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SF Bay Area Artist of the Month Archives
2007 - 2008 - 2009 - 2010


Best live shows of 2009: Grand Lake, Why?, Tall Grass, Vetiver

I’ve been an East Bay (mostly Oakland and Berkeley) resident for the better part of the last five years but really did not become a member of the music scene until 2009. I also must say that I really don’t make it out of the East Bay too often to see music, so the highlights of my year are obviously going to be slanted in favor of the Oakland/East Bay scene. Nothing against San Francisco, but the East Bay is my home and home to an amazing amount of talented people who make great music. If you are a big follower of the SF scene, then I will probably leave out some bands you think should be on my list but hopefully we can at least agree on a few things!

My Favorite Shows of 2009:

1. WHY? at Great American Music Hall, SF
I am a self-admitted WHY? fan boy and it was amazing to see them play their songs live. I can see how some people might think that WHY? is a band that would be better on record, seeing as much of their appeal can be attributed to the creative production found on their albums, but the bottom line is that they write amazing songs and are great musicians. Diehard fans of WHY? and newcomers alike were not let down and my fondness for this band has only grown since.

2. Any show where Grand Lake and Man/Miracle play together!
Is there a better pairing of bands in the East Bay than Grand Lake and Man/Miracle? I doubt it. Two completely different sounding bands that are great for different reasons but always bring more energy and intensity to their sets than most Oakland bands could even dream of. The best example of this was at the Ghost Town Gallery in November, both bands had us dancing in a drunken frenzy!

3. Tall Grass at Fort Gallery, Oakland
The now, unfortunately, defunct Fort Gallery was one of my favorite venues for the short time it was open and no show exemplifies what made that place so cool as Tall Grass’ CD release show. With about 30 to 40 of us sitting on the floor with cold beers from the nearby liquor store in hand, Tall Grass’s acoustic guitar, fiddle, and simple drums eased us into a state of awe, interrupted occasionally by bursts of laughter and giggling. A wonderful reminder of what makes Oakland such a beautiful place to witness live music.

4. Peter Stanley, Waste Band, and Silian Rail at Book Zoo, Oakland
On a cold winter night, three bands played an entirely acoustic show at a small bookstore on the edge of North Oakland and Berkeley. Rarely do you get to see bands play completely acoustic (no microphones, no amplifiers) and be blown away. Peter Stanley (of Winter’s Fall) began the evening with his twangy voice and acoustic guitar, followed by Waste Band’s guitar, baritone ukulele, and beautiful harmonizing voices. To cap off the night, math rock duo Silian Rail played an acoustic set with both members playing guitar (usually a guitar and drums duo). To hear their songs in the intimacy of a bookstore and the simpleness of two acoustic guitars showed the versatility and strength of their songwriting.

5. Vetiver at Treasure Island Music Festival
Vetiver had the tall task of playing in between Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros and Grizzly Bear on the cold and damp afternoon that was the second day of the Treasure Island Music Festival and they completely delivered. I was not very well versed in their recorded material prior to the performance so I wasn’t sure what to expect and was overwhelmed by the song writing and clear talent of the musicians playing. Definitely one of the better sounding bands at the festival, despite the wind and rain the band sounded clear and full and the songs were interesting and easily enjoyed.

-Glenn Jackson


The Deli's Year End Best: Submissions Closed, 2nd phase starts in January

Our Beloved Revolutionary Sweethearts in Bands,

As usual, The Deli's Year End Poll (for emerging artists) will assign the cover of our Spring Issue 2010. The polling process is as complex as rocket science (if you want to try and get your head around it be our guest and go here).

The submissions for the open contest that will select minimum 3 artists for the next phase is now closed. We are currently receiving the jurors' votes. The next phase will be the readers' vote, which will start on January 3.

All the bands that submitted to our open contest were also added to our chart system for indie artists - which will get them some exposure in the future. 

Here we are taking a little bit of a holiday break - we'll still have some content up in the next few days, but not as much. We will see you back in early January - in the meantime Happy Holidays to you all!!

The Deli's Staff


Album Review - Themselves: Crownsdown

Oakland hip hop veterans Themselves (Doseone and Jel) can usually be found on the more adventurous side of their genre, twisting, spinning, pushing, and at times ignoring hip hop’s limits while still keeping its roots and principles somewhere nearby. Their new record, Crownsdown, is Themselves’ attempt at creating 10 tracks that each represent an essential hip hop theme, i.e. the diss track, the dj track, the story rap, etc. Not an easy task, especially considering how muddied and forgotten the origins of hip hop have become to the common listener. For a genre that can at times seem to be stuck in its formula, Themselves bring new ideas and energy to hip hop with a respectable and well informed nod to where it came from.

Doseone’s (emcee for Themselves) style has evolved over the years, at times being a slow loose screeching mix of talking and singing and other times a sharp syncopated onslaught of rhythms and rhyme schemes. On Crownsdown Doseone raps with incredible syncopation, his voice and the drums seem locked on every syllable. The few times when he strays away from the beat only make you listen closer, paying attention to his words as he hangs them loosely around the rhythm. His lyrics are challenging and even sometimes hard to understand at first listen. Eventually, with a little effort, the random rapid-fire syllables begin to align and fall into place and a rich and complex world of poetry unfolds as you listen. The best example of this is probably the “dj track” “Skinning the Drum”. Doesone takes a concept that has been around since hip hop’s inception, an emcee given his dj props, and does something completely unique with it. After a chorus of cut up samples via Jel, Doesone begins “You CDJ press play on the mix nah/ I’m drum with no sticks till calloused of hand/ Blowing the glow of these computer can bands and step sequencer Rembrandts/ All me me me, myself, and an Ipod/ Getting jive on the hi hat and volume knob”. The song then ends with what is probably the best 4 lines of the record, “There’s a fine line between who invented it and who was wrenching it/ Who infected it and who protected it/ Who perfected it and who collected it, who came correct with it/ It aint your bag so why drag it.”

The beats for Crownsdown are crafted by Anticon and weird hip hop veteran Jel. His style has also evolved over the years becoming more complex and incorporating a vast amount of new influences and sounds. The beats on Crownsdown are much more electro than the Anticon beats of years ago. Trading in the slow string samples, bass lines, and compressed drums for synthesizers and up-tempo break beats that fit the current musical context well without sounding clichéd. Jel’s beats have layers of complexity and subtle nuances that aren’t found in a lot of modern hip hop production while still having an incredible ear for drum breaks and grooves. Although not the highlight of Crownsdown, Jel’s beats are solid and perfect for Doseone’s delivery and style.

Crownsdown is not, and probably wasn’t intended to be, a genre changing record. Hip hop is still stuck in its current state for who knows how long and no amount of genuinely creative and unique records is going to change that anytime soon. Underground and/or alternative artists will just have to keep challenging themselves and their listeners and be happy with what success comes from that. Themselves are a shining example of this type of artist and hopefully will continue to pull hip hop apart and put it back together for the love of it.

-Glenn Jackson


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