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Sizzle and Fizzle: Highs and Lows from the Last Week in S.F. Music 

Wednesday, May 7 2014
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Sizzle

Stern Grove announced its 2014 series of free Sunday concerts — and this year's is among the best we can remember. The lovely forest on the city's west side will host Rufus Wainwright, the Zombies, the Funky Meters, Andrew Bird, Smokey Robinson, and more. The series kicks off June 12.

After an inaugural run at the Monterey County Fairgrounds last year, the indie-leaning First City Festival will return in 2014 with some major headliners, including Beck, The National, the Naked and Famous, and Best Coast. Now Nor-Cal really has an embarrassment of big music festivals.

We caught Marcus Shelby and his orchestra playing Duke Ellington classics at UC Berkeley, and it was excellent: a reminder that in jazz, swing is the ruler of all things. The soloists were transcendent, and the band was rock-solid, too. A venture into Such Sweet Thunder, Ellington's Shakespeare companion suite, didn't work quite as well, but didn't spoil the night.

Fizzle

Outside Lands sold out faster than ever, but it seems some who scooped up tickets were just looking to make a buck. One Craiglist ad asked more then twice face value for weekend passes — $600 for one general admission pass, and $1,000 for a single VIP pass. Unless you're seeing the 'Stones or Prince in a small club, those prices are ridiculous.

Musicians should think twice before going to Dubai. Scorpions drummer James Kottak is the latest artist to get busted for being drunk or carrying trace amounts of drugs in the ultraconservative United Arab Emirates. The British DJ Grooverider got four years in jail for landing in Dubai with long-forgotten weed crumbs in his pocket. Yikes!

A letter painting an ugly picture of Kurt Cobain's marriage to Courtney Love caused an online furor — but was apparently written by her as a joke. Found in Kurt's wallet at the time of his suicide, it reads, "Do you Kurt Cobain take Courtney Michelle Love to be your lawful shredded wife even when she's a bitch with zits and siphoning all yr money for Doping and whoring." But the couple often wrote sarcastic notes to one another, according to a biographer.

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