Les Paul is Gone

He passed away yesterday at the age of 94. This is one of those few times in recent memory where I find myself actually emotionally affected by a celebrity’s death. I’m actually a bit sad. You probably already have heard the highlights of his life and career: inventor of the solid body electric guitar, inventor of multi-track recording, over-dubbing, various delays, and phasing, virtuoso guitarist and composer, and top 40 recording artist from the 1940s – 1960s.

I’ve been playing electric guitar for 20 years and for a few years before that as a kid I wanted to learn how to play…simply because the electric guitar was so damn cool. As a musician I feel immense gratitude to the man who really made the guitar become a “hero” of instruments..no longer relegated to the background but really becoming the lead instrument. Without him modern music simply wouldn’t exist.

Some friends and I had this plan to fly out to New York City for a day just to see Les Paul play at the Irridium jazz club to catch his weekly gig. Now I really feel bad for not making it happen.

Anyway, my guitars and amp seem a bit more precious this morning. We lost a friend, a hero, a teacher and a great explorer. I’ve heard and read various accounts saying that the man was also a genuine nice guy. If you play guitar strum a little over the weekend. I will be.

RIP Les Paul…. you will be missed.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Les_Paul

Spy Tunes and Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine!

Last night we met up with Lisa and Tommy for a fantastic night of cocktails, music and comedy at San Francisco’s famous Bimbos 365 Club!   Opening band Project: Pimento supplied 60s spy/lounge/jazz/rock music that could’ve been an alternate soundtrack to the Connery-era  James Bond films.

Then after a short break, the headliners Richard Cheese & Lounge Against the Machine rocked the main stage.   If you’ve never heard of them, you’re in for a treat.  They take popular rock,rap,metal, and top 40 songs and turn them into swinging lounge music.  Richard Cheese is also a sharp-tongued quick witted comedian who seems to actually feed off  random interrruptions from hecklers in the audience.  He actually told one guy he’d never get a dat making the dolphin noises he was yelling… and then got him to tell us his facebook screen name so that we could all take out our phones and add him as a friend because… there was no other way he’d have any friends.  If you ever have a chance to see them live, please do so! You won’t be dissappointed.

Bo Diddly, R.I.P.

Rock guitar legend Bo Diddly passed away yesterday.

He was there in the beginning of it all with guys like Chuck berry, LIttle Richard, Buddy Holly, etc. The man was an innovator in terms of rock rhythms and in terms of guitar technique and sounds. He used to build his unique rectangular guitars and played with a lot of fuzz, reverb and host of other sounds. His use of innovative guitars and effects, and his brand of bragging lyrics about himself have labelled him the creator of psychadelic rock and as the precursor of rap music.

Kristen and I had an opportunity to see him perform a few years ago, and it was one fo the best shows I’d ever seen. The man was a master showman coming from an era where a performer actually made you feel good as an audience member. He would remind us all that he was there to work for us. People give the Rolling Stones flak for being in their 60s and still performing. We saw him live and he was about 71 and rocking hard!

As a guitarist, it makes me sad he’s gone. A lot of us have gone through that phase where we learn Chuck Berry and Bo Diddly riffs. Fun as hell to play! Thankfully the music is still here. I’m listening to his “Who Do You Love” right now.

RIP sir.

The Donnas Return to San Francisco

Happy New Year. As usual I’m late posting here. We’ve started 2008 with some crazy rainstorms in San Francisco. When we found out The Donnas were returning to play a gig here, Alan, Brent and I decided to go despite the torrential downpour.

We began our evening at The Chieftan, a very nice Irish Pub. It was my first time there and I was relieved to learn that they served dinner. Fish & chips and Bangers & mash filled our stomachs, and prepared us for the Guiness, whiskey, and gin & tonics that we knew would be coming our way throughout the night.

Standing outside the 1015 Folsom club was fun, even though we were drenched by the time we got inside. 1015 is a dance club, so going to see a live band, much less a rock band here was going to be a weird night for all. We walk into the darkness to find a crazy layout with each large room bathed in a solid color light. This first level was a dull blue. Mirrors on the walls and the rhythmic shots of the strobe lights made the scene seem more chaotic than it really was. It was hard to figure out where the stage was and where we were supposed to go.

Eventually we found the dance floor with the stage, and killed time while the 2 opening bands played their sets. Alan and I have a debate over gin & tonics going – which has lasted for a decade. I prefer Bombay Sapphire while he is a Tanqueray man. Brent stayed neutral with his Maker’s & Ginger. As the 2nd band was tearing down their equipment and the Donna’s roadies were getting their stuff ready we staked out our place on the floor.

The house sound system was playing random rock songs for awhile. The 3 of us sang along to Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls”… and then it started. The house lights went down, and green and red lights flared up behind the drum kit. Tori – the drummer was the first to hit the stage. She was quickly followed by Maya (bass) and Allison (guitar) as they started playing the mostly instrumental song “Bitchin’” (which happens to be the intro and title track to their current album). It was a heavy metal march as the guitars and bass crunched along in unison. the last chord fades out… And as Allison starts playing a new riff high up on her guitar’s neck Brett ran up to the mic. They dive into the 2nd half of the song and as Brett sings fists and devil horns went up int he air as the crowd began to scream and cheer. And thus began roughly 90 minutes of some heavy rock and roll fun.

