(illustration: Cassidy Miller)
In this recurring feature known as The Bay Abridged, our staff writers 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 the Bay Area concert scene.
Dinosaur Jr at The Independent (SF) Sept. 28.
Dinosaur Jr. has got to be the most baffling-looking band on the planet. You got the long-haired wizard master (guitarist J Mascis), the South Boston bar bouncer (drummer Murph), and the perpetually amped-up teenager (bassist Lou Barlow). Doesn’t matter how strange this trio appears, they still kick the utmost ass, now in their fourth decade of existence. With the amps dialed all the way up at The Independent, the DIY heroes ran through an epic set list, touching upon songs from their surprisingly-great new album (Give a Glimpse of What Yer Not), while sprinkling in some of the classics (“Freak Scene”) and offering their own skewed takes on other people’s music (covering The Cure’s “Just Like Heaven.) —Will Reisman
Mekons at Bottom of the Hill (SF) Sep. 30.
After a full day of Hardly Strictly Bluegrass there was little energy left, but damn if Mekons didn’t shoot me full of musical ecstasy — easily the highlight of a weekend full of heavy competition. Next year the band will celebrate its 40th anniversary! Incredibly, the show included nearly all original members (from the past 30 years, anyways). Perhaps that is what brings the magic, fear, and superstition that no other band could possibly match. The 26-song set included all the hits and the sound was brilliant. A well-done recording is available on their Facebook page. —MBL
Shannon and the Clams at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass (SF) Sept. 30. Do I regret skipping Dave Alvin, Mavis Staples, and Conor Oberst to see Shannon and the Clams again? No, not even a little a bit. — Russell Jelinek
Cursed Graves at Noman Coffee (SF) Oct. 1.
Caught the Cursed Graves tape release show this past Saturday at a new DIY spot in SF — a set of shipping containers in the Mission that house a bar and now a coffee shop, Noman Coffee, the owners of which are interested in creating a new all-ages space. My friends in Ziplock opened; they play a kind Parquet Courts meets Duster type of punk and are pretty new. Santa Rosa’s The Down House came down for the show. Connor who drums for OVVN and plays bass in Acrylics has been playing drums for them and his addition has definitely made a difference. Cursed Graves have changed a bit over the last year, with their bass player Sean hopping on drums and Evan from Sleep Spindles joining on bass. Evan is a great bass player and Sean is now singing and drumming, which I am a huge fan of. Their sound is less growly-rocker type and more post-punk San Francisco type now, and it’s a cool change. Long songs with repetitive grooves that feel nice. Good show and great new spot. —Nik Soelter
Yusuf Islam at Davies Symphony Hall (SF) Oct. 3.
My wife and I were probably the youngest members in this audience by I’m gonna say 25 years, but that didn’t matter. Cat Stevens was the soundtrack to my adolescent bedtimes, as I could hear my parents playing his tunes while I feel asleep upstairs, so seeing him perform live was a crazy-nostalgic jolt to the system. Half performance piece, half concert, Yusuf (his current preferred name) talked us through his peerless back catalog, which culminated with a rousing performance of “Father and Son.” Not gonna lie, was damn near tears for this entire show. —Will Reisman
Okkervil River The Independent (SF) Oct. 5.
Will Sheff is perhaps my favorite songwriter and Okkervil River is absolutely one of my favorite bands of all time, but this show at The Independent left me feeling a little ‘meh.’ Okkervil River’s last release, Away, is an absolutely terrific album, but a challenging one — it’s formless, wandering song structures don’t exactly lend themselves to a live setting. Plus, the band’s unorthodox takes on some their past tracks (a totally reasonable approach for songs they’ve played thousands of times), didn’t really land. Sheff is a peerless performer — he immerses himself in every single performance — but something just felt amiss at The Indy that night. —Will Reisman
Fime, Affectionately, Christian Francisco at The Octopus Literary Salon (OAK) Oct. 8.
International Cassette Store Day was celebrated in style. DJ alt.rock played a tape-only set before the bands started up. Affectionately is a one man band (Zach Elsasser) who writes some super-great songs. He plays guitar and does a fair bit of effective looping. Fime (up from LA) and Christian Francisco played their hearts out and handed out free cassettes to the packed, all-ages crowd.—MBL
Swoon, Lovebirds, Chook Race, Terry Malts at Hemlock Tavern (SF) Oct. 10.
Despite the shitty sound, this was a great show. Swoon is a new project featuring Stephen from Puzzled. Usually he plays guitar, but for this show he was drumming and drumming very well. Great harmonies too — If only they had been more audible. Chook Race came all the way from Melbourne on their first US tour. Their second LP, Around the House, was just released on Chicago’s Trouble In Mind Records. Yet more great harmonies that were in need of volume. Terry Malts played their excellent new record, Lost at the Party, in its entirety, before launching into the ol’ classics resulting in the first mosh pit of the night. —MBL