Best Bets This Week in Live Bay Area Music
Have you guys seen Google’s interactive graphic charting how music has stood the test of time, showing how artists and genres have risen and fallen in popularity? It’s maddeningly intriguing. It’s not too surprising to see what the current landscape looks like, but man, look at how much influence jazz used to have and it’s waned. Take a look at the staggering data we're now privy to.
Jake Bugg is 19 years old and already has a number one album, been nominated for the Mercury Prize, appeared on Jools Holland, played the main stage at Glastonbury and toured the world. Hard not to resent that kind of success (and many do), but one go-around with his modest discography and you’ll find Bugg difficult to dislike. The Dylan-esque vocal charms are the obvious reference point, but there’s an authentic passion for the characters and sentiments and words that spill out of this fresh psyche. The singer-songwriter sensibility often gives way to an Arctic Monkeys-like angst-rock urgency, and we’re left with a complicated figure still figuring things out.
San Francisco psych-rock quartet Wooden Shjips wastes no time with foreplay. They race to the jam, buuuuut once there it’s a casual affair, never a rush to arrive to a climactic crescendo. Let these mysterious songs meander; be patient; close your eyes and picture a slow motorcycle ride through Golden Gate Park on a 70-degree January day. It's surreal like that. But unlike these songs, Wooden Shjips are going places and fast. Consequence of Sound noted the band's fourth album, Back to Land, is “an interesting step for a band once lauded for their obscurity.” Onward and upward, as fast as is possible.
The debut full-length studio release for the Canadian producer was one of the unexpected delights of 2013. Hemsworth threads together moody R&B motifs, electronic house crescendos and wondrous pop to fascinating effect. Guilt Trips may not be a masterpiece, but it has enough rewarding emotional upswings and downswings to keep a listener guessing at every moment. Agony and ecstasy are all accounted for in equal measures, more so than most EDM producers care to consider.
Brooklyn-based Jordan Lee recorded his debut album Love’s Crushing Diamond while touring the U.S., but you’d never guess this was a work made in transit judging by the careful, lush production value on display and the intimate nature of each song. There’s a clear aesthetic throughline from song to song, as if Lee had spent an eternity in his bedroom rifling through pictures of his past, writing each faded kodak memory a ballad. Each twee section builds to another distinct, precious moment. Violins and bells and Lee’s haunted whispers capture a complicated thought only known to Lee, yet it’s still a thrill to be exposed to even a percentage of this genius baroque pop.
Let's rewind 10+ years to the All Tomorrow’s Party Festival in Long Beach where the Queen Mary ship is parked. It’s my first real festival and I’m hoping to settle into the experience and maybe have a beer before letting loose. It’s 2pm. A Sacramento band I’ve never heard of known as !!! (chk chk chk) is onstage and I’m standing 20 feet from the stage. The lead singer Nic Offer descends from the stage into the crowd and heads in my direction. He comes right at me. It’s still 2pm, and he’s dance-walking my way. He’s three feet in front of me, and he’s beckoning me to dance, mono e mono. For the length of the song, which was probably just three minutes but felt like an eternity, we dance fight. It was then 2:03 and my life had changed forever. That good. UPDATE: We initially overlooked Sunday's show! Saturday is sold out but tickets are still available for Sunday.
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