Two years ago, I moved from Miami to Berkeley. My very first night in California, I ate dinner with a friend of a friend. What was she listening to as she cooked up some delicious but unmemorable dish? Zion I. She was listening to Zion I. She had just seen them rock some venue down in Oakland and was now hooked. To be honest, I didn't listen to them again until the recent One Night Music session. A new life in California had taken hold. I moved into a tree-house-like in-law apartment with a person who was special to me and we were enraptured by all the music we saw. Perhaps it just wasn’t our time yet, Zion I.
San Narciso doesn't fuck around. Having spent 8 months in and out of the studio to produce just over 10 minutes of music, they're damn serious about what gets stamped with their name. Intricate melodies are laced with perplexing rhythms and played with draconian might. While their performances on "Friend Prices" are meticulously executed, no two San Narciso shows are the same. The songs are constantly being improved upon and rewritten. Their music just doesn't sit still.
Insofar as music is community building and local music communities can catapult artists into the limelight, John Vanderslice epitomizes how a successful musician can reinforce and support the communities from whence he came. I am a stern believer that all things are a sum of the small things around them, most specifically with people. Allow me to be frank: JV is the most righteous dude out there -- he is just super. Here is why: Tiny Telephone. In 1997 he founded one of the Bay Area's most infamous studios, serving up recordings for bands such as The Mountain Goats, Spoon, and Rogue Wave. More importantly, perhaps, it has served as home for a great number of the Bay Area's musical family tree. The space Mr. Vanderslice has sliced out has not only evolved into a very important independent industry standard, but his particular presence in the community has made him one of the most beloved indie musicians of the area. Like I said, super.
I am sitting in my kitchen. It is 7:15pm, just home from work, and I am now beginning my real work. As I sit down to write, Kacey and Asia are cooking dinner. They are making squash soup. As the kitchen swells with the smells of good taste, the swells of quite lullabies rise and fall. Emily sits at my left, singing harmonies with Tyson as he strums his Gibson. They pause, and Lewis, suggesting a change before the bridge, bows his cello.
Nearly a year ago, I filmed Michael Musika at The Rickshaw Stop in San Francisco. I planned to combine the footage with a One Night Music session down the road. Michael wore a dark, hooded cloak that engulfed him like a shadow of something much larger than his physical self; indeed, there is an immaterial aura that accompanies the fellow. When you see a parade of 15 brass and woodwind instruments marching onstage to open his show, or listen to him speak about his current picture-book/album project, you get a sense of the majestic mystery that enshrouds the otherwise shy and humble Mr. Musika.
“Outside of New York, San Francisco is probably the worst area for country music in the nation.”
Joe Goldmark, Bay Area pedal steel player1
Outside Café du Nord I borrow a light from Smelley Kelley, a smallish man in a large white cowboy hat who talks a metallic Great River Iowa twang. I’m here to see Dave Gleason, but Kelley’s band, Red Meat, is headlining. Kelley extends a yellow bic toward me and strikes it, then nods toward the club and the man inside that I have come to ask him about: “He’s a better country musician now that he lives in LA,” Kelley says about Dave. “LA will do that to you. Polish you up. Wear you down.” Kelley has no delusions about his country music career exploding in San Francisco, but still he wants nothing to do with LA or Austin. “And forget Nashville,” he says. “You can’t find good weed in Nashville.”
When I was in high school, there were a few tenuous years I listened almost exclusively to hip hop. Then it was musical theater, Mariah Carey and Janet Jackson, then boy bands, and then alt rock: my friends and I, like most people who are sane, question the substance of our early musical proclivities. But following a rough breakup, something big in me shifted: I discovered folk and never turned back. This is not that story. But somewhere in that story is a piece of myself I let go along the way. This is where I find that piece.
Over the past seven years I've had the pleasure of playing several roles in Doug Streblow's life. Whether it be roommate, bandmate, record producer, or all around confidant, you'll have to trust me when I say that he is one of the most genuine people you'll ever meet.
