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May 16-22, 2007

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Metro Summer Guide 2007:
Air Guitar Championships | Music | Venues and concerts | Festivals | Stage | Art shows | Classical music | Sports and recreation | Family fun | Summer movies

Madeleine Peyroux

Madeleine Peyroux

Venues and Concerts

Picks by Alanna Lee (AL), Claire Taylor (CT), Gary Singh (GS), Garrett Wheeler (GW), Mike Connor (MC), Paul Davis (PD) and Ryan Osterbeck (RO)

Skinny Puppy
The Catalyst, May 24
After nearly three decades of work in the industrial music sector, Skinny Puppy are back, continuing to expose the duplicitous nature of power on their latest release, Mythmaker. Since their inception in the outlands of Vancouver in '82, Skinny Puppy has pushed the proverbial envelope, always challenging the listener to re-explore the established conceptions of control. Utilizing more electronics than an über-sale at Fry's, Skinny Puppy is to industrial music what oxygen is to naturally sustained life. (RO)

Facing New York
The Portable, 590 Shawnee Lane, May 25
They may be almost 3,000 miles away from New York, being a band that calls the Bay Area home, but Facing New York know their directions. They have two guitars, two basses, two drum sets and two synthesizers—maybe they hit a "buy one, get one free" sale—that makes their sound unique. The band intends to bring back the sounds of progressive '70s rock updated for the 21st century. (AL)

The Caravan Lounge, May 25
These hard-hitting punks from Gilroy have been consistently breathing new life into the local music scene, and easily top the list of outfits to catch. This quartet rips out anarchist anthems loaded with so much sonic intensity that you'd swear the amps will blow after one set. With the way the Rivals have been playing over the past year, it's not going to be much longer that you can get a free taste of their blazing brand of underground punk, so make sure to mark the calendar for this show at the 'Van. (RO)

Souls of Mischief
Avalon Nightclub, June 1
When Hieroglyphics poster boys Souls of Mischief burst on the scene back in '93, it seemed like they couldn't be stopped—self-assured, breezy, like Oakland's nerdy response to the Pharcyde. Given the machinations of the major label game, the group never got its due and was unable to reignite that initial fire on the pop charts. Still, in the past decade, Souls of Mischief—along with fellow members of the Hiero Imperium—have flanked the front line of the independent hip-hop movement. The group is touring in anticipation of a "secret" upcoming record rumored to be produced by alt-rap svengali Prince Paul, which would be the first Souls of Mischief release since 2000's Trilogy: Conflict, Climax, Resolution. (PD)

The Arcade Fire
Greek Theatre - UC Berkeley, June 1 & 2
The Arcade Fire have shouldered an unreasonable weight of expectations with their sophomore release, Neon Bible, as indie faithful hoped they would storm the Billboard chart like a latter-day Nevermind. The band's confounding response has been to get their goth on, with singer Win Butler channeling his inner Peter Murphy and the eight-piece band creating a dramatic chamber-folk sound that suggests Bauhaus arranged for strings. The album has disappointed many who were eagerly awaiting Funeral Part 2, but who can blame the group for trying something new? Wasn't that the modus operandi of the indie movement to begin with? Despite the critical backlash, tickets for their subsequent live dates have been scarce, with good reason: no independent band's live act rivals the Arcade Fire's for sheer spectacle and transcendent bombast. (PD)

Ben Folds
HP Pavilion, June 5
It could be said that it's fitting for Ben Folds to be opening for John Mayer—except that it isn't. John Mayer should be bowing at the feet of Ben Folds, begging for encore after encore, forever picking up after Folds' thrown piano stools. Mayer once said in an interview with Spin magazine that Folds was his biggest lyrical inspiration, citing Folds' intimate storytelling. But though Folds' audiences can out-sing-along Mayer's any day, they can't out-spend them, and therein lies the reality of the music industry. While Folds has continued to self-produce albums on the down-low following the breakup of his trio, Ben Folds Five, Mayer has self-indulgently created an empire complete with blow-up doll Jessica Simpson in tow. The singer/songwriter in Mayer has been whitewashed since his awkward Room for Squares days, and though age and a head of moppy, greasy hair have both played a role, it's clear the lure of money and fame has been the greatest factor. (CT)

