Tomorrow is the Bay Area Record Fair at Thee Parkside – Should be fun!
I’m going to tell you a secret: last night was my first time ever going to The Fillmore.
And seeing English psych-rock band Temples, with opening band Wampire (Portland), seemed quite appropriate, as the groovy light/bubble show oozed behind the stage. The only thing is that it made me wish I was 1) on drugs, and 2) actually seeing one of the many original bands that Temples’ sound replicates (Byrds, The Doors, etc). Something about the whole experience seemed like a 60s Psychedelic Rock Revue. Once I got over that, it was a good time.
Things I was told to be excited about at the Fillmore:
a) Bucket of Apples to eat – Check!
b) Poster Room – Check!
I shazammed all of these while bopping around the neighborhood drunk and/or stoned last week. (Those are pretty much the only times I use Shazam.) They are all awesome, even sober:
I am definitely not the first person to notice this exciting Bay Area based pop-rock band, but I stumbled into the last three songs of Yassou Benedict’s show last night at Bottom of the Hill, and holy crap! They are good. They look good. But really they blew me away with a mere glimpse of their live show. They reminded me of a harder version of the XX, with a heavier post-rock sound and energy. I’m glad they moved here from Upstate New York, so we can call them our own, and hopefully catch the next show in its entirety very soon.
The other day I was reminiscing with my buddy Jay Beaman about what it was like to see the Fucking Champs at 12 Galaxies right here in the Mission.
The Fucking Champs were sort of a metal band for non-metal-heads I guess? One serious metal fan laughed at me when I said I was a fan, explaining that the Champs were “hipster metal.” I was like, wellllll whatever you want to call it I fucking loooove it.
12 Galaxies was a gloriously scuzzy rock club in the spot on Mission near 22nd that is now called Balançoire. During the early-to-mid ’00s they booked seemingly every band I cared about, and they had cool wraparound mezzanine. It was probably the first place during my tenure in the Mission whose closure hit me really hard (other than KFC).
I was telling Jay that one of my favorite memories was during the period where Bender’s was closed and in limbo after being firebombed. Johnny Davis from Bender’s, one of my all-time favorite bartenders, had picked up a shift or two at Doc’s Clock (right next door to 12 Galaxies) and so I’d walk over there early, buy a drink from Johnny, go see a band, pop back over and buy a shot from Johnny, go back and see the next band, go back and do another shot, etc. etc. until last call. Gooooood times.
I’m pretty sure this was one of those nights:
If you’ve watched Netflix’s first original animated series BoJack Horseman, you probably noticed that the opening credits sequence totally rules. Maybe you also happen know that one of the composers of the theme music is Patrick Carney, drummer for the Black Keys.
But I bet you didn’t know that the co-writer of the track and the guy who layered all that sweet saxophone on it is his uncle and local musician Ralph Carney, who you may have seen around town playing with Gaucho, the Cottontails, and Serious Jass Project.
Oh, are those acts a little too underground? Well then maybe you’ve heard his past work with Tom Waits, the B-52s, Elvis Costello, and They Might Be Giants.
Once, Harvey Pekar wrote a comic about him:
Ralph is a rare jazz musician who brings something that it’s sorely needed to the genre: a sense of humor. You can’t help but smile every time you see him play. But it’s not a gimmick, it’s in his DNA. Tom Waits once described him best: “He’s guided by some other source of information. He’s like a broken toy that works better than before it was broken.”
We chatted with Ralph recently about the theme song, and other pretty interesting stuff:
MM: So how did you get approached to do this project?
Ralph Carney: Patrick from the Black Keys was asked to do a theme for the show and he sent them this track that we already finished last November. It was his first tune from his newly built home studio. The producers loved it. They edited it down from 4 minutes to 30 seconds or so.
It was a lucky break. Patrick and I have been trading files on and off since around 2007 but nothing had ever come of any of it till this.
MM: So you had no idea you were writing something for a show about an anthropomorphic horse?
Ralph Carney: Haha nope. It wasn’t really composed for the show, but it worked for them. I got a text from Patrick in April saying, “I think we have a sync deal.” I thought he meant something about plumbing.
MM: It’s awesomely sax-heavy. When I first heard it I thought it was a lead guitar. Then other parts of it sound like a guitar chunking out power chords. How many tracks of saxophone are on there?
Ralph Carney: There are 3: tenor, soprano and baritone. The soprano didn’t make the theme but there is some in the 4 minute version that will be out on iTunes soon, I hear. And one bass trombone part.
