Tag Archives: Music

The Wiener Kids go to church, other recommended gigs

Photo : Claude GASSIAN
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Rambunctious and impulsive, volatile, protean and given to musical hijinks, Wiener Kids might seem like a bad bet for a performance in a church. But Trinity Chamber Concerts, a series hosted by Trinity Chapel on Dana Street in Berkeley for almost four decades, has long presented experimental jazz and improvised music mixed in with solo and duo classical recitals, early music ensembles, string quartets, and new music masters, like flautist Robert Dick.

A trio led by the insistently inventive Oakland drummer Jordan Glenn, Wiener Kids feature two of the region’s most dependably interesting reed players, Cory Wright and Aram Shelton. No stranger to the chapel’s resonant space, Glenn has prepared a Wiener special for the group’s Trinity debut Saturday night.
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David Gans keeps on truckin’ with the Grateful Dead

The Sycamore Slough String Band will play live at the GD marathon. L to R: Dave Muhlethaler, David Gans, Roger Sideman, David Thom.     
Photo: Jamie Soja
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On Saturday, Feb 23, David Gans will walk into the studio at the Berkeley-based KPFA and put on a song by the Grateful Dead, thereby launching a 16-hour Dead marathon popular around the world. It will be the 27th time Gans has hosted the marathon, a fundraiser that nets thousands of dollars each year for the radio station.

Gans is now a Grateful Dead expert with a weekly syndicated radio show highlighting the band’s music. He is also the author of Playing in the Band: An Oral and Visual Portrait of the Grateful Dead, among other books, and a guitarist and accomplished songwriter. As Gans prepared for the Grateful Deal marathon, which will run from Sat. at 9 am to Sunday at 1 a.m. at 94.1 FM, Berkeleyside asked him how he started to love the band and why the music is so enduring.

When and where was the first time you heard the Grateful Dead? At what point did you fall in love with their music? And after having listened to it for decades, how have you not grown tired of the music?
My roommate and songwriting partner dragged me to a show on March 5, 1972. I found it attractive enough that I started listening to the records, and when the Dead came back to the Bay Area in August of that year I went to four shows in a week. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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CircusOz_08_Credit_RobBlackburnROOS IN THE TOP PADDOCK Australia’s Circus Oz returns to Cal Performances Friday, Saturday and Sunday for what’s described as “their renowned brand of collective mayhem.” “Stunt-jumping acrobats contest physics, fearless aerial artists laugh at gravity, slapstick knockabouts descend into chaos, and live onstage musicians rock the house.” The matinee performance on Saturday has special Family Fare series pricing. At Zellerbach Hall on Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and Sunday at 3 p.m. Tickets available from Cal Performances.

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Andre Thierry: The New King of Zydeco

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Sometimes it looks like there must be two or three guys named Andre Thierry running around the Bay Area, setting small zydeco conflagrations with sizzling accordion riffs. But no, the Richmond-raised Thierry has become the region’s most visible torchbearer for Louisiana’s signature Creole blend of R&B, soul and Acadian culture.

“We’re getting out there more, that’s my main goal,” said Thierry, 33, who performs Saturday at Freight & Salvage with his hard-working band Zydeco Magic. “Before I was kind of doing the regular stuff, now I’m stepping out of the box a little bit, doing stuff I wouldn’t normally do.”

Recently nominated for a Best Regional Roots Music Album Grammy Award for his contribution to Corey Ledet’s album “Nothin’ But the Best,” Thierry is celebrating the release of his fourth album “Are You Ready To Learn,” an album that seamlessly blends old-school R&B crooning, supple funk, and lively zydeco two-steps, waltzes and shuffles. … Continue reading »

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Mill Valley Film Festival highlights Berkeley director

Nels Cline
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Berkeley filmmaker Steven Okazaki won an Academy Award in 1991 for Days of Waiting, a short film about Estelle Ishigo, a Caucasian artist who went with her Japanese-American husband to a World War II internment camp for Japanese Americans. Three of his other films, focusing on the  legacy of the World War II era on Japanese Americans, have also been nominated for Oscars.

Now Okazaki has turned his attention to the music of Nels Cline, one of the country’s most accomplished guitarists and a member of the band Wilco.

Shot entirely inside Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, Approximately Nels Cline is an examination of every aspect of the guitarist. The short documentary shows Cline playing electric and acoustical guitar, improvising, and performing traditional and experimental music. The film — Okazaki’s first music documentary — explores Cline’s genius and sense of adventure and showcases his “fearless experimental spirit.”

“It’s not your typical music documentary,” said Okazaki. “It’s about musicianship and the collaborative hard work of playing great music.” … Continue reading »

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Old Time Music rocks Berkeley

The Lucky Dogs set up to play at the Berkeley Farmers' Market String Band contest on Saturday, part of the Old Time Music Festival. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
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Dozens of people gathered in the sun in Martin Luther King Park at the Civic Center on Saturday to hear an Old Time Music dust-up, where bands played two songs in the hopes of winning the Berkeley Farmers’ Market String Band Contest.

The event is part of the Old Time Music Convention running in Berkeley from Sept. 12-16. A variation of the Convention has been going on in the park since 1968. For events and times, click here. … Continue reading »

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Anderson’s Dirtday! expresses bafflement at today’s world

Laurie Anderson returns to Cal Performances with Dirtday! Photo: Lucie Jansch
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When Cal Performances presents musician-storyteller Laurie Anderson’s Dirtday!, the third part of a trilogy and co-commissioning project begun in 2002, one thing is certain: she won’t be “put in a bin”.

