Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Ralph Nader to Speak at SSU on Oct. 4

Posted on Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 3:42 PM


Love him or hate him—or still blame him for the kinda-election of George W. Bush—the legendary Ralph Nader is coming to Sonoma State University on Tuesday, Oct. 4 to speak to students and the public alike.

Nader recently released his first novel, Only the Super-Rich Can Save Us. His speaking topic at SSU? "Fixing Our Broken Economy."

I'd expect a lot of suggestions for taxing the rich, possibly including visual graphs that look like this—a clear picture of our nation's debt and the wars and policies enacted by George W. Bush that got us there.

What I wouldn't expect? Comments like those on election night 2008, when he speculated on-air, without hesitation, if President Obama was going to be "Uncle Sam for the people of this country, or Uncle Tom for the giant corporations."

Ralph Nader speaks on Tuesday, Oct. 4, at the Sonoma State University Cooperage. 1801 E. Cotati Ave., Rohnert Park. 7:30pm. $10 public; $5 SSU staff and faculty; free to SSU students. 707.664.2382.

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If You've Ever Wanted 14 Pews From the Luther Burbank Center, Today's Your Lucky Day

Posted on Tue, Aug 30, 2011 at 1:58 AM


So there I was, driving along Guerneville Road today, when out the corner of my eye I spotted a most unmistakable artifact. In fact, I flipped a U-turn in the middle of rush-hour traffic. I grabbed my camera. I needed proof.

There, on the side of the road, was a pew from the Luther Burbank Center.

For those who might not know, the Luther Burbank Center, now known to the general chagrin of longtime locals as the Wells Fargo Center, famously hosted many a world-class band, singer, comedian or dance troupe while the audience sat in . . . church pews. It wasn't a design choice on the venue's part, but simply a leftover from the theater's former life as a chapel known as the Christian Life Center. In the 80s and 90s, it was near-impossible to see a show at the Luther Burbank Center without the headliner cracking a joke about being in church.

The pews were replaced in 2000, but they have been known to turn up in unlikely places. A couple years after the pews were torn out, I was working a construction job with my dad in Bennett Valley. There, where some of the sheetrock guys sat and ate lunch each day, was a pew from the LBC. (Even weirder was that the donor's plaque still glued to it belonged to my best friend's parents; I scraped it off and dropped it in the mail to them.)

I haven't seen any of the pews since, so imagine my surprise upon finding this one, pictured above. No sooner did I snap a photo than the owner came running out of his front door. "If you want more of those," he hollered, "I've got 14 more out back! They were here when we moved in, and I'm just trying to get rid of 'em."

If—like me—owning a pew from the Luther Burbank Center sounds like your idea of personal fulfillment, you're in luck! The house is right next to Tillman's German Automotive, on Guerneville Road between Fulton and Willowside. To pick up your pew, I'm guessing you could just knock on the door, or, as the guy told me today, "just leave a note in the mailbox."

My dream is that someone will take all 14 pews, set up a mini-LBC in their backyard and re-enact a complete Michael Franks performance from 1985. If that happens, be sure to invite me, okay?
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Friday, August 26, 2011

Photos & live review: Sade / John Legend - HP Pavilion, San Jose - August 25, 2011

Posted By on Fri, Aug 26, 2011 at 11:27 AM



Photos and review by David Sason

I'm not sure what's more amazing: singer Sade's understated anti-diva confidence or her jazzy, soulful music's ability to touch an audience, even after a full decade away. Last night at the HP Pavilion, at the first of three Bay Area shows (she and John Legend play Oracle Arena tonight and tomorrow), the Nigerian-British vocalist and her eight-piece all-male band simply enchanted the surprisingly eclectic crowd with faithful renditions of her three-decades-plus career. The setlist spanned from first single "Your Love is King" to "Soldier of Love", the title track to her most recent album, released in 2010 after a decade away from the public eye. The latter served as the opener and with its mixture of live dancing and video projection backdrop set the stage for the rest of the show's impressive visuals. Each number was complemented perfectly by a mood-appropriate multimedia art exhibit, from the film noir/city skyline of "Smooth Operator", to the fire and sun imagery in the intense "Pearls", to the sustained orange warmth in her classic lullaby "By Your Side", which translated palpably to the countless swaying couples in the near-capacity crowd.

All of this was secondary, of course, to 52-year-old Sade Adu herself, who was a formidable vision of youthful perfection - flawless in both buttery voice and flowing physicality. It was astonishing how little she seemed to age from the days of her 1980s videos, some of which appeared behind her. She and her band were simply adored from start to finish; each dance move, smile, gesture and instrument solo were met with bursts of applause and impromptu standing ovations like I've never seen before. The famously reclusive singer was fairly talkative as a result, and gushed more than once in appreciation and genuine surprise at such outpouring of love.  Her versatile band was a revelation, especially when they turned "No Ordinary Love" into a surprisingly potent rock power ballad. Their skill more than justified Sade's lengthy anecdote-heavy introductions of each member, perhaps the night's strongest confirmation that she's a class act and "just one of the guys" despite her incredibly sensual charisma. Sade's tour just could be the most worthwhile arena show of the year. Let's hope it won't be another decade until the next one.Sade and John Legend perform at the Oakland's Oracle Arena Friday and Saturday nights. Tickets are still available here.








