Rob Crow is so San Diego, they may as well make him St. Doug. He's been rescuing residents of "America's Finest City" from Blink-182 and Jewel for nearly a decade, helping to make (or in some cases, making on his own) some of the most gorgeously weird and weirdly gorgeous sounds the indie-rock world has to offer.In the early '90s, Crow taught punks how to chill out and do the Zappa with Heavy Vegetable, dorking out hippily with songs about breakfast ("Eggy in a Bready"), the perils of mosh pits ("Crash"), Wesley Willis ("Song for Wesley"), and the way a good road trip can make everything all right ("Doesn't Mean Shit"). Post-HV, Crow and Ilea Tenuta continued to make succulent harmonies and cracked pop, albeit with a more minimal bent, as Thingy. But Crow just couldn't keep still. He dropped some lengthy solo efforts (including the brilliantly titled Lactose Adept), collaborated with Pea Hix as Optiganally Yours, a group specializing in obsolete keyboards, and made gothedelic post-rock with SD super-group Physics. But it wasn't till he and Armistead Burwell Smith IV (of 3 Mile Pilot) hooked up in 1998 and started calling themselves Pinback that Crow finally got the attention he deserves.
The pair recorded some songs on Smith's home computer and, along with 3 Mile Pilot drummer Tom Zinsor, got showcased at the North by Northwest Music Festival. The ensuing label feeding frenzy was justified -- Pinback's elegant melodies, jazzy rhythms, and Crow and Smith's vocal trade-offs conspire to make the head nod and the brain blush, painting laid-back but visceral pop pictures framed by wiry, complex dynamics. It would appear that in Smith, Crow has found a worthy partner (and a lengthy name to balance out his own brisk one, should he so desire).
But now the time has come to see if Smith is a foil or a crutch. Saturday night, you can see how so much creative energy manifests itself in one man when Crow performs solo at the Ramp, also known at the basement of the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Berkeley. Oakland's own math-rock mavens, Hella and Castanets, open the show. The Ramp is at 2236 Parker St., and the show begins at 7 p.m. sharp, ending at 10. All ages, $5 cover, and there's a President's Day theme, so dress up as your favorite. Sorry, Millard Fillmore's taken. -- Stefanie Kalem
Art, art everywhere
"We're all artists and we all know each other," says painter Sarah Chase about the inaugural exhibition at 800 Pine Street Studios/Basco Gallery, a loft space in Oakland's industrial flatlands. "More than half of them live in the building." Homme, Habitat, Art was curated by the building's owner, Andrew Oh, who formed the collective art concept last September. Since then about a dozen artists, mostly painters, have signed on for the show, which runs through March 22. The gallery is open by appointment only. Contact Sarah Chase at 510-684-3720 or email@example.com -- Kelly Vance
Mucho Machu Picchu
Ever wanted to visit the ancient Inca ruins at Machu Picchu, but didn't have the time or money to make the trip to Peru? Now the "lost city of the Incas" is as close as Hayward. "In the Shadow of Machu Picchu: Andean Life Past and Present," a new exhibit beginning Monday and running through June 6 at Cal State Hayward, is a breakthrough event -- visitors will be able to take a virtual reality tour of the site, courtesy of 360-degree digital photographs. They can also electronically "excavate" cleverly "hidden" artifacts -- a video game on a grand scale. The free exhibit is the brainchild of CSUH archaeologist George Miller, who'll be on hand at the Friday, February 21 reception. 25800 Carlos Bee Blvd., Hayward, 510-885-7414. -- Kelly Vance
You know what they say -- once they've seen the rock, you can't keep 'em down on the farm. That seems to be the case with the Oakland Metro, whose operatic intentions are often undermined by dirty rockin' bills. Case in point: Bradley Skaught and Belle da Gama, an Oakland quartet playing punch-drunk pop in the Cheap Trick/Loud Family vein. Our very own Moore Brothers headline this Friday, with England's Statuesque and BDG opening the show at 7 p.m. $7 cover. 201 Broadway. 510-763-1146. -- Stefanie Kalem