Posts Tagged ‘San Francisco’

The Grateful Dead and a group of other rock bands of the times including the Jefferson Airplane, took a lease out on the old Carousel Ballroom on Market Street in San Francisco (formerly the El Patio) back in 1968 which only lasted for several short months. During that time however there were many great shows and dance/concerts that took place.  Moby Grape: They could have been the biggest and best band in the world, some contended back in the ‘60s, but something happened. The series of bad luck, misfortunes and critical misfires that derailed most of their career.

It was a Saturday night 47 years ago on this day back in 1968 that Moby Grape, along with It’s a Beautiful Day and Sweet Rush finished up their two night engagement there at the Carousel Ballroom. Back in 1966, amid the ferment of San Francisco’s active music scene, five disparate musicians were brought together in a new band. Heavily laden with talent, the group cut a 1967 debut album,  that is still ranked among the finest, most assured bows in rock history. Almost instantly, they were tabbed as the act to beat. Moby Grape’s name is synonymous among rock connoisseurs with tragedy, failure, unfulfilled promise, and chaos. The story of how what appeared to be rock’s Perfect Beast became a rolling catastrophe is one of the all-time cautionary tales in the annals of music and the music business.

Looking back at Moby Grape and wonders, “How could they fail?” Among performing units of their era, they were seemingly rivaled solely by their Los Angeles contemporaries Buffalo Springfield, whose glittering lineup included the mighty singer-songwriter-guitarist triumvirate of Neil Young, Stephen Stills, and Richie Furay.

Moby Grape trumped the Springfield’s three-pronged attack. All five members of the group sang, and they forged a deftly blended choral attack unique among bands of the day. All five musicians also wrote, with consistent brilliance and economy. Their three-guitar front line could blow any outfit unlucky enough to share a stage with them right off the boards, and their powerful rhythm section was unmatched by any on the Haight-Ashbury scene.

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The seeds of the band’s disorder may have been sown in its founding. In late 1966, its five members were brought together by an ambitious manager seeking a new act to work, as major label A&R men began poking around for acts that were playing in San Francisco’s burgeoning rock ballroom scene. The magnetic linchpin of the new band was singer-songwriter-guitarist Skip Spence. The Canadian musician had served as the drummer for Jefferson Airplane and had played on the group’s debut album, Jefferson Airplane Takes Off. . However, feeling marginalized creatively in the Airplane, he abruptly quit the band for a sojourn in Mexico. On his return to the Bay Area, he linked up with the Airplane’s erstwhile manager to make a fresh start.

Spence’s band mates were all well-traveled journeyman rockers who landed in San Francisco to flex their considerable chops. One arrived with a Hollywood pedigree: singer-guitarist Peter Lewis was the son of movie star Loretta Young, and a veteran of the surf band the Cornells and his own outfit Peter and the Wolves. Bassist-vocalist Bob Mosley, a white soul man to the bone, had recorded with San Diego’s Misfits. Lead guitarist-singer Jerry Miller—who had served for a time in Texas band‘ Bobby Fuller Four—and drummer Don Stevenson had both performed in the Frantics, part of Seattle’s vibrant ’60s scene.

The resultant quintet, while it keyed off Spence’s formidable onstage energy, was the most cooperative unit imaginable, with each member contributing notable songs to the Moby Grape repertoire. Their layered singing and instrumental puissance immediately made them a force to be reckoned with in the SF ballrooms, and they were rewarded with a contract from Columbia Records in early 1967.

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Helmed by staff producer David Rubinson, ‘Moby Grape’ could scarcely have been bettered as a debut album. Released at the height of the Summer of Love in June 1967, it was everything one could ask for in a rock record. Its songs were exciting and tightly constructed, blending elements of hard rock, blues, soul, folk, and country into its alternately stormy and lilting mix. The playing, sparked by Miller’s fiery guitar work, was equally focused, and eschewed the indulgences that would soon overwhelm rock record-makers. Plus the band’s massed harmonies presented a sound matched only by the Byrds‘ contemporaneous work.

