What you hear if you go to seven shows in a week
New reviews: Cuntstomer Servixxx has the best name ever, SMARTBOMB + Freakstyle, plus Blues Lawyer, Fantastic Negrito, Badvril, and badorchid
Friday. Barely making it to the Peacock Lounge to see Gumby’s Junk. After their insane prog punk set, walking no more than a block to Underground SF for the No Bias party. House music. Not jabber, juke, drill, or any other high-speed drum and bass music—just house served up deep and fine by Qemist and Varsha. The next night at Public Works, never leaving the loft—Josh Cheon, New Order, Boy Harsher, Nine Inch Nails, sfcowboy—dancing to the synthwave goth muck for hours. The next day, a lovely early evening spent in El Rio’s backyard at a party presented by Louie Elser and Hot Goth GF. This time the DJs do play hot, high-speed club music (including three different Rosalía remixes, thank you very much) but it’s balanced out by the radiant and cool voices of Pallaví aka Fijiana and AroMa. Before the weekend is over, cruise to Oakland Secret for the fastest and deadliest, a night presented by the absolutely brutally venomous junglist Soeneido. Gas pedal! Brake. Two nights off, then a quick stroll to the local delicatessen (Stay Gold) affords one the greasy, savory experience of hardcore punk, the circle pit spinning and spinning at the whims of Choke, Slutbomb, and George Crustanza. Oakland, you delight me. One night you fill up a deli with punks, and then the next night you fill up Thee Stork Club with jazz lovers? All due credit to Mae Powell and her sextet plus support from I Am the Octopus and Baby Steps, not to mention the great deity John Coltrane, for blessing us.
Live music seems to have returned, and so have we. See you at Noise Pop Fest?
SILLY, EARNEST, SINGABLE
I didn’t know anything about Cuntstomer Servixxx until two or three weeks ago, when the name made me laugh out loud while reviewing the Noise Pop lineup. I’m so glad we are now acquainted – this is a fun one. Conceived, apparently, while working a crappy job in a chain movie theater, Jessica Friedman has released a few stray singles and demos over the years under the Cuntstomer Servixxx name, leading to February’s full-length, No Refunds. It’s full of singable melodies, but balanced with a bittersweetness as it delves immediately into the personal with songs like “Estrogen.”
I appreciate an artist that doesn’t take themselves too seriously, and from the name alone you can tell that’s the case with Friedman/Cuntstomer Servixxx. But beyond the silly exterior is a throughline of warm earnestness, and one we’ll hopefully hear more of in the coming months.
See Cuntstomer Servixxx on Thursday, February 23 at Ivy Room for Noise Pop Fest with Nonbinary Girlfriend and Bella Hangnail.
— Jody Amable
UPLIFTING, LIBERATING FREESTYLE
Here’s one for lovers of Latin freestyle! In addition to choice events around the Bay, SMARTBOMB regularly delivers a diverse assortment of mixes through their Patreon. There have been live recordings of hip hop performances, ambient/experimental journeys, and—most recently—this past week they offer up a two-hour mix by Freakstyle, a 100% freestyle posse made up of Brown Amy, Digital KitKat, Cherry Vic, Vankmen, and Guerrilla Pum. Big fat electro beats abound, punctuated by glazy gliding synths and those ever-passionate voices singing out joy, uplifting and liberating.
— Ronny Kerr
MELLIFLUOUS POP PUNK
“Bathing in the Sunday sun
Unburdened by the damage done
Suddenly I see your face
Looking slightly out of place
Could it be elusive Eden?”
Is this the least dark entry in the catalog of Dark Entries Records? At least sonically, it might be. But we can’t complain, given that All in Good Time by Blues Lawyer bridges one of the city’s best and most consistent record labels to one of Oakland’s most tweetastic bands around. Citing 90s alternative rockers like Lemonheads and Teenage Fanclub as influences—I’m hearing the Vaselines—songwriters Rob I. Miller and Elyse Schrock effortlessly exchange mellifluous lead vocals over pop punk riffs that just keep on coming, catchy and catchy every time. Since forming in 2017, the band has evolved in more ways than one, so it’s fitting that the newest album finds its muse in the passage of time, and our relationship to its passing.
