December. The month of the live music doldrums. Or at least that used to be the case. Not this year.
Gone are the days when touring bands would hibernate and the stages of San Francisco were conceded to Sugar Plum Fairies. Gone are the days when concert-jockies would be forced to fire up their Radiohead Live at the Astoria DVDs just to get their fix.
Some of the buzziest bands are Bay-ward this week. Exhibit A-E:
The backstory to Death Grips, SPIN’s 2012 Artist of the Year, is simply fascinating. The punk-garage-rap-whatever outfit created a storm of a buzz when they released critically adored The Money Store, an unlike-any-other-genre statement that had the internets in a fenzy. But then the band canceled a world tour and pissed off their record label to no end. Now the band shrouds itself in mystery and lets the music do the talking (and avoid the press like the plague). Their live shows are exercises in spectacle, as anyone who saw their Inflatable Pill-filled set at Coachella will attest. Prepare thyself for something you’ve never seen or heard before. Like, whoa:
This is why you either love or hate Sufjan Stevens — his latest tour is titled “The Surfjohn [sic] Stevens Christmas Sing-A-Long: Seasonal Affective Disorder Yuletide Pageant On Ice.” If you sighed, it’s time to move on. If you smirked/laughed/said “that’s funny” (but without actually laughing), hustle over to Great American Music Hall on Wednesday for some quirky, high-concept Christmas music from a guy who helped define the adolescence of indie rock. Be warned, it seems Stevens is avoiding the traditional hits, if a recent show in Austin, TX, is any indication. But after years of genius concept album after genius concept album, he’s earned the right. But hey, we have the right to celebrate the best of his work, darnit:
For an extended period of time I, like many others, found myself wanting more from Bloc Party. And that’s only because 2006’s Silent Alarm placed the bar way too high for subsequent albums. But with Four, the band has re-discovered a path back to relevance. The album has that same sense of urgency and desperation that made Silent Alarm such a poignant listen, front to back. And then there’s the real track “Real Talk,” a dizzying ditty that suggests this band can conquer another frontier of slower jams and psychedelic terrain. In short, they’re back.
If you’re not part of the insider-y music-geek club known as WillCall, it’s time for a wake-up call. Just download it and make sure you’re getting updates about their pop-up shows. WillCall has been leveraging a growing cult subscriber base to book some of the hotter up-and-coming acts in the biz. One such act is the disco-chillwave duo Poolside, the pet project of Frenchmen Filip Nikolic and Jeffrey Paradise. Think Air, or Washed Out, but with dance-ier ambitions. SF’s own Blackbird Blackbird is opening, and worth the price of admission himself.
Whoa, Live 105 — NICE WORK. We can’t remember the last time Not So Silent Night had so many supremely respected and relevant acts on its annual NSSN bill. Of course, the inclusion of M83 will make any roster of bands seem vital. But the impressive names hardly stop there — Passion Pit, The Killers, Passion Pit, Jack White, The Shins — let’s just stop right there and give the Live 105 curatorial board a nod of approval.