Tuesday, July 29 was Club Sandwich's two year anniversary--they're a local all-ages/"diy" show promotions group. Anyway, they pulled off somewhat of a booking coup with this sold out show at West Oakland's Lobot Gallery: No Age, Mika Miko, Abe Vigoda, and Oakland's KIT all played after a stint at SF's Great American Music Hall the evening before.

I missed KIT, but Abe Vigoda ended up being the highlight of this show--their set was tight and their verbed-out ADD punk has a hypnotic quality to it. My complaint with all these LA bands is a dearth of respect for the human voice (vocals are often buried deep in the mix, and are usually completely inaudible at shows like these), but Abe Vigoda's guitar work tends to make up for it. It's a novel punk band that plays with tremolo and reverb knobs cranked to 10, and it makes for a sound that is cavernous and beautiful. Beautiful, even in a stark-white gallery with no sound system, crushed against the wall by a surging mass of sixteen year olds. Very inspiring.

Mika Miko is a different story. These girls have a sound that is pure throwback: the Misfits, Bad Brains, thrash, whatever. Relentless powerchords, simple drum beats, and unintelligible (but cute) screeching into a telephone rigged up as a microphone are the hallmarks of this group. The first time I saw them (at SF's Noise Pop festival) their energy was sufficient to make it a worthwhile spectacle, but I was rubbed the wrong way this time. Their songs have precious little by way of substance. I've never heard any of their recorded material and I don't particularly feel the need to.

I enjoyed No Age's set. I think a lot of folks end up at No Age shows expecting some level of MTV polish on the songs, and what they get is a sloppy two piece rock band. That's what No Age is. A fun, sloppy, youthful LA punk band who like to throw in some noisy stuff every once in a while, and who place more value on the energy of the performance than on, say, the vocals. Their artier leanings (as evidenced by the video for their empty-sounding single, Eraser) tend to go right out the windows at shows like these, thankfully. They finished up with a cover of the Gun Club's "Sex Beat" which actually made my night. It all made for a fine showcase of L.A.'s biggest indie exports of the moment. Hopefully it was an inspiring one for the music makers and venue owners of the Bay Area, an area sorely lacking in the sort of upbeat energy these three bands bring in spades.



The Superlatives - I Don't Know How
The song opens with a single uncertain cymbal before the tempo sets in. The moment the snare locks and the vibes chime in something deep within me is like "YES". The content is mostly perfunctory, as their tight harmonies sound like the best way they could've said "i really, really need you" even as they emphatically claim they "don't know how." The drums are played with such snap and groove and the whole affair sounds so crisp and taut that goddamn if she has the nerve to walk away. At the 2 minute mark- Wait for it... "HEY GIRRL!"

Little Richard - I Don't Know What you Got pt. 1 & 2
Little Richard's foray into Southern soul after his r&b/rock n roll hits on Specialty and subsequent gospel recordings on Mercury and Atlantic. The song was released on Vee-Jay shortly before the label went under. Written by Don Covay, a young Jimi Hendrix plays on the recording. This period of Richard's career is deemed a footnote to the "Tutti Frutti" days, but this is perfectly executed Southern soul.

Tammy Montgomery - I Cried & If You Don't Think
Before she performed her monster hits with Marvin Gaye as Tammi Terrell, she recorded for James Brown's Try Me label. Both of these songs were authored by Brown (they were briefly romantically involved) and showcase a diversity and grit not apparent on Montgomery's Motown sides . On "I Cried" she's wounded and pleading. On the flip she moves between tenderness and exasperation and, in the process, crafts the perfect answer to the Godfather's signature scream - her sharp, little *ow!* - endearing and furious. At Motown she'd perfect youthful sweetness, but would never again growl and yelp quite like this.

Renaldo Domino - I'm Not Too Cool to Cry
At age 12 I got my head slammed against a wall by the school bully. I remember, between breathless sobs, looking down at my paper boy hat flung to the ground and my plaid Mossimo vest, baffled by the poverty of appearances. Then I looked up and saw that my ex (who called it off abruptly after a month of furtive hand holding) was laughing at me. Anyway, this song is great.

