Who is Charlie Megira? A Berlin rebel with a Bay Area connection
"I read about [Megira] in an Israeli newspaper and heard him on Israeli radio," says Guitars and Bongos co-founder Eran Yarkon, who lived in Israel for a year before moving to Oakland. "I never thought I would have a label. But of course I was a big fan, and so is my friend Julie Cohen, so we thought of ways to put out Charlie's music in the US on vinyl. Julie came out with the name of the label, which is based on a Lou Christie song."
Others might have found Megira through Israeli filmmaker Ari Folman's follow-up to his wildly popular (and Oscar-nominated) film Waltz with Bashir (2008). The film, sci-fi epic The Congress (2013), included music by Megira and also an animated version of the rocker. "It was great seeing my cartoon character alongside Elvis and Yoko Ono."
Folman had heard Love Police and tracked Megira down to be in his film. In it, Megira's cartoon performs his own original song — haunting, slow-burning "Tomorrow's Gone," off an early release — and also plays guitar on covers of Bob Dylan's "Forever Young" and Leonard Cohen's "If It Be Your Will," sung by actress Robin Wright in the film.
Appearing in Folman's film was a coup, no doubt, but the move from Israel to Berlin with his wife and young son a few years back was an even bigger milestone, an epic journey north leading to a prime creativity peak. "It all felt a bit like The Flight Into Egypt theme you find in Gothic paintings. Germany is now our Egypt."
In Berlin, he revived a sound he first visited in his Rock-n-Roll Fragments days and formed a band by the same name as that aforementioned track: Bet She'an Valley Hillbillies, with a bassist who goes by the Dead Girl (also a member of the Modern Dance Club) and bongo player named Corso, whom Megira met while doing integration classes at a college in Berlin.
For the Bet She'an Valley Hillbillies US tour, however, Michael Beach (Electric Jellyfish, Michael Beach, Shovels) and Alexa Pantalone (Pang, Penny Machine) will back Megira. No matter, he's long been the songwriter and main driving force behind his bands, fronting with cool abandonment and a sweltering connection to vintage rockers of yore.
Like his sonic ancestors, moody rockers with greasy pomps and snarling attitude, he seems to be on the rebellious, rock 'n' roll trip — roaring with fuzzed-out '50s riffs that still pummel like Link Wray, growling like Johnny Thunders — yet bound to family, home life, and even self-improvement.
However serious, Megira claims, "I want to finally learn how to sing and dance like a serious entertainer and to communicate with people like a normal person. Maybe I should take some courses or something." But then he'd be a so-called normal person, and what fun is that?
Mon/28, 9pm, free
651 Larkin, SF
With Andy Human, Dancer, Big Tits
Tue/29, 9pm, $7
311 Broadway, Oakl