"Music should be big," says Laura Regan of Bridget and the Squares, a piano and drum duo from Brooklyn, New York. Regan and drummer Kyle Thompson stand outside of Cast Away Yarn Shop in Santa Rosa after a swooping and energetic set played before a pleased Monday night crowd. 21 year-old Thompson, the band's drummer since last September, drives the the songs with a gleeful, hard-hitting precision while Regan's husky, powerful voice swoops between soaring melodies Piano tends to carry an element of drama and the band drinks from the vein of Amanda Palmer, wearing theatrics on their sleeve, with an ease made possible by reach-for-the-sky and hit-the-mark vocals.
28 year-old Regan, a graduate of the Berklee College of Music, says that recently she made a leap in her music, moving away from twee indie rock to a more bombastic sound, inspired by the "epic arrangements" of bands like Muse and Ours. "I stopped wanting to disguise the intense emotions and just wanted to attack them," says the petite, black-haired woman, "It's funny because I'm small, but I like big things."
The Boston native says that finding a musical kinship with Thompson, a recent transplant from Las Vegas, has helped bring the band's sound closer to her vision; she grins while describing practices that grew progressively "louder and louder and more intense." As we talk, an enamoured fan shoves a cell phone into Regan's hand, asking her to say hello to his friend, and she does so with the friendly enthusiasm that exudes from the band in general.
In the midst of a U.S. tour (fueled by yogurt, carrots, and hummus--they say with a laugh), Bridget and the Squares plays in Las Vegas next and then make their way south, so try to see them before they hit the big time so you can say you "knew them when..."
Opening for the band was the Chelsea Set, a new Santa Rosa project comprised of folks from the Spindles. Singer Sari Flowers spins wry, feminist lyrics around lilting pop melodies, like a cross between the Go-Go's, the Spinanes, and Lucinda Williams. It was just the kind of music you want to hear while surrounded by skeins of red, pink, green and glittery wool and alpaca; the perfect music for a warm summer night in the soft belly of an Alice in Wonderland-esque yarn shop.
*Photos by Kate Polacci
Best known for singing with the legendary L.A. punk band X, Exene Cervenka is a bit rough around the edges, and that's a good thing. She says she’s not a role model, but to the wild-bitten women out there, those that sing their hearts out and dream of being on a stage, she is nothing short of an inspiration. In the following interview for this week's Bohemian, she speaks about finding individual voice, feminism, singing with John Doe, and why girls need to be reminded that they are much more than what they look like on the outside.How did you find confidence in your voice?
Well, I certainly had to find it. I hadn’t sung in any way shape or form my entire life until I was 20. John Doe and I would sit around and sing old songs. Hank Williams songs. George Jones songs. Any kind of old song that we felt like doing. Singing was incredibly difficult for me. I had to make up my own voice, and I’m glad I did because my least favorite thing in an artist is imitation. I would not want to sound, or do, or be, or act anything like anyone else. I just don’t believe in it. People should, if they’re going to be an artist, develop their own voice. It’s a lot harder than copying someone else’s voice.How might someone develop that?
You can practice singing with no instrumentation. By yourself, no one listening. Learn to sing at different volumes and different intensities. Also, you need to sing from your diaphragm and not your throat, which is why I’ve never had to cancel a show because my voice went out.
It gets easier to sing just like it gets easier to play guitar. It gets easier the more you work at it and the more you enjoy it. The more fun you can have with it, the easier it will get. So sing little nursery rhyme songs by yourself, that you know the melody to. And sing to simple music.
When I sing with X, there’s a lot of chord changes. John’s singing, I’m singing. That was a hard thing to start out with in a career in music. I didn’t start out with simple songs. Now, when I write songs, I write them so simple I can sing the crap out of them. You know what I’m saying? Like chord changes and lots of notes and things, that’s hard. Start with some really great old songs! (she sings a measure of “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain.”)We live in a society that tends to devalue artists. What has sustained you as an artist throughout your long career?
What’s sustained me is knowing what I’m doing is what I’m supposed to be doing and there’s no real way out of it. So, I always make the best of it and I don’t give up on anything. And I represent myself as best I can. Not as a role model maybe, but as an example to people of what you can do. Because I’m not a trained singer.
You know, I do a lot of things I’m not supposed to do. You just have to have determination. People think of ambition and they think of determination and they think of, you know, these goals people set, and never giving up. It’s not really like that as an artist. It’s just who you happen to be. You don’t have to force it, and be ambitious and be angry if things don’t go your way. You’re just an artist. You don’t have to have any pressure other than that. That’s plenty right there.What advice to you have for artists and writers etc., especially women, who are just beginning down that road?
