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Taking flight with Juan Atkins, co-originator of Detroit techno

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Juan Atkins will perform songs from the Cybotron and Model 500 catalogues with a four-piece electronic group, including “Mad” Mike Banks of Underground Resistance, Mark Taylor, and Milton Baldwin, this Friday at No Way Back's three-year anniversary party at Mezzanine.

When I first Googled “Model 500” the search results surprised me. I expected to find a clue as to why Juan Atkins named his mid-1980s solo music project after what sounded like a blueprint for a piece of consumer technology, like some sort of hyper-evolution of the Model T.

But the choices between a rotary telephone from the post-war period and a newly minted Smith & Wesson revolver, both model 500s in their own rights, left me wanting. When I ask Atkins whether there was any story behind the name, he suggests another way of reading it: “It was something I used to repudiate ethnic designation. It wasn’t named after any model or any particular piece of equipment.”

A more illuminating answer.

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Das Racist's Kool A.D. on hip-hop, baseball, and losing his virginity

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Self-proclaimed, “second best rapper with glasses after E-40” and Bay Area native by way of Brooklyn Victor Vazquez aka KOOL A.D. of rap group Das Racist has had quite the prolific past year in the hip-hop industrial complex. 

He and his group Das Racist — featuring rapper Heems and hypeman Dapwell (Dap for short) — released their debut LP and critic darling Relax. Soon after that he released not one but two positively received mixtapes in the span of three months, The Palm Wine Drinkard and the Bay Area homage 51. Das Racist plays DNA Lounge this Fri/12.  Read more »

The Spring Standards on genre jumping, Fleetwood Mac, and SF pizza

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The Spring Standards kids grew up together on the Delaware/Pennsylvania border and got their start playing small folk festivals and around the campfire back in high school. After a break from their collaboration, Heather Robb, James Cleare, and James Smith found themselves in Brooklyn, inspired to pick up where they left off. They’ve been playing together as the Spring Standards for four years and released double EP yellow//gold last spring. Read more »

Total Trash adds second Coachwhips show

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So, you know how you were super bummed that you forgot to buy Coachwhips reunion tickets for the now sold-out Oct. 27 show at the Verdi Club in San Francisco? Total Trash just announced that it added a second Coachwhips show that weekend – and this one is all-ages and in Oakland, with Pangea. Read more »

Aesop Rock on Grubstake, stolen gear, and how to get in his barber chair

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San Francisco resident Ian Bavitz, better known as Aesop Rock, is a hip-hop maverick with a quick tongue and sharp wit. His je ne sais quois coolness seems to increase exponentially with every move he makes, from collaborating with Atmosphere’s Slug to peppering his rhymes with obscure science fiction references to touring with alternative folk royalty Kimya Dawson to giving haircuts on stage, to writing a song about Grubstake, Polk Street’s notorious greasy spoon and late-night vomitorium. Read more »

The Vaselines move beyond 'Kurt Cobain’s favorite band'

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Hailing from Scotland in the late 1980s, The Vaselines released just a couple of EPs and one full album before originally calling it quits after two short years together. However, thanks to fans like Kurt Cobain, who covered three of their tunes with Nirvana, and exposed the band to larger audiences around the world, new generations have fallen in love with them in the ensuing years. Read more »

King Khan shares his spiritual side, hosts tarot reading contest

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After talking to Arish “King” Khan over the phone last Friday, I got a sense of a more spiritual and sympathetic side as opposed to the notorious showman he’s become over the years. Along with his band — the Shrines, he'll bring his traveling stage show to the Great American Music Hall on Tuesday. He spoke to me from Berlin, his residence for more than a decade, where he raises his family (yes, the man we’ve seen prance around on stage in sequined undies and flashy, feathery costume is also a father) in what continues to become a rapidly “hipster-fied” artists’ mecca. Read more »

Deltron 3030 is back

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After releasing their self-titled debut LP to cultish acclaim in 2000, Bay Area hip-hop supergroup Deltron 3030 mysteriously dropped off the radar for over a decade, resulting in borderline Chinese Democracy levels of superfan speculation. Now, with their follow-up, Deltron Event II, finished and slated for release this fall, the trio is going all out on their first North American tour since the project’s revival. Read more »

Hey SF, RZA is coming

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The Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA, and his highly influential production sound, are much too easily taken for granted. You’ve got his Minnie-Ripperton-on-helium tape speeding methods, to which Kanye will forever be indebted; the filthy, resinous 36 Chambers aesthetic that’s informed everyone from MF Doom to Portishead; his prophetic, narrative skits that have irreversibly shaped the dynamics of the hip-hop album.

Even after 20 years in the biz, the Staten Island icon and famed kung-fu fetishist continues to shepherd the hip-hop form in bold, new directions. Expect RZA to reinforce his prestige when he takes the Mezzanine stage this Thursday, with a full live band in tow. Read more »

No longer Painfully Alone: Owen Ashworth lives 'in the now' as Advance Base

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Owen Ashworth has this way of making you feel like you've long known him personally. The singer-songwriter-keys aficionado seems an open book, his gold-tipped pages filled with relatable angst, longform stories, and witty musings. Casiotone for the Painfully Alone – the project he started in his 20s in the Bay Area and retired some 13 years later in Chicago, 2010 – was something you wanted to curl up with and have a good melancholy moment, a tête-à-tête with the sound in the machine.

But Ashworth was tired of rehashing the songs he wrote a decade ago, so he broke sonic ties and started anew, with Advance Base. Its tone is similar (hence, comforting), veiled quasi-autobiographical stories pumped out of keyboards and vintage electronic equipment (electric piano, autoharp, Omnichord, old rhythm boxes), with Ashworth's familiar talk-singing sparingly backed by female counterparts. Read more »