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Best Bets This Week in Live Bay Area Music

Canadian dream pop band Stars plays two gigs in San Francisco this week. Major date-night music opportunity here, gals and gents. 

If you’re like me, you need something to make you forget about Sunday night’s Breaking Bad episode*. Like… live music! (*This week’s column is sponsored by the Coalition for a Walter White-Free Society)

Stars, Great American Music Hall on Tuesday, Slim’s on Wednesday

You have two chances to see Stars this week. Which means you have two chances to get in touch with your shamelessly, hopelessly emotional side. Don’t be scared by the “e” word with Stars. This is heady emo, with much more sophistication than your typical three-chord sob rock band. The band’s ethos is complex, and so are their arrangements. Their latest album, The North, builds on a tradition of eloquent bedroom pop and is somehow their best work to date, an impressive achievement considering their decade-long tenure.  

The Orb, The Regency Ballroom, Wednesday

Orb is what happens when European dance music and Jamaican riddim collide head-on but somehow become fast friends.. Dub serves more as a template than a limiting force, where samples can poke their head in, look around, get comfortable or pass on through. Sometimes business is slow, sometimes business is, well, busy. It’s all the genius of instigator Alex Paterson, who has turned the Orb into a worldwide sensation, still managing to push the creative envelope after 25 years in the biz.

Woods, The Chapel, Friday

Take one last trip to the Woods while it’s still summer, sit around their campfire and take a load off. You earned it.  Woods’ brand of psych-folk rock always seems so at home in San Francisco, but the rustic majesty of The Chapel seems especially suitable (they’re certainly don’t sound like the typical Brooklyn band, for what that’s worth) for hosting duties. Jeremy Earl’s twee vocals have matured over the years, but he still has his moments, like the shrill beauty of ”It Ain’t Easy” and “Back to the Stone” from the latest album Bend Beyond, a robust album of thoughtful ditty after thoughtful ditty. Get it.

Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros, America's Cup Pavilion, Friday

ES&TMZs has always seemed larger than life, even before the band started headlining huge venues like America’s Cup Pavillion. Their sound is classically robust in the throwback-collective sense, where everyone onstage sings along and all moving parts are interchangeable. All for one, one for all. But that’s not always easy to sustain in the long term. This band truly is a collective, with around ten touring bandmembers and another ten in the occasional rotation. But with a growth trajectory like that of ES&TMZ, we may see this band adding another ten members in a few years.

See video

Gold Panda, The Independent, Saturday

The Essex, England producer known as Gold Panda is one of several Ghostly International superstars in the making (SF’s own Tycho also being on that not-so-short list). Gold Panda is now one of the label’s most visible flag-carriers. He came onto the  scene a few years ago after the release of Lucky Shiner, one of the more thrilling, evocative bedroom house productions of 2010. It’s a mind-number and a head-bouncer all at once.  2013’s Half of Where You Live finds Golda Panda in new territory. XLR8R called it “a considerably more rewarding album, one that creates lush, sophisticated, and disarmingly inviting music using the simple building blocks of sample-based beats and deeply personal musical storytelling.” See it for yourself.                             

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