Stereolab at the Fillmore – October 18, 2019

A 5-piece rock band on stage

Stereolab at the Fillmore in October 2019

Dear Reader: As I noted in my previous post, I am going to endeavor to reboot the Girlbandgeek blog. It is my tribute to the music I love, which has given me so much joy. Despite most of 2020 and all of 2021 having no live music, I have in fact seen almost 20 shows that I have not documented, some at the end of 2019 and beginning of 2020, and more since live shows started up again in 2022.

As the events I will be describing happened considerably far in the past, I’m going to be fairly casual about it. In some cases I may have jotted down some notes, and in others I may just have to rely on memory, and whatever I captured in my trusty iPhone. If all I have is a picture and a few impressions, I’m just going to post that and move on. But at least there will be a record of the music which nourished my heart and soul in these turbulent years.

The following notes are taken from my journal the day after the show:

I did feel happy just being in SF, even driving, but even more so after I parked the car in the Japantown garage and entered Japan Center. I really love that place. All the Japanese people, the restaurants, and other cool stores like the stationery store, the bookstore, anime/manga store and so on. I found Alex by our favorite Ramen place, Marufuku. We greeted each other and Alex said the wait at Marufuku was 3 hours, so we went to another smaller place which was cute and the food was tasty. I didn’t get the name, but it was on the bridge and it had bunches of manga, and anime playing on multiple screens.

Having finished dinner, we walked a few short blocks to the Fillmore. I unironically love the Fillmore and I always get an emotional feeling just walking into the venue. I love the little touches – top hat girl, the red delicious apples, the free posters. It’s a good size – not too big – and it’s inviting. I couldn’t tell you what color it is – but there’s some molding, chandeliers, and tons of photographs of bands and artists going back to the 60’s – The Grateful Dead, Janice Joplin, the B-52s, Sleater-Kinney and on and on. We got there a little after 8pm. We got some beverages, and I decided to get in the merch line which was already pretty long. I picked up a shirt for myself and one for Vinny (which I gave them at Christmas). Alex was on board with my plan to just get as close as possible and stay there for the whole show.

Opening band was Bronze. I knew nothing about them, and only figured out their name because I looked it up. They were pretty trippy. They were a three piece band with drummer, vocalist and synthesizer dude. Along the edge of the stage were placed 8 or 10 coffee makers, many visibly steaming as if full of fresh coffee. Synthesizer dude played a weird instrument that looked like an oversized game controller – or just a box with some knobs. He produced a heavy and pretty complex sound just by rotating a couple of knobs? Logically he must have had some pre-programmed tracks, and then just kind of modified them with the controller knobs, but I don’t know for sure. The singer was wearing a western style sport coat and a cowboy hat. He had a good voice and a kind of distracted, David Byrne-like quality about him. They are kind of like the house band in a David Lynch film. I thought they were a good warm up for Stereolab. I don’t think Alex was very into them.

[Apparently I ran out of steam and didn’t write much about Stereolab] Really fun show – it was so great to see the songs live. I found myself watching guitar player Tim Gane a lot. He seemed like a musical focal point and really rhythmically driving things. The whole band just sounded really good though.

    Set List

  • Anamorphose
  • Ping Pong
  • Infinity Girl
  • Double Rocker
  • Crest
  • Need to Be
  • Metronomic Underground
  • Suddan Stars
  • Brakhage
  • Miss Modular
  • Percolator
  • French Disko
  • Lo Boob Oscillator
  • Rainbo Conversation
  • Blue Milk
  • Contranatura

I do remember that it was a really big deal to see Stereolab. Having discovered them after their apparent disbandment, and then to watch as their catalog was remastered and re-released so beautifully, and finally to have all the (surviving) original members reform and begin touring was thrilling to me. They really are an amazing band and I remember being quite high from the experience for days after…

Below is a photo of Bronze for posterity, as well as a snippet of video. They really had a unique vibe!

Three musicians perform contemporary music

Bronze at the Fillmore – October 2019

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Dear Reader – July 2021 Interim Update

View of the ocean from the beach. The water is glassy and reflective. A bird is silhoutted against the water.

Calm After The Storm

Dear Reader: It is my intention to start posting here again. It’s been almost 3 years since my last post, and obviously much has happened. Below is a pandemic update I drafted in July 2021, by way of filling in some of the time since late 2019.

Let me just say that, today, in July 2021, I am fine. I mean, the country and planet are still fucked in profound ways, that are likely to stay fucked, barring an invasion by space aliens or the second coming of Buddha. But I still have a job, and a roof over my head. None of my family members or friends contracted Covid. Still, it’s been a year. My job had been a grueling, stress fest that kept me tethered to my laptop every day. We had the pandemic, nationwide protests over the George Floyd killing that were met with brutal police repression, unprecedented wildfires that erupted in multiple states, including here in California where 1000’s of my neighbors were left homeless by the CZU lightning complex fires. We were evacuated for 3 weeks, but our house was okay when we finally returned.

