Author Archives: Alan Snodgrass

TVD Live Shots: They Might Be Giants at the Fox Theater, 4/16

Postponed twice from 2020, They Might Be Giants have finally made it to Oakland’s historic Fox Theater for an “evening with” (i.e. no openers) celebrating the 30th anniversary (a few years late) of their major label breakthrough album Flood. In spite of having played across the bay at the Fillmore only the night before, TMBG seemed to have no problem selling out the larger Fox, and what would normally be a sleepy Sunday evening, Telegraph Ave. was absolutely buzzing in anticipation.

Taking the stage at 8:15 PM, guitarist/vocalist John Flansburgh kindly reminded the crowd (most of whom probably bought their tickets 3 years ago) that they would be performing Flood in its entirety (although a few songs were prerecorded). As important, he let the crowd know that the band would actually be playing two sets and to not leave during the intermission.

Regarding Flood, the band chose to eschew the cliché of playing an album front to back and rather smattered the tunes throughout their career spanning set. With the setlist predictability out the window, the enthusiastic crowd (many wearing “They” paper hats from the merch table) was kept on edge, hanging on every word of the stage banter, and losing their minds when literally every song was introduced. There are not many bands that can hold a room’s attention like this.

Halfway through the first set, Flansburgh announced that they would be playing “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love” backwards as the pinnacle of the show and then playing back the video of the performance in reverse at the start of the second set. What came next—“Stellub” (Bullets spelled backwards)—was an unintelligible cacophony which ended on a 4-count by drummer Marty Beller.

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TVD Live Shots: AFI and Drab Majesty at the Fox Theater, 11/23

While the streets of Oakland were quiet on this particular Thanksgiving eve, the 1800 block of Telegraph Avenue was abuzz as AFI brought their “Bodies” tour to the Fox Theater in support of their 2021 release. Hailing from Ukiah California but having cut their teeth in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Petaluma, the Bay Area is close enough to consider this a hometown show for the boys, and the fans turned up in force in spite of the holiday, selling the venue out.

Drag Majesty kicked things off with a lengthy 45+ minute set of synth pop and clearly had some fans in the room, but most of the crowd was getting antsy in anticipation of AFI’s set. And when the band finally took the stage, the room was more than happy to assist front man Davey Havok with the lyrics to “Strength Through Wounding.” There’s something about the mind-meld of “through our bleeding, we are one,” that sets the perfect tone—this night was no exception.

AFI has been doing a pretty good job of keeping their fans guessing by mixing up the setlist for each night of the tour. With “Girl’s Not Grey” and “Love Like Winter” up next, they moved into unexpected territory. The old school fans were treated to “Perfect Fit” off of their 1996 release Very Proud of Ya during which Havok hopped onto the barricade for an audience sing-along that found a crowd surfer perfectly timing his arrival at the mic for the song’s refrain.

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TVD Live Shots:  Måneskin at the
Masonic, 11/3

Måneskin recently blew up on the world stage in no small part due to their victory in the 2021 Eurovision Song Contest and are finally getting some well-deserved attention from the USA fans on their “Loud Kids Tour” which included two sold-out nights at San Francisco’s Masonic.

Fans started lining up not long after noon in order to secure a coveted spot up front along the barricade, some apparently having followed the band to multiple cities because once (or twice) was apparently not enough. With no opener, the band must have figured that a little more wait time wasn’t going to hurt anyone and their scheduled 8:30PM set time came a went without any indication that show was about to start. Finally storming the stage just past 9:15, the crowd erupted and there were clearly no hard feelings.

Let’s be real for a second—it is not easy for international bands to crack the US market in a meaningful way without lyrics in English. So, the fact that the crowd jumped right into singing along to “Cool Kids” was unsurprising. What was surprising is that the San Francisco fans didn’t miss a beat when the band kicked into their native Italian language for “Zitti e Buoni” and “In Nome Del Padre.”

To say that Måneskin’s music is catchy would be an incredible understatement. Ethan Torchio (drums) and Victoria De Angelis (bass) set a tight thumping groove that gets the crowd moving and provides plenty of space for Thomas Raggi to bring a healthy dose of sizzle on the guitar. And aside from Torchio who’s stuck behind the drum kit, the whole band barely stops moving during the entire set.

