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.
The father of an old friend once shared some sage wisdom with me, albeit reluctantly, lowering his voice as if he were divulging an insider’s stock tip: “When meeting someone for the first time, usually the first sign of intelligence is a sense of humor.” His thesis still seems far-fetched some ten years later, but then I talk to someone like Demetri Martin, a Yale graduate and a former NYU Law student who also happens to be one of the funniest people on the planet.
It’s back to forward thinking for Bob Mould, who spent the better part of the last two years testing his hindsight vision. The alt-rock trailblazer-turned-electronica champion recently finished writing his autobiography, See a Little Light: The Trail of Rage and Melody, a process that put him in the odd position of reflecting back on a life spent mostly considering his next move. Mould, who has been living in San Francisco for the past two years, will treat his adopted hometown to a public conversation with fellow proto-punk artist Shepard Fairey on Tuesday, Sept. 20 as part of City Arts & Lectures.
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