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.
Live music has a reliable way of transforming venues into places they were not necessarily intended to be (see Golden Gate Park, Treasure Island, Cow Palace, etc.). Friday night at the Greek Theatre was one of those frequent but also rare occasions, as Portishead lead singer Beth Gibbons turned the place into a veritable opera house, her delicate contralto voice eerily echoing throughout the hallowed hills. And the assembled mass was as still and entranced as you'd find in any civilized theater space.
A good way to tell if Norm MacDonald is killing a standup set is to just watch how much he’s giggling to himself. For whatever reason, when the cameras aren’t rolling, the comic icon lets his guard down and drops the trademark deadpan just a bit, but only when he knows he’s really hit on some new bizarre thought — the kind of thought that only he and his cultish, devoted following could find laughable.
Erika M. Anderson seems like the type of friend who will sit you down, look you in the eye, slap you in the face, buy you a shot of whiskey and tell you to stop being such a freaking coward. At least that’s the sense we get after seeing the Oakland-based artist’s latest project EMA, an alternately raw and complex band, much like her adopted city. Her musical ethos is, in a word, confrontational.
Billy Corgan has for some time walked the fine line between rock god and willful artist, juggling The Smashing Pumpkins’ demands of scale with his own steadfast creative ambitions. And critics and fans both have had their phases of obsession with the alt-rock champions of the '90s, and yet Corgan and company have rarely pandered to anything but their own vision.
It’s been a surreal two weeks for Amy Schumer, the cunning girl-next-door comic who will, for the foreseeable future, be known as the standup who told Steve-O she would have preferred he die, rather than fellow Jackass star Ryan Dunn, at the Comedy Central Roast of Charlie Sheen. Her infamous joke has caught the attention of both angry Jackass fans and also the national media, and now the 30-year-old New Yorker is riding the crest of a wave of notoriety. It’s a double-edged sword, of course: she’s now selling out shows, but she also reported to be on the receiving end of death threats from the unamused.
Perhaps no one is better suited in the band name category for the campy wilderness of Golden Gate Park, venue for the Hardly Strictly Bluegrass festival this weekend, than Brooklyn’s Woods. Their sound — a psych-y lo-fi mix of charming melodies and fuzzy, seizuring guitar lines — should also match up well with the hallowed outdoor space. The band has caught the attention of various taste-makers with its last three albums: the experimental and folky Songs of Shame, the backyard tripper minimalist jamming of At Echo Lake and their slightly more polished and accessible Sun and Shade.
What could be dubbed the Really, Really, Ridiculously Good-Looking Tour rolled through town last night at the Great American Music Hall, courtesy of era-chameleons Twin Shadow and the truly independent artist known as Diamond Rings. Both acts have been touring in support of stellar debut albums for about a year now and recently joined forces, a coup for indie glam rock fans. The results make it look like some sort of if-looks-could-kill rock equation.
Slumberland Records, the less-under-the-radar-now label straight outta Oakland, is making some predictably sage deals in its 20th year repping some of indie world’s quieter success stories. A few recent notable signings include Brooklyn bygone-era-exercisers Pains of Being Pure at Heart and fellow Brooklynites/noise-pop makers Crytsal Stilts, both of which are netting key critical kudos and growing followings by the day. Then there’s SF’s own Brilliant Colors, which falls both in between and on the periphery of PBPH and Crystal Stilts stylistically, as heard on its second proper release Again and Again.
Essential SF knowledge in your inbox
Sign up for our email newsletters to keep up on events, restaurants and SF haps.