A Wild Night with OK Go

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Check out my interview with Damian Here!

Sometimes it’s easy to forget about Rock N’ Roll, or what it really means to be Rock N’ Roll. Most people into the genre have probably been influenced by their relatives or idols in some sort of capacity, hearing the stories about seeing Van Morrison so drunk he couldn’t even sing a sensible sentence (which is hard to understand even when he’s sober), or Jimi Hendrix super high on acid playing his guitar with his teeth while he was the still the opening act! By and large, it might be fair to assume most people’s standards have gone up. People don’t care for the circus shows or dysfunctional bands, at least not live. They’d probably rather just hear about it from their uncle, but what happens when they become the uncle? At the time it might seem like a let down, or a waste of money, but those Rock N’ Roll stories need to live on in order for it to survive. And, like the American Express commercial stated- Tickets to a G n’ R concert in the 90’s: $50-$100 bucks, the moment when Axle Rose dives into the crowd to whoop someone’s ass: priceless.

Given this pretense, a band came through San Francisco last night who’s rock roots might have been buried underneath a thick soil that is starting to decease the underbelly of momentous antics in music. The band is OK Go, natives from Chicago who moved to Los Angeles to further their film career. They’re wildly popular for their creative videos and commercials that feature everything from treadmill dancing, dog championing, sophisticated synchronized dancing, musical demolition derbies, giant life sized Rube Goldberg Machines, and lots of paint splattered across their faces. In short, everyone who knows this band has at least two favorite videos they’ve produced. And this, however, is odd. So when OK Go plays live, they might have a bit of a chip on their shoulder.

At a sold out Independent theater, a modest venue in comparison to some they have played in the past, people awaited anxiously while a DJ pranced on stage drinking Jameson from the bottle and playing Nirvana. He even gave swigs to the crowd, which meant he was undoubtedly giving swigs to other band members. He walked off the stage in sunglasses and it was most certainly a glimpse into what was about to happen. OK Go exploded through the stage as giant robots, all running on hamster wheels while playing their instruments on fire and eating burritos while hoola hooping!

No, that didn’t happen, but people probably expected it. The problem with being so ambitious is that people won’t just accept you for who you are. People want you to literally explode their brains. So how does one deal with this type of pressure? You get drunk. Hey, what did the lead singer Damian Kulash and I have in common? We were both probably pretty drunk. But in any case, it gave him the right to do or say whatever he damned well please, and it was actually sort of awesome.

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Most other reviews I would have divulged the hit songs they played that had the crowd roaring, but for the most part the crowd was in a sort of paralysis the entire time, stuck somewhere between awe and disappointment, not knowing whether this was a joke, a silly antic, or if they were going to be part of a video. It had the makings of one. There were two decent sized projection screens behind them, and a giant one in front of them that would appear and disappear spontaneously throughout their set. Their first song you could see their distorted and colored faces twirling about like ghosts from Ghostbusters while the band played along, somehow matching the lyrics and instrumentation. It was cool and creative and different, and that’s what OK Go was really going for; something to separate them for every other stale performance. That’s sort of been their mantra their entire career.

They did play some great songs, the one’s you’d expect- “Get Over It,” “When the Morning Comes,” “The Writing’s on the Wall,” “Here it Goes Again,” “This too Shall Pass,” “Skyscrapers,” and a few new songs. One of the best parts came when Damian took his acoustic guitar out in the middle of the crowd and played “Last Leaf.” Halfway through the song someone shouted “shut up,” and so he turned the other direction and finished the song.

Maybe the crowd was agitated by this point? If not, maybe it was the avalanches of confetti that doused the crowed after every other song? Or the fifteen minutes of trying to sample the crowd making drum sounds for a song that lasted about a minute at most. Or maybe it was their multiple breaks for pointless Q&A, or Damian’s snide back handed compliments about San Francisco having the most “gays and technology, two things that keep pushing the world forward.” It could have also been Tim and Damian’s short reenactment of Macbeth, showing their love for Theater, or Damian divulging information on how much Jameson he drank while swigging a beer. Whatever it was, the crowd should have gotten over it, because this was Rock N’ Roll.

