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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

An Evening with the Hologram: Hatsune Miku Live Review

Posted By on Wed, May 4, 2016 at 2:53 PM

Computer-generated teen heartthrob. - SEGA/COURTESY PHOTO
  • SEGA/Courtesy photo
  • Computer-generated teen heartthrob.

I kind of hate how much I enjoyed Hatsune Miku.

I wasn't sure what to expect when I headed out to the computer-generated Japanese pop star's second of two shows at the Warfield on Saturday night. I was going in practically blind.

I had so many questions: How would such a musician work live? Would it work at all? Would she interact with the audience? Take requests? Improvise?

I had no idea! I had no notion of what to expect. But I didn't expect to really, really dig it.

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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Nine Notable Acts from Coachella Weekend One

Posted By on Wed, Apr 20, 2016 at 11:53 AM

I’ve covered Pitchfork, Bonnaroo, and South by Southwest — and of course, Noise Pop, Outside Lands, and Treasure Island — but until this weekend I’d never been to Coachella. In a lot of ways, it’s just like all the others, with Heineken wristbands, fringed leather, and not-especially-surreptitious MDMA consumption. But owing to Indio’s proximity to L.A., the surprise guests are many and the fashionistas are legion.

It was luxurious to sweat profusely after remembering that I didn’t take my winter jacket off once at Outside Lands 2013, but some people there wore furs all the same. While there were many lovely moments — from Bernie Sanders introducing Run the Jewels to The Arcs’ baffling surprise guest (Joe Walsh from The Eagles) to rumors that the organizers plan to stage a dad-baiting mega-concert in October with The Who, Bob Dylan, Roger Waters, and other septuagenarians you might not have many more chances to see — here are our picks for the most notable acts of Weekend One. 

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Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Switchblades Preferred: Happy 2016 from Patti Smith

Posted By on Tue, Jan 5, 2016 at 4:03 PM

  • Calibree Photography

Although the anecdotal reactions on social media to her 69th birthday show the night before were rapturous to an almost unnerving extent, Patti Smith’s New Year’s Eve show at the Fillmore was the best possible way to usher out one of the worst years for the world since the introduction of the Gregorian calendar.

The simple billing of Patti Smith & Her Band belied the show’s fullness. Her band went on first, playing a long string of Summer of Love hits because, as one musician put it, “they’re gonna cram this down your throats next year” for the 50th anniversary of the Haight’s explosion into the popular consciousness. ("Next year," meaning 2017.) And when it came time for a Jefferson Airplane medley, who walks out on the stage to sing Grace Slick’s vocals on “Somebody to Love” other than Patti herself, a surprise quasi-cameo in a knit cap and black Fillmore hoodie. They closed out on Wilson Pickett’s “In the Midnight Hour,” a clever nod to New Year’s Eve. The nets of balloons tethered to the ceiling quivered a little, but that was probably the bass.

Patti Smith started 2015 at the Fillmore, she reminded us — although technically, that show was on Jan. 24 —and she ended it there, too.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Happy 50th Anniversary, Rubber Soul!

Posted By on Wed, Dec 2, 2015 at 4:44 PM

Today is Britney Spears’ 34th birthday, and while it’s fun to speculate what might be going through her mind now that she’s a year from aging out of the 18-35 demo, it’s also the day of another memorable rock milestone.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Rubber Soul, the Beatles sixth album. A very unscientific poll conducted over the course of many years has revealed that most Beatles fans under 40 rate Revolver as their favorite album. There’s a strong case to be made that it bridges the early and late periods, and I love it dearly. (“Tomorrow Never Knows” is particularly mind-blowing.)

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Tuesday, November 24, 2015

E-40's Latest EP, Poverty And Prosperity, Ranked From Best to Worst Song

Posted By on Tue, Nov 24, 2015 at 5:30 PM


If you checked Twitter last Friday morning, you might have noticed that E-40 dropped a new EP. (Seriously, the Twitterverse was going insane over this new drop from Big Earl.) Somehow, whilst making appearances on other artists' albums (like G-Eazy's When It's Dark Out and Ty-Dolla Sign's Free TC), working on his upcoming albums, Sharp On All 4 Corners Volume 3 and 4, and gearing up for the December release of his line of malt liquor, E-40 found time to churn out Poverty and Prosperity, which is no small feat.

