Godspeed You! Black Emperor concludes SF residency

Members of the "post-rock" group Godspeed You! Black Emperor played a 5 night residency at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall in between weekends performing at Southern California's Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival.

Experiencing the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor, it’s hard to tell where one song starts and another ends.

That’s why, shrouded in darkness except for the eery, vintage film reels projected above them, I barely realized the band had started its performance.

It was about 9:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 18 at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall when violinist Sophie Trudeau started tuning her violin, and before anyone knew it, the remaining 7 bandmates trickled on stage one by one.

The band was playing a five night residency in between gigs at the two Coachella festival weekends in the Southern California desert.

Anyone lucky enough to get tickets to the five sold out shows at the Great American Music Hall was in for an intimate and visceral audiovisual encounter.

Fast forward 30 minutes and the crowd woke up, providing the first sounds of applause all night.

It’s almost impossible to classify the music created by three to four electric guitars, a cello, violin, drums and percussion.

But the best description I could come up with is that listening to Godspeed You! Black Emperor is equivalent to taking a hair dryer to your ears while blasting Beethoven.

The musicians, with no lights on them through the entire performance, weaved in and out of 20-minute dramatic masterpieces, bending and bowing between the whispers of a single violin string and a cacophony of noise.
The noise was, at times, beautiful and melodic. At other times, it was ear-deafening and just plain frightening.
I felt like I was dreaming, until I woke up on a speeding train heading to nowhere.
Godspeed You! Black Emperor, founded in 1994 but on hiatus between 2003 and 2010, derives its name from a 1976 Japanese documentary about a biker gang called The Black Emperors.
The members have a host of interesting side projects as well, including  Thee Silver Mt. Zion Memorial Orchestra & Tra-La-La BandFly Pan AmHṚṢṬA,Esmerine, and Set Fire to Flames.
When a reviewer from Bay Area music blog Spinning Platters caught the band three nights in a row when the band was last in San Francisco in 2010, he had this to say:

Here were not the sunny glories of Sigur Rós, nor the numbing white noise of Mogwai; this was an experience that foretold the end of the world, the beginning of life, and everything in between, with eight musicians sounding like a symphony from worlds beyond.


Check out the SF WEEKLY review for another taste of an obscure, but poignant band.

For a taste of the madness, watch the clip below:

Is J.J. Abrams losing his Midas touch? New series “Person of Interest” reviewed

Jim Caviezel and Michael Emerson star in the new CBS crime drama "Person of Interest".

New CBS crime drama “Person of Interest” fails to hold its own interest between campy fight scenes and blasé plot points, despite ideal match-ups in acting, writing and producing.

A show meant to involve all the good stuff — grit, guns and government conspiracies, the “Person of Interest” pilot tries a lot and succeeds with little.

The show has all the right elements for a surefire hit, blending conspiratorial thriller with Big Brother paranoia.

But there isn’t much glue holding things together.

An ex-CIA agent played by Jim Cavaziel teams up with a mysterious billionaire (the masterful Michael Emerson) to prevent crimes before they happen, working off tips from a magical machine created for the government to prevent terrorist attacks after Sept. 11.

Where “24” gave us a post-9/11 real American hero, “Person of Interest” gives us an alcoholic bum who cleans up overnight and starts shooting people in the knee while wearing snazzy dress suits.

24” succeeded in making the threat of terrorism incredibly real and close to home. It kept me on the edge of my seat with the tick-tock pacing, strategic battle scenes and a stellar ensemble cast.

Person of Interest” does none of that.

Motivation for the two protagonists is weak at best and it’s unclear why these two men want to save people (and the world, presumably) so badly. We’re left to believe its because they’ve both lost someone, but that’s about all that’s offered.

Not to mention, Caviezel’s character slings a stolen machine gun around in broad daylight and loads it up in the back of a New York taxicab. Why?

So he can safely spy on some dirty cops to save or incriminate a woman he doesn’t know based on a social security number some creepy billionaire scientist gave him. Believe that!

The show was created by Jonathan Nolan, who is also the lead writer. If the name sounds familiar that’s because he is brother to renowned director Christopher Nolan. The two have worked together on the “Dark Knight” movies, “Memento” and plenty other critical and financial hits. Unfortunately for “Person of Interest“, there is no thought-provoking dialogue or real-world grittiness to be found.