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TVD Live Shots: Testament, Exodus,
and Death Angel at the San Jose Civic, 10/15

Infamous for how the original 2020 European run ended with the bands returning to California in the midst of the rapidly accelerating pandemic which hit some of the band members hard, “The Bay Strikes Back” Tour finally came to an end with a truly epic hometown show that had hardcore fans lining up for two blocks along San Carlos Street waiting for the doors to finally open.

Death Angel kicked things off with “The Ultra-Violence” which unsurprisingly opened the pit up quickly and set the tone for what would prove to be a memorable evening that showcased all that is great about the Bay Area metal scene. Exodus kicked things up a notch with their “lesson in violence” that kept the pit roiling and undoubtedly raised the temperature inside the civic by a few degrees.

“The Toxic Waltz” is always a favorite of the local fans and Holt delivered an absolutely blistering version but only after first teasing the crowd with riffs by Metallica and Slayer. Exodus ended their set with a wall of death that had some dude doing pushups in the middle of the floor as each side of the pit waited for the breakdown from “Strike of the Beast” to kick in. By the looks of the ensuing chaos, that may have been the last pushup that guy ever did.

With the stage set up for Testament complete, the crew pumped low lying fog onto the stage as Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” blasted over the PA and Dave Lombardo (who rejoined the band earlier this year to replace the departing Gene Hoglan) casually stepped behind the drums.

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TVD Live Shots: Pet Shop Boys, New Order, and Paul Oakenfold at the Chase Center, 10/12

Co-headliners Pet Shop Boys and New Order took over San Francisco’s Chase Center in front of a packed house to celebrate their “Unity Tour” on a balmy Tuesday night that must have had most of the crowd cutting off work early to make the show because by the time Paul Oakenfold kicked off his 6:30PM DJ set, the arena was packed and the Bay Area crowd was ready to dance.

New Order kicked things off on the massive stage with the ’90s and “Regret,” but quickly turned the way-back machine a little further into the past with “Age of Consent” as lasers blasted over the heads on the seated floor. Vocalist Bernard Sumner worked both the stage and the crowd, occasionally picking up a guitar and a melodica while the rest of the band tore through the synth-heavy tunes. Not surprisingly the Joy Division covers drew the largest crowd reaction with “Love Will Tear Us Apart” as the perfect mic-drop encore.

Paul Oakenfold took another turn in the DJ booth as the crew made quick work of the stage. With a LED screen lowered, Neil Tennant and Chris Lowe took the stage dressed all in white, wearing masks that looked like oversized tuning forks and launched into “Suburbia” off their 1986 debut Please. Flanked by what looked like a pair of streetlights, the pair’s stoic demeanor stood in stark contrast to the crowd which was clearly pumped and ready to sing and dance.

That LED screen occasionally teased a glimpse of the backing band and was finally raised a few songs into he set to once again reveal the size of the stage while Tennant and Lowe made a quick wardrobe change before appearing again on a riser at the back of the stage. While Lowe remained expressionless behind his synths and various gizmos, Tennant paced the front of the stage while absolutely nailing his vocals.

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TVD Live Shots: My Chemical Romance, Taking Back Sunday,
and Surfbort at the Oakland Arena, 10/5

I’m sure we’re all looking forward to the day when every live review doesn’t start by talking about how that particular show has been delayed by two years due to the pandemic blah, blah, blah. Well with the recent cancellation of Rage Against the Machine’s tour, My Chemical Romance’s Oakland show was blessedly the last to officially put the pandemic’s effect on live music behind us—at least at the Oakland Arena.

Openers Surfbort and Taking Back Sunday gave it their all as the capacity crowd filled the arena, but let’s face it, MCR’s much anticipated reunion is what sold every single one of those tickets. Dubbed the “Swarm” Tour in reference to early concept discussions where a band—nervous to be back on stage together—concocted an impractical concept of playing behind a swarm of flies. As the crew managed the changeover and internet-famous vacuum guy wielded his Dyson to a rousing response from the crowd, there was thankfully not an insect in sight. But as the crew dispersed, droning music inexplicably blasted through the PA as flies crowded the large LED screens.

When MCR finally took the stage to “The Foundations of Decay” it was clear that whatever stage fright that may have impacted the tour planning process was clearly gone after 6 months of steadily touring the globe. For the fans that had been paying attention, there was a lot of anticipation over how Gerard would be dressed. Would he come out in a tux, a dress, in a skeleton costume? Nope, nope, nope—Mr. Way bounded out on the stage dressed in aviator glasses, a wrinkled button-down shirt, and what appeared to be sweatpants! While not too exciting from a photographer perspective, it was clear that not one single person under the Oracle Arena rooftop gave … one … single … shit.

