Will rock ’n’ roll save the mall?

I’m Dirty Too jams out at the TownHouse Lounge last month.

I’m Dirty Too jams out at the TownHouse Lounge last month.

Photo By amy scott

Retail rocks: For years, the Westfield Downtown Plaza has been gunning for an anchor tenant, a game-changer superstore such as Whole Foods, Target or Walmart to seduce Midtowners and beyond en masse to the struggling mall’s echoic hobnob of second-rate shops and to reinvigorate cash registers with SUV-loads of almighty kwan.

But despite many (vacuous) strategies—and even rumored virgin sacrifices—this anchor tenant has yet to materialize. Meanwhile, the mall struggles to keep tenants. Some argue that Westfield should just throw in the towel on any blue-chip hopes and reinvent itself as a multiculti bazaar or Denio’s-like haven for independent retailers. A crazy idea—but one that just might work?

If it does, then thank reggae-jam band Zuhg for trailblazing the way.

Zuhg is a popular group known for its dedication to the Sacramento scene. They gig in both the central city and the burbs, in addition to touring the country. And now, Zuhg has opened up shop—literally: the Zuhg Store becomes a reality this weekend at its new Downtown Plaza location on the second floor near the food court.

But the big question is: Can Zuhg save the mall?

If anything, the Zuhg Store instantly is one of the few reasons to hit up Downtown Plaza. Especially this Saturday, November 14, when it’ll blow up the mall with a grand opening celebration (10 a.m. to 8 p.m.), featuring performances by J*Ras, Attwater, Katie Jane, Chris 2me, Dan Rau, Musical Charis, the Dirty Feet, Sly Fox, Random Abiladeze, and, of course, Zuhg itself.

Don’t forget that Zuhg Store is an actual retail hub, too, so bring money to by local CDs and vinyl and band merch. Or sign up for music lessons—first one is half off—and have Zuhg and Co. bestow some musical skill. Or shop for handmade jewelry or purchase HippyTree brand clothing. Not sure if they sell shoes, though, ’cause whenever I see the guys from Zuhg play live, they’re sans kicks.

For that matter, does Downtown Plaza even have a Foot Locker?

Play-by-play of a four-band set in Midtown:
Brother-sister duo Tyler and Juli Lydell—drums and keys-vocals, respectively—performed a dynamic set as the Dreaded Diamond last Saturday. Their sound propelled forward as a symbiotic relationship of percussion and melodic suspension. Juli’s vocals bloomed in a uniform crescendo of cymbal flares, and then fell away in a denouement of driven beats. Opening at Townhouse Lounge, D.D. satiated an attentive crowd.

Next, Doom Bird continued to amaze with the soft sincerity of Kris Anaya’s vocals and the awesome string instrumentation of Joe Davancens. They rarely practice together, but their live sets continue to improve.

Echo Location (from Oakland) brought the post-industrial instrumental music. The trio hinted at mechanical inspiration, but drummer Francis Eastman added a human element, changing tempo while new guitar colors filled the driving, distorted bass.

The crowd was duly amped for Mister Metaphor’s reunion. Their math-rock guitar licks are precise and repetitious—with a hint of flange and light distortion—but there are moments when the post-punk wall of strumming just takes over a song. Mike Sparks rotates his vocals between staccato and legato melodies accordingly.

The set was lengthy and reminded both how little and how much has changed in Sacramento since 2005. We’ve seen electric-piano pop and indie folk rise to fill the void of what post-punk (or emo) left behind. Mister Metaphor was part of that slippery genre, and though the members do perform more contemporary works, M.M. is not overtly removed from today. They will fit (should they continue, cough) into our accommodating scene. And on a night when all genres were nostalgic—where the completed past appeals far more than the opaque tomorrow—Mister Metaphor and an extra hour of party, because of daylight saving, seemed just right.