Rob I. Miller and Ellen Matthews of Blues Lawyer will be joining White Crate on Lower Grand Radio on Thursday, March 2 at 8:30 PM PT. Stay tuned for more info!
See Blues Lawyer play their album release show with the Umbrellas and Hits on Saturday, March 18 at Thee Stork Club.
— Ronny Kerr
EPIC BLUES, STRIPPED DOWN
An epic amalgamation of gospel, blues, country, and even a little punk, White Jesus, Black Problems was one of the best rock albums of 2022. Now West Oakland soulman and living blues icon Fantastic Negrito (aka Xavier Amin Dphrepaulezz) returns with Grandfather Courage, an all-acoustic rendering of the full album. The original was his most ambitious work to date, coming complete with a full film based on the story of on his seventh-generation grandparents (an African-American grandfather who was a slave and a white Scottish grandmother who was an indentured servant), their illegal common law marriage, and the love and politics that flow from that deep, winding history. There’s something equally (if not more) captivating about the simple acoustic interpretations on Grandfather Courage, tapping into the easy, freewheeling musical connection between Dphrepaulezz and his touring band. Earthy, thumping flesh and blood.
— Ronny Kerr
FUZZY, SINUOUS SHOEGAZE
Compiling four singles dripped out over the past year plus a few extras, Dust Remover is a new demo tape by SF shoegazers Badvril. Fuzzy, sinuous basslines, ghostly sung words, and marching drum and bass make up the sound here, familiar and comforting as a couch in your friend’s very much lived-in Mission District apartment. Personally, the track that initially caught my attention was the cover of the Goo Goo Dolls song “Iris”, just because I used to play that song repeatedly off the City of Angels soundtrack back in the day. But it’s also the odd one out here, dramatically forlorn in comparison to the rest of the tape’s more ambivalent, dreamy sound. It’s all good.
Tell your friends to catch Badvril on their tour through LA, Tucson, Texas, and back around the Pacific Northwest this spring!
— Ronny Kerr
TWISTED, INFERNAL AMBIENCE
“dante’s 9 circles of hell, sans the aspic (because gross); burnt toast (my favorite); carcinogens; disintegration into dust; something about eve”
White Crate writer appreciation post! Elise, our resident contributor fully dedicated to covering the wide, morphing spheres of Bay Area ambient and experimental, also produces her own music under the name badorchid. This week she released a twisted, infernal ambient work entrusted with two entirely different titles—“burnt toast disintegration” and “troubles from the firmament”—which swirls in a cyclone of reverb and white noise for nearly five minutes. It’s so empty and faceless, you could hear it over and over again on repeat and still not quite grasp it. We can only hope the next disintegration lingers on a little longer.
— Ronny Kerr
Our top show recommendations for the coming week:
[rock] Noise Pop ft. Eternal Drag, Thank You Come Again, The Manzanita, Mild Universe, Byron Mayhew — Feb 18-19 at Zeitgeist
[rock] Bobby Oroza, Brainstory — Feb 17 at the Chapel
[ambient] Joel St. Julien, Ceremonial Abyss, Headboggle — Feb 18 at Mare Island, Vallejo
[hip hop] MC Pauze: “Through Time” Album Release — Feb 18 at Brava Theater Center
[reggae] Sister Nancy — Feb 18 at the Chapel, Feb 19 at the New Parish
[rock] Noise Pop Fest ft. Duster, Covet, Spellling, Tommy Guerrero, Christian Kuria, No Vacation, Fake Fruit — Feb 20-26 at All Over the Place
[jazz] Jazz Mafia’s Fat Tuesday Mardi Gras Git-Down — Feb 21 at the New Parish
[hip hop] The Roots, James Wavey — Feb 23 at the Masonic
[rock] Cass McCombs + Band, Weak Signal — Feb 23 at the Independent
[club] Lower Grand Radio 9th Year Anniversary — Feb 23 at Bar Part Time, Feb 24 at Thee Stork Club