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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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Page 7 of 11

Tom Jonesing

Tribute bands litter the San Francisco music landscape to be sure, but few claim to be as memorable as Tom Jonesing, a group that elevates the art of the tribute through both its technique and stage presence. After being inspired by the splendor of a live Tom Jones show in Reno, Steffanos Xanthoudakis (a musician and theater performer who had played with bands the Shadowmakers and Oliver Stretch) set about transforming into Tantric Tom, an appropriately suave master of sexual kitsch. From there, he recruited guitarist Jeff "Rockin'" Roberts from Rolling Stones cover band Tumbling Dice, Pansy Division bassist/ vocalist Chris Freeman, keyboard player Dean Mermell ("The Tickler"), and drummer Mark Macario. There's also a lovely trio of go-go-booted backup singers, San Francisco Symphony Chorus members and longtime collaborators Pat Bregant, Mary Lambert, and Sandy Notimier, also known under the now-friendly name of PMS.

Tom Jonesing is a favorite at local spots like Bimbo's, Club Deluxe, and the Velvet Lounge, but has also brought its good-time vibes to Europe for two tours. No disrespect to the man, but Mr. Jones himself could take a lesson in sexual energy and roof-raising from these enthusiastic disciples, who can convert even the most lounge-wary into believers grinning with guilty pleasure.

The Vanishing

Imagine this: You're cold and spooked, seeking any kind of shelter from the creepy, dark night. A bat flies overhead, flapping and squealing. You glance up just in time to see ominous clouds pass across the full moon. Are these shots out of a bad music video from the '80s? Perhaps. But they're also the images evoked by the sounds of the Vanishing, the Bay Area trio that twists disco bass lines, trembling synthesizers, sputtering drum machine beats, and punk-ish screams into songs that could serve as the soundtrack to the spookiest and cheesiest of cable-TV horror flicks -- songs that also happen to be as catchy as they are eerie. Composed of former members of Subtonix, the Knives, the Lies, and Zonetech, the group formed in 2002 and has released a 10-inch and a split EP (with Lost Sounds), as well as this year's Songs for Psychotic Children, which the band's label, Gold Standard, describes as "uptempo shock therapy to exorcise even the most stubborn dancefloor demon in you." Yes indeed, as evidenced by Children, Brian Hock (drums, synths), Jesse Eva (bass, vocals, sax, synths), and Sadie Shaw (synths) enjoy working with the hairs on the back of your neck (song titles include "Princess Poison," "Obituary," and "Terror, I've Been Trying to Meet You"). Think Wire and New Order meets the Addams Family and Edward Gorey. Also think about leaving the kids at home so they don't have nightmares for a year.

New Genre/Beyond

Faun Fables

Acoustic and electric guitars, woodwinds, autoharp, and toy organ are only some of the instruments used to create 2001's Mother Twilight, songwriter Dawn McCarthy's collection of trenchant tunes. Also instrumental were, well, her travels. "I traveled alone in Europe the summer of '97 with many questions. Singing was my passport. Twilight was my favorite time of day to go for walks. It's a matter of kinship -- a key for my pre-memory," explains McCarthy, aka Faun Fables, in the CD's liner notes. According to McCarthy, the writings in her trusty journal, composed while she whisked through Ireland, Scotland, England, Italy, and Germany, became her inspiration for these songs (the record's cover art -- images of exploratory dashing through dense, secluded woodlands -- is thus quite fitting). Accompanied by minimal yet dramatic music, sometimes nothing more than a winsome acoustic guitar, McCarthy's voice wails and whispers while her lyrics evoke thoughts of nature, introspection, and shadows. What stands out most are the vocal melodies themselves, which have a strong pop element to them, but which are further influenced by Eastern and Western classical styles alike. McCarthy phrases and delivers her words in every manner but that which we'd expect from a singer/songwriter. Her art ends up running the gamut from whimsical to spooky, delicate to forceful, something altogether not unlike what you might find in a well-worn children's book of, you guessed it, fables.

Kitten on the Keys

A musician who began playing piano with Courtney Love in the mid-'80s with a band called Sugar Baby Doll (which became Sugar Babylon shortly before breaking up in 1987), Suzanne Ramsey could have easily ended up merely an obscure piece of music trivia had she not moved to San Francisco. It was here that she discovered some risqué old tunes through a customer in the antique shop where she worked. Now, as Kitten on the Keys, she's one of the bright, giggly spots on San Francisco's burlesque scene.

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