It was four dudes on a stage just having fun. While they could have played a couple more songs, how many times do you get to shout questions at a band that are so revered by their fans? How many stories does one have about a show that was flawless? How often do you actually get to witness people step down from pedestals or have the foresight to see that these people are just regular old chaps that sometimes get too drunk and sometimes have just a little bit too much fun?The experience was unique, almost like a night of just hanging out with some crazy dudes. And for all the real fans of the band, the feeling walking out of that show was most likely the feeling they have after finishing one of their videos: confused, exhilarated, and utterly amazed.

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Dave Chappelle @ The Independent, San Francisco- April 2nd, 2013


Dave Chapelle is like a drug- there’s uncontrollable hysteria followed by a terrible comedown that leaves you yearning for more.

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On a Tuesday night the line proceeded around the corner while a group of ladies in high heels and laced shirts complained about the sudden transition of the weather. It was cold and misty after a predominantly sunny day, but it was quite fitting for the event. How else could you really test the loyalty of fans that Dave Chapelle has acquired throughout his rocky tenure as a comedian? His fans would truly wait in a fucking violent snowstorm just to see him-as if fighting off the swarms of people trying to buy a ticket to his spontaneously announced shows isn’t stressful enough.

After being lectured several times by the moderately friendly staff of this venue about shutting off your phones, a restriction ordered by Dave himself, the excitement swelled. When the line started moving inch by inch, an anxiety filled my body. I never feel this way going to shows, even seeing some of my favorite bands, but seeing Dave live in person gave me a chill down my spine. He is larger than life. When he turned down the fifty million dollars from Comedy Central, he immediately became elite. He has pounced past celebrity status

into a genre of his own, and he now has the power to do whatever he wants, when he wants. I’m just glad he wants to do these shows in the Bay Area.

I entered the small venue where limited seating was set up exclusive for the event. I found a single seat in the second row and observed my surroundings. Every person had a smile on their face, symbolizing the anticipation of reality- a reality that we were all finally living out our fantasies of climbing into the television of every great episode of the Chapelle Show we ever watched, or witnessing the stand up comedy we’ve only seen on DVD’s, or finally gathering stories of our own after being told stories from friends who had seen him live. Cackling in the seat behind me was a younger gentleman who claimed to have seen Dave two other times. “One time he went on until three in the morning,” the chap obliged. “I fell asleep, my friends actually woke me up when it was over.” Unfortunately, I was at the early show. Next time (there will be a next time, since there was a first time) I’ll catch the late one.

The first comic was funny. I can’t remember his name, but he made everyone laugh. He was like a funnier Tracy Morgan. He was raunchy and talked a lot about being black and having sex, but at least his jokes were relevant and humorous. He joked a lot about

gender roles, and how for a man proposing on a knee for marriage is humiliating, and that we are immediately destined to fail. “We start out on our knees!” He exclaimed and then asked, “how many women would get married if you had to propose and get on your knees?” The place fell silent. The guy was funny, he could have been fucking Louis C.K. or Kevin Hart, but we still wouldn’t have been able to fully appreciate the act due to the fact that everyone was really there for one person: Mr. Dave Chappelle.

Finally, ten minutes after the previous comedian Chappelle took the stage. I was star struck. My first impressions were that he looked surprisingly buff, and old. I felt bad for thinking he looked old and then he plunged into his first joke, as if he was reading my thoughts. “Man, I’m getting old” he said. My eyes literally almost popped out of my head. I looked around in paranoia, thinking he was possibly part of the illuminati (a joke he made later in the night). The crowd disagreed with his pledge. “No, really. I was jerking off the other day and I gave up right in the middle of it. I just gave up.” The crowd roared with laughter and the comedy was underway. One thing I admire about Dave’s stand up is that it’s like a conversation, only you don’t speak. You feel like you’re just hanging out with him- like a friend you look up to; a sincerely intelligent human being that knows how to construe r

