When the beloved and much too-short-lived Midtown venue Witch Room (ex-Bows and Arrows) shut down late last year, they sure did go out with a bang! “Sac Go Home Fest” was an epic, two-day, mostly local music free-for-all, and if you were there for any of it, you know how special the vibe in the room was. It was a little bit celebratory, a little bit mournful, with a shit ton of great music and craft beer to wash down the bitter feelings. If you weren’t there for some dumb reason, the next best thing would be to listen to sound guy Drew Walker’s live compilation album that he recorded during the fest. The comp, which is available for free right now online at Sacgohomefest.bandcamp.com, features 20 live recordings from locally tied bands like The Kelps, Lite Brite, Honyock, Pregnant, Appetite, Dog Party, Instagon, Musical Charis, PETS, DoofyDoo (Walker’s project) and a bunch of others. If you’re a local music nerd like us here at Submerge, looking down the list of tracks might give you a little ADD, as we really just wanted to listen to all the damn songs at the same damn time. “I really appreciate every band that took part,” Walker (who also plays in the rad local band Gentleman Surfer) recently wrote on Facebook. “This is definitely one of my favorite projects ever.” We’d like to thank Walker for putting this thing together, because years from now we’ll still be able to listen back to this live album recorded at Witch Room and remember the days the venue was alive and well. RIP, Witch, you’ll always be missed!
It wasn’t long ago that we were bumming out on Bows and Arrows closing, but now we’ve got some really good news to pass along about the building space and the people involved. Not only will one of its co-founders, Trisha Rhomberg, be re-opening Bows and Arrows in a new location later this summer along the R Street corridor (more on that in a later issue of Submerge), but the other founder, Olivia Coelho, is partnering with some longtime friends of hers to open an entertainment venue in the space formerly occupied by Bows (1815 19th Street, Sacramento) that will be called Witch Room. Witch Room will feature local, national and international bands. All shows will be 18-plus, they will offer a selection of beer/wine/bar food and it will only be open on event nights. Coelho and her Witch Room co-founders, which include Liz Liles (who plays in the rad band G. Green), Liz Mahoney (who plays in the equally rad band Screature) and Mark Kaiser (also a musician and founder of record labels Omnibus and Mt.St.Mtn), have been feverishly working on the space with help from family members to build a new stage, paint, rearrange stuff, and generally give the place a whole new identity.
“It wasn’t pre-meditated,” Coelho told Submerge of the plan to open Witch Room. “I know it probably seems like it was, but this came together so fast. I ran into Liz Liles at a house party in Davis and we just started talking and I was like, ‘Lets meet with Liz Mahoney tomorrow.’ Then once we met with Mark he was like, ‘Alright so tomorrow we’re building at the site, and you’re doing this, and you’re doing that…’ Those three have been booking shows and playing in bands their entire lives. It just seemed like we would be stupid not to try.”
Submerge was lucky enough to see the work in progress last week and we are very excited about what the future holds for Witch Room. With the new stage, new layout, new crew booking shows (plus some old faces like Drew Walker, who will be handling sound), we think it’s going to be a really awesome place to see live music. Speaking of, they already have seven solid shows listed on their website (Witchroomsac.com), the first of which is Tuesday, March 25, and features five sick bands. Hit up their website or Facebook.com/witchroom to learn more and view upcoming shows.
One of Sacramento’s most beloved arts and entertainment businesses, Bows and Arrows, recently announced that they will be closing at the end of January. The vintage shop/art gallery/music venue/cafe (yes, it’s a lot of things rolled up under one roof, that’s what makes it so special!), located at 1815 19th Street and co-owned by local artists Olivia Coelho and Trisha Rhomberg, posted to Facebook on Jan. 1, 2014, saying, “Our last month will be January, and we want it to be the best month ever.” They went on to say, “Although it breaks our hearts to think of losing our dream come true, we are both ready for new adventures. So please come celebrate this crazy experiment that two artists conspired to create with love in our hearts for our community.” The exact reason why Bows is closing is unknown thus far by local media outlets (not even The Bee or the Business Journal reported on why it’s closing in their pieces on Bows this week), but the fact of the matter is that Bows will be severely missed by local music and art enthusiasts. We here at Submerge absolutely loved all the unique and eclectic art shows that Bows hosted (you can only take so many galleries boasting paintings and photographs of the fucking Tower Bridge for so long!), so we will miss those most, along with their amazing back patio and killer live bands, too. While it is still unclear what the two will be up to next, we’re pretty sure that Rhomberg, at least, will open a new spot sometime this Spring. “Spring will be a new chapter for sure,” Rhomberg wrote on her Facebook page. “I’ll always find a way to try to engage and support the creative community and have plans for a new space opening in Spring with some rad Sacramento entrepreneurial friends!” As soon as more details are revealed about their future plans, as well as who/what will take over their current space, we’ll be sure to update our readers. For now, take a look at our calendar section or visit Bowscollective.com to see their line-up of events for their final month. There are some great bands playing, cool art on the walls, local beers on tap and tasty food to boot. Let’s send Bows off in style! And a huge special thanks to Coelho, Rhomberg and all of Bows’ staff for all that they’ve done (and will no doubt continue to do) for the local arts community.