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TVD Live Shots: 
Roger Waters at the Chase Center, 9/23

Roger Waters brought his “This is Not a Drill” tour to San Francisco’s Chase Center for two nights of Pink Floyd classics and solo highlights from the 79 year old’s decades of music. With the tour having been delayed for nearly two years it was no surprise that the San Francisco crowd was lined up outside waiting for doors to open in anticipation of an epic evening of music to follow.

Not one to shy away from politics, Waters preempted the inevitable whining before the show even started, suggesting by way of a public announcement that anyone that considers themselves a fan of his music but not his politics “might do well to f*** off to the bar right now.”

As the show kicked off promptly at 8:30 pm with “Comfortably Numb” it was admittedly difficult for the audience to grasp the stage. Set up in the round and shaped like a cross, the entire stage was segmented into four sections divided by a 12-sided cross-shaped screen. Different points of the arena could only see certain band members and Roger himself was no where to be seen. As the band launched into “The Happiest Days of Our Lives” the massive screen raised above the stage revealing Roger and his band in its entirety; suddenly it all made sense.

Split into two sets with an intermission between, the first act was a walk down memory lane for Waters with anecdotes around the setlist and his personal history narrated on the big screen and providing a unique way to provide context to the music without burning a bunch of time for between-song chatter.

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TVD Live Shots: Danny Elfman with Symphony San Jose at the Frost Amphitheatre, 9/16

PALO ALTO, CA | Back in 2013 Danny Elfman took the stage at the Royal Albert Hall in London to perform for the first time in 18 years. The occasion? What would prove to be a legendary performance by the BBC Concert Orchestra of Danny Elfman’s scores from Tim Burton movies. According to conductor John Mauceri, both Elfman and Burton reacted enthusiastically when he initially approached with the concept. Fast forward to 2022 and the San Francisco Bay Area was treated to this incredible performance backed by Symphony San Jose and the Symphony San Jose Chorale.

Hosted by the Frost Amphitheatre on the Stanford University campus on a perfect Friday evening, the eclectic crowd arrived early and settled in as the orchestra kicked things off at about 6:45 pm. Families with their kids and picnics settled in on the lawn while the uber-Burton fans dressed as their favorite movie characters made their presence known as they obliged pictures with other members of the audience.

Danny Elfman has scored over 100 movies in his career, but this evening was all about his long-standing partnership with Tim Burton dating back to Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure in 1985. What that meant for the evening’s performance was over two hours of legendary music from 15 different films including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Beetlejuice, Sleepy Hollow, Mars Attacks, Big Fish, Batman, Planet of the Apes, Corpse Bride, Dark Shadows, Frankenweenie, Edward Scissorhands and Alice in Wonderland. Tim Burton got in on the fun too, creating the content that was shown on the big screen behind the orchestra which featured not only scenes from the movies but also amazing concept art for many of the projects.

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TVD Live Shots: The Psychedelic Furs and X at the Masonic, 8/11

Like many bands amid the Covid era, The Psychedelic Furs had their post-album touring plans abruptly thrown out the window as live music ground to a screeching halt. With things getting back to some semblance of normalcy, the Furs’ San Francisco stop on their “Made of Rain” tour was admittedly long overdue.

Keeping with their successful 2018 run, The Furs brought along openers X for good reason—their dedicated fans show up early and the band puts on a heck of a show. Their 60-minute set proved why this band of all-original members has withstood the test of time: stellar musicianship and those perfectly matched John Doe/Exene harmonies simply can’t be replicated. And for many X fans in the room, this was likely the first time hearing material off their fantastic 2020 release Alphabetland live. While it might be their first studio album in 27 years, it successfully nails that classic X sound.

A quick clearing of the stage and The Psychedelic Furs were ready to roll in front of a near-capacity crowd. With one of the most distinctive voices of the ’80s, Richard Butler was all smiles as he took a bow and launched into their classic “Love My Way.” To be honest it was nice to get that one out of the way because, as the name of the tour suggests, X wasn’t the only band that had been looking forward to busting out some new tunes for the fans and Made of Rain was clearly worth the 31 year wait. Sure, the classics weren’t going to be ignored, but hot damn it was great to hear a healthy dose of new tunes in the mix with “Wrong Train” being a clear standout.

