Hey, mom’s gotta rock, too

Make it a no-whip, extra-foam jam, please: When Zavalaz took the stage at Ace of Spades on June 22, all most people knew was that the group’s frontman, Cedric Bixler-Zavala of the Mars Volta and At the Drive-In fame, is a bona fide post-hardcore, prog-rock god. Since only a 30-second clip of one Zavalaz song has been released so far, however, the crowd was in for a surprise when the band took the stage and broke into a set of smooth, organ-backed classic rock.

More than once this fan has crowd surfed during a frenetic Mars Volta set, but this was not music for such behavior. The question of how to define the new sound begged another: “Why am I even here? Because I love what this guy did, or because I love what this guy does?”

This uncertain mood remained as Zavala explained how a particular song was for his twins or another was for his wife—ultimately, it seemed, the whole set comprised a collection of songs he’d been writing in his bedroom for years.

For what it is, it’s not bad, but at times during the show, it just seemed awkwardly personal.

“We’re just finishing up an album,” Zavala explained to the crowd. “It’s something your mom is finally going to love. She’s going to be at a coffee shop waiting in line to order a latte, and it’s going to come on,” he said, affecting the tone of a naive mother: “’Oh my gawd! I love this! What is this?’”

The whole idea is sort of sad, that this once manic rocker now mellowed by family life had switched to tunes that will, in all likelihood, be available for purchase at Starbucks’ registers nationwide. Still, can you fault him? People grow, people change and iconic musicians are people, too.

And now that I’m older, would I have crowd surfed, anyway?

At the end of the night after a set of perfectly radio-ready songs, Zavala thanked the audience for being patient and understanding, and I guess I understood—moms need music, and the kids have gotta eat. Best of luck, Zavalaz. You make that latte bittersweet.

—Julianna Boggs

Sisterhood of the trip-hop: Recently, Paper Pistols celebrated the release of its new album Deliver Us From Chemicals with a show at Assembly. The band’s latest kicks in the door on any notions of it as just another reclusive bedroom project. Here, Paper Pistols is now let loose as an ambitious electronica duo. Long the solo pet project of drummer Ira Skinner (the busiest soundman in Sacramento), Paper Pistols has finally found the voice it lacked in singer Juliana Lydell. Sacramento may still not be ready for experimental projects that involve live drumming to a digitized nebula (despite birthing Death Grips), but this city loves a band with a heroine in the mix, as conveyed by its affection for Sister Crayon’s Terra Lopez and Dusty Brown’s Jessica Brown. Now, Lydell belongs among the trip-hop/electronica sisterhood. I believe an idealistic alt-reality exists in which these bands set out on a sold-out, round-robin tour, and Sacramento dethrones Austin, Texas, and Brooklyn, New York, as music meccas—all that’s missing is the technology to cross astral planes. Maybe it was Assembly’s stellar sound and visual equipment, but tracks such as the Ellie Goulding-esque “Hipbones” and the folktronica of “Industry” made it feel like the music on Deliver Us From Chemicals is deserving of a life far greater than local notoriety.

—Blake Gillespie

Just Zuhg it: The new Sacramento Kings arena that will eventually make its home on K Street has already taken its first casualty: The Zuhg Life Store (545 Downtown Plaza) will sell its last records this weekend. There will surely be more Sacramento-favorite mom-and-pop businesses given the boot for the sake of gentrification (I shudder to imagine a downtown without the Pre-Flite Lounge), but this particular loss is a hard one for local music fans, tie-die-shirt wearers and art lovers.

“The mall is super slow,” said Zuhg Life Store owner Bryan Nichols. “It’s hard to make enough money to break even.”

Rather than wait around for the rest of the stores in the mall to close, Nichols said he’ll try to relocate. On June 29, the shop will host a good-ol’ musical send-off at Assembly (1000 K Street), featuring Stable Hands, the Bennys, the Old Screen Door and Adrian Bellue. This goodbye show, which also features live art from Jared Konopitski, will start at 8 p.m., and tickets are $10.

—Jonathan Mendick