All Ears

A month of listening adventurously

Flower Piano

ALL EARS Why July? This month seems especially full of experimental, experiential, and just plain extra-lovely live music, much of it contemporary. SF has this kind of thing all year round of course, from last month’s Switchboard Festival at Brava Theater to the stunning (and almost impossible to get into) Soundbox. But for those looking to step into a warm womb of acoustical hijinks in this wintry month, here’s a brief guide. (For more great adventurous listening, check out the Lab, the Center for New Music, SFJazz, and the SF Conservatory of Music.)

A symphonic version of the Final Fantasy videogame? OK!
A symphonic version of the Final Fantasy videogame? OK!

SUMMER IN THE CITY (THROUGH JULY)
Get your feet wet (no chills, please!) with this peppy little series from the SF Symphony folks. Summer in the City may seem on the popper side — but let’s face it, hearing Beethoven’s monumental, ecstatic Ninth Symphony (Fri/8 and Sat/9) performed by the SF Symphony is a real treat. I’m particularly jazzed for An Evening in Paris with Madeleine Peyroux (Thu/21) who honed her guitar chops busking the Parisian boulevards, and A Russian Celebration (Fri/22), in which you get soaring Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, and Tchaikovsky. Also, the lovely, global-lounge-y champagne sounds of Pink Martini (Thu/28 and Fri/29) are always cool. The Symphony is also canny enough to hop on the soundtrack train, packing ’em in for glorious symphony accompaniment to Ratatouille (Sat/16 and Sun/17), Star Trek: 50th Anniversary Celebration (Thu/14 and Fri/15), and legendary videogame Final Fantasy VI, VII, and X (Wed/27). Check out more Summer in the City here.

48soundwave

SOUNDWAVE FESTIVAL (THROUGH THE SUMMER)
This biennial festival blows most others out of the water, both in length — it runs throughout the summer and sometimes beyond — and depth. This year there’s a sonic-architectural takeover of Fort Mason (check it out until July 10), a “Subliminal Cities” club night at the Cal Academy of Sciences, “Sounding Bodies” and “Invisible Fortress at Grace Cathedral, and the really cool AudiBus which takes you on a tour of the city, but sonically. Check out the full program here.

sfSound
sfSound

 sfSOUND FESTIVAL (JULY 8-10)
This is the annual freak out for contemporary music lovers (well, one of them anyway) — and if the massive interest in the SFSound organization’s Tape Music Festival earlier this year is any indication, you might want to get there early all three days to snag a seat (or bring an inflatable). Held in the gorgeous Gray Area space (the former Grand Cinema in the Mission), the sfSound Fest takes as its theme “[NOTATIONS | ORIENTATIONS ]” — “A three-concert celebration of 20th and 21st century music covering a wide range of graphical notation performed by some of the most passionate interpreters of such music in the Bay Area.” There are dozens of performances of works by tons of forward-thinking (and literal-notating) composers, including Earl Browne, Paulin Olivieros, Steve Reich, Morton Feldman, and more. Check out more here.

Flower Piano
Flower Piano

FLOWER PIANO
I went to this last year and it was one of the truly loveliest things I’ve encountered. And so simple: place 12 pianos throughout the 55-acre SF Botanical Gardens grounds, and allow whoever wants to to play them. The result? Professional duets, kids goofing around, flush-faced adults reliving the anxiety and joy of their childhood recital years, groups of enraptured listeners strewn at the bases of large trees. More info here.

PHONO DEL SOL (JULY 9)
The city’s chillest annual musical festival — hey, some local people are actually playing! — might be bursting at the seams this year with great talent, including The She’s, Hot Flash Geat Wave, Chairlift, Adam Vida, Alvvays, and many more. Also: skateboarding! Food! Sunshine (we hope!). All held in Potrero del Sol Park, natch. Check out more about the fest here.

An image by visual artist Kerry
An electrographic image by visual artist Kerry Laitala, who will be performing at Unseen.

UNSEEN (JULY 23 AND BIWEEKLY)
This insanely clever series by our very own 48 Hills web developer Matt Fisher pairs up local live visual projection artists with live musicmakers — and there is a real thirst for that, if recent sold-out happenings are any indication. The inspired pairings take the Gray Area building into other acoustic-visual dimensions. July 23 sees guests Wobbly,
Bill Thibault, Kerry Laitala, and Cyrus Tabar. More info here.

