Music and nightlife

Techno legend Doc Martin drops in for 1015’s 30th anniversary

Doc Martin.

For decades now, legendary house DJ, remix master, and Sublevel label head Doc Martin (spinning Fri/11 at 1015 Folsom) has wielded his unique mix of deep house, funky tribal bass, and acid house at major clubs and festivals around the world.

But there’s no place like home for the San Francisco native, who first built a following at SoMa nightspot 1015 Folsom’s earliest dance nights like Martini, Colossus, and Boogie Buffet, in addition to residencies at DNA Lounge and the long-extinct Club Townsend.

“Doc is a local hero and he helped build the whole sound in San Francisco,” Ira Sandler, 1015 Folsom’s longtime owner, told 48 Hills. “He had success at 1015 Folsom [among other clubs] and he really pushed hard to develop a serious House music crowd in San Francisco. He was a leader of that sound here.”

Martin continued to DJ at 1015 Folsom sporadically, even after moving to LA in the early ‘90s. He most recently appeared at the warehouse-style venue with Berlin-based DJ-producers Tale of Us this past April.

Now he returns for a deep house and techno mega-party headlined by international stars Dixon, Magdalena, and Eagles & Butterflies and featuring local notables like Vin Sol, Honey Soundsystem’s Jackie House, and “Release” veterans M3, Julius Papp, & Mauricio Aviles.

This is just one of a dozen DJ nights marking 1015 Folsom’s 30-year anniversary. Electronic artists including Justice, Bicep, Black Coffee, and Honey Dijon are expected to appear there later this month.

1015 owner Ira Sandler celebrates 30 years of club mayhem

I spoke to Doc Martin about 1015’s amazing longevity, the DJ-producer’s fondest memories of the landmark club, and what makes San Francisco’s dance music scene so unique.

48 HILLS Why are you excited to be a part of 1015’s 30-year anniversary month? Who, of the other artists you’re playing with, are you most excited to see and hear?

DOC MARTIN 1015 has been a part of my life since the ‘80s when it was called Das Klub. We used to come on Sundays for the Hip Hop nights and to see Stuart Levy and Eric Lacey on Saturdays. It made sense to do the 30-year anniversary as I’m one of the only DJs from the original school who is still active on the scene.

It will be good to be on the bill with Dixon there, as we’ve been on the same bills all over Europe, but not in the US. It’s always great to play with Eagles & Butterflies, M3, and Julius Papp. So when [1015 promoter] Noah Bennet asked, it was a no-brainer.

48 HILLS How would you describe your style of DJing? How have the styles or genres you play changed over the years? Can you tell us anything about your upcoming set at 1015?

DOC MARTIN Being born and raised in San Francisco was great, because I was always exposed to all kinds of cool and different music — everything from reggae, rock, soul, funk, and everything in between. My family was involved in music, theatre, and the arts. I think that rubbed off on me. I would say, for me, it’s more of a vibe than one particular style of music. I will be putting together a special collage of sounds for this night.

48 HILLS You’ve played all over the world. What’s it like coming back to San Francisco?

DOC MARTIN It’s always great to come back home to San Francisco. It’s got its own unique energy and vibe. I get to see the people I grew up with and the people who are hearing me for the first time. The thing that makes it so special to me is the melting pot factor there.

48 HILLS Could you take me through your history with 1015 Folsom? What made it stand out in comparison to the other clubs of the time?

DOC MARTIN I think the first time I played there was in late ‘86 or ‘87. I used to go to Ira’s Noh Club parties at the Kabuki Theater, which were always good. 1015 became a regular for me on Friday and even Colossus on some Saturdays for Gus Bean’s boys’ nights. I did play there over the years. I came back to play with Tale of Us this year and it reminded me of how much I liked playing this room.

A flyer from Martini, one of 1015’s earliest parties.

48 HILLS How is 1015 Folsom different today than it was back in the day?

DOC MARTIN Of course things are different because everything progresses in its own way. Even though there’s been a big gap for me with the club, it seems to have survived the ups and downs. It also seems to be having a renaissance. Being there for 30 years is no small feat in itself. I’ve watched it go from a cool New Wave club with [singer] Sunshine Jones as the doorman to a club bringing in world talent.

