Sunday, April 29, 2018

Review: LCD Soundsystem Returned to the Bay Area in Legendary Form

by Janelle Bitker
Sun, Apr 29, 2018 at 10:46 AM

James Murphy, fist stance. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • James Murphy, fist stance.

At this point, LCD Soundsystem has been back so long that seeing the stalwart band almost doesn’t feel special.


Despite LCD’s reunion tour in 2016 and the realization that the band, which famously and very publicly disappeared in 2011, was back together for real, there was still this mythical hum to the Greek Theatre last night before James Murphy and his crew took the stage. The crowd was full of new, young fans who fell in love with LCD’s brand of self-aware, neurotic dance rock after it was too late to see them live. And for years, those fans never thought they would. Alas, LCD’s fourth record, American Dream, came out in 2017, ensuring more years of touring. While they’ve hit San Francisco twice since the reunion, this marked their first appearance in the East Bay — on Friday, LCD Soundsystem kicked off the first of three nights in Berkeley. Tickets are still on sale for Sunday night’s show.

Saturday’s sold-out concert lived up to the legend of LCD Soundsystem. Opening with “You Wanted a Hit,” Murphy played up what the song demanded: a disengaged, bored frontman, pausing to drink a glass of chilled, white wine. If anyone in the audience was worried that this was what Murphy would be like all night, those concerns were squashed  quickly. The rhythm of “Get Innocuous!” got Murphy slamming his drum sticks — a mere chime in a rollicking chorus of percussion — while “Call the Police,” the first single off American Dream, saw him pacing in a tight circle as a theatrical conductor. There was a positively sassy rendition of “Daft Punk is Playing at My House” and at least one lengthy stretch of distortion and strobe light — a break for someone to grab Murphy another glass of wine.

“We’ve never played here before, but I really like it,” Murphy said briefly, looking up and down and around the amphitheater, which was bathed in glowing dots from LCD’s giant disco ball.

The band only played three tracks off the new record — “tonite” and “Emotional Haircut” in addition to “Call the Police” — much to the delight of longtime fans. LCD did a fine job weaving them into the set, though they felt like a clear cut below the rest of the evening’s chosen songs. I had hoped to see American Dream’s “How Do You Sleep,” the closest track the album has to an instantly quintessential moment, with its stark and striking propulsive beat and anthemic breakdown. Perhaps, at more than 9 minutes long, it felt like too much of a commitment, even with LCD’s nearly two-hour set.

The finale of “Dance Yrself Clean” and “All My Friends” set a perfectly toned cap on the evening, though my favorite moment was during the end of the main set — before what Murphy described as “the pee break” and lengthy encore — as Murphy leapt onto a crooked amp and turned toward his band. While the backdrop turned to a sky-like starry night, Murphy howled along to “Home” like a lone wolf — the radiant disco ball his moon. Then, Nancy Whang took over the mic for a show-stealing cover of Chic’s “I Want Your Love,” a true disco ditty from the 1970s, as Murphy skulked around in the shadows, laughing joyously, applauding, and sipping more white wine.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Review: In Berkeley, Fleet Foxes Delivered the Hits on 4/20

by Janelle Bitker
Sat, Apr 21, 2018 at 9:48 AM

Robin Pecknold in Berkeley. - JANELLE BITKER
  • Janelle Bitker
  • Robin Pecknold in Berkeley.

Four horn players summoned the start to the grand return of Fleet Foxes last night at the Greek Theatre — the band’s first East Bay show since its six-year hiatus came to a close with 2017’s Crack-Up.

Wordlessly, the indie folk band launched into the album’s shape-shifting, meandering six-minute opener, "I Am All That I Need/Arroyo Seco/Thumbprint Scar." It represents the new record well: at once introspective and expansive; complex, cinematic, and compelling. Before writing it, Fleet Foxes frontman Robin Pecknold withdrew from the public eye and enrolled at Columbia University following the departure of Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman, now the famously flamboyant and sarcastic Father John Misty. It received wide and deserved critical acclaim.