That’s the really big important question. I believe that everybody is like a self-begotten divinity. Inside of us there is all of the power to be whoever we should be, want to be, are. We’re not even allowed to find out who that is. You go to school. You get a job. You have kids, whatever. You hear about it all the time, a mid-life crisis some people say. Who am I? And why am I in a cubicle?
We become an artist out of a desire to be a creative individual. And then, you try to conform to what’s going to be popular. . . you know, you end up in the cubicle again. Like a sheeple. But you have to be able to. . . I’m sorry. . . get rid of your ego. And you have to enjoy what you do. It has to be the best greatest thing, and everyday you’re so lucky, you think, that I can sing or play guitar. Or be in a band. Or play music. Or be an artist. You can’t be like, “My life is so hard. I don’t make any money. Why am I so talented and yet other people get better situations?”
As far as being a woman, you have to realize, there are more women than men in this country, yet we’re still called the minority. So we have, kind of, self-subjugated ourselves. We allow that to be the terminology that describes us. And you’re starting with a bad run of youth. For a couple of generations, the kids during the Clinton administration, and a lot during the Bush generation, you didn’t have a lot of real important social movements by young people. Because that guard was let down, things got worse. The young people now that are like 17-35 need to step it up a little and make up for that loss of movement because I think people are looking around and going, what happened? What happened to the culture? What happened to the environment? What happened to the economy? What happened? What happened?
My goal is to help motivate women to take more control of the culture and the society, and ultimately, the political system. Because if they don’t, we’re fucked. Because women and children are last now instead of first and they seem to be fine with it. Schools are closing, people are getting uneducated instead of education and women seem to be fine with that.It seems to be ingrained into us as a society. I find myself in situations, even after educating myself about feminism, where I say about patriarchal ideas, “Oh, it’s being replicated…again.”
Well, two thousand years of slavery will do that to a people. You know belief systems were designed to subjugate women. That’s why they were designed. Think about it. From the Book of Genesis on.
We have to change our consciousness, we can’t just do the work. Doing the work hasn’t done anything. We’re back where we started in 1976 for women’s reproductive freedom. I mean, we’re about to lose a lot of that, because of not being on guard. It only takes one little chink. The people who are against the public interest—that think of us as consumers only and not citizens or people. The people in power, the people in government, people with the money who invest in the government, they’ve disabled us because they have millions of lawyers who look for nothing but loopholes in the law and lobbyists who write new laws and then give it to the people in government as if they wrote it. And most of those people tend to have a very strong right-wing ideology. And they are anti-woman.
Every time they can, they slip in and dismantle another piece of legislation that people fought for thirty years to get. Hundreds of years to get. Thousands of years to get. Just being a woman is a political statement. And if you’re on stage, that’s a bigger statement.
I was at an event the other night and at the end there was a big, all-star, everybody get together at the end of the night guitar thing. There were sixteen men on stage and Rosie Flores. We were all so happy she was up there because I just can’t bear one more, all-male music party. I’m so sick of it being, all guys all the time. And there’s no reason for it except for self-censorship and self-subjugation. No one said you can’t be in a band.
What we have to stay away from in music is the hardcore male element that took over punk. Because that language will not be accepted when it’s spoken by women. Women shouldn’t speak a man’s language anyway.
The alternative to that isn’t being some kind of insipid singer-songwriter writing about her boyfriend. It is finding your own voice, which we already talked about, and that makes an original take on things and then it’s like nobody’s voice but yours, nobody’s language but yours. That’s a good example to set for girls, because that’s what they’re fighting against. They want to be individuals but they totally have to conform to standards of beauty and standards of weight and standards of appearance and standards of dress, and standards of roles. Like, you can be Beyonce but you can’t be Willie Nelson. You have to conform to this sexual stereotype primarily, to be pleasing to men. You have to look good and sound good, you can’t be rough around the edges.