elevant events into humor. He talked about how he was going to Los Angeles to perform at the Grammy’s to make his “come back,” and how simultaneously there was an ex-police officer on the run after killing three cops. Apparently, in his manifesto, he mentions that he loved Dave Chappelle, even going so far as calling him a genius. Now, Dave told this joke to much higher hilarity than I’m reiterating, but it boiled down to this: LAPD called Dave, told him there was nothing to worry about and that they would meet Dave at the airport. Dave was freaked out and said he didn’t want “the heat” generated towards him, so he told the officer to grab a pen and get ready to write down these words: I’M NOT COMING! Dave didn’t come, and never made his “come back” at the Grammy’s.

Chappelle gives his audience a glimpse into his life. He adopts them as his family and makes it comfortable and pleasurable for all.

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Dave didn’t heckle the audience like I’ve seen before, where comedians prey on voyeurs. Poking fun at people can be funny, but when that’s the base of the comedic performance it becomes stale and uncreative. Dave doesn’t have time for that, he’s a natural story teller and we are his disciples, not his prey. Of course the inevitable shouting from patrons will occur. For example, one woman shouted she’d give Dave a new “Pussy Angle” on pussy jokes. He later referred back to her, making her PART of the joke, not the joke itself. He doesn’t get off on chastising anyone and that’s part of his brilliance. Most of his jokes come full circle, and throughout his skit he reverts back to several jokes that seemed to end without any resolution. Dave really is a genius, it doesn’t take a prediction by a psychopath’s manifesto who slaughtered three cops L.A. cops- but it sure is great press and makes for a great joke!

The highlight of the night was when he exercised a bit he calls, “Celebrity Prank Calling.” This is where he randomly Face Time’s a person in his contact list of his phone. The first “celebrity” he called was Chris Rock. The crowd went crazy with excitement. The thrill of seeing these two comedic legends interact in person (well, a bit digitized) was exhilarating. They joked about coming to the bay for a couple shows together and charging nine hundred bucks. During this phone call, I found out the identity of those brave fanciful girls who sacrificed their warmth for their stunning attire. “Hey Chris, look we have the Golden State Warrior Cheerleaders in the house!” He pointed the phone towards them. That was another bonus added to my already stellar night, I waited in line behind cheerleaders. Awesome.

Rock claimed to be in the dungeon of his house “watching basketball and trying not to jerk off,” and seemed a bit flabbergasted. The conversation was short but sweet. The next person he called took several attempts to reach, but when he did he surpassed the hype. “Hey everyone, say hello to Q-Tip.” Again, everyone went bonkers as whispers of “a Tribe Called Quest” scurried through the crowd like a game of telephone. “Sorry I didn’t pick up Dave, I was on the other line with Andre 3,000.” This is when it became real. We were seriously witnessing Dave fucking Chapelle talk to Q-Tip, one of the best MC’s of all time, who was on the fucking phone with Andre 3,000 of fucking Outkast. It was unreal.

This altercation was especially authentic, as these two jabbered like two lifelong friends. Q-Tip was energetic and excited, asking Dave questions as the two spatted back and forth with sarcasm and wit. I won’t even recall the conversation, I’ll just let you imagine what it could have been like. Now take your illustrations and double it- that’s how fucking cool it was. Towards the end, you could tell Dave was just settling in. He had just ordered a beer and smoked a joint and several cloves throughout his set. These elements made Dave seem normal. I never would have thought he smoked, especially cloves. The joint didn’t really surprise me, but he had such an elite status that he was able to indulge on stage with a casual demeanor that we could only dream about. As time expired, fear and sadness overwhelmed me. Dave joked about the price of the show, “you guys got your eleven bucks worth tonight.” I paid $55 and it was worth every penny. I didn’t want to leave, and neither did he. “You guys were the little audience that could,” he exclaimed. “I’d keep going but I got in trouble the other night for this. There’s a whole other audience.”