48 HILLS What encouraged you to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles? How often do you return?

DOC MARTIN I left San Francisco in 1990 to go to LA. I had been in SF my whole life and had done pretty much all that I could have at that time. I moved to LA and then the rave hit, but that’s a whole other novel for another time.

I started playing in New York City on the regular in ‘91, then in England in ‘92, Ibiza in ‘94, and so on. I still play San Francisco often and it never gets stale for me.

48 HILLS To what do you attribute the longevity of 1015 Folsom?

DOC MARTIN I think even through the ups and downs, you just have to push through. I’ve been there for Hip hop, New Wave, House, Techno, Acid Jazz, and gay nights. At the end of the day, it’s just a good room to dance in. Even through all the changes, that will always stay the same.

Fri/11, 10pm, $20-$85
1015 Folsom.
More info here.

Banjos, bandanas, & a Monkee—the scene at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass

Emmylou Harris performs at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez

The weather was gorgeous and the crowd broke records at the 19th annual Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, which seemed to include a lot more roots and bluegrass this year! Photographer Estefany Gonzalez was on the scene Sunday, October 6 to capture the performances, energy, and crowd. Check out her great photos of the previous weekend’s Rolling Loud hip-hop festival here.  

Emmylou Harris performs at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass on Sunday, Oct. 6. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Emmylou Harris. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Emmylou Harris. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
The crowd at HSB. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
HSB attendees. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Jackie Green. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Jackie Greene. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Jackie Greene. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Kurt Vile and the Violators. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Kurt Vile and the Violators. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
The crowd at HSB. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
The crowd at HSB. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Dancing at HSB. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Mandolin Orange. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Mandolin Orange. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Mandolin Orange. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
The crowd at HSB. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Wood & Wire. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Michael Nesmith and the First National Band. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Michael Nesmith. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Michael Nesmith. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
The crowd at HSB. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez


Live Shots: Stars and flash at Rolling Loud, day 2

Sweetie at Rolling Loud, Sunday, September 29, 2019. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez

Over the weekend, Oakland hip-hop fans were treated to some of the biggest on the business—with plenty of local artists on deck—as the roaming Rolling Loud festival came through the Oakland Coliseum grounds. The lineup was stacked, the talent was ready, and the crowd loved it all. Hometown heroes Saweetie and Rexx Life Raj were highlights. Check out photos from day one here

The crowd at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
ALLBLACK at Rolling Loud, day 2. Photo by Estephany Gonzalez
ALLBlack performs with Shoreline Mafia on Sunday, September 29. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Migos at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Migos perform on Sunday, September 29. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Migos at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Migos. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
The crowd at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Mozzie at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Mozzy. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Mozzy at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Playboi Carti. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
TYGA performs at Roling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Rexx Life Raj at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Rexx Life Raj. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Saweetie at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Saweetie getting glammed up at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Saweetie. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Saweetie performs on Sunday, September 29. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Shoreline Mafia at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Shoreline Mafia. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
The scene at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
The crowd at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Stage after a long weekend at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez

Live Shots: Style and surprises at Rolling Loud fest, day 1

Future headlines Rolling Loud. on Saturday, September 28. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez

Over the weekend, Oakland hip-hop fans were treated to some of the biggest on the business—with plenty of local artists on deck—as the roaming Rolling Loud festival came through the Oakland Coliseum grounds. The lineup was stacked, the talent was ready, and the crowd loved it all. Here are some shots from day 1, featuring Future, G-Eazy, Megan Thee Stallion, and more. Check out day 2 here

The hyped crowd at Rolling Loud, day 1. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Future at Rolling Loud Day 1. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
G-Eazy at Rolling Loud, day 1. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
G-Easy. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez

Megan Thee Stallion at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Guapdad4000 lunges backstage at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Guapdad4000 performs at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez

P-Lo makes a guest appearance at Rolling Loud Photo by Estefany Gonzalez

Kamaiyah performs at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Kehlani makes a surprise appearance at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Kelani and Kemaiyah perform together at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Caleborate and DJ Zan backstage at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Caleborate performs at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
SOB x RHE at Rolling Loud, Day 1. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
SOB x RHE at Rolling Loud, day 1. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
SOB x RHE at Rolling Loud, day 1. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
Crowd at Rolling Loud, September 28. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
YG at Rolling Loud. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez
21 Savage performs at Rolling Loud, day 1. Photo by Estefany Gonzalez

Review: 20 years in, SF Electronic Music Fest doubles down on avant-garde

Dohee Lee performed at the 20th annual SF Electronic Music Festival

The San Francisco Electronic Music Festival, which took place over four days beginning September 12, describes the force behind itself as an artist-run organization founded in 1999 by a committee of eight Bay Area electro-acoustic music and sound art practitioners. The mission is simple: provide a platform for independent electronic music and A/V artists to pursue the kind of experimental work that might not find a home anywhere else.