Still, most Fleet Foxes fans were converted back in 2008 with the band’s hit self-titled debut. Despite the new work's remarkable instrumentation — dancing flute, bowed guitar, somber cello — and unusual, proggy song structures, it was easy to sense that the audience cared significantly less about Crack-Up than the band’s earlier, melodic sing-alongs.

So, Fleet Foxes played the hits. The bulk of the band’s lengthy, one hour-and-45 minute set stemmed from Fleet Foxes, Helplessness Blues, and even the group’s first EP, Sun Giant. After the band kicked off the set with a series of tracks off Crack-Up, Pecknold paused to praise the setting: "This is the most beautiful theater in the most beautiful part of the most beautiful country," he said. Then, someone in the crowd asked what kind of tea he was sipping during breaks. "Who said it was tea? How high is everybody? We didn’t even need to bring the smoke machines today," he laughed.

Indeed, a thick cloud already rested over the theater from folks celebrating 4/20.

Quickly, Fleet Foxes jumped into the harmony-rich pop ditty "Ragged Wood," and the crowd erupted in joy, and that set the tone for the evening.

Toward the end of the set, though, Fleet Foxes returned to Crack-Up and all its frantic trombone, jazzy breakdowns, and drama — so much so that the last moments finished quietly, feeling slightly anticlimactic. That was fixed, though, when the band came back for a hit-filled encore, including two songs that saw Pecknold playing solo, allowing his powerful vocals to envelop the whole venue. The first number, "Meadowlarks" from Fleet Foxes, was a special request from a fan in the audience who had apparently gotten out of brain surgery four days prior but still came out to the show. Pecknold said he had only played the song "like, once" live before, and apologized, but as with the rest of the set, he performed it beautifully.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

An East Bay Guide to Record Store Day

by Madeline Wells
Wed, Apr 18, 2018 at 3:27 PM

Stacks on stacks at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records. - PHOTO COURTESY OF 1-2-3-4 GO! RECORDS VIA FACEBOOK
  • Photo courtesy of 1-2-3-4 Go! Records via Facebook
  • Stacks on stacks at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records.

Record Store Day, the love child of independent record store owners and employees across the globe, was born 10 years ago. This year, there are participating stores in every continent except Antarctica. Fortunately, we live in the East Bay, not Antarctica. This Saturday, April 21, kiss your Spotify account goodbye and go patronize the music you love the good old-fashioned way. Brick-and-mortar music stores across Oakland, Berkeley, and the greater East Bay will have treasure troves of limited-quantity releases and in-store performances worth fighting the crowds for. Here’s our guide to the most promising places to polish up your record collection.

1-2-3-4 Go! Records

1-2-3-4 Go is getting any early start at 8 a.m. on Saturday. If you’re dedicated, the first person in line gets five minutes in the shop alone, and the first 100 people in line get entered in a raffle for a $100 gift certificate. Rose-tinted guitar pop band Supercrush from Seattle will play at 3 p.m., and if you’re feeling peckish, Tacos Oscar and Aburaya Japanese Fried Chicken will serve up food outside.

420 40th St., No. 5; Oakland; 510-985-0325;

Amoeba Music Berkeley

Hit up Amoeba’s immense Berkeley location for literally hundreds of limited releases. Also, the shop will stay open until 10 p.m., with sales on DVDs, turntables, posters, and mugs. But best of all: Merrill Garbus of Tune-Yards is playing a DJ set. Catch her at noon, then Yuno at 2 p.m., Jonah Nice at 3 p.m., DJ Inti at 4 p.m., and Platurn at 5 p.m.

2455 Telegraph Ave., Berkeley, 510-549-1125,

Econo Jam Records

Expect crates full of used gems, from jazz to punk to soul. Econo Jam will also have tons of Record Store Day releases, along with their own special, limited release of Tara King th.’s Stellar Fantasies LP. Live DJs will include DJ EarthQuake, DJ Fail, Doc Toro, DJ E-TomO Jam, and DJ Gucci Name. Free coffee and donuts will be available for early birds when they open at 8 a.m.