Danishta Rivero
Danishta Rivero

DRUMMER’S SECRET HANDSHAKE #2,   (July 20)
Secrets! There is an awesome new experimental music series happening in the Upper Haigh, deep within the Red Victorian. Here’s the scoop for the July edition: Drummer’s Secret Handshake #2 (percussionist performing an action entitled “Economimesis”), John Krausbauer and David Kendall (wondrous washes of noise), and Danishta Rivero (“It’s no longer a question of whether you’re a brain in a jar, but what qualia is the jar made of and is the brain yours alone? Danishta Rivero pokes pitch dark fun at these questions, probing an actual jar filled with CSF and surrounding lightforms. Using multivalent circuits and specialized contractions of the laryngopharynx, Rivero agitates rods of Corti, gypsum, superior temporal gyrus, glass, epidermis, and concrete in stochastic sympathy. If during her performance you remain unaware of any jar, continue to row row row, gently.) How heady, how rad. Check out more info here.

 

Switchboard Music Fest lights up with new sounds

Tyondai Braxton headlines Sat/18's Switchboard Music Festival

ALL EARS Festival fatigue can come on quickly — I’m exhausted just looking at the recently rereleased Treasure Island Music Festival lineup — especially when you’re confronted by the prospect of one more baking afternoon/freezing evening watching familiar performers trot out well-branded performances (if you can even see them through the see of trendy felt hats and flower crowns).

An antidote, a refresher? Saturday’s Switchboard Music Festival, which takes over Brava Theatre, 1pm-9pm. Focussing on eclectic, experimental, and just plain humanly beautiful sounds, Switchboard — now in its ninth year — is almost more an environmental happening than a typical festival.

Listeners wander in and out of Brava all day, taking in wildly varying sounds, from local vocal choruses and jazz soloists to quirky string quartets and mad scientist electronic wizards.

Tyondai Braxton headlines Sat/18's Switchboard Music Festival
Tyondai Braxton headlines Sat/18’s Switchboard Music Festival

Last year, the festival swung from Bay Area treasure Kitka’s haunting Bulgarian folk songs to a huge, all-star ensemble’s hour-long “re-do” rendition of Berkeley composer Terry Riley’s legendary 1971 “In C” without missing a beat.

The SF Girls Chorus performs works by Philip Glass and Lisa Bielawa at Switchboard
The SF Girls Chorus performs works by Philip Glass and Lisa Bielawa at Switchboard

This year offers the same eclectic wonders, this year with a few recognizable indie names int he mix. There’s still plenty of invention. Witness Tonal Masher, aka Aram Shelton (“To find a new application for the use of his 1937 Conn alto saxophone, Shelton has chosen to remove the reed and mouthpiece, and work with the tones that are a result of feedback via microphone and amplification, and the percussive elements of keys and pads”).

Or how about a piece called Body of Your Dreams. (“JacobTV’s Body of your Dreams for piano and soundtrack samples an Abtronic Pro commercial — ‘It’s one of the easiest ways ever to get your body in the shape you want it…’. Paired with a rhythmic solo piano, performed by Anne Rainwater, it’s a humorous and on-the-nose portrayal of a society obsessed with slimness.”)

Beyond that, one of our most thrilling experimental duos, The Living Earth Show, is taking a detour into unexpected pop, teaming up with avant-garde opera composer Ken Ueno and throat-singer Majel Connory — now there’s an experiment! Well-known indie names include former SFer Dominique Leone, trio Religious Girls, and Tyondai Braxton, who’ll be headlining the show.

Add to that the SF Girls Chorus singing Philip Glass, the Del Sol Quartet performing electro-acoustical music by local composer Mason Bates, piano duo ZOFO tackling another Riley piece, “Prating Mantis Rag” …… I’m kind of freaking out about it.

Switchboard programmers Ryan Brown, Jeff Anderle, and Annie Phillips never fail to bring something new to the table each year. I asked Annie over email what she felt was particularly different or new this year.

“One thing that’s special about Switchboard this year is we’re bringing back a couple of artists who have relocated to New York City — Dominique Leone and Aaron Novik — which to me is interesting because that seems to be the #1 location competition: NYC or SF?” Annie replied.

“Dominique’s playing music from a record he wrote about San Francisco with a group of all-star locals, and Aaron’s performing new music with his project O+O+ with a really similar group of players, and throughout the day you’ll notice many familiar faces on stage.