Let’s rewind the clock to March, 2020, the last day of normalcy before lockdowns and so many other changes that would shake the country to its core. I was at the Melo Melo kava bar in Santa Cruz with our friends and the various regulars we had come to know. I could see the writing on the walls with respect to the lockdown coming. Coronavirus was already raging through NYC, and our governor Gavin Newsom had announced that California would go into lockdown on March 16. It was evening and we were hanging out with our kava bar friends – Andi, Carly, Lisi, Amira, etc. It was kind of an impromptu farewell for Carly, who was moving back to Texas. We were drinking kava outside Melo Melo and at the same time a BLM protest was zig-zagging through downtown. I remember Carly asking me how I’m doing and me answering that my heart was breaking for my country – alluding to the pandemic which it was already clear to me would cause terrible loss and suffering – as well as the grievous racism that is so deeply rooted in our laws, economic system and minds, which the latest police murder had thrown into the spotlight again. I also gestured to the protesters and said they gave me hope.

The political situation in the US was a grim charade. The Republican party was a full-throated death cult – ignoring science, attacking LGBTQ rights, women, people of color, the environment on every front. President Trump, his family and his cronies were openly breaking the law and nobody seemed to care.

So let’s talk about Stereolab, a band that has been offering a critique of capitalism wrapped in sophisticated post-rock sounds since the early 90s. I had come to Stereolab late in the game – I discovered them around 2015 long after they had stopped being active. But the music was still out there, and I fell for them hard. I listened to Emperor Tomato Ketchup, ABC Music: The Radio 1 Sessions, Transient Random-Noise Bursts with Announcements and others. I love their first album, Peng!, with its more guitar-based sound layered with Laetitia Sadier’s haunting melodies, a lot.

A couple of years ago Stereolab started re-issuing their entire catalog in deluxe, remastered editions. It wasn’t long before tour dates began to be announced. I picked up tickets for their October 18, 2019, 8pm show at the Fillmore, the 2nd of a 3-day run in San Francisco.

[To be continued…]

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Kamelot, Sonata Arctica and Battle Beast at Palace of Fine Arts

Kamelot at Palace of Fine Arts

Kamelot at Palace of Fine Arts

Show date: Friday, October 4, 2019

I’ll be honest, this is not the kind of music I would put on for myself. But I’ve been spending a lot of time driving with my older son and I typically let him pick the music. So I’ve been getting introduced to bands like Diablo Swing Orchestra, Kamelot, Battle Beast and others on tonight’s bill. It didn’t take any arm twisting on my son’s part to convince me to join him for an evening of metal. The Palace of Fine Arts is such an iconic venue, and I had a feeling the bands would put on a really good show – I was not wrong.

My son drove us all the way from Boulder Creek to San Francisco on his learner’s permit. I wasn’t sure he was going to be game, but he ended up driving us all the way to the City for his first time. We parked down by Crissy Field, so we were right there by the Bay in the late afternoon. We soaked in the view for a few minutes, and then headed to the Marina district to find something to eat. A little while later, bellies full, we made our way to the Palace of Fine Arts.

It was twilight, and there were folks scattered about the great semi-circular colonnade of the Palace, with its statues and lush vegetation. There were the inevitable couples getting their engagement photos, and a few groups of obvious metal fans looking for the entrance.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I found the event to be very inviting. There were a lot of young, kind of nerdy guys like my son, many sporting band shirts and jeans. But there were folks of all ages, and likewise there was a fair number of women as well. There were only a small number of folks in what I would call “metal” attire – long coats and leather with studs and klunky black boots – and these were mostly older (on up from 40-ish) couples. There were a few groups of younger women that had some pretty cute metal outfits as well. In general, there was a feeling of camaraderie, of being inside a smallish subculture, with limited opportunities to gather.

The show got started pretty directly. It is an elegant theater on the inside, and everybody was sitting in their comfy seat when Battle Beast took the stage. Lead singer Noora Louhimo was decked out in Viking themed battle dress, and topped with a helmet with horns. Louhimo declared “This is a metal show! What are you all doing sitting down?” Naturally we all stood up and pretty much stayed standing for the rest of the night. Battle Beast was maybe my favorite act of the evening, because of the strong stage presence and vocal performance by Louhimo. As would be the case with most of tonight’s bands, there were several anthemic numbers (Eden, Straight to the Heart) that had the crowd pumping their fists.

I think Louhimo was being a little tongue-in-cheek when she claimed that Battle Beast is Finland’s number 1 “satanic melodic death metal” band. A little bit later she joked that they used to be a viking metal band, and then launched into Bastard Son of Odin from the 2017 Bringer of Pain album. Battle Beast played a solid set, took their bows for the appreciative crowd, and then they were gone.

Next on the bill was Sonata Arctica from Sweden. I enjoyed this band a lot, too. Lead singer Tony Kakko was really very sweet and down-to-earth. He thanked us all for supporting the artists, and showing up for live performance. Kakko mentioned that he was a parent, and directly referenced the climate crisis, so kudos for that. I noted that one of the songs related to suicide? He said “Life is better alive” which I certainly can’t argue with! They also did a vodka chant which was amusing. I noticed that the audience knows the songs and is singing alone which is great.

Finally it’s time for the main act, Kamelot. There are blinding lights, and the drummer is up on the big riser. My notes say “relentless from the first note” and “emoting and thrumming 110%”. Surprised to find just now that Kamelot is actually from Tampa, Florida. Lead singer Tommy Karevik is from Sweden, though. Karevik has an excellent voice. Joining Karevik on several numbers is Lauren Hart which added a nice counterpoint. Pretty much every song was a barn burner – drums pounding relentlessly, veins bulging on the bassist’s forehead, guitar player shredding and stalking the stage. We really got our money’s worth from this show!

Kamelot Set List

Kamelot Set List

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