2519 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-465-2559,

Strictly Vinyl Records

Co-hosting with The 45 Sessions, Strictly Vinyl will have DJs spinning throughout the day, special deals, and, of course, sweet records for sale. Come early when they open at 10 a.m.

1060 Solano Ave., Albany, 510-679-5040,

The Fireside Lounge

It’s not a record store, but Fireside Lounge is hosting a “Swap&Sale” event from 2:30 to 6:30 p.m. featuring DJ Tanoa “Samoa Boy” and guests. Get your swap and your drink on with $20 all-you-can-drink greyhounds, mimosas, and Bloody Marys. If you don’t have
any records to trade, Record Gallery is open next door with all the Record Store Day deals your heart desires.

1453 Webster St., Alameda, 510-864-1244,

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Monday, April 16, 2018

San Francisco's Clusterfest Adds John Mulaney, Wu-Tang Clan to Stacked Lineup

by Janelle Bitker
Mon, Apr 16, 2018 at 2:44 PM

  • Photo courtesy of Clusterfest
  • John Mulaney.

After a successful first year, Clusterfest is ready to return to San Francisco June 1-3 with an explosively huge comedy lineup, plus live music and food from popular local restaurants. Unsurprisingly, it's presented by Another Planet Entertainment, which also puts on Outside Lands, as well as Comedy Central and Superfly, which organizes the music festival Bonnaroo.

The list of top-tier comics was already impressive with Jon Stewart, Amy Schumer, The Lonely Island, and Trevor Noah, but Clusterfest just announced more entertainers today, including stand-up comics John Mulaney and Nick Kroll. There's also now Thomas Middleditch from HBO's Silicon Valley and Ben Schwartz of Parks and Recreation fame. On the music side, new additions include Wu-Tang Clan and T-Pain. They join roughly 70 other artists, as well as intriguing attractions that let you wander through sets from shows such as South Park, The Daily Show, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

Single-day, $99 tickets go on sale Thursday, Apr. 19 at 10 a.m. Three-day general admission passes are still on sale for $274.50.

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Friday, April 13, 2018

REVIEW: Miguel's Sold-Out Night at Berkeley's Greek Theatre

by Azucena Rasilla
Fri, Apr 13, 2018 at 12:39 PM


“I’m a simple guy, and here are my five basic necessities,” Miguel told the sold-out crowd at the Greek Theatre last night: “smoke, food, sleep, laughter, and f *ck.” This was the perfect segue into his song “Simple Things,” off his 2015 album Wildheart.

Miguel's performance was equal parts sensual and social justice-focused. While some artists choose to stay silent amid the chaos within the current administration, Miguel uses his platform to bring awareness among his fanbase: The mistreatment of immigrants, the talk of building a wall, and the killings of Black men at the hands of police officers are topics that Miguel takes seriously.

How can he not? Miguel Jontel Pimentel, a native of Los Angeles, comes from this dual world currently being attacked: His father is a Mexican immigrant from Zamora, Michoacán, and his mother is a Black woman from Inglewood, Calif.

Miguel knows that when he sings, his fans listen. Rather than beginning the show with your typical grand entrance, Miguel greeted fans with a powerful clip of his visit to the San Bernardino County Detention Center.

The video was accompanied by the song “Now” — a fitting choice considering the lyrics: CEO of the free world now/Build your walls up high and wide/Make it rain to keep them out/That won't change what we are inside.

The video ended with a message indicating that a portion of the sales from the tour’s merchandise would be donated to the Black Alliance for Just Immigration.

Miguel’s advocacy is the real deal, and he wanted us to make sure that although we were there to have a good time and swoon over his falsetto, romantic lyrics, and sensual dance moves, we have to pay attention to what our government is doing.

He delighted the crowd not only with tracks off his latest (and most political) album, War & Leisure, but also with hits from his older discography, including fan favorite “Coffee” and “P***y Is Mine,” off 2012’s Kaleidoscope Dream.

