In an age where civic obligation is reduced to "liking" a story about some heinous injustice, or donating online to earn a personalized kombucha coozie, it's refreshing to see rock bands sweat it out live to benefit a local cause (especially since rock bands are increasingly prone to seeking charity online themselves.) Laptop philanthropy can be effective, but donations in the cloud don't exactly cry "community effort" like a horde of locals committing their evening to the plight of other disadvantaged locals. So, see the release show of Icewater's Collector's Edition, featuring opener Eleanor Friedberger of the Fiery Furnaces, on Dec. 20 at Café Du Nord. Icewater's Grant Martin, a Bay Area native, passed away during the recording of Collector's Edition, and all proceeds benefit a fund created in his name for underprivileged music students.
On Dec. 18 at the Great American Music Hall, Thee Oh Sees and Ty Segall perform to benefit the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness. The sold-out event also sports a coat drive. Imagine all the garage-rockers shedding the denim jackets worn over their hoodies.
Shell out for charity and you're entitled to a free event. The clothing store RVCA on Haight Street provides one called "Locals Only" on Friday, Dec. 18. It probably draws more transplants than native San Franciscans, but that's another thinkpiece. The apparel company's cunning event coordinators devised a surefire way to ensure a bountiful showing from their target demographic: feature 50 visual artists and three bands for free. Fifty artists, 50 of their friends moonlighting as art handlers, and the skateboarding entourage of performers Mane and Scraper and countless Hidden Agenda devotees will likely mean an environment better for rock than art appreciation. Still, the best parties usually come in the guise of spectacular interdisciplinary extravaganzas like "Locals Only." Don't snake my wave!
Local metal duo Wreck & Reference boasts a drummer (wreckage) and a vocalist who triggers riffs and noise on a sampler strapped across his chest (referential machinery.) It lacks everything I consider precious about the inimitable feel of musicians playing together live, but overcomes the lack of intuitive groove with serrated vocals and a very severe stage presence. It's menacing and assaultive, but demystifying the process a bit reveals the performance: The frontman extracts blistering intensity from his spartan digital sampler setup, using violent motions even though light taps would coax the same sound. That's called showmanship. Wreck & Reference performs Sunday, Dec. 22, at the Hemlock.
Seasoned punk-gone-Elvis-impersonator El Vez treats classic rock covers to subversive humor in an eccentric song, dance, and costume change routine. El Vez's energetic revue gargles disparate references and spits up the strange mixture in an enthralling performance that provokes questions like, "Is the joke on me?" "Was that the 'Maggie May' riff set to a pro-Zapatista tune?" "Where's the boundary between rock 'n' roll and theater, and have we crossed it yet?" But the show moves too quickly to dwell on such perplexing postmodern conundrums. Show up to the Elbo Room on Friday, Dec. 20, listen closely, and enjoy.