By Ildiko Polony
It is tradition for Jack Hirschman - 2006 Poet Laureate of San Francisco and one of the last living Beat Generation poets - to welcome in the New Year with a poem. At a small art gallery in North Beach on New Year's Day, surrounded by friends and fellow artists, he and his wife, Aggie Falk (who will be featured in an upcoming One Night Music session), host an annual New Year's Day, Bring-Your-Own-Plate brunch. Following Jack, others stand and share their poetry, their acappela ballads, or their bluegrass guitar jams. Topics often take on the political, the silly and the deeply personal. Jack's ode to 2010 is the first of five poems that he shared with One Night Music from his North Beach apartment on January 2, 2010 for our new Poetry Series.
I spent a lot of time recording bands in Santa Barbara, so it was nice to have some of Santa Barbara come to me. On June 27th, 2009, Backpack unloaded at my front door. San Francisco was all-time that day, and while they recorded a One Night Music session on my back deck, the city was alive with blossoms and short shorts. Backpack is Mallory Watje, Eliot Ray Burk, and Jacob Jaffe, plus an ensemble of friends and lovers. The band, primarily led by Malorie's siren-sung calls, features two guitars, bass, and sometimes drums. They come from a long line of Santa Barbara local stars and starlets, such as Girl Band, stints with Water Color Paintings, and probably more.
Lady Lazarus is Melissa Ann Sweat, a creature of California who currently resides in San Jose after a brief love affair with San Francisco in 2008. That's where she used a four-track tape recorder to create her first EP appropriately titled Home Recordings. It's a precious handmade self-release complete with threaded edges, handwritten tracks names, and clever artwork - a true "do-it-yourself" creation.
Bird By Snow is all the land, air, dirty dirt, guitar and looping that could stream from one person. A musical spirit motivated as much by the West Coast Lo-Fi music scene, as by mulch-laden paths amidst ancient Redwoods. Fletcher resides in San Francisco, where he has cultivated much of his music, but tours frequently carry him off. Gnome Life Records, his own creation, and the label of Bird By Snow, is a lovely crafty entity that makes beautiful records with lots of love.
Emily Ritz likes Honeybees. She makes films about them, and her musical ensemble, Honeycomb, resembles the intimate detail and dripping architecture of the complex kingdom from which the band so aptly takes its name. Perhaps queendom is a more accurate title, but not in the benevolent dictator sort of way; if the band of eight (five ladies and three gents) were to praise a higher being, she would be some creative goddess of divine rhythm.
Mike and I sat in flimsy fold up chairs at an even flimsier table on the sidewalk outside Pirate Cat Radio Cafe during a gloriously sunny and lazy Labor Day afternoon. We waited to rendezvous with Brianna Lea Pruett and Lady Lazarus - we were to catch them before they kicked off their Indian Summer Tour with a performance on Elia's radio show that evening. Soon enough they arrived, guitar and keyboard in respective hands, and musical conversations quickly ignited. We walked around the corner to my girlfriend's house where a party of One Night Music contributors and friends had convened. With the receding sun on our minds, we scurried to gather the audio and video equipment, and then marched 14 blocks to Dolores Park.
In the spring of 2009, Rey Villalobos, hit by something good, pulls his car to the side of the road and writes "Honeybee." Just like that. Guitar in hand, he sits on the warm hood, surrounded by sagebrush and bougainvillea and olive trees, and takes in the cool salt breeze. The chords and lyrics arrange themselves.
Four years earlier, what comes to Rey is a succession of words, a phrase, a title. Roses in the Nordic Countries -- wow, that's good! -- will be the name of his first solo album. Here, the title precedes the title-track by several months, and later, the music is complete before the right words fix themselves to the melody.
There is something charming in a grizzled group of well-dressed ruffians - the type of people that will just as easily bang on a hanging set of pots and pans, as walk down a crowded street grinding away on the banjo and accordion. And so it is that The Peculiar Pretzelmen charmed One Night Music in the Santa Barbara's bastard sibling town of Isla Vista by grinding, banging, shredding, stomping, and hollering their unique blend of old-timey, bluesy, jug music.
There is simply no way to describe, in words, a Lucky Dragons performance. Not in the way that the feeling will infiltrate your soul. Not in the way that the sonic journey will be more than any one sense could synthesize.
