Michael Harkin

Jay Reatard, 1980-2010

Even those turned off by his surly stage persona admired the garage rock hero
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MUSIC "It rocks, dude. Start to finish. Top to bottom." This was my brother's earnest recommendation of Blood Visions (In the Red), Jay Reatard's incendiary 2006 solo debut and the record that, in the year or so following its release, startled me and many others into awareness of this Memphis punk auteur's mesmerizing fury. Only a few years later, he has passed on, and no matter how many people he offended, slagged off, or punched out, it's such a damn shame that he's gone.Read more »

1, 2, 3 — do you copy?

Rank/Xerox makes nervy sounds for anxious times
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MUSIC "Is it nature or nurture?" asks David West, pondering whether garage rock is the most natural sound of San Francisco. Read more »

Off-duty trip

The Raincoats are back in fashion with a great local band that adores them
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MUSIC Gina Birch, discussing a Raincoats gig earlier this month at the National Portrait Gallery in London, pauses for a moment over the phone from home in England. Although the resurgence of interest in her band's music began well over a decade ago, she still sounds a bit surprised at the Raincoats' esteemed status in the rock lexicon today.

"We're being more embraced by the cultural elite, which is quite funny, really, " Birch explains, humbly. Read more »

Easy as one 23

The enigma behind the music of the riddle of Rainbow Bridge
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MUSIC Brought together by the 23 enigma (and, more than likely, straight-up friendship), the two folks behind Rainbow Bridge get a bit elusively new age in discussing their musical partnership. Read more »

On Land Festival

The Root Strata music label celebrates five years of work in a quietly extravagant way
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PREVIEW Root Strata, the San Francisco-based avant/out music label co-owned by Jefre Cantu and Maxwell Croy, has released over 50 records since its inception. Its foundations and mission are humble, but after nearly five years of work, the label has seen fit to celebrate in a quietly extravagant way with the On Land Festival, a two-night event in the city where it initially, um, took root. Read more »

"San Francisco's Doomed"

A dedicated festival
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PREVIEW Fred Schrunk sips his coffee as he mans the counter on a recent afternoon at Thrillhouse, the nonprofit punk record store he oversees on Mission Street, and discusses the genesis of this week's San Francisco's Doomed Fest. Read more »

Grass Widow

Molding anxiety, love, and sturdy musicianship into a mesmerizing shape
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PREVIEW Grass Widow's harmonious post-punk tension is fostered below SF street level, in a former meat locker containing, among other things, a very charming quilt with the band's name patched into it. In anticipation of an impending record release, I met there with bass player Hannah Lew and drummer Lillian Maring (guitarist and trumpet player Raven Mahon was overseas), who, although living far apart — Maring is on the East Coast at present — were clearly very happy to be together.

"It's not like there are any dispensable characters," explains Lew. Read more »

Feel-good sounds

Noise Pop 09: Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele and A.C. Newman make a plea for pop
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DENT MAY AND HIS MAGNIFICENT UKULELE What we have here, to get right down to it, is a perfect case of truth in advertising. The cover of The Good Feeling Music of Dent May and His Magnificent Ukulele (Paw Tracks) — the just-released debut from the eponymous uke-strumming, street-corner-serenading smooth operator — spells out its primary objective in impish scrawl, rainbow-and-curlicue-festooned illustrations, and a photo of the showman getting swanky in tuxedo finery. Read more »

Watch their steps

The Amazements marvel with storytelling, a skate anthem, and fearsome songs
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Drummer Liam Morrison's bandmates in the Amazements — Brendan, his guitar-playing brother, and Elon Etzioni, vocalist and bassist — could be heard jamming a symphonic-sounding Laibach track in the background when he picked up his phone in Los Angeles. It only got more peculiar from there: the Amazements ended up reeling off more funny, bizarre anecdotes than most groups ever accumulate in their lifetime.

For instance, there's the incident when the Cobra Snake guy showed up to one of the ensemble's shows: "He didn't take any photos ... Read more »

Bunny ballin'

Garage Rock '09: Loving that loopy, lupine, leather-bound Nobunny sound
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Nobunny loves you — that much is clear by the end of the first track on his debut, Love Visions. But where did the masked maven of caffeinated garage-punk come from? I met with the leather-jacketed, now Bay Area-based "half-rabbit, half-jackalope, half-human" at an Oakland bar, angling for two rabbit-earfuls of explanation. It's hard not to be curious: the aforementioned Visions, released last year by 1-2-3-4 Go! and Bubbledumb, motorbiked outta left field to become 2008's most delightful lo-fi slab of clambake party jams. Read more »