Caviezel is not bad as the brooding John Reese, but his performance in the pilot doesn’t come close to what I watched in the excellent 2009 AMC miniseries “The Prisoner“.

Emerson, better known as Benjamin Linus from “LOST“, feels like he’s watering down the same stark and cryptic guru. All-knowing and all-confident, with a dark past and unknown loyalty.

To round off the talented team, the one and only J.J. Abrams is executive producer. That’s right, the guy who brought us “LOST”, “Alias”, “Cloverfield”, “Super 8”, the “Star Trek” reboot and “Fringe” is on board too.

J.J., this is strike two.

Last year’s “Undercovers” wasn’t great either. Maybe you should stick to movies for a while. I mean, “Fringe” is still great, but it feels like you’re not even trying.

“Person of Interest” is “Enemy of the State” meets “Minority Report”, with none of what made either of those movies good. No pre-cogs or laser-engraved name balls, no hologram computers or people freaked out and on the run, nervously thinking they’re being watched.

Instead, the buzzworthy show jumps between too many events in the first hour and feels campy and implausible.

Like when Reese hijacks a gang’s weapons by shooting them all in the knees with their own gun, loading up a rifle in a New York taxicab and slinging the gun under his peacoat in an alleyway like somebody isn’t going to notice.

You can’t (shouldn’t?) judge a book by it’s first few pages, but “Person of Interest” better get a lot better in the next two episodes if it plans to 1. stay on air and 2. have me keep tuning in.

Don’t agree with me? Neither do the reviews from the San Francisco Chronicle or Screen Rant.

Why RX Bandits’ farewell is not goodbye

Rx Bandits said goodbye in San Francisco on August 7, 2011 at the band's farewell show. The Seal Beach, CA group announced breakup plans earlier in the summer.

It happens to the best of us.

We get tired.

And that’s how it appears the road-weary RX Bandits are after a decade of constant touring.

The Seal Beach, California group is known for its transformation (see: evolution) from a late ’90s ska band to a four-headed beast of a band playing spacey, prog-rock with reggae and Latin influences.

At the height of the group’s career, RX Bandits played a trio of shows in New York and San Francisco, devoting each night to a full album performance of the band’s last three: The Resignation, …And The Battle Begun and Mandala.

Then, a few months ago, the band said they’d be calling it quits.

After 16 years and 7 studio albums, Rx Bandits announced on its website the following:

“Dear friends,
We would like to express our love and appreciation for all that you’ve done for us and how much a part of our growth you have been. We have all mutually decided that this summer will be our last tour. We love each other and love you all and hope to see you at the shows.

Much love & respect,
Rx Bandits”

When I heard the news, I was shocked and saddened. I’ve been following these guys since I saw them open for Reel Big Fish at the Fillmore in San Francisco around 2004.

The political messages about peace, not war, call and response sing-a-longs, extended jam outs, frenetic guitar noodling and improvisational drum solos are just a few of the

———- that make the bands’ live show a true performance.

I made it out to two shows on the band’s farewell tour — The Catalyst in Santa Cruz on July 30, where Berkley’s Facing New York opened and the FINAL PERFORMANCE at the Regency Ballroom in San Francisco August 7.

The Regency Ballroom was a the perfect opportunity for the band to bring out the big guns — a two-piece horn section to beef up older tracks. Both shows were packed, but the energy and emotion in San Francisco was over the top. Each cord resonated just a little extra for both the band and the crowd.

There were no goodbyes, just “I’ll miss you”s and the four members hugged, held hands and bowed at the end of a high-energy, two-hour set.

With a group of such talented musicians — Matt Embree’s powerful croons and free-flowing guitar licks, Steve Choi’s flying fingers on guitar and keys (and sometimes drums), Chris Tasgakis’ tight rhythms, and Joe Troy’s bass grooves — its apparent that the great music these guys play together will not cease.

The four core members have been playing together so long (more than a decade), they’re basically brothers. Choi insists in interviews that this is not the end of RXB, just the end of touring.

Not to mention, members of the group are distinctly connected to rising independent record label Sargent House, which they helped form in 2006.

Embree already plays solo as Love You Moon, and has started a new project called ME & LP, which is sounding oh so sweet.

