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Monday, August 15, 2016

Live Review: Alabama Shakes and Kurt Vile Made Their Own Weather at the Greek

Posted By on Mon, Aug 15, 2016 at 11:58 AM

Alabama Shakes at the Greek, Berkeley - PHOTO: ZACK RUSKIN
  • Photo: Zack Ruskin
  • Alabama Shakes at the Greek, Berkeley

Brittany Howard didn’t chat much between songs, but with a voice like that, why waste it on talking?

Taking the stage for the second of two sold out shows at Berkeley’s Greek Theatre, the Alabama Shake's singer made sure to introduce the other members of the band, to thank the crowd for their energy, and to remark on the beauty of the venue. But mainly she sang: shrieks and high notes mingling together into something altogether magical. Trying to peg Howard’s voice is a futile exercise, because while there are traces of Janis Joplin and Robert Plant to be found in it, no comparison would rightly do it justice.

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Monday, July 18, 2016

Live Review: San Francisco Symphony Performs Ratatouille in Concert

Posted By on Mon, Jul 18, 2016 at 1:20 PM

  • CAMI
Ratatouille is far from my favorite Pixar movie.

I say that not to open the can of worms that is debating which of the now-Disney owned animation studio's films are the best — because we'd be here all day — but for a bit of context. I was not going to the Sunday afternoon showing of the San Francisco Symphony performs Ratatouille in Concert as a fan of the film, but probably more so the opposite; the tale of Remy the rat and his attempt to become one of Paris’s top chefs just never did much for me. Never really liked it.

But, put those pitchforks down. Just doing some scene setting. My dislike of the film should, I suppose, give the following a bit more weight: The San Francisco Symphony took a movie I've never held affinity for and made it one of the more enjoyable orchestral performances I’ve seen of late.

For the performance, the score of the movie was played live by the orchestra, while the film was projected on a giant screen. Pulling off this type of show is tricky for myriad reasons, not least of all that the orchestra has to stay exactly in sync with the film, but also has to balance its own sound with prerecorded dialogue and sound effects. Big mistakes in either of those categories and the whole thing just falls apart. Everything has to be precise and meticulous and match with what's happening on-screen. It isn't like the conductor can just slow the movie down or rewind if something goes awry.

Luckily, much like Remy’s own signature ratatouille, this performance was top notch: it was one of the best such live-orchestra-with-a-movie performances I’ve seen. The balance between the film and the orchestra was nearly perfect (save a few very minor spots), with the orchestra loudly supplementing the film with its Academy Award nominated score.

The live score added another layer of flavor to the film, and scenes like the rats escaping from the crazy gun-touting lady at the beginning, or the chase around the kitchen, were given a heightened sense of emotion, pulling me further into the adventure. Again, I couldn't have named any of the songs or melodies from the film — and probably still couldn’t, its score, like the movie, never stuck out to me — but I still found myself tapping my foot along and really enjoying all the ingredients coming together live.

I was also quite happy to see that the orchestra brings out an accordion (the film’s score pulls from its French setting), but could have used it louder in the mix, especially in the scene where the rat band is playing in the sewers: I initially almost thought the accordion was prerecorded given how faint it was amidst everything else. But, I'm just glad the orchestra went the extra mile to bring in some non-standard orchestral instruments to really flesh everything out.

Again, I was coming at this as more of a movie-score and orchestral fan than a Ratatouille aficionado, and it was also my first time seeing the San Francisco Symphony. Now, I have much higher expectations to see what the symphony can do with music and films I actually am a fan of.

And maybe, just maybe, I'll have to revisit my prior dislike for Ratatouille.

Critic's Notebook:

—Director/screenwriter Brad Bird and composer Michael Giacchino were also present (and did a pre-concert talk), which made this show even more special. Not every day, I imagine, that either gets to hear the movie they worked on performed for a live audience.

—I’m not sure if the San Francisco Symphony does movies like this every summer…but something like this but with Aladdin or Lion King? Gimme gimme gimme.

—Why are reviewers always portrayed negatively in movies? Do people really perceive us like Anton Ego? I've never known a critic with a house so big, at the very least....
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Monday, June 6, 2016

Drake and Steph Curry Attend The Opening For Ayesha Curry's Pop-Up BBQ Restaurant in San Francisco

Posted By on Mon, Jun 6, 2016 at 2:15 PM

Last Friday, June 3, Drake and Steph Curry attended a pre-event opening for Ayesha Curry's new pop-up restaurant in San Francisco. The BBQ spot, called International Smoke, is based out of Chef Michael Mina's test kitchen on Greenwich Street and is Ayesha's first professional restaurant venture. It is also apparently so booked up that reservations are not available until next month. 

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Monday, May 30, 2016

Live Review: Gogol Bordello Never Fails to Impress (Even Though I've Seen Them Perform Four Times Already This Year)

Posted By on Mon, May 30, 2016 at 10:11 AM


There are some things you'll only see at a Gogol Bordello concert.

For instance: Frontman Eugene Hutz reaching under the legs of another band member to strum on an accordion. A bouquet of flowers being launched into the audience from a slingshot tied between the legs of one of the group's dancers. Songs transitioning into samba dance breaks. A giant metal pipe that is seemingly pulled from nowhere and banged upon with a drum stick. A weird steel drum-like instrument that makes a noise that's more animalistic than anything.