The Avengers

The Avengers

The Avengers
The Blank Club, June 9
The Avengers opened up for the Sex Pistols for the last gig the Pistols ever played. So when that opening band comes and plays in San Jose, Calif., in 2007, you should go. Enough said. Fronted by the legendary Penelope Houston, the also-legendary Avengers roll into town on June 9 at the Blank Club. Back when punk was first exploding in the United States, Penelope was one of the first female frontpeople to blast onto the scene. Yeah, she's that famous. The Avengers weren't even around for that long in the original days, and Penelope went on to do a zillion other things, including a lot of folk music, but the Avengers are back, at least for the time being. If you want to see what it was like in 1977, there's no better option than this, my friends. (GS)

Jonny Manak & the Depressives
Britannia Arms Cupertino, June 16
One of the best guitar slingers in the local scene, Jonny Manak, along with his latest project, the Depressives, lays down an impressive barrage of blazing garage-style skate punk. Manak himself has played in more local San Jose bands than I can recall. His multi-instrumental skills and affinity for the early days of rock are practically legendary around San Jose. Guitarist/vocalist Jonny, bassist Kid Kris and drummer Steve have hooked into a solid guitar-driven sound that pulls in the best retro licks from three decades and is ever-poised to blast you off your bar stool in a hail of pure rock & roll. (RO)

Stanford Jazz Festival
June 23-Aug. 4, Stanford University
We'll start with the fact that this festival features more than 100 artists performing during 33 concerts over the course of six weeks, and then try to pick some highlights out of this monster fest that's pretty much nothing but highlights. The festival opens on June 23 with New Orleans trumpeter Nicolas Payton and closes with sax player Lee Konitz. In between those two bookends you'll find vibraphone player Bobby Hutcherson, Joe Craven playing anything he can get his hands on, klezmer jazz with the Gonifs, latin jazz with Peggy Stern, exquisite vocalists like Nancy King and Maria Marquez, Madeline Eastman and Dena DeRose, and even an introduction to jazz for kids—and that's just scratching the surface. For a complete schedule of this ambitious festival, visit (MC)

The Fillmore, June 26
Former Broken Social Scene chanteuse Feist has had the kids going nuts with the release of The Reminder, a twee gem of understated pop, cabaret grandiosity and Harry Smith Anthology folk obscurantism. Her solo work is rather removed from the sound of the Canadian indie pop collective that first brought her to the public's attention, as The Reminder finds Feist indulging in songwriting studies in miniature. They're minimal and sparse pieces that are buoyed along by a transfixing voice that somehow manages to evoke both Cat Power and Billie Holiday—all without any sense of artifice or calculation. (PD)

Sly & the Family Stone
Arena Green Park, July 7
About 35 years before Michael Franti and Spearhead let their freak flags fly and declared "Everyone Deserves Music" in 2003, Sly & the Family Stone mastered the art of delivering a positive political message about unity in a superfunky, superfreaky package. They were one of the first mixed race/gender bands to achieve mainstream success, using dance music with a message. The list of singalong hits is long, but includes "Life," "Everyday People," "I Want to Take You Higher," "Stand" and "Family Affair." Franti's message sounds like a direct homage to another one of Sly's hits, "Everybody Is a Star," which makes me feel good just typing the title. Sly got heavy into drugs late in his career and developed a reputation for missing concerts, but the word from Vegas is that he's now the consummate professional, so ease up already. We know you don't want to waste your hard-earned money, but all we are saying is give Sly a chance. (MC)

Mavis Staples
Montalvo's Garden Theatre, July 20
The latest artist to be taken under Ry Cooder's wing, Mavis Staples deserves to be back in the limelight. To begin with, as a member of the Staple Singers, a family R&B vocal group, she contributed to classics like Stephen Stills' "For What It's Worth" and the Band's "The Weight," and the family scored hits of their own with "I'll Take You There" and "Respect Yourself." Staples' smoky, earthy voice is used to maximum effect on her new album, We'll Never Turn Back, produced by Cooder, and sounding like the soul and gospel cousin of Bob Dylan's recent recordings, which strike that difficult balance of sounding both raw and perfect. Do yourself a favor and look up the 69-year-old veteran's new album on iTunes and sample the first song, "Down in Mississippi," with the volume cranked. Now be honest—wouldn't you want to hear that live? Mmm hmm, that's what I thought. (MC)

