Well, look what happened. While many folks were draped in their “San Francisco sucks” costumes, the Stern Grove Festival managed to attract over 91,000 attendees and garnered over 400,000 live stream/broadcast viewers over 10 concerts this summer.
Take out your earbuds so I can speak into your podholes. Let me run that back …
These 10 free concerts brought in over 91,000 people to the Grove for world-class music, continuing a magical 86-year-old tradition.
Not too bad, San Francisco. If you couldn’t make it this summer—or made it and can’t get enough—and want to ensure this tradition reaches its 87 birthday in 2024, you can donate to the non-profit music festival here.
But in the meantime … It’s Under The Stars, babe. A quasi-weekly column that presents new music releases, upcoming shows, opinions, and other adjacent items. We keep moving with the changes and thinking outside the margins.
Let’s get synthy …
H31R, HEADSPACE (BIG DATA)
It always makes me laugh when digital music providers try to pin down what they don’t know. Like Apple Music or Spotify is out in dem skreets. C’mon, Sparky. In most cases, they who control the global flow of music remain clueless. It’s hilarious … and then suddenly it’s not.
Despite all the lip service for algorithm, I continue to believe that if a project is good, the buying patron will figure it out, with their ears.
Speaking of—I’ve been following Jennifer Hernandez, also known as JWords, a New Jersey-based Afro Latina producer, for a while now because she’s amazing. Straight up dope. Possessing that “I didn’t see that coming” type of greatness, her out-of-left field arrangements—hip hop blurred with house and techno properties—she works the type of flex that just got Missy Elliot inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as its first female hip hop artist. (A little late, I may add.) A self-proclaimed fan of Elliot’s, JWords is beginning to sport a significant manifestation of that type of inventiveness. She’s got a creative quirk well-expressed by her odd-sounding arrangements that grow on you over time.
What else can you call JWords? How about, “the future”?
That’s what it sounds like on Headspace, the 14-track electronic fusion album from H31R, the duo uniting JWords with Brooklyn rapper Maassai.
Whether the record becomes a huge hit or an indie darling, its arrival signals that Missy Elliot’s kids are about to take over, and that’s glorious.
Buy it here.
LET THE MUSIC PLAY: HOW R&B FELL IN LOVE WITH 80S SYNTHS BOOK, STEVEN VASS (VELOCITY PRESS)
There always seems to be an overwhelming amount of compilations that emphasize the significance of synths in German krautrock, Japanese environmental music, and especially in Moog arrangements that correspond with alien life forms in the vast nebula up above. And yes, they all sound amazing.
But what about those synth arrangements that dominated Black music in the ’70s and ’80s, and continue to heavily influence contemporary music? Finally, we have a book that tackles those sounds.
Let the Music Play: How R&B Fell in Love with 80s Synths, available through Velocity Press on February 5, promises to shed light on certain historical blindspots.
“Whenever anyone discusses the history of synth music, they tend to overlook most R&B,” said author Steven Vass in Resident Advisor. “They may mention how certain funk and disco tracks were crucial to the development of house and techno, or how early hip hop was influenced by artists like Kraftwerk. However, they say very little about the generation of R&B artists who fully embraced synths in the late ’70s and created some of the best music I’ve ever heard. So, I decided to write a book about it.”
According to liner notes, the book promises to cover the explosion of music tech in the era of boomboxes and Ronald Reagan’s voodoo economics. Outlining the work of pioneers like Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Kashif, Jimmy Jam, and Terry Lewis, sounds like an long-running oversight might finally be addressed.
WE ARE SCORPIO AT YOSHI’S OAKLAND, NOVEMBER 24
Fierce and rugged, blending rock ‘n’ roll swagger with spoken poetry, We Are Scorpio from Detroit—the torrid rock & roll duo consisting of Jessica Care Moore and Steffanie Christi’an—have managed to present their unique blend without diluting a thing. Their debut self-titled album, scheduled for release on February 2 next year, not only promises an unapologetically Black experience, but also universally relatable personal truths. With this duo supporting Talib Kweli at their Yoshi’s debut, it is bound to be a memorable night.
Pick up tickets here.
MIDLIFE, “MUSICA” (HEAVENLY RECORDINGS AND INERTIA MUSIC)
Melbourne-based psychedelic jazz outfit Mildlife’s debut album Phase blended jazz and post-disco with space-groove atmospherics to offer a new take on krautrock, highlighting the genre’s perpetual adaptability. Now, the group is gearing up to release its third studio LP, Chorus, on March 1. The visual for their new single “Musica” has just been released.
Mildlife has become one of Australia’s most sought-after live acts, which one can assume is due to its unique aesthetic that combines proggy elements with psychedelic fusion textures. We can only hope that they will return to The Bay in 2024 so that Mike Bee, owner of Vinyl Dreams Records on Haight, can once again set the mood behind the decks before they take the stage.
We can dream, right?
RACHEL GARLIN AND BAND PRESENT “FRIENDSGIVING AT THE FREIGHT” AT FREIGHT & SALVAGE, NOVEMBER 22
Singer, songwriter, and guitarist Rachel Garlin is returning to her hometown of Berkeley to perform “Friendsgiving at the Freight.” This event serves as a tribute to the historic reality that “not everyone is welcome or able to go home for the holidays.” On this special night Garlin, a Harvard graduate, an American Ninja Warrior, a mother of three, and a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, will invite everyone to her and her band’s table. The purpose of this gathering is not only to enjoy food, but also to listen to the stories and songs that the songwriter has crafted throughout her life as a wandering troubadour. Additionally, Garlin is a dedicated educator, previously teaching at King Middle School in Berkeley and Live Oak School in San Francisco. She is also a collaborative individual and workshop leader who aims to help others unlock their creative potential. This event guarantees a gathering of friends and loved ones, including people you may not know initially. Through the power of song and group collaboration, a sense of community is fostered.
Grab tix here.