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Monday, May 9, 2016

Explosions in the Sky Casts a Constellation Over the Fox Theater on Saturday Night

Posted By on Mon, May 9, 2016 at 11:45 AM

  • Photo: Zack Ruskin

At 8:00 am on Saturday morning, I woke up in a sleeping bag in Wawona Campground in Yosemite Valley. The standard hazards of camping had taken their toll: a sunburn unfairly inflicted by an overcast day, soggy soles in the back-up shoes packed just in case the first pair – also soaked – got wet, and an aching desire to hear the flush of a toilet. I was haggard and bedraggled, but I also had somewhere to be. At 9:00 pm that evening, I was leaning against a balcony at Oakland’s Fox Theater, a smudge of campfire ash still lining my left ear, taking in the majesty of Explosions in the Sky.

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Built To Last: 30 Years of Sick Of It All (Live Review)

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2016 at 11:30 AM

  • Matt Saincome
  • Sick Of It All

“This is the first song we wrote as angry teenagers who hated the world. And we sing it proudly today as disgruntled, but handsome middle-aged men who hate the world,” Sick of It All’s Lou Koller said excitedly into the mic before his band — celebrating its 30th year — kicked off into “My Life.”

The crowd came alive, bouncing against the limits of the pit, then collapsing in on itself for gang vocals, and spreading back out again for some two-stepping in the pit. It was a hardcore show, just like the thousands Sick Of It All has played before. And, if you clicked this link you can probably already imagine what it looked like: lots of sing-a-longs and a few of those really embarrassing failed stage dives where the crowd pushes the would-be diver back on the stage.

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Thursday, April 7, 2016

This Weekend: Take a Drumming Workshop Taught By Beyonce's and M.I.A.'s Drummers

Posted By on Thu, Apr 7, 2016 at 2:12 PM


Want to learn how to mic up your drum kit from two awesome ladies who have worked with Beyonce and M.I.A.? Then we've got the workshop for you!

On Sunday, April, 10, Kimberly Thompson (Beyonce's drummer) and Kiran Ghandi (M.I.A.'s and Thievery Corporation's drummer) will be teaching a drum recording workshop at the non-profit studio, Women's Audio Mission. For only $90, drummers will spend four hours learner how to prepare and tune a drum kit, as well as microphone placement techniques (and how to choose a microphone in the first place).

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Monday, April 4, 2016

Live Review: Rickshaw Stop Lost Its Chill When Gryffin Took The Stage Last Friday Night

Posted By on Mon, Apr 4, 2016 at 10:34 AM

  • Ryan Mannix
Allan Rayman
DJ Aaron Axelsen
Friday, April 1st
Rickshaw Stop

Almost every event at Rickshaw Stop has a quick witted drink special with wordplay that winks at the night’s bill. Tonight, there was no such clever message. Instead, the chalkboard gawked from behind the bar with unsettling chicken scratch promoting Fireball. But the disappointment only lasted three seconds, tops, and was the only of the night.

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Monday, March 28, 2016

Live Review: I Was The Youngest Person at a Smashing Pumpkins Show And It Was Super Weird

Posted By on Mon, Mar 28, 2016 at 12:29 PM

Smashing Pumpkins
Liz Phair
March 25, 2016
The Masonic

As a ‘90s-baby-turned-twenty-something, I pretty much exist to remind people 35 and over just how long it’s been since the ‘90s. And there were a lot of people over the age of 35 at The Masonic Friday night, many of them still rocking the bald heads they shaved after seeing Billy Corgan’s bare dome on MTV.

This enthusiasm still exists in 2016, as evidenced by the boisterous cheering when Corgan took the stage alone. Bathed in pink light, Corgan strummed through “Cardinal Rule,” “Stumbleine,” and a nostalgia-inducing “Tonight, Tonight.” Guitarist Jeff Schroeder joined him for the now-obligatory Bowie cover: a faithful if predictable rendition of “Space Oddity,” which only sort of meshed with the gentle acoustic mood the pair were attempting to set.

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Live Review: Leon Bridges Brought the Past to Life at the Fox Theater

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2016 at 12:30 PM

Leon Bridges and his squad. - CHRISTOPHER VICTORIO
  • Christopher Victorio
  • Leon Bridges and his squad.

Last year, 26-year-old Leon Bridges took the music world by storm with the release of his debut studio album Coming Home. The Grammy-nominated album, released in June on Columbia Records, charted at No. 6 on the Billboard 200 and introduced the world to Bridges' inventive reworkings of late '50s and early '60s soul, R&B, and pop ditties. 

Last November, I had the chance to see the Fort Worth, Texas native perform at The Wiltern in Hollywood, and I was curious to see how (and if) his show had changed four months later. Bridges is a phenomenal live performer and one of the things I liked the most about his show in L.A. was that the songs were played exactly as they were recorded on the album. Innovation is great, but sometimes the original is so good that it shouldn't be fucked with. Bridges' voice is just as buttery and smooth as it sounds in his recordings and, as expected, he was dressed to the nines in a vintage suit and tie ensemble. 

The only qualm I had with the show was Bridges' interim banter with the audience. It just didn't work. His jokes fell flat. His remarks were awkward. Though he's phenomenal as a singer, it was clear that he was struggling with the small talk. Every time he grabbed the mic to chat with the crowd, it just felt awkward — and not awkward in the "I don't have a script or know what to say" kind of way, but awkward in the "I'm just not good at talking to people and I'm not clever enough to think of something cute or funny to say" kind of way. While this was surprising, I wasn't willing to let it influence my opinions on the artist. After all, he's a singer, not a politician. Speeches aren't supposed to be his forte. 

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