Jan. 5 & 6: The Stylistics personified the ultra-smooth sound of Philly soul in the early 1970s, with tight harmonies floating over big, big string sections. The lyrics weren't deep: "Betcha by Golly, Wow," and "I'm Stone in Love with You" are good examples of their lyrical laziness, but the band scored 12 consecutive R&B top ten hits with that formula. And they continue to sing about breaking up to make up as Airrion Love and Herb Murrell, two members of the original band, still tour with the group. Details for their show at Yoshi's in Oakland here.
Jan. 16 - May 9: Red Horse: Drawings of the Battle of the Little Bighorn. Red Horse was a Minneconjou Lakota Sioux warrior who fought alongside Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull at the Battle of the Little Big Horn, where a force of Sioux, Cheyenne, and Arapahoe Indians wiped out five companies of the US 7th Cavalry under the command of General George Armstrong Custer. Red Horse made these 12 drawings of the battle as a commission for Army doctor Charles E. McChesney at the Cheyenne River Agency in 1881. Their exhibition at Stanford's Cantor Art Center is the first time they've been displayed together since the battle's 100th anniversary in 1976. And that's our CHEAP THRILL this week as admission to the Cantor is free.
Jan 7 - 10: Eric Harland is a musical adventurer, exploring different modes diverse bands, including James Farm and the Charles Lloyd Quartet. Now he's exploring four exciting aspects of modern jazz with new guests over four nights. First he delves into South Carolina gospel and funk with Lee Fields, then afrobeat with Antibalas, the music of Gil Scott Heron with Brian Jackson, and then he ends the run accompanying a spoken word performance by Oakland's own Ishmael Reed. Details here.
Jan 7 - 24: SF Sketchfest is back for its fifteenth year, gathering some of the funniest comic actors, writers, and podcast makers in San Francisco and environs for more than three weeks. David and I are excited about Drunk History (just like it sounds), tributes to Sally Field, Patton Oswalt, and Jeff Goldblum, plus a panel featuring NPR’s Ask Me Another, and a performance by Princess, Maya Rudolph and Gretchen Lieberum's Prince cover band. And don't miss writer/producer Alan Spencer and actor David Rasche, celebrating the 30th anniversary of ABC's short-lived Sledge Hammer, which spoofed Clint Eastwood’s Dirty Harry character with a maniacal cop who talks to his gun.
Jan. 13-Feb. 7 : Satchmo at the Waldorf : Louis Armstrong may be best remembered now for his pop hits and movie appearances (Hello Dolly and High Society), but he was pioneer in jazz, developing the idea of the individual solo. Satchmo at the Waldorf at the American Conservatory Theater is by Terry Teachout, the Wall Street Journal's drama critic, who also wrote a biography of Armstrong. Obie winner John Douglas Thompson stars, and we learn a lot about race, Armstrong's mob-connected agent Joe Glaser, and Satchmo's relation with his polar opposite, Miles Davis, his successor as the world's greatest jazz trumpeter. Should be an entertaining slice of American history.
Jan. 5: The National Parks are still so fresh they don't have a Wikipedia page yet. But this 7-member, Provo, Utah-based band sounds great on songs ranging from folk to indie-rock on their two CD's. Vocalists Sydney McFarlane and Brady Park sing beautifully together, and they write smart lyrics like this one: “Do you ever think about the stars? / To see them clear, you have to step into the dark.” Catch them before they hit big at the Hotel Utah.