sonic Youth. Fucking awesome. I will add that every single member of the band—including former Pavement bassist Mike Ibold, now a full-fledged band member—shreds. Kim's body looks amazing, Thurston still looks like a really tall teenager, and Lee Ranaldo is still doing sick spacey shit with his guitar. Most of the tracks they played were from the new album, The Eternal, but they did play "Silver Rocket" from Daydream Nation, which blew the doors off the place. They did not play "Teenage Riot" so alas, we have yet to redeem ourselves for missing it when they played Daydream Nation start to finish in Berkeley. I wish they'd played more old stuff. Stephen Malkmus made me believe it possible. Oh well.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

John Vanderslice: "Romanian Names"

SF indie pop darling John Vanderslice's latest album, Romanian Names, is out today and he and the band will throw their album release party tonight at Rickshaw Stop with the Morning Benders at 7:30 ($16).

NPR is streaming the album here and I found this clip of him playing the title track in the studio for KEXP's Bay Area Broadcast.

Here's my post about it over at 7x7's Clamour blog, where I've recently started blogging about SF arts and entertainment stuff twice a week.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Found Online: A Tour of Daptone Records

I'm completely obsessed with Daptones Records, an indie soul label cranking out amazing new music from modern-day soul acts, most notably Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings. I was looking for some pics of the outside their studio, an old brick house in Bushwick, Brooklyn, and came across a video tour of the studio posted on Wire to the Ear.

No, it's not in San Francisco, but it is awesome.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

25 Feb 2009: Stephen Malkmus

25 February 2009
Stephen Malkmus
Great American Music Hall
859 O'Farrell Street (btwn Polk & Larkin) [Map]

I went into this show with low expectations, not because I thought it wouldn't be good, but because I'm a huge Pavement fan and Malkmus has long moved on to his Jicks material. Going to a Malkmus show hoping to hear a set riddled with Pavement's greatest hits is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment. There has been one famous show (famous to Pavement fans, anyway) with the Jicks, in 2003, where they played all Pavement songs in chronological order of their release. It's been called "The Milwaukee Show." As far as I know, such a thing has not happened since.

Yet—and much to the chagrin of a couple of friends who arguably love Pavement even more than I do but skipped the show expecting Malkmus to try out new Jicks songs—Malkmus played a mostly Pavement set. Maybe it was Noise Pop, or maybe it was all the buzz a year ago about a potential Pavement reunion. Or maybe he just felt like taking those of us who are old enough to remember when Pavement was a band on a trip down a shady memory lane. Regardless, Malkmus gave the Pavement fans in the room something to talk about for a long time to come.

Malkmus came out with his MacBook and explained that since he was unable to find a pen backstage he had to type the setlist. I suck at writing down setlists in general, but in this case I was completely unprepared for what was happening, so I must credit Hippies Are Dead for recording a reliable setlist. Malkmus opened with "Harness Your Hopes," the B-side of Pavement's "Spit on a Stranger" EP. I thought this was a fluke. Next came "Us," a Malkmus & the Jicks track and "Blue Arrangements," a Silver Jews song. After the song ended, Malkmus muttered "That was the Silver Jews. They broke up. All we can do now is mine their catalog." Sadness.

With the exception of "Pink India," the next five songs were all Pavement: "Spit on A Stranger," "Starlings of the Slipstream," "Fin," and "Range Life," a song to which everyone in the room knew all the words. I no longer thought the first Pavement song was a fluke. He returned to the Jicks catalog for "Real Emotional Trash," back to Pavement for "Loretta's Scars," threw in a cover, then Pavement's "Lions (Linden)" and "Freeze the Saints," another Jicks song. The rest of the set went like this: "Shoot the Singer" (Pavement), "Zurich is Stained" (Pavement), "Heaven is a Truck" (Pavement), "Vanessa from Queens" (Jicks)," and "Here" (Pavement).

At some point during the middle of the set Malkmus broke a guitar string and spent four minutes replacing it with the wrong string, a mistake he blamed on nerves and the high quality of the pot the kids in the front row were smoking. He borrowed Kelley Stoltz's guitar for the next song while the stage crew restrung his, but instead of taking his back, finished the set on Stoltz's Gibson.

The encore started with two hilarious but oddly great covers. First, O'Jays' "Love Train," then "Emotional Rescue" by the Rolling Stones. Refusing several requests shouted from the audience because they'd be almost impossible to play acoustic, Malkmus decided to close with "Summer Babe."

