Sound Advice: Rad-tastic noise and kitschy classics

Not burger: I thought I was going to a barbecue.

The Facebook event read, “BUR GUR & HABITS.” And me being me, I scanned it quickly and assumed it had to do with burgers and silliness. Alas, it was actually a promotion for an intimate Midtown house show last Monday night, starring Los Angeles bands Bur Gur and Habits.

There were no hamburgers and no, these bands aren’t even signed with Burger Records. Silliness did abound though—mostly in titles. Bur Gur’s latest album, for example, is Alligator Cheesecake.

Bur Gur involved two dudes—one with bare feet, one with mismatched socks—on samplers, synthesizer, guitars barely used and a standing drum. Sometimes it got psychedelic, and even tropical, like in the jam session track called “Jamzzsz.” Rad-tastic.

I was less wild about Habits, mostly because of the dining room’s acoustics. Listening to Habits’ record Unselves in Arrival, though, is a huge treat—Dustin Krapes layers crazy samples, synth and drums into a distorted, metaphysical world of sound. The music is eclectic and challenging, all while maintaining definable song structures.

Live, in that house, the drums overtook all and Krapes ran around mumbling and screaming who-knows-what. Impressive energy though. And hair. I didn’t see his eyes until he finished the set.

Tap and swing: Attend a Hot Sardines concert and you’ll hear a pianist who evokes the 1920s, while smoking an E-cigar.

This is New Orleans-reminiscent hot jazz, served with a wink. With fantastic musicianship—and some kitschiness—the New York-based, eight-piece band manages to make old classics sound fresh and new.

The Hot Sardines performed at the Mondavi Center at UC Davis for four days last week—Wednesday through Saturday—in the smaller, cabaret-style theater. The setting was ideal—dark, intimate and with a bar accessible all night—and the band looked the part, donning suits, ties and pocket squares. Piano, drums, upright bass, trumpet, saxophone, washboard and cowbell were all expected from such a large band, but there was also a surprise percussionist: a tap dancer.

Some favorite renditions included “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home?” the 1902 Dixieland classic by Hughie Cannon; “Midnight, the Stars and You,” the 1934 classic by Al Bowlly featured in The Shining; and “Your Feets’ Too Big,” the 1939 version by Fats Waller. Plus, a playful version of The Jungle Book’s w“I Wanna Be Like You,” translated into French.

Paris-born Miz Elizabeth sings in a deep, old-timey style, and as if she’s been perfecting it for years. Remarkably, she’s totally untrained and the Sardines is her first band. And the band’s current tour is its first national tour ever. In Davis, it nearly or completely sold out every show.

Hopefully a band like The Hot Sardines—young, energetic, fun—can draw a new generation of jazz lovers out of hiding. I was one of maybe four people in the room under the age of 50 last Wednesday night. Let’s just say few laughed when the pianist showed off his tall, red sock, emblazoned with the word, “Naughty.”

Purple beats: If the color purple were to have a sound, it might be something like NastyNasty. At least, that’s what George Galea is banking on for his heavy bass event production company’s two-year birthday party scheduled for Friday, October 24. Just like last year, Galea will deck out the Head on High Productions event in purple. Purple drinks, purple costumes—if you show up dressed in purple, you get in for $12 instead of $15.

Local producers and Head on High residents—Tzolkeen, Zypher, Crescendo, Fifth Bar Drop—also play. But the guest talent, Jasper Reed a.k.a. NastyNasty, is seriously exciting. The San Jose-based producer started out by decking out alternative hip-hop and Southern rap with crazy synths, releasing music as NastyNasty about five years ago.

His work is intricate and futuristic, and live, he mixes his originals with regional booty bass styles—Baltimore club, Philly club, Miami booty and Chicago ghetto house, if we want to get technical—along with grime, hyphy and trap. Being Galea’s party, you can expect it to be crazy with bass—NastyNasty also used to play Grimey in its heydey. He describes his own sets as “some kind of sonic jambalaya.” Tasty.

Grab $10 pre-sale tickets and get more information at