For a long weekend in August just outside Portland Pendarvis Farm swells with people, many of which are young families, to camp, enjoy music, and commune with our fellow humans. In the forested part of the grounds, every square foot of flat dirt or bush that could be used as sleeping space was taken, and then some. Hammocks were a favorite device since much of that forest was the side of a hill. A cool 90 degrees in the shade for a period, Toddlers misted passers-by with friendly doses of water from squirt bottles, and teenagers were getting entrepreneurial with a Super-Soaker. On the hottest day of the weekend the festival itself provided an industrial effort misting station, a essentially spraying people down for hours on end. It was very effective and much appreciated.
Gonzo heat aside Pickathon delivered on just about every count. Food: Pine State Biscuits for Breakfast and Bunk Bar For Dinner? Oh Snap! Music: War On Drugs, THEESatisfaction and Thee Oh Sees among others made nearly every set I witnessed a winner. Shovels and Rope and Lake Street Dive both brought down the house. Notable bands played small stages and smaller bands played big stage. Atmosphere: Low key, but enough license and space was given to allow people to keep things going all night long. Official sets went late into the night and jam sessions of one and many were happening in campsites all over, all the time.
Note to self for next time: Show up early to get a prime campsite. And bring a hammock just in case. There will definitely be a next time.
I’ve gotten to a point with Thee Oh Sees where I make no assumptions about what their next album might sound like. I’m partial to the band’s more krautrock style – John Dwyer’s falsetto rising up and over the pummeling force of the guitar – but, as they’re like to do, Dwyer and his band of merry pranksters oft times veer away from the pummeling to dig in to something else, some sort of strange blend of their older quieter sound with a stew pot of flute and bizarreness. “Flood’s New Light”, the second single off the upcoming Putrifiers II album sounds, maybe, somewhere in the middle. There’s touches of a sort of fungal krautrock, overgrown and without the persistent rock, and Dwyer’s voice continues to lead the charge, but the strange noodling of Castlemania slips on the edges. Call it a combination of sound, or perhaps yet another new incarnation of the many-pronged machine that is Thee Oh Sees.
Putrifiers II is out September 11th on In The Red.
I’ve been admiring Pickathon from a far for years. Living vicariously through friends stories of “the perfect festival”, drooling over photos on Flickr and cursing the fact that it is always scheduled the weekend before Doe Bay Fest. This year I decided I wanted to admire all Pickathon has to offer up close, scheduling conflicts and back-to-back music festivals be damned. So next weekend I’ll be making my first trek to Pendarvis Farm for Pickathon and I have to say, its the festival I’ve been most looking forward to all summer.
And that’s not just because it’s the new one, the one I haven’t been to yet, but because the solid line-up featuring diverse genres from hip hop to Americana to zydeco to old-timey string bands to rock and roll, the chance to see artists multiple times in different settings throughout the weekend, to explore the Pickathon ethos of low impact and low stress, and to deduce if I really am burned out on banjos.
Based on the festival’s website and my interactions with the folks running it, it would seem that Pickathon is a festival run right. The site features a streaming playlist of all the artists playing, giving you an easy chance to listen and discover more than the big names on the line-up. Thanks to the playlist, my schedule expanded greatly from seeing the six or seven bands I knew I wanted to see three times during the weekend to a chance to discover all kinds of new favorites. And beyond the music and importantly for a remote music festival, the directions sent to attendees about parking, camping and other random festival details is exhaustive.
I’ve included my full planned schedule below, but wanted to point out a couple of the events I’m most excited to see. Thanks to the Pickathon playlist, I can’t wait to catch a couple sets by The Wood Brothers (Sunday from 5 to 6pm at the Mt. View Stage), Reverend KM Williams (Friday from 2:45-3:30 at Fir Meadows and Saturday from 1 to 2pm at the Galaxy Barn), Lonnie Walker (Friday from 7 to 8pm at the Galaxy Barn and Sunday from 1:30 to 2:30 at the Woods Stage) and Midtown Dickens by starlight on Sunday. I’m eager to check out a couple of Pickathon’s famous barn workshop events and just to see sets at stages with names like The Woods, Starlight Stage, Fir Meadow and Galaxy Barn. Then there’s the chance to see some of the biggest names of the summer festival season in an intimate setting — like Block Party Headliner Neko Case, Sasquatch show-stealers The War on Drugs and non-stop tourers, Dr. Dog. I haven’t even stepped foot on the festival grounds, and I’m already ready to declare Pickathon my new favorite festival. We’ll have to wait and see if it lives up to my high expectations.