“I think that speaks to the broad interest and abilities of the Bay Area’s music scene: So many of the musicians are incredibly diverse, and very talented across a wide spectrum of genres, which makes us listeners very lucky.

Julius Eastman’s 1973 piece 'Stay On It' is one of the first minimalist works to show the influence of pop music. Written for an indeterminate ensemble, 'Stay On It' will be performed by festival artists, co-directors, and Switchboard alumni.
Julius Eastman’s 1973 piece ‘Stay On It’ is one of the first minimalist works to show the influence of pop music. Written for an indeterminate ensemble, ‘Stay On It’ will be performed by festival artists, co-directors, and Switchboard alumni.

“From speaking with many of our artists this year, it seems like they are treating Switchboard as a platform to perform something they wouldn’t have a chance to otherwise, which as a co-director makes me very happy. That’s true of the first set, Julius Eastman’s Stay On It, and of the third set, with Majel Connery, Ken Ueno, and The Living Earth Show, and to a certain extent all of the others. It makes us very happy to be able to present so much music that wouldn’t get a chance to be seen this way otherwise.”

SWITCHBOARD MUSIC FESTIVAL
Sat/18, 1pm-9pm, $20-$25
Brava Theatre, SF.
Tickets and more info here

David Bowie, Starman

48 Hills: The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual celebrated David Bowie's birthday last Friday with a theatrical spectacular at the Chapel.
The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual celebrated David Bowie's birthday last Friday with a theatrical spectacular at the Chapel.
48 Hills: The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual celebrated David Bowie's birthday last Friday with a theatrical spectacular at the Chapel.
The First Church of the Sacred Silversexual celebrated David Bowie’s birthday last Friday with a theatrical spectacular at the Chapel, its fifth annual “Bowie Bash” (and reportedly its last).

By Reverend Lysol of the First Church of the Sacred Silversexual

Oh you pretty things
Don’t you know you’re driving your mamas and papas insane?
Let me make it plain:
Gotta make way for the Homo Superior

Velvet Goldmine, a movie David Bowie refused to sign off on, has a moment where Christian Bale’s character jumps up in the middle of his teenage living room, points at the Not-Really-Bowie-Because-He-Threatened-To-Sue on the TV screen, turns to his dad and exclaims “That’s me, Dad!  That’s me!”

That is David Bowie’s true legacy.  The patron saint of the misfit, the outcast.  For generations now, he has served as a beacon of hope, that you can live in this world and Be Different, that the sad resignation of conformity presented by a Pink Floydesque modern industrial pastiche need not crush you into shape.

Pussy Riot, unmasked

A couple of weeks back I found myself scrambling around the internet trying to glean the password for the Citibank Visa Card ticket presale to… an Iggy Pop concert.

Kind of a depressing moment actually, in realizing such a corporate avenue as my only angle on Iggy. And by the time I caught wind of the hefty ticket prices to match, I was not only left dejected of purpose, but exhausted with the dismal state of rock music in 2016. How did we get to this point? When did it require a small bank loan to see a concert? Better yet, where did all the edgy and dangerous bands go? In light of the attacks on Paris, of Donald Trump as a viable U.S presidential candidate, and a long laundry list of appalling police shootings, why is there so little urgency?

48 HIlls: Pussy Rioters Maria "Masha" Alyokhina and Ksenia Zhivago. Photo by Charles Russo.
Pussy Rioters Ksenia Zhivago (left) and Maria “Masha” Alyokhina. Photo by Charles Russo.

As I entered the Warfield theater last Wednesday night to see the Russian punk-activist collective Pussy Riot, all of these questions resurfaced on my mind, but with a glimmer of hope. After all, if anyone could offer a glimpse of activism and urgency, it would be these young women from Russia. Consider this — as if taking on the oppressive policies of walking-human-rights-violation Vladimir Putin was not enough of a monumental task, Pussy Riot somehow still found time to address social issues here within the US, by tackling the Eric Garner killing at the hands of NYPD with their 2015 video “I Can’t Breathe.”

Still active at home, their most recent video — “CHAIKA,” released earlier last week — is a scathing parody of the Russian prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika, who jailed three members of the group for hooliganism in 2012. In this regard – Pussy Riot, seemed to be the logical antidote to my earlier anxieties.