The remainder of the band’s story can be told through a series of horrific bullet points. What brought down this almost impossibly gifted and commercially alluring group? Well, for starters there was…

On June 6th, 1967, Moby Grape celebrated the release of their self-titled album with a splashy party and performance at San Francisco’s Avalon Ballroom . Early the next morning, Miller, Spence, and Lewis were popped in Marin County after police discovered them cavorting with three underage girls. The three men were charged with contributing to the delinquency of minors, and Miller was also charged with possession of marijuana.

All charges were later dropped, but the incident could not have added any luster to Moby Grape’s rep in the eyes of the Columbia executives who had just spent a small fortune launching their brand-new act. And that launch would itself become problematic for the band, who were instantly the victims of…Moby Grape’s Avalon appearance was a record-company saturnalia of the first magnitude. Janis Joplin with her own star on the rise as a member of Big Brother & the Holding Company made a guest appearance with the group; orchid petals were dropped from the ceiling of the venue during the band’s set; and invitees were presented with a velvet-covered box that included press materials, glossy photos of the band, and copies of ‘Moby Grape”s first five singles.

That’s right: five singles. In their infinite wisdom, Columbia’s marketing executives had decided to issue 10 of the 13 tracks on ‘Moby Grape’ simultaneously on 45s with identical picture sleeves. If there was ever a tactic guaranteed to put the noses of suspicious music critics, over-burdened radio programmers, and confused retailers out of joint, that was it.

Somewhat miraculously, ‘Moby Grape’ managed to perform decently in spite of Columbia’s miscalculations. The LP reached number 24 on Billboard’s album chart, where it spent six months; it reportedly sold 200,000 copies. The damage done by the label’s strategy at radio was apparently irreversible, however: Spence’s “Omaha”  became the band’s only chart single, peaking at number 88 during a two-week stay. The writing was on the wall, and the next step in Moby Grape’s career witnessed…

By the time the band entered the studio with Rubinson in the fall of 1967 to begin work on a new record, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had just been released, and every musician on the planet was cocking an ear to the Beatles’ opulently recorded collection. The members of Moby Grape were in that number, and they were demonstrably led astray by the Fab Four’s example during the making of their second album, Wow.
Wow lacks the rev-it-up spirit of Moby Grape’s masterpiece, but Peter Lewis, Jerry Miller, and Skip Spence’s guitar work is just as impressive and richly layered, and the group’s harmonies and songwriting chops are still in solid shape. While the unobtrusive production on Moby Grape showcased the group’s many virtues, those attributes are visible on Wow despite the layers of studio excess, which sapped the momentum and charm of this band without snuffing them out altogether.
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The band seemed to misunderstand its own strengths. In contrast to the lean, diamond-hard originals on ‘Moby Grape’, the second album bore unfocused tunes that were not enhanced by the overbearing and needless presence of strings and horns. Even a tuff little rocker like “Can’t Be So Bad” was dressed up with 20 reed and brass pieces. The album reached its nadir with “Just Like Gene Autry: A Fox Trot,” a trivial spoof of ’20s crooning introduced by ex-vaudevillian Arthur Godfrey; that track was pressed at 78 rpm, and owners of the original LP will recall the annoyance of getting up to change turntable speeds to listen to the number—an event that likely occurred only once in most cases.

Compounding the irritation, Columbia marketed ‘Wow’ with a “bonus album,” ‘Grape Jam’, which featured four listless improvisations with guest stars Mike Bloomfield (inexplicably abandoning his guitar for piano) and Al Kooper, both soon to ring up sales with their own similarly styled Super Session, Hawked at a two-for-one-price, the two-LP package rose to number 20 nationally. For many, the bloom was off the rose, but the group was already being wracked by larger problems, including…

Moby Grape also probably the only band to ever boast two diagnosed paranoid schizophrenics among its members. Skip Spence, was never a stable character to begin with, became an early LSD casualty; by 1967 he was, in the words of writer Jeff Tamarkin, “gobbling tabs of acid like Pez.” During the band’s stay in New York to record ‘Wow’, Spence attempted to attack Don Stevenson with a fire axe, and was committed to Bellevue Hospital. On his release, he hopped on a motorcycle and rode to Nashville; there, without the assistance of sidemen, he recorded the self-penned, self-produced solo classic album “Oar” under his given name, Alexander Spence. This disquieting, sometimes beautiful record has become a cherished classic of underground psycho-rock.

