James H. Miller

Local musicians reinterpret Nick Drake’s "Pink Moon" at the Rickshaw Stop

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Had you been skeptical about the “UnderCover Presents: Nick Drake’s Pink Moon” event Sunday night at the Rickshaw Stop you wouldn't have been alone. It had the potential to be disastrous. Coordinating the sound alone must have posed a considerable challenge. How do you get 11 eclectic local bands — 50 performers each with specific sound needs — to play one song from one album without frazzling intervals between each performance and each set up? And then of course there's the album to consider, Nick Drake’s Pink Moon. How can the bands perform the covers without butchering the album? Read more »

The reluctant soloist

Away from his Australia-based band Electric Jellyfish, Michael Beach finds solace in solitude.

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MUSIC Michael Beach is not the conventional — or, cliché — singer-songwriter. Granted, he writes stripped down folk rock, but he's not locked in the style. He can swallow the comparisons to Nick Drake or Mason Jennings, but he hasn't modeled himself after those (or any other) singer-songwriters really. "I think that I would get bored if that's all I listened to," he says. It explains why there's more to his bare bones sound — the dude simply doesn't fit the mold.Read more »

Kenneth Patchen centennial: poetry that still resonates

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Poet Kenneth Patchen was born in Niles, Ohio, 100 years ago on December 13, 1911. He died in Palo Alto in 1972. Due to a ruptured spinal disk that was never properly treated, Patchen produced some 30 volumes of poetry and prose largely from the confines of his bed — work, nonetheless, that fiercely engaged the modern world that raged on outside. In his words, “I speak for a generation born in one war and doomed to die in another.” For this, the Beats were deeply indebted to his work. Patchen however, who lived in Telegraph Hill in the 1950s, referred to “Ginsberg and Co.” and the media hype surrounding them as a “freak show.”

Patchen had a broad range — he could be political, tender, devotional, and surreal — and unlike the Beats, he vehemently opposed being labeled as one kind of poet or another. Kenneth Patchen: A Centennial Selection (Kelly’s Cove Press, paperback, $25), edited by Patchen’s friend Jonathan Clark, marks the 100th birthday of the indefinable poet. Clark first met Patchen in the 1960s as a teenager living in the same Palo Alto neighborhood as him. He describes the collection as “a personal selection of some poems in which I hear most clearly the voice of the man I remember...those seeking perfection had best look elsewhere...” Fair enough. However, the collection is also a reasonable review of the poet’s scope. And, if indeed modest, it’s still the only book that has observed the centennial.

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Lit shorts: Cocker, on paper

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Mother, Brother, Lover
By Jarvis Cocker
Faber and Faber
208 pp., hardcover, $17

 
Books of lyrics — words uprooted from the music and set down naked on the page — are traditionally published with either self-congratulation or doubts by songwriters. Jarvis Cocker has some doubts.

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Lit shorts: 'Beck' by the book

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Beck
By Autumn de Wilde
Chronicle Books
176 pp., hardcover, $35

 
For more than a decade and half, pop culture photographer (and video director) Autumn de Wilde has chronicled Beck, the iconic songwriter and her personal friend, on tour, in the studio, and as he’s posed before the camera — the latter especially.

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Cass McCombs greets the Great American Music Hall crowd warmly

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There’s been a lot of talk about how Cass McCombs is an impenetrable character, so much so that it’s become tiring. We’ve heard about his elusiveness and nomadic lifestyle; about his tendency to either act bitterly in interviews (i.e. Pitchfork interview) or shun them altogether. Oh, and that he’s never happy. Admittedly, McCombs has shaped this cryptic persona himself — he’s even made it difficult to know what he looks like (recent photographs have been vague, he’s always altering his “look”). It was an enormous pleasure then on Sunday night to be able to experience the songwriter first hand when he performed at the Great American Music Hall, where it was all about the music. Read more »

No more introduction needed: Pterodactyl at El Rio

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On Saturday night in the cloistered show room at El Rio, Joe Kremer of Pterodactyl passed through the idle crowd to consult the sound guy about his microphone reverb, making a whacking hand gesture to illustrate the slap back resonation he wanted -- something he's probably had to do at every venue between Brooklyn, NY, (where the band is from) and San Francisco because it’s so essential to Pterodactyl’s sound. Read more »

Kimya Dawson keeps it confessional, relatable at the Rickshaw Stop

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The recurring theme of Sunday night’s Kimya Dawson show at the Rickshaw Stop was: be who you are and plainly say whatever you have to say. It began with Dave End— whose eccentric set included a cover of Seal’s “Kiss From A Rose” in a dress made of flowers — followed by Clyde Pattersen, from Your Heart Breaks, who flat out told the audience that one song was about his schizophrenic mother. It all culminated with Kimya Dawson. Some would have disparaged the night’s roster of confessional, fun-loving songwriters — it’s the prey of critics. But the night was about relating to people and — dare I say it? — Having fun. Read more »

We love the sound: Wild Flag will play the Great American Music Hall

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Back in 2010, when the members of Wild Flag initially started playing music with one another, whether a band would be forged or not wasn’t altogether clear. Carrie Brownstein, Rebecca Cole, and Janet Weiss (all from Portland, Ore.) had been writing the score for art documentary !Women Art Revolution when they tapped Mary Timony, who lived in Washington D.C., to record vocals. One project naturally led to the other. Read more »

Poet of dissonance: Anna Moschovakis at Meridian Gallery

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I bought Oprah’s O Magazine in March — my first — after learning it had 24 glossy pages to honor (or degrade, depending on how you look at it) National Poetry Month. In the issue, among other things, was a photo spread of eight female poets modeling the latest spring fashion. “Spring Fashion Modeled by Rising Young Poets” was one of those rare occasions when mainstream culture and poetry awkwardly attend the same party. It’s the kind of thing that makes poets and scholars blink in disbelief and send heavy sighs over the Internet. One of the poets featured in O was Anna Moschovakis: the author of two books of poems, a translator, and an editor at Ugly Duckling Presse. (Moschovakis, who lives between Brooklyn and Delaware County, NY, reads at San Francisco's Meridian Gallery Sat/29.) She was modeling a pink Candela dress ($359) and an Haute Hippie jacket ($995). 

It started something of an Internet brawl.

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