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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Sean Penn Campaigns for Norman Solomon in Petaluma

Posted By on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 4:13 PM


It's been written up all over the North Bay, and yes, it's true: Sean Penn lent his A-list Hollywood celebrity status to the Norman Solomon campaign for Congress on Tuesday at the Mystic Theater in Petaluma. Penn introduced Solomon, praising his "extraordinary energy as a servant to the people." The Academy Award-winner told the story of a trip that the two took to Baghdad, when where he witnessed Solomon "not flinching" and not running away while protesting Iraqi women took batons and bludgeons to the head from police. Looking slightly disheveled in a black suit and white button down shirt, Penn made connections between the campaigning journalist, anti-war and anti-nuclear activist and the legacies of Senator Paul Wellstone and retiring congresswoman Lynn Woolsey, urging the crowd to stand up in "District Two." Penn was ushered on and off the stage from the green room quickly, and did not interact with the crowd.

After the brief introduction, Solomon spoke for about 30 minutes about the importance of rejecting right-wing populism, farmworkers' rights, the rejection of fear and racism, and the billions spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. "We are in five wars at the same time, and that is five too many," Solomon told the cheering crowd. At one point, he was interrupted by a middle-aged man in the balcony who shouted for a good two minutes about how Solomon should "be a statesman and call for a general strike." The man was ushered out of the building, and it was interesting to see the crowd boo his calls for a general strike while they cheered Solomon's later endorsement of the Farmworkers Union and labor unions like the SEIU—the very people who would lead and benefit from a worker's general strike. Maybe it was the man's bellicose approach?


And at least one person wasn't impressed with a famous actor's appearance in small-town Petaluma. What do you think he's planning on doing with that chain?

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Glendi Festival Canceled for 2011

Posted on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 at 8:52 AM

Every year since 1990, St. Seraphim Orthodox Church on Mountain View Road in Santa Rosa has drawn hundreds of ethnic food enthusiasts to its hallowed grounds for Glendi, a multicultural food and music extravaganza. But this year a multitude of factors has combined to force the cancellation of the festival.

There will be no latkas, dolmas, baklava or Balkan folk dancing this year. And there will be no children making the discovery that weird-looking gloopy stuff from another country actually tastes good, or finding out that not all music includes half-naked, died-haired woman singing in autotune—at least not at St. Seraphim.

Why, you ask? Construction of a Parish Hall and storage area has been considered for quite some time by church leaders, and last year it was decided to take on the project. But an extended rainy season and “many levels of bureaucracy conceived to keep us all safe and healthy in this modern world,” according to the church, delayed the project. The concrete had not even cured until Independence Day.

A letter of explanation[.pdf] posted on the church’s website almost feels like it has tears leaking out. Words like “disappointment” and “sad realization” combined with “bureaucracy” and “construction” pepper the one-page announcement.

But never fear, for the party will go on: Glendi will return in September 2012 as “the Best Glendi Ever,” says the church.—Nicolas Grizzle

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Extended Play: Joey Burns of Calexico

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 3:46 PM


The Tucson-based band Calexico have put out consistently beautiful, challenging, and eclectic  recordings since the late nineties. We talked to founding member (along with drummer John Convertino)  Joey Burns, about the European Southwest, borders big and small, and how it felt to have his music played in outerspace.  Check out the full article in this week’s Bohemian.How did it feel to have your songs played in outer space?

Well, it was a big honor. We’ve got to know Gabby  (Gabrielle Giffords) and Mark over the years and for me, the whole personal connection  made it mean more on that level then as a news item or an achievement for the band. It felt more comforting to know that the music meant something to some very good friends of ours. As you can imagine it was a really emotional time and it’s the second time that Gabby has played a song for her husband Mark out there in space, of ours. The first time we chose “Crystal Frontiers,” which I thought was a good wake up call because it has horns blaring . They asked me to suggest one and  I said, ‘Okay, I’ll suggest one,” and so the second time I chose the song "Slowness" which is more of a ballad and a duet, and its about reaching out over that space, or out into that space, thinking of a loved one in the past, or just thinking of them in the now, so it was very sentimental and it was really honest.Calexico is so steeped in geography. The music really captures the eerie spacious magic of the desert.