“I try not to label myself,” she says, while seeking words to define her genre in a phone interview several weeks before her Sept. 18 Berkeley appearance. “Music is freer now, there’s no necessity to categorize.”  … Continue reading »

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Musical provocateur Plonsey & New Monsters to perform

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Most musicians would be thrilled if a distinguished colleague created a band dedicated to interpreting their compositions. Dan Plonsey, however, isn’t your average musician. He’s not exactly complaining about New Monsters, the powerhouse jazz quintet launched last year by bassist Steve Horowitz and drummer Jim Bove. But as befitting a man who found a kindred spirit in dyspeptic graphic novelist (and jazz critic) Harvey Pekar, Plonsey seems a little bemused by the ensemble, even though he’s a charter member.

Riding a wave of glowing reviews for its eponymous album on the Los Angeles label Posi-Tone, New Monsters performs Saturday at the Jazzschool on Addison in downtown Berkeley (and Sept. 23 at San Francisco’s Bird & Beckett bookstore). With pianist Scott Looney, ROVA saxophonist Steve Adams (and now drummer John Hanes), the band features the instrumentation of a hard-bop quintet, though it’s far more volatile, playing loose and limber arrangements of tunes gleaned from an expansive series of untitled pieces that Plonsey wrote for his large ensemble Daniel Popsicle. Where Plonsey tends to avoid jazz conventions, instead creating music full of jump cuts, digressive humor and through-composed themes, Horowitz’s New Monsters pulls the music firmly into jazz territory, moving unpredictably from capering grooves to free form improvisation.  … Continue reading »


UC Berkeley serves up an edible education this fall

Graduate School of Journalism professor Michael Pollan. Photo: Fran Collin
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Tonight marks the return of Edible Education at Cal, with solo instructor Michael Pollan kicking off the 16-week course. The class is open to both undergraduate and graduate students — and, like last year, some 300 free seats are reserved for the public. (See details below for nabbing a ticket to these popular sessions, which typically fill to capacity each week.)

The Graduate School of Journalism professor, and guest speakers from the food and farming world, will examine the future of farming and food and explore how the U.S.’s industrialized food system impacts the environment, health, farm and food workers, as well as the culture at large.

“Food politics are in the forefront of students’ minds these days,” said Pollan, known to tackle wonky food subjects in compelling prose in bestselling books such as “In Defense of Food.” “They like hearing from non-academics — activists, farmers, and journalists.” … Continue reading »

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Tune into Berkeleyside Radio, hear artists playing locally

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The editors of Berkeleyside, truth to tell, are not regulars at local rocks gigs. It’s perhaps a question of age and taste, but it’s also a result of a common problem: how do you know whether you’ll like a band you’ve never heard?

We’ve now provided an answer (not to age and taste, but to unfamiliarity). Berkeleyside Radio, which launches today, plays songs only by artists who will be performing locally in the next two weeks. You can access it either through the link above or by clicking the button in the central column on our homepage.

Berkeleyside Radio comes courtesy of Berkeley startup DeliRadio, the brainchild of Wayne Skeen. … Continue reading »

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Foxtails Brigade: Roots on Berkeley’s Fourth Street

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On a sunny day, Berkeley offers few better venues than the corner of Fourth Street in front of Peet’s Coffee. Prime real estate for buskers, the unregulated spot seems to attract an unusually accomplished array of performers, from Berkeley High jazz combos and string bands to soul outfits and lone fingerstyle guitarists.

Hanging out there last year with my toddling daughter led to my first encounter with Foxtails Brigade, a captivating chamber pop band created by Oakland guitarist/vocalist Laura Weinbach. While she launched Foxtails in 2006 with violinist Sivan Sadeh, by the time I caught up with her she had recreated the duo with violinist Anton Patzner, a highly sympathetic accompanist who’s also a founding member of the East Bay string metal trio Judgment Day. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley’s Thirstbusters release infectious new album

From left: Ryan Thomas, guitar; Forrest Mitchell, drums; Zach Sorgen, vocals, piano; Chase Jackson, bass

Caught Between, the title of the Thirstbusters’ infectious sophomore album, is certainly apt.

On one hand, the four-piece Berkeley band is securing a Canadian licensing deal and just won a national songwriting prize.

On the other, their current tour bus is a minivan that belongs to the drummer’s parents.

“We discussed different possibilities for the title, and Caught Between really fit this point in our lives, between childhood and adulthood, us on the verge of finally being a full-time band,” said singer and pianist Zach Sorgen, the band’s oldest member and a recent Vassar College graduate. … Continue reading »

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Sameer Gupta: North meets South

Tabla player Sameer Gupta
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Sameer Gupta is on a mission to bring classical Indian music into places where it rarely ventures. A percussionist who plays tabla and trap drums, Gupta was a mainstay in Bay Area creative music circles until his 2008 move to Brooklyn, where he’s helped kindle a thriving Indian music scene with a weekly jazz-style jam session in a Prospect Park cowboy bar. He returns to California this weekend for a performance Sunday at the Subterranean Art House with Rohan Krishnamurthy
, a master of mridangam, the drum that plays a central role in South Indian music.

“It’s a North Indian meets South Indian percussion concert,” Gupta says. “We want to present each drum on its own and show them together, trading the rhythmic languages back and forth. Both the tabla and the mridangam have amazing timbres and mathematics, so we’ll talk about that and where the instruments fit in the Hindustani and Carnatic traditions.”

You can listen to Gupta’s Aaye Na Balam here. … Continue reading »

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