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TVD Live Shots: Machine Gun Kelly, Avril Lavigne, and Willow at Oakland Arena, 7/19

In a sign that his trajectory shows no sign of slowing, Machine Gun Kelly brought his “Mainstream Sellout” tour to the Oakland Arena for an over-the-top rock show that left nothing to be desired.

Soft-spoken but with a big voice, Willow Smith kicked things off to an enthusiastic crowd. Clearly trying to shed her “Whip My Hair” origins, the twenty-one-year-old is making a big step towards recasting her image through her latest release Lately I Feel Everything, an opening slot for MGK and a few between-song f-bombs no doubt helped in this regard.

Next up was Avril Lavigne who, with a new album out earlier this year, arguably could have been given a longer set time. As it was, she only had around 30 minutes to cram a pair of new tunes off of Love Sux in with the expected fan favorites. Given the crowd response, the Bay Area is likely hoping for a proper headlining date in support of the new album.

The Oakland crowd started to get a good glimpse of what was to come as the crew made quick work of the stage, assembling a sloped circular checkerboard section of stage with sections cut out for the drums and keyboards. Of course, the helicopter not-so-subtlety positioned directly above the stage was hard to miss from the beginning of the night, but its purpose was not so obvious.

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TVD Live Shots: Tenacious D and
Puddles Pity Party at
the Warfield, 6/24

In the spirit of “the show must go on,” Tenacious D miraculously orchestrated a relocation of their Palo Alto show as a local wildfire impacted electricity to the Frost Amphitheater. With short notice, The D split their one Bay Area show into a Friday show in San Francisco at the Warfield and a Saturday show at the Mountain Winery in Saratoga, each serving ticket holders on a first come basis. 

With doors opening at the Warfield at 6PM for an 8PM show, whether this would prove to be an epic save or colossal shitshow was no doubt top of mind for attendees trying to make sense of the last-minute change of plans, but by 7PM the Warfield was packed to the rafters and outside there was a nervous mass of folks on the sidewalk looking hopeful that somehow they could get squeezed in.

The switcheroo most definitely worked in the favor of opener Puddles Pity Party who took the stage to an absolutely packed house, the better part of which had been spending the last hour or two availing themselves of the Warfield bar (notably killing a few taps before the Puddles set even ended). With a few cocktails down, the San Francisco crowd was clearly stoked for 45 minutes of sad clown cover songs which included some elegant mashups of Metallica/Celine Dion and The Who/Johnny Cash (twice!).

Those that managed to upgrade their GA lawn ticket at the Frost Amphitheater for a spot on the rail were chomping at the bit with signs and official Tenacious D c*m rags in hand (“because everything else is just a c*m rag”). And when The Big D took the stage at 9:15 and launched into “JB JR RAP,” the Warfield completely lost its shit.

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TVD Live Shots: Bauhaus and Vinsantos at the Masonic, 5/21

Apparently May 22nd was World Goth Day. Oh, you didn’t know such a thing existed either? Well apparently, someone at San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium was on top of the holiday and had the foresight to celebrate with a pair of concerts by the legendary purveyors of gloom, Bauhaus.

Night one of the weekend double-header was kicked off by Vinsantos, the self-described “witch drag artist” who kept the mood dark as the crowd gathered for what would prove to be nothing short of memorable for fans young and old that dared to think that the opportunity to see Bauhaus live again would ever come to pass.

Taking the stage a hair past 9PM, the original four piece took the stage and launched right into “Rosegarden Funeral of Sores,” the band stepping in and out of the shadows as the bass line dirged on as Peter Murphy’s vocals pierced through the din. A commanding presence on stage, Murphy worked the crowd like a pro, engaging the front row directly without sacrificing the carefully curated vibe.

For their part the crowd soaked it all in and gave it right back, helping the band out on the chorus of “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” without prompting and were rewarded by Murphy with fistfuls of red rose pedals. The set peaked with “Dark Entries” that seemed to have the general admission floor on the verge of a mosh that never quite materialized.

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TVD Live Shots: Blondie and The Damned at the Masonic, 5/17

Benefiting from the previous weekend’s Cruel World festival in Pasadena, San Francisco got a special spillover visit from Blondie with support from The Damned where The Masonic Auditorium was packed to the rafters.

