Thursday, February 22, 2007

Noise Pop!

It's that wonderful time of year again when a host of dope-ass bands descend upon San Francisco, making the citizens of this fair city even more spoiled than they already are.

Here are a few recommendations:

Tapes N' Tapes, Har Mar Superstar, and Extra Action Marching Band at Mezzanine 2/27.

Ok so I only like Tapes N' Tapes but this show is free and looks like a good time (I plan on getting there way early in order to get in). It's the opening night party so it'll probably be all crazy and super-hipstered out. There will also be art from Shepard Fairey and a video installation from Dubbo at this show. Tapes N' Tapes are pretty good; they were kind of over-hyped by the music press so they received a harsh backlash but I really like their latest album, The Loon. It's well crafted indie rock that stays fresh with each listen.

Lyrics Born and The Coup at The Fillmore 3/1.

These groups have two of the best live shows in contemporary hip-hop today. If you like classic, funk-influenced hip-hop then I urge you to check this show out... you won't be disappointed.

Annuals at Cafe Du Nord 3/2.

Annuals play indie pop songs that have a distinct experimental bent to them. They aren't afraid to throw in electronics and I hear that the talented sextet put on a great live show. Don't miss this.

To see a full schedule of Noise Pop events, check out the website.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Out and About: Club/Concert Reviews

I haven't done any reviews of this sort on the blog so... here goes:

Carl Craig and Lindstrom (live) at Mezzanine.

I had a lot of fun at this show. The turnout was excellent and the club had a good, energetic vibe the whole night. Lindstrom came on first and did a laptop set of originial material with live keyboards. The talented Norwegian has created quite a buzz during the past couple of years with his updated take on the Giorgio Moroder "space disco" sound. If you're wondering what that sounds like you can listen to a lot of his tracks on Beatport. His set was decent; he played most of his best songs and created some interesting sound effects but I feel like he let many of the songs drag out for too long, which negatively impacted the energy on the dancefloor. The crowd wanted to go crazy but he kinda just teased everybody instead.

Detroit Techno pioneer Carl Craig came on next and proceeded to tear the roof off the place, making the crowd whoop and holler until the end. Mr. Craig played a nice mixture of his own work with other artists, blending it all together cleanly. He leaned more towards melodic tracks, which I really enjoyed because a lot of tech DJ's seem intent on keeping things hard and banging these days. This guy has been in the game for a long time and really understands how to work a dancefloor properly.

All in all, it was a good night out and I feel like I got my money's worth. My only complaint is that Mezzanine's sound system is in dire need of an upgrade. It only sounds good when you stand in certain spots and for electronic music this isn't a positive because you miss out on a lot of critical frequencies.

Cougar at 12 Galaxies

Cougar is a talented post-rock band hailing from Madison, Wisconsin. Their completely instrumental and melodic style is inspired by bands like Tortoise and The Sea and Cake- not surprising given that Tortoise drummer John McEntire produced Cougar's new album. Despite similarities to the aforementioned groups, Cougar has managed to develop a distinct sound of their own. I managed to catch Cougar at the dumpy, yet lovable, 12 Galaxies in the heart of the Mission. The crowd was pretty sparse due to the unfortunate fact that it was a Monday but those who made it out were treated to an excellent performance. The drummer started things off with a wash of cymbals interspersed with effects from their electronic musician. After this, the guitar players began their classical-influenced assault. I love the sound of their guitars, it's probably the first thing that will catch many people's interest. Their bass player was solid but didn't figure into the overall picture as strongly as the guitars or the drums. I liked how they utilized electronic sounds; they were never cheesy and actually added a lot to the performance. Their drummer is amazing, he laid down some extremely complex rhythms without overpowering the rest of the band.

I'm glad that post-rock is still alive and kicking as a genre. Many people think it begins and ends with Tortoise but I definitely feel there's room for some new ideas on the scene. I enjoy instrumental music and bands like Cougar manage to develop a strong voice without having a vocalist.

Check out Cougar's new album, Law. You can find it on itunes, emusic, or at most record stores.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

America's New King Of Crops

Marijuana is officially America's biggest cash crop according to a recent study authored by John Gettman, a prominent marijuana public policy activist. The current market value of pot grown inside the U.S., estimated at over $35 billion, exceeds that of the top 3 legal crops: corn, soybeans, and hay. Marijuana production has increased tenfold in the past 25 years despite fierce oppostion from law enforcement agencies. California is responsible for more than a third of the cannabis harvest, with an estimated production valued at $13.8 billion. Pot activists have used these statistics to highlight the commerical viability of the plant as well the ineffectiveness of the "War on Drugs".

Our economy would receive a significant boost if pot were legalized and taken off the black market. State governments could regulate and tax it, using the money to fund schools and infrastructure projects. Unfortunately, our federal government seems intent on escalating a costly, and deeply flawed campaign against "illegal drug use". Marijuana is a far less harmful drug than many legal drugs on the market today like alcohol, tobacco, ADD Medication such as Adderall and Ritalin(legalized speed for children), and anti-anxiety pills like Xanax and Valium. All of the drugs I have just listed have an extremely high potential for abuse, and tobacco and alcohol have cost our health care system millions of dollars. Nobody has ever died from a marijuana overdose and there have been many well documented medicinal benefits from occasional use.

When I look at the War on Drugs and the current debacle in Iraq, I can't help but see some disturbing parallels. In both situations, our government has displayed an alarming resistance to using logic and factual evidence to make sensible policy decisions. Instead, U.S. policy makers choose to funnel obscene amounts of taxpayer money into funding crusades that they have no hope of ever winning. The Iraq War and the War on Drugs have been abject failures, and I believe it is time for our leaders to reassess their broken policies and stop wasting our money.

Prohibition has been historically ineffective; just look at the results of the ban on alcohol during the 1920's. Our government realized then that they were spending too much money on trying to ban a substance that was simply too popular and widely distributed. The same is true for marijuana today. The public's attitude towards pot has softened in recent years, especially in California. The San Francisco Police Department recently made busting pot users one of their lowest priorities, essentially making cannabis all but legal. A few years ago, members of the city government were even considering purchasing land within San Francisco County to be used for marijuana cultivation. Santa Cruz attempted to legalize pot a few years back but the federal government immediately intervened and stopped the process. Do policymakers that reside 3,000 miles away really have a clear picture of what is good for Californians? Probably not.

I am a strong suppporter for the legalization of marijuana. I don't believe that making it available for legal consumption would degrade or harm our society and I highly doubt we would see a spike in usage. Many people try pot and don't like it. Most adults who smoke pot are intelligent, hard working members of our society who don't deserve to be treated like criminals. There are far more pressing problems facing our federal government right now; global warming, terrorists, globalization, health care, etc. Why are they wasting our money on a drug policy that has been proven over and over again to be ineffective?