Someone yelled, “where are they?”

“They’re probably out in the fucking cold, let em freeze!” Dave rejoiced. “And when you go outside, don’t tell em what happened in here tonight. Just mumble things like ‘Dave is a tyranny of laughter'”

On the way out I heard a guy say to his girlfriend, “that was much better than the last time I saw him. That was incredible. I mean, he called fucking Q-Tip. FUCKING Q-TIP!” And that’s when it hit me. Dave is beyond 50 million dollars. Dave Chappelle is God.

Matt Costa @ Slims- March 23rd, 2013

Matt Costa’s new self titled album is a conjunction of all his past efforts; a cohesive blend of dreamy surf pop with romanticized vocals and creative melodies.

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This is Costa’s most mature effort to date, really perfecting that vintage sound he adapted on Mobile Chateau blended with the masterful songwriting roots of Unfamiliar Faces and Songs We Sing.It’s big and bold, yet subtle and stripped down when it needs to be. Songs like “Loving You” and “Good Times” have that Beach Boys- surf pop feel, while “Eyes for You” and “Clipped Wings” have graduated to a Paul Simon type level- showcasing growth in his songwriting skills. Costa recorded this album in Glasgow with Belle and Sebastian, and the inspiration is heard. “Silver Sea” has perhaps the most recognizable influence of traditional Celtic music with tribal instrumentation and a chant like lyrical structure. The album as a whole is more experimental, utilizing orchestrations to round out the music. It’s not overbearing, but just the right amount to add another dimension to Matt Costa’s already crafty songs.

Matt Costa rushed the stage on a Saturday night in San Francisco with a smile on his face, quickly glancing over the eager audience of Slims. He headed straight to his keyboard where he sat down and waited for the rest of his band to get situated. Through cheers and jeers he plunged into perhaps his biggest single, “Mr. Pitiful.” It was almost as he was getting the song out of the way, but it really energized the crowd for the entirety of the show. Costa was on point, hitting every note with clarity and really brought his songs to life with his humble energy and excitement. Matt did a great job playing songs from all of his albums. Some of the highlights were when Costa played “Desires Only Fling” and the high energy “Behind the Moon” (Off Songs We Sing) with a twelve string guitar, in which he broke a string but continued to thrash his way through the set without changing it. During the song “Miss Magnolia,” Costa placed the Mic stand below the stage with the audience. He started the song with the crowd and slowly danced away from the Mic. At one point, he stopped to sing a verse acapella, which had the whole crowds attention. Even the band members on stage seemed to get a kick out of his theatrics.

On several songs Costa had his wife come out and sing back up vocals. At one point, a girl from the crowd shouted- “I want you to sit on my face.” Matt chuckled and sheepishly retorted, “careful now, that’s my wife on stage.” The guitar player also scratched his head, “isn’t that illegal?” He chimed. The vibe of the show was very casual, even during songs like “Eyes for You” Costa always held the crowds attention. Though the crowd wasn’t too familiar with his latest album, which just dropped last month, they still danced to the songs they barely recognized. “Good Times,” and “Loving You” are catchy tunes that one doesn’t have to know to dance, or appreciate. Even during the eccentric song, “Next Time,” the crowd honored Matt’s talent and incredible backing band. With a new bass player and a slide guitarist, Costa’s sound was full and crisp.

One of my favorite moments was the encore, and I’m usually not to keen on those. Costa came out with just his guitar and played “Vienna,” a beautiful ballad. It was the first time we got to see just Matt and his guitar, and it proved his worth. At only thirty years old, he played like a veteran in his prime. He was happy that this was his show and eager to prove he belonged there. Like his music, he is constantly evolving and impressing. Although at times his songs resemble the Beatles or Bob Dylan, and he is widely linked to Jack Johnson, Costa is a musician that should stand alone without comparisons. He isn’t afraid of pushing boundaries, and his live show exemplifies how talented he is. I would highly recommend seeing him, especially while he’s still selling out smaller venues.

