Julien Baker – Memories of Days Before Emo Was a Bad Word

I wonder if performers realize that every show, every gig, every night in dimly lit bars or on collapsible starlit stages, is part of a unique memory for each and every person in attendance.

Julien Baker. Took me back twelve, thirteen years? True Love Cafe and Dan Potthast. Or was it Matt Skiba. Awkward meetups. Capitol Garage and Josh… he was, what? Six years old? Incredible. Rocky Votolato. Mid-week trip to SF with Kiel and the Chris Carrabba experience and the pineapple on my windshield and the belligerent vegan (my first).

baker LPI wrote the above several months ago, after first hearing Baker’s full-length debut, Sprained Ankle. I think what impressed me the most – or confounded me, maybe – was how a teenager in 2015 could transport me back to a time and a musical environment that existed before she started learning to write in cursive. How does a kid avoid all the negative associations with the term “emo” that erupted in the mid-aughts? How does she find a voice for her joys and sorrows and frustrations that so eerily takes me to a glimmer of a point in time that most people ignore, forget, or outright berate? Continue reading Julien Baker – Memories of Days Before Emo Was a Bad Word

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It Was Really Something

We had a Greatest Show Ever discussion several times over New Year’s weekend. What was the best show we had been to together? In the last year? In the prior year? Second-best show…

All of this stemming from the exuberance MMJ felt, and was still feeling several days later, seeing Morrissey live at the Nob Hill Masonic on the 29th of December. I get it. This was her Joe Strummer. These were the tickets she bought before knowing how to buy them, the show she planned her Mexico trip around. This was Morrissey, and in the ninety minutes waiting for him to take the stage, framed in a teenage love affair with The Smiths, I learned more about her formative years than I had in the last two years put together. Continue reading It Was Really Something

Italians Do It Better. Chromatics Do It Best.

I tend to obsess over things. Case in point, when, back in November of last year, the Italians Do It Better website announced the Chromatics’ “Cherry” 12″ was COMING SOON.

For the next two months I checked that website every day (sometimes twice a day) for news or ordering information. Or, you know, maybe some news on Dear Tommy which, at one point, had an announced release of last February.

Every day. Website. Scroll. COMING SOON. Continue reading Italians Do It Better. Chromatics Do It Best.

Low Light, Mid-Life Blues

You wouldn’t know it from looking at most of the pics in my camera roll, but I spent a lot of time and money in years past on the photographic arts.

In high school I dusted off Dad’s old Yashica 35MM and learned the fine points of f-stops and shutter speeds. In ’03 I bought my first digital SLR and even did a paid wedding gig. Around the same time I inherited a Nikon FA and rediscovered the joys of film, even going so far as to take a community college course that gave me my first darkroom experience.

In the early aughts we smuggled “compact” digital cameras into as many as shows as we could. Bouncers have long since given up; can’t tell people entering The Fillmore that they’ll have to leave their phone in the car. Ironically, many smartphone cameras take better pictures than even my modestly professional kit from just a little over a decade ago. But we tried like hell to get photos back then. Of us, of the band, of us with the band when we were lucky.

Also ironically, with the increasing ease at taking decent low-light photos, comes my decreasing interest in bothering. Last month we were back at The Rickshaw Stop one night after seeing Beach Slang. This was our second go at Mr. Little Jeans in this venue, over a year since the hilarious Cinderella, Your Parking Spot is Going To Turn into a Ticket at the Stroke of Twelve sprint down Hayes Street. And, once again, we were perched way up high, in the bar area above the balcony, without much of a vantage, much less camera angle. Continue reading Low Light, Mid-Life Blues

Fear of Hearing Tests. And Beach Slang.

We had been at Dobb’s Ferry for a good half hour when I finally admitted to the three other people with me: “Sorry – I’ve heard only about 50% of what’s been said.”

My brother laughed and explained to ES that I had been steadily destroying my hearing since I was a teenager. To be fair, the acoustics in that joint are lousy. But they have good food and more TVs airing sporting events than the average SF bar. But also I’ve been steadily destroying my hearing since I was a teenager.

Beach Slang at The Rickshaw
Beach Slang at The Rickshaw

The three bands we saw at Rickshaw Stop later that night were of steadily increasing volume, and steadily increasing awesomeness. We were having trouble thinking of other bands from Philadelphia, but then the drummer of Lithuania took off his sweater to reveal a Teen Men shirt. And I thought, oh yeah, Clap Your Hands… I tried to bring that up to MH during the crescendo of “Hardcore Friends” but I don’t think it came across.

We were having trouble talking because it was really loud. Really, fantastically loud. And just as last month’s Battles show reminded me of the first time I saw Explosions In The Sky, this gig reminded me of the first time my ears were taken over by Asobi Seksu. Coincidentally (or maybe not really, because I really wanted to tie last night’s show in with this narrative), it was at the same event. Continue reading Fear of Hearing Tests. And Beach Slang.

