I’ve got to say that it feels DAMN good to be getting back out into the city life, seeing bands play and eating amazing meals. But this is Rocktober, and my first weeks of freedom were packed with live bands. I’m actually glad that this current week is so uneventful…
TREASURE ISLAND MUSIC FESTIVAL – Oct 19-20
Well, I certainly didn’t follow my own advice enough: my whole crew and I froze our asses off. Props to the lady in leather shorts for holding it together for as long as she did. You know who you are. We showed up late and left early, but that was a unanimous decision. I’ll enjoy a Tom Yorke performance when I can feel my toes and nards.
Honestly, I think I was so completely out of my mind – overstimulated by the sounds, crowds and lights – I can’t offer any real type of description of the bands I saw. Diplo has an old face, but a crazzee body (Insanity Workout?). Little Dragon, my favorite Swedes that don’t wear Detroit Red Wings sweaters, we’re great: they punched out their tuneful, electro-infused dance pop with style. And beards.
That’s all I really remember about Saturday. That and an overpaid fat guy doing a belly flop instead of sliding into third.
Sunday, you’d think we would have learned our lesson. I actually eyed a pair of long johns to wear underneath my jeans, but dismissed that as overkill. So wrong. Another day of showing up late and leaving early, another day of freezing our extremities and privates off. The acts that I did see we’re great: James Blake and his electro-soul slo-jams are really starting to warm up to me. Real Estate sound like early REM to me, which was enjoyable. I think STRFKR prompted me to go for a walk… The couple songs I saw from Japandroids (before giving in to the cold) showed that anthemic punkish tunes derivative of the ’90s still rule.
SUPERSUCKERS – DNA LOUNGE – Oct 23
If you were out on this particular Wednesday night in San Francisco and wondered why your favorite bartender wasn’t working at Bender’s, Delirium, Zeitgeist, or Lucky 13, it’s because they were at this show. Seriously. I stayed for about half the show. While I don’t necessarily agree with the band when they proclaimed themselves the greatest rock n’ roll band of all time, they did present a decent case for themselves. Heavy and party-orientated, this band is a great time if you’re looking for fast-paced rock for rock’s sake. Avoid if you are allergic to the aging punker/biker community. Or bartenders.
DEER TICK – SLIM’S – Oct 25
Slim’s is a total shit show when it’s packed, and this was a sold out show. As soon as the band came on, I slipped into the upper balcony in the back and – to my surprise – found a table with a great view from which I watched Deer Tick’s entire show. Thirteen years in SF and I’ve never thought to go up there…
Fans of the Replacements and more Americana-tinged acts, will really dig Deer Tick: Anthem-packed tunes, rockin guitar licks, and Westerberg-esque vocals all packed into a moderately active stage presence. Wonderful entertainment for the over-thirty types.
BRIDGE SCHOOL BENEFIT – SHORELINE AMPHITHEATER – Oct 27
This was another overwhelming, blur-of-a-day with a fantastic lineup punctuated by a heartfelt tribute to Lou Reed. We got there in the middle of Heart jamming with Neil Young on one of his songs that eludes me at the moment (put it in the comments?). They went on to play ‘Crazy On You’, proving that both sisters still had the energy and chops to whip the crowd into a middle-aged frenzy (lots of “woos”, some actual lighters).
fun. were next up and… I did not hate their set. Following the Bridge School acoustic format took a lot of obnoxiousness out of their songs. At one point, Dory turned to me and said “That guy sounds like Freddy Mercury”. And then they covered a Queen song. She knows things.
Diana Krall was the perfect excuse for a pee break, but little did I know I’d miss some of Elvis Costello because they shared the same band! I got back to my seat in time to hear a great, slowed down rendition of ‘What’s so funny about) Peace, Love, and Understanding’. The rest of his set was gravy.
My Morning Jacket was a treat. I haven’t followed their latest albums, but they we’re playing mostly old songs anyways. I’ve always thought that this band should inherit Crazy Horse’s throne, and when Neil Young stepped on stage with them to play [insert Neil Young song here], I felt completely justified in my proclamation. And then they started talking about Lou Reed and broke into ‘Oh! Sweet Nothing’ – a ten minute version with MMJ rocking, Elvis Costello on backing vocals, a and Neil swaying in his huge trench coat and hat, stalking the stage and wailing on harmonica. Mind-blowing. A fitting tribute to Lou.
Queens of the Stone Age took me by complete surprise. They appeared on stage completely decked-out and slick like they were the new Rat Pack and proceeded to do takes of their heavy, dark, hooky rock that were truly beautiful. Their use of pianos and acoustic guitar lent itself easily to material from their new album, but they also threw in a couple oldies. This band doesn’t have a short shelf life like others today. They are truly one of the best rock bands in operation, and continue to put out great material. I’ve already got my tickets to see them at Not So Silent Night.
THE TIGER LILLIES (UK) – BIMBO’S 365 – Oct 29
What a great way to celebrate the time around Halloween: listening to (sometimes morose, sometimes upbeat) songs about whores, their ‘daddies’ and johns, and their ultimate demise at the hands of Jack the Ripper. I’ve seen the Tiger Lillie’s perform their twisted brand of street/gypsy music before, but never with such a cohesive theme running through their set. Their vaudevillian presence and demeanor communicate the comedy of their act, even with such lewd subject material. They are a rare treat to see live.
THE FLAMING LIPS, TAME IMPALA, WHITE DENIM – Oct 31
The coup de grace for Rocktober. I went into this show knowing exactly what to expect, and I left with all the joy and frustration I knew I would.
White Denim are possibly one of the best and most frustrating rock bands playing right now. Somewhere down the line, they decided to become more jammy and soulful, instead of realizing my dreams of them becoming America’s Led Zeppelin. A lot of terms get thrown around about this band: Southern-fried proggy jam rock… Pure and simple, they are all fantastic musicians playing the way they want, and it is a spectacle to watch.
I initially didn’t get the hype for Tame Impala, but now I’m happy to spread the gospel. Two beautiful, psychedelic rock albums under their belt, Tame Impala possess more than enough material to usurp the Flaming Lips current set list. And in many ways they did. The announcement was made in the auditorium that Tame Impala couldn’t make it, but the Spice Girls were here to fill in for them. Dancing to the stage in full drag with ‘Wannabe’ playing at half-speed, Tame Impala ripped through their set, only taking time to acknowledge the crowd and how wild and wonderful they thought our Halloween is. They even busted into ‘Thriller’ for a couple verses in the middle of their single ‘Elephant’! A must-see, must-own band for lovers of rock and psychedelia.
I have a SERIOUS love/hate relationship with The Flaming Lips. Back in the 90’s, they put on some fierce, noisy rock shows that were stripped-down affairs (maybe some Christmas lights strung on stage). My mind was totally blown back then. “Clouds Taste Metallic” and “Satellites” must be in my top 100 albums. To me, “The Soft Bulletin” is the beginning of the end, not their high water mark. Now, they are a light show. They are a light show that can hurt to look at: strobe light “ropes” hanging across the stage and over a huge digital backdrop projecting bright colors, lasers, and spotlights. Not to mention the nonstop barrage of balloons and confetti. The band? They sounded great, but there wasn’t any energy up there. And if there was, how could you see it through all the bullshit? They didn’t play a single song written before “The Soft Bulletin”, which annoyed me to no end, but thank god the last two albums have been decent- those songs really engaged live.