With his incredible vocals and guitar skills, Miguel doesn't need any heavy production behind him. On stage with him was a bassist, a guitarist, a drummer, and a DJ who complemented his vocals perfectly, giving Miguel a dose of rock stardom. As part of the tour, Los Angeles band SiR and Miguel's younger brother, who performs under the name Nonchalant Savant, served as the openers.

In continuing to play with the duality of his life, Miguel performed "Caramelo Duro," a song that he sings completely in Spanish. He also paid homage to his city by performing "City of Angels."

Miguel continues his War & Leisure tour with a stint at Coachella, followed by other music festivals: Essence on July 6 and Afropunk Brooklyn 2018 on August 25.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Princess Nokia, Mykki Blanco, Spellling Among the Headliners at Feels VI

by Kathleen Richards
Wed, Apr 11, 2018 at 10:30 AM

Princess Nokia is scheduled to headline Feels VI.
  • Princess Nokia is scheduled to headline Feels VI.
After a two-year hiatus, the art and music festival known as Feels is back. And the lineup does not disappoint.

At an announcement party yesterday at the UC Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive — which in and of itself featured a strong lineup of local talent, including performances/DJ sets from Toro y Moi, Spellling, and Fela Kutchii — organizers announced the partial lineup for Feels VI, which will take place June 16 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond.

Music performers will include a mix of local and national acts, including Princess Nokia, Mykki Blanco, Bbymutha, Lonnie Holley, Yves Tumor, Queens D.Light, Rexx Life Raj, Spellling, ALLBLACK, B-Side Brujas, Siri, Fela Kutchii, Shruggs, and Namaste Shawty.

For the art portion, expect to see work by Chaz Bear (aka Toro y Moi), Lonnie Holley, Yetunde Olagbaju, Dicko Chan, Sofia Cordova, Jeff Cheung & Unity, House of Malico, Muzae Sesay, Ali Madigan, Azha Luckman, Rewina Beshue, David Huffman, and Sadie Barnette.

Oakland-based Queens D.Light, who performed at a prior Feels, is also on the bill this year.
  • Oakland-based Queens D.Light, who performed at a prior Feels, is also on the bill this year.
The event, which is organized by local online arts magazine Wine & Bowties, will be produced in partnership with BAMPFA and Youth Radio.

General admission early-bird tickets, which cost $30, are on sale now. (VIP costs $100.) Prices increase as it gets closer to the date.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

‘Snap Judgment’ Pays Tribute to Oakland’s Homicide Victims

by Madeline Wells
Wed, Apr 4, 2018 at 4:20 PM

St. Columba Catholic Church in Oakland, where crosses represent homicide victims. - PHOTO BY CINQUE MUBARAK
  • photo by Cinque Mubarak
  • St. Columba Catholic Church in Oakland, where crosses represent homicide victims.
It begins with the description of a sobering image: 80 slim wooden white crosses covering a church lawn, each labeled with a name, an age, and a date of death. Each cross represents an Oakland homicide victim from the past year. On New Year’s Eve in 2016, members of St. Columba Catholic Church read each name and pulled the crosses from the lawn as a prayer for a peaceful year.

While Oakland’s homicide rate has dropped considerably in recent years — from 147 in 2006 to 85 in 2016 — the producers of the Oakland-based podcast Snap Judgment decided they wanted to humanize the statistics.

“So often when we hear about homicides in the news, it’s about the number or the statistics,” said Adizah Eghan, co-host and producer of the hour-long episode “Counted: An Oakland Story.” “There’s not really much about the names behind the number or the people who they left behind.”

Throughout 2017, Eghan and her team investigated the stories of Oakland’s homicide victims. One of the first people they met was Daryle Allums, an activist who lost seven friends and family members to homicide in 2016. Known for his dedication to reducing violence in Oakland, Allums can frequently be found standing on the corner of 90th Avenue and MacArthur Boulevard with poster boards picturing locals who have lost their lives.

