[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. Hidden Agenda is a new column to let you know about their performances.]
French Radio is a local improvisational trio prone to invading homes and dismantling strangers' bicycles for instruments. Member Jim Kaiser bows a bicycle wheel and operates an antique shortwave radio, while A.C. Way sends vocal clamor through effects clatter, and Bruce Anderson plays a six-stringed instrument roughly in the shape of a flattened scorpion, also known as the guitar. All of these outlandish instruments wielded together by the experimental ensemble French Radio conjure something both dramatic and confounding, as they'll demonstrate on Thursday, Oct. 10, at the Luggage Store Gallery, alongside fellow experimental group Dapplegray.
For every high-brow experimental trio playing in a gallery at Sixth and Market, there's a gaggle of degenerates huddled in a doorway. And when a few of them start a rock band, it might sound like Lamps or Musk, a couple groups sharing a bill on Oct. 11 at the Night Light in Oakland. L.A. headliners Lamps sound like a rust sandwich: stiff copper wire between sheet metal. It's pummeling rock tempered by noise, or vice versa, depending on your disposition. Musk is the saucier, moister local alternative, coupling rock savagery with swamp sweat and bravado -- the sopping hoagie to Lamps' rigid Banh Mi (though I'm just an imaginative vegan.)
Enough with the food -- let's move on to some more malnourished music, like hammered dulcimer black metal. Local practitioner the Botanist recently assembled a group for live performance with drums, bass, harmonium, and two dulcimers, an eerily resonant instrument with strings laden across a trapezoidal board. The group projects a mythology in which the Botanist waits in nature for humankind to kill itself off so that weeds and mold can spread across the devastated remains of our so-called "civilization." Until then, Botanist is a menacing and unique ensemble strutting archaic instruments and shrieks Friday, Oct. 11, at the Oakland Metro with Burmese and Behold... the Arctopus.
Or catch the all-white, dub- and reggae-infused pop group Extra Classic at Berkeley Irish pub the Starry Plough the same night, in case there aren't enough nationality signifiers caught up in a black metal gig. The free trade of cultural capital marches on, inviting a dozen thinkpieces with each hapless appropriation, which leaves a group of talented musicians and songwriters like Extra Classic between their artistic impulses and the cultural critics circling overhead. It's a precarious post-VMAs climate for a band like this, though Extra Classic will likely feel safe inside the Plough.
A couple days later, scam your way to Brick and Mortar Music Hall for the Monday, Oct. 14, record release show of Brasil, a ruffled rock quartet mixing their Pavement with some Wilco and spiking the potion with erudite lyrics. Newcomers with chiseled chops, Brasil's eponymous, self-released LP makes nods to the '90s, but its excellent song craft defies any trappings of nostalgia.