On the death of individuality
Sacramento, CA 95817
Bouncing boys and girls:
Indie rock has lately seemed like a game of rearranging chairs, with countless bands sifting through the same influences—Sonic Youth? Check. Big Black? Check. Fela Kuti? Check. Larry Levan? Check—and arriving at slightly different but essentially similar conclusions. That has led more than a few to pontificate on the supposed death of DIY individuality.
Paste magazine’s current cover story asks that question, and Kaya Oakes’ Slanted and Enchanted even spends an entire book mulling over the subject. Portland band Nice Nice plays the same interior decorating game, but they’re not too bad at it. Their debut Extra Wow, which arrives via U.K. big shot Warp Records in April, features lots of totemic drumming (Liars? Check), droning, echo-chamber vocals and blippy keyboard textures (take your pick). But I’m making Nice Nice sound worse than it actually is. Extra Wow is a solid debut, if somewhat familiar-sounding. I can imagine the band ripping a hole through a sea of bouncing boys and girls that they will undoubtedly encounter at Sol Collective (2574 21st Street, 8 p.m., $7). I will probably be there, too, if I can get in. (Mosi Reeves)
Crossing the Bay Bridge from Sacramento, I had a true sense of anticipation for the night to come. I came to Sacramento in 2000, and the first place I found that really inspired was the original incarnation of the True Love Coffeehouse. It was there I first heard Jonah Matranga. But I was unaware of Far’s existence when they were together, and I have longed to see Far but missed the first few reunion shows.
This weekend, Far was appearing at San Francisco’s Noise Pop Festival, which commenced Wednesday with Yoko Ono’s Plastic Ono Band. The festival was held throughout San Francisco at a handful of venues. Highlights included Yoko and her son Sean Lennon’s group the Ghost of a Saber Toothed Tiger, the Magnetic Fields, Atlas Sound, Edward Sharpe & the Magnetic Zeros, Chk-Chk-Chk (!!!) and Far. Each headlining act was preceded by about three opening acts, most from the Bay Area.
As I said, I was pulling into the city, reflecting on my excitement for Far, trying to figure out where the venue was when, in my distraction, I didn’t see a red light and drove straight through. Right in front of a police officer.
A very friendly and polite cop wrote me a ticket and instructed me to take traffic school to keep it off of my record. When this happened, I realized what I dislike about the Noise Pop Festival: Though most festivals are in one spot, where you can travel by foot from each stage, Noise Pop causes you to transport yourself from each venue by bus or car. In short, it’s not much different than any other night in San Francisco.
I was able to go to two shows, Far and John Vanderslice, and attend the beginning of the festival’s Industry Noise event, which included drummer Josh Freese as a keynote speaker.
The three opening acts for Far were not worth mentioning. The last of those opening acts sounded like a bad Muse cover band. By the time Far took the stage, the audience was ready for something familiar and good. Far didn’t leave anyone with hunger pains. Though they were not ready to play any songs off the new album, the audience seemed satisfied with the tried and true, and they were singing along as Matranga got intimate with the front of the crowd. He praised the venue, Bottom of the Hill, for not having a barrier between the people and the stage.
John Vanderslice’s show had a great group of opening acts. Conspiracy of Venus, a choir of women that performed Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell and Rufus Wainwright covers, were a lot of fun. Honeycomb, the act following, were good enough to convince me to buy their self-released album. Check them out. Nurses, Vanderslice’s labelmates, were also great. The show was held at the Swedish American Hall, and the only thing that put a strange tone on the evening were the three protesters standing outside the show in neon-green vests that read “Down with V-slice.” It just goes to show you they will protest anything in San Francisco (John Phillips).