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Monday, August 31, 2015

We Hung Out Backstage with Deftones and Their Kids

Posted By on Mon, Aug 31, 2015 at 12:14 PM

Wednesday, Aug. 26
Shoreline Amphitheatre

Backstage at the Shoreline Amphitheatre, the Deftones were being hurried to get through their sound check and, inevitably, let the stage crew set up the openers before showtime.

“7 minutes,” shouted one of the crew members, which served as a stark reminder of just how time-sensitive Live Nation shows of this size are. With nary a person in the amphitheatre — sans a couple of buddies taking pics for their own social media purposes — it was just the band, sound men, and crew in the building (and a whole hell of a lot of sweet-smelling smoke which also blew through their set).

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Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Happens When Children Start a Band

Posted By on Tue, Jan 17, 2012 at 1:41 PM


On wikiHow, there are instructions on how to properly start up a band. The entry splendidly reduces the whole tortuous process to a series of simply phrased steps -- "Don't have people in the band who refuse to practice!" "Watch out for egos!" "Try to wear the same colors!" -- while conveying an unchecked innocence typically associated with children. (Regarding rehearsing: "Does U2 still practice? Of course!") All that was missing was a warning on the dangers of falling prey to kiddie excess (i.e., gorging on too many backstage chocolate bars and soft drinks).

I caught my 12-year-old and nine-year-old engaging in the sort of hurried, excited talk that accompanies the genesis of a good idea. They were chatting with similarly aged friends about starting a band. I considered tacking on several dozen addenda to that wikiHow entry and printing for distribution. You know, a little instruction on how an aspiring artist can keep breathing in an era where album sales continue to plummet, technology has democratized the recording process, the Internet delivers fame in small, unfulfilling doses, and constant stimulation is hurting our brain's ability to be creative. But that would have been Joe Jackson-level meddlesome, no?

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

On Hair Metal, Siberia, and Learning to Love Terrible Things

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 9:00 AM

Skid Row
  • Skid Row

Lately, I've been listening to a lot of '80s hair metal, and when I listen to said hair metal, I frequently find myself thinking about Siberia.

Okay, let me explain.

Deviating from my comfy-cozy personal norms, and gamboling down such an execrable and anomalous (translation: powerfully lame) musical road leaves me feeling quite empty. As a way of legitimizing the whole experience, I began equating it with a genuine, self-determined, colorful, perilous journey. Glam bands, ho! And so lately, that means putting on Skid Row and thinking about Ian Frazier's Travels in Siberia. Or more specifically, the passage where Frazier details Siberia's ancient main route (commonly referred to as the Trakt) and how shackled exiles walked it under guard until they reached a tall, square white pillar marking the spot where the western Russian province of Perm gave way to the Siberian province of Tobolsk. Here, exiles were allowed to pause and bid final farewells to friends and family accompanying them, as well as to home and country. Writes Frazier: "Beyond this spot they were, in a sense, jumping off into the void."

Because when I put on Skid Row's "I Remember You" and vocalist Sebastian Bach pushes aside the hair obscuring his face like he's slowly drawing a velvet stage curtain, and guitarist Dave "The Snake" Sabo gets the hair out of his face by tossing his head like a baying hound, and the trademark ending to the song's melody -- the nifty hammer-on/pull-off move on the B string -- rings out, I ceremoniously arrive at that tall, square white pillar. I have jumped off into the void.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

In Which Three Young Boys Weigh in on the Best Songs of 2011

Posted By on Tue, Dec 20, 2011 at 8:24 AM

Not an actual photo of any of the children subjected to WU LYF for this article.
  • Not an actual photo of any of the children subjected to WU LYF for this article.

The year is drawing to a close, which means it's time for us music writers to puff out our chests -- those chests emblazoned with big red "C's" for "critic" -- and be extra insular, bombastic, and pissy. In our year-end lists and year-end essays and year-end slideshows, pop music's moments of glorious unpredictability will be rationalized in comfortable, arm-chair hindsight. We will out-thesaurus one another and out-douche one another, all while spouting words like "crystallize" and "contextual" and "conceptualize," and spewing phrases like "solipsistic wonder" and "abject fetishism."

