For the record
For music fans, there are very few things more threatening than the demise of the independent record store. Arguing that a tangible product is superior to that of an MP3 reeks of crotchety purism, but there's still something deeply satisfying about scouring the racks of your local shop for lost sounds. Sometimes it might even force you to talk to people. It's called human interaction, and it can actually be pretty cool.
Saturday, April 19, was National Record Store Day, and independent shops across the country participated. Of course, the idea was to sell more records, but if fans were allowed to see a free concert, then everybody wins, right?
Many retailers managed to lure crowds with in-store performances and appearances by their favorite acts. Other Music in New York City had a stellar line-up of DJs, with members of Deerhunter, Grizzly Bear and Interpol all contributing sets, as did Amoeba in Hollywood, with appearances by Daniel Ash and David J of Bauhaus, and Peanut Butter Wolf.
Even the heavyweights took part in the festivities, with Metallica showing up for a record signing at Rasputin in Mountain View, Calif.
Two of San Diego's best spots had killer lineups as well. Lou's Records in Encinitas featured a live performance by Louis XIV and a DJ set by Pinback's Rob Crow, among others. Doing my duty as a conscious music nerd, I made my way over to M-Theory in Mission Hills to catch a 90-minute freestyle set from DJ Z-Trip. The store was packed with a diverse crowd—hippies, hip-hop heads, hipster kids and even young families.
Fittingly, Z-Trip casually broke down genre boundaries with songs from A Tribe Called Quest, Massive Attack and Steely Dan, plus funny, San Diego-appropriate sound bites from Anchorman and pieces from almost 100 other cuts—a mellow mix, but nice for a cloudy Saturday. It turned out to be the perfect soundtrack for a great afternoon of music shopping, serving as a reminder that with the right atmosphere, consumption doesn't always have to be a soul-sucking experience.—Todd Kroviak
Notes from the underground
The infamously elusive Gage of Merge Events has teamed up with Bad Girl Liz from Bad Girl Productions to bring you Agent Orchid, a new monthly club at Brick by Brick, which, says Liz, “is a stage for theatrics, comedy and sensuality of the blossoming burlesque revival.” At 9 p.m. Friday, April 25, the Hell on Hells burlesque troupe will strip, er, uh, kick things off, followed by cabaret/funk band The Toledo Show and the obligatory after-party with DJs Jonathan Brae, Dr. Feelin and Gage—booze till 1 a.m., dancing till 4 a.m.
And for an equally under-earth experience, dig your way over to the Kava Lounge on Friday, April 25, where, from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m., the Skidone Artshow and Salsa Merengue vs. Hip-Hop event will be shaking up the usual San Diego vibe with live-model painting by Lyte and Skidone, an art show by Wardell Brown, Michele Jones and other artists and merengue and hip-hop music by DJs Xavier, Sha One and more.—Kinsee Morlan
Don't pigeonhole Judith Owen. She may be both a singer and a writer, but she insists there is much more to her music than being a “singer/songwriter.”
“It's hard to use all of the forms of expression that you have,” Owen says from the Santa Monica home she shares with her husband, actor/musician Harry Shearer (This is Spinal Tap, A Mighty Wind). “I could choose to do one thing, one style, but then it would get really boring, really fast. I'd feel like I was only speaking four words out of every 20.”
When she kicks off her latest tour at Lestat's on April 23, Owen plans to showcase each of the influences that define her unique style. The daughter of a Welsh opera singer, Owen developed a love for classical music and grand theatrical productions watching her father perform. At home, it was all about jazz.
It wasn't until Owen came to America and saw Richard Thompson perform one day in Central Park that she thought twice about folk music. Eventually, Owen and Thompson struck up a friendship when both musicians were signed to Capitol Records and have since contributed to one another's albums.
“I am a true hybrid of classical, folk, jazz and theater,” Owen says. “It's all imprinted on my brain. It's like I've been branded or something—it is so deeply entrenched in me.”
She calls Shearer—also the voice of Ned Flanders and many other characters on The Simpsons—her biggest supporter and ally. Owen also credits her husband—who's played bass and keyboard on many of his wife's albums—with helping her stick to her guns. And while she admits that people tend to gravitate to things easily classifiable, she entrusts audiences to make up their own minds about her music.