Spence, whose material was later recorded by his erstwhile band in his absence, returned sporadically to the Grape fold during a long period of homelessness and institutionalization; thanks to medication, his life stabilized to some extent before his death from cancer in 1999.

With Spence’s precipitous exit, Moby Grape carried on, recording Moby Grape ’69 as a foursome. The album was a solid return to form, and it was highlighted by three exceptionally strong Bob Mosley contributions, the ballad It’s a Beautiful Day Today and the hard rockers Hoochie and Trucking Man. Despite good reviews in the rock press, ”69′ sustained a meager chart peak of number 133. By the time the set was released, Mosley had one foot out the door: He suddenly bolted for a stint in the U.S. Marines, leaving Moby Grape to wrap its obligations to Columbia as a trio; late 1969’s thoroughly lackluster Truly Fine Citizen was cut with session man Bob Moore standing in for Mosley. Moby Grape ’69 is concise enough — most of the songs are under three minutes and the whole thing clocks in at a shade under a half-hour — and the high points come close to recapturing the electric magic of the group’s nearly flawless debut, especially the gritty groove of “Hoochie,” the doo wop influenced boogie of “Ooh Mama Ooh,” the beatific joy of “It’s a Beautiful Day Today,” the raucous celebration of one “Trucking Man,” and the folk-tinged wisdom of “If You Can’t Learn from My Mistakes.” However, even though these sessions found guitarists Peter Lewis and Jerry Miller, bassist Bob Mosley and drummer Don Stevensonplaying and singing at the top of their game and writing fine songs, the absence of Skip Spence, who left the band after Wow, robs Moby Grape ’69 of a significant share of the energy and drive that was the hallmark of their finest studio work.

It’s significant that the album’s most striking cut, the closer “Seeing,” was written by Spence during the Wow sessions.
Mosley ultimately returned to Moby Grape for a lone effort for Reprise Records, 1971’s sadly overlooked and underrated ’20 Granite Creek’ (which also featured an instrumental contribution from the largely sidelined Spence) and a well-written self-titled 1972 solo album that was marred by uncertain playing and production. But he was not a well man: He too was intermittently hospitalized and homeless through the ’90s. He returned to play, quite magnificently, with latter-day incarnations of the band,

Given the fondness of Moby Grape’s onetime manager for launching combative litigation, K. handled Moby Grape from its 1966 founding, which he midwifed, through August 1967, when he was dismissed by the band. Prior to that time, he had managed Jefferson Airplane; after he was fired in 1966, his dispute with the Airplane’s members over their contract dragged through the courts for nearly 20 years, tying up $2 million in royalties and interest, most of which were ultimately awarded to the band. A similar contract conflict with another San Francisco bandIt’s a Beautiful Day, of “White Bird” fame, effectively put the group in deep freeze for two decades.

In 1968, K. sued Moby Grape, claiming his contracts gave him ownership of the band’s name and music publishing. This action remained on the docket for 38 years. During that time, K. assembled various groups to perform under the Moby Grape handle, and released CD editions of ‘Moby Grape’ and ‘Wow’ on his own label, using needle-drops off vinyl pressings of the original LPs as his “masters.” In 2003, K. sued the band again after they issued an excellent album, first released on cassette in 1989 by “the Melvilles,” on CD under the handle ‘Legendary Grape’.

Finally, in 2006, a California appellate court ruled that the members of Moby Grape owned their name and their songs. For most litigants, this would be the end of things. However, in 2007, after an independent label licensed the band’s Columbia catalog from Sony for classily packaged and augmented editions, another suit landed at the band’s feet; this time, K. claimed he owned the artwork for ‘Moby Grape’, ‘Wow’, and ‘Grape Jam’.

