When: Thu., April 16, 8 p.m. 2015
“Payola” is a nice mid-century neologism that to most people evokes the once-rampant radio DJ habit of accepting fistfuls of cash to broadcast particular pop songs. Nowadays, Pandora practices a 21st-century version with impunity. Conor Oberst, the deft songwriter best known as the sad-sack singer in Bright Eyes, recently announced an album called Payola, though it’s due not from Bright Eyes but from his old punk band Desaparecidos. The group issued one album, Read Music/Speak Spanish, in 2002 that was fraught with protest songs such as “Happiest Place on Earth,” which ravages the empty promises of the American Dream. Payola picks up on that premise once more. The first single is “City on the Hill,” in which Oberst laments racist founding fathers and appropriative white rock musicians in the original Payola era. Read Music/Speak Spanish was a fantastic album. Payola feels refreshing. It arrives at a time when explicitly political rock music rarely fills the Regency Ballroom (1300 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco), a feat Desaparecidos is set to do on Thursday.