They write jingly-jangly tunes that brim with infectious energy tempered by a certain dark edge.On Friday April 15, Sonoma County got it's own dose of fuzzed out, edgy garage rock when up-and-comers Sharky Coast played at the Arlene Francis Center. Still in their teens, the members of Sharky Coast draw on musical influences (The Troggs, 60's surf music) from way before their time. Just out of high school, Nick O' Rooney slings his guitar high, singing and strumming crunchy, wizened blues-based chords. Drummer Christine Ortmann holds a steady beat, punctuated by brash, ringing symbol crashes. She tends to grin when she hits the symbols particularly hard. It's always rad to see a band that's genuinely having fun; that enthusiasm tends to travel into the audience, and Friday night was no exception. The band has been playing house shows, coffeehouses, open mics for the last couple of months. In an post show conversation O' Rooney revealed that this was one of the band's first shows at an actual venue with a stage.Ortmann says that she and the intrepid guitarist met over MySpace and bonded over a love for garagey indie rock. O'Rooney, who wears a gray cardigan that looks like it might have once belonged to a math teacher in 1962, lights up at a comparison to Thee Oh Sees mastermind John Dwyer. "They're one of my favorites," he says with a big smile. O'Rooney says that he's been looking for more bands that played garage rock in the North Bay, without much luck thus far. He hadn't heard of Sonoma County's resident garage maestros Huge Large, but said he'd check them out. A show with another local garage rock band was arranged right there on the couch, the plans yelled over a banjo being played by the Hootenany band on stage and, well...hey...isn't that just how a scene gets going?Sharky Coast has a demo coming soon and Facebook Page. They play on Saturday, May 14 with Derailed Freight Train and The 50/50's at the Toad in the Hole Pub. 116 5th Street, Santa Rosa 707.544.8623
. You tried to buy tickets. But floor seats were gone in three minutes
. Balcony seats not long after. Don’t even look on Craigslist–you’ll just get depressed.
Here’s the good news: the Bohemian has two general-admission floor tickets to see Animal Collective at the Phoenix Theater in Petaluma on April 10
. We’re giving them away. They’re yours. No strings. You just have to enter our contest, and win.What contest is that, you ask? Why, it’s the Animal Collective Cover Song Contest
!The rules are easy:1. You record a cover of an Animal Collective song.2. You send the mp3 to us.3. We listen to it, discuss among ourselves and select some finalists.3. If you’re picked as the best entry, you win two tickets to the show
!Entries must be received by Sunday, April 3
. One entry per person. Winner will be announced in the April 6 issue of the Bohemian and on our Facebook page. We reserve the right to post your mp3 online. One need not have a band to submit an entry, and in fact, we’d probably be charmed if you sing while playing on a typewriter and ketchup bottle or something. Entries will be judged not on how accurately the song is represented but by how much it tickles our fancy, so be creative
.Send your mp3 to Leilani Clark at lclark [at] bohemian.com
.Get recording, and best of luck!
E.M. drops the ball, but the Decemberists pick it up and go country on The King Is Dead
Thankfully Saturday’s sold-out 10pm show, the last of four at Yoshi’s in San Francisco, more than redeemed Public Enemy as an incredible live act and still the best way to celebrate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. Still in the midst of their Fear of a Black Planet 20th anniversary extended tour, they hit the ground running with a lively “Brothers Gonna Work It Out”. Before continuing on the Fear tracks, though, the momentum was stalled by a 10-minute-plus talking portion that saw Flavor Flav playing an extended game of call and response with the crowd (think a Freddie Mercury who can’t sing).But this led directly into “911 Is a Joke”, which started an impressive run of hits and album tracks mostly from their late 80s/early 90s hey day. Unearthed rarities were among the highlights of the show (“Terminator X to the Edge of Panic”, “Power to the People”, “Burn Hollywood Burn”), with all tracks receiving tasteful accompaniment from the backing live band (not drowning out the Bomb Squad sound collages completely like before).Flavor was once again complementing the show instead of wielding it, allowing longtime fans to forget his television career altogether (despite a thank-you speech to all “Flavor of Love” viewers, ironically preceding a snippet of “She Watch Channel Zero?!”). Brandishing a “Justice for Oscar Grant” t-shirt, leader Chuck D delivered on the political rhetoric, specifically the immigration and extremist shooting of Arizona, which segued into a sparse yet intense run through of “By the Time I Get to Arizona”.The hip-hop legends relished the small club setting throughout the night, which made the two-hour-plus performance a two-way love fest. It was a joy in particular to see Chuck D having such a good time: finding a Harry Allen fill-in in the front row for the ending line of “Don’t Believe the Hype”; grabbing cameras and taking snapshots for endless audience members; and playing panhandler to Flav during “Can’t Do Nuttin’ for Ya Man”, just one song in a last-minute show extension.While no longer packing arenas, PE rocked Yoshi’s like it was one, exuding a pride and professionalism that’s missing from most live performers, especially hip-hop and veteran acts. I never thought I’d say this, but I can’t wait until the next Public Enemy concert.--David Sason*