Though Cosmonauts get lumped in with the high-energy burst that is Thee Oh Sees more times than not, I find, more and more, that there’s something darker at play in the throbbing crunch of the Cosmonauts. Sure, this is garage rock as recently defined by the San Francisco scene, but where Thee Oh Sees toss out pulsating blasts of wind-up repetition, Cosmonauts deafeningly leak out their noise in waves of sonic fuzz. “Emerald Green”, the first single off their upcoming release, feels peppier than anything Psychic Denim offered, but it still wallows in the murkier part of the garage swimming pool. A promising first track off a much-anticipated album.
Cosmonauts new 12″ ‘If You Wanna Die, I Wanna Die” is out on Burger Records now.
Anything new from Thee Oh Sees camp (which lucky for us is’t a rarity) is cause for rejoice around The Daily Choice parts. “Lupine Dominus” the first single off of the new album, Putrifiers II and it continues the band’s progression in to the world of persistent rhythm’s and psyched-out guitar solos. There’s a sinister edge to “Lupine Dominus” though as the song never breaks as so many other Oh See’s tracks do. Instead it lingers at a single, hushed volume, the vocals sinewy and seductive, the guitar the solos the songs psychedelic pulse.
Thee Oh Sees new album Putrifiers II will be out on 9/11 via In The Red.
Oh man, are you just like me and totally didn’t get tickets to the fucking amazing line-up that is Woodsist Festival at The Henry Miller Library at Big Sur where bands like Thee Oh Sees and Woods are going to sonically disembowel you? Sigh, I’ve been crying all morning. Not huge tears, but you know, little sniffles. It’s starting to turn around though, this new song from Woods appeared in my mailbox and it’s a spliff-smoked bit of beachside folk, this time tinged with an almost croony, medieval sound. I can only imagine myself perched on a cliff overlooking the great Pacific Ocean with this song blasting in the background, the world of music and nature really meeting in the middle. Oh god, the tears are starting again.
This track is off the new split the band is doing with Amps For Christ. The album is out on Shrimper April 17th.
If I can speak in broad blanket statements for a moment, I believe that San Francisco is putting out the best music of any scene in the country right now. I know, I know, you’re reading a Seattle-based blog, and I certainly know, my bias is completely out of control as I wake and live in this fine city each and every day and am engaged in the scene in a way that I can’t be in any other city. That said, I’m a national music reviewer. I scour the internet day after day trying to find music to populate my brief little column with and only a small fraction of it derives from The Bay Area. It says a lot to me that this small fraction makes up such a enormous part of my musical listening space and for that reason alone I thought this The Bay Area deserved it’s only little Top 10 write-up.
As always, I’m a failure at even numbered lists and as always I’m not one to rank. These are ten bands I thought unmissable, and I’ll admit it’s not a hugely different list than what I’ve composed before, but the bands that were good in SF last year, we’re just as good if not better this year.
Hope the New Year is already giving you cinnamon-scented massages. Thanks for reading.
Thee Oh Sees
I’m a little bit obsessed with John Dwyer and his merry band of musical pranksters. Their live show, their prolific release schedule, their unstoppably energetic sound – I am a buck-tooth, scab-lipped groupie of Thee Oh Sees. 2011 may have been their best year yet with two original releases and a singles comp all beamed to the world amidst an exponential growth in their national popularity. John Dwyer’s record label Castle Face continued to pummel the Bay with some truly great releases (one or two that appear on this list) and I found myself chomping at the bit for 2012 just for the fruit of that labor to make it’s way in to my records stack. Lets be honest, Thee Oh Sees are probably going to be perennial favorites on this list, so get used to it.
The Mallard was almost silent in release this year, but her live show became something to behold with the addition of a drummer and a bassist. From gimmick-laden (but still amazing) solo performer to, behold to believe, rock and roll frontman, Greer McGettrick gets the nod for growing from one of my favorites, to one of everyone’s favorites.
I’m iffy on the current trend in rock ‘n’ roll to imitate the tight pants and feathered hair of glam rock precursors, but Burnt Ones still managed to melt me a new one this year. I don’t know if I had a better time at a show than the late night dance fest that was Burnt Ones at The Knockout this year, and their record, Black Teeth & Golden Tongues, is on constant rotation. It’ll make you want to pull on the tight tights, let your hair grow out, and booty shuffle your way to the liquor store.
Not a better song was released this year than “Lazybones” off of Wooden Shjips West. Fast paced, psychedelic as fuck, everything you want from a Wooden Shjips’ release plowed in to a four minute shred-fest.
Late entry on to the list, but Oakland’s Manatee is well deserved. I’ve felt the hints of early 90s punk touching on the edges of music for a while now, and though it’s scary to think we might be rolling in to a world where ska and Buck ‘o’ Nine are making a comeback, bands like Manatee take the raw energy and combine it with the artistic sensibility I’m loving right now. If this is the future, sign me up for a one-way ticket on a spaceship made of chrome.
Say what you will about the new records from Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin but their collaboration on the Castle Face Flexi-Disc were two of the best songs of the year. Both Bowie covers, both grimy and hard and all sorts of sonic ass-kicking, both not-so-subtle reminders of what these two gentlemen can do when paired together.
