[The Bay Area is actively producing and attracting experimentalists, multimedia performance artists, cult punk ritualists, and innovative anti-socials with no capacity for self-promotion. Hidden Agenda is a column that spreads the word about their performances.]
Though musicians are often romanticized as breathing embodiments of rock 'n roll for whom the music and myth are inseparable, two forces entwined at a biological level, the truth is that, on one level or another, they're actors. The projected persona of most musicians is just another one of their creative outlets. It's a mystique and second skin donned for interviewers and concert attendees to go along with the music. Suspending disbelief over the fact that a musician might live in a duller world than the one described up in song is escapist fantasy. Let's be realistic. My favorite punk bandleaders are not crazy mutants all of the time, your favorite nomadic folkie stands in line at the DMV and consults a CPA for his taxes. Accept this and realize how thin the barrier between rock concerts, theater, performance art, and dance truly is.
Local artist Brontez Purnell pulverized that barrier into a smoldering heap of rubble long ago. His old band Gravy Train!!!! was equal parts queer radical theater, electro-pop and roving party catalyst. Since then, he's compartmentalized a bit. Purnell fronts scrappy pop outfit The Younger Lovers, instigates interactive performance art for unsuspecting visitors at the Berkeley Art Museum, and collaborates with a host of local dancers to produce happenings like The Episodes, a "movement research" performance that explores the "sacred repetitiveness of the everyday ritual of being human," as he puts it. The Brontez Purnell Dance Company performs The Episodes Nov. 22, 23rd and 24 at Counterpulse in San Francisco.
Some concertgoers seek respite from the rituals of everyday life, The Episodes emphasize the profundity of everyday life, and Giant Sand is part of my everyday listening schedule. A Tucson rock group initially founded in 1983 by Howe Gelb, the earliest work posits Giant Sand as the separated kin of Angeleno groups like the Dream Syndicate and Green on Red. With an astoundingly prolific career since, Gelb's output includes surging post-punk, disjointed Southwestern damage and all sorts of songs to conjure the menacing expanse of desert plains at night. Though I reject that everything about Gelb the man relates to the desert on the grounds above, the character and concerns of the Southwest in particular are inseparable from Gelb the songwriter. See him import the sonic residue of dust and shovels at The Chapel on Thursday, Nov. 21.
Totemic journeymen desert rockers aside, consider Mane. An upstart San Franciscan quartet whose debut EP sets rich vocal harmonies with swathes of saturated guitar to five insistent rock songs, Mane is a churning and restless live unit as well. Every show exhibits some newfound asset. and the ongoing evolution is only matched by growths in chops and presence. See the latest developments on Saturday, Nov. 23 at the Make-Out Room in San Francisco.
Often to my great annoyance, strains of psychedelic music continue to color the Bay Area's musical landscape today. But for a genre so concerned with expanding minds and the limitless heady potential of outer space, nostalgia seems rather counterproductive. As in, warping our sensual modes of perceiving the world is a timeless quest, but mimicking the way it was done by rock bands in the '60s is regressive and actually narrow-minded. Enter Lumerians, a local space-rock ensemble that departs from the conventions of yesteryear's psychedelia to champion new renderings of a nebulous future through immersive sound and multimedia spectacles, like the one slated for Friday, Nov. 22 at The Chapel.