-Photo by Nicholas Wray
How many times have you said to yourself, “This year, I’m finally going to complete my holiday shopping early”? Despite the promised commitment, we always find ourselves at the mall days before our gifting deadlines, with thousands of other shoppers, dodging pedestrians in the parking lot, hustling through the stores and impatiently sighing in a seemingly endless line to the cash register. Let’s face it, there is a fine line between anxious, last-minute shoppers and a mob riot…and it’s best not to test its borders. Thankfully, Bows and Arrows will be hosting its handmade shopping event and bazaar, Makers Mart, on Dec. 8, 2013, where you can support local makers while enjoying the live DJ, awesome food and generous drink specials. This is your opportunity to select one-of-a-kind gifts for all your friends and loved ones. The event will take place in the alley next to the shop and most vendors accept cash only. You can get more info on the event and opportunities to vend at Makers-mart.blogspot.com. The event goes from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., so stop by and avoid all the unnecessary holiday hassle!
The Virgin’s Guide to NorCal NoiseFest 2013
Written by a NoiseFest Virgin
For the 17th year in a row, Sacramento is hosting NorCal NoiseFest. One of the oldest and most established “noise” festivals out there, it is a yearly gathering of performing artists from around the country who base their entire acts around creating noise. There is no false advertising here; we are talking about noise, as in sound intentionally void of rhythm, melody and structure. Dissonance and chaos are sought.
This year’s festival will feature 40 artists, spanning three days and four locations.
Let me just get this out of the way now. I’ve lived in Sacramento for 25 years straight, and I have never been to a NoiseFest. For shame!
Anyway, to gain a better understanding of NoiseFest, I not only reviewed countless videos and tracks by the artists performing in this year’s lineup, but I also spoke with the only two people in town who have performed NoiseFest every year since its birth in 1995, Lob of Instagon and William Burg of Uberkunst. They have also been highly involved members of the Secret Masters of Noise (those who make NoiseFest happen each year) since the early ‘00s.
In sum, think of NorCal NoiseFest as the “outsider experience,” Lob explains. The presentation is meant to be unique, abrasive and unpleasant.
This embrace of noise is not a new idea. Here is a snippet of history to prove it: in 1913 the Italian artist Luigi Russolo wrote the Futurist manifesto “L’arte dei Rumori” or “The Art of Noises.” In it, he argued that because humans’ lives were becoming inundated with machinery, music should incorporate such sounds into composition. You might consider Russolo the founding father of noise music, 100 years ahead of his time. Apropos, this year’s NoiseFest is marking the celebration of a “century of noise.”
Rest assured, NoiseFest doesn’t cater to any one crowd. Sure, noise doesn’t have mass appeal—lots of people haven’t trained their ears for it. Yet there are pockets of noise enthusiasts out there, young and old,
Compare noise to eating pancreas, he suggests. The masses will gag at the mere thought, opting for a McDonald’s cheeseburger, just as they will choose to listen to “music” instead of “noise.” Yet there are some who will gladly dig into a plateful of pancreas over a fistful of fries any day.
As he so poetically elaborates, like a mountain man leads the way into the wilderness, the noisemaker blazes a path for other musicians to follow, sometimes decades later.
“Somebody had to go there first, and they generally had to go alone,” he adds.
Consider NorCal NoiseFest the once-a-year gathering of those mountain men and women.
W00DY is a solo performer hailing from Boston, Mass. She excels at vocal manipulation, particularly stretching and contorting her voice, layering and looping fragments over subtle tones. Her performance may leave you feeling airy, and at other times feeling like you are swallowed in a spiral or a maze. You may be tempted to think she is channeling Bjork at times, minus the music. This will be her first time playing NorCal NoiseFest. Catch her performance on Friday, October 4, 2013 at 10:30 p.m. at Luna’s Cafe.
Beast Nest is the solo project of Sharmi Basu, a Mills College student who is pursuing her master’s in electronic music. Her sound will creep up on you, gently guiding you to another dimension through a blanket of feedback. Fluttering R2D2-like beeps, whizzes, zaps and dial tones will simultaneously emerge, crossed by ethereal notes tracing scratchy hums. According to Lob, “Basu has delivered some of the most psychedelic ambient performances that NoiseFest has had in the past.” Beast Nest performs Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 10 p.m. at Naked Lounge.
