Oakland

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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Exciting evening of noise and rhythm in a new addition to Oakland’s vibrant live music scene

Daveed Diggs of Clipping.

Daveed Diggs of clipping.

It’s hard to find a more jarring juxtaposition of talents and roles than those that Oakland-born hip-hop star Daveed Diggs has possessed as of late. After half a decade building a steady underground following as the MC of noise trio clipping., he became a household name after taking on the role of Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson in the original production (and first Broadway run) of the massive hit musical Hamilton. Finishing his theatrical run in mid-2016, Diggs hurtled right back into his work with the experimental outfit, knocking out two releases in the latter half of the year and continuing a heavy schedule of touring. The group’s Noise Pop gig at Oakland’s young-but-blossoming Starline Social Club was one of the first in the festival to sell out, and even with three openers on the bill and a long, rainy night to greet them at the end of it, rabid fans of the three-piece packed the walls of the bright ballroom and celebrated the return of their heroes, in the hometown of the man at their helm.

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Our coverage of the 2017 Sundance Film Festival continues with this look at five documentaries that premiered at the Fest a few weeks ago.

Many of these may receive distribution or television deals (if they haven’t already; see our notes below), so you can know what to watch for in the coming year with these handy capsule reviews, which use our patented Sundance Viewing Priority Level (VPL) Guide:

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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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Spinning Platters Weekly Guide to Bay Area Concerts: 2016-05-23 – 2016-05-29

May 23, 2016

This week in The Bay Area we have refusals, memoirs, and those who wear purple. We have clowns, the dead, and war. Should be a pretty good time. Now, let’s get to the previews. Preview time now. Let’s preview and then we’ll be ready for the week. Previews, starting now.

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Show Review: Rogue Wave with Cellar Doors at Starline Social Club, 5/5/2016

May 6, 2016

Oakland’s hometown heroes, indie rockers Rogue Wave released their new album, Delusions of Grand Fur, last week, and to celebrate, they’re playing a weekend of Bay Area shows. Tonight was their first one, at the relatively new venue, The Starline Social Club. It was the band’s first show in three years, and they’re first in Oakland […]

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Spinning Platters Weekly Guide to Bay Area Concerts: 2016-05-02 – 2016-05-08

May 2, 2016

This week in The Bay Area we have music from across the Pacific Ocean, from across the Atlantic Ocean, and more. International travel is neat these days. And now, previews. Preview time. It is time for us to preview. Let’s preview.

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Spinning Platters Weekly Guide to Bay Area Concerts: 2016-04-23 – 2016-04-27

April 23, 2016

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 […]

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