While most of the performances took place in the Mission district’s vaudeville-era Brava Theater, a one-off show on Thursday night took advantage of the thirty-two channel Envelop space at the Midway in Dogpatch. The audience, seated on the floor in concentric circles, was treated to short audio-only works by three artists, which streamed in from all directions, creating something quite effectively immersive (especially with your eyes closed); a little too intense to be quite akin to ASMR, but certainly engaging some subliminal reflex arc tuned to delicately crafted sound. 

Works by Jim O’Rourke and Italian duo My Cat is an Alien took full advantage of this setup. These built intricately detailed soundscapes so far removed or transformed from your everyday realm of auditory experience that you find yourself playing a kind of blindfolded interpretive game with the sounds—where might they have come from, or what might they mean? It was like trying to guess the ingredients of a meal using only your sense of smell. Another piece, by local legend Amy X. Neuburg, was as much a spoken word performance-protest piece (apparently in dactylic hexameter) as an acoustic manipulation.  In a parallel and more just universe, Neuburg would be as recognizable for her original, vocally layered compositions as Bjork or Kanye West collaborator Caroline Shaw, as she rattled through a series of statements that were at once abstract and confrontational. 

The scene at Envelop, photo by Christopher Willits.

The effect, given the acoustically isotropic nature of the Envelop space, is that of pure sound engaged in some form of high-order communication. Especially given Neuburg’s stream of consciousness-style work, you develop the impression of being physically inside some kind of expanded functional brain, situated at the synaptic cleft where idea fragments cohere into something more final, accessing snapshots of the creative process in action.

Back at the Brava, most of the live performers found themselves marooned in the middle of the large, dark stage with perhaps one or two pieces of basic equipment. For the nine performers (three each night), every one of them contributing a fresh take to the subfield they explore, this was all that they needed. Marc Kate, for example, methodically manipulated a single synthesizer as an image melted into view behind him on a black screen, something resembling a kind of sped up map of tropical depressions represented with liquid dyes, or an abstract view of glassblowing performed underwater. 

Following this, Dohee Lee presented the aptly named Ritual, which sounded like a haunting message from the netherworld, some overdue awakening of ancient ancestral rage. With her hands held aloft, she used a kind of distance-based sensor to trigger, loop, and add effects to live recordings of her own voice until it fit into the haunting milieu she had constructed. Some red cabling wound around her dress seemed to mirror the red cables interconnecting her musical equipment, tying her conceptually into the action. An incantation or elegy for the country, for the land, for the now obvious ruination of the most optimistic dreams of our ancestors, a simultaneous warning and mourning, for an American dream that most would agree by now has been definitively deferred… It was captivating.

Carl Stone, SFEMF 2019.

Posted by Tom Duff on Sunday, September 15, 2019

On Sunday, Svenska Elektriska Operaensemblen (say it three times fast), who we learn, by way of introduction, once finished third in the Tour de France, sold more records than Joe Walsh in 2009, and abdicated the Swedish throne at one point, was even weirder. The auditory component, comprised mainly of looped fragments of the beginnings of sentences, vague and disconnected statements of emotional well-being, was accompanied by a live scrapbooking exercise with creepy Victorian portraiture and what appeared to be polar bear figurines. It was much more engaging than it sounds, the kind of way-out performance art that makes you question the accuracy of your senses and wonder, at times, what the hell is even happening. That’s the whole point, you just had to be there.

In contrast, Dana Jessen offered a work of welcome and simple beauty, broadcasting a high-fidelity soundscape during which I was transported to a lush and populous meadow at midnight, enveloped by an orchestra of swamp creatures, as low sounds of her partly improvisational bassoon work, rich with vibrato, suggested whales effortlessly traversing biological zones in deep water.

