Info Gluttony

Best Shows of 2013

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on January 2, 2014

It’s that time of the year again, where I look back and reflect on concerts that I went to over the past year. In 2013, I saw at least 27 bands* perform full sets over the course of 17 shows and 3 music festivals. Since I spent 3 days at my first and last trip to Coachella, I’m going to say that my show attendance was the same, if not more, than 2012.

The year was notable because there were a lot of bands that I saw perform twice in 2013 (Yo La Tengo, Alt-J, Peter Hook, and the Savages). I also got in a fair number of nostalgia acts (Blur, the Postal Service, Peter Hook x 2, Johnny Marr, the Stone Roses, New Order [without Peter Hook], OMD, and Stone Temple Pilots [without Scott Weiland]).

The list format doesn’t work really work any more, so here are my notable shows of 2013:

  • The Savages at the Independent – We were supposed to see the Savages full set at Station to Station the night before, but we were running late. We did arrive at S2S in time to catch the last 2 songs and were completely blown away. Before arriving at S2S, we were ambivalent about going to the Independent show the next day, but as soon as we heard them, we decided that we had to go. This show experience was unique in that the band requested absolutely no photography of any kind and for most of the show, the audience complied (no smartphone screens to mar the experience). Their album also ranks in my top 5 of the year.
  • Alt-J at Coachella – This band has the bro-iest following ever, but they must be experienced live. Their recorded music doesn’t do their live music justice. This is one of the few Coachella bands that I made a point to see again when they came through the Bay Area.
  • The Flaming Lips Halloween Bloodbath at Bill Graham – Wayne Coyne + Carrie + Miley Cyrus + so many beautiful balloons (video link).
  • Tame Impala opening for the Flaming Lips on Halloween (and at Coachella) – they were the perfect opener for the Lips and their album from 2012 wins for gradually growing on me over 2013.
  • Junip at Bimbo’s – in spite of the drunk concert bros shouting “We love you Jose,” this was my idea of a sonically perfect show, the sound was perfect, the performance was perfect. Even though J did not know who we were going to see, he walked away saying this was probably going to be the best show we saw all year (and I think this was back in June).

Hopefully, I’ll be able to do another write-up next year, but for me, 2014 is the “year of no,” in terms of going out less, so I think my show frequency will fall significantly. Let us hope that the dozen or show shows that I select in 2014 will make for another amazing music year.

*By way of checking my Instagram and Google calender, these were the acts: Arcade Fire, Lorde, Alt-J, Phoenix, Flaming Lips, Tame Impala, Billy Bragg, Savages, Peter Hook, Junip, Stone Temple Pilots (this was not by choice; it was a festival surprise act), Of Monsters and Men, Yo La Tengo, Tamaryn, OMD, Grimes, Bat for Lashes, Janelle Monae, the Postal Service, Johnny Marr, Blur, Stone Roses, Thao Nguyen, Glass Candy, Twin Shadow, Efterklang, and Starfucker.

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A Starbucks in Every Hood

Posted in fud, san francisco, thinking about cities, Uncategorized, urban planning by echan on June 4, 2012

Even though I concur that Starbucks coffee tastes burnt, I’ve never been as down on Starbucks as other coffee snobs are wont to do. But my jaw drop 15 minutes ago when I learned that Starbucks is about to purchase the local La Boulange empire for $100 million. Part of me worries that Starbucks will mess with it, the same way it shuttered Torrefazione Italia, which used to make a pretty good latte. But the huge thing that jumped out at me was what this means for Starbucks’ real estate holdings in SF.

The La Boulange web is everywhere in the City, from the Crocker Galleria Farmer’s Market to the original location on Pine St.  Starbucks will now own all of these. For some locations, such as Pac Heights, or the FiDi, or Laurel Village, this won’t matter much, because Starbucks already has a presence in the neighborhood.  But there are bunch of locations, including Hayes Valley, Cole Valley, and the Lower Haight, that have fought a little bit harder to preserve their neighborhood character and to keep Starbucks out.  In one stroke, Starbucks now has a toe-hold in these ‘hoods. I must admit that this is a huge coup for Starbucks, but it’s akin to Amazon buying out Amoeba records.

**

Addendum: Business people used to always cite La Boulange / Bay Bread as an example of a local business hurt by San Francisco’s anti-chain ordinance. This purchase shows how attractive a local chain can be to a major national corporation, looking to make their way into SF. There’s nothing stopping McDonald’s from purchasing the SF Soup Company.

Addendum 2: I completely forgot to list North Beach on the list above of anti-Starbucks neighborhoods, but a comment on this InsideScoop piece reminded me of this notable omission.