Music festivals are hard. When you have a lineup of 40 to choose from, how are you possibly supposed to narrow down your options? For those who just can’t make up their minds, try this: just check out the bands with the, uh, most unusual names. Never mind that several of these names suggest pain.
1. Amphibious Gestures
2. Stress Orphan
3. Randy McKean’s Wild Horsey Ride
4. Dental Work
5. Pulsating Cyst
6. Endometrium Cuntplow
17 Years and Counting
As mentioned before, there are only two acts that have performed NorCal NoiseFest every year since inception: Instagon and Uberkunst, both local. Uberkunst is Burg’s project, and “always a spectacle sacrifice to NIAD (noise instrument analog device),” Lob says. Uberkunst’s crew typically consists of 10-plus bodies. Previous performances have included power tools, masks, screaming, destruction, torture machines and spiky outfits with a Road Warrior aesthetic. Instagon, on the other hand, performs with a different ensemble for every single show, with Lob leading the way. When it comes to NoiseFest, Lob typically assembles a handful of performers who each feed their sounds into a mixer set while he selects which sounds to amplify and overlap. One year that meant nine people making noise with jewel cases and contact mics. Odd, provocative, conceptual noise guaranteed. Uberkunst performs at Sol Collective at 10:30 p.m. Saturday, October 5, 2013 and Instagon plays at Bows and Arrows at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday, October 6, 2013.
Who Will Burn the Most Miles To Get Here
1. Thirteen Hurts from Pleasant View, Colo.
2. Dental Work from Traverse City, Mich.
3. Stress Orphan from Washington, D.C.
4. Blipvert from New York, N.Y.
5. W00DY from Boston, Mass.
Sights to Behold
Coat hanger hooks, rubber bands, wires, chop sticks, popsicle sticks, broom straws… What more do you need? Not much, if you are making handmade cranks to play in the Crank Ensemble. These instruments are literally works of art that are then used to create noise music. Mastermind Larnie Fox orchestrates the rigid clicks and pops simultaneously into a steady progression—think clock music. You will want to see these guys up close on Sunday, October 6, 2013 at Bows and Arrows, starting at 2:30 p.m. Meanwhile, Michael Amason is known for his ongoing “Noise Tattoo” project, where he tattoos himself through an amp stack. According to Lob, “You will hear every needle mark!” Catch him at 3 p.m. on Saturday, October 5, 2013 at Sol Collective.
Acts You Will NOT Want to Stand As Close As Possible To
2. Overdose the Katatonic
5. Pulsating Cyst
Acts You Will Want to Stand As Close As Possible To
1. Endometrium Cuntplow
2. Michael Amason
3. Dental Work
5. Jeff Boynton
6. Nux Vomica
If you plan to watch Los Angeles act +DOG+, the last performance at Luna’s Café on Friday starting at 11:30 p.m., keep these things in mind. Static noise. You may feel like your head is under a nail gun, beneath the blade of a chopper or pressed against the blare of a dial-up connection. Your eye might start to twitch. Or maybe that’s just the caffeine. Likewise, if you check out /The Nothing at 5 p.m. at Sol Collective on Saturday, know what you’re getting into. You will feel like you stepped into an insane asylum, or someone’s nightmare. It will sound tortuous. You might think it’s a perfect way to scare away every child for Halloween this year. Thought I can’t confirm it, Lob also suggests earplugs for Blue Sabbath Black Cheer (11 p.m. Saturday at Sol Collective) Thirteen Hurts (7:30 p.m. Saturday at Sol Collective), and M22 (9:30 p.m. on Friday at Luna’s Café). I’d take his word for it.
6 Bands Not To Miss And Why (Lob’s Picks)
1. Faults: A local Sacramento noise/jazz trio featuring L.H.Shimanek, Kevin Corcoran and Chad Stockdale reunited, they have not played live in more than five years. They may not play out again. Do not miss it.
2. Overdose The Katatonic: In Lob’s words, “There is only one Jim Trash, and we have him for the weekend. Sonic brutality unleashed in a coffee house; sometimes he throws out toys!”
3. Amphibious Gestures: Lob says it best: “Space aliens from the sea with super sonic audio waves to invade your ears and mind. You think I’m kidding, but…”
4. Pedestrian Deposit: These guys have been on a U.S. tour recently and “SLAYING crowds everywhere,” according to Lob. Need proof? Check out the social media trails.
5. Blue Sabbath Black Cheer: Lob calls them a “tribal rush of power and madness” consisting of percussion and electronics. They don’t get out here much, but when they do, they are said to leave a massive impression.
