Jack o’ the Clock, Live

Back in February, I made the trip to to Viracocha in San Francisco, finally seeing the band Jack o’ the Clock. It was a busy night — Laura, who’s curating music shows there, was telling me how the antique store’s theater space was furnished for poetry gatherings, and maybe some of those folks seemed to be there, curious about the music. Some friends of the bands, too, of course. It made for a large and warm crowd.

I’d raved about this band before but missed every single show of theirs in the intervening year. (Thanks; it’s a talent.)

They were well worth the trip. Lead vocalist Damon Waitkus plays guitar and banjo as well, and I hadn’t paid much attention to those instruments’ contributions on CD. (My ears spent more time listening to the other trappings — violin, vibraphone, bassoon, electric bass). From the CD, How Are We Doing and Who Will Tell Us, they played two solid tracks: “Last of the Blue Bloods” and “First of the Year.” Great stuff for Gabriel-era Genesis fans, with an acoustic, folky touch added. (CD review here.)

The set ended with a new one called “Ten Fingers,” full of busy percussion including Waitkus playing tuned tin cans. It was a busy piece consisting mostly of a rapidly thumping tribal rhythm. Jason Hoopes on electric bass would fill the gaps with thick, throttled soloing — what a great sound. It’s a terrific song that I’m hoping they capture to disk someday. Another new track was “Salt Moon,” a spiky instrumental.

Waitkus using metal rods to hammer at tin cans during "Ten Fingers"

The evening’s middle act was a nice change of pace, a folk-rock band from Sacramento called Be Brave Bold Robot. Dean Haakenson writes some pretty good guitar-based songs and fills them up with sophisticated, literate lyrics. Some songs had fresh and complicated takes on the usual relationship themes; others… well, put it this way: One song starts with a guy’s revelation that if he uses the toilet sitting down all the time, he doesn’t have to clean the bathroom as often. I think it was a love song in the end, but this first part got discussed in a whole lot of detail. It was pretty funny.

The whole show had opened with Death of the Cool, a piano trio with Hoopes on bass and Glenn on drums, with pianist Michael Dale. They did three improvisations, with Dale featuring a crystalline, floating style on piano at first, almost feeling tentative. By the third piece, they’d gotten into it, and Glenn laid losse with all sorts of jazzy color.

I wish I’d gotten this post out in time for Jack o’ the Clock’s two shows in Los Angeles — they’re playing tonight, March 25, if you hurry — but I don’t know what the venue is. Bay Area fans can see the group again on April 13 at The Orange Room (2885 Ettie Street, Oakland).

Welcome to Viracocha

They’ve been hosting music at Viracocha, a boutique in San Francisco’s Mission District, for some time now. I finally made it to a show, and although it sounds weird to be holding music shows in an antiques shop, it turns out to be a delightful little venue.

Viracocha sells clothes, antiques, and also modern sundries: soaps; poetry and fiction books; even CDs. The wooden decor gives the place the feel of a cabin in the woods, an outpost you’ve stumbled upon.

The music is hosted in a separate area entirely, down a flight of stairs in a basement theater area that’s quite nice, outfitted with tables and chairs, some living-room decor, and a stage that’s roomier than you’d expect.

Viracocha has been hosting a variety of music, but of course I stopped by on a jazz night.

The Nathan Clevenger Group played mostly new material, composed in the last few months. Some of it is pretty complex, with lots of intricately interlocking parts and some interesting time-signature play. Yeah, they got lost early on one piece, but they got through it. Little stumbles can be worth it if you’re bringing out music that needs concentration and rehearsal. Clevenger hasn’t abandoned his jazz traditions, though, as some of the songs were cool and swingy, including (if I’m remembering right) a pretty one called “Syracuse Blue.”

(I wrote about Clevenger’s band and album about a year ago.)

They were followed by Lisa Mezzacappa’s Bait & Switch. The two bands have made it an annual tradition to do a show together around the holidays; they were just a little late this time around.

Mezzacappa said Bait & Switch had a studio date planned for their next album. We were to be the last audience to hear the material before it got nailed down in recorded form, she told us.

I don’t recall the titles, but the new songs sounded great. One was about the red ants marching up from Central America to destroy us all, and it was appropriately march-like and a little bit cartoony. Another song played some fluid games with tempo. Vijay Anderson laid down a clackety racket on drums while the other three members played simple patterns. Anderson then sped up and slowed down the pace, with the band following his cues to create a rubbery sound.

I’m hoping Viracocha can keep going as a music venue. It’s a good addition to the Mission District scene, it’s got a wide-open booking attitude, and it’s just plain nice. Booking is handled by Laura, who runs the cool Fenderhart blog and also blogs about upcoming live-music shows under the handle LiveNLocal. You can find out more by joining the Viracocha mailing list (there’s a link on the Viracocha site) or by following LiveNLocal on Twitter (@LnLSF) or Facebook.

Marco Eneidi 2011

Alto saxophonist Marco Eneidi is back in the Bay Area for a handful of shows.

He’s based in Vienna nowadays but has been coming home to the ‘States about once a year; I previously wrote about his 2009 visit.

You can check Bayimproviser.com or TransbayCalendar.org — or Marco’s own site — to see all his planned shows. Here’s a quick rundown:

Thurs. Sept. 8 (tonight; sorry for short notice) @ El Valenciano (1153 Valencia Street, San Francisco) — Quartet with guitar, bass, and drums. Part of a 4-act bill of jazz at this Mission District bar.

Sat., Sept. 10 @ Studio 1510 (1510 8th Street, Oakland) — Peforming in duo with drummer Spirit.

Sun., Sept. 11 @ Amnesia (853 Valencia, SF) — Quartet again, at a Mission District bar again (quite a nice venue, actually).

Tues., Sept. 13 @ Viracocha (998 Valencia Street, SF) — Trio w/bass and drums. The locale is an art gallery that’s started hosting music shows curated by Laura of the Fenderhardt blog. They’ve got three local jazz acts booked for this particular night; should be great.

With the exception of the 10th, Eneidi’s bandmates will be Lisa Mezzacappa (bass), Donald Robinson (drums), and usually Ava Mendoza (guitar).

By the way … buried in those aforementioned calendar links is a hint that Eneidi has done a forthcoming album with guitarist/bassist Joe Morris. That might be related to the 2010 music samples you can find on Soundcloud.

Lastly: I’ve only now discovered an Eneidi interview conducted by Taran of Taran’s Free Jazz Hour back in 2005, shortly after Eneidi made the move to Vienna. Nicely detailed stuff, covering lots of ground. A transcript is available on All About Jazz, and a podcast recording is at Taran’s old site. Each version appears incomplete (that is, there’s something on each of those sites that’s not on the other), so check them both out. Happy reading/listening.