Posts Tagged ‘Concerts’

The Sweetest Venue You’ve Never Visited: Sweetwater Music Hall

Monday, January 21st, 2013

On Saturday night, Deadheads descended upon Mill Valley to see Furthur at Sweetwater Music Hall, an intimate venue that opened in January 2012.

Cardinal fans, a new music venue merits your attention.

On Saturday night, I headed up to Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley to catch a concert with Furthur, the Grateful Dead spinoff band led by Bob Weir and Phil Lesh. I have been to several Furthur shows, and this was by far the best, rivaled only by Phil Lesh’s 70th birthday party a few years ago at Bill Graham Civic Auditorium.

If you could combine the intimacy of the CoHo, the coolness of Frost, and the food of The Mayfield Bakery, you would have something close to the Sweetwater experience. Then add a top-notch sound system and a beautiful setting at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, and include some of the friendliest staff I have ever encountered at a Bay Area concert venue, and you have more than enough reasons to make the hour and fifteen minute trip from Palo Alto.

Sweetwater has a capacity crowd of about 300 people, so no matter where you stand or sit, you have great sight-lines of the stage. The main bar is located at the back, preventing drink-seekers from getting in everyone else’s way. There is a cafe with delicious NorCal fare off to the side, and you don’t have to worry about the hassle of a coat-check…self-serve hangers do the trick.

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The Jazz Concert Stanford Didn’t Want You Attending

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

Mingus Big Band performed at Dinkelspiel Auditorium on Wednesday night to a sold-out crowd of jazz patrons, few of whom were students.

On Wednesday night, one of America’s greatest jazz ensembles took campus by storm, resurrecting before a packed audience in Dinkelspiel Auditorium the legendary work of Charles Mingus. The performance by Mingus Big Band was a triumph for Stanford Lively Arts, with one caveat: hardly any students showed up.

Although the concert was sold out, I saw fewer than twenty students in the whole auditorium. This was not chiefly due to lack of interest. I mentioned the concert to several musicians and jazz aficionados in the days that followed, and they told me with considerable consternation that they had never even heard about it. It also explains why the ushers in the auditorium were giving me and my roommate funny looks as we made our way to our seats. One of them actually asked me if we were attending the concert while we waited outside for the doors to open, even though I was holding onto a ticket. There was a distinctive vibe in the air that we were not supposed to be there. Scheduled on Greek bid night without any Facebook event, promotional posters, or e-flyer campaign, this event in the middle of campus was a closed affair, available to students only if they could find out about it.

The absence of students was a real shame because this concert was special. Despite its edginess, the music appealed to a wide spectrum of music-lovers. Each musician was a virtuoso and a team-player simultaneously. The solos dazzled. The collective pulse of sound, rapid tempo changes, nimble finger-work, and sultry melodies transported me to another realm of consciousness. No beat was left un-stretched, no chord abandoned to complacency. One of the trombonists even stood up to sing, floating above the beat with a lusty baritone.

Such exceptional jazz in a big-band setting does not often find its way to the Farm. A pity that more students were not able to witness it.

Andre Nickatina’s Identity Crisis

Tuesday, April 5th, 2011

Bay Area rapper Andre Nickatina performed on Friday night in a Yankees hat.

I come from the East Coast. Bay Area rap does not reach us much, and when it does, it comes in the form of E-40, Top 40, or entertaining hyphy YouTube videos. Thus, I came to Friday night’s Hilltop festival expecting to hear the Bay Area represent through the voice of Andre Nickatina, supposedly one of its favorite rappers. Instead, I heard a lot about weed, booty calls, and getting drunk, little of it particular to San Francisco, and I left feeling a bit confused by Dre Dog’s heavy reliance on Mac Dre‘s repertoire and his decision to wear a Yankees hat for the occasion.

Let’s examine the latter for a second. The SF Giants won their first World Series ever last year, and Nickatina decides to wear a Yankees hat?? Who does he think he is, Jay-Z? Sure, a hat is principally a fashion accessory, and I am probably reading into it way more than I should. But for me, this one little act summed up the overall lack of authenticity and substance of the entire experience.

Furthermore, though Mac Dre and Nickatina once collaborated closely together, Nickatina has a career that spans almost 20 years. He had the entire audience chanting “Mac Dre, Mac Dre!” with cheesy hand waves, and at times it seemed he was trying to embody his counterpart instead of channeling his own vision. His reverence for Mac Dre may be well deserved, but it came off as more theatrical than genuine.

Granted, Nickatina managed to put on a pretty dynamic performance. People who like him left satisfied, though I have yet to find a girl who truly enjoyed his performance. I appreciated the way he provided a break from the typical Stanford concert scene, which is virtually nonexistent thanks to Stanford’s sclerotic bureaucracy and lack of funding for concerts. However, for all the hype, he did not deliver much about which to write home. At least NYC rappers mean it when they wear Yankees hats.

K’naan Plants His Flag at The Fillmore

Wednesday, November 3rd, 2010

K'naan traces his roots back to the war-torn streets of Mogadishu, Somalia.

After eighteen months of touring that included kicking off the World Cup, K’naan chose San Francisco to be his final major stop. He performed to a packed crowd at The Fillmore last Thursday night. Of all the concerts I’ve seen in the Bay Area, this was one of the best: the venue, the artists, and the vibes dazzled the senses and resonated long after the last beat was finished.

Paper Tongues, a raucous rock band from North Carolina, warmed up the stage with an eclectic blend of hip-hop, funk, rock, and soul. K’naan, most famous for his anthem “Wavin’ Flag,” launched into his act with a breathtaking portrayal of the conflict in his native Somalia, of the street games and wretched violence, of his journey to the Americas and his search for identity in the midst of unexpected stardom. His rhymes ranged from disarmingly smooth to staccato and shrill, capturing the cultivation of his sense of self in the midst of the ravages of war. While the concert ostensibly promoted his latest album, Troubadour, he also pulled out some classics from his first album, such as “If Rap Gets Jealous.”

Paper Tongues from North Carolina opened for K'naan.

A little on the venue. It’s primarily standing room only, with an old-school bar to one side and plush balcony seats above the main floor. The Fillmore has a storied history in San Francisco and has been host to many of the greatest rock acts, including my personal favorite, The Grateful Dead. The space has good acoustics, perhaps too good—I’d strongly recommend a pair of earplugs if you want to be able to hear anything the next day.

I was able to record the song “Wavin’ Flag,” available here. I cut it down to a shorter version because the one K’naan played lasted for an epic 12 minutes. The sound quality is not the best, but you can still get a sense of how sick the un-mixed, original song is live.

Stanford Lit Up by Afroman

Wednesday, April 21st, 2010

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Joseph Foreman, better known as Afroman, set the stage for 4/20 with a lecture on drug abuse in the Oak Lounge of Tressider Union. He discussed in his lecture two legendary anthems to contemporary counterculture, “Crazy Rap (Colt 45)” and “Because I Got High,” along with a host of other songs that explored similar themes. His symposium was originally supposed to take place outside of EBF but was moved to Tressider to accommodate the weather. The move at first raised fears that the expected crowd would not materialize. Nevertheless, the lounge was packed with eager participants by the end of the symposium, allowing Afroman’s words of wisdom to reach many keen Stanford minds.