MM: Haha awesome. Can’t wait to hear the whole thing. Patrick Carney has been pretty open about your influence on his musical career. Did you encourage him a lot as a kid?
Ralph Carney: Well I know he liked the Tin Huey record on Warner Brothers, and as he got older he thought it was cool he had an uncle who was on a record. Not sure if I musically influenced him, though.
I turned him on to weird children’s records and the Shaggs when he was in high school and came to visit in 1996 or so.
MM: Oh yeah, the Shaggs influence is clear.
Ralph Carney: His first musical output which I have on cassettes is pretty out there. That is why I was kinda surprised when he played me the first Black Keys stuff. I thought Dan was an African American. Also, I didn’t know he (Patrick) was a drummer. The rest is history, I guess.
MM: How long have you been in San Francisco?
Ralph Carney: Since 1995. I moved to Oakland in 1989, two weeks before the earthquake.
MM: Glad that didn’t scare you off. Do you think there’s been much opportunity for the working musician here?
Ralph Carney: It depends on what you are trying to do I guess, I think it is harder for young people in rock bands. Too expensive. But as far as the kind of gigs I do, it is not so bad, plenty of restaurants and bars to play old music.
You have heard it all before from Patti Smith, David Byrne, etc. Meaning here, NYC, etc. are no longer cheap like in the mid to late 70′s.
MM: Maybe I’m venting now, but it also seems like the going rate for the working session musician hasn’t changed since the ’60s.
Ralph Carney: Agreed! I sometimes wonder what I was thinking and then a thing like BoJack comes up.
MM: What else do you have going on musically these days?
Ralph Carney: Just recording stuff for various singers in my home studio. And then local gigging.
(Editors note: Ralph is being modest. “Various singers” includes St. Vincent. Here is his playing on the track “Digital Witness” on her record from this year.)
Ralph Carney: I just played a wedding for Roman Coppola. That was exciting, seeing Nic Cage yell at his kid.
MM: Haha the goth kid?
Ralph Carney: Hahaha, I don’t think he was there. They were a lot younger and not goth. There was a lake and Cage yelled to be in the water where “I CAN SEE YOU!!!” (in his best Nic Cage impression)
MM: Yeah, plus goths don’t swim.
Ralph Carney: Hell no!
MM: Where are you playing these days?
Ralph Carney: Well I play all over S.F. and now suddenly Alameda.
(Editor’s note: More Ralph vagueness. I happen to know Ralph blows on his bizarre assortment of horns every Wednesday 8-10pm at Amnesia with Gaucho, and every 3rd Sunday at the Riptide with the Cottontails. Also various nights here at there at the Rite Spot Cafe under his own name.)
Thanks Ralph! I should also mention that all the fantastic character design in the show was done by the Bay Area (now LA) artist Lisa Hanawalt, but that, as they say, is another interview… hopefully!
I do! Last night I checked out local crooning singer-songwriter DonCat at the Chapel Bar for free. It’s a tucked away stage with only a few prime seats for real listening, but great if you’re just wanting an atmosphere to have a drink and listen to some pleasant background tunes. Either way, you can’t really go wrong. And if you hate it, you can leave – no dollars lost!
Next free shows in the Chapel Bar:
Tue, Sep 23: Cello Joe
Tue, Sep 30: Local Label Series feat. Do Not Disturb Records artist FRONDS
Hopefully more to come soon.
This month’s Hard French (on the patio at El Rio on Saturday afternoon as always) is gonna be historic:
Hard French is thrilled to welcome Sugar Pie DeSanto, a 60’s soul icon who performed alongside acts like Etta James and James Brown, to the patio at El Rio. Having spent over 60 years on the stage, Sugar Pie’s wild live shows have become a thing of legend. At 78 years old she can still out-dance, out-sing, and out-sass anyone in the room. We play Sugar Pie’s 45s at every Hard French and now you get the unique opportunity to hear the real thing. They’re even making a documentary about her – check out the website to learn more about this living legend: http://www.sugarpiedocumentary.com/the-music/
Advance tickets are already sold out, so you’ll wanna line up early! RSVP and invite your friends!
After 6 weeks of pony riding in Iceland, exploring Malta, hosting his annual hammock camp at Burning Man and literally holding down the fort during the rainstorms, KJ Paul is officially back and in action. Get your song list ready for September!