To close it all, sampling pioneer Carl Stone treated the audience to a send off of carefully articulated walls of sound, unleashing at the very end three compositions in quick succession that possessed all the manic energy of the best kind of Four Tet cut; a fusion of restraint and chaos that could be felt in the entire body as a brief tremor of euphoria.

This is deep sound-geek territory, the organizers even going so far as to modulate the voices of the emcees between acts with echo and reverb at random intervals, to occasionally hilarious effect, foreshadowing the innate acoustic and structural unpredictability of what followed. Overall, the selections were perhaps a bit too narrowly siloed in the experimental realm to make the proceedings truly representative of the current local electronic scene. But for the domain it covers (and uncovers), the festival finds its strength in doubling down on the avant-garde.

From legendary roots, a great new Afrobeat record

Kaleta and the Super Yamba Band. Photo by Florencia Saavedra

Every time Leon “Kaleta” Ligan-Majek—known as simply Kaleta—uses that Fela meets James Brown grunt, leaping from the breadbasket, that’s a cultural signpost indicating “get ready.” It could be an upcoming horn line stretch, some deadpan funk groove, or Kaleta’s readiness to unleash some “tear innit” guitar solo you did not see welling up just seconds ago. Whatever the case, donʻt mistake it for swag. Thatʻs Africa talking. 

Mèdaho which means “big brother” or “elder” or “teacher” in the native language of Benin, is the first full-length release from Kaleta & Super Yamba Band, who have been collaborating since 2017. This tribute to his brother, who passed in March, comes packed with sinewy organ frequencies, hallucinatory guitar strains moving about chuggy polyrhythms, and horn lines doggedly weaving throughout, carving space around vicious Fela-esque keyboard stabs. Released on the San Francisco-founded imprint Ubiquity—home to the Latin-jazz Cubop and rare-groove Luv Nʻ Haight series—Mèdaho is a really quick and tight nine-song run. Not just a tribute to the bands’ influencers…James Brown, Fela Kuti (one of Kaleta’s mentors), Orchestre Poly-Rythmo, El Rego and The Funkees. No. 

This is a market correction, re-establishing tradition. 

Afrobeat (or a reinterpreted, American version) runs through the Brooklyn Daptone label with their Budos Band and Antibalas outfits conquering dancefloors throughout the world. But Kaleta, born in the Benin Republic and then relocated to Lagos, Nigeria as a child, became a seasoned versatile musician in the late ’80s by playing in legend King Sunny Adeʻs touring group for three years. 

“I was at church when I heard King Sunny Ade sound-checking one block away,” recounted Kaleta. “By the time church service was over Sunny Ade’s gig was in full gear. I infiltrated the gathering, snuck into the front row to watch the show.

“At the stroke of the last note, right before Sunny Ade disappeared, I went between him and his bodyguard and told him point-blank my want to play guitar for his band. He invited me to his house. I went the next day with a cassette containing songs and guitar riffs I wrote with him in mind. The rest is history.”

Recording four albums with the juju pioneer, Kaleta went on to sharpen his craft further during the ’90s, in Egypt 80, the renowned band of Afrobeat icon Fela Kuti. During this stretch, a master class in rhythm, his grip on the West African genres, highlife, juju, and true Afrobeat became lethal. That training flourishes here on “Gogo Rock,” a bullish jam with keen drum swing and cowbells. The only instrumental on the album serves as a ʻcatch up to what we doʻ introduction. With a Santana-like guitar solo by Eric Burns, it wastes no time establishing that wah-wah pedals will be making their presence known. Get familiar.

“Goyito” a push-pull, call and response work of art, showcases the bass guitar and keyboard locked on to a mid-tempo shuffle. This earworm groove, moving at an incremental stride, provides a minimal-plinking organ line laying the path for subtle accents of congas, talking drum, candombe, bells, and shekeres to meander about in. While a boisterous honking sax presence rises up, marching us into the sunshine. This feel, channeling the spirit of Felaʻs classic “Water Get No Enemy”, “Goyito” fortifies that sacred trinity of the drum, horn, and organ-moving simultaneously. Loose and precise. All at once. 

Kaleta reminds us here why Afrobeat endures in time.

Listen to and order Mèdaho here.  

The classic funk gem that inspires one of SF’s best parties

Breakwater, with the boom.

