Saturday, September 20, 2008

Fleet Foxes at the Independent, 9-19-08

Dang, readers. Dang.

We at Distingué Traces have failed you. Last night at the Independent we caught the Fleet Foxes show. That music is clear water from a deep well. Our photos of this event? Murky water from a smelly well. At night. With the cover still on. See?

I am hella sad about this because I love these guys, and I really wanted to make this post a big deal. One of our Distingué Traces auxiliaries has an iPhone, and I had grand plans to make her lend it to me so I could venture into pirate-video posting, but she forgot to bring it. Readers, I need my own fucking iPhone. Buy me an iPhone, and I will use it to document the rich tapestry of San Francisco nightlife for you!

(Just kidding, don't buy me an iPhone, donate to Obama or the No on 8 campaign instead.)

Anyway. Luckily for the rich tapestry of nightlife, a million other people at the show did have their iPhones with them, and one of them has already posted a clip of "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" to Youtube. Through embedding technology, here it is. Thank you, Youtube accountholder johnlshea5.

And if you really want to look at the rest of my terrible, awful, very bad photos, you can...

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

PREVIEW: Tom Stoppard's Rock n' Roll at A.C.T.

The West Coast premiere of Tom Stoppard's Rock n' Roll was last night. The show runs through October 12, and tonight is "pay what you wish night" which is when I'll be going for sure. Buy tickets.

The show is about the seventies Czech rock group The Plastic People, who brought down communism with the power of art, as Tom Stoppard will now explain:

“Let’s get this clear,” says Tom Stoppard. “The Plastic People did not bring down communism.”

Oh yes they did.
“Milan Hlavsa, who founded the group, said in several interviews that they weren’t interested in bringing down communism." continues Stoppard. "What they wanted was to play rock’n’roll music. A question to ask, then, is: were those two things as separate as he thought at the time?”

The band were clearly not dissidents; in fact, they were rather disparaged by those actively opposed to communist rule as a bunch of lazy hippies. But their decision to remove themselves from the official culture made them the perfect example of “living in truth” — to borrow Vaclav Havel’s phrase. Doggedly pursuing their own artistic vision was itself a resistance to totalitarian culture.

Will Tom Stoppard concede that much about his characters? Yes.

“Simply playing rock’n’roll was not a wasted, isolated gesture," says Stoppard. "And, by extension, one could make a grand claim for the potency of art in general — including rock’n’roll — and its ability to alter society. Do you think that’s a romantic view?”

A romantic view is cheap at A.C.T. tonight. Be there or be a soulless totalitarian bastard.

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Xiu Xiu at Bottom of the Hill, 9-13-08

Saturday night I caught the final night of Xiu Xiu's current tour. I've loved 'em since Knife Play but this is the first time I've managed to catch their show. It was good! Jamie Stewart rocked out like a rocker, which I was not really expecting.

The band, once a sprawling collective, is now just Jamie Stewart, Caralee McElroy (Jamie's cousin and the muse of his mid-career rejuvenation), and a drummer. The intimacy between Jamie and Caralee is lovely -- as always at shows with my outdated camera and unpracticed hand I was continually frustrated at missing chances for photos, but this time I passed one up deliberately: the look of tenderness Jamie gave Caralee at the end of "Fabulous Muscles" -- as his part ended and she played the final bars -- was held for a long time, but it was so beautiful that I just couldn't bear to use the flash.

There are fifteen more pictures, so you should click to...enlarge them for maximum pleasure.

There is no point in clicking on the rest of the pictures as they do not get any bigger. But do enjoy looking at them, won't you?

Caralee plays the trumpet while sitting in with an opening act. The opening act's guitarist rocks the sexy, sexy tattooed androgyny.

Caralee plays the keyboards, fiddles with a laptop, and also blows into some kind of tube idk.

It's a hoedown with a zither, ladies and gentlemen!

Jamie is a rocker.

Jamie rocks out.

Another picture.

Another picture.

Another picture.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

The Octopus Project at Bottom of the Hill, 8-16-08

I'm never sorry when I take a chance on going to the Bottom of the Hill on spec. The sound is so good, unlike certain other small SF venues (Slim's, I am looking at you), that even just decent bands make a good impression.

On Saturday I didn't have to settle for just a decent band -- The Octopus Project was dynamite. So, as a brand new fan, I'm pleased to bring you Distingué Traces' first attempt at a celebrity interview, with Josh Lambert, one of their lead guitarists. It went like this.

Distingué Traces reporter: Is it okay if I photograph you with flash?
Josh Lambert: Go ahead. It makes us feel special.
Distingué Traces reporter: [blushes, runs]

But then later I got my courage up and took lots of pictures of him with flash, so the point of this story is that a charming indie boy from Austin, Texas felt special last night...because of me.

Yeah, I'm lame. Seriously though The Octopus Project makes music that is beautiful. There are sparkly electric noises having a contest with fierce bashing noises, and on the album the sparkly electric mostly wins, but on stage the fierce bashing mostly wins and it is titanic.

More pictures below. Some of them get bigger when you click them.

I did my level best to get a clear shot of Yvonne Lambert playing the theremin by herself, but this blurry awkwardness is the best I could do. I am sorry about this! She actually looked very graceful playing it.

I also have a couple of pictures of the opening bands. The Diagonals are from Austin like the Octopus Project, and they were pretty decent: songs with plain structure but deep plushy textures. I liked 'em.

Then in the middle there were two bands, of which I only photographed the first, Sassy, for obvious reasons. Look at that skirt! Her approach matched her outfit - she kept yelling, "HELLO SAN FRANCISCO!" and the audience of thirty shoegazers standing five feet away from her would shift from foot to foot and clap uncertainly.

And finally, notice how Toto Miranda of the Octopus Project looks all sexy when his white shirt gets sweaty and sticks to the flesh of his torso.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Squirrel Nut Zippers at the Independent, 8-12-08

Since our earliest youth, we here at Distingué Traces have loved the insouciant way the Squirrel Nut Zippers have of telling us we are going to "Hell". So when they played The Independent on Tuesday night, the DTs were there.

We can reveal: Frontwoman Katherine Whalen is delightful. Frontman James "Jimbo" Mathus, on the other hand, is out of his crazy-eyed, sweat-drenched, Faulkner-spouting mind. Good Lord but the man has energy.

Much of the lineup has changed in the band's new incarnation. Fiddler Gabrielle Pelli brings a more European, klezmer-tinged sound to the songs than they had on the albums. And the new baritone saxophonist, who is extremely handsome (although you'll have to take our word for it, as the DTs' hands were trembling too much for us to get a picture that does him justice), would have been in diapers when Jimbo first warned America of its perdition.

For sure, they give you your money's worth. After the encore set the band appeared again, this time marching through the crowd beating drums and tooting on horns and such, and somebody had put a black Chinese-dragon-head on and was bobbing and bouncing all around. They led the crowd out onto the sidewalk, where a sort of melee ensued that the DTs preferred to avoid.

A wonderful night. They are headed next for a few shows in the Northwest, but stodgy Seattle cannot possibly love the news of its damnation as much as wicked San Francisco did.

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