SFIFF ’08: Cachao: Una Mas

April 23rd, 2008

production still

As a part of the 51st SF International Film Festival, a documentary about legendary Cuban bass player Israel “Cachao” López entitled Cachao: Uno Más will be screened.

Cachao actually recently died, just over a month ago, making SFIFF’s selection of this movie even more appropriate.

The film is mostly set in our fair city with locations such as Bimbo’s and Cigar Bar & Grill. It’s a collection of concert footage (from Bimbo’s) and interviews with Cachao, various friends and historians.

I knew nothing about Cachao before this film; I didn’t even know the name. This documentary was effective to its goal, in one sense at least: I now think that Cachao was a pretty important figure in Afro-Cuban music. He invented the mambo and was an innovator in many ways.

The concert footage and most of the interviews are filmed very well, with nice angles and colors. At
68 minutes long, the film gave a good overview and background to Cachao and the music without getting too bogged down. As someone who’s highly interested in the music of a film like this, I appreciated that every tune was named on screen at the beginning of it–no need to search through the credits and try to match up that favorite song.

My only complaint with the film was the live music mix. It was muddy in general and the bass was mixed too low. For a movie about a bass player, the bass should be noticeable in the mix. Also, the timbales and piano were too loud in the mix.

Overall, I’d recommend the film, especially if you have an interest in Afro-Cuban music.

The film is showing on Monday 4/28 at 6:30p @ Kabuki and Friday 5/2 at 1:15p @ Kabuki.

radio show!

April 22nd, 2008

cred: me

My radio show, I Once was Canadian, is on the air right now, from 3-5pm PST, on KZSU 90.1FM and online.

You can find my playlist here. It’s updated in real time, so keep on reloading.

elf power, two sheds @ bottom of the hill: photos, review

April 22nd, 2008

Friday was my second night in a row at the Bottom of the Hill. This time I was there to see Two Sheds (myspace) and I stayed to see Elf Power (myspace), an E6 band that I used to be a big fan of but hadn’t seen in 6.5 years.

Two Sheds has impressed me a lot lately both with their album and their split 7″ with Dame Satan . They were really great when I saw them at SxSW and I was hoping for a repeat. Last time I didn’t know what to expect and this time the expectations were a lot higher, but they still put on a great set. They even played my favorite song of theirs, “It’s Hard”, which they didn’t play in Austin, even after a request [1].

b&w because the lighting was so green for the Elf Power set.

Elf Power was the headliner of the night and I was surprised that the place wasn’t packed for them. I guess they haven’t been a bigger name for a few years, but the Bottom of the Hill was only about 2/3 full for them.

There have been a few changes since I last saw them: Laura Carter wasn’t playing with the band this time and Bryan Poole aka the Late B.P. Helium is no longer the bass player. Their new bass player is really solid, quite a talented guy, but there did seem to be a bit of a gap where Laura once was.

Overall their set was good, not great. The band played well. I enjoyed the old songs I knew, but the new ones lacked that familiarity.

[1] Incidentally, I highly recommend against requesting “It’s Hard” because–as it turns out–that’s an awkward thing to yell in a crowded space that might be filled with people who don’t know the band’s songs. Just trying to save you some embarrassment here.

SFIFF ’08: Fados

April 21st, 2008

Here’s my first preview of music-related films in this year’s 51st SF International Film Festival.

Production still

Fados is a film about the Fado genre of nostalgic songs. It’s showing Saturday 4/26 at 2:45p @ Castro , Monday 4/28 at 1:30p @ Kabuki and Tuesday 4/29 at 8:45p at the Kabuki.

As far as style of film, I wouldn’t call this a documentary. Rather it’s a series of filmed theatrical performances. It has vignettes of artistically filmed performers and dancers partially silhouetted against colored backgrounds or in museum-like settings, like a well-done film of a theater production.

While there were some interesting parts, particularly sections that were related to the Brazilian carnival, Mozambique (complete with that typical South African bass pick up) and rap, I can’t say I liked this film. Most of the music wasn’t to my taste, which I could find forgivable if the film gave me a good idea of the historical significants or cultural impact of Fado. But other than a few sentences of text near the beginning, there was very little in this movie besides the performances.

Now, I have no idea what the story of these particular performances were and I have no idea was truly authentic Fado sounds like, but I couldn’t help feel like I was watching something akin to a (artistically) filmed production of Riverdance. You could call Riverdance an introduction to Irish music and dance, but you’d be misleading at the least; that musical, while entertaining, is a watered down and glossy version of Irish music and dance prepared for mass consumption. Is Fados similar in that manner? I can’t say for sure.

Finally the film’s running time is 93 minutes, which is quite a bit too long.

In summary, I wouldn’t recommend this film.

Stay tuned tomorrow for another SFIFF music-related film preview. Preview of the preview: I liked that one more than this one.

music on silver screen: SF Int’l Film Fest ’08’s music-related films

April 21st, 2008

I’m a fan of the San Francisco International Film Festival. They bring in some cool movies every year. The 2008 festival, the 51st, runs this year from April 24 to May 8.

