Professional publicists ceaselessly implore writers to preview shows, but often the most worthy events lack such luxuries. The Bay Area is both actively producing and attracting experimentalists, multimedia performance spectacles, cult punk rituals and innovative anti-socials with no capacity for self-promotion (those interest me especially.) Hidden Agenda is a new column to let you know about their performances.
Cold Beat, Grass Widow co-conspirator Hannah Lew's new group, is the fertile pasture where Bay Area bandleaders go to graze. Former Mallard singer Greer McGettrick and former Neon Piss' front man Kyle King now furnish Lew's pastoral harmonies and temper them with jagged riffs. Cold Beat is named for a song by post-punk band the Sound, whose vocalist committed suicide and whose cult hit is called "I Can't Escape Myself." Cold Beat isn't so bleak, but there are welcome touches of anxiety and urgency here, likely imported by Lew's ace collaborators. Billed with Synthetic ID, Cold Beat's show on Friday, Sept, 27, at the Hemlock is a showcase of post-punk nouveau, for readers rightfully wondering that even means.
As far as what any genre tag really means, how vague and useless is "singer-songwriter?" Or, how can I write about one without alienating readers? Local troubadour Michael Beach is bearded, adept at casting bookish lyrics to innovative guitar playing, and he's not a bundle of nostalgic references packaged as some innovative synthesizer of styles like publicists pitch all day. He's a singer-songwriter once deported from Australia who casts Henry Miller, Jane Austen, and Jesus Christ in strange examinations of existential crises (for instance, as victims of a bloody car crash.) For the bearded guitar-slinger devout and rockers who need long-held biases challenged, Beach plays for the cheap and all-ages at 1-2-3-4 Go! Records on Thursday, Sept. 26.
Still, combing the past for nearly forgotten fringe genres and wriggling around in their narrow stylistic confines can be a blast. That's what Youth Code does. The L.A. duo draws heavily from harsh industrial and punishing 1980s dance music like Front Line Assembly and Skinny Puppy. It's severely danceable and altogether severe, like Youth Code wants to sever the boundary between goth night and circle pit. Indict or celebrate the nostalgia on Sunday, Sept 19. at Brick & Mortar. That's three days after Depeche Mode at Shoreline Amphitheatre, so your mascara should last. DJ Kerri Lebon is set to spin grim platters of black antimatter. Maybe she'll play records, too.
Embracing the duality of my listening habits creates serious show schedule dilemmas. For example, Nudes, Meth Sores, and Trenches play at El Rio on Wednesday, Oct. 2. All prime punk and devastating hardcore, the bill also reads like a poll taken in the emergency room, which bodes well for showcases of extreme music. However, local artist Sam Flax's impeccably smooth VHS-wave is set to chill the stage before understated and melancholy pop from Brooklyn's Free Time over at the Hemlock. Is discontent best served with fury or a hook?