Lucky Dragons is Luke Fischbeck and Sarah Rara -- they emanate abstract perfectionism.
What is Lucky Dragons?
Mike Ballan, a 22-year-old musician from San Francisco, CA, brings his unique style of folk back to One Night Music as our first artist to record two sessions (check out his first session). First impressions are deceiving: despite his bashful demeanor Mike is a closet really-amazing-artist. Possessing a style all his own consisting of saturated guitar riffs supporting intricate and sometimes dizzying lyrics, he elaborates specific moments and observations into vast journeys. Songwriting isn't just a hobby or a fleeting endeavor for Mike, it's a life-long yearning, demonstrated by a prolificacy that produces many songs that may never be heard. Mike has been refining his sound since I first met him 8 years ago and he now never fails to capture the imaginations of audiences at open mics, where he performs his songs with an ease and calm generally reserved for musicians seasoned with decades of performance experience.
"I'm sorry if it's a little rough tonight," Carolyn tells me. It's the end of May in Santa Barbara and I've met The Finches at The Biko Garage in Isla Vista to record their show for One Night Music. Carolyn Pennypacker Riggs--who is in actuality as cute and well-formed as her name sounds--is best described as pure sweetness, as dicentra spectabilis, lemondrops, or CPR. She has been travelling a lot recently, and subsequently the band has had little time to practice. Still, there's no need for her to apologize. The Finches are awesome. Their songs have been strangely lodged in my head for the past month, looping between three of their catchier tracks to make a sort of Finches shuffle in my head.
It was a lazy springtime Friday afternoon in Santa Barbara when we recorded Marc B. The sun was low in the perfect sky as friends gathered in the living room of my home nestled between the southern California ocean and the chaparral mountains. Marc and I chatted casually while I arranged the microphones and set input levels. Similar easy conversations were had amongst the visitors while beer and wine sips bid the ending week goodbye and welcomed the ensuing weekend's respite. One would be hard pressed to find a care in the room - not even Marc seemed to have a nerve in his soul as he sat poised at the center of the room surrounded by audio and video recording equipment. The entire setting was idyllically Santa Barbara and created a fitting venue to capture Marc B's mellow acoustic surf rock sounds.
Goodbye Providence, Rhode Island! A week or two before we met in Isla Vista for her One Night Music session, Omnivore's Glenna Kay Van Nostrand packed her car with musician/friend Liz Isenberg and headed south, then west. In a stormy accident in Asheville, North Carolina, Glenna lost her rear window to a wayward something and picked up some duct tape. Around Texas, the two New Englanders hoped to catch sight of some tumbleweed. No luck there; they'd wait until somewhere between Los Angeles and Santa Barbara, of all places, when a tumbleweed would surprise them on Highway 101.
Forest Sun performed for One Night Music with his lovely wife Ingrid Serban on a beautiful fall afternoon in the Castro District of San Francisco. The vibe of the session was simple and easy going, a feeling carried throughout Forests Sun's music and personality and reinforced by the lazy Sunday afternoon setting. As he smiled and laughed with Ingrid, Forest Sun jumped right into the first song of the session called “Loveseat,” a tune packed with promiscuous innuendos about furniture. “Loveseat” was recorded with the Animal Liberation Orchestra (ALO) as the opener to his most recent album So Nice.
His band, Next Of Kin, played a set at Pirate Cat Radio, then I stuffed my bike into the U-Haul trailer they had rented (they were in fact amidst a short California tour), and we drove to one of the bandmate's sister's apartment.
I had just moved to San Francisco, and I hadn't seen TJ in probably 5 months. It was 2 PM, and before the One Night Music session we stopped at a bar. That's how traveling goes with those boys. Later we arrived at the apartment in Twin Peaks overlooking much of the city, and while most everyone else passed out on the couches or the floor, TJ brought his homegrown Americana/country that makes you think he's been around the block a few more times than his twenty-three years would suggest.