The Damned kicked things off with “Wait for the Blackout” which got their fans up front moving around before kicking into a mellower groove. Greatly missed from the evening’s show was Captain Sensible who chose to sit out these handful of shows, but Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens Of The Stone Age) proved to be an excellent replacement minus the on-stage antics that fans of the Captain have come to expect.

The Damned is a rare case of a band that only seems to get better with age. With Paul Gray back on the bass and new drummer Will Taylor behind the drum kit, the bottom end is as tight and heavy as it’s ever been, giving Vanian plenty of space to wow, although he always seems to overdress for a performance, gradually removing layers throughout the set as the room (and the crowd) heated up, reaching a peak for “Love Song” and continuing through to the set closer, “New Rose.”

While The Damned clearly left a mark on The Masonic, it was pretty obvious that most of the fans were here to see Blondie and when the band finally strolled out on the stage people lost their minds. A quick glance at the Blondie lineup and you may have been surprised to see none other than Glen Matlock of Sex Pistols fame filling in on bass for Chris Stein.

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TVD Live Shots: Pearl Jam with Pluralone at the Oakland Arena, 5/12

OAKLAND, CA | Two years in the making, Pearl Jam’s “Gigaton” tour finally made it to Oakland, and it was undoubtedly worth the wait. Pearl Jam fans are known for their supreme dedication, showing up early and sticking it out to the end, and those who did so were treated to a couple of solo cover tunes by Eddie Vedder before his introduction of Josh Klinghoffer (aka Pluralone) as the opening act which had Stone Gossard joining in on the fun.

The room lit up when the band took the stage a smidge ahead of 9PM and busted right into Neil Young’s “Rockin’ in the Free World,” followed quickly by “Elderly Woman Behind the Counter in a Small Town” which had the crowd singing right along. Hearing an arena sing “I just want to scream hello,” with that little extra oomph on “hello,” was magical at that scale. It was at this point that Eddie answered the question that was in pretty much everyone’s mind—where the heck was Matt Cameron? Sidelined by COVID, the band decided to go forward with the show tapping Josh Klinghoffer and Richard Stuverud as fill-ins.

With the band-audience mind meld complete, Pearl Jam kicked things into high gear. “Why Go” had people losing their minds while Eddie went off, jumping from the drum riser, generally rocking the hell out and proving once again just why Pearl Jam continues to sell out arenas for over 30 years.

The band set a measured tone, clearly pacing themselves for what would prove to be an epic 2 ½ hour set. Between songs Eddie regaled the room with stories about the band and went off on tangents based on guests in the house (Angels manager Joe Maddon) and signs held by the crowd (the pro-choice banner got a tambourine). Mid-set Eddie even mused out loud about having online drum auditions for a fan to play a song with them the following night. Enter Josh Arroyo—getting Eddie’s attention with the help of some friends in the 100s section, he was invited backstage to get tested (more on Josh later).

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TVD Live Shots:
The Go-Go’s at the Masonic, 3/24

While we were away.Ed.

After reschedulings, venue changes, cancellations, and postponements, the show that never seemed to quite make it to a Bay Area stage finally came to pass. That’s right, Belinda, Jane, Kathy, Charlotte, and Clem (yes, you read that right—Clem Burke of Blondie on drums) hit San Francisco’s Masonic Auditorium for what would prove to be well worth the wait.

With no opening act and a no-frills stage setup, The Go-Go’s stormed the stage at 8:15 and proceeded to wow the near-capacity crowd of mostly Gen X’ers apparently out for date night from the first notes of “Beatnik Beach.” Belinda was the “punk rock ballerina” spinning around barefoot mid-stage while Kathy, Charlotte, and Jane held down the backup harmonies and Clem showed why he was the perfect stand-in behind the kit for Gina Schock.

And where was Gina you might ask? Sitting right there on the side of the stage enjoying the show as much, if not more than the most enthusiastic fans in the house. If you were worried you’d miss out on Gina’s flair for the hype, not to worry—she happily borrowed the mic from Belinda a few times to intro the band and unnecessarily point out how great the band sounded (everyone there already knew).

With a 90-minute set, The Go-Go’s were able to easily cover all the bases in their catalog with most of Beauty and the Beat peppered amongst hits from their other three albums as well as “Club Zero,” released in 2020, the band’s first new song in nineteen years!

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