“He's just doing anything he can to let people know that this is happening and that they should pay attention,” said Eghan. Allums quickly became so integral to the story that the podcast featured him as a co-host.

Eghan and her team also spent time with the families and friends of other victims, including 22-year-old Darnell Foster, 18-year-old Sultan Bey, 40-year-old David Deporis, 44-year-old Jason Coleman, and 13-year-old Anibal Andres Ramirez. Each story touches on a different issue affecting the community: homelessness, poverty, immigration.

The episode also examines the rhetoric surrounding these deaths. “When we say this person didn’t deserve to die, what are we saying about the other people who lost their lives?” said Eghan. She noted that when someone who’s middle-class and seen as a “good kid” dies, people are more shocked and horrified by that death than when someone who is homeless or has a history of trouble with the law dies. As a result, this values some lives more than others.

While the murder rate in the city has continued to decline — there were 72` homicides in 2017 — there’s still more work that needs to be done. “Counted: An Oakland Story” presents a possible solution to the issue: holding the community accountable. Allums looks out for the kids in his neighborhood and encourages others to do the same.

Despite the pain present in these stories, Eghan also tried to focus on the moments of hope in the community. “We wanted to show some of that joy and love people had for this city and for one another, in addition to the pain that they felt when they lost someone,” she said.

The producers of Snap Judgment plan to work on more durational reporting, or audio-documentaries, and Eghan said she’d like to do more local stories.

“This story for us going into it, it wasn't about becoming experts on violence or murder, it was more about telling the story of our neighbors and what they missed out on in life,” she said.

More interviews, photos, and illustrations from “Counted” are available at

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

The Weeknd, Florence + The Machine, Janet Jackson to Headline Outside Lands 2018

by Janelle Bitker
Tue, Apr 3, 2018 at 10:00 AM

The Weeknd.
  • The Weeknd.

Outside Lands returns to San Francisco's Golden Gate Park Aug. 10-12 with a heady mix of music, art, comedy, food, and drinks. Tickets go on sale Thursday and have a habit of selling out.

This year's edition features The Weeknd, the Canadian-Ethiopian R&B artist; Florence + The Machine, the powerful indie songstress; and legacy act Janet Jackson. Rounding out the top of the lineup are EDM acts ODESZA and DJ Snake; rapper Future; indie stars Beck and Bon Iver; and radio hit-makers Portugal. The Man and CHVRCHES. Oh, and Carly Rae Jepsen of "Call Me, Maybe" fame.

While the major hip-hop presence is pretty light this year, there's also some exciting East Bay representation in Vallejo's rising star rap group SOB X RBE and Berkeley-bred rapper Caleborate. Other East Bay locals include favorite rockers Shannon & The Clams and Oakland singer-songwriter Dick Stusso.

For the first time, Outside Lands will offer a "layaway plan" option for three-day general admission tickets that allows folks to pay in four installments.

Here's the full lineup:

The Weeknd
Florence + The Machine
Janet Jackson
Bon Iver
DJ Snake
Portugal. The Man
James Blake
Jamie xx
Huey Lewis & The News
Mac DeMarco
Father John Misty
Carly Rae Jepsen
The Internet
Jessie Ware
The Growlers
Tash Sultana
Big Gigantic
Broken Social Scene
Rainbow Kitten Surprise
Daniel Caesar
Perfume Genius
Chicano Batman
Jessie Reyez
Rex Orange County
Sabrina Claudio
Margo Price
Mountain Goats
Quinn XCII
Amen Dunes
Shannon & The Clams
Dermot Kennedy
Pale Waves
Tyler Childers
Lucy Dacus
Mikky Ekko
Olivia O’Brien
Sasha Sloan
Gang Of Youths
Kailee Morgue
Freya Ridings
Durand Jones & The Indications
Nick Mulvey
GoGo Penguin
Jack Harlow
Knox Fortune
Kikagaku Moyo
Hot Flash Heat Wave
Sweet Plot
Dick Stusso

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