Gardens & Villa (photo: Jon Ching)
In this recurring feature known as The Bay Abridged, our staff writers will provide short, witty recaps on shows they attended around the Bay Area. A scene check, a heat check, and sometimes more — stop by every other Wednesday for the most comprehensive and concise recap of last week’s Bay Area concert scene.
Sun Foot, Sally Timms, and Quasi at The Chapel (SF) Feb. 17.
When Sun Foot began the evening I thought it might be a joke, but by the end of the night they were my new favorite band — DEVO inspired but thoroughly original. Sally (of Mekons infamy) joined Sun Foot and they became Sun Sam Foot playing all the Sally classics with a new spin. Ultimately it became apparent that the keyboard player all night was none other than Sam Coomes of Quasi! The super duo played all the classics, most of which had not been played in 10 years. —MBL
Gardens & Villa at California Academy of Science (SF) Feb. 18.
Santa Barbara’s Garden’s & Villa kicked off the 24th year of the Noise Pop Festival with their enchanting, beachy melodies and emotive stage presence at Cal Academy’s weekly NightLife. A mix of old and new songs from their 2015 album, Music for Dogs, got the modest but genuine crowd moving and shuffling closer to the stage. In a setting full of life and natural phenomena, Gardens & Villa’s performance was a perfect ending to a wonder-filled evening. —Jon Ching
Mark Growden Quintet at The Octopus Literary Salon (OAK) Feb. 20.
Mark is a Bay Area treasure who continues to experiment with fresh ideas. For the past two years, the focus has been as a conductor for his latest project, The Calling All Choir. On 2/20 it was a “simple” quintet, but that didn’t stop them from bringing out a dozen instruments including an alpenhorn that stretched the full length of the ramp that runs straight into the cozy belly of The Octopus. The music ran the gamut from foot-stomping banjo tunes to crooning ballads to sing-alongs with the band walking out amongst the delighted audience. —MBL
BAUS, Surplus 1980 at The Salt Lick (OAK) Feb. 20.
I cried when I found out Surplus 1980 formed in 2009. What a waste of time my last six years have been. The band includes Moe! Staiano of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum. One song featured three Bundt pans played simultaneously that made you wonder what instrument of the future might be lurking in the back of your kitchen cabinet. BAUS were a perfect match for Surplus 1980, somewhere along the road between Talking Heads & The Minutemen. BAUS head off to SXSW in mid-March and return for a stacked bill at The Octopus Mar 24th. You have no excuse to miss their powerful live show. —MBL
AJJ, Battlehooch, M. Lockwood Porter, and Owl Paws at The Chapel (SF) Feb. 24.
Because I am a hopeless nostalgic, the one and only Noise Pop show I went to was AJJ at The Chapel — I loved them in my early 20s, and am still an AJJ devotee. AJJ fans give me hope for the future — I’m consistently among the oldest in attendance at AJJ shows, but the kids that show up are some of the most respectful punk fans: When people fell in the pit, they got picked up. When fans standing on the sidelines got bumped into, the offender made sure they were OK. My foot even got stomped on REAL hard and the girl that did it immediately turned around and said “Oh, sorry!”
However, the real stars of the show that night for me were Battlehooch. They have come up in so many of my TGWs and I’ve never actually seen them. Let me just say I walked out of the Chapel a new person. Fun, freewheeeling, and possessing the ability to breathe new life into a cover song like I’ve never experienced before. Also I kind of want them to play my wedding when and if that time comes. Shoot me an email, Battlehooch. —Jody Amable
Julien Baker at Bottom of the Hill (SF) Feb. 25.
Touring behind an album that’s unspeakably sad and devastatingly self-effacing can’t be easy, particularly when it’s just you up on the stage, but Julien Baker seemed completely undaunted by the circumstances during her sold-out performance at Bottom of the Hill as part of Noise Pop on February 25. The diminutive Baker, accompanied by just her electric guitar, captivated the audience with her emotional (and, at 40 minutes, very economic) set, highlighted by a heartbreaking rendition of “Rejoice,” the centerpiece behind her debut album, Sprained Ankle. Kudos should also go out to a strong set of opening acts, including Kasey Johansing and Gracie & Rachel, who played crowd-pleasing covers of Justin Bieber and Kreayshawn, respectively. —Will Reisman
Kamasi Washington at The Independent (SF) Feb. 25.
The up-and-coming Kamasi Washington and the talented musicians he plays with saturated The Independent with a new, funk-steeped, sythn-layered jazz, blowing the crowd away — when one goes to see live music, one expects a performance like this. Solid musicianship, dynamic build-ups, satisfying spontaneity and soulful humbleness, not to mention personal stories about the pieces. If you missed one of the two performances he played that night, you’re out of luck this tour, but keep an eye out next time because you’re not going to want to miss him again! —Jon Ching
Freakwater at The Chapel (SF) Mar. 1.
Chicago’s Freakwater have finally released a new record, Scheherazade (their first in 10 years!) and the songs are great. The Emmylou harmonies remain unmatched. The original trio brought a new drummer plus a violin player and a slide guitar guru (Morgan Greer, who opened the show). The slide guitar brought those lovely pedal steel sounds the band grew up with. Apparently they had quite the show the night before in Eugene — they overdid it on some cannibis-laden peanut butter cups and found themselves amongst axe wielding, Swedish speaking woodsmen. —MBL