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Yeah…Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

Posted in concert, indie rock, music, personal, Uncategorized by echan on April 18, 2012

Normally, I save my concert reviews for year-end one-sentence summaries. But by the time December comes around, my memory grows hazy, and it’s hard to reconstruct my feelings about a show based on a single Flickr upload. I’m breaking from routine, and giving Pulp a full review now because I’m pretty sure that last night’s show will garner the top spot on my 2012 Best Show list.

Last fall, when Portishead played the Greek, I was pretty ready to retire from show going because I thought there was nothing left. Essentially, if I got to see Radiohead live every two years or so, I thought that I’d be happy. Well, I was wrong.  For my birthday, J got me general admission Radiohead tickets for last week’s show at HP Pavilion, and for a few weeks, I was happy. Then, I missed the Pulp ticket sale by an hour, and walked away empty handed when I acted on a rumor and tried the Warfield box office that night.

I checked Stubhub and Craiglist religiously and one of my friends added me to a “Help everyone get to see PULP at the Warfield!” group on Facebook, and in the end, everything worked out. J’s roommate ended up having a pair of extra tickets, and I let out a squeal of delight when she nonchalantly offered them to me without knowing of my quest.

Thus, even before yesterday’s show, I was pretty psyched. I spent an entire hour clockwatching while sitting through a lecture on Biophilic cities right before the show. And for once, the show, ended up exceeding my keyed up expectations.

Jarvis Cocker, at age 48, may be the best showman that I’ve EVER seen.  He likely arranged the opening green laser messages that added up to the build up of the band coming on stage. He read out facts about Isak Dineson, whose birthday was yesterday. He threw out to the audience a book of poetry that he bought at City Lights that afternoon. He handed a beer to someone in the front audience, and told them to share it. He did this again with a couple of glasses of wine (Greg, who patiently waited hours to secure a front spot, deservedly got one of these glasses). But most of all, in playing Pulp’s hits, he alternated from a writhing dorky-sexy rockstar to a guide who gently coaxed me to re-live my awkward adolescence in verse. He owned the entire audience.

Yesterday’s show also answered the mystery of why I hadn’t seen Pulp live before. The last time they played in San Francisco was at Bimbo’s when I was in high school. I wasn’t even old enough back then to make it through ID check.

The concert gods have blessed the Bay Area this week. Pulp matched Radiohead’s two-plus-hour set with double encores, with their own two-hour set with double encores, albeit shorter double encores. By the end, Jarvis sweated through his dress shirt a la Morrissey and looked a bit misshapen as he performed Misshapes. But everyone left smiling as they sweetly ended with Pulp’s earliest song.

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Siri, Remind Me Later

Posted in personal, san francisco, Uncategorized by echan on March 9, 2012

In the spirit of this brief, earlier post, I want to memorialize the winter of 2011-2012 that’s about to end (even though it feels like that it’s already over).

This was the winter where San Francisco had an L.A. winter. There were a few, scattered cold days, but there were far too many sunny days, even in the Outer Sunset, where the fog usually reigns. This was the winter when I did not bother to go up to Tahoe even once, since there was no snow. This was the beautiful, warm, dry winter that will lead us to ration water later this year, or next. This is the winter when it did not rain on my birthday, even though it always rains on my birthday.

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A Leap Day Funeral for Redevelopment Agencies in California

Posted in san francisco, thinking about cities, Uncategorized, urban planning by echan on March 1, 2012

Today, I attended SPUR’s fantastic lunchtime forum on the Death of Redevelopment (agencies) in California. By way of background, last year, Governor Brown pushed through the legislature, AB 26, a bill that abolished the 400-plus redevelopment agencies in California to free up money for the state budget. Municipalities challenged AB 26 in the courts, but the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the State, and the redevelopment agencies in California were abolished on February 1, 2012.

The panel focused on how San Francisco and Oakland had different approaches to dealing with the end of the redevelopment agencies, which provided a powerful funding tool for affordable housing and economic development projects through tax increment financing (where proceeds from property tax increases are funneled to a specific geographic area).  Tiffany Bohee, the ED for the successor agency to the San Francisco Redevelopment Agency, and Fred Blackwell, the Assistant City Administrator for the City of Oakland spoke on the panel.  A summary of their talk is organized below into 3 sections: 1. San Francisco’s approach, 2. Oakland’s approach, and 3. interesting bits on redevelopment in California as a whole.

San Francisco:

After the abolition of SF’s Redevelopment Agency (SFRA), the Mayor’s Office of Housing absorbed all of the housing units in the SFRA’s purview, including the existing pipeline. All of the SFRA staff was transferred to the City Administrator’s office. San Francisco got the lone carve out to AB 26, a 7-person oversight board, where the Mayor’s office has 4 appointees, and the taxing entities have 3 appointees. This oversight board has 2 roles, a fiduciary role to oversee the wind down of the SFRA and a land-use authority role.