6. Randy McKean’s Wild Horsey Ride: This is a duo featuring saxophonist Randy McKean and electronics artist Wes Steed. McKean produces sound and Steed captures it via live analog processing, and they play together with the sounds generated. Supposedly it is nothing short of amazing.
Norcal Noisefest takes place Oct. 3 through Oct. 6, 2013. For a complete list of events, go to Norcalnoisefest.com.
Jose Di Gregorio’s celestial shapes foretell Sacramento’s bright artistic future
In 2011, I walked into Bows and Arrows to browse some clothes and ingest either a coffee or a beer. I probably had some paperwork to do, but instead of doing anything that day, I just looked at a series of paintings exhibited on the wall. Those paintings—these large black backgrounds painted on wood with blue spray-paint accents that felt like something simultaneously underwater and atmospheric supported these large, brilliant white bodies or figures that were grounded between a few rudimentary geometric patterns and curling, waving tails that loped toward the bottom of the work—those paintings were composed by Jose Di Gregorio.
Now, I don’t know much about art, but occasionally I read some people who do. From what I can gather, the only thing a good artwork should do is negate reality in some fashion. This is not to mistake the desire of artworks to be considered realistic, or to be part of the material world that we exist in, but rather that they should act as mediators.
All of that is to say, in general, art that seeks to represent in a mimetic or realist fashion bores me. Our conditions today are so much more complicated and full of possibility than some bowl of fruit or a landscape. When I first came across Di Gregorio’s work, this is what it was clearly critiquing. This, for me, was its appeal. And I can only think of about two other Sacramento artists that I have remembered in similar fashion—but I’m not writing about them here.
Di Gregorio’s works are cosmic. They chose as their subject the infinite possibilities of our universe, and they hypothesize that these coordinates and celestial bodies might offer one of two things: either hope, of the sort that only post-apocalyptic genres can allude to, or humility, of the sort that alien encounter narratives tend to provide. Maybe they do both. What’s great about Di Gregorio’s works is that they are also questions in themselves, riddles of sorts. They offer each viewer her own Rorschach test, a reflection of her inner beliefs and ideologies. They suggest that each viewer can be validated externally, and because of this, Di Gregorio has patrons from physics professors to fanatics of the everyday divine.
His new show, Night, will be displayed at Bows and Arrows, some two years after his previous exhibit. It’s a shift from his larger works previously available at Bows, and at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art, where he just had an installation. In an effort to make his works more obtainable for enthusiasts, the sizes have been decreased, but the attention to detail is evident. The cosmic influence is still apparent, but these works are essentially circles or mandalas—a term Di Gregorio uses himself, though he’s quick to separate it from any spiritual association. Each of these mandalas holds a geometric figure, some series of white lines on a nebulous background composed by specific measurements within the frame, and they offer a continuation of the thoughts I was first attracted to in his earlier work.
“There’s some sort of meditative quality to them,” says Di Gregorio. “And I’m not a spiritual guy at all.”
Each of these pieces has a different geometric rhythm, a different figure or shape that holds the frame together. The white lines are crafted, composed with detail and attention. Their initial appearance seems simple, yet the specific shapes and lines reveal a concentration, a repetitious series of paint and articulation. It is because of these recursive structures, shapes, figures and the cosmic image set, that the spiritual qualities are easy to identify.
“The spiritual nature of these pieces comes up a lot,” says Di Gregorio. “I used to be a pretty outspoken atheist. [Yet,] I feel like these works are my ways of seeing the spiritual.” This seeing the spiritual, I’d associate with the sort of focus that artists must possess, not only to create works, but to continue to create them in our chaotic, distracting contemporary. It’s a sort of satisfaction that I’ve often thought of as addiction.
One could say Di Gregorio is addicted to simple figures and infinite depth. “There’s something about drawing a white line on a black surface,” he says, and then pauses to consider it further. It’s clear at this moment that his craft has a visceral effect on Di Gregorio, that the reason he pursues art has something to do with the metaphysical experience of drawing a line. This inversion of black and white, the associations of figure and background, is part of how Di Gregorio turns the subject of his works on its head. He never finishes this thought during our time together, to tell me what that “something” is.
Instead, I might offer that space is infinite, dark, unclear. An artwork is fixed, illuminated, specific. Traditionally the canvas is light, the marks dark. An opaque background asks for figures that register as shadows, bodies, inversions of light. A pitch dark background asks for figures that register as bodies of light themselves. This is part of that negation I mentioned above. However, it’s likely not how Di Gregorio would describe his work: “I don’t have a deep philosophical notion of what I do. It’s celestial, of course.”
“When I was an undergrad,” Di Gregorio continues, “I was researching the works of Caspar David Friedrich. He was a romantic painter during the Enlightenment. He was sort of countering the Enlightenment philosophy with the idea of the sublime, how small we are. That idea of the whole.”