Wednesday night’s event at the Warfield was not a performance, but rather a discussion moderated by local writer and Russian native Zarina Zabrisky, covering myriad topics of activism, LGBT Rights, political prisoners, and a general state of existence under the policies of Putin. The evening started with an abbreviated screening of the upcoming documentary Pussy vs. Putin (by Russian filmmaker Alexander Cheparukhin), which showcases a wealth of raw from-the-trenches footage of the group staging protests around Russia in the face of belligerent police and hardline religious zealotry.

Amid the footage of their now infamous 2012 Punk Prayer protest at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior, a beleaguered clergy women, confounded by the scene unraveling in front of her, simply blurts out, “What a provocation!” Indeed.

48 Hills: Pussy premiered an early version of documentary 'Pussy vs. Putin'. Photo by Charles Russo
Pussy premiered an early version of documentary ‘Pussy vs. Putin’. Photo by Charles Russo

Yet for as interesting as the film and the discussion was at times, the event was pretty disjointed. Ranging from issues with translation, to an awkward rapport with the moderator and clunky handling of the Q&A session, the evening just never quite seemed to gel. And while Pussy Rioter Maria “Masha” Alyokhina was in attendance (joined by Russian prison reform activist and seemingly newer Pussy Riot member Ksenia Zhivago), her well-known counterpart Nadezhda Tolokonnikova (who carries the new “CHAIKA” video) was not.

48 HIlls: More footage from the 'Pussy vs Putin' documentary. Photo by Charles Russo
The duo spoke of their support for Russian artist Petr Pavlensky. Photo by Charles Russo

It was unfortunate to see this event plod along, because the members of Pussy Riot had an array of interesting topics to speak on, including Zhivago’s insight into the dismantling of Moscow’s once vibrant LGBT movement, and the group’s support for Russian political performance artist Petr Pavlensky. There were some great lighter moments as well, such as when Alyokhina explained that since their Cathedral protest, a few different Russian citizens have formally filed charges against Pussy Riot for causing them severe mental distress.

As the night progressed, the main issue with the discussions seemed to be a mismatch of expectations within the audience. After all, a seated talk about human rights is simply not the same experience as a rebellious rock performance under looming threat of police repression.

In fact, when the lights came up after the documentary screening, a heckler shouted, “Enough with your unedited footage, bring out Pussy Riot.” Moderator Zabrisky addressed this issue at one point, explaining how many people seemed to desire a “fashionable” experience from Pussy Riot, as opposed to the hard realities of a “real” human rights struggle.

There were still moments of satire. Photo by Charles Russo
There were still moments of satire. Photo by Charles Russo

Here’s the thing though: Pussy Riot should absolutely tour as a band, because all of these things can be successfully merged. Both their activism and passion for punk agitprop could fuse into something formidable. To begin with, the concerts would garner a huge amount of media (and therefore awareness) for their causes, while also inspiring a much greater cross-section of younger fans towards activism. Most notably though, a Pussy Riot tour would generate the kind of resources that the band needs if they are going to continue going head-to-head with the Putin regime. And if a few spectators get a “fashionable” experience in the process, the benefits still outweigh the nonsense.

However, both Alyokhina and Tolokonnikova have already received criticism from other segments of the collective from deviating outside the lines of the group’s principles, for attaching specific faces to Pussy Riot, and for participating in for-profit events. And in this sense, maybe a tour isn’t the right fit for them. If they begin openly shedding their founding principals one after the next, well … from there the Citibank Visa Card Pussy Riot presale probably wouldn’t be far off.

DJ Minx comes through

DJ Minx, spinning in Detroit

A couple of weekends ago, SF saw a genius cluster of female DJs headlining various parties: Honey Dijon at Public Works, Carrie Morrison at Polyglamorous, and, at F8, exhilarating new-ish female- and trans-promoting DJ/producer collective Discwoman. It was a wondrous conjunction, one that we’re slowly starting to see more of, but one that still requires not just the deliberate hand of promoters but outstanding support of the local community.

This weekend, we’re about to get hit with more excellent, female-powered dance floor energy, this time courtesy of Honey Soundsystem at Public Works, Sat/16. That rapidly rising queer collective is bringing in two of the biggest names in techno right now, Steffi and the Black Madonna. But they’re also bringing in someone who’s been burning up the underground for decades — including with her pioneering Women on Wax project that sought 20 years ago to bring more equity behind the decks: DJ Minx.

Minx, giving you looks.
Minx, giving you looks.