Ther's a lot of similarity between the desert that surrounds the Mediterranean, North Africa, and the Middle-East. Corsica. Southern Italy. Parts of Spain. The Iberian Peninsula. There’s something about that region I connect  with, and it must come from growing up in Southern California. If you travel down to Baja it feels a lot like if you’re traveling on a small road on the island of Corsica…which I’ve done and I’m always  surprised..”oh yeah, there’s cactus over here.” There is this connection. So I just want to put that out there. I admit there is a fair amount of cinematic quality that is evocative of the Southwest but it’s also the European Southwest too. We think of the desert as so Southwest.

A lot of the music that is inspiring to both John and I and the other members of the band comes from a lot of different places, whether it’s a jazz background, or  sensibilities that influence folk and pop and rock and roll, for years, but coming from this European standpoint, or from this Afro-European influence. Maybe a Cuban influence coming into New Orleans by way of Africa. We generally tend to take the road less traveled. If there are a lot of people doing any kind of particular musical styling, we’ll generally drop it because  there’s no real use in doing it because we’re more interested in finding new sounds and new expressions.

A lot of that comes from this connection to the past but not always the recent past, more like a hundred years ago, or 70 years ago. There’s an affection for, and maybe a pining for these days that are long-forgotten. But it’s also about looking at what the maestros were doing, or artists , writers, painters, poets, you know, what were they doing a hundred years ago, what were they into. It gives you the opportunity to go outside your immediate bubble. I can see where that mindset or aesthetic has influenced a lot of bands, whether its Fleet Foxes, Iron and Wine, mostly the folk bands I see, Beirut especially. Bands that go outside of the normal definition of what a contemporary indie rock or folk band can be. There’s a lot of world music influences too. There’s a lot of different languages coming in on some of our records. It’s all that kind of mixed up, melting pot, which you’ll find in the Mediterranean especially, because of all of the proximity to these different languages  and cultures surrounding this big body of water.

I liken our musical input and connection to that. In the Southwest, you have a little bit of that, more so than in Kansas or Seattle, because there’s more than one language being spoken. I like living on the border near the U.S. and Mexico because there is an element of hybrid cultures and it’s beautiful, I love it.How does being so close to  the U.S./ Mexico border influence your art and music?

Any kind of border region is fascinating. You’re surrounded by a predominant ly Hispanic and Latin community and I love it, and I still do. It’s brought me closer in to wanting to know more. I have this huge appreciation. When I travel, I’m always intrigued by those regions as well, whether it’s in Europe or South America or wherever. I love seeing how people adopt several different languages or cultures or traditions. And that’s what gives life to a lot of interesting art and expression. Music or literature or food, especially and wine. I’m a big fan of that. That’s something that runs at the core of a lot of this. This real honest appreciation for diversity. I feed off of it. I love it. I embrace it.

It doesn’t raise any kind of fear, like I see it doing to others around me. It’s really kind of unusual. And maybe it’s openness and perspective that I really appreciate when I talk with others who feel more of an openness to immigration policy or just embracing things that they don’t know. They don’t close up. They continue to open and want to learn more, and read more, and talk with people.  And that’s a positive thing. It’s something that our country has been founded on, so I find it really interesting that there is so much animosity  and fear and misinformation that’s spread through a lot of our own state, here in Arizona, our own state legislature and media. It’s really puzzling to  me. I’ve seen it escalate and become more  and more of a topic not only locally but nationally and internationally.  There’s something really interesting about the times, whether you’re in France or in Arizona. When economic times are difficult, immigration and immigrants  become a focus for blame and negativity and it’s not good or healthy.

So musically  there’s a lot of characters,  a lot of stories, and feeling are influenced by that. But it’s not 100% about that, you know it’s matters of the heart and day-today, boy-meets-girl stuff. But there is a depth to some of the music that we like and some of the music we write and record and perform and I think that’s what draws some of these audiences to this feeling, to this aesthetic that we’ve highlighted. Whether it’s audiences in Arizona, or Northern California, or Çhicago, or Mexico City, I think people have  come to realize this signature sound. And it’s not just having to do with the physical aspects of making the sound, it has to do with musicians and the purpose and what it all stands for.What are some upcoming Calexico projects?

We’ve just wrapped up a couple of soundtracks on films that are just coming out or about to come out. One is a soundtrack to a documentary called Circo. It premiered at the L.A. film festival. It's the story of the Ponce family, three generations of circus performers traveling through rural Mexico—Sierra Madre. The other one is a feature film set in Ireland called The Guard.  It premiered at Sundance and is coming out later this month.

I worked with Amos Lee on an album recorded in Tucson. I played on the album and produced it. We’re also going to put out a collection of vinyl in November. We’re going to release all of these recordings on vinyl—an eight album set. Twelve pieces of vinyl. It’s more of showing our love for vinyl and for those audiences and people who love our music, this is kind of a special gift for them. There will be lots of extras in there too. Notes, pictures, and mementos.

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