Under the Stars is a quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and a number of other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes, thinking outside the margins.
SF JAZZ HOLIDAY SHOWS AT MINER AUDITORIUM, DECEMBER 1-4
We have one question for ya: Want to spend four days celebrating the most wonderful time of the year? SF Jazz can assist.
From the first to the fourth of December, they have a slate of holiday-themed shows that run on the non-irritating, kick-the-normcore-to-the-curbside of the street. Catch classic soul from Martin Luther on Thu/1, Duke Ellington’s Nutcracker Suite performed by The Marcus Shelby New Orchestra featuring Tiffany Austin on Fri/2, Charlie Brown Christmas ‘drip’ performed by Adam Shulman on Sat/3, jazz cabaret touch from Paula West on Sun/4, and a four-day hip-hop holiday heist from Jazz Mafia Thu/1-Sun/4—complete with a dance floor show too?
SF Jazz has taken the “vanilla” sentiment out of Christmas and reworked it into something that bumps for a modern good time. You can thank your own personal Black Jesus.
Get the deets here, you don’t want to miss this party.
Now, some Bandcamp Friday-relevant picks:
KIDS ON A CRIME SPREE AT GOLDEN BULL IN OAKLAND, DECEMBER 10
Kids On A Crime Spree’s 10-song album Fall In Love Not In Line, which was recorded in Mario Hernandez’s analog home studio in Oakland, whizzes by as quickly as the N-Judah travels from Ocean Beach to the Upper Haight.
This Bay Area indie band, which consists of Hernandez on vocals, Becky Barron on drums, and guitarist Bill Evans, cops, moves, and sways with all the 1960s Brill building cacophony and pop goodness. It relies heavily on a thundering drum beat, bouncy et al Garrish basslines, gnarly guitars running hot with feedback squelch, and electrifying song conclusions—with alchemy.
All the energy captured on wax came from the amps, stage, and band members spilling out over the sold-out venue when I saw them perform live in June at Oakland Weekender. One of the most inspiring performances of the showcase weekend. We need another one in 2023, methinks. With unbridled joy, Hernandez danced all over the stage and was still dancing in the street with friends as I left to catch Bart back to Ess Eff.
See this band live before the year is over.
MARIA BC, “HYALINE REMIXES” EP (FATHER/DAUGHTER RECORDS)
Maria BC, an Ohio-born, Oakland-based musician, creates heady, poignant music that expresses with the smallest of gestures on Hyaline, which was released earlier this year. Their uncomplicated-yet-appealing ambient folk structures have been recast through doom metal, avant-garde pop, and darkwave techno on “The Hyaline Remixes” EP.
Featuring a group of rising artists (No Home, Rachika Nayar, Nina Keith, Lucy Liyou, and Ragana), it sees Maria BC’s compositions extended from the acoustic into sonic frequencies.
Pick it up here.
LYRICS BORN, VISION BOARD
Always Be My Maybe, a 2019 romantic comedy starring Ali Wong and Randall Park, is one of my all-time favorite Netflix jams. Despite it partially being shot in Vancouver, it looks and feels exactly like the SF I know. The rap persona that Park adopts in the movie is based on his earlier musical career as a member of the hip-hop group Ill Again from the Bay Area in the 1990s. The term “yellow peril”—as in the alleged threat to Western nations by East Asians—is parodied in the name of the fictional band Hello Peril.
Knowing that Park collaborated on a number of the movie’s tracks with hip hop producer and SF legend Dan the Automator (y’all heard of Dr. Octogon, Handsome Boy Modeling School, or Deltron 3030—right?) just makes the whole quirky-funky vibe of the movie fit with ease. Additionally, seeing Bay Area-based rap legend Lyrics Born take on a comedic role—he plays a member of Parks’ hip-hop group—is an “oh snap’ authentic moment for sure.
“I really love comedic acting,” stated Lyrics Born on his website. “As an artist, it’s like another color on my palette.”
“I will be doing more advocating for the underserved in the arts as well, particularly for Asian Americans and other people of color,” he continued. “The world needs the same diversity in the arts as we do in real life.”
This Japanese American rapper recently released his new album Vision Board, which deals with themes of romance, comedy, and bravado. For the past 25 years, there has been no limit to what this full-circle artist can do.
Get Vision Board here.
NEAL FRANCIS, SENTIMENTAL GARBAGE (ATO RECORDS)
What makes a good cover of an iconic song? Is it necessary to stick to the original structure, or does a different interpretation make the effort worthwhile?
I was talking with a writer who is a long-time friend about the trippy soul that Chicago-based musician Neal Francis brings to the über-rarefied Shuggy Otis-penned gospel “Strawberry Letter 23” a few weeks ago. Francis leans in hard on the psychedelic-meets-modal-interpretation of the song, locating his own space with nasally atonal mumblecore falsettos, 1970s rock-funk drum breaks, and bluesy guitar vistas. It lands somewhere between the Shuggy original and the Brothers Johnson spacey-stomp champion.
To even consider covering this, you gotta have chops and stones. Francis is endowed with both.
His new EP, “Sentimental Garbage” (great title, Neal), expands on his blue-eyed Allen Toussaint vibes shot through the analog prism of shag rugs and chunky basslines. It’s a persona and energy he displayed while performing here at Outside Outside Lands in 2021. But I’ll let him tell it.
“Sentimental Garbage was the working title of our last LP, which includes the track of the same name,” Francis stated in a press release. “We ended up calling that record In Plain Sight, while removing the title track from the sequence. I knew this was my last chance to slap ‘Sentimental Garbage’ on a record jacket, the thought of which always brought me great joy. It also works because this record is compiled of bittersweet scraps. I guess we could have also titled the record Burnt Ends.”
No need for that. Pick up the EP here.