This was admittedly the first time I've seen Malkmus live and I got really, really lucky. I can't remember the last time I was at a show where so many people shouted so many lyrics. It was a Pavement sing-along. He is the kind of performer who knows that his audience is on the verge of worship and appreciates it, but also seems to be somehow gracious about it.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

11 Feb 2009: Gutter Twins w/Dave Rosser

11 February 2009
Gutter Twins w/Dave Rosser
The Independent
628 Divisadero St (btwn Hayes & Grove) [Map]

Greg Dulli (Afghan Whigs, Twilight Singers) and Mark Lanegan (Screaming Trees) have been playing together as the Gutter Twins since 2003, but they've collaborated on various projects since 2000. I didn't expect it to be sold out but I should have known better. Dulli has a following of very loyal fans. While the audience was predominately guys, and there was quite a bit of bromance afoot, the few ladies sprinkled in the mix loooooove their Dulli too.

Greg Dulli

I don't know their songs well enough to track the set list, but I did recognize a couple Afghan Whigs songs, which sounded awesome. They also closed out the set with song by delta blues artist Bukka White. Some in the overwhelmingly white crowd were so inspired that they tried to clap along, not realizing that when clapping along to delta blues (or any gospel-y kind of music) you don't start the clap on the first beat of the measure.

Acoustic Trio

Something happened backstage between the set and the encore which had Lanegan and Dulli cracking up on stage, but they never shared the joke. They just laughed. A lot.

Mark Lanegan

Meanwhile, Lanegan really looked like he might keel over during the show at any time. He also has amazing star tattoos on his hands.

Dave Rosser

The show was great but I couldn't help but think of the Fleetwood Mac and Eagles Unplugged stuff. Sadly, rock heroes like Dulli get old too.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Musicians using Twitter

When I'm not going to shows and drinking too much, I have an actual day job working at Institute for the Future. Part of my job is to track social media use, and since I'm obsessed with music, I try to leverage that in my work as much as possible.

Today I came across this Google spreadsheet of artists using Twitter. As with many major artist MySpace pages or blogs, the "big" ones are more likely label interns—or impostors with entirely too much time on their hands—than actual artists, but there's a good chance that a bunch of the smaller acts are actually speaking tweeting for themselves.

I've carefully combed the list and here are a few favorites...
Chris Cornell, formerly the lead singer of Soundgarden. Guessing it's fake but if it really is him... wow. Good to know he eats shrimp?

Mike Doughty, formerly of Soul Coughing. Pretty sure Mike is the man behind the tweets.

Sonic Youth. Not sure what's going on here. Thurston, is that really you?

MC Hammer which, since he owns a tech company here in Silicon Valley, may very well be the one and only Hammer. Or maybe his iconic baggy pants are doing the tweeting. Either way, I'm genuinely disappointed that his username isn't Hammer Time.

SFJukebox doesn't have it's own Twitter account but I do. I assure you it's not really that interesting—certainly not as interesting as Hammer—but feel free to follow if you are inclined to do so.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Q&A with Thao Nguyen for Noise Pop 2009

I recently interviewed Thao (of Thao with the Get Down Stay Down) for this year's Noise Pop Festival. It was one of the most fun conversations I've had with an interviewee. The piece is up on Thao's profile page on the Noise Pop site here. [Band's official site and their MySpace page.] This is the super edited version of the interview. We talked for a half an hour and got into a discussion of mutual love of soul music, particularly Mr. Sam Cooke. Damn you, word limits.


Thao Nguyen fronts the trio Thao with the Get Down Stay Down with Adam Thompson on bass and Willis Thompson on drums (no relation) whose second album, We Brave Bee Stings and All, came out on Kill Rock Stars in 2008. With Thao’s airy, animated voice dancing over jangly guitars and light, poppy rhythms, you can’t help but feel a little happier when you listen to them. Thao headlines solo at the Swedish American Hall on February 26 and promises to find out what puts the “Swedish” in Swedish American Hall.

Noise Pop: Are you excited to headline Noise Pop?

Thao: Am I headlining?

NP: Yes.

T: Really? Holy shit! No one tells me anything, I swear. I better be better than I thought I would have to be.

NP: So you’re excited.

T: Yes, totally. Sorry, it's just funny. If you knew the amount of things I don't know about what I'm doing for my job it would crack you up.

NP: Did opening for Rilo Kiley and Xiu Xiu in the beginning of 2008 pay off when you went out on your own later in the year?

