This minimalist duo has won praise from folks at NPR and Spinner while perfecting a specific blend of Americana, 1950s classic folk and compelling narrative. They've been compared to Ryan Adams and Iron & Wine, and it fits — their soft hush affects on multiple levels, a mind/body/soul trifecta.
Scanning the local concert calendars on this particular pre-Christmas week is usually a good way to find some of the hardest working musicians in the game. There’s a certain amount of dedication required to brave the winter road, away from home and family. It’s also a great time to find local acts squeezing in gigs while home for the holidays. Here we are again, at the end of December in 2011, with dependable examples of both, five of which make us especially grateful for this calendarian coup de tat.
Here's the thing: Admittedly, I was a little late on the Stone Foxes bandwagon. But it's quite another thing to be totally sold on a band after only a few minutes of seeing them live without hearing a single recording of theirs beforehand. That's exactly what happened to me (and I suspect quite a few others) when I caught them at this year's Outside Lands. It was one of the day's earliest performances–that time when everyone's just getting back into the swing of things, their first beer of the day only half-finished–yet by the second verse of their first song, this hungry San Francisco band already had the audience sitting in the palm of its hand.
Once you get past the fact that what you're hearing–a massively commanding, operatic voice throbbing with a soul as big as the entirety of the Independent–is booming forth from a person smaller than the plague known as Snooki from Jersey Shore, you can start to experience Zola Jesus' primal goth-industrial pop music for what it essentially is in a live setting: a riveting sonic spectacle akin to a religious service conducted by a precocious girl from rural Wisconsin, dressed all in white.
Philadelphia rock missionaries The War on Drugs are all about dichotomies: pretty vs ugly, new vs old, subtlety rubbed up against grandeur, the home or the freeway, man vs The Man. It's an infinite-sum game they play, as they showed last night to a curious crowd at the Independent, jamming their way to abstract conclusions and somehow turning a Sunday night into a Friday night.
Band press releases get dumped in my email inbox every morning, afternoon and evening. Sadly most of them can either be categorized as thoroughly obnoxious (like those of Wavves), or straight up forgettable. Not the ones having anything to do with legendary sludge metallers Weedeater. Don't confuse them with the nation's preeminent brand of mowers, blowers and trimmers; these stoned Southern gents periodically light up my days with semi-annual reports of insane on-tour injuries, like when vocalist-bassist "Dixie" Dave Collins literally shot himself in the foot earlier this year with his favorite shotgun by accident.
Feeling down? Lonely? Spiritually absent? Undersexed? Or — god forbid — oversexed? Feeling like you need a change? Charles Bradley has some advice for you.
The one-man answer to cynicism put on a resounding and thought-provoking soul/funk/R&B revivalist show Tuesday night at The Independent that doubled as a self-help sermon. The 62-year-old phenom has lived quite the life, and his wisdom came across matter-of-factly–sometimes in his lyrics, other times in his impromptu evangelistic addresses, imploring the audience to stop being such bastards to each other (my words). “Love each other,” he said a few times. “Let’s change the world!”
There’s something vaguely Cobainian about San Francisco’s latest prodigal punk son gone national, Ty Segall. Perhaps it’s all on the surface — the stringy blond hair covering his face, his nihilistic, alyrical groan, his haphazard yet taut soloing. But there’s a certain grunginess to his band’s aesthetic, also a nuts ‘n’ bolts alignment of guitar, bass and drums. All of it begged a certain question: were we watching something special on Saturday night at The Independent? Was this what it was like to see Bleach-era Nirvana in a Seattle club in the mid-‘90s, when all that mattered was the channeling of angst?