I’ve seen The Donnas live several times and it’s always a treat to see these Bay Area (Palo Alto) girls come home. The Donna’s sound has evolved a bit. The basic formula of AC/DC meets The Ramones is now more of the 80s Glam Metal sound heavily spiced with influences of The Cult, Ratt, Motley Crue, Metallica, Van Halen , Joan Jett, and The Runaways.

Sadly, there aren’t enough girl-groups that are actual BANDS… you know, writing their own material and actually playing their own instruments. It’s precisely that reason why The Donnas rock – not only do they ROCK, but they don’t have much competition in that department. I say it’s a shame. I like the confident female lyrics and vocals over what is typically thought of as a male-centric music. So if you get a chance to see them live, please do so. You won’t be disappointed. These ladies are beautiful, clever, sexy, fun and and most importantly excellent musicians who can strut, swagger and bring the rock as good as any of the guys.

After the show we hit the Encore Karaoke Lounge to hang with some of our coworkers. We stayed through closing and Danny joined us an early breakfast at the Lucky Penny.

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The Donnas Rock San Francisco

Last night Kristen, Alan and I got some yummy Vietnamese food for dinner then headed on to the Great American Music Hall for some rock and roll. Side note: Opening act Stellar Moments (featuring the singer and drummer from L7) were awesome.

The Donnas got a lot of love from the San Francisco audience especially because they’re originally from the area (Palo Alto). Having last seen them live 2 years ago, one thing was obvious from the beginning of their set – The Donnas are a much heavier band now! Continue reading “The Donnas Rock San Francisco”

Rock en Espanol

Saturday night Kristen and I hooked up with Alan and hit the Red Devil Lounge. One of our favorite bands Los Straitjackets were on tour and passing through San Francisco. Now I’ve written about these guys before but if you’re new around here, this should set you straight: 4 dudes from Tennessee wearing lucadore (Mexican wrestling) masks playing surf & instrumental rock and roll. Furthermore, they only speak to the audience in rapid-fire Spanish with a thick American accent. These guys know how to put on a show.
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Continue reading “Rock en Espanol”

 

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Wednesday night Alan, Lisa and I hit the Red Devil Lounge to see the return of Los Straitjackets. This time around they’re promoting thier new CD “Twist Party”. Los Straitjackets are one of my favorite bands to see live. Surf and instrumental rock n roll performed by 4 guys wearing Mexican wrestling masks, and they only speak to the audience in rapid-fire bad Spanish! Add in their friend Kaiser George from Scotland on vocals and as emcee. Finally add the spice: the cute and sexy World Famous Pontani sisters bringing back old-school burlesque dancing to entertainment!

Do not miss a chance to see this band!

A very pleasant Sunday

We had amazing weather here in San Francisco! It was almost a tropical paradise… and weather this good around this time of year is rare!

Kristen and I walked down the street and got ourselves some brunch at Darla’s. We then strolled into Golden Gate Park. Our destination was the Conservatory of Flowers and the Butterfly exhibit therein. Though we’ve lived in the neighborhood for 8 years or so, we’d never gone inside the Conservatory before. I believe it was originally built in 1896 for some kind of fair. Inside there are plants from tropical areas of the world. The butterfly exhibit was neat! there were all sorts of butterflies flying around us going about their business going from flower to flower, plant to plant to drink nectar and polinate.

As we walked back outdoors we heard loud music. It was Gnarls Barkely’s hit “Crazy”. It sounded live. Turned out a local radio station was doing a concert and festival. We rushed over, found ourselves a spot on the hill next to Speedway Meadow and watched the band perform the last 15 minutes of their set. A little while later the B-52’s hit the stage. So we stuck around and watched a good portion of the set. How cool was that? Free concert!

Later that evening we hung out with Kristen’s cousin Curtis, back from a year of studying and adventuring in Beijing. You can check him out at www.djloo.com/blog

Death Angel Returns

Last night I went to Slims to see Death Angel perform with my coworker Greg. We had a few cocktails and enjoyed a fantastic evening of serious heavy metal!

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Back in the 80s, San Francisco was the world’s capital for thrash metal. Bay Area bands leading the scene included Testament, Exodus, the world famous Metallica and this band of young guns known as Death Angel. Continue reading “Death Angel Returns”

Steven Seagal kicked my ass

Yeah you read that right. It’s true…except he did it sonically. Let me explain: Steven Seagal, international-martial-arts-action-star (who always looks constipated) is also a musician. The man sings and plays the blues on his Gibson Firebirds and Flying Vs backed by an 8 piece band.
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For weeks my coworkers and I joked we were going to see him. Yeah we were all thinking the same thing… get some drinks and heckle the guy Continue reading “Steven Seagal kicked my ass”