Realizing that it would be pointless and impossibly expensive to fight this vindictive new action for miniscule returns, Sony asked that the albums be taken off the market. Thus, to date, nearly half of Moby Grape’s studio work, including its classic debut, is unavailable in fully authorized form. Few rock bands in history have been served a platter of misfortune piled as high as the one placed before Moby Grape. The group’s music—at its best the equal of any made in its time—remains elusive to this day, but it’s worth hunting for.

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Slowness was formed in 2008 in San Francisco by Julie Lynn and Geoffrey Scott. Their 2011 debut EP “Hopeless but Otherwise” was produced by Monte Vallier (Weekend, The Soft Moon, Wax Idols). The LPs “For Those Who Wish to See the Glass Half Full” and  “How to Keep from Falling off a Mountain” followed and were supported by tours in America and Europe. “Berths” was released on June 7th, 2019.

This is their 4th record.

Released June 7th, 2019

Written by Julie Lynn and Geoffrey Scott
Lyrics by Geoffrey Scott
Geoffrey Scott – vocals, guitar and keys
Julie Lynn – vocals, bass and keys
Christy Davis – Drums and additional vocals

 

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The 3rd release from The Spiral Electric is a sprawling double-LP veering from jangly psych to growling stoner rock.
The Spiral Electric are a psychedelic rock band from San Francisco, bringing a mixture of roaring guitars and orbiting synthesizer not heard this side of the galaxy since HAL 9000 dropped acid with Brian Jones in the windmills of your mind. Spacey, swirly psych with just the right amount of stoner/hard rock grittiness to balance out its more cosmic interludes.

released March 29th, 2019

All songs written & performed by The Spiral Electric: 
Clay Andrews : Vocals, Guitars, Keyboards/Synthesizers, Percussion, Field Recordings, Assorted Noises
Nicolas Percey : Lead Guitar, Backing Vocals, Field Recordings
Michael Summers : Bass Guitar
Matias Drago : Drums

The Dodo’s have shared a brand new song, “The Surface.” The stand alone single is out today via Polyvinyl Records. Singer/guitarist Meric Long had this to say about the song in a press release: “Back in the fall after finishing our first tour in what seemed like ages, a bunch of ideas that were floating around seemed to converge, and this song ‘The Surface’ is the first result of that. For those guitar nerds out there, I recently acquired a Recording King parlor guitar, it doesn’t look like much on paper but it is magical and I am squeezing it like a life raft through the next batch of songs. Perhaps it is age, or just compounded cynicism, but there is an overwhelming gratitude that I feel when any small bit of inspiration sheds it’s light, and the path ahead seems relatively clear.”

Band Members
Meric Long, Logan Kroeber

The Dodos released a new album, Certainty Waves, last year via Polyvinyl. The band also features percussionist Logan Kroeber.

“The Surface” is the new single from The Dodos, out everywhere March 29th, 2019.

For many young bands, the release of their debut album is more than just making music. It’s a coming of age which documents that special time a group of friends have found the ability to define who they are and express it to the world. ‘Nothing Happens’ is the first LP from San Franciscan trio Wallows who are Cole Preston (drums), Braeden Lemasters (vocals/guitar) and Dylan Minnette (vocals/guitar). Where some may stumble at the first step, Wallows have already excelled themselves on this debut album and set the bar very high for what else is to come in the future.

Having first formed when they were aged only eleven years old, the childhood friends have poured a lifetime of experiences complete with all those important first heartbreaks, initial uncertainties and bursts of excitement into 11 tracks of gorgeous sun-kissed indie pop. Over the years, the trio has had a number of names, from the Feaver to The Narwhals. Now they’re taking a big step to help people remember the band: A full-length album.