In terms of on-going projects, it will be more difficult to do the mid-Market revitalization, with loans to small businesses. For instance, the type of redevelopment agency loan that allowed Pearl’s Burgers to open on 6th and Market is no longer available.

Ms. Bohee was unsure what the future affordable housing mechanism would be, but commented that it would likely be decided at the ballot box. Funding options include bonds, transfer taxes, lease revenues, and certificates of preference and participation.

For economic development, multiple levels of financing are required. New market tax credits will provide $40 million in federal financing for distressed projects. Special tax districts and infrastructure financing districts, such as the ones used for Mission Bay and Transbay, were other financing options.

Oakland:

The structure of Oakland’s Redevelopment Agency (ORA) was radically different from the SFRA. In Oakland, there was no firewall between the ORA and the City, the ORA staff was integrated into the city staff, and Oakland used ORA money to fund part of the mayor’s salary and the police. When AB 26 passed, Oakland scrambled to reorganize the city financing structure in 2-3 weeks to make up for the lost funds.

Projects such as the Oakland Army base redevelopment project and affordable housing already in the pipeline will continue to go forward. Other development projects, such as facade improvement on commercial corridors in Oakland’s flatlands would go away, due to lack of funding.

Oakland also transferred $800 million in property from the ORA to the city during the short 2-3 week reorganization period. This led to speculation about the liabilities Oakland assumed along with this property.

The state redevelopment agency laws also provided a legislative framework for affordable housing in Oakland, and this framework is no longer in place. While San Francisco has inclusionary zoning for affordable housing, Oakland relied on the state laws that required 20% of the tax increment financing money to go towards affordable housing.

Before the abolition of the ORA, Oakland’s Community and Economic Development Agency had very little power. Now, the City Administrator’s office has the general fund and the Economic Development Agency is within its control. Mr. Blackwell stated that now that redevelopment money is no longer earmarked for poor areas, there may be more class and geographic in-fighting within Oakland for these general funds.

Miscellaneous Thoughts on Redevelopment Agencies in California:

  • The moderator (whose full name I did not catch) introduced the talk by comparing the abolition of redevelopment agencies to the passage of Proposition 13 in 1978; city budgets were restructured overnight.
  • Without redevelopment offices, city planning offices need to step up, but the moderator pointed out that “Planners plan, and redevelopment agencies do.” The entrepreneurial spirit of redevelopment agencies may be lost, but the Mayor’s economic development office may fill the role of the redevelopment agencies.
  • With the abolition of the redevelopment agencies, an entire industry has gone away. “People didn’t just lose jobs, they’ve lost careers.”
  • In the Q&A, Mr. Blackwell offered this 5 reason post-mortem for why California got rid of its redevelopment agencies:
    1. There were too many redevelopment agencies; over 400 in the state, and LA County alone had 70!
    2. Redevelopment agencies were created to eliminate “blight,” which in and of itself is a loaded and political term.
    3. There were some abuses within redevelopment agencies.
    4. This was a $2 billion fiscal issue for the state, where the state had to make up the shortfall to funding schools, when property taxes were allocated to redevelopment districts. (Personally, I believe this was the bullet that killed off the redevelopment agencies).
    5. We’ve never been able to answer the question, “Would redevelopment have happened without the redevelopment agency?” This is the “but for” causation question.

Best Shows of 2011

Posted in concert, music, personal, Uncategorized by echan on January 20, 2012

In keeping with my tradition of annual round-ups, here are my noteworthy shows of 2011, a year, where I saw everyone from Prince to St*rF*ck*r, and Arcade Fire twice. I didn’t cry tears of emotional joy at any of the 2011 shows, but the band that took the top spot very nearly put me into concert retirement with their performance at the Greek Theatre.  So, in ascending order of how much I enjoyed myself:

8.  Cut Copy at the Regency – This is the runner-up in the dance party category, simply because it was the most energetic. It took me forever to steady my phone to take a picture because people were jumping so hard on the dance floor. Oonce oonce oonce.

7.  The Kings of Convenience at the Fillmore – Based on Erlend Oye’s past work with Royksopp, this show was in some ways a companion piece to entry #5 below.  This was a two-man acoustic guitar and vocal set, which definitely emphasized, loud audience aside, that quiet is the new loud.

6.  Thao and the Get Down Stay Down – Miss Thao always gives her all, in her full messy glory for her shows. She’s definitely my favorite local musician.

5.  Royksopp at the Regency – This won the dance party category by the sheer force of Royksopp’s sound.

4.  Foster the People at Outsidelands – I went to the festival for Arcade Fire, but on day one, Foster the People stole the show. I didn’t think of them their album as all that dance-y beforehand, but I had fun doing the indie bop in Golden Gate Park during their set. Plus, it helps that like everyone else on Spotify, I spent a few weeks listening to their album non-stop.

