Saturday, March 6, 2021
Arts + Culture Music New Music: 5 artists to support directly on Bandcamp...

New Music: 5 artists to support directly on Bandcamp Day

Mothership's metal, Blues Lawyer's lo-fi punk, Marcus Shelby's jazz, techno from The Tourist, more great releases


Music platform Bandcamp has become an oddity of heroic sorts here in San Francisco. Imagine a tech company putting their heads together for something besides stealing your personal information or trolling your socials with disinformation to re-elect a fascist regime. Nope, Bandcamp wants to give something back to the culture, help it in fact, not corrupt it. Imagine that.

When Covid-19 hit, Bandcamp announced it would waive its usual 15% fee for one day in order to support artists affected by the shutdown of live music. Since then fans have bought more than $75 million worth of music and merchandise directly from artists and labels, and to date, fans have paid artists over half a billion dollars on Bandcamp. That’s a lotta stacks for good, friendo. Since the pandemic is far from over, we’ll continue to select artists, labels, and bands-from everywhere-for you to check out and support. Bandcamp Fridays, the first Friday of every month—meaning Friday, October 2—will be fully supported here at 48hills until 2020 leaves the frigging building.

Marcus Shelby is single-handedly a San Francisco jazz institution. The Bay Area-based composer, educator, and recent SFJAZZ resident artistic director was just appointed Healdsburg Jazz artistic director. As stated on his website “his work focuses on the history, present, and future of African American lives social movements and music education.”

Long ago I was privy to an intimate rehearsal for an upcoming edition North Beach Jazz Festival where Shelby, on bass, backed up Pharaoh Sanders, the “sheets of sound” master saxophone player. The second tune they rehearsed was John Coltrane’s “Naima,” off top. The rendering was so gentle, full of grace and presence, once it was finished, upon a quick glance, there was not one dry eye among the eavesdroppers.

Transitions, by The Marcus Shelby Orchestra from 2019, offers lush arrangements of classic tunes by Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, and Cole Porter, its centerpiece “Black Ball: The Negro Leagues and the Blues” is an original four-part suite inspired by the history of Negro League Baseball. Witness this time-traveling ode to African-American history and culture.

The Dallas band Mothership works from the intersection of heavy psych, stoner rock, and doom metal. The moniker is a rough-and-tumble metaphor for San Francisco label Ripple itself, founded in 2008, which began as a blog called The Ripple Effect, co-founded by former DJ and ongoing surgeon (a freaking combo if I’ve ever heard one) Todd Severin and former Blind Justice singer John Rancik. Twelve years later they’ve transformed into a certified spigot for all types of metal, including the chuggy muddy kind. Get it!

“Blues Lawyer’s brand of minimalist punk could fit equally well on Flying Nun’s catalog of wiry lo-fi, or amongst the understated slacker-pop of Courtney Barnett’s Milk! Records” states the band’s website. Just listening to the directness of “I Owe Money All over Town” you get that desperation and hokeyness within the song’s one-minute duration. This Oakland band, tumbledown drums, economical lyrics, and jingle-jangle solo’s, give it up, directly. No bloated tricks.

Listen. This is the type of band that needs our art spaces to remain. Bands, such as this, and daring DJs—who’d rather cause a ruckus—are the folks who will return SF to what it needs to be. A little off, but always alive. Just like Blues Lawyer. If the Bandcamp pages say the records are sold out, just hit their site.

Measured Space has become a key issue amidst COVID, wildfires, homelessness, and the onward rise of systemic racism that seems to be cresting, directly into our election in November. That thought amidst four heady electronic tracks that play in the reservoir of sound manipulation is exactly the type of work The Tourist does. And he’s brought in heavyweights to help carry the audio charge. With re-rubs from Dave Aju, Jay TripWire, and Chris Jackson the message gets expanded and reinterpreted by deep techno vets. But its that teapot steam, between woodblock knocks, that keeps popping on and off in “The Tourist”‘s 8 minute communique. He’s suspending several climates at once, using sleight of hand, audio gestures. Granted, I first heard this track in March, before everything started shutting down worldwide. Over the course of an evening that included imbibing five glasses of water, it felt intoxicating. But in the midst of this new reality, it’s downright insightful.

Berkeley’s own Naked Roommate—comprised of members of local bands The World, Blues Lawyer, and bAd bAd—makes punk that doesn’t necessarily have all the ingredients figured 100 percent out. Pleasantly informal. Full of electro exoskeleton beats, quirky sounds, and a firm bass line.

The ideas feel warm, inviting enough, to keep hanging out for the next experiment. At times it’s the dance party The B-52’s would have thrown with David Byrne in mind, and then Theo Parrish might have broadened those strokes. “Je Suis Le Bebe” is such a cruiser low-key post-punk funker, I want this group to throw a rent party. Socially distanced of course, so I can just shrug my shoulders to the beat. Naked Roommate is a real cool customer.

John-Paul Shiver
John-Paul Shiver has been contributing to 48 Hills since 2019. His work as an experienced music journalist and pop culture commentator has appeared in the Wire, Resident Advisor, SF Weekly, Bandcamp Daily, PulpLab, AFROPUNK, and Drowned In Sound.

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