Goodbye Mr. T

Posted in Dancing about architecture on November 14th, 2015 by bill

In a reversal of the usual situation, Allen Toussaint is in the foreground here, with Dr. John in the background.

We lost one of the greats this week: Allen Toussaint, legendary New Orleans songwriter/producer/pianist and all-around musical genius, who dropped dead of a heart attack shortly after finishing a show in Madrid.

Toussaint was not exactly a household name; he mostly stayed in the background, I think by design. But his influence on American popular music was broad and deep. He recorded with everyone from Fats Domino to Elvis Costello, Etta James to Dr. John, The Meters to Paul McCartney. All his work – with the possible exception of that Wings album – shared a common vibe; not just funky and groovy, but soulful and positive and uplifting. In short, some of the best music ever made by humans.

Many of us came to know him through his work with Lee Dorsey, which the kind of stuff you know even if you don’t know you know it. Toussaint and Dorsey recorded “Yes We Can Can,” which later became a big hit for the Pointer Sisters; “Workin’ in a Coal Mine,” which I came to know first in Devo’s cover version; and of course “Everything I Do Gonh be Funky,” famously referenced by the Beastie Boys in “Sure Shot.”

I don’t know if everything Mr. Toussaint did in his life was funky, but his average was surely among the highest out there. The world will be measurably less funky without him.

(I’ve only scratched the surface here; for a deeper dive, I recommend this article by Mike Powell.)

It Is Happening Again

Posted in Golden (State) Years on November 6th, 2015 by bill

'Shoot it again, Steph.'

Exactly one year ago, I was writing a breathless encomium to the undefeated Golden State Warriors, who were coming off a big win against the detested LA Clippers. Well…(cue the giant)…it is happening again.

If anything, this year’s Dubs have been better than last year’s. The Clips game was their first close contest; before that their average margin of victory had been 25 points, including a 50-point obliteration of the once-feared Memphis Grizzlies. Steph Curry has somehow found a way to take his already stratospheric game up to yet another level, dismembering defenses with an ease that borders on contempt. And all this has been happening without coach Steve Kerr, who is still sidelined by complications from offseason back surgery. Interim coach Luke Walton is 5-0, and with no disrespect to young Mr. Walton, I’m pretty sure that I would also be undefeated if they’d given me the job.

Once again I must remind myself that we’re only five games into the season. It’s a long hard road and so on and so forth. All the more reason to take a moment to savor the sweetness of being a fan of a team that is playing intergalactic basketball right now. Can they possibly keep it up all season? Well, consider that Andrew Bogut hasn’t played a single minute…that Klay Thompson’s shot has been MIA so far…and that Harrison Barnes has been inconsistent. In other words, the Warriors could be better. I wouldn’t bet against them.

Here We Go Again

Posted in Golden (State) Years on October 27th, 2015 by bill

Steph Curry nails a shot while chewing his mouthguard – in the NBA 2K16 video game. Soon he will be doing it again in real life.

So today Our Golden State Warriors begin their defense of the NBA Championship. It still feels weird to say that. Maybe it’ll finally sink in for real tonight when they hand out the rings and raise the banner into the rafters.

The Dubs will be kicking off the season without Steve Kerr, who is still out with complications from offseason back surgery. I assume, though, that he will be there to get his ring – as will Alvin Gentry, last year’s top assistant, who is now the head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.

And if the Pelicans are in town, that means Anthony Davis, a/k/a The Brow, consensus future MVP, will be there too. Davis and the Pels will have something to prove after being swept in the first round of last year’s playoffs, and the Warriors will want to respond. But we all kind of like The Brow, and we like Gentry, so this will not be a grudge match. Those will come soon enough when the W’s play the Rockets (10/30), the Grizzlies (11/2), and – yes, Lord, let it be so – the Clippers on Wednesday 11/4.

The Clippers did a lot of yapping this summer, and are feeling all swoll about themselves after stealing DeAndre Jordan back from Dallas and adding a couple of decent bench players. But to me they’re still basically the same bunch of floptastic crybabies that we smacked down repeatedly last year, and I look forward to that matchup with great relish.

So let’s go, let’s go…how long till tipoff?

Some of My Favorite Shows (Part 5)

Posted in Dancing about architecture on October 26th, 2015 by bill

There have been many versions of Pere Ubu over the years, but this is something like the version that I saw in 93.

In related memories, there was the time I saw Pere Ubu at Slim’s in San Francisco in 1993. The common thread here is legendary Cleveland underground band Rocket from the Tombs. After a brief but influential tenure in the mid-70s, which produced a few singles and many live performances but no actual album, RFTT splintered into two factions. One became the Dead Boys, featuring Stiv Bator, later of Lords of the New Church. The other, including David Thomas – known as Crocus Behemoth during his time with RFTT – and the soon-to-be late Peter Laughner, became Pere Ubu.