3.  Fitz and the Tantrums at Hardly Strictly Bluegrass – Such stage presence! I boogied! I shook! Hands down my favorite act of HSB. Thank you, Mr. Hellman.

2.  Erasure at the Fox – Oh, L’amour, I broke out my gold suspenders for this show, and it was worth it.

1.  Portishead at the Greek – Half of the number 1 spot was earned through anticipation alone, but Beth Gibbons’s and her haunting presence earned the rest. It was nice to see that they moved beyond the screaming banshee rendition of Sour Times, into a more jazzy, lounge-y mode.  After waiting over a dozen years for this show (and after having checked off all of the other acts on my list), I felt very satisfied after this show to enter into concert semi-retirement (I had a very long post-Portishead show lull in ticket purchases). In 2012, I’ll probably halve, if not quarter, my show going habit, but I’m looking forward to Radiohead and M83 at Fauxchella.

Other honorable mentions:

Washed Out at the Great American – This originally made the list above, but I couldn’t remember anything from this show, other than it was good.

Ellie Goulding at Outsidelands – Her music is not quite my cup of tea, but an excellent set, plus the sunglass scramble added to the fun.

Best Coast at the Regency – Along with Thao, this goes into the messy, drunken, emotional vocalist category, and I mean this in a good way.

Beach House at the Fillmore – I was worried about this show because Toastyken had told me that seeing Beach House live was one of his least enjoyable concert experiences, but despite the droning vocals, I liked this show, and the teepee stars were a neat touch.

Sorta Blogging a Tweet

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on February 11, 2011

I’ve already tweeted about this, but I’m still astounded that one of the most beautiful pieces of writing on the Internet is an advice column. That is all.

The Poetry of Youth and Loss

Posted in books, Uncategorized by echan on January 27, 2011

My first encounter with Patti Smith was at a Ralph Nader rally in 2000, where she gave a speech over at the Kaiser Auditorium in the East Bay. I simply thought of her as the middle-aged, frizzy-haired hippie-type that I encountered all the time growing up. I’m still not really familiar with her music, but I recently finished Just Kids, her testament of close friendship to the photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

Just Kids is essentially the Portrait of the Artist as a young woman in the New York in the late 1960s and 1970s. Patti runs away from the factory life of New Jersey and has brushes with Andy Warhol’s factory instead. If it was anyone else, you would call the author a name-dropper, but because Ms. Smith is famous in her own right, her casual references to Warhol, Alan Ginsberg, Sam Shepard, Jimi Hendrix, Janice Joplin, Jan Wenner, etc., function as a catalogue of ships, or rather catalogue of artists at the Chelsea Hotel. This is Patti’s origin story, and she was surrounded by gods.

Her relationships with the young, famous, and damned, however, weren’t the feature of the story that made the deepest impression on me. Rather, my head was stuck on her descriptions of living in artistic squalor. She describes catching lice, not once, but at least twice, once in Paris, and once from one of her boyfriends. Her wardrobe was chic, but expertly thrifted or found on the street. Mold was removed from loft spaces, turned into art studios, and food was cooked over a hot plate. For whatever reason, her narrative brought back a memory of my third-grade teacher, Ms. S, who told us stories of living a missionary life in Nicaragua, and of dumpster diving for food in San Francisco supermarket parking lots (these stories were told with an eye towards getting her students to donate their change to Catholic charities). They were kindred spirits in pursuit of art or public service.

Patti’s story is also Mapplethorpe’s story, the artist-hustler, who would later go on to be the center of the 1980’s culture wars (as a kid in San Francisco in the 1980’s AIDs, earthquakes, Dan White, and Mapplethorpe seemed to dominate the local TV news that I consumed). The tale of youth is sandwiched in between an elegy for Mapplethorpe, and Patti’s dirge echoes another recent memoir on loss, Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. While Didion’s book was written while see was still in grief’s throes, Patti’s tale is one of the loss that lingers, even two decades after a dear friend has died.

Made in the USA, the Luxe Edition

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on August 31, 2010

A Continuous Lean pointed out that some of Louis Vuitton’s handbags are now made in the USA.  Perhaps this can serve as a template for economic growth in America.  Instead of Florence Henderson, we could hire some glamorous spokespeople to push luxury goods that are manufactured or handcrafted in the United States.  While the manufacturing costs may be a little higher, this segment of the consumer goods market is the most able to handle the increases.  When people are already dropping two or three grand on a handbag or $800 on a pair of heels, then what’s another fifty dollars?  Supply sliders could rejoice because this would be a true, domestic trickle down effect.

I Could Watch This All Day

Posted in Uncategorized by echan on August 23, 2010