SFIFF ’09: Rogue Wave’s acoustic set after D Tour‘s premier

May 3rd, 2009

Jim Granato, the director, during the Q&A

As I mentioned Rogue Wave (myspace) were to play an acoustic set at Sundance Kabuki Theater here in San Francisco after the premier of D Tour, part of this year’s San Francisco International Film Festival. The film is a documentary about member Pat Spurgeon and his struggle with kidney failure.

Pat answering a question

During the short Q&A after the film, it was obvious that everyone had come out, from the doctors and surgeons featured in the film to San Francisco music elite like Jonathan Richman–who asked a question during the Q&A–to John Vanderslice.

After the Q&A, the band set up right in front of the screen and proceeded to play a four or five set of acoustic songs. Shortly into the set, Mr. John Vanderslice joined the band for the remainder of the set. The set included “Bird on a Wire”, “Lake Michigan” among other songs, new and old. They played well: the band was tight and they just had fun up there. I enjoyed it. It’s been a while since I saw them and I think this convinced me to go to their show at the Independent in June to see a full set.

SFIFF ’09: D Tour review; Rogue Wave to play after screening May 1

April 23rd, 2009

still from the film

This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival feature D Tour (official site) covers the struggle of Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon with a failing kidney. He was born with only one kidney and it failed when he was 25. At the time this film was made this film was made, that one was failing and he needed another replacement.

It’s an interesting tour through that period of Pat’s life and the life of someone in need of a transplant. There’s a fair amount of coverage of the medical side of things–what’s wrong with Pat, what the issues with transplants are, what happens when a kidney fails, etc–and it’s covered in a pretty interesting way.

Pat was dedicated to the band throughout, so there’s actually an entire tour where he performs dialysis on himself in the van, backstage, at rest stops, etc. To give it a bit less of a stigma, the band starts referring to it as the D–“dropping a D”. Hence, the D Tour.

Musically, much of the musical content of the film is from the great Pat Spurgeon benefit concert I went to a couple years back with artists like John Vanderslice, Nada Surf, Ben Gibbard and, of course, Rogue Wave. It was really nice reliving those moments and I’m sure people seeing them for the first time will enjoy them.

If I had once complaint about the film, it’s that it was too long. What’s the last documentary you saw that was 99 minutes long? There’s a reason documentarians keep their films shorter than that… Overall, though, it was both interesting and entertaining.

It’s playing three times during the SFIFF: May 1 at 9pm; May 4 at 3:15pm and May 7 5:15pm, all @ Kabuki Theaters. Rogue Wave will be playing a short acoustic set after the May 1 screening, so I’d try to get in for that one.

Rogue Wave – Everyday (Buddy Holly cover) (mp3) (buy)

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

SFIFF 2009’s music related offerings

April 6th, 2009

still from the film Soul Power

This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival is nearly upon us. It runs April 23 to May 7 at the Sundance Kabuki Theater and other theaters in San Francisco and around the Bay Area.

  • Boys: The Sherman Brothers’ Story (4/25 2pm @ Letterman)
    A documentary about the Sherman Brothers, who did the scores to many Disney movies like Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, It’s a Small World, Winnie the Pooh, Charlotte’s Web, and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang. But outside of making award winning scores they were estranged–their sons, the makers of this film, didn’t even meet till they were grown up despite growing up near each other.
  • D Tour (5/1 9pm; 5/4 3:15pm; 5/7 5:15pm; all @ Kabuki)
    A documentary about Rogue Wave drummer Pat Spurgeon and his struggle to get a new kidney because his was failing. Lots of footage from the amazing benefit show and from Rogue Wave’s D tour (where Pat was on dialysis while on tour with the band). I saw this one over the weekend and a full review is forthcoming, but in the meantime, it’s not perfect but it’s a good movie.
  • Every Little Step (4/26 9:30 @ Castro)
    A documentary about the Broadway revival of A Chorus Line and the audition process for it. Looks pretty interesting from the trailer
  • Go Go 70s (3/5 12:30pm @ Clay; 5/5 9:15pm @ Kabuki; 5/7 8:15pm @ Kabuki)
    A South Korean feature film based on the story of the Devils. The band tries to win a contest with their soul sound, only to get a lukewarm reception and become a hit in the underground. But before long internal and external pressures get to the band…
  • Lost World (5/5 8pm @ Castro)
    A classic silent film with live musical accompaniment and an original score by Dengue Fever. I’ve written more about this already.
  • My Suicide (5/1 6pm; 5/5 1pm; 5/6 9pm; all @ Kabuki)
    A feature film about a teen who declares his intention to commit suicide on camera. Musically, this noteworthy for a soundtrack with contributions from Bright Eyes, Radiohead, Joanna Newsom, My Morning Jacket, Daniel Johnston, the Pixies and more.
  • New Muslim Cool (4/25 2pm @ PFA; 4/26 3pm @ Kabuki; 5/4 6:30pm @ Kabuki)
    A documentary about Hamza Perez, a hip hop artist, anti-drug counselor, politcal activist and devout muslim. Trying to set up a new life and a new mosque in the gritty areas of Pittsburgh, Hamza and his brother (who co-fronts their hip hop group) face everything from family not knowing what they’re about any more to an FBI raid of their mosque and loss of jobs due to their religion and political stance. I saw this last week and it’s really interesting and well made.
  • Our Beloved Month of August (4/25 12:30pm; 4/29 3pm; 5/1 8:45pm; all @ Kabuki)
    Somewhere between fiction and documentary and filmed at rural Portugese music festivals, this seems like it’ll be a bit chaotic and at least a bit beautiful.
  • Proving Ground (4/30 10pm @ Kabuki)
    A Leninist diatribe against capitalism and imperialism set to the live music of Los Duggans and with some elements of live theater in it.
  • Soul Power (4/26 5:45pm @ Kabuki)
    Put together from the outtakes of When We were Kings this documentary shows the music festival–with legends like James Brown, Hugh Masekela, Miriam Makeba, The Spinners, Bill Withers and B.B. King performing–that preceded the famous Ali v Foreman Rumble in the Jungle. This looks like a great film.
  • Unmade Beds (5/7 7pm @ Castro)
    A feature film about two young ex-pats finding their way in London. Musically, it’s noteworthy for its soundtrack with contributions from Daniel Johnston, Kimya Dawson, Tindersticks and Jeffrey Lewis.