I almost didn’t put Sic Alps on here after their cross-country meltdown and Mike Donovan’s sort of egoed rise from band leader to band unto-himself. But the hits just keep coming. Sic Alps have managed to take experimental noise and meld it with pop harmonies and nods the stranger corners of the 1970s and it is, well, fantastic. I miss the Sic Alps of yore, but am curious to see if the future holds anything.
It’s been a banner year for Hardly Art. Seemingly back-to-back-to-back-to-back fantastic albums filled out a year capped of by the Gem Club album Breakers, a truly somber bit of orchestration. To celebrate the festive days cluttering up the calender before the inevitable turn towards 2012, the good folk at Hardly Art sent over a list of some of their favorite albums this year.
For your enjoyment:
01. The Sandwitches – Mrs. Jones’ Cookies
02. Kurt Vile – Smoke Ring for My Halo
03. Shannon & the Clams – Sleep Talk
04. Tim Hecker – Ravedeath, 1972
05. Magic Trick – The Glad Birth of Love
06. Grave Babies – Deathface
07. Fucked Up – David Comes to Life
08. Grouper – A I A : Alien Observer
09. A Winged Victory for the Sullen – s/t
10. Woods – Sun & Shade
11. Thee Oh Sees – Carrion Crawler / The Dream
Best live shows
Ty Segall, Davila 666, Nu Sensae, White Lung, Thee Oh Sees, Pictureplane
Demdike Stare, The Babies, Hunx & Tuffy, up all night in Austin, up all night in NYC, Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx, Factory Floor, Clap reissue, Bill Cosby & His White Pudding Pops, James Blake, Total Control, Iceage, Grass Widow, Case Studies… everything on Hardly Art and Sub Pop that I am refraining from putting in the proper 10.
Read the rest of the Hardly Art family’s favorite things (more…)
I’ve heard rumors that the new Thee Oh Sees album will be thrashing, pummeling bit of madness more in the vein of Help then their recent Captain Beefheart-excursion Castlemania. If this almost brand new split with Aussies Total Control is any indication we are in for a thrashing treat. Let’s not make any statements that place Thee Oh Sees in to a chamber of stagnation, the tracks off this beautiful 12″ split combine the almost theatrical qualities of Castlemania but inject the microphone-eating, shirt-tearing John Dwyer we’ve come to expect over the years. ”Dead Energy” the opening track of Thee Oh Sees half of the album is a jacked bit of surf-rock-cum-thrash and you can almost see Dwyer’s lippy sneer extended across it.
Thee Oh Sees/Total Control split is out now on Castleface.
These massively talented bands are both embarking on a sizable tour together where you can purchase this amazing split 12″ and get a sonic wedgie for the same price.
Let me pull the curtain back from the magic show for a moment. When it comes to music and me passing music on to you, I’m less a bold explorer and more an aggregator. I’m internet obsessive. My girlfriend, sweet patient woman that she is, has to pull me back from the webs more times a day than I care to admit as I can’t stop digging through the digital crates trying to find new music, movies, whatever. Thus the music I present to you is less a product of my own adventurous exploration and more so the end note of a lengthy bout of scouring the choices other, possibly more talented, individuals have presented.
I’m a cherry picker and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Hopefully my cherry picking gets picked over by some other aggregating young mind and then passed along to another and another and all of us can enjoy this fucking fantastic music being put out all over the world. It’s way it works, no?
That said, I’d like to shower love on my new favorite website crush: Positive Destruction. Named after a recent Pitchfork article on the exploding garage scene that’s been fermenting in San Francisco for years now, Positive Destruction focuses almost primarily on the more garage-y aspects of the San Francisco music scene. It’s a pretty deep bowl right now, and somehow the PD kids manage to highlight only the very best of the bands currently destroying basements and house parties city wide. I get the feeling that Positive Destruction is a one-man/woman endeavor at the moment, which makes it even more impressive that they’re able to hit the musical nail on it’s wavering sonic head over and over and over again. Burnt Ones, Terry Malts, Wax Idols, new shit from Thee Oh Sees, new shit from Eddy Current Suppression Ring – every track seems hand picked to make me squeal with delight.
Look at Positive Destruction and then look at my Daily Choices since I discovered them and you will see parallel after parallel after parallel. Positive Destruction feels like a website built for my music taste, and the more I visit it, the more excited I am to be living in San Francisco right now at the crescendo of this beautiful music scene and have a guide with taste like PD to lead me through it. And that’s what a music site should do – shower love in a discerning way to remind the most cynical of us how lucky we are to be right here, right now. It’s what we hope we’re doing at Sound on the Sound, and if my Daily Choices can inspire the sort of love that Positive Destruction does for me for other people, then I can sleep a little better at night.