Ubu recorded a number of strange and innovative albums in the late 70s and early 80s, and in the late 80s returned in a somewhat more accessible form. I was not really aware of them until I saw them open for the Pixies at the Warfield in 1991, but when they came around again in support of 1993’s The Story of My Life, I was right there at the foot of the stage.

They opened with the first song from Story of My Life, “Wasted,” a slow-moving number that starts with just voice and accordion. But a minute or so in they stopped. David Thomas indicated, quite clearly, his displeasure with the way the accordion sounded; there was a pause in the action.
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Some of My Favorite Shows (Part 4)

Posted in Dancing about architecture on October 22nd, 2015 by bill

Rock legend has it that Stiv Bator used to stuff Martha's muffin.

This is another show that comes under the heading of “Foggy but Fond Memories” – as do most of the shows I write about, now that I think of it. Is this a natural result of aging and the passage if time, or is it directly attributable to the Rock’n'Roll Lifestyle, or some combination of the two? Impossible to say at this juncture, and I don’t suppose it matters that much.

Anyway: the band was the Lords of the New Church, the venue the venerable Berkeley Square, and the time…em…sometime in the latter mid-80s? A web search spits out the date March 22, 1986, which seems a bit early by my timetable. But it could be right…perhaps I was spending spring break with the Babbs of Vallejo? It’s plausible.

This was as close as I ever came to attending a genuine Punk Rock show. But while the Lords had impeccable punk credentials – singer Stiv Bator and guitarist Brian James were veterans of the Dead Boys and the Damned, respectively – they were really Beyond Category, mixing Stones-y rock and 60s garage with bits of funk and a dark theatrical streak that caused some people to mistake them for a goth band.
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Quotes du jour

Posted in Whatever Else on October 18th, 2015 by bill

“Someday a real rain will come and wash all the scum off the streets.”
– Travis Bickle, 1976

“Someday a real rain will come and wash all this shit off my car.”
– Me, today

Some of My Favorite Shows (Part 3)

Posted in Because he's David Bowie, that's why on October 13th, 2015 by bill

In the news today was a story saying that David Bowie has officially retired from live performance. This comes as no huge surprise, as David has not played a gig since 2004, nor has he shown any particular inclination to do so.

And it’s probably just as well; Dave is creeping up on 70 now, and though his voice still sounds pretty good on record, it might not be able to stand up to the rigors of a lengthy performance, to say nothing of an actual tour. I had been holding out some hope that he might see fit to favor with us one last show, hopefully simulcast worldwide, but seemingly it is not to be. Though, of course, it is Bowie’s prerogative to change his mind; remember when he said he would never play his hits again after the 1990 tour? “Going back on my word is part and parcel of what I do for you,” said Mr. B back in 2003. “Part of my entertaining factor is lying to you.”

I was fortunate enough to have him lie to me in person four times: once with Tin Machine, once on the Earthling tour, and twice on the “A Reality Tour.” The first two were, on the whole, disappointments. I liked Tin Machine more than most people, but their live show (at the Warfield in SF) was a bit of a slog. I remember that they did a noisy version of the Pixies’ “Debaser,” which was pretty cool, and that “If There Is Something” sounded good. Other than that it didn’t leave much of an impression.
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Garbage by the Bay

Posted in Picture du jour on October 12th, 2015 by bill

Took this photo out behind the Adorni Center in Eureka. It puts me in mind of Hemingway’s famous six-word story: “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.“

The basketball court at the end of the world

Posted in Picture du jour on September 29th, 2015 by bill

Took this on my way down Highway 1 last week. All I can say is, if you take a shot on this hoop, you’d damn well better make it.

Back Again for the First Time

Posted in Golden (State) Years on September 25th, 2015 by bill

Time to wake up, Steph.

I’m told that this has been the shortest offseason in Warriors history, and I believe it, since the last time they went to the Finals was 1975, and the season was a lot shorter then. But it has seemed awfully long to me, partly because I’ve been extraordinarily bored at work lately. The various vacations were a nice distraction while they lasted, but now it’s officially fall, with Thanksgiving just a tiny blip on the horizon. Sigh.

Thankfully, the NBA circus starts up again on Monday with the media day that marks the beginning of training camp. I’ve written not a word about the Warriors since the end of the Finals, and what really has there been to write about? After the fulfillment of a long-held dream, there inevitably comes a bit of a letdown, and this offseason has been one long victory lap with little in the way of news. Draymond Green signed a big new contract, as we knew he would. David Lee was shipped out to Boston and, through a roundabout series of transactions, replaced with Jason Thompson, who will play a similar role for much less money. Steph Curry continued his charm offensive on Planet Earth with a trip to Asia and an appearance on the new Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

It’s all been fun, and well-earned, and frankly a little dull. I look forward to the start of the new season, the first that My Golden State Warriors will enter as defending champions. They will face opposition from the reloaded San Antonio Spurs, the formidable Cleveland Cavaliers, the rested and rejuvenated OKC Thunder, and the always-annoying Los Angeles Clippers, among others. It will be a challenge, but I think they’re ready for it. I know I am. Let’s play ball.