on sale soon (04.02.09 edition) + dengue fever to accompany silent film during SF International Film Fest

April 2nd, 2009

Posted every Thursday, On Sale Soon is a weekly series of the tickets going on sale that weekend.

Where to get tickets: The Independent, Great American Music Hall, Slim’s, Fillmore, Shoreline, and other Livenation venues, the Warfield. Another Planet booked venues like Greek Theatre @ Berkeley, Palace of Fine Arts, etc. Bimbo’s.

On sale now/ Thursday April 2:
5/5 Dengue Fever @ Castro Theatre (see below)
5/30 Isobel Campbell & Mark Lanegan @ Bimbos

6/1, 6/2 Jens Lekman @ Bottom of the Hill

On sale Friday April 3:
5/25 Teena Marie, Charlie Wilson, Jeffrey Osborne, Average White Band, Ashford & Simpson @ Sleep Train

6/12 Metallica @ HP Pavilion

On sale Saturday April 4:
5/11 Sonny @ Bottom of the Hill
5/11 the Vaselines @ Bimbo’s
5/27 Butch Walker @ Great American
5/30 War, Brenton Wood, El Chicano, Lakeside, Trinere @ Shoreline

6/24 Marc Cohn @ Bimbo’s

On sale Sunday April 5:
4/22 Paolo Nutini, Serena Ryder @ Slim’s

5/7 Myka 9, Abstract Rude, Aceyalone, Haiku d’Etat, Nocando @ the Independent
5/8 Thriving Ivory @ the Fillmore
5/21 Santigold, Trouble Andrew, Amanda Blank @ the Warfield
5/22 BLK JKS, Foreign Born @ The Independent
5/28, 5/29 Jenny Lewis @ the Fillmore
5/30 Sila and the AfroFunk Experience @ Mezzanine

6/4 The Aggrolites @ The Independent
6/6 Or, the Whale; The Maldives, Built For The Sea @ The Independent
6/18 Sly & Robbie, Heavyweight Dub Champion @ The Independent
6/20 White Rabbits, Harlem Snakes @ The Independent
6/23 Isis @ Great American
6/23 mewithoutYou, The Dear Hunter, Bear Colony @ Slim’s
6/23 Carbon Leaf @ The Independent

7/1 Necrophagist, Suffocation , Darkest Hour, Winds of Plague @ the Grand
7/3 La Ventana @ Slim’s
7/25 Vamps @ the Grand
7/28 Jewel @ the Warfield

9/2 Al Green @ the Warfield

Double check all information as venues and promoters often change on-sale times and days up until the last minute.

Lost World film still

Something really cool that the San Francisco International Film Festival does each year is have a current band compose a score and provide live accompaniment to a classic silent film. Past years have included Black Francis, Jonathan Richman, American Music Club.

This year it’s Dengue Fever providing accompaniment to the Lost World. Tickets go on sale to the public today.

