Author: Jeff Spirer

Jeff Spirer is the editor of SF Sonic. He has retired from concert photography but still writes about music and travel.

Arm Candy Paige Calico Video directed by Scarlet Moreno The question of how many influences and references can emerge from just one song and its video has been answered by Paige Calico. The answer to the question is “close to infinite.” With an almost twangy voice, Calico could be a country singer. But “Arm Candy” has deep echoes of 60s girl group hits. So you have something like Dolly Parton x The Shirelles. The choruses reinforce the throwback feel of the song with background vocals (which might include Calico) adding to the lyrics but also providing the “ooooo” that characterizes…

Read More

World music has deep roots in the multi-cultural history of the Bay Area and Jef Stott has been merging those roots with technology through live shows and over ten albums. Stott is a producer, multi-instrumentalist, host of a music travel channel, and, most recently, a music educator with SF Jazz. Music educator? Sure, and here is what SF Jazz’s Marshall Lamm had to say about Stott – “Jef has been instrumental in growing the successful SFJAZZ Digital Lab education program since the SFJAZZ Center opened in 2013. All of classes sell out and people even fly in from other parts…

Read More

Firepower Judas Priest Sony Music At this point in their career, Judas Priest has nothing to prove – they’ve set the standard for all metal bands, but on their 18th studio album, Firepower, they sound reinvigorated and energized, burning through fourteen solid tracks. Maybe it is the reunion of the band with producer Tom Allom, who helmed so many of the band’s classic records in the 80’s, along with Andy Sneap, known for producing the best modern metal bands in the world. This combination of new and old school runs throughout Firepower, as the record treads plenty of classic Judas…

Read More

Guinevere Q, her bass, her voice, and her primary band The Wyatt Act can be seen around the city playing quintessentially eccentric San Francisco music. With roots in poetry, jazz, and rock, The Wyatt Act crosses lots of boundaries. The quick changes and unusual instrumentation blend perfectly with Guinevere’s slam poetry-derived lyrics. SF Sonic had the opportunity to put a few questions to Guinevere recently. SF Sonic: How did Guinevere begin playing bass? Guinevere Q: I started out as a performance poet competing in slams and hosting open mics. That was my original role in The Wyatt Act. I would…

Read More

Valerie June The Fillmore Auditorium December 4, 2017 Photos by Jeff Spirer. Valerie June arrived on stage literally sparkling. A sequined skirt, metal-studded cowboy boots, glitter eye shadow, and a shiny hair clip. Her appearance matched her show in every way, as she regaled the audience with stories and played her unique music. The effervescent personality, the shiny appearance, and the mostly upbeat songs kept a packed Fillmore entranced the whole evening. A concert with Valerie June feels like a night sitting around the kitchen table with an old friend. June chats, tells stories, and moves in and out of…

Read More

Cabaret-style art rock has a long history peppered with terrific performers and terrific performances. The presentation takes the music onto a different plane, stretching the boundaries of musical performance into a theatrical milieu. Moon Honey just released a video that could be a primer for what it’s all about. This genre may have hit center stage in the 1970s when Lene Lovich left art school to become a musical performer. Lovich’s quirky voice and equally quirky appearance quickly garnered the attention of that time’s wide open punk scene, cemented by Stiff Records putting out numerous Lovich albums. There is more…

Read More

Kat Robichaud’s Misfit Cabaret: Horror Show Great Star Theater October 20 – 28, 2017 All photos by Jeff Spirer. The woman of a thousand faces, a gross of voices, a million costumes, and host of the somewhat quarterly Misfit Cabaret at the Great Star Theater, Kat Robichaud knows how to put on a themed cabaret/variety show and keep the audience enthralled. At the end of October, of course it will be a Halloween themed show, complete with ghouls, zombies, possession, and psychos, with music, dance, aerial performance, and sketches both original and derivative of well-known movies. Musically, Robichaud and her…

Read More

Ana Popovic Yoshi’s September 8, 2017 All photos by Jeff Spirer. Visitors to Yoshi’s know it is a seated venue, but if it hadn’t been, the crowd there for Ana Popovic would have been dancing non-stop. As it was, people jumped out of their seats to cheer after most songs and moved as much as they could around the tables. Despite being categorized usually as “blues,” Popovic mostly plays upbeat tunes that beg for some sort of movement, whether seated or standing. Of course much of the audience came to Yoshi’s to witness Popovic’s guitar wizardry, with searing solos in…

Read More

When Kat Robichaud walks out dressed in street clothes in San Francisco, it’s unlikely many of her fans will recognize her. A chameleon-like appearance is part of Robichaud’s appeal – she can play almost any role in her live performances and, as “Artists” shows, in her videos. On the other hand, there is no way not to recognize her voice. Or The Voice, as some may know it. Robichaud sings with strength and dramatic flair, always. She molds her own songs and covers into stories that resonate with the audience. On “Artists,” The Voice goes seamlessly from whispering to that…