Check out the interview I did with Matt at SF Station!!!

http://pulse.sfstation.com/2013/03/21/matt-costa-interview-singer-songwriter/

Teenage Sweater Album Release

“Teenage Sweater reminds us that the 80’s and Napoleon Dynamite really were cool. An enigma of past and present, they hold the power of pleasing our every emotions. From sad or happy- disparaged or elated, their music will entertain all our intrinsic guilty pleasures provided with a soundtrack of danceable requiems. They uncover the death of a past musical decade, but they celebrate the current era we live; and they live the shit out of it. Don’t ignore this Teenage Sweater. Cherish it until it becomes another great heirloom.”

http://www.tricycle-records.com/artist/teenage-sweater/

After seeing this Bay Area duo live at Cafe Du Nord, I knew this electro band deserved credit for what they’ve become. I say “become” because they are like a niece or nephew that I’ve watched grow from afar. They once played a party at my house about five years ago and through breaks of dancing, people kept whispering, “who the hell is this”? Now people know, especially after just signing a deal with Bay Area’s Tricycle Records and adding new elements to their live show- live drums and synchronized lights. Their new album, Concentration, is layered with feel good electro rhythms but is also very intimate and contextualized, much like the efforts of their past heroes Joy Division and the Smiths. There is thought behind this album and it demands and deserves your concentration. Their live show is where the band shines with intricate drumming by Connor Alfaro and high powered energy rearing from the multi-talented frontman Mario Armando Ruiz. They sing in a style that would make Morrissey smile over hypnotizing electronic dream pop that would make the Grinch want to hop. Teenage Sweater

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The formula contains notes of classic new wave‚ Joy Division and New Order are easily heard in the nuances of Teenage Sweater’s songs and a healthy dose of its modern incarnation, chillwave. Teenage Sweater is cheerful music for introverts. Indeed, everything about Teenage Sweater is somewhat light hearted, even the band name.

Teenage Sweater usually keeps things light, with songs like the diaphanous, waves-crashing-on-the-beach-while-you-snuggle-your-prom-date tune, “Coconut Water” and the slightly less upbeat ‚”Oceans and Seas,” which brings to mind a slightly overcast day at an amusement park, with it’s tinny synths and far away vocal mix. But the duo now prepares to step it up a notch, with a deeper and darker sound on their new LP, “Concentration” soon to be released on Tricycle Records on March 5th 2013.

Buke and Gase @ Cafe Dun Norde Monday February, 18

Buke and Gase- Café Du Nord (Monday, February 18)

The night was early and the show was slated to start punctually. Patrons were filling the tiny quarters of this swarthy venue, the Café Du Nord, reminiscent of an early jazz bar. I checked my watch and sure enough it was only 9 pm. Four people took to the stage and the house music slowly stiffened. Guitars rang and drums riveted the ears of a nearly packed venue. It was surprising to see such an attentive audience for the opening band, a clue that it would be a good night with appreciative guests.

The first band were San Francisco locals, Yassou Benedict. They delved into their set with slow melodic guitar riffs, layered with canny keyboards and astute drums. The singer sang in a high-pitched voice reminiscent to Bjork while playing her bass guitar, frequently letting it hang while she switched to the keys. The lead guitar player, clearly the leader of the band, would also alternate his fingers from strings to turning knobs and modulations on her keyboard. During the second song, the guitar player took off his guitar and grabbed a pair of drumsticks; lending side hits on a tom for a crafty percussive experience. While this band was captivating enough, including vocal loops and dreamy guitars, there weren’t many catchy hooks, and their music at times seemed slow and dull, like an emoted roller coaster that never seemed to go up or down.

The second band, Ahleuchatistas, was a cultural storm; a two-piece band derived of pedal laden guitars and a drum set with chimes that were only missing a Chinese Gong. Fast paced jazz style guitar through an octave pedal was backed by short spurts of tribal drumming. It was like members of Meshuggah playing African Jazz in the streets of China.

