(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.
Simon Joyner at The Lost Church (SF) Oct. 15.
I would have gladly paid the $15 admission just to see Simon Joyner play “Old Days” in person again. I got that and so much more — a rainy night at the warm, cozy Lost Church may just be the perfect setting for Joyner and his guitar. —Russell Jelinek
El Duo at The Octopus Literary Salon (OAK) Oct. 15.
El Duo celebrated the release of their amazing debut EP, “The El Key,” with jams fantástico, flashing lights, a toy piano and trippy video projections. The band features drummer/producer Randy Schwartz (Brett Dennen, Illumination) & keyboardist Harrison Murphy (Sun Hop Fat, Harry & the Hitmen). Catch them in Monterey 12/16 or Santa Cruz 12/17. —MBL
Rudresh Mahanthappa: Bird Calls at Cafe Stritch (SJ) Oct. 16.
Incredibly pliable performance from a quintet led by a man many jazz critics call the best alto saxophonist in the world currently. During two hour-long sets, Mahanthappa and company shared selections from Bird Calls, his acclaimed album that honors the inspiration legendary sax player Charlie Parker had on his musical upbringing. Drummer Dan Weiss, adept at accenting one moment then powering through the next, would switch rhythms mid-way through certain songs, a move that would likely confuse lesser bands. In this case, the choice showed off the deep level of listening shared among the five players. Trumpeter Adam O’Farrill found ways to play alongside his bandleader that didn’t feel crowded, a great testament to both his playing and the musical space provided in the compositions for each of the five musicians to shine.
Pianist Joshua White was particularly noteworthy for his Monk-like playing, angular and at times jarring but delivered with a level of virtuosity that shows the man is willing to squeeze out notes from every inch of his instrument. Finally, Mahanthappa turned in a series of effortless solos that made his expert runs and melodic phrasing seem much too easy for an instrument that hard to master. —Brandon Roos
Bon Iver at The Fox Theater (OAK) Oct. 19.
Justin Vernon basically wrote an avant-garde pop album full of helium vocals and bizarre computer codes, yet Bon Iver’s 22, A Million, is somehow strangely accessible (and found itself on the top of the Billboard charts). Supported by his trusty laptop at all times, Vernon (the sole permanent member and creative visionary behind Bon Iver), played songs exclusively off his latest album to open his October 18 show at The Fox Theater, before dedicating the second half to his older material. New, old — it all sounded fucking terrific, even when Vernon’s beautiful falsetto was being fed through an army of vocal manipulators. Only complaint — the Wednesday night show did not feature “Skinny Love,” his immaculate composition from 2007’s For Emma, Forever Ago (he did play that song on Tuesday and Thursday at The Fox). —Will Reisman
LVL UP at Bottom of the Hill (SF) Oct. 21.
Despite being on a famous indie label (Sub Pop) and putting out one of 2016’s best albums, Brooklyn four-piece LVL UP still haven’t embarked on a legitimate headline tour of the West Coast. That meant they were opening up for Bear vs Shark at Bottom of the Hill on Friday night, and even though their set list was shorter as result, these guys took advantage of every second on stage. Devoting most of their performance to songs off 2016’s Return to Love, the ’90s indie revivalist showcased their effortless appropriation of all things Neutral Milk Hotel, Built to Spill, and Pavement. They made this camper very happy by closing out their set with “Annie’s a Witch,” the highlight of their 2014 effort, Hoodwink’d. —Will Reisman
Swoon, Yogurt Brain, Mabs, Fiscal Spliff at Sgraffito (Emeryville) Oct. 21.
Mabs kicked off this fine show with a stellar little set. Swoon’s 3rd ever performance made it crystal clear that they reign supreme in the Bay Area scene. Great harmonies, excellent guitar/drum interplay & smart/catchy songwriting. Yogurt Brain released Vol. 3 “Revenge of the Boloney Fairy” in June. It kicks off with “Monsters ‘R’ Real” a song that exhibits a wise infatuation with Meat Puppets. Swoon & Yogurt Brain play The Octopus Literary Salon 12/13. Mark yer calendar. —MBL
Television, Vetiver at The Chapel (SF) Oct. 22.
Mostly instrumental, the band played only a small handful from the holy grail (1st two Television LPs). “Venus” sounds damn fine without words and the guitar wizardry was astonishing even without Richard Lloyd, but the absent lyrics were churning in my brain and I was barely able to keep from screaming along. Tom sang on “Prove It” but omitted the chorus causing yet more extreme self-control issues. The lone heckler in the balcony yelled for “Friction” to which Tom answered “next time.” Let’s hope that is soon (and under $40). Vetiver played as a duo and even the lamest drum machine couldn’t save their set. —MBL
Kanye West at Oracle Arena (SF) Oct. 23.
Kanye West brags about being a genius, and Sunday night at Oracle, he backed it up with the most amazing show I’ve ever seen. It had the floating stage, the lights, Kevin Durant moshing, and of course, the music. Kanye played his fair share of older hits, but he didn’t need to go too deep because he didn’t have to: songs from The Life of Pablo whipped the crowd into an absolute frenzy as well as any old Kanye. The strength of the new material combined with the stunning visual experience left me thinking Kanye’s best days as an artist are yet to come. —Russell Jelinek