Read More

Exile in the Outer Ring EMA Buy at Amazon In an increasingly bleak American landscape (this review is being written after Charlottesville,  North Korean nukes looming, the opioid crisis raging, income inequality increasing), there is no shortage of material for an artist like EMA (Erika M. Anderson), who has delivered one of the bleakest albums since Nico’s The Marble Index. If Exile in the Outer Ring were a book, the comparison would be with J.G. Ballard, maybe his early work The Crystal World. It’s that book, with its devastating environment in which life is transforming into deathly yet beautiful crystal,…

Read More

The Roots Fox Theater, Oakland July 14, 2017 All photos by Jeff Spirer. With around a dozen musicians on stage, The Roots showed how hip-hop thrives with a live band, especially one skilled enough to fluidly cross genre boundaries without missing a beat, or a step. For the first half of their long set, the band explored funk with rap-fronted takes on R&B from War to The Meters. After that came some real head-turners, with a jazzy segment from the keyboards and guitar-driven mini-covers of Guns ‘N’ Roses and early roots reggae hit “Chase the Devil.” Questlove lorded over the…

Read More

Burger Boogaloo Mosswood Park, Oakland July 1-2, 2017 Photos by Raymond Ahner and Jeff Spirer. Burger Boogaloo took over Oakland’s Mosswood Park for two days, bringing 22 bands to two stages in the four-acre park. Hosted, as before, by John Waters, whose introductions reminded the crowd why his movies are so terrific, the performers ranged from Iggy Pop, X, and The Buzzcocks, to local bands with punk roots. Other than the occasional moshing, stage diving, and crowd surfing, it was a surprisingly mellow event. There were beer and merch concessions, and a food area dominated by the long lines at…

Read More

The Oakland Metro Operahouse has long provided an outlet for goth and metal, valuable to fans across the Bay Area but particularly in the East Bay where there are fewer venues than in San Francisco for the music heard at the Metro. Currently the Metro is under fire from an uber-wealthy neighbor looking to open his own venue. According to a recent article in the East Bay Express, the neighbor appears to be lying and harassing the Metro to force it to close. The City of Oakland doesn’t appear to be helping the situation. There’s a lot of history at The Oakland Metro;…

Read More

Adult. The Independent June 9, 2017 All photos by Jeff Spirer. Danceable electronic music dates over fifty years, with innovators like Kid Baltan, and Delia Derbyshire working in labs without the benefit of live audiences, with music tending towards extraterrestrial (Derbyshire first came to light with the Dr. Who theme) and the bouncy. It was a few years before the music turned dark and broadened its audience, with Devo incorporating electronics into its quirky rock (listen to the brief instrumental break in “Jocko Homo”) and Pere Ubu, which considered itself a “dance band” at the time, torching the sound with…

Read More

Valerie June Great American Music Hall June 5, 2017 All photos by Jeff Spirer. Valerie June arrived on stage looking like she had come down from Mendocino for the night, wearing a fringe jacket and glistening skirt, all topped by organic locs (dreadlocks) spun round her head. By the second song, her shoes were off. And somewhere around the middle of the show, the smell of weed drifted through Great American Music Hall. It could have been an after-party from Burning Man. And when Valerie June sings, it’s as if a spell were cast over the audience. The unique quality…

Read More

Kat Robichaud’s Misfit Cabaret: Cinephilia Great Star Theater June 2, 2017 All photos by Jeff Spirer. Pop quiz: What starts with the theme from 2001 and ends with The Ramones’ “Pinhead?” The answer is given directly above, in case it isn’t immediately obvious. At the start, it was solo piano by Misfit Brendan Getzell and at the end it was Kat Robichaud singing and as much of the audience as could fit the stage dancing around her. That 90 minutes of this improbability didn’t seem the least bit awkward is a sure sign of a great show. Because this was…

Read More

When Sly Stone said “there’s a riot going on,” he must seeing have been Moon Hooch in the future. Truly unique, Moon Hooch fuses something resembling “jazz” with music that can definitely be called “dance,” and comes up with a cacophonous riot of sound that still intellectually challenges. Just a trio comprising two saxophone players and a drummer, with the occasional addition of electronics and vocals, the band sounds far bigger, far bouncier, and, at times, far more intellectual than seems possible. In advance of a show at San Francisco’s Great American Music Hall, Moon Hooch took the time to…

Read More

Max and Igor Cavalera Slim’s March 3, 2017 All photos by Pollen Heath. When a founding member of an iconic group in their respective genre launches a tour celebrating the twentieth anniversary of one of their most successful albums, you can bet the farm the buzz will be strong and attendance high. When you add into the mix the co-founding member, who happens to also be the sibling of aforementioned founding member and their last name happens to be Cavalera, all bets are off. The metal community will most definitely show out in force for celebratory raging of the Sepultura…

Read More

After six years of playing  in the US and abroad, in clubs and at festivals, Tashaki Miyaki will be releasing their first album, The Dream, on April 7, 2017. The two piece band – Paige Stark who plays drums, sings, produces and writes songs and Luke Paquin on guitar and fuzzy guitar. And it is fuzzy most of the time. SF Sonic was able to interview the band prior to the album release. SF Sonic: Your new video for the song “Girls on T.V.” is directed by James Franco. How did that come about? Paige Stark: Luke knows James from…

Read More