Buke and Gase, a duo from New York, took the stage wearing all black. The faithful crowd applauded, paying homage to a band that was on three weeks of touring and had about another three months ahead of them. They wasted no time, plunging into dark, fastidious algorithms that seared the soul. The band uses unique instrumentation. Lead singer and guitar player, Arone Dyer, plays a six-string former-baritone ukulel with a low tuning in D. The guitar itself looks very custom, with abalone shimmering the perimeter and hearts sketched where the neck meets the body. Her guitar seemed to be indicative of her character. The bass player, Aron Sanchez, held a solid black guitar with bass strings. The guitar/bass hybrid was very powerful and sounded like he strung instrument with nothing but low E-strings. Together they are very meticulous and calculated, and often starred at each other intimately for the next move, as if their set was intrinsically spontaneous.

While their instrumentation is dazzling, the rhythm is imperative to their music. Sanchez was in charge of the bass drum while Dyer simultaneously tapped on her self made “toe-bourine.” They playfully echoed back and forth, sometimes in unison and other times separately. There wasn’t any dissonance between the two. The music they play is choppy and sporadic, but it all makes sense. Their sound on “Misshaping Introduction” was articulated perfectly, matching that same ambient sound which can be hard to do with such electronic fundamentals. The bass drum hit hard and vibrated through one’s bones while the toe-bourine added an element of chamber music, sounding like heavy chains dropping to the floor from the petit foot of Dyer. The aura of the venue seemed like a dungeon, one that you don’t worry about escaping. Dyers vocals were perfect, simulated through an effects pedal that made her sound like a robotic angel.

The band didn’t address the audience until about four songs into their set. The seemingly shy Dyer sheepishly said hello as the crowd erupted. She stood up from her stool to see her fans. Throughout her performance a docile smile would form on her face, bestowing the gratitude they have to be playing music around the world.

Perhaps one of the best moments came when Dyer broke a string halfway through a song. When they finished, she promptly restrung her instrument but not before a humorous intermission. Dyer paid tribute to opening band, Yussou Benedict, who is from Hudson Bay, where Buke and Gase currently live. Meanwhile, Sanchez casually said, “I think we realized halfway through the tour that we were doing this so we could see Ahleuchatistas play every night.” There was clapping, and then an onslaught of questions, some relevant, some not.

“What do you think about the meteors”?

Sanchez: The one that hit Russia?

Crowd: One hit here!

Dyer: We’re all going to die.

“What’s your favorite city to play”?

Dyer: San Francisco, obviously!

Sanchez: Denver was pretty cool, too.

Dyer: I actually like it here so much I wanted to move here. But Denver was really cool. If I didn’t move here, I’d move to Denver.

The questions were quickly put to rest as Dyer complacently added, “last night I broke my G string.” The crowd smirked at her flirtatious banter. “Thank you for being so patient,” she complimented, and then one more question reigned from the audience. “What’s your favorite joke”? Dyer became giggly, and without hesitation asked- “Have you heard about the magic tractor?” No response. “It drove and turned into a field!” There was subtle laughter, mainly praise for her courage to tell that joke.

The duo raced into another song, bewildering minds once again. Afterwards the soundman interrupted, “five minutes left.” They were baffled, a clear distinction of cultural nightlife between New York and San Francisco. They plunged into three more songs, ending the night in blissful fashion. The duo came out to the crowd, giving hugs and talking to friends and fans. This really showed their modesty, coming from a band that has played around the world with musicians like Lou Reed and Deerhoof, and were critically acclaimed by The National and frequented on NPR. They could have stayed backstage after a long three week U.S. tour, but instead they paid their due diligence to the fans. Throughout the clatter I heard comparisons- “they reminded me of Tegan and Sara,” one girl said. Another guy added, “I heard Crystal Castles, that singer really laid it all out there.” I may have chimed in with Tori Amos (Dyer even kind of looks like her) or Pinback, but no one had a clear definition of this group, which is the best thing a band can do. Leave you with an experience so sublime that there aren’t even words to describe it.

http://www.bukeandgase.com