Sleater-Kinney and KAINA at Fox Theater November 16, 2019

Rock band Sleater-Kinney perform at the Fox Theater in Oakland. Members are Katie Harkin, Carrie Brownstein, Angie Boylan, Corin Tucker and Toko Yasuda.

Sleater Kinney at the Fox Theater

Sleater-Kinney is a central band in the Girlbandgeek cannon. They embody all the elements of what I love in a band – powerful, emotional singing, harmony, innovative guitar parts, and urgent, explosive rhythms driven by Janet Weiss’ powerful drumming. The year was 1997, I was living on Hayes St. in San Francisco with my wife Dawn who was pregnant with our first child. I read an article in the SF Bay Guardian which convinced me that I would like Sleater-Kinney. I think I bought Dig Me Out without hearing it. I formed an immediate, strong connection with that album, which is certainly one of my all-time favorites by any band. I played it every day for a year. At work I’d plug my shitty earbuds into my Compaq laptop and pop Dig Me Out into the CD drive. I made a tape so I could play it in the car, you get the idea…

I had missed the Dig Me Out tour, but I was there with bells on for the Hot Rock tour, and pretty much every tour since then to the present day. I’ve seen them maybe 7 times so far. I’m not actually sure who my favorite band is now, but for about two decades I would unhesitatingly say that SK was my favorite band. They had a string of fantastic albums, and their live show was always so explosive, and guaranteed to transport me to my own sonic and spiritual fantasy island.

I do particularly love the “classic” period of Sleater-Kinney from 1997 to 2002. I love all the albums from those years, but the one I reach for most often is probably All Hands on the Bad One. I am a SK loyalist and think all their records have merit. Nevertheless, starting with The Woods and the following, the albums don’t elicit the same feeling of connection and excitement for me as the classic ones.

Anyway, let’s document a few impressions from this concert in November, 2019. Alex and I dined on pizza at a trendy restaurant he wanted to try in Piedmont. From there we head to the venue, the gorgeous Fox Theater in Oakland: one of my favorite venues in the Bay Area. The opening act was KAINA (Kaina Castillo). KAINA is a talented, young pop artist, blending elements of latin and funk. She was quite impressive.She had keyboards/bassist/drummer to accompany her, all quite good. Alex and I both liked the drummer a lot.

KAINA’s set ends, and soon Sleater-Kinney will take the stage. This will be my first time seeing the band with new drummer Angie Boylan, formerly of Aye Nako. Janet Weiss had rather suddenly announced her departure from the band a couple of months before the tour was to begin, citing differences with the current musical direction. I was pretty anxious about how they would sound without Janet’s supple and powerful drumming, but Boylan was up to the challenge. In addition to Boylan, and founding members Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein, the lineup included Katie Harkin and Toko Yusuda providing additional guitars, keyboards and vocals.

I only made a few notes about the show. From opening number The Center Cannot Hold, they came out pretty much at full throttle, and did not let up. The new drummer Angie Boylan is fucking great. They played a satisfying set list of newer songs, as well as old favorites. I am a little chagrinned that they did not play my personal favorite live song which is Turn It On – my first Sleater-Kinney concert where Turn It On was not played! But it was a gorgeous and satisfying evening of rock and roll. I’m glad to see that Tucker, Brownstein and band have held on to their passion and ferocity, while exploring new possibilities.

For a similar experience, there is a good YouTube from this tour. Check it out:

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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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