This influence is clear once one sees the vast landscapes and seascapes of Friedrich, the horizons that loom over the lower third of the works, the immense skies with all of their impossibilities dominating the space of the canvas. Change the subject to space, swap out the human bodies for geometric figures, add a touch of improvisation and post-expressionist impulse: this is Di Gregorio.
The subject of his works is complicated, but his continual return marks Di Gregorio’s works with a specific focus. As he explains, “Maybe I’m just fascinated with something that is hard to explain. The feeling of being overwhelmed. We want to describe it, and maybe I’m describing it visually.”
That feeling of being overwhelmed isn’t lost on the community of Sacramento. Di Gregorio recalls the recent Capital Artists’ Studio Tour at Verge Center for the Arts, where many local art enthusiasts would peek into his workroom, glance at the untraditional works, and quickly slide back out the door. He laughs, recalling a question one patron asked another Verge staff member: “Do the artists here show their works anywhere?” These well meaning sponsors of the arts, I might offer, are overwhelmed by Di Gregorio’s works as well—just in a slightly different way.
This incident stands out for Di Gregorio, having just completed an exhibition at the Indianapolis Museum of Contemporary Art. This might be the highlight of his artistic career. “It was the best show I’ve ever had,” he says. “It was all flat black, the walls, the ceiling, everything. We used red and blue light, and the works really popped. It was like a heavy-metal planetarium. I had just gone to the Lawrence Hall of Science Planetarium [in Berkeley] with my daughters. It was such a profound experience; I just wanted to mimic that. I got a budget. They flew me out. I did a mural. It was great.”
“I wish I could be an installation artist all the time,” he adds. “That is it. I got that taste.”
To go along with his recent accomplishments, Di Gregorio has recently shown at Sol Collective, designed a limited edition bottle for Ruhstaller Beer, designed and crafted a huge artwork for the recent Launch Music Festival in collaboration with others, and provided some aesthetic touches to the McKinley Park playground rebuild.
“That was over 100 hours in just one week,” elaborates Di Gregorio, “14-hour days, leaving at 6:30 AM and getting home at 9:30. Most of the work was in the mosaic, and I’m not a mosaic artist. I created this lunar/solar mosaic, and another one in the entryway. That took a lot of time, cutting the tiles and getting the right colors. People who go there always notice the lionfish. Actually, the climbing wall and the lionfish were an afterthought. It’s funny how things work. I live in the area, so it’s a humbling thing.”
Having grown up in Woodland, Jose Di Gregorio is excited to be included in the community of Sacramento. He sees a lot of possibility here: “I think that there’s going to be positive change in what happens in Sacramento art. I want to think we’re getting beyond a sculpture of a bowl, or a cowboy, like Old Sac stuff, the Wild West.”
With works from artists like Di Gregorio, here’s hoping that we might soon be recognized as stellar or even universal.
Night, an exhibition of new work by Jose Di Gregorio and Jared Tharp, will be on display at Bows and Arrows in Sacramento Oct. 4 through Oct. 31, 2013. An opening reception will take place on Oct. 4 from 6 to 9 p.m. For more info, visit Bowscollective.com.
Local rock duo and longtime Submerge favorites PETS are celebrating 10 years as a band on Aug. 31, 2013 at Bows and Arrows. The married couple behind all the fuzzed-out catchy indie-rock, Allison Jones and Derek Fieth, are probably one of the coolest couples in town. Seriously, Submerge sees them everywhere together: out at shows and events, walking around Midtown. And they always look like a rockin’ band, you know what I mean? Dressed in all black and looking all hip (in a good way). It’s enough to make anyone want to start a band with their significant other!
“It is nice being a band together as the two of us,” Fieth recently told Submerge. “We’re always together and so wherever we go we’ve got PETS right there. We get along with each other pretty well, so band decisions and such are real easy. Plus, playing a show is a date night for us!”
The band’s latest full-length, 2011’s Ready the Rifles, is still on rotation around the Submerge office and in our magazine delivery vehicle (aka our everyday driver). Yeah, it’s that good. Luckily though, we are happy to report that the band is working on new material and Fieth said that they hope to start recording their next album later this year.
“When we stop to think about it, [10 years] is a long time but it’s gone by really fast,” Fieth said. “We’ve kept doing it for so long and can’t imagine quitting, because it’s never stopped being fun.”