As a beautiful San Francisco October day was coming to an end, Alex and Janel, an Americana/folk duo based out of New York, turned a quaint garden backyard into their latest performance venue for an upbeat session with One Night Music. With flowers, vines and colorful apartments as their backdrop, Alex and Janel commanded the ears of anyone within listening distance: A group of young kids peered over fences and shrubs from their back porch a few houses down; a neighbor hung out of his third story window; and anyone within a block likely caught at least a few chords of their tunes. To everyone present at the session Alex and Janel left a lasting impression, without a doubt due to their undeniably catchy choruses (try to not get one of their songs stuck in your head), but also because of the humble and appreciating air with which they carried themselves. They are truly enjoyable to be around, and this only enhances the live experience of their music.
Biko Co-op in Isla Vista, CA is a meeting point of artists, a melting pot of east and west, and a haven for creative expression. It is an all-purpose community space for radical meetings, music, art exhibitions and dance, run by house members and the community. On April 15th, 2009 the northwest upstairs bedroom of the Co-op, too, became a venue of creativity. It was here that Liz Isenberg found herself performing a session for One Night Music during a tour across the country with fellow musician Omnivore, who performed a session shortly after. Liz sat atop the bed in the colorful room of my dear friend Kate. "We're all in bed in Santa Barbara," she said, and then her intimate rhythms of neighbor's morning coos cooled the space like lemonade and strawberries.
If you find yourself in downtown Santa Barbara on a Tuesday evening or a Saturday morning, be sure to make your way to the Santa Barbara Farmer's Market. You'll not only find an abundance of local and organic food, but you'll also find the market to attract a surprisingly diverse pool of local musical talent, ranging from one-man-band gypsy rock music to anarchist jug bands; slide guitar masters to mariachi music; afro-roots a cappella to classical violin duets; and old blues to eastern drumming. If you're lucky, you might also hear some ukulele/kazoo/singing/storytelling by Ricky Rodriguez who performs as Ricky Ooh Laa Laa Cha Cha Cha.
Treesus, aka Jacob Mingle, lives in a yurt.
He is an organic farmer, and his wife is growing a small soul in her belly. He also makes folk music. During a visit to Placerville, CA - a time spent recording his other band Los Webelos, also featured on One Night Music - I managed to experience a small breadth of the mountains, crisp air, and country that must be inspiration to Jacob's spirit cries and shriek folk that are at once ear-bending, and lullaby.
Late on a cold weeknight in February, a quiet Santa Barbara neighborhood was engulfed in the fiery free jazz sounds of Colter Frazier and Matt Crane. Despite my best effort to confine their music to my home, it traveled liberally through the walls into the still suburban air. This evening, the neighbors would eat their dinner with a side of avant-garde cacophony.
We sit in a little park named Acorn, situated at a triangular intersection between two blocks in Isla Vista, California. It is spring. It's also Floatopia, a recently annualized Isla Vista celebration of beach, beer pong, coeducation, makeshift rafts, hedonism, rebirth. We're racing the setting sun to record Ellie Fortune, the project moniker for Sacramento-based musician Jesse K. Phillips. Kids are swaying home. Some straggle, inner tubes and inflatable kiddie pools in tow.
Vaughn Montgomery and John Gill of The Junior Varsity return to the One Night Music Sports Arena to finish the second half of their performance. With Vaughn Montgomery at the helm this time around, the duo switched things up to bring a stand up bass into the mix. With graceful style and melodious handling, the Junior Varsity polished off their victory with four original tunes from Vaughn.
The Junior Varsity made a visit to the One Night Music Sports Arena in Santa Barbara, CA on February 20th, 2009 for a special away game. Teammates John Gill and Vaughn Montgomery coordinated an outstanding performance to defeat the opposition in a stunning victory. The first half featured John Gill at the helm singing original mariachi canciones and an oldies doo-wop ballad. Vaughn Montgomery made some spectacular assists with his soulful harmonies and his wurlitzer/percussion combo.
Phil Taylor is perhaps the first One Night Music artist whose performance was arguably too big for our tiny Santa Barbara recording studio. The room seemed anxious to burst at the seams and let his energy explode out into the surrounding world. Lucky for us, the room stayed in tact and the five of us watching were allowed to soak up all of Phil’s energy like sponges placed in a pool of “WTF! I DON’T REALLY KNOW WHAT’S HAPPENING RIGHT NOW BUT IT’S RAD!” Now it’s your turn!