“I think audiences know better, and there's room for everyone,” Owen says. “More than anything, I want to take my audiences on a theatrical journey.” —Scott McDonald
With another week comes another 3,458 local bands releasing new material. We have just enough space to tell you about five of them. Bedford Grove continues to support Welcome to Our Side of Town on April 23 at Anthology while Grin's Edge celebrate their latest batch of songs the same night at U-31. On April 24, Firethorn herald the arrival of Pollution for the Fountain of Youth at The Casbah, and hardcore kids Tragedy and Triumph party with the release of their Forgive This World EP at SOMA on April 25. Not to be outdone, former Rugburn-turned-solo-troubadour Gregory Page first unveils All Make Believe on April 25 at Lestat's before doing it again on April 27 at The Casbah.
While most bands aim to bring the house down, Switchfoot is looking to go against the grain. The spiritual San Diego surfers are teaming up with Third Day, Jars of Clay and Robert Randolph & The Family Band for the “Music Builds” tour benefiting Habitat for Humanity. The tour—which kicks off Aug. 21 in Detroit and includes a Sept. 27 date at Cricket Wireless (formerly Coors) Amphitheatre—will donate $1 for every ticket sold to Habitat, and the bands will help hammer some nails during tour stops. While the lineup won't help Switchfoot's indignation over being labeled “Christian rock” (I'm pretty sure Third Day and Jars of Clay are in heavy rotation on the Pope's iPod), it'll probably get the band that much closer to heaven.
Playing a house party immediately after a major festival would be considered a step down by most people, but that won't stop Dan Deacon from playing a San Diego House Parties show on April 26, a day after the Baltimore electronic musician/weirdo plays Coachella. The show will also feature The Death Set, Hollywood Mabson and San Diego acts Jamuel Saxon and Quiet on the Set. And you thought the mix tape you made for your last house party kicked ass.—Nathan Dinsdale
Counterculture roll call
Artist Julie Heffernan gets ideas for her paintings from what she calls “thought bubbles.” She lies on her couch and drifts off into that creative zone between sleep and wake. The out-there images, she says, just sort of come to her; then she forces herself to get up and paint.
Heffernan's residency at Lux Art Institute (1550 S. El Camino Real in Encinitas), San Diego County's newest addition to fine-art institutions, has been a challenge. At the Lux@Night event last Wednesday, a casual and recurring wine-and-cheese mixer for the art-obsessed crowd, she was joined by Lux director Reesey Shaw, Union-Tribune art critic Robert Pincus and dramaturge of The Old Globe Jerry Patch, in a panel discussion. Heffernan said she was “shocked when I first saw my studio.”
At Lux, the artist's studio is actually the main public gallery, and artists are encouraged to work while surrounded by visitors. Cool concept, but drifting off into that almost-unconscious zone wasn't easy to do. If the artwork she's produced at Lux is any indication, though, Heffernan managed to work through any anxieties. Her otherworldly exhibit is on view through May 31.
And in other otherworldly news, being Christian is cool—that's the message the folks at Ethos wanted to get out at last Sunday's Sex at Church event, a nighttime sermon series focused on the one sinful subject other churches won't touch (we'll refrain from throwing in a dirty-Catholic-priest joke here).
Helping to grease the wheels behind the Christianity-is-cool message is a savvy marketing campaign fueled by racy images on fliers (you probably got one if you live in Golden Hill), the Marquee—a remodeled church at 835 25 St. outfitted with sleek wooden floors, modern white-pleather lounge chairs, a DJ booth lit by black lights and a stage where Christian songs are sung by a good-looking dude with an electric guitar—and a team of pierced, tattooed and hip-looking kids who love God and are into pop culture. Even the graphic designs projected on the screen behind the pastor during the event are hip, and so is the obscure tagline: “music. art. liturgy. film.” Lowercase = cool, in case you didn't know.
Led by Pastor Jason Page, the Ethos team will finish the sex series next Sunday, April 27, and then move on to opening the venue for art shows and film screenings along with the weekly Sunday sermons.—Kinsee Morlan