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SF Weekly Music Awards 2003

Americana DJ/Selector/Turntablist Electronic/Electro Hard Rock/

Metal Hip Hop/Rap Jazz Latin/

International Lifestyle Music New Genre/Beyond Pop Punk Rock/Indie Rock Soul/Funk/ R&B 

If music be the brandy of the damned, then we're drunk off our asses


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I Am Spoonbender

Dustin Donaldson, Cup, Kevin Farkas, and Marc Kate make up the otherworldly avant-pop quartet I Am Spoonbender, a band that, since 1997, has challenged mainstream music's status quo (as well as the paradigms of natural order and the occult) with thought- provoking electronic experiments. The group's do-it-yourself approach covers everything from releasing its own records to creating all the electric sounds in its tunes (as opposed to using widespread, ready-made patches), an ethic that has been influential on other electronic musicians in the Bay Area in recent years.

Named after the telekinetic powers of Uri Geller, the band shares a common thread with the great literary minds of magical realism. Above all, the group strives to draw attention to and point out the possible beauty of the small details in life that are often taken for granted, as well as those overarching issues that concern us all. In I Am Spoonbender's universe, this goal comes alive in multiple dimensions, with and without words, and indelibly tied to technology. Vocals, bass, and drums meet with the band's primary instrumental palette, synthesizers (each member plays one in some manner or another), yet I Am Spoonbender is far from being some kind of new-wave revival band, the likes of which are all too common in today's musical landscape. In fact, as explained on its Web site, one of the band's strongest stances is "to NOT capitalize on the younger generation's lack of access to the music that's come before." A high-minded experimental pop band with a conscience? Yup.

Realistic Orchestra

So, how does a band that features a horn section, a vibraphone, clarinets, and various other instruments you haven't seen since high school band days wind up in the Electronic/Electro category? Well, for one thing, it helps that one of the Bay Area's hottest young turntablists, DJ Aspect, is a regular member. It also helps that the bandleader -- in this case, one Adam Theis -- spends just as much time noodling with his electronic loop thingy as he does raising a trombone to his lips. Actually, every prominent member of Realistic Orchestra -- from vibraphonist Michael Emenau to drummer Eric Garland to saxophonist Joe Cohen -- also doubles on an electronic loop thingy. While the band flashes more brass than Bed, Bath & Beyond, it also includes enough laptops to stock a struggling dot-com. It's a strange confluence of sounds and styles, and in lesser hands than those of the earnest and enthusiastic Theis, it would all go down in a crash of hard drives and ugly chords. But through sheer energy and emotion, Realistic Orchestra somehow pulls it off. Live shows at Bruno's (where the band is a weekly fixture) even find the group blending in rappers and beatbox artists, guest guitarists, and dancing bears. All right, we made up the part about the dancing bears, but it wouldn't surprise us at all if Theis seamlessly worked in a refugee from a Russian circus. This is a band with firm roots in the kind of boogie-woogie swing your mama (or even grandmama) got down to, as Realistic pays tribute to past masters like Ellington, Mingus, and Miles. That it does so while constantly pushing the groove to just this side of a manic, free-form rave makes the band uniquely at home in the electronic category.

Hard Rock/Metal

Hammers of Misfortune

Is the weather too sunny for you? Are you looking for something to combat the bright cheer your friends have been exuding lately? Well, search no further. A bubbling cauldron full of dark imagery, brooding acoustic balladry, and raucous guitar drama, Hammers of Misfortune updates the spooky, riff-rock legacy previously upheld by Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden.

This month, Cruz Del Sur Music released the band's epic sophomore effort, The August Engine, an animated and passionate traversing of metal and rock and a clever follow-up to the group's 2001 debut full-length, The Bastard. That album, which is now sadly out of print, told the tale of a bastard prince raised in the wilderness and reared by a dragon to slay the cruel king who left him for dead. Miserably, the boy-king learns all too late the true nature of his birth, and the prophecy is fulfilled to the doom of humankind. Patricide, regicide, genocide, talking tree armies, legions of trolls, singing axes, and the Prince of Lies. Dante should have been so lucky.


Featuring members of Hammers of Misfortune, Fölcainö, Impaled, Ominum, and Slough Feg, Ludicra will inebriate you with the strongest of rock concoctions. Launched over huge walls of heavy sonic brick, the vocals of Laurie Sue Shanaman and Christy Cather are pure evil -- we're talking the-cast-of-The Exorcist-battle-royal kind of evil. As heard on the band's debut for the label Life Is Abuse, 2002's Hollow Psalms, the two singers scream, shout, and spew their tales of sinning, fleecing, bleeding, graves, and dirt without ever surfacing for air. That's all fine, you might think, but screaming alone does not make the metal, right? Right indeed. Cather plays an evil guitar as well. She and guitarist John Cobbett crunch, chunk, and shred for miles, only occasionally slowing down for creepy tangents that evoke eerie walks through devil-infested woods. Add that to the mix of driving bass lines from the aptly named Ross Sewage and spastic skin-beating compliments of drummer Aesop, and you've got yourself some of the heaviest black metal this side of Tolkien. The group's very own list of influences -- names like Mudvayne, Rob Zombie, Lollipop Lust Kill, Jack Off Jill, and Cephalic Carnage -- should give you an idea of what you're dealing with.


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