With the most peculiar Frankensteining of crunchy guitar chords and Aquaman sonar wave oscillation, bum-rushing a punched-up, scoundrel-like groove. After unleashing the call: “Time to Release the beast!” (sung-shouted in your ear), Breakwater—an eight-man Philadelphia outfit from the ’80s—is about to drop the post-disco Kraken real low and dirty on ya. Just for the funk of it.

A quick once-over of the Splashdown album cover reveals these dudes sporting metallic silver once-pieces, with yellow moon boots completing the space-age cipher, in what seems to be a drained pool. You gotta think. What are these Philly Cats on?   

Uncanny genuineness. 

This punk-funk unit, in one form or another, been blowing wigs back on dancefloors for close to 40 years strong. Over the past decade, a new and patient listening audience, coming from a modernist outlook, found and honored the original composition in its primal sharp-fanged embodiment. Now, classic “Release the Beast” has just been re-released on Be With Records.

But smart partygoers already know the jam, especially if they’ve attended one of SF’s best parties, Sweater Funk (Sat/14 and every second Saturday at the Knockout) “Now, we all knew Daft Punk had sampled it“—on “Robot Rock” from 2001 mega-hit album Discovery—”and that it was probably the most recognizable cut on the record,” says DJ Guillermo aka Jacob Peña, Sweater Funk’s cofounder. “Some of us would avoid it for that reason. But there were a couple of Sweater Funk DJs like me who decided that we needed to take that shit back”

“To me, this tune reveals the ‘true’ heads,” DJ Guillermo says. “Ok, you know the sample, but can you get down like THIS? To the whole thing? ARE YOU REALLY DOWN?” 

The classic Sweater Funk crew

Sweater Funk, a sister party to LAʻs Funkmosphere, recontextualized late 70ʻs and early 80ʻs rare funk and disco sound for the streaming generation, starting 11 years ago in a Chinatown basement. This Bay Area institution was a church built on wax, not CDJs and Serrato. DJ Guillermo and several members of the crew always kept Breakwater on deck. Not quite an anthem, it was definitely a situation when the unorthodox funk-rock guitar, baby-making bass thumps, and space-oddity type synths jumped from the turntable to the soundsystem.

“Obviously, the Breakwater records were a huge influence on Sweater Funk and the sound we wanted the night to have. It was very funky, melodic and catchy, with some advanced arrangements and horns that punched through the mix and really put a bright positive sheen on the music” reflected Pena.

“It was exactly what we were looking for. That’s why we put them on our first flyer highlighting the records we were talking about since we were calling this stuff boogie and no one knew what that meant at the time. Jon Blunk, co-founder of Sweater Funk, hand-illustrated our first Sweater Funk logo to look like the Breakwater logo! Seahorse and all! Then there’s the Splashdown cover art! Those outfits! This was a defining record for us.”

Sat/14 and second Saturdays
The Knockout, SF. 
More info here

Still obsessed with ’80s sensation Animotion

Astrid Plane and Bill Wadhams of Animotion

The enduring obsession with ‘80s music isn’t difficult to explain, according to Astrid Plane.

Animotion’s founding frontwoman, who, along with her band, racked up three hit singles — “Obsession,” “Let Him Go,” and “I Engineer” — at the apex of the New Wave era, says it comes down to musical innovation, creative style, and, of course, the launch of MTV.

“It was so innovative with the synthesizer that we were getting to make some different sounds,” Plane told 48 Hills. “But we also had that edge of a whole new medium with MTV where people were able to see bands through their little mini-movies. There was a sassiness, colorfulness, and freedom that we had with the music, the bizarre clothes we got to wear, and the ability to be super creative with the look and the makeup.”

Animotion, named by Plane to convey energy and motion, skyrocketed to fame with the six-piece’s “Obsession” video. A tantalizing, percussion and synth-driven track about infatuation morphed into an MTV staple, thanks to acclaimed videomaker Ken Walz’s kooky visual interpretation, featuring singers Pane and Bill Wadham traipsing around a Hollywood Hills mansion in a variety of movie costumes.

Eighties fans will be able to rediscover this monumental moment in music history with the Lost ’80s Live show (Sun/31 at The Mountain Winery), featuring Animotion and 11 other fellow new wave acts including A Flock of Seagulls, Missing Persons, Wang Chung, Musical Youth, Real Life, The Motels, The Vapors, The Escape Club, Boys Don’t Cry, Original Members of When in Rome UK, and Trans X.