Shannon Inouye joined One Night Music on February 19th 2009 in Santa Barbara, CA to perform a live set of four songs to a tiny audience. He happened to be in town visiting and we happened to be looking for another artist to record for the evening. You see, we were planning to film a double session - two artists back to back - and one of the artists cancelled. So, about an hour before the recording was set to start, Elia called to say his friend Shannon was in town. Shannon, I was told, was an awesome singer-songwriter and was excited to record. We were set.
I too had just arrived in the Santa Cruz mountains. The cozy dwelling in Ben Lomond; surrounded by redwoods, nuzzled up against a small stream and guarded by fruit trees, wisteria, and tomatoes. That dwelling belongs to my parents, and was the location for a special One Night Music session. The first session produced entirely away from Santa Barbara and the sweet sweet comforts of the One Night Music production studio. We are indeed clandestine media men (and women).
“Is this karma or some grizzly retribution? Is this the price we pay for the land we take for a country predicated on the notion of deceit?” challenges Pussywillow Sparks (a.k.a Rebecca Riley, a.k.a one half of Bad Heart Bull). Joe Letke completes the musical pie on percussion, samples, and computerbox, but he was holding down the fort in the band’s hometown of Chicago, IL during the session.
How can One Night Music describe the joy that is the Isla Vista sensation Watercolor Paintings? We find Watercolor Paintings to be adorable, eccentric, whimsical, insanely catchy, and super duper awesome. And we were fortunate to have brother and sister duo Josh and Rebecca Redman stop by to record four songs with us on February 16, 2009. Though this was the shortest session we’ve had yet, it was one of our most fun sessions for several reasons:
Now, here is a guy who knows how to transform a room.
Armed with six touching songs of love and loss (but mostly loss), Adam Bianchi was the final act at One Night Music's Launch Party on February 14th, 2009. His set was the perfect soundtrack to an unconventional Valentine's Day evening. Adam began with "Maggie," a nostalgic song of heartfelt regret, and proceeded to simultaneously break and mend the heart of every captivated audience member with each simple yet elegant tune.
On February 14th, 2009 One Night Music celebrated its beginnings with a very special Valentine’s Day Launch Party. In our first living room concert, an audience of about 30 close friends, supporters, and contributors of One Night Music enjoyed performances by Mike Conway, Betsy Wise, Adam Bianchi, Mike Ballan, and Meghan Lehman while sipping wine, munching on popcorn, and sharing conversations.
Hylton Edingfield and Takuma Ono of Permanent Starlight joined One Night Music on a very lucky Friday the 13th in February. Permanent Starlight is an ironic name for the band as it is, in fact, very ephemeral: taking the shape of whatever musicians Hylton surrounds himself with amongst and in between his travels around the world. On this night, Takuma joined Hylton for the most recent manifestation of Permanent Starlight, bringing keyboards and percussion to accompany Hylton’s nylon string guitar and vocals.
Erik Schau joined One Night Music on February 6th 2009 to perform six original tunes.
We first heard Erik’s music at one of the Santa Barbara Roasting Company’s weekly open mics held at their coffee shop. This wonderful weekly venue pulls together unique songwriters, poets, and performers from throughout Santa Barbara and Isla Vista for three hours of art, coffee, and community. Upon hearing his songs in the intimate setting of the open mic, we were inclined to invite Erik to record a session at the One Night Music studio.
It is a distinct honor to write the set description for Mike Ballan - one of my true best friends for about the last 7 years. I have known since I first heard his music during my Junior year of highschool that he was going to do great things with his songwriting. Since then I have had the pleasure of producing his music in somewhere between 4 and 5 recording sessions, including this most recent One Night Music session.
Meghan Lehman, a 28 year old singer-songwriter from Santa Barbara, California, joined One Night Music on December 6, 2008 for the inaugural session. At that point One Night Music was still a concept. We had a vague idea of a new music venue in town to display the talents of independent artists. The excitement was palpable. We felt that we were initiating a project with great potential, one that could create a new music community where local artists would be given the chance to display their talents to an eager audience.