We will praise the "sonic erudition" of M83 while expressing caution over the "Dionysian superfluousness" of LMFAO. We will pooh-pooh the "parasitic appropriation" of Pitbull -- but then, in an effort to prove that within us exists the capacity for self-awareness, as well as an appreciation of the fact that erudite wordplay can induce migraines (I have one right now, in fact), we will follow up by saying that Pitbull also "sucks gnarled goat taint."

Well forgive me, please, for I'm not participating in such amusement this year.

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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Learning to Deal With the Great Music Deluge

Posted By on Tue, Dec 6, 2011 at 10:46 AM

Are we suffocating from too much music?
  • Are we suffocating from too much music?

Two years ago, Broken Social Scene's Charles Spearin released The Happiness Project, an experimental album that brought together concepts associated with field recordings, sociology, jazz, and phonetics. If you think that sounds pretentious, you're right. At the same time, every track had at least one moment that left you in awe. Spearin recorded snatches of conversations shared with neighbors, and then matched the cadence and inflection of their speech to instruments like tenor saxophone, harp, and violin. The album was Spearin's way of articulating the idea that we're too busy trying to win discussions or hurrying to get our points across to notice the hidden melodies contained within our voices -- that we are creating music even when that's not our intention.

In his 1966 book The Infinite Variety of Music, composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein wrote of the limitless diversity of musical expression we get from 12 simple notes. ("Just think what a situation a novelist would be in," Bernstein said, "if he had only 12 words in his language.") We live in an era where that limitless diversity has become universally accessible -- where in the span of like 45 seconds, I can discover the Japanese artist collective known as Maywa Denki, read about a tadpole-shaped music maker they created named the Otamatone, and then hear an individual use it to play 'Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.'" I can't definitively say my life would be empty had I never heard an Otamatone; at the same time, I can't say my life would be truly full had I limited access to music.

I mention The Happiness Project because it's what recently made me understand that long-term exposure to limitless diversity and universally accessibility and sound clips of Otamatones can be ... well, suffocating. This sort of personal epiphany has been worn threadbare, I know. The fall-out from today's Great Music Deluge includes avid listeners sharing endless tales of how and when they reached the point of drowning.

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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

What Do You Do If Your Kid Doesn't Like Kiss?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 22, 2011 at 10:38 AM

Pucker up.
  • Pucker up.

Parents are continually influencing various aspects of their child's character development. You know, important things, like the growth of social competence and self-esteem, as well as how frequently a kid says "please" and "thank you," and doesn't hang up on telemarketers. Then there's the slightly less vital stuff they mold: favorite foods, mannerisms, the degree of intensity at which to loathe the New York Yankees.

However -- and much to a parent's chagrin -- the lion's share of a child's character-shaping was completed way back when sperm and egg first met and mingled. From English author Ian McEwan: "Cheerful or neurotic, kind or greedy, curious or dull, expansive or shy and anywhere in between; it can be quite an affront to parental self-regard, just how much of the work has already been done."

I'm not quite ready to chalk up my 12-year-old's perpetual disinterest to basic genetics, since doing so means hoisting the ole white flag, but I am beginning to fret, for despite rounds of intensive, grease-painted, flame-spewing persuasion, my son refuses to enlist in the Kiss Army.

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Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Forget Iron Maiden for Babies, or Mozart -- Raymond Scott Still Has the Best Lullaby Record

Posted By on Tue, Nov 8, 2011 at 5:30 AM


Last night, as I put our 23-month-old twins to bed and flipped on A Child's Gift of Lullabies, or Sleepytime Lullabies, or Sing Me to Sleep, or Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Fat Joe, or Baby's Dental Drill from the Pure White Noise series, or whatever the heck CD is sonically drugging our insolent toddlers, I considered the Herculean task set before the real-life version of the Albertian Order of Leibowitz. You know, should the apocalypse ever nudge aside our general sense of complacency and make the conservation of the recorded sounds we typically take for granted an exigent necessity. I say Herculean because music preservationists would be endlessly combing through the fallout from the modern parents' fetish for baby lullaby CDs.

