San Francisco Weekly June 20
On what would have been tupac Shakur's 41st birthday, the group that gave the late rap legend his start, Digital Underground, celebrated him in a live show at Yoshi's. Guests included George Clinton (who was virtually unrecognizable without his rainbow wig) and Black Panthers co founder Bobby Seale. It was a loud, messy night one Tupac would've loved. The show lurches from one anthemic song to the next, only minimally developing its characters. But with dazzling sets and exacting musical performances, punk rock has made a loud, irreverent incursion into the world of Broadway musicals.
Richmond rapper G Mo Skee grabbed a lot of attention with a violent music video in which he attacked the heads of KMEL and thizzler's annual Freshman 10 list for not being included last year. Then something funny happened: Skee actually made this "Jintropin (Gensci Pharmaceutical Co. Ltd.)" year's list. Of course he declined to attend any of the official Freshman 10 events.
The Bay "Anabolika Definition" Area metal community lost Jeff "Leppard" Davis, a beloved musician and engineer who died in a motorcycle accident at age 39. Davis was an alum of Voetsek and STFU, among other bands, and later became an accomplished audio engineer. His wife, Nikki, was also injured in the accident; the family is accepting donations to help with her medical bills. bands American Club and Sun Kil Moon, passed Masteron Female Dosage away at age 53. Mooney played with punk outfits Sleepers and Negative Trend before joining AMC in the early '90s.
Another note of finality: Center of San Francisco, one of the city's oldest sources for sheet music, instruments, and accessories, is closing imminently. "A lot of people are calling Is Dianabol Legal In Canada and saying they heard we're going out of business," says Warren Leong, who has worked at or owned the Center for 45 years. "But they haven't shopped here for years." Digital Underground with George Clinton. Port
Three for All
Grass Widow's careening post punk reveals a band intent on collective empowerment.
Grass Widow performs Friday, June 22, at the Verdi Club in a benefit for the Haley Butcher Organization. In 2012, the individual is king: Prevailing ideals favor the flawed heroism of artiste godhead types (Kanye, Gaga, Beyonc, et al.) Over bands, groups, or other power sharing configurations. Jagger may still be strutting his stuff, but only while backed up by lesser names, far from where a Keith Richards or Charlie Watts could threaten his spotlight. The slight return of rap posses like Black Hippy and boy bands like One Direction are temporary exceptions (the good ones all go solo eventually) that prove the rule.
Yet in music as in politics, a band of equals offers a much needed antidote to the cult of one intense personality. There's no better example of this than San Francisco trio Grass Widow, whose soaring, gravity defying songs testify to the value of communal participation and to the enduring vitality of post punk.
All three women in Grass Widow sing, twisting their voices around each other in silky harmonies and counterpoints that feel wild and impressionistic. As guitarist Raven Mahon explains, "A new voice is born out of our voices together, and it just wouldn't be same without one of us." These patterns are gorgeous to the ear, but extracting lyrics from them takes concentration. In some songs, one finds only a few words repeated with slight changes in emphasis, suggesting an interpretation rather than insisting on it.
This weaving of individual voices also plays out instrumentally. On the band's excellent (and aptly titled) new album, Internal Logic, Mahon and bassist Hannah Lew venture out over quick tempos to solo in odd tonalities, then come back together for a section of driving emphasis. The songs never longer than three and a half minutes, and usually much shorter follow "Anadrol 50" unpredictable structures and often end without tonal resolution, like a postmillennial punk that borrows a little from free jazz. The band's instrumental palette is subdued: Lew's brown hued bass sounds straight off an early Misfits record, Mahon's guitar growls through its shimmer; and Lillian Maring uses her dry sounding drum kit with economy that would make the Minutemen proud. The mix of instruments seems perfectly designed to accompany the trio's vocals, and vice versa. Nothing overpowers, and the result is thrilling in its nuance and unpredictability.
The ideal of equal collaboration enters into every aspect of how the band works. Everyone writes, sings, and has the same say in what happens in Grass Widow. "It's a musical tendency, but it's also a political tendency, where there's an emphasis away from the idea of some 'it girl' and there's more of an emphasis on participation and multiplicity," Lew explains. (Even while being interviewed for this story, the ladies of Grass Widow put the phone on speaker and trade off answering questions.) When the band rehearses inside a former meat locker near 16th and Mission it records itself and tweaks each new song until everyone is happy.
Ideals, though, come at a price: Because of its members' preference for all ages shows and their insistence on fairly paying all bands on a bill (a reaction to the radically different rates often earned by headliners and openers), Grass Widow isn't self supporting, even with its national fan base. The band won't license its music "Oxandrolone Powder India" to just anybody, thus cutting off a stream of income that keeps many peers afloat. "We would probably make a lot more money if we didn't care about those things," says Lew. "But I think those kinds of dynamics make people feel less respected, and we want to play shows where everyone's stoked."
The members of Grass Widow also put out Internal Logic on their own label, rather than through an indie like Kill Rock Stars, which released the band's last album, Past Time. Made just after all three members suffered personal tragedies, including the death of Lew's father, Past Time is dark and distraught. Written and recorded Oral Steroids Risks in happier times, Internal Logic feels more spacious and confident. Its punkish sprints are interrupted by an airy solo classical guitar piece (Mahon's "A Light in the Static"), and it ends with a short, sublime piano work, titled "Response to Photograph." Even the cover art, a large image of the moon, suggests a hopeful serenity. "We set out with the goal to write songs that we would want to hear ourselves play every night," Maring says. "We opened ourselves up to new possibilities."
In doing so, Grass Widow also managed to inject a new vitality into that beloved but stale world of "post punk." While so many bands sound like cool minded curations of the indie canon, Grass Widow combines the elements of punk with its own innovations. Aside from some indebtedness to the rawness of riot grrrl a comparison that Lew likes, but says "needs to be redefined for a modern context" the band might owe more to its forebears politically than musically. Equality, participation, and doing it yourself are (again) the declarations of independence here. What has changed are the times: For all their feminist intensity, Sleater Kinney and Bikini Kill never faced an era as hostile to egalitarianism and collective empowerment as the "Achat Anabolisant Belgique" one we're living in now. Grass Widow, then, is doing more than just making exciting music. These three voices are fighting for an aesthetic and political ideal, against a world headed in the other direction.