Battles and Other Skirmishes

I took a vacation day so that I could wake up at 5 AM on a Friday and drag trash from my garage to the front of the house. Significant piles of trash, to be fair: three mattresses, boxes of e-wasteables, and two broken bookcases among them. But still. It’s 6 AM and I’ve been up for an hour already. Great staycation, yeah?

IMG_4552On October 9 I was at The Fillmore for the second time in a week. The last time I had done that was… well, jeez. I can’t remember. But if I wanted to, I could peruse my stack of Fillmore posters, right? Noooo, since not every show produces a poster. The first time I realized that major disappointment was… well. Jeez. Now there’s no way I’ll figure that out, is there? Continue reading Battles and Other Skirmishes

Fillmore Tragedy: Hiatus Kaiyote Melted into Onstage Puddles

I haven’t left a show, earlier than I wanted to, one single time during The Turnaround. That’s almost 40 club shows, major concerts, and outdoor festivals in the last twenty-one months that I’ve enjoyed for exactly as much as I’ve wanted to. That wasn’t always the case in the past, and I was usually pretty okay with it.

(I am now reminded of sprinting out of Rickshaw Stop early last year because MMJ suddenly remembered that her parking space had street cleaning restrictions that kicked in at midnight. But that was memorable and fun. And I never let her forget it.)

Last night at The Fillmore, however, I had Slim’s ’05 flashbacks. Continue reading Fillmore Tragedy: Hiatus Kaiyote Melted into Onstage Puddles

All-Ages, Ageless Tunes, and The Big Lebowski

As I turn another year older, it seems appropriate to reflect on where I am in life, and how it feels to be hovering between past and future selves. Am I standing? Am I sitting? Can I slow down? I don’t want to spill my drink.

SALES and the kiddos
SALES and the kiddos

A few weeks ago we went to see SALES during their return trip to California. This time the venue was Rickshaw Stop, and this time the show was all-ages. I didn’t realize it beforehand, but as we were lining up to have our IDs checked, I saw the black Sharpie x’ing out the backs of one pair of hands after another. It had probably been a good ten years since I’d seen those tell-tale no-drinks-allowed markers.

And then, as if on cue, a very annoyed bartender escorted two young ladies from the premises right in front of us. “These two girls are underage. And they’re WASTED.” Continue reading All-Ages, Ageless Tunes, and The Big Lebowski

Top 5 Other Outside Lands Things

By now you’ve read as much as you’d probably care to know about last weekend’s Outside Lands festival. Either you were there yourself and needed to get filled in on whichever acts you missed; you weren’t there but experienced it vicariously through tweets, blogs, and livestreams; or didn’t care in the first place (in which case it seems doubtful that you’d be reading this now, so maybe that third option doesn’t apply).

You’ve heard that Hot Chip closed out their set with a Springsteen-into-LCD cover. Tame Impala was transcendent. Wilco subjected the audience – once again – to the entirety of their new Star Wars LP before obligingly playing some hits. Kendrick Lamar was king; Fantastic Negrito was rolled up. The Barbary Tent was too far away; but the mini golf addition to Winelands was a neat idea. The weather was awesome.

But this isn’t a music blog. It’s my blog. Yes, it masquerades as a music blog, but that’s all part of an elaborate long con to occupy a corner of the Internet with personal memoirs puzzled together via handstamps, ticket stubs, and record sleeves. Shows are signposts, really. Reminders to write. About… whatever.

And today’s whatever is all the other stuff that resonated with me during my Outside Lands weekend. Objectivity and setlists can be found elsewhere. In fact, MH is working on a more thorough Oral History of Outside Lands 2015 for the parent blog. Maybe some of my more review-y comments will show up there.

In the meantime, here’s the other stuff. Continue reading Top 5 Other Outside Lands Things

Yumi Zouma and the Oceanic Band Blueprint

Destination Dobb’s Ferry for beers, burgers, and four innings of the Giants game prior to a show at The Rickshaw Stop. I was just finishing up explaining to MMJ that I had been remiss, this year, in taking advantage of our local music venues. Rickshaw does such a good job scheduling exciting new talent; their website is detailed and informative; most of their shows are under fifteen bucks. Why don’t I do this more often? In the days before technology made it easy to forget phone numbers, birthdays, and director credits, isn’t this how we all used to discover new bands? Isn’t this more fun than scanning music blogs for free downloads or listening to a tinny podcast through one earbud at our desks?

MH came in and sat down. The first words out of his mouth: “I just walked here. The show’s ten bucks? Why don’t I do this more often?” Continue reading Yumi Zouma and the Oceanic Band Blueprint