Let me count the good vibes
Ten things about Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom X:
Like a fine wine, KDVS’ Operation: Restore Maximum Freedom just gets more complex and delicious as time goes on. And it gets you drunk. Here’s 10 memories:
1. Random Abiladeze gave hella old-school shoutouts, such as to the Iran-Contra scandal, Lee Harvey Oswald and—oldest school of all—the Loch Ness monster.
2. ORMF is always a cutting-edge fashion show and the trends are: tie-dyes, out (you knew it had to happen sooner or later); exposed bras, in.
3. The Buk Buk Bigups are one of the most exciting things going locally and are led by a genius mad professor.
4. Dreamy Dreamdate are still the cutest band in the land.
5. Dreamdate mostly played new stuff from their upcoming record, Melody Walk, on Tic Tac Totally records.
6. You don’t have to smoke weed when Ganglians play, but you also don’t have to not smoke weed when Ganglians play. The weed will not smoke itself.
7. “Blood on the Sand” is a certified hit, and the Ganglians killed it live.
8. Wounded Lion are a total party band, à la Tyvek or the Coconut Coolouts, and Sacramento and Davis both love a party band. It helped that DJ Rick from KDVS and Andrew from G. Green guested on drums and guitar, respectively.
9. The younger generation needs to learn to put down their iPhones and video cameras and enjoy the music. At times the crowd was a sea of glowing screens.
10. Final tally: three (four?) Sudwerk Pilsners, one Alaskan IPA, one veggie burger and fries, one Ganglians-inspired bowl followed by one giant oatmeal cookie, one Wounded Lion LP and countless good vibes.
Beer belly equals success:
Usually when someone says, “I grew up with [fill in the blank musical act],” it means that they grew up listening to their first few albums before the artists or band eventually fell off and started to suck. This, however, is not what I meant when I was discussing Atmosphere’s performance last Tuesday at Sacramento State with my date.
The first time I saw Atmosphere, Slug (the emcee) had just recorded his first album, Overcast. He was about 20 years old, sunken in and looked like the poster boy for underground couch-surfing emcees. Only the most devoted crate diggers even knew who he was.
But on Tuesday night, Slug, who has since gone on to release another seven solo albums and countless side projects, sold out the University Union Ballroom. Women screamed as he went through classic God Loves Ugly tracks as well as his upcoming release To All My Friends, putting on one of the best shows in hip-hop today. You could see a noticeable belly under his shirt. He talked about the trials of having a teenage son. Slug is old.
And he made it OK for me to feel as old as I did walking into the crowd full of teeny-boppers yelling, “Oh my god! It’s him.”
Not a commodity:
Two touring acts from Oakland opened up for the Tender Cinders last Thursday at Old Ironsides in a show full of soul references and doo-wop nostalgia. Tropical Sleep sparked off the evening with their take on combo-amp bar rock before the Bitter Honeys took the stage. With five members, the Honeys employ standard drums, guitar and bass, but their awesomeness comes from the three female vocalists, who trade lead and backup harmonies depending on the song. Lyrically centered on the pitfalls of love, the Honneys playfully combine heartache, dance and sequined dresses.
Tender Cinders appeared with a full rhythm section: drummer Nick Bustos on the kit, and four other performers manning the bells, bongos, congas, cowbells and even a gong. Husband-and-wife duo of Brian LaTour (keys/bass/vocals) and Tatiana LaTour (lead vocals) provided harmonies over groove-driven songs and thick funk key-bass lines.
On “Elevator Song,” consumer decadence is counted out as floors of a department store. The childhood joys of summer ascend as harmonies on “Ice-Cream Man,” which contrasts the refrain of “Charter Way,” a tune about pending adulthood: “smoking cigarettes and trying to grow up in one night.” Tender Cinders’ lyrics are exaggerative and fun, and the band embodies a soulful style that celebrates the complicated apotheosis of our commodity culture.
Can’t stop Googling myself:
In a sold-out celebration of bluegrass and comedic wit, Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers picked their way through almost two hours of music. Martin walked onstage sporting a tweed coat and tie and held the attentive audience all evening with his banjo playing, comedic singing and ad libs between songs.
The Steep Canyon Rangers weren’t bad themselves. A five-piece bluegrass outfit from North Carolina, the Rangers aided Martin with a second banjo, guitar, bass, mandolin and violin. Martin even took a break to “Google myself” and let the Rangers play two of their original works.
Martin and company exhibited a polished and professional bluegrass ability; they were thoroughly rehearsed, the opposite of the stereotypical backwoods porch jam. Still, they maintained a raw country feel. Ending their encore with a bluegrass classic “Orange Blossom Special,” standout violinist Nicholas M. Sanders wove multiple other musical themes, from Beethoven to the Beatles, into the improvisational sections. Every note and punch line in its place, the audience left smiling.