Sam & Kitty - Love is the Greatest
In a lot of ways this song is a pretty conventional blues based number, the b-side to a sought after northern soul cut. But there's something deeply captivating here. It's really important that you listen to this song really loud. At a certain volume the seemingly routine guitar becomes crucial and the voices get appropriately large. The song steadily goes and somewhere along the way the whole thing becomes momentous. Love is the greatest.

Allen Gauff - I Don't Want to be Alone
This is a gospel number but it works just as well as an apocalyptic love song. "Right now the world is coming to an end/ And I just a-wanna, wanna be close to you."



As former Portland residents (one of us is a native) we're always confronted with a mix of excitement and apprehension when we see national coverage of our City of Roses, be it music-related or otherwise, and it was with this heady blend of dread and elation that we approached MTV News' recent Portland "Scene Report." Apparently, MTV's producers are more in the know than the channel's round-the-clock "reality" programming would suggest, and they happen to get a lot of things right (the interviews with Colin Meloy and Stephen Malkmus notwithstanding).

While there is plenty of utopian hyperbole (references to "the rain," Portland as "organic," "the greatest city ever," and a "commune" full of "micro-scenes" abound), MTV ventures further outside the mainstream than one might expect. There are interviews with and footage from an Eat Skull/Meth Teeth house show (that we happened to be at), as well as interviews with numerous others, from indie royalty (YACHT, The Thermals, M. Ward) to the legitimately underground (Starfucker, Southern Belle, Fist Fite).

MTV did manage to ignore whole swathes of Portland music (for starters, Dead Moon/Pierced Arrows and the Lifesavas are conspicuously absent), and certainly plays up the myth of the NW as an idyll nest of creativity, but ultimately they present a pretty realistic portrait of the city's indie-rock community. Listening to Colin Meloy wax poetic about paying his dues for three whole years at a pizza shop was sort of unbearable though.



I'm pretty impressed by this cover, probably out of a latent affinity for Doug Martsch's voice after a youth of Built to Spill devotion. He manages to avoid the stock blunders of the reggae cover-- the treachery of the contrived patois or the hashed skank rhythm. Instead he reworks the song into straight grunge, while maintaining something of the Wailers' original warm and plaintive vocals. And of the many things Bob Marley would come to represent (ambassador of Jamaican music, spiritual leader, fashion icon, killer dorm room poster) one of the few certainties is that the man could most definitely sing. It's a tall order and, while the cover isn't any revelation, it's encouraging to hear a potentially awkward marriage working this well.

Bob Marley & the Wailers - Try Me




This blog's inaugural post detailed our reverence for Portland's Mississippi Records, and their collection of sanctified blues called "Life Is A Problem." In keeping with the spirit of that excellent anthology, we'd like to turn your attention to the music of Reverend Charlie Jackson.

Born in 1932 in McComb, Mississippi, Rev. Jackson took up the guitar at age ten, only to be chastised by his mother for playing suggestive blues tunes. He gave up the blues temporarily, but after becoming a preacher and settling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the 1960s, he was possessed to start playing again. Accompanying himself on guitar (a wildly raw Fender Mustang), Rev. Jackson bellowed out electrified sermons from the pulpit, detailing his desires for Jesus to hook him like a fish. Recording for the Booker and Jackson labels, Rev. Jackson sounds like the unnatural spawn of Leadbelly and Howlin' Wolf, his compositions ranging from the hypnotically inspirational ("My Eternal Home") to blissfully unhinged (the afore-mentioned "Wrapped Up and Tangled Up In Jesus").

The CaseQuarter label compiled and issued every one of Jackson's singles in 2003, the first time ever any of this music became available on CD. Crypt Records issued the LP in 2004, and Rev. Jackson died February 13th, 2006.

Digging around the internet unearthed this gem, Rev. Jackson's only known TV appearance. The host is bit condescending, but Rev. Jackson responds with sincere affability, regaling the Irish audience with tales of cowboying in Texas and trimming hair to make ends meet. A wonderful performance by a genuine and captivating talent.




