Summer is upon us. Street festivals have infested the populace like locusts. The next time it rains, malls will be cluttered with Christmas decorations. And until then the sun shines, gloriously, day after day after day.
Only one thing to do: Duck into your nearest Big-Shot Rock Club and discover the Future of Bay Area Rock under hot blinking artificial lights. Great/weird/fascinating/disturbing musical projects abound in these here burgs, but here are ten to get you started while you're waiting for the monsoons to resume. Some are deliberately goofy, and some are dead $#%&!! serious, but all are worth a $10 gamble on a lonesome Thursday night.
Alright, so Cookie Monster's head is a little off -- it's too thin, like Kermit the Frog merely spray-painted blue. But details hardly matter when Cookie Monster is dressed in gay biker bar leather, with a primarily female AC/DC rawk band raging behind him, as he roars a metal reworking of the classic "C Is for Cookie" while an army of scantily clad vixens prance about and pelt the audience with chocolate-chip cookies. (Just wait until they teach you the difference between "up" and "down.") Of the Bay Area's army of wacky/corny/blatantly gimmicky acts, Cookie Mongoloid is the loudest, the surliest, and quite possibly the funniest. Just don't pick up a cookie off the filthy bar floor and eat it. That's gross. WeAreMongoloid.com/cookie
Two realizations immediately strike you when Jolie Holland opens her mouth: Wow, what a lovely voice and Wow, I can't understand a goddamn word she's saying. The SF chanteuse specializes in a highly stylized jazz-blues scat rhythm that slurs and bends and renders the lyrics themselves virtually inscrutable; happily, it's so mesmerizing you'll hardly notice. Famously championed by Tom Waits and now beloved by the bay's budding neo-folk scene, Holland is still finding her sea legs live, but when she invites like-minded singer-songwriters like Sean Hayes up for some duet action, the proverbial heavens open and rain Jolly Ranchers down on your head.
A caveat here: This sleepy, twangy trio is a most decidedly acquired taste, lovingly crafting slooooooow dirgelike back-porch hymnals pinned to the half-asleep vocal harmonies of Rachel Hughes and the creatively named Nathan Shineywater. It's Morphine on morphine, complete with piped-in cricket noises in the background and a state-hopping style best summed up by the band's debut CD, Ala.Cali.Tucky. Onstage, the results are pulverizingly languid and quiet, but if you dig the woodsy, pastoral styles of certified Brightblack friends like Joanna Newsom and Will Oldham, this here's your "jam" band.
Hyim and the Fat Foakland Orchestra
"So you think you guys can go for another hour?" Oakland singer-songwriter-impresario Hyim asked a small but rapt Blake's audience an hour or so into a recent headlining set. Ordinarily that's the exact point at which you start throwin' chairs, but Hyim's backyard barbecue mix of funk, jazz, hip-hop, and emotive piano balladry tends to enrapture people to the point where "another hour" is barely enough. His 2003 self-produced debut Let Out a Little Peace mixes the groovy with the sentimental with the marijuana-dependent, but it's his more recently formed backing band, the Fat Foakland Orchestra, that's packing East Bay clubs and scoring a Outstanding Jam Band nomination from the California Music Awards. Phish's demise has created a vacuum -- this dude could easily fill it.
Fact: Most rappers shouldn't sing, and most singers shouldn't rap. Period. Another fact: Deuce Eclipse is that rare gentleman who can do both. A longtime Bay Area figure who cut his teeth in the Keepers of Tym, the Nicaraguan artist has since gone solo in close affiliation with the Zion-I crew; to that end, he's a killer opening act, fluidly rapping in both English and Spanish before launching into hyper-emotive soul-singer mode for impassioned songs about his family and heritage that can literally bring him to tears in a way that doesn't feel corny or contrived. With intensity like this, he won't lurk in the shadows for too long.
Some pop-punk bands just have that knack for absurdly catchy choruses that sound like high school pep-rally cheers -- the Matches' moment of nirvana reads thusly: This town is so boring/Na na-na na-na na na-na na-na/When you're not scoring/Na na-na na-na na na-na na-na. Genius. The iMusicast crowd loves 'em, the Gilman crowd probably hates 'em, and both camps might be obsolete now that these Oakland rapscallions are signed to Epitaph and poised to regale the Warped Tour masses. They're either gonna score in this town or leave it. Or maybe both. In any event, say hello to Blink-189, and revel in the fact that they're actually pretty damn good.
If the California Music Awards ever opt for the category Outstanding Dance Band Specializing in an Obsolete Genre, the Captives have got it on lock. But though these youngsters dabble liberally in the forbidden realm of (avert your eyes!) ska, they can also veer unexpectedly into jazzier, funkier realms that make 'em quite possibly the coolest wedding band ever, with enough chops to skip unpretentiously across genres and enough good-time party cheer to make grandkids and grandmas alike shake it like a salt shaker/Polaroid picture.
When was the last time you saw a dude drum and rap simultaneously? Happily, MC and skinsman Soulati's multitasking skills are but the tip of the iceberg where this live hip-hop collective is concerned: Felonious hits you from fifteen directions at once, with a full-bore backing band and a raft of MCs darting in and out of the mix in double time, like a crunked-out Benny Hill routine. In addition to solid original tracks, the gang can also bust out a vicious beatboxing display or ape the KMEL hits of the day, so get low, get free, or just get happy.
"Goofus and Gallant" is the most famous recurring bit in Highlights, a cheesy kids' magazine most often found in doctors' waiting rooms: Goofus is the rude, inconsiderate, no-account jerkoff, while Gallant is the valiant, polite do-gooder who also happens to be boring as hell. But the SF duo Two Gallants posit themselves as the world-weary folk rockers who poetically regard the death and destruction Goofus caused: Expect lots of expertly picked/strummed/smashed-out guitar odes to bad love and worse attitudes and the "Train That Stole My Man." Call 'em the Blacker Keys, and get ready to howl in glorious pain along with 'em.
Dude ... look at the Web site.