SFIFF ’08: Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts and Medicine for Melancholy

May 10th, 2008

To round out my San Francisco International Film Festival 2008 coverage, I have a couple more movies I saw in the last days

Glass: A Portrait of Philip in 12 Parts (which I somehow missed in my music-related film overview, but I caught on thanks to the Deli SF) is obviously a film about modern composer Philip Glass.

I’d heard a reasonable amount of Glass’ stuff. I was always sort of more of a Reich person, at least among minimalist or repetitive phrasing composers, so I thought I might not like the film because I wasn’t a big fan of his music. As it turns out, that was turned out to be wrong.

It’s a very well put together film in 12 parts, each acting as somewhat of a vignette about a specific event or topic, but there are characters and themes that carry through many of them giving it an overall story arc instead of entirely an episodic feel.

Glass came across very interestingly. He appears down to earth and straight forward except he thinks and speaks on an entirely different level than everyone else. The editing is really fantastic. At times it appears they left in mistakes or things other directors would have cut, but these extra bits reveal Glass’ and other people in his life’s humanity.

Despite expecting that the film may not be for me, I found it interesting and compelling, even at it’s 125 minute length.

If you aren’t able to catch the film and want to know more about Glass, I recommend checking out this great feature in the Guardian from a few years ago.

Medicine for Melancholy starts out with a familiar plot: ill-thought-out one-night-stand threatens to turn into something more. That’s what you have on the surface. Below that there is a lot of racial tension and discussion between the two African-American-but-that’s-all-that’s-similar leads. One sees her race as one part of their life and the other sees it as the primary part. I liked the movie a lot, in the end. It was endearing and engrossing. There was a nice balance between the two sides of this film: the discussion of race and the romance.

Medicine was filmed in and around San Francisco in a style that was one of desaturated color–sort of like halfway between color and black and white. It was a cool style and seeing recognizable landmarks from your town gave the audience a further connection to the characters. On the #38 bus the other day, I realized I was passing one of the main characters’ apartment, which was across the street from the Angel Deli and Cafe on Geary.

The movie isn’t about music, really, but it does have a great soundtrack. The use of Casiotone for the Painfully Alone’s “New Years Kiss” in the moments after the initial post-one-night rejection is just perfect. Further along in the movie, there’s a wonderful moments with Octopus Project, Oh No! Oh My! and other indie favs.

The other somewhat-music-related point of the movie is the brief discussion of race in the indie scene, about how, essentially, indie music is primarily a white pursuit. I think there could be further discussion on this topic.

Though they’re entirely different, I’d recommend both of these films.

Other SFIFF ’08 coverage:

See you next year, SFIFF!

SFIFF ’08: Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans

April 24th, 2008

Production still

This year’s San Francisco International Film Festival features Faubourg Treme: The Untold Story of Black New Orleans.

Faubourg Treme or simply Treme (Faubourg just means suburb) is an old area of New Orleans that some say is the “oldest black neighborhood in America.” It has quite a storied history.

Lolis Eric Elie, a newspaper columnist, had moved back to NO and to Treme, in part because he liked the old architecture. As he was fixing up his house, he started talking to neighbor & carpenter about the history of Treme and became fascinated. The movie is narrated by him and the film is largely a first person story through his eyes.

Some of the history that he uncovered is as follows: Black home ownership in the area dates back to early 1800s. There were early black poetry and newspapers. Some of the historians in the film pointed out civil rights activism much before the national movement with sit ins in 1867, which led to streetcar desegregation.

When the streetcars were resegregated, Homer Plessy, a Treme resident sued and it escalated in the courts until the landmark decision Plessy v Ferguson was handed down. While the political side of things were faltering, jazz was born. In 1960s suburban development brought the I-10 through the area and drugs and guns followed. The first part of the film, which was filmed over five years, showed the area starting to turn around.

Of course the most recent history of the area is that of New Orleans in general in the aftermath of Katrina in general.

As far as music goes, there were some nice scenes of street bands. Particularly brass bands, including funeral bands and the related
“second line” street/ parade dancing. There was also some gospel. Wynton Marsalis also produced the film and appears in some segments.

Overall I found the film a nice mix of history and interviews with current people. I found I could relate to the people who appeared in this documentary. At 60-some minutes, it wasn’t too short or too long; it was a good length to cover the history without getting bogged down.

Screenings are Saturday 5/3 at 1:00p, Tuesday 5/6 at 3:45p and Wednesday 5/7 at 9:00p, all at the Kabuki.

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.

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.

Sigur Ros inappropriately (and hilariously) used in gag trailer for First Sunday

April 16th, 2008

In the hope of one day making First Sunday the ‘defining image’ of the 2000s, I’ve created this trailer, which should draw a wider audience to the film and give First Sunday the classic status it truly deserves.

It’s a take-off of this trailer. And it’s pretty much hilarious…