Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, Bandcamp Picks and a number of other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes, thinking outside the margins, and wondering….. What in the Hell didn’t pop off last week? Twitter got sold to a troll, our streaming golden age is in flux (just ask CNN+), and on a late Muni bus a weekend ago you could have caught a quick glance at the upcoming Stern Grove line up. So Muni arrives with something else, ahead of schedule. Fascinating.
What else, huh, let’s see Rave Moms want to save EDM and in Japan you can go to a manuscript cafe where you are not allowed to leave, until the script is done. Once again, What in the Hell didn’t pop off last week? Anyway, let’s talk about live music! And Bandcamp Friday picks, where you can support the artist directly with no platform fees.
HELADO NEGRO AT AUGUST HALL, MAY 16
I went to my first and only Helado Negro show on February 26, 2020, somewhat unsure of what to expect. I left the show a firm believer in life and all the goodness it can provide.
Roberto Carlos Lange, a Brooklyn-via-Florida artist, serenaded the mostly young, queer, brown, and Latinx throng of devoted fans in attendance that night at The Great American Music Hall grace and love. It sounds just a tad trippy; the show was a masterclass on connectivity. He transformed the sold-out venue, the majority of whom were sipping coffee and tea (bartenders sent half their staff home due to a lack of alcohol sales), into one giant chill-out room for lovers. I asked a waitress how her night was going for the show to which no one could get a ticket, and she spilled the truth. “The crowd is OK. Very nice people. Ainʻt nobody drinking. But they are really nice.”
Then in 2021, Lange compounded the attention to detail with a career-defining record. “Lange once again builds a safe space with fuzzy-feeling disco bops and slow-slung odes to foundational loves,” declared Caitlin Donohue in a Bandcamp Daily review of Far In, his double album from last year and debut on the 4AD label.
It became one of the year’s best-received releases, mostly recorded in Marfa, Texas, with long-term partner Kristi Sword while both were socially distancing. Lange has previously collaborated with DJ and producer Guillermo Scott Herren, aka Prefuse 73, but nothing so grand and majestic resulted from those projects.
I am shocked that his upcoming show at August Hall on May 16 is not already sold out. Just to take in “Gemini and Leo”, the best pop song from last year, that’s not really a pop song, is worth the 25 bones and change for the ticket. This is guaranteed to be another wonderful night. Purchase tickets here.
BANDCAMP PICKS FOR MAY 6
ORION SUN, GETAWAY EP (MOM+POP)—AND LIVE AT GAMH, MAY 13
I always get defensive when the genre police start to flex. Prime example? Popping that ‘alt’ label on everything like a gentrifier with low blood sugar, you know?
For example, Billboard labels the Jersey-born Philly-based singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist Tiffany Majette’s one-woman project Orion Sun as “alt-R&B.” Trust. She’s dope.
Her Getaway EP from this year expands on the distinct sound she introduced in early 2020, seamlessly fusing complex arrangements with jazz, hip-hop, and R&B production. That genre-fluid breeziness, fam, reminds me of Jay Som’s low-key swagger, that ‘handsewn culture’? Shoot, it’s a muther, for sure.
Just one Black man’s point of view.
But similar to that one cinema that only shows independent films (back when people went to the movies), everyone can handle complexity. In fact, people from all over the world, especially from ’round the way, deal with complex situations every second. Survival is a skill set.
The point is, listen to this Getaway EP with the same enthusiasm you have for the dynamic Syd The Kyd of Odd Future and The Internet. Orion Sun has her “complex” thing down pat. Check it out in person on May 13 at Great American Music Hall, and save that alt bish for your keyboard, playa. As Majette declares on the magical closing track, “It’s a celebration.”
JEANINES, DON’T WAIT FOR A SIGN (SLUMBERLAND RECORDS)
Slumberland Records in Oakland is building an empire one jangle pop band at a time.
What Vito Corleone did for olive oil at Genco, this East Bay imprint has done for DIY brilliance around the world. During a pandemic, no less. The Reds, Pinks, and Purples; Artsick; Chime School; Kids on a Crime Spree, and The Umbrellas are among the Bay Area bands you should know before they blow up or leave town.
Slumberland has done it again with the release of Jeanines’ sophomore album Don’t Wait For a Sign. Alicia Jeanine composes these melancholy indie-pop darts—no song lasts more than two minutes—and her friend, musical polymath Jed Smith, works on the arrangements, running it through his pop music Rolodex brain, and voila, earworms in a minute.
The drainy guitars sound like a Velvet Underground outtake on the catchy “People Talk,” and Alicia Jeanine hits lofty vocal runs upfront with choral enunciations and accents decorating the background. These are high-quality Garage Rock throwbacks that hit hard and bounce fast.
BEIGE, AMEN! VOL. 1 (T4T LUV NRG)
With each entry, it becomes clearer: To get a mixtape released on the T4T LUV NRG imprint, run by Eris Drew and Octo Octa, you have to bring all the beats, put your foot flat, all the way down on the BPM gas pedal, and run it in the red until the cassette explodes.
DeeJay Beige of Detroit, forever baptized in the spirit of the label’s previous mixtapes—Eris Drew’s Raving Disco Breaks Vol. 1 from 2019 put a hurting on ffolkes corns’, just sayin’—-continues this legacy with more heat, holy ghost fervor, and plenty of happy foot, joy in repetition.
Add to it folk music, gospel violin floating over those steppin’ beats, and Jules Winnfield’s Ezekiel Bible verse… the Pulp Fiction joint that made Sam “distinguished” in every ’90s hipster neighborhood.
These 70-plus minutes of ecclesiastical breaks—it’s a gospel rave y’all, and Chicago and Detroit get equal play- run without interruption. The Lord compels you to hydrate for this one. Taking cues from early family environment: “I can’t remember a time when Beethoven, Bach, folk hymns, old negro spirituals, and gospel weren’t playing day in and day out in my house,” Beige says. If this is just a taste of what to expect from that late-night set, put on your trainers and please bring your own towel.
Get the home version here.