Santa Cruz Beach, Boardwalk Aug. 3
There are some things that stick with you from childhood. Sometimes it's the memory of hating Brussels sprouts, or that time in third grade some boy tried to do the splits, standing in line in front of you, and fell backward, and you were wearing a skirt and never quite knew if he saw your underwear, or a memory of a certain film involving a child's untimely hair loss and a peanut butter mixture that makes his hair grow so beautifully that some creepy man uses it to make paintbrushes. And sometimes it's a memory of watching a show of skits in second grade that teachers forced you to do in a group, where one boy your age was paired with two older boys, and your classmate lip-sync'd to Tiffany's version of "I Think We're Alone Now" while the two older boys lip-sync'd backing vocals and shoved one another, pretending to fight over him. Thank you, Tiffany, for that memory. (CT)

Angie Stone

Angie Stone

San Jose Jazz Festival
Downtown San Jose, Aug. 8-12
The San Jose Jazz Festival will take over downtown San Jose yet again this August, but this time it is also rolling out the welcome mat to R&B by adding a 10th stage this year dedicated to R&B acts. It starts on Aug. 8 with a gala at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, and rolls into Aug. 9 with Music in the Park featuring the '80s R&B group Tony! Toni! Toné! Grammy nominated R&B and neosoul vocalist Angie Stone headlines the mainstage on Friday. Then it's on to after-hours activities, including the "Jazz Beyond" stage, near the corner of San Pedro and Post streets, featuring more progressive jazz, and the Silicon Valley CEO jam (probably at the Theatre on San Pedro Square). Also look out for outdoor swing dancing and the first festival club crawl. On Saturday, Aug. 11, the mainstage acts include the Airmen of Note, Gerald Albright and David "Fathead" Newman doing a tribute to Ray Charles. Afterward, head to Post Street for Jazz After Dark, or to the "48-hour Jazz Club" at Smoke Tiki Lounge. Finally, on Sunday, Aug. 12, Frank Morgan, Charles McPherson and Greg Osby will host an 80th birthday party for jazz legend Red Holloway on the mainstage, followed by two all-star showcases: the Lee Ritenour All-Stars and the Latin All-Stars featuring Ray Vega and Pete Escovedo. (MC)

Keb' Mo' and Robert Cray
Mountain Winery, August 16
Escape the Bay Area heat this summer with two of today's coolest blues acts, Keb Mo and Robert Cray. The seasoned bluesmen will pack their six strings and head to Saratoga's Mountain Winery to share the stage for a night of soulful lament, blues style. In the tradition of Mississippi legend Robert Johnson, Mo creates his own version of the Delta blues—slide guitar and all—which will surely mesh with Cray's concise lead playing like a whiskey and Coke. Spectacular views of the Santa Clara Valley, fine food and beverages and two of the greatest living students of the American blues legacy make this one midsummer's night dream you don't want to miss. (GW)

Madeleine Peyroux
Mountain Winery, August 26
Out of the jillion or so excellent acts at the Mountain Winery this summer, this young jazz singer still stands out as a brilliant contemporary performer whose success is relatively recent. Sure, she had a lot of help from Billie Holiday, whose voice she emulates with near flawless accuracy. Her album of covers, Careless Love, got picked up by seemingly every coffee shop in the nation, including Starbucks, but the attention was deserved. All 12 tracks are soothing gems, varying only slightly in pace, but just enough in mood to keep it interesting. Peyroux's haunting rendition of Elliott Smith's "Between the Bars" is almost better than the original, and her cover of Leonard Cohen's "Dance Me to the End of Love" is decidedly so. Step away from the lattes and go hear what all the fuss is about. (MC)

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