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Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Valet Bicycle Parking

SFBC Valet bicycle parking

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I enjoyed a nice mostly-acoustic trio of sets by the above singer-songwriters at the du Nord last Tuesday. Although I was there mainly to see local artist Kate Isenberg, Cook and Fraser were also good, especially the latter.

I showed up characteristically early and waited in line for about 10 minutes while they did ID checks and will-calls, then nursed a beer at the bar until Amy Cook came on at 7:30. Cook’s one-woman, 30-minute set was a solid acoustic folksy affair, although she had a cold, which didn’t help her hitting the high notes. She was affable throughout – my favorite songs were “Loma Prieta” and “Coming Home,” both from her newest album, “The Sky Observer’s Guide.”

Kate Isenberg took the stage shortly after 8pm with a 3-piece band consisting of bass, drums, and violin, with Kate on vocals and guitar. She played a great set of songs selected from her earlier albums, her excellent newest album, “The Time Comes On Humming Tracks,” and a new piece or two. The band was great, and the drummer in particular had a great energy about him, smiling throughout the show as he played mainly with brushes. Although she didn’t play either of my favorite songs from hew new album, my favorite tracks of the evening were “Coming Home,” “Streetcar to Grace,” and “7 League Boots.” I talked to Kate for a few minutes after her set, one of the nicer things about seeing shows in intimate venues like Cafe du Nord.

Not caring too much for what I thought was her most recent album when I heard the samples on iTunes, I was waffling on sticking around for Brooke Fraser, even though she was the headliner. Kate said she’s a great singer, however, so I decided to check her out, and was very glad I did. I later found out that iTunes’ album dates are not particularly reliable, and that what appears to be Fraser’s newest album is not, and her newest album, titled “Albertine,” is rather good. Fraser took the stage armed with an acoustic guitar, and an accompanist on keyboards, and proceeded to do a great set of acoustic songs for the next hour. She was a charming and funny presence on stage, telling jokes and giving sometimes lengthy explanations about the pieces and herself (she chalked some of this up to jet lag, as she’d just flown in from Sydney). “Albertine,” the title track from her album, was a highlight, as was “C.S. Lewis Song,” and “Hosea’s Wife.” She amusingly explained that the title of “Hosea’s Wife” was chosen because the biblical figure Hosea’s wife’s actual name was Gomer, and who would want to name a song that? 🙂 Fraser comes across something like Tori Amos in her early days, and has an excellent voice. She seemed genuinely surprised that there were so many people to see her, although with her talent, I imagine she’ll do well.

All told this was a great evening of talented women, a bargain for only $15. Although I love the small setting of Cafe du Nord, their sound system sucks, but this was less apparent in a mostly-acoustic show like this than it was the last time I was here to see metal/rock band Comets on Fire.

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Sarah & I went to the first day of the Treasure Island Music Festival on Saturday, and had a lovely time. Although there were more bands in day 2’s lineup that I’m familiar with, the schedule just didn’t work out for us, so Day 1 it was (also at $100 for a 2-day pass, we opted for only one day!).


Downtown SF from Treasure Island

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Sarah & I saw the Blind Boys of Alabama perform their annual Christmas show at Davies Symphony Hall in downtown SF yesterday, and it was a blast! We saw their holiday show a couple of years ago at the Masonic Auditorium, and this one was pretty similar.

Unlike the last time, however, they had a surprise opening act – 5 of the quilters of Gee’s Bend (who have a show of their quilts running through the end of the year at the DeYoung Museum) performed a few a capela gospel songs!

The Boys performed some holiday tunes as well as some secular ones from their recent series of Grammy-winning albums. I never tire of hearing their version of “Amazing Grace,” set to the tune of “the House of the Rising Sun,” and they sang it very well indeed this time. My other favorites were “Go Tell It On the Mountain” and their excellent cover of Tom Waits’ “Down In The Hole.” “Spirit In The Sky,” apparently from their newest album, which I’ve not yet heard, was another winner, as well as the transcendent Ben Harper number “There Will Be A Light.”

They ended the set with their usual revival-style extended jam, this time on “I’m A Soldier.” While the rest of the band riffed, Jimmy Carter came off-stage and walked through the audience (not that we could see much from our nose-bleed seats, but he’s done this the other two times I’ve seen them too). While a fun twist, this jam often goes on a little bit too long for my taste, and with everyone standing, I either have to stand, or look at someone’s behind.

There were some sound issues at the start of the set, with the guitars and bass overpowering the vocals, but they were quickly sorted out. In the 3 times I’ve seen the Blind Boys, I never fail to be amazed at their energy. Front-man Jimmy Carter is still hopping and swinging and exhorting the crowd to get up and clap. Bishop Billy Bowers, the youngest by far of the three primary singers, has an excellent voice and energy too. Leader Clarence Fountain was more subdued, mostly sitting in a chair and not singing in every song. The guitar/bass section is talented to boot, especially lead guitarist Joey Williams.

If you haven’t seen the Blind Boys of Alabama live, I highly recommend doing so at least once as they have a unique energy and are superb singers (not to mention they have the only blind drummer I know of!).

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Diamanda Galas – holy crap!

I saw Diamanda Galas perform her “Defixiones: Orders from the Dead” at the YBCA last night and wow! I’ve been a fan of her work for many years, and was thrilled to get to see her live (she rarely performs on the west coast).

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