“It feels really great. The album is something that we’ve been looking forward to for a decade and it’s really trippy that it’s happening so soon. It’s been like the longest build up of all time.” – Cole Preston

To make Certainty Waves, their seventh album as The Dodos, guitarist Meric Long and percussionist Logan Kroeber had to forget everything they knew about what it meant to be The Dodos.

Like the duo’s breakout sophomore album Visiter (which celebrates its 10-year anniversary in 2018), Certainty Waves finds The Dodos embracing the unlimited possibilities of a time when there were no preconceptions of what the band should sound like. Questions like whether the band needed to be more than just “acoustic guitar and drums,” and just what exactly the ratio should be of acoustic vs. electric guitar suddenly took a backseat to the realization that so much emphasis was mistakenly being put on form rather than spirit.

Perhaps not surprisingly, this epiphany occurred while the band was re-learning Visiter for a show in which they were to perform the record in its entirety.

Recalls Long: “At the time that show happened, I was a little bit lost in terms of which direction the record should go. We had a handful of recordings, nuggets, and song potentials, but they weren’t songs yet, and months had passed without any real progress. I was kind of debating whether to drop the kitchen sink, simplify things, or just leave them be.”

But a funny thing happened when he sat down to listen to Visiter for the first time in eight years.

“It completely surprised me how much electric guitar is on that record,” reveals Long. “The narrative had always been we were just acoustic guitar and drums.” This ostensibly simple observation was pivotal in unlocking a new approach to the material Long and Kroeber would later put to tape in the studio.

“Rather than thinking about the end result or considering the reaction of the listener, I tried to give in to gut reactions, first impulses, however silly or untrue to form they may be,” says Long. “If it was exciting in any way, we pursued it without hesitancy or question.”

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What began to emerge from the band’s rehearsals was a quasi post-punk sound that Long immediately gravitated toward. It felt new and different, yet somehow still fundamentally “Dodos.” And so, Certainty Waves was born.

Speaking of the aforementioned spirit, album opener “Forum” has it in spades: a fanfare-esque synth intro, thumping drums, trumpet bursts and fist-pumping “Hey!”s — not to mention a guitar line that wouldn’t be out of place snaking its way through a Strokes album.

Later, “SW3” employs different tactics to achieve its own frantic vitality, intertwining acoustic guitar and clicking drumsticks in a beautifully syncopated rhythm.

They’re the kind of songs that might not have existed had The Dodos immediately started work on a new record after finishing their previous one (2015’s Individ), as they were usually inclined to do. Instead, Long — the band’s primary songwriter — stepped away from music for a time after the birth of his first child, before returning in May with the debut album from his synth-based solo project FAN.

“Making the FAN record [Barton’s Den] was a bit of a crash course in recording, but it really opened up a lot of new possibilities for me in how I thought about making records since there were no guidelines,” says Long. “It’s without question that Certainty Waves would be a completely different record, or perhaps would not have existed, had I not done Barton’s Den.”

Long eagerly applied this newfound sense of freedom to his approach to The Dodos, and subverting one’s own processes and identities quickly developed into a central theme during the creation of Certainty Waves. It’s also a sentiment reflected in the album’s title — the idea that what once seemed so certain will likely prove not to be in the future. That it was only a wave passing by.

“Certainty Waves is our midlife crisis record,” acknowledges Long. “Who we thought we were, how mistaken we were, how an interference in the trajectory can flip your understanding of what came before.”

Releases October 12th, 2018

Pre-Order: Lumerians - Call Of The Void,Vinyl,Fuzz Club - Fuzz Club

Lumerians long-overdue new LP, Call Of The Void, is officially unleashed into the world this Friday. Four years in the making it see’s the Oakland band return on top form, a face-melting combination of synth-heavy dancefloor grooves, oddball prog wig-outs and exploratory psych.