The ever-audacious Nas has released the album that his record company shelved. Done in classic mix-tape fashion (i.e. full of uncleared samples) with DJ Green Lantern, "The Nigger Tape" is crass, uneven, and exhilarating. For the first time in years, Nas sounds hungry; he ranges around the beats like some half-crazed stalker trying to get a bead on his prey. He succeeds for the most part, thanks in no small part to Green Lantern's glitchy, ecstatic production, but there are certainly some missteps. The bizarre ode to Mike Tyson calls into question whether or not Nas has his finger on the pulse of relevancy, and the nearly 9-minute "Nas Timeline" feels like the desperate boasting of a rapper who knows he made his best album 14 years ago.

Still, there is something charming about the utter brashness of this project, and though it's nowhere near the quality of "Illmatic" (or even "Stillmatic" for that matter), it's nice to know that Nasir Jones is still angry. What "The Nigger Tape" lacks in musical and lyrical prowess it makes up for in Nas' continued exploration of thematic elements mostly left alone by today's flossed-and-glossed radio rappers.

Download "The Nigger Tape" here.



Since moving to Chicago I've heard steady buzz of the Killer Whales and last night at the Empty Bottle I finally got around to seeing them. The group is fronted by two singers on bass and guitar with dual drummers, one on trap kit, the other playing bongos and floor toms. They played together effortlessly, sounding both ferociously tight and artlessly playful. The staccato guitar and interlocking rhythms had echoes of post-punk, but stripped of cold English dread in favor of warm irreverence. Without all the ennui running interference one could better focus on getting down. Between songs, and as the small audience slowly loosened, we were told to imagine a hypothetical vampire kept at bay only by channeling all our most positive vibes into furious dancing.

Their CD doesn't quite do them justice, sounding small and careful where their live show felt sizable and unrestrained. On record their impish falsetto can be cloying, but last night it simply Was, matching the percolating groove and needling guitar.

The Killer Whales - Only for Money

Killer Whales on myspace.



Released in 1977, the Congos' Heart of the Congos is generally considered one of the best and under heard albums of the roots era, and more arguably the finest and most sympathetic Lee Perry produced effort. Despite its dub wise sound and biblical themes the album is, in many ways, a throwback to rocksteady's Impressions-styled trios. Roy Johnson's tenor, Watty Burnett's baritone and Cedric Myton's lilting falsetto make up a classic Jamaican harmony trio. However, the singers are given a musicality and democracy within Perry's quietly audacious production, sharing the swirling dynamics of Perry's finest dubs minus some of his more abrupt tendencies. Perry's radicalism never overwhelms the musical whole. For instance, in "Children Crying" listen to the groaning sounds behind the lyrics, Jah Jah/the children crying in the wilderness, sounding out like some soulful beast of burden. Allegedly due to Perry's conflicts with Island Records the album failed to receive international release, thus robbing us of many a regrettable Joe Strummer cover.

Download here



Apollonia 6 - Sex Shooter (demo)
Prince - I Spend My Time Loving You (1976 demo)
Van Morrison - Lorna (demo)
Eddie Ray - You Got Me (demo)
Rolling Stones - Hamburger To Go
The Majestic Arrows - I'll Never Cry for Another Boy (rehearsal)
Robbie Robertson - You Don't Come Through (demo)
Bob Dylan - I'm Guilty of Loving You
The Band - Will the Circle Be Unbroken (outtake)
Modern Lovers - A Plea for Tenderness


A look at the early photographic work of Martha Cooper. Cooper is responsible for documenting much of the emerging b-boy culture of late-1970's New York, specifically graffiti and breakdancing. This is an interesting little video.


Another preview, this time for DJ Soulpusher's documentary chronicling his travels through West Africa. Soulpusher's search for the rarest Afrobeat records takes him from Sierra Leone to Benin, where Voodoo is recognized as the state religion and the hypnotic Sato ceremony forms the rhythmic basis for much of the popular music made there during the mid-to-late 1960's and early 1970's.



Fool's Gold is from Los Angeles and make infectious indie-afro-pop with sweet little melodies in Hebrew. I don't think there's much to know about this band at this point except they've made a rather wonderful sounding song in "Surprise Hotel," and they've just released a record which I have not heard. It also makes sense that their singer would name drop this blog in an interview, and I am grateful to him for doing so.