Five Shows to Make You Forget About SXSW


Islands, Hotel Utah, Tuesday

The name fits in the case of Islands, a band that seems inspired by something exotic at almost every compositional turn. Their collective musical imagination puts them on a conceptual — wait for it — island (sorry) unto themselves, where songs double as recitations of elaborate opium dreams. The occasional steel drum doesn’t hurt the connotation, either. Bandleader Nicholas Thorburn (aka Nick Diamonds, also of The Unicorns and Mister Heavenly) is at the wheel of this always-fascinating project, and is largely responsible for the genius of the sprawling 2006 album Return to Sea, and the recent abstract musings of A Sleep & A Forgetting, which has been massaging critics’ brains this year. Trust that you’d be wise to get thyself over to Hotel Utah for a tropical vacation of the mind.    

Guster, Palace of Fine Arts, Wednesday

The harmless folk-pop of Guster remains a kind of music that appeals to a ridiculously diverse range of casual listeners and devoted followers. Come for the acoustic ethos and stay for the vocal harmonies, and stay longer for the bongos and strange aroma in the air. Guster is basically the band you listened to in college that sounded like the stoner kids that kept you up late at night in your dorm hall, but with actual talent. The band must be due a new album, as its last one  — Easy Wonderful — was a 2010 release, and it’s been nothing but relentless touring ever since.

Victoria George, Hotel Utah, Wednesday

San Francisco doesn’t get nearly enough of the country-flavored fixins’ of Nashville’s finest, but we do have our own part-time resident bringing us the sounds of Music City. Victoria George has been making charming country music since 2005, bouncing between SF and Nashville and enjoying the best of both worlds. She’s opened for the likes of Junior Brown, Willie Nelson and the Doobie Brothers, and has worked with some of Nashville’s finest musical minds. Her detailed attention to the finer points of songcraft is obvious, as heard in her 2011 release Lately I, a collection of mature, hook-filled and heart felt meditations. Her live shows are exercises in intimacy and poignancy, and she has a way of reminding listeners how to feel in our brightest and darkest hours.  

Kronos Quartet, Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts, Thursday-Saturday

Be sure to check all your preconceived expectations at the door when Kronos Quartet take the stage at Yerba Buena. The world-renowned chamber quartet has a reputation for thinking waaaay outside the classical music box, tackling projects that pay homage to a bouquet of genres and styles. Even a close study of any given night’s program will only give readers a partial idea of what to expect in a performance.

Drive-By Truckers, Fillmore, Friday

Let’s venture deeper into the South and call to attention the whiskey-drenched glory of the Drive-by Truckers. The twang-tastic veteran rock band has fed its fans a steady helping of soulful and conceptually meaty music for over 15 years, highlighted by instrumental explorations such as “Sinkhole” and “Dead, Drunk and Naked” and narratives of “Unkle Frank” and “Aftermath U.S.A.” Their most recent album Go-Go Boots, an accessible but thoroughly thoughtful collection of songs that speak to the dual core of what DBT is all about: good times and bad times.



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