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.
This is usually the time of year when music fans hibernate until NoisePop rears its eclectic, beautiful head. Not this year. Here we are, in the middle of December, and venues are still spelling out recognized and beloved names on their marquees. Here’s this week’s roster:
If you’ve ever watched the Discovery Channel trivia game show “Cash Cab,” and found yourself thinking “hey, this host is kind of funny,” well, that’s because he is. Ben Bailey, he of the mighty testosteroned voice, shaved head and 6’6” frame, got his start in showbiz by standing up on a stage telling jokes to strangers — before he made a living driving a casino-lit NYC cab around asking strangers questions.
Not many rock bands seem wholly comfortable in their mid-career britches, when the street cred can begin to fade and the artistic edge becomes susceptible to dulling. But count My Morning Jacket — which played a sprawling 23-song set Friday night at the Bill Graham Civic Center — among the impervious rock bands aging gracefully and suitably (see also: Wilco, Radiohead, and, incidentally, another band who played Bill Graham over the weekend, The National).
There’s an inherent danger in marrying blockbuster musical theater with weighty subjects like political and social oppression. On one hand, the people must be entertained and stimulated...shiny lights everywhere, please! On the other, such stories demand a faithful and meaningful reading, with all respect paid to the maligned. And somehow, neither can be compromised.
Let’s put performance artist Tomás Kubínek in terms Americans can understand: he’s kind of like Christopher Lloyd if Christopher Lloyd did magic/experimental theater/acrobatics. He's a mad, science-less scientist with an unbelievable sense of humor and wit and theater, and an avuncular rapscallion with a big brain and bigger heart. His audiences are devoted and loving, and growing the world over.
Let’s admit it — in the Bay Area, music fans are spoiled. The train of fascinating world-class music is never-ending, even during the holidays. We were reminded of this last night on Thanksgiving Eve, when the tribal jazz pop of adopted Oaklanders tUnE-YarDs filled the Regency Ballroom. In that spirit, here are 9 reasons we were thankful:
1) Bandleader/multi-instrumentalist/singer Merrill Garbus’ seemingly infinite vocal range. She grunts, she incants, she chants, and generally sings gnarly from the throat. And then, often in the same breath, she sings like an angel. No register is left unturned. Girl has a gift.
When we get past the pomp and circumstance, pageantry and omnipotence and media ubiquity and 12 million Twitter followers of Katy Perry, when we dig deeper than the 30-second sound bytes and three-minute music videos, when we’re confronted with the actual person, rather than the image bestowed, what are we left with? What is this thing underneath the guise of Katy Perryness?
Who says music can’t be both intellectually stimulating and shamelessly fun?
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