PETS’ 10-year anniversary show on Aug. 31 at Bows and Arrows will feature a hot lineup consisting of another local rock duo, Dog Party (who are celebrating the release of their new record on this night), as well as a reunion show from Ancient Sons. Nacho Business and Shaun Slaughter are also on the bill, making this a definite you’d-be-dumb-to-miss-it sort of show! It’s all ages, $5 cover and doors open at 7 p.m. Learn more about PETS at Facebook.com/petstheband
Folksy and poetic in the studio, Chicago’s Angel Olsen turns up the volume on her current tour
Angel Olsen’s name isn’t enormously familiar—yet—but once you hear her voice, you’ll recognize her immediately the next time around.
Olsen is on tour promoting her sophomore album Half Way Home, released by Bathetic Records and will be in Sacramento April 24, 2013 at Bows and Arrows. This is her first West Coast tour for a solo project.
The 25-year-old St. Louis native, now a Chicago resident, has been so successful that Bathetic insisted Olsen find a bigger label. They couldn’t produce copies fast enough.
Earlier this month, she signed with indie rock label Jagjaguwar, whose roster includes Bon Iver.
Olsen’s sound is distinct and raw, even more so on her first Garageband album Strange Cacti that she recorded lo-fi in her echo chamber of a kitchen. She describes her music style and dreams as “nostalgic.”
“It has a lot to do with what you’re comfortable with,” she says of why she chose this particular style. “Some people are comfortable in a certain zone. It makes sense to me in my mind. That’s real music.”
She indeed sounds like she’s from another time, invoking comparisons to icons from Joni Mitchell to Patsy Cline.
More contemporary comparisons could be made because of her folksy poet approach on some tracks—she would have fit well on the Juno soundtrack with “You Know Song”—or because of her Spanish and Middle Eastern influences, like on the track “The Sky Opened Up.”
She can quiver, yodel and deepen her voice in ways that lend her lyrics another dimension.
Her words are haunting even before the manipulation: “Deep in the nest of an endless dream, when a stranger thought becomes of me, it can slowly turn my blood,” she sings on “Safe in the Womb.”
Strangely enough, Olsen doesn’t give away any deep, dark secrets of her past in her music or in chatter. For now, she is a self-taught, down-to-earth young woman looking to make good music, and has already gained some life-changing experiences along her journey.
Look up Olsen on YouTube, and you’ll find her alongside indie artists Will Oldham, also known as Bonnie “Prince” Billy, and Emmett Kelly of the Cairo Gang. Kelly produced Half Way Home and plays keyboard and drums on the album next to Olsen’s guitar strumming.
“We tried to keep it as simple as possible and not sound overproduced,” she says of Half Way Home.
You might also find video of her in camouflage pajamas as a shrieking reincarnate of German singer Dagmar Kraus, part of an Oldham side project called The Babblers.
The experience benefited her music and musician connections, more so perhaps than when she first entered the scene as a teenager.
“For a hot minute, yeah, I was in a ska punk band and into reggae, in the late ‘90s early ’00s,” she says. “It was a weird moment in my life. We had a good time, but at that point I was just singing in the band and writing lyrics. I still listen to reggae.”
Olsen has yet to achieve her dream of a future steeped in nostalgia. She wants to be part of an old school rock ‘n’ roll band, the kind where everyone is a part of the process—everyone sings and writes honestly and is critical of each other, she says.
“I’ve thought about it a lot, and it’s a dream. And once it occurs I’m sure there are weird dynamics and other stuff that would have to be worked out,” she says. “Now, people have to be everything on their own—they have to be sexy and dance—but all you really need is to just be able to play music well.”
This earnestness has paid off in the form of fans and raving reviews, and Olsen is a little closer to her dream with her current setup. Though she performs solo for parts of her shows, she also brings a full band: cellist Danah Olivetree, drummer Joshua Jaeger and bassist Stewart Bronaugh.
“We don’t play the same way the album was recorded,” Olsen says about the tour, which started at the beginning of April. “We practiced together for only four days and now we’re on our fifth show and it’s going great. I get to change the songs a little bit, and they’re adding different things.”
Olsen says to expect a louder band than what might be expected if you’ve heard her recorded music.
“It’s been really fun to work with a group of people who have been patient with me and let me direct them,” she adds. “I’m learning a lot.”
Catch her if you can at Bows and Arrows, 1815 19th Street, before she heads overseas to the Land of Guinness.
Angel Olsen will play Bows and Arrows in Sacramento on April 24, 2013. It is her last U.S. date before heading overseas, so be sure to give her a proper send off. Villages and Olla will also perform. Tickets are $10 at the door and $8 in advance, which can be purchased through Bowscollective.com. Learn more about Olsen at Angelolsen.com.
Whereas Christmas only lasts one day, Sacramento Beer Week lasts 10 whole days! That’s a week-plus of beer, food, beer, entertainment and beer (glorious beer). This year’s Beer Week will see local bars and restaurants hosting a variety of events—way too many to list here—but here are a few that we think you’d be crazy not to check out. For a full listing, go to Sacramentobeerweek.com!