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Oakland, CA outfit Lumerians are a prodigious force in the extra-terrestrial realms of modern psychedelia. Since forming in San Francisco back in 2006, Lumerians have traversed their way through multiple different genres – offering mind-bending adventures into everything from space rock, kraut and noise to zamrock, free jazz, drone and dub. Drawing from a range of influences, both familiar and esoteric, past and present, Lumerians conjure up sounds from far into the future. In their twelve years as a band they’ve toured with everyone from My Bloody Valentine to Killing Joke and Black Moth Super Rainbow, putting out a number of critically-acclaimed releases including two ‘official’ albums and two collections of improvised compositions called Transmission from Tellos III & IV. On June 22nd the band will be returning with their third album, Call of the Void, on London-label Fuzz Club after four years under the radar. The album is dedicated to the memory of Barrett Clark, Lumerians’ long-time friend, sound engineer and collaborator who passed away in the tragic Ghost Ship warehouse fire in Oakland 2016.

It may have taken the band four long years to put their latest album together but it was definitely worth the wait, their mystical exploratory soundscapes at their finest. Eclectic and vastly multifaceted, the album is further proof – if you needed it – that Lumerians are a singular force in contemporary psychedelia. Talking about Call of the Void, vocalist Jason Miller explains: “If ‘Transmalinnia’ represented the exploration of an alien world and ‘The High Frontier’ a voyage through space, ‘Call of the Void’ is a penetrative exploration of Earth through an alien gaze gone native – the weight of gravity, the build-up of pollution and sediment, experiences of ecstatic revelry and tragedy.”

Listen to Deafheaven’s new album ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love’

For a black metal band, Deafheaven’s sounds often feel light and effortless. The San Francisco rockers’ impressive blend of post-hardcore, screamo, and heavy metal achieves a surprisingly transcendent, almost revelatory quality, fueled by tight and aggressive rhythms and frontman George Clarke’s raw, guttural shrieks. Ordinary Corrupt Human Love, which follows 2015’s New Bermuda and 2013’s crossover hit Sunbather, is out July 13th via Anti-Records. Check out the track “Canary Yellow”  which clocks in at over 12 minutes long. Opening with an airy and melodic vibe, the track soon explodes into perfectly controlled hard rock chaos.

Previewed by furious singles ‘Honeycomb’ and ‘Canary Yellow’, the record follows 2015’s ‘New Bermuda’ and comes ahead of a series of UK headline shows later in the year.

“Honeycomb” by Deafheaven from the album ‘Ordinary Corrupt Human Love,’ available July 13th

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Culture Abuse release their sophomore album Bay Dream. Featuring new single Calm E, Bay Dream is the San Francisco Bay Area-bred band’s first full-length release for Epitaph Records. Produced, engineered, and mixed by Carlos de la Garza (Paramore, Jimmy Eat World, M83), Bay Dream follows Culture Abuse’s 2016 debut Peach. The album elevates their melody-heavy garage punk to a new level, drawing inspiration from artists as eclectic as Sly and the Family Stone, Paul Simon, and reggae legend Billy Boyo.

“Dip” by Culture Abuse from the album ‘Bay Dream,’ available now

Picture yourself in front of your record collection, deciding which one you’ll listen to next. You finally choose Kilimanjaro by Teardrop Explodes; you haven’t listened to it for a long time. In that moment, you notice that your partner placed your Face to Face copy in an incorrect slot. It goes with you to the record player too. A few minutes later, you corroborate that both Cope and Davies made prevailing, lucid and brilliant records. And you dream thinking how would they sound together, in an hypotetic alloy that feels almost impossible straight away. There are only fourteen years away from one record to
the other, but they seem made in different centuries, different planets. We find the answer at the Electric Duck studios in San Francisco, Kelley Stoltz’s base of operations. A Detroit-native, Kelley was an adolescent moved by post-punk and English new-age, and became an adult falling in love with the extensive pop legacy from the 60s.

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Both references define one of the strongest, most talented
discographies of the last years. Filtering and tying those sounds together with freshness and distinction is what makes Kelley an unique composer. Stoltz gets ostentation and histrionics out of the best 80s pop and supplies it with outstanding melodies and sense of humour. What Brian Wilson doing a cover by Wire’s The 15th would feel like.

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