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Fall 2004 Arts Guide:
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Twilight Circus: The Beastie Boys' two make-or-break shows at the Bill Graham Civic highlight this fall season.

No Sleep Till Branson

This fall, the Beastie Boys scale down their tour and their expectations

By Todd Inoue

SOMEWHERE during the mid-'90s, the summer radio concert emerged as an industry necessity—an opportunity for bands to record bumpers ("This is Tim from Bruised Ego, and whenever I'm in Branson, I'm listening to the hottest alternative rock on The Jack 106!") or glad-hand program directors. Most importantly, it's a way for labels to push their most recent stable to the fans in a running stream. Usually a band of distinction—like a U2, Guns 'N Roses, Coldplay—could bypass the music industry version of the sampler platter.

Three months ago, the Beastie Boys played Live 105 summer concert blowout, BFD. With six years—a lifespan in pop music—between recordings, the rap trio was added on to the Shoreline show as a "special guest." With a new album coming out, the Beasties needed an extra juice boost. It's been a minute since the rush of palpable emotion ran through their bloodstream and their abbreviated 20-minute performance reflected the inertia.

MCA, Adrock and Mike D. phoned it in. They formed and reformed an onstage weave, which excited those 12 people who didn't witness it six years ago. The most excitement occurred when their DJ Mixmaster Mike tossed in instrumentals of current or classic jams. Hearing the boys rhyme over Ying Yang Twins' "Salt Shaker" or the 45 King's "900 Number" sent them into a brief states of confused ecstasy. It's as if the Boys wished they could make those kind of records again—ones that elicit scrunched faces of pleasure.

And that's what makes their latest record To the Five Boroughs such a drag. Beyond the subpar rhymes ("Which one of you schnooks took my rhyme hook book/ Give it back, you're wicky-wack" goes the most offensive couplet), To the Five Boroughs isn't a bunch of half-thought-out demos so much as a ragged stream of consciousness. There's a political track ("Right Here Right Now"), the nostalgia track ("Triple Trouble"), the endless bragging and boasting ("Hey, Fuck You"). But none of it sticks.

Magazines have flogged To the Five Boroughs and many of the beefs are warranted. It is the most disappointing album they've done. Which sucks, because in this election year, the Beastie Boys were expected to come with guns blazing, but instead they put silencers on their mics and misfired. And with Outkast, Kanye West, Jay-Z, Lil' Jon and others blessing the beats, three New York guys in their late 30s are lapped traffic by comparison.

When they take to the stage for two nights in September—downsized six year ago from the Oakland Coliseum to the much smaller Bill Graham Civic Auditorium—their status as hip-hop pioneers will be called into question. If the BFD show was any indication, the slope only gets more slippery from here.

Hot Tickets

Stock up on antidepressants and diapers. This fall, nothing matches the Alice Now & Zen show (Sept. 19) with Morrissey, Tears for Fears, Dashboard Confessional and Howie Day in emotional magnitude. The lineup of pale moaners should compliment the foggy San Francisco weather.

Over at the Hedley Club, MACLA's Tommy Aguilar and Giant Creative give the Hotel De Anza a funk and Latin makeover with appearances by Ricardo Lemvo (Sept. 17), soul machine Peven Everett (Sept. 25) and a show by L.A. funk specialists the Rebirth in October. Who knew that one of the hottest tickets this fall would be for Vienna Teng? The Saratoga pianist with a new album Warm Strangers sold out the Garden Theatre in Saratoga (Oct. 22).

In multiple-show news this fall: the Pixies on Sept. 24-26 at the Greek Theatre; Los Lonely Boys sell out three days at the Fillmore, Oct. 22-24, and you can see them at the perennial fall event the Bridge School Benefit (with Neil Young, Sonic Youth, Tegan & Sara, Paul Mccartney, Tony Bennett, the Red Hot Chili Peppers and Ben Harper) at the Shoreline on Oct. 23-24.