I wish I could definitively tell you how much the lullaby market is worth annually, that each year moms and dads spend more money on lullaby compilations than baby vitamins and vaccinations. (I searched for figures and such, but the Internet let me down.) What I can tell you is when I visited Amazon and punched in "lullabies" under the music section, there were over 8,600 results. What I can also tell you is that Twinkle Twinkle Little Rock Star -- a company that transforms popular songs into sweetened, easy-to-swallow tablets (or, tunes that sound like they were banged out on the snot-encrusted xylophone currently resting at the bottom of your kids' toy box) -- recently announced that the latest artist getting the lullaby treatment is Iron Maiden, which means the market has probably reached a tipping point.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chasing Trains (and a Sense of Belonging) with Son House, Charlie Patton, and the Country Blues

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 8:36 AM


I've come to understand that if you geek out over particle acceleration or cryobiology or creating special powders from a pig's bladder for the purpose of re-growing fingertips, then you're spared from ridicule as your infatuation largely benefits the species. However, if your thing is War of 1812 battle re-enactments or collecting pop culture detritus (check out this piece of work), or maybe science experiments in the name of MacGyver, then you're spending social functions on the periphery of conversation, nervously clicking your tongue as you count the bubbles in your beverage.

I mention all this because my 9-year-old son's passion ranks low on the Accepted Levels of Geekery scale. He's a train enthusiast or railfan. Or ferroequinologist, if you prefer classifications that make an endeavor seem wildly more arresting than it actually is. (Or anorak, a British term I champion, partly on account of it sounding marginally exotic, but chiefly because it was immortalized by a Sarah Records band.) My 9-year-old hasn't graduated to the truly fanatical exercises associated with railfans (jotting down train registration numbers in a notebook, photographing all the locomotives in a particular class, sipping tea from a flask, etc.), but is smitten enough to delight in what he's dubbed "train-chasing."

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Deconstructing Adele's Sanity-Preserving Video for "Someone Like You"

Posted By on Tue, Oct 11, 2011 at 6:00 AM


It's humiliating to be imparted a thuddingly obvious life lesson by an individual 14 years your junior. They've circumvented the familiar doctrine that age brings wisdom. In the new video for her massive hit "Someone Like You" (at 7.9 million YouTube views and counting), English soul singer Adele traverses the Pont Alexandre III in Paris. Nearly 20 years ago, I rubbernecked through the French capital on a whirlwind tour of Europe and hurried across this famous bridge on my way to some expensive Paris cliché. Adele demonstrates how to do it correctly; she walks the bridge slowly.

"Someone Like You" is the rare music video that succeeds in enhancing a song's themes. Filming in black and white -- a decision that wonderfully aligns the video's images with the track's stripped-bare piano sound -- director Jake Nava amplifies the sense of empowerment and perseverance and wistfulness, the idea that Adele is shedding her skin and growing a new one. She's not tearing up those old photographs of the man she loved, but instead keeping them in a shoebox tucked away in a closet. The video is primarily one extended shot of Adele walking through an empty Paris cityscape. (Think the opening scene of Vanilla Sky, only starker and with a protagonist who's much easier on the eyes.

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Friday, September 30, 2011

Why Punk Rockers Make Great Parents

Posted By on Fri, Sep 30, 2011 at 8:28 AM


This fall, an exciting documentary is hitting movie theaters. It's called The Other F Word, and it's about punk rock; it's about family; and it's about a plethora of life's awkward questions including: "Should I have tattooed my forehead?" and "Daddy, what's a dominatrix?" It features NOFX's Fat Mike, Jim Lindberg from Pennywise, TSOL's Jack Grisham, Rancid's Lars Frederiksen, Rise Against's Tim McIlrath and a host of others, and was produced by Morgan Spurlock (y'know, the Supersize Me guy). You can see the trailer for it here.

It's noted in the trailer that "There's nothing in the punk rock ethos that prepares you for being a dad." But, actually, we'd like to respectfully disagree. Because we think that a life spent submerged in punk rock is the best training any human could hope for when it comes to raising a child.

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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.'"