I spoke to Plane about the making of the “Obsession” video, the band’s breakup and makeup, and their latest album, Raise Your Expectations.

48 HILLS Animotion, which came out of your previous “retro science-fiction band” called Red Zone, was unique in that it was fronted by a man and a woman. Why did you decide to have two leads?

ASTRID PLANE [Three of us] were coming out of Red Zone, which had some really exciting elements of that wacky, zany, exciting new wave-style of music, almost a B-52s-ish vibe.

What was exciting about Red Zone was that we had a different thing going on with a male and female front person. The audience loved seeing the female-male interplay onstage, so I thought we should continue that.

In Bill [Wadhams], I found this guy that had these movie star looks and the talent of his songwriting. He had this elegance about him and I had more of the quirky wackiness and together we balanced each other in a strange way. It created this interesting oppositional chemistry.

48 HILLS “Obsession,” off Animotion’s self-titled debut, was the band’s first Top 10 hit. Did you suspect that “Obsession” would catch fire the way it did?

ASTRID PLANE We were in the studio recording songs and someone brought in “Obsession.” When I heard “Obsession,” I said, “That’s it. That’s a hit. That is the song for us.” I could see how people would like it, so we put our own stamp on it. It would burst up to the top of the charts, and we’re so lucky.

48 HILLS What stands out when you think back to the making of the iconic “Obsession” video?

ASTRID PLANE I wanted to represent what I felt was an important thing to be able to share with people, that this music is for us to have fun with. But we had one day to shoot it in this amazing Hollywood mansion and a very limited budget because we were unknown at the time, so we had to call in all kinds of favors. For instance, the blue dress that you picture me in was actually a dress that I had worn to my sister’s wedding the year before, and I dressed it up with tons of jewelry, an amazing belt, and that side ponytail hairdo that I’m famous for.

We also had friends who had access to a Hollywood costume supplier and so this friend of ours grabbed all these wonderful costumes like the gladiator and the samurai and the spaceman and an aviator and all those different characters. The headpiece that they got for me when I was in the Cleopatra scene, was actually worn by Elizabeth Taylor in the movie, Cleopatra. We just wanted to play and be a part of ‘80s-era MTV, which was so colorful and joyful.


48 HILLS Within a couple of years, Animotion’s original lineup would dissolve. What caused the breakup?

ASTRID PLANE There were some bad business decisions that were made and a change of management representation and all the craziness of trying to be married to five other people at the same time, especially when there are two front people with big egos.

But ultimately, it was down to all the songwriters that were trying to get involved in Animotion. Unfortunately, the record company felt like they needed to pull in every hit songwriter to make sure that we had another “Obsession.” It got to the point where they wanted to put songs on our album that I didn’t feel represented me at all and was not proud of. The initial adventurous, crazy, edgy stuff was all being watered down into this kind of music that I didn’t want to put my name on. That was the point that I left.

48 HILLS After leaving Animotion, you married the band’s founding keyboardist Paul Antonelli and had a daughter before splitting up nine years ago. What else were you doing in the period between Animotion’s breakup and reformation?

ASTRID PLANE Having a child took time because I did center my life around her for the first few years of her life. But as soon as she got old enough, I decided to explore some different ways to be in front of an audience and I did local musical theatre. I was in a show called Beehive that celebrated the women of music in the ‘60s and I got to portray these women who broke ground before me, like Brenda Lee, Dusty Springfield, and Janis Joplin.

In between, I’d put together bands. I’m based in Central California and even have a little local band now, which is called Astrid’s 80’s Remix and I do a lot of covers of ‘80s songs. I’m also playing a baritone ukulele, and then I have an amazing guitar player and keyboardist who nails all the hooks and an amazing drummer on cajon and bass drum and percussion. We all sing and give people a heck of a time listening to these ‘80s favorites in a whole new way.

48 HILLS I read that Animotion reunited in 2001 for a show at the request of the 94.7 KNRK radio station in Portland. How did that play out?

ASTRID PLANE Things blew up in a very ugly way in the end where Bill and I felt that we couldn’t even work together anymore. So we had not had much contact for a long time. But as it turned out, we were really lucky because we had both come to a place where we felt enough water was under the bridge where we can heal this relationship, and that’s, in fact, what we did.