Still from the Golem

Here are the films this year that are music-related:

  • Cachao: Uno Mas M 4/28 6:30p @ Kabuki, F 5/2 1:15p @ Kabuki This is a documentary about legendary Cuban bassist Israel “Cachao” López and includes concert footage and interviews. The producers are expected to be in attnedance.
  • Fados Sa 4/26 2:45p @ Castro , M 4/28 1:30p @ Kabuki, Tu 4/29 8:45p @ Kabuki This is a film about fado, the “uniquely Portuguese song genre of longing, sadness and nostalgia, whose roots have been traced to the early 19th century”.
  • Faubourg Tremé: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans Sa 5/3 1:00p @ Kabuki, Tu 5/6 3:45p @ Kabuki, W 5/7 9:00p @ Kabuki This is a documentary which is about what the title says it’s about and has components about many things, including the music. The producer, director and subject are expected to be in attendance.
  • the Golem F 5/25 9:30p @ Castro I’ve talked about this cool silent movie with live, original accompaniment by Black Francis (of the Pixies). The other musicians include Ralph Carney, Jason Carter, Eric Drew Feldman, Duane Jarvis, and Joseph Pope.
  • Medicine for Melancholy W 4/30 9:15p @ Kabuki, Su 5/4 8:15p @ PFA, W 5/7 3:30p @ Kabuki This feature film is not so much about music but one with a really solid indie soundtrack. Looks like an interesting movie otherwise, though.

You can check out their full complement of films here.

temporary outage

April 20th, 2008

This site’s going to be down for a little bit while I upgrade some software. Please check back in later.

Thanks for reading!

Update: Software’s been upgraded. I see the right side of the main page is messed up. Please let me know if you notice anything else amiss.

Update 2: Everything seems to be working outside of the mp3-only RSS2 feed and the ipmn radio on the right side (which is a related problem as far as I can tell). Still working on those. Thanks for your patience.

Testing: Posting that awesome Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd Street Band track again to test something.

Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd St. Band – Movin’ On Up/ I Can’t Turn You Lose (mp3) (buy)

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anyone’s guess has crazy prizes to their crazy contest

April 20th, 2008

SF-based blog Anyone’s Guess has a crazy contest going on. You can win a pair of tickets to Outside Lands or a custom cigar-box guitar. Pretty crazy prizes.

All you have to do is write a song (about climate change).

Record Store Day at Amoeba Records

April 19th, 2008

For Record Store Day today I went to Amoeba. Still blocks away on Haight, I saw a lot of yellow bags going by so I knew things were busy.

I picked up those tasty exclusive Death Cab and Built to Spill 7″s. They didn’t have the double vinyl limited edition version of Odd Couple that they’d advertised for the Day or I would have considered getting that as well. I also picked up a couple not-very-exclusive-at-all soul records.

the Ian Fays @ the Bottom of the Hill (CD release): review, photos

April 18th, 2008

Last night I went to the Bay Bridged and Playing in the Fog presented the Ian Fays CD release party at the Bottom of the Hill.

First up when I got there was the Catholic Comb. They were a bit hit-and-miss if a bit more misses than hits.

Then the the Ian Fays went on. The crowd was a small mix of fans, friends, bloggers, and people that might have just been there to check them out.

This show was a CD release for the Ian Fays’ Dylan’s Lost Days. I got the the preview EP to this album a couple months ago and I’ve been liking those tunes. Their live show was full of nice versions of tunes from that EP and enjoyable tunes I wasn’t as familiar. It was tight and lot of fun. I’d recommend checking out their live show sometime.

Be sure to tune in to KZSU on May 28 at 9pm PST when I host the Ian Fays for a (possibly stripped down) live set on the air.

Song obsession friday! (for the week ending April 18)

April 18th, 2008

Song obsessions are those songs that we listen to on repeat. I noticed that my obsessions are often a week long. I also thought that other people might have similar obsessions. I’ve collected a panel of a few like-minded individuals and gotten their “song obsessions of the week.” Quite often it’s easy to explain why the song is good; it’s much hard to explain why we’re obsessed. Maybe you’ll become obsessed with one of these.

Adrian (me):
French Miami – Science Fiction (mp3) (not available? label’s site; artist’s myspace)

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Just a well put-together song. The guitar part is ace. The keyboards, drums and vocals all work really well and add to the song. The breakdown/ slowdown pulled me in. I was fully obsessed with this for most of the week.

Me (again)[1]:
Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd St. Band – Movin’ On Up/ I Can’t Turn You Lose (mp3, originally from this Soul Sides post) (buy)

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I’ve written about how much I love this tune. The groove is tight and the song is fun, but what makes me obsessed with it is the 30-or-so seconds of “People Get Ready” and specifically the insane vocals during that section. I like the Impressions song and various other versions, like Curtis Mayfield’s and the Chamber Brothers, but this is unlike anything I’d heard before.

Bess Rogers – Undone (mp3) (buy)

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While I’d like to think I judge each song/album based on merit, truth is I’m just as susceptible to manipulation as the mainstream music listener. But it’s not plastic surgery disasters that positively manipulate my attention. No, it’s the geek girl. Perhaps Bess Rogers would object to my objectification of her as a nerdy girl, but I’m afraid those sexy librarian photos on her latest CD (there’s even more of them on the website – I checked) have only one interpretation in my lecherous mind. Oh yeah, the songs are quite fetching as well.

Motel Motel – Coffee (mp3) (buy)

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Last week I mentioned an unsigned band named Gringo Star. Today I have another unsigned act out of Denver by way of NY called Motel Motel that describes their sound as “shwag rock.” These guys are working on releasing their debut LP, appropriately called New Denver, in the coming months. Until then, get shwaggy.

Frightened Rabbit – Backwards Walk (mp3) (buy)

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would put all of The Midnight Organ Fight as my song obsession(s) for this week, if that were allowed. Since I downloaded it on Tuesday, I’ve probably listened to the album in its entirety at least 8 times. With this song in particular, I love the line “You’re the shit/and I’m knee-deep in it.”

[1] This is totally cheating. I’ve never let myself or anyone else have more than one song obsession in a week, but what was I supposed to do? Five days were dominated by “Science Fiction” but in the last 48 hours I haven’t been able to stop listening to the Charles Wright song.