Touch: Home Brewing Demo with Track 7 Brewing and Brew Ferment Distill at Bows and Arrows • Feb. 24, 2013
Have you ever tasted a finely crafted beer and thought to yourself, “I could totally do that?” Well now you totally can! Sacramento Beer Week will get its DIY on at Bows and Arrows on Feb. 24 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., during Bows and Arrows’ Sunday brunch, you will learn the ins and outs of home brewing and make your own IPA. Track 7 will provide the grains and hops and Brew Ferment Distill (located at 3527 Broadway, Sacramento) will bring the supplies. Bows and Arrows will also offer Track 7 beers on tap, including the brewing company’s much ballyhooed double IPA collaboration with Knee Deep of Lincoln, Calif. Best of all, this event is free and open to the public! Your attendance is guaranteed to quadruple your beer nerd cred points instantaneously. Check out Bowscollective.com for more information.
See: Sacramento’s Newest Brewery, New Helvetia Brewing Company • Feb. 25, 2013
New Helvetia Brewing Company just celebrated its grand opening this past week, but its roots in Sacramento’s beer scene actually delve much deeper. The company’s mission is to create craft beer inspired by the Buffalo Brewing Company, which was established in Sacramento in 1890. On Feb. 25, New Helvetia will host a casual gathering with Dr. Charlie Bamforth, U.C. Davis’ Chair of the Department of Food Science and Technology and Anheuser-Busch Endowed Professor of Malting and Brewing Sciences. Tickets to this event will be $25 in advance and $30 at the door. The ticket price will include up to six 10-ounce pours of New Helvetia’s brews. New Helvetia Brewing Company is located at 1730 Broadway, Sacramento. For more info on the brewery, go to http://newhelvetiabrew.com/.
Hear: Lagunitas’ Brewmaster Tony Magee Talk Shop at The Torch Club • March 1, 2013
Not only can Lagunitas’ brewmaster Tony Magee make a great beer, he’s also really good at playing American roots music. Magee will be making the trip up from Petaluma, Calif., to meet with all of you and perform a few songs at The Torch Club (904 15th Street) from 5 to 9 p.m. As an added bonus, he’ll be bringing Lagunitas’ Wilco Tango Foxtrot Brown Ale in tow. The Torch Club will offer an $8 beer and brat combo and $4 refills on your frosty beverage. You even get to keep the glass! Lagunitas may not be a Sacramento beer, but it is a local favorite, so expect this event to be especially lively.
Taste: The Rainbow of Beers at the Third Annual Capital Beerfest • March 2, 2013
Dude. Bro. OK. So all these Sacramento Beer Week events (and the multitude we didn’t have space to list) are awesome, but if there was one that you’d have to consider the pièce de résistance, it’s this. From noon to 5 p.m., Cal Expo will fill up with the sweet, sweet aroma of fermented barley and hops. The air will permeate with an alluring maltiness (which isn’t a word, but you see what we’re going for here). As of press time, 84 breweries have signed on to appear at the Capital Beerfest, 21 of which are from the Sacramento area. We’d normally consider namedropping as beneath us, but in this case we’re just going to let it roll: River City Brewing, Sudwerk, Ruhstaller, Roseville Brewing Company and Lockdown are just a few that will be representing our region; meanwhile, Alaskan Brewing (Anchorage), Goose Island Beer Company (Chicago), Hop City (Brampton, Ontario, Canada), Oskar Blues (Longmont, Colo.) and Rogue Brewery (Newport, Ore.) are some of the out-of-towners. You’ll also be able to sample food from restaurants participating in Sacramento Beer Week. Clearly, this event is going to be epic. All that it’s missing is you. Tickets range from $40 to $75 (and $5 to $20 for designated drivers). For more info on where to get tickets, go to http://capitalbeerfest.com/.
In a short time, Sacramento’s Cave Women have been churning out exciting new material
For Sacramento band Cave Women, things fell into place very quickly. Whereas some bands take years to find their voice and record, the five highly skilled musicians who make up the group hit it off almost instantly.
Is this the musical equivalent of love at first sight? Well, not entirely. But I thought I was pretty clever when I thought of that while interviewing Cave Women vocalist/bassist Casey Lipka.
“It’s really special to be able to play original music with everyone,” Lipka says of becoming fast musical friends with the other Cave Women, who have only been together as a band since 2011. In that time, they’ve already released a five song EP and a full-length, self-titled album, which was released Nov. 15, 2012.
“I think in a certain sense, that’s what we’ve all really been enjoying,” Lipka elaborates. “We’ve all participated in different music projects, but for it to be our own compositions and have them develop in this way and just be able to work on our music together, it’s been such a great opportunity.”