SETLIST (Not 100% in order)
Contract on the World Love JamBrothers Gonna Work It Out911 Is a JokeWelcome to the TerrordomeShow Em Whatcha GotBring the NoiseDon't Believe the HypeCold Lampin' with FlavorTerminator X to the Edge of PanicBurn Hollywood BurnShut Em DownShe Watch Channel Zero(Flav's nephew does a verse)Black Steel In The Hour of ChaosHarder Than You Think(Band instrumental/solos)(DJ Lord riffs on Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit”)Anti Nigger MachinePower to the PeopleB Side Wins AgainCan't Truss ItRebel Without A PauseBy the Time I Get to ArizonaFight the Power
Night of the Living BaseheadsHe Got GameCan't Do Nuttin' for Ya ManPublic Enemy #1
I’m not sure if there’s a fancy plural form for “legend”, but there should be, just to accurately describe Gorillaz’s Escape to Plastic Beach Tour, which dazzled Oakland on Saturday. While not filled to capacity, the costumed crowd was enthralled from start to finish not only by Jamie Hewlett’s inventive animation (projected on a giant screen behind the performers) , but also musical pioneers as diverse as Bobby Womack, De La Soul and The Clash’s Mick Jones and Paul Simonon (whose sailor outfits inspired clones throughout the arena). The spectacle’s ringleader, of course, was Gorillaz mastermind Damon Albarn, who engaged the crown nonstop, seemingly relishing the stateside arena-size audience that his Blur could never draw.
While Lou Reed didn’t show up like he did at the preceding L.A. show, it was incredibly exhilarating and surreal - yet oddly appropriate - to see De La Soul flanked by The effing Clash, who bopped along during a euphoric “Feel Good, Inc.”. In fact, while not as earth-shattering with its output, Albarn’s Gorillaz best symbolize The Clash’s mission for unbridled musical amalgamation, evident from the orchestral “White Flag” (which featured a septet of local Arab-American musicians) to the sci-fi gospel of epic closer “Demon Days”.
What’s most impressive is how the show delivered despite only a handful of hits, including modern-classic stomper “Clint Eastwood”, which suffered greatly without local luminary Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s incredible verses (Bashy and Kano filled in with their own lyrics). Despite the huge production and orgy of visuals and musical styles, Gorillaz are quite potent conceptually and song-wise. Seven years after the dissolution of Blur, Damon Albarn really does have sunshine in a bag.---David Sason
Setlist (from setlist.fm):
the World of the Plastic Beach (with Hypnotic Brass Ensemble)
Stylo (with Bobby
Womack and Bootie Brown)
Jellyfish (with De La Soul)
(with Yukimi Nagano)
Bashy and Kano)
To Binge (with
DARE (with Rosie
Unknowing (with Bobby Womack)Feel Good
Inc. (with De La Soul)
Eastwood (with Bashy and Kano)
Lost In Heaven
Demon Days (with
Every year we begin with the same silly pshaw that we’ve already honored everyone; every year we become increasingly excited by all of the many folks and organizations yet to be honored. We could quite honestly do this every week. But alas.
As always, we invite you to help us celebrate our honorees by throwing a free party for everyone to attend. This year’s celebration is slated for Wednesday, Sept. 29, from 5pm outside at Hopmonk Tavern (230 Petaluma Ave., Sebastopol). It’s followed by our North Bay Music Awards celebration inside Hopmonk’s Abbey from 7pm.
We hope to see you there to help us raise a joyful noise to the tireless volunteers who have made the Handcar Regatta such a sparkling, marvelous success for downtown Santa Rosa.
We want you to raise a pint to the good folks at Lagunitas Brewing Co., who regularly turn untold gallons of beer into big piles of gold for nonprofits.
We’d like you to help us give a round of applause for Napa developer George Altamura, whose decade-long mission to return his town’s storied Uptown Theatre back to its original glory has been a no-holds-barred triumph.
We ask you to help us huzzah Book Passage, which just passed the three-decade mark in providing a distinctive thump to the literary heart of Marin with its unwavering support of local writers and great literature.
And not finally at all, we ask you to cheer along for Jessica Felix, recently reinstated to her own Healdsburg Jazz Festival, and her tireless mission to promote pure jazz.
We honor these stellar people and entities on the following pages and hope that you’ll come on down to help us get giddy about them on Sept. 29 at Hopmonk.—Gretchen Giles