“Twenty years ago the atmosphere was so very different,” Minx told me over the phone from Detroit. “There was such a lack of bookings for female DJs. In fact, the major reason I started Women on Wax was that so many frustrated women were approaching me asking how I did things, how it was that I was getting gigs and traveling, how to establish themselves to be successful. I realized there was a lack of anything out there that specifically promoted women.

“And I really feel we all helped boost each other up from those days. However, the fact that there are a few more women out there doesn’t mean it’s necessarily gotten any easier. There’s still a lack of respect out there for female DJs that still goes on. That’s the the only way I can really describe it: a lack of respect. As they say, it’s a man’s world. But as I say, ‘If you can bring it, you can do it.'”

Minx was long a fixture on the Detroit house scene — as a resident of the legendary Motor club, she opened for everyone from Derrick May to Africa Bambaataa. She hosted the essential Deep Space Radio show, and was one of the DJs to perform at the first Detroit Electronic Music Festival in 2000.

But she got a surreal international big break when one of her tracks off a 2004 EP she put out started taking Europe by storm — completely unbeknownst to her.

“I got this text from Berlin from (former Detroit DJ and label head) Magda saying, ‘that track is really slaying out here!’ I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. And then Richie Hawtin’s manager Tim Price called and told me he wanted to know more about that one track everyone was playing, and if I had any more like it. I heard Richie in the background yelling ‘I want to meet with you next time I’m there!’ I still had no idea what they were talking about,” Minx told me, laughing.

The track was “A Walk in the Park” — a simple, addictive, yet uncanny groove that Minx told me she put together in a matter of minutes. Little did she know that it was ruling dance floors in Berlin, Amsterdam, and beyond.

“Richie told me, ‘You have no idea what this track does to dance floors.’ I finally got to meet up with him and hear him play it — in fact, he had just finished playing it when I arrived, but he said, ‘Watch this,’ and threw it on again, and the place went absolutely crazy. I couldn’t believe it,” Minx told me.

“A Walk in the Park” was eventually released on Hawtin’s Minus label and remixed by Ricardo Villalobos, and is now regarded as a minimal techno classic. Since then, Minx’s Women on Wax label has released a bevy of deep and groovy yet singular-sounding records that have upped the profile of several other women in the techno world.

Minx herself brings an intensely glamorous energy to the decks, bouncing around with her fan in hand, one side-step away from vogueing as she works the EQs. Although I’ve followed her for years on the deep-and-soulful underground circuit, it’s been a treat to see her reach new audiences via what’s been labeled “the new gay underground,” and to continue building momentum while remaining true to her hometown, Detroit.

“Let’s just say about 85 percent of my bookings aren’t in Detroit,” Minx told me with a bit of ruefulness. “It’s not like the days of Motor, there is nothing like that now, although the scene is still here.”

Instead, she’s been in demand at queer parties like Hot Mass in Pittsburgh (“They dance hard as hell at Hot Mass, so much the walls drip!”) and Honey, where she headlined Pride last year, and now will join the all-female headliner line-up on Saturday.

“When I heard it was all females playing this party and gay people organizing it, I knew I had to be a part of it,” Minx told me. “I can’t wait to be out there with you.”

“I think one of the keys to my success is that I don’t just stick to one particular genre of music,” she continued. “I play stuff that makes me jump around. And when I can play a party and look out and see a broad spectrum of people, every kind of person dancing out there with me … well, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?”

HONEY SOUNDSYSTEM WITH DJ MINX, STEFFI (LIVE), AND THE BLACK MADONNA 
Sat/16, 9:30pm-4am, $20
Public Works, SF.
Tickets and more info here

 

 

ALL EARS: 15 great DJ mixes for the new year

Brazilian psychedelia, Taiwanese disco, Israeli “emotive techno,” lost new wave …. DJ mixes from the last year or so that deserve to be heard.

DJ MIxes for 2015: Mike Servito
Detroit/NYC DJ Mike Servitor broke through this year with his acid-heavy “No Way Back” mix

By Marke B.

ALL EARS This year, I stepped out as a professional DJ for the first time in who knows when — and it was hard! But totally worth it. (Hopefully to dancers as well). Playing records you love to a crowded floor is a great feeling, so kudos to the people who do it for life. The fact that there are all kinds of shiny apps out there to make it easier paradoxically forces the real DJ talents to up their game, whether in the rarity, quality, and/or intelligence of their selections, their “brand” identity and cohesiveness, or just their ballsy joy in the belief that they can pull off something as dicey as making a sea of strangers fall in love. Really you need all those elements to make it happen — if anything, 2014 has taught us how many empty “brands” there are out there when it comes to taking to the decks.

DJ Mixes for 2015: The Black Madonna
Chicago’s The Black Madonna was everywhere, bringing her special all-inclusive “disco” sound from Berlin to our backyard.

Anyway, digressions. There’s such a sheer overload of mixes out there that there’s no way I’m going to decide what was “best” from 2014, which depends upon being able to hear and weigh everything out there. The mixes below are the ones that fascinated me and opened new worlds in my earbuds. They span all kinds of genres and come from everywhere. They’re ones I’ll take with me into the brand new year, fresh with wonder at what I’ll hear next.

Landslide on the dance floor: Fleetmac Wood party arrives, trailing golden shawls and waistcoats

London export party summons classic Fleetwood Mac spirit with new versions of songs and choice gems from the vault, Sat/17 at Public Works. 

fmwstevie

By Marke B.

ALL EARS It’s been a few years since the disco edit resurgence — which used recent technology to take songs apart and rearrange their elements into kaleidoscopic new shapes — moved away from the expected floor-stompers and into a more psychedelic rock and 1970s AOR directions. It was a wonderful opening of nightlife’s musical palate, equal parts mellow lysergic tang and fine chablis.

Perhaps the apex of the movement is upon us: Other than a (much hoped-for) night of hi-hat-spritzed Led Zeppelin, a dance affair that flies us through Fleetwood Mac’s back catalogue on a mirrorball of dazzling dance-floor sounds seems about as far as this thing can go. Hand me a shawl, a tambourine, and possibly a little spoon: I’ll hop aboard.

Fleetmac Wood celebrates Fleetwood Mac
Hands up for Big Love: revelers sing along at a Fleetmac Wood party

Fleetmac Wood, the roving Fleetwood-centric party that started in London and has since hit several other cities, comes to our shores with “Big Love Disco” Sat/17 at Public Works — shores, you may recall, that hosted the recording of Rumours. That’s kind of a lot to live up to. But with a welcoming spirit, some clever edits, plenty of sing-alongs, choice voiceover snippets from the tumultuous foursome, and a handful of gold dust, they’ll be summoning up that sparkling classic ’70s spirit of yore.

Party Radar: All the Bowie bashes

48bowieparty

PARTY RADAR Hey, all the young dudes, the Starman has ascended. And while Sir David Bowie’s influence on nightlife has already been incalculable, from placing club legends Klaus Nomi and Joey Arias on an SNL stage to inadvertently inventing dancehall reggae, we’ll still feel the after-hours ripples for years to come.

So naturally, local nightlife is rising to pay tribute to the always fabulously dressed shape-shifter. The sun machine is coming down, and we’re gonna have a party.
Here are highlights so far (let me know of any more at [email protected]).

Synth City

Legendary Bay Area synth wiz Suzanne Ciani appears at Sync 01

It may not officially be National Modular Synth Day, but it’ll sure feel like it Sat/5 in San Francisco. Not one but two synthesizer expos will be held in the city on Saturday.

Sync 01, at Codeword in SoMA, will feature live performances and hands-on exhibits from an assortment of small and longtime manufacturers. Across town in the Mission, at Gray Area Art + Technology, synth maker Moog sponsor will sponsor Dial-Tones, an event that combines workshops and an evening concert headlined by Suzanne Ciani. Both events are free, though Dial-Tones has emphasized limited capacity, especially for the workshops.

Legendary Bay Area synth wiz Suzanne Ciani appears at Dial-Tones
Legendary Bay Area synth wiz Suzanne Ciani appears at Sync 01

More than a dozen electronic instrument manufacturers will be hosted at Sync 01, including local legends Roger Linn and Dave Smith, as well as newer outfits including Synthrotek, Makenoise, and Audio Damage. It’s Audio Damage’s co-founder, Chris Randall, who created Sync 01. There will also be live performances by Rodent, Bana Haffar, James Cigler, and Tyler Thompson.

Reached via email in Phoenix, Arizona, where he lives, Randall explained how Sync 01 came together: “I was thinking about having an Audio Damage clinic at one of our retail partners in the Bay Area, since your city is one of the main loci of experimental music (and thus our customer base). The opportunity presented itself, through the good graces of the owner of Codeword [a new venue from the owners of DNA Lounge], to have an event with a somewhat larger scope, and it just kind of fell in to place.

“It’s worth noting that, as experimental and boutique synth makers, we don’t really have anywhere to advertise, and our products aren’t in every Guitar Center in the country,” said Randall, who was born in 1968 and is best known outside the synth realm as a founding member of the industrial rock band Sister Machine Gun. “These sorts of events are how we connect with the users, so we’re always looking for ways to make them happen.”

Dial-Tones is a spinoff of the annual Moogfest, a kind of patch-cord Coachella held in Durham, North Carolina, not far from pioneering synth manufacturer Moog’s Asheville headquarters. The two March 5 events will overlap, and Sync 01 ends early enough that you can head across town to catch the 9pm headlining set by Bay Area synth legend Suzanne Ciani.

Ciani, who is based in Mill Valley, will be performing at Moofest in May this year, along with Grimes, Laurie Anderson, the Orb, sunn 0))), Gary Numan, and numerous other acts. At Dial-Tones she’ll be playing what’s been described as her first solo performance on the Buchla synthesizer in four decades.

Asked via email how she’s rehearsing for Dial-Tones, she explained, “I’m preparing by just spending time with the Buchla system. If you just be with it and interact with it and continue to get to know it, things start to happen. My new system is very, very different from the old one, as I am discovering, and it’s been a challenge to let go of ingrained expectations and focus on what is possible now.”

Ciani, a five-time Grammy nominee in the New Age category, will be performing in surround sound, which is a requisite for her. “I always insisted on performing in quad,” she says, “and even turned down a concert once at Lincoln Center because they wouldn’t put up two additional speakers.”

Ciani, who was born in 1946 and studied with computer music legends Max Matthews and John Chowning at Stanford University, says she uses lots of different tools in her recordings, but the Buchla is the focus of her live shows. She keeps up with the newer technology, such as Moog’s expanding instrument catalog and the sort of equipment that will be on view across town at Sync 01.

And with Ciani’s experience comes some advice. “I recently went to NAMM,” she says of the annual National Association of Music Merchants trade show, “and was awed by the number of young modular synth designers. This reminds me of the exciting period of early analog synths when instruments were identified with their individual designers as opposed to a generic company: Don [Buchla], Tom [Oberheim], Dave [Smith], etc. I hope that this time around the inventors stay in control.”

SYNC 01
Sat/5, 4pm-8pm, free
Codeword
917 Folsom, SF
More info here

DIAL-TONES
Sat/5, 12:30pm to 11:30pm, free
Gray Area Art + Technology
2665 Mission, SF
More info here 

 

33rd SF Jazz Fest buzzes with diverse styles, global sounds

Ambitious sonic reach includes multicultural soul, rollicking boogie-woogie, experimental R&B, country crossovers, big brass, and Cuban classics. 

SF Jazzfest welcomes Ethiopian-Israeli singer and instrumentalist Ester Rada
SF Jazzfest welcomes Ethiopian-Israeli singer and instrumentalist Ester Rada, June 18

By Marke B.

ALL EARS  The 33rd annual installment of the SF Jazz Fest doesn’t hit until June, but the recently announced lineup — as well as a feast of a summer season — already has me slavering. Tickets go on sale for members April 1, with more released for everyone on April 15, but it’s good to go in with a well-prepped game plan, especially if you love discovering new music.

The Jazz Fest has always been a magnet for varied sound, but this year seems especially wide-eared and youthful. That may just be a result of the globalized musical times we’re living in, and the renewed interest in experimental genre explorations — and I’m all for it.

Hammond B-3 organ genius Dr. Lonnie Smith comes to SF Jazz Fest, June 20 and 21
Hammond B-3 organ genius Dr. Lonnie Smith comes to SF Jazz Fest, June 20 and 21

June 9-21 sees 43 SF Jazz Fest concerts at the SFJazz homebase and various venues. After that, the SFJazz Summer Sessions brings dozens and dozens more to the SFJazz center. Jazz Fest highlights for me include Ethiopian/Israeli singer Ester Rada, epic R&B experimentalists Robert Glasper Trio, Hammond B-3 organ legend Dr. Lonnie Smith, groovy young Texans Snarky Puppy, local pop-soul sensation Goapele, percussion wizard Pedrito Martinez, and a tribute to legendary Cuban pianist and composer Ernesto Lecouno.