Fox Theater

Two nights of intimacy and storytelling with the man who plays a hundred instruments

Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields

Stephin Merritt of The Magnetic Fields

The Magnetic Fields are an extremely strange phenomenon: a group that is wildly talented, successful, and fiercely loved by their fans, despite staying relatively far from the radio-friendly limelight. The songwriting of creative leader Stephin Merritt evokes memories of both Sondheim-esque theatrical compositions and shimmering 80s pop ballads; his lyrics range from whimsically poetic to wickedly tongue-in-cheek; and most of their records are complete conceptual pieces, collected in the space of an entire singular work. Despite his dozens of works ranging on anything from 69 songs about love to country-style tunes about the open road, Merritt has seldom penned works that speak specifically about his own life, which is where his new record 50 Song Memoir comes in. Comprised of one song for each of the years in his own life, starting in 1965 and ending in 2015 (when the recording for the album began), the work takes up five discs and two and a half hours of playing time — making it the perfect piece to play across the span of two nights.

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deadmau5 atop his cube

deadmau5 atop his cube

In a now-relatively-infamous Tumblr post, Canadian electronic wunderkind deadmau5 (aka Joel Zimmerman) called out the DJ world for the lack of ingenuity and overall simplicity of their live shows. Ever since, he’s worked to keep pushing the envelope of his own performances, adding layer after layer of lights and screens that are all triggered by his own available controls, and his popularity continues to ride high even as the EDM scene itself shifts and changes. As a pretty popular act, it’s rare to see the synth mastermind outside of massive festivals or arena tours, so his Lots Of Shows In A Row tour was a treat to see — particularly at Oakland’s Fox Theater, a venue which has lately proven rather popular with the electronic music scene.

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Two evenings of spellbinding wonder and incredible sound

Sigur Rós at the Fox Theater, Oakland

Sigur Rós at the Fox Theater, Oakland

This is the first of two posts chronicling my journey to see Sigur Rós for five performances in April 2017: two in Northern California, and three in Los Angeles with the LA Philharmonic Orchestra. Be sure to catch them on tour and tune in to Pitchfork on Friday, April 14th for a stream of their second LA Phil performance!

Fifteen years ago, I remember wandering down a dimly-lit suburban lane on a chilly November evening, the street silent as a tomb. I had a copy of ( ), the third record by renowned Icelandic post-rock band Sigur Rós, put that album in a Discman, and the quiet world around me instantly seemed to shift into some strange new world. I’ve always found that record to be an utterly sublime and immensely powerful expression of music, and was supremely pleased that some of my favorite songs from that album were in the set the first time I saw Sigur Rós play live. The band and their production crew are absolute masterminds at blending sound, light and visuals into an otherworldly experience; that show, in 2006 at the Marin Center in San Rafael, is still probably my favorite concert that I have ever experienced. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing Sigur Rós two times, playing two sets each (!), making these my sixth and seventh time experiencing their live performances — and they are just as astonishing as they have always been.

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John Carpenter

John Carpenter

Music in film is an often-celebrated phenomenon, but it seems to exist primarily in the medium it’s made for. Occasionally, composers and songwriters will offer up their works for public or private performance, though they themselves may not be in attendance, and in general the world of film music feels very separate from that of “traditional rock music”, i.e. the bands that release albums and promote them with live tours. The phenomenon of a live tour by acclaimed horror director John Carpenter, therefore, is even more impressive; his musical works not only require an actual band to perform (with synthesizers and guitars driving the melodies, rather than orchestras and choirs), but the tunes are steady, driving, and in small enough bits that they are easy to digest — this isn’t a random night at the symphony, folks! In addition, Carpenter himself wrote the scores to a good chunk of his films, so the live performance of compositions and overtures from his classic works could now be experienced with an ever more present vitality.

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"Anarchy burger! / Hold the government!" - The Vandals

This Saturday in Oakland, plenty of this.

We’re in the final weekend of Coachella 2016, and the consequent Fauxchella 2016 shows are coming our way. What’s Fauxchella? It’s when you can see a band that’s also scheduled at Coachella but without actually having to go to Coachella.

This week in The Bay Area we have old stars, old studio guys, old smoky guys, montage anchorpoints, as much anarchy as you’d like, and a band that just went ahead and named themselves California.

And previews. Preview time. Let’s preview. [read the whole post]

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Steve Vai’s latest excursion is as much a massive thrill ride as it is an endurance test — for band and audience alike

Let's Play Guitar In A Five Guitar Band

Let’s Play Guitar In A Five Guitar Band

It’s been twenty years since guitar mastermind Joe Satriani piloted the first G3 Tour, an endeavour that featured a total of three guitar wizards driving a multi-hour set that showcased some truly intense musicianship. On that tour, and on nearly every one that followed, Satriani was accompanied by his protégé, Steve Vai, who brought his own brand of sorcery to pair with Satch, alongside whichever third player was enlisted each year. In 2016, however, Vai apparently got the notion that three guitarists playing simultaneously was not a big enough challenge to pull off, and kicked off the “Generation Axe” tour which featured no less than five of them — spanning genres, geographical locations, and playing styles. With a titanic set that sprawled out for over 3 hours, it was a testament to the true meaning of “instrumental guitar music” and how such a term is a remarkably small pigeonhole, given the amount of players that work within it and the breadth of their expertise.

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Show Review: UnderCover Presents A Tribute to Green Day’s Dookie at The Fox Oakland, 2/19/2016

February 24, 2016

A record like Dookie, the magnum opus from the Bay Area’s arguably-most-popular punk band, Green Day, was not so much another album in the shop as it was a sonic bombshell going off, whose waves were felt in scenes across the Earth. The raw energy and youthful vigor had rarely been presented in so straightforward and familiar a […]

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Show Review: Puscifer with Luchafer at the Fox Oakland, 12/8/2015

December 10, 2015

Let’s get one thing out of the way before this review starts: Puscifer is not a side project. It’s a sprawling, multifaceted, genre-defying, borderline-synaesthetic outlet of artistic expression, the brainchild of Tool vocalist/winemaker Maynard James Keenan and musical mastermind Mat Mitchell — and at this point, they’ve been grinding the axe for nigh unto a decade (closer to twenty […]

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Show Review: FFS at the Fox Oakland, 10/15/2015

October 21, 2015

Just over two years ago, timeless whimsical art-pop duo Sparks made their first appearance in the Bay Area in years, in the form of a stripped-down two-man show that spanned the entire course of their career. What probably WASN’T immediately well known, however, was the presence of members of another band at at least one […]

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Mid-November METAL overload!

November 24, 2014

There really is no such thing as “metal overload”.  If there was this many epic metal shows per week every week of the year, that would be more like “metal heaven” (except all metalheads are Satanic, right? So, “metal hell”?)…

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