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Tuning into the City

The Best Shows for December

What a year it has been: the Stern Grove Series, which turned 70, treated us to a truly inspiring summer music line-up showing us a great time in the fog and sun; the solid eclectic lineup at the Treasure Island Music Festival gave Coachella a run for the money; M.I.A. came through more often then a friend with benefits; and we have jazz returning to the Fillmore District to give this district a much needed rebirth of cool. So monthly musical fix, I leave you my eclectic choice of six.

1. Spain
Tuesday, December 4th
The Independent
Doors: 7:30pm, Show 8pm

Josh Haden’s band Spain returns after a break from touring to play their classic album, Blue Moods of Spain. Released to critical acclaim back in 1995, Blue Moods of Spain was heralded as the seminal "slocore" album of the decade. Josh Haden, the son of jazz legend Charlie Haden, creates beautiful soundscapes of slow melancholic music for December Mondays and rainy days. This is late night cabaret music with Josh’s narcotic yet sensuous vocals, hesitant bass lines and sparse arrangements. Picture if you will the marriage of Brightblack Morning Light crossed with the vibe of later Mazzy Star as Spain takes that narcotic vibe to the next level. The show will feature the top cuts that made this debut release a classic.

2. Melt Banana
Friday, December 7th
The Independent
Doors: 7:30pm, Show 8pm

Coming back to the Bay for the final leg of their current tour, Tokyo’s Melt Banana brings their Godzilla-guitar attack of punky "noisecore" to The Independent. Live performances are where Melt Banana really shines. Front-woman Yasuko O's vocals shriek and scream like a banshee doused with wasabi as they slice through the looped and live guitar hardcore frenzy. Guitarist Agata has an impressive arsenal of effects, almost all made through his guitar from laser blasts and sirens to distorted wails. Melt Banana’s sound recalls contemporaries like the early Sonic Youth, the Ruins and Boredoms, but they showcase what a progressive punk band can do to push the sonic boundaries to inter-stellar overdrive.

3. Imperial Teen
Thursday, December 13th
The Independent
Doors: 7:30pm, Show 8pm

What’s not to love? The teen has become a queen and they’re back. After a set-rocking show heralding their return to the live scene at South by Southwest, Imperial Teen has released their first album in five years, The Hair, the TV, the Baby, and the Band, with great cuts such as "Shim Sham" rocking out as hard as their classics from their debut Seasick. This formerly SF-based band has since has relocated to LA but the line-up of Roddy Bottum (Faith No More) on guitar/vocals, Will Schwartz on guitar/vocals, Lynn Perko (Sister Double Happiness) on drums and backing vocals, and Jone Stebbins bass remains intact. Imperial Teen put on a captivating live show known for their boy/girl harmonies and their switching off their instruments to better showcase their infectious hooks and impeccable pop sensibilities.

4. Jim Campilongo’s Christmas Show with Bobby Black
Café Du Nord
Doors 7pm, Show 8pm

Jim Campilongo's guitar playing virtuosity and originality has inspired a generation of players (including me, when I used to take guitar lessons out of his Mission flat.) This former Bay Area gunslinger-for-hire has appeared on records from Cake to Ten Gallon Cats. Most recently those browsing the racks at Starbucks while awaiting their triple-latte con-craption may have seen him with Norah Jones in her Willie Nelson cover band
"The Little Willies." Billboard Magazine calls Jim Campilongo, "an American treasure", an accolade this guitarist's artistry blending the best in blues, country, jazz and rock out of his '59 strat. Jim’s return to the Bay should be an amazing show, his Monday night residency in NY has been recommended on Time Out New York as "one of the city's strongest." We are glad to have him back.

5. Hottub
Saturday, December 22nd
Rickshaw Stop
Doors 8pm, Show 9pm

So the story goes like this: as their spaceship, the Sparkle Motion Machine, was orbiting the earth, it was unfortunately car-jacked in Oakland and the girls stayed on as it was the only affordable place to live as they set out with their mission to rule the universe with their Oakland bounce. This Saturday’s Rebel Girl party brings Oakland's Hottub over the bridge. These three bad sisters got the skills to pay the bills, the beats to move your feet and the look so nice like sugar and spice. So the lovely ladies -- Co-Co, LoLi Pop, and A.M. Breezy -- bring the bold and sexy electro-raps to the Rickshaw Stop.

6. Cracker and Camper Van Beethoven
Friday, December 27th & 28th
The Independent
Doors: 8:30pm, Show 9pm

What a way to end the year with this amazing double bill. A few years past their 20th Anniversary, Camper Van Beethoven's merging of punk, folk, ska, and world music was truly a revelation at that time. On songs such as "Take the skinheads bowling," CVB’s trademark violin-coated melodies and Ween-esque tunes set them apart from the alternative scene where they remained as critic’s darlings. After CVB disbanded, founding member David Lowery went on to form Cracker, who finally achieved some commercial success and radio-play with songs such as songs "Low", "Get Off This" and "Teen Angst (What the World Needs Now)" in the 90’s. With their latest album, Greenland, Cracker intensifies with a sort of new-fashioned countrified Americana. So here you will get to hear the best of both worlds with Camper Van Cracker.