We went down to a restaurant, shared a beer, talked over old times, and forgave each other. But it’s difficult to get along all the time, especially when you have two front people with strong egos and different ideas on how things should go. So when we had that moment to come together and pull some of the original players back together, we decided it was time. It was a very healing process and a moment of time that I was able to let go of all the hurt, pain, and regret.

48 HILLS I have to say that Animotion’s renewed energy is evident on its latest album, 2017’s stellar Raise Your Expectations

ASTRID PLANE The songs are so diverse in style and yet it all comes together. You’ve got the big cinematic-themed stuff that sounds like “We Don’t Need Another Hero” by Tina Turner and then you’ve got the quirkier, silly songs like “Bad Review,” about waking up in the morning and reading that bad review.

When you see us perform “Bad Review” — which we wrote about an LA Times critic who gave us a nasty review because she wasn’t immediately allowed backstage after we played our first sold-out show at The Roxy Theatre on Sunset Boulevard — it’s so funny, because it’s just a big F.U. number. The point is, we’re still here and playing packed shows.

48 HILLS How are things different for the band this time around?

ASTRID PLANE Ironically, now we’ve been together longer than we ever were and have done more shows than we ever did. Bill and I are so tight as friends, and even though we have different ideas about things, we’re mature enough to see that our differences are what makes it great.

Also, because we’re not fighting to stay on the top of the charts and on the radio, we’re just in it so the fans can have a good time enjoying the music—and to enjoy it ourselves. There’s not that success thing that used to be at stake. It’s more about being in the moment and appreciating what we have.


Sun/31, 6:30pm, $49-$175
The Mountain Winery, Saratoga
More info here.

Taylor Swift shows political side on new album ‘Lover’

Taylor Swift in the video for the title track of 'Lover'

Taylor Swift has done it again, unleashing a headline-grabbing album that also delivers musically—and, intriguingly, weaves in her new-found political voice. Seventh studio album Lover has gotten Swifties (and even some non-Swifties) riled up with excitement, with fans camping out overnight in Central Park to get a spot at her GMA performance, or rushing to Target as soon as it opened to grab numerous copies of the deluxe version of the CD.

Swift has been hinting at this album since February 2018, when her dark-colored Instagram feed became littered with bright, colorful posts. Her easter eggs—the term Swift uses for the hints she hides for fans to find—have been scattered across social media, interviews, her clothing, and her first singles and music videos. Many fans speculate she’s been dropping hints throughout the era of her last album, Reputation. The first single, “Me!” (featuring Brendon Urie of Panic! At the Disco) came out at the end of April, with a music video full of bright colors, ambiguous images and the reveal of a new cat.

In June—Pride month throughout most of the world—Swift released the song and music video for “You Need to Calm Down,” an unambiguously LGBTQ+ positive anthem filled with rainbows, queer icons and gay pride. And within the past month, Swift turned the sound around and released two emotional ballads, “The Archer” and “Lover,” that set the stage for a dynamic, mixed-emotions album.

Lover marks a significant turning point in Swift’s career, as it explores not just the emotions of love, happiness, and fear, but political topics such as Pride and feminism. It is also the first album she has made that she has owned, in terms of rights. Please refer to Swift’s recent skirmish with her previous record company, Big Machine Records, and manager Scooter Braun, which left her without any rights to the masters of her first six albums.

But despite any challenges Swift has faced in the music industry recently, she still managed to come through with a once-in-a-lifetime album. And coming from a T-Swift super fan, I think I can say it might be my favorite album (I’m sorry Speak Now and 1989). The album takes every good thing from her previous albums and enhances it: Reputation’s pop embrace, 1989‘s promotional acumen, Red‘s passion, Speak Now‘s lyrics, the energy of Fearless and the nostalgia of debut Taylor Swift. Swift explores new sounds and instrumentation—snappy percussion on “I Forgot You Existed,” the soft piano and drums in “Lover,” flute-like sounds in “Cornelia Street,” jazzy accents in False God, , but in a way that feels reminiscent of her previous albums.