T: When we released [We Brave Bee Stings and All], if we had gone on our own headlining tour it would have been just a string of shitboxes. But when we did that headlining tour a lot of people showed up who would not have had they not seen us otherwise with these other bands. There's no way that we had any sort of footing or clout. We used to play so many places with "tavern" in the name and it's just not that cool.

NP: Taverns can be tough. Any artists you’d love to play with?

T: I have a very deep affection for Andrew Bird, but I feel like if we shared the same bill I would be paralyzed because I'd feel too inadequate to play. And Mirah, I've always been a really big fan of her.

NP: How much songwriting does the rest of the band do?

T: I would say that I write all the songs. It's weird, I'm not really into control but definitely with songwriting I want it, so I prefer that the guys in the band not even hear the song until I feel like it is complete. And they write their own parts because they're much better at drums and bass than I am. I love that collaborative energy, it's just that the song—I need it to be my own.

NP: How did you find each other?

T: Willis and I went to college together and he was pretty much the first drummer I've ever played with. He's like my first rhythmic love and I think he's amazing. I know that he's irreplaceable because I've tried before and it didn't work out.

NP: And Adam?

T: We dated for a minute a long time ago. They are the best musicians that I have had the pleasure of working with. At the same time, we gel enough personality-wise, and we're of the same ethos and the same goals so it works, for the most part, really well.

NP: Working and traveling with these two guys all the time, do you sometimes crave the company of women?

T: I swear, for every 14,000 men there's one woman. Other bands you play with, the people in crews, the staff at venues—everyone is a dude. I know a lot of great female musicians but for whatever reason there's just less. When you do meet a woman that plays music—a touring musician, which is kind of a weird lifestyle—the camaraderie is almost immediate because we have so much to talk about, grievances and triumphs.

NP: I hear you’re looking for a fourth member, now’s your chance.

T: Yeah, and I would love if it was a woman. Mostly they have to be cool, but think I need that balance. Sometimes after three weeks or two weeks with these two dudes I haven't talked about my feelings in forever.

NP: Speaking of feelings, what music do you love?

T: Motown, late 50s and 60s soul and some pop, rock, and folk. That era and into the early 70s is primarily what I listen to, which is why it's such a disability for me to talk about new music that I might be interested in. I also listen to a lot of hip-hop and R&B and want to incorporate that more into the next album (not in an embarrassing way).

NP: No freestyling.

T: I’m not cool enough to do that.

NP: Are you glad you game out to the West Coast?

T: I'll say this about San Francisco: I think I've been to a lot of cities now—actually I'm pretty sure that they all blur together—but I only want to live here.


Monday, January 26, 2009

Sketchfest Salutes The State

Koshi and I went to the Sketchfest tribute to The State yesterday at Herbst Theater, and while it wasn't "music" per se, it was on MTV long enough that I think I can justify posting about it here. And as the cast pointed out, the Spin Doctors came up at least once every episode.

While many think The State is one of the stupidest shows on MTV in a time when MTV still showed music videos, I liked it. A lot. It was unpretentious, absurd, and with its endless stream of catch phrases and recurring characters, it was extremely viral. And with present-day gems like Next and The Hills, even those who hate The State have to admit it's really not the stupidest thing MTV has ever aired.

Here's an MTV promo for the show using quotes from the abysmal reviews they got:

This weekend marks the first time that all 11 cast members have been on stage together in over 10 years. They did two shows of new sketch comedy at Cobb's on Saturday night but I was unfortunately out of town, in lovely Tempe, Arizona in a hotel on Mill Avenue at the corner of Slut and Douchebag. But I got back in time for the 2pm tribute at Herbst so dropped my stuff off at home and headed straight to the theater.

It was a hilarious and worthy tribute, and Janeane Garofalo was a fantastic moderator. In addition to making them talk about the end of times—their leaving MTV for CBS (they weren't canceled) to getting hammered in the Bahamas while making an album—she stepped back and let them sort of run their own panel. The audience even asked good questions!

We don't have any pictures because I'm a huge fan and just bought the tickets instead of trying to get in as press. But Michael Showalter and Michael Ian Black both posted some shitty but charming iPhone pics of the rehearsal for Saturday night's performances at Cobb's on their blogs.

Fans of The State who haven't discovered this yet should know that you can download Season 1 in the iTunes Store. But if you need a quick fix, here are some videos from back in the day (the ones that Viacom hasn't pulled from YouTube yet, anyway, fuckers... PS Viacom, I'd be happy to buy the DVDs—yes, buy them with actual money—if you would stop being vindictive and just release them already).

Some more clips... And of course there are Barry and Levon, but embedding is turned off on this video and it looks like Viacom had all others pulled.