In an Instagram post,  40 Water even admitted that he's been really busy of late, but added that "the Good Lord tapped [him] on the shoulder and gave [him] an assignment." That assignment, which came in the form of Friday's seven-track release, was to "speak to the people," he wrote, and "tell it like it is and call it how you see it."

Unlike his last EP, October's Choices (Yup) remix tape, Poverty and Prosperity features all new, original work from the rapper, most of it about his childhood and growing up on the 1300 block of Vallejo's Magazine Street. Granted, since he started his career back in 1986, he's dropped 22 studio albums and too many singles and mixtapes to count, so this EP is just another drop in the bucket for him. But for 40 fans, it's a big deal. It's been one year since his last album and this summer's catchy, hypnotic anthem, "Choices (Yup)," only made fans hungrier. 

Because of the turnover here (if you don't know what I'm talking about, check out this post), All Shook Down is only now getting a chance to review this project. But better late than never, right? Below, we've ranked the songs from best to worst, so check it out and let us know what you think in the comments. 

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Monday, October 19, 2015

Shamir Is the Minimalist Hot Mess

Posted By on Mon, Oct 19, 2015 at 4:30 PM

  • Peter Lawrence Kane

Although Treasure Island’s Bridge Stage, with its massive monitors, is best for seeing big shows at night when you don’t have the patience or the foresight to fight your way close to the stage, the smaller Tunnel Stage is ideal for daytime shows where the crowd is small and the performer is keen on establishing eye contact with (almost) everybody.

Nobody took better advantage of that than Shamir, the not-yet-21-year-old whiz kid from Vegas with the remarkable countertenor, the minor-key synth lines, and the affectless demeanor. Shamir obeys physics’ Law of the Conservation of Energy, managing to have fun and get the party going while executing the bare minimum of motion on stage. It’s not that he doesn’t care; he’s fully invested in the gesture of not-caring as the shrewdest way to get everyone to love him. It’s disarming. (And if you want further evidence he’s not aloof, he slipped into the crowd five minutes after his set, gleefully taking selfies with his fans, this writer included.)

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Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Disambiguation Page: Scott Walker Vs. Scott Walker

Posted By on Tue, Sep 22, 2015 at 10:19 AM

The cool Scott Walker - FACTMAG
  • FactMag
  • The cool Scott Walker

If you haven't heard by now, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is dropping out of the GOP primary after falling to zero percent in the polls. This is significant for two reasons. First, because at one point, Gov. Walker, who won election in 2010, fought off a recall, and won re-election in 2014, was considered The One to Beat. Although embarrassed by a leaked phone call wherein an activist pranked him into thinking he was chatting amiably with one of the Koch Brothers, it was those brazen ties to the billionaire donor class in a historically pro-union Midwestern state that made him a formidable foe. (Or so the thinking went. Turned out he sucked in the debates.)

Second, this matters because there is another person named Scott Walker who, unlike the horrible governor, is a total genius and a fascinating quasi-recluse whose 50-year career took him from post-Beatles darling to avant-garde weirdo who sings in the voice of Elvis Presley's stillborn twin brother Jesse. This Scott Walker has had an erratic output over his long career, but almost all of it is wonderful, no destruction of collective bargaining involved. Born Noel Scott Engel in Hamilton, Ohio in 1943, he was the subject of a 2006 documentary called Scott Walker: 30th Century Man, and managed to break his one-record-a-decade streak with 2012's Bish Bosch and 2014's Soused. But nothing, it seems, can keep him from sliding closer and closer to total obscurity.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

Drive-By Truckers' Patterson Hood Tackles Hateful Flags and Southern Heritage in New York Times Essay

Posted By on Thu, Jul 9, 2015 at 3:34 PM

In 2001, I was commissioned by Simon & Schuster to write a book on the music and culture of the South. Beginning just after the desegregation of public schools in the late 1960s, Dixie Lullaby: A Story of Music, Race, and New Beginnings in a New South follows my own life, the lives of my friends, and the music that carried us through a particularly turbulent time in Southern and American history.