Beyond just the instrumentation and vocals, it’s the deep-cutting and diary-style lyrics that really elevate this album. Swift released photocopies of her personal diary entries, as well as never-before-seen photos in her deluxe editions of the album. I couldn’t pick a favorite lyric, but I am currently obsessed with the bridge in Lover (“My hearts been borrowed and yours had been blue / All’s well that ends well to end up with you”) and the bridge in Daylight (“I once believed love would be (Burning Red) / But it’s Golden / Like daylight), which references Swift’s fourth studio album, Red.

And of course it wouldn’t be a Swift album without laughs and spoken lyrics embedded throughout. In her concluding statement in the last song, “Daylight,” she says, “I want to be defined by the things that I love, not the things I hate, not the things I’m afraid of, I’m afraid of, or the things that haunt me in the middle of the night. I, I just think that you are what you love.”

I think it’s also important to note the political undertones worked into the album. With Lover, Swift also shows she’s becoming a fighter.

Swift made her public political debut during the 2018 midterm elections with a searingly forthright Instagram post endorsing two Democratic candidates in Tennessee during a hotly contested election season. (The candidate she endorsed for governor lost.) She has since remained outspoken, encouraging her fans to educate themselves on issues and vote, creating a petition for the US Senate to support the Equality Act, advocating for LGBTQ rights. Previously, her apolitical stance with regards to liberal issues—tricky in her original genre, country—garnered criticism as she moved more into the general pop world. She has since said that she previously stayed quiet to protect her mental health, and would have endorsed Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential election. Maybe now she realizes that she would have critics no matter what she did or said, so it was time to speak her conscience.

The release of “You Need to Calm Down” generated a lot of conversations. Some critics argued that Swift was pandering to the queer community, while others defended her for using her platform to speak about such an important topic. Her friend and choreographer Todrick Hall, who starred in the music video, thanked Swift for using her platform to “change people’s hearts and minds with her music.” Many fans felt more noticed and loved by Swift because her public expression of being an ally also translated into action. Swift donated $113,000 to the LGBTQ advocacy group Tennessee Equality Project. “I believe in the fight for LGBTQ rights, and that any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation is WRONG,” Swift wrote in an Instagram post in October 2018.

Swift also has been a vocal advocate of feminism and removing double-standards with regard to pay and promotion, especially in the music industry. In “The Man,” Swift ponders whether she’d be more successful if she was male. “I’m so sick of running as fast as I can, wondering if I’d get there quicker if I was a man / And I’m so sick of them coming at me again, ‘cause if I was a man, then I’d be the man,” Swift sings.

The depth of the album, and the metaphors that I continue to find make each listen a new experience. Some of Swift’s songs supposedly allude to Trump’s America, such as “Miss Americana and the Heartbreak Prince” and “Death by a Thousand Cuts.” In a recent interview with the Guardian, Swift even took explicit aim at the U.S. President, saying, “We’re a democracy—at least we’re supposed to be—where you’re allowed to disagree, dissent, debate. I really think he thinks this is an autocracy.” She even brings presidential criticism full circle on the new album by featuring the Dixie Chicks, the country trio that was publicly lambasted for criticizing George W. Bush onto even of the Iraq Invasion.

For all these reasons and more, I can’t stop listening to Lover on repeat. I can feel the genuine passion radiating through each song, mixed with sass, vulnerability, and raw feeling. It’s an emotional rollercoaster that swept me up dancing and then dropped me down crying. Each time I listen to the songs again, I fall more in love. I’m looking forward to keeping tabs on Swift as she continues to find her voice in politics and does all she can in the 2020 election, as she has promised. But for now, I’ll be bopping around my room to “Paper Rings,” my current favorite song on the album.

Dance all night on Saturday and raise funds for 48 Hills!

Art by Keith Haring and Bill T. Jones

It’s my, er, 29th birthday and to celebrate we are rolling the clocks back at the Stud to a golden age of SF nightlife—the classic house ’80s and ’90s at spots like the EndUp, DV8, 177 Townsend, and so many more. Plus we’re raising funds to keep local media independent!

Poster art by Geoffrey Larue

This Sat/24, come out to hear legendary DJs David Harness and Rolo take us back! And a fabulous drag performance by Persia! The party is called Don’t Make Me Wait! and I can’t wait to see everyone dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Which, I mean …

Sat/24, 9pm-4am
$10/$5 before 11pm
A fundraiser for 48 Hills!
The Stud
399 Ninth St., SF
More info here