Cool Beans

Wilco plays the SJSU Event Center on Nov. 14. Animatronic crazies Captured! By Robots do Blank Club on Oct. 2. Everyone's favorite masochist Steve-O from Jackass impales himself at the Catalyst on Oct. 23. The indie-rock anthem of the year, "Take Me Out," is credited to Franz Ferdinand, who plays at the Concourse Design Center on Sept. 22. The supercool Japanese band in Kill Bill—the 5-6-7-8'S—makes a rare U.S. appearance at the Bottom of the Hill on Sept. 20. And beatheads better not forget Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra at Moe's Alley on Oct. 4 or EST at Art21 in Palo Alto on Sept. 18. Personally, I'm planning to geek out to Scottish pop treasure Trashcan Sinatras at Slim's on Oct. 6 and be front and center at Puffy AmiYumi on Oct. 11 at the Fillmore.

Politically Inclined

Not being a swing state, Californians won't be able to catch the Moveon.org tour with acts like Bruce Springsteen, Dave Matthews Band, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt and other Bush bashers, but the politically astute can raise their cockles at a couple of shows. The Rock Against Bush tour with Anti-Flag, Strke Anywhere, The Nightwatchmen (featuring Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine), the Epoxies, Midtown and Mike Park takes over the Fillmore on Sept. 21. On a more groovier note, the 911 Power to the Peaceful Concert featuring Spearhead, String Cheese Incident, Gift of Gab, Amy Goodman, John Butler Trio, Xavier Rudd and many more speakers and musicians goes down Sept. 11 at Golden Gate Park.

I Know That Song

HP Pavilion seems to be the place for those who prefer the familiar comfort of songs and musicians with instantly recognizable names and choruses. Confrontation-therapy graduates Metallica headline on Nov. 26. The Scorpions and Tesla play the Tank on Dec 3. Rascal Flatts bring out the country fans in on Oct. 10. American Idols Live carry on Sept. 26; Elsewhere, Kenny Loggins goes through his list of hits at the Flint Center on Dec. 5-6. Fans of torch singer Lavay Smith can see her up close and personal at Agenda Lounge on Sept. 24. Vince Gill gets hearts swooning at Paramount's Great America on Oct. 14. Todd Rundgren plays Campbell's Heritage Theater on Sept. 24. The New York Dolls return to the stage, playing the Fillmore on Oct. 3. R.E.M show they have some left in the tank, playing the Greek Theatre on Oct. 15. And Dave Matthews Band, whose bus allegedly showered human waste on hapless tourists in Chicago, plays the Golden Gate Park Polo Grounds on Sept. 12. Don't drink the water, for real!

Hip-Hop What Not

One of the best hip-hop records to come out this year is KRS-One's Stay Right. The Blastmaster tours in support, playing San Jose's Zoë Nightclub on Sept. 17. Look for a special hip-hop festival Beyond the Elements at SJSU on Oct. 2. Workshops, B-Boy/Girl sessions, freestyle contests, art display, film festival and a keynote by professor Tricia Rose, author of Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. The Roots, whose Tipping Point album was flogged almost as much as To the Five Boroughs, headline Cyberfest 2004 on Oct. 9 at the Cow Palace. Cyber-rap star Tech N9ne plays Toon's, of all places, on Oct. 22. Japan's premier plate spinner DJ Krush headlines the Mezzanine on Sept. 29. The Best of Both Worlds Tour, starring Jay-Z and R. Kelly, comes to the Bay Area this fall.

The Kids

Emo metal titans Taking Back Sunday blew back expectations and sold a gang of records their first week. They headline the Warfield on Oct. 12. The Blood Brothers headline the Santa Cruz Teen Center on Oct. 2. Hot Water Music at the Santa Cruz Vets Hall on Oct. 18. The brevity of this section is due to the absolute lack of South Bay all-ages venues. Can't some receptionist flush with Google IPO cash throw some green Mike Park's way so he can fulfill his mission of opening a teen center/venue in 2005? For details, www.pleaforpeace.org


Berlin's legendary Love Parade goes transatlantic and the moving dance music flotilla arrives in San Francisco on Oct. 2. The Monterey Jazz Festival runs Sept. 17-19 with headliners Bobby McFerrin, Jack DeJohnette, Chaka Khan, Charlie Hunter and many more. San Francisco Jazz Festival Oct. 15-Nov. 7 stars Caetano Veloso, Ruth Brown in a Fats Waller Celebration, Dianne Reeves, Etta James, Don Byron, Jason Moran, Mariza and Rokia Traoré. The KISS-FM Old School Fiesta with Bloodstone, El Chicano, Expose and War plays the San Jose History Park on Sept. 26.

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From the September 8-14, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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