In January of 2004, some entrepreneurial folks took a camera studio on Fell Street at Van Ness and transformed it into the Rickshaw Stop, a venue that, in its five years of existence, has become one of the premier spots in San Francisco. In a city this geographically small and this damn expensive, venue closures due to high rents, noise complaints, and sluggish business often feel more like the rule than the exception. These ever-present threats make it all the more impressive that the Rickshaw Stop not only survives, but continues to draw crowds to a consistently inspired array of local and out-of-town indie rock shows and DJ nights.
In early January, the club celebrates these achievements with a series of "Fifth Anniversary Bash" concerts featuring an eclectic mix of top notch bands. Los Angeles's Dengue Fever headline two of the three nights, with a cosmopolitan sound fusing elements of psychedelic rock and surf music with the 1960s Cambodian pop-rock influenced by those genres. Singer Chhom Nimol's vocals, in both Khmer and English, guide the band through its eclectic wanderings, heard most recently on a well received third album, Venus On Earth, released almost a year ago. The band's unique story, as well as the story of the Cambodian pop scene's vibrancy prior to the rise of the Khmer Rouge, have also been captured in the upcoming documentary Sleepwalking Through The Mekong and its accompanying soundtrack, which showcase Dengue Fever's recent travels to perform in Cambodia.
San Francisco's Sean Hayes headlines the third night of the festivities. With four self-released albums already under his belt, the North Carolina-raised singer-songwriter began gaining nationwide attention with 2007's Flowering Spade. For all of its sparsity, Hayes's folk-rock conveys a variety of musical interests, as elements of experimental folk and Americana sit comfortably alongside more melodic leanings. Hayes's voice takes center stage in most of his songs; his haunting tones can be quite moving.
The local bands supporting on different nights are similarly enticing. Singer-songwriter Goh Nakamura's sophomore work, Ulysses, was four years in the making. It's a significant departure from the lower-fi approach of his first and a very engaging album in its own right. Ulysses was reviewed on KQED and can be downloaded for free from Nakamura's web site. East Bay quartet The Attachments capture the strong melodies and sense of fun of early Beatles/Beach Boys in their indie pop-rock. While the band's debut EP featured only songs about girls, their MySpace page was recently updated with some new songs of more varied subject matter, discussing Obama's victory and Southern California with their trademark skill and aplomb. It's an exciting omen for the band's forthcoming debut full length. Local songsmith Michael Musika performs on Wednesday night. His psychedelic folk songs feature contributions from a number of talented local musicians, and Musika will likely perform selections from some recent recording sessions at the show.
The Richshaw Stop's 5th Anniversary Bash kicks off on Friday, January 2, 2009 with Dengue Fever, Goh Nakamura and "other fun stuff." 9pm, $8. The party continues on Saturday, January 3rd with Dengue Fever, The Attachments. 9pm, $8.Festivities conclude on Wednesday, January 7, 2009 with Sean Hayes and Michael Musika. 8pm, $15. Tickets for all three shows are currently available at RickshawStop.com.
Ben Van Houten is the Content Editor for The Bay Bridged.