While doing research for the book, I stumbled on a new album from a Georgia band called Drive-By Truckers. Southern Rock Opera was the musical mirror image of the narrative I had proposed for Dixie Lullaby. It was a concept album dealing with thorny issues of racial collaboration in music and on ball fields of the 1970s, the flagrant racism that still existed in the culture at large, and what it meant to come of age in the South during this period just after the monumental changes wrought by the civil rights movement.

I contacted the band’s chief singer and songwriter, Patterson Hood, whose smart and very personal essay, "The South’s Heritage Is So Much More Than a Flag," appears in today's New York Times. I had learned that Hood was the son of bass player David Hood, whose all-white studio band in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, backed some of the greatest soul singers of the ’60s and ’70s, including Aretha Franklin and the Staple Singers. David and Patterson Hood would serve as the bookends to my story; they represented what was good about the past and the future of the South, respectively.

By 2004, the year Dixie Lullaby came out, I expected that in the coming decade we would be witnessing dramatic cultural changes. After all, a young senator from Illinois, Barack Obama, had given a stirring speech at that year's Democratic National Convention, and he was poised to be a contender in the next election. I would never have predicted that more than 10 years later, things would be even worse — that on the one hand, the country would elect Obama its first black president and the Supreme Court would legalize same-sex marriage, but on the other, Obama would be bombarded at every turn by racist swill and that immigrants to this country (and their children) would be regarded as less than human. Not only that, but the very Southerners and other Americans who continued to defend the so-called rebel flag as some kind of symbol of Southern heritage would show a level of disrespect for a sitting president that we'd never before seen.

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Monday, February 11, 2013

The 2013 Grammy Awards: Few Surprises, Lots of Drudgery, a Little Fun.

Posted By on Mon, Feb 11, 2013 at 11:39 AM


The Grammy Awards are dull and insipid every year, but at least for the last two years the Recording Academy managed a few surprises: In 2011, Arcade Fire won Album of the Year, providing a climactic reality-check for thousands of indie partisans; in 2012, the awards attempted to both grapple with the EDM boom and mend a fraught relationship with hip-hop ... before ultimately handing the whole thing over to a stage full of men with guitars. But, having tried to gain (or feign) relevance and failed, at least those Grammy Awards failed rather spectacularly.

By contrast, the 55th Grammy Awards last night proved both incompetent and exceedingly dull -- light on surprises, innovations, and blatant hypocrisy. It was a night of playing it safe, and it was about as fun as, well, fun., the excellent-but-not-terribly-exciting pop-rock outfit that walked away with the awards for Best New Artist and Song of the Year.

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Thursday, December 13, 2012

The 20 Best San Francisco Concerts of 2012, According to Us

Posted By on Thu, Dec 13, 2012 at 9:13 AM

Bassnectar fans at Bill Graham Civic in October. - KAHLEY AVALON EMERSON

Whether you preferred the dancefloor at Mighty, the plush environs of Bimbo's 365 Club, or the dewy late-night fields of Outside Lands, there were plenty of great concerts in San Francisco and the Bay Area in 2012. We reviewed many of them, from "secret" shows at semi-legal clubs to sprawling, three-hour sets by all-time greats like Stevie Wonder. But even we couldn't catch everything. So first, check out our list of the 20 best local concerts in 2012. Then, in the comments, tell us what we missed. Here's to another great year of show-going in 2013.

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  • clipping at Brava Theater Sept. 11
    Sub Pop recording artists 'clipping.' brought their brand of noise-driven experimental hip hop to the closing night of 2016's San Francisco Electronic Music Fest this past Sunday. The packed Brava Theater hosted an initially seated crowd that ended the night jumping and dancing against the front of the stage. The trio performed a set focused on their recently released Sci-Fi Horror concept album, 'Splendor & Misery', then delved into their dancier and more aggressive back catalogue, and recent single 'Wriggle'. Opening performances included local experimental electronic duo 'Tujurikkuja' and computer music artist 'Madalyn Merkey.'"