Lipka has been on quite a journey in order to make it to where she is today. A Venice, Calif., native, Lipka began studying music at Sonoma State before furthering her education in Montreal, Quebec. It was there that she began learning to play bass.
“I was hanging out with a lot of bass players by chance,” says Lipka, who lists voice as her first instrument. “They had this really big room for bass in that school. If you could imagine just walking into a room with 10 human size instruments, it was pretty intense.”
About three years ago, she moved to Sacramento, where she still lives and teaches voice and piano. While enrolled in a world music class at Sacramento State, she got turned on to the mbira, a small instrument with origins in Zimbabwe that consists of 21 to 28 metal keys that are plucked by hand. She has brought her love for the mbira to Cave Women.
“We’d go through all these different types of music from all over the world, and my teacher put on that kind of music,” she says. I don’t think I was concentrating in the class, but the moment she put on that music, I was like ‘What is that?’”
Though she has bounced around quite a bit in her life, Lipka seems to have found a home in Sacramento, which she calls a “small big city.”
“What I mean by that is that there’s enough going on that there’s quite a bit to do, but at the same time you can have a community of people here,” she explains.
Not long after moving to Sacramento, Lipka met up with Alicyn Yaffee, Cave Women’s vocalist/guitarist, and the two began performing as a duo, Lipka says. The duo was soon joined by Vanessa Cruz (drums/percussion), then Emily Messick (vocals/accordion) and finally Kim Davis (vocals/flute).
“I happened to get a free recording session at the Art Institute in San Francisco,” Lipka says. “And all of a sudden, we had this recording and we were somewhat of a band. It was like, ‘Wow, this works.’ It was definitely an evolution of instrumentation and sounds and addition and experimentation.”
Explosive growth would probably be more of an apt term. Of the five songs on the band’s first EP, only two of them appear on the self-titled full-length. On top of that, Lipka reports that she and the band are already working on new songs. Not bad for someone who says she’d hardly written her own compositions before starting Cave Women.
“Songwriting is very new to me,” she says. “Cave Women kind of kick started it for me.”
Cave Women’s songwriting maturity betrays the group’s youth as a band. These musicians have an almost magical connection with one another that’s easily apparent on their debut full-length (recorded by notable engineer Pat Olguin, who has worked with Papa Roach, E-40 and Black Eyed Peas), which incorporates world music and jazz influences into catchy pop song structures. This could be a byproduct of the band’s nurturing songwriting process that allows each member’s talents and instruments to shine.
“Someone will come to the group with a composition, at whatever stage it’s in, and everyone adds their own voice to it through their instrument,” Lipka says. “There isn’t necessarily a conversation like, ‘Oh, there’s a lot going on. You should add less here.’ It’s more of a natural process of adding in the different voices.”
One of the more striking songs on the album, “Hunger” practically swoons through your speakers. Beautiful, dreamy harmonies mingle perfectly with the tune’s somber lyrics as the melody builds to a soft crescendo. Lipka says that “Hunger” is one of the songs that Yaffee first brought to the band, but the rest of Cave Women were quick to add their own personal touches to round out the track.
“[Alicyn] had her melody and guitar part, and the voice parts that we added on the end, everyone made up their own voice part,” Lipka says of “Hunger.” “That was really neat in the sense that…gradually every person added how they heard their own part mixing into the song.”
The video for “Hunger,” shot by photographer Nicholas Wray, shows a behind-the-scenes look at the band in the studio working on the full-length album. In it, you can see Lipka at work on bass and with her mbira, which she has fixed to the back of an acoustic guitar. She says that it amplified the mbira’s sound in a “richer way, because it had the guitar body for it to resonate in.” She goes on to say, though, that you won’t see her trying this trick on stage.
“It’s way too complicated. I don’t think I could hold a guitar and an mbira at the same time,” Lipka says through laughter.
Though the band just seems to click as if it was fate, Lipka does say there are some complications in playing in a band like Cave Women. The band employs so many instruments and sounds that it’s a challenge for the group to recreate their sound live.
“There are certain places that we just can’t play because we have so many instruments,” she says. “If we bring everything, we just can’t physically fit in certain places. There will be times when everyone will just bring one instrument.
“There have been shows where I’m like, ‘My mbira is over there. How am I going to get there?’”
Though the stage might be cluttered, Cave Women’s songwriting is anything but, and a bright, productive future seems pre-ordained.
Celebrate the release of Cave Women’s first full-length at Bows and Arrows in Sacramento on Dec. 19, 2012. Alto and David Alfred will also perform. The all-ages show is $6 and starts at 8 p.m. To listen to and order the album, go to http://cavewomen.bandcamp.com/.