Check out ME & LP – Bonnie Says (No Shitty Ride) below:

Embree and Tsagakis also have a Sound of Animals Fighting-esque project called Biceratops, and Tasagakis plays in a group called Technology.

Other projects from band members include Apotheke and Coke vs. Bill. The group’s involvement with Sargent House will keep them fresh as they continue to collaborate with bands like current touring partners Zechs Marquise.

Here’s to the end of an era…can’t wait to see what comes next.

  • (Editor’s note: It worked out pretty well for Gatsby’s American Dream, a popular Seattle indie band that broke up in 2006 and went on to form Kay Kay and His Weathered Underground, Wild Orchid Children, Search/Rescue, RedRedBlue, Keith Ledger, Zero Cool, Razia’s Shadow, Princess Dinosaur, Places and Numbers and TickTockMan)

VIDEOS FROM TWO OF RX BANDITS’ FINAL SHOWS:

RXB “Only For The Night” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

RXB “Hidden Track” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

RXB “Drum Solo” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

Openers Facing New York play “Me and My Friendz” @ The Catalyst in Santa Cruz 7/30/11

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is doing awesome!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 3,100 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 22 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 68 posts. There were 46 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 31mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was January 22nd with 38 views. The most popular post that day was The CoCo and Leno Show.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, plugintodan.com, twitter.com, en.wordpress.com, and current.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for amazon mp3 logo, amazonmp3 logo, mata leon, couples retreat, and rx bandits wallpaper.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

The CoCo and Leno Show January 2010

2

Mirthless “Couples Retreat”, heartfelt “Wild Things” October 2009
2 comments

3

Pomona’s big changes July 2009
8 comments

4

Bay Area band Mata Leon emerges with fresh focus February 2010

5

First Listen: Gorillaz “Plastic Beach” floats on March 2010

Cobra Starship’s Hot Mess

cobra starship "hot mess"

cobra starship "hot mess"

The new wave synth-rock of Cobra Starship is back for another! Onto its third album, Cobra has gotten more produced, more poppy, more synthy and more mainstream.

It’s good at times, but it’s also bad. I’m afraid this band may be turning into my guilty pleasure. Ironic, since I’m all for music you can just dance to.

I first heard the newest single, “Good Girls Gone Bad” on Grant Damon Is A Blog. While irresistibly catchy, it’s got all the qualities of everything I hate about mainstream music: cheesy computerized sounds, talentless lyrics, and the as long as it’s got a good beat I’ll dance to it no matter how degrading mentality. While Gabe Saporta, Cobra’s lead singer, is no Lil Wayne, or Lil Mama for that matter, he’s got to be borderline selling out.

The former Midtown singer has got pop punk roots, but it’s looking like he’s sold his soul to the top 40s. Lost is a conventional rock appeal that fits right in with the ’80s-influenced synth. (In sound and fashion – check out their digs)

Found is something along the lines of Fall Out Boy meets Kylie Monogue. Calling this rock music is a little like calling Kelly Clarkson rock and roll. The only difference is that Saporta is part of a band and Clarkson has her own personal backup band. But to credit the guy, his vocal range has made some serious headway since his Midtown days. He’s not bad in person either — I’ve seen them at the Glasshouse in Pomona.

But fuck! It sure is catchy. From the Gwen Stefani breakdown of “Good Girls Gone Bad,” which features Lieghton Meester of Gossip Girl and Entourage (who knew actors could sing?!), to the call and response of “Nice Guys,” to the Patrick Stump-like singing of “Hot Mess,” the songs have some great elements in them.

The production quality is excellent. It’s just a little too excellent. If the music they’re playing sounds like it could just as easily come from a DJ or some hotshot producer in the studio, you’re not really that awesome of a band.

All we can hope is that some of that synthesizer is being played by the ever-gorgeous Victoria Asher, the most recent band member who very possibly was added purely for sex appeal. Cobra just hit the Troubadour in Hollywood, and the show was long sold out. So they’ve definitely breached the market and continued beyond being known for the Snakes On A Plane song. Which, by the way, is still incredible.

Listen for yourself below…I can’t totally figure out the LaLa widget onto embed here on WordPress, but I’ve got you a link for a free stream: