Thursday, January 28, 2016

Sammie nominations: vote for your favourite local stars! (If you can find them)

Every year, the SN&R (Sacramento News and Review) sponsors the Sammie awards to recognize local musicians... and every year, there are some huge gaps in the list of nominees. While this year's list contains musicians who absolutely should be recognized--like Some Fear None, like Heat of Damage (teen section only? what about their album???)--there are a whole slew of others who are missing, or miscategorised, or whose album releases have been forgotten.

Did we do something wrong? Did we miss the point at which we should nominate for inclusion in the list? SN&R, can we fix this next year??? You didn't ask for my opinion... you never answer my emails... and I guess you never read this blog, either, 'cos if you had, you might have included others in your list. #sourgrapes

Not to detract from voting for those who DID make it to the list! Go vote now, here:  and read more info on the awards here.

Congratulations to those who made it to the nominee list. I just wish it was more representative of this city's wonderful, vibrant music scene.

Friday, January 22, 2016

I don't want to write about David Bowie dying. I really don't.

It's been ten, eleven days since I awoke to find the world, changed, missing a hero. It's been days and nights filled with lots of work, and also with unpacking boxes and arranging the new home and office; with contractors and repair guys and delivery guys and runs here-and-there and all sorts of other stuff that quite rightly took priority over writing here but... the truth is, I just didn't, and don't, want to write about David Bowie dying.

It's not that I was his greatest fan ever; I don't even have every single one of his albums (I know, I checked), nor did I follow him around the world to hear him live at every chance (not once), nor can I quote the track order of every album nor be sure exactly which year and month Starman was a hit (both times)... yet with every day that has passed since waking up to the news on January 11th 2016, I realise how much I miss him already.

It's more than his music, his art, his talent being so strong, so ahead, so explorative and risky and so darn fantastically good. It's all that: but also, it's that he's always been here.

I hear Rock'n'Roll suicide, and I'm sitting in a youth club, a boy-man miming to the words, trying to draw my attention. I hear Fame, and I'm in a small club in North Norfolk, a row of girls wearing identical midi-skirts and flat, heavy platform shoes, dancing like synchro, my best friend and I the odd ones, denims and a USA T-shirt, my favourite shirt that long hot summer; I hear Diamond Dogs, and I'm in an apartment in a small town in the smallest county in England, talking about it with a pal when both our partners just didn't get it, and together listening to the album over, and over, again... I hear Dancing in the Street, and a feeling of such happiness rolls in... I hear Wild Is The Wind, and I'm with a long-gone-too-early friend-and-then-family-member, when we were still both alive and hopeful and careless... I hear that Dale "Buffin" Griffin, drummer with Mott the Hoople, also passed away this week, and All The Young Dudes starts playing in my head, and of course, that's Bowie's song too.

Songs weaving in and out of everything important and unimportant and memorable that ever happened... and I then I hear Lazarus, and I know where he is now.

(See? Artist till the end... and beyond. He really is the Starman now.)

So much music. So much talent. So much life, and heart, and soul. So much Bowie. A whole lifetime, shared vicariously, by so many of us. And Blackstar? It's sheer, painful, beautiful, wonderful genius.

No, I'm not the best fan, not by a long way. But... he made the world light, and he's left a hole in my heart.

I really don't want to write about David Bowie dying... so let's listen once again. This isn't the most unique, or meaningful, or intricate song; it's not anything-other-than-happy (plus of course, Mr. Jagger). But it's pure Bowie: and it shows, be yourself, don't hold back, just live life and love life to the full.

Rest in peace? Sure... but keep those memories going, reminding us that every moment is precious, every day a gift, and every second is art. I miss you already, Mr. Jones.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Dead Meadow, and Slow Season, and an evening inside a lava lamp... brilliant!

Lights by Mad Alchemy
Mad Alchemy lighting
You know those cold, rainy, winter evenings when all you want to do is stay home and fall asleep on the sofa, while pretending to watch something mediocre on the TV, and someone insists on dragging you out to a show, and you're thinking about your bed and sleep but pick up a camera and go along anyway, and then spend the evening wishing you were falling asleep in front of the TV? Well that was Tuesday evening, until you get to the bit about wishing you were back home, because... well because this show was absolutely worth leaving home for, anywhere you have the opportunity to catch a show. Keep an eye on their websites for new tour dates.

I came away with two beautifully-produced, brand-new vinyls (green!!!), Dead Meadow from Dead Meadow, and Mountains from Slow Season, and the turntable is spinning...

The Starlite Lounge is a smaller venue in midtown Sacramento, which often has live music in the upstairs room; a small stage and smaller staging area for the bands, atmosphere lighting, bars upstairs and down. It's a gathering-place where people listen to music, rather than a concert hall. Tuesday evening, the upstairs room was packed with people for the three bands on the list: headliners Dead Meadow, now based in Los Angeles: Sacramento's SLA (Sonic Love Affair) mix of punk and rock, and Slow Season from Visalia, California.

Dead Meadow
Dead Meadow, Sacramento
Lighting for the evening was courtesy of Mad Alchemy. Psychedelically cool swirls of coloured water and oil flowing over the backdrop, the performers, the audience. We were inside a late-sixties-early-seventies lava-lamp-bubble-writing time-warp of dreamy light, hypnotized and watching the bubbles form islands and life and black holes and destruction and regeneration and and and... It's quite amazing what you can do with a few now-defunct overhead projectors, glass, and special ingredients. (Wouldn't this be an improvement to your meeting rooms, now that you don't use transparencies for presentations?)

Jason Simon, vocals and guitar, Dead Meadow
Jason Simon, vocals and guitar, Dead Meadow
Dead Meadow have earned a "stoner rock" tag, and the sound very much suited to laying back in a dark, smoky room full of pillows and soft fabrics and Indian motifs and incense and the unnoticed passage of time. The music is intricate and smooth at the same time; fuzz guitar, interwoven bass, dreamy vocals, and some very intense drumming. Drummer Mark Laughlin's style is mesmerising.. vertical all the way. Go see them, you'll understand. These guys have toured the world and have several albums that I must now listen to... don't miss them when they head your way.

Slow Season
Slow Season, Sacramento
Slow Season, reminiscent of early '70s heavy rock; my immediate impression? Led Zeppelin without the screeching, I liked them very much, and they win the award for the first American band I have ever seen who named Welsh legends Budgie as an influence. No kidding... take a listen to Mountains.

A few more photos in the Dead Meadow and Slow Season photo galleries, just click!

(And now I've mentioned Budgie, I won't get Parents out of my head for days...)

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

BottleRock Napa's lineup for 2016 is out--and it's pretty darn amazing!

Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, Florence and the Machine, Death Cab for Cutie, Ziggy Marley, Gogol Bordello, The Joy Formidable, and about a million others. Check out the full lineup here:  Music, wine, food, craft brew, and even more music... it's going to be a brilliant weekend!!! And all in beautiful Napa, at a beautiful time of the year.

Dates are May 27th - 29th. Tickets go on sale on January 7th--that's two days from now! Set a reminder in your calendar!

Friday, January 1, 2016

A gentle start to the new year: Nad Sylvan's Courting the Widow

Steve Hackett, Genesis Revisited, Cropredy 2014
Nad Sylvan
The first time I heard Nad Sylvan was in 2014, on stage at Fairport Convention's Cropredy festival, in the green English countryside, where Steve Hackett was performing Genesis Revisited, and Nad was the vocalist. Never having been a crazy-mad-in-a-prog-way Genesis fan, I was able to listen without comparing his style to either Peter Gabriel or Phil Collins, and what I heard and saw, I liked. So when Nad Sylvan's solo album, Courting the Widow, was released recently, I wanted to hear. And it's playing again today, the first day of the new year. 2016 begins in my home with some really excellent, haunting, beautiful progressive rock.

The title track, Courting the Widow, is a classic prog-rock song: the closing song, Long Slow Crash Landing is beautiful, starting with snare drums and growing to a crescendo with a soaring guitar solo from Steve Hackett, and each song in-between is worthy of many replays. There are other great guest musicians contributing too, but the album is Mr. Sylvan's alone. It is NOT Genesis!!!

Anyone who loves the sound of the rock that was considered "independant" and meaningful and thoughtful and deep, prior to indie-rock being a genre label, should listen to this album. There are plenty of five-star reviews on Amazon that suggest it sounds like "early Genesis", but I think some these reviewers are listening with their Genesis ears on, rather than taking a fresh listen to an entirely-different band. With all due respect to Genesis, this is Nad Sylvan. This is Courting the Widow.
And despite how some reviewers are praising this album--as a throwback to 1970's prog--to me it also has meaning for today's listeners who enjoy bands like Coheed and Cambria, or local Sacramento bands Journal and Zeroclient. (And vice-versa: if you enjoy Courting the Widow, check out Omnia.)

Courting The Widow deserves a Roger Dean sleeve, poster, and mural. Just sayin'.

(And talking of prog, let me know if you have a vinyl copy of Gravy Train's Staircase To The Day gathering dust anywhere... I'm missing that one!)

Steve Hackett, Genesis Revisited, Cropredy 2014
Nad Sylvan
The photos above are from Nad Sylvan's performance as part of Steve Hackett's Genesis Revisited tour, Cropredy Festival in England, 2014.

(And before any Genesis fan goes on a rant about my review, you guys are the best out there for assuming that "you like insert prog band name here, then you must LOVE Genesis". Yes fans come second. I'm calling you both out on that assumption.)